Crusade

Blue Earth, Minnesota…

The nine appeared quietly surprising the newly endowed Tau-Vana's. Phade got to her feet recognizing each face. The twins moved towards Anysia and Riel who stood to the left and behind Kai.

"Who are they?" Pastor Jim asked also standing though he looked as though he would rather be laying down. He blinked bloodshot eyes trying vainly to push past the pain roaring through his brain.

"Riel and Anysia." Valkyrie introduced as the Guardian and Fury stepped forward.

"We thank you." Jericho inclined his head followed by Valkyrie.

"We did as we were told." Riel shrugged though his grin didn't diminish. Anysia poked his ribs with her elbow, shaking her dark head slightly.

"Aquilles." Phade moved to the big blond Guardian who seemed to be taking up one corner of Pastor Jim's living room all on his own.

"He's-, he couldn't…." Ellen asked looking to Phade, Bobby and Pastor Jim. Her eyes rested on the blond wondering if he really was the legendary hero of Greek mythology. The pain reminded her again of why she had been sitting down.

Aquilles dropped his crossed arms, rested both palms on Phade's shoulders and slowly leaned his head towards her until their foreheads were touching. With closed eyes they stood that way ignoring the twins who made introductions of the Fury's and Guardian's gathered in the small living room.

"Tane is an Earth Fury, you can tell by the color of her uniform." Valkyrie pointed out. The Fury was scowling, looking around the scorched room with clear disapproval on her features.

"Kayzar is her Guardian." Jericho introduced the dark haired Guardian standing beside her in the black uniform. "Kai guards Nazrin."

"She's a Stone Fury." Valkyrie added though everyone could see she wore the light gray uniform. "Ahalya and Anysia are Fire Fury's like Mom and I."

"Kast-."

"Is here to make sure the Tau-Vana are safely and quickly transported to Hë'lîa." He said with a slight tilt of his head in the direction of Ellen, Jo, Pastor Jim and Sebastían.

"Whoa- what?" Sebastían shook his head, his eyes shifting from the twins to his Mom who was still in quiet forehead heaven with Aquilles. His hands clenched into fists not bothering to hide the anger he felt seeing her. There was a second husband now and another kid, a kid she'd been too busy raising to go home-.

"You can't stay here." Riel frowned. His eyes darkening, more blue than gay or green as he looked at each Tau-Vana, at their blood shot eyes…

"You are needed elsewhere. All of you." Tane said in her soft tone. She moved off to a charred wall touching her palm to it. Her eyes closed but not before they saw the golden light in her eyes.

"No one said anything about us going anywhere-." Jo protested standing up. Her green eyes widened at the charred wood now glowing a soft reddish-brown…

"You have chosen." Ahalya said shortly. "You must come with us." Her dark eyes flared startling the new Tau-Vana's. The wall Tane was repairing couldn't keep their attention even though the charred bits flaked off to leave the room filled with a blackish gray dust.

"Don't frighten them." Phade spoke softly sounding tired, her hands still clutching at Aquilles' vest. She turned, one hand on the black leather, the other falling at her side and facing the group assembled. After seeing what he'd shown her she wasn't sure they wouldn't be. Everything, all he knew about the coming events made her wish she'd stayed hidden, that she'd ignored Faith and Xander….

Willow's cell phone rang startling the red head into a yelp. She made a face and plucked it from her pocket standing to answer the call. She moved off to the arch in the living room though even there she got no privacy.

"Ellen, Pastor Jim. You have nothing to be afraid of." Phade assured. The pressure of Aquilles' hand on her shoulder was warm but she ignored him and the looks Sebastían was giving her at Aquilles' familiar touch. "Hë'lîa has been my home and you'll need the time there to prepare for what comes next."

"We aren't going anywhere-." Jo glared.

"Yes." Aquilles moved up so he was standing beside Phade instead of at her back. "We are all going some place."

"Nice and cryptic." Faith snapped. "You ever say anything that makes sense?" she glared at the blond remembering the day he'd shown up at the edge of the crater that had once been Sunnydale and vanished with Phade.

"Oh Goddess!" Willow's voice grabbed her attention. Faith shifted looking at the red head. "I-. It's Angel-."

"What? What happened?" Faith demanded rushing forward but Willow's eyes rested on Phade.

"I don- I don't know how. I'm so sorry Phade." Willow apologized as though she were responsible for the bad news. Phade didn't flinch, her expression didn't change but it was only because she already knew.

"Willow!" Faith yelled.

"Los Angeles is gone." Willow said her eyes shifting to the dark Slayer. "Everyone too. All those people… Goddess…" her voice whispered.

"Gone?" Faith echoed. "How is it gone? A city doesn't just go poof and disappears!"

"It is when Wolfram & Hart send it to hell." Willow assured dropping into the couch.

"Gramps?" Sebastían shook his head in disbelief. His anger monetarily forgotten as he tried to understand what everything they'd said meant.

"Dad!" Valkyrie exclaimed. Her hazel eyes flicked to Jericho.

"We had Slayer's in Los Angeles." Willow mumbled. "Not just at the Hyperion but all over the city…"

"Hell?" Bobby questioned. He looked at Willow who nodded, her shoulders drooping then turned to Phade. She could see his mind start to work; try to figure out a way to change what was.

"They won't be there long." Phade assured dragging in a breath and straightening. At her side Aquilles smiled, his arms once more crossing over his chest.

"You're going to wish them out." Jo glared facing Phade. The blond didn't say she should have done that for Dean months before if that was the current plan.

"No." Phade replied, her dark brown eyes resting on the blond. "I'm going after them."

"We're going with you-." Valkyrie jumped in only to get a glare.

"No. You are not going with me."

"Mom!"

"I said no." Phade snapped her glare shifting to Sebastían. "NO."

"That's my grandfather-!" Bastían protested.

"Our Dad, too." Valkyrie cut in.

"You can't keep us-." Jericho stepped forward, his eyes flashing.

"NO!" Phade yelled. The flash of red in her eyes startled Ellen. She raised a hand to her mouth eyeing the woman who'd spent the past year in their lives. She'd tried very hard to blot out the image of Phade after the attack, the stone spear heads imbedded in the dead hunters… she'd just assumed whatever had happened in the field with Gordon-. Well, it wasn't that she preferred to hope that he'd taken advantage of her but when the only other option was… Bobby's expression showed mostly curiosity though he had many questions. Somehow he didn't think Phade was up to answering them.

"Phade," Aquilles tone stopped any protests from the twins and it didn't escape Bobby or Ellen's notice how Phade deferred to him. "Hix getya vai murdma."

"We can't all go." Phade replied scowling though her stance wasn't as tense as it had been when she was arguing with her children.

"We won't." Kast assured. "They will be coming with us." He pointed at Pastor Jim, Ellen and Jo ignoring Sebastían, then waved a hand at himself and the group of Fury's and Guardian's beside him.

"And where are you going?" Phade asked looking up at Aquilles once more.

"You obviously need me more than the other Fury's under my care." Aquilles answered barely lifting a blond eyebrow.

"I can take care of myself." Phade retorted turning so she was facing him, hands on hips. Again, Sebastían couldn't help but notice the familiarity of their actions and he wasn't the only one.

"Yes, I've noticed what taking care of yourself has gotten you, Phade." Aquilles replied, his blue eyes staring down at her. Phade blushed, her lips twisting because he was right. She seemed to get herself in more trouble alone and if her goal was to get Dean out of hell she was going to need help staying out of trouble long enough to accomplish that.

"We're wasting time." Phade snapped hating the fact she had to concede to him. Again. "Time flows much too fast in hell."

"Then we better get going." Sebastían urged.

"Tu no vas a ningun lado!" Phade yelled rounding on her oldest. She knew it was the wrong thing to say to him so soon after their 'reunion'. She couldn't help being afraid for him, of loosing him. So she hadn't been much of a Mother to him- hell, she hadn't been a Mother and he was right to be angry with her. He had a right to his recriminations because here she was, leaving. Again.

"You can't tell me what to do!" Sebastían yelled back. "You left, remember?"

"Silence!" Aquilles' raised voice cut into Sebastían's recriminations before he had a chance to really get them out. The Fury's at his back and the Guardian's wore the same expression of disapproval on their faces. Even the twins stood silent, their expressions tinged with anger at Sebastían's outburst though they hadn't behaved much better.

"Tau-Vana or not," Aquilles tone, soft as it was, didn't loose any authority as he spoke to the teen. "You do as we say."

"Or he can go with me." Faith added, dark eyes flashing with anger at the blond Guardian.

"Faith." Phade drew an exasperated breath. She wanted to go after Dean now, not later, not when all the arguing and yelling and recriminations were done. Now. A tinge of guilt threatened to overwhelm her but she refused to think about what she was doing. She was going after Dean, choosing him over her own child. She knew and so did everyone else. She knew it was the only reason for going to that pit.

Phade was willing to accept the consequences, willing to let her son vent his anger, hurt- whatever he needed to do she'd allow because it was his right. Anything within reason.

"JD could use a big brother, don't you think?" Faith replied locking eyes with Phade. The silent conversation that took place was short but in the end Phade nodded. Her attention shifting to Sebastían, her expression softened and once again Sebastián saw the Mom he remembered, the Mom who'd done everything to keep him safe and happy…

"Please," Phade's voice was soft, the tone one he was very familiar with and knew she rarely, if ever, used.

w

The Devil's Gates didn't really inspire the awe I had thought they would. Yes, they are big but I've seen bigger. Valkyrie was not impressed, she said the design was much too simple but they do the job. She would know, metal is her element which is why she was going to reset the tracks, make them whole and Willow was going to help with her magic.

Yes, we all have our parts to play and we'll do it.

Why?

I'm not sure anymore.

I mean this is all just a game for the Powers That Be, the Od VaiLumen, God… whoever it is. They're just playing, using us as pawns, they're own personal little soldiers…

I don't think I care anymore.

All I want is to bring him home.

I just want him back.

"Mom?" Jericho touched my shoulder, his hand warm and his expression trying to hide the worry but I know him. He's mine and I know what he's thinking, what he's trying not to say but its there all the same.

"I'll bring them all back." I promised. Every last one of them…just as soon as I got to Dean. He was my priority once we were through the gate. He was the only person I was focused on and yeah, I get that's pretty selfish but ask me if I care.

Go on.

Ask.

"Ok." Valkyrie let out a pent up breath, shaking out her hands. "Maybe we should call Ahalya back-." She looked apprehensive. Again.

"You will reset the tracks and you'll do it right." I said attempting to reassure her but even I could hear the numbness in my voice.

I couldn't hide it. I couldn't pretend this wasn't going to be difficult. How would I find him? What have they done to him? It's been too long, much too long for him to have been down there-.

"I'll check on Faith." Willow said knowing that JD and Bastián's safety was worrying me but even that wasn't it, wasn't the reason I felt like this. She couldn't know what I was thinking, that I was terrified I wouldn't get to him, that I wouldn't find him…

"Let's get going." Buffy said striding with purpose to the Devil's Gate. She was armed and ready, though the scythe was staying behind with Vala. Nothing anyone said would make her change her mind. She was going. She wasn't letting Angel's rescue lie in my hands or anyone else's for that matter. Even Faith hadn't been able to switch places with the blond, not that I would have let her. Faith has to stay right were she is, at LUCS with all my boys.

"Are sure you don't want to go with your Mom and the others?" Willow asked but Jo's expression hadn't changed since she'd decided. It made sending Sebastián with Faith to LUCS all that more difficult.

"The Tau-Vana will be safe." Aquilles said standing beside Jo. He was taking it upon himself to keep the blond safe while we were in hell. Better him than me. And that was yet another reason Sebastián fought to go along with us. Why Jo and not him?

Why?

Because he's my son and I want him safe.

Because if Jo gets hurt it won't stop me from doing what I've set out to do.

Because if she dies it's not my heart that's going to break.

Because she won't distract me.

Because she's nothing to me.

"Right, well make sure you keep them all safe." Willow ordered wearing a slight frown on her face. She wasn't happy but neither had Ellen who'd tried to get Jo to change her mind.

I moved away from them, leaving Willow to speak with Buffy over last minute orders and things they needed to say. Jericho and Valkyrie watched me but they didn't approach as I went to Bobby. The old hunter had insisted on coming this far at least and I hadn't the heart to deny him. His love for my blond green eyed pain in the ass was reason enough but Bobby knew he couldn't go where I was heading even for Dean.

"Still can't go?" he asked knowing the answer even as I shook my head. He sighed dropping his eyes to the ground, staring at my feet. "Strange." He said raising his eyes slowly as he looked me over again. "To see you like this." He waved a hand at my uniform, not my usual red or the white. This time I'd opted for the black, the only ones to wear it were the Guardian's. At least now. But the first one was Kaöz. She'd taken it for herself and the Guardian's had followed her example. They were hers after all.

"I'll have to get used to the leather again." I replied glancing at my feet encased in the tall leather boots and the daggers strapped in each. "It's been a while since I've had to move in these." I patted my thighs feeling self conscious of the pants and the skin tight fit. I had Tane to thank for them; she'd packed my weapons and clothes into a satchel. Of course they all knew I would need it, knew I would be heading to hell in an effort to change the outcome of this latest skirmish.

"You be careful." Bobby said sounding a bit gruff.

"Of course." I nodded. "You know it takes more to get rid of me than a trip to hell. I have my Guardian just in case." We both glanced at Aquilles who was speaking to Jo, lecturing her no doubt. He'd done plenty of that to me.

"I'll keep an eye on your boys." Bobby assured barely tripping over the words. He still couldn't quite grasp 'my kids', it was the age thing again. "You worry about what you're gonna be doing."

"I'll bring him home, Bobby." That was a promise. "I'm not leaving him there any longer than he's already been." Neither of us said anything else, we just looked at each other a moment. I couldn't help thinking about Angel, how this was his second trip to hell, that I knew of and what he'd said about it.

Nothing.

He never said a word and that was enough to make me afraid of what could be happening to Dean down there.

A vampire wouldn't speak of his sojourn in hell…

A vampire…

Dean was a man.

"Phade."

Aquilles called me.

I hugged Bobby, an impulsive gesture, done quickly and then I was at my Guardian's side.

"As soon as you loose contact reset the tracks." I said looking at Valkyrie.

"Yes." She replied standing with her brother, both looking uneasy but this was our life. This was the life they had been borne into and all they'd known until this past year.

"Make sure Bobby gets home safe." They nodded, knowing the old hunter was important to me and he was. Bobby was important because Dean loved the old man and everything he loved I was going to do my best to keep safe.

Willow hugged Buffy one last time urging her to be careful and assuring her everyone would make sure the world was still there when we came back.

"Just keep an eye on Dawn." Buffy sighed taking my hand. "Especially on Tuesday's." she said over her shoulder. Aquilles took Jo's hand in his and faced the doors. We had put Buffy and Jo between us, so we didn't loose them but also to make sure they didn't get hurt once we came out on the other side.

"Now what?" Jo questioned looking at Aquilles and me.

"Hold on." I replied feeling the thread of light I wound around both women and hooked to Aquilles.

"Don't struggle." He warned as our feet began to sink into the ground. Jo gasped, tried to lift her feet only we dropped further.

"Don't let go." I snapped because apparently my first 'hold on' meant squat to the blond- uh, huh. I'm the only brunette in this quad. There has to be a joke here about three blonds and a brunette and why the hell am I even thinking about jokes right now?

I'm going to kill Tomás.

Aquilles and Buffy each gripped Jo tighter and thanks to her new status they didn't break her hands.

I dropped us in, felt Buffy's hand clench mine and hold her breath as though she was under water.

"Breathe." I whispered while the earth shifted around us and changed...

w

"They're gone." Willow stared at the empty spot where the four had just been standing.

"I don't feel her." Jericho said turning to Valkyrie.

"I don't either." She replied. Without another word Valkyrie strode to the doors and set her hands on the metal. Bobby looked on in shock as they sank up to her wrists, the metal screeching and groaning as she moved her hands apart. Valkyrie grimaced, felt the pull from the metal doors and bent her head until she felt the cool metal on her skin.

"Should I…?" Willow looked at Jericho in concern, her voice trailing off.

"Before she gets sucked inside." He replied scowling. Willow let his sarcasm pass and drew the magic around her. Bobby watched as her hair turned a brilliant white; felt the breeze tug on his hat and clothes as it swept around her.

"Good Lord above." He breathed.

W