Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy, Angel, or anyone in that fandom. I make no money off this story.

A/N: I have decided to break into another fandom. I've been on a Buffy/Angel fiction kick and I just had to write something. You all know me and betrayal stories. I just had to try my hand at it, again.

I can't remember the time line of the series any more. I haven't even read the stories since the series ended. I just got back into it, so if some of the things don't follow the series, then ignore it. Consider this story AU. I actually like Buffy, Willow and Giles, but I've been reading Xander betrayed stories for the last several days and I felt that I should try my own.

Thanks to Iscariot for betaing my story. His harsh, but amusing criticism made this story flow much better. Thanks again!

Summary: Xander is betrayed by his friends and finds anew life asa Champion. (I haven't decided if this story is a one-shot or a beginning of a series.)

--0---0---0---0--

A New Life

By Marietsy

--0---0---0---0--

Xander groaned, as pain filled his body.

He couldn't see out of his left eye, which was swollen shut. His right leg felt like it was broken as, he was sure, several of his ribs. In addition, he couldn't feel anything in his right arm and his left felt bruised.

He swallowed hard against the scream of rage and betrayal that wanted to escape.

He didn't expect this.

He never thought that his friends would betray him.

It had been three years since Xander had lied to Buffy about Willow's attempt at giving Angelus back his soul. Three years since Buffy had had to send her lover to hell. It had been in the past. Over. Forgotten; at least by him.

Apparently, Buffy and Willow never talked about that night. Willow never knew that the spell had worked. She never knew that Angelus had become Angel once again, right before Buffy sent him to hell; she had thought she had failed.

A couple of nights ago, Buffy and Willow had had a girl's night where much time was spent reminiscing about the past, until the point where Buffy had finally talked about what had happened that night, years ago. Once the blonde-haired woman found out that Xander had lied, she had become enraged.

Luckily, for Xander, he had been out of town at the time.

--0---0---0---0--

Of late, Xander had been spending less time with his friends, slowly realizing that they were growing apart, becoming distant with each other. Inevitably, Xander had come to accept that he was excluded from the group more and more as they thought him useless. He was nothing more than a Doughnut boy to them. He was the normal one. He had no powers and was therefore not contributing anything to the group.

Regardless of his powerless status, and his friends' opinions, he still chose to fight; it was his right and they were trying to take it away from him. Depressed and angry, Xander had taken several days off from work and had gone to visit Cordelia in LA. He had been leery about spending time around Angel, as he couldn't stand the Vampire, but he'd had fun. Angel seemed to have loosened up since his days in Sunnydale.

Angel didn't try to protect him. He didn't try to make him stay back, and he didn't ignore him when he had a plan or an opinion. He had been able to fight, along with Wesley, Cordy and Gunn, and more than anything it had shown him how far apart the Sunnydale group had grown. When Xander was ready to leave, Angel had invited him to work with them; knowing that Xander was feeling stifled in Sunnydale.

Xander had agreed to think about it.

The more he thought about it, the better it sounded.

Buffy, Willow and Giles didn't need him. They hadn't needed him over a year and he was tired of their attitude. He was tired of being put down and ignored. He wanted to be somewhere where he was appreciated and it sounded like working with Angel was just the thing.

Xander had returned home in a good mood, his mind made up; he would be leaving Sunnydale. He had thought about just leaving without saying goodbye, wondering how long it would take his 'friends' to notice that he was no longer there. Eventually, deciding that at least the idea of the friendship deserved a measure of courtesy and, with a reluctant sigh, he had made his way towards the Magic Box, not knowing his life would take a traumatic turn.

--0---0---0---0--

Xander entered the Magic Box and looked around. Giles was behind the counter and Buffy and Willow were sitting at the table. He frowned slightly as he realized that Buffy and Willow looked a little angry, he just hoped that nothing serious had happened while he was away.

"Hey guys! The X-Man has entered the building," he called out cheerfully. Making up his mind to leave Sunnydale had taken a weight off his shoulders. He was excited and looking forward to starting a new life somewhere else.

At Xander's exclamation, Buffy's head flew up, her expression fierce, and she got up from the table and flew at him. Without stopping, she punched him and he went flying into the wall. Pain slammed into him and slumped towards the ground. He looked at his friend, his expression dazed and confused.

"Buffy?" he croaked. "What's going on? Why did you punch me?"

Buffy snarled, reached down, and grabbed his hair, dragging him into the middle of the magic shop. She let him go and kicked him in the stomach. "You bastard!" she screamed. "You lied to me! You jealous asshole! I knew you wanted him dead, but I never thought you would lie to me."

He looked up at Buffy from the floor, his eyes wide. "What are you talking about? I never lied to you!"

"Liar! You told me Willow told me to 'kick his ass'! She never told you that! She was doing the spell. You were so jealous of Angel, weren't you? I can't believe you were so selfish," Buffy spat as she kicked him once again.

Xander grunted in pain as he felt a rib crack from the kick. He breathed heavily for a moment before painfully rising to his feet. He weaved for a moment before glaring at the Slayer. "You would've never have done your duty if you had thought for one moment that Angelus was going to get his soul back. You needed to defeat him; he was going to send the world into hell. You weren't thinking straight," he yelled. "I didn't do it out of jealousy, you lost whatever 'love' I had for you when I found out that you slept with a Vampire" he paused, gasping for breath "I was looking at the bigger picture. I was thinking over billions of lives instead of the life of one, dead vampire. I was doing your fucking job, Slayer!"

Buffy screamed and took a step forward, her fist raised.

"Buffy, wait," said Giles, from the counter, where he had been watching proceedings.

Xander sighed with relief. If anyone could control Buffy, it was her Watcher.

"Let me make sure that the door is locked before you do anything; I don't want someone to walk in on this."

Xander's eyes widened in shock, disbelief, fear and betrayal. He looked over at his best friend and saw the stony look on her face. "Wills?" he called out softly.

"Don't look at me, Xander. I can't believe you lied to Buffy. I can't believe you were so selfish; don't you understand what Buffy was going through? What she felt when she realized that Angel was in hell?" The red-headed witch shook her head. "I don't know you anymore." She raised her hand, her eyes black and said, "Aegrimonia." A red light hit Xander and he felt pain fill his body as he slumped to the ground, groaning.

"I want you to feel, Xander. Feel what Buffy felt. Feel what Angel felt. You are no longer my friend."

Xander sobbed as myriad painful emotions and experiences flowed through him, wracked with mental anguish he couldn't understand why, and, in turn, why couldn't they understand? He had done what he had to do. He did what Buffy couldn't or wouldn't. Angelus had killed Jenny and many others and yet Buffy wouldn't destroy him.

From the floor, he looked up at those whom he had once considered family, and cried out: "Why? Why are you doing this? Giles, you can't seriously allow this?"

Giles sighed and took off his glasses, polishing them vigorously. "Normally, I wouldn't, but it's apparent you haven't contributed anything to the group. You are an annoying, loud-mouthed, idiotic boy, who does nothing but get on my nerves, if my Slayer wants to teach you a lesson, then so be it."

Something broke inside Xander at that statement. There would be no help. There would be no one to save him. He looked at Buffy, who was staring at him, a vicious grin on her face and gave up. He screamed when the first blow fell.

--0---0---0---0--

The glowing figure watched as the Slayer, the Witch and Watcher broke down the young man, destroying first his body, then his spirit. She hated this. She hated knowing that there was nothing she could do…yet. She hated knowing that his friends would betray the young man. Tears filled her eyes as she felt him almost give up.

She had been watching over him ever since he'd been possessed by the Hyena spirit; it was then that she had chosen him to become her Champion. His life was hard, but he still had spirit and an innocence that he had never lost despite all that he had seen. She watched over him as he took his place beside the Slayer and began to fight the Darkness. He could've been like so many others. He could've ignored everything he had found out about vampires, about the nightlife of Sunnydale, but he didn't; he chose to fight. Even without powers, his determination and strength had gotten the Slayer through many battles. He supported her, saved her life, saved their lives, become the Heart of the group, and for that, they betrayed him.

However, she had a plan -- a plan to make the boy a Champion. The Slayer had become too arrogant. The Witch too dangerous. The Watcher too complacent and greedy. As much as she hated it, she knew that Xander had to go through this trial, it was a test of his strength, his determination, his resolve; she just hoped he wasn't destroyed by their betrayal.

"It is time," a powerful voice whispered in her mind. She sighed with relief. Finally!

--0---0---0---0--

"ENOUGH!" a powerful voice resonated throughout the room; Buffy froze in mid kick, her face shocked. She spun around, her eyes widening at the glowing woman who stood before her.

"Giles!" the blonde screeched, a demanding note in her voice. She figured if anyone knew who or what this was, it was her Watcher.

While the Slayer was screaming, the witch winced with fear and awe as she felt the power flowing from the glowing woman; she knew envy. Willow's eyes narrowed in consideration; she knew some spells designed to siphon off power. Ummmm...

Giles felt fear as he stared at the figure before him; it was a Guardian, one of the Enforcers for the Powers That Be. They were the ones who punished those that the Powers deemed punishable. Why was she here?

Xander, moaning in pain, felt the beating stop and slowly he began to move. Opening his eyes carefully, he stared at the glowing woman dazedly; he wondered what was going on.

"Who are you?" Buffy demanded. She had a stake in her hand, a determined look on her face. "Actually, never mind." She took ran towards the woman, her stake raised; she was determined to destroy what she thought was a demon.

"Buffy! No!" Giles yelled, his voice filled with terror. He knew that there was no way that Buffy would even make a mark on the Guardian. He feared for his Slayer's life.

The Guardian raised her hand and it glowed briefly. Buffy came to an abrupt stop, then was flung backwards, slamming into the wall. She groaned as she slid to the floor. "You cannot hurt me, child. Your strength and power is nothing compared to mine. Do that again, and your life will be forfeit."

Giles swallowed hard. "My lady, why have you come?" he asked.

"I have come for my Champion."

Giles blinked, then frowned; Champion? The only one who could be considered a Champion was Buffy. But could it be? He was suddenly filled with pride, his Slayer was a Champion. Oh, his enemies on the Council were going to be eating crow. They always thought that he gave Buffy too much leeway. They had called her arrogant. Well, this would show them!

"Do you mean Buffy, my lady?" Giles questioned warily.

"The Slayer isn't a Champion, she hasn't been one in years; no, my Champion is the boy," she replied as she walked over to Xander. The dark-haired man looked at her, his eyes determined and filled with pain.

"I'm no Champion, lady. You got the wrong person," Xander whispered. He began to cough and blood splattered on his shirt as it flew from his mouth.

The Guardian's expression softened as she knelt down. "Ah, but you are, Alexander LaVelle Harris. You are my Champion. When you were possessed by the Hyena, I could see your soul and it was then that I knew that you would be an excellent Champion. You have hidden strength and determination. You are brave, courageous, and you do what others will not or can not. It is time, Alexander." Reaching down, she placed her hand on Xander and he gasped as his injuries were healed. He sighed with relief and looked up at the Guardian, a shy thankful look on his face.

"Er...thank you, my lady," he said softly.

"You are welcome, young one," she replied with a gentle smile.

"NO! He can't be a Champion. He is nothing! He's useless," Buffy screamed with outrage. "He's only a human and not a very good one. I'm the Slayer. I kill the demons and vampires. I'm the one who saves the World. I should be the Champion!"

The Guardian helped Xander to his feet and turned around, her expression livid.

"Silence!" she bellowed and the sound reverberated throughout the room. One could feel the power in that single command. Buffy's mouth opened and closed her shock evident, her expression finally showing some fear as she realized that maybe she was in over her head.

"My visit here is two-fold. I came for my Champion, and I came to punish you." The Guardian regarded the three with a contemptuous glare, "The Powers That Be are not happy with you. You were given a job to do and you haven't been doing it. You've been misusing your powers for your own gain. You were tested and you failed. You are to be punished."

"Test? What test?" Giles demanded.

"You think it strange that you had a normal human within your group? You were to protect him, guide him, allow him to grow. You were to listen to him. He is the Heart of the group and you failed him. He was there when you needed a shoulder, when you needed a bright smile. He was there to cheer you on and to support you. He was there, doing your job, Slayer when you failed to destroy Angelus and when you abandoned Sunnydale and your calling. He was there, holding you together and you betrayed him. Over a vampire!"

"But Angel has a soul and I love him," Buffy yelled.

"You are a Slayer and he is a Vampire. Regardless of his soul or lack thereof, you two are natural enemies. When he became Angelus, you should have killed him, but you failed and humans died. You failed as a Slayer and you failed as a friend," the Guardian informed her, her face stony.

"And Watcher, you failed to guide your Slayer. You were more concerned about showing the Watcher's council that you were right; you should have been more concerned about limiting your Slayer. She had become arrogant and unworthy of her gift. You failed to protect the boy against the Slayer's rage. If I hadn't stopped it when I did, he would've died; would you have even cared?" the Guardian demanded.

There was a guilty look on Giles's face and her eyes flashed angrily. "I thought not."

She turned her gaze towards the Witch, who was glaring at her. "And you, Witch. You have become dangerous. You dabble in things that you do not understand and you care not for the consequences. You crave power and you don't care how you get it. Don't think I don't know what your thoughts for me were earlier; you wanted my power, and you would foolishly try to get it. Furthermore, you've turned your back on an old friend and sided with someone who cares nothing more for you other than you power; if it weren't for the fact that you're a Witch, the Slayer would have nothing to do with you."

The Guardian gazed at the three humans, expressionless. "Your punishment shall be death," she stated.

There was a moment of shocked silence before the yelling and screaming began. Buffy tried to fling herself at the Guardian and, to her disbelief, found that she couldn't move; she looked over at Giles, her eyes filled with fear.

Giles' eyes were wide as he stared at the Guardian; he couldn't believe what was going on, he was going to die, and for what? An arrogant child? He seethed as he realized his plans on rising in the Watchers Council were being destroyed.

Willow screamed angrily. How dare that glowing bitch tell her that she was dangerous! She had to find a way to get out this. She needed more power, she wanted more power. That was the only reason she dabbled in the Dark Magic. Now this bitch was telling her she was going to die? Oh, she didn't think so. She began to pull at her magic, chanting softly, her eyes turning black. Wordlessly, the Guardian turned towards her and with a wave of her hand the magic that Willow had been building dissipated and. for the first time that night, Willow felt fear.

"You think your magic can harm me, Witch?" the Guardian asked, her face amused. "Compared to me, you are nothing. I have the power to destroy this world with but a single thought. Now, any last words before you die?" she asked, her voice bored.

"My lady," Xander piped up. He knew that she couldn't kill his friends, well ex-friends; he didn't want their deaths on his hands.

"Yes, my Champion?" the Guardian asked.

"Please, don't kill them."

Willow, Buffy, and Giles breathed a sigh of relief. Xander had, once again, come through for them; yet mentally they sneered at, what they considered, his weakness. They had beaten him down and still he cared. Once that bitch was gone, Buffy decided, she would continue with Xander's 'lesson.'

"Why, my Champion?" the Guardian asked.

"Because I don't want to be the cause of their deaths," Xander explained. "They were once my friends, years ago, and I find I still have some feelings for them; I would rather not see them dead." His face was stony as he stared at his former friends.

The Guardian smiled gently at Xander. "Very well. I will not kill them." She breathed a sigh of relief; Alexander had passed the last test, the young man would be an excellent Champion. He had compassion, even towards those who had betrayed him.

She turned towards the three humans and looked them over. "Thanks to my Champion, your deaths have been delayed." The three humans smirked as they gazed at the Guardian and she shook her head at their arrogance, "Nevertheless, you will still be punished."

They froze a moment before Buffy exclaimed, "You said you weren't going to kill us."

The Guardian smirked, and the three humans once again felt feelings of uncertainty wash over them. "The plan was never to kill you, it was to test my Champion. It was to test his compassion and his humanity and he passed with flying colors; your punishment was going to be something else entirely."

"Xander, you can't let her punish us, we're your friends," Willow begged, her mouth quivering as she gazed at him tearfully.

Xander stared at her, his eyes dark and unreadable. "You're not my friends any longer. My friends would've never betrayed me as you did. My friends wouldn't beat me, and nearly kill me, as you did. My friends wouldn't have ignored me, belittled me and pushed me aside as you did. No, Willow, you are no longer my friends. If My Lady says you must be punished, then so shall it be."

Willow eyes narrowed, her expression livid. How dare he! She was his friend and he wouldn't raise a finger to help her. She had power, she was important and he was nothing. He should be grateful to her that he was even still alive after all this time, conveniently forgetting that it was Buffy and Xander himself that had kept him alive. She took a step forward, intent on hitting Xander.

The Guardian held out her glowing hand and Willow froze into place. "I trust you won't move again?" she asked. She smirked as she saw the anger in Willow's eyes. She was here to do a job, but that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy herself.

"Slayer, for your arrogance, and your failure to do your job, you are hereby stripped of your powers; from now on, you are no longer a Slayer. Instead, my Champion will get your powers," the Guardian intoned. Her hand glowed even brighter as Buffy's eyes filled with pain as something was torn from within her. The Guardian waved her hand towards Xander, whose eyes had grown wide with wonder, and Buffy's power filled his body. He gasped as he felt his senses grow, his body fill with energy; he felt stronger than he had ever felt before and it exhilarated him. Blinking rapidly, he looked at the Guardian, his expression amazed. "Wow," he muttered. "What a rush!"

The Guardian smiled. "That is only but a brief taste, my Champion, I am not done."

The glowing woman turned towards Willow and raised her glowing hand once again. "Witch, for your arrogance, and your blatant disregard for your magic's laws, you too shall be stripped of your power. Never again will you be able to practice magic. Never again will you be able to handle a magical artifact, nor can anyone or anything help you regain your magic. From now on, you are normal." The Guardian's hand once again glowed brightly and Willow felt as her magic was ripped from her body. She cried as she realized that she could no longer feel her magic. It was gone and she wailed internally.

The Guardian looked at the gray, glowing ball of energy rotating on her hand; she frowned realizing that the magic she had pulled from the Witch was tainted. Placing her other hand over the glowing ball, she muttered a brief cantrip, there was a flash of light and the glowing ball was once again a brilliant white. She turned towards Xander and smiled. "Along with the Slayer's power, I am giving you the Witch's magic as it no longer has the taint of Darkness. Be wary of magic, my Champion," she warned, "it can be very easy to fall into the same trap that the Witch did. Learn to control your magic and, more importantly, realize that you don't need Magic to solve everything."

Xander swallowed, nodded and watched with uneasy eyes as the Guardian threw the glowing ball at him. It hit him in the chest and he fell to his knees as the power rushed into his body. Arching backwards in pain, his eyes glowed white, his mouth open in a soundless scream. The light surrounded Xander for a moment before it sank into his body.He then collapsed, gasping for air. A few moments later, he slowly stood up and looked at the Guardian. "Forget earlier, that was nothing compared to the rush of magic," he said with a wide grin.

The Guardian smiled in return. The magic had left its mark as there was now a white strip flowing through Xander's hair. She knew that it would never disappear and that it couldn't ever be covered with dye; she thought it looked good on him.

She turned back to the last of the trio. The Watcher's eyes were wide with fear as he realized that it was his turn. He wasn't all that special. He had some magic, but nothing like Willow. He was human, what could she take from him?

"Watcher, for you negligence in guiding your Slayer and the Witch, and for your arrogance in thinking of only yourself and your position, you shall be stripped of the one thing that you love the most: your knowledge. Everything that you have ever learned as a Watcher, and as a Wizard, shall be stripped. You will remember nothing. Your books shall be taken and any effort to re-learn what you have lost shall be fruitless. Furthermore, you will be unable to comprehend anything pertaining to demon lore, and as for your magic, that too will be taken and it shall be destroyed." Holding out her, once again, glowing hand Giles wailed as he could feel his knowledge and magic leave him. In his own mind, he wouldn't be anything without it.

The woman held two glowing balls of light in each hand. The right hand closed over the ball that it held and with a small puffing noise, it disappeared. It had been Giles magic. Turning once again towards Xander, she smiled and threw the remaining ball of light directly at him. Xander moaned at the sudden influx of knowledge. "Brain freeze," he muttered. He waited a few moments before looking at the Guardian. "I had better not find myself loving tea and tweed," he stated severely, his eyes twinkling.

The Guardian laughed. "I should think not. Alexander, while you are now my Champion you must give yourself time to acclimate all that you have received today. When you have done so, your time as my Champion shall begin. Until you adjust, I would suggest you find somewhere safe to go, as you are still slightly vulnerable; do you have somewhere where you can go?"

Xander nodded. "As a matter of fact, I do. I had already made plans to leave Sunnydale and I can't really think of any reason to stay now," he replied sadly, as he stared at his former friends. "What happens to them now? They'll be easy pickings for any vampire or demon in Sunnydale."

The Guardian turned towards the three defeated humans and raised her hand and waved it. A tattoo of the moon appeared briefly on their foreheads before disappearing. "Now, they are under my protection. They will live out their lives, unharmed by vampires or demons yet they will never be able to forget why they have lost their powers and they shall always remember their betrayal of you. If at any time they truly regret what has happened, then I will let the spell fade and they can continue their lives, free from regret and pain; until then, they must learn the rewards of arrogance and betrayal."

Xander nodded, content with their punishment. Maybe, someday, he would be able to forgive them for their treatment of him, but for now, it wasn't going to happen. He looked over at the Guardian and smiled. "Well, I'm off. Er…am I ever going to see you again?" he asked hesitantly.

The Guardian approached him and smiled gently. "Of course, you are my Champion, you are mine to guide. Open your shirt," she commanded gently.

"Umm…well, you know, we just met, not that you're not hot, but yeah…" he trailed off at her amused look.

"Open your shirt, my Champion," she commanded once again.

Xander unbuttoned his shirt and let if fall open. The Guardian placed her hand on his chest, over his heart, and it glowed briefly. She pulled her hand away, her face satisfied. Looking down, Xander saw a tattoo of a lion with a snake in its mouth. "Wow, that's cool," he murmured, as he gazed at the mark.

"Whenever you need me, touch your mark and call and I will hear you," the Guardian told him. "When the time comes, and you are ready, your work will begin; you shall fight the Darkness in my name."

"Er…what is your name?" Xander asked.

"Diana," the Guardian informed him.

Xander frowned a moment. "You mean like the Roman, Virgin Goddess of the Hunt?"

"I was once, a long time ago and I still answer to that name if it is invoked, but now I work for the Powers. It has been a long time since I've had a Champion You caught my eye when the Hyena spirit possessed you, ever since, I have been watching you and decided, with the Powers' permission, that I would make you my Champion in the fight against the Darkness. Even before the Hyena possessed you, you had the attributes of a Hyena spirit. You have patience, adaptability, the perseverance in hunting, and strength. You also understand the value of the Pack. With the powers, and the strength, that I have given you, you shall be a formidable Champion who will not lose sight of others; you will fight, but you will not feel that you are superior to humans. I have no doubts that I will not lose you to arrogance because you understand what it is like to be normal. You have fought without powers and if somehow, something happened to your powers, you would still fight. Your strength and determination is what drives you to win," she informed him proudly.

Xander blushed. He didn't think that of himself. He just knew that there was a war to fight and he wanted to do his part. He wasn't in it for the glory, or even the recognition, he just wanted to save people.

'And that is why you will be a formidable Champion,' a voice whispered in his mind.

Xander looked at Diana and nodded. He understood what she was trying to say. Unlike Buffy, who thought that because she was the Slayer she was instantly better than everyone else, he knew that his years as a normal human would keep him grounded. He also knew that just because you had power you weren't an automatically good, or better, person. Diana was right, if he were to lose his powers tomorrow he would mourn them, but he would still fight. He would do whatever he had to do; his choice to lie to Buffy about the spell to return Angel's soul was proof of that.

"I understand," Xander stated.

"Good. Now, go, rest. I will see you when you are ready."

Xander nodded, looked once more at his former friends, and left the Magic Box.The Guardian turned, looked at the three humans, and with a wave of her hand the force that had been holding Willow disappeared. She walked over to them and looked at them sternly. "Any retaliation against my Champion will be met with extreme force. I may have agreed to not killing you now, but any action taken against Alexander will change my mind. You had your chance to be Defenders of the Light and you wasted it; don't blame him for your problems." With one last, scornful look, she disappeared, leaving behind three traumatized souls.

--0---0---0---0--

Xander walked into Angel's hotel and looked around. Cordy was sitting at the counter, talking excitedly about something, her hands variously punctuating her exclamations. Gunn and Wesley were grinning and Lorne was looking scared. Whatever was going on, Lorne was in big trouble. A noise coming from his right caught Xander's attention and he looked up to see Angel as he descended the stairs; the vampire stopped and stared at Xander for a moment, his face confused.

"Xander?" he questioned. The man who was standing in the doorway didn't feel like the man who had left a couple of days ago. In fact, he could feel the power flowing off the young man and for some strange reason, he felt like a slayer.

Hearing the vampire's softly spoken inquiry, the group in the lobby looked up and, recognizing Xander, felt their expressions warm. Cordy, especially, was excited to see her former boyfriend, and she ran to him and embraced him soundly; "Are you staying?" she whispered.

Xander nodded. "For as long as I can. I have other," he paused a moment before continuing, "things to do that will take me away for a time, but yeah, I'm staying."

Cordy nodded, her expression satisfied.

"What other things?" Angel asked, intrigued.

"Hey, funny thing happened when I got home: I was betrayed by my friends, beaten, nearly killed, then saved by a Guardian who stripped Buffy's powers, Willow's magic and Giles magic and knowledge and then made me into a Champion," Xander said flippantly.

"You're a what?" Angel asked, shocked.

"Your friends did what?" Cordy shrieked, upset.

"A Guardian? Oh my," Wesley whispered faintly.

"Dude," Gunn stated.

Xander laughed painfully. In the few hours it took to get to LA, he'd had time to think. It hit him that those who he had thought of as family had nearly killed him, if it hadn't been for Diana, they would have: it hurt; it hurt a lot.

Angel noticed the pain and anguish in Xander's eyes and directed him towards the couch. "Come on. Let's sit down and you can tell us everything."

Xander nodded.

As they made themselves comfortable Xander began his tale. He faltered in places, grinned in others, but finally, he managed to tell them everything that had happened when he got home.

There was silence for a moment before Cordy, her face stony, got up and walked over to the Weapons cabinet, withdrawing an axe, she made her way towards the door of the hotel.

"Cordy, what are you doing?" Angel demanded, alarmed.

"I'm going to go kill Buffy, Willow and Giles and don't even think about stopping me," she snarled.

"You can't, they're protected by the Guardian," Wesley protested.

"Xander said that they're protected from demons and Vampires. I am neither."

"Cordy, you can't. Angel, stop her," Wesley demanded.

"Hey, she's got an axe. I'm not about to get close to her," Angel replied warily.

Xander got up and walked over to Cordy, putting his hand on the axe. "You can't, Cordy, they've been punished already. I'm satisfied with it."

"They deserve some pain, Xander. They were your friends and they betrayed you. I want to hurt them."

"That's right. They betrayed me and I'm satisfied with their punishment. It's not up to you to inflict more pain. Let it go. Just let it go," Xander said softly.

Cordy sniffled and dropped the axe. "I hate that they hurt you, Xander. I just hate it."

Xander hugged her. "I know, but they are no longer part of my life, you and the rest of the LA gang are. I had already made up my mind to come here before everything happened, now it's time for me to start anew."

Cordy nodded and pulled away. "Okay. First thing, we have to do something about your wardrobe. You can't be a Champion looking like that. I mean, seriously Xander, what were thinking wearing those pants with that shirt."

Xander laughed and let Cordy pull him towards the rest of the LA gang. He felt at home here and he would be beginning a new phase in his life. For once, he felt at peace. He couldn't wait to see what life had in store for him.

The End.