" So, where should we sit today?" asked Buffy, turning to her friends. Xander, Willow, Cordelia and Oz all looked out at the crowded school cafeteria in front of them and shrugged almost in unison. The large room was filled with talking teenagers, and there wasn't a spare seat in sight, let alone five together.

" Hey guys, there's a table that's free," said Willow quietly (although it was a rare day when Willow didn't say things quietly). She pointed over to a small table in the corner that looked to be empty.

" Alright Willow! Let's go grab it while we have a chance!" said Xander, a large rumble from his stomach betraying the reason for his rush. The group began to pick their way over, and as they got closer, they realized why the table had been looked over by so many other students.

" Ewwww. We CAN NOT sit there," sniffed Cordelia, a look of disgust on her face. " There's a LONER sitting there."

Almost obscured by a huge pillar, a young girl sat hunched at the table eating her food quickly and neatly, looking very unhappy with her surroundings. The teen was a new student at the high school and had not had a chance to make any friends yet, so she had to eat alone, silently shunned by her peers.

" But, there's no where else to sit." protested Xander. "It's raining, so we can't sit outside, and I'm HUNGRY."

" I would rather not eat lunch at all than be seen sitting with an outcast," said Cordelia, a look of contempt on her face.

" I don't care who she is and whether she has friends or not, I want to eat." declared Buffy, and began to weave her way through the crowds towards the table.

" Come on Cordelia, look at it as your good deed for the day: giving a friendless girl a chance to sit with people at lunch. She's new here, so give her a break," wheedled Willow, who was rather glad that they were going to sit with the girl, as she had had to sit alone for lunch a few times herself, and knew how it felt.

With a sigh, Cordelia gave in, and she and Willow went to catch up with the others.

" Hi, my name's Buffy, and these are my friends; Xander, Oz, Cordelia, and Willow. Can we sit with you?" Buffy said, pointing herself and her companions out to the girl, who barely acknowledged any of them. With her eyes downcast, she nodded her head silently, and the group sat down. Cordelia tried to distance herself as much as possible from the girl by sitting at the extreme outer edge of the table, as far away from her as possible.

For a few tense moments the group ate in silence, wondering what to say to the stranger who sat next to them quietly hunched over her lunch. Then Xander pulled some celery sticks out of his paper bag lunch and popped one in his mouth.

CRUNCH MUNCH CRUNCH CRACK CRUNCH. Xander noisily (yet happily) munched his vegetables, and Oz burst out laughing next to him.

" You sound like you're chewing on glass!" gasped Oz through his laughter. Xander, who had been oblivious to the noise he was making, assumed a hurt expression, and tried to argue with Oz. However, this wasn't very successful, as his mouth was still full of celery, and only made Oz laugh harder.

" Don't choke on your own lunch." cautioned Willow as Oz tried to eat and laugh at the same time, but he didn't listen.

Now that the awkward silence had been broken, the rest of the group began laughing at Xander and Oz, and even the girl looked up from the table to smile. As the talk began to split up into several conversations, Buffy looked at the girl (who was next to her) and asked, "What's your name?"

" Lorna Chettam," said the girl, and, for the first time, raised her head to look at Buffy in the eyes. Buffy gasped.

Lorna's face was a little red (from crying, Buffy suspected) and she had very short, light brown hair. Her face was slightly rounded, and she wore glasses. But Buffy noticed none of this. What she noticed were Lorna's eyes.

Behind her glasses Lorna's eyes seemed to go on forever. They were very light blue (almost white) and seemed to look straight into Buffy's soul. Those eyes seemed to bore right through Buffy and see all there was to see about her, in a glance. Buffy stared into Lorna's eyes, and sank deep into them, losing herself, losing...

Then Lorna blinked, and Buffy came back to reality. "I must have been dreaming" she thought as she looked into Lorna's eyes again and saw only a pair of normal (if striking) blue eyes looking back at her.

" My name is Lorna Chettam," Lorna repeated.

" Oh,...that's a pretty name." replied Buffy slowly, still recovering from her strange experience. " Are you new here?"

" Yeah" said Lorna sadly. "My dad got a new job here, so we all had to came with him. I've only been here a week, and I miss my friends at my old school. I hate sitting alone, but no one will talk to me here. When you guys first came to sit down, I thought you were here to tease me, like the rest of them." She made a gesture that indicated the rest of the student body in the cafeteria.

" I was new here a few years ago, and I had a hard time finding friends at first too. But then I..." Buffy stopped suddenly, wondering how to explain how she met her friends without bringing slaying into the story. Lorna didn't seem to notice Buffy's sudden cut off though, as she was giggling at Xander, who was making faces as he attempted to chew his celery quietly.

Buffy didn't notice Xander, or anyone else for that matter, as she was stuck in her memories. Thinking of the past two years made her remember Angel. Images of him flooded through Buffy's brain, happy images of them together, as well as more painful, recent memories of the new, soulless Angel. The Angel she had to kill.

Buffy shuddered as she pushed those painful memories back down and fought hard not to cry. She vaguely realized that the others were packing their lunches away and would get up from the table soon, but she knew she couldn't go to class like this.

A small comforting hand laid itself on her back and Lorna said in a quiet voice " I'm so sorry Buffy, but you couldn't have done anything to stop him. Thank you for showing me some kindness by sitting here today. Remember, all angels used to be human, so they all have their weaknesses -- and strengths."

Before Buffy could say a word, Lorna stood up, put her backpack on, and walked away, to be instantly swallowed up by the crowd of people in the cafeteria.

"How did she know?" whispered Buffy.

"I think she's evil," declared Xander as the group sat around a table in the library after school. After telling her story to Xander, Oz, Cordelia, and Willow, Buffy had asked all of them to meet her to have a talk with Giles after school. She had repeated Lorna's strange comment to Giles then, and he took it very seriously, immediately wondering how this girl could have known whom Buffy was thinking about. "I must agree with Xander," said Giles thoughtfully. "How else would this Lorna person know to mention angels when consoling you, or tell you that `you couldn't have stopped HIM'."

" Maybe she had just been through a breakup of her own." suggested Willow. She was having trouble thinking of the shy, reserved girl she had met as being in league with the vampires. "The comment about angels might just have been coincidence."

" Nah," said Oz, waving his hand dismissively. " I don't believe in coincidence. I think she was sent by THEM to be a spy, only she goofed and said too much."

" She just has to be evil," put in Cordelia. " Someone with that little fashion sense is SO OBVIOUSLY NOT a real teenager."

" None of that is any REAL proof that she's a vamp, or even in league with them." said Buffy slowly. Her experience had affected her more deeply than she let on, and in her most secret wishes, she had dreamed of a girl who had been through anguish with a guy; someone like her. Someone who would understand. " We'll keep an eye on her, and if she starts snacking on blood we'll have our answer. But for now, just stay friendly, and don't try and do anything nasty. Alright?" Buffy looked hard at Cordelia while saying this, just to make sure that she wouldn't tease Lorna.

" I'll look up her school profile next thing tomorrow, and see if she has any outstanding records of odd behaviour." promised Giles. " Everyone meet here tomorrow morning, and we'll talk about some new tactics I've come up with for fighting the vampires."

With this, the meeting dispersed, and everyone filed out of the library. Last of all was Giles, who locked the door and turned out the lights.

The next morning Giles walked up the hall to the library, and pulled his keys out of his pocket. Whistling nonchalantly, he inserted the right key into the lock and opened the library door. He checked his watch as he walked in: 7:30 am. Just enough time fro him to get some paperwork done before Buffy and the others showed up at 8.

He set his briefcase down at his desk and walked over to the windows to draw back the curtains. Sunlight flooded in and he walked over to the light switch to turn the lights off. He wouldn't be needing them now, with all the light coming in the windows.

He had just settled down for some work at his desk when he heard a small sound from the far corner of the library. The sound of a person sneezing.

Instantly on full alert, Giles began to take in all the things that were different from the way he had left them last night. The lights had been on when he came in, his desk papers had been looked through, and the small upper corner window that he always left open for air ventilation was closed and locked. Someone was in the library with him.

Wishing he had the Slayer's keen senses, Giles picked up a large paperweight he kept on his desk to use as a makeshift weapon, and slowly walked towards the place where he heard the sound come from. His heart began pounding as he edged closer and closer towards the dark corner of the library, where he was sure some evil character lurked. He hefted the paperweight in his hand, ready to bash it down on the stranger's head. But he never got that chance.

Before he even saw who was in the shadows, a figure came leaping out and whacked the back of his head with a heavy, hardcover book. Giles crumpled to the floor.

Buffy opened the door of the library and strode in calling, "Hey Giles, I'm here, and the rest of the guys should be here in a few minutes."

But no one answered her greeting, and the library appeared to be deserted. Suddenly alerted by a sixth sense, Buffy grabbed the arm of the figure behind her and pulled her would-be-attacker over her head and onto the ground.

" Don't hurt me!" yelled Lorna Chettam, covering her face with her hands to fend off Buffy, and dropping the large book she had been wielding.

" Lorna?!?" Buffy was stunned. She had never really thought that Lorna could be evil, let alone attack her.

" Buffy?!?" said Lorna.

" Who are you and what have you done with Giles?" demanded Buffy, angry now that the initial surprise had worn off.

" I'm Lorna Chettam, Buffy, you know me. I don't know who Giles is, but there's a man over there who I hit. I don't think he's dead, just unconscious, but he's not one of them. I didn't know it was you when you came in through the door, I wouldn't have tried to hit you," said Lorna quickly, but Buffy still didn't trust her. She was just wondering how to check on Giles and still keep an eye on Lorna when the door opened and in came Oz, Willow, and Cordelia.

" I came in and Lorna tried to attack me. She's already knocked out Giles. Keep an eye on her while I go see how Giles is." said Buffy tersely to the others and then rushed over to see Giles. He still lay where he had fallen and seemed to have no more wrong with him than a large bump on the head. He groaned as his eyelids began to flutter.

" Oh Buffy! There's someone in the library! Be..." Giles began to say when he opened his eyes, before he was reassured by Buffy.

" The girl we told you about yesterday, Lorna, attacked you and knocked you unconscious. She tried to attack me too but I stopped her, and know she's babbling something, about not meaning it, or whatever." Buffy explained. " Do you think you can get up so we can go over there to find out why she's here?"

" I think so," said Giles, and slowly stood up. He and Buffy walked back over to where the four teenagers (Xander had just arrived) were standing in a half-circle around Lorna, who had sat up and was hunched against a wall.

" Why are you attacking Giles and me? Are you in league with the vampires?" demanded Buffy as she and Giles joined the semi-circle.

" Please Buffy, I've never met Giles before. I'm sorry I hit him, but I thought he was one of those.., those THINGS come to get me. I thought you were too. As for vampires, I don't know what you're talking about." pleaded Lorna.

For the first time, Buffy noticed that Lorna's clothes were torn and muddied, and she had several bloody scratches and bruises on her face and arms. " What are these THINGS you keep talking about?" she asked, wondering again if maybe Lorna really was innocent.

" They're,...I've,...Oh it's too hard to explain like this. Here." Lorna looked straight into Buffy's eyes and Buffy experienced her second shock of the morning as she saw that Lorna's eyes were that strange white-blue colour again. But before she could say a word, the library disappeared before her eyes.

Suddenly Buffy was walking away from the school down a tree- lined street, and Lorna's voice came into her mind. "I am telepathic" Lorna said. "You are seeing through my eyes the events of last night, after I left school. Don't be afraid, I am not evil, or a vampire like you think. I can not lie here, and neither can you, for I have connected my mind to yours and we are speaking through thoughts, and no one can lie in their own mind."

Strangely enough, Buffy believed Lorna, as she could feel Lorna's presence in her mind, and knew that she need not be afraid of Lorna's strange power. She watched the actions and heard the thoughts of what seemed to be her own body (but was really Lorna's) playing out last night's events like a scene from a movie.

Lorna walked slowly down the street, watching the beautiful sunset. She had been watching a soccer game after school, and was just coming home now, at dusk. She knew her mother would not be worried though, as she had told her she would be late after school today. It was 7 pm now, and as Lorna's family had dinner very late (at 7:30) Lorna knew she would be home just in time for supper.

" Mom, Dad, I'm home!" yelled Lorna as she came in the house, but no one answered. She was just about to run into the kitchen to see why her mother, father, and sister were all staying silent when her striped tabby cat, Mouse, suddenly wound herself around her legs. Lorna had never told any human of her telepathic powers before, but many times she had tried to communicate with her cat, only to get a few garbled thoughts of food and hunting birds. But this time when Lorna tried communicating with her cat one message came through loud and clear. Danger in the kitchen.

Quietly opening the door to let her cat outside, Lorna's mind raced as she tried to figure out what danger lay in wait in the kitchen. However, before she had a chance to think of any possibities, something that looked human came leaping out of the kitchen saying "Come here little girl, come to me."

While Buffy recognized the human thing as a vampire instantly, Lorna had never seen one before, and was horrified when the "thing" caught her and dragged her into the kitchen. Here she saw the danger that her cat had warned her about. Five or six hideously ugly things had just finished sucking the blood out of her parents and older brother, leaving them pale, dried husks.

Lorna who had always been very close to her family, stood speechless for a moment. She would have been sucked of her blood then and there if the being who had caught her hadn't said to his fellow creatures, "This one has some sort of power! Should we take her to Spike and Drusilla?"

But before they could do anything else, Lorna, with the strength of someone fighting for their life, screamed and kicked her captor in the shins. When he released his hold on her she dodged out of their way and ran out the front door.

In a moment all six were following her, the one she had kicked hopping and cursing her every step. Lorna ran blindly through the streets, trying to lose her pursuers for what seemed like hours, until finally she turned down an alley (by now she was completely lost) and saw that she had turned into a dead end. Her only chance of escape was a small window high above on the brick wall. Gathering all her strength, Lorna jumped and grabbed the ledge, pulled herself up and rolled in and down onto...

Suddenly Buffy was wrenched back into her own body, and once again she saw the library and her friends anxious faces before her.

" Are you alright?" asked Willow.

" I'm perfectly fine, how's Lorna?" asked Buffy, wondering why Lorna's telepathy had stopped so abruptly.

" I don't see why you would ask about her, the traitor, she had you caught in a spell after all, but she's over there." said Xander as he gestured towards an unconscious Lorna.

" Lorna must have hypnotised you with her eyes, then you and she went into some sort of trance. You'd still be in it if Willow here hadn't found a spell that broke Lorna's power over you." Oz said, looking at Willow fondly.

" But, she's not evil, she's just.., oh nevermind!" exclaimed Buffy, looking at her misguided friends faces. She began to get some inkling of how frustrating Lorna's life must have been to have this power and not be able to share it. Instead of trying to explain, she ran over to Lorna, who seemed shaken from having her telepathic link broken so abruptly.

" Can you link to mare than one person at a time?" Buffy asked Lorna gently. Lorna nodded, understanding instantly that Buffy's friends would have to be shown Lorna's power's to believe that she was not evil.

" Here you guys, you'll have to trust me." said Buffy as she sat Giles, Willow, Cordelia, Zander and Oz down in a circle, holding hands. " You'll understand in a minute, but for now all I can tell you is that I wasn't under any spell, and Lorna isn't evil." Buffy said as she joined the circle. She motioned Lorna to come over. "Is this what you need?" she asked.

" This is fine." said Lorna simply as she shakily walked over to join hands and complete the circle.

" Where are we?" gasped Xander, as he and everyone else was suddenly transported out of the library and into Lorna's mind.

" As I told Buffy before, I am telepathic." Lorna thought serenely. " I am talking to you through my mind to yours, and you are now seeing through my eyes. You will now see that I cannot lie here, no one can. I am not a vampire, and thanks to Buffy I now know those were the creatures who attacked and killed my family, Nor am I in league with them."

As Lorna said this, she opened her mind to the group as she had not done before with Buffy, and they gasped as they saw/felt Lorna's memories of childhood. They understood the slow dawning of her power at a young age, and, after a mishap with a friend Lorna had believed trustworthy, how she couldn't risk telling anyone of her great power. Buffy suddenly realized how much she was gambling by telling people she barely knew about her telepathy.

For the others benefit, Lorna ran through last night's ordeal once again, and Buffy saw that the window that Lorna had desperately jumped into was a window in the library, the very window that Giles had found shut and locked when he had come in that morning. Lorna had spent an awful night in the library, not daring to go to sleep or even to relax her guard for fear that the vampires would find her. Driven into a hysterical state by lack of sleep and fear, Lorna had hit first, checked second when Giles had come into the library.

" I'm sorry I thought you were evil." thought Oz contritely as soon as Lorna's narrative was finished. He was followed quickly by all the others, who felt nothing but sorrow for this strange girl. Even Cordelia forgave her for her lack of fashion sense.

" Apology accepted." Lorna's thought pattern (it could hardly be called a voice) sounded infinitely tired. " Can we unlink now? I'm not sure I can keep this up much longer."

The rest of her newfound friends agreed and Lorna gently put them back into their own minds. Giles gasped when he saw how pale and tired Lorna looked. Her eyes were glazed over with relief and grey with exhaustion as she slowly realized that she was among friends, not enemies, now.

" Here, lean against me." Willow leaped to the Lorna's aid as she tried to stand up. " We'll talk more later, for now you can sleep on this couch." Willow gently steered Lorna towards a couch in the corner of the library. However, she stopped for a minute to pick up a book lying on the ground, the book she had been using as a weapon.

" I hope I didn't hurt you, or the book, too much." said Lorna, tossing the book to Giles with a twinkle in her eye. Giles Chuckled as he saw the book's title -- Heavy Weaponry for Beginners. Lorna smiled back as she slowly lay down on the couch, and fell asleep with the smile still on her face.

" Show's over, guys." whispered Willow. " If you'll stay here and keep an eye on her, Giles, we'll come back after school. Whatever you do, don't wake her up. If she does wake up, don't remind her of her family. She hasn't had much time to grieve, so she may be very depressed and sensitive for a little while."

Looking around her at her companions astonished faces, for Willow rarely ever took charge, Willow protested," I read a book on it, alright. Now, if I'm right," she cocked her head to hear the school bell peal, " We'd better hurry to class."

Much as it had the day before, there was a meeting in the library after school. The topic was still Lorna Chettam.

" I know she's good, all I'm saying is that we should try and find out how far this telepathic sense of hers goes. I don't know about you, but I don't my innermost thoughts available for easy access through the Lorna line," protested Oz.

" What, got some secrets that you don't wanna share?" asked Cordelia teasingly.

" Uh, well, let's just say I have some thoughts about different people that I, um, don't want to become public." said Oz, darting a glance at Willow.

" I understand, but I know about as much as you do here," said Buffy. " You'll have to ask Lorna about that."

" Don't worry about me, I won't invade your privacy any more than you would mine." Lorna's voice startled everyone, as they had assumed her asleep.

" How'd you know what we were talking about?" asked Oz suspiciously.

Lorna laughed. " Oh c'mon now Oz, I'm more than just some bimbo with telepathic power. I woke up ten minutes ago, and it was fairly easy to figure out what you were talking about. Using my powers is very draining (though I am getting stronger) so I don't use them unless I have to."

" That's a relief." said Oz, casting another significant glance in Willow's direction.

" Are you hungry?" asked Zander, holding up a bag of chips he had generously saved from his own lunch.

" Yes, thanks." said Lorna, getting up to sit with the rest of the group. She munched on her chips for a minute, then asked bluntly, " So, do you know where I'm going to sleep tonight?"

Everyone looked at each other nervously. It hadn't really sunk in that the vampire's attack last night had left Lorna homeless and penniless. Luckily, Giles was prepared.

" If you don't mind, you can stay here tonight...one of us will stay with you. I can go over to your - former - house and get you some clothes. I practically live here anyway, so I have a small fridge in the back with food for you to eat." Giles said. He hadn't been planning to have someone stay here with Lorna, but the look of panic in her eyes when he had suggested that she sleep here convinced him that, for at least a little while, Lorna should never be left alone.

Ignoring Cordelia's icy look, Xander immediately volunteered for the job. Xander had always considered himself Buffy's protector, and know that Lorna had come along, he instinctively protected her too. Buffy volunteered to go with Giles to Lorna's house for two reasons: to make sure the vampires weren't still there; and to collect Lorna's stuff, as she said haughtily that `Giles wouldn't know what Lorna needed in a million years'. After Lorna had shakily given them instructions on how to get to her house, they left. Soon after Oz, Willow, and Cordelia departed too, leaving for their own houses but promising to be there first thing the next morning.

" So, uh, what should we do now?" asked Xander, after a few minutes of uneasy silence. While he considered it his duty to protect Lorna, that didn't mean that he was at all comfortable with spending a night in the same room as a mind reader.

" If you don't mind, I'm just going to read one of the books here for a while. I want to have some quiet time." Lorna said, much to Xander's relief. Lorna picked out a book and settled in a deep armchair, while Xander called his parents to tell them he was `staying at Oz's house for the night to study.'

He then tried to settle in to study for a big math test he had the next day, but, as was usual with him and math, the numbers simply mixed together before his eyes and he couldn't concentrate. Finally deciding the heat was his problem, he tried to reopen the window Lorna had rolled through into to safety the night before. It was quite a ways up, and he had to use a ladder to reach it. After struggling with the lock, he finally got it open and stuck his head out to catch the cool breeze. He gaped.

Looking down at the ground, twenty-five feet below him, Xander realized suddenly that it was not humanly possible to jump that high, even with an adrenalin based surge of energy. Withdrawing his head quickly, he looked at the slight girl curled up in an armchair in a new light. He knew that Lorna couldn't have lied to him about the nature of her powers. The bonding she had made with his mind had been too complete, too WHOLE to allow untrue, or even censored thoughts go unnoticed. But maybe, Xander thought, maybe Lorna is more powerful than even she knows...

" We're back!" Buffy called out cheerfully, startling Lorna out of her book, and Xander out of his thoughts. Buffy was carrying two large suitcases, with Giles behind her carrying a small overnight bag, and a small cage. " Would you believe that Giles here thought you wouldn't need your makeup?!?" Buffy said as she set the cases down, obviously trying to keep a light spin on things, and not to trigger any memories of the horrific murders that had happened in the house that these clothes were coming from. But it seemed not to be working, as Lorna's face became a mask of sorrow at the memories that came flooding back. She began to cry silently.

" Look who we found!" Buffy said suddenly, startling Lorna out of her grief. She ran over to Giles and grabbed the cage he had been carrying. Praying that this wouldn't make things worse, she opened the grate to let out the animal inside bound out. " Mouse!" cried Lorna gladly, her tears drying unnoticed on her cheeks as she stroked the tiny grey cat. Lorna had once again mastered her grief, and talked happily to Buffy about her cat as she rummaged through the cases to find a pair of boxer shorts and a plain shirt (her pyjamas). With Buffy coming with her to `check her makeup' Lorna went to a washroom just outside of the library to change, while Mouse explored the library.

Xander, having no pyjamas to change into, simply decided to sleep in his clothing. He found, with Giles help, a few blankets to cover up the two couches they were going to sleep on. When Buffy and Lorna came back, Lorna chose the couch in the corner of the library, giving Xander the couch near the windows, and Xander didn't need to question why. Buffy and Giles left, and with nothing said but a few `goodnight's', Lorna and Xander went to sleep.

After a few final nosing around the room, Mouse leaped lightly on to Lorna's bed, turned around a few times and went to sleep herself.

He was running, running for his life, and yet he knew that he could never escape them. They would eventually find him, and kill him. But still he ran, unheeding, through streets of fire. At every turn he saw his mutilated family, moaning at him: " Why didn't you save us? You could have saved us, but you were too afraid, are still too afraid."

With a terrible certainty, he knew that he could have saved them, but not how. He knew that he had the power, but not how to use it.

" I wasn't too afraid, I just don't know how to use it, please help me!" he tried to explain to his family, but they didn't hear, and he couldn't stop running to tell them. Always running forever, from them, it would never stop, it was his fate, his destiny, his punishment.

" No!" gasped Xander as he woke up, covered in a cold sweat. He was looking straight into the white eyes of Mouse, Lorna's cat. It was then that he realized that it had been a dream, and that the family he had been so desperately trying to explain himself to was actually Lorna's family.

" Did you wake me up?" he asked the cat as he sat up to dislodge the feline from his chest. He didn't expect the cat to answer, but the fact that she didn't reassured him even more that he really had woken up from his dream. He felt something trickling down the side of his face, and the hand he brought up to touch it came away bloody from the three scratches across his cheek. " You must have scratched me in my sleep," he said to the cat as he rolled out of bed to check on Lorna.

The young girl twisted and turned as she fought some unseen enemy of her own nightmares. Her face was contorted with terror, and as Xander came closer he heard her moaning " I wasn't too afraid, I just don't know how to use it, please help me!".

With a shock Xander realized that he had been dreaming Lorna's dream, that she must have been projecting it to him in her sleep. But Lorna was still asleep, still dreaming of that horrible place where there was no forgiveness. He was about to wake her when a strange thought came to him -- why not see if the dreamlink went two ways?

Not knowing quite how he did it, Xander closed his eyes and reached out with his thoughts to encounter the nightmare again, the nightmare in Lorna's mind.

Instinctively he sent a soothing thought, and the dream's terror receded a little bit. Reaching into his own memories, he sent Lorna a picture of the best place he knew, a quiet beach he had found while on a vacation to Jamaica. As it could be reached only by swimming around a jagged shoreline, the beach was untouched and pristine. Soon the nightmare born of Lorna's fears receded as she dreamed of a beautiful place where the only the dolphins came, and the sky blended into the sea. Strangely exhausted, Xander slowly opened his eyes to see Lorna sleeping peacefully again, breathing quietly. He made his way slowly back to his own couch, not even daring to think of how he had accomplished this miracle. Right now he just wanted to sleep, and he did, as soon as his head touched the pillow. His was a deep, dreamless sleep, and the only thing that stirred again that night in the library was a small grey cat with white eyes.

But, in other places that night, other people were still up.

" What!?!? You let her get away! You incompetent!!!" screamed Angel as he threw the vampire Brunt across the room.

" Calm down, Angel," said Spike unemotionally. " We will get her back, despite the bumbling of our inept minions." He shot Brunt (the vampire who Lorna had kicked in the shins) a cold look that spoke volumes of what he planned to do to the him, once he had the chance.

" But do you realize what kind of power the girl has?? Her mind has the strength to kill anyone who displeases her, which means US now that the fool has driven her into Buffy's hands." Despite Spike's cool tone, Angel still seethed with fury.

" But, if you had listened to Brunt's story, you would have realized that the girl has not come into her full power yet. No one would have come back to tell the story if she had. Which means that we still have time to capture her. With proper planning, we can ensnare her tomorrow night with a ruse that will not only deliver her into our hands, but will convert her willingly to our cause. Now, if I can only figure out how to get rid of her Protector..."

" I'll write you a note to give to your teachers, saying that you were with me all day for an orienteering trip," explained Giles triumphantly the next morning. He was quite proud of the reason he had concocted for Lorna to be able to go back to classes without needing a note from her parents.

" Sounds good to me!" said Lorna happily. While she was still refusing to talk (or even think) about her family's death, she felt much happier today. She had slept well last night, and had a wonderful dream. " Hey Xander," she asked, changing the topic, " where did you get those scratches?"

" Wee-ell," Xander lied, " I was up last night to get a drink of water, and..kind of stepped on Mouse's tail. She was really mad, so this is my punishment." He indicated the scratches sheepishly.

" Bad, bad Mouse!" Lorna lectured the cat in her lap, hiding her smile.

" How did she get the name Mouse anyway?" asked Oz, also grinning.

" She's always had that name. She just showed up at my bedroom window one day, wearing a white collar with the name `Mouse' engraved on it. We put ads in the paper about her, but no one ever claimed her, so she became my cat. Her being so small and grey, `Mouse' just...fit. I've had her for four years now, about the same time as I've had my powers."

" Oh."

The morning bell rang. " Well, it's back to the salt mines." said Buffy as the group went out the door, leaving Giles and Mouse in the library.

" So, if the derivative of y is a, then what must x be?" droned the math teacher, as his class slouched in their chairs with various expressions of boredom on their faces.

" Hello? Does anyone know the answer? How about you, Miss Lorna?" asked the math teacher, Mr. Salmi.

" What??" asked Lorna, as she snapped out of her semi- comatose state. Laughter filtered through the classroom as Lorna struggled desperately to figure out the answer.

" Well, Miss Lorna, if you can not answer a simple algebraic algorithm, then I doubt you will do very well on the math test I am about to give," Mr. Salmi said bitingly after the cruel laughter had died. More was about to start up when a voice piped up from the back of the class.

" She won't do well, Mr. Salami, none of us will, not with the impossible tests you give!" retorted Xander, much to the relief of Lorna.

" You...well...argh!" spluttered Mr. Salmi, as the class laughed at their new target, the teacher. Their laughter died, however, when they saw the near-impossible test he had made for them, and the rest of the math class passed in silence.

" Why didn't you just get the answer from his mind?" Xander asked as they walked out of class an hour later. " It'd be easy as picking apples off a tree, with the Salami's mind."

" I can't." Lorna said quietly, as if stating a fact. "Power can be misused, and the greater the power, the greater the allure of misuse. I have a great power, and it scares me to think that I could use it for evil purposes. So I have never, and will never, use it except to help people understand, or to heal. I'm afraid that if I even use it once for bad purposes, it will overcome me."

Xander didn't say anything, and couldn't have, not in the face of that quiet admission of the burden that Lorna had carried for four years, and would carry the rest of her life. The burden of power.

" Let's go out for supper, guys! My treat." said Buffy to her friends as the last school bell rang that day.

" Ok!" enthused Xander, always ready for free food.

" Let's take Giles too." said Cordelia. " He spends so much time in the library I'm surprised he doesn't start growing into his chair."

" Sounds like a good plan to me." said Buffy, who glanced at Oz, Willow, and Lorna for approval. They nodded.

After prying Giles out of his office, protesting that he had too much work to be spending time doing such frivolous things as eating out, they made their way to a burger place and had a thoroughly fattening dinner. They loved it. Even when Xander spilled ketchup on Cordelia's silk shirt, she was much too full to be too upset.

The only person not entirely happy was Lorna, who despite the comical appearance of Mouse (who had demanded a burger of her own), Lorna still felt a vague sense of dread. Still, she didn't want to be a wet blanket, so she giggled with the best of them.

" Let's go for a walk!" proposed Oz. " I'm stuffed, and walking should help."

So they went walking as the sun went down in a blaze of red and pink. Because she was with friends, or perhaps because she was so full, Buffy never sensed the incoming vampires. But she did see them, when it was too late.

" Look out!" she screamed sharply as a sudden, dark body knocked her over. Before anyone else could act, however, they were surrounded by vampires, twenty of them.

" Protect Lorna!" called Giles, instinctively knowing that the attack must be to capture her. But the vampires ignored Lorna completely, instead attacking the others, distracting them.

" Here kitty, kitty, kitty." enticed one vampire, known as Brunt. But Mouse merely hissed at him, so Brunt discarded his charade and simply knocked Mouse unconscious.

None of this registered for Lorna, who just before the vampire attacked Buffy, had seen three figures in the street before her, three people whom she thought she would never see again. So just as the fight began Lorna had asked a low, pain- filled query; " Mom? Dad? Steve? I thought you were all dead!" The answer shocked her.

" Of course we didn't die." thought Lorna's mother, straight into her mind. " We only made it look that way, so that we could slip away unnoticed, like all of our kind. You see, we are all telepath's, like you, and when a telepath's whole family comes into their power, they must arrange their own deaths so that they can slip away, away to the place where all of our race live. I'm so sorry dear, we would have told you, but we didn't get the chance."

" This is my heart's desire!" sobbed Lorna. " I always wished it could be this way, and now it is!" She was now totally oblivious to anything except the image of her family in front of her.

" Come here, little one." her father said. " Come, and let us hug you, and this nightmare will all end." He held out his arms to her, and Lorna began, slowly, to walk towards him.

Buffy was fighting hard against the vampires. She had no nearby wood nearby to splinter for stakes and couldn't kill her opponent, only evade him. But as she leaped over her opponent, she saw two things. One, only the vampires needed to fight against her and her friends were fighting, the rest were only watching. Second, she saw Lorna, walking as if in a trance towards Spike, Drusilla, and Angel. Or, as Lorna had called them, Mom, Dad and Steve.

" Noooo!" she screamed. "It's a trap!"

Lorna didn't hear her anguished cry, being too far gone in her fantasy, but Xander did. " Leave her alone!" he yelled to Angel as he rolled to avoid a kick his vampire was dealing him.

" There's no chance of that, Xander." replied Angel, drawing out his name to make it an insult. " Lorna (is that her name?) here will soon serve us, with much more power than she ever showed you. Now that you and your friends are busy, and her Protector is unconscious, you have no chance to save her!"

At the word "Protector" Xander's mind exploded. In a sudden flash of images, everything he had learned in the past two days clicked together. Lorna's power, the library window, the dream, and Mouse all suddenly fit together, and Xander knew what to do. He stopped fighting.

With a quick motion, the vampire punched Xander in the ribs and then kicked his legs out from under him. Meanwhile Xander himself sent his mind out, searching for Lorna's, praying desperately that the dreamlink hadn't been broken. It hadn't. With a sudden knowledge that was not his own, Xander broke through the mental hold Spike had put on Lorna. He sent her one quick thought, all that he had time for before he hit the ground from the vampire's assault and blacked out.

Lorna had only to take a few more steps towards her Dad's outstretched arms when a sudden, invasive thought hit her: " How did you jump twenty-five feet into a window too small for you to fit through?"

Lorna paused, and the knowledge that had come to Xander only moments ago came to her as she realized the answer to this seemingly silly question. The knowledge came to her in the same explosion that it had with Xander, only Lorna reacted with more spectacular results.

" You tricked me!!" she roared as the deception that had very nearly worked came clear to her and she lashed out with her power.

Every vampire along the street were blown back from the force of Lorna's mental blow. Brunt, who was having the very worst, last day of his life, was instantly turned to ash along with his minions.

Only Spike, Drusilla, and Angel were left alive, and that only because Angel had transported them away just before Lorna exploded.

Buffy turned away from the pile of what was left of her opponent to look at the girl she had met just two days ago. Lorna's eyes were incandescently white, and blazing with fury. Her whole body was surrounded in the white light of her power, and her feet left the ground as she effortlessly levitated herself to search for more possible opponents. Only when she realized that she had killed all the vampires she could, did the white fire go out of her eyes and she crumpled onto the pavement.


Four days later.

" I am Loraina." Lorna said calmly to her friends in the library, while stroking Mouse on her lap. After sleeping off her ordeal for two days, she had woken up and been overcome with grief as the death of her family had finally hit her. She had cried for them, but now she seemed calm again, and was ready to tell the story that even Xander didn't understand fully.

" I am a timeless being, reborn every hundred years by human parents. Like you, Slayer, I have a destiny placed upon me to learn my powers, and my history, through trial and error. But each Loraina has the knowledge ingrained in them, so we all learn our heritage eventually. I can talk telepathically (the weakest of my powers, and therefore the one I usually learn first), teleport myself (which is how I got in the library, though I didn't know it at the time), and use the powers of my mind to kill, if need be."

" No Loraina has ever had her parents killed before she came into her power, after which I could usually protect my family from any danger coming from being related to me. But that wasn't to be this time...you can keep calling me Lorna, if you like."

Buffy, Oz, Cordelia, Giles, and Willow were all struck speechless by the enormity of what Lorna had just admitted to. Xander did have a question, about the one thing that hadn't been explained in Lorna's narrative, but he saw a small movement of Lorna's head as he began to ask the question, and realized that some things are better left unasked.

" I can't stay here any more, I need to learn more of the world. I have a need to wander, like all Loraina's, and to help people in trouble," Lorna continued. " But I will come back, someday, so for now could you take care of Mouse? I cannot take her with me, but she is a good cat, and she likes it here, so I'd like it if you could keep her for awhile."

" I'd love to keep Mouse." said Buffy, having regained her voice. Before she knew it, Lorna, or Loraina, was saying goodbye. Then she teleported herself away. One minute she was there, the next she had simply disappeared, as quickly as she had come into, and left, their lives.

" Well," said Buffy after she left. " What should we do know?"

She was happy. Her charge had come into power, and was Voyaging now, as she should. She had been left behind, but was still content. She had a new charge to look after. The boy had power, though how much, and of what type it was not determined yet.

So she would wait and see. With that thought, Protector Mouse curled herself comfortably on the back of the couch for a nap.