Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I'm not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn't be worth the hassle trust me.

Important Note from the Author:

This story is a sequel to my earlier Fic Compelled to Play Again. You are best advised to read that one first because if you don't you'll be wondering what on Earth (or any other realm) is going on. This is an Alternate Universe/Changed Timeline story with the point of diversion being within Series 4 of Angel/Series 7 of Buffy.

NEWS - Compelled to Play Again has been entered in the ABC Fic Awards - Please take time to visit the site (link on my profile)


Hyperion Hotel – Los Angeles – June 2003

At first he thought he was just being mugged but the duct tape over the mouth and the inhuman strength of his captors soon cleared up that misconception. It was far worse than that, he was in real trouble here and he knew it as they transported him to what he hoped wasn't his final destination.

After some dragging around and a trip in what was clearly the trunk of a car they roughly pulled off the blindfold and even more painfully yanked off the tape as they hauled him into building. The first person he saw was a young girl in her mid teens who was standing there with two even younger girls, identical twins from the look of them, the older of the three looked at him with utter contempt and then spat in his face. 'Traitor' she said in an English accent and walked away the two others following as she led them up the curved staircase, their own faces had been equally filled with hatred he noted as they disappeared from sight.

He considered struggling but he was firmly held by each arm and he knew he didn't have a fraction of the strength needed to overcome either of the young women holding him in place.

'It's been a while Rutherford' a familiar voice observed. 'Not precisely the circumstances I expected to meet you again in however.'

'Hello Rupert' Sirk replied to the man who had walked up to him. 'I couldn't trouble you for a handkerchief could I?' he asked. 'You can tell them to let me go. I know I can't outrun them or fight my way out' he said amused at the very notion.

Giles gave the two slayers holding Sirk a nod and they released him and backed away as he passed the Watcher deserter a handkerchief which Sirk used to mop the spittle from his face. 'That girl seemed to dislike me' he said.

'Academy Watcher' Giles told him. 'She asked to see you when you were bought in.'

'Ah' Sirk replied, 'that makes sense. I had thought they were all dead' he noted.

Giles shook his head. 'Four survivors' he replied. 'The three girls you just met and one young man' he replied.

'Is he going to spit in my face too?' Sirk asked. They had obviously stopped teaching good manners as part of the curriculum. In his day the inevitable seizure by the retrieval team and the summary execution would have been carried out with the utmost dignity and propriety.

The teenager who had been watching from nearby and who immediately dashed across did not however spit in Sirks face, instead he threw a punch that sent the man sprawling to the floor. 'No but I'll piss on your grave' he declared venomously.

'That's enough Stephen' Giles told the young watcher.

Sirk looked up at him from the floor. 'Quentin Travers boy' he said rubbing his jaw recognising him from a social gathering the year before. 'Going to help me up Rupert?' he asked.

Giles smirked. 'No but if you stay down there I'll let Stephen kick you in the ribs a few times' he replied. 'I think he'd enjoy that.'

'He does seem an intemperate young man' Sirk said hauling himself up off the Lobby floor. 'His father was more measured but no less ruthless I'd say.'

Giles turned away from Sirk towards the teenager. 'I've got to ask' he inquired. 'Did doing that make you feel better?'

Stephen rubbed his hand. 'Except for the knuckles, yes a bit' he replied honestly.

The older watcher turned back to Sirk just as he got back up and suddenly punched him right on the nose with a very neat right jab that bloodied Sirk's face. 'You know it really does' Giles said happily as Sirk clutched his broken nose, holding the handkerchief over it to stem the flow.

'Intemperate middle-age Rupert?' someone else asked.

'Wyndham-Pryce' Sirk noted, recognising the man from his Wolfram and Hart file photo, his words slightly muffled by both the handkerchief and the blood in his nostrils. 'Are you going to hit me too?' he asked.

'Well they got to, and it's only fair on that basis, but frankly I was rather planning on shooting you instead' Wesley replied matter-of-factly.

'So is this a public trial before a jury of my peers?' Sirk asked. 'Or should I say a judge, jury and executioner of my peers?' he added sardonically.

'If we could find a full twelve Watchers to form a proper jury we would' Giles replied. 'Unfortunately the numbers are quite depleted these days' he admitted. 'There would be one more if he hadn't sold out his principles, abandoned his duty and gone to work for the enemy' Giles pointed out.

'The Council is gone Rupert' Sirk replied. 'I did what I had to.'

'If you'd just been a coward and hid when the First Evil attacked that might have been forgivable, if craven, but you didn't just run away.' Giles replied evenly. 'As for the Council it isn't just bricks and mortar and it never was, it's an idea' he stated. 'It's a state of mind that says that we few who know that the world needs defending have a calling, a duty in fact, to do so. The Council is a belief not a damn building' he declared hoping he didn't sound too pompous.

Sirk laughed ironically. 'I'm being held in judgment by two men who were actually sacked from the Council themselves' he pointed out. 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'

Wesley blinked. It was even worse than that, he thought to himself, according to Illyria in the original timeline he himself had gone to work for Wolfram and Hart albeit for a rather more noble cause than self preservation and a pay check. Did he therefore have a right to sit in judgement he wondered.

As Giles decided on a comeback he was pre-empted by another blow being struck, as one more punch, this time to the midriff, bent Sirk double and left him gasping for air.

Giles made a disapproving noise.

'I didn't have a stone' Stephen told the elder watcher with a shrug causing Wesley to break out laughing which he stifled when Giles glared at him, the two slayers standing nearby fought back their own laughter, they were trying to seem intimidating here. 'If you two have some kind of ethical problem with giving this quisling what he deserves because of your own histories I'll do it' Stephen volunteered.

Sirk straightened up again. 'You're not going to have this bloody child kill me are you Rupert?' he asked wincing with the pain from the blow to his gut.

'I'm eighteen not a child' Stephen responded. 'Old enough to join the Army and get sent to the Middle-East to kill people I've got nothing personally against so I think I'm old enough to kill a turncoat bastard like you.'

'Eighteen?' Giles found himself saying.

'Last week' Stephen replied.

'Um… congratulations' Giles told him. 'Didn't feel like celebrating?'

'Not been the best year' Stephen replied honestly.

'I can see that' Giles concurred. 'But getting back on track if we decide to more formally terminate Mr Sirk's employment with the Council either myself or Wesley will do it.'

'As you wish' Stephen replied folding his arms. 'Offer stands though' he added.

'Setting yourself up as the Leader of the new Council are we Rupert?' Sirk asked. 'Self appointment to Travers Seniors old job?' he asked regaining enough composure to sneer.

'We held a vote with a very limited electorate' Wesley told him. 'When things are back on a more even keel they might change but for now Giles is in charge' he continued, 'and it seems the Captains main desire for a keel would involve hauling you under it before hanging you from the yard-arm.'

'How nautical of you' Sirk replied. 'So are you going to talk me to death or put a firearm to the back of my head?'

'First things first Rutherford' Giles replied. 'There is the little matter of certain documents which you apparently stole from the Council and gave to Wolfram and Hart, presumably as a sweetener to ensure your employment' he said. 'Amongst other works one of these was apparently the Devandiré Sibylline Codex which we very much want returned.'

Sirk blinked. 'It's locked in the Company Vault' he said.

'So we assumed. Don't make us go and get it back ourselves' Giles responded. 'We want you to collect everything that belonged, oh I'm sorry I meant to say belongs, to the Council and hand it over.'

'Do that and we'll let you live' Wesley told him. 'By which we mean we'll let you disappear and we won't come looking.'

'Of course if we run into you by accident we'll kill you on sight so it would be better if you stayed away from any employment opportunities with occult leanings' Giles told him.

Sirk looked at them. 'There's no way they'll just let me take them' he pointed out.

'Not really our problem' Giles told him. 'It's the books or your life and don't think for a second that either Wolfram and Hart can protect you, or that if you go to ground without returning the books we won't be able to find you.'

'You'd send the Slayers after me?' Sirk asked. 'Rules changed about them taking human life have they?'

Giles grabbed him by the throat one handed. 'No' he said darkly. 'I'd come after you' he vowed putting a bit of the Ripper into his words and intonation. Stephen seemed impressed anyway and raised his eyebrows slightly.

'You're free to go Sirk' Giles told him turning away. 'You've got two days to return the books you stole or there will be a reckoning.'

'He's getting off light' Stephen stated.

Giles couldn't help but agree, but given that he'd stolen Council property himself he didn't think he had enough moral high ground to do much else. On the other hand however… 'I'll give you five minutes then sling him out on the street' he told Stephen.

Sirk looked at the feral grin that appeared on the young watchers face. 'This is going to be sweet' Stephen said cracking his knuckles. Somehow Sirk didn't exactly think so himself.

'So what are we going to do with young Travers?' Wesley asked Giles as the two of them went to make a pot of tea.

'He seems to enjoy the non-academic side of the work' Giles replied. 'Definitely a field man I'd say. Utterly wasted in pure research' he opined.

'Indeed' Wesley agreed holding open the door to let Giles through listening to the thumping sound of a fist being driven into a human torso. 'Nice to have the continuity of a Travers still in the game.'

'Thinking of familial traditions has your father agreed to come back into active service?' Giles asked.

Wesley grimaced. 'Yes' he replied. 'He was already rounding up as many retired watchers as he can still contact before I managed to get hold of him. He was actually planning on taking the old guard to the Hellmouth if you can believe that.'

'Very proactive of him' Giles replied.

Wesley nodded. He may have had issues with his father but he never doubted his loyalty to the cause, only some of his methods as both Watcher and Parent.

'Did you tell him we'll be rebuilding the Great Russell Street Offices exactly as they were before?' Giles asked.

'He seemed very pleased at the idea' Wesley replied. 'His exact words were "that'll show the damn demons that the Council only loses battles never the war" I believe.'

'If we put him in charge of the project do you think he would agree?' Giles asked.

'Oh certainly' Wesley replied quickly. 'It would also keep him out of your hair which I assume was your reasoning?'

'You might think that Wesley. I couldn't possibly comment' Giles replied with a half smile. 'So what's up with Illyria?' he asked causing a frown to appear on Wesley's face.

Wolfram and Hart Building – Los Angeles – June 2003

'So the situation with Corbin Fries is resolved?' Lilah asked looking up from her papers.

'Yes Ma'am' the head of the legal division replied. 'Surprised the other team gave us a heads up on that.'

Lilah tapped her pen on the conference table. 'They didn't want to risk the Black Tomorrow virus getting out, and if that meant giving us the information we needed to keep our client out of prison they clearly consider that the lesser of two evils' she replied. 'We may call them the white hats but they're not stupid enough to think there's no such thing as shades of grey' she continued. 'The boy will not be harmed' she told the meeting, 'and no I'm not going soft. If we took the easy solution to the problem and flash-fried Fries junior' she said with a half smile, 'then the "other team" made it perfectly clear they'd boil us in oil' she explained. 'Slowly' she added.

'I miss the days when we would have assumed that was bluster' a new arrival observed from the doorway. 'I'm sorry I'm late' she apologised. 'Someone must have forgotten to invite me' she said.

Lilah looked thoughtful for a second. 'No I didn't forget to invite you Eve but I did forget to tell security to wait at the door and keep you out of the room' she told her. 'I won't make the same mistake again.'

'Now now Ms. Morgan' Eve responded taking one of the unused chairs. 'You may have been appointed the CEO of the Los Angeles branch because of your unique knowledge of the major players, but the nature of some of your, how can I put this delicately, "relationship" with certain of those individuals did make the Senior Partners concerned enough to assign a liaison to you, someone to guide you in your efforts to toe the company line as it were.'

Lilah chuckled. 'And their choice was so amusing' she responded. 'I think I overheard one of the security people saying you're being called "Mini-Me" by the junior staff members' she said provoking laughter from the department heads. 'Well I'm the full grown Dr Evil here munchkin and I get to choose who comes to my meetings' she told her. 'I'll let you stay this time but next time I'll have you dragged out by the hair' she declared. 'Now onto our next order of business' she said turning a page on her file the other department heads doing likewise. 'How are we progressing with our relocation of important non-human clients from the city?' she asked looking around. Damn Slayers she thought, they were carving their way through LA's demon population at an alarming rate and it was starting to hit the margins badly.

Hyperion Hotel – Los Angeles – June 2003

Wesley didn't use to hit like this Angel thought, somehow managing to stay upright from the blow. Before Wesley could follow up Gunn and Xander managed to tackle him before he did something to really provoke the vampire into violence.

'God damn it Wes, chill out before someone knocks you out' Gunn told Wesley, holding the Englishman back while Xander stepped between him and Angel. Wesley continued to struggle but despite all the extra muscle he'd put on over the last couple of years Gunn was still a lot stronger and pinned his arms behind his back without a huge amount of effort.

'What the hell is this shit?' Faith asked loudly walking into the lobby from outside where she'd been smoking a cigarette.

'Wesley slugged Angel' Xander explained keeping an eye on the former watcher who looked practically homicidal.

'I don't think he liked what I had to say about his girlfriend' Angel said. 'The truth hurts.'

'You don't know a bloody thing' Wesley practically spat.

'I know she's been a whiney obnoxious bitch' Angel replied rubbing his jaw. 'You might be able to put up with her crap but the rest of us don't have to' he said then straightened himself up. 'And since you aren't man enough to tell her the truth I will' Angel declared. 'She needs to grow up and start acting like a team player or I'll throw her out on her ass.'

'Leave her alone' Wesley said angrily. 'If you want us to go we'll go' he said.

'No don't leave' Fred said quickly. She'd been talking to Cordelia in the office when the yelling began and had dashed out just in time to watch Wesley punch Angel. The two of them were watching from a distance.

Buffy put her head over the banister above. 'I could hear you jerks yelling over the TV' she called down to them. 'Is this a testosterone thing?' she asked. 'Because if you're competing for status I'll come down and beat you both to a pulp.'

'All I did was tell Wesley that if he didn't sort out Illyria then I would' Angel replied. 'He told me to back off, I told him to grow a backbone and have it out with her and then he punched me.'

Buffy looked to Xander. 'Is that about it?' she asked.

Xander nodded. 'Pretty accurate version of events' he affirmed.

'Right' Buffy began. 'Wesley you're out of line and I'm with Angel on this one' she said. 'Illyria has been a pain in the ass since we left Sunnydale, I know she wanted to go get herself some Lawyer trophies but that's not on the cards and we don't need an ancient demon God acted like a spoiled brat because we wouldn't go out to play with her.'

'B's got a point Wes' Faith said. 'I mean, I like Blue but she's cranky and short-tempered and she wasn't that sociable to start with' she said. 'I know she's like a gazillion years old but the chick really needs to grow up' she stated.

Wesley had calmed down a bit and Gunn let go. 'You couldn't be more wrong' he said. 'I'll pack my things tonight and we'll leave in the morning' he said. 'Just leave her be.'

Buffy had made her way down the stairs and approached Wesley wearing a conciliatory expression. 'Nobody wants you to leave, or Illyria for that matter we owe her a lot, but she just needs to be told a few things for her good as well as ours.'

'Bullshit' Wesley replied. 'None of you know anything.'

Cordelia sighed and turned to Fred and they exchanged glances. 'Just tell them Wesley or I will' Fred declared.

'It's none of their fucking business' Wesley replied tersely.

'Yes it is because you're our business and so is Illyria' Fred replied softly and turned to address Buffy. 'Illyria isn't acting like she is because she's being petulant about the decision made regarding how to deal with Wolfram and Hart, it's because of what happened back when the town collapsed' she said.

'So she's cranky because we left her behind' Buffy responded. 'Okay I can see myself being pretty pissed off too in her shoes, but she's fine. She should shake it off and get on with her life.'

Fred shook her head. 'That isn't it at all' she said. 'Illyria was left buried under the town she had to claw her way out of that.'

'Blue's kinda tough' Faith interjected. 'Don't see that fazing her too much.'

Fred looked around. 'Illyria is tougher and meaner than any one of you but she's also claustrophobic' she told them flatly. 'Didn't know that I'm thinking?' she asked looking from Angel to Buffy. 'Remember all those comments people were making thinking she was dead, looking into the sinkhole, about if she was in heaven? Well she wasn't' Fred said coldly. 'Illyria was in hell' she told them. 'Right inside here' she said tapping the side of her head. 'That's the worst hell of all you know' she told them. 'The one the handsome man can't rescue you from even if he tries' she said smiling at Wesley, 'in the end you have to rescue yourself.'

Wesley looked to the floor. 'Illyria could just about handle being indoors before, but now she can't cope with it at all' he said. 'Why do you think we spend so much time outside?' he asked. 'Anything more than a few minutes indoors and the walls start to close in on her.'

'Claustrophobic?' Buffy said aghast.

Wesley rounded on her. 'I believe you once found yourself buried alive and had to dig your way out of your own grave' he said to her. 'Imagine if you were terrified of small enclosed places and had to do that' he continued. 'How do you think it would effect you?' he asked her rhetorically before turning to Angel. 'It's even worse for her' he said. 'Illyria doesn't handle human emotions very well at the best of times and fear is a pretty strong emotion don't you think? I've been trying to get her to let go of another one too' he said, 'shame.'

'Shame?' Xander questioned.

'She's ashamed of her weakness' Buffy said quietly.

'Give the Slayer a cigar' Wesley declared sarcastically. 'To us fear is just a healthy reaction that keeps us focused and out of danger, to her it's a betrayal of who she is and she hates it, hates herself for feeling it' he said. 'She'll be okay in time, she'll adjust like she adjusted to the idea that love isn't a weakness either, it's just a part of you, but one thing she doesn't bloody well need right now is some arsehole giving her a hard time' he said to Angel pointedly.

'Hell' Angel said. 'We left her in hell' he realised.

'Cigars all round' Wesley responded wryly. 'That's the other problem' he said. 'Intellectually she knows everyone thought she was dead, but in her gut she feels that the whole stinking lot of us abandoned her in the worst place she could imagine' he continued. 'Even me' he added with a touch of pathos.

'But you were unconscious' Buffy replied. 'Kennedy knocked you out because you were trying to save her by overdosing on the magicks. Illyria even made a joke about how that made her and Kennedy even because she'd punched out Willow for the same thing.'

Wesley closed his eyes. 'Big difference between her knowing that and feeling it' he replied folding his arms, 'but at least the fact that she knows I tried to help her means she was willing to let me reach out to her afterwards. I hear the stupid whispers, about how we're up on the roof screwing every night, well we're not, I haven't touched her at least not like that, I just hold her hand and talk to her until I fall asleep' he told them. 'And if there's one saving grace it's that Illyria doesn't sleep because at least she doesn't have to put up with the nightmares.'

'Why the fuck didn't you tell us this shit earlier?' Faith asked.

Cordelia snorted. 'Oh yeah because Illyria's the type that would love everyone knowing this stuff' she said. 'We were hoping the rest of you jerks would cut her some slack, because she like, saved your sorry asses, but I guess we were optimistic.'

'And now I know why you've been the Illyria Fan Club for the last couple of weeks' Xander said. 'You and Fred knew about her problem.'

'No duh Sherlock' Cordelia replied scornfully.

'So what do we do?' Buffy asked.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. 'Cut her some slack like I said maybe?' she replied.

Fred looked off into space, her eyes focused elsewhere. 'My perspective is probably pretty unique' she said. 'Illyria doesn't just have my memories, I can see more of me in her than just that' she told them. 'When I got back from Pylea I was still trapped there really and I hid from it in the opposite way that Illyria is hiding, by staying inside, her hell was my heaven if you like' she explained, 'but I got over it and what helped me was time and knowing that people cared.'

'Think she really cares that we care?' Xander asked. 'The "Blue Meanie" nickname stuck for a reason and that was before the whole town falling on top of her thing made her even crankier.'

'She seems to care that we didn't care' Cordelia replied reasonably.

Buffy suddenly chuckled. 'You know when I found out the scythe could kill her I told Illyria that made me feel easier about having her around' she told them, 'it meant she was just flesh and blood like the rest of us, but I've never really seen her as a real person before. There were flashes of it, like with her crush on Wesley here, but it's not the same.'

'You mean the physical vulnerability was one thing but the psychological is something else?' Fred asked. 'They say it's our imperfections that make us who we are.'

Angel shook his head and offered his hand to Wesley. 'You should have told us but if it makes a difference I'm sorry' he told him.

Wesley regarded the hand for a while before taking it. 'Next time I tell you to back off on something kindly assume I'm doing it for a good reason' he told him.

'You really care about Smurfette huh?' Faith asked.

'She needs somebody to' Wesley replied. It was far more than that, he needed somebody to care about too. When he thought she'd died he hadn't just been howling for her but himself, it was a selfish thought but it was true nonetheless, he needed to need someone and be needed in return. It would keep him sane and away from the abyss he knew, and when you got right down to it Wesley wanted to be loved and if the source of that happened to be a demon goddess well at least she was smart and attractive.

'Okay we'll forget all of this ever happened right?' Buffy ordered. 'Illyria gets treated with kid gloves until she's her old self again okay?'

'Couldn't we hope for something a bit better than her old self though?' Xander asked hopefully. 'If Wes decides to take a swing at me for saying that you'll stop him right?' he asked Buffy quickly.

'You're on your own Harris' Buffy told him.

Wesley turned and looked at Xander raising the fist he'd struck Angel with before 'To quote young Stephen earlier today when Giles let him beat up Sirk "This is going to be sweet" was the phrase used I seem to recall.'

'Is it just me or are watchers getting meaner suddenly?' Faith asked Buffy.

'It had to happen eventually' Buffy replied. 'You can't dress like that every day for years on end and be that damn polite without eventually go postal.'

'Girls got a point' Gunn interjected. 'I mean who can't imagine English here up a clock tower with a sniper rifle?' he asked.

'You know what' Wesley declared. 'Each and every one of you can kiss my pasty pink English arse' he told them.

'She never said we had to give you any slack' Faith pointed out.

Wesley looked around then smirked 'If you want me I'll be on the roof with my girlfriend' he said. 'If any of you losers end up with a proper, half-way normal love life we can double date' he said smugly and marched off.

Angel watched him go. 'You're right they are getting meaner' he told Faith sadly.