Willow sat on the floor of Angel's apartment, surround by her friends. They had come back from an exciting time at the mall, playing commando, and now were sitting comfortably, drinking, talking and having a great time.
She couldn't believe that the person sitting next to her was the same brooding vampire she'd released from Hell.
When she had decided on her mission, she had done it to not only bring happiness into Angel's life, but to dispel her own fears that still remained from Angelus' reign. Now, as she sat and drank champagne, she knew her fears were gone.
She was rebuilding a friendship that had slipped away.
Angelís laughter filled the small apartment. Sure, heíd laughed when the demon was free. An evil, malicious laughter that chilled to the bone. But never this pure, soul-filled, side clenching, blood coming out the nose laughter that spilled from him.
And it was all because of one, tiny, powerful young woman.
They were in the winding down their raucous game of I Never when Angel looked at his watch. "Um, guys. Itís 3:30 in the morning. Donít you have parents?"
"Not home," Willow said.
"Not home," Cordelia echoed.
"Donít care," Xander chimed. The trio looked at him sadly. "What? I know they donít care. It donít bother me none."
"In that case, why donít you all stay here tonight? Iíd feel a lot better that Cordy getting behind the wheel or my trying to walk you all home," Angel said. "In fact, I donít think I can walk at all."
Willow giggled, falling over onto her side. Xander and Cordelia were perched on the couch with Angel and Willow on the floor in front of them. Empty bottles filled the space in between.
They were all completely and thoroughly smashed.
"Anyone up for another game?" Willow asked, staring under the couch. Dust bunnies danced merrily to a tune only she could hear.
"Iím game," Angel joked. The others groaned. "What?"
"Xander, kick him for me," Cordelia whined. "I canít move."
Xander slowly brought one foot out and nudged the vampireís leg. "Take that, you fiend."
They started to break up in laughter. Finally, someone suggested they play Truths.
"Whoís the least drunk among us?" Xander asked, scrutinizing his companions. "It has to be either Cordy or me, cuz you two have been drinking sinceÖwhen?"
"UmÖ5:30?" Willow threw out. Angel nodded.
"5:30? As in 10 hours ago?" Xander asked incredulously.
"Hey, Xander, you did math in your head," Willow giggled. "Must get smarter as you get drunker."
Xander made a face at her. "Fine. If youíre going to be like that, I elect myself to go first. Time to play Truths. My question is, who was your first kiss?"
"You, Xander," Willow piped in right away. "We had just met and were in the sandboxÖremember?"
Xander grinned. "Yup. Then you stuck my face in the sand."
"Mine was Corey Johnson, second grade," Cordelia said.
"Corey? That dweeb?" Xander said.
"Heís was a lot less of a dweeb than you!"
"Before this escalates," Angel interrupted. "And I have to go find you two a closet, mine was Eileen Murphy, and I was about twelve."
"Twelve? Thatís like way older than we were," Cordelia said. "Were you ugly or something?"
"Nice, Tact Girl," Xander said.
"No, Cordy, I wasnít ugly. In fact, I was a rather dashing young chap," Angel bragged. "I just didnít have time for the lasses, always getting into one scrape or another, Ďtil me mum would tan me."
Angel slipped deeper into his old Irish brogue as he continued to weave his tale about his first kiss, his mind going back the centuries.
"Eileen Murphy came by one day, in her petticoats and lace, and me da had told me to fetch her bonnet sheíd left in the stable. So, off me went. But, little did me know Eileen Murphy followed. And she tripped me. Down into the hay, face first, me knickers all dirty. Thatís when she kissed me. Full on the lips. Aye, what a lass," Angel finished, staring off into space with a faint smile on his lips.
Willow smiled fondly at him. "Truths everybody. What was the worst day of you life? Iíll go first. My worst day was when I found you two kissing," she said, pointing to Xander and Cordelia. But she continued to smile at them.
"Mine was when I called my friends sheep, all for dork head, here," Cordelia said.
"Hey, that was my best day!" Xander said, laughingly. The others chuckled. "My worst day, was when Will was in the hospital in the coma."
Willow nodded, knowing the hard times they went through over the summer between Xander, Oz and herself.
"Mine was when I lost my soul again," Angel said quietly. Tears filled his eyes.
Willow immediately scrambled from her side and hugged him as he began to silently weep. Xander pulled Cordelia against him in a similar hug as the past came back to the foreground of their minds.
Angel calmed himself and took another sip of the special mixture Willow had made for him, called Vampireís Delight. He cleared his throat and looked down at the floor. "Truths. And I need to know. DoÖdo you still hate me?"
"I donít," Willow said softly in his ear.
"I hate to admit this, Deadboy, but I donít hate you anymore," Xander said. He looked at the vampire. "I use to loathe you, for having Buffy. Then, I hated you for hurting her and others when the demon was free. Finally, I hated you for coming back after Iíd thought you were good and gone. But now, especially after seeing you tonight, I donít hate you at all."
"Me either, Angel," Cordelia said. "Youíre a good guy now, and I plan on treating you like one."
Angel could believe what he was hearing. The Slayerettes, whom heíd hurt so very much, didnít hate him. His soul burst with joy. He gathered Willow in for a close hug. "Thank you, Red, for everything."
"The pleasure was all mine, General," Willow replied. She laughed lightly at her slurred words.
"Truths. Who thinks Angel needs to redecorate?" Cordelia suddenly said. The new friends laughed at the typical Queen C behavior and thoughts, and they continued to play well into the dawn.
"Ooh! My head," Willow groaned, holding her hand to the aforementioned problem. She and Cordelia were asleep on the bed, Xander was on the couch and Angel had taken the floor, seeing as he couldnít feel the cold.
"Stop moving," Cordelia mumbled in the pillow. She then moaned. "Somebody stop the world."
Angel cracked one eye open at the sound of voices coming from the bed. He looked at his watch and saw that they had slept the day away. The sun had just set less than ten minutes earlier. Slowly, he sat up, wincing at the pain in his head. *A hangover?*
"Iím gonna kill you, Willow," Xander said from the couch. "If I ever move."
Angel stood slowly and hobbled over to the refrigerator. He quickly fed, turning his back to the room. The headache didnít stop, but at least the gnawing hunger in him had faded.
Grimacing, Xander sat up and rested his aching head in his hands. "Shoot me, stuff me, mount me, somebody please." Xanderís statement illicited giggles from the bed area. "You dare mock me?"
"Xander, I thing this ladies deserve some retaliation for that, donít you?" Angel asked. His own blood shot eyes met the teens. Xander nodded.
"Oh, yeah. You guys are gonna pay," he said, slowly standing. He walked over to the bed and collapsed right across both girls.
"Hey! Get off me, you oaf!" Cordelia yelled. Then she groaned and clutched her head. "Note to self: noise is bad."
Angel knelt at the foot of the bed and brought his hands under the covers. He found a foot and began to tickle it.
Willow screeched and began kicking, trying to get away, but Xander was effectively pinning her down. "Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!"
Angel grinned wickedly at her. "I donít think so, Red. This is retaliation for last night."
"No! No! Stop!" Willow shouted, gasping for breath. "Please! General, no more! Aaah!"
Angel stopped when Xander glared at him. He grinned sheepishly at the lad. "Sorry. My bad."
Soon, the hung over foursome got up, used the facilities, and cleaned some of the mess from the previous night. "Cordy, do you think you can drive?" Angel asked, concerned. His head may be pounding for the first time in his undead life, but he wasnít about to hurt any of his new found friends.
"Yeah. Iíll take everyone home, no problem," Cordelia answered. Everyone began calling her Cordy last night and it stuck. The snob queen had been reduced to drunken lout just like the rest of them.
As the teens gathered their things to leave, Angel sighed. He didnít want them to go. He was afraid the bonds they had made the night before would disappear.
"Later, Angel," Xander said, arm around Cordelia. "Thanks for letting us crash here."
"Not at all," Angel responded.
Willow wrapped her arms around him in a big hug. "That was fun, General," she said, still using the nickname from their game at the mall.
"It certainly was, Red. Thank you," Angel said.
"No. Thank you. For letting us bring happiness into your life," Willow said, correcting him.
Angelís smile lit up the room.
Angel heard a cacophony of noise outside his apartment door. He tensed, listening carefully in order to identify the possible attacker.
"Cordy, do your share," Xanderís voice came from the hall. "Iím not Superman, you know."
"More like Super-dweeb," Cordeliaís voice joined the first one. "And I am too doing my share. See?"
"Cordy, I donít think carrying one box is doing your share," Willowís voice joined the other two.
"Let me remind you that I also have the tape. And I was the transportation."
"I think at this point Iím suppose to say Ďyes dearí and drop it," Xander said.
"Good idea," Willow replied.
Angel stood and walked to the door, opening it. Peering into the hall, he saw the three Slayerettes loaded down with boxes. Xander was pushing a handcart, Willow held two in her arms, and Cordelia had another, smaller box in hers.
"Angel! My man. Let us in, before my arms break," Xander said, wheeling towards the vampire. Angel stepped out of the way and held the door open as they entered the apartment.
"Put them over by the couch, Xander," Cordelia instructed. I think, if thereís an outlet, weíll set up under the window."
"Got ya," Xander said, doing as instructed. "Iíll go get the rest of it." Cordelia followed him out.
"UhÖrest of what?" Angel asked, dumbfounded.
Willow smiled up at him after depositing her boxes near the others. "Rest of this," she said, handing him a card.
Angel opened it. On the front was three cartoon birds in different colors, on standing on top of the other. He glanced at Willowís smiling face, then opened the card. A fourth bird had joined the trio and was now pulling the bag of bird seed off of a table. It read: ĎWe never knew what we were missing, until you came alongí and was signed by all three of the teens.
Angelís eyes filled up with tears as he hugged the petite red-head to him. He smiled down into her hair.
"Enough with the hugging," Xander said, entering once again with a long box on the hand cart. "Time to start working. We have a Snoopy Dance to get to."
"A what dance?" Angel asked, curious. He helped Xander lay the box on the floor. Cordelia set a bright orange tool box on the floor.
"The Snoopy Dance. Boy, Will, you were right. This guy knows nothing about the wonders of modern television," Xander chided. He opened the toolbox and took out an exacto knife.
Angel soon found that he was know the proud owner of an entertainment center, complete with 19" TV, VCR, Stereo and a Sunnydale Video card. "Now all you need is cable, and youíre set for life," Xander said, extracting a tape from Cordeliaís purse.
Willow and Cordelia had moved the couch on an angle and pulled a chair up against the wall. They sat on the couch, mushed together in the middle to leave room for the two men.
"Have a seat, Pete," Willow told Angel, patting the couch next to her.
Angel did as he was asked, putting his arm across the back of the couch. Xander popped the tape into the VCR and sat at the other end with the remote, pulling Cordelia closer to him. "You guys ready to get down?"
"Just press play, Xander," Cordelia said. "I may not look hung over, but I still am."
The show that had been taped started and Angel was lost in another world. Heíd watched television before, of course. Heíd just never owned one. Or sat with friends while watching.
Midway through the show, Xander pulled Cordelia to her feet and began to do the Snoopy Dance with the cartoon. Willow laughed loudly, clapping her hands at their antics. She jumped to her feet and pulled Angel up with her. "Címon, General. Time to join in the fun!"
Xander patiently taught Angel how to properly do the Snoopy Dance and soon all four were jumping around the vampireís apartment in time to the music. Laughing, they collapsed back on the couch in a tangle of limbs, not caring who was on whom, and watched the rest of The Charlie Brown Christmas special.
Wiping the tears from their eyes, Xander shut off the television. "I love that show. Gives me a happy."
"Me, too," Cordelia said, snuggling up to her beau.
"What did you think, General?" Willow asked.
"Unbelievable," Angel answered. "All of it, all of you guys. Unbelievable."
"At least he didnít say inconceivable," Xander said. "Or weíd be here all night, re-enacting The Princess Bride, and we told Giles weíd do a few of Buffyís rounds."
"Iíll go. You guys can stay here, if you want," Angel suggested.
"Nah. We did it before you came back, we can do it again," Xander said, standing. "But, youíre more than welcome to join our merry band of menÖer, womenÖerÖ"
"Slayerettes, Xander. Or the Scooby Gang," Willow finished for her oldest friend. She turned to Angel. "Iím Velma," she said proudly.
"What does that make the everyone else?" Angel asked, grinning down at her.
"Xander is Shaggy. Cordy is Daphne. Giles is Fred and Oz was Scooby, but I guess that spot has been re-opened. Care to fill it?"
"Yeah, Angel. Come, be our Scooby," Xander chimed. "Did that just sound as dumb as I think it did?"
"Xander, everything that comes out of your mouth sounds dumb," Cordelia answered him. "Why donít we let Angel be Vincent Price from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo? Thatíd be more accurate."
"Cordy, you actually had a thought. And a good one, to boot," Xander said. "So, what say you, Deadboy. Care to become an official member of the Scooby Gang?"
Angel grinned. "Does that mean we need to get a Mystery Machine?"
"All in favor of the General becoming the newest member of the Slayerettes, say ĎAye,í" Willow said. Three ayes echoed in the room. "The Ďayesí have it. Youíre in."
"Initiation time!" Xander exclaimed, jumping up from the couch. He went into military mode, using the nicknames from the night before. "Corporal Chase, Sergeant Red!"
"Sir, yes sir!" Willow said, jumping to attention. Cordelia rolled her eyes and stood up as well.
"Prepare the weapons and the demon test," Xander commanded.
Willow grabbed Cordeliaís arm and left the apartment to get their Slayerettes weapon bag out of the car, put together by Giles especially for them.
"Ok, maggot. On your feet," Xander yelled at Angel. Angel stood, wary at the boyís enthusiasm. He remembered what had happened on Halloween. "Initiation will consist of several tests, which each of us has passed, to become an official member of the Sunnydale Slayerettes. Do you understand?"
Angel decided to play along. "Yes, Major Harris!" he barked in response.
"Good. Now sit your pansy ass on that floor and await further instructions," Xander said. He grinned his off-kilter smile as Angel sat as told. Willow and Cordelia came back from the car, bag in hand. Willow handed it to Xander.
"Thank you, Sergeant Red." Xander began taking things out and laying them in front of the vampire, careful not to put any that would hurt him too close. "For your first test, name each weapon and itís effects on the undead."
Angel smirked and began naming off the weapons. "Garlic, burns. Holy water, burns badly. Stake, kills if pushed through the heart, otherwise, leaves an unhealed wound unless the wood is removed. Cross, burns."
"Excellent," Xander said, putting the weapons away. "Now for the demon test. There are two parts. The first is on your knowledge of the fiends. Question one: what is the most prevalent demon on the Hellmouth."
"Vampire," Angel answered.
"Correct," Xander stood and began pacing behind Angel. The two girls sat on the couch. Willow was smiling and Cordelia was filing her nails. "Question two: Name one of two humans who have brought havoc down upon Sunnydale."
"UmÖEthan Rayne?" Angel said, not quite sure if that was the correct person.
"Correct. Anyone care to answer who the second is?"
"Principal Snyder, sir!" Willow piped up with an infectious grin. Xander smiled back.
"Question three: Who is the foremost authority on demons in this area?"
"Giles," Angel said.
"Correct. Question four: How can you tell if someone is possessed?"
"They donít act like they normally do?" Angel answered tentatively.
"Close enough. They give Buffy the wiggins is the correct answer. Final question: Do you always listen to what the Slayer tells you to do?"
"No," Angel answered firmly. Heíd known first hand that her friends had helped over and over again in her battles.
"You passed the first part of the demon test. The second part is trickier. To become an official member of the Slayerettes, you have to been attacked by a demon or other supernatural creature, and it had to attack you personally, not you helping to attack it, such at Reptile boy from the frat house."
Angel thought for a few minutes. Heíd fought so many vampires over the years, but he knew intuitively that was not what Xander meant. Vampires in this test did not count. "Eyghon," Angel finally answered, remembering.
"Very good. You passed. You have also been promoted directly to General due to your status as a supernatural creature. Only the Slayer herself is over you in rank," Xander finished. "Now, I will have Sergeant Red give you a brief history of the Slayerettes. Sergeant."
Willow stood and smiled at Xander. She was really getting into the initiation. Xander may act like an idiot at times, but this made it all worth while. He was trying to let Angel know, in his own way, that he was a friend.
"Ok. History of the Slayerettes. The Slayer, one Buffy Summers, came to the Hellmouth in 1996. After saving the two founding members lives, we aided in rescuing the people trapped in the Bronze at the time of the Harvest," Willow began.
"Our first official battle came against a Witch named Catherine Madison. She had switched bodies with Amy, our resident Sunnydale High School Witch, besides me, that is. Then Major Harris was attacked by a praying mantis, called the She-Mantis. Next, we made sure the Slayer went to stop the Anointed One, although it turns out he wasnít the Anointed One after allÖbut still," Willow stopped and grinned.
"Major Harris was then possessed by a hyena spirit and I was almost sacrificed. Then we met Angel, the vampire with a soul," she smiled at Angel, who smiled just as brightly back. "Moloch, the demon came next, attacking me. Then, Sid the Dummy, who was a demon slayer came to town and we helped kill off the last of the Brotherhood of Seven Demons. Then, a little boy who had been beaten had nightmares that were manifesting in reality. We were all effected by that one."
Willow motioned to Cordelia. "Cordeliaís main even is next. She was attacked by Catherine the Great before, but this time Marcie was strictly after the Homecoming Queen. Next, a biggie in our lives - the Master. And the attempted resurrection of the Master. Then back to Cordelia being chosen by Daryl Epps to be his Frankensteinís bride."
"It was very eew," Cordelia added, speaking for the first time.
"I will speed up here, in the interest of time. Spike came to town and attacked the school on Parent-Teacherís Night; Ampata tried to suck the life out of me and Xander; Cordelia and Buffy were to be sacrificed to Reptile boy; we all turned into our Halloween costumes thanks to Ethan Rayne; Ford came to town, wanting to become a vampire; Eyghon came next; then the Assassins and the healing of Drusilla; then evil robot Ted; the bezoar; the Judge and, what was the most terrible for all of us, Angelus was free," Willow looked down at her feet. She took a deep breath and continued.
"Oz got turned into a werewolf; Xander blackmailed Amy into casting a spell; Angelus killed Miss Calendar; Kindestod; James and Ms. Newman; the swim team turning into fish creatures; and finally Acathala," Willow finished the last bit quickly. She knew that Angel would be hurt that he played a major role in several of their past exploits.
"Once the Slayer left town, the Slayerettes along with the Watcher took over the slaying duties and all that it entailed. We became a cohesive unit, but lost one member once school started. The Slayer returned, and the Slayerettes went back to mostly research mode, occasionally helping out with the slayage. And that, as they say, is that."
Willow sat back down. Angel was staring at the floor, no doubt feeling the guilt of Angelusí wrath. Xanderís purpose of the initiation wasnít to get the vampire brooding. "Corporal Chase, why donít you brief the General on Slayerette etiquette."
Cordelia looked at Xander in surprise, not sure as to what she was to say. Xander prompted her with his eyes, and she stood. "Ok. UmÖSlayerette etiquette. Donít tell anyone who the Slayer is; donít go anywhere without weapons; donít invite anyone into your home, or car; donít tick off the Watcher, thereís a lot of repressed emotion under that tweed; do stay in contact with the other Slayerettes as often as possible, including meeting at the library at the worst times; donít worry about your clothing, itís much better than anything these two wear," Cordelia said, gesturing to her fellow schoolmates. "And finally, and the most important thing weíve learned, donít ever keep secrets. They only hurt in the end."
Cordelia sat back down with a large sigh. "That good enough, Major Harris?" she asked slightly sarcastic.
"Excellent, Corporal Chase. General, stand please," Xander said. Angel stood, still unsure of himself after the barrage of information he was just given and the not so pleasant trip down memory lane. "After hearing the history and etiquette of the Slayerettes, do you still desire to become a full fledged member?" Xander asked.
Angel looked at Xander, then Cordelia and finally Willow. Each face held a different expression. Cordelia looked bored, Xander slightly cocky and Willow looked excited. She could barely contain herself as she sat on the couch. Angel closed his eyes for a moment upon answering. "If you still would accept me, I would be honored to join."
He could hear Willowís squeal of delight, but kept his eyes closed.
"Then, after one more slightly unofficial task is completed, you will be a full fledged member," Xander said. He motioned to Willow and Cordelia to join the two males on the floor. They formed a semi-circle in front of the vampire.
Angel opened his eyes and looked at the trio in front of him. They each wore serious expressions. Angel felt his heart sink. Did they not want him anymore?
"Ready troops?" Xander said to the girls. They nodded. "Group hug!"
Angel felt himself being surrounded by warm bodies, holding him between them. Tears once again welled in his eyes. They truly accepted him.
Gathering up the weapons bag, the four Slayerettes left Angelís apartment to patrol.
"Did anyone remember the Cheesy Chips?" Xander asked, back to his boyish self.
"In the trunk, along with all the other junk you stuff your face with," Cordelia said, unlocking the car. They had learned last summer that it was good to have transportation nearby in case of emergency, be it a trip to the hospital or running for their lives.
"Hey, Iím a growing boy!" Xander said, sliding into the car. Cordelia and he began one of their many arguments in their love/hate relationship.
"Are you ok?" Willow asked Angel softly. They were both in the back seat, ignoring the couple in front of them.
"Yeah," Angel answered. He took her smaller hand in his. "Itís justÖI didnít expect any of you to accept me, not after what my demonÖ"
"Hey, none of that now. You are an official member of Sunnydaleís exclusive death prevention club," Willow admonished. "Plus, you got a group hug. We donít do that for just anyone, you know."
Angel gave her a tentative smile. "I donít know what I did to deserve all this, especially you."
Willow blushed. "Youíre my friend, and thatís all that matters to me."
The car pulled up next to the cemetery. Xander took charge once again. "Ok. This is how we usually handle patrols. We stick together, never take on more than two vamps at a time, and watch each others backs. I usually try to get a hold of him, then either Cordy or Willow stakes him."
"Sounds like you guys do a good job," Angel said, looking around the graveyard.
"We donít do too shabby," Xander said. "Hereís our list of potential risers, courtesy of our lovely red-headed hacker, who has the coroner bookmarked on her computer. Letís go dust them!"
Xander and Cordelia walked ahead of the other two Slayerettes. "Is he always this gung ho?" Angel asked Willow.
"Yeah. But underneath, heís scared spitless, just like the rest of us," Willow said. She shivered slightly, the cold winter wind riding up her coat. "But we do what we have to in order to make Sunnydale a little safer."
"Did you know that you guys are the reason the Slayer is so strong. No other Slayers ever had friends or family to support them, to back them up. Buffy would have died several times if it wasnít for you," Angel said.
"We would have died if it wasnít for her, too," Willow said.
"Yes, but thatís her duty, to protect the innocent. What you, Xander and Cordelia do is above and beyond what anyone could ever ask. You three risk your lives each time you patrol or aid Buffy. I donít know where you find the courage."
"We do it because itís a way to keep the fear away. Itís either this or locking ourselves in our homes for the rest of our lives."
Their conversation was cut short when they reached the fresh grave. They could already hear the newly created vampire rising. Angel stepped back and allowed the teens to work, unsure of how he fit into this new group.
The vampire pushed his way out of the ground to see Cordelia standing directly in front of him. He lunged and grabbed her, but was instantly stabbed in the back by Xander. Angel could tell this was a common ploy the Slayerettes used often.
Moving further into the cemetery, Angel suddenly stopped and listened. "Halt," he said quietly. The other three froze in spot, looking around for the danger. Willow dropped her hand into the weapons bag.
Four vamps exploded from the old mausoleum, heading straight toward the group. Angel immediately engaged two of them, while the other two attacked the teens. He shot his foot out, catching one vamp in the stomach, sending him flying back. Turning swiftly, Angel plunged his stake into the other before he could react.
Xander ducked at the other two charged. Willow had removed a vial of holy water and threw the contents into the face of one of them. The vampire screamed in pain, his face burning. Cordelia used the distraction to shove the stake home, dusting him.
Xander swung his fist at the remaining vamp, and finally connecting with a solid right. The vamps head flew back, just enough for Xander to have time to stake him. Vampire dust clouded around him, making him sneeze.
Angel fought the last of the four quickly and efficiently. Soon, he was dispatched to the wind. "Rather anti-climactic," Xander commented, dusting himself off. "Must have been newbies."
"I have to hand it to you three, you certainly work well together," Angel said.
"Well, if we would have been alone, we probably would have been vamp fodder," Cordelia said, depositing her stake in the weapons bag. "Those four were certainly fast. Iím glad you were with us, Angel."
Angel smiled shyly at the complement. Willow chuckled. *Who would have thought, a shy vampire,* she thought to herself.
They patrolled the remainder of the cemetery, then headed back to Cordeliaís car. "Whatís on the schedule for tomorrow?" Xander asked. "Other than no school. I love that saying. No school. So simple. So elegant."
"So pathetic," Cordelia said. "But I have to agree, I do love Winter break."
"Giles wants us to report in at the library around noon, but other than that, weíre free until tomorrow night," Willow said. She turned to Angel. "Think you could make it to the library?"
"Through the tunnels, yes," Angel answered. "But do you really want me there?"
"Of course we do! This can be your first official Slayerette meeting!" Willow exclaimed. "Which is not the same as a research party, though. Thatís a whole other ball game."
"What kind of ball game," Angel asked her, a teasing lilt to his voice.
"Basketball!" Willow squealed. Suddenly, she pulled out her super soaker and shot Angel in the face.
Angel growled in surprise, then took off after the fleeing hacker. "Come back here, Red!"
Cordelia and Xander rolled their eyes. They caught up to the duo at Cordeliaís car, engaged in a staring contest. "Alright, children," Cordelia said, unlocking the vehicle. "Time to go home."
"Do we gotta?" Angel and Willow both whined at the same time. They burst out laughing at the unplanned statement, which echoed into the still night.
Willow was the first of the Slayerettes to arrive at the library, as usual. "Hey, Giles," she called in greeting to the tweed clad Watcher shelving books.
"Hello, Willow," Giles greeted in turn. "How was your weekend?"
"It was so great," Willow gushed. "I had so much fun."
"What did you do?"
"Iíll tell you what she did," Xander said, entering the library with Cordelia. "Hey, Giles, Willow."
"Xander, Cordelia," Giles said. "What did Willow do?"
"She whipped our pansy behinds, is what she did," Xander said. He and Cordelia sat at the table. Willow had already logged onto the computer.
"Xander," Willow blushed.
"Well, you did. And you were plastered at the time, too!"
"P-plastered?" Giles asked.
"Yup. Good olí Will, drunk as a skunk. You should have seen it, Giles," Xander said. "Flopping around on the dance floor like a fish out of water."
"That was after she showed up riding Angelís shoulders," Cordelia added. "But way before she kicked butt at the mall."
"She was riding wh-who?" Giles stammered, confused.
"Angel. And this was no ordinary brooding, lurking, vamp with a soul," Xander explained. "This was an entirely different creature."
Willow was blushing heavily. "Guys, you can stop anytime now."
"And what fun would the be in that?" Cordelia said. "To continue. Not only was Angel actingÖnon-Angel-ly, he was smashed, too."
"I s-see," Giles said. "Wait a moment. A-are you telling me that Angel was intoxicated?"
"Completely snookered, Giles," Angel said from the shadows of the stacks. The four patrons in the library jumped at his voice.
"Man, donít do that!" Xander said, clutching his chest. "Bells, Deadboy. Wear bells."
Angel emerged and stood hidden from the sun next to a large bookshelf. "Next time, Iíll yodel," he said. "Hello, Cordy, Red."
"A-Angel, what brings you by?" Giles asked, clearly befuddled by the vampireís appearance. He had forgiven Angel for what the demon did to Jenny and himself, but the memories were very painful.
"Heís here on official Slayerette business, G-man," Xander said. He pulled the list from last night out of his pocket. "Ok. Last night we dusted five vamps, but we only know for certain that one was on the list Willow created for us."
"Five? Wasnít that rather dangerous?" Giles asked, taking the list from Xander.
"We had it covered," Xander said. "Our newest recruit staked two himself, and we took care of the other three."
"Newest recruit?" Giles said, absently. He was reviewing the list for any potential threats to the Slayer or new prophecies.
"Do you guys want to rent a movie tonight?" Cordelia asked out of the blue. "We can watch it before we patrol."
Giles was surprised at Cordelia. *She was volunteering for patrol?*
"Ooh! That sounds like fun!" Willow said. "Are you free tonight, General?"
Giles looked at Willow. "W-who?" He was rapidly losing the context of this conversation.
"I didnít have any pressing engagements," Angel said with a smile. "What movie did you have in mind, Cordy?"
Giles removed his glasses and looked at his young wards, then up at Angel. *General? Cordy? Angel smiling? What the devil is going on?*
"How about The Princess Bride?" Xander suggested. "Unless youíve already seen it?"
"No. Whatís it about?" Angel said.
Now Giles was completely confused. Xander was being polite to Angel. More than that, he was being friendly towards the object of years of scorn. "W-would someone please tell me what the bloody hell is g-going on?" The four others in the room looked at Giles in surprise at his outburst. "Angel shows up at the library without being called, Xander is being outright friendly to him, and you told me that both Willow and Angel were intoxicated. Will someone please fill me in?"
The four friends stood in silence, not knowing how to tell the Watcher all that had happened over the past 36 hours. Finally, Xander spoke. "Rock, paper, scissors, guys. Loser spills."
Giles watched in astonishment as Angel joined in the game. "Crap," Willow said from behind him. He was about to turn because of her language when he heard something amazing. Angel laughed. A full, hearty laugh that filled the library. Giles sat down slowly at the table, examining Angelís happy filled face.
"What are you laughing at? Remember who knocked you into the fountain on Saturday?" Willow said, scowling at the vampire. Angel stifled his laughter, but not very well. "Keep it up, and Iíll tell Giles how Cordy dropped a cup of ice down your pants."
Angelís eyes widened and he looked extremely embarrassed. "Oops," Willow said with a fake saccharine voice. "Sorry, it slipped."
The other two Slayerettes laughed at their companionís discomfort. "Serves you right, Deadboy," Xander said. "Donít mess with the Will-ster."
"I guess Iíve been elected to fill you in, Giles," Willow began. "Saturday night I went over to the GeneralísÖI mean Angelís apartment. I then proceeded to get him sloppy drunk." She grinned maliciously.
"We then went to the Bronze, met up with Cordy and Xander, then went to the mall. The GenÖAngel and I came up with a game, which we all played. Then the four of us went back to the apartment, plied ourselves with more alcohol, and bonded," Willow said, with a smile to her friends.
"Last night, we showed up with all sorts of entertainment equipment as a gift from the three of us to our favorite vampire. We set it up, watched The Charlie Brown Christmas special, made the General an official Slayerette, then dusted some vamps," Willow concluded. "Any questions?"
"UmÖs-several actually," Giles said. "Why do you keep referring to Angel as the ĎGeneralí?"
"Oh," Willow blushed again. "That was from the game on Saturday night. Angel is the General, Xander is Major Harris and Cordy is Corporal Chase."
"And what about you?" Giles asked.
"Sheís Sergeant Red," Angel filled in, receiving an evil glare in return. He chuckled.
Giles shook his head at the sound of Angelís laughter. It made such a difference. "My next question is for Xander. I thought you had ill feelings towards Angel. What changed your mind?"
"Lots of alcohol, lots of honesty, and a good old fashion dose of humor," Xander said. "Iím the one who invited him to become an official Slayerette."
"Thatís what the three of us call ourselves," Xander answered. "Oz was the fourth member, but he left for school. We asked Deadboy to take his place in our group."
"Heís the Vincent Price of our Scooby Gang," Cordelia added, earning a completely baffled look from Giles.
"Quite," Giles said. He faced Angel standing in the stacks boasting a smile. "Angel. Th-this is most difficult to ask, b-but why are you so h-happy?"
Angel immediately lost his smile. Giles could see him literally shrink in on himself. He saw Willow run up the stairs and embrace the vampire, glaring at Giles. "That was rude."
"Iím s-sorry. I only wonderedÖ"
"What? He doesnít deserve to be happy? He doesnít deserve to have friends who care for him? Who like to be around him?" Willow snapped. "I worked my butt off to get him to laugh and smile, and you want to take it away. Well, I wonít have it!"
Giles looked at the young woman in surprise. He turned back to Cordelia and Xander, but only received glares from them. "I apologize. I did not m-mean I didnít want Angel to b-be happy. I was only asking what ch-changed."
Angel ran his hand through Willowís hair as she held him. "Itís ok, Red," he said quietly. "Giles, Iím happy because the three people in this room have accepted me and allow me the privilege of calling them friend. Willow came to me with a pure heart and offered me her friendship, and I have accepted that gift and hold it close to my soul, allowing it to bring all the joy she has for life into me."
Giles silently contemplated what Angel had told him. "Iím glad that you have found h-happiness, Angel. Willow is correct in saying that you do deserve it after everything you have been through."
Angel smiled at the man, then down at the red-head in his arms. He kissed her lightly on the forehead. "Now you can say that a vampire kissed you next time we play I Never."
Willow laughed and moved away. "See you tonight?"
"Iíll be there," Angel said. He grinned at her. "With bells on."