disclaimer in first part

A small ray of sun streamed in from a gap in the curtains, hitting Buffy's
face as she lay on the couch. That brightness on the other side of her closed
eyelids, accompanied by the conviction that she was being watched, prompted
the petite girl to do something anyone that knew her would have said was
impossible; Buffy Summers, Slayer, voluntarily opened her eyes, wide awake
before seven AM.

        Buffy blinked in the morning light, taking in her surroundings.
Remembering her talk with Angel the previous night, Buffy smiled and pushed
herself into a sitting position. A movement of to one side caused her to
tense and scan the room carefully. When she was Whistler in a chair near the
courtyard entrance, she relaxed only slightly, unable to believe she'd missed
sensing the demon's presence. "What are you doing here Whistler? It's a
little early isn't it? The ascension's not for a couple of months."

        "I'm not here about that, thank goodness. It's someone else's mess,"
Whistler replied, shaking his head in disgust. "Renegade slayers. Jeeze." The
short demon approached carefully, indicating a small bag and a cup of what
smelled like hot chocolate on the coffee table. "I got after the grouch went
to bed, and watching you sleep wasn't my idea of fun either. I went out to
get something to eat, and seeing how Angel doesn't have anything to eat,
brought you back something."

        "What is this, a peace offering?" Buffy asked wryly, taking a careful
sip of her cocoa. Peering into the bag, she pulled out a blueberry muffin and
a chocolate donut, and started on her breakfast. Whistler winced a little,
turning away to start pacing. Buffy sighed. "Why do I have the feeling you're
bringing bad news?" wondered aloud.

        "It depends on how you look at it," Whistler started. Buffy raised
her eyebrow and just stared at him. "OK, as *you* look at it, it's bad news.
But it's one of those unavoidable things. It's kind of like a prophecy, only
not. I just thought I'd give you and my man Angel a little advance notice
this time around."

        "You're not making any sense Whistler," Buffy complained as she
finished her breakfast. "What do you mean 'it's kind of like a prophecy, only
not.'" She suppressed a shudder at the thought. Prophecies always seemed to
be nothing but trouble.

        "Well, prophecies are supposed to give you an idea of what to expect,
right?" Whistler explained, wanting to avoid the point for as long as
possible. "They're written by dreamers, seers, religious figures, and madmen
mostly, so they don't make a whole lot of sense. How one turns out affects
what the next prophecy is, gives you a clue to what's coming next. Only you
and Angel and the rest of your merry little band are mucking things up
something fierce by beating them out. By getting out of absolute prophecies,
by disproving long held truths, but proving long held disbelief, and beating
the odds time after time."

        "And this is bad how?" Buffy asked with a sharp laugh, her eyes
trained sharply on the demon before her. "I thought the goal was to stay
alive as long as possible."

        "Oh it's not bad, and you are, we just never thought you could,"
Whistler answered without thinking. His eyes widened with horror as Buffy
made a strangled sound and tried to push her self to her feet. Realizing his
mistake, Whistler scrambled to recover. "No no no. Not we in the inclusive
sense, we in the demon sense, and I always warned them not to underestimate
you, especially after meeting you." He breathed a sigh of relief as Buff
subsided, though she did disentangle herself from the blanket that had
hindered her previous move to rise. "You've faced so much and survived, and
keep getting out of prophecy after prophecy, sometimes at an alarming rate.
Before we met you, we were sure it would take a couple of slayers to get this
far into the lore. After all, you were supposed to be killed by the Master."
Looking at Buffy's angry face, Whistler added, "I'm not making this any
better for myself, am I?"

        "Not really," Buffy said, frowning. She hated remembering the feel of
the Master's teeth in her neck, and the helpless feeling she'd had when she
could seem to fight against him. "I get that we've gotten pretty deep into
the prophecies, and that you thought it would take more slayers and more time
to get there. So, stop digging yourself in deeper and just spit it out
Whistler. I probably won't do any permanent damage."

        "Only if I'm real lucky," the little demon muttered under his breath
as he resumed pacing. He had no problems spitting the news out to Angel;
they'd become friends of a sort while getting the vampire ready to help
Buffy. Whistler knew Angel wouldn't really hurt him. Buffy was another matter
entirely. She barely knew him, and associated him with the biggest heartache
of her life. Part of her probably wanted him dead just for telling her how to
close Acathala. Plus, there was the whole demon/slayer relationship; she
killed, he died. Still, the way Angel was acting, he would fight this to the
very end, and Buffy would have no warning as to what was coming. She deserved

        "The point I was making is that things are really in flux right now;
we don't know what's coming after this ascension thing, and don't have a clue
as to what to prepare you for. There is only one thing we know for sure, and
the whys and hows are totally obscure but facts are facts. You and Angel each
have stuff you gave to do, accomplish. But, it's different stuff, and you
each have to do it on your own, as in without help." Whistler took a deep
breath and turned to face the Slayer, his body tensing for her reaction. "So,
Angel is leaving."

        An instant later he was struggling for breath, his ever present
bowler tipped over his eyes. "You want to repeat that?" Buffy asked
dangerously, getting right in his face. He shook his head frantically before
she stepped away, only to begin pacing in front of the fire, her movements

        Whistler stayed where she'd pinned him to the wall, his hand going to
massage his neck where she'd grabbed him. "That's quite a grip you've got
kid," he managed to choke out. Moments later, he had recovered and moved to
stand behind the chair he'd been sitting in before, wanting an obstacle
between them. "Don't kill the messenger kid. If it wasn't for me you probably
wouldn't know until it was a done deal."

        "Angel's leaving," Buffy said flatly, her arms snaking around her
waist, trying to hold her emotions in as she tried to wrap her mind around
the idea. "Where's he going? When you said 'without help' what *exactly* did
you mean?" All of a sudden she froze mid step as Whistler's last words hit
her. "If you hadn't said anything I wouldn't have known." Buffy slowly
pivoted to face him, anger sparking in her hazel eyes. Her body was primed
for action as she asked, "Do you mean that Angel knows? That he *knew* he was
leaving when he sat *right* there," Buffy pointed, "and told me he wasn't
going anywhere?!" Her voice rose as she finished speaking, her tiny body
vibrating with fury. Whistler's silence was a damning conviction and the
Slayer shrieked with rage. Buffy went with that feeling, once again burying
the pain deep within, as she started stalking towards the darkened bedroom.

        Every movement screamed 'Slayer on the Hunt,' and Whistler knew Buffy
had serious mayhem, if not murder, on her mind. Seeing the turmoil she was
in, and knowing Buffy would regret hurting Angel in the end, the demon took
his life in his hands and stepped between her and Angel's room. "Calm down!"
he pleaded, waving his arms frantically, trying to distract her. "He only
found out last night, and he's fighting this tooth and nail!" An odd look
crossed Whistler's face. "Or should it be fang and claw? Anyway, the talk you
two had last night was more important."

        Buffy growled at Whistler, not appeased by his words but now calm
enough to at least listen. Encouraged by the fact that he was still standing,
Whistler continued. "He doesn't want to leave, so he's in denial, big time.
Thing is, he's gonna end up leaving, no matter what, and a whole lotta the
potential reasons are *not* good for the home team. For some reason, you two
can't be together right now. Limited contact only until something happens. So
I figured, if it's gonna happen, a little advance notice might be
appreciated." Whistler relaxed a moment when Buffy finally backed down and
returned to pacing, though he could practically *see* the anger and hurt
radiating from her in waves. "And if Angel leaves on his own, after talking
it out with you, of course, it might be the best thing for both of you."

        "Not you, too?! How on earth could Angel leaving ever be considered a
good thing?!" exclaimed Buffy, throwing her arms up in disgust and dropping
on the couch. She leaned forward to rest her elbows on her knees and dropper
her head to her hands. "If you have a point, please get to it," she finally
whispered, surreptitiously wiping tears from her eyes. They had worked things
out last night, only to get hit with an unavoidable separation? And Angel
hadn't told her? Buffy couldn't decide if she wanted to go home and have a
good cry or go destroy a practice dummy, but she'd be damned if she'd break
down if front of Whistler.

        Whistler crouched in front of Buffy, organizing his thoughts before
beginning. "I know you don't want him to go. Believe me, he doesn't want to
leave. There's a lot of unresolved issues between you two though. I've no
doubt you love each other despite the odds, the situation, and the past. But
Buffy, Angel's been back for six months, and mostly healed for the last five.
And you still haven't really talked about what happened. I mean sure, from
what I hear you had a little mini confrontation when the idiot tried to get a
suntan at Christmas time, and you had a nice talk last night, but they really
only treated the symptoms. You guys have to talk about what happened last

        Buffy tried to jerk away, a grimace of pain on her face, but Whistler
grasped her arms firmly, stopping her. "A relationship can't survive with
secrets and lies being told by both parties. And you are lying if you tell me
you're over what Angelus did to you, and Angel is not spilling about what he
knows and remembers about his vacation in hell. NO one knows what you did
last summer, and Angel never said anything about your new boyfriend. You have
to talk about these things, or misunderstandings are gonna keep occurring."

        "I know we need to talk about it," whispered Buffy. "I *need* to talk
about it, and Angel's the only one I can really open up with. I could
probably share a lot with Willow, but she was there when it happened, and she
already knows most of it." Buffy raised her head, no longer caring if
Whistler saw the tears that were now freely running down her cheeks. "But
Whistler, I can't hurt him again." Pain and guilt could be heard in every
word, her earlier anger temporarily forgotten. "I've hurt him so much, and
that's the last thing I ever wanted. I mean, I sent him to Hell! He's been
punished enough, and it was for something that he had no control over! I know
I can't talk about it without feeling the pain, and the fear again, and that
will hurt him. He'll feel guilty when he sees those feelings in my eyes, and
I'm not fool enough to think I could get through that discussion with a mask

        "So don't do it face to face," Whistler offered, wondering anew where
this girl got her strength. As a slayer she got physical strength to fight
demons, and mental strength to help fight the denizens with hypnotic
abilities. But emotional strength was something else. Most slayers hardened
themselves, cutting themselves off from their emotions as the handbook taught
to survive night after night of killing and violence, living a lonely
existence. Buffy, however, only used a mask in times of extreme duress. She
had faced so much, and had still survived the trauma inflicted on her with
compassion and concern enough to worry about how her feelings affected
others. Buffy's quizzical expression brought him back to their conversation.

        "What if you guys worked things out while Angel's out of town?
There's always the phone, or letters. I bet that little redheaded witch could
even set up e-mail. That way you get to tell him what you were feeling, and
don't think he won't know you're still hurting, but he won't have to actually
see it." Encouraged by the Buffy's thoughtful look, Whistler continued
knowingly. "And maybe he'll be able to tell you about Hell, and his
nightmares without worrying about seeing the guilt in *your* eyes."

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