The Last Candle

Author: Canadian Crow <Blackcrowe117[at]>

Disclaimer \Dis*claim"er\, n.

1. One who disclaims, disowns, or renounces.

2. (Law) A denial, disavowal, or renunciation, as of a title, claim, interest, estate, or trust; relinquishment or waiver of an interest or estate. --Burrill.

3. A public disavowal, as of pretensions, claims, opinions, and the like. --Burke.

4. A statement made to cover one's own ass.

I own nothing. Duh.

Author's Notes: (READ THIS, IT'S IMPORTANT) Okay. The bulk of this story is taking place in 'late season seven', but it's AU after "Same Time, Same Place". Please ignore anything that happened after "Same Time, Same Place", OK? Willow is back, and Giles came back with her. Oz is back, too, because he heard about what happened to Willow, and wanted to help. Anya is still a demon, but Xander is NOT still in love with her. Besides that, I really don't want to explain what has happened between that episode and now all at once, so you'll have to pick it up as we go. By the way, as I said before, it's could be a LONG time between updates, so please be patient. Trust me.

Lesson Of The Day: Stick it to the man, whenever possible.

< and > mean thoughts, or some kind of inner voice (ie. conscience)


(Kor-iss) Naryn - (N-air-in) Treven - (Trev-in) Kassius - (Cass-ee-us)

Latest addition


London, 1873

It was a cold evening in London, as it had been for nearly a week. Summer had long since passed, and the nights were growing steadily longer.

It was this particular evening that found young Mary Thatcher walking the streets alone. She shivered slightly; pulling her shawl tightly around her shoulders in an attempt to ward off the cold, damp air. Her mother had sent her to a nearby cook shop with a few shillings, to fetch some pies for dinner, and she did not want to be late in returning, or her parents would worry. She was their only child, after all.

She finally reached the cook shop, and gratefully walked in out of the cold. As she approached the counter, William, the baker, warmly greeted her.

"Why 'ello there, young Mary. What can I do for you this evening?"

"Two meat pies, please." She answered.

"That'll be three shillings, miss."

Mary always loved talking to William. He always treated her kindly, while everyone else treated her like the young child she was, to be seen and not heard.

"Thank you, William."

"My pleasure, miss Mary. Now you hurry home before dark, it's not safe for a girl of only twelve to be out at night. Dangerous folk about, and all that."

"Alright. Goodbye, William!" And with that, she was out the door, skipping merrily home.

She could hear the bells tolling in St. Paul's Cathedral, with their clear, simple song echoing through the streets of the city. Mary had always found these bells to be very comforting. They had always been a steady part in the ever-changing world.

In her hurry to get home, she prepared to cut though one of the abandoned buildings that littered throughout the city. She was just at the door when she heard a voice behind her.

"Mae govannen, young one."

"What? Who are you?" Mary asked, turning quickly to face the speaker. She saw before her a young man, perhaps around twenty years old, and generally quite harmless looking. She couldn't explain the feeling at the time, but something about this man's presence made her feel . . . safe.

He laughed slightly. "Mae govannen means hello, young one, and my name is Andrew." He kneeled down to look her in the eye, and said, "It is not safe to be out this late, and even less safe to enter such buildings. Now hurry home, and stay near the street lanterns."

With that, he hurried Mary on her way, and she rushed back to the safety of her home, once again taking comfort in the sound of the cathedral bells.

As Mary ran home, however, she never saw Andrew rise slowly to his feet. She never saw the surrounding shadows flow over him to form a long black cloak. Nor did she see him draw a long sword from his cloak, or see his eyes suddenly turn silver.

Moving with a grace that would shame most predators, Andrew entered the very building that Mary had been approaching, and was met with the sound of growls and snarls from within. He simply smiled, and moved into the darkness. The next sounds to greet the quiet street were a few screams, the sounds of dust and ash falling to the ground, and a piercing howl that seemed to strike fear into the darkness itself.

But no one heard these sounds. The bells of St. Paul's drowned them out, bringing comfort to many on that cold evening. Somehow, they knew they were safe.


Three years later, Mary Thatcher was called as The Slayer.

Chapter 1

Sunnydale, January 2003

Buffy Summers had come to a conclusion.

Life was sweet.

She had her great job as a school counselor, so no more Doublemeat Palace ever again.

Dawn was happy at school, and had made a bunch of new friends.

And above all, she was, at this particular moment, alone at home with the whole couch, and a big bowl of popcorn, all to herself.

Willow was working late at the Magic Box to pay off her "debt" to Anya for trashing the place last year, and Dawn was staying over at a friend's house for the night.

Add to that the fact that Buffy had rented a bunch of really sappy romance movies to watch, and it was nothing short of pure bliss.

She laughed quietly to herself.

This time last year she would have thought herself to be incapable of finding joy in such simple things, but now everything seemed better somehow. She could even pin down the exact moment that she had got over being pulled out of heaven, when she had once again embraced life.

It had been a warm day in mid July, and the gang had decided to take a trip to the beach. More specifically, Dawn had decided to take a trip to the beach, and had forced Buffy and Xander to come along for the ride. Not that they had complained much.

The sun was shining brightly, there was a light breeze, and by sheer luck they had found an absolutely perfect spot on the beach to lay their towels.

They had been there for a couple of hours already when Xander started setting up the picnic lunch they had brought with them. Dawn, who had already been swimming, kept trying to grab the various pieces of food as he laid them out, and Xander kept swatting her away. While he wasn't looking, though, Buffy managed to grab one of the sandwiches from the basket. She was just about to take a bite when he noticed her.

Buffy smiled at the memory.


"Ah ha! A thief in our midst!" Xander said, as he pulled something out of the basket and started moving toward Buffy.

"Somebody's in trouble..." Dawn sang softly from behind him.

"Oh no! Don't you dare do it, Xander!" Buffy warned as she slowly climbed to her feet, glancing behind her.

"Don't do what, Buffy?" Xander asked innocently, "I don't know what you mean."

"You know full well what I mean, Alexander Lavelle Harris!" Buffy replied sharply, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice, "We both know you just pulled a squirt gun out of that basket."

Xander winced at the use of his middle name, but continued his advance. "Do you really have so little trust for me, Buff?"

"Yes, I mean, no. err, maybe?"

"Well you'll be happy to know that I haven't got any squirt gun on me." Xander assured her, holding his hands in front of him, and turning around to assure her that he was indeed, unarmed.

"Oh. Well, that's good."

"The thing is," Xander said, pointing past Buffy, "I passed it off to Dawn while you were checking out possible escape routes."

"Okay, I... What!?!"

Buffy turned quickly to look behind her, but it was too late.

Dawn opened fire.

Xander Laughed.

Buffy ran.


"I'm gonna get you guys for this!!" She yelled between laughs.

It was in that moment, as she raced down the beach, chased by two of the most important people in the world to her, that everything came into perspective.

She didn't miss heaven, anymore. She didn't need heaven, either. For her, this was heaven. At that point in her life, she didn't need anything else to be happy.

She was home.

<End Flashback>

Buffy was startled out of her thoughts by a knock at the door. Grumbling, she pulled herself off the couch to answer it.

"Stupid... just got comfortable... piece of my mind..." She mumbled as she entered the front hall.

She was just getting ready to give whoever was there a good yelling at, but when she threw open the door, she was confronted with a familiar face.

"Oh, it's you." She spat, "What do you want?"

"Nice way to greet a guest, Slayer. You treat all your friends this nice, or am I special?"

"You're not my friend Spike, and you never will be. Got it? Now what the hell do you want?"

"You know, you shouldn't be allowed to toy with people like this."


"It's not right, you hear me."

"You really are messed up in the head, aren't you?"

"NO!! I'm special. She told me so. The voice in the shadows told me so!"

At this point, Buffy was starting to get a little freaked out, but she wasn't about to let Spike know that.

"Seriously Spike," Buffy replied, "Just when I think you've said the craziest thing ever, you keep talking. Now get the hell out of my..."

Buffy's words were cut short by a sharp pain in her back, followed by a numbing sensation that flowed through her whole body.

Her last solid memory was that of Spike standing over her, holding a tazer in his hand, a sadistic grin on his face.

"That'll teach you not to turn your back on the enemy." He sneered.

Then he moved down, violently forcing her body against his own. He leaned in and hissed the last words directly in her ear.

"It's playtime now, Slayer."

And then there was only pain.


Xander Harris was, all things considered, in a pretty good mood.

Things had turned out pretty good this year, and everyone was happy, and that made him happy.

Life was finally getting back to normal.

Giles was back in charge of the Magic Box, with the able help of Anya, Willow, and, to everyone's infinite shock, Oz.

Wherever the young musician/werewolf had been these last couple of years, he had still managed to hear about what had happened last year, and had come to comfort Willow in whatever way he could.

It was good to have another guy around that he could relate to.

Unfortunately, said guy, along with Willow and Giles, were being forced to work late by Anya, the retail Nazi.

The concept of how Giles, the owner/boss of the Magic Box, could be forced into working late by one of his employees was a little confusing, but Xander didn't ask questions. He just got out of there as fast as he could, before he was somehow forced to work, too.

That left him only one option.

Hang out with Buffy.

And see if he could score some snacks while he was at it.

With that in mind, he turned his car toward Rovello Drive. Suddenly, a cold shudder made it's way down his spine. Something bad was happening. Something very, very bad.

It took him nearly fifteen minutes to reach Buffy's home at his car's full speed, and when he entered the darkened house, he saw a scene right out of his worst nightmares.

The place was trashed; an obvious sign of trouble, but that wasn't the worst part of it all.

There was blood everywhere. As he entered the next room, Xander prayed silently to whatever power controlled the universe that it wasn't Buffy's.

No such luck.

A lesser man would have screamed at the sight that lay before him. Buffy lay on the floor before him, broken, bloodied, and obviously dead.

A choked sob burst from his throat as he surveyed the scene before him.

"No," he whispered, "not Buffy. Please, God, no."

And in that moment, he knew what he had to do. He moved toward her quickly, picking her up in his arms. She seemed so small and sad, like a broken doll.

He only hoped that he wasn't too late.

Chapter 2

Forty minutes saw Spike returning to the abandoned warehouse that he had been calling home for the last couple of months. The dimly lit expanse stretched of before him, a seemingly endless universe of old crates and rusted catwalks. Only a single functioning lamp provided any clear light. As he began to gather his few belongings, he laughed quietly to himself.

The slayer and all her little friends had bought his act for nearly five months.

<Oh poor me> he thought <I've got a soul now. I'm so bloody sad. Boo hoo>

He laughed again, a cruel and unpleasant sound. A little help on patrol here, a little senseless ramble there, and they all fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.

Pretending to be insane and helpless, he had wormed his way through their defenses, slowly preparing for his revenge on her. She deserved to die, she did. She had rejected his love, made him feel worthless, but he got her in the end. His revenge had been sweet. So very, very sweet.

The look of shock and betrayal in her eyes as he beat her down and took what he wanted from her had been beautiful. Her cries for help and mercy as he violated her had been music to him. He reveled in her complete destruction, and by the time he was finished, he had broken her, body, mind, and soul. She just lay there, quivering, crying; her cries for him to stop had long since stopped. And that was when he ended it. He reached down and snapped her pathetic little neck, and it was over. He'd expected more of a fight, really. Perhaps some noble or memorable comment before he finished her, but there was nothing. Just the sound of her shallow breaths and soft crying, followed by a loud crack, then silence.

<Oh well> he mused <You can't have everything>

How long, he wondered, before they found her battered corpse? Would they even recognize her at first? Would they see their friend through all that blood? He smiled a dark, vicious smile as he thought about their tears, their sorrow when they realized what had happened, that they had lost one of their own to a supposed friend and ally. He had made sure, you see, that they would know it was he who had committed this act. He planned on disappearing this very night. He would leave this town and never return, tormenting them with the simple fact that her killer was out there, and they would never find him. That torment would be greater, and last longer, than any violence he could dish out. That torment would last forever.

He took one last look around his 'home', grabbed his bag, and headed for the door. As he was about to walk out, and say goodbye to Sunnydale once and for all, he heard the sound of a car coming to a halt just outside, followed by the familiar voices of the Scooby gang.

"Bloody hell!" he cried. How could they have gotten here so fast?

He began to panic as he heard the telltale sound of crossbows being loaded accompanied by approaching footsteps. Could he fight them all? Probably not. He couldn't decide what to do. After a moment's hesitation, he turned and fled into the darkness of the warehouse.


Rupert Giles had never been more filled with rage than he was at that moment. They had trusted Spike. God knows why, but they had. He had seemed so innocent, so harmless. He had a soul now and because of that, they had let their guard down. It nearly proved to be a fatal mistake.

Buffy was lucky to be alive, according to the paramedics. After the beating she had taken, it was a wonder she had survived at all. Thank goodness Xander had found her in time to call an ambulance.

Buffy had regained consciousness just long enough to give Xander the name of her attacker.


They had left Xander to stay with Buffy and Dawn, while the rest of them went to deal with Spike. They had driven immediately to the warehouse where Spike was living, breaking nearly every traffic law on the way there, praying to god that they weren't too late to catch him, and now they were here, standing outside the door of the warehouse, knowing what they had to do.

Giles looked behind him, and received a collective nod from Willow, Oz, and Anya. With one mighty kick from Giles, the door swung open, revealing . . . nothing.

"Blast!" he yelled, scaring the others. Could Spike be gone already?

"Spread out." He instructed them, "We'll find him if it takes all night!"

Slowly they spread out, toward the edges of the lit area, fearful of stepping into the shadows. Spike couldn't hurt them directly, but who knows what traps may be laying in wait for them. A thunderous silence filled the room, as each of them strained their ears for any sound that would indicate the location of their prey.

"You can't escape, Spike!" Giles called into the darkness.

"There's only one way out of here, and that's through us!!" Anya added.

"Quite." Giles mumbled.

Suddenly, Spike's voice echoed out from the shadows. "What's the matter?" He asked mockingly, "Someone get hurt? Or better yet, someone get . . . dead?" he began to laugh maniacally, but they couldn't tell where his voice was coming from.

In frustration Giles called out, "Come out and face us, you coward!"

"Oh, yeah," Spike replied sarcastically, "I'll be right out."

More laughter.

"Face it, Watcher. You were never a match for me. None of you were. If it weren't for this chip, I'd have done the same to all of you, even the nibblet." Spike yelled, his voice carrying a cold edge.

The Scoobies whipped their crossbows back and forth, desperately trying to locate the source of Spike's taunts.

"We'll hunt you to the ends of the earth, Spike, and we'll never stop. You know that." Willow cried.

"Yeah, I know. That makes it all the better, you see," Spike said, laughing, "Because you'll never find me. I'll be around when all of you wankers have died and turned to dust. Now if you'll all excuse me, I'll be on my way. Goodbye and . . ." Spike trailed off.

Oz slowly turned to Giles, whispering, "Something is very wrong here. We aren't alone."

Giles slowly reached for the pistol he had brought as a backup.

As he did, Anya suddenly fell to her knees, clutching her stomach in pain, eyes wide with terror.

"Oh, no." She hissed. "Oh, Gods, NO!!"

She scrambled to her feet and began running towards the door, only to be stopped by Giles's firm grip on her arm.

"Anya? What has gotten into you?" He asked.

"Let me go!" She screamed, "We can still get out in time! You hear me? There's still time, we have to run! It's coming!!"

"Good Lord, Anya! What is it?" Giles repeated.

She began thrashing wildly in Giles grip, like a trapped animal. "Please, Giles! Please just let me go. I don't want to die! PLEASE!!" Anya was crying by this point, her eyes begging them to listen.

Willow stood to one side, thinking <What could possibly scare Anya this much? She wasn't even this scared when we were facing Glory, and she was still human then>

Willow's thoughts were interrupted by a scream from the darkness.

"Too late . . ." Anya whispered.

They all recognized Spike's voice immediately, but it was different now. Gone was the mocking tone from before. There was no taunting, no laughing. It sounded like the voice of a frightened child.

"Please . . ." he cried, "Please, I didn't know! I didn't mean to . . ."

His pleas were cut short by another blood-curdling scream. His scream. It was a sound most humans never hear anywhere but in their nightmares. It was the sound of a creature in such unimaginable pain that there are no words to describe it.

They heard Spike scream again, followed shortly by the sound of something heavy being dropped near them.

Then came the silence.

Once again they strained their ears for any sound. It was Willow who noticed first.

"What's that scraping sound?" She asked quietly.

Slowly, the sound became clearer as it neared them. They all pointed their crossbows in it's direction, waiting. Then it pulled itself into the light.

"By the Goddess . . ." Willow whispered, turning away in horror.

It was Spike.

Or rather, it was what was left of him. If they didn't know the vampire's appearance so well, they wouldn't have recognized the blood soaked abomination before them. Both of his legs had been severed off at the hip, and it looked as thought his right arm had been violently torn from its socket, leaving only a hole. His eyes appeared to have been clawed out by some kind of animal, and as he tried to speak, it became obvious that his tongue had been cut out. Any of his attempts at speech caused only gurgling sounds to come from his throat. Using his only remaining limb, he dragged himself across the floor toward them.

He almost seemed to be begging for help, and deep down, they almost wanted to help him.


Giles was about to step forward to finish Spike off, when they heard it.

The howl.

Never in their lives had they heard such a thing. The shadows themselves seemed to cringe in terror at the sound of it. They were terrified, but some ancient part of their minds told them that they were not the targets of this creature's wrath. Anya screamed, and threw herself into Giles arms, begging him not to let this creature, whatever it was, kill her.

They heard rapid footsteps approaching them, yet despite their fear, they were rooted to their spots, unable to run. Suddenly, a creature leaped out of the shadows, landing on all fours, growling viciously. It slowly stood, its figure surrounded by a long black cloak that flowed like liquid, drawing a katana-like sword from the cloak's folds with one gauntleted hand. It moved like a predator tracking its prey, graceful and deadly. Giles tried to find any features that would help him identify it, but the only visible feature under the cloak's hood was a pair of faintly glowing silver eyes.

Ignoring the Scoobies, it moved toward Spike, speaking aloud in a language Giles didn't recognize. Its voice was strangely distorted, seeming to echo back on itself.

"Uryo ne undo yulme, le ulundo."

Leaning over, it drew back one gauntleted fist, and let fly with a devastating backhand blow that sent Spike's bloody form rolling across the warehouse floor, as if he had been made of paper.

It then slowly reached up and pulled its hood back, revealing its features, and the last thing any of them expected to see.

Xander, his face twisted with rage, his eyes shimmering like liquid silver.

"Impossible . . ." Anya said quietly, "I would have known . . ."

As they watched, growing ever more afraid, Xander leaned close to Spike's ear and whispered in a cold, harsh tone,

"Uuner qualin I wende han meles."

With those words, he stood up to his full height, looking down at Spike with absolute contempt. He raised the sword high, and brought it down swiftly, driving the tip of the blade through Spike's skull, finally silencing the vampire's gurgling attempts to beg for mercy. Then, with one last sweep of the blade, Spike's head was removed from his shoulders, ending him once and for all. All that was left now was a fine coating of dust on the ground, and a small metallic microchip.

Xander turned toward the other Scoobies, as if noticing them for the first time. As they shook in terror and shock, he spoke softly to them, now with a normal voice.

"Stille nu," he said, "Telin le thaed." He began to step closer.

"Xand-d-der? W-w-what?" Willow asked, her voice trembling, eyes wide with shock and fear. <What is this thing? And why does it have Xander's face? And why is Anya so afraid?>

He seemed confused for a moment, and then he shook his head, laughing gently, before he spoke again.

"I said, calm down, I'm here to help."

"Oh. Ok." Willow replied, promptly fainting. Oz immediately rushed to her side, checking her for any injuries.

Giles slowly looked up at Xander, a mixture of fear, curiosity, and anger in his eyes. "What in the name of God Almighty are you?"

"I will explain all this at another time, Giles. I can't right now."

"You'll explain now." Giles replied, calmly leveling his pistol at the doppelganger before him.

Faster then Giles's eyes could track, Xander leaped forward, tore the pistol from his grip, crushed it in one armored fist, and threw it to one side. His silver eyes, now barely a foot away, seemed to peer into Giles very soul.

"Right then. I have to get back to Buffy now. She needs me. I will see you back at the hospital." With that, he stepped back, raising his hood again. He then turned, ran, and leaped up to, and out of, a second-story window, making almost no sound whatsoever.

Giles stood there, not moving, completely still, his mind unable to fathom what his eyes had just seen.

Anya clung to Giles' side, still quaking with fear, not speaking, tears streaming down her face.

Oz, still cradling Willow in his arms, looked up towards Xander's previous position, then to the pile of dust on the floor nearby, to the crushed pistol laying a few feet away, and finally up towards the window, raising an eyebrow.




Uryo ne undo yulme, le ulundo - "Burn in hell, you monster."

Uuner qualin I wende han meles - "Nobody hurts the girl I love"

Stille nu - "Calm down"

Telin le thaed - "I come to help you"

Mae govannen - "Hello" / "Well-met" / "Welcome"


Chapter 3

It only took a few moments for the Scoobies to recover from their shock, wake Willow up, and get to Oz's van. While they weren't entirely sure what they had just seen, they knew they had to get to Buffy as quickly as possible.

As they sped toward the hospital, weaving in and out of traffic, Giles was in the back desperately trying to get any helpful information out of Anya. Unfortunately, all of his attempts were in vain.

Anya was curled up in the darkest corner of the van, slowly rocking back and forth, whispering the same words over and over.

"Kaure in ngalad, kaure in ngalad, kaure in ngalad." She repeated, her eyes staring straight ahead, her arms clutched tightly to her sides.

"What in god's name are you saying, Anya?" Giles snapped, his patience growing thin. "We can't understand you!"

"Giles, leave her be." Willow said softly, "She's obviously terrified, and she won't be telling us anything tonight. Are you sure you don't recognize that language she's speaking?"

"Quite sure." Giles sighed. "As sure as I am of the fact that Buffy could be in real danger. We just don't know what this creature's true motives are."

"Oh." Willow seemed to ponder this for a moment, before turning toward the front.



"Go faster."



They reached the hospital in excellent time, and were out of the van as soon as it came to a stop. Fearing the worst, they left Anya in the capable hands of one of the nurses as they rushed up to Buffy's room, ready for battle.

They entered the room, almost expecting to find Buffy locked in combat, fighting for her life, but what they saw was completely different.

Buffy was asleep in the bed, and Dawn was asleep in a nearby chair. They both looked fine. Strangely, Buffy looked completely uninjured.

She had been on death's doorstep barely an hour ago, and now she was completely healed. Something was wrong with this picture. Buffy healed faster than normal people, true, but not that fast. Never that fast.

Xander was there, too, looking normal enough to make them doubt what they had seen earlier. He stood calmly at the foot of Buffy's bed, watching her sleep almost reverently.

They remained silent, hidden in the shadows, searching for any detail that would show them that this was just Xander, their friend, and everything they had seen at the warehouse had just been their imaginations. They were almost ready to believe this, when he suddenly turned to them and spoke.

"Melisse aen kalwa ne hin loralya, aon melisse?" he asked them, a small smile on his face, as if he knew full well that they couldn't understand a word of what he had just said.

Willow stepped forward, albeit cautiously, and looked Xander right in the eye.

"What is going on here, Xander?" she asked him, tears forming in her eyes, "I don't understand..."

Xander smiled again, and gently pulled Willow into a hug, stroking her hair.

"Shhh, Wills." He whispered, "It's okay. I promised I'd explain everything, and I will, Just as soon as Buffy and Dawn wake up, alright?"

Willow wiped a tear away, sniffed, and replied, "Okay."

"Okay." He repeated softly. "Everyone just sit down. Buffy should be waking up fairly soon, then we can wake Dawn up and I can explain."

Everyone sat down, but no one would sit too close to him. They sat, scattered about the room, eyeing him warily.


It was a very tense twenty minutes before Buffy began to stir. With a slight moan, her eyelids fluttered open, and she found everyone hovering over her, with worried expressions one every face, except one.


He simply smiled at her, and gave her a little wink.

He had saved her. She could remember that, but what he had saved her from was a blur. All she could remember clearly was pain. But there was something else.


Spike had been there, too, but why? It was all very confusing. She slowly turned her eyes to the only smiling face in the group.

"Xander, what's going on? Why am I in the hospital? I don't like hospitals."

"You got... hurt, Buff, but your all better now." Xander replied softly, taking her hand in his own. He seemed sad about something, despite his smile. It was something in his voice.

As her eyes traveled from face to face, she noticed that the others were staring at Xander with a mixture of fear and curiosity in their expressions, except for Dawn, who seemed as confused as her sister. The tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

"What's wrong, Xander? If I was all better, everyone wouldn't look this scared." Buffy said in a serious tone.

"It's not you their scared for, Buffy, it's me that their scared of."

"Speaking of which," Giles cut in, "I believe you promised an explanation when Buffy awoke..."

"You got it, G-man." Xander replied, smiling.

Giles simply narrowed his eyes.

"Okay, as much fun as all the staring is, maybe we ought to bring Buffy and Dawn up to speed first." Willow suggested.

"Yes, quite right." Giles answered, never taking his eyes off Xander.

Willow turned to Buffy, and began to retell the events of the last hour.

"Well, for us, it all started with a phone call from Xander, but I suppose for you it started with Spike..."


"...and then he turned to us and said something else in that weird language just now, and Anya's still freaking out, but I'm sure the nurses in Sunnydale are used to people freaking out, and Xander promised he'd explain, but he hasn't yet, but he will, and, and, and...we were all so worried!"

Willow, whose speech had been growing faster and faster since she had started her story, once again burst into tears. She threw herself into Oz's arms, the events of the evening finally catching up with her. Oz held her silently as she sobbed into his shoulder.

In the meantime, Buffy and Dawn were both staring at Xander in disbelief. Slowly, all eyes in the room turned to him.


"Yeah, Buffy?"


Xander sighed, "Alright, but before I say word one, you all have to promise to hear me out, and try to keep an open mind, okay?"

They all nodded.

He took a couple of deep breaths, and began to speak.

"Put simply, I'm not human, or more accurately, I'm not entirely human. I'm part of an ancient race of human/demon hybrids called The Illuminati. I have been since the day I was born."

There was a long pause.

"Xander," Giles said slowly, "I believe most explanations are supposed to answer more questions than they create."

"Right." Xander exclaimed, "Though I honestly figured you guys would be more freaked out than this. What gives?"

"Um, Xan," Dawn answered, glancing at the others, "We ARE freaked out. Big time. But you have to look at this in perspective here. You're sitting in a room with a Slayer, a witch, a werewolf, a two- year old teenager/ball of energy, and someone from England. You're just adding to the list here. Giles is right, though. A longer explanation would help."

Xander looked from face to face, taking in their expressions. The one that struck him the most was Oz. The young werewolf was looking at Xander with something close to understanding in his eyes.

"This isn't the easiest thing in the world to explain."

"Try." Giles replied in a low voice.

Xander nodded silently for a moment, then slowly began to speak again.

"The Illuminati are protectors. They are guardians for the champions against evil. For every champion, slayer, or other very significant player on our side, there is one of our people hiding in the background, watching, and defending them in whatever capacity they can without revealing themselves.

"It has been this way for thousands of years, ever since the first slayer was called. It was on that long ago day that the higher powers decided it was unfair that the slayer would stand alone against the darkness. They decided that they would balance the scales a little in our favor.

"With this decision, they crossed the blood of certain demons with the blood of mortal men, and the People of the Light, or Illuminati, were born.

"These first few gave birth to an entire culture, hidden from the world. To this day we protect every slayer called to duty, every champion charged with a mission, as well as we can. Each of them has a single defender, hidden in the shadows.

"Over the centuries, we have learned to adapt to our surroundings, to appear harmless and be virtually undetectable magically, attacking only when necessary. We blended in with human society, using our compiled genetic knowledge to disappear into the world, disguising our true nature.

"Despite this, however, we became well known, and highly feared, throughout the supernatural world. To most demons, the Illuminati were generally regarded as 'boogie men'. The proverbial 'monster under the bed' that they told their offspring stories about.

"Stories became legend, legend became myth, and some things that should not have been forgotten, were. Today, we are the stuff of imagination. Of the few humans who have even heard of us, even fewer believe that we still, or ever did, really exist.

"But we do. You do not fight alone. You never have."

Xander finished his story with a sigh, once again looking from face to face. All he saw now was shock and confusion.

As he had told his tale, his eyes had slowly washed to silver, and now shimmered like pools of mercury, removing all doubt in the truth of his words.

Willow slowly walked up to him, looking him in the eye once again, tears streaming down her face.

"How could you?" she whispered.

"Willow, I..." Xander began before she silenced him with a slap to the face.

"How could you lie to me for my entire life!?!" she cried.

She fled the room, leaving him stunned. He looked toward the others.

"I'm so sorry." He whispered.


"Yes, Buffy?"

"I think you should leave now."

"I..." he started.

"Just go, Xander." Buffy whispered, tears welling in her eyes, "I can't deal with this right now."

Defeated, Xander left the room. Even as he left the hospital, though, he could clearly hear the sobs coming from Buffy's room. His heart nearly shattered at the sound of it.

"What have I done..."



Kaure in ngalad - Fear the light

Melisse aen kalwa ne hin loralya, aon melisse? - She is beautiful in her sleep, isn't she?


FYI: Pronunciation of Illuminati names:

Deveroux - Dev-er-o

Ayndene - On-deen (Ayni - On-ee)

Orlin - Exactly how it looks (Or-lin)


Chapter 4

For a moment, no one was completely sure what had just happened. They all just stared at the door that Willow, then Xander, had walked through.

"I thought he was just kidding around..." Buffy whispered.

Dawn turned to Buffy, furious.

"You thought he was kidding around? What the hell is wrong with you? How could you do that to him?"

"Dawn, you heard what he said..."

"Of course I did!! We all did! How does this make him any different from the rest of us? Because he lied? So what! He's still our friend. We've all lied to the group at one point or another."

"Nothing this big, Dawn..."

"What about Angel, huh? How long did you keep his return from hell a secret? And what about me? How long did you all put off telling me I was the key? Do you think I still hold a grudge about that? We have no right to judge him, despite what he is."

"Dawn..." Giles began.

"Shut up! You're no better than the rest of them! I don't care what any of you say, I'm going to find Xander." With those words, Dawn ran from the room before anyone could stop her.

Buffy looked up to Giles with a stricken look on her face.

"What have I done...?"


Xander sat alone on a bench in the park, deep in thought, not noticing as two figures approached him from behind. The man and woman, near Xander's age, moved in complete silence.

They were right behind him, when Xander spoke.

"What do you two want?"

"Harsh break, man," A male voice, replied. "Them finding out, and all."

"We could've told you this would happen, though. People aren't very good at dealing with this sort of thing." A female voice added. "Although I would have expected better from them."

"Shut up, both of you." Xander shot back. "Don't you have somewhere else to be, Deveroux?"

"Temper, temper..." Deveroux scolded.

"We thought you could use someone to talk to, ya know?" the female said, laying her hand on his shoulder.

"I'm fine, Ayndene."

"No you're not, Orlin, and we're not leaving till we're sure that you're feeling better."

"Fine." Xander/Orlin grumbled, "You might as well sit down, then."

The two figures sat down on either side of him, not saying anything more. For the better part of an hour, the three of them simply sat in silence, looking at the stars.

"You had it coming, you know." Deveroux said thoughtfully.

"Dev!" Ayndene snapped.

"Well it's true! This is what happens when you get too close to those you are meant to protect. We're not supposed to get personally involved, because it always turns out badly. You'd know that, Ayn, if you hadn't gotten involved with your own charges."

"I don't need one of your lectures, Dev. I'm doing just fine."

"Oh, yeah, things have been just peachy, Need I mention their 'involvement' in that situation with the guy who stripped you of your powers, and banished you to another dimension for five years? Or that whole Armageddon fiasco? And don't even get me started on that 'champion in a metal box in the ocean' thing last summer."

"For the last time, that was not my freaking fault!! Anyway, I found him eventually, so all's well that ends well. And it's not as if you're perfect. I seem to remember a certain charge of yours going crazy, switching sides, getting put into a coma, waking up, temporarily swapping bodies with Orlin's charge, attempting to kill my charge, and finally ending up in prison."

"That's not fair, she had a rough time growing up. I'm amazed she handled the stress as long as she did."

"And whose fault is that, hmm? If you'd protected her from childhood, like you were supposed to, she would have been fine."

"I thought we agreed never to speak of that, Ayn. You know how difficult she was to locate. I'm just lucky I got to her before she was called."

"Yeah. Lucky."



"Enough!!" Xander yelled, "Take a breath before you pass out! Why is god's name must you two constantly argue?"

"Sibling rivalry." Deveroux replied, his temper fading quickly.

"You're not siblings, though."

"A detail."

"You are the single most annoying person I've ever known."

"It's a gift, but back to the topic at hand. What happened? Last time we spoke, everything was fine and dandy, then out of the blue we get a message that you've been uncovered. In seven years, you've never had a major slip- up, then you suddenly decide it's time to go postal on a vampire? I mean, what the fuck, man!? That's not your style."

"He hurt Buffy. He had to pay."

"Oh, well that makes it alright then, doesn't it? Retard."

"You know what, Deveroux? Fuck you. I don't need this holier than thou bullshit from you. Like Ayndene said, it's not as if you never screwed up."

"Orlin, we're serious." Ayndene said softly, "What happened?"

"I was too far away. I let my guard down just enough for him to get close. He did horrible things to her, and then he killed her. I was almost too late to bring her back. Another five or six minutes..."

"You used healing magic to bring her back? Again? What is this, the third time?" Deveroux asked in surprise.

"Second. The last time was Willow, even though I had to get a pretty rare artifact for them to pull it off. Thanks again for finding it for me, Ayn. We would've been lost without it. I made up some story about E-Bay to cover for you. They believed it, too."

"S'okay." Ayndene replied, "But why did you go after the vampire? And more importantly, why did you let yourself be seen by your charge's friends?"

"I dunno. I was just so angry, I wasn't thinking straight. It was only after he was dust, that I even noticed them."

"So, now what are you gonna do?" Deveroux asked.

"I think I'll just let them cool off for a while, you know? Let them get used to the idea. Then we'll have a nice, rational discussion about it."

"That's the stupidest plan I've ever heard."

"You know what, smart-ass? If you can come up with something better, I'd like to hear it."

"Sorry, buddy. I guess it's actually all you can do in this situation, isn't it?"

"I guess..."

The three of them fell back into silence for another hour or so, until the sun began to peek over the horizon.

"I'd better get back to LA." Ayndene said suddenly, "Before anyone notices that I'm gone."

"Yeah. I gotta get back to my charge, too. It's a good thing she can't get into any trouble at night anymore." Deveroux added.

"I'll see you guys around, then."

"You know it."

"Should I tell my charge that 'boy toy' says hello?" Deveroux laughed, shifting to English.

"What happened to not making personal contact with one's charge?"

"I'd make an exception for you, Casanova." He replied, stifling his laughter.

"Your never gonna let me live that down, are you?" Xander asked, grinning.


"Oh well. See you guys."

"See you later, Orlin." Deveroux replied, before disappearing in a swirl of lights.

"Take care, Orlin." Ayndene added, leaning in to kiss his cheek, before she too disappeared.

"I will, Ayni." Xander replied into thin air. "I will."


Dawn didn't know how long she searched for Xander, but before she knew it, the sun was getting ready to rise. She had checked every place she could think of. His apartment, the Bronze, the school, even that twenty-four hour diner near his work site, but she came up with nothing.

Having exhausted all her ideas, she decided just to head back to the hospital. Since the sun was coming up, and all the vampires were hiding from the growing daylight, she decided to take a shortcut through the park.

Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

As she was walking through the park, she suddenly heard Xander's voice behind some trees.

"...gonna let me live that down, are you?"

"Never." Another voice replied.

Dawn, her curiosity piqued, crouched behind the trees to listen.

"Oh well. See you guys."

"See you later, Orlin." The other voice said, followed by a slight hissing sound.

<Orlin?> Dawn thought, <Who the heck is Orlin?>

"Take care, Orlin." Said another voice, this time a woman. It carried an accent that Dawn couldn't quite place. There was another hissing sound, followed by a short silence.

"I will, Ayni." Xander's voice replied. "I will."

<Ayni?> Dawn thought to herself, <What the heck is going on here?>

Dawn was once again startled out of her thoughts by Xander's voice.

"You can come out now, Dawn. They're gone."

She crawled out from her hiding place, finally standing to look Xander in the eye.

"How did you know I was here?"

"Don't even get me started."


There was a long, awkward pause.

"You should probably get back to your sister, Dawn. She'll be worried."

"I don't care."

"You should."

"Let them worry. They had no right to treat you that way. I'm sorry they behaved like that."

"It's okay. It wasn't your fault."

"I want you to know, I don't care who or what you are on the outside, as long as you're your still Xander on the inside, where it counts."

"Thank you, Dawn. That was a very 'Disney meets Hallmark' thing to say."

"Oh yeah. You're definitely Xander, all right."

"Good to know."

They both shared a good laugh, temporarily forgetting the situation at hand.

After their laughter ended, there was another awkward silence.

"So..." Dawn prompted, after a moment.

"So...?" Xander repeated.

"Now what?"

"I dunno. I suppose we should be getting you back to the hospital. Whether you like it or not, Buffy is still going to be worried."

"Yeah, ok."

They began walking back to the hospital in silence, when Dawn piped up once more.

"I'm sure they've calmed down by now, Xander." She assured him.

"I really hope so, Dawnie." He replied.

"Me too." She whispered back.


Willow had suffered some pretty severe low points in her life, but somehow had never felt this badly betrayed.

She so badly wanted to believe that Xander had been lying. She wanted to wake up and find that it had all just been a dream, and everything was back to normal.

But she knew that wasn't going to happen. That wasn't the truth.

The truth was that her best friend, since before she could clearly remember, had lied to her for nearly her entire life. Lied about everything he really was. Had she even known the real Xander Harris? Did he even really exist, or had she been friend to a shallow fabrication for almost twenty years?

Twenty years. <My Goddess, when you say it like that...>

After she had fled from Buffy's room, she had immediately headed for the small courtyard in the centre of the hospital. It was someplace she knew she could be alone for a while.

She didn't know how long she had been there, but after a while, she felt a hand come to rest on her shoulder. Looking up, she found Oz standing there, smiling gently.

"Oh, Oz, what am I gonna go? How do I get past this?"

He seemed to think for a moment, before he began to speak.

"A long time ago, someone told me something I never forgot..."

He turned to look her in the eye. "He said, 'Remember that friends come and go, but with a precious few, you should hold on'. I think you should hold on, Willow. You'll never forgive yourself if you let him leave your life."



"I think that's the most you've ever said at one time." She said, smiling through her tears.

"It seemed like the right time for it."

"Thank you, Oz. Don't ever leave us again."

"I don't plan to." He replied, smiling.

"Good. Now I think we should be getting back."


"How can you always make me feel better, no matter what is going on in my life?"

"I dunno. Just lucky I guess."

"Lucky, huh?"

"Around you, Willow? Always."

With that, they walked back to Buffy's room in silence.

Chapter 5
Breakfast Of Champions

Catherine O'Neil had been a waitress for the better part of thirty years, and had seen a lot of things. Some good, and some, not so good.

She had seen a baby delivered in a diner kitchen, perfectly healthy, and she had seen an old man die, quietly, waiting for a cup of coffee.

She had seen marriage proposals, and painful breakups, and she had seen it all with a notepad in one hand, and a pot of coffee in the other. It's hard to be a waitress, without becoming a philosopher in the process. You live and work in a microcosm of life, seeing only snippets of people's souls, but taking a little experience, a little life, from every order.

Yet for all the things she had seen, nothing could have prepared her for the events of that night. Those sights would follow her to the grave.

She had known Samantha for more than a decade. They had worked together in everything from a greasy spoon diner, to a high-class restaurant. They were best friends, the likes of which are rare these days.

They had always been there to support each other, each knowing they could count on the other in a pinch.

They were sisters in all but blood.

So to come out from a long shift, to find your sister, dead on the ground, is a pain few will ever know. In that moment, Catherine's whole world came crashing down.

Thinking back, she could remember screaming to the heavens, begging to know why this had happened, why they had taken her. She had received no answer.

On her knees, in that dark alley, she had cried for her friend, whom she spoken to, laughed with, only a half hour before. Her body had been so cold, so lifeless. She had never even heard the footsteps behind her.

Before Catherine knew what was happening, she was violently pulled to her feet, trapped in the vice-like grip of a creature from a child's nightmare. It stared into her, its eyes the very window of its soulless being. Slowly, surely, it descended its fangs toward her throat. She could feel the tips pressed against her skin, and prayed for a swift end.

Suddenly, the pressure was gone. The weight of the creature was pulled from her, and thrown aside. Free of its hold, she once again fell to her knees, her body wracked by sobs. It was all at once a great blessing, and a cruel injustice that she would not be joining Samantha in the great hereafter.

She turned her eyes to where the monster had fallen, almost too frightened to move. As she watched, the creature pulled itself to its feet, and began to move toward her once again. But before it could reach her, though, it stopped, frozen in place. Wonder of wonders, it began to tremble, its eyes darting about the shadows. Its expression was that of pure terror.

<What scares monsters?> she could remember thinking.

The creature before let out a pitiful whimper, backing away from her. Suddenly, the shadows themselves took on life. They spread out, flowing like spilled coffee, surrounding the monster. It shrieked in horror, tried to escape, but it was too late.

In her grief, she could imagine the shadow as an avenging angel, sent by God to right a terrible wrong. She could imagine the right hand of God himself, striking this monster down, sending it back to hell where it belonged, with the other nightmares.

By the time she got to her feet, the fight was already over. All that was left was a thin cloud of dust, sparkling in the streetlight, surrounding the figure of a young man, dressed in black.

He walked toward her, his eyes sad. He had laid a hand on her shoulder, and spoken softly.

"I'm sorry." He had said.

That was all it took. She had once again descended into sobs, crying into his shoulder. He had guided her back into the restaurant, and sat her down at one of the tables. Leaving her there, he went to speak with the night cook, Eddie.

Eddie had called the cops, and the ambulance had come to take Samantha away. All the while, the young man was there for her, comforting her. When it was all over, he got up to leave, and, wiping her tears away, Catherine got her first clear look at the young man's face.

Then, like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky, she had remembered him. He was one of the construction workers, from the site across the road. He came in nearly every day for breakfast. Harris, was his name. Alexander Harris, though in the coming months she would come to call him Alex.

Catherine had always been a deeply religious woman, and she could recognize a sign from above when she saw one. This innocent looking young man had saved her, in more ways than one. If it took the rest of her life, she would repay him.

Catherine had never been a rich woman. She would never live in a mansion, or drive a fancy car. She would probably be working in restaurants until the day she died.

However, Catherine was a very proud woman. She never complained about the circumstances God sent her. She simply carried on, sure in the knowledge that nothing would be asked of her that was beyond her capabilities.

Because of this, she could not repay Alex as well as she would have liked. All she could offer him, was a free meal whenever he came in (however often he might try to pay), and an open ear if he ever needed to talk.

That had been nearly a year ago, and there wasn't a day that went by that she didn't see that boy. Even when he was working at different sites, he still stopped by for breakfast each morning. He had seen her through the hardest time of her life, as she would be there for him.

He had talked her out of giving up a hundred times, told her that Samantha would want her to keep going, keep living. There were times in those first few months that she almost gave up on God, but he had told her that if we forsake out beliefs, than the monsters have already won. He had kept her on the straight and narrow path. He had kept her from going astray.

When his oldest friend, Willow, had gotten hooked on some drug, gotten violent, and had been forced to go away for a while, Catherine had been there to talk to him in the aftermath. She had told him that no matter what Willow had done, what she had said, she would always be the little girl he grew up with.

It just goes to show you, that while you can sometimes pick your guardian angel, sometimes they pick you.


"I'm telling you Dawn, your sister is gonna be worried sick!"

"And I'm telling you, Xander, I don't care!"

"She's done a lot for you, and you should show some gratitude!"

"What!? She's nothing but selfish! I can't believe you're taking her side!"

"I'm not taking sides, Dawn, I'm just saying what's best!"

"I don't care! I'm not listening to you anymore!"



"Alright then!"

"That's right!"





"So do you wanna get some breakfast?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Cool. I know where to get the best chocolate chip pancakes in town."


"Really, really."


<That boy is like clockwork> Catherine thought, as Alex strolled through the doors of the diner at eight-o-clock, sharp, followed by the girl who had been here a few hours ago, looking for him.

"I see you two found each other, at last." She commented as they took a seat.

At Alex's questioning look, she explained. "The young one was in here looking for you, about two or three hours ago. I told her it was a bit early to find you here, yet. I'm glad she found you, rather than 'someone' finding her."

"Me too, Cathy," Alex replied, using his nickname for her, "Me too."

"Well aren't you going to introduce us?"

"Right. Dawn, this is Catherine O'Neil, the best waitress this side of the planet. Cathy, this is Dawn Summers, the most stubborn teenager on the planet."

"Dawn Summers? Would that be any relation to the infamous Buffy Summers you've told me so much about?"

"Erm...yeah. She's Buffy's younger sister."

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Summers." Catherine said, shaking Dawn's hand.

"Likewise, Ms. O'Neil." Dawn answered, smiling.

"Mrs. O'Neil, sweetie. It's my married name."

"Oh. Sorry. It's just, there's no wedding ring, and so I thought..."

"It's not a problem, dear. I haven't worn my wedding ring on the job in twenty-eight years. I wouldn't want to lose it, would I?"

"I guess not." Dawn replied, sheepishly.

"Speaking of which," Xander cut in, "How is old Henry these days?"

"As belligerent as ever. His trick back has gone out again, so he's spent most of the last week on the couch, driving me up the walls."

"That sounds like Henry, all right."

"Oh, he just doesn't like being cooped up in the house. Just you watch. As soon as he gets a clean bill of health, he'll be back in that kitchen, filling orders, and leaping about like a twenty-year- old again. We have yet to find another short-order chef who can keep up with him."

"Nothing ever could keep that man down for long."

"Not anything, Lord help him. Now, what can I get you two?"

"Well, I'll have my usual..."

"Scrambled eggs, extra bacon, hash browns, and toast, with a coffee on the side, though Heaven knows where you put it all." Catherine added, laughing.

"You know it. And I believe I promised this young lady the finest chocolate chip pancakes in Sunnydale."

"I think we can arrange that. I'll be back in a flash."

"Okay, Cathy."

Their orders placed, Xander and Dawn fell into a comfortable conversation, avoiding the subject of a certain blond haired slayer.


"Oh. My. God. Those were the best pancakes I have ever eaten. Ever. In my entire life."

"So you liked them?" Xander asked, hiding a grin.

Dawn just closed her eyes, and leaned back into her seat, sighing contentedly.

"Alright Dawnie. That's enough basking in the afterglow for one morning. We really do have to get going. If we hurry, we can make it before Buffy gets released from the hospital."

"But Xander, Buffy's getting released first thing this morning. Nine A.M. The doctor told they were only gonna keep her overnight, just in case."

"What's your point?"

"It's eight-forty-five now. We'd never make it on foot."

"Oh really?" Xander asked, grinning widely.

"What's that look supposed to mean?"

"Oh, you'll see..."

Getting up from the table, he led Dawn over to the counter, where Catherine greeted them.

"Everything okay, kids?"

"Fabulous as always, Cathy. How much do I owe you?"

"Alex, you know your money's no good here."


"Now, don't you start with me. This meal is on the house, like always, and if you argue with me, I'll force you to take another serving of those pancakes with you, and they'll be free as well!"

"For the love of all that's holy, Xander, argue with her." Dawn whispered to him.

"Sorry Dawn Patrol, no time. Are you sure, Cathy?"

"In the year you've been coming here for breakfast, have I ever, ever, gone back on my decision?"


"Then why would I start now?"

"Point taken. See you around, Cathy."

"See you later, Alex."

"Bye, Mrs. O'Neil."

"You can call me Catherine, dear. Or Cathy, if you prefer."

"Okay, Catherine."

Waving goodbye, Dawn and Xander stepped out of the diner, and walked off down the street.

Catherine O'Neil watched them go, before turning her eyes skyward.

"You sure picked a strange angel, Samantha, but thanks."

With that, she went back to the other customers, a funny little smile on her face.


"Are you absolutely sure about this, Xander?"

"Positive. This'll get us there a lot faster. It might be a little scary though, so hold on tight."

"Trust me, I will."

"Don't worry about it Dawnie. I used to give you piggy back rides all the time as a kid."

"Yeah, but those were slower, and I was a lot smaller."

"Dawn. I could bench press a truck. I somehow doubt your weight will be much of a bother. And I will not let you fall."


Dawn glanced around the alley they were in, and with a slightly apprehensive look on her face, climbed up onto Xander's back. Once she was up, and Xander was sure she had a good grip, they were ready to go.

"So what do you think? High road or low road?"

"Umm...high road?"

"Good choice. Hold on tight..."

Xander looked up, and with an almighty leap, reached the rooftop, six stories above them.


"You ain't seen nothin' yet."

Xander immediately took off at a run, and the far side of the roof began approaching at an alarming rate. Less than a second before they would have gone over, though, Xander leaped again. Flying for nearly a hundred feet, he easily landed on the next rooftop, not even breaking pace.

If the cars on the road next to them were any indication, they were going close to sixty miles an hour.

They continued like this, leaping like spider-man, from rooftop to rooftop, running along power lines, until they reached the edge of the downtown area. The hospital was on the other side of a suburban development, roughly two miles across. They stood on the very edge of the last rooftop, overlooking the houses.

"Now what?" Dawn asked.

"Now the fun part begins."

"Fun part?"



Xander took one more step. Instantly they plummeted headfirst from the rooftop, toward the ground over a hundred feet below them. The only sounds were the wind in Xander's ears, and Dawn's ear-splitting scream.

Suddenly, Xander pivoted in midair, landing feet first, and absorbed the full impact of the fall in his legs. He didn't even pause before taking off at a pace even greater than he had been doing before.

Doing what Dawn could only guess was close to ninety miles an hour, Xander dodged and wove his way through traffic. They were less than a half-mile from the hospital.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a pickup truck pulled into their path, and it was too late to turn. Dawn screamed at Xander to stop.

Instead, he leaped straight up and over, spinning in midair, gripping a streetlight above them with his free hand. He used their momentum to bring them around to the top of the light, and kicked off, soaring through the air, hitting the ground two hundred feet further on.

Right outside the emergency room doors.

Dawn pulled away from him, and took a moment to collect herself. After several slow, deep breaths, she felt ready to speak.


She was wrong. Slowly, surely, Xander guided her to a nearby bench, sitting her down.

It was several long minutes before Dawn even moved. Then, finally, she turned toward Xander, and opened her mouth.


Xander winced at the volume of the 'question'.

"The high road?" he ventured.

"That was no freakin' high road!! That was all at once the most terrifying, and the most thrilling experience of my life!!"

"Okay.'re welcome?"

"We jumped off a building!"

"Yes, it was very exciting, and tomorrow we go to the zoo." Xander replied, smirking.

Dawn, who was practically smoking at the ears, took another second to compose herself, before speaking again.

"Have you always been able to do stuff like that?"


"Right. We're gonna have words about this later, Xander. AND your gonna tell me who you were talking to in the park earlier."

"I was..." Xander began.

"Later." Dawn cut him off, raising a hand.

"Okay." He replied meekly.

"Fine. Now were gonna go see Buffy and the others, and fix your friendships. Got it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good. Let's go.

Xander immediately followed Dawn into the hospital, being careful to remain quiet.

<How the hell does she do that?> He thought to himself, <Just like with Buffy, I'm wrapped around her little finger.>

He watched Dawn order a nurse to guide them up to Buffy's room, having forgotten the way in the chaos of the previous night.

<Oh yeah. They're defiantly their mother's daughters. Joyce would be proud.>

Chapter 6

High above the streets of Los Angeles, atop the soaring Library Tower, two solitary figures sat on the edge, watching as the sun rose over the horizon, each of them thinking about their friend, and the situation he had found himself in.

"Orlin's really in a bad way, isn't he?" Ayndene said finally.

"He'll get over it." Deveroux quipped.

"Maybe you should lighten up a little, Deveroux. He's been through a lot."

"Please, Ayni. We both know what brought all this down on him."

"And what, pray tell, is that?" She asked, narrowing her eyes.

"He got close."

"Oh, here we go again!" She cried, throwing her arms in the air.

"I'm serious, Ayni. Getting that close to your charge is asking for trouble, and an absolute guarantee for a broken heart."

"Hey! It seems to me that your track record speaks for itself. You've had two charges, and both of them ended up on the side of evil. Granted that had nothing to do with you, but maybe you could have prevented it by being a friend to them."

Deveroux scowled at her. "I don't want to talk about this anymore."

"Too bad, cause I'm not done yet."

"Look, Ayni, just get off my back about this, okay? I have my reasons."

"Did it ever occur to you that maybe your charge could still use a friend, now more than ever. She's looking for redemption, and we both know that's a lonely path to take. Maybe she would like some company."

"I've made my decision."

"I don't understand you, Dev. It wouldn't kill you to let yourself get close to someone. Faith's a good person these days, or so I hear. At least you both have the same twisted sense of humor." She added, grinning. "You'd like her, and she'd like you, if you just gave it a chance."

"NO! Goddamn it!"

"Live a little, you idiot. Risk a friendship."

", I can't do that."

"Why not?"


"Because why?"

"Because...if I get close to her, then I'd fall for her..."

He paused for a moment, staring off towards the beginnings of the sunrise.

"And then... if she died... I'd die, too."

A long silence between them followed.

"Oh my God. That's it isn't it. I can't believe I missed it."

"What do you mean?" He asked slowly.

"You're in love with her, aren't you?"

He broke eye contact with her almost immediately.

"Shut up, Ayndene. You don't know what you're talking about." He snapped.

"I know exactly what I'm taking about. You tried so hard not to get close, to avoid contact, and you ended up falling in love with her."

"You're delusional."

"We both know I'm not."

"To hell with this. I'm outta here."

"Deveroux, wait..." She pleaded.

"What?" he asked, not turning to face her.

"Sit. The least you can do is talk with me. Am I your friend or not?"

"That's debatable."

"Ha ha. Sit down and talk."


He walked back, and sat down on the edge of the roof next to her.

"So?" She prompted him.

"So what?"

"So how long have you been in love with her?"

He let out a long sigh, before answering.

"I dunno. It just kinda...happened. I really didn't see it coming."

"No one ever does."

"Is this the same thing that happened to you? You know, with that guy of yours."

"More or less." She replied. "The harder you try to stay objective, the more they worm their way into your heart, until you can't imagine life without them."

She turned to look him in the eye. "And I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world."

"So much for me being the sensible one." He commented, chuckling slightly.

"Dev, you were never the sensible one. Just the loud one."

"Oh, you wound me."

"It's what I do best."

"Figures. I always knew you were out to get me."

"Deveroux, stop trying to change the subject."

"Yeah, okay."

The two sat in silence for another few seconds, before Deveroux turned toward her.

"So what do I do now?"

"Sorry Dev, but no one can decide that but you."

"Wonderful. Can you at least give me a little advice?"

Ayndene rose to her feet, sparing one last glance at the sunrise, before looking back to him.

"Get to know her first, and just go from there."

"No cheat sheet for this one, huh?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Oh well."

She laughed at his slightly sullen expression. "Cheer up. I'm sure you'll do fine."

"I suppose."

"See you 'round, Dev."

"See you, Ayni."

With that, Ayndene leaped off the roof of the skyscraper, her black cloak billowing behind her, landing on the roof of the next building over. Deveroux watched her until she was out of sight.

"And off I go..." He muttered.

With a great leap, he too soared off the roof of the tall building, moving from building to building, away in the opposite direction.

He couldn't help but wonder, though, what he was going to do with the advice Ayndene had given him.

Chapter 7
A Call To Arms


By the way, here some more pronunciation stuff.

Selde - Sell-d (like weld or held)

Morowin - More-oh-win


The sun was barely creeping over the top of the LA skyline as a lone figure leaped from building to building, almost faster than the eye could track.

Coming to a sudden stop, she glanced around her, before dropping down to the street, and moving toward a nearby building. Quietly, she slipped through the doors of the Hyperion Hotel, and made her way toward the stairs.

Wrapped in shadows, the figure moved swiftly, undetected by the 'ever- watchful' guard.

A guard who was presently talking in his sleep.

"...another sea-breeze, honey..."

Silent as a ghost, she sprinted up the stairs, and into her room, careful not to wake the other occupant.

"Too easy..." she whispered to herself, smiling slightly.

She was an expert at sneaking out of the hotel these days. Ever since the sun had been temporarily blotted out last month, and she had been forced to help with the sudden surge in the vampire population, unbeknownst to the other occupants of the building.

Deveroux had helped, too, and between the two of them, they had kept the general death toll in the area down, till the sun could be returned.

Deveroux. She thought back to her conversation with him earlier that morning. He would have a lot of thinking to do over the next little while. She only hoped he would make the right decision.

Shaking off her doubts, she peered into the mirror, and watched as the shadows around the room began swirling around her, forming a kind of cocoon, before they suddenly flashed brightly, revealing an altogether different person.

Gone, was the deadly and beautiful form of Ayndene, an Illuminati warrior. In its place stood the somewhat more humble guise she had grown accustomed to. She felt a momentary loss at the disappearance of her true form, but recovered quickly, as she always did.

Turning toward the bed, she saw the reason she kept up this lie. The reason she deceived everyone about her true nature.

<Would he still love me if he knew what I really was?> She thought, Deveroux's words still hanging on her mind.

He was so peaceful looking in his sleep, as almost all beings are. Her heart ached with the thought that no matter how hard she tried, he would find out the truth about her someday.

But for now, she would just be content.

Moving over to the bed, she pulled back the covers and curled up next to him, resting her head on his chest, listening to his strong heartbeat, his steady breathing.

"Mmm... Life is good." She mumbled.

The man next to her shifted slightly, opening one eye.

"Is it morning already?" he whispered.

"Yep." She replied.

"But it's Saturday, isn't it?"

"All day long."

"Oh. I think I'll sleep in then, okay?" he said, yawning.

"I think I'll join you."


"Go back to sleep, Charles."


For a few moments, she just lay there, watching him sleep, before drifting off her self.

Just before sleep overtook her, though, the girl known as Winifred Burkle, Fred to her friends, had just enough time to wonder how she'd gotten so lucky, and how long this happiness could last.



"Good morning to you, too, Cordelia."

"Shut up, Wesley..."

Wesley just smiled slightly as Cordelia stumbled her way through the hotel lobby to the coffee machine, switching it on.

"You really should try drinking tea, rather than that horrid liquid you call coffee. It's not very good for you, you know."

"You're walking on thin ice, Wes. It's way too early for the lecture on the evils of coffee."

"I don't lecture."

"Yes, you do."

"Cordelia, I do not lecture, and at least I am capable of functioning in the morning without massive doses of caffeine in my body."

"Bite me, Brit-boy." Cordelia snapped.

"Now, now, children." Lorne cut in, as he walked in from the rear office, having just woken up. "Don't fight, or we'll have to separate you."

"He started it..." she mumbled.

"Very mature, Cordelia."

"Are those two at it again?" Angel asked as he came down the stairs.

"Like always." Lorne responded.


Moving over to the mini-fridge behind the counter, Angel helped himself to a pint bag of O + blood, poured it into a mug, and drank it down in three large gulps.

"Yum." He commented as he washed out the mug, "Breakfast of champions."

"Don't you ever get tired of using that line?" Lorne asked.


"I think it's cute." Cordelia added, grinning.

"You would."

Just then, as Cordelia was preparing to bite Wesley's head off for his offhand remark, the front doors of the hotel opened, and footsteps could be heard moving toward the desk. Cordelia immediately moved forward to greet the potential customer.

"Welcome to Angel Investigations, we help the...oh, hi Conner."

Conner just stalked past her, glaring. Entering the rear office, he moved right over to one of the cupboards in the back, opening it to reveal various bags of snack food. He seemed to think for a moment, before grabbing a couple of the bags, along with a 2L bottle of Coke.

Once again glaring at everyone in the room as if they had the plague, he quickly made his way back to the front door.

"Goodbye, Conner! Have a nice day!" Wesley called out as Conner left, never taking his eyes off the LA Times.

"Bite me." Came the reply.

There was a long pause, before Cordelia said what was on nearly everyone's mind.

"Well, that was weird."

"Actually, it's become a semi-regular occurrence these past couple of weeks." Wesley said from behind his newspaper. "Almost every other day, Conner arrives, usually before all you people are awake, scowls at whomever is in the room, which is usually me, takes some food, scowls some more, and leaves, often with some colourful remark on the way out."

"My son, ladies and gentlemen." Angel grumbled sarcastically, gesturing toward the door Conner had just used.

"Look at the bright side, Angelcakes. At least he didn't try to kill you this time. He just took his snack food, and left. And at least he's only stealing from us, and not other people."

"Thank you, Lorne. That's very comforting."

"I do what I can."

"Come on, Angel, honey. Explain to me how his behaviour is any different from any other rebellious eighteen-year-old on the planet."

"I tell you how it is, Lorne. It's I mean is...uh...that is to say...err...It just is!"

"Struck down again by your immense logical abilities." Cordelia said, smirking.

"Cordy..." Angel began, but before he could say anything more, Cordelia collapsed to the ground, cutting him off.

Angel was at her side in an instant, cradling her in his arms.

"Cordelia! What's wrong?"

As she lay on her back, gasping for air, her eyes suddenly lost all color, staring up emotionlessly. Rather than the running commentary they had become accustomed to in regard to Cordelia's visions, there was only silence as she stared into nothingness.

Finally, after nearly ten minutes of silent staring, her eyes closed, and she began to shake violently. Another few moments passed, and the shaking stopped. She slowly opened her eyes, looking at Angel, then to Wesley, and then to Lorne, before closing her eyes again.

"Oh God..." She whispered, tears forming in her eyes. "Oh God, no..."

She pulled herself from Angel's grasp, wiping her eyes, took a few calming breaths, and headed for the stairs.

"I gotta talk to someone."

"Cordelia, what is it? What's coming?" Wesley asked.

Cordelia turned and fixed him with an icy stare. "THEY are, Wes. And God help us all if we can't stop them."

With that, she turned and ran up the stairs, leaving three very confused people behind her.

She knew exactly who she had to talk to.



She had felt so much fear. More than she thought was possible.

It had been as if the entire world was gripped with terror, all for one reason.


The Dark Ones.

The ultimate corruption of life.

The living, breathing reason children had nightmares.

During her somewhat short period as a higher being, Cordelia had been privy to a great deal of information, including the full exploits of Angelus. However, none of it had shaken her as much as what she had learned about Them. They were a kind of evil the world hadn't seen in a very long time. A kind of evil that was never supposed to exist. They were supposed to have been wiped out long ago, but now they were resurfacing. If left unopposed, They would ravage the planet, until nothing was left alive. They had to be stopped.

And Cordelia Chase knew exactly how to get that done.

You see, aside from Angel, she had also received information on another of her friends. To say it surprised her was a serious understatement, but in time, she had gotten used to the idea. Besides, if they were here to protect Angel, who was she to stand in their way?

However, the situation had just grown a great deal more complicated, and she had been left with no choice.

<This ought to be interesting...> She thought.


Fred wasn't sure how long she'd been asleep before she felt someone gently shaking her shoulder.

"Fred. Fred, wake up." A voice said.

"Mmm, don't wanna."

"Damn it Fred, wake up." The voice said, still in a whisper.

"Ugh. No."

She heard a soft sigh, before the voice, which sounded remarkably like Cordelia, spoke again.

"Wake up, Ayndene."

That got Fred's attention. Her eyes snapped open, focusing in on Cordelia's face hovering above her own. Without another word, she slipped carefully away from Charles Gunn, who was still sleeping soundly next to her. Grabbing Cordelia's arm, Fred roughly pulled her out into the hall.

"What did you say?" she hissed.

"I said," Cordelia replied calmly, "Wake up, Ayndene."

Fred stared at the younger woman for a moment. The tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife. After a long moment, she continued.

"Follow me."

Quickly she led Cordelia up to the roof of the hotel, locking the door behind them. Once she was certain the door was secure, she turned back to Cordelia.

"Where did you hear that name?"

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Higher being, remember?"


Cordy let out and annoyed sigh. "If I could learn everything there was to know about Angelus, wouldn't it stand to reason that you're no different? I know all about you, Ayndene. Everything from the champion you protect, to the details of your childhood."

"But...why didn't you say anything?"

"It wasn't my secret to tell. As long as you were here to protect him, I wasn't going to stand in your way."

A long moment crept by, as the two women considered the repercussions of what had been said.

"Thank you." Fred whispered.

"No problem."

"But why now? Why keep this a secret so long to tell me now?"

"I had a vision, a big one. Bigger than Angel. Bigger than all of them."

"How big?"

"Apocalypse big. End-of-all-life-as-we-know-it big."

"It can't be that bad."

"It's them, Fred, the Dark Ones. The Nocturni are rising again."

Fred was quiet for several minutes, as she tried to gauge the truth in Cordelia's words.

"No... That's impossible. They were wiped out thousands of years ago!"

"Apparently not, because I saw an army of them. Thousands upon thousands, all over the world. I guess they weren't all killed."


"For lack of a better term, they stuck a deal with the devil. The whole story is pretty complicated, so I'll have to explain it all later. I'll just give you the cliff notes for now. Do you know what The First Evil is?"

Fred scowled and spat on the ground.

"I'll take that as a yes. Okay, here's the thing. The few remaining Nocturni have struck a deal with The First. In exchange for their aid in wiping out the slayer line, The First is going to do something for them. However, I don't know what that thing is. Come to think of it, that vision really wasn't big on details."

"This can't be right. We would have known. There's no way They could plan something this big, so suddenly, right under our noses."

"There's nothing sudden about it, sweetie. Apparently this has been in the works for years."

"Whoa. This is serious." Fred exclaimed, sitting down on the ground. "What do you expect me to do about it?"

"Duh! Tell everyone else! Pass the word on to your people."

"Yeah right, Cordy. They won't believe me. They won't want to believe me. The Nocturni have been nothing but a horror story for nearly two thousand years. There is no way they'll take my word for it."

"What...? Are you sure?"

"Dead sure."

"That doesn't make any sense." Cordelia said to herself. "Why would the Powers send me that vision, if not to warn the Illuminati? We only have about a week to stop this in time, so what else could it be?"

"You don't suppose..." Fred trailed off.


"This is gonna sound crazy. God knows I'm not entirely thrilled with the idea myself, but what if...the Powers meant for us to stop them on our own? There probably aren't that many of them right now. It could be done."

"You know what? That sounds illogical, difficult, painful, and totally inefficient. That's just the Powers' style..." Cordelia finished, frowning slightly.

"I guess we fight them, then."

"I guess we have to." Cordelia sighed.

"We can't do it on our own, though. We're gonna need some serious reinforcements."

"What have you got in mind?"

"I don't know. Let me think for a second. Alright, we have the boys downstairs, for starters, and maybe Charles's old friends might help." Fred put forward.

"I wouldn't trust them, our track record with them isn't exactly stellar. What about other Illuminati? We do have two slayers fairly close by, there must be protectors for them, too."

"You don't know? What happened to Miss 'I was a higher being'."

"It didn't work that way. I only saw the lives of the people I was closest to when I ascended. Faith, Buffy, and whatever protectors they may have, don't really fall into that category."


"Well, are they out there?"

"Oh yeah, they're 'out there' all right." Fred said with a chuckle.

"That bad, huh?" Cordelia replied, grinning wryly.

"Let me put it this way. They can sometimes act a lot like Charles and Wesley used to."

Cordelia pretended to shudder, causing both of them to giggle slightly.

"What are their names?"

"Orlin and Deveroux."

"Have you known them long?"

"Well, I've known Deveroux for my entire life. We grew up together. I've only known Orlin for a little over a year, though, since I got back from Pylea." She finished sadly.

Fred thought back to her life before Pylea. She had been much more innocent then, never believing the world the world was as awful as some people said it was.


It hurt so much, like she was being pulled apart at the seams.

"Who are you? Why are you doing this?" she cried.

"Because your kind is nothing but filth. A living testament to God's lack of faith in his people. You were gifted, while we were made weak."

Ayndene looked desperately for a way to escape the spells binding her. Inwardly, she cursed herself for letting him sneak up on her. She could feel herself growing weaker by the second, as the spell sapped her body's energy.

"All I'm doing is giving you a taste of the way we have to live. Perhaps then you will understand. I think you'll like Pylea. Lots of friendly locals."

"Fuck you, psycho! I'll find out who you are, and I'll be back for you."

"Oh, I doubt that. Goodbye, filth, and good riddance."

As he spoke, a portal opened up beneath her, pulling her out of this world, and into her own personal hell.

<End Flashback>

When she had returned, it had taken her a couple of months to recover her powers, and to get her head on straight. After that, she had been too involved with protecting her new charge, to bother looking for the mage who had banished her to that hellhole.

Then he had gone and fallen right in her lap. As Deveroux would put it, 'Go figure'. It was just a shame that her friends had to go and get involved.

"What are they like?" Cordelia's voice snapped her out of her thoughts.

"Huh? What was that?"

"I asked was they were like. The other two..."

"Right. I kinda drifted off there. Well, Orlin is...a walking contradiction sometimes. Most of the time he's upbeat and kinda goofy, always keeping everyone smiling, but if you dug deeper, you'd find the strongest, and most loyal person I've ever known. A person who would do anything for his friends. If you ever hurt someone he cared about, God save you, cause no one else could. He'd hunt you to the ends of the earth."

"Sounds like someone I used to know." Cordelia said, smiling wistfully. "But what about the other one? Deveroo?"

Fred giggled again. "It's Deveroux, actually, and he's like the brother I never had. He's the kind of person who'll always tell you the truth, rather than lie to make you feel better. He can be pretty cynical at times, and tends to be a pessimist when he's upset, but there's no one I trust more in a pinch, in the entire world. I used to see a lot of him in Wesley, back before that whole thing with Holtz. They're not so alike anymore, these days."

"They sound interesting."

"Oh, they are."

"So, do you think they could help us?" Cordelia asked slowly.

"Well, Orlin will definitely help us, and he can probably get us help from the Sunnydale group, too. Deveroux might be harder to convince. As long as Faith's still in prison, we'll be hard pressed to get him away from her..."

"That's great." Cordelia said quietly.

"What's the matter?"

"There more thing we have to do first."

"What's that?" Fred asked cautiously.

"We have to tell the others. About you."

"What!? No!"

"Fred, how else are we gonna convince them?"

" There has to be another way."

"Look, if we go up against the Nocturni, your gonna have to fight. They're gonna figure it out anyway when you start kicking ass and taking names. You should be the one to tell them up front."

"But what if they hate me?"

"Hey, I did the half-demon thing, and they didn't hate me."

"I guess not, but you didn't lie to them about it."


"I don't think I can do it. I don't think they'd believe me anyway."

"Yes, you can, and yes, they will. Besides, I'll be right there beside you the whole time."

"Thank you, Cordelia."

"What are friends for?"

Fred just smiled slightly.

Cordelia kneeled down beside Fred, putting a comforting arm around her shoulder. "Alright then. I'll go and get everyone together. You come down just as soon as you're ready, okay?"


Cordelia got up, and moved over to the door. She unlocked it, opened it up, and turned back to her friend.

"See you in a bit... Ayndene."

"In a bit, Cordy."

Cordelia then left to gather the others together. Fred could only imagine what their reactions would be, as she tried to figure out how to tell them the biggest secret of her life.


"What is all this about, Cordelia?" Angel asked for about the tenth time in as many minutes.

"I told you, we're waiting for Fred." She replied. "Why are you so impatient?"

"I'm not impatient. I just think we should be dealing with that super vision, rather than just standing around. Are you sure you're okay?"

"For the millionth time, I'm fine!"

"I was just asking." Angel mumbled as he moved back to his seat on the couch.

They were all sitting in the lobby of the Hotel, apparently waiting for Fred so Cordelia could finally explain her vision.

Angel and Gunn sat on of the couches, talking about hockey, and how the Canucks stood an actual chance this year for the Stanley Cup. After all, they were already a shoe-in for the playoffs. As they spoke, their hand gestures grew more and more animated, as their voices grew louder.

Cordelia stood at the front counter, passing the time by listening to Lorne hum some random tune, as she flipped through a magazine, pausing every once in a while to glance around the room.

Wesley stood off to one side, still reading his newspaper, making it look as though he was reading the world events section, when in fact he was actually reading the comics. Every couple of minutes the sound of suppressed laughter came from his direction.

Finally, just as everyone was about to snap and start yelling again, the sound of someone clearing their throat emanated from the stairs. All eyes in the room turned to see Fred standing there, an extremely nervous expression on her face.

"Hey everyone." She said quietly, as she moved to join Cordelia at the front counter.

"Great! Now that we're ALL here," Angel said, looking pointedly at Cordelia, "Cordy can finally explain was that serious looking vision was all about."

"Actually, that's the reason we had to wait for Fred. This concerns her most of all, in a roundabout sort of way."

"What are you talking about, Cordelia?" Wesley asked, shifting his eyes between her and Fred.

"Well, I think it'd be best if I let Fred answer this one. Take it away, Fred."

"Gee, thanks Cordy." Fred hissed under her breath. She took a deep breath, and turned to face the group.

With every eye in the room was now firmly focused on her, she began to shy away from the attention. Several times she opened her mouth to speak, only to remain silent. Finally, she turned back to Cordelia.

"I can't do this." She whispered.

Cordelia smiled gently, and whispered back, "Maybe you won't have to."

Then, to Fred's horror, she turned to the group and asked, in a joking tone, "Has anyone ever heard of the Illuminati?"

As soon as the words had passed her lips, they heard a startled gasp from the corner. Wesley, his paper now forgotten, stared at them, his eyes wide. His expression slowly shifted to one of suspicion. "What had that got to do with anything?"

"You know about them?"

"Who?" Gunn interjected.

Ignoring him, Wesley continued. "I did a paper on the legend several years ago. Now answer the question."

Cordelia looked from Wesley, to Fred, and back again. Wesley's eyes slowly shifted to where Fred was standing. She simply shrugged, a small, sad smile on her face.

"No. They're just a myth. They don't exist." Wesley said slowly.

In a small voice, like that of a child, Fred whispered. "I do."

"You do what?" Gunn said, trying again to gain their attention. They continued to ignore him.


Meanwhile, Angel's expression grew pensive, as if he were trying to remember something.

<Illuminati. I know I've heard that somewhere before, but where?>

He thought back, through two centuries worth of memories, searching for the reference. Suddenly, it hit him.

It had been somewhere in Eastern Europe, he forgot where exactly, sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century. He and Darla had run across a vampire ranting insanely in the streets. He had sworn that someone called 'The Illuminati' was after him, and that they had killed all the other vampires with him, after they had attacked a village to the west, killing a slayer in the process.

He and Darla had ignored him, and kept moving. Listening to such nonsense was a waste of time. He had never even given it a second thought.

Until now.


"No. No. No. They don't exist. It's a damned myth." Wesley said loudly, obviously getting upset.

"What?!?" Gunn cried, finally getting their attention.

Wesley turned to him, angry at being interrupted, before explaining.

"The Illuminati are an ancient myth, Gunn. It was once said that they were the protectors of light. Human/demon hybrids, of a sort. They were known for aiding champions and slayers, protecting them from harm, and renowned for their superhuman abilities. But they aren't real. They were never anything more than a fairy tale."

Wesley stressed the last part, glaring at Fred and Cordelia, as if daring them to prove otherwise.

"I guess that's close enough." Cordelia mumbled.

"Uh-huh. And what has this got to do with Fred, exactly?"

"Apparently, Fred is claiming to be an Illuminati."

Gunn looked back and forth between Wesley and Fred for a moment, before he burst out laughing.

"Oh, god." He gasped after a few minutes. "Oh, my god, that's rich. Fred, a super-powered demon thing. You guys really had me going for a second there."

Fred immediately got defensive. "And what, Charles, is so unbelievable about it?"

"Fred, honey, come on. I love you, you're a sweetheart, but you're not that good in a fight."

Suddenly, Fred's expression shifted from anger, to amusement. She raised her eyebrow, and smiled slightly. "Oh really?"

As soon as she spoke, something unbelievable happened. The shadows in the room started to bend, defying the laws of physics. As they moved, they grew darker, flowing like oil across the floor. With a startled cry, Gunn leaped up onto the couch, avoiding contact with them. Everyone watched as the shadows moved to surround Fred. Then, to their amazement, they shadows lifted off the floor, swirling through the air, forming a cocoon of sorts, obscuring her from sight.

Just as Gunn was about to leap up and help her, a bright flash of light filled the room, practically blinding them. When their eyes finally cleared, they were stunned into silence by the sight before them.

Where Fred had stood, there now stood a figure in a long, black cloak, it's face obscured by a hood. As they watched, the figure lifted one gloved hand, and released the clasp that held the cloak in place. It fell from her shoulders, pooling around her feet. What they saw now amazed them even more. It was definitely Fred, but at the same time, it almost wasn't.

She stood there; hips cocked to one side, with one hand resting on her waist, and the other hooked in her belt, a somewhat amused expression still on her face.

Her normally frizzy hair was now smooth, drawn up into a ponytail, a single, thin braid hanging over her face, with a small ring tied to the end. For a moment, her eyes were a shimmering silver, before retuning to their normal colour. She wore a kind of tight leather clothing that accentuated her figure in all the right places. Armour plates lay on her shoulders, forearms, and thighs. A single short, curved sword hung on a loose belt at her right side, with another hidden behind her back. Her ears had become pointed, like an elf. If possible, she seemed even slimmer than she had been before, though you could still see the toned muscle under her skin.

"...Fred, is that you?"

"No, Charles, it's the tooth fairy." She replied playfully, rolling her eyes. "And the name is Ayndene."


<Wow> was the only thought going through the mind of Charles Gunn at that point.

He was completely overwhelmed. He had always thought Fred was beautiful, but now, somehow, she was absolutely stunning. Which was strange, because she didn't look that different.

Every part of her seemed to glow with a new confidence, and a feeling of strength. There was also an aura of sensuality around her than made it impossible for him to take his eyes away.

In his mind, it was as if something had stripped away all the outside layers, leaving only the person she was inside. Even her new name, Ayndene, seemed perfect for her. This was who she really was.

<She's perfect>


"Ayndene?" came Gunn's quiet voice from the couch.

"Yes, Charles. My birth name is Ayndene Selde Morowin. Selde means 'daughter of'. Morowin was my mother's name."

"Oh." He said calmly, albeit quietly.

Angel, however, was freaking out. He didn't know why, but he was absolutely terrified of her. He kept looking for a way out of the room. He even found himself praying not to die. Before he knew it, he began to tremble.

Cordelia noticed this, and moved over to sit next to his, taking his hand in her own, and placing an arm around his shoulder. She whispered to him gently, trying to calm him.

"Shhh, quiet now. It'll be okay. Just breath. The fear will pass soon."

"W-w-why?" he stammered.

"It's natural for demons to fear the Illuminati. It's a survival instinct, or something like that. It keeps us alive. I feel it, too, Angel. Just ride it out."

At long last, Angel was calmed down, though he still eyed Fred...Ayndene...warily.

A long, awkward silence followed, no one knowing quite what to say. Before long, though, Lorne started to laugh to himself.

"I knew there was something off about your aura, honey. I just never figured out what. Now that you've 'come out of the closet', I know I was right. Go figure."

"How do we know you're really Fred?" Wesley asked suddenly. "You could be a demon, trying to fool us."

"Wes, I AM a demon, at least in part. Haven't you been following the conversation? But I'm still the same person you all know. This is just another part of me that you haven't seen before."

"Still, I would still like to see some proof."

"Fine." She turned to Lorne, raising an eyebrow. "You up for it?"

"Why not? Just no show tunes. That would be just too surreal for one day."

"Fair enough."

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and began to sing. Her voice resonated perfectly in the large lobby, sounding sad, and happy all at once. Although none of them could understand the words, the emotion they carried was staggering. It seemed mournful and hopeful all at once. It seemed to carry a story they could never hope to comprehend.


Anol shadon

Anol sheh lay konnud de ne um {shaddai}


Nom de leesh

Ham de nam um das

La um de Flavne...

We de ze zu bu

We de sooo a ru

Un va-a pesh a lay

Un vi-i bee

Un da la pech ni sa

Un di-i lay na day

Un ma la pech a nay

mee di nu ku

La la da pa da le na du na

Ve va da pa da le na la dumda

La la da pa da le na du na

Ve va da pa da le na la dumda

La la da pa da le na du na

Ve va da pa da le na la dumda

La la da pa da le na du na

Ve va da pa da le na la dumda

Anol shadon

Anol sheh ley kon-nud de ne um



M-ai shondol-lee


Lof flesh lay

Nof ne

Nom de lis

Ham de num um dass

La um de



Shom de nomm Ma-lun des Dwondi


Alas sharum du koos

Shaley koot-tum


Lorne had heard a lot of singing in his days, not all of it good, but never had he felt such a clear message come from so beautiful a voice.

Duty. Honour. Life. Death. Friendship. Love. It was all there.

He saw images of such beauty they almost brought him to tears, and images so terrifying that they would give him nightmares for weeks. He, for the first time ever, saw her soul.

He saw Ayndene and Fred, both of them. He felt the fear Fred had felt in Pylea. He wanted to laugh when Ayndene remembered one of Orlin's jokes.

This song spoke of her connections to a people. Their history, their present, and their future together, with everything that lay in between.

This was the story of a life.

And he was privileged to hear it.


After she had finished, no one said anything for a time. There was nothing to say, really.

At long last, Lorne broke the silence. Smiling widely, he said, "Oh, it's her, all right. But there's someone else, too. Someone we never noticed before. And if I can say so, I think I'd like to get to know Ayndene, too."

They all breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that this vision before them was still their friend. Gunn rose to his feet, and stepped slowly toward her.

"It's okay, Charles, I won't bite." She said, before adding, "At least not in front of everyone."

He stood shocked for a moment, before grinning widely, and pulling her into his arms. Leaning in close, he whispered in her ear.

"I always knew you were special."

He then proceeded to kiss her senseless. In the end, Cordelia had to physically pry them apart.

"Come on you two. Break it up. World ending. Need your attention."

They both blushed, and mumbled something along the lines of an apology, which they certainly didn't mean.

Gunn reluctantly returned to his seat, still smiling.

Ayndene took this time to explain all about the Illuminati, while Cordelia explained the vision, and what the Nocturni had planned.

When they had finished, Wesley cautiously raised his hand, like a student afraid of a scolding.

"Forgive me, but what exactly is a Nocturni?"

Ayndene shivered slightly, before answering, her voice cold.

"The Nocturni were an abomination. They were Illuminati that were turned into vampires. No one knows how this happened, exactly, but the commonly held belief is that, thousands of years ago, a master vampire managed to defeat a young child of our people, and turn him. That child turned another, and then another, on and on, like a plague.

"They looked almost like normal Illuminati, except with white hair and red eyes. Odds are that you could've passed one on the street, and never even have known it.

"They were supremely evil, particularly sadistic, and extremely cunning in nature. They saw themselves as a master race, superior to all around them. Given the opportunity, they would've seen the entire planet purged of all life, save for themselves.

"They could also be very charming. In the guise of a human, they could charm and manipulate just about anyone who wasn't prepared. A favourite trick of theirs was to attack you in the guise of a small, innocent looking child. Many were lost, because they couldn't bring themselves to kill a child.

"Crosses, stakes, and holy water were useless. Their only vampiric weakness was sunlight, and they were careful to avoid that. The best idea was to go for decapitation. Remove the head, and the body would wither.

"They were equal in physical strength to the Illuminati, but lacking the powerful magic's. The only spells they could perform were glamour's, which allowed them to hide their true form. This had left them at a disadvantage, allowing my people to wipe them out a little over two thousand years ago, or so we thought.

"And now they're back. Again, we don't know how, but they are. They've struck a deal with The First, who has offered them something in exchange for their help in destroying the slayer line, and it's up to us to stop them."


Wesley Wyndom-Pryce was not a man easily surprised. He had spent the majority of his life in the study of demons, mythology, and other such things, and was as such well versed in the supernatural. He saw himself as quite worldly.

But to find out that a close friend of yours is actually a half-demon warrior, from a mythical race, fell slightly outside his range of belief.

But, sure enough, it was proven. It really was her. Remarkable.

Quite a nice song, too. He'd have to remember to ask her about it later. In fact, he had several things to ask her. He could write a whole new paper on the subject.

He'd be famous.

Then that same friend/hybrid warrior, along with the local seer, tells you about a race of bloodthirsty demons that are going to try and end the world, again.

That was about the point Wesley realized, it was shaping up to be a long week.


"Up to us?" Lorne asked.

"Yep." Ayndene answered.

"To stop them all."

"You got it."

"Am I the only one who sees a little flaw in this plan? We can't stop them on our own. We had trouble with one evil super demon, let alone an army of them."

"First of all, it's probably not an army yet." Cordelia chimed in. "A Nocturni has to start out as an Illuminati, and Ayni told me that there haven't been any disappearances lately. It's most likely a small group of them, maybe fifteen or twenty. Secondly, we won't be on our own. We have at least two other Illuminati on our side, plus we can't probably convince the gang back in Sunnydale to help."

"Faith, too. Maybe." Angel added.

Everyone stared at him like he was crazy.

"Uh, angel. Faith's in prison, remember?" Cordelia said in her most patronising voice.

"Didn't I tell you guys? She's up for parole this week. I offered her a job if she got it." He said, smiling like a little boy who'd gotten his first 'A+'.

"You did what?" Cordelia cried.

"Well, she probably wouldn't get parole if she didn't have a job waiting." He told her.

"It's okay, Cordy. Faith's changed a lot." Ayndene reminded her.

"How would you know?"

"Deveroux told me."

"Oh, yeah."

"Who?" Gunn cut in.

"Oh, right. Remember how I said that Illuminati protect slayers and champions, as long as we still allow them their own fate?"

"Yeah." He replied quietly, having gotten a little jealous earlier when Ayndene told them she was here to protect Angel.

"Well, there are currently two slayers in California, also under our protection. Deveroux is the Illuminati who protects the slayer, Faith, and used to protect Angel before I came along. Buffy Summers, the other slayer, is protected by an Illuminati named Orlin. I know them both pretty well."

"Why do I get the sneaking suspicion, that this is going to be a very long week?" Wesley asked no one in particular.

Ignoring him, Angel turned back to Ayndene. "Can you contact them?"

"Yeah, probably. I can call Orlin on his cell phone right now, and I can call Dev at home tomorrow."

"Cell phone?" Angel asked.

"Yeah. It is the twenty-first century, you know. Just because you're afraid of anything with a battery, doesn't mean the rest of us have to live in the dark ages."

"I'm not afraid of batteries." Angel replied.

Everyone looked sceptical.

"I'm not."

"Sure you're not." Cordy said in that same patronising tone.

"Shut up, Cordy." Angel grumbled, before his eyes widened as he realized his mistake.

"I'm gonna go make that call now." Ayndene said.

"Yeah, I'" Gunn added.

"Me too." Lorne said, following them.

"Yes...well...err..." Wesley stammered, before bolting out of the room, leaving Angel and Cordelia to their impending argument.

Chapter 8
Back At The Ranch

"You're gonna have to do it eventually." Dawn whispered.

"I know." Xander replied, as he stared at the door to Buffy's hospital room.

<Just reach out, and open the door> He told himself, but it just wasn't happening. He could reach for the door, and he could even put him hand on the knob. But he just couldn't bring himself to turn it.

"Do you want me to do it?" She asked him.

"No. I'll get around to it."


They both just stood there, their eyes locked on the wooded barrier before them, as if staring hard enough would make it disappear. No such luck.

Hoping to break the tension, Dawn decided to make idle conversation.

"So, Xand. Do you travel like that often?"


"The Spiderman bit. Do you do that often?"

"Not too often. Once in a while, though, especially at night, and the selective memory in this town will cover it up. People usually don't see what they don't want to see."

"Oh. Okay."

Unable to think of anything more to say, they simply stood in silence for a while longer.

Just then, as Xander was about to attempt to open the door again, he was stopped by a light ringing sound from his pocket. Quickly, he fished the cell phone out of his jacket, and put it to his ear. He waited till he was a safe distance away from the room, before answering. Dawn trailed just behind him, listening intently to his side of the conversation.


"I can't hear you, someone is yelling on your end."

"That's better. Oh, hi Ayni. What's up?"

"Whoa, whoa. Slow down. I can't hear a word you're saying."



"...Could you repeat that?"

"You did WHAT!?!"

A passing nurse turned to him, scowling. She put her finger to her lips, and shushed him. He just frowned at her, and went back to the call.

"I think I'm getting a bad connection, Ayni, cause I swear I just heard you say that you told the LA group who you really were."

"You did?"


"How'd they take it?"

"Oh, that's good. Certainly better than the reception I got."


"Cool. I can't wait to see the look on Deadboy's face."

"So, any specific reason you spilled the proverbial beans?"

"Oh yeah?"

"Higher being?"


"A vision?"

"Are you kidding me? Cause if you are, it's a really poor joke."

"You're not kidding, are you?"

"Aw, crap."

"Well, what else is there to say?"

"I'll do what I can, but I'm not exactly in their good books right now."

"I know that."

"Okay. Anyway, how's Dev doing?"

"No kidding. What is it about slayers? I hope he knows what he's getting himself into. She's a real firecracker sometimes."

"Okay, that was uncalled for. Leave her out of this."

"It's alright. I'm used to it. So, how is Faith these days?"

"Parole, huh? Well, best of luck to her."

"More? What else could there possibly be?"

"Here? As in Sunnydale?"

"Alright. I'll dig the camping cots out of my closet."

"You too, Ayni."

"See you soon."


He ended the call, and slowly slid the phone back into his pocket. Sighing, he moved over to one of the seats in the hallway, and sat down heavily, resting his head in his hands.

"Xander, what is it?" Dawn asked quietly.

"The situation just got a lot more complicated." Came the reply.


"Did you guys hear something outside a second ago?" Buffy asked, looking toward the door.

"Not a thing, Buffy." Willow replied, looking up from the first pile of hospital paperwork she was filling out.

"Oh. I guess my ears were playing tricks on me."

"It happens." Oz supplied.

With that, they lapsed back into silence.

The three of them had been sitting there, making idle chatter, for nearly two hours. In truth, Buffy was itching to get out of there, but she had reluctantly agreed to remain in her room while Giles was out looking for Dawn.

However, it had been all they could do to avoid the topic that was foremost in each of their minds.


Each of them wondered what had happened to him after he had left, where he had gone. In hindsight, Buffy had realized how harsh she had been. He had been nothing but kind and honest to them, and had saved her life, and in return she had basically told him to get lost.

She had cried for hours after Dawn had run off after him, with Giles, Willow, and Oz not far behind. She had cried alone in that horrid little room, until Willow and Oz finally returned a couple of hours ago.

They had offered her some comfort, but in the end, what she needed was forgiveness from Xander himself. She needed him so much. She had realized as much the moment he had walked out.

Dawn was right. She was a hypocrite. Xander may have lied, but she was no innocent herself, and he had done it to protect them. He had always protected them, especially her. They had treated him like a liability, given him little or no actual respect, and basically treated him like dirt sometimes, but still he protected them with everything he had to offer (Which seemed to be much more than they had thought.).

Deep down, she knew that he was still the same Xander. This was just a new thread in the tapestry that was Alexander Harris. He would always be the Xander they all knew and...loved.

Loved? Where had that come from? What had she meant by that?

<You know damn well what you meant by that.> A little voice in her mind, which had been growing progressively louder over the past few hours, said to her.

<Huh?> She thought.

<You're a bit thick, aren't you?> The voice said, sounding alarmingly like Cordelia.

<What is Cordelia Chase doing in my head?> Buffy wondered.

<Don't try to change the subject. This is about him, you know. You're falling in love with him. Duh. Even I could figure that out.> The voice added.


<Xander, of course.>

<Whoa. Stop right there.> she commanded. <I am not falling in love with Xander Harris!>

<Yes, you are.>

<No, I'm not.>

<Yes, you are.>

<No, I'm not.>





<Are, Are, Are!>

<Not, Not, Not, Not, Not, Not!>

<Are times infinity plus one>


Buffy took a moment to wonder how healthy it was to have an argument with your own imagination, and actually lose.

<Admit it, you're falling for him. Your falling for his kindness, his selfless nature, and everything else about him that makes him perfect. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has a really cute...>


<Why? We both know you were thinking it.>

< was just...err>

<Ha! Got you.>

<Okay, fine. I'll admit that he's...not entirely unattractive.>

<You're gonna have to do better than that.> Her inner voice persisted.

<Fine. He's...well...a hottie. Especially those sexy silver eyes. There, I've said it. I can't believe I said it, but I did. Now go away.>

<Nope. Not yet.>

<What do you want from me?> Buffy wailed.

<It's more like what do you want from yourself. I'm just a figment of your imagination. But I do tell the truth. He's always been there for you, through thick and thin, no matter how you treated him.>

<Of course he was. He's my 'protector', remember?>

<He's also your dearest friend. It's funny, but through all the would- be suitors, he's the only one who ever really measured up. He's the only one who saw the full package, and still hung around, despite the hardships. He's always put you first, putting himself second. You know he loves you.>

<Yeah, I know that. I guess I always did.>

<You are falling in love with Alexander Harris. You have been for a long time.>

<No.> Buffy thought suddenly, as she was struck by a revelation.

<Oh, here we go again...> The voice was getting quiet.

<Not falling.> She insisted, finally seeing the truth.

<You're only fooling yourself...> The voice grew quieter still.

<Fallen.> She finished.

"Fallen a long time ago..." Buffy whispered reverently, causing both Willow and Oz to look up in surprise.

"What did you say, Buffy?" Willow asked.

"Nothing, Wills." She replied, a small smile on her face. "Just something I need to tell Xander, when I see him."


"Where the devil could she be?" Rupert Giles asked himself for the umpteenth time, as he guided his car back into the hospital parking lot.

He had spent the entire night searching for Dawn, and had been unable to find her. Quite frankly, he was worried sick. What if she'd been attacked? What if a vampire had gotten to her?

He had carefully checked every conceivable place she would go, but had come up with nothing.

Her house? Empty.

The School? Deserted.

Spike's old crypt? She wasn't there, but he had found Clem in the middle of a Star Trek TV marathon.

He shook his head. As if his night hadn't been strange enough, the fates had to throw a wrinkled demon wearing a Starfleet uniform into the mix.

But worst of all, it felt like he had been one step behind Dawn the entire time.

And now, he had to go into that hospital, and tell Buffy that on top of everything else that she had to cope with, her little sister was missing.

It was times like these that made him curse the day he'd ever become a field watcher. Some things seemed just too difficult.

Steeling himself against the inevitable, Rupert Giles took a deep breath, and walked toward the sterile looking building, preparing to break the news to Buffy.

<Come back to us, Dawn> he silently prayed.


"So the Nocturni..." Xander was saying.

"Those are the bad guys, right?" Dawn interrupted.

"Yes. They've made some kinda deal with The First..."

"That's the Big Bad that's been making trouble this year, right?" Dawn cut in again.

"Yeah. So in exchange for killing all the slayers and champions, The First is gonna..."

"How could you kill them all? If you kill one, another pops up."

"I don't know. The First is gonna do something for them."

"Do what?"

"I don't know. You know, Dawnie, this explanation would've gone a lot faster without all the interruptions."


"It's alright, but you really need to work on the whole 'listening' thing."

"Duly noted."

"Right." Xander mumbled, settling back into his seat, rubbing his eyes.

"So...think we ought to go in?" Dawn asked quietly.

"I guess we have to. They haven't said anything for a while."

"What? You could hear them?"

"Clear as a bell."

"Wow. Any other super powers you have yet to mention?"

"Not right now. If you want, I'll tell you more later."

"Count on it."

"Cool. Now, we better get in there." Xander said, approaching the room.

"You really care about her, don't you?" Dawn asked, suddenly.

"Huh?" Xander replied, caught off guard by the sudden query.

"Buffy. You really do care about her." It was now more of a statement than a question.

"Of course I do. I care about all of..."

"No. I mean you care about her more. As her." Dawn explained quietly.


"I kinda figured. I can't say I'm not a little jealous, either."

"Not to worry, Dawnmiester. I strongly doubt she ever see more than a friend in me, if that."

"Still, best of luck to you. There is no fate but what we make, remember?" she told him, giggling.

Xander smiled widely at the memory. About two months ago, after seeing 'Terminator 2' during a movie night at the Summers place, he and Dawn had spent the better part of a week answering every question with 'There is no fate but what we make.', effectively driving Giles, and everyone else too, up the wall.

At one point, he had even chased a laughing Xander around the Magic Box with a particularly heavy book over his head, screaming "I'll bloody well show you fate!", before the others were able to stop him.

"Yeah, Dawnie. Good times." He laughed quietly to himself.

"Let's go, Xan."


Once again, he paused, but only for a second, before opening the door, and walking in to meet his 'fate'.


Willow had been trying to get Buffy to elaborate on her comment further, when they were interrupted by the sound of the door opening. Looking up, they expected to see Giles walk through the entrance, but instead, in walked Xander, followed by the missing Summers girl.

"Dawn!" Buffy cried, leaping up from the bed, and gathering her sister into a hug.

For a moment, Dawn just stood there, remembering what Buffy had done, but before long, she wrapped her arms around her older sister, who had begun to cry.

"It's okay, Buffy." She whispered.

"Oh god, I was so worried! Are you alright? You're not hurt?" Buffy asked, tears now streaming down her face.

"Buffy, I'm fine! Xander took care of me." Dawn insisted, unable to stay angry with her sister.

Buffy broke away from the hug, turning to Xander. The two of them simply regarded one another for a moment, before Buffy closed the space between them, drawing Xander into a hug.

"Thank you, Xander. Thank you so much for everything." She whispered to him.

"It's nothing, Buff. You know that."

"No, Xand. It's everything. You've been so good to me, to all of us, and I never really saw that till now. I'm so sorry."

"Buffy, I..." Xander began, only to be interrupted quite abruptly.

Interrupted by Buffy's lips covering his own. It was a soft, sweet, lingering kiss, that spoke of more to come in the future, and it was over far too soon for either of them. However, even with the enhanced lungs of an Illuminati and a Slayer, oxygen was becoming an issue.

They broke apart, continuing to gaze into one another's eyes, arms still wrapped around each other. No one in the room spoke, mostly from shock, for a very long time. Finally, Xander broke the silence.

"Buffy, what...what is this?" he said, looking at her in wonder.

Buffy looked at her feet shyly for a moment, before returning his gaze.

"I love you, Xan. I think I have for a long time."


"But nothing. This whole thing has put a lot of stuff into perspective for me. You've always been there for me, you saved my life at least a dozen times that I can think of, and probably a hundred more that I never even knew about. You've shown me more compassion, through more rough times, than anyone I've ever known.

"I do love you, Xander. I can't deny how I feel anymore, least of all to myself. Even if it does make me sound like a Valentine's Day card." She finished with a wry grin.

Xander, like everyone else in the room, just stood there, too stunned to speak.

Finally, he worked up the courage to say the words that had been in his heart for seven years.

"I love you, too, Buffy. I always have."

Her smile lit up the room, as he realized that her eyes, those beautiful, sparkling eyes, really saw him for the first time, for everything he was.

<This can't be real.> Xander thought <It's some beautiful dream. I'm gonna wake up in the hospital waiting room any second now.>

As if reading his mind, she lay her hand on his cheek, and drew him in for another kiss. He felt as though every nerve in his body was alive. It was as though his every dream was coming true.

Suddenly, Xander's mind came to one, inescapable conclusion.

Life was sweet.


<Well, this is new...> Willow thought to herself, as she stared as the new couple.

She had always known how Xander felt about Buffy, but the idea that she might return those feeling came right out of left field. Willow really didn't know what to think about it all.

She looked to her left, and saw Dawn standing there, tears in her eyes, but with a small, sad smile on her face. As she listened, she barely heard Dawn whisper. "Best of luck..."

Pulling her eyes away from the crying girl, Willow looked to her right, at Oz. He had stood so quietly, one might almost forget that he was there, but as Willow watched, a wide grin broke out on his face, and wonder of wonders, he began to laugh. Not the small chuckle he was known for, but a real laugh, full of joy and life. His eyes twinkled with kind of knowledge that made Willow think that the young guitarist was more perceptive than he appeared to the world.

Before Willow knew what was happening, she had begun laughing, too. The joy radiating off the two of them was contagious, and soon, despite her tears, Dawn began to laugh as well.

In hindsight, Willow thought it was particularly funny that it had taken Buffy and Xander this long to figure it out. Looking back, it was pretty obvious.

Oh, well.

After all, not everyone could be as clever as Oz.


"Bloody Nurses..." Giles grumbled, referring to the nurses who had insisted that Buffy was no longer in her room, simply because 'the computer' said so. Therefore he couldn't go any further.

"Bloody infernal machines..." He hissed back at the nurse's station, as he made his toward the elevator. He could only be thankful that the doctor who had seen to Buffy earlier had recognized him, and said he could go through.

"Bloody American health system..." Before letting him through, though, they had presented him with a sizable stack of papers, to be filled out in triplicate, otherwise Buffy's insurance wouldn't cover her.

<Dawn is missing, and they're worried about insurance!>

"Bloody Elevators!" He yelled, kicking the elevator doors as hard as he could, only succeeding in hurting his toes.

"Bloody shoes..." He mumbled, slowly limping his way over to the stairwell, slowly making his way up to the floor with Buffy's room.

<What else could go wrong?> he thought as he opened the door.

What he saw inside, though, shocked him to the core.

It was going to be one of those days.


"What the bloody hell is going on here!?!"

Buffy and Xander sprung apart in shock as Giles's voice reverberated through the small room.

"Giles! It's you!" Buffy said with mock cheeriness. "I can explain this."

Meanwhile, Giles was turning a rather interesting shade of red, and was starting to shake. ""

"Uh, Giles? I'm over here. Safe and sound." Dawn piped up.

Giles's eye began to twitch. The Scoobies looked at each other, and began searching for a way to escape.

"Buffy...? Please...explain...this." Giles said very slowly.

"Yeah, well...err." She trailed off, looking up into Xander's eyes. He just smiled, and nodded.

She turned back to Giles, who really wasn't looking too good. "I just...fell in love."

If one were to lean very close to Rupert Giles at that moment, and put their ear to his head, they would have been privy to a loud snap.


A long pause followed. A very long pause.

" swore. Oz, why did Giles swear? He's British. I thought he couldn't swear." Willow asked.

"News to me, too." The young werewolf replied.

"Damn...bloody...insane..." Giles, apparently out of breath, had resorted to grumbling quietly. He made his way over to one of the chairs in the room, and sat down heavily.

"Well, I think we'll just give him a minute to calm down." Xander said carefully, as he guided everyone out of the room.

Meanwhile, Rupert Giles, a.k.a. 'The Ripper', just sat there, twitching slightly, muttering curses under his breath.


Outside, the group had decided to get something to eat, and were thus headed to the cafeteria. About halfway there, Willow tapped Xander on the shoulder.

"Can we talk for a second?" She asked him.

"Yeah, sure Wills. You guys go on ahead. We'll catch up."

"Alright." Buffy said hesitantly. "See you in a little bit."

Oz, Buffy, and Dawn continued on to the hospital cafeteria, while Willow pulled Xander over to a nearby bench. The two of them sat in silence for a moment, before Willow turned to him.

"Are we real?" She asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Our friendship. Is it real, or just another lie?"

"Oh Willow, of course it is. How could you ever doubt that?"

"But if you're some super-duper protector, why did you bother being friends with me?"

"Because I was afraid, Wills. I was so terrified of being alone. I just wanted someone to talk to. And I could sense something good about you, something worth knowing. I guess there was a little protection instinct in there, too."

"You wanted to protect me?"

"Yeah. I saw a little girl playing alone in the corner, and knew she was a good person, someone to be kept safe. I do love you, Wills. You're the greatest friend I've ever known."

Willow began crying, and as Xander reached out to comfort her, she turned and slapped for the second time that night.

"Ow, what was that for?"

"That was for never telling me before now, but I'm not gonna run away this time."

"Oh goodie. You're gonna stay and beat on me some more?"

"No, I'm done with that."

"Thank god. You've got a hell of a swing there."

"Cry-baby." Willow laughed.

The two of them lapsed into a comfortable silence, happy in the knowledge that their friendship was safe again.

Then, slowly, they rose to their feet, and headed for the cafeteria.

"By the way, Wills. What happened to Anya?"

"Oh, she's in the psych ward, getting examined. They think she's insane. You really scared her."

"It happens."

"Yeah. She just kept repeating the same phrase in the van, over and over."

"Really? What did she say?"

", what was that last word?...ngalad, I think. Do you know what that means?"

"Oh yeah."


"It means 'Fear The Light'. It's a warning for demons against the Illuminati."


"Come on, Wills. Let's go. I've got a hankering for some Jell-O."

"Alright." Willow replied, as the two of them made their way down the hall.

Chapter 9
Back In Black

Faith's footsteps echoed off the walls as was led down the long dark passageway. The only light came from a small window in the doorway ahead of her, where her fate lay.

<Wow> she thought <Just like in the movies>

Faith carefully appraised the situation. Before her sat five people at a long table, shuffling their papers, glancing toward her occasionally. One of them motioned her to sit down.

Taking a seat, she waited patiently for them to speak to her. Finally, the man sitting in the centre, which she guessed to be the chairman, spoke up.

"Faith Eliza Mallory, you have served three years, of a ten year sentence for the crime of involuntary manslaughter. In this time, do you feel you have been rehabilitated?"

He spoke in a bored tone, as if he did nothing but repeat those same words over and over.

After a long moment, Faith finally spoke.

"For an long time, I didn't do anything but survive. I lived one day to the next, never stopping, never really considering the world around me. Then something happened. I killed a man because I didn't stop to think, and now I've had three years to think about it. I've been standing still, while the rest of the world passed me by. I have to say, it put a lot of things in perspective.

"I can't live like that anymore. I need to find a direction for my life. What I mean is, I don't think I need to stand still anymore. I'm ready to move forward with my life. I'm ready to earn my redemption."

The chairman nodded slowly, scribbling down some notes on a page in front of him. Eventually, he looked up at her.

"Thank you. Now, our records show that during your time here, you had earned your high school diploma."

"Yes, sir."

"Hypothetically, if you were granted parole, what would you think you would do with your life?"

Faith smiled. "I have an old friend who had agreed to give me a job, and a place to live. He run a private investigations company in Los Angeles."

"I see."

With that, the people at the table began speaking to one another in hushed tones, deciding the girl's fate. After nearly ten minutes, the chairman turned back to her.

"Please rise for our decision."

Faith stood, her body tense with nervousness, a feeling she was not entirely accustomed to.

"Faith Eliza Mallory, after careful review of your file, and your own testimony here today, this board hereby grants you parole, you having served three years of a ten year sentence, for the crime of involuntary manslaughter. Your behaviour here has been exemplary, and this board considers you to no longer be a danger to society."

Faith breathed a sigh of relief. For the longest time, she had been afraid that her application for parole would be rejected, and she'd be stuck in prison for another seven years. She couldn't earn her redemption behind bars. She needed to get out into the world, and back into the good fight.

"Furthermore," The chairman continued.

<Uh-oh> she thought.

"To assure that you are no longer a danger to yourself and others, and to make certain you have properly adjusted to free society, you will be accompanied by a Department of Corrections parole officer at all times, for a period of no less than one month. Violation of this regulation will result in immediate imprisonment for the remainder of your sentence."

<Aw crap>

"Do you understand these conditions, Miss Mallory?"

"Yes, sir." She replied.

"Very well then. You will meet your parole officer outside. This parole hearing is closed."

The chairman rapped his gavel on the table, and Faith was led out of the room by the guards, unable to fight the growing smile on her face.


Faith walked down the crowded Los Angeles street, unable to fight the growing frown on her face. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't block out the sound coming from beside her.

"I told them no milk, in my coffee at work. NO MILK. But there was milk. Big, huge globs of milk in the coffee, and then I tried to tell them, and then they moved my desk to storage room B. I used to have a desk by the window, and I could see the squirrels playing, and there were two of them, and they were married, and...this is the last straw. I'm going to set the building on fire."

<Why do you mock me, oh Lord?> Faith thought for about the hundredth time in the last hour.

Faith's parole officer, who went by the name of Marvin Buttle, was the embodiment of her every nightmare. He has about five feet tall, overweight, with a receding hairline, big thick glasses, and a nervous face that actually reminded Faith of a squirrel.

Worse than that though, was the fact that he mumbled, constantly, about everything. It was driving her up the wall.

<Redemption. Redemption. Redemption.> She repeated over and over in her mind, like a mantra. <If you dealt with prison, you can deal with this.>

As they approached the hotel that Angel's group worked out of these days, Faith found herself once again growing nervous. What if they still hadn't forgiven her for everything she'd done? What if they told her to get lost?

<Now calm down> she commanded herself. <Angel said that the job was yours the minute you got out, and he wouldn't lie, would he?>

Walking up to the front door, her hand paused on the handle. She took a moment to mentally prepare herself for what, or more specifically who, was inside, before opening the door, and walking into the lobby, with Marvin trailing behind her.


"I've done more for you than anyone else here!" Cordelia screamed at the top of her lungs.

"I'm not disputing that, Cordy, but you do have to learn to be less touchy!" Angel replied, just as loudly.

"Touchy!?! This from someone who broods for days if he breaks a pencil!"

"That was my favourite pencil, and you know it!"

"That's no reason to spend the entire weekend sulking!"

"I was not sulking!"

"Yes, you were! And we all had to put up with it!"

The two of them had been screaming at one another for nearly two hours, with no end in sight. The rest of the AI staff had found things to do elsewhere. That is to say, they were hiding. Gunn and Ayndene had retreated to their room, Lorne was behind the front counter, with his fingers in his ears, humming loudly, and Wesley had flat out disappeared.

They were just about to start another round, when they were interrupted by a voice from the door.

"Umm...excuse me?"

"WHAT?" they both screamed in unison, turning to face the visitor. When they saw who it was, they each had their own reaction. Cordelia's face fell into a look of complete shock, while Angel grinned openly.

There stood the infamous Vampire Slayer, Faith. And for some strange reason, a little squirrelly looking guy was standing just behind her, writing something down on a clipboard.

"What are you doing here? How'd you get out of prison?" Cordelia asked harshly.

"Cordelia, be nice. I told you she was up for parole. She must have got it." Angel said.

"Got it in one, Angel." Faith confirmed.

"Glad to hear it! How are you?"

"Not so bad, considering. How's everyone here?"

"It's been an odd year, but we're getting back on our feet."

"Wicked. I, uh, gotta ask though, is that job offer still open?"

"Of course it is! Come in, come in."

"Wow, you're a lot more hospitable than I remember."

"Thanks. Uh...who's your friend?"

"This is my parole officer...Marvin." She answered quietly, gesturing to the man who had begun wandering around the lobby, muttering to himself.

"Oh. Is he staying long?"

"Apparently, he goes where I go for the next month. Conditions of my parole, or something like that."

Cordelia could be heard in the background, stifling her laughter. Eventually, she couldn't hold it any longer, and broke down into hysterical laughter, falling to the ground.

Using the distraction, Lorne slipped out from behind the counter, and raced up the stairs, not noticed by anyone.

Faith, doing her best to ignore the giggling seer on the floor, continued her conversation with Angel.

"So, what's new around here? Anything interesting going on?"

Angel chuckled for moment, before answering. "You have no idea, Faith. Have I ever got a story to tell you..."


"Think it's safe to go downstairs now?" Gunn asked quietly. "I haven't heard any yelling for a while."

"I suppose so." Ayndene replied, cautiously glancing out the door. "It sounds like they're talking to someone."

"You can hear them from all the way up here?"

"Sorta. Not very clearly. They are a few floors away, after all."

"That's so cool."

"Thanks." She replied, grinning shyly.

"Maybe we don't need to go downstairs just yet..." He said slowly, eyeing her.

She blushed slightly, before quickly shutting the door. "You're a bad influence, Charles Gunn."

"I know. Don't you just love it?"

"Shut up." She said, kissing him. "I have a little bad influence of my own for you."

He shut up.



"Yikes. You guys have been through a hell and a half, haven't ya?" Faith asked.

"You could put it that way." Angel replied, smiling sadly.

"And now these Uber-bad-guys are coming to make more trouble?"


"Well, never fear. Faith is here." She stated, before adding offhandedly, "Oh, and that Illuminati chick, too."

They both had a good laugh. Angel had liked the way Faith had taken everything in stride, and still made jokes. It was a good sign for her recovery.

"I know." Angel said, getting serious. "It's good to have you back, Faith."

"It's good to be back." She told him, wiping a stray tear from her eye. "Oh, jeez. I'm getting all misty here."

Angel laughed quietly. "God forbid."

"Hey, is it safe to come out now, Angelcakes?" Lorne called out from the stairs.

"Yeah, Lorne. All clear."

The green demon stepped out from behind one of the pillars, casting a glance at Faith.

"Are you sure?" He asked, as he moved to stand behind Cordelia, placing her between Faith and himself.

Angel groaned. "Yes, I'm sure. Faith, this is Lorne. He's good, so no slaying, ok?"

"Uh...yeah. Right" Faith replied. "No problem."

The four of them just stood awkwardly for a moment, not knowing what to say next. Eventually, someone had to break the silence.

"I was told I could play my radio at a reasonable volume, and I kept it at a reasonable volume, but them they told me to turn it down. Then I went to talk to Mr. Lumberg, because I had not received my paycheck, and he told me to talk to the Payroll, and Payroll told me to speak to Mr. Lumberg. And I still have not received my paycheck."

Every eye in the room turned to look at Marvin, who had remained strangely silent for the past hour. Now, it seemed, the silence was over.

"Uh, Lorne?" Angel said, not taking his eyes off Marvin.

"Yeah?" The green demon replied.

"Why don't you go get Fred...I mean Ayndene and Gunn from their room."


With that, Lorne was running back up the stairs to fetch the two remaining members of the AI crew.


Several minutes later, Lorne came back down the stairs, and into the lobby, followed by Gunn and Ayndene.

"Hey, everyone!" Gunn yelled. "How are you people on this fine afternoon?"

"You're in a good mood."

"Yes I am, Cordy. Yes I am."

Behind him, Ayndene was blushing slightly, fidgeting with the hem of her glove, a smile gracing her features.

"Hey Angel, who's the new recruits?" Faith asked, her confidence returned now that the spot light was off her.

"Oh, right. Faith this is Gunn. Charles Gunn." Angel said gesturing toward the black man.

"What's up." He greeted her shortly.

"Not much. Love the name."


"And this is Ayndene, or Fred, or maybe a third name we haven't heard yet." Angel said, grinning, as he pointed to the girl in question, who waved and smiled.

"Hey there. I like the leather look." Faith commented, appraising the other girl, taking in the leather armour, swords, and any other information that may be useful later.

"Oh!" Cordy piped up. "Don't forget Marvin!"

Faith rolled her eyes, mumbling. "Yes. We mustn't forget Marvin."

"Right, I almost forgot about him." Angel replied, looking over to the nervous man. "Guys, this is Marvin Buttle, Faiths parole officer. He has to stay with her for the next month, at all times apparently."

Gunn took one look at the man, raised an eyebrow, shrugged, and sat down on one of the couches. "Whatever."

Suddenly, they all heard a choking sound come from Ayndene. When they all turned to look, they saw her doubled over in laughter, gasping for air.

"What's so funny?" Faith asked indignantly.

"N-n-n-nothing." Ayndene stammered out between laughs, as she made her way over to the nearest chair. "It's...nothing...I...swear..."

As she once again dissolved into giggles, Cordy spared a glance over to Marvin. Then she did a double take. It might have been her imagination, but she could swear she saw him try to stifle a laugh.

<Great.> She thought. <Now I'm seeing things.>

Meanwhile, the others had surrounded Ayndene, and had somehow managed to calm her down a little.

"I'm fine." She said, fighting a smile. "It'll be okay. I just need to breathe."

She walked slowly around the room, breathing deeply, never looking directly at anyone. After a few minutes, she sat back down, next to Gunn, looking calm and collected.

"They took my stapler." Marvin suddenly commented.

Ayndene once again broke down into hysterical laughter, falling to the floor. Gunn immediately checked to see if she was alright, while Cordelia turned to Marvin, who merely shrugged.

Finally, Ayndene managed to pull herself together enough to get herself off the floor. Still giggling, she attempted to shoot a glare at Marvin, who just stared back at her blankly.

Then, Marvin spoke again. "My stapler."

"God damn it!" Ayndene cried between bouts of giggles. "Cut that out."

Marvin just grinned, an expression that looked totally out of place on his face.

"I mean it, Dev. This isn't funny. Drop that stupid guise before I die laughing."

"Fine. You're a spoilsport, Ayni." Marvin said.

Everyone, except for Ayndene, suddenly grew very quiet. As one, all the eyes in the room turned to look at the spot where Marvin had been sitting, also where the voice had come from.

Marvin was gone. In his place stood a man who could be called Marvin's exact opposite. He stood about six feet tall, lean, with slightly messy black hair, ice blue eyes that seemed to peer right through you, and a jaw that showed a few days stubble. In complete contrast to Marvin's poorly fitted suit, he wore black navy pea coat over a tight black t-shirt, and a well-worn pair of blue jeans.

Grinning enigmatically, he flashed them a 'peace' gesture with one hand, and used the other hand to hop up onto the front counter. He sat there, still smiling, waiting for them to get their bearings.

They watched as Ayndene walked over, and punched him on the shoulder. "That wasn't funny, Deveroux!"

"On the contrary, Ayni, I found it hilarious."

"That's cause you're an ass."

"Why thank you."

She narrowed her eyes for a moment, them broke out into a smile. "Fine. You're forgiven. This time."

"Kinda like the last time. Or the time before that, huh?"

"Shut up. So, what are you doing here? And what happened to the whole 'zero contact' bit?"

"I dunno, it just got old. And what you said put some stuff in perspective. Besides that, I'm here because Faith is here. Duh."

"Don't be a smart-ass."

"But what else will I do, oh all knowing one. And don't roll your eyes, or they might fall out."

"Whatever." Ayndene said tiredly. "By the way, Deveroux, this is the gang. Angel..."

"Hey." The vampire said.

"Cordelia Chase..."

"Mmm...what? I mean Hi!" Cordy said quickly, blushing at the fact that she'd been caught staring.


"Hiya." The green demon responded.

"Wesley Wyndom-Pryce..."

"Charmed." Wesley said, dryly.

"And this is Charles Gunn..."


"Everyone, this is Deveroux Emo Quinn. He's Faith's Guardian, and my oldest friend."

"Hey." Deveroux said, waving slightly. "Anyhow, all that aside, we all gotta get on the road if we're gonna make it before sundown."


"I was here when Angel explained the whole "Nocturni" situation to Faith, remember?. If they've struck a deal with The First, then we gotta go where The First has set up shop. And last time I checked, that was the Hellmouth. On top of that, that's where the other Slayer is, right? So, we gotta go. Makes sense?"

"Actually, I kinda figured we'd be heading off that direction, anyway. I called Orlin earlier, and he'll have a place for us to crash when we get there."

"Rock and roll." Deveroux replied, smiling.

"Um...excuse me?" Angel cut in.

"Yeah?" Deveroux replied

"What's going on, exactly?"

"Road trip."

"To Sunnydale?"

"Got it in one."

Angel sighed, and looked at the floor for a moment, shaking his head. After a moment, he looked up again, glanced around at the others, and raised his eyebrows. "Well? What's everyone waiting for?"

With those words, everyone strung into action, running off to pack clothes, weapons, and anything else they may need.

<Hot damn...> Faith found herself thinking, as everyone scattered to prepare for their departure. <I have to stay with him for the next month? With him watching my every move?>

She took another long look at her 'parole officer', and grinned.

<Things are looking up.>

Chapter 10
Past Tense

"Xander, I have to ask you something. It's pretty important."

"Fire away, Buff."

Buffy offered him a weak smile, hesitated for a moment, and then continued.

"You're all super powered, right?"

"That's your question? I kinda thought we'd covered that."

"Just go with me on this one, okay?"

"Alright. Yes, I am 'all super powered', as you put it."

"Well, it's just that, if you're so strong, why did you let so many people die over the years, like Kendra, or Ms. Calendar, mom. If you could heal me, save me, why not them, too."

Everyone at the table turned to look at him, the same question in all their eyes.

Xander just narrowed his eyes, and stared right back at them. "I got a question for you, too, Buff. Why did you let so many people die, as well?"

"What? Xander, I'm just one person. I can't be everywhere at once..." She trailed off as she realized what she was saying.

"Exactly." He replied quietly. "I'm here to protect you, Buffy, which means I can't afford to have my attention elsewhere. I help where I can, though. Unfortunately, for every life I save, it seems that two more are claimed in its place.

"As for your mother, though, I did try. I really did. I got there nearly ten minutes before you walked in the door, but healing magics have their limitations, and she'd just been gone too long. I am sorry."

Teary eyed, Buffy reached over and embraced him.

"I forgive you." She whispered into his shoulder.

After a few more minutes, unwilling to let the somber moment continue, Xander pulled away from Buffy gently, and stood up.

"C'mon everyone. Let's go find Anya and Giles, and get out of here."

The others, nodding in agreement, gathered their things, and followed Xander out of the cafeteria.


When they returned to Buffy's room, Giles was gone, and one of the nurses was preparing the room for the next patient. When asked about the wayward Englishman, she told them to check the psych ward.

Upon entering the psychology ward of the hospital, they made a beeline for the nearest nurse's station.

"Excuse me?" Xander asked politely. "I'm looking for two people who were brought in recently. Could you help me find them?"

"Certainly, young man." The older nurse replied, smiling brightly. "How long ago did they come in?"

"Inside the last twelve hours."

"Okay, and what are their names?"

"Anya Jenkins and Rupert Giles."

Typing the names into her computer, she did a quick search through the new arrivals. After a few moments, she looked up from the computer screen, frowning. "I'm sorry. No one by either of those names has been checked into the ward in the last twelve hours. We don't always get the patient's names in this wing, though. Perhaps if you could describe them?"

Xander paused for a moment, trying to think of a way to describe Anya and Giles that the nurse might recognize.

Suddenly, Xander felt someone tap him on the shoulder. Turning around, he saw Dawn gesturing for him to lean over. He did so, and she whispered something in his ear. Grinning, he straightened up, and turned back to the nurse.

"Anya is a mortally terrified twenty-something woman with no sense of tact, and Giles is a fifty-ish, probably verbally abusive, Englishman."

The nurse's smile faltered slightly. "Oh, them. They're around here somewhere."

"Both of them?"

"Probably. No one wanted to have to deal with them."

"Oh. Thank you."

"You're welcome."


Fingers really are amazing things.

Rupert Giles realized this after watching his hand move, seemingly of it's own accord, for nearly twenty minutes. About half an hour ago, he'd yelled at some nurse downstairs, and they had poked him in the arm with something, and sent him to the psych ward.

He was having a delightful time.

Anya was snoring away peacefully across the room. He'd tried to wake her up so she could see his hand move, too, but she hadn't woken up. Besides, he wasn't sure if he could speak, as he couldn't actually feel his tongue at the moment.

Pity. It really was a good show.






Left again. Tricky bastard.

"He-he-he-he-he." He giggled joyfully.

Then, a new voice wafted over from the door.

"Aw, crap."


"Buffy! Xander! We found them!" Willow cried out.

"Great!" Buffy replied, as she and Xander ran down the hall to meet up with Oz, Willow, and Dawn. "Are they okay?"

" a manner of speaking." Willow said evasively.

"What does that mean?"

"It means that Anya is practically comatose, and they've got Giles doped up to the gills." Dawn supplied.

"Wonderful. Now how do we get them outta here?" Buffy asked.

Xander thought for a moment, then a slow smile crept across his face.

"Buffy, you go grab Anya. I'll get Giles. Dawn, you get Anya's things together; they should be in the closet. Oz, you do the same for Giles. Everyone just follow my lead, okay?"

They all nodded reluctantly, going off to their appointed tasks. Xander made his may over to Giles's bed, where the older man sat, now amazed by the light reflecting off his own glasses.

"C'mon, G-man. Time to go." Xander said, pulling Giles out of the bed, and helping him put on a robe over his thin hospital gown. Then, slinging the man's arm around his shoulders, Xander guided Giles out of the room, followed by Buffy, who was carrying Anya in her arms. The other three trailed behind, wondering what Xander had planned.

They were almost to the elevator when they were stopped by one of the doctors.

"Just where do you think you're going?" he asked.

"We're leaving." Xander replied simply.

"I can't just let you take patients out of the hospital. They both require full psychological evaluations. They're not leaving."

"Yes, they are."

"And why is that?" The doctor asked sarcastically.

"Because they have both been in the hospital before. They've had some problems with...PCPs." Xander finished mysteriously.

The doctor paled visibly. "Oh, I see. Well then you're free to go. Have a nice day, sir."

With that, the doctor turned and made his way quickly away from the group.

"I can't believe you did that, Xander." Willow stated.

"I can't believe it worked." He replied.

Shaking their heads, they walked into the elevator, and moments later, left the hospital.


Using Giles's key, the group let themselves into the man's apartment, and immediately found places to sit and relax. Buffy carried Anya's sleeping form into the guest bedroom. Xander, meanwhile, half-guided, half-carried Giles up to his room.

"He-he-he-he-he." Giles giggled, once again, having been distracted by a nearby shaft of light.

"That's right, Giles. Fire bad, tree pretty. Now let's get you to bed so you can sleep it off." Xander responded.

Once they got upstairs, Giles was unceremoniously dumped on his bed, where he sat, still giggling.

Xander, his eyes taking on a silver sheen, leaned over and placed one hand on Giles's forehead, and the other over Giles's heart. He quickly mumbled a few unfamiliar words, and Giles promptly passed out.

"That's gratitude for ya..." Xander grumbled, as he made his way back down the stairs.

"Is Giles okay?" Buffy asked, once Xander was about halfway down.

"He'll be fine. I did a quick restoration spell on him, so he should be up and about, or at least awake, in about fifteen minutes."

Ignoring the looks he got from using the word 'spell', he continued on down the stairs. He had just reached the bottom when his cell phone rang for the second time that day. He pulled it out of his pocket, sat down next to Buffy's left on the couch, and answered. Everyone unconsciously leaned forward to listen.


"Hey, Dev. What's up?"



"You did what?"

"Did I start a trend or something?"

"No, it's no big deal. You only told them, though, right?"

"Good. I was afraid you'd taken out a classified ad, or something."

"Yes, you would."

"Yeah, Ayni mentioned that."

"Tonight? Yeah, okay."

"See you then."

"You, too."


He hung up the phone, and relaxed into the couch, as a grin spread across his face. He began laughing quietly to himself.

"What's so funny?" Buffy asked, curling up beside him.

"Nothing much, Buff. I just get to show some old friends the 'real me', is all."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"You'll see, Buffy. You'll see."

"If you say so. In the meantime, however, I want a few answers." She emphasized her point by poking him in the chest.

Xander cringed. "What kind of answers?"

"All of them. Everything you've been keeping from us for the last couple of decades."

"Oh, yeah. That."


"Well, it's a really big story. Why don't you ask me some questions, and I'll answer them as best I can, okay?"

The group glanced at one another, and nodded.

"Great. You ask, I answer. Who's first?"

Dawn raised her hand. "Boxers or briefs?"

"Dawn!!" Buffy cried, glaring at her little sister, who grinned cheekily in response.

"I plead the fifth." Xander replied, smiling.

"Damn right you do." Buffy told him.

"I have a question." Willow said quietly. "What about your parents? Are they really, you know, yours? Cause they really don't strike me as the hero type."

"Nope. My actual parents live a long way away. The folks you met were a couple friends of mine. They play the part every now and again, whenever someone has to meet my 'parents'. The whole 'angry drunk' bit is an act so people avoid asking about them."

"But I could hear them talking all the time when ever we visited you."

"Yes, but how often did you actually see them? The sounds were an illusion spell I had an old friend set up for me."

"Oh. So you live alone?"

"Not exactly. My parents don't live there, if that's what you mean. But then again, neither do I. I've got this neat little portal thing in the guest room, that I can use to visit my Mom and Dad whenever I like."

"Visit them where?" Oz asked.

Xander chuckled. "A city called Kalya. It's on a small island in the Mediterranean, and the population is one hundred percent Illuminati. It's the capital of the Illuminati civilization. It's actually where I was born."

"Cool." Oz remarked, nodding.

They all paused for a moment, before continuing.

"What's it like? Being all super-powery?" Buffy asked next.

"I dunno." Xander replied. "I've never been anything else, so I really don't know how to describe it."

"How about other family? Any siblings?" Willow was bouncing up and down on the couch, grinning.

<She always did like a mystery> Xander thought.

"Nope. Just my parents and me. And a couple of cousins here and there."

"Who're Ayni and Dev? I've heard you mention them on the phone." Dawn asked.

"Ayni is actually named Ayndene, and Dev is actually named Deveroux. They're good friends of mine that you may remember from such roles as, say, my 'parents'."

"Are they like you? You know, protectors?"


"Who?" Oz enquired.

"Well, Deveroux is Faith's Guardian, and Ayndene is Angel's."

"Angel has a protector?" Buffy asked suddenly.

"Yeah. He is a champion, you know."


"Oh! Oh! I got one!" Willow exclaimed, waving her hand in the air.

"Yeah, Wills?" Xander acknowledged her, laughing.

"How did you get to be a...Guardian, was it?"

"That's right, and I was selected when I was very young. The Guardian Corps is extremely selective about who it lets in, kinda like the Jedi, I guess. And only a select few of those chosen ever get the chance to actually protect a Slayer or champion in the field."

"How do...err...'field Guardians' get picked?"

"Well, you pretty much have to excel at everything, from your magical field, to your particular weapons of choice."

"And what are those? For you I mean." Dawn raised.

"Ah. My, um, magical field is healing and restorative spells. I can use them to fix anything from a broken lamp, to a broken arm."

"And the weapon of choice." Buffy asked, bemusedly.

"Weapons, actually. I carry two, like most Guardians. Except Dev, he carries three. Personally, I prefer an Illuminati Katana, and a pair of razor-talon gauntlets." He finished, looking uncomfortable.

"Razor-talon gauntlets." Willow asked, looking a little worried.

"Uh, yeah. They're close-quarter weapons, for when an area is too closed in to use a sword."

To demonstrate, he held out his left hand so everyone could see. Without a sound, dulled metal plates flowed out from under his shirtsleeve, forming into a deadly looking gauntlet over his hand. Suddenly, without any warning from Xander, five razor sharp talons, each a little over an inch long, sprung from the fingers, as if from nowhere.

The entire group flinched back in shock, eyeing the lethal looking claws warily.

"How sharp are they?" Dawn asked quietly.

Without a word, Xander used his right hand to pick an empty pop can off the table, and tossed it gently into the air. As it reached the apex of it's flight, he suddenly stuck out twice with his left hand, faster than their eyes could track, his entire arm blurring with the movement. The can continued it's decent, seemingly undamaged. They actually thought he had missed, until the can hit the table, and separated into about two-dozen aluminium shards, scattering across the tabletop.

Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the gauntlet disappeared back under his sleeve, as if it had never even been there.

Willow shivered slightly at the cold, focused expression on the face of her oldest friend.

"Well," She stated. "That was creepy."

"Indeed." Came a voice from above them. They looked up to see Giles standing at the top of the stairs, looking down on them. He made his way down the stairs, and all but fell into a chair when he reached the bottom.

<Wow> Willow thought <That spell of Xander's really worked>

"Hey, Giles. How ya feeling?" Buffy asked him.

"Like I've just come off a month-long bender. And yourself?"

"Like I was raised from the dead. Again." She answered.

"Good to hear. That reminds me, Xander. I have been listening from upstairs, and have one or two questions of my own." Giles said, his eyes narrowing.

"Fire away, G-man." Xander replied, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

"If you are Buffy's protector, why have you lived in Sunnydale your entire life, when Buffy was first called in LA?"

"Because at the time, I was waiting to be called into active service, which couldn't happen till I was at least fifteen. I was all ready to depart to LA when the word came that she'd been called, but at the time, the duty was passed into the hands of someone who was already there. You wouldn't know them.

"Then, once Buffy moved here back in '97, I took over." Xander finished.

"But why Sunnydale?" Giles asked again.

"Why not? Every major city and town in the world has at least one Illuminati in the population, in case they are needed."

"Ah. Now, could you please explain the Illuminati culture, and governmental structure?" Giles requested, pulling a notepad out of a nearby drawer.



"No. I'm already gonna catch hell for telling you as much as I have, even though you're my friends. I could already be relieved of active duty for what I've told you so far."

"Relieved?" Dawn asked quietly.

"Yes, relieved, as in sent away from Sunnydale, permanently. Hell, the only reason I get away with so much rule bending is because I'm damn good at what I do. As it stands, Buffy holds the record for longest time as a slayer. Eight years is tough to beat, and that counts for a lot. So from now on, everything is on a need to know basis."

"Really? I hold a record?" Buffy asked, perking up.



"Now Xander," Giles cut in again. "We can't just take your word on all this. We'll need some proof."

"Excuse me? I thought we already did the 'prove it' thing. As I recall, it didn't end too well for me, the last time."

"Not proof of what you are, Xander. Proof of your motivations. How do we know you aren' know...evil."

Xander stared blankly at the older man for several minutes, before laughing slightly. "Evil? What possible reason would you have to think I was evil? What have I ever done that could be construed as 'evil'."

"Err...nothing." Giles replied quietly.

"That's right. If I had any malicious intent, I would have acted long before now. I'm a Guardian, G-man. Killing my friends ain't exactly in the job description." Xander finished sarcastically.

"We...I...would still like some more solid evidence." Giles insisted.

"Well I haven't got any. At least nothing that couldn't be translated both ways. You'll just have to trust me."

"We do trust you, Xan." Buffy assured him, shooting a 'death-glare' in Giles direction, signifying that the conversation was over.

"Thanks Buff. That means a lot." Xander told her, kissing her softly.

"If you two are going to do that, please do it elsewhere." Giles grumbled.

The group laughed at Giles's weak attempt to regain control.

"Wow, Giles. Giving orders in your own home." Dawn quipped. "You must think your pretty special."

Giles, true to his heritage, scowled and went to make a cup of tea.

"I'd better go check on Anya." Willow stated. "I'll be right back."

As she walked out of the room, the others reflected on various things, like how their time on the Hellmouth giving them the ability to adapt quickly to strange occurrences such as this, when it suited them. It was odd that there were some things the seemed to dwell on, while others barely gave them pause.

Suddenly, Willow burst in from the other room, waving a piece of paper in one hand. "She's gone!"

Xander was on his feet and next to Willow before the others could blink. "What?"

"The room was empty, except for this note." Willow said sadly, handing the paper over to Xander.

It read:


To everyone but Xander,

I'm leaving. I refuse to live anywhere near that murderous abomination. His kind should be wiped off the planet.

Do yourselves a favor, and kill him violently in his sleep.

I can't believe I was ever in love with that thing, despite all the sex.

Don't even think of following me either. Thanks to a handy little spell, you'll all but have forgotten I ever existed about five minutes after the first time this letter is read. Think of it as a parting gift.

, Anyanka


Sighing, he let the note fall from his hand, and onto the table. He really shouldn't have been surprised. If it hadn't been him, it would have been something else. For the last three months, he had noticed her staring longingly at every travel poster she saw, and sighing whenever the TV mentioned some faraway place. She had even begun distancing herself from the group. They barely even saw her, except at the Magic Box.

She had been looking for a reason to escape Sunnydale for a long time. He just happened to be convenient.

He'd miss her, but in reality, she'd been gone for a long time.

Buffy picked up the fallen piece of paper, and slowly read it over. She, too, let the note fall as she moved to embrace Xander.

"Oh Xan. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I should have seen this coming." He replied. "Most demons think that way. I guess you could say it was her upbringing."

"Still, she had no right to say those things." Buffy insisted.

"I guess. But at least I won't remember tomorrow, right?"

Smiling, she drew him into a lip-searing kiss, pouring all her passion and love into the moment. Eventually, they pulled apart, and she smiled seductively. "Never forget how special you are to me, okay?"

"Never." He promised, holding her close.

"So, now what?" Dawn asked.

"Long term or short term?" Xander replied.

"Short term."

"Lunch, then we go see what we can do to fix up your house. It kinda got trashed."

"Oh. Can we get McDonald's?"

"Yes. Yes we can."


They were just gathering up their belongings to go, when Willow noticed something on the floor glow briefly. Moving over, she picked the object, a piece of paper, up off the floor, and read it quickly.

"Hey, Xander?"

"Yeah, Wills?"

"Who's Anyanka?"

"I dunno." He replied.

Shrugging, Willow crumpled the note into a ball, and tossed it into the trash, not giving it a second thought.


(Later That Evening...)

"That was so cool!" Willow gushed. "Your so good at that!"

All the others were quick to agree and add their praises, and Xander blushed at all the attention.

The group was sitting comfortably in the newly repaired living room of the Summers house, marvelling at the extraordinary clean-up job, especially compared to it's previous state.

"C'mon guys. It wasn't that great." Xander insisted. "Just a few spells to get things cleaned up. Basic stuff really."

"Basic? On my best day it would've taken me an hour to prepare for complex spells like that. You barely said two words and they were done. The whole mess was fixed, just like that."

"It is kinda my specialty, Wills," Xander reminded her. "And a wrecked piece of furniture is kid's stuff next to a shattered bone. Besides, I've been training I these spells since I was old enough to talk."

"Really? You think you could show me some of th..."


"Are you sure? Cause I could..."


"I really could..."

"No." Xander stated again, with a note of finality.

"Oh. Okay." Willow replied, somewhat awkwardly.

Everyone remained silent for a moment, before Buffy glanced at the clock.

"Hey! It's patrol time!" She announced with mock cheeriness, hoping to break the sudden tension in the room.

"Cool!" Dawn replied, jumping up and down, knowing she would be allowed to come, as it wasn't a school night.

They all got up and began gathering their gear. Giles and Oz carried the ubiquitous crossbows, and Willow carried a cross with a few bottles of holy water, aside from the ubiquitous wooden stakes.

Dawn and Buffy each carried a sword and a stake. When asked about his weapon, Xander just shot the group an incredulous look, reached into his pocket, and dropped a few shredded pop-can bits onto the nearest table.

Once weaponry was sorted out, the group piled into Oz's van, and they were off.

"So, where to?" Oz asked as they reached the end of Buffy's street.

"I dunno." Buffy replied. "Let's start with Shady Hills Cemetery, and see if anything pops up."

Oz nodded, and steered his van in the appropriate direction.

Chapter 11
Saints Surrounded

"While the wicked stand confounded, call me, with thy saints surrounded."

-Boondock Saints


"Okay. Has everyone got their stuff?" Deveroux asked, as if addressing a group of children.

"Yes." The group chorused.

"And you've all had something to eat?"


"You've all gone to the bathroom?"


"Conner's food left in a box by the door?"

"Yes." Came Angel's muffled reply from under his blanket. It was the middle of the day, after all.

"Okay, kids." Deveroux smiled. "Everyone into the cars."

The entire group moved over to their assigned cars, either Angel's black 1968 Plymouth Belvedere GTX, or Deveroux's black 1968 Dodge Charger.

Angel spared Deveroux's car a glance from beneath his blanket, before looking at Deveroux himself. Deveroux did the same. The two men regarded one another for a moment, and gave each other a silent nod. Nothing needed to be said. They both understood the silent communication.

Besides, they already knew their cars were cool.

Most of them were riding in Angel's Plymouth. Angel himself, along with Cordelia and Lorne, sat up front. Gunn and Ayndene sat in the back, along with some of their gear. Angel was driving, thanks to the heavily tinted windows. After the time Cordelia had gotten it stolen, he never let anyone drive his car, but him.

Deveroux, Wesley, and Faith rode in the Charger, with the men up front, and Faith stretched out in the back. The three of them were in the habit of packing light, so all their things were in the trunk. Wesley had offered to drive, but a quick glare from Deveroux had swiftly changed his mind.

Pulling away from the hotel, they made their way to the Interstate, and headed north to Sunnydale.


{[Three hours later, Just north of Fresno, CA]}

The sun had just set when the group decided to stop for dinner. Pulling off the interstate, they quickly located a truck stop where they could get a quick bite to eat.

"Okay, what does everyone want?" Cordelia asked.

"Burger, fries, and a coke for the three of us." Wesley said, gesturing toward Faith and Gunn.

"Just a salad, if they got it, sweetcheeks." Lorne said offhandedly.

"Tacos and an iced tea." Was Ayndene's order.

"I got something in the trunk." Angel assured them.

"Blood of a virgin goat." Deveroux said, not moving his eyes from the map he was studying.

They all turned to stare at him, shocked, while Ayndene just covered her eyes with her hand, and mumbled something that sounded like, "Oh my god..."

"Uh, could you repeat that?" Cordelia asked.

"I said I'll have a grill-cheese and fries. And a coke." Deveroux deadpanned, his expression giving nothing away.

Cordelia merely shook her head, and wandered off to order their food.

This single event left the entire group, excluding Ayndene of course, wondering if they were hearing things. Each was afraid to ask any of the others, in case they were the only one who had heard what they thought they heard. Finally, they each wandered off to find a place to sit, eyeing those near them carefully, and each fearing that they alone were the victims of a cruel joke.

<Chaos, panic, and paranoia,> Deveroux thought, re-folding the map. <My work here is done.>

Sparing the others a mysterious smile from his seat next to the Charger, he leaned back, and relaxed.

About twenty minutes later, the strange comment was forgotten as Cordelia returned with the food. Digging in, they joked, and told stories, looking for all the world like a normal group of people on a road trip.

Once they had all eaten most of their food, and Angel had gotten a blood bag out of the cooler in the trunk of his car, they all gathered around the hood of the Charger, where Wesley had laid out the map of California that Deveroux had been studying earlier.

"If we keep up this pace," He commented. "We should be in Sunnydale inside two hours."

"Sounds about right." Deveroux agreed between mouthfuls of fries. "But we'd better get back on the road. If we show up at Orlin's door really late, he'll be really pissed off."

Ayndene nodded in agreement, and before long, the group was piling back into the cars, and heading for the Interstate once again.


"Welcome to Sunnydale." Cordelia read as they entered city limits. "I swore if I never saw that sign again, it would be too soon."

"I know how you feel, Delia. This place had a way of burning itself on your memories." Angel replied.

"Okay. I'm getting a little creeped out now." Gunn commented from the back seat.

"Relax, Charles. It's not nearly as bad as they're making it out to be. Orlin loves it here." Ayndene assured him.

"If you say so, Ayni." He replied, using the nickname she'd told him about, and eliciting a smile from her.

"You know, it's still kinda early..." Angel said, trailing off.

"What's your point?" Cordelia asked.

"What do you say to a quick sweep around the local graveyards? Just for old times sake?"

Cordy levelled a stare at him. "Why would we want to do that?"

"Oh come on, Delia! I've been cooped up in the car all day." Angel practically whined. "If I don't kill something soon, I'm gonna forget how."

"Okay. Okay. No need to pout. We can go if you want. Dork." She finished under her breath.

Angel grinned enthusiastically, and stuck his arm out the window to signal the other car behind them, before turning into the entrance of the nearest graveyard, which just happened to be Shady Hills Cemetery.


Not far away, a silent observer watched from a rooftop as they entered the graveyard.

<Interesting.> He thought <So the ensouled vampire has returned. And he has brought others...>

Moving with alarming speed, the observer shifted positions to get a better view.

<Do they know of our plans, or is their appearance here merely coincidental?> He pondered, before coming to a decision. <We cannot risk it. Their presence could upset everything. We shall send the inferiors to deal with them.>

With that, the tall, cloaked figure turned and walked away, melting into the shadows.


(A little earlier, not far away...)

"Xander, could I speak with you privately for a moment?" Giles asked, as the rest of the group waited for a fledgling vampire to wake up.

"Yeah, sure." Xander replied, letting the older man lead him away. "What's up?"

"There is a matter of some importance I need to ask you about, but I didn't feel it was necessary to bring it up in front of the others. I need to ask you about the incident some years ago regarding the Hyena spirit."

"Ah. I figured you'd be mentioning that soon." Xander said quietly, his eyes downcast.

"Quite. Several of the events surrounding the possession don't exactly fit together, especially in relation to recent events. First off, I would have assumed that you would be trained to block unfriendly spirits. And secondly, Buffy actually managed to knock you out. Could you explain that to me, because quite frankly, I'm adding two and two, and getting five." The watcher finished.

"Well, it's like this." Xander replied. "While I could usually block unfriendly spells or spirits, I didn't expect the Hyena spirit to come at me, and it caught me off guard. I was still new to active duty back then, and it got lucky."

"I see." Giles accepted, the look on his face prompting Xander to continue.

"The funny thing is, the Hyena was so different from my own spirit, that the two conflicted, and actually weakening my body a little, or at least enough that Buffy could take me down. It was like trying to load Mac software into an IBM computer."

Giles stared at him blankly.

"Okay...then it was like putting a fictional novel on the historical biography shelf. It disrupts the flow of things. It just doesn't fit."

"Ah. I understand." The former librarian replied, nodding. "Now, one other thing. When Buffy captured you, she mentioned you had gotten somewhat, how did she put it? Frisky."

"Oh yeah. That was pretty much, just out-of-control hormones. The Hyena wanted her, and so did I. I was using that, guiding the Hyena's thought, to get him back to Buffy, so she could capture him. Unfortunately, I let things get out of hand. It's one of those things I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for."

Giles took in the younger man's grim expression. <He still feels guilty, even after all this time...>

"There is one more matter I need to mention, Xander."

"Yeah, G-man?" Xander responded, shaking himself out of his current funk.

"About your relationship with Buffy." The watcher said, his face serious. "I am happy for the both of you, but there is something I wish to make clear. Buffy is like the daughter I never had, and I care about her very deeply."

"I know that, Giles. She's lucky to have you watching out for her, too." Xander replied.

"I'm glad you understand, Xander, because if you ever hurt her, in any way, no power on this earth will be able to save you from me." Giles said darkly, before the smile returned to his face. "Let's return to the others, shall we?"

As Giles walked away, Xander truly realized just how dangerous the man was, and just how far he would go to protect his 'daughter'.


A solid right hook, a knee to the gut, a stake to the heart, and another vampire was dust.

"Die, evildoer!" Angel cried.

Ayndene leaned over and whispered to Gunn.

"Die, evildoer?" She asked, stifling a giggle.

"Now there is a man who loves what he does." Deveroux commented, leaning against a nearby crypt next to Faith, who was desperately trying not to burst out laughing.

With the exception of Lorne, who had opted to wait in the cars, they had been roaming through Shady Hills Cemetery for nearly half an hour, and Angel was getting a little...enthusiastic. He had decided that as a Champion, he needed a catch phrase. This had been a personal project of his for some time now, and now that he was out of LA, he saw this as an opportunity to field test some of his ideas.

The results were less than stellar.

"Angel. I am begging you to stop." Cordelia implored him. "This catchphrase thing is not gonna work out."

"Fine." The vampire grumbled, hiding a smile. Sometimes, it was enough to just annoy Cordy.

The group continued on its path, their eyes scanning the surrounding area, searching for more vampires to slay.

The majority of them walked together, but Faith and Deveroux, being unfamiliar with the group, hung back, continuing the conversation they had started in the car.

"So," Faith started. "You're here to watch my butt, huh?"

"Yes, Faith. My entire existence revolves around watching your butt." Deveroux replied with a grin.

Faith gave him a sidelong glance, trying to gauge his seriousness. "Right. So how long have you been around for?"

"Watching you?"

She nodded.

"Since you were called. Though, I was pretty inexperienced back then. I had some pretty...old fashioned...ideas about how to do my job."


"Yeah. Sort of a 'hands-off' approach, one that I've recently grown out of."

"Good." Faith commented, smiling seductively. "I've always been a 'hands- on' kinda girl."

"I noticed." Deveroux replied with a laugh.

"Okay, this is totally unfair. You know everything about me, and I don't know nearly as much about you."

"Was five hours in a car not enough time to gleam information from me?"

During the majority of the drive to Sunnydale, Faith had been asking him various questions, which he had even answered from time to time.

Where was he from? Kalya. She'd just nodded.

Family? Just his mom and younger sister. She'd smiled.

Favourite food? Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. She thought it was cute.

Book? Big Trouble by Dave Barry. She'd read it in prison, and loved it.

Movie? Office Space. She'd never heard of it, but was willing to give it a shot.

It was really a fairly normal line of questioning, once you got past the flirtatious overtones Faith was known for.

"Not really." Faith replied, gesturing to the ex-watcher walking ahead of them. "Besides, Wes was sitting right there. He tends to be nosy."

"At least he's not the jerk-off he was back in '99."

"Good call." Faith replied, laughing. "So we can let him live?"

"For now." Deveroux answered, failing to keep a straight face.

The two of them laughed loudly. So loudly in fact, that the others turned around to see what was so funny.

Deveroux and Faith stopped laughing, and stared back at the group, before speaking in unison. "What?"

Shaking their heads, the others turned back around and kept walking, except for Ayndene, who smiled knowingly.

Suddenly, Deveroux, Faith, and Ayndene all came to a halt, looking nervously around the area.

"What's up?" Gunn asked cautiously.

"Trouble." Faith replied.

"Big time." Deveroux agreed.

"What kind of trouble?" Wesley enquired.

"Vampires and demons. A lot of them, moving together, and headed in our direction." Ayndene answered. "Weird. Vampires and demons don't usually act together."

"I'd say their just on the other side of that tree line, and..." Deveroux added, before he trailed off.

"And...?" Cordelia prompted.

"And it sounds like a smaller group is on an intercept course. They're mostly human. The two groups will see each other in less than a minute."

"Who the hell is that? What humans would be wandering in a graveyard in the middle of the night? Besides us, that is." Gunn asked no one in particular.

Cordelia, Angel, and Wesley looked at one another, all coming to the same conclusion.

"Oh crap." Angel grumbled, drawing his sword, before he took off toward the tree line, the rest of the group not far behind.

Ayndene and Deveroux stayed behind for a moment, staring as the others rushed off. Finally, they turned to one another, and as their eyes met, they grinned widely.

"Shall we?" Deveroux asked, raising an eyebrow slightly.

"Yes, we shall." Ayndene replied, smiling.

Deveroux straightened up, his now shimmering silver eyes meeting Ayndene's. "Let's party."

And the shadows began to bend.


"Boring..." Willow said in a singsong voice, glancing around the graveyard, as they headed back to Oz's van. Having nothing else to do, she began idly picking at threads on her sweater.

They had been here for half an hour, and all they had gotten was a single fledgling vampire, right out of the grave. Dawn had staked him, for the love of god.

Maybe that was exiting back in the good old days, but now they needed something a bit keep their interest.

"Where are all the vampires?" Buffy sighed, from her position at the front of the group, next to Xander.

It was funny that Buffy should said that, cause right then, all the vampires showed up.

Along with a few demons, just to make things interesting.

The gang froze in their steps, gaping at the sheer size of the horde before them. There had to be at least sixty vampires, and another two- dozen demons, standing about three hundred feet away. There was no way in hell that they could fight an army this big.

<Oh god...> Buffy thought, as she felt a wave of terror sweep over her. <We're gonna die...>

As soon as they caught sight of the Scooby Gang, one of the demons in the lead let out an ear piercing shriek, and charged at them, with the other demons and vamps following.

"Back to back!" Buffy cried. "Don't let them get behind you!"

The Scoobies closed into a tight group, their weapons facing outward, ready for battle. Buffy and Dawn pulled out their swords, and Giles and Oz checked their crossbows, and took aim.

Buffy cast a glance to her side, at Xander, who actually grinned back at her. Just as she was about to ask why, though, the horde overwhelmed them.

From that moment, Buffy fell into the pattern she knew so well.

Vampire. Stake.

Demon. Kick, punch, and slash with your sword.







But no matter how many she took down, more were there to rise up in their place, giving Buffy the feeling they were fighting a losing battle.

She looked around her, and saw the others were fairing well enough. Giles and Oz stood back to back, striking out with the short swords they had brought as backup. Willow seemed to be preparing a spell, while Dawn kept the horde off her long enough for her to cast it.

Xander stood next to Buffy herself, his talons cutting any demon that got too close to shreds, before he moved on to his next target, a cold, calculating look on his face. His fighting style was like nothing she'd ever seen before. His every move flowed into the next, like living water. Whenever he punched, he seemed only to brush his fingers against the target, yet they went flying. As he sliced another demon wide open, he suddenly let out a maniacal laugh.

<Is he actually enjoying this?> Buffy thought to herself, and she dusted another vampire.

Suddenly, she heard a powerful, yet familiar, war cry, and she turn to see the last thing she could have expected.

<What is this? A freakin' reunion?> She thought, as Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, and even Faith appeared out of the tree line, followed by a black guy they'd never seen before. They cut into the horde, killing and maiming the demons in their quest to get to the others. Within moments, the eleven of them stood in the centre of the battlefield, backs to one another, and the fight was beginning to turn in their favor.


The moment they cleared the trees, Angel's eyes fell on the small group under siege by the demon horde. It was definitely the Scoobies, and while they were all fighting well, they looked to be in danger of losing the fight.

He hesitated for barely a second, before yelling as loud as he could, and rushing into the fight, cutting a swathe through the enemy, and clearing a path to the Scoobies with a kind of strength he rarely felt. Demon and vampire alike were cut down before him.

Soon enough, he reached the centre of the fight, and stood next to Giles and Oz, as the three of them slashed their way through anything that got too close. Nearby, Willow was spouting bursts of flame from her hand, incinerating vamp after vamp, with Wesley, Gunn, and Dawn watching her back.

Slowly, but surely, they were winning.

Then, before Angel could react, a seven-foot demon, covered head to toe in jagged bone blades, appeared out of his blind spot, raising his claws to strike the ensouled vampire down. Angel attempted to block the blow, but ended up overextending himself, and received a jarring punch to the head. His vision grew clouded, and he was left to wait for the inevitable killing blow.

A blow that never came.

Less than a second before he would have been struck down, Angel saw a shadowy blur leap over him, striking the demon with enough force to knock it off it's feet, and land some fifteen feet away. As his vision cleared, he recognized the cloaked form now standing between him and the demon.

"Fred..." He whispered, as the demon rose to its feet, and charged at her. Just as it was about to reach her, she leaped straight up, twisting in midair, and delivered a devastating kick to the demon's head, followed by two lightning fast sword swipes that cleaved the creature into three separate parts. She landed gracefully in a crouch, holding her short, straight blade behind her, and a longer, more ornate, curved blade in front of her, across her chest.

Turning, she flashed him a devilish smile, and leaped right into the thickest part of the fight, nearly twenty feet from them.

"Whoa." Angel said, any lingering doubt in Ayndene's abilities now erased from his mind.

Shaking off his shock, he returned to the battle, now confidant in the knowledge that this fight was theirs for the taking.


"Yee-ha!!" Faith cried at the top of her lungs, as she dusted another vamp. She hadn't seen action like this for years, and it felt good to really let loose.

Now that they'd met up with the Scoobs, the horde didn't stand a chance. They were kicking ass, and taking names.

"Rock and roll!" Deveroux yelled, as he piledrived another vampire into the ground with one fist, before kicking another in the back so hard its spine shattered. He had mysteriously appeared beside her a moment or two ago, wearing different clothes.

Rather than the blue jeans and pea coat from before, he was now dressed entirely in black. His new clothes consisted of a baggy set of pants, tucked into his heavy mid-thigh boots, a sort of loose tunic, and a black hooded cloak.

On his hands were a pair of fingerless black leather gloves that extended up his forearm, with a type of armour over the back and knuckles. On his right arm, a short metal cylinder, about a foot long, was held in a forearm brace.

Occasionally, she would catch a glimpse under his cloak, and see a wicked looking glaive attached to his belt.

They fought side by side, pummelling every vampire they saw, and were still hunting for more.

Just then, a vampire got a lucky shot in, and knocked the stake from Faith's hand, leaving her without a weapon. Deveroux called out to her, and tossed her a vicious looking knife from a sheath on his belt. Grasping it in midair, she spun around, neatly decapitating the vampire that had attacked her.

Just as she was about to thank him, though, a massive demon surged out of the masses. It was huge, standing a good eight feet tall, bulging muscles straining against its mottled skin. Letting out and inhuman roar, it picked up a sizable rock and hurled it at Faith, clipping the slayer's shoulder as she dodged out of the way, knocking her to the ground. Then it rushed them, moving shockingly fast for it's size, intent on their destruction.

It was almost upon them when Deveroux let loose with a devastating haymaker, smashing his fist into the demon's jaw, causing the beast to fall flat on its back, writhing in pain. Faith had heard the jawbone shatter, even over the noise of the battle.

"Back off, ugly!" Deveroux growled, as he drew the cylinder from his forearm in a smooth movement.

He held it at arms length, as if it were a barrier between the demon and himself. The demon slowly pulled itself up, tried to flex its now broken jaw, and then rushed at them again. In the blink of an eye, the cylinder in Deveroux's hand bucked, and extended three feet in each direction, becoming a seven-foot battle staff. Spinning it on his palm, he pivoted on one heel, and ducked under the demon's arms. Straightening up behind the creature, he drove the tip of the staff into the base of the demon's skull, snapping its neck, and pulverizing most of its brain.

The demon crumpled to the ground, assuredly dead. Deveroux, however, didn't even pause. He reversed the momentum of his attack to drive his staff through the chest of a vampire behind him, dusting it, and moved on to his next target with blinding speed. He moved so fast, he became a blur, tearing through the horde like a whirlwind.

Each strike shattered bone, crushed muscle, and annihilated anything in its way, as he returned to Faith's side, and continued to fight beside her, raining fury down on the evil surrounding them.


Buffy quickly surveyed the battlefield, taking stock of each side's losses. To her shock, not a single person on their side had been lost, or even severely injured, while the horde had suffered immense casualties.

Two people in particular, dressed in black, were fighting like nothing she'd ever seen. They tore into the horde like the wrath of god, destroying whatever stood in their way.

<Those must be Xander's Illuminati friends> She realized suddenly, seeing how close the two were staying to Angel and Faith.

At this point, there were only about a dozen vamps left, and a couple of demons. Nearby, Xander and Cordelia were watching her back, as they faced off against the last of the horde.

They were going to win.

Suddenly, as she let her guard down, one of the few remaining demons fired some kind of stinger from its arm, and it stabbed into her shoulder. Pain lanced through her, driving her to her knees, before her arm began to go numb. The numbness quickly spread through her entire body, and just before she blacked out, she could swear she heard a voice call out her name.


"Buffy!!" Xander cried, his voice filled with fear.

He rushed to her side, and quickly checked her over. A wave of relief washed over him as he realized that the sting had only released a sedative, rather than a toxin. She was out cold, but she would recover.

He leaned over her, and gently pulled the stinger out, performing a quick healing spell over the wound. She would be just fine.

The demon that hurt her, however, would not be so lucky.

Turning to Cordelia, he issued a sharp command.


"Keep her safe." Xander said to her, focusing on the spider-like demon that had attacked Buffy.

Cordelia couldn't believe her ears. <Why does he have to be the White Knight all the time? He's going to get himself killed>

"Xander, no!" She yelled back. "You can't take that thing on your own. You'll get hurt! Let one of the others handle it!"

As soon as the words left her mouth, she felt a wave of unnatural terror flow over her, and a tiny voice in her mind began telling her to run for her life.

Grinning sadistically, Xander turned back to face Cordelia, his eyes now two shimmering pools of silver. "Oh, I think I'll manage."

With those words, a black cloak began forming around him, flowing like oil. Just as the hood concealed his face, he reached one gauntleted hand into the folds of his cloak, and withdrew a deadly, shining katana, unlike any she'd ever seen.

Growling viciously, he leaped forward, soaring over the attacking demon. As he flew over, his blade caught the demon in the face, and kept going, slicing it in half, from head to tail. Before the halves had even hit the ground, he was moving on to the crowd of remaining demons. Rather than spend any great amount of time on any one, he leaped from target to target, striking with a swift and lethal efficiency that would haunt her later. Between the three Illuminati, the rest of the battle lasted for barely ten seconds.

Before they knew it, it was all over. The three hooded figures stood in the middle of the battlefield, as the dust of their enemies floated around them. Cordelia could only stand there in shock, as her mind desperately tried to process what she had seen.

<Oh God> She thought. <It was Xander...>

Her mind numb with shock, she didn't even realize when the others came over to help Buffy, or when they all loaded into the cars, and began driving off.

Thinking back, she would later remember Angel waving his hand in front of her eyes, asking her what was wrong, what she had seen, but at the time, she just couldn't handle it enough to talk.

In fact, the whole ride to Buffy's house, only one thought kept repeating in her mind, over and over.

<It was Xander the whole damn time...>

Chapter 12
Ordinary Day

Back at the Summers home, everyone was cooling down after the battle, in their own ways.

Giles and Wesley were discussing the current situation calmly over a cup of tea, while sitting out on the front porch.

Dawn, Lorne, and Oz were arguing about 'modern' music, versus the 'classics' in the living room, as Gunn sat nearby, laughing, and even throwing in the occasional comment.

There had been a little drama between Lorne and Buffy earlier, but once Deveroux got her in a solid hold, she calmed down enough for them to explain that Lorne was one of the good guys. Apologies were passed around, and everyone got on with their lives.

Buffy, Faith, and strangely enough, even Willow, were in the kitchen devouring two entire buckets of chicken wings, as the adrenaline and magic high wore off.

More surprising than that, was the fact that once they found that Faith hadn't actually escaped from prison, but had gotten parole fair and square, the three girls had started talking like old friends.

Xander had commented that it was 'too weird for words', and had silently slipped out of the room.

He, Ayndene, and Deveroux were now sitting in the dining room, laughing and chattering away animatedly in a language no one else could hope to understand. They had regained their harmless appearances, and looked completely normal.

Angel, however, had taken Cordelia upstairs to get some sleep. Ever since the battle, she had been alarmingly quiet, barely responding to any of them. When Angel had mentioned it to Buffy, the slayer had just chuckled knowingly, and told him to take the seer upstairs for some rest, so she could 'get used to it'. She wouldn't elaborate any further than that.


Once Cordelia was settled in, Angel wandered back downstairs, to see what the others were doing. He walked with his shoulders slumped slightly, a little guilty about being so far from Cordy in the fight. He'd been a short way away at the time with Wesley, chasing down a demon they'd wounded, and by the time they got back, the battle was over. Maybe if he'd seen what she had seen, he'd know how to help her.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he noticed Xander in the dining room with Ayndene and Deveroux.

Angel thought, as he walked up behind them.

Just then, the three of them fell silent, and Xander turned to look at him, the strangest little smile on his face.

"Hiya, Deadboy! How's tricks?"

"Don't call me that, Xander." Angel replied, growling slightly at the infuriating nickname.

"Whatever. How's Cordy doing?"

"I guess she'll be okay. She's just a little shaken up. She's asleep in Joyce's old room."

"She'll be fine. She just has to get used to it." Xander remarked offhandedly.

"You know, Buffy said the same thing. What are you two talking about?"

"So how's LA treating you?" Xander asked, ignoring Angel's question.

"Err...fine." The vampire replied, narrowing his eyes.

"Good, good. Anyway, I guess you'll all be crashing here tonight, so you can take the cot in the basement. It's nice and free of all that pesky sunlight."

"Gee, thanks." Angel muttered almost silently.

"You're welcome." Xander replied brightly, before turning to Ayndene and Deveroux.

"I guess you could take the first guest room with Gunn." He said, pointing to Ayndene.

"Thanks." She replied, smiling.

Just then, Buffy stuck her head in from the kitchen, where she'd been listening. "Me, Faith, and Willow can all grab sleeping bags and crash in Dawn's room. I'm sure she won't mind."

"Okay, Buff." Xander replied, giving her a smile. "Could you go tell Giles, Wesley, and Oz to pull out the other cots from the attic, along with that Lorne guy, and take the other guestroom?"

"Sure." Buffy replied, before she disappeared back into the kitchen.

Finally, Xander turned to Deveroux. "And as for the two of us, we'll be taking the two couches in the living room. We have guard duty."

"I hate you." Deveroux replied, smiling slightly.

"Shut up." Xander shot back.

Once everyone had their sleeping arrangements sorted out, they all wrapped up their conversations, bid one another goodnight, and headed sleepily off to bed.


Almost everyone was slow to wake the following morning, opting to sleep in a little, instead.

Orlin and Deveroux, however, were up with the sun, mostly due to the uncomfortable night they had spent on the couches.

"Gentlemen, my ass..." Deveroux grumbled in Lurin, the Illuminati native language, as he stretched out his sore muscles. "Next time, I'm taking one of the beds."

"Quit your bellyaching, Dev." Xander/Orlin responded in the same language, with a grin. "You'll live."

"No one has the right to be so cheery this early in the morning. I demand you be sullen and grumpy like a normal person." Deveroux snapped, only half serious.

"But then I wouldn't be able to enjoy your chipper mood." Xander replied sarcastically.

"Whatever. I'm going for a run."

"Wait up. I'll join you."

The two of them quietly changed into jogging clothes, let themselves out, and began jogging down the street. They ran in silence for about ten minutes, before Deveroux spoke up.

"So. You and Buffy, eh?"

"Yeah." Xander replied.

"A little quick, don't you think?"

Xander stopped running, and turned to face Deveroux. "What do you mean?"

Deveroux raised an eyebrow. "Well, one minute she's totally rejecting you, and the next minute, you two are all googly-eyes. All in one day. Doesn't that seem a little weird to you?"

"Well, I'll admit it caught me a little off guard, but..."

"A little off guard? Freakin' houseflies have longer courtships than this."

"Buffy and I known each other for seven years. We're not exactly strangers, you know." Xander said as he started jogging again. "Looking back, I should've seen this coming."

"I know, I know. I'm just telling you to slow down. Take it too fast, and the whole thing will just burn itself up before it ever really began."

Xander considered Deveroux's words, before nodding slowly. "Nice. Get that one from Ayni?"


"Then who?"

"Your mom, actually."

"Got hooked into staying for dinner again, huh?" Xander said with a laugh.

"Got it in one. I can't even deliver a letter from her own son without being forced to eat." Deveroux fixed Xander with a mock glare. "Apparently, I'm all skin and bones, and you should be ashamed of yourself."

Xander rolled his eyes. "I'll never understand her need to 'adopt' every one of my friends into the family."

"Ours is not to reason why..."

"Fair enough." Xander chuckled.

"Hey, at least she's stopped trying to convince me to and Ayni to get married, and have lots of little kids for her to spoil rotten. I mean really, me and Ayni? It'd be like marrying my sister." Deveroux muttered, shuddering slightly.

"Oh, admit it. You've considered it." Xander scoffed.

"Of course I have. I mean, who wouldn't. Just look at her." Deveroux said thoughtfully. "But we know each other too well, and for too long. It'd just get weird. Besides, I have prospects of my own."

"I'll bet."

"I do!"

"Whatever, man. Let's start heading back."

"Yeah, alright."

After they had run for a few miles more, the two of them returned to the Summers house, barely even out of breath, but certainly in higher spirits.

"So, Orlin, my friend..." Deveroux began. "What's for breakfast?"

"I dunno. What're you making?" Xander replied.

"Oh, har, har. Seriously, though, I'm really hungry."

"Poor baby." Xander laughed. "I think there's some cereal in the cupboard, and the milk is in the fridge."

"Cool. Thanks, Orlin."



"Call me Xander, at least around the others. It's less confusing."

"Uh, alright...Xander it is, then."

With that, the two of them walked into the kitchen, and started rooting through the cupboards, searching for something to eat.


As the morning went on, people began flowing into the kitchen one by one, looking for food. By nine-thirty, though, everyone was up and about, with the exception of Angel, who was hiding from the sun in the basement, and Cordelia, who was still asleep.

Once everyone had their breakfast of choice, they gathered around the kitchen island, as Giles called for their attention.

"Alright, everyone. Now that we are all here, and because I know Angel is listening through the door..."

A slight thump was heard behind the basement door.

"I believe we should begin by clarifying to everyone why you are all here." Giles continued, gesturing to the LA group.

"Well, as I was saying last night, Cordelia had a vision of some importance, regarding the...err...First Evil?" Wesley said, sparing a glance at Ayndene, who simply nodded.

Everyone in the room shuddered slightly, remembering their previous encounters with the First, before Wesley laid it all down for them.

The First's plan, or what little they knew of it.

The Nocturni, and their history.

Cordelia's vision, and the supposed history of things to come.

Once he was finished, they all sat in silence for a while, digesting the information they had been given.

"So" Gunn said, breaking the oppressive silence. "What's the move?"

"First, we train." Giles stated. "We need to get used to working together, and learn how to complement each other's styles."

"Once we know our own abilities, we can put together a proper battle strategy." Wesley continued. "According to the vision, we have five days from now to discover, and stop the Nocturni plans."

"And after five days?" Willow asked.

"You really don't want to know." Ayndene replied.

Deveroux nodded in agreement from his position, sitting on the kitchen counter.

"Any questions?" Giles asked, looking around the group. When no one spoke up, he nodded sagely. "Very well. We have a training room set up in the Magic Box downtown. Someone get a blanket for Angel, and we'll be on our way."

As the group scattered to get ready to go, no one noticed the small smile of anticipation on Xander's face as he crept quietly out of the room.


Cordelia awoke slowly, trying valiantly to keep from regaining consciousness. Digging herself further into the blankets, it took her a few moments to notice that this wasn't her room.

Hell, it wasn't even her apartment.

Suddenly, the events of the previous night came rushing back at her.

Snapping back to full awareness, she sat up with a jolt.

"Xander! My God..."

Untangling herself from the covers, she leaped out of the bed she had been placed in. Looking down, she found she was still dressed as she had been last night.

She hated sleeping in her clothes.

Now she was really pissed.

Steeling herself, she moved toward the door with every intention of tearing Xander Harris a new one.

"How dare he!" She fumed. "That lying, deceptive, dishonest...Jerk! Why I oughta..."

"Slow deep breaths, Cordy." Came a voice from behind her.

Startled, she spun around, to see Xander himself perched on the windowsill, grinning at her.


She immediately lunged at him, fully intent on smacking him upside the head. Just milliseconds before she could reach him, though, he blurred out of sight. Overextended, she began to topple forward. Suddenly, she felt herself stop halfway through the fall. Opening her eyes, she found her view was filled with the grinning face of Xander Harris, as she lay in his arms.

His chocolate brown eyes, filled with laughter, seemed to make all the anger drain from her.

"Damn it, Xander. You probably could've mentioned the Illuminati thing earlier." She said, extricating herself from his arms. "You scared the living crap outta me."

"Yeah, sorry bout that. It happens. But don't tell Angel, or Wes. I have a surprise in store for them."

"Oh, really?" She said, smirking slightly.


"Fine. I won't say a word. It'll be worth it, just for the looks on their faces."

"Thanks, Cordy. I guess it did kinda come out of left field, didn't it?" Xander suddenly asked with a laugh.

"Kinda." Cordelia replied, laughing too. "So, how's it been going here in Sunnyhell since I left?"

"Same old, same old." Xander answered. "Government built demon cyborgs, insane rogue Hell gods, evil nerds, Spike. They came, they saw, we conquered. Oh, and me and Buffy are dating. Cool, huh? How about you?"

Raising an eyebrow, Cordelia began ticking things off on her fingers. "Oh, you know, evil law firms, visions, vampire births, becoming half demon, angsty teenagers, ascending to higher plains, descending again, and a rain of fire. Nothing too surprising."

"Wow." Xander said, smiling. "I talked to Ayni already, and she says you know the drill."

"That's right."

"Thank god. If I had to go through that whole explanation one more time, I swear I'd go nuts."

"Well, if you drop a bomb like this on people, it tends to freak them out. They usually want answers."

"I get that. So, half demon, huh?"

"Yep. Helps me deal with the visions better."

"Right on."

"Yeah. Now, about you and Buffy..."

The air having been cleared between them, the two of them chattered away like it was old times again, before going downstairs to meet the others.


The Magic Box
1 Hour Later

"Angel! For the trillionth time, I'm fine! I just had a close call with a demon, and got a little spooked, is all." Cordelia insisted, waving her hands in the air. "You don't need to be so clingy. Go play with the others, or something."

"Fine." Angel muttered, as he wandered off toward the training room.

From the training room door, Deveroux made a coughing sound that sounded suspiciously like "Whipped." before he stepped into the next room. Everyone else followed, trying hard not to laugh at the vampire.

Xander thought as they gathered around Giles in the centre of the room. Oz and Lorne, opting to watch for the first while, found seats on the side.

"Now then," Giles began. "I'm going to pair off the fighters for some warm- up sparring. Buffy and Faith, you're partners. Wesley and Mr. Gunn..."

"Just Gunn." The aforementioned man said from the corner.

"Ah. Very well. Wesley and Gunn, you're paired together. Cordelia, Dawn, I'd like the two of you to go practice your sword tactics."

"Yay." The teen cried, grabbing Cordelia by the hand and dragging her off.

"As for you two." Giles said, pointing at Deveroux and Ayndene. "You may practice together if you so choose, otherwise, I was hoping you could watch the others, and give a little coaching if you could."

"We'd be happy to." Ayndene replied. Deveroux nodded in agreement.

"Willow, you and I will research any useful spells for the situation." The elder Englishman continued. "And for you, Angel..."

"That's okay, Giles." The ensouled vampire replied. "I'll wait for Buffy, or Faith. Besides, LA has kept me in pretty good shape."

"Actually..." Giles began, before he saw Xander shaking his head. The younger man winked, pointed to himself, and grinned. Giles nodded almost imperceptibly in understanding.

"That should be fine, Angel. Do relax." Giles finished, as a chilling grin spread across his features. Gesturing to Willow, he turned to leave, as the other groups began squaring off.

Passing Xander on his way out, the watcher placed a hand on the young man's shoulder, and whispered into his ear. "Give him one for me, lad."

Xander nodded, as his grin suddenly became much more vicious.

Angel, meanwhile, for reasons he could not explain, felt a sudden shiver travel down his spine. He shook it off, however, and resumed watching the others spar.

He watched Faith and Buffy face off for nearly ten minutes, before he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning, he found Xander grinning at him.

"Hey there, Deadboy."

"What do you want, Xander?" Angel asked, scowling.

"How 'bout a match? I need to stay in practice, after all."

In years past, Angel almost would have laughed at the idea of Xander facing him in a fight, but this was not years past, and this was not the same Angel.

Oh no.

This Angel actually did laugh.

"You?" He sputtered out. "And me...? Xander, are you feeling alright?"

"What's the matter?"

"Well, for starters, it'd be a little one sided."

"That's certainly true." Xander snorted.

Angel frowned slightly. "I don't want to hurt you, or anything. Why don't you go help Willow and Giles? Try to stay out of trouble?"

"Excuse me?" Xander replied, raising an eyebrow.

By now, the others had stopped fighting, and were gathering around to watch the growing conflict, each group with it's own expression. The Scoobies, along with Deveroux, Ayndene, and Cordelia, watched with amusement, while Faith and Wesley both looked concerned, and a little frustrated.

"Xander, I'm not going to fight you. Give it up."


"Xander, please see reason." Wesley broke in. "Angel could seriously injure you. Perhaps it would be best for you to go and sit with Oz and Lorne."

"Totally, boytoy. We don't need you getting beat up over an ego trip." Faith added. "Only human, and all that."

Cordelia coughed from the corner, as her shoulders shook with silent laughter.

Xander grinned again, and stared Angel right in the eye, making the vampire slightly nervous. "Well if you're so tough, why don't you try and prove it?"

"What are you..." Angel began.

"Lay a hit on me. One hit. Hell, one tap, and I'll leave you alone. Swear to God." Xander finished, placing his hand over his heart.

"This is ridiculous." The vampire replied.

"Then why are you stalling?" Xander shot back.

Smirking, Angel took a half-hearted swing at Xander, which the man easily dodged.

"Oh, c'mon Deadboy. Put some heat behind it."

Another, slightly faster swing. Another dodge.

"What the matter, Overbite? Getting too old for this?" Xander taunted him.

Another fast swing, another miss.

"I bet Ol' Angelus coulda done better..."

"Don't go there, Xander." Angel warned, tensing up.

"Fuck you, Grateful Dead. At least he had style." Xander replied, accompanied with a lightning fast jab to Angel's ribs.

As the vampire recoiled, more from shock than pain. "What the..."

"Watch it." Ayndene warned from her corner.

"I'll leave him in one piece." Was Xander's reply.

"Come on, Angelus." Xander sneered. "You never really liked me. Here's your chance. Take your shot. Wipe the grin off my face, I dare you."

Angel, growing more furious by the moment, struggled to hold his inner demon in check. "Some things never change! You're still the stupid little boy jumping in over your head."

"And you're still an animated corpse without a backbone. If big bad Angelus couldn't do it, how could you? Take your shot, Deadboy, unless you're too scared...

That was it. Angel didn't care who this boy was, he was going to be taught a lesson he would not soon forget about respecting his superiors.

Infuriated beyond belief, Angel vamped out, and charged at the boy, intent on tearing him apart, moving with every fraction of his vampiric speed. Every negative emotion in his body was focused on this single task.

As he grew closer, he saw that Xander hadn't moved an inch. He just stood there, grinning. If he had been paying attention, he would have noticed that no one except Wesley and Faith were moving to stop him. They all just watched as he rushed at Xander, as if they were waiting for something.

Faith and Wesley were too far away to stop him, not that it mattered. Even if they had been right there, he doubted they could have done much.

Finally, he was close enough to reach out and smash Xander's face in. He drew back his fist, when suddenly, everything changed.

Faster than even his eyes could track, Xander was enveloped in darkness, and his eyes flashed a brilliant silver.

Then the fear hit, and he realized his mistake.

{Oh shit...}

Before he could react, his wild punch was stopped in midair by a cold, metallic grip. An intense force struck his chest, blasting him across the room, where he landed in a painful heap.

He had barely half a second to realize what had happened before something slammed into his stomach, driving him into the wall. As he slowly tried to climb to his feet, he felt himself get blown across the room again by a massive strike to the jaw.

He landed in the centre of the room, where he lay, dazed, for a very long millisecond, and then it was back. Something immensely strong pounced on top of him, pinning him to the floor without a hope of recovery.

The fight was over before it had even begun. He had gone from a raging vampire to so much dead weight in roughly three seconds.

Out of sheer willpower, he overcame the terror that gripped him, and pried his eyes open, only to be faced with his nightmares given form.

It loomed over him silently, the folds of its cloak flowing in an unfelt breeze. Every light in the room seemed drawn to it, yet it remained dark, unyielding. The only indications of life were the two faintly glowing silver eyes beneath the hood.

In its armoured claw it held a deadly looking katana, which was currently pointed directly at Angel's throat.

Angel decided not to move.

The two of them remained in that position for what felt like eternity. Finally, just when Angel thought he was going to piss his pants out of sheer terror, a calm, clear voice rang out.

"That's enough, Orlin." Ayndene said coolly.

The creature turned its head a fraction of an inch toward her. "Le ist tanka?"

"Yes, I'm sure." She replied. "I think he's learned his lesson. You don't need to hurt him."

The shadowy creature once again turned his gaze on Angel, before sheathing his sword, and leaning in close.

"Do we have an understanding, Deadboy?"

Angel nodded dumbly, still trembling slightly.

Then as quickly as it had appeared, the darkness was gone. Xander stood there, still grinning. Reaching out, he patted Angel on the shoulder. "Good. No more misunderstandings, then."

With that, he turned and walked off to the side, leaving Angel, Faith, and Wesley gaping in shock. Sitting down next to Deveroux, he just smirked at them.

Finally, after a long moment, Faith began chuckling. Glancing from Angel, to Deveroux, and finally back to Xander, she finally spoke. "Oh man, did this ever get interesting."


"Don't you think that was a little extreme?" Deveroux asked quietly.

"Naa. Deadboy's had that coming to him for years. Besides, it wasn't about me. Let's just call it revenge by proxy, shall we?"

"Whatever. It was pretty funny, though."

"Yeah, I know. As if he were ever actually in any danger."

The two of them started chuckling quietly, as everyone gathered around Angel and Wesley, who were still borderline catatonic. They slowly ushered Wesley out of the room, speaking softly.

"C'mon Wes." Lorne said as he guided the Englishman along. "Let's go have a nice cup of tea."

"T-t-tea?" Wesley asked tentatively.

"That's right, Wes."

"With biscuits?" The man continued, in a child like voice.

"Sure, Sweetie. No problem."

"Oh. Okay."

With that, the Anagogic Demon and the Ex-watcher left the room.

Angel, however, managed to gather his courage, and approached Xander, albeit very slowly.



"All this time?"


"Then why did you...I mean...when Angelus was...why didn't you..."

"Take you out?"

The vampire nodded cautiously.

"You got lucky. I was all ready to dust you when it was found that 'someone' had a bigger plan for you. Namely, the whole champion bit, after a short stopover in Hell. You were off limits."

"And now?"

"What do you mean, 'And now'? Ayni would never speak to me again if I hurt you. You just needed to be taken down a notch or two."


"Because the things were gonna be fighting are as fast and as strong as I am. If you can't face me, what hope do you have against them?"

Angel nodded again in understanding, and then he slowly extended his hand.

Xander looked surprised for a moment, but accepted the small peace offering. As the pair shook hands, Angel quirked a small smile. "I may be over two hundred years old, but even I can admit when I'm wrong."

"Apology accepted, Deadboy."

"Besides..." Angel continued, suddenly grinning. "I still want a rematch."

Xander laughed out loud. "Whatever else I could say about you, Angel, you've got guts."


Chapter 13
Dance With The Devil

"When you dance with the Devil, the Devil don't change. The Devil changes you."

- 8mm


Two Hours Later...

After a couple hours of highly amusing 'practice', more accurately described as a mass beating, and much grumbling about small breakfasts, the group decided to break for lunch. They'd all chipped in some cash, had pizza delivered en masse, and were currently devouring it with alarming speed and efficiency.

In between bites, they swapped tales of grand battles, and simple childhood memories. Not to mention the occasional humiliating story.

"So anyway, I get out of bed to look out the window, and there he is, standing in the middle of my front yard, in the middle of the night, drunk off his ass..." Ayndene said, laughing, as she reached for another slice of pepperoni and mushrooms. "...and naked as the day he was born."

"Naked?" Faith asked, nearly choking on her pizza as she held back her own laughter.

"I was not naked!" Deveroux interrupted.

"Naked." Ayndene confirmed, winking at Deveroux. "So, he's standing there, yelling at my window and trying to get my attention, when my father decides to go out and see what all the commotion is."

"No!" Willow exclaimed.

"Yes!" Ayndene laughed.

"You're flirting with death here, Ayni..." Deveroux warned her.

Ignoring him, she continued. "Now, faced with the prospect of being caught by my father, Deveroux did what was, to him, the only logical thing. He picked up his bottle of whiskey, cried 'Have a drink!' and hurled it at my father's head."

A collective gasp followed.

"Then what?" Buffy encouraged.

"Well my dad was furious, as you can imagine. After he dodged the bottle, he rushed at Deveroux, who promptly took off like a bat outta hell down the street."

Angel, Gunn, Oz and Giles all nodded solemnly in understanding. Xander just laughed. Deveroux shot him a glare that could vaporize steel.

"What followed is legendary to this very day." Ayndene went on. "My father, a well-respected scholar, chased a completely naked Deveroux for nearly eight miles, weaving a string of profanities that, some people say, you can still hear echoing through the city to this very day."

"Did he ever catch him?" Dawn asked.

"Of course he did, but even I don't know what happened after that. All I know is that when they returned a few hours later, Dev was dressed, and completely sober. He didn't speak to anyone for at least a week. I've tried to get it out of both of them, but they aren't talking."

Deveroux turned to the group, smiling apologetically. "I'm sorry you all had to listen to this pack of lies. You see, there was actually another Deveroux, an evil Deveroux, and...I killed him."

A heartbeat later, the lot of them burst out laughing.

Amid the laughter, Deveroux grinned at Ayndene. "Hey, Ayni? Do you think they'd like hearing about that incident at the Guardian Academy? You know the one..."

Ayndene narrowed her eyes slightly, and slowly shook her head. "No..."

"Oh, you remember. Your sixteenth birthday...?" He trailed off.

Ayndene suddenly went very pale. "You wouldn't."

Deveroux just raised an eyebrow, and smiled.

"Ohhh...that's a low blow, Dev."

"I know."

"What incident?" Gunn asked.

"If you value your life, Charles," Ayndene snapped. "You'll never ask me that again."

As Deveroux and Ayndene continued to glare at one another, Buffy took Xander's arm, and led him away from the group. They slipped away, unnoticed, into the training room.

Once they were away from the others, Buffy turned to him with a serious look on her face.

"Buffy, what's wrong?" Xander asked.

"I need you to tell me something."


"Why am I even here?"

"You mean, why are you alive, or why are you in the back room?"

"I mean, why do slayers even exist? The Illuminati could do my job better, faster, and with a higher survival rate. What's the point of having a girl with a one year life-span on the job?"

"I dunno."

"You don't know?"

"Contrary to popular belief, Buff, I'm not God. A Viking in the sack, but not God." He commented, grinning, before growing serious. "I don't know everything. All I know is, the slayer slays, and the Illuminati protect. And I'd say we're both pretty good at our jobs."

"Oh." The slayer responded, blushing slightly. "So how old are you, anyway?"

Xander blinked at the non sequiter. "Huh?"

"Sorry. I mean, we all think your twenty-two, but that can't be right."

"How do you figure?"

"Willow has known you since kindergarten, which leaves only a few years of your life un-witnessed, and you were just a 'little kid' then."

"Love the air quotes."

"Thanks. Anyway, I figure you must be way older than you say, or you wouldn't have had time to do any training, or time to grow up with your real family."

"Well, your logic is sound. Wrong, but at least sound."


"Yep. For my first ten years in Sunnydale, every time Willow thought I was on vacation, or home sick, or even sleeping, I was actually back home, either visiting my family, or training. Or, you know, actually asleep."

"Okay. That answers that."

"I should hope so. I'm starting to feel like a narrator to my own life."

"Sorry, but that's what you get for lying."

"It's alright. Now, let get back in there before all the pizza is gone."

"Good call."


Somewhere Else...

The dark figure stalked back and forth through the dimly lit space, occasionally glancing at the only other occupant, a trembling vampire on its knees in the middle of the room.

Slowly, it stepped from the shadows, revealing a beautiful woman. She slowly leaned down to the vampire, her long, red hair framing her face, and stroked its cheek softly. "Explain."

The vampire just continued to tremble, appearing to be on the edge of tears.

"Nothing to say? Please allow me, then. You were sent with nearly a hundred others to...dispose of the ensouled one, a single vampire, and a few humans." She laughed lightly. "And now you are the only survivor? Would that be relatively accurate?"

The poor creature shuddered at her tone, and nodded submissively. "But..."

"But what?" She commanded suddenly, grabbing the vampire by the hair, pulling its head back violently.

"There were others!" It screamed in terror. "Powerful ones, mistress! Ones like you!"

"Like me?" The woman asked innocently. "How?"

"They were strong, and so fast. We never stood a chance."

Her hand removed itself from his hair, and returned to stroking his cheek. "Poor, poor boy. Were you scared?"

The vampire nodded dumbly.

"Good." In a swift wrist motion, she snapped the vampire's neck, and it fell to the ground, crippled. "Quoris?"

Another figure, a short and wiry Asian, appeared from the shadows. "Yes, Naryn?"

"It appears this situation has grown more complicated. The Ensouled one has survived our attempt on his life. What of the Slayer?"

"She lives still. While our control over the inferior they trusted was complete, and he did carry out his task, there was outside interference. An Illuminati." Quoris spat the word out like some vile curse, his face twisted in disgust.

"That's two thus far..." She muttered. "How troublesome."

He looked up at her. "Perhaps this will require a more decisive action on our part."

"Such as?" She inquired.

"I believe these Illuminati need to be...dealt with."

"No, I will not allow it." Naryn responded, raising an eyebrow. "To do so would risk our exposure."

"And to do nothing," A third voice interrupted. "Would assure it. Making decisions behind my back again, Naryn?"

"Treven..." Naryn began.

"It was a simple task, Naryn. I thought even you would be able to carry it out. Instead, not only do you fail, but also you begin to issue incompetent commands as well, without consulting me. We are doing well, aren't we?" Treven cut in, a vaguely amused expression crossing his face.


"Spare me." Treven interrupted again, raising a hand. "I'm not in the mood for your excuses. Quoris, I want you to find the Illuminati, wait till they're alone, and finish them off."

"And if they are not alone?" The smaller man asked.

"Then kill whoever is with them. Take Kassius with you. He's been restless for a fight as it is."

Quoris bowed, and slipped out of the room. Once he was gone, Treven turned to Naryn, grinning.

"And how to deal with you?" He said mockingly.

"Treven, please. I was only..." She was silenced by a vicious backhand that sent her to the ground, a thin line of black blood trailing down her cheek.

"Be quiet, Naryn." Treven snapped, before he continued pleasantly. "Forget your place again, and I won't be nearly as pleasant, or forgiving, as I was today. Fail me again, and you may not only find my patience does have its limits, but that you are no longer useful to me. Do you understand?"

She nodded, shuddering slightly. "Yes, Treven."

He smiled a truly cold smile, and turned to leave the room. Pausing at the doorway, he turned, and pointed at the paralysed vampire, twitching slightly on the floor. "And get that cleaned up."


"What do you mean there's no Meat-Lover's left?" Xander cried indignantly.

"I mean there's no Meat-Lovers left. I ate it all." Dawn repeated slowly. "Duh."

"Oh, I like this kid." Deveroux chuckled.

"Don't you start, too." Xander muttered at him, as he sat down next to Buffy. "This is unbelievable. I'm expected to fight off the greatest enemy the Illuminati have ever known, without my Meat-Lover's pizza? Sacrilege."

"I'm sure you'll live, Xan." Faith consoled him, hiding a smile. "I too know the pain of sausage deprivation."

"Faith!" Willow hissed.

"What?" The dark haired slayer shot back, before it clicked in her mind. Rolling her eyes, she responded slowly. "I meant actual sausage, Red, as in the food. Get your mind outta the gutter."

"I tried, but I can't." The redhead grinned.

Faith's eyes widened slightly. "Whoa. Bad Willow. When did this happen?"

"Last year." Xander answered shortly.

"Ah..." The Boston native replied. "Musta been a hell of a year."

"Yep." Buffy replied. "Now let us never speak of it again."

"Agreed." Xander, Dawn, Willow, and Giles chorused absent-mindedly.

"Okay, what was that?" Angel asked, looking somewhat confused.

"We'd tell you, but we've sworn never to speak of it again." Buffy explained, smiling sadly. "With some experiences, all you can do is take the lessons they have to offer you, and leave the baggage in the past, you know?"

The vampire nodded solemnly. "Yeah, I get it."

Deveroux smirked. "Oh, lighten up, everyone. We're only facing near certain doom."

"Been there, done that." Ayndene added.

"And on that note, I'd say that lunch is over." Giles cut in. "I have a basic afternoon training schedule drawn up, so let's get started."

A few glances were passed around, and amid a chorus of groans and muttered half-threats, they all climbed to their feet and made their way to the back.


Later That Evening...

"Goddammit, Harris!" Angel cried from the floor, as he gingerly placed a hand against four fresh cuts on his cheek. "Wasn't that a little too close?"

"Horseshoes and hand grenades, Deadboy..." A smirking Xander replied, as his gauntlets retracted.

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Are you dust?"

"Of course not."

"Then it wasn't too close, was it?" The Illuminati concluded, offering his hand to the fallen vampire. "You've got to do better than this."

"I'm doing my best." Angel replied, as he was pulled to his feet.

"Oh, you are not." Buffy chided him from the sidelines. "You can't fool me, Angel. You're holding back."

"Am not." He grumbled.

"Are too," The Slayer shot back, smiling. "And if you keep arguing like a twelve year old, I'm gonna come over there and swat you."

"Angel, it obvious what's happening..." Xander stated seriously. "You're intimidated by my presence, and feel you can't, shall we say...measure up?"

The vampire's eyes widened. "What? Why I oughta..."

"As amusing as all this is, and it really is," Deveroux interrupted. "The sun just set, so what say we all go do what we do best, eh?"

"Sound like a plan to me." Gunn agreed, as he retrieved his favourite axe from his bag. "All this sitting around is driving me up the wall."

Everyone turned immediately to Giles, who stared right back at them. "What?"

"What's the plan, G?" Faith asked, as her eyebrows rose expectantly.

"Why do you all simply assume I have a plan?"

The only response was a few shrugs and head scratches.

After a moment, Faith tried again. "Well?"

With a long-suffering sigh, Giles surrendered. "Very well, The LA team, consisting of Angel, Cordelia, Gunn, you prefer Fred or Ayndene?"

"Ayndene, if you please." The woman in question answered.

"Right. You'll head west, through Restfield and Memorial cemeteries."

"We're on it." Angel replied.

"Buffy," The Watcher continued. "I'd like you, Xander, Willow, and Oz to go north, covering Pineview cemetery, and re-checking Shady Hills. If there is any trouble like last night, I want you to return here as quickly as possible, understood?"

"I got it." Buffy confirmed.

"Faith, I'd like you and Deveroux to do a sweep of the residential areas in southern Sunnydale, by way of Southridge cemetery. Look for anything unseemly."

"What about the east side?" Gunn asked.

"We rarely see much demonic activity in eastern Sunnydale. Whether it's too close to the desert, or too far from the Hellmouth, we don't know. To be safe, though, I'll take a quick drive through there with Wesley, just to be sure."

"Speaking of which, where is he?" Cordelia asked. "I haven't seen him since this morning."

"Ah, yes." Giles grinned slightly. "After his reaction to this, I sent him into my office to research the Nocturni."

"For the millionth time, Giles, you won't find..." Xander groaned, rolling his eyes.

"I know, I know." The older man replied. "It's just busy work till his head clears a bit. After all, he spent the majority of his last years at the Watcher's Academy studying the 'myth' of the Illuminati. The last couple of days have been a severe shock for him, I'm sure."

Willow nodded sagely. "That's true. I mean, for him to..."

"Ahem!" All eyes turned to Faith and Deveroux, who were standing by the door.

"If you're finished with the character study, maybe we could get going?" Deveroux asked.

"Seriously, folks. We're burning moonlight here." Faith added.

"My thoughts exactly." Gunn agreed, taking a few practice swings.

"Yes, quite." Giles nodded, looking properly chastised.

Moments later, they left the shop, and scattered across the small California town.


As the moonlight filtered in through the windows, the lone figure in the room peered out over the unknowingly cursed town. Closing his eyes, he reached out and felt for the ebb and flow of energy that pulsated throughout this place. He bowed his head forward, white hair concealing his face.

"Yes," He whispered reverently, in response to an unheard voice. "I'm coming..."

A lovely, but mocking voice pierced his thoughts. "Really, Treven. Hearing voices, are we? Not a good sign."

Sneering, he turned to see a beautiful young girl materialize through the wall. A cruel smile adorned her face as she swaggered toward him, hips swaying seductively. "What do you want, you glorified ghost?"

Her smile never wavered, though a dangerous shine appeared in her eyes. "I want a great many things, Nocturni, but they will come to me in time. For now, though, I simply come to deliver a little news."

"Out with it then. I've no time for your silly games." He snapped back.

"You forget yourself, Treven. I hold all the cards here. You owe me your allegiance."

"I owe you nothing but my side of a simple bargain." Treven hissed, blue eyes flashing. "We will clear the way for you, and you will return what is ours. Now, say what you've come to say, and be gone."

She studied him for a moment. "Illuminati are here. Three of them."

"I know that. They'll be dealt with shortly."

"Unfortunately, it's not that simple. They know of our agreement. Those infernal meddlers among the Powers That Be warned them."

"And how much do they know?"

"Not everything, but enough to make things...difficult...for us. They also overestimate your numbers." She gazed at him. "Make certain they're dead, Treven. The People Of The Light have a way of coming back to haunt you."

With a final glance, she turned and faded away, leaving Treven alone with his thoughts. Moving back to the window, he once more looked out over the city.

"When all this is done, you vile phantom, I'll be sure to deal with you as well." He whispered to the air. "You may have been The First, shadow, but you won't be the last."