I know it's been a while since the last update. Sorry about that. I hope you all enjoy.

Disclaimer: Joss, WB, UPN et al. own Buffy. Capcom own Devil May Cry and DMC2. I don't.

Title: Elysium

Author: Paradigm Shifter

Feedback: I would be most grateful.

Rating: R.

Thanks: Bobby Cox, Teri, Trevelyan. Again.

Recommended Listening: The Devil May Cry 3 Theme. The soundtrack to the E3 video. It can be found Click on 'Download' and the MP3 will download as a ZIP file. It's a bit odd, but strangely addictive...

----

The brightness in the distance, in the past few days - 'days' being relative since there was no easy way to tell the time in the unchanging darkness - had begun to draw closer. No longer faint; now almost blinding in intensity, it dominated the whole of his vision. Xander closed his eyes and walked blindly on as it continued to get brighter.

Then he heard the voice.

"Xander?"

Opening his eyes, he saw the girl that he had rescued all that time ago. The girl that had - indirectly perhaps - caused him to be here. He watched her warily, wracking his brain for the identity of the voice. "You're... Dawn, am I right?"

Dawn nodded. "That's right. Where are we?"

"My mind." Xander replied, "Or what I thought was my mind. I'm no sure any more. I'm not sure of anything any more..."

"It's so... desolate..." Dawn said quietly. Nervously.

If Xander had noticed the unintentional insult, he made no mention of it.
"Yeah. It won't change until I accept what I am... or so I was told, anyway..."

"Accept what you are...?" Dawn was lost. "What are you, then? You're Buffy's friend. You're Willow's friend. You're Giles' friend. You're my friend.
And..." Dawn blushed pink, "ah, never mind."

Xander shook his head. "I'm not Buffy's friend. She hated me. She feared me." His voice became hysterical. "She... she tried to kill me!" She hadn't - not in real life, at least - but differentiating between reality and the fantasies that played out in Mundus' torture pits had become harder and harder, now to the point where there was no differentiation.

Dawn's eyes widened in amazement as Xander broke down in front of her.

----

It was the middle of the night, and the highway was dark.

Apart from, that is, one lone light travelling down it. Engine purring like a kitten, the bike ate up the miles almost with no effort. The ride was calm, opposing the chaos that was ranging through the mind of the rider.

'I have to be insane! Why am I going into the lions den voluntarily? The Hellmouth is no place for a Devil to go. Mundus might find me simply by proximity to the Gate.' Trish scowled in her helmet. 'I can't just let Xander go, though. He's helped Dante... and me. We both owe him a debt, although it's certainly one that he would brush off as if it were nothing.
His friends...'

Trish wasn't quite sure what to think about Xander's 'friends'. He had never told Dante or herself about what had caused the estrangement between them, but it was obvious that it was something that - through sheer stubbornness - was blown out of all proportion.

The man that had become Dante's de facto partner rigidly pursued any task he set himself; even to the point of death. Fortunately, death didn't have quite the same meaning for Devils - or half-Devils - that it did for humanity. Just an inconvenient detour on the road, rather than the end of the road.

Trish's introspection was cut short as it started to rain. Gently at first, but promising to get much worse. Gunning the motor, Trish felt the bike leap beneath her and the needle climbed.

80.

100.

140.

The needle wavered at 160, and held steady.

The night darkened more as clouds continued to build, and the bike tore through it like an arrow heading to its target.

California:

Sunnydale:

And the Hellmouth.

----

Mundus watched the turn of events in the Half-Devil's isolation with dispassion as he sat on this throne. Obviously, he was far from impressed that another had succeeded in breaking through the barriers he had placed around the traitor, but it was not wholly unexpected.

What did a Key do, if it was not open doors?

Now he just had to wait until the time was right, and Xepto's spawn would open the gates to the Locked Zones of his own free will.

And Hell would rule once more.

"Excellent," he growled, "this is going just as I planned. Nothing must interrupt the path we take now. Nothing!"

He spoke to himself, no one else around to hear the Lord of All Hell's most private plottings.

At least, that was the way it usually happened. For once, because of the shift in the balance of power, there was an unseen listener present.
Unexpected, uninvited.

Unwanted.

The Devil-Knights were now a dirty word, a left over from a dirty time that none of the Lords of Hell wished to remember. And so to avoid remembering - to avoid thinking, they banished the Knights, all except those that bowed to the new order. For once, Hell's antagonism toward Xepto was a bonus: very few Devils and no demons knew she was once a Devil-Knight, and so she avoided the culling. The past of the Devil-Knights was a time when Hells warpath involved as much chivalric tradition as the massed ranks of Angels in Heaven, and the Knights of Old. There were still Orders, on both sides, who upheld the traditions. But they were being slowly weeded out by others.
Upstarts that took power upon themselves, and hungered for more at every second. The Order of Teraka was one: the Council of Watchers was another.

The Nameless One left, walking through the seals as if they weren't even there.

"This state of affairs cannot be aloud to continue. The Locked Zones were locked for a reason. Mundus forgets himself and the History of Hell itself if he believes he can withhold the tide he wishes to release." Chuckling darkly - not a happy sound at all, more of a sick wheezing - the Nameless One strode away. There were contingency plans to be put into motion, people to see...

...and more importantly, perhaps; a Half-Devil to kill.

The Key, however, would make an interesting toy. The ability to move across dimensional barriers at will had a certain appeal. It was certainly a Prize no true Devil could dare to turn down.

----

Dawn sat next to the sobbing Xander as he rambled things that didn't seem to make sense to her.

Devils were a popular topic. Demons were another. Dante also ranked quite highly in the 'top-five-things-mentioned-by-the-delusional-Xander' as Dawn dubbed it in her mind. Buffy came in at number 5... just behind Dawn herself. Whether that was a good thing, or a bad thing, Dawn had yet to decide. She was leaning toward the latter, however. Several vehement curses aimed at whoever was messing with his memory was the dessert.

Then, for a short time, there was silence. Deadly silence.

"Why are you here?"

The question, spoken so quietly, caught Dawn off guard. She spent a few seconds stammering for an answer, before finally succeeding in calming down.
"Something grabbed me. I don't know what. It came to the Magic Box. For your guns. You left them behind... when you went... well, I guess you've been here all that time..." Dawn trailed off, realising that she'd been rambling as much as Xander had.

Xander felt a sinking feeling in his gut. There was a niggling sentence in the back of his mind, left over from when he had been visited by 'Truth' and 'Lies'. "A way into your Soul..." Xander whispered.

"What was that, Xander?" Dawn frowned.

He shook his head. "I... nothing."

For a long moment, neither spoke. Then Xander continued, "When I was here, by myself... I had a visit from two ghosts - apparitions - whatever you want to call them. One was 'truth'. One was 'lies'. They said I had to choose."

"And did you?" Dawn probed.

Xander shook his head. "No. No, I didn't. It was too painful. I'd seen my life... all of my lives. All the possibilities played out to their inevitable conclusion. They all ended in futility and death. Except when I accepted who I was. Then, it was a life of unending struggle. Hardship.
Pain, but not pain. A never-ending flow of darkness, with only a few to stem the tide."

"Was Buffy there?" Dawn's voice was small, she was well aware of the life expectance of Slayers. Buffy had already outlived them all. Since she had become the Slayer, she had outlived the next three longest living Slayers.

Added together.

Xander shook his head, not unaware of the small choked sob that Dawn failed to stifle. "No. Me. Dante. Trish. Three Devils' I've seen, but I..." Xander bit his lip, "Angelo. He's one. And... arrrgh!" Gripping his head in his hands, Xander rocked slightly. "I've seen him! I know him! It was in a book, dammit! Why can't I...?!"

Dawn brushed over his apparent inability to remember the Devil's name.
"Anyone else?"

Xander nodded. "Yes. My... mother. My. My... my... mother...?" He whispered it quietly. "That's it."

He nodded, and his voice dropped even lower. "That's it."

----

Mundus screamed with rage. So quickly. So quickly had a plan eons in creation fallen apart. Because of one insignificant Key.

The two had better pray they died before he got to his torture pits.
because for this, perfect soldier or no, they would both die in most horrible ways.

----