Project Paranormal
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Project Paranormal

Author: Ares

Season 3

Part 9




Summary: Our heroes take on a simple case of slaying. One thing leads to another.







Giles looked on, spoon halfway to his lips, as Buffy helped herself to some of Martha's chicken soup. He had already warmed the pot for himself and, expecting her, had set an extra place at the kitchen table. It was a bleak winter's day, the rain drummed against the kitchen windows, forestalling any thoughts of venturing down to the village. Days like today, he missed the climate of California. He also missed Buffy's idle chatter, hard as it was for him to admit, which is why he was pleased to have her company today. Things had been, to say the least, tense lately. He concentrated on the bowl of soup before him, not wanting her to notice his scrutiny.


Buffy sat without preamble, her liquid lunch unable to escape the rim of her plate, try as it might in an adventurous surge to its rim.


Giles cleared his throat, spooned a mouthful of soup and, in swallowing, declared it one of Martha's finest.


Buffy buttered a large slab of locally made bread before tasting the broth.


"Mmm, you're right, Giles. Needs a bit of pepper though," and she shook a liberal amount of the black spice over her meal.


He didn't agree but he kept it to himself.


Buffy continued, after a mouthful of the bread, "I can't say the same for the bread, though. It's a bit doughy." She peered at the unbuttered slices on the plate. "Is it even cooked properly?" An unfortunate piece felt the sharp end of her knife. "It looks moist." She found something else to complain about. "There's a hole in this one."


"Perhaps it's Holy bread," Giles said. Buffy chuckled at that. Giles smiled at her around his spoon.


"It's a pity the other baker in the village isn't up to the standard of old Badger's," he added.


Old Mr Brockbank, or Badger, as he was called, had died in his bed, and his superb loaves were sorely missed by the locals. Giles and Martha included. The sad state of the bread, however, did not stop Buffy from dunking it in her soup and eating the dripping slice.


Knowing he was treading on a sensitive subject, Giles asked, "Is Angel joining us?"


Without a glance his way, Buffy said, "I don't know. Last I saw of him, he was asleep, with Aristotle snuggled up against his leg."


"Do I detect a hint of jealousy?"


Now, did Buffy look his way. The smile she gave him was one of contrition. "I'm sorry, Giles. We're good. I promise. It's just so...stupid."


He nodded, not daring to say anymore. He was relieved at her admission. He knew that Buffy and Angel were good, as Buffy put it. This argument was but a fly in their otherwise happy ointment. He had been witness to the spat, and had walked on virtual eggshells around Buffy ever since. Outwardly, it appeared as if the vampire had dismissed the matter in his own quiet way. Whether that was true or not, Giles was sure that Angel cared deeply for Buffy's feelings, even at the expense of his own.


Enjoying the warmth of the central heating, Buffy had been tucked up in an armchair in the lounge, reading all morning. The television, offering nothing in the way of entertainment, had been dismissed. It wasn't as if she had been avoiding Angel, he was sleeping after all. They had had words. And now they weren't...speaking, but they were. It was all so confusing. Angel could be monosyllabic for no reason other than being who he was. It seemed to Buffy that he had become more so since their tiff, or was it just her guilty conscience? They talked about everything else except the thing they weren't talking about. It made her head spin just thinking on it. He wasn't ignoring her. They slept in the same bed, made small talk; big talk when it was necessary, and yet she felt as if he had withdrawn and it was all her stupid fault. Not that she didn't feel as if she had just cause to be a little put out.


She went back to drinking her soup, happy that she had said something to alleviate Giles' concern. Even she could feel Giles' worry. She wasn't a teen anymore. She was mature Buffy now. She sighed. Sometimes it sucked being all grown up.


 Buffy ate her soup in the ensuing silence.


"Afternoon, Angel," Giles called suddenly.


Buffy didn't need Giles' lifting of his head to detect that Angel had entered the room. His tread was silent, but she knew he was there before Giles had. It warmed her heart when he bent his head and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Feeling thoroughly remorseful, she turned her head and presented her lips.


"Chicken soup?" he asked after another kiss, a teasing gleam in his eye. He added, "Good morning, Giles."


Pleased, less tense than she had been in hours, she replied, "Do you want some? It is delicious."


"No thanks, I'll stick to something more to my liking."


He headed for the refrigerator and pulled out a container of blood.


Buffy slurped more of her soup, while watching his shoulders and the way he moved as he warmed up his own meal. Giles was noticeably quiet, watching the both of them.


"I thought your taste buds were dead, and yet you could taste it was chicken soup?"


"Smell," he explained, and sat with his mug of warmed blood. When he swallowed a mouthful, Buffy scrunched up her nose.


"Euw! That is why your buds are dead," she dared. "Anything alive would be chucking up at the first drop."


Giles pushed his bowl aside and sat back with a smile. Things were back to normal.


Angel ignored her gentle jibe, and asked the Watcher, "Anything interesting in the mail?"


"There was. We have a case."


Buffy narrowed her eyes, pushed aside her plate and got to her feet to make a cup of coffee. 


"You didn't think to tell me?" she complained.


Giles coughed, a nervous habit he had developed around the young folk at Sunnydale High. To his dismay, the habit had stayed.


"I was waiting for Angel. No need to say a thing twice, even though a certain slayer I know continues to defy that simple rule."


Buffy relented with a rueful grin. She had been known to need telling twice. Research and facts were boring to her.


"Where's the big bad?"




"Didn't we do that already?" she asked. "The big house, lots of stone, haunts, and some ghost sucking demon?"


"That was Woodchester, Buffy. Chester is further north, up by the Welsh border. It's a lovely town."


"A bit cold if it's that close to the Arctic, isn't it? Does it snow?" Buffy really didn't like the cold.


"Sometimes, not often. You'll be fine, just wear lots of warm clothes and your coat."


"Two coats," she grumbled, and then on another thought, "You said you. You're not coming?"


"It's a simple job. I'm sure that you and Angel will do splendidly."


Buffy didn't like the way Giles was getting out of going into the cold. "We'd love you to come along, wouldn't we, Angel?" She glared at the vampire. Say yes, her look said.


He complied. "Yes, Giles. Please come."


He received another glare for his lack of effort.


Giles declined. "I have other things to attend to, thank you."


Buffy pounced. "What things?"


"I've had a letter informing me an old friend has died. I need to write a few words of condolence, and there are a few things that need my attention."


"Oh, I'm sorry, Giles. What was it?" she asked, feeling contrite.


"Oh, nothing suspicious I assure you. David Hetherington was an older man. It was his heart I hear. I haven't seen him in an age. Still, he will be missed."


Angel wondered how much older than Giles was his friend. It pained him to think of people growing old, dying, and leaving behind loved ones. It reminded him of their mortality: a mortality that robbed him, an immortal, of their company when the Grim Reaper came a-knocking. The usual platitudes were useless when he uttered them. He felt like it was throwing his long life in their faces. So he kept his silence.


Giles continued, "Back to the business at hand."




Giles had not been persuaded by Buffy to make the trip to Chester with them. The fact that Chester was ancient and held mysteries beyond compare, let alone wonderful museums and libraries, did little towards the Watcher's resolve. The vampire did not show his lack of disappointment. It wasn't because he didn't want the Englishman to accompany them. Giles was always a welcome addition to any case. It was because Angel preferred to drive his own sleek Carrera on the long drive to Chester and if they were three, then the Discovery would be used.


Angel was in his element with winter's shorter days and drawn-out nights. By the time Buffy had packed too many clothes, the evening had arrived. She grumbled about the cold when she settled into the car. Angel turned on the heater for her benefit and set his sights to the north. The simple case was one of vampires. A slayer was needed, and fortunately Project Paranormal had such a one on their payroll.  Giles had made a booking at a bed and breakfast within the city walls. He didn't expect them to be away for more than a couple of nights, and that suited Buffy just fine.



Buffy woke to the clicking of the car's indicators. When she blinked at the windows and stared through them into the night, she saw that they had arrived in Chester, if the castle on the right of them was anything to go by. Angel passed it by, turned right at a roundabout, and headed down a much quieter road. It wasn't long before he stopped outside a quaint white building that was to be their accommodation. The Falcon was a family run business, and Buffy fairly gasped when she saw the four-poster bed in their room. Unfortunately, a look is all she had time for as they dumped her bags, and Angel's lonely one, before leaving the premises.


The evening was a cold one, and most people were indoors when they began their hunt. Buffy was getting used to ancient city walls and cobblestones of Old Britain, and yet she couldn't help but be amazed at the city of Chester. It was old. When Buffy asked about the walls rising behind them Angel explained that the Walls could be walked, and were, by locals and tourists alike. The Walls had been a favourite promenade back in the day, he told her. He was about to say that he would be glad to give her a tour, when they came to a busy intersection. They left  Lower Bridge Road to cross Pepper Street. It ran off Grosvenor, the road Angel had followed into Chester, although Buffy had no idea where they were. When they entered Bridge Street, Buffy gaped in awe at the sight before her.


"What's this?" she cried, and ran towards the object of her scrutiny.


Angel sighed. Buffy had discovered the Rows.


"Is this the shopping district?" she called out as she peered into tempting windows.


"It's called the Rows," he said, as he came up beside her. "I don't suppose you'd like to check them out tomorrow when they're open?" he teased.


Eyes bright, she fairly beamed with delight, and allowed him to catch her hand and lead her back out to the street.


"Look up," he said. She complied and saw what looked like one long building stretching out before her. In the dark of the night she could just manage to make out white walls criss-crossed with black.


"What's with the chocolate box look?" she asked him.


He frowned trying to figure out the meaning of her words.


"The Rows have that look about them, you've mentioned the style before," she explained.


"Oh, the buildings' façade." He studied the Rows for a moment. "There's a lot of different styles. Tudor, Elizabethan, I dunno. The original inhabitants, which would have been the Romans by the way, would not recognise the place. Mmm, I don't recall seeing all this glass when I was here back in the day." He shook his head, "But that wasn't what I was showing you." Angel pointed up to the level above the ground floor shops. "There's another layer of stores up there. You can walk your way around those too."


"There is? I can?" Buffy threw her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss. In a quieter tone, her arms still about him, she said, "That's the most I've heard from you in, I don't know, forever."


His forehead crinkled in a slight frown. "I'm sorry, I haven't been talkative of late."


Buffy snorted, and released him. "That's par for the course." She grabbed a hold of his hand and blessed him with another huge grin. "I'm not complaining, Angel. God! I talk enough for the both of us. Next time, just shut me up, will you?"


"Like this?" he asked, before he leaned in for another kiss.


She was breathless when their lips parted. "Uh...yes, like that." She added, "Let's go dust some vamps and go back to our room. There's a fancy bed I want to try out," she promised him.


The patrol continued with hands held. Their walk took them down Northgate Street. On one side of the road the Town Hall sat, Victorian, Gothic and imposing. Opposite, a cathedral reared towards the heavens, tall and magnificent, reaching for its Lord. In the light of day Buffy supposed the towers of both could be seen above the city's skyline. 


"There's always a crypt and a cemetery on the itinerary, isn't there?" Buffy said when they stopped before the stone archway that was the Abbey Gateway, at least according to the circular plaque cemented on the masonry there.


"They're pretty ancient," Angel said, as they slipped through the gateway, into the inner arch, and then they were out in the square within the surrounding walls.


Buffy looked about in awe. The grounds seemed endless. There were houses here. And gardens. The cathedral was more than just a church, it was a miniature town. They patrolled, looking about for any signs of the undead. Buffy couldn't sense their presence, nor could the vampire beside her. They decided not to venture inside the cathedral itself, it was unlikely they would find a nest of vampires inside such sanctified walls.


"Oh well," she sighed, once they were outside and back on the street. "I didn't think it would be that easy."


"Giles' source said bodies were turning up drained. The nest could be anywhere."


"His informant indicated that one of the victims had been seen in a brawl outside a pub..."


"The Red Lion. It doesn't mean..."


"In this street." Buffy looked back the way they had come.


"We haven't missed it. It'll be near the wall."


"Will it be open, do you think?" she said, hoping yes, because they would be out from the cold for a bit.


"It's not that late."


Oh. Buffy had forgotten that pubs, or public houses were open till the wee hours. The ones that had a licence for it anyway. Wee. Buffy wondered at her thought. She was becoming English-sized, or was that Anglo-sized?


"For you maybe. There's a bed with our name on it, remember?"


He chuckled. "How can I forget with you by my side?"


They spied the premises in that moment and Buffy practically dragged Angel along, hustling him up the small flight of steps and in through the narrow door. Inside were more people than she thought there could possibly be, and a wonderful cosy fire.


She led the way to the bar and took the stool nearest the fire. Angel smirked to himself as he followed her example. There weren't many people who could hustle him along like Buffy could. Angel eyed the mirror behind the bar. There were bottles aplenty lining the shelf that ran beneath obscuring the glass. His lack of reflection wouldn't be noticed.


Angel ordered a whisky for himself and a Baileys for Buffy. She glanced around at the people sitting around the tables, and whispered, "Don't people have a home to go home to?"


"Pub culture is a part of life here," he said just as the barman put Buffy's drink in front of her.


"I noticed. How many did we pass on the walk here?"


"Americans?" the man asked, producing Angel's whisky.


"I am," Buffy said, confusing him. He was sure her companion sounded American too.


"You here for the tours, then?"


"Yes," Angel answered quickly before Buffy could say anything.


"Yes," she echoed, not knowing what she was saying yes to.


The man behind the bar was reasonably young. Buffy put him in his thirties. His ginger hair crowned a pale face that was liberally splashed with freckles. She liked the way the skin around his eyes crinkled when he smiled. He moved away to serve two women, giving Buffy the chance to ask Angel, "What tours?"


"There are tours for everything in Chester."


"You know this, how?"


"I had time to Google while you were packing. Besides, Chester has always been known for its paranormal activity."


Buffy just looked at him in amazement. To hear the word Google come out of his mouth, him a vampire Googling, was beyond bizarre.


The spell was broken when he continued, "There were pamphlets at the Falcon too."


The barman came back, his customers served.


"Tony's the name. Do you want to order something to eat, only the kitchen is closing in a minute."


Buffy realised she was a little peckish. They had made a quick stop on the road but that had been hours ago.


"Can I have a ham sandwich?"


"Cheese and pickles?"


"Cheese, no pickles, please."


Angel shook his head and Tony disappeared with her order. The bar's other server was a woman. She filled a tray with glasses of wine and beer, and took money from her customer. He carried the tray away to set it down before his friends. The group sat on the other side of the fireplace not far from where Buffy was perched on her stool. One of the women laughed loudly at something said and the whole table burst into merriment. 


Under the hum of conversation, Buffy asked, "Tours like in Disneyland?"


"Chester is reputed to be the most haunted city in Britain."


"They have tours of real ghosts and things that go bump in the night?" Buffy snorted. "Whatever next? Vampire tours? Come and see the friendly vampires and don't forget to leave a quart of blood at the door!"


Angel chuckled. Buffy realised what she had said. "No offence," she added, trying hard not to smirk and failing miserably.


Tony came back with her sandwich just then, and caught her good humour.


Feeling chatty, and as there was a brief lull at the bar, Tony said, "Have you been on the Ghost Hunter Trail, or seen the amphitheatre yet?"


 "Not yet," Buffy answered around a mouthful of food, not knowing what he was talking about.


Tony studied the pair. The man with the blonde handed her a napkin, and she dabbed at her lips with an amused look at him. She was pretty, petite, and cheerful, while the man, although good looking, was pale, dark of hair, and dour. They didn't seem at all suited, and yet here they were.


The man surprised him by asking, "We heard something about a body turning up a few nights ago. Near here, wasn't it?"


Tony wiped at nonexistent stains on the bar. "You heard that already? There was a brawl, a fight or something. A couple of blokes had just left the Odeon and were on their way home and saw a tussle just down by the Bridge. By the time they got there, a man was dead."


He was startled when the young woman said, "Neck wounds, drained of blood?"


Frowning at her, he asked, "What are you saying?"


Buffy shook her head. "Nothing, just wondering. This sandwich is delicious."


"Sighs, was it?"


Tony switched his attention back to the dark-haired man. He nodded. "You seem well informed?"


Angel saw that Buffy had finished her meal. He got to his feet and placed the cost of the drinks, the sandwich, and a tip on the bar.


Buffy wiped her hands and rose from her stool too.


"Thank you, Tony. That was lovely."


Tony watched the pair stride out the door. He shook his head. A strange pair, those two.




Outside, Buffy asked, "Sighs?"


"The Bridge of Sighs is a bridge that spans the Shropshire Union Canal. It was used by prisoners on their way to be executed."


"You know some fun facts, don't you," Buffy said, as she allowed him to lead the way.


"It would be a good place for vampires to catch an unsuspecting human."


"It doesn't mean they're nesting there."


"No, the police would have searched the area by now."


Still, they had to see for themselves and, with Angel's photographic memory, they navigated the streets just fine.


The canal was deserted. There was no sign of life, or unlife. Buffy watched as Angel prowled the area. Her slayer vibe told her there was only one vampire near but maybe Angel could detect something she couldn't.


"Can you smell anything?"


"Yeah." He turned towards her, "Death, blood, beer, piss, vomit, and...body fluids."


Buffy was tempted to ask what body fluids and then thought it better not to know. She crinkled her nose all the same.


 "Euw! I'm glad I haven't got your sense of smell."


"Giles said the other body was found near the University. We'll go that way."


They were heading towards Chichester Street when they spotted a furtive figure in the shadows. They followed the vampire, both sure that it was one, and it wasn't long before he turned off and went through the door of an old workshop. Buffy and Angel followed at a safe distance, silent and as deadly as their quarry. The slayer's eyebrows rose at the closed door. There wasn't anybody keeping watch.


Buffy quipped, "What? No welcoming committee?"


Angel melted away in the gloom to find a window. When he came back, he shook his head. The one window he had found was boarded over behind the grimy glass.


Buffy pulled her stake from her pocket. Angel had his ready, and at her nod his booted foot broke down the door.


The surprised demons leapt to their feet, some from the pits in the floor. Growls rent the air as the demons attacked. Buffy was a flurry of wool, fur, and cashmere, her hand deadly, as her stake found its mark time and time again. Angel was as busy, dusting any that got past her. They worked in tandem, suffering only a few bruises, until Buffy's blood welled from a slash of talons. Angel's roar filled the room. He renewed his attack, his slayer's blood tainting the air, urging him on. It was over in minutes. Dust was still settling when Angel caught Buffy in his strong grip.


"You're hurt," he said, his gaze dropping to look for her injury.


"It's nothing," she said, and held up her arm to see that the sleeve of her coat was torn. Underneath the tear, blood welled.


Angel looked about for a clean rag, decided that it was a useless exercise, took hold of his undershirt and ripped a piece from the hem to use for a temporary bandage. Buffy carefully slipped her arm out of her coat sleeve and rolled her already blood soaked jumper up so that Angel could tend to her wounds. He did so, being as gentle as he could. When he had finished he helped her with her coat and led her outside.


"Are you alright?" he asked her when he saw her trembling.


"I will be when I buy a new coat tomorrow."


Angel divested himself of his own coat and placed it about her shoulders.


"Mmm, thank you." Buffy slipped her arms into the too-big sleeves, grateful for the extra warmth.


"Let's go back to our room," she said, as they made their way back the way they had come.


He smiled down at her. "Come on, I'll show you the Wall as we go."


The wind was bitter in places along the wall. Angel regretted it the minute he felt Buffy shiver beside him, despite wearing his coat. He offered to take her back the way they had come but she refused, saying that it was alright, she wanted to "promenade" with him. So they walked, Angel taking the windward side, sheltering her as best he could. He played tourist guide and showed her a few things along the way. At least the things Buffy could see, there wasn't much sense in pointing out the wonders hidden by the gloom of the night. There was the watch tower at a corner of the wall, the Bonewaldesthorne's Tower, the Infirmary now apartments, and when they passed over the Watergate- the only Watergate Buffy remembered was to do with some President...Nixon, she thought - and among other things, Chester Castle. Buffy recalled seeing that through the car window when they arrived. This view was from the other side of the castle. She knew then that they were almost back to their lodging, and longed for the warm bed.  When Angel took her past Bridgegate, she thought he was lost because she recognised Lower Bridge Street from before, but he insisted he knew what he was doing. Buffy took one last look at the River Dee below, she hadn't even realised there was a river, as they continued.


"Not far," he insisted, and he was right.


They passed the Round Tower and walked on. Angel had his arm about Buffy and she wouldn't have changed a thing for the world. Even the winter chill. She felt like she was on an ordinary date with her ordinary boyfriend, the two of them taking a midnight stroll after an evening out. She said as much.


"Dinner, a show, and a walk with her honey. What more could a girl ask for?"


Angel stopped them before a flight of stone steps.


"You can ask for anything here."




"These stairs are the Wishing Steps. Tradition has it, if you run up and down the steps holding your breath, your wish will come true."


"These steps?" They were hard to see in the dark but Buffy could make out the oddly spaced treads.


She felt him nod.


"Some say a girl can ask for anything."


She snorted. "Superstition...isn't it?"


He shrugged.


Buffy wondered for a moment why he had brought her here. And then her heart gave an almighty thud when she hazarded a guess. She knew he must have felt it thump. Angel was such a romantic at heart. He was an eighteenth century boy after all. She smiled up at him. How much more could she love this man?




"Some say..."


Buffy silenced him with a kiss before stepping out of his embrace.


"Anything?" she asked again, her eyes alive with emotion. She shrugged off his coat and handed it to him.


He nodded. She pulled in a large breath and took off up the steps. Not afraid to use her slayer speed - she wanted the wish to be granted, oh yes please - and made it to the top and back again easily. She flew into his open arms, laughing as she breathed out. Angel swept her off her feet, laughing with her, at her joy, and his. It ended in a kiss, it became two, and before she knew, Buffy was breathless again.


"Let's go to bed," she insisted, taking the lead and turning them back towards Bridgegate.


This time Angel was happy to follow.






The bed did not protest, nor did Buffy, as he slid out of the covers and put his feet onto the wool carpet. Angel quietly slipped into the bathroom for another shower and, dressed again for the cold morning, he stood gazing at his girl. He thought she looked beautiful in sleep, he always had. They had both warmed up with a hot shower on their return to their room before tumbling into the four-poster bed that Buffy was so taken with. They had made love more than once, and maybe the bed had magical qualities for they had exhausted themselves, but he didn't think so. Buffy had been giddy from their walk along the Wall, had been glowing since their visit to the Wishing Steps. His heart felt as if it beat, he was that happy to have contributed to her joy. Placing a kiss on her head, he collected his phone and as quietly as only a vampire can, disappeared out through the door. Earlier, before sleep claimed her, Angel had whispered to Buffy that he was going to slip out for another look around. The nights were long and he wanted to prowl. Buffy was too tired to protest other than a word of warning about how she would kick his ass if she needed to come rescue him. He assured her he would be careful and not to worry. He was a big boy now.






Buffy woke to an empty bed. It took her a moment to remember what Angel had said before he left her. She yawned, stretched and savoured the pleasant sensation of complete contentment. Last night had been wonderful. Not the slaying part, although that had its appeal. Slaying always got her worked up. It stirred her blood and Angel was not immune to the battle lust. She snagged his pillow and pressed it to her face, smiling at the memory of their lovemaking. Angel didn't really smell like anything. Predator, she thought, not thinking that she was one who wore perfume. But then she never hunted human prey. Angel only wore cologne if he was taking her out, and he didn't moisturize like a lot of new age men. New age, that made her smile. She sniffed the pillow again. His hair product was the bland sort that didn't have a scent. Vampires have a keen sense of smell and Angel kept his personal scent to a minimum. Yawning again, Buffy reached for her watch. She saw the hands reading nine. She frowned, trying to remember what time sunrise was. She knew it was late, after eight o'clock this time of year. At that realisation, her heart thumping hard with shock, Buffy jumped out of bed and raced to the window to pull the curtains apart. The sun was out. Where was he? It was a moment before she gathered her wits. Staring hard at the bed, a fuzzy memory surfaced about an early morning walk, and if he got caught out late there was a bookshop he wanted to visit, it being perfectly suited for his needs. Buffy sighed in relief, and to alleviate the niggling worry that would not go away, she snatched up her phone and rang his number.


It went to his message bank. Buffy threw her phone onto the bed in irritation. It was about time Angel learned to answer his phone, or better yet, turn it on. On that thought Buffy decided a shower, breakfast and shopping was the order of the day.


It was close to eleven when Buffy headed out the door of the Falcon. The streets she walked looked different in the grey morning light. There were people for one, and the landmarks were the same, only not. She knew the city was old, but in the light of day it looked positively ancient. As she walked, Buffy tried Angel's number again. No joy there. Buffy refused to worry. And if she kept telling herself that, she might start believing it.


The Rows were heaven for a California girl who loved the mall. There were such a plethora of shops, such a variety of goods displayed, Buffy was soon lost in retail therapy. Buffy traipsed from one shop to another, enjoying the feel of fabrics, the pinch of leather on toes, the scent of perfume, and the glitter of jewels. The aroma of coffee and delicious pastries wafted over her in many places on her journey. She wandered through the Rows and eventually found herself in Grosvenor Mall on Newgate Street. The shopping district appeared to run in a square, and the mall was very impressive to her eye. Everything inside was ornate, airy with its windowed ceiling, and beautiful in its store fronts. Buffy availed herself of a coffee and tried to contact her vampire once again. Buffy punched the off button and decided it was time to start looking for him.


For the life of her, Buffy couldn't remember if Angel had mentioned the name of the bookshop he had in mind to visit. She felt a little foolish asking the man who ran the Teddy bear shop if he knew of a bookshop that was sunless. She promised herself she was going to kill Angel if she found him head deep in a book. But when the man asked her if she meant the Booklands bookshop with its underground crypt, all she felt was relief. The bookshop was back the way she had come, in Bridge Street, and she hadn't noticed it. She must have walked right past it.


When Buffy found the shop, she realised she had passed it by earlier. What she thought occupied the ground and upper floor in the Rows ran to a third and lower floor. Buffy descended the stairs to the crypt below ground level. The arched stone ceiling was magnificent and the shelves were brimming with books. Buffy could see that a vampire would be perfectly safe here reading, and not answering his phone. He was not. She decided to search the other floors just to be sure. He could have found a dark little corner somewhere. He hadn't, and now she was more than a little worried.


Buffy spied a pleasant looking man wearing a shirt that proclaimed his ties to the bookshop. The tag on his pocket said Jack.


"Excuse me, I'm looking for someone. A man, tall," she held her hand up to where she thought Angel's head would be, "dark hair, dark eyes, kind of pale, good looking, and about my age."


The Booklands' man frowned at her.


"Was he meeting you here, miss?"


"He said he was meeting me here this afternoon." Buffy lied, and as if it explained everything, said, "I've been shopping."


"What's his name?"


"Angel. It's Angel," she repeated at his look.


"Wait here, I'll go and ask. He might have been and gone."


"No, he said he would wait here for me."


Not really knowing why the young American was so concerned about her missing friend, Jack went off to ask the staff at the till. He passed the message on and before long everyone had been questioned about this mysterious stranger with the strange name.


Buffy scooted off for another look of her own but knew that it was no use. She couldn't feel that tingle she got when her vampire was near. She knew what Jack would say before he said it. What she didn't expect him to say was, "Does your friend like antiques? My brother James has the shop next door. Ruins. Try there."


Thanking him, Buffy left the smell of books behind and ventured into the shop next door. Angel would have liked the store, and Giles, she was sure. There were all manner of strange and wonderful objects to draw the eye. Paintings, statues, old pieces of furniture, carpets, china, the place was brimming with merchandise. Looking at the price tag on an oddly curved chair, Buffy wondered who would be mad enough to buy it? There was no one about, at least she couldn't see anyone. Buffy saw a flight of stairs at the back of the shop and wending her way through expensive bric-a-brac, climbed the narrow steps to the floor above.


Her phone jingled and she grabbed at it with relief. It was Giles.


"Buffy, where are you? Did you manage to find the nest last night?"


She kept moving. There were several items hidden from view, dust covers draped in odd shapes, and she peeked under some as she wandered.


"Yes, Giles, the vamps are dusted." She sneezed as the dust from the covers assailed her nose.


"I'm in an antique store, Ruins, you'd love it. It's in this amazing place called the Rows."


"So Angel let you out to shop," Giles chuckled.


"He went out early this morning and didn't come home. I wasn't worried at first, you know how he can be. He said he would probably spend the day at Booklands..."


"The haunted bookshop?"


"It's haunted? Figures! Anyway, there's no sign of him, I can't get him on his phone, and I'm worried. Giles, am I..."


Buffy stood before a tall, wide crate and she could see it was padlocked. A bit of an over-kill, she thought and without thinking twice, phone tucked against cheek and ear and still talking to Giles, she tugged the lock hard. It broke open. It seemed to her the right thing to do. She could see cardboard packing covering the object inside.


"Hang on a moment, Giles. There's something not quite..."


Giles still connected, Buffy put the phone in her pocket. She slayer-handled the object out of the case, and when she ripped the paper apart there was cloth wrapped around the thing inside. She lifted the cloth and pulled the cover away. It was a mirror. She heard a voice behind her calling out something but she paid it no mind. She was mesmerized. Lifting a hand, she touched the glass. Fingers wrapped themselves about her arm. She thought she cried out.  





Giles shouted into the phone. It was no use. Buffy had gone, and with a cry. There was only an impersonal voice advising him the phone was out of range when he redialled her number. Giles rushed about, threw a bag together with a few essentials and headed for his car. He took a moment and dialled Angel's number just in case he got lucky. He didn't, but he left a message all the same. It would take him the rest of the afternoon to get to Chester.



Night had fallen when he arrived in the haunted city. He left his car outside the Falcon after checking the car park to find the Carrera still in residence, and made his way to the Rows. The bookshop was closed but next door there was a light showing in the antique shop. He opened the door. Manoeuvring past wonderful pieces of Britain's past, Giles found a younger man sitting at a desk, a cup in his hand.


"Excuse me, sir," he said. "I'm sorry to barge in but I'm looking for a friend of mine..."


"And I'm waiting for my brother. He's disappeared," the young man said.


Giles' raised his eyebrows. "When did this happen?"


"I don't know. I came across to see about..." he paused and squinted at Giles. "Just who are you, sir?"


Giles stuck out his hand. "Rupert Giles. I'm here looking for a young woman, a friend of mine. Her name..."


The man got to his feet and shook Giles' hand. "Blonde, petite, pretty, and American?"


"You've seen her?"


"She came by earlier looking for some one." The man added, "I'm Jack by the way, Jack Jones. I own the book shop next door, and this is my brother James' passion."


Giles tried not to sound too impatient with the man. "You saw Buffy here?"


"I sent her here. She came into my shop looking for her friend. Not you, obviously, a much younger man."


"Angel. Have you seen him?"


"Yes, that's what she called him. Angel. And she's Buffy? What strange names. Is he American too?"


"No. Was he here?" Giles wanted to snap at Jack. How long did it take one to get answers from the man?


"I haven't seen him. I suggested your friend try here. She said he was going to meet her in my shop but he hadn't shown."


"What time was this?"


"After one o'clock, I think."


Giles nodded. It was about the time he had rung Buffy.


"You say your brother is missing?"


"I managed to get a break around four and I was curious about your friend. The door was not locked and of my brother there was no sign."


"Is that unusual?"


"You don't know James. Anyway, would you leave all this unattended?" Jack's gesture encompassed all goods on display. "I stayed on and was hoping he was going to show."


Giles didn't want to alarm the man unduly, so he asked, "Do you mind if I look around? There are some wonderful items here."


A frown wrinkled Jack's otherwise smooth forehead.


"I thought you were looking for your friends? Is something going on? Is my brother involved?"


"I am looking for Buffy, for both of them. She was here, I spoke to her on the phone. I haven't heard from her since, but I'm sure she's fine. And I'm sure your brother is just out on an errand and forgot to lock up."


Jack didn't look convinced. "He never does that unless he has Brian here to look after things. But go ahead, look all you want."


"Thank you."


Giles left Jack at his desk although he could feel the man's eyes on him as he moved around the floor. There was a wealth of beautiful items to see but Giles was looking for anything that might lead him to Buffy's whereabouts. He found the staircase at the end of the showroom and ventured up the steps. Like Buffy, he found another floor full of beautiful pieces and he explored the area thoroughly. Ignoring the empty crate standing open behind it, Giles found a beautifully carved frame housing a full-length mirror. He thought the craftsmanship amazing and he stepped over the cardboard and cloth for a better look.







Angel opened his eyes and knew that the sun had gone for the day. It was safe for him to move now. He had been prowling the city in the predawn hours, not looking for a fight but ready for one all the same. Chester brought back a lot of memories of days gone by. Truth be told, most of Britain did, and Europe, for that matter. The streets and alleyways of Chester reminded him that his feet had trodden a very different path all those years ago. He and Darla had been unstoppable in their evil rampage. He had surpassed his sire in that regard and had managed to raise a terrible reputation on his own. He moved about lost in memory. A beggar taken here, a child by the river, a merchant there. His hand caressed ancient stone and fingered engravings on his way. It was all so terrible the damage he had done. Guilt weighed heavily on his soul but thanks to Buffy, and friends past and present, he didn't let it paralyse him as it once had. He felt sorrow and regret, guilt too, and was able to move on. Was he callous in that? Perhaps.


In his wanderings he recognised the furtive shadow of a Grappler slipping down a narrow alley. Grapplers were never up to any good in his experience, so he followed the demon. In the next street he saw it approach a house and venture inside. Angel stopped outside. He stared at the stone walls and the scaffolding that protruded like some giant creature scaling the house. The house was in the process of a major overhaul. He didn't know, or care. What he did know was the house was no longer lived in. He could enter. Agile as a cat, he picked his way across the debris left by the builders and slipped through the gap that was once the door. There were gaps through the floorboards above, wide enough for him to see parts of the rooms above. He wasn't interested in the upper floor. The demon hadn't gone that way. He heard movement down the hall.


In the old kitchen he found a cupboard had been ripped away from its place on the floor. It didn't seem out of place with the rest of the room and its sad and ill-repaired fittings. A trap door stood open, and when Angel examined it, he saw that it had no handle. The door was hinged somewhat oddly, swinging upwards when a body pressed down on it. He guessed there was a pressure point somewhere in the room allowing access. Angel stared into the opening. The dark awaited him and he climbed down into its maw.


The steps were narrow and few. He found he couldn't quite stand his full height when he reached the bottom. He had forgotten how small these hidden passage ways could be. He stared about, his vampire sight taxed to its limit in the stygian gloom. He discerned shapes of varying sizes and by feel discovered barrels and boxes, paper and pottery. Moving silently, he slid his hand along the wall. It was times like this he wished he had a flashlight, and just on that thought, a light did bloom. The Grappler had one and only now decided to use it. Angel released the knife he had strapped to his ankle and, unseen, watched the Grappler winkle a stone from the wall. In the cavity behind, it found small cloth bag. It opened the bag and shook the objects there into its large paw. Angel could see a gold bracelet, a pendant of some sort and earrings glittering in the light of the torch.




The Grappler's grunt of surprise told Angel all he needed to know. This was someone's stash of stolen goods and the demon had discovered it by nefarious means, or it had lain forgotten for years until by chance it was rediscovered, and Angel didn't think it had been by the Grappler.


Angel remembered a gentleman he had killed back in the day. The wife and daughter had been sport for an hour or two. The woman's ruby necklace he had ripped from her neck before killing her. The man hadn't been very gentlemanly at the end. He had squealed like a pig. He recalled an earring lost in a tussle with the daughter. He hadn't stopped to look for it. Angelus didn't paw the ground like a dog. He wondered if anyone had come across any of the spoils he had secreted away?



Angel watched as the Grappler poured the contents back into the bag and placed it in his pocket. Carefully, it replaced the stone and, hunched over to protect its head, started back towards the stairs. Angel backed away quietly, not wanting a confrontation in such a confined space. He waited till the demon was half-way through the trap door when he attacked. He lunged at it with his knife. Slow-witted it might be, but it was fast when it came to a fight. Sensing the attack, the Grappler lifted an arm in time deflecting the blade. It roared in pain as the knife sliced through its leathery flesh spilling blood. Lashing out with the other arm, it grabbed the vampire by a leg and pulled him down. Angel's fall gave the demon enough time to climb out. Angel rolled away and got to his feet just as a heavy object slammed into him, knocking the knife from his hand, and threw him against a wall of cupboards. The wood splintered with the impact and Angel barely had time to get out of the way from another attack. Another growl sounded, and the stench of unwashed demon reached his nose.


Angel vamped and let out a growl of his own. He lashed out with a fist sending the Grappler staggering back. He launched himself at the demon and they both went crashing against shelving and doors. Angel took a few hard knocks of his own and he answered back in kind. They were both bloody, the kitchen was more of a wreck than when he arrived, when Angel said, "I don't think they belong to you."


Chest heaving, the Grappler snarled back at him. "They're mine. Payment for services rendered."


The vampire heaved in a breath of his own. "Must have been some service. Stolen goods, I take it?"


"It doesn't matter. The owners are a couple of centuries dead, which you'll be when I'm finished with you."


The Grappler sprang from his crouch trying to get at the vampire's head. His two enormous paws grasped air. Angel was behind the beast in a heartbeat. He smashed the Grappler into the wall, and leaned into its back, his ridged-face up close to the demon's.


"I'm already dead, moron, and I don't take kindly to people trying to dust me."


With an almighty heave from the wall the Grappler forced Angel back and the battle was joined again.


They fought back and forth, the walls taking more damage than the combatants. Angel remembered falling back, the Grappler on top of him when something hit him on the head. He didn't remember blacking out, but he must have. He came to unable to move. A mountain of flesh covered him and when he tried to push it off it wouldn't move. His legs were trapped and he knew with a certainty part of the house had fallen. He and the dead demon were beneath the rubble. He couldn't see or feel the sun's rays, but as a vampire he knew the sun was up. Chester had been built upon itself, century after century. Tiers of streets, alleys, walls and buildings could be found. There were untold layers of civilizations beneath one's feet. A weakness in the foundations must have opened up taking stone and them with it. He ceased his struggle, and decided he would not breathe for the duration of the day. The Grappler was already beginning to stink. He couldn't risk opening up a gap with the sun up. He was trapped until nightfall. He only hoped the builders wouldn't be clearing the rubble any time soon.



Angel was battered and bruised when he emerged from the wreckage. And filthy. He had lain unable to move for hours. It was just as well he didn't have a circulation to worry about. And talking about worry, he had better ring Buffy. His phone had rung several times and he hadn't been able to move his arms to reach it. He knew she would be searching for him by now. His mobile told him he had several missed calls, and when he rang Buffy he was unable to reach her. He noticed he had Voice Mail, and after fumbling with the buttons, he managed to retrieve it. His sense of accomplishment disappeared when he heard the message. It was Giles telling him that he, Angel, was missing, and when he found himself and heard this message, he was to hurry - Angel heard Giles' unspoken, get his arse - over to the Rows because Buffy was also missing. He listened to the rest of Giles' message and began to run.





Jack climbed to the top of the stairs and looked around the top floor of his brother's shop. The man called Giles hadn't come down. He had been up here for quite some time and Jack had left him to it. Curiosity finally got the better of him though, and now it appeared the man had left without a word. There was no sign of life, and Jack took a step forward. A voice called out a greeting down below. Jack retreated back to the lower level. There was a tall man wandering about the display. His coat was filthy and on a closer look, the wearer was also battered. Under the dirt, Jack could see dark hair and good looking, if pale, features.


The newcomer looked over to him and before he was aware, the man was practically in his face. Jack blinked. How had he managed that?


He shivered at the intensity of the man's gaze. The stranger's voice was demanding when he asked, "I'm looking for some one. Buffy Summers, have you seen her?"


Realization dawned.


"You're Angel, right? The young lady was looking for you."


Angel took a step back. "You've seen her?"


"She came to my book shop, it's next door."




Jack nodded and proceeded to tell him all he knew. When he finished Angel told him to wait there. He would check the upper floor himself.


The vampire knew that it was no coincidence that Buffy, and now Giles, had disappeared, and it looked as if the owner had vanished as well. He climbed the stairs, and sniffed the air to catch Buffy's scent. It was faint but it was there. He didn't see Jack who had trailed after him, watching from the top step, he was all about finding Buffy and Giles. He followed the faint trace of her scent and found it ended before a large mirror. Angel kicked aside the mess of cardboard and cloth that was heaped on the floor, and stared at the mirror. Something about it bothered him. He could sense a strangeness, something was out of kilter. There was majick here, a feeling of the mystical. Spells and majicks affected him, and he didn't know if it was because he was a vampire, or a warrior for the Powers, or both. He ran his fingers over the ornate frame but it told him nothing. He stared into the mirror knowing he had to do something.


Jack moved from the step and crept over to get a better view. He stood behind an armoire and peered around it to see. He watched the man called Angel stand and stare into the mirror. He wasn't close enough that he could be seen by Angel but Jack saw something astonishing. Actually, the amazing thing is what he didn't see. Angel didn't have a reflection. Jack snapped his mouth shut after a moment or two. What manner of man was this? And the other two? Who were they, and what did they have to do with his brother?


The man at the mirror startled him when he spoke.


"Stay back, don't let it see you. And don't come any closer."


It see me? Confused, Jack backed up a step.


Angel made a decision and he hoped it was the right one. Raising his fist, he jabbed it at the mirror striking through it and the board behind. Glass shattered, showering him, cutting him as it fell. A mist coalesced inside the frame and three indistinct figures formed. Angel reached in and grabbed at one and pulled it through. Giles stumbled away, coughing, and Angel reached again. A stranger appeared this time, James, no doubt. Angel gave him a gentle push to clear the area. Angel's hand found Buffy and he pulled her through. As she stumbled into him in obvious relief, his arm went in again even though there was no sign of anyone else. He wanted to be sure. Angel felt Buffy shivering against his chest and he wrapped his arms around her.


"Ohhhh." Her teeth were chattering. "T-t-thank God, Angel. It was so c-c-cold there."


He rubbed her arms trying to warm her up. Jack's voice sounded behind him.


"James? James? What's happening here?"


Angel heard the brother mumble something about needing a stiff drink, he was in dire need of one. Giles appeared at their side, his arms wrapped about his chest in an effort to warm up.


The Watcher managed to keep his teeth from chattering when he said, "Thank you, Angel. Good to see you didn't succumb. Is there a reason why?"




Giles had the grace to look chagrined. The experience was all a blur. It had happened so fast.




The vampire shook his head and Giles swallowed nervously.


"You broke the mirror without knowing?"


Angel shrugged which made Buffy notice the state of his clothes. She pulled away and before she could speak James wobbled over to them on unsteady legs, Jack a steadying arm behind. James grabbed Angel by the hand.


"T-t-thank you, s-s-i-r. Jack tells me you are responsible for our rescue. Come, I have a bottle of Scotch downstairs. I think we all need one, and you can tell us what the hell just happened."


While Jack helped his brother down the stairs, the others lingered a moment.


Buffy touched Angel on the cheek. He looked like a truck had run him over. Maybe it had.


"Where were you? I was worried."


"A building fell on me."


Giles and Buffy stared at him.


"It had help." He shrugged as if it was of no account. "I couldn't dig my way out until the sun had set. Sorry it took me so long."


Giles stared a moment longer and then shook his head. He chuckled as he followed the two brothers' path downstairs. Buffy scrutinized her vampire for serious damage before rushing back into his arms.


"Don't be silly. I'm just glad you're safe. And you got to save us all."


Angel shrugged that off too. "Nothing you haven't done."


Buffy stepped away, leading him by the hand. "Come on, we've got to swap stories."


Downstairs, James had the bottle of Scotch out, and the kettle on the boil. Over a glass or two, and tea for Buffy, they exchanged tales. Buffy told how when she looked into the mirror, she felt a pulling sensation. She felt the temperature drop, and it looked like she was stuck inside a room. The room lacked a door and there didn't appear to be a way in or out. She also found that she was unable to move. She hadn't a clue where she was or how she got there, and she was afraid that she would be stuck there for all eternity.


James informed them that the mirror had been put there in temporary storage for a deceased estate. It was not to be opened on any account. Buffy shrank guiltily into her seat on hearing that.


Noticing that she did so, Angel reassured her. "It's just as well you did, Buffy. The mirror was dangerous."


James had come up behind her to stop her, grabbed her arm and before he knew it he was somewhere else. Giles' story was pretty much the same. He hadn't really looked into the mirror, he guessed that his reflection was all it needed, he had bent to examine the frame and found himself in a strange room, alone, and unable to move. Angel did not recount his earlier adventure. In his usual taciturn way he said he broke the mirror, and here they all were. Out of the corner of his eye Angel caught Jack's puzzled glances directed towards him.


Before James could ask how Angel had managed to avoid the trap, Giles said, "Well it's a good thing Angel knows about these things. Our business is all about the strange and paranormal."


He delved into a pocket and pulled out a card.


"Here, if you need our help, or hear of anybody that does, give us a call."


James put the card on his desk.


"Thank you, Mr Giles." The man chuckled. " I'm sure that Chester has a need for your expertise. I know that you will be hearing from us."


Giles got to his feet, prompting Buffy to do so. Angel leaned over and whispered in her ear. Giving him an inquiring look, she and Giles said their goodbyes. Buffy, apologising for putting them all in danger, was waved off with very kind smiles from the Jones brothers, and they departed leaving Angel there. The vampire moved over to peruse the glass case that contained a few pieces of antique jewellery.


"Is there something I can help you with, Mr Angel?"


"Just Angel."


He didn't see Jack nudge his brother and nod towards the case. Before their unusual guests had joined them for a drink downstairs, Jack had informed James of the things he had seen upstairs. James' whispered words about the little blonde breaking the padlock with uncommon ease made them realise that strange as these people were, there was also something supernatural about them.


James came over to where the vampire stood, and Angel could see a hint of the man's reflection in the glass. He did, however, hear the man's heart race, and he smelt the faint tang of fear. His lack of reflection was no longer a secret. He was very aware of Jack sitting back in his chair and put him out of his mind. The man trusted him, he could trust James.


Bringing out the velvet bag, he said, "I want to know how much these are worth." He handed the bag over to James and followed him back to his counter. Jack stood beside his brother when James tipped the contents onto a velvet cloth he had retrieved from a drawer. The men gasped when the jewellery spilled onto the cloth.


Both men looked up at him in trepidation.


James swallowed loudly. "Please tell me they're not stolen," he said, as he straightened out the pieces with a reverent hand.


Angel considered his answer. "Not in this, or the last, century."


"I'm not a jeweller, but I do sell the odd piece that comes my way. I know something of their worth. A few heirlooms end up here. Usually the heirs, or the executives, go to a dealer. Some prefer to get rid of job lots. On a couple of occasions there have been hidden compartments containing money and jewels."


Jack picked up the pendant. "This is beautiful." He turned it over in his hand. The light caught the blue of the sapphire.


James brought out his jeweller's eye-piece and examined the diamond earrings.


"These are genuine, and I'd say from the setting, eighteenth century." He replaced the earrings with the bracelet. "This is a fine example of seventeenth century workmanship." He put them down. "I suggest you take these to a dealer. They will be able to help you get a fair price."


"Could you do that for me? With a commission, of course."


James wouldn't hear of it. The man had saved him from a fate of who knew what, from some magical mirror that ate people, and Angel wanted to pay him for helping him out?  Angel was adamant. James was as stubborn. Eventually, a deal was struck. James kept the bracelet and the rest of the jewellery to sell on Angel's behalf, and would take a commission only if Angel accepted a gift from him. He asked the vampire to select anything he liked from the goods he had been admiring in the cabinet. Angel did so, only asking that the cheque be sent to Project Paranormal before he departed. He left them with a dazzling smile. It seemed he was to join his friends at dinner.




Buffy woke and stretched like a cat. Her arm brushed against fur and when she looked, it was Zillah. If the black cat was curled up beside her, Aristotle mustn't be far away. Yes, sure enough when she lifted her head, the cat was watching her from atop the dresser. She turned her head and another pair of eyes were also watching her.


"Good morning," she smiled.


"It's three in the afternoon."


"Is it?" She hadn't realised it was so late. "But for you vamps it's morning."


"Not quite, but I get your meaning."


His hand brushed against her breast. She kissed him before pulling back the covers.


"No time for that. We have a very important appointment to keep."


"You didn't say that last night," he teased, dropping his hand.


Buffy clambered over his body, minx that she was, kissed him again and skipped away to a hot shower. She knew that it took him time to adjust to the daylight hours so she always bagged the bathroom first. It was her excuse and she was sticking to it. He was still abed when she emerged, and looking every inch the sexy vampire. Buffy almost wished he had joined her in the shower. She sighed. She was her own worst enemy.


"Giles must be home by now. I'll go see what's up. See you there."


With Buffy out of the flat, Angel rose and padded to the dresser. He gave Aristotle a pat before kneeling down to rummage inside a drawer. Hidden in the back he found what he was looking for. Inside a small box a hint of gold and the glint of silver showed. Angel plucked the silver up and, his mind on painful memories, absently massaged them between thumb and fingers. Getting to his feet, the box went into one of his coat pockets, and he headed for the bathroom.



Martha made a pot of tea, and already had buttered hot scones waiting for her and Giles when she appeared in the kitchen. Buffy found Giles in his study. He had stayed on in Chester, taking their room for the night while Buffy and Angel headed back to Westbury. He had followed them home that morning. Buffy set the tea tray down on his cluttered desk before snatching up a plate, and piling it high with scones. She was eating before she sat down.


Giles played Mother and filled the cups with tea.


"Afternoon, Buffy."


She decided not to talk with her mouth full. She nodded hello.


Giles pushed aside the letter he was reading and settled back with his plate.


Companionable silence passed. It was pleasant, he thought, having Buffy here. And Angel. His family, and thinking it, realised it was true. Not just friends and colleagues, although that too. Family. Who would have thought? A slayer, a vampire and a watcher. Perhaps it wasn't as bizarre as it sounds, he mused.


Buffy finished her second scone, drank some of her tea, before asking, "I suppose you've been researching the scary mirror?"


"I think..."


He spotted Angel at the door.


"Ah, good. Hello, Angel, you're in time to..."


Buffy interrupted him. "Giles has been researching the mirror thing, you're just in time to hear the fascinating facts."


The vampire sat in his chair away from the window. "Morning, Giles."


"Quite." Giles glared at Buffy. But they both knew he didn't mean it.


"You've heard of the Looking-Glass?"


"As in Alice in Wonderland? Down the rabbit hole?"


"Not quite. Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, is the sequel. Lewis Carroll wrote about a world behind a mirror. Time ran differently. Backwards as it happens."


"But it's just a story."


"Hansel and Gretel ring any bells?"


Oh. Buffy remembered the two children who were found dead in the park in Sunnydale. Except they weren't dead, nor were they children. Her mother had tried to burn her and Willow at the stake. Not something she wanted to relive.


"Many children's tales have a basis in the supernatural."


Buffy leaned forward. "So what were we? Food for some horrible monster? Rats in a maze?"


"Who knows, Buffy? The owners of the mirror are dead, and now thanks to Angel it is no longer a threat to anyone."


"Why would anyone have such a thing, and how could they use it when they risk getting sucked into mirror-land?"


"Maybe the family were demons."


Angel said, "Pretty handy device for getting rid of enemies."


"I wonder if they used vampires to set the trap?" Giles mused.


Buffy had an idea. "There was a cloth covering the mirror and then there was a layer of cardboard. You could drape the mirror from behind and then wrap it up."


"Well, someone knew what they were doing. Perhaps we need to look into this more closely."


"You do that, Giles. Angel and I are going out when it's dark." She looked at her watch. "Thank goodness for early sunsets."


"Oh? Where are you going?"


Buffy smiled conspiratorially at Angel. "Need to know basis, Giles."


Angel decided he needed to bring the conversation back to the mirror.


"Did your books suggest anything about the mirror?"


Giles sighed at Buffy's comment and turned his attention back to the matter at hand.


"There was mention of a Veidrodis. It's rather obscure, and there really wasn't anything more than to avoid looking into its face. Evil shall befall one."


Buffy snorted. "This we knew, Giles. I wonder how many people got sucked in?"


"I put my hand in after dragging Buffy out. There wasn't anyone else."


"Maybe evil already befell them." Buffy shuddered. "It gives me the wiggins just thinking about it."


Angel changed the subject. "Buffy and I are heading off to Bath this evening."


Buffy briefly wondered at the weird look on Giles' face, before she said, "Don't worry Giles, we'll be back next week, if not before. You know we're only a phone call away."


Giles picked up the letter he had pushed aside. Angel's comment had brought it back to mind.


 "I've had a letter from New Zealand."


"Who do you know there? Isn't that a part of Australia, Giles?"


Giles looked pointedly at her over the top of his glasses.


"I know you had a better education than that, Buffy. Gerald Firth had the flat in Bath before you did. He's now living in Christchurch."


"Christchurch? Isn't that in England?"


"You remember that Christchurch is in Dorset and yet you don't know where New Zealand is? Christchurch is also a city in the South Island of New Zealand..."


Buffy mimed a yawn, prompting Giles to stop his lecture.


Smug as all get out, Buffy said, "And who thought we had to go to Melbourne in Australia when we were hunting for the Devil's picture that time when Angel was missing? Speaking of," she turned to the vampire who had been quietly watching them, "a habit you must get rid of."


In return, Angel said, "You and Giles were missing yesterday."


Buffy wasn't to be deterred. "You were first."


Angel rose from his seat. "Time to pack."


Buffy shot out of her chair and, with a yip of delight, left the room.


Giles looked at the vampire with envy. "I wish I could do that," he said.


Angel's lips quirked. "All set?"


Giles nodded. "Just about. Call us, will you?"






Buffy was quite nervous. She sat beside Angel trying to explain to the woman on the other side of the desk exactly what she had in mind. She had gazed at some very pretty things in this small but quaint establishment. None of them appealed. She wanted something special, something that said it belonged only to Buffy. All smooth, and sexy, and hers. Like Angel. And, she wanted something strong, solid, and beautiful. Just like Angel. She wasn't getting her message across and she felt like she was about to cry in frustration. Angel came to her rescue when he asked for the pen and pad that sat on the desk.


"Take your time, Buffy. Describe what you want and I'll draw it."


She blinked back her tears and smiled gratefully at him. What was she, sixteen?


She began again. "Strong," she said, and he drew it. "Solid," and it was if he could see into her mind, the notion of which had occurred to Buffy more than once. She continued and not once did he offer an opinion. This was her choice, her design. Finally it was done. Buffy's smile lit up the whole room when she looked at his sketch. It was perfect.


"Can we afford this?" she asked, wondering if perhaps she was being too selfish. Maybe she should just take one of the other...


His smile distracted her from her plunge into her acceptance of something less. He pulled a small box from his pocket. A box she hadn't seen before, and Buffy shivered. She had a feeling something special was about to happen.


His eyes were on her, never leaving her face, when he asked, "Can you live without platinum? I kind of like the notion of white gold."


He opened the box, and she gave a small cry. Tears shimmered in her eyes as she put out a hand and picked up the silver objects nesting there. She hadn't forgotten that both rings had been about Angel's neck when she and Giles had come for him at Wesley's apartment. But those first long months had been difficult for them both, and the rings had been put aside, as they had tried to do with their feelings for each other, back before they knew that perfect happiness hadn't been forbidden. She didn't know why she had never brought up the subject of the rings with Angel. Perhaps it was because she thought it would be too painful a reminder of that eventful night that led to the release of Angelus, for him, and for her.


They forgot there was a stranger sitting across from them. Angel's hand closed over hers.


"What do you think, Buffy? Can we use them?"


She looked up at him, saw his concern, his worry, clear in his eyes.


"Oh yes. I think it will be perfect. If one will do, can it be mine? I want you to wear yours, Angel."


Buffy watched as a slow smile spread across his lips. He nodded, and lifting her hand, kissed her knuckles. She turned her hand over and unfurled the fingers holding the rings. Angel plucked up the larger claddagh and slipped it on. She sniffed back the promise of more tears. She wasn't successful.


A cough from the woman behind the desk reminded them they had an audience.


Angel's thumb gently smoothed away the wetness adorning her cheeks. Buffy's hand found his, and quite reluctantly she gave the other claddagh back to him. He placed it on the desk.


The woman behind the desk wore a lovely peacock-coloured jumper beneath an elegant suit. It suited her, her hair and make up were perfect as befitted a professional woman. She said, "You obviously know white gold requires yellow gold, which is blended with another metal. Once upon a time zinc was used and today we use silver. I see you wish to use this ring, and, one will do," she added, having been witness to everything said. She plucked it up from the desk and examined it closely. "Can we help you with the gold?"


Angel held out the other item that had nestled beside the rings. It was a gold nugget. Angel handed the gold over and watched the emotions play over the jeweller's face as she turned it over in her hand.


The woman looked up at him in surprise. "We don't often see gold in its raw form here. If I may be so bold, where did it come from?"




Her eyebrows rose but Angel didn't notice. He was aware that Buffy squeezed his hand and Angel held on to her as memories of that fateful summer came rushing in. His recall, usually perfect, was a fractured one of those days and nights. He would never forget drinking all those young girls, those new slayers, until he felt as if he was about to crawl out of his own skin, the heat and the power that surged within made him feel alive and energized, and at the same time monstrous, vile and wretched. Never mind that Giles had poisoned them with henbane thinking it was the right thing to do. It had been his duty, to drink them, to preserve the order of things, to save the world. How he hated the word champion! The henbane-induced hallucinations had sent him mad. He had stumbled away to keep the others safe, unsuccessful in his attempts to escape his self-loathing.


When half-way sane he had travelled the road that led to Galway, planning to leave Ireland for good when done. Galway had been his home town, oh so long ago. What he found were the graves of all those he had killed, an entire village. Strange to say, it brought him some peace, the cleaning of those sad lonely stones.  And Buffy had come for him, Giles too. It touched him that they had tended to his own sad resting place; unnamed, as it should be. In the back of Giles' car Angel had put his hand in his pocket and found the nugget there. He didn't know where or when or even if, he had placed it there, he had no recollection of it. He hadn't been up to talking, and just being near Buffy and Giles had been difficult for him. So he had sat there, silent, wondering if the gold had originated from Croagh Patrick, the Holy Mountain. It wasn't that far from Galway. Ninety-odd miles. It was possible that he had found it in his wanderings. The rain could have washed the nugget down in one of the streams, but he didn't think so. The mountain was a place of reverence and mystique. Mystical occurrences and he were old friends. In his gut he felt the gold was blessed, if that was the word to use. Croagh Patrick had been the site of ancient Celtic rites, let alone the miracle that had befallen St Patrick. And Angel believed in miracles. If gold from Croagh Patrick had been used when forging ancient Celtic artefacts, imbuing them with mystical qualities, then Patrick gold could be used to forge this new and wonderful thing.




Buffy's voice brought him out of his musings and he blinked the room back into focus.


"Will that do?" he asked.


The woman and jeweller, Christine Attwood, nodded. She was curious but not so rude as to ask where in the Emerald Isle the nugget had originated. This couple were an interesting pair, she thought.


"I don't suppose you have a diamond or two on you?" she asked him with a smile. She couldn't but notice how handsome he was. She might be married but she wasn't blind.


Angel shook his head. "No, I'm all out of those."


Christine Attwood got to her feet, chuckling as she did so. "I was beginning to think you were going into competition with us. I have a small selection of stones in the safe. If you would excuse me, please?"


Buffy squeezed his hand again when he turned his eyes towards her.


"Are you alright?" she asked, worried about him.


"I'm fine, Buffy. It's just..."


"Ireland," she finished for him.


He stared at her, looked hard into her eyes. Buffy knew him, sometimes better than he knew himself. She had the key to his heart. He hoped he had hers. He smiled, hoping that simple act showed her how much he loved and appreciated her.


He watched her eyes flick to the door the jeweller had disappeared through before she leaned in to give him a kiss.


"Thank you," she said, and he felt her breath hot against his mouth.


And then she giggled. "Sorry," she said, her eyes shining with anticipation. "I'm just so excited."


"And you have every right to be," he grinned, catching her mood.


Mrs Attwood returned to her desk with a small tray of stones. Buffy took great delight in inspecting each and every one before making her final choice. It wasn't hard really. With what she had in mind, it was obvious which she would choose.


Christine Attwood placed the precious items in a box she found handy. "My husband is an excellent craftsman, as you've seen on display here. He'll not let you down. I assure you, the ring will be perfect." She opened up a large leather-bound book that was used for customers' details. She knew who these two were, who didn't in the village, but for appearances' sake, she asked, "Can we have an address and phone number for when the item is ready for you?"


Angel gave her the address in Bath and also Giles' at Summerdown House. Their business concluded, they said goodnight to Mrs Attwood and made their way out of the Westbury Craft Centre and along to where Angel had parked his car. Unable to contain her joy any longer Buffy jumped into her vampire's arms and covered his face in kisses.


"I take it you're happy?" he laughed.


"Oh yeah," she said, her voice low and husky, "how fast can you drive to Bath, because I want you now?"


Angel's answer was a long deep kiss, a quick deposit of Buffy in the passenger seat, an "excuse me" as he disappeared back towards Attwood's Gems, and on his return, tyres squealing as he drove out of town.






Buffy and Angel had been gone a few days when a shadow detached itself from the dark hollows of the cold night. The sinister form slid silently through the quiet winter garden of Summerdown House. Upon reaching the door, it carefully tested the latch. It found it locked, but managed all the same to overcome the obstacle with barely a sound. The demon slipped inside the house ever so quietly. It stood for a moment listening for movement and sounds of alarm. Satisfied it hadn't been discovered, the demon moved down the hall intent on its destination. Once inside the study the demon carefully rifled through the papers and clutter on the desk. It opened drawers and with a glance, dismissed what was inside. The demon considered for a moment and then with a grim little smile it stepped over to the bookshelves. It found what it was hunting for among the books. The demon let itself out of the house and disappeared into the night, the lone occupant fast asleep inside, blissfully unaware of any intrusion.






Buffy woke up to a bed without Angel. She blinked at his pillow. The indentation his head had left was still visible but where was he? Not again, she thought, not today. Day. It was day, wasn't it? Glancing over to the windows she could see a brightness sneaking a peek beneath the heavy drapes. Buffy sat up to look at her watch, when the object of her concern wandered into the bedroom, a tray in his hands.


"Morning, sleepyhead."


"Is it morning?" she asked, eyeing up the tray that was obviously her breakfast. She could see fruit, sliced and diced, toast and a pot of jam, a bowl of cereal, milk on the side, and a single rose stood in a sliver of crystal, red as a ruby and heady with scent. She wondered when he had organised that.


He leaned over for a kiss before placing the tray on the small table he had moved to the bedside.


"Coffee coming up."


Buffy watched him as he left the room.


"Mmm," she murmured, not knowing if it was the sight of his naked back or the scent of the rose that inspired the sentiment. Her stomach growled. Maybe it was the aroma of the food. For a being who didn't eat, Angel knew what appealed to her buds.


She was eating her fruit when he came back bearing the coffee. He placed her cup in the empty space her bowl had left and joined her in the bed.


Speaking around a mouthful of fruit, she said, "This is the life. Breakfast in bed, a half-naked man at my beck and call, and..."


Angel waited for her to finish her sentence and when she didn't, he said, "What?"


She grinned at him. "I'm trying to think what more could I want."


"Well?" he said after she had demolished her fruit and was busy applying jam to her toast.


"I can't think of anything else. I'm complete."


He sipped his coffee. "Are you sure?"


She didn't see the glint in his eye.




"Then you won't want this." He opened his hand.


Buffy dropped the rest of her toast, her strangled squeal lost in a fit of coughing as breadcrumbs lodged in her windpipe.


His fingers folded over his palm hiding the glittering object there. Buffy didn't bother to take a sip of coffee to alleviate her spasms, she pounced on him, still coughing, her movement sending the dishes crashing to the floor.


He lifted a devilish eyebrow. "Giles won't be pleased."


"Gimme!" she cried, and tried to pry his fingers open.


"I thought you said you were complete?"


Buffy laughed. "I didn't know you had this already. We were going to pick it up on the way to Giles. How did you?" She banged a fisted hand on his chest. "When did you have time to collect this?"


He chuckled, and opened his hand. Buffy's eyes widened in delight.


"Oh, Angel. This perfect." She picked it up to admire it at close quarters. The centre stone was emerald cut, larger than the two square-cut diamonds resting on either side.


Angel saw her eyes fill with tears when she read the engraving on the inside of the band.


"Always," she breathed. A tear escaped and ran down her cheek.


He plucked it from her fingers, and kissed the tear away. Her hand trembled as he slid the ring on her finger. The silver of his claddagh around his finger caught her eye as he did so. She smiled, happy to see it there, and not be able to help herself, slid her gaze back to her ring. It was beautiful.


When she raised her eyes, his dark gaze captured her own. She saw love, dedication and purpose in his eyes. "It's true, you know. Always."


Buffy threw her arms about him. She sniffed back her tears. "I love you," she cried into his neck.


His hand stroked her hair until she quietened. She kissed him fiercely, a smile back on her face when she pulled away.


"Those old people knew a thing or two when they made the Wishing Steps. It helps that an eighteenth century vampire be incredibly romantic, and that a twentieth century slayer knows what's in his heart."


His lips brushed hers. "It helps she knows her own heart too."


Buffy kissed him back before looking him in the eyes.


"Come on, ‘fess up. How did you manage it?"




She frowned and Angel hurried on. "He didn't peek. He promised. You can show him tonight. It's still a surprise."


Her frown turned sly.


"That's hours away. I wonder what we can do till then?" she asked coyly.


He chuckled again.


"I thought you were complete?"


"Can't a girl have an appetite these days?"


"Well, I guess I had better see what I can do about filling you up."






The evening was bitter when Buffy stepped out of the car. For once she didn't mind. The day had been perfect and she was still basking in its glow. She had on a new warm winter coat, and beneath that a new outfit and to die for shoes she had bought one day in Bath while Angel had been sleeping. Pinned to her coat was an antique brooch, another gift from Angel. Her fingers caressed the strange and yet beautiful piece. She had been standing in front of Angel showing off her new clothes, twirling to and fro to give him the best view, when he had reached out to pin something to her shoulder. She had put out a hand to stop him, wanting to see what he had for her.


Buffy hadn't believed her eyes. Where on earth? She had taken the brooch from his fingers. It was beautiful, and old. When she had lifted her eyes, he had been smiling.


"I found it in the Ruins."


"You bought it off the Jones brothers?" Buffy had asked, but her eyes had been back on the brooch.


It was unusual and yet, stunning. Three diamonds were set in a vertical row against a swirl of gold that fanned out like the petals of a delicate flower, or a pretty sea shell that coiled about itself, intricate pearly striations enhancing its beauty.  When she held it out at arm's length, the gold swirl looked rather like an S.


She had looked over at him. "Can we afford this?"


He had shaken his head to allay her worry. "It was a gift, and it's yours. It looks like an S, doesn't it? S for Summers?"


She had nodded, and had allowed him to pin the brooch in place.


Standing in front of the mirror, she had seen how beautiful it was, and it complemented her outfit. The most beautiful thing in the room hadn't been seen in the glass, however. He had been standing right behind her, a hand on her hip. She had watched with eerie fascination her head resting against his unseen chest.


"You spoil me," she had murmured, happy that he did so, worried that she didn't deserve it.


"You give me more than I've ever had. Indulge me," he had said, and had bent his head and kissed her neck.



Deep in thought, it took Buffy a minute to realise the house before her was dark and forbidding. Something must have happened to Giles.


She said so to the vampire beside her.


"Maybe he had to run an errand," he suggested, unconcerned.


"No, he would have rung us. What if he was working on a case and something happened to him? Something always happens to us on a case." She started to run.


Angel caught her arm before she sped away. "He may have left us a note. Let's find out, shall we?"


Buffy let Angel guide her to the door, not at all convinced that everything was alright.  She had a feeling in her gut that Giles was hurt or in danger. It was always this way on this day of days. When Angel opened the door, Buffy knew there was something amiss. It wasn't locked and Giles never went out without locking up the house. She pushed past him, calling, "Giles? GILES?"


A hand fell on her shoulder and when Buffy went into attack mode, Angel's hand prevented her from hitting...the lights came on...Giles?


"Giles?" she yelped, relieved, and it was then she noticed the room full of people.


"Surprise!" Everyone shouted at once before she could get back her equilibrium.


"Happy birthday, Buffy." Giles enveloped her in a bear-hug.


The others gathered round and Buffy saw familiar faces, friendly faces.


"What? How?" She whirled on Angel. "You knew about this?"


He backed away, palms up. Giles came to his rescue.


"Don't blame Angel, Buffy. It was my idea. And I see you have a surprise of your own." Giles held up her hand to get a look at her ring. He whistled in appreciation and looked over at the vampire. Was that a wink she saw Giles give Angel?


And Giles' next words proved her right.


"You got away with it then? I didn't think you would. Women have a sixth-sense about these things. And, I didn't hear you at all last night," he added, with a grin.


Buffy narrowed her eyes at the men in her life for their complicity in deceiving her, but secretly, she was overjoyed.


Lisa moved in for a look at her ring and soon all the women in the room were vying for a glimpse too. Her new friend Alex grabbed her hand with an excited "ooh," and over her head she could see Nick Hunt shaking Angel's hand. The policeman, Ian, was hovering in the background, a place usually reserved for the vampire. Buffy thought Lisa must have invited him. A couple of the girls she knew from Lisa's riding school were there as were Martha and John's beaming faces. And, was that Kevin Langford lurking in the corner?


Lisa hugged her tight, grinning from ear to ear. "What a lovely engagement ring, Buffy," she said.


Buffy laughed with her, incredibly happy. "No, it's an eternity ring."


Before the ladies dragged her away, Buffy herded Angel into a corner and hugged him, not caring if she embarrassed him or not.


"This is the best day of my life," she said to him, her eyes shining.


Angel watched her being led away. There were presents to open, food and drink to partake of and friends to share it all with. Buffy was happy, and so was he. If not for the Coven, he knew that at this very moment he wouldn't have dared to feel this way. Perfectly happy.



The End.




Author's notes.


First and foremost, a hug to an incredible friend who took time out to correct my erroneous and forgetful ways, and to help out with very important parts of this story. There is a note below pertaining to the most important piece. Thank you, Jo. Hugs. What would I do without your insight?


And a thank you to Lisa who lives near Chester and helped me with her view of the city.


The surname Brockbank: Brockbank is a river or hillside that is inhabited by badgers. It is here that the original bearer of this surname would have worked or lived, probably the latter. Hence Old Mr Brockbank's nickname of Badger. According to Collins English Dictionary, brock n, a Brit. Name for badger


The Golden Eagle Bed & Breakfast is what I based the Falcon B&B on. It can be found on Castle St in Chester. For a look see:


The Rows of Chester are quite famous.


Chester Cathedral


The Wishing Steps do exist and can be found on walking the Wall. This address takes you right to them and from there you can continue to scroll through the delights on the walk around the Walls of Chester.


There really is a bookshop called Booklands and it has a crypt with its own haunt. To see a picture and learn more, go here. I changed the name of the owner though and there isn't an antique store named The Ruins, at least I don't think there is, next door.


If you wish to know more about Through the Looking-Glass, Wikipedia is a good source.


Veidrodis is the Lithuanian word for mirror. It sounded demony.


For more information about Croagh Patrick in Ireland look here.

and here,


The antique brooch is one that I found on the web. Mind you, Angel wouldn't think it antique. It's only 60 years old but according to the site it is an antique.


Jo found this ring on this website while we were deciding the look of Buffy's ring. I had been haunting the jewellery shops, and a real chore it was too! Anyway, this ring is so Buffy, isn't it? It is an engagement ring, but for purposes of this story it's an eternity ring. As the ring was Jo's baby in her story Resurrection Man, I asked her (pleaded) for a few ideas on the look, and she kindly offered a few clever suggestions including the claddagh ring and the nugget from Croagh Patrick, which I wove into the story. Thank you, Jo. You're a treasure.


Am I done? I think so. Thank you.





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