The Big Payback

A/N: This epilogue is not especially Scoobies friendly. If this offends you, you might want to stop reading now.

Epilogue – It All Comes together

Part 1

Angelus called from the plane on his way back to California to let his family know that he was en-route and approximately what time to expect him.

Those in Angel's apartment turned anxiously toward the door when they heard a key in the lock. Buffy threw herself into her mate's arms as Angelus, Penn and Gretchen entered. "I am so happy to see you; are you all right? Were you injured?"

"I'm happy to see you too, baby," he said holding her close; "I'm fine. I wasn't injured at all, well not physically anyway. I experienced a bit of ego bruising, but nothing I can't handle."

Those in the room held their giggles to themselves, not wanting to offend their fearless leader. They had received a visit from the Oracles as well and they had a good idea what had caused Angelus' "ego bruising."

As Angelus introduced Penn and Gretchen to Buffy and Doyle, he noticed that Penn and Spike would not look at each other. He was aware of the bitterness that existed between his two childer and he hoped they could let bygones be bygones.

Gretchen decided to break the ice; she took the initiative and walked over to Drusilla. "We have to let the past remain in the past so that we can be a family again."

Dru agreed and they hugged each other warmly. "I have missed you, my sister," she told Gretchen.

"Oh Dru, how I've missed you."

"Bloody hell," Spike exclaimed to Penn, "our mates are smarter than we are," as they too hugged each other. The couples then switched and hugged the others' mates as the rest of the group applauded their reconciliation.

Angelus wore a puzzled expression on his face and when Buffy asked him why, his reply was, "This completes our little group except for one person; does anybody know who the witch is supposed to be?"

"We don't know who it is; all we know is that the Oracles said that she would find us when … "

Before Doyle could complete what he was saying, there was a soft knock on the door. Since she was closest, Buffy opened the door. "Hello," she greeted the person on the other side of the door, "please come in; we weren't introduced when I was in Sunnydale. I'm Buffy."

"T-Tara," the shy woman said as she entered the apartment.

"Let me guess; you're a witch."

"Y-Yes. The Oracles s-sent me."

After introductions and greetings were done, Doyle brought everyone up to date on the recent visions he had had. For one thing their group would be responsible for patrolling LA and Sunnydale until Faith was released from prison and their new headquarters would be the Hyperion Hotel and, when needed, the Crawford Street Mansion in Sunnydale.

"Already taken care of," spoke a new arrival as he appeared out of nowhere.

"Whistler," Angelus and Buffy exclaimed with annoyance, "what are you doing here?"

Part 2

"Hi, kids, nice to see you all together and getting along; you're going to be together for a long time. I just stopped by to update you on a couple of things. I have some information that you are going to need to know." Noticing Doyle he greeted him with, "Doyle, ole buddy, how are ya?"

Annoyed at the little balance demon, Buffy wanted to know, "Are you always going to be popping in like that without any warning?"

"What's the matter, kid, you guys don't like surprises?"

He received a loud chorus of, "NO!"

"All right, all right, next time I'll knock."

He paused briefly until he saw the group relax and smiles return to their faces, then he continued. "Here's the deal." He turned to Angelus and handed him a sealed package containing legal documents. "Let's all sit down shall we? There are a few things that I need to go over with you."

Once everyone was seated in the small living room, Whistler proceeded to explain the reason for his visit. "That package," he pointed to the package he had just given to Angelus, "contains all of the legal documents that define your holdings; they are under the name 'Angel Enterprises Inc', or 'AE Inc,' in both your names, Liam Angelus O'Connor and Elizabeth (Buffy) Ann Summers.

"AE Inc owns three hotels, two in Los Angeles (including the Hyperion) and one in Sunnydale, the Crawford Street mansion and the apartment building where Angel had an apartment in Sunnydale, two restaurants – one in LA and one in Sunnydale, a modern animals shambles and meat processing plant that supplies meat to some of the finest restaurants on the west coast and will teleport fresh bagged blood to the Hyperion Hotel and the Crawford Street mansion three times a week, or as directed by you, and a corporation account.

"AE Inc also controls other businesses and supports several charities as you will see outlined in the documents. You and your team do not receive salaries per se, but the money earned by your current businesses goes directly to your corporate account and is more than enough to support the eight of you and to pay any clerical or support personnel that you hire. Servants of the Powers absolutely loyal to the two of you have been put in place to run your businesses with or without you; they do, however, report directly to the two of you.

"The eight of you, as listed in those documents make up AE Inc. You are free to make any changes to your businesses as you see fit. If at any time you and your mate wish to acquire other businesses, to expand into other arenas or to hire support personnel, that is up to you, but any profit earned by your new businesses must be donated to the charities listed. You and your mate are joint owners of all resources and together you decide how those resources are used, however, the primary responsibility of the eight of you is, and will always be, to fight evil wherever it exists in the world, helping the helpless, responding to Doyle's visions and supporting each other.

"Your corporate headquarters will be the Hyperion Hotel, also the Crawford Mansion when necessary. Those two locations are being restored even as we speak; as a matter of fact the Hyperion is ready for your occupancy whenever you are.

"To the public and legal authorities AE Inc looks like a successful private corporation that is very generous with its employees and several charities. No one except the eight of you and the limited support personnel that you hire will know the true nature and purpose of your organization. Once your support personnel are no longer part of your organization, all knowledge of what you do will be automatically erased from their memory.

"That package contains keys, access codes, security codes, phone numbers and anything else you might need for access to all of your properties, attorneys etc. It also contains legal identities, birth certificates, Social Security cards and passports for those of you who do not have them.

"And by the way, Angelus, all properties and resources that you acquired while you were in London, except those that will be actually needed by the new Watchers' Council, have been donated appropriately to non-profit organizations in Europe and around the world that suffered losses thanks to the greedy and illegal activities of the prior owners. Anything that the families earned through honest means was returned to them and they will never be aware that they ever owned anything else."

"Damn. And I was hoping that they would be left penniless; I should've known that the Powers wouldn't let me get away with that," Angelus complained.

"Don't worry; considering that most of the assets were obtained through shady dealings somewhere in their family history, most of them will find themselves working for the people that they previously swindled.

"Any questions?"

No one said anything. They were all trying to digest all of the information they had just received until Buffy spoke up and asked, "How do we get in touch with you if we need you?"

"I'll be around," Whistler said before disappearing.

"Does he always pop in and out like that," Spike asked.

"Yes, he does," Angel answered.

The others didn't notice anything, but Buffy did because she asked, "Angel?"

"Yes, love, it's me."

"What happened to Angelus?"

"I'm here, baby."

"Both of you are in there?"

"Both of us have always been in here, you know that," came the reply as her loves took her in their arms and kissed her. Buffy really couldn't tell who spoke or who kissed her and at this point, she really didn't care. "Are you happy?" they asked.

"Very happy," she answered as her family cheered.

"Before we delve into this package from Whistler, why don't we go over to the Hyperion and check out our new home office and living quarters?" Angelus told his team. He looked at Buffy with a gleam in his eyes and his little half-smile half-smirk on his face. "I recall that the hotel has a suite that would be perfect for us."

Buffy blushed, knowing full well what Angelus had on his mind.

Part 3

The Hyperion Hotel had been beautifully redone; from wall to wall and ceiling to floor it looked completely new and modernized. The AE team members enjoyed themselves as they ran from room to room and suite to suite trying to decide which to choose for themselves.

They decided that the bottom two floors would be corporate headquarters, the third floor would be reserved for guests of the team members. "Don't bother going up to the sixth floor," Angelus told his friends as he guided Buffy to the penthouse elevator, "that one is already taken." (Whistler was sure that Angelus would choose the sixth floor for himself and his mate). That left floors four and five for everyone else.

The first basement contained a spacious and fully equipped workout/training room with a full complement of weapons and a library that rivaled that at the Watchers' Council. The second basement was a well stocked emergency shelter with an emergency tunnel exit (just in case).

"Looks like Whistler thought of everything," Doyle said as the group finished their tour of the hotel.

"The entire hotel is quite beautifully done," Dru said thinking out loud. "I think we should give Buffy more recovery time. She still looks quite thin."

The group agreed and everyone retired to their own chosen quarters for the night.

Apparently the Powers also agreed with Dru because during their first few weeks at the Hyperion Doyle received no visions, Buffy had no slayer dreams and Tara and Dru got no hints of anything that required the team's attention.

Part 4

As he had promised, Angelus tried turning control over to Angel now that Buffy was safe, but he found that the process of becoming one being as the Oracles had stated had already begun. It seemed that between the influence of Angel's soul and the calming affect that Buffy had on him, he and Angel were not as different as the two of them had thought they were for the last one hundred years.

What they found was that, besides their love for Buffy, there were many other areas in which they agreed, like art and poetry, literature and languages, ballet and opera. And, of course, there were still areas in which they had nothing in common, for example, Angelus could sing and dance very well while Angel was not good at either; Angel enjoyed cooking for his friends which Angelus found revolting, unless of course he was cooking for Buffy.

Eventually the person that emerged was an Angelus who was confident, self-assertive and fiercely loyal and protective of his mate and his family, who laughed and joked easily with others, who demanded respect and was a natural leader. All of the team members found that they liked this Angelus very much. He insisted on being called Angelus instead of Angel because it was, according to him, "a pride thing." No one objected.

Since the vampires still slept during the day; Buffy changed her sleeping habits so that she could be with her mate.

This left Doyle and Tara to run the business during the day unless something came up that they couldn't handle and before anyone knew what was happening, the two of them were a couple.

Part 5

The night after the team moved into the Hyperion, being careful not to awaken her mate, Buffy freed herself from Angelus' arms and went to the bathroom to refill her water glass. When she entered the bathroom and switched on the light she did not notice anything out of the ordinary, however, when she turned to leave and saw herself in the full length mirror in the bathroom door, she let out a blood curdling scream. Angelus was at her side in an instant.

Buffy stood there staring at the mirror unable to speak.

"Baby, what is it, what … ahhh, look at you ... "

Angelus could not finish his question when he looked at Buffy. She was completely restored to health; her hair had grown back full and lustrously silky, her skin was fresh and soft and showed no trace of the treatment she had received at the Watcher's Council, her body had filled out nicely and she looked more fit than ever. Angelus heard the others coming up the stairs and covered Buffy and himself with bath sheets.

By the time the rest of the team members arrived they were noticing changes in themselves. Spike and Drusilla were now back to normal and Drusilla's hair was restored to its full length and luster and she was not quite so thin; Tara no longer stuttered; and Doyle no longer felt the need for alcohol.

"I feel so much stronger," Buffy thought out loud.

"We all do," Doyle told her; "I just got a message from the Powers that said that the abilities that some of us had have been greatly increased and the rest of us have been given added strength and healing."

"When the Powers give a gift, they really give a gift. I guess we're going to need these new abilities in our work. We might as well go down to the training room and see what we can do; it's obvious that no one is going to sleep for a while."

As it turned out their gifts from the Powers were more extensive than they first thought.

Doyle could control when his demon face appeared, he no longer felt pain with the visions and he was as strong as a vampire. His visions were much clearer and were received well enough in advance for the team to plan appropriately.

Tara's magic abilities had increased tenfold, she no longer stuttered and she had the strength of a warrior.

Dru could see the future sometimes and she had limited mind control and hypnotic abilities. These would improve over time.

Gretchen, in addition to her computer skills, was the team's lead researcher and an expert in ancient languages.

Buffy had increased speed and strength, healing and endurance, her slayer dreams were clearer and she had increased night vision.

All could communicate telepathically with each other. Angelus felt that this would surely help prevent what happened to Buffy at the Watchers' Council from ever happening again.

After everyone had paired off and tested their new strengths for a while, Spike turned to Tara and said, "Okay, girlie, let's see what you've got." His thought was that Tara would be the weak link on the team.

He was so wrong.

Thanks to her new strength and her magic, Tara defeated Spike handily receiving cheers and hugs from the other "girlies" in the group.

"Looks like I'm the weak link on the team," Spike grumbled as his team members laughed.

"Don't worry, my Spike," Dru teased, "I'll protect you."

Spike had to laugh at that as he gave Dru a hug. "Thanks, pet."

Part 6

Later in the day Buffy sensed that there was something Tara wanted to discuss with her, so she approached her new witch friend and asked if there was something on her mind that she needed to talk about.

That opened the flood gates.

Tara poured her heart out to Buffy. She had thought that she and Willow were good friends, but when she told Willow about her visit from the Oracles, Willow became incensed. All Tara knew was that she was instructed to go to a certain address on a certain day at a certain time and to join the people there in their work to protect humanity; she did not know who the people were and certainly not that Buffy would be one of them.

Willow felt for sure that Buffy was starting a new group in LA without the people that had supported her for the last two years and, if the group needed a witch, it should be herself and not Tara and she proceeded to break off their friendship.

Giles and Xander agreed with Willow and the three of them would have nothing more to do with Tara. Giles even told her that her work at the Magic Shop was no longer needed.

Willow and Xander seemed to have become a couple while Buffy was away. Willow hadn't said it directly, but Tara got the impression that Willow blamed Buffy for coming between her and Xander from the beginning.

"Don't worry, Tara," Buffy told her, "you have a home with us now; you always will. You're family now."

The two of them hugged each other and shed tears for lost friends.

Since no one had heard from Joyce since she moved away from Sunnydale, Buffy could only assume that her mother was not interested in finding out about her daughter.

Part 7

As time passed all of the vampires on the team became more tolerant of sunlight, fire and holy objects and needed less and less blood to sustain them while retaining the positive aspects of the demon.

"Are we becoming human?" Angelus asked Whistler on one of his frequent pop-ins.

"I don't know," Whistler told him, "I am on a 'need to know basis only' with the Powers. I guess I'll know about the same time as the rest of you."

Part 8

Cordelia Chase walked into the Hyperion one day looking for a job; she was surprised to see Buffy and what she thought was Angel. She explained to them that she was merely looking for temporary work until she achieved the international superstar status for which she was sure she was destined.

Angelus looked at Dru who shook her head "No" on the superstar prospects.

When Buffy told her that they were looking for a general office worker to do some filing, answer the phones, make coffee etc., her reply was, "That requires no skills; who's better qualified for that than me?"

After a month on the job, Angelus could not take it any longer; he and Buffy called Cordelia into the office and told her to start taking acting lessons because she was not working out in her current position. Cordelia agreed and two months later she had captured the attention of a talent agent who was a friend of one of her instructors; he got her a tryout for a toothpaste commercial and she happily left her employment at AE Inc.

"Look for me on television," she told everybody, "this is my big break." Dru laughed and gave her a goodbye hug.

Even though he was in a committed relationship with Tara, Doyle fell hard for Cordelia the minute she walked through the door of the hotel and, despite the fact that she constantly ignored him, he kept up his pursuit. After weeks of trying and being ignored, he finally realized that his efforts were wasted and he turned back to Tara, humbly apologized for his actions and begged her to take him back.

Tara's reply was simple. "I will forgive you this once, but if you ever pull a stunt like that again, we are finished for good. Is that clear?"

It must have been very clear, because two years later Doyle and Tara were making wedding plans.

Buffy and Tara ran into Anne one day while grocery shopping and invited her to have dinner with them at the Hyperion. Buffy and Anne had met earlier when Buffy came to LA after the Acathla incidence and her fight with Angelus. Over dinner Anne explained that she had tried to get a homeless shelter started for young people in LA who had no place to go, but she had trouble getting enough funding to keep the shelter open.

When they heard this, Buffy and Angelus volunteered to provide support for the shelter and to add it to the list of charities that they supported. Anne was over-joyed.

It was through Anne that Charles Gunn (Gunn as he preferred to be called) and his sister Alonna came to be employed by AE Inc. Alonna worked as receptionist and general office assistant, the position formerly held by Cordelia, and Gunn was being trained to fight like a warrior.

Part 9

Angelus and Buffy opened up to each other and talked about past hurts and regrets and plans for a future together.

"I want you to know that I never wanted to leave you, but I knew that I had to. I regret not discussing it with you and leaving like I did. I would've never left you given the option, but I had no choice. You have my word, love, never again will I leave you or deliberately hurt you in any way."

At first Buffy could easily distinguish between the remnants of Angel's thoughts from those of Angelus, however, as time passed this was not so clear. Buffy didn't care, she was just happy to have the man that she loved by her side.

Angelus showered her with gifts, attention and love, always love. He was affectionate, caring and so much fun to be with; Buffy had never been happier. She never asked why it was Angelus who came to her rescue instead of Angel and he never said.

Part 10

Six months after the team moved into the Hyperion Hotel, Buffy received a visit from Giles, Willow and Xander. After spotting Buffy in an office across the room, they ignored Alonna at the receptionist's desk and walked over to Angelus' office and entered without knocking.

"I'm sorry, Buffy," Alonna apologized. "They ignored me when I asked if I could help them."

"It's okay; they're probably here to see me."

According to the visitors, since it appeared that Buffy was not going to make an effort to reconcile with them, they decided to take the initiative and forgive because, according to Willow, "That's what friends do and they finally were willing to admit their mistakes and wanted to let bygones be bygones."

Buffy, being Buffy, was ready to accept their apology, but the newly merged Angel/Angelus stepped in and took them to task for the way they had treated his mate. In no uncertain terms he made it clear that he did not support the reconciliation.

"If you think for one minute you are going to waltz in here with your high and mighty attitudes and expect my mate to say all is forgiven, you are very much mistaken. You have proven by your actions that you do not deserve Buffy's friendship and Giles, if you had listened to Griffiths when he contacted you regarding Buffy's whereabouts, she could have been spared much of the torture that she experienced."

Xander's response was, "This conversation is between Buffy and her friends and does not include you, dead boy."

That was a serious mistake.

Angelus punched him in the nose so hard he landed on his back across the room.

"What is the matter with you, Angel? Why did you hit him?" Giles demanded.

Ignoring Giles, Angelus stormed across the room, picked Xander up by the throat and was heading for the door with him when he heard Buffy's voice.

"Let him go, please."

Angelus dropped Xander and walked back over to Buffy who explained. "This isn't Angel, at least not the Angel that you knew in Sunnydale."

"What do you mean by 'not the Angel that you knew in Sunnydale'? Who the hell is he?" Xander demanded.

"Angel and Angelus have merged. Actually he is more Angelus than Angel."

"What?" the three visitors shouted.

Angelus could see the anger on their faces as he folded his arms across his chest and, with a voice of cool and calm authority that left no doubt that he meant every word, he spoke.

"I will not apologize for the actions of the unsouled demon that I was. Buffy and I head up Angel Enterprises, Inc. If it is your desire to become a part of this organization, I am willing to accept you for her sake, but you will report to us. Let me make myself very clear, under no circumstances will I tolerate the disrespect that Angel did, not for myself, my mate or my family. The eight of us form the core of this organization; anyone that we accept on the support team must be willing to follow our lead. If you can accept these conditions, you are welcome here; if not, you don't belong here."

The three of them looked at Buffy for her reaction to Angelus' words. Buffy looped her arm with Angelus' elbow letting them know that she wholeheartedly agreed with him.

"I have been your watcher since you came to Sunnydale and now you would turn your back on me and your friends for Angelus? This is unacceptable to me; I could never work with him. Goodbye, Buffy."

At that Giles turned and headed for the door muttering "Come along Willow, Xander."

Xander didn't hesitate to follow Giles, but Willow did until she heard, "Will, are you coming?"

With regret in her voice, Willow said, "Don't worry, Buffy, they'll come around; they love you." With that she took one last look at Buffy and followed her friends out of the door.

Giles and Xander never returned. Willow came back once, but on this occasion it was midday and Alonna, Tara and Doyle were the only ones in the office. When she saw Tara she got angry all over again and yelled, "So this is where you've been; you went behind our backs and joined Buffy's new team. I see where your loyalties are. You were trying to take Buffy from us all along."

Tara tried to explain. "Willow, I tried to tell you when I was in Sunnydale that the Oracles told me to come here. I didn't know who would be here until I got to the address that they gave me."

"I didn't believe you then and I don't believe you now. You were trying to take Buffy from me. She was my friend, not yours."

"And what kind of friend were you when she came looking for her friends in Sunnydale?" Tara shot back. "All of you, including you Willow, turned your backs on her even after she told you she had been held prisoner by the Watchers' Council, and you could all see the condition that she was in. I'm glad that you all turned your backs on me; I don't need friends like that. Goodbye, Willow." Tara turned and left the room.

Willow was stunned by the forceful tone of Tara's voice. She was not used to such assertive behavior from the formerly very shy witch. She left the Hyperion Hotel that day and never returned.

Part 11

A new Watchers' Council was formed in London jointly headed by those that had passed Angelus' test. Others would be trained, but before that could happen existing rules and procedures had to be modified or eliminated all together. The new Council was determined that never again would there be a Quentin Travers type watcher in their organization and the Council would function in support of the slayers, watchers and potential slayers.

Giles was offered a position as adviser to the new Council. He accepted their offer and once again took London for his permanent residence. Willow and Xander decided to follow Giles to London where they eventually married and Willow studied to be a watcher.

Responding to Doyle's visions took the AE Core Team all over the world fighting evil and they always left a location in better condition than when they arrived. Upon her release from prison, Faith took over slaying responsibilities for Sunnydale with Wesley Wyndham-Price as her watcher.

Under the directions of the Powers, AE Inc functioned successfully for many generations. The humans aged slowly and were eventually replaced by their offspring. One by one each of the vampires earned their humanity and at the end of their lives, each member of AE Inc received the reward originally promised to Angelus by the Oracles so many years before.

Angelus never again saw the Council members that he had been about to annihilate when the Oracles stopped him. He just hoped the Oracles kept their promise, that the watchers and their henchmen got "exactly what they deserved".

His thought was, 'Wherever they are, I hope they're enjoying themselves. Heh heh heh.'

The end

A/N: Thank you to all of you readers and especially to those of you who sent feedback or chose this fic as a favorite. It is very much appreciated.

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