Author: DarkDyer <DarkDyer[at]>

Rating: PG-14

Summary: Another Prophecy looms over the Scooby Gang and Xander is keeping secrets, with the help of.,.,., Angel?

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss, they're just dancing to my music.

Distributions: Ask and ye shall receive.

Authors note: Takes place after the third season, as Xander is about to return from his roadtrip. On a side note this was actually started just before the fourth season, it took me forever to finish it, hopefully the sequel will move a little faster.

Chapter 1

City of Angels

Xander's hand paused just before striking the door before him, and he let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

"Relax man, how hard could it be?"

He gathered himself and then knocked. When there was no reply he glanced down the hall out the window-taking note of the sun, as it made it's final descent behind the horizon.

"C'mon, you got to be in there." at that Xander began a rhythmic assault on the door.

He was soon rewarded with the sounds of a door opening, just not the door he was knocking on. Xander turned to see a short balding man, who, for some reason beyond Xander, appeared to be slightly irritated.

"Hey buddy," the man scowled, "Ya trying to wake the dead?

He looked at the man and started to chuckle, "Well, actually,.,.,"

His reply was interrupted when the door he had been knocking on slowly swung open, revealing only darkness.

"Xander?" asked a groggy voice.

He looked back at the other man and shrugged, "Sorry buddy, duty calls." Then he slipped through the door and disappeared into the shadows, leaving the man to shake his head swearing as he closed the door.

Xander made his way through the dark apartment without hitting a single stick of furniture, unfortunately, the step down into the sunken living room was a bit of a surprise.

He got back to his feet muttering, "Hey Deadboy, for those of us without vamp vision, do ya think we could get some light in here?"


Xander was unprepared for the sudden response, and spent the next couple of seconds blinking the light out of his eyes, then turned to find Angel standing next to a small fireplace.

"What are you doing here Xander?"

Xander grinned, "What, I can't stop by to see my favorite demon?"

The vampire didn't bother to answer that.

"Alright. I'll spill."

Xander looked around for something to sit on, and then realized why he hadn't hit any furniture. Sparse would have been an understatement worthy of Oz. The only furniture in the room was a chair and a table with a lamp on it.

"Do you mind?" asked Xander, motioning to the chair. "It's been a long day."

Angel nodded and watched the boy move to the chair, noticing a very slight limp. "Probably tripped over something on his way up." he thought.

After sitting Xander made a show of looking about the room. "Nice place, who does your decorating?"

"You know Xander, I'm a little hungry when I first get up, so if you could get to the point." The irritation was evident in the vampire's voice, as was his meaning.

"Point taken. All right, here it goes,.,., there is another prophesy, the worlds gonna end unless we save it, and I'm here to give you a ride to the big show."

Angel had forgotten just how much Xander irritated him, and he was fairly certain that strangling the boy would be immensely satisfying. Sometimes having a soul could be a real drag.

The sudden danger to the one person he had ever loved, other than himself, brought him to full attention.

"Is Buffy all right?"

"The last I heard, she's fine."

The vampire looked at Xander in confusion before recalling something he hadn't really paid attention to at the time.

"That's right, Cordelia said you had gone, how did she put it? Walk around."

"That's walk about, fang boy. You know there are other things to do at night, besides stalking young teenage slayers, ya never heard of midnight movies?"

"So did you come here to insult me, or worse, show me your vacation slides?"

Xander actually chuckled at that. "Here I thought it was Angelus who had the since of humor."

Never one to pass up an opportunity to put Xander in his place, Angel grinned evilly, doing his best Angelus impression. He had expected the boy to cringe, maybe whine a little, or possibly even run. What he did not expect was a loud **thunk** as a small shaft of wood slammed into the wall an inch from his head.

With his grin now gone, and his mouth and eyes open wide, he turned to look at Xander. The boy returned his look with a cold stare, his arm raised and some kind of mechanism strapped to his forearm. "It must have been hidden by his shirt." he thought.

"I missed on the off chance you were making a very bad joke."

Angel looked from the boy to the projectile now lodged in the wall. He pulled it from the wall with a small grunt and examined it closer. 4 inches long hard wood with a metallic base.

"Why the grooves?"

"Puts a spin on it, like a rifle, makes it very accurate inside thirty feet." Xander pulled back his sleeve to reveal his new toy, which was mounted on a leather wristband on his forearm.

"Looks complicated."

"Not really, spring loaded, compressed air for propulsion. A friend I met on the road whipped it up for me."

"How many shots?"

Grinning Xander replied "That's for me to know, and you to worry about."

"Right," Angel walked over to Xander and handed him back the bolt. "So why did you agree to give me a ride? We aren't exactly buds."

Xander seemed to think things over before he answered, "When I talked to Wills, she didn't want to go into much detail, but what I did get out of her, well, it worries me."

As Xander spoke Angel looked his guest over, the boy looked tired, like he hadn't slept in a long, long time. And the slight limp from earlier, it all raised one question after another. There was also a familiar scent in the air.

"Why do I smell blood Xander?"

Xander replied in a very cold voice, "Wishful thinking."

"Uh huh," The boy won't talk about that, lets see why he's here. "Well then, you're worried and you want to see me. Again, why?"

"Well the part that has me worried, it's between you and me, and I want it to stay that way, all you have to do is be yourself, cryptic boy, until we find out what exactly is going on."

"What could possibly be between you and me? I am all out of secrets, and I really don't want to go there again."

Xander was silent as he stared at the vampire, this made Angel rather uneasy, the boy was never silent, he appeared to be experiencing some inner struggle, when he did speak it was so low that if Angel hadn't had supernatural hearing, he might have missed it.

"How much do you remember from when Angelus was back?"

Angels first reaction was anger, but from Xander's expression he could tell that the question was asked, not to goad, but simply because the boy had to know. Angel suddenly found speech very difficult, eye contact painful, his answer was forced out in a voice thick with pain.

"Everything, I remember everything."

Xander stood up with a wince. "That's what I was afraid of." he said, as he made his way to the door. Opening the door he turned to look at the vampire. "On our way home I need you to do me one little, minuscule favor."

"What would that be?"

"Forget he ever called me the White Knight."

Angel looked at him like he was crazy, "Why would that matter."

"I'm not really sure, but I didn't want you blurting anything out until we are sure of the situation, it might be absolutely nothing."


"No buts, c'mon we're burning moonlight, and as much as I would like to be on the road at sunrise, I don't think I would be Mr. Popular if I showed up with you in the ashtray."

Xander walked out of the apartment, leaving Angel standing there trying to figure just what the hell was going on here. Suddenly Xander stuck his head back into the room.

"Well Fang boy, are you coming."

Angel sighed and followed Xander into the night.

Chapter 2

Giles apartment had seen better days. As he returned to the living room with a tray a drinks he took a moment to look around. Wherever there had once been the smallest amount of freespace, one could now find books. All the books there had been time to move before the graduation ceremony, now found themselves crowded into a space a fraction of the size of their previous home.

Giles sighed and continued into the room, where he placed the tray before Willow, Oz, and Buffy who were in full research mode, then reclaimed his seat and the large volume he had been searching through for the answers to their latest emergency.

Buffy closed her book and sat back rubbing her eyes. "I am getting so nowhere."

Willow patted her friend on the leg. "Don't worry Buffy, we'll find something, we always do."

Buffy took in the worried look in the red heads eyes and did her best to smile, but that quickly passed as she fought to hold back tears. "It's different this time Will, this time, it's not just me."

Willow pulled her friend into a hug and felt the tension in the slayer's muscles. She was worried, no make that scared, and not just for Buffy, for all of them.

The friends parted and looked at each other with encouraging smiles.

"Better?" Willow asked.

"Of course it's better." A familiar voice called.

They all turned to the door to find Xander looking like, well Xander.

"The King of Cretins has arrived and all is well in the world."

Xander moved into the room and found himself in the middle of a Buffy-Willow sandwich, a rather pleasant place to be.

"I should go away more often." Xander said from deep in the hug.

"I've often thought so." Giles quipped.

Xander grinned and walked over to shake Giles hand. "The watchers making jokes? Now I know the world is ending."

No one seemed to find that particularly funny. In the silence that followed Xander took note of the worry in his friend's faces. It didn't look like any of them had been getting much sleep. They were suddenly distracted by the tinkling of a small bell.

"Hello everyone."

Xander smacked his head. "Oh yeah, did I forget to mention I picked up a hitchhiker."

Buffy crossed the room to where Angel stood in the doorway. She found herself lost in his eyes.

"How have you been?"

"Good, and you?"


Xander looked at the two with a sad smile and a shake of his head. "Well now that the gangs all here, what say we get back to saving the world."

Brought out of their trance by Xander's outburst the two turned to join their friends when Buffy heard the ringing sound again.

She turned to look at Angel and saw a small bell on a string tied around his neck, and as her gaze traveled up his face to take in the embarrassed look, she tried to hold back a giggle.

Angel took in the expression on the slayer's face and rolled his eyes, causing her giggles to erupt to the surface. Turning to see the amused faces on the rest of the group and the completely innocent look on Xander, Angel finally asked in a pained voice. "Xander, can I take this damn thing off now?"

At that, Buffy descended into uncontrollable laughter.


Later after the laughter had died down, they began to discuss the problem at hand.

"Well now that we are here, care to fill us in. Wills didn't go into much detail on the phone."

Giles nodded at Xander as he stood and began to pace. "Here is the situation, another prophesy I'm afraid. It predicts the return of the seven."

"Which would be worse than the three, cause there are like four more."

Giles looked grimly at Xander before he continued.

Buffy leaned over and whispered in Xander's ear. "And you said math wasn't your strong suit.

They exchanged wicked grins, drawing an annoyed look from the watcher.

"May I continue?"

"Fire away G-man."

"As I was saying, The Seven are demons of chaos. They torment the ancient Babylonians for centuries with death and destruction, before they were banished through a gateway, which as we speak is weakening. If it weakens enough the seven will be able to reenter this world from which they were banished so long ago."

"And that would be bad, we get it. So how do we stop it?"

"Well Xander, that is why we have gathered, to find the answer to that question."

"Willow said you had some leads on the phone."

"Well, uh, yes. That is to say we currently have two options."

Xander took in the grim looks on everyone's faces and knew he wasn't going to like the answer to his next question.

"And they would be?"

"The prophecy points to a willing sacrifice offered to the gatekeeper to ensure the portal remains closed. Life freely given is quit powerful, magically speaking."

"Wo, hold up here, let me guess, the slayer is supposed to do this right?" Xander looked at Buffy to find Angel with concern in his eyes giving the slayer a comforting embrace. Now he was even more irritated. "Well pardon my French, but to hell with that. We can't let her,.,."

"It's not just me Xander." Buffy moved to Xander's side and put her arm on his shoulder. "It's all of us."

Xander turned to look at Giles who confirmed Buffy's statement with a nod.

"It would seem failing all else, the slayer and her companions must present themselves to the gatekeeper who will bind the gate with their life forces. The willing sacrifice is the only thing strong enough to seal the gate, keeping the demons from this world."

"We've beat demons before, we could just let them out and kick their asses out here, right?"

Shaking his head Giles rose and moved towards the kitchen. "No Xander, you remember the Mayor don't you?"

"Kind of hard to forget."

Pouring himself some tea, Giles continued. "I don't think that we, or the world for that matter are ready for seven such creatures."

"DAMN." Xander sat down closing his eyes. "I knew I should have turned left in Alberquercy."

"You said failing all else?"

Giles had been lost in his cup of tea and looked at Angel guiltily. "Sorry, not much sleep lately. What was your question?"

"You said failing all else, that would lead me to believe that there are other options."

"Well, quit right, Angel. That is why you are here. You are mentioned in this prophecy."

"Me? What does it say?"

"It states that the soul twice lost and found shall return, and with him salvation. He knows of the one who can stand alone and seal the portal. A protector unlooked for but not unseen. A white knight in the darkness, and this soul shall hold the key."

Angel was stunned, Xander could see that, well join the crew. Xander didn't think he could feel his legs but he had to make sure the vampire didn't blurt out something crazy. There was still some time and he had a lot of thinking to do.

Xander found his voice before Angel. "Well could you vague that up a little G-man?" Walking over to Angel, Xander didn't really trust his own feet. "I can tell by the look on Deadboy here, that it's not ringing any bells. Right Deadboy?"

Angel just blinked at Xander and said nothing.

Turning back to Giles Xander grinned. "See nothing. Look you all look as tired as I feel. Giles how long do we have to figure this out?"

"Three days Xander."

"Three days? Three days of research ahead of us? I think we should start it with a good nights sleep." Looking outside, Xander corrected himself. "Make that a good days sleep. The sun should be up in an hour or so."

"Yes, well, perhaps you are correct Xander. All of us could do with some rest, but Angel, I don't have to tell you how important it is, so take this time to reflect, if you recall anything that could relate to our current situation, well we shall go over it at say, sunset tonight?"

Xander started to push Angel towards the door. "C'mon Angel, I got your stuff in the car, I'll drop you at the mansion. Buff, Will, Oz, G-man. See ya tonight."

With that Xander pushed Angel out the door.

Everyone continued to stare at the door after the pair had left.

Oz broke the silence. "Was it me, or was that just weird?"

Willow looked at her boyfriend and shrugged. "Maybe they bonded on the trip home?"

The room was quiet for a good thirty seconds as they all looked at each other. Then the laughter started.

Chapter 3

Angel watched the streetlights go by as Xander drove to the mansion.

"Why didn't you let me tell them?"

Xander pulled the car over, killing the ignition, before turning to face the vampire.

"They don't need to know."


"No buts, I take it from the fact that we are having this conversation we both came to the same conclusions about this prophecy."

"I took it to mean that you are the key. A White Knight in the darkness." Angel looked Xander up and down. "Not quite what you would expect in a savior.

Xander chuckled at that. "I remember when your demon called me that."

Sadness seemed to set into Angel as he remembered that night in the hospital, and so many others. "So do I. I remember everything."

Seeing the look in Angels eyes, Xander almost felt sorry for him,.,., almost.

Xander looked to the horizon and started the car. "Looks like we're going to have a little race on our hands, either that or I'm going to be stopping by the carwash to use the vacuum." With that Xander pulled the car onto the road and continued towards the mansion.

"You know Xander, you irritated him almost as much as you do me."

"Well then, neither of you will miss me all that much."

Angel didn't laugh. "I must be loosing my touch." Thought Xander.

"Why can't we tell them?"

"You just tell them you can't think of anything and that will keep them looking for other ways to beat this thing. If we can't find another way, hey, I got your backs." Xander let out a heavy sigh. "Besides, I couldn't take them worrying over me for the next three days. They might even try to keep me out of the whole thing, they've done that before. And you'll have to admit, it kinda looks like I'm still key guy. Here we are."

They pulled up in front of the mansion coming to a stop by the front entrance. Xander got out to open the trunk and his limp was even now more evident.

Angel was standing by the trunk as Xander opened it and he motioned to the boy's leg. "I suppose you don't want them to know about this either?"

"Just a little scratch I got on the road. Nothing for them to worry about."

"Then how come I can smell fresh blood? You must have that thing wrapped pretty good. These secrets are just starting to pile up Xander. I don't know if I can keep this from them, especially Buffy."

A sudden coldness seemed to set into Xander's eyes as he came nose to nose with the vampire.

"I did! The night Buffy sent you to hell, I knew Wills was trying to restore your soul again, I was supposed to tell Buffy, but it was and is my opinion, that if she thought there was the slightest chance to get her Angel back, she would have delayed and delayed and just succeeded in getting herself killed and the world sent to hell, so I didn't tell her. You in hell, or her dead. It's not really a hard choice." Xander pushed Angel's bags roughly into the vampire's arms. "You went to hell because of me, now you have the chance to return the favor.

With that Xander turned and got into the car. As he started it he turned to see Angel standing by the door.


He slowly turned to see the smoke rising off of Angel as the sun began to rise.

"You did the right thing. Don't worry, consider me cryptic."

With that he turned and walked into the mansion, leaving a weary Xander to make his way home.


Xander stood outside Giles' apartment on the verge of, well, he didn't know what, but he was definitely on the verge of something.

"Breath, just breath. Just go in there and act like it's any other world ending prophecy and you'll be ok."

With a last deep breath he knocked and walked through the door.

"Hello ladies, the Xandman has arrived and he comes bearing chocolaty goodness."

Xander made his way to the couch trying not to favor his good leg, and set the bag down on the table and watched his friends eyes light up at his offerings.

Buffy looked up from her snack. "Xander, did I ever tell you, you are my bestest bud."

"Hey," piped in Willow, "He's my bestest bud."

"Ladies, ladies, fighting over me?" Xander grinned. "Please continue."

That's when they hit him.


At that Giles emerged from his kitchen. "Oh Xander, glad you could join us, start here."

Xander frowned as he looked at the giant volume Giles had handed him. "Don't you have anything smaller,.,.,., with pictures?"

Giles stopped and looked at him over his glasses before he stepped back into the kitchen.

"Yeah, yeah." Resigned to his fate Xander moved around to sit by Willow, and fluttered his eyes. "Help me with the big words?"

Buffy and Willow exchanged looks, then Willow hugged Xander.

"I missed you."

Suddenly Xander felt another set of arms around him and looked up to see Buffy squeezing him tight.

"Me to."

"Buff, Will, this could be habit forming."

The three continued to hug until they heard a cough from the direction of the door.

The three disengaged and turned to find Angel looking decidedly uncomfortable.

"Don't let me interrupt."

Buffy quickly moved towards Angel. "We were just catching up." She said, catching the defensive note in her voice.

"It's Okay Buffy."

"Oh of course it is," Xander murmured, "We wouldn't want Angel to get the wrong impression.

Willow smacked his leg sending a jolt of pain right to his head causing him to jump, and try to cover his yelp with a forced laugh. "You dare strike the King of Cretins, for that you must pay."

That is when the tickling began, and the tickling brought laughing and begging, and the laughing and begging brought Giles.

"Willow, Xander, please. Aside from the fact that the very fate of the world is in sway, and your antics distract us from the task at hand. I would also like to point out the instability of these stacks and stacks of books, I would hate to have to explain to anyone that we could not avert the impending disaster as we were completely buried in an unexpected book avalanche."

Upon hearing Buffy snickering, he turned to include her in his lecture, but when he saw Angel all such thoughts vanished.

"Oh, Angel, did you have a chance to think over the prophecy, anything that might pertain to our current situation."

"There hasn't been anything else on my mind Giles."

Giles often found that by counting to ten one could suppress sudden violent urges.

7, 8, 9, 10 "And your conclusion Angel"

"I'm sorry, but there's nothing I could think of."

Giles swore and began to pace. Xander, who had found himself unable to breath as he waited for Angel's answer let out his breath slowly then looked around the room at his friends. They were all watching Giles pace and swear, everyone except Willow, who was looking at Xander with confusion in her eyes.

"Uh oh." Xander thought, "She's giving me that I know your up to something look Well let's let her think it's the old jealousy thing."

"Well Wills, since tall dark and room temperature can't save the day, it's up to research boy."

She seemed to be having a quick internal debate before playfully smacking him. "Grow up Xander."

"Me? Never." Xander turned to find Angel staring at him.

"Well then there's no helping it, back to the books." As Giles said this Buffy let out a groan.

Giles gave his slayer a neutral look before speaking. "You know Buffy, I was going to suggest that you make your rounds, but perhaps this is more important and patrolling can wait."

"Set myself up for that." Buffy thought. "No Giles, your right. I have a sacred duty, one slayer patrol coming up." She turned to Angel. "You with?"

"Perhaps Angel should remain, he might come across something in the course of research that could jog his memory?"

Xander, feeling the less Giles pressured Angel the better, spoke up. "Ah let him go G-man, maybe the night air will blow some of the cobwebs out of the old attic, and Buffy can always use backup. Besides if he stays around here he's just going to be looking at our necks all night."

Everyone looked at him in surprise, but he pretended not to notice and turned back to the book in front of him.

Buffy looked from Xander to Angel then shrugged. She turned to Giles with a question in her eyes.

"Oh very well, Xander's right, you would be safer with backup."

"That's what I'm sayin." Piped in Xander without looking up.

Buffy turned and beckoned Angel to follow her. She wanted to get while the getting was good.

As the door closed Xander looked up to find Willow with that expression again. "Double Uh oh. Time to change the subject."

"So Wills, where is Lon Chaney Jr. tonight?"

Chapter 4

Buffy found it hard to look at Angel and so found it even harder to speak, now that they were alone. After an uneventful patrol, the silence was deafening.

"So." They both said at the same time.

As they grinned Angel gestures and said. "You first."

"I was wondering what was up with you and Xander."

"What do you mean?"

Angel stopped walking, forcing Buffy to turn and walk back to him. "You guys never got along before."

"And you think we do now? Weren't you hearing the same insults I was?"

"Yeah, but they really didn't pack the bite they used to, and you, you didn't even try to defend yourself. Did you guys bond on the trip here or something?"

"Not hardly. We didn't even talk. The radio wasn't even working, it was just me, him and the silence."

At that Buffy started to giggle. Angel looked at her, confused. "What?"

"Just you, him, the silence, and the tinkling of the bell." Buffy laughed. Then she noticed a trace of guilt in Angel's eyes.

"What is it Angel?"

"The bell."

"What about it? I can't believe Xander made you wear that all the way back to Sunnydale."

"He didn't."

"Huh? What do you mean he didn't?"

"When we got to Giles' and were heading towards the door, he stopped me. He told me to hold on, then he pulled out this little bell on a string and told me to put it on. I of course thought he was trying to pull one over on me and refused."

"If you refused, how did you end up wearing the bell? And why would he want to do this?"

"Well after he insisted, I asked him why, he told me it was a long story and there wasn't time for this, just put on the damn bell."

"So you put on the bell?"

"Not yet, I told him to give me one good reason,.,., he did, I put it on."

Buffy looked at Angel waiting for the rest, when it didn't come she had to ask. "What did he say?"

Angel smiled sadly and started the long walk to Giles' place. As he passed her she heard him softly say. "It will make her laugh."

Buffy found herself blushing and didn't quite know how to take this insight into Xander's mind. She was touched,.,., touched and confused. She was thinking it over when she realized that Angel had a good lead on her and as she hurried to catch up, her thoughts were of her friend.

"Xander, what am I going to do with you?"

Chapter 5

Xander sat in the bathroom with his pants around his ankles and a cold wash cloth pressed to his leg, this brought some relief, but the throbbing would not go away. Looking at his wounds closer, he could see that some of the stitches had ruptured and the bleeding had begun again. "Damnit. Blood sucking bastards, why couldn't I have normal vacation? Sometimes I think I have tasty tattooed on my forehead."

"Hey man, you about done in there?"

Xander started to repack his wound as quickly as he could. "I'll be right out Oz."

Xander started to curse the guitarist, but he was actually glad the guy showed up. Since Oz had arrived from practice, Willow hadn't been able to fully concentrate on Xander. It looked like the red head still had some questions about his behavior, but Oz had kept her busy.

Giving his leg a once over, after all a sudden patch of blood on his pants would hardly go unnoticed, Xander opened the door and moved into the hall were he found Oz waiting.

"Good to see you're house broken wolf boy." He patted Oz on the head as he walked into the living room. Not looking back Xander failed to see Oz watching him as he went.

Oz had smelled the blood from the hall, and had noticed the slight limp of his friend as he walked away. "Hmm." And with that he entered the bathroom.

When Oz returned to the living room he found Giles and Willow where he had left them, but no sign of Xander. He walked over and took his place next to his favorite redhead and picking up a book began to read, for about 10 seconds, then he couldn't help but look around the apartment,.,., yep, no Xander. When he looked back at Willow he met her questioning eyes.


As Oz was about to answer, the door opened to admit Buffy and Angel.

"Hi guys, how goes the research?"

Giles rose as they entered. "Nothing yet Buffy, anything of note on your patrol?"

"Not a vamp in sight." Glancing quickly at Angel with a smile. "Well almost."

"Well, small favors and all. Angel, has anything come to you?"

Angel looked down at his feet as he replied. "Nothing yet." He raised his eyes and looked around the room as he continued. "I can't think of, .,., where is Xander?"

Oz spoke up. "Yeah, I was just about to ask when you guys came in?"

Buffy suddenly looked worried. "Xander's disappeared?"

Willow smiled, "No, he said he had to go check on something at home, he should be right back."

Oz happened to glance at Angel and was a little surprised to see a look of concern on the vampire's face. "What is up with him and Xander?" Oz asked himself.

"Angel, did Xander mention anything to you, like he was hurt or something?"

Willow, Buffy, and Giles seemed confused by this question. They looked at Oz and then turned to Angel who seemed to look almost guilty.

"No, he didn't."

Buffy didn't quite like the tone in the vampire's voice. "Why do I hear a "BUT "in there somewhere?"

Willow couldn't wait for the vampire to answer, as she turned to Oz. "What made you ask that?"

Angel was relieved as everyone turned their attention back to the musician.

"Uh, well, when he was in the bathroom, I could smell it."

Buffy and Willow both chimed in with "Eeww."

Oz grimaced, "No, that's just,.,., eeww. Blood, I smelt blood."

Giles stepped up, "Are you certain?"

"Yup. The wolf nose knows."

Buffy turned back to Angel. "There is a "BUT "I'm waiting to hear."

"He didn't say anything, "BUT "I could smell it when he picked me up. I asked "BUT "he pretty much told me to mind my own business."

"How bad could it be, Xander would say something if it was bad, right."

"That depends," answered Willow. "If it wasn't to bad he'd be milking it for sympathy, but if it is, bad I mean, with what is going on, he probably thinks we don't need to worry about him."

The door suddenly burst open and Xander entered, but his greeting died on his lips when he noticed the way everyone was looking at him.


Buffy walked towards him until they were face to face. She didn't look happy.

"Spill!" She said with finality.

Suddenly angry, Xander turned an accusing look at Angel.

"I didn't say anything Xander."

"It was me." Oz piped in.

At that confusion came over Xander's face. "Uuhhhh, what are we talking about people?"

Buffy poked him in the chest. "You're hurt."

"Oh." Xander sighed in relief. "Wolf boy, how'd you know?"

Oz placed his finger against his nose.

"The mob told you?" Xander cracked.

"This is no time for jokes."

Buffy's seriousness surprised him.

"Tis but a scratch."

"Then show us."

Xander stood with his mouth open looking around the room. From the look on everyone's face they seemed to agree with Buffy. His shoulders sagged in defeat and he started to limp towards the couch. "Fine."

With the thought that their friend might be hurt, they all seemed to look at him more closely than they had since his arrival. He seemed paler than normal, and now that he had dropped the act, he looked exhausted.

Xander turned around in front of the couch and started to fumble with his belt. "Remember ladies, tipping is acceptable, but watch those hands." And with that Xander dropped his pants.

Chapter 6

Xander stood facing everyone with his pants around his ankles and a grin on his face. "Happy now?"

They all were silent as they looked at the bandage on Xander's leg. It's beginning was obscured by his boxers but it ended at his knee. It appeared as though he had used a layer of plastic to ensure that the blood would not seep to the surface.

Willow was the first to break the silence. "My god Xander, what happened."

The smile left Xander's face as he shrugged dismissfully. "Sunnydale doesn't have a monopoly on vampires Will."

"I take it you had a run in on your journey." Giles said as he moved forward to look closer at the bandage."

"You take it correctly, the vamp didn't like what I was doing so he tried to stop me."

"And what exactly where you doing Xander?"

"I was trying to see just how far I could push a broken table leg into his chest. For some reason he wasn't totally behind the experiment."

"Some people just don't get scientific theory." Oz remarked.

Willow looked at her boyfriend with a scowl.

"Sorry." Oz shrugged. "Had to be said."

"Well now that you know the answer to the boxers or briefs question."

Xander made a move to pull up his pants but found Buffy suddenly in front of him. She put a hand on his chest and pushed him backwards until he had to sit on the couch.

"Or you going to take that off or am I?"

Xander couldn't help but smile as he looked into Buffy's eyes. "You know Buff. I've had dreams that started like this."

Buffy blushed at his comment and found herself suddenly speechless, which surprised her almost as much as it did Xander.

Xander recovered first. "All you had to do was ask."

As Xander began to unwrap his bandage Buffy found it hard to meet the eyes of the others. "What is wrong with me, we're trying to see how bad Xander is hurt and all I can think of is how good he looks in those boxers."

"Good Lord Xander."

Giles remark brought her back to the moment and Buffy looked at Xander's leg. Across the front of his thigh were five deep cuts, Four from the inside and one from the out. They were all stitched up, but it looked as if some of the stitches were ruptured and the surrounding area was an angry red color. They were also seeping fresh blood.

"What did the vampire do this with Xander?"

"His hand Giles. His hand."

"He must have been,.,., well, quite large."

Xander grinned "Quite."

Xander looked at Buffy, who looked away quickly still blushing. I don't get it, what's up with Buffy all of a sudden?

"This appears to be infected, not to mention you have ruptured these stitches." Giles placed his hand against Xander's head. "You are also feverish. What were you thinking Xander, this wound is serious. You shouldn't be walking around let alone driving cross country."

"You shouldn't have come Xander."

Xander turned to look at Buffy, "What?"

"You shouldn't have come, we could have handled this without you." Buffy said without meeting his eyes.

Xander looked to the others for some support but the only one to meet his gaze was Angel, so he started to quickly rewrap his leg.

"What are you doing?" Buffy said quickly.

"You know Buff, your right. I don't know what I was thinking." Xander stood pulling up his pants. "Even with two good legs I would have just got in your way. I should just be going."

"But Xander,.,.,"

"No Buffy, you were right. I'll just go now."

Buffy blocked the door. "That is so not what I meant."

"Fine Buff. What did you mean?" Xander said, his eyes boring into hers.

"I,.,., I just." Buffy couldn't remember for the life of her, what she was going to say. Luckily Willow came to her rescue.

"She just doesn't like to see you hurt, none of us do. Right Buffy?"

"Right Wills."

Giles came up and put his hand on Xander's shoulder turning the boy around. "We really should clean that wound and redress it. You should also remain stationary. May I suggest my guestroom? It is quite comfortable."

Xander's shoulders sagged as he admitted defeat. "I don't suppose you have a TV in there?"

"Well actually no." Giles slowly started to move Xander along towards the guestroom. "But just think of all the time that will free up for much needed research."

Xander chuckled. "Your all heart Giles, your all heart."


Willow and Buffy found themselves alone, as Giles had enlisted the aid of Angel and Oz to help him move the large piles of books that were on the bed in the guest room, and Xander was in the bathroom cleaning and dressing his wound.

"So Buffy."

"So what?

"Want to tell me what you were thinking about when you phased out there on us?" Willow grinned.

Buffy blushed. She seemed to be doing that a lot tonight. "Willow, I don't know what you are talking about."

"Oh really. You know what this reminds me of?"

Willow looked at her friend until Buffy returned her gaze with a grin. Then both girls said at once. "The Speedo incident." That's when the giggling started.

"What so funny?" Xander asked as he came out of the bathroom?

Both girls tried to hold a straight face and said, "Why nothing." Then returned to their giggling. Xander sighed, shrugged then headed back to the guestroom.

As the giggling died down Willow looked at her friend closely making Buffy nervous.

"What Willow?"

"Oh nothing, I was just thinking that, you were acting kind of strange around Xander is all."

"I was not!!"

That's when Willow brought out the dreaded resolve face. Buffy squirmed but there was no resisting it.

"Ok, ok, Maybe just a little. Its just Angel told me something that has me a little thrown off."

"And what would that be?"

"Well, you know that bell that he made Angel wear on the way here?"


"Well, he didn't."

"Didn't what?"

"He didn't make him wear it all the way here. He stopped him outside the door and made him put it on. I asked Angel why, and he told Xander said, "It will make her laugh."

"Oh." Willow said nonchalantly.

Buffy was concerned by her friend's lack of surprise. "What do you mean Oh. Doesn't that strike you as a little strange."

"Buffy, sometimes I wonder if you ever pay attention?"

Still confused, Buffy asked, "What are you talking about?"

"Buffy please. Xander does that all the time. When he thinks someone is down, he goes out of his way to bring them out of it, especially you." Willow was rather proud that she managed to sound absolutely jealousy free with that last statement.

Buffy was saved from further analyzing this unsettling development by the return of Giles and Oz.

"Did you get Xander settled in back there?"

Oz smiled at his girlfriend's question as he plopped down next to Willow. "Yep."

"Xander, despite his complaining about having to continue with the research, appears well settled. With some time and rest his leg should heal properly." Giles said as he took his seat and began to clean his glasses.

"I still can't believe he came all this way like that and didn't tell us."

"Buffy, if Xander was in trouble, what would you let stop you from helping him?" Giles paused in his cleaning, waiting for an answer.

"Nothing." Buffy whispered.

Giles sighed sitting back putting on his glasses. "Exactly. Xander would not leave you, or any of us to face something like this without his help."

Buffy thought that over for a minute, thinking back she couldn't recall a time when, despite her best efforts, Xander wasn't right there to back her up. She found it hard to recall what her life was like before Xander decided she needed a guardian angel. Angel? Speaking of Angel where was he?

"Uh Giles, where did Angel go?"

"He was putting the finishing touches on our relocation effort."

"You left Angel and Xander back there alone?"

Oz smiled. "Don't worry, Xander wasn't armed, I'm almost positive."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I better go check on my boys before Giles has to move all these books, again." With that she stood and started down the hall.

Willow turned Oz to and asked, "Her boys?"

"Freudian slip, when you say one thing and mean a mother."

Willow chuckled and looked down the hall. Oh yeah, things sure are getting interesting.

Chapter 7

Willow, Oz, and Giles just settled down to some serious research when Buffy came running through the room and out the front door. It took them a second to overcome their surprise, but they soon were on their way towards the door, only to be met by the returning slayer.


"What, what is it Buffy?"

"They are gone."

Giles couldn't have heard her right. "Excuse me, did you say gone?"

"Yeah Giles, as in not here." Buffy continued to swear under her breath as she began to pace.

Willow wasn't quite clear on the matter. "But Buffy how could they be gone we've been here the whole time, they couldn't just disappear,.,., OH NO, they didn't just disappear did they?"

"What?" Buffy looked confused. "No, they were gone when I got there, it looks like they went out the window."

"But you went back there like, ten minutes ago."

Buffy looked guiltily at the ground, "Well I kinda,.,.,"

That was when Willow noticed the marked improvement in Buffy's makeup, and gave her a knowing glance.

Buffy smiled and shrugged, "A girls gotta freshen up sometime."

"Why would they leave, Xander and Angel never do anything together." Willow looked at Buffy who looked equally confused.

"Except save Buffy."

Everyone turned to Oz who merely shrugged. "What? From what you guys have said, it's the only time they seem to get along."

"Oh my!"

They now all turned to Giles, who had the look of someone who, after looking for their glasses for an hour, discovers them on their head.

Buffy was immediately in Giles face. "What is it?"

"I must double check the prophecy immediately, something just occurred to me that I had not considered." Giles turned and rushed back into the apartment, followed quickly by Willow and Oz, while Buffy turned to look into the night.

Buffy was quiet for a moment then yelled into the night. "I'M GONNA KILL YOU GUYS!?!"


As they drove along Xander could feel the vampires eyes on him, Angel had been giving him this silent stare since he had helped him out the window and to the car. Finally he couldn't take it anymore.


"You know Xander, something has occurred to me these last few days, watching your little act."

"And what would that be?"

"You scare me."

Xander's eyes opened wide and he stole a glance at his partner in crime. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Let me ask you this, Buffy and Willow are your friends right?"

"My best friends, again what are you getting at?"

"It's just bugging me, if they are your friends, how come they bought this goofy act you've been putting on. It's like they don't know you, or don't really pay attention, they just see this guy always making stupid jokes. I've seen your real face."

Xander turned and looked at Angel. "First of all, my jokes are not stupid, your sense of humor just happens to be as dead as you are. And second what do you mean by my real face?"

"When you think your friends are in danger and drop the comedy act, you are quiet, cold, and viscous. I think you would do anything to keep them safe, there's no line you wouldn't cross. Then when that moment of danger has passed, you put back on your Xander mask and go on like nothing happened. You don't even mention these events to them, Buffy has no idea about the times you stood up to my demon, or even how you forced me to go after her into the Master's Lair. If you thought for a minute right now that I would be a danger to them you would put a stake in me without blinking wouldn't you?"

Xander was quiet for a minute as the vampire silently watched him, then he smiled, "Well, I might blink a little, after all, all those ashes burn when they get in your eyes."

Angels laughter echoed down they highway as they road into the night.


Buffy, Willow, and Oz sat watching Giles as he read through the prophecy one more time. The watcher started to shake his head then stood and threw the book across the room.


Buffy felt her stomach grow cold and heavy, "Giles, what is it."

"You know I should have figured it out," Giles continues in a singsong voice, "So Giles where would this portal be? Giles, would this White Knight have to wait for a certain time or could he close the portal when he liked. Giles how would he close the portal. DAMNIT!" Giles was suddenly stopped and spun around to face a slayer clearly near the edge.


"I'm sorry Buffy, It was Oz's statement about Xander and Angel only working together to save you that made it all clear."

Willow put her hands on Buffy's shoulders to calm her down then turned to Giles. "Giles, what exactly is clear?"

"It struck me as odd, how helpful Xander was being he was much more inquisitive then was his norm, but I took it as a turn for the good. I should have known better." Giles walked to where the book had come to rest, picked it up and started flipping through it as he walked towards the three worried friends.

"The soul twice lost and found shall return, and with him salvation. He knows of the one who can stand-alone and seal the portal. A protector unlooked for but not unseen. A white knight in the darkness, and this soul shall hold the key,.,.,.," Giles looked up at them expectantly but was greeted by looks of incomprehension. "Don't you see, it speaks of Angel's return, and with him salvation. Angel brings the answer. What did Angel bring with him?"

Buffy's mind was racing but she couldn't get around the feeling of dread that threatened to overwhelm her. "Angel didn't bring anything, I mean Xander said he had some things in the car, but I didn't see anything."

But Oz suddenly saw what Giles was getting at. "Oh."

Willow turned to her boyfriend and saw the pained look on his face. "From your expression I'm sure I will regret this but, Oh what?"

"The only thing that Angel brought with him was,.,.," Oz looked from Willow to Giles who nodded. "Xander."

Buffy suddenly became very pale. "Oh no, Xander." She whispered.

"Yes Buffy, Xander. Now that I know I can't believe I didn't see it. He always was determined to protect you. Whether it was going on patrol with you or forcing Angel to guide him to the Master's layer. A protector unlooked for but not unseen. Yes,., I'm afraid Xander is our white knight, and now thanks to the information he was able to extract from me he is going to try to seal the portal by himself."

Buffy felt like she wasn't standing on solid ground, this was just to much to fast. So she focused on the smallest surprise that she had had in the last thirty seconds. "Xander forced Angel to come with him to save me?"

"You didn't know? Well I shouldn't be surprised I suppose, it seems Xander is better at keeping secrets than I would have supposed. As a matter of fact I learned this from Angel, and when I tried to breach the subject with Xander he suddenly exclaimed his immediate need for a ho-ho and left the room. Now I wonder if there are more such episodes that Mr. Harris failed to bring to our attention. The fact that Angel is in on this would lead me to believe that perhaps there were more encounters between he and Xander, or perhaps Angelus and Xander, enough to convince him that Xander was the one spoken of in the prophecy."

"But why did they leave?" Oz asked.

"Xander probably thinks we would try to stop him, especially now because we found out about his injury." Willow shook her head as she thought of her life long friend. "He can be so darn aggravating."

Buffy was on the verge of panic. "Giles we still have 2 days to find another way, we have got to stop him. Where is the portal?"

Giles sighed and taking off his glasses, rubbed his eyes. "If one where to want to find a magical portal that could release horrific demons to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world, where would one go."

Buffy nodded as she returned the tired look in Giles eyes. "The hellmouth, in the Master's layer."

Chapter 8

Not a word had been spoken since they had started for the cemetary, the silence was broken by Willow.

"Oz, could you go a little faster."

Oz answered the whispered request by simply going faster.

"Thank you."

They lapsed back into silence until Buffy felt compelled to speak.


Giles turned to look at his slayer and found her staring off into the night.

"Yes Buffy?"

Buffy continued to look into the darkness as she asked, "Why Xander?"

"I'm sorry?"

Willow turned to Buffy and found her holding back the same tears that threatened to fall form her own eyes.

"Why you Buffy? Why any of us?"

Giles nodded. "Willow is correct, we all have our parts to play, we all have to meet our own destiny."

"Maybe the codex is wrong this time. I mean prophecies can be wrong, look at me!"

Giles put his hand softly on Buffy's shoulder, when she finally turned to meet his gaze, he explained as gently as he could.

"Buffy, you were fated to die at the hands of the Master, and that you did, in fact the only reason you are here now is because,.,., well,.,., to put it simply,.,., Xander."

At those words Buffy's breath caught in her throat. While what Giles had said was true, none of them had ever just come right out and said it. Xander hadn't saved her life, he had given her a new one, and until this moment the magnitude of that gift had never really registered with the slayer. If not for her "Xander shaped friend" her world would have ended in the fear and darkness of the Master's Lair.

* I'll be damned if I let his end that way. *

"Faster Oz!!!"


So far their journey into the dark underbelly of Sunnydale had been uneventful. They were halfway to the Master's lair, and no hint of vampires or demons, this made Xander very nervous.

"We almost there Deadboy?"

Anger looked at his human companion, face flushed, sweat beading up on his face, and panting. The boy did not look good.

"Maybe we should rest here a minute."

At that Xander had to laugh. "Your right, if I'm going to die, I should be well rested. Only for a minute though, we don't want the others catching up with us."

"Maybe that would be for the best?"

At that Xander stood, leaning against the tunnel wall.

"Your not backing out on me now are you?"

"Relax Xander, I'm not backing out on you, but you should have at least told them good-bye."

Xander grinned. "Taken care of."

"What do you mean taken care of?"

"Don't worry about it," Xander said as he began to make his way further down the tunnel. "C'mon, we better get going."

"Your worried they are going to talk you out of it."

Xander stopped and turned, looking back at the vampire.

"If anyone should be worried, it's you Angel."

Confusion crossed Angel's face.

"And just why is that?"

"Let me see, I'm the injured friend, running the high fever that is probably affecting my judgment as I try to sacrifice myself for the greater good, you on the other hand, are the healthy, for a dead guy, EX- boyfriend, in full possession of his faculties, who is helping one of her best buds to his impending death."

Angel stared quietly at Xander for a minute, then moved to his side and pulling Xander's arm across his shoulders said, "Lean on me we'll make better time."

As they made their way deeper into the shadows, the only sounds that could be heard were the drip drip of water and Xander's soft chuckling.


They were almost to the master's chamber and they still hadn't run into a single vampire, that is when their luck ran out.

They found the passage blocked in front of them by four vampires stepping into view under one of the few working lights in these tunnels.

Xander turned to his cohort and asked, "Friends of yours?"

Angel's eyes didn't leave the vamps in front of them.

"Nope, and there are five more behind us."

Xander turned to see five shadowy figures and turned back to Angel.

"You take them." Xander pulled away from Angel and began to tumble toward the four he could actually see. "These guys are mine."

Angel nodded and turned to wait for the five to come to him.

As Xander limped along trying to get into range, the four vamps waited for him with bemused expressions on their faces.

"Oh no, look, the one legged man is coming to kick our asses. What's the old joke about the one legged man in the ass kicking contest."

At this the vampires burst into laughter, and the one who had spoken stepped forward.

"Well, c'mon gimpy, we haven't got all day, Here I am. See if you can ki.,.,"


The vampire never got to finish his sentence, turning to dust and blowing away tends to limit ones vocabulary.

The remaining vamps looked at Xander with open mouths.

"What can I say, I hate long winded speeches." Xander grinned.

The largest vamp pushed one of the smaller ones forward. "GET HIM."

The smaller vamp turned his back to Xander to argue.

"What the hell do you mean get him. Did you see what he did to Jooeee.,,"


The two remaining vamps looked at Xander with hate and a little fear in their eyes.

"I also hate being ignored."

Xander had hoped they would run, but apparently these two were kind of attached to their small friend. They exchanged glances and then charged.

Xander managed to get a shot off, dusting the vamp in the lead, leaving the largest one still coming.

Unfortunately it takes two seconds for his wrist shot to cycle and build up enough pressure to fire again, and that was a second more than he had.

As the large vamp closed on him he swung with his elbow and connected with the vamps nose, getting the satisfaction of feeling bone splinter.

The satisfaction was short lived, as the full weight of his opponent struck him causing his injured leg to crumble under him, and he found himself on the ground with a very angry vampire on top of him trying to rip out his throat.

Xander managed to get one arm under the vamp's chin and keep his fangs away, but his other arm, the one with his now ready weapon, was trapped between them.

He knew it wouldn't be a killing shot, and it was the last one before he would have to reload, but the fangs slowly approaching his jugular convinced him.

*Maybe it will buy me some time.*


He was expecting a yelp, a menacing growl, maybe a little cursing, but the agonized howl took him totally by surprise.

The vamp rolled off of him and Xander with the help of the tunnel wall, brought himself to a standing position. He turned to see his opponent curled up in the fetal position emitting a high pitched keening.

He took the chance to put in a new clip of spikes and a new compressed air cartridge, then turned back to his foe.

With his foot he turned the vampire, taking note of the trail of blood tears on the vamp's face. When he saw where his spike had struck home he couldn't help but wince.

Taking aim he said, "That's why coach told us to always wear a cup." And with one quick shot he put the vampire out of its misery.

Chapter 9

As Oz's van pulled to a stop beside Xander's car, Buffy was already out of the vehicle and on the move. Oz, Willow, and Giles quickly followed her.

As Buffy reached the front of the mausoleum she turned to the others.

"Well, they are here, but how much of a head start do they have on us?"

Giles placed his hand on the hood of the convertible.

"They are at least 15 minutes ahead of us."

"DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!!" Buffy punctuated each word with punches to the crypt wall that crumbled mortar and loosened brick.

Willow approached her friend holding out a belt holding a line of wooden stakes.

"Buffy, we have to get him."

Buffy took the belt and grabbed Willow's hand. Neither said a word as they looked into each other's eyes making unspoken promises. Their silence ended in a hug and then Buffy turned and started for the crypt.

"I have point, Willow, OZ, you follow me, keep your eyes open. Giles you've got our backs. Let's bring him home.

And with that four very determined people walked into darkness for the sake of their family.


Xander barely had time to watch the dust settle on his latest kill when the sounds of fighting brought him back to reality.

He stumbled around and saw that Angel had managed to dispose of two of his opponents, the remaining three were beginning to wear him down.

"Hey Deadboy, you need a hand, your lookin out of breath,.,., but then again that's normal for you?"

The three vampires had begun to circle Angel.

"Xander, have I ever told you just how much you bug me?"

"The way your fist connected with my face last fall kind of clued me in."

Apparently the vampires didn't like to be ignored. The one currently in front of Angel looked to the other two who had taken up positions on either side of him, and yelled, "KILL HIM!"

The two immediately rushed Angel who brought his arms up as if to grab them, Xander was almost as surprised as the vampires when at the last second, two long wooden spikes shot out of Angel's sleeve neatly impaling his attackers.

As the dust settled Angel turned to Xander with an expression the boy had never seen on his face before, at least not while he had his soul.

"Holy stupid grin, Batman, where do you get those wonderful toys?"

Angel laughed, "Look who's talking, what with you and that weird wrist,.,.,., thingy!"

Xander started to chuckle. "Did you just say thingy?"

Angel actually looked embarrassed but grinned harder.

"Uh, how about,.,.,., doohickey?"

At that Xander snorted.


As Xander was trying to control his laughter he noticed two things. 1. He almost didn't hate Angel, and that bugged him, and 2. The vampire that they had been ignoring had found a rather wicked looking spear and appeared to be about use Angel for target practice.

Xander didn't think, he just reacted, he reached out and grabbed Angel's collar, pulling him forward and tripping him to the ground, while at the same time firing his wrist shot.

Angel picked himself up off the ground looking back as the last of the vampire drifted to the ground.

"Good shot."


As Angel heard the pain in the barely whispered reply he quickly spun around to find Xander pinned like a butterfly to the wall, the spear protruding from his left shoulder.

"It's just not my day is it?"

Angel rushed to Xander looking closely at his wound. His eyes wondered up to meet Xander's.

"What did you do that for, I probably could have blocked it?"

Xander tried to shrug but winced when the spear prevented it.

"Somebody's got to be here to look after Buffy."

Angel grabbed the spear. "This is gonna hurt."

Angel pulled, Xander screamed, then fell to the ground. Angel tossed the spear to the side as he knelt beside him applying pressure to stop the flow of the blood.

"Damn Xander, that doesn't look good."

"What's the matter Deadboy, my blood not good enough for you?"

Angel shook his head as the boy laughed, "You need medical attention."

Angel started to rise, but Xander reached out and grabbed him pulling him back to his level.

"What for, so I can die healthy? I have to get to that portal, or everyone buys it. You. Have. To. Get. Me. There."

Angel was silent for a moment before he nodded.

Xander sighed and lay back against the wall, letting Angel go. The vampire rose and picked up Xander getting a really close look at the boy.

"You know Xander, I think you are officially paler than me."

Xander chuckled weakly, "Cool, I understand slayers dig that in a guy."

Angel replied with a chuckle of his own, "Come on hero, let's go." Angel shifted Xander in his arms and resumed their journey to the Master's layer.


"Yeah Xander."

"I think we better hurry."

Chapter 10

Buffy was getting really anxious, they had been on the move for ten minutes and had encountered no resistance, and no sign of any recent struggles on their way towards the Master's lair.

This had a good side and a bad side in Buffy's mind. On the plus Angel and Xander hadn't met any trouble and were probably relatively OK, on the minus, nothing had slowed them down so they probably had a good start on them.

Buffy stopped as she came to a fork in the tunnel, when she was down here last time she hadn't been exactly in the frame of mind to take note of local landmarks. Soon Oz and Willow caught up to her and Giles was not far behind.

Willow met her friend's eyes, "Any sign that we're catching up with them?"

Buffy shook her head, "No,.,.,., no blood, no dust, not even an empty Twinkie wrapper."

"It appears we have a decision to make," Giles said indicating their two possible directions. "Oz?"

Oz sniffed the air for a minute then pointed down the left passage. "Xander is that way."

Giles had been meaning to as Oz something, "Your sense of smell isn't what it would be in your lupine form, how are you certain that we are on the correct path.

Oz was reluctant to answer, knowing the effect the information would have on the group, but the way everyone was looking at him convinced him he really didn't have a choice.

"His leg, I can smell the blood."

Giles began to rub his nose, pushing his glasses up. "I was afraid of that."

"Why Giles?", Willow asked, her nervousness very apparent.

"Willow, if Oz in his less than top form can smell the blood, then,.,.,"

"Then so can other things," Buffy finished. "DAMN."

Buffy continued to swear, she had been doing that a lot lately. "So even if they haven't hit trouble yet, with Xander smelling like dinner, that probably is going to change."

Giles nodded, "I'm afraid so."

Buffy turned to start down the left tunnel as she spoke, "Well we had better going, who knows,.,.,,"

Buffy was interrupted by what sounded like the echoes of a scream.

Willow, Oz, and Giles exchanged glances then Willow whispered, "That sounded like,.,.,"

Oz finished the sentence for her. "Xander!"

That's when they noticed that they were now alone in the tunnel, there was no sign of the slayer.

"BLOODY HELL," Giles started to follow the path the slayer had taken. "It would appear Buffy came to the same conclusion, come, let us catch her before something else goes wrong.

Giles rushed to catch his slayer, Willow and Oz close behind, with worry in his heart. Buffy might be able to handle herself, but in her current state of mind he feared she might do something rash, and usually that was Xander's job. Leaping headfirst into the deepest amount of danger seemed to be a latent talent in the boy, how he had managed to survive let alone save the lives of almost everyone in the group over the years, was beyond the watcher. In fact if they all lived through this he and the boy would have to have a very long chat. His reverie was cut short as they came around a bend in the tunnel to discover a frantic slayer pacing back in front of a fork in the tunnel.

"OZ, get over here, C'mon. Which way."

Oz was never one to be surprised but when the slayer grabbed his shirt and lifted him off of his feet, surprised would be and understatement.


Oz blinked as Buffy screamed in his face.

"Buffy, put him down." Giles said as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "We all have the same goal, to find them and bring them home safely, this will not help."

Willow peeked over her boyfriend's shoulder and smiled at her friend. "And beside Buffy, I kind of like all his parts where they are, no rearranging necessary."

Oz raised a hand. "I second that motion."

Buffy's eyes started to tear up as she suddenly dropped the werewolf. "I'm sorry guys, I'm just really startin to wig here, I don't know what's wrong with me."

Willow had her ideas but now was not the time. "We can figure all this out after everyone is safe."

Buffy nodded as Giles looked to Oz who sampled the air.

"He went this way." Oz pointed down the right tunnel and Buffy started to move when she found herself restrained by the musician.

"How about I take lead, just in case any more forks come up." Buffy looked like she was about to argue when Oz added with a grin. "It won't even cost you a Scooby snack."

Buffy slowly smiled and held her hand out. "After you." And once again the hunt was on.


Angel was not happy, the day had started badly and just gotten worse. He looked down at the pale face of the boy he was carrying, who seemed to be struggling to keep his eyes open.

"How you holding up there Xander?"

Xander looked at him with an exaggerated grin and gave him a thumbs up, "Getting my second wind man, I feel fine."

"Yeah, you may feel fine, but you look like shit. You've lost a lot of blood."

Xander gave the vampire the "are you crazy" look.

"PFFF, your worry to much, I mean look how fast we're moving and I'm not even breathing hard."

"That would be because I'm carrying you moron."

A surprised look crossed Xander's face for a moment. He looked in the direction they were heading, then at himself, then at Angel.

"I knew that."

Angel just smiled.

"No really, I knew,.,., never mind. Are we there yet?"

"As a matter of fact."

Angel came to a stop as they passed through the entrance to the Master's chamber.

Xander looked around the chamber taking in the damage the rather large explosion in the school above had caused.

"Well there goes that chance at the "Good Housekeeping "cover."

Angel chuckled and moved further into the room. As they walked passed a rather large rock that used to be part of the ceiling, three men came into view.

Two of them Angel had never seen before. One was a tall blond, with blue eyes, wearing a tailored white suit, the other tall and dark, in a matching black suit.

The third man Angel had no trouble recognizing, only one person wears clothes that loud.

"Whistler, what are you doing here?"

The shorter man moved forward, "Hiya kid, good to see you again. Jeez, your buddy here's seen better days."

Xander was looking the demon up and down, then noticing Whistler was looking at him decided he should say something.

"Nice suit."

Chapter 11

Willow studied the slayer in front of her as they moved through the darkness of the tunnels. Buffy was totally focused on the task at hand. She hadn't glanced back once to check on the witch or the watcher.

On the other hand she jumped at the slightest motion from Oz, as if she was expecting bad news, and since the werewolf was following the blood scent of their friend, Willow couldn't blame her.

Looking back she couldn't pick out many memories that didn't have Xander connected to them in some way, and though she didn't need him to act as an umbrella for her against the rest of the world any longer, he was still family and the thought of losing him was making her physically ill.

Her reverie was cut short as the tunnel flared out into a cavern and Oz slowed to a stop.

Oz scented the air then turned to his expectant friends.

"It gets stronger here."

Willow stepped forward and almost fell when something rolled under her foot. She stooped to pick up the object and stood to examine it. What she held was a small wooden spike with a metal base.

"What is this?"

Giles and Buffy were immediately at her side. Giles reaching out a hand.

"May I?"

Willow handed him the spike and as the watcher began to examine it Buffy turned her attention to the floor.

"I'm not certain, it would seem to be a weapon, but at this size I'm not sure how effective it would be."

Buffy stood and glanced at her watcher.

"Well the fact that you two are standing in a pile of ashes makes me think it might just of had an effect, don't ya think?"

Giles looked down and upon seeing that Buffy was correct was about to reply, when they were called by Oz.

"Guys! Over here!"

They all moved towards Oz, who appeared to be holding a long wooden spear, and as they came closer the blood on it's tip gave them all a feeling of dread.

"Oh my," Giles dreaded his next question, but it had to be asked. "Is it,.,.,"

Oz let out the breath he had been holding and nodded. "It's Xander's."

Upon investigating the scene they found where Xander had been pinned to the wall, and where he had fallen after the spear had been removed.

"There's so much blood."

It was barely a whisper but they all heard the slayer. Looking at Buffy they found her paler than the vampires she hunted nightly, and a slight trembling had started to spread throughout her body.


The slayer didn't respond so Giles put his hand on her shoulders and gave her a small shake.


The girl finally blinked and looked the watcher in the eye.

"Yes, there is a lot of blood, but Xander is not here! He is either on his way to seal the portal, or he has been taken. We must find him, save him, even if it's from himself, and then get him medical attention. The faster we find them the faster we can all leave here."

Buffy finally nodded and turned to Oz.

"Can you tell which way they went from here?"

Oz nodded pointed down a dark corridor.

"Well then, lead on McGruff."

Oz smiled at that. "You know I think that violated more than one international punning law." He then turned and started to follow the scent once again.

As Buffy walked by Willow, the witch spoke softly.

"Buffy, I'm sure Angel is looking after him."

The slayer looked at her friend with a deep sadness, and then turned her gaze to a spot somewhere behind her.

"I hope so Will, I hope so."

As the slayer moved away, Willow turned her head to see where her friend had been looking. She blanched when she saw what Buffy had been looking at. The pile of ashes she had been standing in.

"Oh please, let them be OK."

Chapter 12

Whistler looked at the boy suspiciously.

"You like my suit?"

"Yeah," Xander nodded, "I'm a big fan of colors that only occur in yarn and polyester."

The demon examined his face for any signs of sarcasm, finding none he turned his gaze to the vampire.

Angel shrugged and shifted the boy's weight in his arms.

"He has lost a lot of blood."

Looking back and forth from the boy to the vampire, Whistler finally gave up and turned, walking back to his companions.

"Yeah right, whatever, let's get down to business."

As he walked away Xander turned to Angel.

"Friend of yours?"

"I wouldn't go that far, but I do know him. He's a balance demon."

"What's he do, juggle bowling pins while walking a tight rope, how evil is that? Now if he was a clown demon, that would be,.,.,."

Xander was interrupted by the clearly exasperated vampire. "No Xander, he works to maintain the balance between good and evil."

For a second Xander was at a loss for words and confusion was evident on his face.

"Balance between good and evil?"

Angel nodded.

"So what the hell is he doing here?"

Angel pondered this as he let his gaze fall on the three figures waiting for them.

"Very good question, I'm wondering who his two friends are?"

"Well if you want me to be around when you find out, we should get over there."

Angel looked at the very pale face of Xander Harris then shaking his head began to make his way towards Whistler and company. As they came to a stop in front of them an awkward silence fell on the chamber as everyone seemed to be sizing up the other occupants of the room.

Finally Xander patted Angel on the cheek and fluttered his eyes.

"You better put me down now Honey, before the demons start to talk."

The vampire looked at him with a completely straight face and replied, "Yes dear."

Angel set the boy down carefully, and Xander was fine for a few seconds before he started to sway back and forth, and he would have pitched headfirst onto the plaid clad demon if Angel hadn't stabilized him.

"Thanks man."

Angel nodded as whistler stepped forward being nudged by the two behind him. The vampire took a minute to study the two "men" closer.

Tall, athletic looking, wearing identical suits save for the color. The blonde in white seemed possessed of a inner calm that was reflected in his cold blue eyes, while the man in black, with matching hair and eyes as dark as storm clouds, seemed to exude anger from his very pores.

*A very odd pair. Something here isn't right.*

Standing before him, Whistler cleared his throat.

"It is time."

"Good, I hate waiting."

Xander took a shaky step forward raising hands.

"I'm all yours."

It was at this point that Xander was grabbed from behind, spun around and came face to face with one of the most frightening things he had ever seen. A very pissed off slayer.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Buffy hissed through her teeth.

Looking from the face of the slayer, to the equally upset faces of a watcher, a werewolf, and a witch, only two words seemed appropriate at that moment.

"Oh shit."

Chapter 13

In The Master's Lair.

Xander put on his best grin and laying on all the charm he could, asked, "So Buffy, what's a nice girl like you doing in a dark, damp, den of evil like this?"

The slayer was not affected in the least, and the dark scowl on her angelic face, made Xander wonder if he would live long enough to sacrifice himself for his friends. He didn't have to wonder long.

"I'm going to kill you Xander Harris!" Buffy hissed, and punctuated her declaration with a hard poke to Xander's chest.

In his current condition that was all it took to send him to the cavern floor.

"good start." Came the whisper from a very horizontal Xander.

"OH GOD, I'm so sorry Xan."

Buffy was beside him immediately, really looking at her friend for the first time since she had caught up with him. He was definitely worse for wear. His leg had started bleeding again, and there was a new wound that appeared to go completely through his shoulder.

He was a bloody mess.

She put a hand to his pale head, finding that his fever was running rampant. She brushed his hair back and looked down into his eyes.

"You're hot."

Xander grinned and looked up at Angel who was now standing over them.

"You see that dead boy, the slayer is finally coming to her senses." He laughed then gave the vampire a wink.

"Tell me Buff, it was the boxers right," He looked from the slayer to Angel and added, "Chicks dig the boxers."

Buffy blushed and gently smacked him on the head.

"I meant you have a fever Goofus."

Xander waggled his eyebrows. "I get you Buffy, we wouldn't want Gallant to get jealous now would we. It will be our little secret."

"What am I going to do with you?" Buffy asked with a smile.

"Well considering our current position I have a few suggestions."

A sudden sound drew Xander's attention, somewhere between a laugh and a sob, his eyes fell on the face of his lifelong friend, and tears ran freely down Willow's face, a sharp contrast to the smile on her lips. There were so many emotions in the witch's face that he couldn't make them all out.

He could never stand to see Willow cry.

"Oh Wills, it will be alright."

Willow looked sadly at her friend. "How?"

"I,.,.,. Wills,.,.," Xander was at a loss.

Willow stepped forward and asked her question again.

"How Xander, how exactly is it going to be all right? Tell me, I really want to know, you were planning on leaving us here without you."

Xander couldn't meet his friend's eyes and turned his gaze to the slayer at his side, the tears in her eyes made his breath catch.

At this moment Whistler decided to step forward.

"I hate to interrupt this Kodak moment but we have business to take care of."

When he saw the look on the slayer's face he thought he was probably going to regret those words, and upon finding himself suddenly airborne he was certain.

Chapter 14

Whistler had never actually been hit by a slayer before, and as a matter of fact he couldn't really state that he had in fact been hit by a slayer this time, but suddenly finding himself a good 20 feet away from his previous position and looking up at the roof of the cavern led him to believe that that was exactly what happened. As he rose to his feet and began dusting himself off, he decided he would avoid the wisecracks when dealing with a pissed of slayer,.,.,., or at least stand further away.

As he started back towards the group Buffy assumed a fighting stance blocking his way towards Xander.

"Easy girl, we're not here to make a your boy do anything against his will."

She glanced back over her shoulder to see Giles checking on Xander.

"How is he Giles?"

The watcher looked up at her shaking his head. "If he's to have a chance, we have to get him medical assistance immediately."

Buffy turned her attention back to Whistler, "Pay attention to me plaid boy, we are going to take our friend and leave here, and nobody, " Buffy looked to Whistler's two companions, "and I mean nobody, is going to stop us."


The word, though softly spoken, made Buffy flinch. She turned to it's source.

"You are in no condition to be making serious decisions Xander, we are taking you out of here."

Xander groaned as he slowly sat up pushing Giles away from him.

"No Buffy, your not, I came here for a reason, this is the only way."

"Dammit Xander, we still have time, we don't know that."

At this Whistler chimed in, "Actually slayer, you don't."

Buffy whirled on the demon causing him to flinch.

"What the hell do you mean, we have almost two days before the deadline."

"It's true, it's true, but I'm afraid as soon as those concerned present themselves to the gatekeeper," Whistler used both hands to indicate himself, "The decision must be made."

Using Giles as a climbing post Xander got to his feet and stumbled towards Buffy.

"You see Buff, decision time, my decision, mine."

Giles, Willow, and Buffy began to talk all at once trying to talk Xander out of such a sudden rash decision, soon Whistler joined in and the argument continued until,.,.,


The only sound that could now be heard in cavern were the fading echoes of the man in black's voice, and as those faded, silence ruled.

Leaning on the Slayer for support Xander whispered in her ear, "Kinda reminds ya of Mr. Moncheck in fourth period study hall don't it Buff,.,.,., Buff?"

Xander turned to look at his friend and found her standing perfectly still.

"Buff, what's up, you in there?"

He noticed her eyes were scanning the room and then focused on him, asking a silent question.

Xander spun to look at the others and found that that was not such a good idea.

"When did this wall get here?"

That's when he noticed that someone appeared to be standing on the wall, his eyes followed the legs up to their source.

"Hey Buff, you're the slayer, not Spiderman."

It was about this time that Xander realized that the wall he was leaning against was in fact the floor.


Xander started to get up but found that gravity appeared to have been slipped into overdrive, and he only succeeded in repositioning himself on top of Buffy's feet. Rolling to his side he tried to wipe off some of the Blood he had left behind.

"Sorry Buff, I know how you are about shoes." Xander started to giggle at himself.

"Hey Kid."

Xander turned to find Whistler bending over him.

"Hey Demon.", again Xander started to giggle.

Whistler hauled Xander to his feet and draped him over the slayer to ensure that he didn't end up on the ground. He looked at the two of them for a moment then smiled.

"Thank me later." Whistler whispered in Xander's ear then stepped back and spoke for everyone to hear.

"Ok, we have some unfinished business to attend to."

Whistler cleared his throat and continued.

"Alexander Lavelle Harris,.,.,"

"Here." Xander piped in.

Whistler shrugged. "Uh, Right,.,., Do you present yourself here of your own free w,.,.,"

Xander began to talk as he appeared to study the immobile slayer.

"You know Buff, you don't mind if I call ya Buff, do you Buff? You know you have the most amazing eyes, did I ever tell you that?"

Whistler stepped towards the boy, "Uh you wanna work with me here kid, this is kinda important."

"And your nose, I don't know what it is, but,.,., Damn it's got to be the bestest nose that Xander knows." He punctuated his statement with a gentle tap and then began to giggle again.

Whistler was about to try again when he was silenced by the man in black.

"Don't bother Demon, it is clear how things must proceed from here."

The man in white stepped forward, "Agreed, Mr. Harris has stepped forward to fulfill the prophesy."

At that the man in black began to laugh, "I don't think so, he is in no position to "seal the deal ", now they must all step forward."

"Of course, leave it to you to be greedy, It was agreed that if Mr. Harris offered his life, then the balance would be restored, and the others would be spared."

"Yes it was, but look at him."

They all turned to look at the young man who was trying his best not to slide off of the slayer as he continued to laugh and talk to her.

The Man in Black turned to his associate and grinned.

"How can he offer what he has already lost, he will be dead within the hour."