Angel was barely conscious enough to tell Willow and Faith how to get back to the Hyperion through the sewers but he managed it. With the hell that had taken over the surface, the sewers were demon free. They walked directly into the basement of the hotel. When they reached the top of the stairs and opened the door to the lobby they were immediately spotted by Charles Gunn.
"Whoa!" he said, "what are you all doin' here?"
"Heard you needed a hand," Faith said with a nod.
Gunn smiled at the both of them as he ushered Willow out of the way to take her place, wrapping Angel's arm around his shoulder. "You have no idea how right you are. Thanks for bringing our boy back. Faith, I got him." Faith stepped away as Gunn began walking Angel towards the stairs. "Kate! Bring some blood up to Angel's room!" he yelled off into the distance.
The girls walked around the corner and into the familiar lobby. From another end of the room a blonde woman walked out and towards them, carrying a large bucket. "Hi, I'm Kate Lockley," she said, as she shook both of their hands. "We've met once before though," she said to Faith.
Faith cheesed it up. "Hi, officer."
"I'm not anymore. You can relax." Faith exhaled deeply.
"Oh, wow. I've heard about you. Okay, well I'm off," she said and lifted the bucket up a little. The girls could now see it was full of blood. Kate walked past them and up the stairs as another woman walked into the lobby from another room.
"Ahem," she said from behind them. They turned to see a tall, thin woman with long, wavy brown hair, clad in leather, staring at them. She stared at them intensely with one leg cocked to the side and her hands on her hips. "Who are you?"
Faith laughed out loudly shortly after giving her the up, down and hearing her attempt to come off as tough. "Who are you? Elvira?"
Her stare only got more intense. "I'm in charge right now."
"I'm Faith, and if you've heard anything about me you'd know that's really not true." Faith took a step closer to her, matching her stare.
"Faith? The slayer?" Faith nodded. "Are you the bipolar ex girlfriend one that gives Angel a happy and sets him evil or the psycho killer, sometimes evil one?"
"Psycho killer one here. Buffy's the ex."
"Right," she said as she now turned to Willow, "you?"
"Oh, hi, I'm Willow," she said with a huge grin as she held her hand out to shake.
She looked down at Willow's hand before slowly shaking it. "I'm Gwen Raiden. A friend of Angel's." She let go of Willow's hand, loosened up and the three of them went and sat down on the couches. "So how did you all get into LA?"
"Illyria. She found us and told us what was happening here and then portaled us in to find Angel and Spike," Willow said.
"Ah. So Blue Thunder did something smart for once. She's good at killing things, but not very productive otherwise. Where's she now?"
"Her and Buffy went to save Spike," Faith said.
"The other slayer's here too?" They both nodded. "Well, things are certainly gonna get interesting around here."
"So, you all stay here in the hotel?" Willow asked.
"Yeah, we patrol constantly, save people when we can. We'll let 'em stay here for a bit if they've got nowhere else to go but we gotta send 'em away eventually. We don't wanna draw too much attention to ourselves. We've got friends set up in places all over town, some super powered friends, all armed friends. We send people to one of those safe-houses. Angel thinks they're safer away from him anyways."
"So it's true? This place is all demons all the time?" Faith asked.
"Should we go looking for Buffy and the others?" Willow asked.
"They're with Illyria. They're fine. Trust me."
A few feet from where they sat a swirl of wind erupted. A portal emerged and Illyria stepped out, followed by Buffy who was holding up Spike. Gwen sprung to her feet and approached Buffy.
"Yeah, and you are?"
"Name's Gwen. Move," she said as she edged her out of the way to get under Spike's arm and turned and walked towards the stairs.
Buffy stared at her confused before she saw Willow and Faith and walked to them.
"Friend of Angel's," Willow told her.
"Real pleasant, isn't she?" Faith said sarcastically and Buffy nodded as she took a seat.
"Buff, Angel wasn't being tortured by Cordelia. It was the First."
Buffy just stared at her for a moment. "What? I don't… what? Spike said something to me about how the Senior Partners were involved in this."
"The who?" Faith asked.
"The big bads behind Wolfram and Hart. I don't get it."
Buffy stared at Willow and Faith as she waited for one of them to say something. They were both staring off behind her. When Buffy realized she turned around to see what they were looking at. Standing in the middle of the lobby in a sleek, low cut, black dress was the image of Cordelia. Buffy rose to her feet quickly as she stared at her old friend.
"Hi Buffy," she said with a devilish grin.
"What do you want? Another ass kicking?"
She laughed. "Yea, you may have stopped my whole uber vamp take over, but look at me. Look at my ass!" She ran her hands down her body, "I'm fine. Better then fine actually. I'm hot. I mean, look at this dress. Doesn't i—"
"What do you want?"
"Rude. You really shouldn't interrupt people Buffy." Buffy rolled her eyes. "As I was saying, doesn't it suck for you? I mean you put your heart and soul, your one hundred percent, A plus effort into stopping me at Sunnydale, and here I am."
"We get it. We can't kill you. What's your point? Your whole imitating the dead to annoy people thing wore off about two weeks into our war. You can't touch us."
"You might think so. Where you are definitely wrong though is that part about touching you. You've already seen this wonderful makeover I did to LA. That was touching wasn't it Buffy? All the destruction out there? I thought you were gonna cry. And that's the point. Capturing and torturing you're boyfriends, all of it, to punish you. I don't take kindly to losing."
"You did this?"
"Yes! Well, I can't take all the credit. Think of me as the funds. Like in highschool, my dad wasn't directly buying me all that Dulche and Gabonna, but if it weren't for his money, I wouldn't have been able to buy it."
"Cut the analogies and metaphors out."
"Senior Partners. You see, after I found out they were responsible for getting that Amulet to Sunnydale, I was not happy with them. I rung them a new one but after I saw the predicament they had forced Angel into, they became useful. They helped stop my apocalypse, Angel's meddling had stopped theirs, so rather than argue we made up. We made up really good. I connected with them in ways Caleb couldn't even dream. With their added power, this hell take over was cake. I hope you enjoyed your first day here Buffy. It's only gonna get better." Her body then vanished.
"I'm so over the First." Buffy said when she turned back to Faith and Willow. They both attempted a laugh. She turned back to Illyria who was staring at a sword across the lobby. "Where's Angel's room?" She pointed in a direction up stairs and Buffy sped towards it. Once upstairs she saw Gunn and Kate walking out of a room and closing the door behind them. "Hi!" They both looked up at her and smiled. "You must be Gunn," she said, shaking his hand.
"Ya, cuz I'm the only brotha Angel has ever had," they both laughed.
"And I'm sorry, I'm not sure who you are," she said while shaking Kate's hand.
"Kate Lockley. I used to help Angel out when I was a police detective."
"Oh, well I'm Buffy."
The other two laughed slightly. "Yeah, we know who you are," Gunn said. "How did all of you get in here?"
"Illyria. She and I found Spike. Gwen took him." They both nodded. "Is that Angel's room?" she asked while staring at the door behind them.
"Yeah, you can go in. He's banged up but he'll be fine. He just had some blood." Gunn told her. She walked past them and to the door. Gunn faced her quickly, "what's the First? He kept mumblin' about that."
"It's one of our big bads. Seems to have a hand in this. Willow can fill you in on the deets."
They all turned away from each other then and Buffy walked into Angel's room. She looked around the spacious space. She liked it. A little empty, but that was the same way he kept his old crypt. She could recognize the old living space in the new, completely different one. She saw Angel lying on the huge bed against a wall. He was on his back, propped up on pillows, with out a shirt, and his eyes closed. She slowly walked towards him.
His eyes opened slowly and fell upon her. "I can't tell if it's you or not."
She walked to his bed and sat down on it, next to him. Her hand reached out and gently stroked his face. He sat up instantly and pulled her in tight. She huggged him back. They stayed clung to each other for moments. Angel eventually pulled back.
"Buffy, I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. I took that job at Wolfam and Hart thinking I really could do some good and stop them from the inside, but I was wrong. We got in too deep."
"There was too much. We were fighting people left and right. Every where we looked, we found new enemies. It's just what the Senior Partners wanted. To distract us while they schemed towards their apocalypse."
"Even when we found out about it, things didn't get better. We killed their connections to our plane, to stop their apocalypse but then they did this to LA. Things are worse than they ever were. You and Giles were right. Buffy, I'm so sorry. I—"
Angel was silenced by Buffy's finger on his lips. "Angel, none of that matters now. We can't waste our time wondering what could have been done differently. This is the situation we're in now. So we deal." Angel nodded and she took her finger from his face. "The First was just here. Showed up looking like Cordelia and talking a whole lot of trash."
"It did that before. It used Cordelia to torture me while I was locked up." Buffy made a confused face. "It used you too, sometimes. It used both of you."
"You really loved her?"
Angel nodded. "She wasn't the girl you knew. She changed a lot. She was good."
"Angel, it's okay that you loved someone else. You don't have to amend for it or something. It's not like I haven't."
They stared at each other for a moment. "You… You saved Spike, didn't you?" She nodded slowly. Angel looked away from her, his face clearly showed his hurt feeling.
"Angel, it wasn't exactly my choice. I couldn't decide which of you to go after so the others made the call."
"You couldn't choose between the two of us?"
"What do you want from me Angel? I told you, I care for him too."
"Yeah. Yeah, I know. I just… I didn't know you cared that much. I mean, he said you did, but he's Spike so of course I didn't believe him."
"I don't know. I… Okay, we so do not have to talk about this right now. When the First showed up it said that it powered up the Senior Partners to do this hell warp, and made sure you and Spike got captured to get me here, to torture me. It's mad that I stopped it in Sunnydale."
"The Senior Partners wouldn't put this much power and effort into something to torture you. It's too small time for them. Too petty."
"I don't know about that. The First definitely isn't a trustworthy source though."
Buffy left the room moments later so Angel could rest and then she saw Gunn and Kate leaving another room down the hall. She walked towards it, expecting it to be Spike's. She walked in and Spike was lying on the bed already facing her.
"Are you okay?" she asked as she walked towards him.
"I'll be fine. Taken worse. Dru isn't nearly as unbearable as the bloody uber vamp the First locked me up with last time."
Buffy sat on a chair next to his bed. "It's really made a habit of torturing you."
"You don't have to remind me. The real torturous part of it all is you havin to make a habit of saving me. My pride can't take many more blows like that, I tell you."
"You've saved me before too."
"Whatever. So apparently the First and the Senior Partners are in cahoots… whatever that means. The First says they're out to get revenge on me for the Sunnydale catastrophe but Angel thinks there's something bigger going on."
"Another day, another all mighty big bad tampering around with us like we're its little play things."
"I'm sayin. It's getting tired at this point." They both smiled and just stared at each other for a moment. "Well," Buffy spoke eventually, sitting up out of the chair, "I'm gonna go do the slayer thing and let you rest."
"Alright Slayer," Spike said as she walked towards the door.
She then turned to him suddenly. "Spike?"
"Why didn't you try to contact me or anything?"
He sighed deeply. "Well, I couldn't at first. Some mystical bugaboo with the amulet kept me in LA. Then I was done doing time as a ghosty but I wasn't sure if you still needed me. You were off in Europe being mother Slayer, how was I supposed to know if I'd fit in your new life? And… I—I… Bloody hell, you're making me look like a wanker."
"What is it Spike?"
"I… I bleeding sacrificed my life to save you. I was at peace with that decision because you mean that to me. You meant my life. So what would it mean if I just showed back up? Hey look at me! I died to save you but here I am, all not dead, so I guess I didn't really… I didn't want that to mean any less. To either of us."
"Spike. You are so dumb." She laughed.
Spike's head tilted, mouth opened, and eyes went crooked. "What?"
"Why would it mean any less? It's not like you knew when you did it, that you were going to come back. The sentiment is all the same."
"I shoulda stayed dead. Here I am pouring my heart to you like some ponce, and you're laughing."
"No!" she said, fighting laughter. "Its just… You're more of a drama queen then I am."
Spike grinned sarcastically. "Didn't you say something about leaving?"
"Right," she smiled and turned back to the door. When she opened the door she turned back to him again. "I am really, really happy you're back Spike."
"Don't try kissing up to me now."
"I missed you." Spike then smiled a genuine smile and Buffy closed the door.