Partners 2

Author: Nodakskip <nodakskip[at]>


Beta By Theo

Rating: PG-13

Continuity: Set after season 7 Buffy and season 4 Angel.

Summary: The LA and Cleveland groups get a surprise.

Chapter 1

Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday May 7th, 2004

"Good night, Xander," Cordelia Chase said almost in passing, leaning on the bedroom's doorframe.

Her partner Xander Harris looked up, pausing from taking off his shoes. "Well, I wouldn't say night Cor. It's only three in the afternoon!"

Cordelia just shrugged. "Hey, whatever. My internal clock is still all screwed up, from always sending Angel to bed at ten am..." She looked at him sternly, "Now, get to sleep before you pass out. You've been up for nearly 19 hours!"

Xander lay down on the bed. "I'm good, 'cause, y'know, that Pulp Fiction-y cold shower you gave me with the hose? Kind of woke me up a bit..."

She shook her head. "So? Did you *really* think I was going to let you get that spider blood all over my car, or our house? Yeah, I don't think so!"

The human looked at her with an amused smirk. "Tell me the truth now, Cor. You were just getting me back for hosing you down all those years ago at Buffy's house, right? When you were covered with evil worm guy bits..."

The whitelighter shook her head in disgust. "As if! I know you, Xander. That day, you just wanted to look at me in a nothing but a wet T-shirt!"

Xander propped himself on his elbows, while giving her a grin. "Well, of course I did!"

Cordelia got a little excited. "I just knew it!!" she pointed at him. "You were such a complete and utter pervert back then!"

"Like I was the only one who checked you out in high school?" the former carpenter tried to defend himself. "Do you remember the entire football team, not to mention Coach Snedden?"

Cordelia shivered. "How could I forget? I'll bet you all the girls from our class remember him, and with mucho disgust I might add! We could never prove it, but that guy looking through the peephole in the shower just *had* to be him!" She shook her head at the unpleasant memory. "Alright dorkhead, while you're getting your Z's I'm going to go meet our contact."

At Xander's eyebrow going up she added, "And no, you can't come with! Now get some sleep..." The guardian angel turned and started to walk down the hall, with a *slight* sway of her hips - just to tease her former childhood nemesis.

"Night, Cordy!" he called, as she reached the front door of their house.

"Good night already, Harris!" she called back, before going out the door. Cordy then walked calmly down the four steps of their front porch, and went right to her grey Pontiac Aztek. She pulled out of the large driveway, and headed for the club.


Club Exotic Sun, downtown Honolulu

The man at the door just stepped aside, and let Cordelia in without fuss. Xander and herself were well known as regulars at the high-class strip club, having frequently attended the establishment during the last few months.

On account of a contact with the Elders, named Gabriella Clementi, owned the place.

The club was nothing like the seedy strip joints you see in most movies, or the 'Fabulous Ladies Night Club' in Oxnard. This club was the kind that visiting celebrities and rock stars came to, when they wanted to look good and blow a few thousand bucks in an hour...

Ms. Chase walked right up to the bar, where the 26-year-old bartender Collette was waiting for her. "The usual, Collette..." the brunette woman said, as she sat on an empty stool at the curved end of the bar.

As an Apple Martini was placed in front of her, Cordelia sent the evil eye to a semi-drunk college boy - who was being pressured by his friends to go talk to her. "Don't even try, buddy!" she called out in annoyance.

The kid proved he wasn't too drunk, as he quickly got the hint and turned around to the ribbing of his friends.

"Well, you're just dashing young men's hopes every time you come in here, aren't you?"

Cordelia turned back, to see Ms. Clementi leaning on the inside of the bar. The club's owner looked to be around her mid-30's, with dark hair. Though as Cordelia had once told Xander, she wasn't sure if Gaby was even really human.

"Hey, Gaby," the former cheerleader said, as she took a sip of her drink.

"How was Prosperity, Arizona?" the older woman asked.

"Oh, just fantastic!" Cordy answered with a snort. She gave the other woman her best fake smile, "That's really how I wanted to spend my latest assignment with Xander, you know? Getting chased around by 200 mutant giant spiders, and being unable to orb! I mean, that insect goop does *not* come out!"

The woman across from her shrugged, "Well, you did say you wanted to go shopping..."

"Sure," Cordelia clarified. "But not in a mall overrun by those damn things!"

"All right, that's it. What's *really* on your mind?" Gaby asked out of the blue.

Cordelia looked at her strangely. "What? You mean that gigantic tarantula that nearly impregnated me with its spawn?!"

"No," the club owner shrugged. "I meant about your partner."

"Xander?" Cordelia asked, surprised, before she took another sip of her drink. "What about him?"

"Have you told him you like him yet?" the woman asked, as if asking about the weather outside.

Cordelia groaned. "Not this again!"

Gabriella looked her in the eyes. "You chase off any of my girls who get too close to him, and anyone can see how much flirting you do with the man whenever you two are in here." She stopped and murmured, "Ah, wait, now I get it. You're still hung up on the vampire?"

Cordelia banged her forehead down on the bar. "Could you at least act like you don't know his and mine entire life story?" She looked up to see the hostess, waiting for an answer. "Alright, fine!"

Cordy took a deep breath. "Do I have feelings for the geek? Yes! I've always had them. And working with him these last few months hasn't done anything to get rid of them, even if we haven't even so much as kissed..."

She continued before the hostess could re-ask her question, "And before you ask - yes, I still have feelings for Angel. But I don't know if any of my feelings from my time in LA are even real, anymore..."

The former Sunnydale fashion queen sighed. "I mean, is that the real reason why Doyle died?" she asked with a sudden sick look. "Because we could have had something real together? Or was his life's purpose just to give me the visions?"

"Well, that Groo fellow didn't die-" Gabriella started to say.

"Sure," Cordelia said with disgust. "I just shut him out and let him drift away after he gave up everything for me, because of Angel's situation. Now, I know when I was younger I really was that shallow, but after all the stuff that happened - no, I gotta believe that was because of Jasmine! Not to mention how crappily I treated Wesley!"

"You mean that thing of not even bothering to go see him in the hospital?"

Cordy nodded, "Fred even asked me point blank if I would go see Wesley, to tell him we understood he didn't plan it. That he didn't mean for Holtz to take Connor. But what did I tell her?" She looked down for a moment. "I told her that my only priority was Angel. How bad is that!?"

"And then there was the entire thing with Connor," Gaby added.

Cordelia let out a big groan. "At least I *know* that wasn't me! I was watching what was going on, but...I could feel the emotions going on with the other me. She was really happy that she had her damn baby! I'll tell you this much, Gaby," Cordy told her. "Only two men have ever made me think that they would be good fathers. Well, after a little training first..."

"I take it one is Mr. Harris," was the other woman's guess.

"Yeah," Cordelia told her. "Xander, and Angel. Both had their problems, but then I wasn't a real treasure either. I mean, what kind of mother would I have made back then?"

Another sip. "My only desire apart from becoming an actress was to dress up in the most revealing clothes I could find that were a big name brand label, and make all the guys around me drool. Some people even thought I was a whore. But God, it wasn't till I met Faith that I really knew what the term 'whore' meant! How many guys do you think she screwed in Sunnydale, anyway?"

"I know of at least one," Gaby answered neutrally.

"Oh, *thanks* for reminding me of that!" Cordelia said with a sour look on her face. "It's not a fun thing to second-guess your entire life for the past five years..."

The whitelighter then decided to just say it. "I just don't know if it's really out of my system. Am I still completely screwed up from that PTB bitch? What if I went home and crawled into bed with Xander -and then one day we go to LA and I see Angel, and I instantly drop him like I did Groo?"

"Why don't we put it to the test, hmm?" Gaby said, before she slipped a folder to her customer.

Cordelia's eyes went wide, as she opened it. "This is from Wolfram and Hart!?"

"Correct," the older woman said. "It seems that someone's been trying to get to Angel, to drive him insane enough to go all stupid again -like he did back when he fired you and the others, that one time?"

"Oh my God, they killed me!" Cordelia shrieked, as she read the report.

Then she looked up sharply, "I mean, they killed my dummy! Someone killed that fake me, on purpose? Why? I mean, I know I'm still wondering about my feelings, but Angel had that entire cookie dough talk when I went into the coma-"

"The Elders think it was the same people who sent those robots to make Angel their puppet," Gabriella told her.

"The ones who faked Wesley's dad?" Cordelia asked.


Cordelia let out a big sigh. "Well, then, I guess it's time to head to LA," she said as she moved off the barstool, quickly finishing her drink.

"Why don't you wait till tomorrow?" Gaby asked suddenly.

Cordelia turned back. "Are you serious?!" she demanded, as she came back to the bar. "It isn't bad enough they think I was rotting in a coma for months - now they think I'm dead, and we just let them grieve for another night?!"

"Yes," Gabriella responded. "Buffy Summers and the others are flying in to pay their respects. Ms. Rosenberg has been trying to locate Alexander for a few days now. The people upstairs figure we might as well let you tell everyone that you two are fine, at the same time."

A casual wave of her hand. "And besides, you know Alexander is looking forward to the George Carlin show tonight..."

"This sucks," she said succinctly.

"I'll have you know that sort of thing doesn't happen in *my*establishment. At least, not unless the price is right and the patron is *very* discreet..." Gaby said with a wicked smile.


Several hours later when Xander stumbled into the kitchen, he found his partner at the table going over the documents. < God, doesn't she ever sleep? >

"Morning, sleepy head," Cordelia said, as she looked up at him. Then she laughed at the shape his hair was in. "Nice bed hair, pal."

"Hey, now wait a minute," the young man said. "I didn't make fun of you in that green facial mask last month!"

"Yes you did!"

"Well, not all that much," Harris responded, as he poured himself some coffee.

"True," Cordy said with a frown. "You were far too busy with Helga."

Sitting down, he shrugged. "And you were busy getting your massage from Sven, if I remember right. Didn't see you complaining at the time."

"Because he was damn *cute*," she told her ex. "Not some blond bimbo with pigtails!"

"Oh, like Sven was a rocket scientist!?" Xander declared in amazement.

Cordelia looked at him for a moment, before dropping the folder. She assumed a fake Swedish accent and thrust her chest out at him, "Oh, Mr. Xander, you are so muscled! You must vork out a great deal..." Wigging a little bit more she added, "Why don't we go behind the curtin, and I can repedidly drop things so you can look down my skimpy shirt at my completely fake breasts!?"

Between laughs, the human with vamp strength declared, "Hey! She did not do that!" Cordy just glared at him, as he gave up. "Well, okay, so she was very...eager to please."

"Oh? I couldn't tell."

Xander just pointed to the file, wanting to change the subject. "Don't tell me we have another assignment already?" he asked, becoming annoyed.

"Yep," Cordy grunted, as she put the papers in the right order.

"Well, anything has got to be better than the last one..." He took a big drink of coffee before asking, "What's the what?"

"I'm dead," the whitelighter stated simply.

"So-?" he looked at her, confused. "What, you're Zombie Cordy now?"

She just slid over the top page in exasperation.

"Oh. Oh! Right, now I get it. Ah, why would anyone want to kill you?" Xander asked, as he read.

"Xander," Ms. Chase said, annoyed. "I'll have you know there are a *lot* of people that consider me a big threat!"

The man in question just looked up at her, amused. "Actually, I'm thinking not. You're more or less like me, Cor. We were only targets because we were close to big hero types."

Sighing, she riposted, "Yeah, but at least you didn't have a bunch of demons thinking Angel was screwing me just because I worked for him! I swear, there is one movie with a bimbo secretary to a PI; and so every secretary from then on *has* to be a bimbo too!"

Xander had a funny look on his face, as he contemplated stereotypes. "Deadboy has Harmony doing your old job now, right?"

Resting her head on her hand, the former seer said simply, "Yeah. And I'm not sure if I should be insulted by that fact, or not."

"Don't be, so what if he has a thing for cheerleaders? Buffy, you, Harmony..." Xander shrugged. "Whatever. Angel may be dead, but he's still a guy! And I'm guessing as soon as I'm out of the shower, it's time to head to LA?" he asked.

"No," she told him. "Gabby requested we go tomorrow. So we can still go to the show, if you want."

Harris looked at her skeptically. "You sure you want to go out to a strip club, with the stuff that's going to happen tomorrow?"

"Hell, yeah!" the woman told him with a grimace. "I could use a few laughs..."


Saturday May 8th, 2004

Cordelia watched as Xander locked his car, and then backed her Aztek into the garage. As soon as the front bumper was backed in enough, she pressed the close button on the large door.

When Xander got out of the car and moved to open the back of the vehicle, she impatiently waved her hand over the side and orbed the exhaust out into the back yard. Cordy didn't need for them to smell like exhaust fumes, today of all days.

Soon, the male Californian had finished loading their bags and closed the hatch. With a nod, they both moved to the doors with Xander in the driver's seat. He looked at her oddly, when they buckled up their seatbelts.

"What?" the former actress demanded at once, seeing his look.

"You're not even glaring at me that I'm driving your car. Cordy, you sure you're going to manage this okay?"

"Yeah, Xander..." Cordy told him, as she stared through the windshield at the closed garage door. "I'll be fine."

The female whitelighter then looked down, when she felt it. He had taken her hand in his, and gave it a little squeeze. "You'll do fine," Xander said reassuringly.

The one-time cheerleader gave him a small smile in thanks as she moved her other hand in a small motion, and the SUV vanished from the locked garage...

...and reappeared on the second level of a mall parking garage, in downtown Los Angeles.

Xander looked around through the windows to make sure they hadn't been seen, before he moved the car off for the downward ramp. "Piece of advice; keep your guard up, okay Cor?"

"What for?" she looked at him, confused. "It's Angel, Xander. He wouldn't hurt me."

"Ah, from what you said, the last time you saw him...he was ready to kill you," her companion deadpanned.

"Well okay, sure," Cordelia sighed again. "But that was when I was evil."

"Possessed," Xander corrected her.

"Fine, possessed..." she repeated, as they pulled into traffic. "But Angel had to stop Jasmine from being born then. And Connor had to stop him, just as badly."

Xander didn't like that, but he agreed. "Speaking of Junior - do we mention him? Or is Angel, father of the year that he is, still pulling the memory-wipe thing on everyone about that?"

The brunette woman sighed. "Just let me handle that issue, okay?"

Harris nodded but added, "I still can't believe Angel killed him, resurrected him, and sent him to that nobody family. Along with no more traces of demon DNA, and a whole bunch of fake memories for him and everyone else involved..." He glanced over to her, as they stopped at a red light. "So keep your eyes open."

"Xander!" his partner said, annoyed. "I told you, Angel will not hurt me! He *can't* hurt me!"

"True," Xander shrugged. "But *someone* went to the trouble of killing your double, and everyone there used to work for the people that kept trying to kill or corrupt you guys for years. And whitelighter or not, you're not invulnerable. Someone out here either has it in for you, or is using you to get to Angel."

"And if they find out they failed the first time, they might try again with the real me, I know..." Cordy leaned back into the leather seat. "But you don't have worry about it. Nothing will happen to me."

Xander spared a quizzical look at her, as he parked the car a bit down the street from the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart. "How can you be so sure?"

She looked at him warmly. "Because I have a partner watching my back."

Harris couldn't resist making the joke, "Well, it's such a nice backside to watch..."

Cordelia Chase released a little snort. "Damn right it is! And don't you forget it, mister!"

"Don't worry, I won't," he shrugged. "I'll see you inside?"

"Yeah," she told him. "But remember, don't start a pissing contest with Angel!"

"What about Spike?" Xander asked slowly.

Cordy just looked at him, annoyed. "Don't start one with him, either. What happened with Anya - that was a long time ago! We're not here to start fights..."

"Fine," he said grouchily. "But hey, you have no idea how much I want to kick his ass. For everything over the years..." She really started glaring at him.

"Oh, come on Cordy! Don't give me that look," Xander said defiantly. "It's Spike! And don't tell me you wouldn't feel the same way - if he'd constantly kept calling you things like 'whelp', and 'wanker', and 'poof', and-"

"Fine!" the young woman gave up. "But *only* if he tries something. Then you can toss him through a wall or whatever..."

Smiling, Harris got out of the car and started for the building when she called him back. "What?" he asked.

The Chase woman just glared at him again through the open car window. Then she extended her hand, "You were smiling way too much. Fork it over. Now!"

Looking annoyed, Xander reached behind his back and pulled out the small wooden stake and deposited it in her hands. "Maybe you've forgotten, but it *is* an evil law firm..."

"Don't whine, Xander, for God's sake," Cordy told him. "It's not as cute outside of a broom closet!" With those last words, she vanished upwards in a small show of glittering white lights.

As he turned back to the building, Xander grumbled, "Killjoy..." He then laughed when her voice sounded in his ear, "Don't think I didn't hear that!"


Angel's private office

The vampire growled, as he stood at the window made of necro-tempered glass. < Any single one of them could be holding the enemy, > Angel thought, as he looked out at the nearby buildings. < Or, they could be right under my nose... > He then looked at Wesley's refection in the glass, out of habit.

Ever since that aborted attempt to kidnap Connor, even if Wes didn't even remember it, he had kept an eye on him. True, the man had saved him from spending the rest of his eternity on the ocean floor, and they had worked past their issues...

But still, the rage sometimes wanted to come to the surface from time to time. < Those robots did use *his* father as a disguise, after all... >

Turning back, the vampiric Champion took in the group that had gathered in LA. Wesley, Harmony, Eve, and Fred were present; but the rest of his senior staff was absent, due to a tricky court case. Buffy and some of her group were there instead, though; Willow, Kennedy, Giles, and Faith.

The rest of the Cleveland contingent had stayed behind in Ohio to watch over the Hellmouth, and to keep an eye on the Slayer school they had set up there. Buffy's appearance was a surprise to him; especially since she'd let her real hair color come back, and was dressed more like she'd been when he had first known her in Sunnydale.

It was as if Buffy was trying to change herself back into the girl she'd once been, a long time ago...

"You figured out whose ass we need to kick yet, Peaches?"

Angel just glared at Spike. "We've got nothing to go on, Spike," he answered sharply. "And don't tell me you didn't know that."

Eve spoke up, "The lab's still trying to clear up the security camera footage. But whatever magic was used on them, really did a good job."

"Magic?" Willow asked at once. "Maybe I should take a look at it..."

"That won't be necessary, Willow," Wesley told her. "And I mean no offence by that remark. But as powerful as you may be, we have the best possible spellcasters available."

Trying not to look miffed the redhead said, "Well, yeah, but it wouldn't hurt any, will it? Just a little helping hand?"

"Willow," Buffy said from her seat. "This is Angel's turf. Let the guys they have do their job."

"But Buffy, I can maybe..."

Angel sat in his chair. "Willow, thanks for the offer. Really. And if they need any help, you'll be the first one I call."

The witch nodded. "Okay, but I-I-I just feel so useless here. I mean -God, Cordelia." Kennedy wrapped her arm around her girlfriend, after she started to cry a little.

Harmony looked confused. "Willow, I didn't think you even liked her that much!"

Willow's head snapped up. She still wasn't used to the fact that this vampire - who had tried to kill her when she'd been with Oz, an eternity ago - was now technically a soulless good guy. "How can you even say that!?"

The blond vampiress shrugged. "Look, I know for a fact you guys didn't get along that great." When everyone looked at her she went on, "A few years ago when I stayed at her apartment for a while, she personally told me she sometimes couldn't believe she was still talking to the girl who stole her first real boyfriend, Xander Harris."

"Well, I didn't want her to die!" Willow exclaimed.

"Uh, that does bring up a point," Fred said. "This Xander guy? I mean, I never met him myself, but the way Cordy talked about him...I gathered they were still friends." She looked over to Buffy. "So, so, why didn't he come here with you guys?"

Angel's features tightened unnoticeably. < Thank God he didn't come. The last thing I need is *him* around here... >

"Well..." Buffy said slowly, as she shared a look with Willow.

However, it was Giles who spoke up. "Ah, Xander chose to remove himself from fighting alongside us last year, a-as it were."

Faith added, "We haven't even talked to the X-man since, what? October?"

Fred looked at them in surprise. "Really? Cordy once told me after what happened to his best friend when he met Buffy here, that she thought Xander would never stop fighting vampires..."

Angel had to agree. "Why would he have left the group? Xander may have been an annoying pain in the ass, but one thing he wasn't was a quitter."

"Well, what happened was that he decided..." Willow started to say, but she was cut off by Buffy.

"No, Willow, it's okay." She turned to Angel. "The reason he abandoned us - it's something I wish I could take back, actually. I think that fight at the airport in England was the last straw for him. But it was damn weird though, it was almost as if he was expecting it..."

"Now, now! Don't be too hard on yourself about that, pet," Spike told her with a grin. "Everyone knows it needed to be said. He may have been an okay bloke and good at hammering nails or whatnot, but he can't fight worth a damn. Never could, never will."

"No, I was wrong about that," Buffy said to her former lover. She still wasn't used to the fact that Spike was back, or that whatever bound him to Wolfram & Hart wouldn't let him leave the city limits. And so, whatever they'd had...was whatever they'd had, at least for now.

"Huh?" Spike asked, surprised. "Buffy-"

"No, Spike," she said, interrupting him. "I thought I was in control back then, that I knew what I was doing. But I let the pressure of being responsible for all those lives overwhelm me. I didn't even come to terms with everything that had happened during 2003, till we were far away from Sunnydale. Looking back on it...there's a lot I wish I could change, if I could get the chance to do it all over again..."

Spike just looked at her in surprise. "What - are you completely sodding daft, woman? You always do the right thing!" He waved his hand to the Cleveland group. "It's those bloody arses that kicked you out when you had the plan to stop it all, who oughta be sorry..."

The dark-blonde Slayer looked at him, unconvinced. "I pushed away my friends, and almost certainly made Xander feel like dirt. And even though I treated him like crap, he still stuck by me! But then after trying to send him away with Dawn - oh, who am I trying to kid? After that, it was only a matter of time till he left..."

Buffy suddenly looked very introspective. "I don't know if anyone could have come out of that town and what we went through smelling like roses, but I know now...I sure as heck didn't."

"What the hell is all this rubbish?" Spike wanted to know. "You sound the complete opposite of how you were then..."

"I know," Ms. Summers told him, as she sighed heavily. "But I got a little Christmas present from the Powers That Be, a few months ago. That's what sorta made me changed my tune."

"You did?" Wesley asked surprised. "We haven't heard much from them in the last year..."

The elder daughter of Hank and Joyce Summers looked at him, and then towards Angel. "Yeah, well, I got a little taste of what Cordy used to go through, whenever she had a vision. And damn, but those things hurt! The case is though, they gave me a little glimpse of the future in about 20 years, if I kept going with the same attitude I had before the First got Sunnydale dropped on top of it. It...wasn't of the good to witness."

When the Slayer stopped there, Giles spoke up. "I think you should tell them, Buffy."

She closed her eyes for a moment. "All right. Most of the Slayers that are at the school...were either in prison, or dead. Xander was still MIA, and I'd never heard from him again. Dawn had been raped and killed by a pack of demons. Willow had gone nuts and then all kablooey, from her thing with dark magicks. Andrew was...well, never mind him, 'cause that's still too gross for me to think about. And me? I was in some institute for the criminally insane, for murdering Giles. And apparently, I wasn't sorry for doing that either."

Everyone in the LA group was shocked. "They showed you all that, and told you it was all your fault?" Angel instantly asked.

"Well, I got the impression not *everything* was totally my fault," she told him. "But after witnessing that possible future - I took a good long look at myself after that, and I *really* didn't like some of the things that I saw." She wiped a tear away. "But that's not the worst thing."

"What could be worse than that?" Fred asked lightly.

Buffy looked to Spike. "The knowledge that the First is still out there. We just slowed it down for a few thousand years, or whatever."

"No bloody way in hell!" Spike roared. "I gave up my life to destroy that thing!"

"And yet, here you still are."

Everyone spun to look at the doors. Xander Harris was leaning up against them. "You know, Captain Peroxide, you look pretty darn great for a guy who's died twice."

"Oh, just what I needed," Spike said, annoyed. "The whelp's here! Sorry mate, but no one needs any windows fixed..."

"Xander!" Willow yelled, before she ran over and hugged him. "Oh God, I've missed you!" The redhead stopped in mid-hug, shocked, when she noticed it. "Your eye!"

The former Zeppo glanced to Kennedy before he said, "Yeah, Will, I had that taken care of a while back. No more Cyclops jokes need apply."

"How?" Kennedy asked, vastly relieved that he had somehow gotten it back. It let a huge load off her mind, that what he'd lost because of her he'd now regained.

"Wasn't hard. A good friend helped me out," he told them all succinctly, and not inviting further questions.

"I'm glad!" Buffy told him, before she hugged him intensely as well. Xander had to admit he was a little surprised, having only heard the last few lines of their talk.

"So who got in touch with you, stud?" Faith asked him, while checking out his physique. "How'd you know about this little get-together?"

"Well, one of my contacts said you guys were having a little reunion. So I thought I'd drop by."

"Contacts? So, uh, you don't know?" Fred asked him, before she shot a glance at Angel.

"About Cordelia? Oh yeah, Ms. Burkle, I know. In fact, I know almost everything," Xander said in a casual tone. "The report I read said that some spell was used on the guards and cameras, to take them out. Then a vampire came by, and drained her. That about cover it?"

Angel and the others looked at him strangely. The tone Xander was talking in sounded more like a guy who was talking about the weather, rather than a friend's death. "You don't sound very broken up about it," Angel said darkly, as he came closer.

Xander just shrugged. "I know. That's because I'm not." That drew surprised gasps from some.

"What the hell do you mean, you're not?!" Angel roared. "She was a champion who fought for..."

"I'm completely aware of who and what Cordy is, Deadboy," Xander said, interrupting him. "But there are lots of things about her that I know, and you don't. Now, see, that thing that you had here was..."

The human was silenced by Angel's fist connecting with his jaw. Xander was flung through the air and impacted on a far wall. He heard yelling of both of their names, and saw several people holding the vampire back.

"God damn it, but I always *knew* you were a useless piece of trash, boy!" Angel yelled at him, as Xander stood and calmly wiped the blood off his chin. "You can't handle the fact Cordelia became half-demon to help people and survive the visions? I can't believe you and your damn prejudices! Grow up!"

"What the hell-?" Xander asked, honestly surprised, as he walked back. "You think I hate Cordy because she became half-demon?"

At Angel's and the others' suddenly unsure looks, Xander frowned. "Hello? I don't believe this! People, I almost married a demon! Anybody remember Anya? The person that-" Xander pointed towards Spike, "*this* particular individual knew in the Biblical sense, along with Buffy, when he was all soulless?"

"What did you mean then, Xander?" Giles asked, trying to be the calm one in the group, and noticing Angel now glaring at both Spike and Buffy; who simply avoided eye contact with the former Irishman.

"What I mean, Giles," Xander responded, "is that I have no trouble with why Cordelia thought she had to let that asshole Skip do what he did to her. I mean if she can help people, I know she would have done it." He looked to Angel. "Look, Captain Forehead, if you want to take your anger out on me - fine. But I would suggest you not try it, in front of everyone here."

"Boy toy's got a point," Faith said at once. "Angel, everyone knows Xander wouldn't stand a chance against you and..."

"That's not what I meant at all," Xander said, just as calmly as before. "I could take him nowadays without breaking a sweat." As everyone just gave him an 'are you nuts?' look Xander added, "But I promised someone I wouldn't get into that with him, so I won't."

Angel laughed. "Xander, did you smoke some wacky tobacky before you came here? You're nuts! The day you can take me, is the day I go sunbathing!"

Xander just looked at him. "Can I get that in writing?"

Buffy stepped in, "Look, Xander, enough's enough - I don't know what you're trying to prove here, but making pointless boasts like this-"

"You haven't changed at all yet despite appearances, have you? No wonder I never spoke to you for the next 20 years. And how did it feel breaking Giles' neck, killer?" Xander interrupted softly.

As everyone stared at him in stunned shock, Xander just raised an eyebrow. "What, you think I didn't know about that? Get a clue, people..."

Angel charged in, completely pissed off at this little prick - but this time Xander was ready. He swung a fist, and somehow...impossibly...Angel flew back, slamming into the wall hard enough to leave a huge human-shaped dent in it, like in a Roadrunner cartoon.

As the vampire Champion got up and stared with saucer-like eyes at Xander, the human just shrugged. "Then again, promises are made to be broken. Just like curses - right, Angelus?"

"And who may I ask did you make this promise to?" Wesley asked, trying to defuse the situation as Angel actually *growled*, getting incredibly mad. The rest all stared at Xander in continued wordless shock and surprise.

"My partner-" Xander started to say.

"How did you do that?" Buffy demanded immediately, expecting answers. "Because-"

"I'm just the one who fixes the windows? Or were you maybe going to say, I'm the only reason you've made it this far?" The cutting remark hit home. "Bottom line is, it's one of the perks of the new job, and the rest is not your business. So don't ask. Buff, I'd prefer not to have to hit you like I hit him - because I can't guarantee you'd survive it."

"You said just now, you have a partner?" Wesley asked at once, still pointlessly trying to keep the peace. "For what?"

"And who exactly is this person?" Angel demanded.

Xander just seemed to speak upwards to empty air. "Well? Are you going to show yourself, or do you want me to just restart the brawl here?"

< The asshole's lost his mind, > Angel thought in contempt, as Xander seemed to be listening to a voice in his head.

Xander then nodded as if agreeing with someone, and then he looked to the group. "Okay, nobody needs to draw any weapons. And you - I'd suggest backing up a little over there, Deadboy."

Angel was about to ask what the hell the moron though he was playing at, when a whitelighter transportation effect started next to Xander.

The white lights streamed downwards, and coalesced into a human shape. Everyone then stood as still as a statue, and whoever was alive completely stopped breathing, as Cordelia Chase appeared in a pair of black slacks and a reddish blouse.

Without a word she placed her hand on Xander's face, and the bruise he had gotten vanished with a golden glow. "Thanks," the young man said in instant gratitude.

The whitelighter then quickly slapped him on the back of the head, wordlessly reprimanding the guy for what he'd done to Angel.

"Just consider yourself lucky I didn't aim for the window like he wanted, and let the sunlight have him," Xander shrugged again.

Cordy frowned, then turned and looked at the group in front of her, like a deer in headlights. She had been anticipating and dreading this moment for many months. And as she looked at a shocked Angel, all she could say was...

"Ah, hi."