All Roads Lead Back to Hell - Excedo Inferi #9
By Philip S.

Summary: Buffy and Angel are not the only ones who have wondered a thousand times over what might have happened had Xander told the Slayer about the imminent return of Angel's soul on the day Akathler awoke. Now, thanks to a vengeance demon called Anyanka, they find out. No one will like the answer.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: All characters you recognize from BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and whoever else chipped in. I own but the plot and the few original characters.
Note: This is Excedo Inferi's version of the Season 3 episode "The Wish"

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Author's Note: I'm trying to get back into the writing swing a bit, so here's the first chapter of the latest episode of Excedo Inferi. I hope to get this one done faster than the last one, which took almost 1 and a half years from start to finish. I'll be trying to beat that and wrap things up within a year. ;-)

Enjoy!

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Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
When Buffy had to choose between killing Angel or letting the world go to Hell she did her duty. Accompanying Angel to Hell, the two fought their way through all nine circles of the Inferno before returning to Earth. Now, back home in Sunnydale, things are slowly going back to normal. Buffy is starting to forgive Xander for not telling her about Willow restoring Angel's soul. Cordelia, who broke up with Xander over his behaviour regarding Buffy and Angel, is willing to mend fences with him as well, but both their feelings have changed and a renewal of their relationship seems unlikely.

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Part 1:

Cordelia Chase, former uncrowned queen of Sunnydale High School, lately a member of the weirdo group surrounding one Buffy Summers, walked down the corridor of her school and tried to focus her thoughts. A test was coming up later today, an important one. She had to nail it if she wanted to maintain her average. No matter how much money her father was willing to dish out to send her to college, she still had to make the grade.

It wasn't made easier by the fact that she had much more important things on her mind. Some were demon-related. She would never admit it to the rest of the ridiculously named group (if she had any say in it they wouldn't be called Scoobies or Slayerettes or any such nonsense), but she did occasionally think about the puzzles currently facing them. The new vampire master Khan, the mysterious sorcerer situated somewhere in the city's centre of power, those things did weigh on her mind now and then.

The largest part of her thoughts was occupied with something else, though. Two something elses, actually, though the topics were related. One was the infuriating boy called Xander Harris, her ex-boyfriend (a term she refused to grace him with in public). She wasn't quite sure where they stood right now. Somewhere between being a couple and being mortal enemies, but where exactly was anyone's guess.

Then there was that other someone. That someone for whom she had begun developing feelings quite unexpectedly. Being complicated all by itself, it made the whole Xander-mess even more complicated. Some part of her wanted to fix things up with the dark-haired boy who had been her first real boyfriend (instead of simply a hanger-on guy to strut around with). If she was honest with herself, though, her feelings for him weren't quite there anymore. She was willing to forgive him, but fix things up? She didn't really want to do that, especially considering that there might just be someone else.

"I heard the most disgusting rumour today," a shrill voice announced from somewhere behind her and Cordelia turned to see her former friend (speak: first among the sheep that followed her around) Harmony Kendall. The dim blonde was approaching her with a superior smile on her lips.

"I'm glad you've got the whole hearing thing down by now," Cordelia told her with a smile of her own. "How are the lessons in comprehending going?"

Harmony frowned at her for a moment, but then apparently decided to continue on her earlier course despite whatever Cordy had just said.

"Let me tell you, when I heard you had broken up with that loser of yours I was hoping you might have come to your senses, but now I'm told the two of you were on a date last week. You are not seriously thinking ..."

"However dreadful you might find the notion of 'thinking', Harmony," Cordy interrupted her, "but what I do and don't do is none of your business. Never was, never will be."

"Okay, fine," the blonde huffed. "Commit another social suicide! I don't care anymore. Apparently you are quite happy hanging out with that juvenile criminal Buffy Summers and her weirdo friends."

Cordelia was briefly amazed that Harmony had managed a big word like 'juvenile criminal', but quickly returned to being bored out of her mind. How she had ever managed to endure more than five minutes of Harmony-exposure was a mystery all by itself.

"Run along, Harmony," she simply said. "This little chat of ours ceased to be fun ages ago."

Without waiting for a reply she turned around, heading toward her next class. If asked she'd be hard-pressed to say what it was about and she found that she didn't actually care very much. The term 'social suicide' kept ringing in her mind and not because of what Harmony had said about her and Xander getting back together. They wouldn't, she was pretty sure about that by now, but rather because of that other thing. That other someone.

When had her life become so very complicated?

"Hi," someone suddenly said behind her. "Can you help me? I'm new here and need to get to History class."

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In another part of Sunnydale a demon was looking at her latest handiwork and found it good. Very good to be precise. Amazingly good she'd even say if she weren't so modest. Not that she was very modest. Modesty didn't become a demon like her and not just because it was a virtue. No, she did quality work and had a right to be proud of it.

She was almost a bit sad that she was already done here, though. She was a dedicated worker and went wherever she was needed, but she especially liked working on Hellmouths. With so much ambient energy in the air her powers were magnified. Just look at her latest case.

Being a vengeance demon, she specialized in avenging scorned women. In this case the poor woman in question had wished that, just once, her son-of-a-bitch husband would find out what it was like to face the endless chores of cleaning, cooking, washing, over and over again day after day. In any other place the granting of that wish might simply have left the husband with an irresistible urge to take over the chores of his wife for the rest of his life.

Not here, though. Here the bastard was now caught in a time-loop where he would have to clean the house over and over again until he died of old age, all the while mere minutes passed for the rest of the world. Quality work, that. She was quite smug.

Closing her eyes she felt at least three possible customers, all of them far away from here, though. Well, scorned women certainly weren't confined to Southern California. Taking one last look at her work she prepared to teleport in the general direction of Wisconsin.

Only to stop at the last moment as her senses picked up something unusual. A scorned woman, yet not? Something strange was going on here. Someone was definitely feeling scorned, but strangely the blame didn't seem to be centred on any male perpetrator. Or female for that matter (she was an equal-opportunity avenger).

Her curiosity piqued she decided to investigate.

Moments later she was walking the halls of the local High School, looking to all the world like just another seventeen-year-old on her way to class. It didn't take her long to find her potential customer. A striking brunette named Cordelia. Focusing her senses she felt some animosity toward a boy named Xander. Apparently her ex-boyfriend, who had in some way betrayed her. Yet there was surprisingly little anger to work with there.

Still, a betrayal was a betrayal. And even if there was very little anger to work with, this was still the Hellmouth. It'd be at least as good as anything she might find in a more mundane place. She made up her mind rather quickly.

"Hi," she said, approaching Cordelia. "Can you help me? I'm new here and need to get to History class."


TO BE CONTINUED