The three souls were nervous.
They had made their arguments, pleaded and bargained. Now they waited to hear if they had been heard.
It was encouraging that they had been allowed to speak at all. The one who still thought of herself as "Fred", had pointed this out to the others.
The one, who use to be called "Doyle", was silent. Patience is learned. Though in life Doyle had not been patient, he had learned that The Powers would give what they would, in time.
The soul who was once "Cordelia" was not quiet or patient. This soul raged in grief.
A fourth soul joined them and they were overjoyed and sad at the same time.
Wesley had fallen but his soul was not confused or angry as some were when they realize what had happened. Rather he seemed happy to be among them.
But his presence told them that the battle had begun and that time was short.
Suddenly The Powers spoke and the wait was over.
"Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. Heroes do not always win.
Darkness can extinguish Light.
These are lessons we have known from beyond the beginning of time.
You have given us instances of the Champion's good deeds. But We do not keep a "score" of deeds done for good against those for evil.
Redemption is not attained that way.
You have sited his sacrifices and hardships. However, the Champion is a tool, as many before him were and many beyond him will be.
His purpose was to serve and he has done so.
And yet? The souls waited, anxious but silent. The time to make their case was over.
"He has willingly given up his life, asked for the lives of his companions, to destroy a small part of the Darkness.
He has done this without reservation. Without hesitation.
Though you have asked mercy of Us for him, he has not asked it for himself.
He expects nothing in return for what he has done.
He believes that he has given up the promise of Shanshu and he has done this in order to position himself to do the most good.
All is not lost.
He has silently stayed his course, knowing what he has set in motion. He has not wavered in his determination to do what must be done...to the end.
And as the battle is joined and he stands prepared to die... Though he has said otherwise, he harbors in his soul the greatest of weapons against the evil he faces:
The Champion has fought for redemption although he has come to the realization that his goodness will never make up for the evil he once was.
He has witnessed the deaths of those he holds dear.
Yet he has hope.
We have respect for this and shall honor it."
The souls turned to each other and smiled.
"This is not for you." The Powers told them. "This is for the Champion. The wheels have already been turning. He has earned a reward and he will be given it.
"Something is going down, something big, and Charles needs your help." Anne looked at the men, most of who were only boys really, and pleaded with her eyes as well as her words. "He came here, hoping you'd be here. He wanted to say something to you."
"What would he want to say to us?" Rondell said sullenly.
Anne felt dread fill her. "I think he wanted to say good-bye."
Rondell stared at her for a moment. "Meaning…. What?"
"I don't know!" Anne stood up and stalked over to the window. "Something… something is just wrong. I had this dream… I don't know, I just think that something really bad is going to happen. Don't you feel it"
"Yeh. Yeh I do." Rondell admitted after a moment. That was all he was going to admit too. He sure as hell wasn't going to tell everyone that he had been dreaming about Charles Gunn, even if it was the truth. He glanced around at his crew. Gunn had taken a different path than the rest of them. Same destination, same mission, just different way of getting there. That whole thing with Gio and the demon killings- he still wasn't going to say it was murder- but still, it wasn't exactly right. Just got out of hand.
When it came down to it, Gunn might have some different perspectives but he was still Gunn.
And most of all, Rondell knew that if it were the other way around, Charles Gunn would be coming to his rescue. And that weird ass group he hung with too.
"Alright." Rondell said standing up. "Let's go see what he's got into."
Lorne stared at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar but it wasn't himself that he saw.
Killing Lindsey had done something to him, triggered a change in him. The Lorne he saw now seemed bigger and there was a hardness in his eyes. He was no longer the lounge singer and barkeeper he had been. What he saw in the mirror now was a Pylean warrior.
Considering what he was considering, he hoped that's what he was seeing and that it was not the result of one too many Seabreezes.
He locked gazes with his reflection.
"If mom could see me now."
After a moment he swallowed the last of his Seabreeze. The bartender gestured at the glass but he shook his head and placed some money on the bar. "No, that's it for me, honey. There's some music that needs to be faced and I'm already late."
He smiled slightly. "After all, I am The Host."
Connor watched the vampire Angel, his father; leave the shaking and collapsing building. He'd known the minute Angel showed up at school that something was going to happen. And it was going to be bad.
Since he'd regained his memories, Connor had time to think about the things he knew and the things he thought he knew. Caught up in all that was the conflicted idea that he shouldn't trust Angel. That he'd been told and told not to trust him. And yet, he did. Whatever had happened to him "before", the fact remained that he knew what Angel had done for him. Knew that Angel was his father and that what Angel had done, was out of love.
That's why he'd come to the Wolfram and Hart building. Something was going to happen and he wanted to make sure that he would be there if his father needed help.
As it turned out, it was a pretty good thing he had.
Angel sent him away though. Didn't want him to be caught up in the aftermath. Connor had gone outside, knowing with his head that he should go- if he died, everything Angel had done for him would have been wasted.
But his heart made him stay.
The remains of the building crumbled and the dust began to settle.
Out in the darkness Connor watched his father leave and he followed.
The Groosalugg stood in front of the ruins of the building that had been Wolfram and Hart. Rain came down in sheets but he ignored it, trying to make sense of what had happened.
Groo had traveled this world, seen many things... things that disturbed him beyond all reason. It was very different from Pylea and sometimes he thought that wasn't a good thing.
He'd never intended to come back to LA.
But then, something happened. A dream... perhaps something more. Groo had gone to sleep a few nights ago and when he woke he began preparing for his journey back to LA. No thought as to why exactly, just that he was needed. Or would be. It didn't matter, he had come.
His first stop after returning had been the Hyperion Hotel where Angel Investigations had been housed. It was dark and empty. A torn and barely readable sign on the door directed him to a place called "Wolfram and Hart".
He had made his way to the building, only to find it had collapsed.
It didn't make sense. He had been called here and now it seemed he should know why.
He didn't. So he waited. Something had gotten him this far and so he trusted that the something would send him where he was to go.
Angel needed him. He knew that much. This was Angel's domain after all. There was a part of him deep down inside that wondered why he should care. Certainly Angel was a warrior, a Champion and worthy of respect. If he needed Groo's help, then surely Groo should give it to him.
But there was a small voice that whispered that Angel had taken Groo's love from him. And that maybe if Angel should, perhaps, die, Groo might win her back.
But these thoughts were unworthy of him and Groo pushed his doubts away as if they did not exist. He knew in his heart that Cordelia had not been taken from him; no one could make the Princess do what she did not want to do after all. She had loved Angel and it had been Groo who made her acknowledge that. It was a pain that he still carried and would continue to bear.
Whatever the reason for his summons, Groo would stand on the side of good and he knew that is where Angel must be. And so Groo would stand with him.
"Well now," a soft female voice said, bringing him back from his thoughts. "Aren't you a hunk of handsome?"
Groo turned to face the woman addressing him. She was small and pretty. Her long hair was tousled and rain soaked, her manner of dress was strange, even for Los Angeles. Of all the things he's seen just in LA, he didn't recall ever seeing anyone wearing long gloves in the 90 plus degree heat before.
"Do you know what has happened here?" He asked her gesturing at the rubble.
The woman shrugged and looked away from him. "Earthquake? I don't know."
Groo shook his head slightly. "I have friends that are supposed to be in that building."
The woman glanced up. "Yeh, me too. Sort of… friends."
"My name is Groo." He said, holding out his hand as he'd learned to do.
"Gwen". She said, shaking his hand.
Groo wondered at the slight tingle he felt in his palm at her touch but he had other things to worry about.
"Gwen, my friends… do you know where…"
"No." Gwen shook her head. "All I know is that I had this crazy ass dream and I felt like I needed to come down here. I have no idea why. I know… at least I think I know… they aren't in there, under there, whatever, now. But I don't know where they went."
"A dream." Groo said softly. "A dream told you to come here. As did mine."
Gwen smiled. "Well, sounds like someone was trying to get us together handsome."
"I guess you'd better make it a threesome then because I had the same dream." Nina said stepping out of the shadows. "And I can tell you a little bit about what's been happening."
Connor kept a steady pace, keeping Angel in sight. As he watched, the vampire paused and inclined his head a fraction, as if listening. Although the rain was coming down harder, Connor froze and held his breath, afraid Angel would hear him.
A sudden peal of thunder and a bolt of lightening made him blink. When he looked again, Angel was gone.
"Son of a…" Connor looked around desperately. He realized that he remembered being here before.
Before. He'd been here before his memories had been switched. He'd been here, angry and hurt. He looked up at the nearest building.
The name shouldn't have any meaning but it did.
That's when he heard a sound. Over the thunder of the rain. Heavy feet, lots of them. Running on the pavement.
Connor didn't know where it was coming from but he thought he had a pretty good idea where it was going.
As quickly as he could, Connor ran around the side of the hotel. Ahead of him, illuminated by a weak streetlight, he could see a group of people.
"In coming!" a voice shouted over the rain and Connor slid to a stop, fists up.
"Now who the hell are you?" A dark skin male approached him. He held a weapon in his hands but didn't threaten Connor with it. "Private party, man."
"I think I'm invited… sort of." Connor said, eyeing the group of people. Most of them seemed about his age.
"That right?" Rondell asked.
"Yeh. Angel… uh, I know him…" Connor began.
"Our invitations must of have gotten lost in the mail, but can we play too?" a female voice said from behind him.
Connor turned to see a group of women approaching. In front was a beautiful blonde wearing a grim expression. Beside her was an equally beautiful brunette that Connor recognized from his recovered memories.
Faith. And the blonde could only be Buffy.
Connor felt his heart beat a little faster.
"What do you say B?" Faith asked over the increasing rain. "This the place?"
"Must be." Buffy said. "Angel and Spike always did have a flair for the dramatic."
"Ok now, what the hell is going on?" Rondell demanded of no one in particular. "Anyone here seen Charles Gunn?"
"Unfortunately," Lorne said as he, Groo, Gwen and Nina stepped into the meager light. "Hell is what's going on. And Charles is in the middle of it. Along with the rest of my friends." He paused for a moment. "Our friends." He amended.
Rondell studied the impossibly strange group that somehow included his own people. "Uh huh. And it's….?"
"Right through there. Yeh." Lorne said gesturing toward the back of the building.
The thundering sound of feet could be heard over the rainstorm. A roar that sounded too loud for anything living in this world seemed to shake the buildings around them. There was shrieking and the clash of weapons, though they'd seen nothing since they arrived
That strangeness didn't surprise any of them. They'd seen too much in their lives to wonder about a war that could be contained in the space of an alley. It was happening and that was all that mattered.
Lorne glanced at his companions in turn. The strange boy he'd seen with Angel at Wolfram and Hart, Connor, was there and Lorne understood why without really understanding. Just a passing thought that it was right and good that he was there. Then the reasoning was gone.
The Slayers. They were here to rescue two vampires. Somehow it made perfect sense.
Groo and Gwen suddenly appearing as they had wasn't odd. When he'd found them with Nina at the ruins of Wolfram and Hart, it was if they had all planned to meet there.
Nina… Lorne could tell the beautiful werewolf was frightened but she also had a look of determination on her face that made some of the people around her do double takes and step out of her way.
And Rondell and his bunch. Lorne expected to feel something when he looked at Rondell but he didn't expect it to be appreciation.
Strange bedfellows. He thought and chuckled too softly for anyone to hear. The Powers work in mysterious ways. I hope this works.
Whatever had roared before did so again and this time there was an answering roar like nothing most of them had ever heard.
Obviously someone has though. Lorne thought as he heard The Slayer he knew to be Buffy murmur "Angel" under her breath.
Almost as one, the assembled turned toward the alley. Without hesitation, weapons were passed to those who had none.
"So, let's party." Faith said.
"Last one in, buys." Buffy echoed.
"Stay close!" Rondell shouted to his people, locking eyes with Anne for a moment.
Gwen stripped off her gloves and let them drop into a puddle at her feet. Sparks hissed from her fingertips in the continuing rain. .
"Success and honor!" Groo bellowed as he stepped forward.
Nina snarled loudly and went to stand by Connor.
They gazed at the opening a moment longer, then without another thought, Lorne softly said the only thing that came to mind: