To Hell and Back

By Tym

Part 5: Changes

Giles continued knocking on the large wooden door. He knew since they were up late last night, he might have to wait a few minutes. The vampire was probably still asleep given the early hour and bright sunlight, but Xander should be awake. He was shocked to see that it was Angel who opened the door.

"Come in Giles." He stepped out of the way.

"Yes, good morning Angel." He walked into the house. "I know we agreed to meet this evening, but I wanted to come by—"

"It's all right. I was almost expecting a visit." He walked into the living room with the Watcher trailing after him. "It's a good thing you came early anyway."

Giles was relieved until he saw Faith's battered body chained to the wall. "Good lord! What is the meaning of this? I was under the impression that your soul—"

Angel turned around in full game-face and growled causing Giles to clutch the cross under his shirt. "Your Slayer broke into my home last night! She barged into my bedroom holding a crossbow, which I consider an attack! We retaliated and took her down, but she still fired and shot Xander in the chest!"

He paled and gulped audibly. "Is he…?"

"Currently upstairs resting. It took every last ounce of self-control I have not to kill her."

Giles looked at Faith, who turned her head away and visibly winced in pain. "What on earth were you doing? I was very specific last night when I instructed you to leave them alone!"

"He's a vamp! And he's got that poor guy in his thrall!"

Angel rolled his eyes. "Xander is too stubborn to ever fall for that cheap gypsy magick." He stormed over to her. "You are only alive because Giles means a lot to Xander, but if you ever even look at my boy the wrong way, I'll snap your neck. I haven't killed a human in a long time, but only because I didn't encounter any in Hell, but anyone or anything that endangers Xander's life will be dealt with. I don't give a shit what species it is!"

"She will not be bothering you again." Giles assured him, looking at Faith. "If I must I will contact the Council. The intentional harm of a human is a punishable crime. The attempted murder of one is a capital offense. They do not take that lightly."

"Thank you. Now I assume you have questions. We can talk in the study. I'd rather get this portion over with."

"Yes, thank you." He followed Angel into the next room and took a seat in one of the chairs.

"Where would you like me to begin?"

"At the beginning if you please."

Angel sighed heavily. "Willow's spell worked and my soul was returned. I was a little disoriented at the time. I saw Xander fall into the vortex. Unfortunately my hand wasn't enough to close it."

"Your hand?" Giles glanced down at the vampire's two hands.

"Yes, Xander cut it off as an offering, but it wasn't enough. Vampire physiology causes our bodies to regrow limbs or mend itself. Spike suffered a broken spine but it was able to mend and he can walk again." He flexed his left hand. "This took over seven months to grow back."

"Quite quick thinking on his part."

Angel smiled. "Yes it was. But it wasn't enough. I knew it needed my blood. Buffy wanted to find you to find another way to close it, but we didn't have time. So, I jumped in. Needless to say I wasn't very happy to be in Hell. I don't know how Xander survived those first few days. He had a massive wound in his stomach. He'd been completely run through with a sword. I had no supplies but I did the best I could."

"Thank you." He said sincerely.

"At the time I did it for Buffy."

"Yes, of course." Giles nodded.

Angel took a deep unneeded breath before he continued. "Like I said I wasn't happy to be there. And of course neither was Xander. I took out a lot of my frustration on that boy. I treated him like dirt. Actually I treated the dirt better than I treated him. It wasn't until the third month that I got the wakeup call. That was the night I witnessed you die. I heard a commotion and followed it thinking he was being attacked. I'd never seen anyone fight like that. It was like he was possessed. He simply wouldn't go down. He was covered in blood and still he tried to protect all of you. But there were just too many demons."

"That must have been awful."

"It was. He just screamed for hours holding Willow's body. He gathered you four together and that's when I noticed that Buffy wasn't there."


"Hell plays on your fears. I didn't figure it out until months later, but it does. Xander's biggest fear has always been losing all of you."

Giles looked offended. "But not Buffy?"

He ignored the question. "I noticed she wasn't there and I was relieved. I made a comment and he attacked me. That's when I found out what happened that day."

"I'm not following you."

"The day I went to Hell. I thought a vampire had attacked the boy and that's how he got there."

"But Buffy told us Angelus killed him."

"I'm not surprised given the fact that she was the one who thrust the sword through Xander and pushed him in."

Giles stood up. "Now see here."

"Sit down!" He shouted. "In his rage at my relief he started screaming out everything. He had lied to her and not told her about Willow attempting the spell. He didn't think it would work. Willow had received severe trauma to the head. She should never have tried to resoul me in that condition. It could've killed her. He wasn't willing to risk Buffy stalling for an 'if'. When I got my soul back he tried to help. He did the right thing and she condemned him for it. And all I did was extol her virtues to him. The one time he had said something negative about her I almost strangled him to death."

Giles' eyes turned dark with anger.

"I was a complete jerk, but once I realized that there were no vampires left in the house, that it was only the three of us there, things started snapping into place. I tried my best to make amends for my behavior but he had fallen into a horrible depression. He didn't speak, barely ate and he was dead inside. Then the visits started."


"You were all haunting me." Angel explained, noticing the look of almost pleasure on the Watcher's face. "I didn't know it at the time but you were haunting him too. He wasn't talking to me or anyone so I didn't connect it. You were all whispering our deepest fears, his inadequacies and my desire for human blood. You wanted me to kill him and him to kill himself. Then I lost my soul."

All the color drained from Giles' face. "You lost it?"

"Well not in the normal sense. It was my deepest fear. I was still there but trapped and Angelus was in full control of the body."

"With Xander?"

"I'd like to say he was unharmed, but I can't. I'm not going into detail because frankly it's none of your business. He was in control for over a month and while he wasn't a nice guy, the two of them managed to bond. Angelus had admired the boy for being the only one of your group who ever stood up to him. That night in the hospital Xander earned the demon's respect."

"There are hospitals in Hell?"

Angel was confused. "No. When Buffy was sick with the flu. Didn't he ever tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

Angel leaned back in his chair and prepared for a very long conversation.

Several hours later, Giles was returning to the mansion on Crawford Street with two large paper bags of McDonalds' food. With the sun still high in the sky and Xander in bed with a chest wound, he had volunteered to go and get the young man something to eat as well as the captured Slayer. Angel seemed to sense that the Watcher needed some alone time to process the information he had learned.

His mind was still spinning from everything the vampire had told him and the things he had deliberately left out. He still wasn't ready to believe that his Buffy had stabbed Xander and sentenced him to Hell. While he was aware of her volatile temper, Xander was Buffy's friend. And of course, there was the fact that Hell played on a person's fears. It could simply be that after being exposed to that for such a long time Xander simply believed the whispers.

He was holding strong to that theory though it wouldn't change Angel's mind. He believed Xander period. That was another problem. The relationship between them was going to come as quite an unexpected shock to Buffy as well as Cordelia. Both girls held on to their lost loves with a vengeance. He wasn't sure how well they would take to the idea that those lost lovers were now completely devoted to each other.

He had seen the emotion in Angel's eyes when he re-dressed the wound and the casual way both he and Xander touched each other and communicated. It was clear to see that they were both completely committed to one another. The depth of feeling in Xander's eyes when he talked to Giles about Angel and Angelus was very plain. Which lead to the third problem.

Angelus wasn't gone nor locked away. While Angel's soul had been bound to Xander through the strange spell tattooed on Xander's chest, they still switched places randomly. Angel had been very quick to explain that he felt that Angelus would not be harming humans. The demon's devotion to the young man was just as deep as Angel's and they had discussed it at length before returning. Both felt secure in their belief that Angelus would keep true to the vow he made to Xander. However he was very quick to add that Angelus would protect his mate from any and all threats, be they human or not. It was only Angel's insistence last night that saved Faith from being killed after the attack.

The last important matter was this Keystone they possessed. The two had spent over a century gathering what sparse information there was to be found there regarding it. Xander had become very proficient in magick and learned how to wield the stone and tap into the power it held. Giles had been amazed that not only had he used it to open the portal that brought them home, but was able to scan Giles with it to assure himself that the man was indeed not a realistic apparition and that they were indeed finally home.

Willow was going to be in for a shock that she was no longer their powerful magick user. Xander radiated power though he did admit he didn't feel comfortable with it. Giles wasn't sure how their group would react to all these new developments. Buffy was going to be a problem. She would not like that her Angel was no longer hers. And both Buffy and Willow were going have to adjust to the fact that Xander was no longer their weak-link. Both of the girls had always enjoyed their alpha status in the group. They normally called the shots and expected the boy to fall in line. They were definitely not going to take well to a Xander that not only knew who he was and was very capable, but had a mate that would stand up for him to anyone. Giles had no illusions that Angel would take on any one who challenged Xander's abilities, including Buffy.

He wasn't sure how he was going to handle the meeting this evening when the others came. He may need reinforcements.

Buffy was getting pissed. She'd been after Willow all day to agree to do the soul restoration spell as soon as they got out of school, actually she had wanted to leave the school to start on it immediately. But she agreed to wait since Angelus was trapped inside the mansion during the day. However Willow refused, citing that they needed to check with Giles before proceeding. Oz had agreed with her.

She didn't understand what was wrong with her best friend. Didn't Willow want to see her happy? She had spent all summer in agony over losing Angel and now she had him back, well part of him. She didn't think she was asking too much for Willow do this for her. They had found Giles missing from the Library but a note said he just stepped out and would be returning soon. She couldn't wait any longer. It was already after three.

Yet Willow insisted on waiting for him before she agreed to do anything. It was so frustrating and selfish. Willow had Xander back and she didn't seem very concerned about Buffy's lost love. Not even playing on the witch's feeling about leaving Xander alone with Angelus seemed to change her mind. She simply stated that he seemed capable of handling the vampire – which ever one it was.

That made no sense to Buffy. No matter how long they were in Hell there was no way Xander could fend off Angelus. She could barely do it. Something was very wrong with that picture. Why hadn't the vampire killed him? How had he survived a sword through his stomach? How could he fight like that? And the most important question, why was Angel acting like this?

Cordelia adjusted the crossbow in her hand and knocked on the door. Xander might have an alliance with Angelus but she didn't trust the bastard in the least. That hadn't stopped her from coming over right after school though to make sure her boyfriend was all right.

The door opened slowly and the son of bitch just stood there looking at her, like he was trying to figure out who she was. "Cordelia." He finally said, not very put off by the weapon. "Come on in."

She cautiously entered, looking around. "Where's Xander?" She demanded.

"He's in bed. And you're not getting anywhere near him with that."

Her eyes went wide. "This is for you!"

"I'm Angel and I won't hurt you as long as you don't threaten me or Xander. We had enough of that last night. And I think one crossbow bolt in the chest is his limit today."

She raised the weapon and aimed it quickly. "What the hell did you do?" She screamed and was stunned when the weapon was ripped from her hand and tossed across the room before she could even react.

"It was Faith. She broke in and shot him."

Tears began to flow down her face. "Is he okay?"

Angel moved quickly and pulled the crying girl to him. "Shh, he's going to ok. He's had worse. He's resting. I'm sure, he'd love to see you." He began to lead her further inside, whispering reassuring words, which oddly enough made her feel better. She was no longer afraid of the vampire, but only because her need to see Xander had now outweighed her fear.

Faith was getting tired of being chained to the wall and left to be a vampire snack. Yeah, sure she made a little mistake by accidentally shooting Xander, but she had been trying for the vamp. Didn't anyone realize that these things happen when rescuing humans? Hell, the guy had been trying to kill her at the time!

Cordelia sat outside in the garden in the fading sunlight. She couldn't believe it. In twenty-fours her world had been turned upside down. A few hours ago she was ecstatic to find that Xander wasn't really dead and he'd been brought back to her. Then she almost lost him to a gung-ho Slayer, who seemed too stupid to know a vamp from a human. And now she had been dumped. Though it was the best break-up she had ever had.

Xander had explained everything to her and they cried for hours, holding each other. She wanted to hate him for hurting her. She wanted to curse him for falling for someone else – a guy someone else – a guy vampire someone else – a guy vampire that he used to hate someone else, but she couldn't. He had thought she was dead. He had buried her body and grieved for her for years. How could she hate him?

It still hurt to see the way Angel fussed about making sure he wasn't hurting and reopening the wound. She could see the love in his eyes when he looked and touched her now ex-boyfriend, who was looking back at him the same way. The two men joked easily with each and sometimes cried when remembering difficult things they'd experienced, especially when talking about how she and the others had haunted both of them. She had felt like an intruder during some of it and that only added to the experience. It made her feel almost privileged to bear witness to something so painful and private.

Finding out Angelus was still in the picture had almost made her run looking for the crossbow, but they explained that while they both had changed and grown that he had as well. She still didn't know how she felt about that, but after seeing the murderous psycho fussing over the temperature of a bowl of soup for Xander she was willing to hold off on shoving a stake in his chest. She was angry but she wasn't a fool. It still hurt though.

It was about time, Buffy thought as Giles' car pulled into the driveway of Angel's mansion. She had waited most of the afternoon with Willow and Oz for him to return. He had insisted that she come with him and not head over on her own. She had been pissed when he told them he had spent most of the day with Angel, getting detailed accounts of Hell and confirming that the vampire was indeed her Angel. But that didn't make sense. How could he be Angel and not want to speak to her last night?

Getting out of the foreign piece of junk Giles called a car, she noticed her mother's Jeep in the driveway. "What's my mother doing here?"

"Rupert asked me to be here. And given your behavior last night I think I need to be." Her mother's face was firm.

Buffy cringed. She had thrown a major fit when she finally got home last night over the way Angel treated her. Her mother wasn't very happy that Angel had 'wormed' his way out of hell. She followed the group quietly as they approached the front door.

"Come in." Angel slid to one side as he allowed them entry.

"Angel." She smiled as she looked at him with a coy smile and was shocked by the look of indifference on his face. Before she could say anything, her mother was pulling on her arm.

Hearing several gasps, she turned around to see Faith chained to the wall. "What the hell?"

"She attacked us last night." Her boyfriend told them. "Shot Xan with a crossbow. Giles will be taking her with him tonight."

Buffy was livid. "You attacked Angel? You bitch! What did I tell you?" She stormed over to the Slayer, ready to attack.

"Buffy! Sit down!" Giles shouted, using his Ripper voice, which told her to do what he said. Now. "She will be dealt with."

Joyce looked shocked and confused. "She shot Xander? But he's—"

Giles turned and glared at Buffy. "Dear Lord, did you not inform your mother that Xander is alive?"

She stuttered out. "I thought I did."

"No, you most certainly did not! All I heard you ranting about was Angel's return and his poor attitude toward you." Her mother's tone left little doubt of her annoyance.

"I always was last on her list." A new voice said from the stairs.

Everyone turned to see Xander standing there. He was wearing only the same green leather pants as last night. Buffy took a moment to look at the changes. His skin was well tanned and very muscular. His hair was a lot longer and wavy as it fell to almost his shoulders. He definitely looked like he could take care of himself by the confident way he moved, like a predator.

Joyce moved quickly to hug him, but he backed up and looked at Angel, who told him, "I believe she's Buffy's mother."

"He doesn't remember me?"

Giles stepped in. "They were trapped in that dimension for a very long time, Joyce. He barely recognized us last night."

"Oh." She looked upset. "Well, I'm Joyce Summers." She said awkwardly.

"Hello Miss Joyce. I remember you, but I just forgot what everyone looked like." He held out his hand and shook hers.

"Should you be out of bed young man?" Giles asked, looking at the bandaged wound.

Angel nodded to him. "It's healing well." He assured them, but his eyes were trained on the young man's movement as he made his way to an empty chair. "A few years ago we found that one of the powers of the stone is rapid healing abilities. It certainly comes it handy."

"What is this?" Oz asked, looking into the handmade cage. "Looks like a cross between a rat and meerkat."

"That's Huey. He's been with us since we got there. He's pretty friendly, but he likes to steal shiny things." Xander told him.

"That would explain the big fake diamond." Oz nodded. "Well, it beats Giles' dead cat."

"That was not my cat." The librarian told him. "It was Buffy's. I was merely…Oh why do I bother?"

The room fell into an uncomfortable silence. No one wanted to breech the subject they were all curious about. How to ask them about Hell. Willow finally broke first and blurted out. "So, a tattoo? Why did you get a tattoo? And what does the weird symbol mean?"

Xander burst out laughing. "It's not a tattoo. Well, it is in the sense that it was tattooed on me. It's a soul binding spell. This way Angel can be happy and he won't lose his soul."

"Oh my God!" Buffy exclaimed, excitement shining in her eyes. "That's great! How did you find it?"

"Long, long story." Xander told her.

"But why put it on you—"

"Like the pants." Oz cut Buffy's next question off. Between his werewolf senses and his ability to see the obvious, he wasn't ready for the screaming yet. "Leather looks good on you. Why green?"

"They're not leather. It's demon skin. Dae'wan demons are very durable. It's light and breathable in the heat of the day and still keeps us warm at night."

"Eww." Buffy looked disgusted. "You're wearing the skin of a dead demon?"

"Xander makes all our clothes." Angel gestured to the pair he was wearing, which were a much deeper green, almost appearing black when not in the light.

Giles began to polish his glasses. "The climate was quite extreme there from what Angel has told me."

"Yep, the only place where you can get frostbite on your sunburn in the same day."

"Why don't we order a pizza?" Oz suggested. "I don't think they have much food here."

"Great." Xander smiled at him. "I'm still a little leery of the microwave."

Buffy laughed. "How could you forget how to use a microwave?"

"You spend over a century without electricity and you'd forget a few things too." He shot back harshly.

She was a little taken back but his tone, which made her angry. Xander had never spoken to her like that before when she said something about him. He normally made a joke and laughed. She didn't like this new Xander. She turned her focus on the reason why she was here. "So, Angel. You must be so glad to be home."

"We've only been back a few days. It was a huge decision. We discussed it for almost two years."

"You waited two years to come home? Why would you even wait a minute?"

Angel glared at her. "It took over a century for Xander to learn the magicks of how to use the stone. We weren't about to jump into a portal that we weren't sure was stable."

She nodded. "I wouldn't trust it either."

"Xander, you know magick?" Willow was suddenly excited. "Can you levitate a pencil?"

He just nodded. "I learned a lot, then had to unlearn it."

"Unlearn it?"

Angel explained. "The demons that I traded the information for weren't very trustworthy. There weren't any good witches in Hell. The magicks were dark and powerful. Thankfully he had already understood the basics of magick from the books he borrowed from the library when he first met Buffy. He was able to apply that to the magicks he was using to figure out how not to lose himself to the power."

"That's very wise." Giles approved.

"So, what can you do?" Willow asked immediately, pleased to have someone to do spells with. "How much power do you have?"

His eyes turned completely black. "I could blow up this house if I wanted to."

"Damn, that's a lot of power." Oz stated uneasy. He could feel it come off Xander in waves and his wolf was screaming to run.

The brown returned to his eyes. "I don't like magick. I only use it when we have no other choice. Magick is dangerous and unpredictable. I'd rather rely on my strength and intelligence to get by."

"Good thing you had Angel with you then." Buffy laughed.

"Xander is quite capable of defending himself." The vampire's tone was stern and cold. "His fighting skills rival that of any Slayer's. I wouldn't want to try to take him on when he's had a bad day."

The blonde wasn't sure what was going on. These two hated each other with a fiery passion and now they were complimenting one another. Sure, they might have had shared experiences and had to learn to get along, but she was the love of his life. Why was he being so cold?

Willow stopped her train of thought by bringing up a new topic. "You missed the first few weeks of school, but I'm sure Giles can come up with a good reason. We're going to have to think of something to tell your parents about your sudden reappearance." Willow bit her lip. "We didn't tell them anything when you left."

"He will not be going back there!" Angel announced hotly. "This is his home."

That seemed to be the breaking point for the blonde. "What do you mean? He has to go back to his parents! He can't stay here!"

"My home is with Angel." Xander's eyes challenged her. "I'm not leaving my mate!"

Both Giles and Oz shared a look. They were both calculating how fast they could get to the door before Mount Buffy blew.

"Mate? What the hell do you mean by mate?" She jumped out of her seat, taking on a fighting stance.

Angel took a step toward her. "He means we're mated."

"But you love me! You've always loved me! How could you cheat on me? With him!"

"There's nothing wrong with him! And I was in Hell for a long time. Did you honestly believe I would hang on to the memory of us after I found out what you did to him?"

She pale slightly, but thought faster. "What I did? He was the one who lied! If I had known about the spell Willow was doing I would've stalled and neither of you would have been in there!"

The vampire was unmoved by her words. "Willow should never have attempted that spell. It was too dangerous and she was injured. There were too many variables for Xander to have any certainty of success. And when in doubt, you save the world. He hated me and with good reason, but he still tried to save me by cutting off my hand and offering the token to the vortex. He never shoved me into it!"

"You jumped!" She shouted. "I didn't push you. I begged you not to!"

"No, but you pushed him!"

She shook her head. "A vamp snuck up on us. I dusted him, but it was too late."

Giles regarded Buffy coolly. "Your note said very clearly that it was Angelus that killed Xander and threw him into Hell."

"I was upset. Angel was gone and I wasn't thinking clearly. It all happened so fast. I just couldn't be sure who had done it. God, why is everyone attacking me? I had to watch my lover die and it was too much. I had to leave. Doesn't anyone understand?"

"You left?" Angel demanded. "You left the Hellmouth unguarded? Are you crazy?"

"I couldn't deal, ok? You were gone! I lost everything!"

"No!" He countered. "You lost me! You still had your home, your mother, your friends, your familiar surroundings! Xander lost everything!" He shouted. "And you can try to lie your way out of this but I can tell the difference and I think Oz can too."

The werewolf nodded. "I can practically smell the lie."

"No!" She was cornered and everyone was looking at her with rage in their eyes. She couldn't deal with this. She didn't want to think about her lover with someone else. She certainly didn't want to think about him with Xander! God, why didn't anyone understand? She started to the door but was grabbed by the arm.

"And where do you think you're going young lady?" Her mother asked. The anger flashing in her eyes.

"I can't. Don't you understand? He was supposed to come back to me. To me! And after everything I went through, he's with him! It's not fair!"

"It's called life!" She shouted. "You're seventeen and you've been dumped. Did you actually think it couldn't happen to you? Well, you better get used to it because if you continue to be this immature and selfish it will continue to happen until you grow the hell up!"

"I should've never come back!" She screamed, ripping her arm free from the grip.

"Buffy!" Her mother warned before she could get to the door. "I'm thinking very clearly right now and I will tell you that this time if you run away, I don't care if you come back! You have shown little remorse for the suffering you caused Rupert and myself. You showed no remorse over the suffering you caused your best friend by attempting to kill him!"

"I-I didn't. It was a vamp! And no one cares that he lied to me because he wanted me to kill Angel!"

"He saved the world." Angel told her.

"How can you say that? I could've saved you. I would've stalled."

"Is that all you can think about?" Her mother asked. "My God, this boy has literally been to Hell because of you and you're still worried about yourself."

Buffy turned stunned eyes to her mother. "I can't believe this. Why can't you see what I'm going through? I spent the whole summer in misery."

Joyce's lips pressed into a thin line. "You weren't the only one! And you chose to leave."

"And I shouldn't have come back!"

"Buffy, I'm not about to go through that hell all over again because you want to act like a spoiled little brat. I'm sick to death of hearing you rant about how unfair life has been to you. It's not been kind of any of them either and they're not whining or running away."

"How can you say that? Why don't you even try to see my side?"

"Because you don't bother to look at anyone else's!" She shot back.

"I need to get out of here." Buffy took off out the door, not looking back.

Joyce collapsed into a chair, all the energy completely drained from the argument. Giles went to her immediately. "We'll go and find her." He said in a calm voice. "I'm sure given time…"

"Don't." Joyce shook her head. "I'm tired of it. I will not let her continue to do this to me anymore. I meant what I said. If she leaves again there will be no more forgive and forget. I'm ready for the tough love." A tear spilled from her eye. "No matter how much it hurts."

"Yes." Giles knew exactly what she was feeling as it was mirrored in his own heart. He loved Buffy and always would but he didn't like her or the way she had treated the others. "I think we should all be getting home now. I will be requiring some assistance with Faith."

Everyone agreed to call it a night and Oz and Angel proceeded to drag the now unconscious Slayer out to Giles' car. He would contact the Council in the morning for advisement on what to do from there. Placing her body in the trunk of the car with her hands bound tightly, Oz began to close it, but her foot shot out and knocked him back. Quickly she pulled herself out and was running away.

"Oh dear." The Watcher groaned. "We must find her."

Faith ran as fast as she could, trying to get to her motel room to pack her stuff. She couldn't believe her streak of bad luck. First getting called as a Slayer then watching her Watcher die when she couldn't fight Kakistos and now the Council was going to be after her too. Didn't they understand it was an honest mistake? She was trying to protect that guy from the vamp, though after seeing everything she had today she thought that maybe it was the vamp that was stuck in Xander's thrall.

Either way, she needed to get gone. Throwing open the door, she grabbed her discarded clothes and shoved them into her bag quickly. The pounding on the door was echoed in her chest. How had they found her? She hadn't told any of them where she was staying. It didn't matter, she wasn't answering that door when there was a bathroom window to shimmy out of.

A cloven fist suddenly punched through the thin wooden door. "Faith!" A voice growled out. "You can run but you can't hide."

"That's where the headstart comes in handy." She muttered and grabbed the bag, leaving the rest on the floor. She wasted no time climbing out the window. Now she just needed to find a way to escape before he found her.

The group followed Oz, who was sniffing the air trying to detect their runaway Slayer #2. He had tracked her scent to a motel and judging by the discarded wood that used to be the door and state of the room, she was in trouble. Angel had sensed the presence of a very old vampire nearby and they were frantic. Finally they saw her running down a darkened alleyway and into an abandoned building.

"Faith, you need to stop this." Giles told her as they entered, cautiously.

The Slayer looked panicked. "No."

"We can help you." Willow told her.

"No." Faith seemed to whimper looking around the warehouse.

Everyone's eyes suddenly fell on the numerous dead bodies that littered the floor. "Oh dear."

"This is his place. He drove me here."


"Kakistos." She whispered as if afraid his name would somehow summon him. "We have to get out of here!"

"What did he do to you?"

"It's what I did to him. He killed her!"

"Your Watcher?" Giles guessed. "He killed your Watcher?"

"They don't have a word for what he did to her!" She shouted, already starting to shake. "I have to get out of here!"

The lights suddenly came on. "I wouldn't count on that." A black man came into the room, vamped out. "He's not happy with you, Faith."

Angel moved quickly, grabbing the stunned Slayer and getting her in a choke hold. "This one's mine!"

Willow screamed when she suddenly found herself caught in the same position being held by Xander, who was aiming his crossbow at Oz and Giles. What the hell was going on?

The two vampires stared at each other. "Angelus. We were under the impression that you were still in Hell."

He just chuckled darkly. "What can I say? I got bored. I wanted to come back and exact my revenge against the bitch that sent me there."

"The Slayer?"

"Killed her. But they just keep coming." He looked at the struggling Faith with disgust. "But at least they taste good."

"And you expect me to believe that you have a human helping you?" He looked at Xander.

"He's my consort." Angelus explained and the boy tilted his neck to show the clear and recent bite mark.

"Why haven't you turned him?" A new voice asked, stepping into view, an ugly vampire with cloven feet and hands. He sneered at the young man. "Filthy humans."

"I wanted to fully corrupt his soul first. He'll make such a vicious beast when I'm through." Angelus smiled with evil malice. "This Slayer attacked me. She's mine to kill."

"I think not. I found her first. We have old business to settle."

The black vampire looked bored. "Yes, please let him get on with it. There's a reason these vengeance crusades are out of style. It's the modern vampire who sees the big picture."

"And I guess you're looking at it? Who the hell are you?" Angelus mocked him.

The vampire adjusted his suit. "Mr. Trick. Current associate of my short-sighted friend here." He gave a nod to Kakistos. "The way I see it, Sunnydale's got potential. I mean, admittedly, it's not a haven for the brothers, you know, strictly the Caucasian Persuasion here in the Dale. But, you know, you just gotta stand up and salute their death rate. I ran a statistical analysis, and hello darkness. It makes... D.C. look... like Mayberry, and ain't nobody saying boo about it. We could fit right in here. Have us some fun." He smiled. "This town, this very street, is wired for fiber optics. See, we jack in a T-3 and we have the whole world at our fingertips."

"Our?" Angelus asked.

Trick shared a look with his partner. "Always room for one more ambitious vampire with a vision. What I'm saying is, we stay local—where the humans are jumpin' and the cotton is high—but we live global. I mean, you know, you get the hankering for the blood of a fifteen-year-old Filipina, and I'm on the 'Net and she's here the next day, express air."

"I like it." He agreed, ignoring the shouting of the others protestations and outrage.

Kakistos seemed to have lost his patience during the exchange. "I want the blood of the Slayer!"

"Fine." Angelus gave in and threw Faith to a corner away from him. "Now!" He pulled out his knife and attacked.

Xander let go of Willow and shot Trick in the chest with the crossbow. The vamp looked outraged at the deception.

"Oh fu—" He exploded into a shower of dust.

Angel was busy with the other as Faith watched cowering from her corner. Oz and Willow worked together on one of the minions and Giles pulled a stake from his jacket, charging at the last one. Faith just sat there, terrified. The memories were swirling in her head from when he forced her to witness what he did to her Watcher. He was too strong and unstoppable. They were all going to die horribly. Then she looked up at the vamp and human fighting him. She couldn't believe the way the two of them moved. One guarded while the other attacked, their bodies seemed an extension of each other.

Angel had power and strength as he fought, but Xander was only human and he had better moves than she did. And she was a Slayer! A Slayer who was hiding in the corner while someone else was fighting her battle! Slowly she rose to her feet as their enemy knocked Angel into a wooden beam so hard he broke it and fell to the floor. Xander parried the next attack with his knife and jabbed at the thick armored skin of the ancient vampire.

Faith looked at the broken beam and raced over to it. She hefted it up over her shoulder, and while Kakistos was busy with Xander, she thrust the beam through his back and completely impaled him. The older vampire looked at the beam in disbelief for a second before exploding into ashes. Angel walked over and gave her a nod of approval and began to check Xander for injuries as everyone finally finished with their attackers.

"Nice job." Xander told her.

"You too." She looked at the pile as ashes satisfied. "Doesn't slaying just make you all hungry and horny?" Her lustful eyes raked down the young man's hard body.

Angel took a step to block Xander from her view. "I'll take care of that for him."

She threw up her hands in surrender. "No prob. I'm five by five. Lots of guys at the motel willing to help me out."

Xander looked at Giles. "She's staying at a motel?"

The Watcher looked confused. "She just arrived in town in a few days ago."

The vampire shared a look with Xander, who spoke. "You can stay at the mansion until Giles finds a place for you."

Faith was shocked. "I tried to kill you yesterday and now you want to offer me a room?"

Xander just gave her smile. "I was you. A long time ago. My motto was vampires were bad. And I still think that, but I learned that to every rule there's always an exception. Angel's that exception. He's a good guy and Gelus isn't so bad once you get passed all the 'I'm going to rip your heart out if you don't start listening' stuff. So as long as you don't try to come after us, you can stay. But if you do, we will kill you." His eyes told her he wasn't joking.

Faith just shivered under that glare and nodded her agreement. She didn't like the roach-infested motel and was running out of money to pay for it. As they all started out of the warehouse, she muttered. "A Slayer living with a vamp. That's pretty weird."

"Any one up for pizza?" Oz asked, throwing his arm around Willow.

Seeing the light on in the living room, Giles knocked at the front door. He was dreading this but he needed to prepare himself for the worst. When he saw Joyce's red, blotchy face answer the door, he knew she was gone again. He offered no words as he just embraced her, feeling the wetness seeping from his eyes as well.

Though this time he vowed not to let the hurt overwhelm him and rule his life. And he was going to do everything in his power to ensure that Joyce didn't either. They had both lost a daughter tonight and perhaps one day she would come home, but they weren't going to sit around mourning for her until she did. They were going to move on and learn to live their lives and find some type of happiness. He almost laughed. If Xander and Angel could find that in Hell then surely the two of them could as well.

Spike stomped around the room he was staying in. He couldn't believe she had dumped him. And for a Chaos demon! Those things were disgusting, all slime and antlers. Who did she think she was, telling him that he had gone soft? That he wasn't demon enough for her after he had sided with the Slayer. He had only done that to save her life and considering that the world wasn't currently in Hell, the Slayer must have beaten his Sire.

Well, he was done with Drusilla and her fickle ways. He was William the Bloody and he was more than demon enough. And he was going to prove it. He was heading back to Sunnydale and kill that bitch Buffy! This was all her fault anyway.

Buffy walked down the dark streets with her satchel. The next bus wasn't leaving for LA until tomorrow morning so she needed to find somewhere to go tonight. She had thought about the rundown motel Faith was staying at, but it seemed way too skanky for her to sleep in. She was going to do things differently this time. She was going to live a normal life.

No more false friends that stab her in the back. No more wasting all her free time slaying ugly, dangerous and slimy things. No more lying, cheating boyfriends. She was going to finally have the life she deserved. Then they'd all be sorry.

Cordelia sat at an empty table in the Bronze. Her friends had all called it a night and had gone home. She just didn't feel like leaving. Her parents had gone away on another impromptu vacation and the house was empty. Her life was empty.

"You look down. Want some company?" A girl asked, taking one of the empty seats.

"Sure." Cordy shrugged. She didn't know who this girl was and hadn't seen her at school. "Nice necklace."

The girl nodded. "This old thing? It was a present from my dad, kind of a good luck charm." She took it off and handed it to her. "Here. You look like you need the luck more than me."

Never one to turn down jewelry, Cordy took it and clasped it around her neck.

"I'm Anya. And you are?"

"Cordelia Chase."

"So, guy trouble?"

She nodded, thinking about it all again. "The worst."

"Can I just say... Men?"

Cordy nodded. "I second that."

"To throw you away, he must be an idiot. I mean, apart from being without class, the guy's obviously blind. Deserves whatever he gets."

She shrugged. "I'm not even thinking about him. I am passed it. I am living my life now. Angel can have him."

"Still, I mean... Don't you kinda wish..."

"I don't wish. I act. Starting now, Xander Harris is gonna get a bellyful of just how over him I am. I'm moving on to guys with cars."

"But don't you want to see that he pays for hurting you? Don't you just wish…"

Cordelia sighed. "He did hurt me, but I can't blame him. I'd move on to someone else if I thought he was dead too. This isn't his fault. It's all Buffy's fault. Had she done her job none of this would have happened. I swear! I wish Buffy Summers knew what it was like to get stuck in a Hell dimension with an insane psychotic vampire!"

Anya smiled and went into her demonic form. "Done." And disappeared.

Cordelia looked across the table. "Hey? Where did you go?" She checked underneath. "Weird girl. But I got a cool new necklace."

Buffy looked around the cave she was standing in. What the hell? The place was freezing. She didn't know what had happened. One minute she was walking down the street and the next she was in a cave? Were there even caves in Sunnydale? And why was it so cold?

"Poor little thing." A female voice sang out. "All alone after Daddy left you for his Kitten."

She spun around to find Drusilla standing there staring at her, blocking the way out. "Oh shit." She attacked but her stake was in her bag. She looked around for something to stake the crazy vampire with, but there was nothing there.

"Little Slayer not so tough without her little dolls to help her." Drusilla grabbed her by the throat. "It's a shame. You might have been fun to play with." She dropped her fangs. "But I'm hungry."

Buffy screamed as the vampire's fangs dug into her neck.


From the Journal of Rupert Giles June 16 1999

It was a lovely ceremony. Willow gave a fine motivational speech as the Valedictorian. Even if she did make us all sit through it a hundred times before she finally perfected it. All in all it was a wonderful graduation. My children are growing up so quickly. Willow decided not to go to Oxford and will be attending Sunnydale University in the Fall with Oz and Cordelia.

It was good to see Cordelia come back into the fold. It had taken her a few months to get over all the changes, but Devon has helped her tremendously and they seem to be getting along quite nicely. She and Xander have remained very close friends. It was definitely easier for her not to see him in school everyday, though Willow was disappointed in his decision not to go back to High School. Considering his true age I can't say I blame him. He studied hard to get his GED, though he and Angel seemed to live comfortably without any income. Neither of them will let me in on their financial secrets, though they did put up the investment money for the Magic Store I'm buying.

It's been eight months and still no word from Buffy, but I have begun the process of moving on with my life. Faith has turned out to be a great Slayer. While wild at first, she has toned down a lot living with Joyce. Both of them gave the other something they were desperately missing. And my library again rings with the sounds of laughter though more of the research sessions seemed to be occurring at the mansion these days due to Faith not attending school. She has begun to study to also get her equivalency certificate during the day with Xander's help.

The Mayor had certainly been shocked by the spell the young man had cast that left him vulnerable to germs. Of course, we all thought it was very ironic that the one thing that scared the man was what did him in. The first and only case of Ebola virus in Sunnydale history. Things have been very quiet here for the last few weeks, though with the ever annoying blonde running around I scarcely dare say that. Spike's appearance a few months ago was a bit of a surprise. He had definitely been surprised when he attacked Faith only to be beaten back by Angel.

The vampire certainly shocked me by not dusting his childe on sight, but instead offering to house him. Angelus does keep him in line though and he seems to be adjusting to life here. I had my doubts until Angel revealed that Spike had suffered a terrible beating after not obeying the rules of 'no attacking his mate'. Xander proved to him that 'Happy Meals' can and do fight back and Spike was still a bloody mess for a few days after. While he still complains about the humiliation of drinking bagged blood, he hasn't tried to feed off the population. Again neither of the couple will reveal their secrets to keeping the hyper vampire in line. I have my suspicions that lead me to believe that Spike is happy being here and being useful, however reluctant his help may be. He definitely enjoys the verbal sparring he engages in with Xander and the flirting he does with Faith. He seems to respect Oz and is very fond of Willow. Cordelia scares him even if he won't admit it. But she is quite formidable.

The mystery of the keystone is still largely a mystery. I have spent a great deal of time researching but still found no reference to it. The notes Angel accumulated do suggest it is truly powerful and it is kept under lock and key unless needed. The last time it was used was to help Oz in his efforts to control the beast within him, which is still ongoing. There have been only a few times when he was not able to control the change so he prefers to still stay locked up during the full moon cycles until he can be sure.

I have turned in my resignation at Sunnydale High and will not be returning now that I am part of the bustling world of commerce. It will be quite a dramatic change for me. I've already hired my first employee. Cordelia Chase. Who would have ever thought of Ms. Chase as a working girl? Certainly not I, but after her family went bankrupt, she needed the income. At first she was quite depressed and embarrassed by the downfall, but with everyone's support she realized that she was more than simply another rich girl and there was no shame in applying for a grant.

It seems so strange to me sometimes to think that what brought me across the pond is gone, but I have found a family here and am blessed with so many children. One of whom delights in teasing me about the fact that he's actually much older than myself. But in many ways Xander will always be a teenager. I can only hope that wherever Buffy is she has found what she was looking for as well.

The End

Author's Note: Well we've reached the end of our journey, hope you enjoyed the ride. Thank you all for reviewing.

I have several Xangel/Angel stories finished that I was thinking of posting, but they're much longer. Would there be an interest? Let me know.

If there is, look for something the first of the week. Thanks again, Tym