Necromancer's Journeys

Author: Danii <debrabantknight[at]>

Disclaimer: I own no one. Don't sue. I get no pay from this, just great big headaches and strange stares.

Distribution: Anywhere that sends me it's URL and asks

Rating: PG13

Summary: Xander heads to LA after the events of "Necromancer's Beginnings" thinking he'll get some time to figure out how he's going to live his life. He was wrong...

Relationships: None I'm willing to tell you about...yet.

Anyway, here you go:

Chapter 1

Xander had been in LA for a week, and he still didn't know what to do. Actually, he knew what he should do, but he didn't know if he should do it. He would sit in the little motel room he was using, his feet propped up on his suitcase, with his hand held just over the phone. His fingers itched to dial the number Oz had given them all so long ago. But he couldn't do it.

He hadn't lied to Buffy and the rest. He needed to be alone for a while, go on a trip, clear his mind. But, the little voice at the back of his mind screamed at him, the only people he had to be away from were the Scoobies. He had needed a breather from them, from the way things were, from the way things were changing. He had needed to get away and deal with his deeds. And the only person who could help him do that was a few blocks and a phone call away. However, the distance was far greater due to the fact that he wasn't willing to make the call.

But Xander was getting bored of going out every night to clubs, picking up girls, then leaving before they could invite him home or something. So, he had to do it. However, just as he finally was about to pick of the phone and dial, it rang.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me..." Xander grumbled. It was his luck. "Finally get enough nerve to call and the damn phone rings..."

Despite his annoyance, he picked it up and pulled it to his ear. "Hello?" he said, a bit disgruntled.

"Good day, Mr. Harris, or rather, Mr. LaVelle," a smooth, oily voice on the other end greeted, "I'm calling from the law firm of Wolfram & Hart..."

"Yes?" Xander replied, still angry that he'd been interrupted from making his call. Besides, what good news did a lawyer bring?

"Then you are Mr. LaVelle?"

"Call me Harris..." Xander answered shortly. He preferred his mother's name, since it was the one he had grown up using. That, and he still wasn't sure if it was a good thing to be a LaVelle. He wanted to be careful.

"Fine, Mr. Harris..." the oily voice said with a bit of a smirk in its tone, "Anyway, Mr. Harris, we at Wolfram & Hart are offering you a rather unique opportunity to use our illustrious firm."


"In other words, Mr. Harris..." it said, "We'd like to hire you."

Xander was completely dumbfounded. What was this guy talking about? A job? At a law firm? He hadn't even gotten into college! And what special skills did he mean?

"What sort of job?" the young Necromancer asked suspiciously, "Using what skills with what pay?"

"A rather unique and excellent position using your INBORN talents at RAISING certain...things with one of the finest salaries available in that market..."

Was he possibly talking about his necromantic abilities? He couldn't but...Xander's conscience was kicking him in the ass, but he asked anyway, "How much money?"

"Six figures" the voice told him simply.

The young man whistled. That was a lot of money for doing what came naturally. But he knew there had to be a catch.

"What exactly will I be doing for your...firm?"

"You will be used at some points to house clients, at which times you will be responsible for the client's well-being." The voice informed him, "We are sure that with your rather unique assets you will be able to hold off almost anything that would try to cause trouble. You will also be used, at some points, as 'brute force'. But that will be rare, and we will put you in the firm's special training facility before that. But mostly, you will be 'raising' certain people's from their 'rest' in order certify or deny certain documents when needed, and other such things..."

"So I'll be your pet Necromancer?" Xander asked, his voice a bit hard. His uncle's warning rang in his head, telling him to beware those who seek to use his gift. Then again...six figures...

There was a pause, then the voice answered, "In short, yes."

"Okay, as long as we're clear..."

"Crystal." The voice said, "Now, are you interested?"

Xander was divided. He didn't know anything about these people who seemed to know so very much about him, but it was a job, a good paying one, which could help him in his studies. Then again, why would these people need a Necromancer in their firm? It confused him, so he didn't want to decide without more information.

"I'll think about it." Xander answered finally, "Give me around a week to contact you."

"Fine, Mr. Harris..." it responded, sounding a bit disappointed, and almost angry, "Please call. And don't forget what we're offering: a rather unique opportunity that could be dangerous to turn down. Our number is 555-6667..."

The young Necromancer was about to ask what 'danger' the voice was talking about, but he heard the click that told him that the other person (had it been a person? He couldn't tell whether it was a man or woman...) had hung up. But he didn't like the sound of it. So he did the only thing he could think of. He made his call.


"Hello," a familiar cheery female voice exclaimed, "Angel Investigations! We help the hopeless!"

"Cordelia, it's me, Xander..."

Xander could practically hear the expression of disgust on her face. "You again? What the heck do you want this time? Last time you called, the boss had a fit!"

"I promise I won't do it again, Cordy," Xander replied, his voice pleading with her, "Can I come over for a bit to see you guys? I gotta few questions and stuff..."

"Sure, come right over." Cordy answered, sounding bored now, "I'm guessing you're in LA now?"


"Yeah, so just head over. As long as you don't take up time from paying clients, I couldn't care less..."

Xander grimaced, told her, "I'll be right over," and then hung up.

The young Necromancer got on his socks and shoes then began walking the few blocks to Angel's apartment/office building. But on the way, he was interrupted by a feeble moan in one of the alleyways.

Looking around to see who was there (no one), Xander made his way into the alley, only to see a huddled form in rags. Through the tears and gaps in the shoddy clothing, the young man could see long limp hair, still holding it's gold color despite it's dirty appearance.

"Miss? Are you all right?" Xander asked, walking closer to the young woman.

The person moaned back, long and low, as he approached. Then it began rocking back and forth.

"Miss, are you all right?" Xander asked again, his voice soft and soothing. He didn't want to scare the young woman, or what he assumed to be a young woman. It continued moaning, until Xander was right behind it. As he reached out his hand to touch the poor girl, the figure spun quickly and sprang up to reveal a ridged face and gleaming fangs.

"'Miss, are you all right?'" the vampire mocked, standing up to it's full height, which was a little shorter than Xander, "Dear me, they get more pathetic every time..."

Xander didn't respond. He just smiled.

"What are you smiling about, meat?" the vampire asked, grinning cruelly, "I've caught you, you're going to die, be upset about it!"

"No, you haven't caught anything..." Xander responded, holding his hand out to her, "and I'm not going to die."

The vampire tried to move towards him, and then stopped, as if it had hit a wall. "What is-"

"You picked the wrong deal, my dear..." the young man told her, walking around at a safe distance, "Because I happen to be a Necromancer..."

Fear shot into the vampire's eyes at that word, and she seemed to be about to say something, but then she turned to dust. Xander pulled the stake back into his sleeve, and then began walking away.

"You know, I'm glad I staked that one before she said anything..." Xander said to himself, "Anything she would have said would have wreaked the moment..."

It wasn't the first time he'd done that during his time in LA, but it never seemed to get any less satisfying. He smiled to himself, then walked the rest of the way to Angel's, made his way up, and went in.

"Hello!" Xander yelled with a laugh, "'Lucy, I'm home!'"

"Hello, Xander," Angel said, pulling away from the a wall so that he could be seen, "What brings you to our neck of the woods?"

"Me." The young Necromancer answered simply, "And the question of who the hell Wolfram & Hart are..."

There was silence.

"I was also wondering if you were aware of the vampire who was in the alley next door..."

Angel and Cordelia both looked at Xander oddly. "Was?"

"I killed it." Xander told them calmly, "What? Didn't you hear?"

"Then it's true..." Angel said solemnly, stepping towards Xander, examining him as if he was some strange new species of demon, "You're the last one..."

"The last what?" Cordy asked angrily, completely unaware of what either of them were talking about.

"Necromancer..." Xander explained, "Raiser of the dead, controller of vampires, master of Azrael's Flame..."

"Necro-what?" Cordy questioned, still completely confused. She stomped her foot angrily, then walked over to jab her finger into his chest painfully, "What are you talking about!?"

"Xander, I am guessing from Angel's reaction and the information which I have heard through the door, is a Necromancer, a person who is born with a tremendous amount of life energy and is therefore able to raise, and control, the mortal dead, as well as several other powers which are rather hard to explain..."

"Hi, Wesley..." Xander said nonchalantly, not even turning around to see the British Watcher, "How are things?"

"Quite well, as you can see." He replied, walking into the room, "By the way, Detective Lockley called, Angel. She'd like to apologize for her behavior recently."

"I'll call her back..." the souled vampire replied, still looking at Xander oddly, "This is a bit more important."

"So, Xander is like some creepy freak?" Cordy asked Wesley, having just got what everyone had been saying, "And I kissed him?"

"Several times, sweetheart..." Xander remarked, smiling giddily.

"Not a creep..." Wesley replied before the conversation could become more inane, "Think of him as a rather powerful wizard or some such."

Both Xander and Cordy looked at him. "Please."

However, before the three of them could start bickering, Angel asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I had a little trouble back in Sunnydale..." the young Necromancer replied vaguely, looking at his shoes, "And I needed to get away. So I came here-"

"And trouble found you anyway..." Angel finished. His face turned pensive, and the vampire started to pace. Wesley reached out to him, but Angel brushed him off so he could think. "What did Wolfram & Hart want with you?"

"Actually, they were offering me a job." Xander admitted with a small chuckle, "Pretty damn good one too. Six figures for getting dead guys to confirm their wills..."

Angel turned and stared at Xander heatedly. "Is that what they told you?"

"Yeah. They said that I would have several jobs, such as protecting clients and stuff, but that mostly I'd be raising people to figure out wills and stuff..."

"Why do I doubt that?" Wesley put in, beginning to pace like his boss.

"Why do I agree with him?" Angel asked solemnly.

"Why do you guys not like this? I mean it's good money just to do a little harmless raising!" Xander replied, "I just came to you to see if there was anything better in town..."

Angel stopped his movement and looked the young Necromancer straight in the eyes. "There is much better in this town, if you're willing to take a bit of a pay cut..."

"How is it better if there's a pay cut?" Xander asked, looking perplexed. He hadn't wanted to upset anyone, but for some reason this issue was bugging them.

"It's better in that you'll be helping the good guys, the ones who are fighting for our side..." Angel answered, sitting down yet still keeping eye contact, "If you go with Wolfram & Hart, I guarantee you'll be seeing me, seeing all three of us, but it will be on the nasty side of a weapon..."

"You mean Wolfram & Hart is evil? As in Hellmouth-evil as opposed to just regular-lawyer evil? " Xander asked. With all his experience in Sunnydale, he should have known better, but Xander was the universal optimist. Besides, he would think that they'd know he was friends with the Slayer, and therefore not into the evil scene.

"Bingo!" Cordy said cheerily, then her voice dropped, "We deal with these bozos all the time, and all they do is cause, help, or create trouble."


Xander slowly sat down in one of the chairs near the desk, and thought. There wasn't really much to think about. He didn't really like Angel, but he did trust him to know the difference between good and evil. Besides, when had Cordy ever lied, even to save the feelings of another person or to be tactful? Never was the answer, he knew. Finally, he made a decision, and looked up to find all eyes on him. Cordy, looking as angry as a wet cat at him even thinking of joining the enemy. Wesley studying him with eyes that he remembered as being a bit less worldly. Angel boring into his soul with his gaze, letting Xander know that he meant business; that if the two of them ever met over the edge of a blade, that Angel would, with no qualms or delays, kill him.

"Of course I'm not going to work for an evil law firm!" Xander exclaimed, making everyone in the office jump, "Duh..."

"Well that's good news..." Cordy said simply.

"Definitely..." Wesley continued.

"Now, what about this other job?" Xander asked anxiously. He wanted so badly to find something he could do that didn't involve asking about fries, and this was like a light at the end of the tunnel for him.

"I, myself, am represented by a rival firm by the name of Gryffin & Draco, who have been looking for something that Wolfram & Hart doesn't have to give them an edge."

"What's the difference between the two?" Xander asked.

"Well, Wolfram & Hart takes all clients, no questions asked, even the evil ones. Gryffin & Draco won't take any clients who destroy, kill, or cause evil to spread, so they have a much shorter list of clients. If they had you," Angel said, staring at the young man, "they could be a major competitor of Wolfram & Hart's. Necromancers, if you weren't aware, are very rare, and many clients might switch to have the advantage of your services."

"I'm that important?"

"He's that important?" Cordy echoed. Xander turned around for a moment to give her a dirty look. She answered it with a raspberry in his direction. Angel sighed. Nothing brought out the child in people like Xander Harris.

"Yes, Xander, as much as it pains me to say, you are..." the vampire told him tiredly.


Angel rubbed his eyes in a rather Giles-like manner. "So, do you want me to talk to them?"

"Sure, Deadboy, I'd love to be the pet Necromancer for your little group of ethical lawyers..." he replied with a smile, getting up from his seat in a bound.

Cordy sighed, then went to do paperwork, and Wesley went to read up on the latest prophecies, while Angel began to make his way out of the office.

"But," Xander said softly, "First I'm gonna help you out."

All activity in the office ceased as three pairs of eyes turned on the young man.

"What do you mean?" Cordy asked, "Who on earth would we want to bring back to li-"

She cut off as she thought of the answer to her question. Angel looked towards the small framed drawing that hung on the wall, it's lumpy form unrecognizable and unimportant to any but those who knew its significance. Then Angel and Cordy's eyes met. He couldn't mean. He couldn't be serious...they wouldn't..."

"How did you-"

"The rather depressed half-spirit of an Irishman in the corner that keeps telling me to 'stop flirtin with his gal' was a clue..." Xander said nonchalantly.

And then Cordy fainted.

"Is he that guy Oz told me about," Xander asked, looking at Cordy's limp form, and then at the figure only he could see (who was at that moment alternately fretting over Cordelia and smiling his head off at the fact that someone saw him), "Daryl or something?"

"Doyle..." Angel said, an edge to his voice, "He gave his life to save a large bunch of people, Cordelia and myself included."

"But he didn't."

Angel, who was picking up his secretary at that moment, was silent for a moment as he stared at the young Necromancer. "What?"

"He didn't really die...not completely. More like half-dead," Xander explained, sounding as if he was telling the vampire that two plus two equaled four, "His body was burned away, but due to some circumstance-" he concentrated for a moment, then continued, "was he a half-demon?"

"Y-yeah..." Angel got out. He was in complete shock. Firstly, he was finding out that Doyle wasn't really dead. Then, Xander actually knew something that was both important and, at least it sounded that way, true. The vampire was in shock.

"Yes, a half-demon would do it." Xander went on, seeming to think about it, "Being half a demon would enable the human soul to have less dependence on a body. I mean, every demon is just a demonic spirit in a capsule to work in this world. So, all I'd have to do would be to reform his body..."

Angel and Cordy just stared at him. It was like being 40 years old and seeing Santa Claus again. You couldn't believe that it was true. It was too good to be true.

"You make it sound simple." Cordy said at last, pulling away from her employer, "Could we have gotten him back-"

"Nope," Xander answered, "Pretty sure only one of my kind could do it. One of my books had something like this in it. I think I know what ritual I have to do. And I'll be glad to do it for you."

"You can bring back Doyle?" Cordelia asked, her eyes brimming with tears. She couldn't believe it. She'd get a second chance. A chance to love him, to let him know just how much he meant to her. Not to mention a chance to clobber him for giving her the mind-numbing visions.

"I-I think so..." Xander replied, now starting to sound a little unsure. He knew what he had to do, but he wasn't sure if he could pull it off. He didn't want to put her hopes too high and then kill them. He would never be cruel like that.

"Then try it." Cordelia said, her voice suddenly hard and determined. The young woman wiped the tears from her eyes, and stood up straight as a board, "Let's go now and try it."

Xander took in the look in her eyes, and then turned to Angel, who was just behind her. His face held an expression he'd seen on the vampire before: deep lose and guilt. Xander knew that the Irishman (who was even now quietly watching the scene unfold) meant a lot to Angel, and suddenly, he didn't want to let either of them down. Yet he wouldn't deceive him. He let every insecurity he had show in his eyes for the souled vampire see. Yet, a second later, Angel nodded.

"What about you?" Xander asked, addressing what everyone thought was blank air. The spirit nodded, then looked to Cordy with an expression of longing.

"I wantta' hold her." The young Necromancer heard in what he knew must be but a shadow of the man's voice, "I wantta' be wit' her, love her, fight for her, protect her. And I canna do it like this..."

"And you all trust me?"

All three nodded to him once more, and it made his heart ache. They trusted him. Someone trusted him with something important. Someone was trusting him with the state of their soul, and for the other two, their happiness. He just hoped he could deliver.

"All right." He said at last, "But I'm going to need some stuff..."

"What will you require?" Wesley said, startling everyone. They had all sort of forgotten he was there, and from his stance, they could tell he noticed.

"I need to look it up, but I know I need three drops of blood from both Angel and Cordelia, not to mention a quantity of dust from a graveyard, some crow's feathers, several boards, some chalk, and...what kind of demon was he?"

"Braken demon."

"And one goat."

Three pairs of physical eyes and one pair of spiritual ones settled on him.

"And maybe some bile. I'm running low on that stuff. But the rest I have. And we'll have to perform the ritual on the spot that he died."

There was silence for a second, and then each of them seemed to wake up.

"I'll find out about the ship!" Cordy exclaimed, pulling the telephone to her ear and dialing.

"I'll get the supplies..." Wesley said, cleaning up the mess of scrolls on his desk and putting them away neatly.

"And I'll find a goat." Angel continued, picking up his jacket from where he'd dropped it while picking up Cordelia. The vampire walked out, a rare smile on his face, then ducked back in and said, "And I'll stop by G&D on my way back..."

Xander answered the rare smile with a grin of his own, then waved the vampire off. "Thanks!"

So with everyone busy, that left him with one thing to do. Books. He had to check and recheck his books.

"This is so different from home..." Xander grumbled as he made his way back to his motel to get his case, "Yup, we never have to research at home...makes me wonder why I ever left..."

Yet, despite his grumbles, he was enjoying this. He was enjoying having a purpose, helping people, and most of all, he had enjoyed the look on Deadboy's face when he realized the implications of Xander being a Necromancer. It had been rather amusing. Yet he knew that he would never attempt to control Angel. It had nothing to do with power, or age. It was just that, although the two of them weren't the best of friends, Xander respected Angel, and what he was trying to do. So Xander had vowed to himself to never do it.

Moving quickly, he got his box of goodies from his room and walked back to the office. He got there this time without any incidents, and set up in the back office. As he looked through the book that held the ritual, Xander began to get a little worried.

The spell required immense power, not to mention great skill, and was listed as one of the most difficult to perform. According to his text, his great grand-something or other had been the only one in his century to perform it correctly. Luckily, Xander noted, the book listed no horrible fate for those who performed it incorrectly, but he knew that he had to do it right.

He had to do it for Angel, who he had constantly attacked, verbally if not physically. The person his lie had sent to Hell. Xander knew that he had been right in lying to Buffy; if she'd had known her boyfriend might get his soul back, she never would have survived, let alone saved the world. Yet, he still felt horribly for putting Angel through that pain.

And Cordy. He'd hurt Cordelia so badly with his stupidity that it made him want to bash his head into the wall. Just as she'd let someone into her heart, truly into her heart, he had broken her trust in him by cheating on her. No matter what, he knew, he had to give her back her happiness. He had to bring back the person she loved. And she did love Doyle, he could tell. The gleam in her eyes as she spoke of him, the raw determination as she demanded that they try to bring him back. And, Xander knew, Doyle would care for her the way she deserved. Even now the ethereal form of the half-demon gazed at her with eyes filled with joy that he might be once more able to touch her. Xander was happy for them, and wished that he could find a person he loved like that.

He used to think that he would always love Buffy, and that eventually she would come to recognize that she loved him, but he knew now that it wasn't going to happen. Buffy didn't love him like that. It had taken time, but he'd realized that what he'd felt for Buffy, the deep need to protect and care for her, was not the adoration of a lover, but the deep and unchangeable love of a brother, similar to what he had for Willow. He'd deceived himself into believing that this protectiveness (and the good deal of lust he had for her) was love, but it wasn't. He still hadn't found love. The kind that made you quake in your boots at the very idea of something happening to that special someone. The kind that made you want to be a better person. The kind of love that is so extreme, you live for it. And he envied Cordelia for having it.

That reminded him of Anya. Anya had known it wasn't love. That's why she hadn't been there when he came back from his duel that night. She'd just left, the only clue to her motives being a quickly- written note. It hadn't taken many words to get her point across, which was that she couldn't live without someone who really loved her the way she needed it. She assured him that the sex had been great, but that she needed more, and thanked him for showing her how to be a person again. It had hurt him deeply to get that note, and he tried not to think about it. It just reminded him even more how lonely he was.

Xander shook his head at this point, and then turned back to his books. He couldn't afford to screw around at this point, not when (according to Cordy) the Quintessa was about to leave port tomorrow. He had to get this down pat, with every gesture and word perfect in his memory. But just as he finally got into study mode, he heard a familiarly accented voice.

"Sorry about earlier, friend..." the half-dead spirit of Francis Allen Doyle said, sitting his astral body down in the chair next to Xander's, "I just heard yer name, and I remembered that Cordy had said the two of ya had been an item, so I gotta little jealous..."

"No problem," Xander replied, waving off the transparent Irishman, "I understand. But don't worry, I'm not after Cordy."

"I know." Doyle responded, reclining. It looked odd, especially since that put his see-through body partially into the table, "You wouldna be helping me if you wanted Cordelia..."

The young Necromancer grinned at the man only he could see. "Hey, as long as you take care of her right, we'll have no troubles. And I'm glad to help."

The other man laughed. "Me Princess? I'd love ta' take care of her, and I was on the road ta' that when this little 'death' thing got in the way..."

"Well, we'll just have to fix that, won't we?" Xander answered with a lop-sided grin, "Can't have another of those unrequited loves, can we?"

There was silence between the raiser and the dead half-man, which Doyle finally broke.

"Don't worry, bud, you'll find her..." the half-demon told him, almost putting a translucent hand on his shoulder, "You'll find that special gal tha' makes you wantta scream at how perfect she is...I know you will."

"Thanks." Xander replied with a sheepish grin, "And is it that obvious that I'm lonely?"

The half-demon chuckled again, nearly falling backwards through the table. He righted himself, and then winked at the Necromancer.

"It's not tha' noticeable, but I know the feeling...I can see it in yer eyes..."

"Good," Xander whispered back conspiratorially, " because if Angel saw it and started pitying me, I don't think I would ever live it down...not to mention the man-to-man talks he try to have with me..."

This time the spirit did fall over, through the table, to the floor, having a good laugh. The young man held his hand down until he realized how pointless it was, then watched as Doyle found way back up into his seat.

"Oh, I haven't hadda good laugh at the old broody-vamp for a good while..." the half-demon kinda-ghost said, the giggle still in his voice, "It would be perfect if I had a bit of whiskey..."

Xander looked out the window to see Wesley and Angel coming into the building, then turned to his transparent new friend.

"You'll get your whiskey soon enough..."

A few minutes later, Xander made out the bleating of an angry- sounding goat that the vampire was trying bringing up the elevator. Both the living and the dead man turned their heads to see Angel walk in, his face very close to vamping out in frustration. Even with his supernatural strength, he was having trouble pulling the animal through the doorway.

"Xander, could you help me out?"

"Don't look at me, Deadboy," the young man responded, holding his hands out in a 'no way' gesture, "I raise the dead. I'm not Dr. Dolittle."

"Well, you asked for the goat," the vampire answered in between huffs as he struggled with the beast, "You take care of it."

"Fine" replied Xander, getting up from his chair, "Gimme her leash."

The young Necromancer leaned over just enough for Angel to slap the rope into his hands. Then Xander, moving slowly and gently, moved towards the animal. It immediately calmed.

"That's right..." he said in a reassuring tone, putting his hand to the creature's nostrils and kneeling so that they were on the same level, "It's okay. I'm your friend. You'll be fine. Yes, dear, just calm down..."

Angel, Doyle, Cordelia (who had just gotten off the phone with the captain of the Quintessa) and Wesley (who had just come up the stairs and was holding a large box of supplies) all watched in confused awe as Xander mumbled comforting words to the once-angry little goat, who was now rather well behaved. Finally, Angel asked, "How'd you do that?"

"Well," Xander answered, getting up from the floor slowly so as not to startled the beast, "After that little episode I had back in Sunnydale involving animal possession, I felt guilty about a little something I had done during the that time. So to satisfy my conscience, I started volunteering at the town animal shelter. Learned a couple things there."

"I had no idea."

"But the other thing," Xander continued, pretending Angel hadn't said anything, "is that animals, as a whole, hate anything unnatural, such as vampires."

"But if you knew that, why didn't you stop ME from fetching-"

"Because I thought you knew that, and if you didn't, I figured I'd get a good laugh..." Xander replied with a large grin.

The souled vampire looked a bit upset, and the expression on his face dared anyone to laugh. There was silence, until Cordy and Wesley both giggled under their breath. Xander (and Doyle, even if they couldn't see it) just smiled.

"Fine" Angel said at last with only a hint of emotion, "You've got your goat, and the rest of the things you said you need. Let's head over to the Quintessa."

"Okay." Xander replied, "Lemme just sort everything. Cause I have to do this ritual exactly as ordered or it won't work."

The young Necromancer did as he needed, moving many of the items from the box into small jars and containers in his ebony case. He worked silently, with not even the hint of a smile, placing things just where he needed, checking the book every few minutes to see that what he'd done was what was needed. Finally, he finished, closed the case, and said, "All right, let's go."

The little party made their way down to Angel's car, but just as they were about to leave, a voice rang out from one of the dark shadows of the alleyway.

"Where do you think you're going?" the voice asked in a masculine, rather cruel sounding voice, "But more importantly, where do you think you're going with him?"

Xander turned around to where he felt the speaker was. "It's none of your damned business..."

"Oh," the voice retorted, stepping out of the darkness to take the form of a large angry vampire, "But it is. Any future or present employee of Wolfram & Hart is my business, especially concerning you."

Xander didn't even blink. "Well then, don't bother me. I'm neither a future nor a present employee of that firm. I have other plans."

"Well," the vampire began as at least twenty others of its kind came out of the shadows, "No one gives a damn what your plans are."

Angel and Wesley, who had stood silent during the whole discussion, looked like they were about to spring forward, weapons ready, to attack the vampires, but Xander held them back with a shake of his head. He wasn't going to let any of their blood be spilt for his problems. He could handle this.

"Well," Xander replied, his voice almost friendly except for the hard edge within it, "I'm not going to work at Wolfram & Hart, and that's final. So why don't you boys get moving, and leave me to my business?"

"I'm afraid that's not possible." The vampire answered, stepping towards Xander, along with his group, "If you don't want to work at Wolfram & Hart for an insanely nice paycheck, you'll have to die. Not my choice, you understand..."

"No, it's mine." The young man answered back, "And the only ones who are gonna die in this alley will be you and your friends. They didn't tell you, did they?"

"What?" the vampire asked, an anxious and cruel smile on his deformed face.

Xander formed a large ball of white flame just above his hand, "What I am..."

"And what's that..." the vampire questioned with just a hint of fear as he gazed at the white ball.

"A Necromancer..." he replied.

The vampire's eyes widened in disbelief and fear, and he looked about to run. But he didn't have a chance to do anything as he spontaneously combusted in white flames. Among the ranks of vampires, one after another did the same, until there were only dust piles in the alley. Xander, looking a bit drained, but still rather confident, looked at where the vampires had once been, smiled, then turned around and continued to put his things into the car. As he did so, Angel tapped him on the shoulder.

"You frighten me." Angel said simply to the young man.

"Don't worry," Xander answered with a grin, "It was rigged to hit only soulless things, which doesn't include you...I was careful. Don't want to damage my favorite vampire..."

"I'm not talking about that..." Angel whispered, looking around to see if anyone saw them talking. Wesley and Cordelia were too busy getting the goat in the car.

"What do you mean?" He asked, turning around to face the vampire.

"Well, it's just that, well, what you did to those vampires...I just noticed something that made me think about something...and it reminded me of all those time...well, I just realized that I'm glad I'm your friend."

"Awe, Deadboy, how sweet..."

"No, I mean..." Angel didn't know how to put what he knew into words, "What I mean is, well, I just sorta realized that you're a very dangerous person, maybe even more dangerous than anyone I've ever known."

"Why do you say that?" Xander asked with a smile, "This?" He showed the vampire a small blue flame.

"No, it doesn't even have anything to do with your powers, though they are helpful..." Angel told him, "It's the fact that...well, just the fact that, inside, you have a very hard core."

"Like an inside-out tootsie pop?"

"No! What I mean is, you can joke and play with everyone, but the second anyone threatens those you consider your friends, or family or whatever, you become the most determined, vicious, cold bastard...and you did the same thing even when you were unaware of what you're a bit of a loner, but when you do give someone your friendship, you're insanely loyal and protective..."

"I don't know what you're talking about..." Xander replied frigidly, his eyes narrowing on the vampire.

"Yes, you do. I've seen you do it, in the middle of fights. You used to use everything you had, and even with your normal human strength, you did damage. More than anyone I've ever seen. You're hard inside without being frozen, Xander, and that's why you've survived all those years on the Hellmouth instead of going insane or dieing. Willow had a bit of it, but not like you."

"Shut up, Angel." Xander hissed as he finished putting everything where it goes and turned to face him.

"I'm just saying-"

"Shut up, Angel..."

Angel nodded, was silent for a moment, then asked, "What happened in Sunnydale, Xander? What happened that made you come here?"

Xander didn't even blink at the subject change. He just answered gruffly, "I killed someone."

"Nigel Brondstaff, the Necromancer who was sent to kill you..." the souled vampire said knowingly.

"Yeah, him."

"And you think that something's wrong with you because you don't feel what you think you're supposed to..."

Xander, who had went back to absently fixing things in the car, spun quickly to face Angel.

"You feel bad that he's dead," Angel continued, "but you don't feel bad for killing him. You saw it as what you had to do, and when you did it, you weren't happy, but you realized that it was him or you...and you think you should have been devastated by what you did, but you're not. Because you were only defending yourself and the people you love."

Xander didn't even answer. All he did was stare at the vampire. There was nothing that could be said, nothing that would express what needed to be expressed. The only way Xander could tell him was to let him see it in his eyes. Angel saw, and nodded.

There was silence, and then Angel said, "As I said, you're a very dangerous person."

The quiet was long and loud in the alley, interrupted only when Cordy shouted, "We got the goat in!"

Xander and Angel turned to see the little creature sitting in the car, then they looked up to see Wesley, tired and a little worse for wear but smiling, and Cordy, who looked as perfect as can be with a wide grin on her face. "Tada!"

"Let's go!" Xander replied with a bright grin to Cordy. Then he hopped into the car.

Angel shook his head, then gave a small smile to his secretary and friend, then got in the car as well. He was driving, so he was pretty far from the goat. Thank goodness.

Cordy was in the front seat, along with Wesley, while Xander sat in the back with the goat and his case. As he put on his seatbelt, he heard a soft voice tell him.

"He's right, ya know..."

"Shut up, dead man floating..." Xander told Doyle, "It's my business, I'll deal with it, so leave me alone so that I can get you a body..."

"I'm just sayin'-"


The half-demon spirit backed off. He wasn't about to tick off the person who was getting him a body, but he knew the boy was hurting. Doyle figured he'd do something about it when he had a physical hand to help with, or whenever the kid asked.

That left Xander by himself to think. It was something he had tried to avoid since his arrival in LA, but now, with Angel's words ringing in his ears, he couldn't evade it any longer. He'd come here to deal with what he had done, yet all he had done was run away. But, the vampire had made him start his way back to his problems, and the truth of his words had rocketed him there quicker than was comfortable.

What Angel had said was true. So true, it frightened him. He wasn't upset at killing the man. He wasn't upset that he'd extinguished a human life. He was upset because he hadn't been upset, at least not to the point that he'd thought he should be. He'd expected he'd go insane, or maybe weep his eyes out, but none of that had happened. Just a second of holding the body till it's span ended, then a second more to soak in the reality of his deed. But no real remorse. Not a single bit of distress at what he'd done. And there should have been.

It frightened him, the lack of emotion at what he'd done. It frightened him to his core. He'd always been the normal guy, the zeppo, the guy-next-door, and he'd remained that way (mostly) even when Buffy had entered his life and flipped it upside down. And yes he had fought with all he had, and yes, he had always had no trouble with staking a vamp. But that was different. And then he'd gotten his powers, and he wasn't normal anymore. He was one of the weird people. And that-

The goat knocked him, and he glared at it. The little creature's eyes widened, then if moved back to its position. If Xander didn't know any better, he would have said the little goat was embarrassed. But that wasn't that important. He went back to his thoughts.

-he could deal with. He was okay with weird, he lived in the town which was listed next to "weird" in the dictionary. But then, he'd killed someone. And he hadn't felt a thing, other than a tinge of sadness at what he'd gone through. A slight anger that the man had made him kill. A bit or morbid wonder about what he had said at the very end, who he really was, what he'd extinguished. And that had been it.

But where did that leave him? What was he? He certainly wasn't the same Xander from a month ago. He was light-years from him in so many ways, but in others, he was the same. And the new parts weren't clicking with the old. It seemed to hit him every time, that he wasn't the same, that he wasn't normal any more. And then, he'd killed, and it made him wonder if he ever had been normal. Of if he had always been strange, a monster behind a mask. The fact that Angel was scared of him didn't help. Nor did the thought that, aside from Cordelia, all he'd ever attracted were demons, monsters, mummies, and bugs. Why couldn't he find love? Because he was a monster inside, unworthy of it? He didn't know. All this mixed in his mind, and left him very lost. What was he, and what was he going to do about it?

Xander finally turned to see Doyle, the spirit of the half-demon watching Cordelia with an odd expression on his face. The spirit must have felt eyes on him, because he turned immediately to look at Xander.

"I know 'ow it feels, friend..." the half-demon said slowly, trying not to upset the young Necromancer, "Ya feel like-"

"Like the monster's on the inside, and not on the outside..."

Doyle looked at Xander again. He hadn't expected the boy to put it so well. It was a feeling he was familiar with, and it was probably what had driven Harry away from him. While it had, (wonderfully) put him in reach of his love, Cordelia, he knew it wasn't a good thing to be thinking such thoughts. It had taken him a while, perhaps, he realized, up till the second Cordy wanted to date him, but he'd gotten over it. But if he snapped Xander out of it now, it wouldn't hold onto the boy, and wreck his life like it had his.

"It's notta crime, bein' able to do as ya do, ya know..." Doyle said, looking at his own hands instead of Xander's eyes, "And I'm not talkin' about yer powers..."

Xander turned and faced the spirit, confusion on his face.

"The good have ta be just as strong an' hard as the bad, if we're ever to win the battle. An' what you did wasn't bad. You were attacked, pushed inta a corner, an' you did what ya had's not tha act of a monster..."


"No 'buts' about it, buster, you're a fine young man, an' I won't have you thinking badly of yerself." Doyle continued, trying to slam his fist into the arm rest, only to go through it, "The second he attacked ya, he gave up his rights, since he took yers. Don't ever be fooled, young man, inta thinkin' that all evil is from yer Hellmouth. Humanity, as a whole and on the one-to-one type level, can do some things that would make the worst o' demons cringe at the thought. So, don't hate yerself for something another did. You were the victim in alla this, even if he was the one that died. An' it's not the victims fault..."

Xander gazed into the half-demon's eyes, focusing so that he didn't look through them, and nodded. Then, as if to make sure the other got the message, Xander smiled, and even though it was small and a little sad, it told the spirit that the young man would be okay. It might haunt him on dark nights after a battle, or when he was feeling bad about something else, but it wouldn't become part of his life. It wouldn't be the boy's attitude about himself. It would be a worry, not an accepted truth. And that was all he wanted. The Necromancer was going to give him a body again, so making sure he was all right in the head was the least Doyle could do. Besides, he felt a sort of kinship with Xander, both of them having been thrust into a world they knew nothing about far too early and far too directly. And the kid was pretty hilarious when he wanted to be. In short, Doyle liked him.

The thoughts were cut short a second later as the car stopped. The familiar smell of salt-water, oil, and other things one tries not to think about permiated the air, and even Doyle could feel it tingle on his nose. Doyle turned to Xander, and watched as the boy's complete demeanor changed, becoming lighter and looser. They all got out of the car.

Xander looked to Angel, "Where is it?"

"That one" Angel answered, pointing to a large cargo ship on the end of the dock, "The Quintessa."

"Yes, I remember..." the young Necromancer grumbled. He wasn't stupid.

"Fine," Angel replied, sounding a little hurt. There was silence for a moment, and then...

"So let's go!" Cordy cried, grabbing the rope of the goat and tugging it out of the car.

"Yes, indeed," Wesley said, pulling on the ebony case. He had grabbed it with one hand, since he'd seen Xander lift it easily, but when he attempted to lift it, he nearly dislocated his arm. The former Watcher yelped in pain, and Xander came a second later. He pulled the case out effortlessly with a single lift, then smiled at Wes.

"Weight-reduction spell..." Xander supplied, liking the amazement in the bookish man's eyes, "keyed to me. Sorry for the lack of warning..."

"Quite" he snapped something in his arm back into place, "all, let's get to business...I imagine this will be rather fascinating..."

"Oh, it will definitely be interesting, Wes," Xander said with a wink, "definitely..."

The former Watcher snorted, then walked over to join Angel and Cordelia, who were having a discussion with the captain of the ship. Xander walked over a minute later.

"And you'll be out within an hour? With that goat?" the gruff seaman asked as the cigarette stub in his mouth scattered ash upon the floor.

"An hour, at the most...and the goat will not be on your ship any longer than us..." Angel assured the captain with a rare smile, "We just need to finish a little something concerning the event that took place a few months ago..."

As he heard that, the other man's eyes widened, and he looked as if he wanted to run away but remembered that it was his boat. But he wasn't about to refuse the person, or non-person, in front of him passage on the boat for an hour. Considering the amount of money he owed Angel, he certainly wasn't going to refuse him anything. But he did want to know-

"There isn't going to be any trouble with those guys from before, are there? Cause I don't owe you enough for you to take a trip on here this time..."

"No,' Angel told them, 'No trouble. We're just collecting a friend..."

The captain looked at the vampire in confusion, but he knew that he really didn't want to know any more. So, grumbling a tiny bit about the bother of the visit, the captain moved aside and let the little group onto the ship. As they were walking along to the door, Xander asked, "Is there a bathroom I could use?" The seaman pointed towards a door, which Xander quickly went into, his case slipping in behind him. They waited for a minute or so, until Xander came out.

It almost didn't look like Xander when he came back out of the little room. His brightly colored clothes were gone, and a black robe of fine making had replaced them. It was of an airy, but excellent material, and it reached all the way down to his toes. The dark robe, in combination with his dark hair, seemed to make his skin glow slightly with a blue sheen and already his azure eyes were blazing with his own personal fire, showing all assembled that he had switched both mentally and physically to prepare for his task. The only thing that wrecked the image a bit was the tip of sneaker that was sticking out.

When the captain saw him, he reevaluated the young man on the spot as being someone to be wary of, and decided that he would be a bit more polite to both him, and the group as a whole.

"This way, sirs and madam..." the sailor said courteously, pointing to the door that led to the main hold, "You know your way for the rest, and I've got to get to my bed since we'll be leaving tomorrow..."

"Thanks, captain, I really appreciate it..." Angel told him, waving for him to go, "And you can consider your debt gone."

The captain smiled at that, then made his way back to his room, hoping that nothing bad happened to his ship. The second he was out of sight, the little party made its way through the portal and into the main hold. Without a word, Angel and Cordy directed the young Necromancer to the spot where Doyle's mortal body had been burned away, which still held a slight discoloration from the incident.

Before anyone could ask him anything, Xander pulled out his case, opening the ancient hinges slowly and noiselessly. No one spoke as he pulled out the boards and the chalk, and the silence continued as the young man in the robe proceeded to draw odd and complex symbols upon the wood. As each was completed, it seemed to glow with blue flame, dimming a moment later. Xander then continued by placing the boards next to one another in a specific order so as to create a palette of wood.

"Doyle, lie down on that with your head in the direction of the door..." he said quietly, no hint of emotion in his voice.

The spirit, unseen by all but Xander, did as asked, the symbols that hit his astral body illuminating for a second before fading. As he saw that all was going well, the young Necromancer pulled the small goat towards the boards. As he got it closer to him, he reached his hand out to touch the little creature between the eyes. A small black spark went from his hand to the goat's skull, and then suddenly, the goat collapsed. Xander picked up the animal and placed him on the palette, where Doyle was. The goat went through the area where the half-demon's spiritual heart and torso lay, making a rather odd site for the young man.

The vampire, the rogue demon hunter, and the seer watched Xander as he spread the graveyard dust around the boards in a perfect circle. Then, he stepped within the circle and began mixing things from various bottles in his case. After he had mixed the concoction into something that was a strange shimmering violet-green color, he pulled out a odd ebony knife and cut himself, allowing the blood to fall into the mixture. As the drops hit the liquid, it flared a bright blue, and the concoction itself turned a glimmering black, similar to a rare opal in the sun. A second later, Xander motioned for Angel and Cordelia. Wesley stayed outside.

The two of them did as they were asked, stepping into the circle of dust carefully so as not to disturb anything. Wordlessly, Xander directed them into joining hands around the palette. Then, he put the cup beneath Cordelia's finger. He looked up at her, at the face he had known all his life, a face he had thought he loved for a while, and waited for her to give the okay. A second later he got it in the form of a determined head-nod.

Cordy only gasped a little at the prick from the knife, and she watched almost in awe at the blood that ran down her own finger. Three drops hit the cup, each one flaring a deep red as it entered the mixture. Then Xander moved onto Angel, who immediately nodded to him, and the blood flowed into the cup once more. As it hit, the drops flickered that same dark red as before, but the flare was much more violent. When he finished with Angel, Xander pulled the cup back and began to mutter a string of bizarre words in a guttural language that sounded rather harsh to the ears, but which flowed smoothly off his tongue.

As he chanted, he nodded and gestured to the two that they should leave the circle, and they did as asked quickly. Without pause, he continued to recite, the power of the words he spoke thrumming through his body. He could feel his skin begin to flicker with the blue flames that were his to call, and his eyes, he knew, were blazing. Xander went on in that strange and throaty tongue as he stepped forward, towards the palette. Carefully, he placed a drop of the mixture upon the first board, making the symbols upon it flare up as they had when he'd drawn them. Then he moved to the next, and the next, till he hit the last board. Once the drop hit that last board, then went back to the middle area and poured the concoction down the throat of the knocked-out goat.

There was no reaction from the goat until he placed his hand on it. Then the little thing shook and convulsed; yet he kept his hand upon it. The words he spoke came faster then, but he never slurred a thing, and blue fire went from his hand into the goat. Doyle's invisible form watched, until he felt a pang of something that was not quite pain, despite the fact that he hadn't had a sense of touch or hurt since his partial death. The fire ran from the goat, into him, and then it really got weird.

At first Angel and the rest thought that the goat was moving; perhaps he'd woken up. But as they watched further, they saw the little creature begin to shift and change into something else. Something that was not a goat. The legs seemed to run down, as if the animal was made of clay, and lengthened. The arms did the same, and the head fell back and started to turn into something rounder. The body changed as well, twisting as the powers transformed it into something else entirely. The three spectators watched in amazement, their eyes widening. Yet Xander remained calm, and kept his hands on the torso as he spoke increasingly more complex and powerful words.

Cordy and the others were astounded to see the goat transform into the body of a human (or not really human) male that looked exactly like that of their fallen friend. Azure flames filled the circle, flaring in a huge bright outburst. When the flames died, the three saw the form of Allan Francis Doyle as it slowly woke. His eyes blinked, and his finger flicked, then a hand pulled down the blanket that Xander offered silently. A second later he stood up. As he adjusted himself, the young man spoke, now in English.

"He has been returned." Xander said solemnly, sounding nothing at all like the boy they all knew, "By the lifeblood of those who knew him, and the living dust which is all creatures, he is restored by the bearer of Azreal's Flame, by I, Alexander LaVelle. So mote it be."

The three of them watched as Xander tiredly kicked the circle, breaking its power. Then he moved the boards out of position and burned each one quickly with a white flame. There was no movement; everyone just stared. Finally, the young Necromancer finished, and put his hand upon Doyle's shoulder.

"Make her happy." He said quietly, "Be happy."

Doyle nodded, and then put his newly made hand upon Xander's shoulder. "Thanks, man. I know that musta cost you a'ra good man..."

Xander smiled a sad little smile, then shrugged. A second later, he pulled the half-demon into a hug. Doyle returned it, carefully making sure that his blanket stayed in place, yet smiling brightly.

The silence was broken by a screech from one Miss Cordelia Chase, who ran straight into Doyle and kissed him for all she was worth. The Irishman looked rather surprised, but mixed in with that was more joy than anything. It took him a moment, but he began to kiss back, doing exactly what he'd wanted to do since the day he'd seen her. As they did what they did, Angel walked over to Xander.

"Thanks," the vampire said gently, his eyes wet with tears that hadn't fallen yet, "You have no idea how much it means to us."

"Yeah, I do..." Xander replied, his voice soft as tears escaped his own eyes, "I know how much it hurts to lose a best friend, especially when you feel you could have saved him. It's been a while, but my friend, Jesse, will never be forgotten, and I wish to God that he'd had a similar situation so I could have done this for him. And not even that, I see how happy he makes you and Cordy, especially Cordy, and I know that I'll come to like him as well..."

Blue eyes met brown, and Xander continued, "I think, as long as I remember this, I'll never think I'm evil, a monster. I thank every deity I know, which I'll admit is only one, that I can do this now."

Angel put his hand upon the young Necromancer's shoulder, but apparently that was too much weight for him that night, since Xander began to crumple into the vampire's side.

"Whoa, you okay Xander?"

The young man looked up at Angel. "Just a little tired..."

"Then I think we should get you back to my place..."


"No buts. My place. And I'm hoping that you'll move in, at least until you get started here, at my apartment, or Doyle's..."

Xander looked surprised, then pleased. "Thanks...", he said with earnest appreciation. He smiled, that lop-sided grin that Angel knew so well, and then he fainted.

Angel grunted as he caught the young man. He was heavier than he looked, though the vampire knew it wasn't fat; then again, they say muscle is heavier than fat. The vampire was holding him in a rather uncomfortable position, but it took him a second to correct that. As he finally adjusted the Necromancer over his shoulder, Doyle and Cordelia made it over.

"What happened to him?" Cordy asked, pointing to Xander's unconscious form.

"Passed out from exhaustion" Angel answered, rotating his shoulder to move the boy a bit, "What he just did was extremely draining, not to mention difficult..."

"Remind me to treat him to dinner." Said the Irishman, fully dressed in the clothes Cordy had kindly brought for him. Then he looked at his love again. "Maybe two..."

"And I'll chip in!" The young woman added. She was smiling so brightly, as if she could barely contain her joy. Then, it seemed to get away from her as she turned around and pulled Doyle into a totally unexpected kiss. The half-demon didn't seem to mind at all.

"Well, let's just get him back to the apartment," Angel told them both as they disengaged from one another, "We can thank him AFTER he gets some rest..."

The other two nodded, then headed towards the door. Doyle stopped and turned back, remembering about Xander's case. Angel couldn't carry the boy and his case at the same time, so he took his hand out of Cordy's (where it had unknowingly slipped) and began dragging the heavy ebony box out. Angel followed, then looked back at the one person who hadn't moved the entire time.

"Wesley, are you okay?"

The former Watcher seemed to come out of whatever trance he had been in. "Yes...yes, fine..."

The vampire, despite his load, walked over to the other man. "Wesley, are you sure you're all right? You look a little shaken..."

Wesley held silent for a moment, looking at first at Angel, then the door which Doyle and Cordy had exited, then at Xander. Finally, his gaze returned to the vampire and he spoke.

"I'm a complete waste now, aren't I?" he said quietly, the dignity he tried to maintain in his voice slightly overpowered by a quiver, "You have your hero back, and now young Xander can help you with his special power, and you don't need me..."

Angel's eyes widened. How could Wesley think like that?

"Wes, Doyle doesn't replace you, " the souled vampire assured, "And we all have skills that can be helpful to the mission. Cordelia, bless her soul, can't be a secretary for her life, but she helps not only with her visions, but her caring. The number of times her cheeriness or her silliness has helped us, I don't know. And Doyle has his good points, but he has nowhere near the knowledge of demons and languages that you do. As for Xander, look at him! For years, he was the normal guy, the man without any sort of supernatural powers, and he still fought every time he could. He helped with his laughter, and his loyalty, and his strength. And you do too..."

The vampire went silent, allowing the former Watcher to absorb everything he had said.

"And" Angel continued, "Besides, you're my friend..."

Wesley's eyes widened at that statement. He' d never suspected that. Sure, Angel had employed him, but then he'd been in trouble at the time, and short, Wesley had thought himself as sort of more tolerated than anything. And now, to think that-

"You're a good guy, I trust to cover my back. We're a team...and we don't kick people off the team because we got a new player. There isn't a set limit on the amount of help I can get, and I need ALL I can get..."

"I...understand..." he answered, a small smile forming on his lips, "and thank you for telling me that..."

The vampire gave him a rare grin, then heaved the unaware form of Xander back to it's spot on his shoulder. "Hey, you needed to hear it."

The smile broadened on the former Watcher's face, and after nodding to Angel, he walked out the door. Angel, that odd grin still on his face, followed.

They made their way to the car, but instead of Cordy and Doyle making out in the back seat, he found them both knocked out. Wesley was beside them, the large red welt on his forehead giving Angel an idea as to what had happened to all three. Immediately, he tensed and looked around, trying to figure out who had attacked them, not to mention why they had only knocked the three out. He got his answer a second later.

"Give us the boy..." said a voice from the shadows.

Angel turned around to where the voice had come and stared into the darkness, trying to figure out who or what had spoken.

"Give us the boy now!" repeated the voice with more heat, "Your friends are out cold. You are only one. The Necromancer cannot help you. Give him to us, and you may live..."

"Who are you?" Angel asked, both out of curiosity and a need to stall.

"I" said the voice as it walked out of the shadows to reveal itself as a rather nasty-looking demon, "am a representative of Wolfram & Hart, here to collect one of our employees. Now hand him over."

Angel looked at the demon, then turned his head to glance at Xander. There was no hope for help there. Then he looked at the three in the car. Again, not a chance. This demon was smart. A great deal smarter than the vampire from earlier.

"Why do you want him? He's just a dopey kid!" Angel lied, trying to perhaps buy a little bit more time.

"Please don't lie" the demon said icily, "He is the last Necromancer alive, a rather strong one as well, who we all know he is not just some 'dopey kid'. Now, hand him over or I will take him. And I don't guarantee that you'll live through the experience."

Angel seemed to think this over, then leaned Xander gently on the side of the car. Then, he pulled a rather nasty-looking axe from within his car, and turned to face the demon.


As he said it, the demon launched itself at him, talons out and ready. Angel swept to the side, which brought the creature crashing into the car. It recovered quickly enough to dodge the ax-blow from Angel and sideswipe him into the car himself. The souled vampire bounced off the side, and tried to recover, but the thing was faster. It knocked him in the head, sending him spinning to the ground.

Angel rolled just quick enough to avoid a foot crunching his head, but not quick enough avoid its companion, a rather nasty kick to the side. Yet Angel got up, and slammed his ax into the creature's gut. The creature doubled over, and the vampire was about to hit it over the head, when it flipped back up and whacked him in the chin. It was a hard knock, with the demon's leg muscles behind it, and it Angel was reeling. The demon saw this as an opportunity to grab the target, and ran.

Angel recovered, and went after the thing, but it was too fast, and his head was swimming anyway, so it got away. Upset and angry, the souled vampire made his way back to the car. This was bad.

When he got there, he found that his friends were starting to wake up. Doyle first, then Cordy, and finally Wesley let out moans of pain, and put their hands to their heads almost at the same time. Questioning eyes hit him almost accusingly.

"They took Xander." He informed them unhappily as he put a hand to his aching head, "Wolfram & Hart took Xander."


Xander woke up in a dark, unfamiliar place. The air was hot and humid, and seemed to smell of rotting wood, but it was so dark he could not tell what the size of the room was. From general feeling, he thought it was perhaps eight by eight, but he couldn't be sure. It was just too dark. It was so dark that Xander hadn't even been sure his eyes were open at first.

It then occurred to him that he was a Necromancer. And as a Necromancer, he had control of Azrael's Flame. But as he tried to get a small Coldfire started, unbelievable pain wracked his body, and he immediately stopped. He shook his head, wondering what in the world could have produced the throbbing pain. So as soon as he recovered, he tried again, only to feel that mind-numbing lightning in his brain once more.

Yet, despite the pain, he saw light. But it was not a Coldfire. It was an opening in what he had just realized must be a large box. A little, mailbox-like opening where two blue eyes were staring in at him. Xander, still reeling from the pain, quickly jumped back and hit his back against the other side of the box.

"I wouldn't try that again, kid..." said a cold male voice from the opening, "We've got you in some expensive binding spells..."

It was then that Xander realized that he had something around his wrists. With the small amount of light coming through the opening, Xander's darkness-adjusted eyes could just make out two large metal cuffs that, while not connected by a chain, were wrapped around his wrists.

"I wouldn't try breaking them..." the man said, moving his head, which let Xander see a bit more of the face and some of the dark blonde hair, "They were made especially to bind your powers, making them useless, and any attack on them will give you even more pain then that attempt at Coldfire from before."

"Who are you?" Xander asked at last, his voice a bit ragged from sleep, "Why am I locked up?"

The eyes in the window widened, but not in surprise. More like pleasure.

"I" the man said in an amused tone, "am a rather interesting chap by the name of Lindsey. You don't really need to know my last name, at least not yet. Maybe after your training, then we can get into last names."

"Fine, Lindsey..." Xander spat, "Now, why am I locked up in this damn box?"

"Because you chose the hard way." Lindsey told him, "We were perfectly willing to pay you good money, give you great health and dental, and several paid vacations, but you had to go the hard way. Don't get me wrong, you'll still get all that and more if you prove anywhere near as good as you're supposed to be, but now you'll have to go through a lot of pain for that..."

Xander soaked it all in, then turned hateful eyes towards the other man. "This is Wolfram & Hart, isn't it?"

The young Necromancer could see the man on the other side of the opening chuckle, though he only barely heard it. "Well, aren't you the smart one?"

Xander didn't answer that. He just kept looking at the cuffs upon his wrists. In the little bit of light, he could see complex symbols carved into the metal of the manacles. He wondered what it said, and who had made them. He wondered why they had been created, and how these people had gotten them. But most of all, he wondered how the hell he could get them off.

Lindsey must have noticed where Xander was looking, and he smiled. "Good luck with those. There's no way in hell you're getting out of them without the key, which only the senior partners have right now. Now, I must be going. Little ceremony on the lawn to attend, very important. Be seein' ya'!"

And on that cheery note, the man closed the hatch, leaving Xander in that horrible darkness again.


"What happened, Angel?" Cordelia asked, her voice calm and cool despite how upset she looked. The other two asked him the same question with their eyes.

"A demon...maybe a Fyarl demon, though he didn't try to mucus me at all and he could complete sentences, so I'm not sure, knocked you out, then tried to make me give him Xander. I refused, we fought, I lost, he took the kid, and now Wolfram & Hart has him."

"Damn." Doyle said quietly, staring at the alley that Angel had returned from.

"And you're saying that they want to employ him?" Wesley asked, his hand upon his chin.

"Yes," the vampire answered, "And who knows what their gonna do with him. I mean, we still haven't figured out that scroll yet, right, Wes?

"No, not entirely. I was almost finished when the young man walked in, and then I was so occupied with obtaining the supplies-"

"I get it, Wes..." Angel said, his voice filled with aggravation and anger. The kid had come to help them, and all they'd done was to get him kidnapped, "Now, we're gonna have to get some help."

"From who?" Cordy exclaimed, "That Lindsey guy got promoted! He isn't going to help us again, especially since they promoted him..."

Angel nodded absently, and then continued thinking. Who could they ask? Gunn wouldn't be able to help this time. They didn't need weapons, they needed stealth. They needed some magickal help to recover Xander...who, the vampire finally remembered with a smile, is a LaVelle...

"Give me Xander's case, Wes?" Angel asked. The former Watcher did as asked. Luckily for them, Xander, in his fatigue and haste to leave, hadn't closed both clasps, so Angel could open it. As soon as he did, he looked to the several books on the right side, looking for one that looked different. On the bottom 'shelf' he found exactly what he had been looking for.

"What's that then?" Doyle asked as Angel pulled a small brown leather book from the case, "One 'ah Xander's books? I don'nah think we can do any 'ah those things..."

"No" Angel replied triumphantly, "It's a listing of every living LaVelle, complete with phone number and address for each."

Cordy looked at the book. "That's huge! How big is that family?"

"Very large..." Wesley began with that teacherly tone he got every once in a while, "Some believe that the LaVelles might in fact number over seven hundred, which would ind-"

"I get it, Wesley..." Cordelia said tiredly. Then she turned to Angel. "Anybody in L.A.?"

Angel smiled as he showed the others the page he was at. There, written in very modern blue ink was written two names under the heading "Los Angeles". One Kathy LaVelle Finch and one Martin LaVelle. The addresses were there too, both around ten minutes away.

"But do you think they will help us?" Wesley asked.

Doyle looked at the former Watcher as if he was crazy. "A'course, ya' fool! He's a LaVelle, an' the family Necromancer ta boot. Real important. LaVelles fight for their's what they're known for!"

"Then lets get going!" Cordy said, pushing Angel into the driver's seat.

"Good idea..."

The four of them got to the first apartment within ten minutes. It was a rather nice building, in a good part of the city, which seemed very bright and cheery despite the night they were having. When they got to the door, the four found the small buzzer system. After locating the apartment number, Angel rang the buzzer, and a pleasant male voice asked them who they were.

"My name is Angel. I'm a private investigator, and a good friend of a young man by the name of Alexander LaVelle Harris. Could we speak to you please?"

There was a pause on the other side, and the vampire's sensitive hearing could pick up the man's breathing over the intercom. It sounded rather nervous. Then again, strange people asking about your family in the middle of the night was something worthy of getting nervous. Angel knew that he had to give this one a little nudge if they were going to get in.

"He's in a bit of trouble, sir, and I have a feeling you can and will help us..."

There was no answer, but a second later, they heard the buzz that told them they could open the door. Cordelia, Doyle, and Wesley walked in, however, Angel was stopped at the threshold.

"Uh, guys? Could you invite me in?"

"Sure," Cordy answered as she walked towards the elevator, "Come in, Angel..."

Angel nodded his thanks, and then followed the two to the elevator door. They pushed the number they wanted, then the four of them fell into a glum silence. It took a minute, but the little box arrived, and the group stepped in. As it began lifting, Doyle broke the silence.

"This is all me fault..." The Irishman said miserably, "If he haddna done the ritual fer me, Xander wouldna be in this mess..."

"It's not your fault, Doyle." Angel assured him tiredly, "It's mine. I was so happy to see you back, I let my guard down, and then I let him be taken!"

The former May Queen turned around to face the two of them, "No. You, Brood-meister cannot take the blame for this one. It was me that wanted him to do the damn thing tonight..."

"Enough!" Shouted Wesley, far too loud for the little elevator, "It's no one's fault but those bloody bastards at Wolfram & Hart, so stop squabbling about who's bloody fault it is that he's gone, and let's put our minds to finding a way to getting him back!"

The three others looked at the ex-Watcher in shame and embarrassment, and then seemed to lighten up a bit. In fact, a smile broke Cordelia's face. But there was not more time to talk, because the elevator had stopped at their floor.

The half-demon, the vampire, the seer, and the rogue demon slayer walked out of the elevator and quietly made their way to apartment 7D. Angel knocked, and the voice they had heard earlier from the intercom shouted at them rather disagreeably that he would be there in a minute. They waited, and as promised, the door opened a moment later. No one was directly behind the door, opening it, but a few seconds later they saw Martin.

The man in the apartment was rather handsome, with dark brown eyes that reminded Cordelia of Xander's. His hair was blonde, his skin fairly tanned, and he looked to just a little shorter than Angel. If the young woman hadn't already found her true love in Doyle, she would have asked for this guy's number. But that wasn't important right now.

"All right," the man asked, sounding a bit angry and more than a little suspicious, "Now, what is this all about?"

"May we come in?" Angel asked, trying not to make the question sound too desperate, "I don't think you want to discuss Family business out in the hall..."

Martin looked the four over, seemingly scanning them before they entered his home. He seemed the most suspicious of Angel, yet he nodded and answered with a gruff, "Come in..."

They did as told, yet remained standing. They looked around the room, which was tastefully decorated in a sort of Victorian look. Yet it seemed to miss something, one element that didn't seem to be there. It took a minute, but Cordelia figured it out: there was not a single item made of glass. They were interrupted from their looking around by Martin, who had settled in a comfortable looking chair. He looked up and growled at them to sit. They did.

"Now, once more, what is all this about?" Martin LaVelle asked, his hands on his knees in a slightly distrustful way.

"Xander's been kidnapped by the law firm of Wolfram & Hart ..." Angel said bluntly, much to the other's dismay. The LaVelle didn't get up or shout, but it was obvious that he was deeply rocked by this news, perhaps more so than one would think.

"Ambrose's boy?" Martin asked, though Angel thought that he was maybe a little young to be calling Xander a 'child', "As in-"

"The family Necromancer..." Doyle finished, sighing tiredly. He was truly worried about the young man. Who knew what kind of horrible things they would do to Xander, the person who had returned him to life and given him a chance to love again?

There was silence for a moment, and then Martin's fist went flying into the coffee table in rage. In unison with his swing, a few objects on the wall rattled, and a wooden bowl flew off of the dining room table. Angel caught it with deft skill. No one said a word. The little fit of anger had revealed what this LaVelle's power was. Everyone just watched as the man got up and began to pace nervously around his living room, finally turning to Angel. But before he said a word, the former Watcher but in.

"You're a telekinetic, aren't you?" Wesley asked politely, "That is your, um, talent..."

The young man nodded in a distracted way, but he didn't say a word. Obviously he was thinking about the situation, and rather seriously.

"This is not good..." Martin said at last, his voice rough and ragged with worry, "I'll help you as best I can with my power, but if we screw this up, it could start a war...we can't be clumsy...this has to have as little confrontation as possible..."

This left the four others completely confused. "War?"

Martin looked to the strangers with a surprised expression. "Don't you know? Wolfram & Hart is run by the Brondstaffs..."

"Oh dear..."


Xander was glad he'd been moved into a cage. It didn't really help him to escape; Lord knew he had even less chance of escaping the cold steel than the heavy wood. But now at least there was light, a he wasn't as suffocated by dankness as he had been in that damned box. All in all an improvement. In fact, Xander was beginning to get comfortable (well, as comfortable as one can get while imprisoned) when the pain hit.

Sweat poured down his face as the mind-numbing sensation ran up and down him, causing him pain such as he'd never known before. He couldn't even compare the feeling to anything, not even the previous discomfort he'd felt when he'd tried to use his powers. And, now that this was running through his nerves, Xander knew that what he'd thought was pain before was just discomfort. Now, he was feeling pain. True, agonizing, soul-wrenching pain.

It felt as if every inch of his body was being yanked in different directions while he was skinned alive. But nothing was actually happening to him, and the nerves themselves stayed intact. Then he felt something being ripped from him. Something that had become a part of who he was. His power.

His power was being ripped out of him for some reason, leaving pain and emptiness. Xander couldn't stand it. He couldn't take it. No more. Not any longer. He blacked out.


Xander woke up shortly, and after making sure that all limbs and body parts were where they were supposed to be, realized something. He wasn't alone.

Moving slowly so as not to cause any more pain, the young necromancer picked himself off from the floor he had fallen onto and looked around the room. There. The...presence was in there, in the box that had at one time been his holding place. It was a strong presence, with the faint auric scent of Hell and something else. And a very definite feeling to it, not to mention a lack of life. A vampire. There was a vampire in the box.

"Hello?" Xander said softly, not wanting to alarm whoever or whatever was in the box. He didn't know anything about the vampire, but Xander was pretty sure that they had done what they'd done to him in order to get the creature in the box straight out of hell.

The answer wasn't in words; it was just a growl. A frightened, obviously female growl.

"Hi..." he said, hoping he sounded friendly despite his extreme anger at being put through what he had been, "Um...My name is Xander. Xander Harris, and I'll be your prison mate for this, are you okay?"

This time, there was no growl, but there was a movement in the box. Something he had said must have made the thing curious. The young necromancer wondered what, and tried his hardest to look through the bars in the small (now opened) windows of the box to figure out exactly what was in there. All he could make out in the darkness of the box was a lone figure who looked to be on the nude side. The figure moved toward the window.

"Are you okay in there?" Xander asked again, "And do you want some clothing?"

The figure cocked it's head in the darkness, and then Xander heard an affirmative growl as he watched the head nod. Xander took off the outer robe he was wearing over his light shirt and jeans, then bunched it up so that it was small enough to go through the bars of both her cage and his. Then he held the garment out for her.

The creature moved quickly, and then Xander watched as a feminine arm reached out of the box to take the robe. Luckily, or perhaps not, as she came to the window to take his gift, Xander was able to make out parts of the face and he could see the blonde hair shine in the low light. He knew who it was now, amazingly enough. He'd never forget that face, or the pain it had caused him.

"Darla." It was a statement. No need for a question, even though he was sure that she had been staked over three years ago. Staked by Angel, who definitely knew staked well enough to do it right. At yet, here she was. The pieces fell into place.

"They used me to get you back, didn't they?" he asked her, even though she hadn't said a word back to him, acknowledging him, "They ripped the power, quite painfully I might add, from me to bring you back from Hell. Great."

There was silence for a moment as Xander wait for a response. Finally, one came.

"Well," came the familiar voice, raspy from who knew what, "I certainly appreciate it. But how?"

Again, it was quiet. Then the young man spoke up. "I'm a necromancer. Last one, actually...a LaVelle..."

He heard a laugh. The laugh was tired, and strained, but it was there, filling the room with its humorless tone.

"I knew it. I knew there was more to you than that wimpy Slayer and her dim wit Watcher ever knew. I could feel it."

Xander glared at the bars which held him in, then down at the cuffs which stopped him from using his powers. He hated those cuffs. A chance to kill her, the bitch who had made him slay his best friend, and he couldn't. He had the power to make her a slave, and he couldn't because of the damned cuffs.

"That's nice..." he said through clenched teeth, "Good thing you didn't tell me, or I would've tried every single painful spell on you one by one."

She didn't answer.

"You have no idea how much I hate you..." Xander continued, his face contorted in hatred as his eyes lit with blue fire, "How angry I was with Angel to hear that you were dead. Because I wanted to be the one to kill you. I wanted to kill you! I wanted to stake you in the heart and watch you turn to dust. Watch as the little particles fell to the ground, never to be remembered..."

She didn't answer.

"You know, of all of the evil things in Sunnydale, you were the only one I hated. Really, truly, hated with a passion. The bug lady...I was kind of flattered. The Master...just your basic 'rule-the-world' bad guy. But took one of my best friends from me. And not only that, you made him a vampire like yourself, so I had to stake him. Me. I had to push the wooden stake into his heart and watch as the guy I'd known practically since birth exploded into dust bunnies. All because you had to play damned power games with the Slayer and your beloved Angel!"

Again she didn't answer, which made an already enraged Xander even more mad.

"Answer, you bitch!" he cried, sounding almost desperate, "Answer me, you goddamned conniving, evil, vampiric bitch! Answer me!"

"YES!!" came the pained shout from the box, "Yes, I did it all!"

And then Xander heard something he couldn't believe. "Yes, I admit it. Now, please, Master, stop!"

"Master?" Xander asked, completely shocked out of his anger by her words. He looked down at his chains to check that they were still on. Yup, still holding him here in this hell-hole. So, how was he controlling her?

"I...I have control over you?" he asked her. When she responded with a nod, he commanded, "Come to the window."

She did as commanded, and Xander smiled. This was what he wanted. Darla, as his slave. He could do what he wanted to the demonic bitch. Oh, she would pay...He didn't know how he had bypassed the shackles which held his power, but he was going to use it to the fullest advantage he could.

"Now, when I hold out my hands, I want you to rip apart the shackles on my arms..."

Chapter 2

"Yes Master..." Darla replied through clenched teeth, reaching through the bars as she spoke. The vampire began to work on carefully ripping off the cuffs from his wrists, and for a second her skin brushed his own. A wave of electricity went through both of them, unlike anything the young man or the 400-year-old creature had ever felt before. But neither said a word until the handcuffs were lying torn apart on the floor.

"It is done." The female vampire said with hatred in her tone, "Now you can put me through the tortures that you described before, Master..."

The words were spoken with ridicule, especially the last, but still she had done what he commanded. Rubbing his wrists, happy to be free of the cuffs, Xander knew that he sort of owed her. True, she had killed his best friend and countless others, but she had helped him out, even though she had been forced to do it. Maybe for that he could get her out of there as well, and then...

He had it. He would do the one thing that would both satisfy his conscience and would still cause her pain. But it would be good pain, he knew. Or rather, Angel knew. For Xander, deep within his brain, planned on giving Darla a soul back. As soon as they got out of this damned hell-hole. Right, his mind told him, get out, THEN do all that.

"Well these bars have to go..." Xander said out loud with a sigh, "But do I have enough power to get us out?"

"Us?" Darla asked incredulously.

Xander gave her a smile. While it wasn't particularly pleasant, it was a smile. "Yes, us. I can't torture you if you're in here..."


There was a pause, since Xander couldn't really think up a good response to that one, and then he touched the bars. Quietly, he made a small, powerful ball of Hotfire and began melting certain parts of the bars, creating a small hole for himself to get out of. Still, it took a little grunt work to push the mangled bars out so he could exit the cage, but he was a strong young man, muscles toned from fighting (and running quickly away) from vampires.

When he was out, he stretched a little, then turned to Darla's cage. It had some magical protections on it to keep the vampiress from getting out, and he was rather weak from the two extremely draining spells he'd done just that night. Even the little ball of Hotfire he'd done a moment ago had been difficult.

"Well..." he muttered to himself as he rubbed his still-sore wrists, "I might just have to bust her out of this thing the old fashioned way...which sucks, since I don't have any dynamite..."

He heard a giggle from within the box, which set his blood boiling. The fire rose in his eyes. How the hell dare she!?

Out of anger and frustration, the young necromancer swung his fist into the box. His hand, which was covered in the familiar blue flame of fury, seemed to hit a strange green barrier, and that only made Xander more upset. He hit it again, and this time the green was lighter. He didn't even think. His fist came smashing into the green barrier one more time, and then a sound similar to that of breaking glass could be heard. That was when his mind returned.

"Good job, boss..." Darla said from within the box, the sarcasm in her voice thick and hateful. She had to obey him, but she didn't have to like it. Besides, she figured she'd better get her shots in then because she was sure, with the knowledge of someone who'd do the same thing, that he had plans. Plans that would most likely not make her happy at all.

"Shut up, Blondie..." Xander snarled. He really couldn't wait to get out of there...with her...with her as his servant. But how to do it without his powers?

"Damn, Harris..." he murmured to himself, "You've had magic for a month and now you can't function without it. You're getting soft, kid...use your brain!"

"And what, pray-tell, will that do?" Darla asked with an audible smirk.

"I distinctly recall telling you to SHUT UP!" he said angrily, the power flowing through his voice to enforce the command. He stayed upset until he looked into the box to see Darla scratching at her throat in an attempt to talk. Then he smiled. Apparently, his ability to control her was not affected by his energy level.

"Which is probably why I was able to control you even when I had the cuffs on..." Xander figured out, "And I bet you Wolfram & Hart were completely unaware of that fact when they placed the two of us into that room together..."

There was no response.

"Oh, you can talk now..." he said in a offhanded voice, enjoyment glittering in his eyes, "Just stop being a snippy little vampire, righty roo?"

"Fine." Darla responded in a rather low, growling voice.

Xander grinned again.

"Now, why don't you use that nice supernatural strength of yours to get yourself out of the box so that we can get the hell out of here?" He turned away from the box, and went to stand near the doorway to wait for her.

The only answer to this he got was the sound of breaking wood (not to mention a few grumbled curses). Oh, he really hated he'd have the best time annoying the hell out of her.

"Are you coming?" he asked impatiently, taping his foot on the ground in an extremely infuriating way. Oh yeah...he was gonna have fun.

"Yes..." Yup, that was a growl. She probably had her game face on by this point. There, another growl as she got a splinter. Definitely fanged by now.

Xander heard a small step.

"And by the way," he said in a powerful, if playful voice, turning around quickly to face the fully vamped out Darla who had been stalking towards him, "You are not allowed to harm me in any way. Physical, mental...any of it. Clear? That's an order?"

She didn't even erupt like he had expected. There was just nothing she could say to that, so she simply stared at him.

"Damn it..."

Xander, who had spun back around so that he was facing the door, smiled widely.

"So, let's be going then..."

"I hope you know that I hate you..." she said at last as they made their way out, her behind him by only two steps, "And that if you weren't a goddamned raiser, I'd rip out your eyeballs and use them for billiard balls..."

"I know..." he told her with a smirk, not even turning to face the vampire who had once been half of the Scourge of Europe...the vampiress known as Darla. "And I hope you know that as much as you hate me, I hate you at least ten times more..."


"Yes? No, I don't know. Yes, he is there. No, I don't- don't you get that tone with me, Uncle Gerry! I mean, no...yes...I don't think so. Yes, very drained..."

Angel, Cordelia, Doyle and Wesley watched Michael talk over the phone to his Uncle Gerard, and while they were worried and upset, it was still rather interesting to watch.

"No, Mom did not...but that isn't the point! Yes, I know you do give a damn. No, I...Xander- no, I don't think he got to meet Kat...yes, I will. No. Yes. She promised. No. Damn you!"

As he said the last word, Michael turned around and gave them the 'one minute' sign, then continued to talk. He sounded very tired as he spoke.

"All right. So? Yeah, I thought so. Look, I gotta go. See you at Christmas...Bye, Unc..."

And then Michael turned around to face the four friends, a strange expression on his face. It wasn't exactly sadness, but at the same time, there was no joy in his look.

"We can't do anything..." Michael told them succinctly.

"What?!?!" came the response. It wasn't exactly a chorus, but it was close enough to send Michael jumping back.

"I said 'we can't do anything'..." the young LaVelle repeated, his voice just as upset as the first time he had said it, "We are not allowed to enter the Wolfram & Hart building, we are not allowed to contact Wolfram & Hart, and we are most certainly NOT allowed to mount a rescue mission."

"Then what the hell can we do?" Cordelia asked angrily.

"Well," Michael said slowly, sitting down on his couch with a tired sigh, "We can sit outside and give him a ride on the SLIM chance that he gets to the door...that's about what we can do..."

"'Well'", Doyle repeated loudly, "That's a load of-"

"That's all we can do..." Michael said once more. Then, a glimmer of hope appeared in his eyes...followed by a glint of an idea.

"What?" Angel asked, curious as to what the LaVelle was thinking.

"But Kat can do something!" Xander's cousin shouted in triumph. Before any of the others could ask him about it, Michael's phone came flying into his hands. The LaVelle caught it and quickly began to punch in the numbers.

"Who, may I ask, is 'Kat'?" Wesley asked as he walked over to where Michael sat, a curious expression on his face.

"Kat," the brunette psychic answered quickly as he waited for someone to pick up, "Is my third cousin. She lives downtown. She's a Mindwalker...and perhaps the only way we can help young Xander get out of there alive and intact..."


"What the hell are you waiting for exactly? The magical escape fairy to paint you a cartoon door?"

Xander, a look of disgust on his face, turned around to face the undead creature behind him. The undead creature who was his co- escapee. The undead creature that had been brought back from the darkest depths of hell using his powers. The undead creature he was getting a strong urge to make completely dead.

"Darla..." he said slowly, purposefully not grounding his teeth since he didn't feel like hearing her comments on THAT, "I will be able to work a hell of a lot better when you stop making snide comments about EVERY thing I do."

The vampire raised her eyebrow, then gave him a sarcastic smile. "But you give me SO much to comment on."

"Well if you don't stop, I'll give the janitor something to comment on..." Xander grumbled angrily, "Namely the large pile of ashes on the floor."

"Oooh..." Darla answered mockingly, "I'm so scared."

This made Xander finally turn around to face Darla. Face those hazel eyes so full of anger and superiority. That blonde hair hanging limply from her head that still managed to shine. The large black robe that only hinted at the curvy figure beneath...

Dear God, Xandman...what the hell is wrong with you? She's the Wicked Bitch of the West, naughty thoughts...wrong time, wrong place, wrong GIRL!

God, I miss Anya.

"Look..." the young necromancer said patiently, "We have to get out of here. Both of us, cause you can't get out without my say-so, and I can't get out without your strength. So stop being Snide-comment chick, and HELP ME OUT!"

This seemed to stop Darla short, and she looked to have taken the message to heart.

"'re so cute when you get mad..."

Xander just turned around again and looked around for guards and employees. It was going to be a long night...

"All right..." the necromancer said slowly, try as hard as possible not to lose control of his powers. True, he was weak, but he knew that should he lose his temper, there was a good chance that Darla would be dust within moments. She didn't seem to remember that too well.

However, this little peace offering did nothing but get him a derisive snort. So Xander, upset and tired, simply decided to ignore her and work on the escape.

He focused his mind on the task at hand, and started to look at the placement of the surveillance cameras. On the current hallway, there were four of them, each one not easily seen despite the size of the cameras. Xander had found out earlier that there were illusion spells on all of them in order to hide them. Luckily for them, he'd also found he remembered the counter spell from his heavy study session a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, he didn't have enough power to make Fire, nor did he remember the spell to cloud sight.

"Well?" came Darla's aggravated voice from behind him, "Still waiting for that fairy?"

Xander turned to make a response, decided against it, then turned to look at the vampire for an entirely different reason.

"What?" the blonde bloodsucker asked as the young man stared at her.

"That could work..." he murmured to himself, "I could...and..."

"WHAT!?" Darla asked in an angry hiss that was, luckily, more emphasis then volume.

"Vampires," Xander explained with a wide grin, "can't be seen in mirrors, right? Or video cameras?"

"Yeah..." she answered, not following him. Sure, she couldn't be seen in cameras, but she didn't know how that would help HIM. And besides, "These cameras, unfortunately, have enchantments on them to pick up vampires..."

"They do?" Xander asked, "How do you know?"

"That jackass Lindsey told me..." she spat out, "Just as he was locking me into that damned cage...I swear, I'm going to rip off his- " "Whoa!" the necromancer cried quietly, shushing her with a gesture, "First off, eww...and secondly, ewww...but thirdly, you're venturing into Anya territory. Please, no 'rippings' enough from the former little lady..."

Darla's blonde eyebrow inched itself up. "Former?"

"Yeah," Xander responded with a sigh, "Not that it's any of your business..."

"Oh." the vampire said simply, "Now, what about getting out of here..."

At this, Xander's eyes began to glow with the blue fire of anticipation. Finally, Darla understood the necessity for getting out. Hopefully, the understanding for the necessity of cooperating would come next.

"Well," the young man whispered, "You're a vampire, unable to be captured on film. But I'm not. However, at the moment, your demonic...aura for the lack of a better word, is expanded because of your recent trip back from Hell."


"So what I'm going to do is work with the energies of your aura and sort of cover myself with part of them..." Xander explained, "And since a little bit of my power is still clinging to you, that should be enough to banish the 'see-vampires' spell on the cameras..."

Again, Darla's eyebrow shot up. She hadn't expected the plan to make sense, let alone be actually workable.

"But," Xander cautioned, "no more screwing around. You can verbally abuse me, and I can abuse you AFTER we get out, okay? But for now, we need to be quiet. I don't have any power to use on a lucky guard or anything, and killing people sort of starts alarms..."

Darla nodded, at least respecting the boy's plan. She wasn't quite ready to respect him yet. Maybe if he got them out...maybe then...

"All right, give me a sec." Xander told her. Then he began to focus his eyes on her body. Darla, who was highly sexually conscious, noticed that the boy wasn't just working on her aura, but was also looking at her. Plus, she could smell the beginnings of arousal on him easily.

Maybe the young raiser would be far more interesting then she could have imagined...

Her mind was distracted from these thoughts by the touch of warm flesh on her skin. Looking down, she saw Xander carefully manipulating parts of her aura, now completely business. All scent of anything else but determination was gone from him.

Indeed, much more interesting.

A few seconds later, the hands were removed from her and one was slipped into her own hand.

"We have to keep some kind of bodily contact for this to work. The job I did on this is a bit shaky cause I'm, I'm nervous as hell. Add to that the fact that I've never even done this before..." Xander admitted to her with a edgy grin, "Just keep holding my hand and we should be all right. The camera spell is gone now..."



And the two began to walk down the hall of Wolfram and Hart toward the elevator that meant freedom for both of them.


"What exactly is she doing?" Cordelia asked, a bit of annoyance shining through her attempt at civility. The seer was getting better at tact, but some old habits die hard...especially when she was worried.

Michael sighed, then looked over at his cousin Kat, who was sitting in the lotus position on the couch. "She's diving into the minds of the guards, making them forget seeing Xander or making them turn at the right moment so that they don't see him. He's being careful, but...she's got a lot of work. Apparently, from what she told me last time she had a chance to speak, Xander and another woman have escaped from their holdings and are now making their way out of the compound."

"Together?" Cordelia asked with a sly smile. Damn Xander, she thought, even charming the prison chicks...

"Who is this other woman?" Angel asked, his voice filled with worry and anger. Worry for the boy who had helped them so much, and anger for his own incompetence in keeping that selfsame boy safe from harm.

Michael shrugged.

"Don't know," he admitted with a shrug, "Kat hasn't had time to tell me. She's busy with the guards..."

"Well, ask next time you get a chance..." the souled vampire practically growled as he sat down tiredly.

"I will..." Xander's cousin responded with just a bit of a huff, "But you just calm down. If you don't, your turbulent emotions could pull Kat away from her work..."

"Okay." Angel agreed with a sigh as he lay back in the chair.

There was a few moments pause, and then Kat's voice rang out in the room, hurried but understanding.

Suddenly, an image of Xander and a certain blonde woman entered everyone's minds, he both of them creeping toward the elevator that would get them safely out. At first, they couldn't see the blonde's face, but then she turned to look around for danger and everyone realized just who Xander's escapee friend was.

"Darla!" Angel cried in total shock, nearly falling off of the chair.

And then things began to fall apart...

Cordelia fainted.

Wesley blinked.

Doyle looked around at the others.

Michael realized what was about to happen and tried to calm Angel.

Kat was pulled out of her trance by Angel's emotions and actions, and in a building miles from the one they were in, one guard got a glimpse of black cloth as two figures got into the elevator.

Chapter 3






"Damn," Xander hissed, shifting his weight back and forth on the balls of his feet nervously, "I wish this thing went faster...I mean, you'd think gravity would make it move just a little bit-"

"Shut up, Xander..." Darla snarled, "It's not going to go any faster, and saying that just irritates me."

"You say that like it's a bad thing..." the young necromancer pointed out with a weak grin. He couldn't manage much more; he was too nervous. So he watched the numbers go by. And he was sure that each number was going slower and slower and slow-

"Cut it out!" Darla insisted, obviously wishing she could hit him.

"Cut out what?" he asked irately.

"With the...staring," she told him with what he would have sworn was a shiver, "And those flames in your eyes...I've never liked Azrael's flame around me..."

"Well EXCUSE ME!" Xander exclaimed, throwing his arms wide, "And would the Madame also like a glass of heated blood with her whine?"

"Shut up..." the vampiress muttered.

"I'm not gonna shu-"

Then she heard something.

"No, seriously," Darla insisted, her tone completely serious, "Shut up. I thought I heard something out the sound of radios..."

Xander sighed tiredly. "It's probably some blue-blood swindling a Fyarl demon out of its last loogie or something..." the raiser told her, "Nothing to do with us. I mean, as important as we are, I'm sure there are OTHER things going on."

"Whatever..." the blonde vampire agreed as she continued to listen intently to the sounds around the elevator. It didn't help that she looked exceedingly perturbed, which did nothing to calm the necromancer's own nerves. He began to pace, walking quietly so as not to distract his 'partner'.

This continued for a couple more levels, until a look of alarm crossed Darla's face.

"Xander, they know we've escaped!" she told him anxiously, "I heard it on one of their radios. A guard on our floor saw us and-"

It was at this point that a heavy clanking noise interrupted Darla. This was followed by something that alarmed Xander even worse then the vampiress' unease.

The elevator stopped.

"And they aren't letting either of us go without a fight..."


Angel, Cordelia, Doyle, and Wesley rushed down the stairs, finding the elevator that they'd used earlier to be far too slow for their current purposes. They needed to get to the car. They needed to get to the car-

"NOW!" the seer screeched as they reached the convertible, "If we don't get there in time, Lindsay and the rest of those over-paid assholes will capture them again!"

Angel looked at his secretary, unable to keep all the annoyance out of her voice. "I understand that, Cordelia..."

"Then hit the bloody pedal!" chorused Doyle and Wesley, both shouting at the top of their lungs even though it was the middle of the night.

The souled vampire raised an eyebrow.

"You don't want to wait for Michael and Kat?"

There was a pause.

"No, we don't have time. And I'm sure they know where the building is. They can drive themselves..." Cordelia reasoned, "We have to get there now."




Xander's heart skipped a beat. Then he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Okay, the time for bullshit is over," he announced to her quickly, "Darla, you need to open those doors manually, while I work on the ceiling hatch."

"Well, which way are we going?"

"Open the doors and I'll tell you..." Xander answered her briskly as he began to work on the hatch, "If we're on a floor, we'll head this way and escape to the level above us. If we're halfway between levels, we'll slip through the one below us, and we'll leave both doors open."


"And..." the necromancer continued, "Then they won't know where we went. They're hunting for us, so there won't be guards in unneeded places. But with both doors open, they won't know which one is unneeded. They'll have to guess-"

"And," Darla finished for him as she realized what he was doing, "With us hidden from the cameras, that guessing will be difficult. Unless we-"

"Bang a hole through the floor and slid down, completely confusing them by covering the hole with a bit of illusion."

Darla raised an eyebrow. "You got the power to backup that plan?"

Xander thought, then nodded. "Yeah. With the traces on you and my own returning strength, I should be able to do it with just a bit left over. Damn, I wish I was at full strength. I could've blasted through the wall and-"

"Well, you're not, so stop whining..." the vampiress told him, all business, "Let's get working..."


"Great track record, Lindsey..."

Lindsey McDonald looked across to one of his colleagues and sneered.

"Well, you try harnessing a LaVelle necromancer," he challenged angrily as he listened to the buzzing and the crackling on the radio, "At least we got to use him for what we needed the most."

Lilah didn't answer for a moment, but finally slid behind her fellow lawyer and whispered into this ear.

"You couldn't convince him to take a six figure salary, with paid vacations..." she reminded him, "That's pretty bad for a lawyer of your reputation..."

"Need I remind you that the boy is a former friend of the Slayer?" Lindsey pointed out irately, "One who fought...evil, as one would say...for years before even discovering his powers? People like that aren't as easy to deal with. They see the world in black and white-"

"And to his eyes, we are decidedly black..." Lilah finished with a smirk, "But that's not my problem, is it?"

"Yes, you're still trying to get that young telekinetic, aren't you?" Lindsey mentioned disdainfully, "That abused little-"

"Don't talk about her like that!" the attorney interrupted angrily, "I only want the best for her..."

"So you drag her into this lion's den?" he asked, "Lilah, I may be doing the same with this LaVelle boy, but at least I'm honest with myself about it."

"Just shut up, Lindsey..." she replied, "Get back to your job. Maybe FIND the LaVelle boy so that you can try and talk to him."

"I'll do that..." he answered with a smile on his face. He loved getting Lilah riled up. It made him feel productive. "So why don't you go along your way?"

"I'll do that..." Lilah answered mockingly. And then she walked out the door.

Lindsey watched her make her way out, then turned his attention to the radio, where voices intermingled with the crackle and buzz.

"I'll talk to him," Lindsey vowed, "And he WILL work here. Even if it kills him..."






Darla looked down to Xander, who was ever so slowly making his way down the large metal wire.

"Can't you go any faster?" she asked with a sneer.

Xander glanced up quickly, his eyes still wide with fear. "Well, I'm sorry that I'm a little against plummeting to my death, being that it'll kill me and all."

The vampiress raised an eyebrow and went back to her own work, unable to argue with that logic. She supposed it didn't really matter how fast they went at this point. No one knew where they were. But, the little nervous part of her mind insisted, faster was better.

And that was when they both heard the 'clang'.

Followed by the 'whirring'.

"Oh no..." muttered Xander, "This is SO not of the good..."

The elevator started.

"Very not good..." agreed Darla with a frantic shuffle, which was almost matched by an equally upset Xander.

Then it started coming down.


"Hurry! Hurry!" Cordelia shouted, her instructions nearly deafening the souled vampire to the other noises of the street. Not that he was listening to them. Not that he had the time to, according to Cordelia.

Doyle joined his love in urging Angel onto to even further break the speed limit...or perhaps the sound barrier. "Can't ya' go any faster, man?"

"Indeed!" cried Wesley, who the vampire was sure had simply gotten caught up in the whole adrenaline-rushed insanity. Normally, the former Watcher was so hesitant to correct his 'boss' in anything that it was a wonder he ever did anything without asking. On the first day, Angel had actually thought that he would ask to use the men's room.

But, he had to admit, the three had a point. They had to get there as soon as possible, even if that meant practically destroying his car to do so. He owed it to Xander and to Griffin & Draco, not to mention all their friends in Sunnydale, to get him back.

And with this in mind, Angel lessened the pressure on the gas just slightly for a moment, then rammed his foot down on the peddle as hard as he could.


"Michael, hurry up! We're losing them!"

The Mindwalker, known to those who she called friends as Kat, pointed towards the speeding black convertible.

"Come on!"

"Oh, shut up, Kat!" cried Michael, who was trying his hardest not to make the door handle fly off and smack her in the face, "I'm working on it!"

"Well, work harder! They're getting-"

"I know they're getting away!" the telekinetic answered in a growl, "But I only have a Hundai! I'm doing the best I can in this piece of crap..."


Michael looked over, nearly hit a stop sign, then pulled his eyes to the road.

"What do you mean, 'huh...'?"

Kat turned, looking like a rather miffed feline, "You still blame him for the banana pudding, don't you?"

The LaVelle raised an eyebrow, but kept his view on the street. "What?"

"That banana pudding Alex slipped onto your chair when he was two. You know he was just a baby. And yet, you still hold it against him, don't you?"

"Are you out of your mind?"

Kat sighed. "I knew it. You still hold it against him, and that's why you're driving so slow. You want to get back at him."

"Are not."

"Are too..."

"Are not."

"Are too."

There was a pause.

"This is really juvenile, you know..." Michael pointed out as they took a sharp turn which sent Kat's smaller frame up against the door.

"So is what you're doing." Kat replied.

"I'm NOT-"

"Then prove it!"


And Michael slammed his foot onto the gas peddle.

"That's better..."


"It's moving."

Xander took a deep breath and kept from smacking Darla's ankle.

"I know it's moving."

"And what are you going to do about it?" she asked anxiously as the huge metal box inched closer and closer to them.

"No clue."

Darla waited a minute for him to say he was kidding, then repeated.

"No clue?"

"No clue." He affirmed for her.

They watched and listened as the elevator continued to make it's way towards them.

"What about you?" Xander asked suddenly, "Got any 'I'm-a-four- hundred-year-old-vampire-who-wants-to-live' brilliance in that blonde head of yours?"

She looked up.

"Not at the moment, no."


"Look," the vampiress asked, her eyes pleading as she stared down at the young man below her, "Can't you just...I don't know, pull some magic from...somewhere and blast us a hole somewhere? Or maybe levitate us down gently? Stop the elevator?"

"Nope." Xander replied dolefully, "I'm all tapped out."

"Great." Darla muttered, "Plenty of the crap to get us into this damn situation, but nothing to get us out."

Or at least, nothing to get him out, she thought, I can just jump, recover, and tear myself out of the building.

"And by the way," the necromancer added with just the tiniest hint of cheer in his voice, "We're in this together. You are not allowed to save yourself without me."

How does he do that!? She fumed, though in all honesty, she wasn't all that upset. For some reason, the idea of simply saving her own skin didn't appeal to her as much as she'd thought it would. Darla wasn't sure if it was the master-servant bond to the young man, or something else, but she wanted to help him, to save him. She wanted him to live, even though the darker corners of her mind told her that she'd be free if he died.

"Then what are we going to do?" the vampire questioned. Then a thought came into her mind. "Xander? What is this robe made out of?"

The young raiser looked up to Darla with confusion written plainly on his face. "Silk. Very fine silk. Why, are you worried about dying in rayon?"

"That could work..." she muttered, ignoring the young man as she worked to secure one arm around the cable while the other reached down. When she had accomplished this in a manner which she trusted, Darla grabbed the bottom of the robe she had taken earlier from Xander and tore off two long strips.

"Here..." she told him as she let the one strip flutter down to the young man's waiting hand.

"And do what? Make a little bow?"

"No, you moron," Darla cried angrily, "Wrap it around your hands."


"Cause," the vampire replied as she did what she'd instructed Xander to do, "We're gonna slide down, and we need to cut down on the friction."

"Slide?" the young man asked skeptically.

"Yes, slide..." the blonde answered, "I can't guarantee that your hands won't get a little burned, but-"

"But it's better then getting killed by an elevator..." Xander finished for her.

There was a pause in the talking as the two secured the fabric around their hands, though there was unfortunately not a pause in the sound of the huge metal box coming towards them.

"You ready?"

Xander gulped in an almost comical way, then nodded.

"As ready as I'll ever be..."

The vampire and the necromancer locked eyes, then winked at each other almost in unison.

"Then go!"

And Xander began his plummet into the darkness below...

Chapter 4

"I want guards at every entrance! Dogs, Psi Patrollers…the works…"

"Don't you think that's a little drastic, MacDonald?" Lilah asked as she walked up to his desk in his office/impromptu 'war room'. There was a definite swagger to her step, which told the other lawyer that something rather unpleasant was probably coming his way.

However, he did his best to ignore the swagger for the time being and answered her question.

"No, I really don't think it is." Lindsey answered with a raise of his eyebrow, "I mean, I don't know about you, but I consider a rogue necromancer and a four hundred year old vampire who's spent some years in Hell to be a serious security risk."

"Didn't have to be, you know…" Lilah informed him with a smirk, "I mean, putting the two of them together in a room…not bright in the least, my friend."

"You aren't."

"What, bright?" the lawyer asked with a tilt to her head, "I'll have you know-"


"No, what?"

"What I meant was…you aren't my friend." Lindsey clarified, getting more and more aggravated by her presence as the seconds ticked by. She was just so smug, so arrogant. So prideful and conceited about her looks, and her status. He wished he could kill her, but he knew he really didn't have time for the extra paperwork.

"Oh really?"

"Yes," he answered tersely, "really. And I'll have you know that if you knew anything about Darla, or that LaVelle, you wouldn't have thought it was a bad idea at all."

"What do you mean?"

Lindsey waited, watching her for interest. Finding it, he continued.

"Darla killed that boy's best friend a few years back. She turned him into a vampire, then forced this kid to stake him. Not to mention-"

"So? Just because they should have hated one another doesn't mean it was a bright idea to put a vampire and a necromancer in the same room."

"Maybe not to your mind…" Lindsey said with a grin that spoke volumes, "But I have grander plans…"





"They're on the way."

The voice came from behind a screen, the tone solemn and yet excited at the same time. Those who knew it's source were well aware that it took a great deal to even prompt the speaker to say anything most times. Indeed, the speaker tended to stay quiet when things weren't all-existance-in-the-balance important.

"Really?" asked the young woman who sat before the screen, her powersuit crinkling slightly as she leaned over to better hear the speaker. This one knew well how important the words were. "Do you know if they'll be in time?"

There was a pause, and the strange shape behind the screen seemed to shrug, though considering it's morphic quality, it could have been sticking it's tongue out at the young woman for all she knew.

"Of course I know…" the voice replied with a slight edge of irritation, "I am an Oracle, Vera Maat. You should remember that it is not a matter of knowing, but a matter of telling."

"And?" Vera asked, her liquid brown eyes pleading to the bare screen with an almost painful need to know.

"And," the Oracle replied with a rather tired sigh and an almost loving tone, "Now is not the time for that information to be revealed."

The hope and pleading that had been in washing around in the young woman's eyes suddenly bleed out, and had she not the iron will she had, they would have translated to tears.

Vera wanted to scream. She wanted to rant and rave and tear things off the wall. She wanted to pound her fists on the floor, stomp her feet, and make a ruckus. Mostly, though, she wanted to tear the screen away from it's spot, grab the Oracle, and shake it one good.

But she didn't.

Instead, Vera stood up, straightened her suit, flattened the small wisps of black hair which had fallen out of place, and grabbed her folder. However, she couldn't stop the almost petulant click of her high heels on the floor.

"I'm sorry, dear…" the Oracle told her, sounding rather upset, "But I-"

"It's okay, Ori…" Vera told the being with a tired sigh, using the nickname to ensure the creature behind the screen that all was well between them, "I know it's not your fault. You have rules to your existence as the rest of us do, and I was wrong to ask you for information I knew you probably would be forbidden to tell me."

There was a pause as the Oracle thought over the words of the young woman, and then a small chuckle filtered through the room from behind the screen.

"Thank you, Vera." The Oracle said, "I trust that what I did tell you was helpful, no?"

"Yes, very…" she replied as she sorted carefully through the papers in her folder, truly meaning it. The fact that there was reinforcements coming to aid the young necromancer meant that there was a chance that things could be turned the way they needed to be turned so that all the prophecies worked out on schedule.

"I am glad." The being behind the screen informed her, "You are a very good woman, Vera. A woman who shall have much importance in some of the greatest events of your time."

Vera smiled at that thought. Her, important? If it wasn't the Oracle telling her such things, she surely would have laughed.

"I thought you weren't supposed to tell people of their own lives, Ori?" she asked with a small chuckle, "Though I won't tell on you."

"I know you won't…" The Oracle answered with an almost audible grin. "You have an idea of my burden. We all slip. To err is-"

"Always possible for just about every race." Vera finished. Then she looked at her watch.

"You must go?" the voice asked, sounding almost sad.

"Yes, Ori, I must." She reported to her 'friend', "I have some work to do at my desk, then a meeting with Mr. Draco-"

"My, aren't we important?"

Now Vera's smile widened into a full out grin.

"Well, getting assigned to a LaVelle IS a high honor…" Vera said, her brown eyes and equally brown skin aglow with even the memory of the day she'd found out about it.

"Yes, it is…"

"But it's also a big responsibility, which is why Mr. Draco wants to talk to me."

There was a sigh from behind the screen, and Vera matched it as she sat back down.

"I screwed up, Ori…" she told the Oracle as she put her head in her hands, "Even with all my gifts, and all the work I did, I screwed up. I let him get captured by those bastards, setting every bit of work done in the 'Slayer Concerns' office into upheaval."

"It had to happen, Vera…" the Oracle reminded her.

"I know, but, I could have-"

"Nothing." The Oracle replied, using what Vera had come to affectionately call the 'Delphic Authority' voice. But as she continued, it softened. "Now, head up to your office, do your work, have the meeting, and relax. Things will work out."

Suddenly, Vera shot up from her seat in amazement. It'd said-

"Now go…"

And Vera went.


Xander had never been so terrified in his entire life.

Never before had he felt so helpless in the affairs of his existence. Never had he been plummeting into the darkness like he was at that moment. Never had he imagined the ground as being a horrible, horrible thing he wanted to avoid.

But these thoughts were luckily interrupted by the voice of a rather peeved vampiress from above.

"Break, you moron!"

Immediately, before the words could even be computed by his mind, he felt his hands grip tightly to the wire, the hard metal growing hotter and hotter through the ripped silk which he'd wrapped around his digits as he continued downwards.

But slower. Now he was going slower into that unknown darkness.

Above him, he could hear the voice of Darla, still screaming at him, but the adrenaline made it impossible to hear anything but the slip of his hands and the beat of his heart.

What? Too…what? Too…what was she saying?

"Too fast!" he finally heard, "Grip HARDER!"

Was she insane? Xander thought. Already, he could feel the skin of his hands peeling off from the friction and the heat.

"GRIP, you asshole! Your life is more important then some of your skin!"

And against all his instincts, Xander held harder to the wire, even as he felt himself slow. Unfortunately, this was also accompanied by the worse burning sensation he'd ever experienced.

Unable to hold it in, Xander screamed out in pain. True, it was no where near the pain he'd felt earlier that night as the power was ripped from his very being, but it was very bad. Somehow, he'd been able to block that pain away from a part of himself, but this was unstoppable. It just burned, and kept on burning.

Willow had told him once that the human hand had some of the most sensitive nerves on the body.

He certainly knew that now.

But there were other places for pain, which Xander found out a few seconds later as he landed, still in the darkness, on his feet.

Instantly, Xander heard a snap from the one leg as it hit an irregularity in the floor, but the pain took a second to explode in Technicolor onto his senses.

He fell over.

A few seconds later, another form dropped to the ground. He heard another snap, this time less piercing then the one from his own leg. Xander figured Darla must have broken only her ankle. Then he smelt the burnt flesh and knew why.

"Xander?" he heard her ask into the darkness.

"Right…here…" he croaked out from the uneven floor, his head resting on a metal gadget which obviously did something for the elevator but helped him not one bit.

"Damn it…" he heard Darla curse. Then he heard her grunt as she found him and pulled him to one foot.

"We've got…to find the door." Xander said, his voice raw from screaming, "It's probably-"

"I see the door, Xander…"

Xander looked at where he hoped she was in the darkness, then raised an eyebrow.

"Then why are we still in here?" he asked carefully.

"Because…" the vampiress explained, her voice strangely quiet as she spoke to the injured necromancer, "I need a second to heal. We'll go faster if BOTH of us don't have broken legs…"

"Oh," Xander replied intelligently, "So you noticed."

"You learn after a couple decades to figure out the which sounds mean what…" Darla told him.

Damn, didn't she just have to wreck the almost-peace…

Xander waited a second.

"Healed yet?"


"Well, we have to go…"

All Xander got was a growl.

"No, seriously. The elevator's almost here."


A second later, he heard the tearing of metal, and a small amount of light shone through to the dark elevator shaft. This allowed him to see her face.

She looked…angry. Angry, and hurt, and….concerned. But…that' couldn't be. She didn't give a damn about him, did she? She couldn't have. But there she was, tearing through the metal and holding him up, even though her hands were as burnt, if not more burnt, then his own.

"Almost…through…" she grunted out as her red and peeling fingers pulled open the metal doors.

"THROUGH!" she proclaimed as she finally pushed them open enough for the duo to get through, her scream half exultation and half pain. And inside, Xander couldn't help from feeling a bit of pity for her. The pain…he knew the kind of pain produced that scream.

But he was knocked out his thoughts by Darla's voice once more.

"Come on, boy…" she growled as she pulled him out of the elevator shaft, much to the surprise of the people in the lobby of the building.

The lobby. They were in the lobby. Almost out!

But then Xander heard the whispers in the crowd, and his stomach sank.

Whispers that spoke the last name of the man he'd killed. Whispers that spoke of the last word he'd heard from Nigel Brondstaff's lips.

And Lorimina Brondstaff-Hart exited the other elevator.


Cordelia nearly flew out of the car.

In fact, the only thing which kept her within the confines of the black metal were the seatbelt she had hastily snapped on and Angel's arm extended in front of her. But the former May Queen didn't notice any of these and immediately tore out of the convertible as quickly as was humanly possible.

However, just as she had reached the glass and chrome version of the Gate to Hell, the young seer was yanked back bodily by her newly- revived boyfriend.

"Let go of me, Doyle!", she cried painfully, "I have to-"

"Not get yourself killed, princess…" the half-demon finished for her.


"But nothing," he told her softly, trying to calm her down to the point where she could think clearly, "We canna go in, or they'll murder us right there. That wonna help anyone. And considerin' that me body's all fresh and new, I was aimin' to keep it for awhile."

Cordelia looked as if she was going to argue, but finally decided that Doyle was right. They had to wait. It wasn't easy, but they had to wait. Then she had a thought.

"But I can peek through the glass, right?" she said, swiftly breaking the grip he had on her arm so that she could cup her hands around the almost reflective glass to see through.

"Good idea," commented Wesley, who had just gotten out of the car. Angel, however, was still sitting within the convertible, obviously wanting to be ready should the escapees make it out. But he did have enough concern to ask the other three what was going on within the building.

"Well," said the seer with a smile, "Everything looks pretty normal… other than the hands that are prying the elevator doors apart."


"Yeah," she continued, "They're…opening, and-"


"It's Darla!" Cordelia cried in surprise and disappointment, "But where's Xa- Oh my God, she's got Xander! It looks like…yes, I think his leg is broken or something, cause I KNOW legs aren't supposed to bend that way."

Wesley joined her at the glass and drew in a hiss of breath.

"Dear God, his hands! They look as if they've been held in a fire…"

Cordelia pulled away from the glass.

"You sure we can't go in there?" she asked, "They both look like they're in pretty bad shape. They need some help."

Suddenly from behind her, Cordelia heard footsteps. She turned around to see Michael, obviously out of breath, and Kat, who, despite her fatigue, had a smile on her face.

"No…" he got out in a gasp, "You can't go in. It would be war. As much as I hate it, he has to do it on his own."

"But look at them!" Cordelia shouted, pointing through the glass at the figures who were even now struggling through the ripped up doors of the elevator, "They're half dead."

"Well, in Darla's case-"

"Shut up, Wesley!" she snapped, "The point is that there is no way in Hell that they're going to get out alive without some assistance. Now I ask you…are you going to let my friend, your family member, and one very important person to the good fight, DIE because of family politics?!"

Michael seemed to think about this for a moment, and then put his head down, telling Cordelia all she needed to know. Only her concern for Xander kept her from smacking his cousin right on the mouth.

"Fine," she told him, her normally full lips a tight line, "Then I'll do it myself!"

And without further ado, Cordelia Chase walked into the lobby of Wolfram & Hart.


Xander knew he had basically two options at the moment.

Live or die.

With all the pain, dying was looking pretty good at the moment, but he knew that he'd been in worse situations before and lived. He wasn't going to cop out now. He couldn't, he WOULDN'T let his friends down by dying. He wouldn't let them feel the pain he'd felt years before as his best friend exploded into dust before his eyes.

So the choice was made for you, eh? Asked a little voice within his mind.

Basically, Xander answered it as he looked up into the face of the imperious woman before him.

I'm glad, the voice told him with a verbal smile, for with it, you have set in place a course of events which will change the world for the better.

Me? Xander asked carefully, having a feeling that it wasn't exactly himself he was talking to.

Yes, boy, you.

Oh, Xander said to that inner voice.

Yes, the voice continued, now get back to the real world like a good boy and do what you know you must. Use your strengths…all of them.


He felt a nudge, looked to the side to see a rather peeved Darla, then looked up into the face of one of the senior partners of the lawfirm.

"Are you listening to me, boy?" the woman before him shouted angrily, "You…you little moron. I can't believe that you were the one who cruelly killed my father in-"

"Cruelly!" Xander cried in anger, "I didn't want to kill him! He attacked ME! He threatened my friends…my family. He was going to kill me before I even knew what I was, you overzealous-"

"Silence, murderer!" Lorimina shrieked, "I'm not going to listen to lies. My father was a noble man who wouldn't ever attack a novice unaware of his power. You killed him an-"

"Oh," came a dark-haired interruption from the door, "So you're just going to tell them then, eh Miss Bitch-Lawyer?"

Immediately, every head in the lobby turned to where Cordelia Chase was now standing.

"How dare you-"

"How dare I what?" Cordelia asked angrily as she stepped further into the building, "How dare I tell you the truth? How dare I try and save MY friend that YOU kidnapped? What am I daring, lady, what?"


"Xander wouldn't kill anyone like you're saying," she continued, ignoring the fumbling comments of the lawyer, "I've known him since kindergarten. Hell, I dated him for a while. And while I won't say that Xander's perfect, I do know what kind of a guy he is."

"And what kind of guy is that?" Lorimina asked with a sly smile, back in the game with a vengeance.

"He's a guy who defends what's his. Xander is one of the most considerate and sweet guys I know, and he wouldn't hurt a fly, except for that one time when he and Willow decided that-"

"Cordy, please…" Xander begged.

"Well, that was a mistake. But as I was saying, Xander's harmless. He wouldn't have killed anyone, especially a father, if they hadn't threatened him or his friends. Actually, probably more his friends. I know how crazy he can be about the people he cares about."

Lorimina grinned, then walks around till she was nearly face to face with Cordelia.

"So you admit that he might have killed my father?"

"Yes," Cordelia answered with a nod, "But he was forced. It was kill or be killed."

The lawyer's eyes went down.

"That's not true. As I said, I knew MY father, and I know he wouldn't have forced a youngling with no experience-"

"Well, he did." Xander said, speaking up to the lawyer for the first time in the entire conversation, "He forced me. My…father even tried to tell him not to, but he said he had to. Said that he didn't care if he died as long as he killed me. He said the entire family rested on my death."

Lorimina gasped, then stepped back and away from both Cordelia and the two escapees. Obviously upset, the lawyer carefully looked at Xander, then at Darla, who was still holding him as he lay mostly on the floor of the lobby, her fingers gently cupping the broken leg.

"Dear God, he-"

Suddenly, Darla jumped up from the floor, tossed the injured necromancer over her shoulder, and ran out of the building. No one stopped her; no one was fast enough, and most of the people in the lobby were either confused, interested in what had startled their boss so badly, or in shock.

Cordelia gave one last glare at the lawyer, then followed.

Neither the vampiress nor the seer saw her fall to her knees in shock and fear. They missed it as Lorimina's breath hitched up and down as she held down sobs. And they certainly were unaware of the moan she let out.

But Xander saw, and despite it all, he couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She didn't have a father anymore, and that was a pain he was familiar with. Luckily, he'd sort of gotten his back (though he knew that his own father still had much work to do till they could really bond again), but she never would.

Then his thoughts were lost as he was tossed painfully into the back seat of the covertible, and the world went black.


"I can't make that decision for him."

Was that Angel's voice? Xander couldn't really tell.

"But, Mr. Angel, as you well know-"

"No." Yeah, that was Angel. And he sounded ticked if Xander could tell with any measure of certainty. He wondered which of his rather lame snaps had set off the broody vampire, then realized that the anger wasn't toward him, but rather defending him. That made him wonder what was going on, and it was this curiosity that gave him the strength to open his eyes.

He took in the scene quickly. Cordelia was sitting beside him, with Doyle and Wesley standing next to her (Doyle obviously the closest), while Angel stood toe-to-toe with a young black woman carrying several folders in her hand, and more then a few scathing remarks waiting in her mouth.

"Who're you?" the dazed necromancer asked bluntly.

The dark-skinned woman in the power suit to whom the question was addressed immediately spun on her pumps to face the young man who had just woken up in his hospital bed. She looked as if she was about to yell at him too, but obviously reconsidered as she remembered the part about him being in a hospital bed.

"My name is Vera Maat," the woman explained with a bit of a huff, which Xander could forgive her for. He knew well what it was like trying to argue with the souled vampire who even now was glaring at her, and knew that it would aggravate anyone, "And I'm here-"

"To try and convince you to become the exclusive property of Gryffin & Draco." Angel finished for her, adding a bit of his own huff to the comment.

Xander quirked an eyebrow, then decided against it as pain lanced through his eyes and into his head.

"But weren't you telling me that I SHOULD work for them?" he asked in confusion, no small part of that being from the fact that he'd just woken up. Xander, whether LaVelle or Harris, Zeppo or Necromancer, was not fit for anything without having some food in him first.

"Yes," Wesley picked up for his boss, "However, as Angel was pointing out, the decision is ultimately yours."

"Mine." Xander said.

"Yes, yours." The former Watcher repeated.

"Mine." The young man repeated.

"Yes, yours…" Vera said, cutting off Wesley from saying it.

"And…you want me?" Xander asked carefully, sitting up gingerly from his hospital bed so that he could look the woman in the eyes. "You honestly want me to work for your firm?"

The woman flushed, then fiddled with her papers a bit before answering. "Well, yes, Mr. LaVelle, we-"


"What?" Vera asked as she nearly dropped the entire stack.

"My name is Xander Harris," he told her with a gentle smile, "I happen to be one of the Scooby Gang, the infamous band who help the Slayer save the world on a regular basis. I do excellent donut- fetching, can be thrown several feet into a wall and still stand, not to mention my ability to wise-crack my way out of just about everthing."

Vera simply stared.

"Oh yeah, and as you're aware, I can raise the dead…" he said with a lop-sided grin. "Now, I'd be happy to work for you. Join the team. Kick some Wolfram & Hart ass and all…but I have one request."

The young woman's eyes shone with expectation.

"What? We'll pay you whatever you want within reason! We'll give you great health benefits, not to mention-"

"Well, that's all well and good, Ms. Maat." Xander informed her, "But this is a bit more important. You see, if I'm going to be working for you, I'm going to need an assistant."


"And in that vein, I want you to extend this position to Darla."

The entire room went silent at that remark.

Vera's mouth dropped open, as did Angel's, while Cordelia's eyes blinked wide. Wesley held the chair the seer was sitting on, but Doyle simply let out a small chuckle.

He'd known the boy was going to pull something. And he had a feeling this had been the correct thing to pull.

"Darla?" Angel asked unsurely, obviously wishing that he didn't have vampire hearing

"Yes," affirmed Xander as he once more pushed himself up. It might have hurt, but he sure as hell wasn't going to show any weakness on this point.

"Darla?" asked Cordelia in an echo of the vampire's comment, "As in psycho-vampiress who tried to shoot up Buffy among others? Not to mention the fact that she was the one that made Angel here all dark- loving and fangy?"

"Yup, same one I'm talking about." Xander insisted, "My, how sharp you've gotten here in the big city, Cordy. Now where is she?"

Suddenly, a guilty look crossed every face in the room other than the necromancer's. This, in turn, caused said necromancer to gain a rather angry expression.

"Look, guys…as much as I appreciate all the work you put into helping me, and all the times you've saved my ass, I…Darla…I owe Darla. And I think I know how to help her." Xander sighed in deeply, "Where is she?"

There was once again silence.


Finally, Cordelia's eyes rose from the floor and met Xander's.

"We don't know." She admitted, "We kinda…threw her out of the car shortly after you went unconscious. Didn't want to risk her doing anything. She was knocked out cold last we saw."

Xander now was the silent one as he realized something. "You did throw her into a building, right?" he asked slowly, as if to take the sting out of what he just knew was going to be the answer.

There was no answer, and Xander took a deep breath. "What time is it?"

"Five A.M."

The young necromancer absorbed this information, then jumped out of the bed.

Immediately, he rolled backwards into his bed with a cry of pain. Angel reached out to help him, but the dark-haired human roughly shoved the vampire off of his arm. The souled vampire retreated at the rebuttal, knowing that it was anger and not hate which fueled the shove. Something had happened in that building, during the escape, which had changed him nearly as much as the awakening of his powers had. Angel, who had witnessed more world-changing events then anyone else in the room, realized that something important was going on.

Vera, however, didn't realize this and tried to speak to him next. Xander simply threw all of her folders to the floor and glared at her.

"After I get her…" he told the lawyer, meaning the words like he'd never meant anything else, "I promise. After."

Vera, still kneeling as she picked up her files, nodded solemnly. She knew that tone, had used it to get herself where she was today. She understood.

After a second, Xander once more slid out of the bed, this time grabbing the well-placed crutch near his bed and utilizing it. It took every ounce of power from his battered body to do it, but he stood straight up.

"I'll be back in a minute, okay?" he said to them, as if it was perfectly normal, "Can I borrow the car, Deadboy?"

Angel tossed him the keys immediately.

And Xander, his head held high, limped out of the hospital room, leaving a room full of very confused and rather nervous people.


Xander's head was spinning and his heart was beating like a drummer on speed. For the first time in his admittedly short life, he had no idea what he was doing.

"No, that's not true…" the young man hissed to himself as he made his way down to the elevator, "I know exactly what I'm doing. I'm walking out on a six-figure salary, pushing away the friends-"

He thought of Angel and Wesley.

"People who've helped saved the world to go after the homicidal vampiress who killed my best friend and would rip out my eyeballs if she could. Smart, Harris, real smart…"

And yet, despite his comments to the contrary, he knew he had to. There was a burning need inside of him, something which had been born in that elevator shaft as the human and the vampire had stood in front of the large metal doors which tried to hold them for their deaths. This something demanded that he seek her out, that he find and take care of her, and he was frightened to discover that it was his heart.

This was wrong, he knew. This was so very very wrong that his situation was probably written right next to the word 'wrong' in the dictionary, but he knew he had to do it. Xander was like a man under a geas, completely unable to stop what he was doing. And despite the pain and the fatigue, not to mention the anger, anguish, and improbability, he knew he'd find her.

He knew he'd find her like he knew that the sun would rise. He knew he'd find her like he knew the tides would change.

He knew he'd find her, because something within him was guiding him to her, telling him where to turn and how to go, even though he hadn't even noticed getting into the car or making his way out of the parking lot.



Straight till the next light.


Keep going till-


Immediately, the injured necromancer slammed his cast onto the break peddle, feeling the pain as it shot up his leg. He should have screamed, but for some reason couldn't find the primal instinct within himself. Too much was on the line…too much pain already handed to the Reaper for this to count. He had used up his quotient for the week.

Quickly, more quickly then he should have been able to move in his condition, Xander made his way out of the car and to the body sprawled across the small patch of grass in the eastern corner of the large park.

Blonde hair blowing over her now-calm face, the blue and black marks already healing from injuries he hadn't even noticed hours earlier. One leg at an unnatural angle that should've kept her screaming in pain if she hadn't used up her quotient as well. Lips cold and purple in the chilly air of L.A.

Those lips drank the blood out of your best friend…

The voice of reason attempted even now to reign him in, whispering seductively into his mind like the serpent holding out a basket of apples.

Those arms have snapped the necks of victims the world over…

No, he cried out to himself even as he lowered his body slowly to cradle the smaller, unmoving mass, that's the past. And it wasn't her. I know it wasn't her. It was what the Master wanted her to be, what the demon within her made her do.

Those arms held me. Those arms opened the doors to freedom. Those arms lifted me up and took me to safety.

And those lips…I want to ki-

No…that Xander couldn't complete. She needed to have her soul first. As soon as she got her soul back, he could-

"Xander?" came the weak and trembling voice from within the haven of his arms, "Xander? Is that you?"

Immediately, the young necromancer pulled her up so that he could see her face. Still battered, despite the vampiric healing. Lidded eyes staring up at him in confusion and…hope.

"Yeah, Darla. It's me, you stupid bitch…" he murmured back to her, his tone not matching his words in the least.

"Thought it was you, dumbass…" the beaten vampiress replied with a painful smirk, "How'd we get here? And why can't I move?"

Xander looked down at her leg, and Darla's eyes followed his.

"Oh…" she said with a tired smile. Then she looked at the sky.

"Is that dawn?"

Xander only nodded. He didn't trust himself to talk. Not now…not when he had a stake in one pocket and a bag of blood he'd picked up on the way out in the other. Not when it was all on the line, when his emotions were so lost and incomprehensible.

Why can't I find someone to love me? Is it because I'm a monster?

A new voice spoke.

Then what better love then a monster?

Xander's eyes opened in shock at his own thoughts. No, he wasn't a monster. Doyle had made sure he knew that. But, and this was the part that truly struck him, he wasn't human. He wasn't normal. He would never be normal. He wasn't going to settle down to a normal life, with a normal wife, and have normal children.

He was a necromancer. He was a LaVelle.

He was a fighter for the Light.

Suddenly, he felt a light smack on his arm. Pulling himself from his deep thoughts, Xander glanced down to see Darla staring pointedly at the rising sun.

"Oh yeah…" he realized. Then he tried to pick her up, which resulted in nothing but him toppling over in pain.

"Good job, blue-eye…" Darla laughed.

"Oh shut up, beautiful…"

This startled the blonde vampire into silence.

"Well," Xander thought out loud as he got himself up, "My powers should be a little recharged by now. I should be able to do a bit levitation."

He looked down to Darla, who was still shocked.

Without further ado, Xander made a lifting motion with his hands as he said a few unintelligible words and the body of the vampiress lifted off of the ground. He pointed to the car and Darla floated that way till he gave a downward point which settled her down on the back seat. As quick as possible, he got into the driver's seat.

Darla was staring at him.

"Well," he said at last as he started up the car and put the top up, "I figure I get you a soul and we'll be all set. Hell, I figure that if we survived getting out of that damned law firm, we're tough enough to try for something."

Xander took a peek and saw the vampire blinking in the back seat.


"The thing that came with your body the first time around?" Xander prodded, "You know, that little voice which said 'killing is bad'?"

This earned him a growl.

"Jeez, do vampires get PMS?" he asked as he turned his eyes back to the road. This was better…this felt right.

"No. Vampires never get PMS…" she told him, "But the souled ones can get pretty upset when you accuse them of being souless…Take me for example-"

Cars cannot turn themselves inside out with their own independent force. However, Xander felt the need to test this out and immediately slammed on the breaks in the middle of the road. Though it didn't actually happen, the car gave it a good try.

"What did you just say?" he asked her as he spun around to look her in the face.

Darla's eyes dropped to stare at the car floor.

"I have a soul…"

Xander realized that he was stopped in the middle of the road, pulled into a parking spot, then simply stared at her.

"What do you mean you have a soul?"

The vampiress glared, but it didn't effect Xander because there was so much more pain in her eyes then anger. "I mean I have a soul…you know…the little voice that says 'killing is bad'?"

Xander snorted at the retort. "But…how is that possible?"

"I don't know either, okay?!" Darla answered angrily, "I don't know why I returned with this damn soul, but I hate it. I hate feeling like this. I hate knowing that I've destroyed the precious and irreplaceable lives of hundreds…thousands. I hate thinking about the fact that my victims had futures, and husbands, and family, and wives, and friends, and jobs! I hate thinking that now, everything I knew and lived by for hundreds of years is so wrong!

"Do you know why I was still sprawled on that grass, Xander? It wasn't because I couldn't get up, though goodness knows that I've gone through some pretty rough shit tonight. It was because I was just so tired. I hated that weight on my soul. I didn't want to live with this guilt. I didn't WANT to get up."

Xander absorbed what she'd said, then nodded slowly. After, the young man snaked his arm between the seats and gently lifted the vampire's chin till he could look into her eyes.

"Did you get up because I came for you?"

There was a soft hiss which was then clarified by a deliberate nod.

"Was it because I, Xander Harris, came for you?"

Another nod.

"And do you know that I'm in love with you?"

Xander couldn't believe that the words had actually come out of his mouth, but he knew that they were what needed to be said. He couldn't explain how he suddenly knew that the odd sensations and needs with himself were really love, but he did. He knew. And he had to be honest with her; he couldn't let things simply stay. This night, and the day fast approaching, was a time of change for him… for the world. But it all hinged on the answer.

Finally, Darla opened her mouth.


"And…" Xander said, feeling a thick ball of emotion in his throat which was difficult to speak around, "despite the fact that none of this makes any sense, and that we're both probably crazy from the events of tonight, are you in love with me?"


There was silence, then Xander turned around, cleared his throat as well as the tension, and started up the car again.

"Well then, now that that's all straightened out, I guess I can get Deadboy back his beloved Nick-Knight-wannabe car…"

There was a pause, and then a soft giggle from the back seat as he drove towards the hospital until Xander realized he'd forgotten one very important part of it all.

He pulled over, then slowly got out of the car and into the back seat. Darla, who had sat up to look out the sunlight-proof windows, stared at him.

Well, until he kissed her, of course. Then she had other things on her mind, like warm, soft lips, and hands which were touching in all the right places. Eyes so close to hers and so full of sincerity, adoration, and only the tiniest bit of confusion.

They pulled apart a few minutes later.

"That was…"

"How do…"

"We should probably…"

They both looked at the floor.

"How am I gonna tell Deadboy that I'm in love with this mom? He'll go-"

And Darla silenced him the most interesting way she knew.


"Oh, Shut up, Xander…" she told him.

And it stayed shut since Xander's mouth was busy with other things.


"The Needs have been Met."

"The Two have become One."

"The Players are in Place."

"The Line has been Drawn."

"The Battle is Set."

Vera sighed tiredly at the Oracle and gave it a smile. Then she walked into the bathroom and vomited for what was to come.


"I'm sorry…"

Angel looked up from his desk to see Darla sitting on the corner. She wouldn't look at him.

The tall dark vampire sighed tiredly, then spoke.

"I forgave you long ago, Darla. I just didn't realize it. And…we're even. The second I…staked you, we were even."

"No, but-"

"We're…EVEN…" Angel told her, allowing for no argument. He knew what she was going through, and this was how he had to be.

Darla's eyes opened wide, and then she gave him a nod as she got up from the desk.

She walked upstairs without a word.

She never noticed the young man waiting in the shadows of the office.

"You were a bit cold to her, weren't you, Deadboy?"

"That's the way I had to be. If I drew it out, it would only hurt her more."

"You'd know, eh?"


There was a pause as the two men stared at one another.

"You were right."

"I know."

The vampire raised his eyebrow, which brought a smile to Xander's face.

"I'm not trying to stick it in your face, cause I certainly didn't know either. I was…that's how things had to be."

"I know." Angel replied, echoing the young man.

Another pause struck the room.

"We're in a war now. You're starting…whatever you started…in a war."

Xander smiled at Angel.

"That's okay. We're always in one war or another. And things like… what I have…only make you stronger…they make you fight harder."


"And…are you prepared to fight?"

The young necromancer looked down, then turned his eyes to the vampires, his eyes now full of blue fire. Soon, the flames licked him up and down like a loyal beast. He didn't need words to answer.

"I'll fight. As much as I don't want to, as much as I wish that I could just settle this all with words, I know that I can't. The Battle is Set."

The last sentence rang around the room, unchangeable…unstoppable…

"Indeed…" Angel agreed.

"Will you help me fight it?"

The vampire nodded.

"As will the Scoobies, the LaVelles, and those at G&D…"

Angel nodded again, knowing the words to be true.

"Then I'm ready. Let it begin…"