Chapter One: It all started with a girl

Based after the episode "Damaged" but before "Your Welcome"

It was almost funny. For a guy obsessed with being the epitome of masculinity and becoming the alpha male, Alexander Harris had been ruled by women for his entire life.

It had all started with a girl. Everything had started with a girl. Every major stage in his life had started with a girl. He had learned that girls did not actually have cooties when he befriended Willow Rosenberg at kindergarten. He had been introduced into the world of monsters and demons when Buffy Summers entered his life. He had learned that he could actually be desirable to the opposite sex when he dated Cordelia Chase. He was exposed to the true depths of fear and shame on the night he sought out Faith Lehane to offer his help. He could see the best of humanity when he was introduced to Tara Maclay.

This was nothing compared to what he had been shown with Anya Jenkins.

He discovered lust, sex and love in that order. Then he experienced maturity and the sense of belonging as the pieces of his life finally fell into place. That was swiftly followed by self-loathing and bitterness after he made the biggest mistake of his life. He betrayed and abandoned her. There should have been no coming back from what he did and yet somehow there was.

The schoolboy attraction had been replaced with the love of love of a man. A man who finally knew what he wanted from life. It was slow going, almost tentative in the beginning but they finally found each other again. They could see past all the baggage, all the drama, all the playacting and actually saw each other.

And then she died and took all of that progress and development with her.

~o~O~o~

Nothing had ever been the same in Los Angeles since Caritas was destroyed. Okay, that may not have been entirely true. The sun still rose and set (finally – everyone remembered the days when the sun didn't rise) and people still went to work and occasionally they were eaten by their co-workers. Okay, nothing had really changed at all. However, the underworld of L.A. still missed their favourite watering hole and yet, despite many requests/demands/threats etc. the Host refused to consider rebuilding. "Twice is more than enough sweeties," he would say with a regal flourish.

While bad news for his many disappointed patrons, this was really quite spectacular news for a Mr. C. Pressley the owner of Virtus; the new place to be. Yeah, he was really going to have to make it sound more tough and less… well celebrity-ish. It just didn't work for the clientele he had in mind. P.R. was everything in his industry. If he wasn't careful he could end up with Backstreet Boy wanabees filling up his scene and that simply wouldn't do.

Pressley was short man with a shaved head and a large belly. He did not have a very distinctive appearance aside from his fingers which were, oddly enough, always perfectly manicured. Despite his (mostly) nondescript appearance, nobody – and by that we mean nobody – wanted to ever be on the bad side of this portly human. He was either a master magician or a half demon on his mother's side (nobody knew) yet, either way, he was strong enough to fabricate a protective barrier that prevent almost anyone or anything from committing any acts of violence in or within ten feet of the entrance. The Browning Auto-5 shotgun on the counter reminded everyone that there was an exception to the rule as any trouble makers were always quick to discover. In other words the message was simple:

For the love of God do not ever try piss off Pressley.

The things that could potentially piss of Pressley were on a sign behind the bar so that no-one could claim ignorance (not that that would have helped them, mind you).

Things that can potentially piss of Pressley and that will cause you die horribly:

Number One – Under no circumstances is one patron to pick a fight with another patron

Number Two – Under no circumstances is a patron to break a glass, a bowl or any other unlisted item that is used to hold food or drink

Number Three – Under no circumstances is a patron to comment on the appearance of the owner's fingernails

So you can imagine the surprise when some idiot decided to break all three rules in the space of fifty-two seconds.

~o~O~o~

This was shaping up to be spectacularly boring night. Spike had only been sitting down for two minutes and already he found himself bored stiff. He just couldn't place his finger on the reason of his discontent although that might have been due to his inability to properly move his hands. Even with his vampire healing it was still possible for one to see the scars on his wrists that had been left there recently by an enraged, psychotic Slayer.

"The bitch did a real number on me, that she did," he murmured staring deeply into his shot of whiskey. He could hear heavy footsteps coming towards him, so he spun his stool around to be greeted by an incoming fist which was soon followed by a blinding flash of light.

The owner of the fist was flung back several feet only to land in an undignified heap on the ground. Several other patrons laughed at his misfortune. Spike looked down to meet the gaze of his would-be attacker.

Well, half a gaze. The man was wearing an eye patch.

"Harris?" Spike asked incredulously.

"What? The? Hell?" asked an extremely inebriated Xander Harris in a very quiet, very angry voice.

"Huh? Oh right," said Spike, "Andrew didn't tell anyone, didn't he? I'm alive. Ta da," he said, holding his hands out faux-dramatically. He frowned for a moment before realising something. "What are you doing my neck of the woods?" he asked, "Wait, what on Earth are you doing on this continent. I heard you were in Africa or some other place beginning with 'A.'"

Xander, still on the floor, began to laugh. This was not the laugh of joy or of good humour. This was the sound of years of anger and resentment crammed together to produce one bitter sound. "How does she do it?" he asked himself, "Every. Single. Time. She can do whatever the hell she wants and still walks away without ever losing anything. I mean does anything kill you guys?" He then hurled his not yet empty glass at the bleached blonde only for it to rebound harmlessly off the magical barrier and shatter.

Pressley finally took the time to walk over to the one-eyed man placed a boot on his chest and said, "Listen carefully friend. I don't care what kind of beef you have with this guy but, whatever it is, it stays outside. If you have a problem with that, I have a problem and if I have you problem you definitely have a problem. Comprende?"

"Whatever you say Your Hugeness," Xander slurred mockingly before asking, "Did you know you have very gentle looking hands?"

~o~O~o~

Angel's hand hovered over the phone, still undecided on whether or not to pick it up and dial. The recent visit of Andrew Wells and the message that he and his team were no longer considered trustworthy by Buffy and her "Scoobies" had been a difficult pill to swallow. Obviously he should just call her and try to straighten it all out, that would be the mature thing to do. But what if it just looked like he was just trying cover his tracks or something like that? "Alright," he said aloud, "I'll call her."

However, his blonde vampire secretary Harmony picked that exact moment to walk in to the office.

"Harmony," he growled, "Don't you ever knock?"

"Sorry boss," she said, looking like a hurt puppy, "It's just that there is a brawl going on at Virtus." He rolled his eyes in exasperation.

"And this concerns me how?" he asked irritably.

"Well," she said, taking several steps backwards, "The owner Mr. Pressley is a client."

Of course he is.

"Also," she continued, "Blon– Spike is apparently involved."

Of course he is.

~o~O~o~

The funny thing about barrier spells is that – like all spells – they can be broken. The funny thing about Mr. Pressley was that – like many "tough guys" – his reputation was almost entirely invented. These two facts resulted in the "impenetrable" barrier shattering after Xander's sixth attempted punch. The entire bar was momentarily filled with a blinding blue light which suddenly, just as quickly as it arrived, dissipated.

Realising that violence was finally back on the menu, the bar – full of natural enemies forced into co-existence – quickly descended into violence.

~o~O~o~

Angel strode through the lobby, ignoring whatever it was Harmony was telling him. Why was she following him anyway? Finally realising that he was not listening to her, she dejectedly turned and walked away. Was he ever going to consider her part of the team?

Before he could head towards the garage, he bumped into Wesley.

"Wesley, with me," he commanded without breaking his stride.

"What's wrong this time?" his accented companion asked, "You have your irritated face on."

"This is my normal face Wes," Angel replied.

"Exactly"

Angel actually chuckled, conceding the point to the former Watcher, "Okay, I walked into that. Apparently Spike has gotten himself into trouble again and, whilst I normally wouldn't give a crap about what happens to him, it happens to be on the property of a client, so there."

"Yay for us," Wesley drily replied. "Do you think we'll need backup?"

"It's just a brawl," said Angel, "We're just coming there to put the fear of God into them and try to minimise the damage. I think that we're enough for that."

~o~O~o~

I hope you all enjoyed this and decide to continue reading. I have some plans for where I want this story to go and feedback is always welcome.

Please review and I'll see you next time.