Sunnydale High School, outer yard, 7:43 a.m.
"Angel's gone," Buffy commented softly to Willow and Oz. She was looking away, her gaze removed and searching in her past. "I've been thinking of everything that happened with him and it feels so much like a dream now. It's all hazy and distant. Like him."
"Do you still hate him?" Willow asked.
Buffy turned to her. "I try not to, but it's so hard. I try to remember the good he's done. How much he's helped me and all of us in the past, but I can't help it. The first thing I think of after his name pops up, is 'he killed a Slayer.' Willow, he killed a Slayer.
"But I'm trying. And he's helping Cordelia. She's with him. And that's good." Buffy looked down with a sad smile.
Willow nodded and then offered jauntily, "well, things are good with Xander, though." It wasn't a question. Buffy's smile widened and a radiant softness washed across her face. She nodded slowly, "yeah, Xander."
The object of her affections sauntered up to them and sat down next Buffy. "Hey, buds! Check out the homework." He held out a piece of paper with the title "The Roman Empire -- Good or Bad?" at the top. "I'd like to see Miss Roberts give me an 'F' on this baby."
Willow reached out and grabbed it. "Xander, is this supposed to be your research paper?"
"Yes," he replied indignantly as he snatched the paper back.
"Alexander Harris! There's no cover page! There's no bibliography! It's one page! One page, Xander! The length was supposed to be five to ten. Do you want to fail history?" she turned to Buffy and Oz, "sloppy research papers upset me, okay?"
"Five pages?" he replied in confusion. He looked at Buffy, "did she say five pages?" Buffy nodded. His shoulders slumped and he ran a hand over his face. Looking over at Willow, he asked hopefully, "do you think she'll give me an extension?"
"Hello," Giles commented as he walked up to the four students. "I have some news."
"Is it good?" Buffy asked, her voice perky.
"Uh, no," he replied, "it's bad, I'm sorry to say."
Buffy nodded, "Figures, but it was worth a shot. Miracles do happen. So, what's the sitch? Demons, witches, icky goblins come to snatch us in our sleep?" She smiled.
"Well, you're in a good mood, Buffy," he remarked and then turned to Xander, "what are you pouting about?"
Xander looked up, "Miss Jacobs expects us to write five pages on the Roman Empire. That is just not possible."
"Yes, of course not," Giles agreed, "if I recall, my paper was almost twenty-six in length." Ignoring Xander's dropping jaw, he turned back to Buffy, "actually, it's an evil Sorceress who is attempting to take over the male population of Sunnydale."
"Giles, wouldn't we have noticed that?" Willow asked curiously.
"Well, it's just started and I, uh, I've been researching and I'm quite sure this is the case," he paused, "well, almost sure. The point is we need to do more research and stop her."
With a sigh, the four stood up and began following the librarian. Buffy turned to Willow, "would it be a bad thing for a woman to control the male population?"
"I don't know," Willow answered seriously.
"I mean, I would think that would be good," Buffy continued. "Fashion sense would certainly improve," she added, eyeing Xander's outfit of a white shirt with green and yellow stripes paired with black pants.
Willow nodded in agreement, "I agree. I think it could be an improvement all around."
Giles rolled his eyes, Oz shook his head slightly and Xander jogged a few steps to catch up with the Watcher. "Hey, Giles, do you still have that Roman Empire paper thingie?"
The two girls exchanged looks and then Buffy found her eyes locked on Xander's dark head. As if sensing her attention, he turned around and grinned at her, his eyes lighting up and in that instant he forgot the Roman Empire while he held his Slayer's gaze.
"Alexander," she whispered softly and he stopped, waiting for her to catch up with him. Willow and Oz sent them a glance and then walked after Giles, while the Slayer and Erosean stood in the sunshine, holding hands.
"Think you can handle an evil sorceress?" he asked softly.
"I can handle anything as long as I have you," she replied just as quietly.
He bent down, kissing her brow and then smiling, he pulled away and clasped her hand. They headed after the rest of the Scooby gang, Xander remarking casually, "you know, I really love it when you get all mushy on me." He grinned, "it turns me on."
Buffy just smiled. Some things never change. Good things.