Part One

"Forgive me father for I have sinned, but then you already know that don't you?" Xander knelt in the church, resting his head on the cool wood of the pew in front of him. He came every morning to the little church on the outskirts of Sunnydale to pray. He wasn't sure anymore if he came still looking for forgiveness or out of habit. Xander knew, as he measured time, it hadn't been long since he'd been cast out from Heaven but it felt like eternity for the young angel. What he thought would be a relatively short banishment had turned into almost twenty years. Twenty years of suffering and pain. "Pride goeth before a fall, not that I didn't deserve it," he murmured softly to himself thinking back.


His sin was the same sin every angel was prone to - pride. Angels were better then these talking monkeys, these humans. How could the Divine care about these mewling, dirty creatures? Why should angels be supplanted by these animals? They had fought a war to defend Heaven from the Fallen and their reward was to be set aside for these things that barely even acknowledged the Creator's existence? He had sided with Gabriel and spoken
openly against Michael. The monkeys should be exterminated. It would be a kindness, they were hardly aware they had a life, he argued. It would be a mercy. Michael had looked into his eyes and told him he was about to learn all about mercy. There was a tearing sound and then he was falling and all he could think was that he was being cast out and he would never stop falling and this was the worst feeling he would ever feel. He was being condemned to Hell. But it was worse, he had been condemned to be human.

He had been reborn as a baby. He had felt nothing but contempt for his parents, and they sensing his Otherness had tended to ignore him. His life had been bleak as a child, but he had learned to accept it. He chatted to the half-seen flickers of light that always seemed to dance in his room even on the cloudiest of days and consoled himself that this too would pass. Then he met Willow and Jesse and things had begun to change. Their love and acceptance warmed him and reminded him of Heaven. Protecting Willow and Jesse and being protected in turn, learning to be a friend; he finally began to learn his lesson. Humans weren't just monkeys that didn't deserve to sit at the side of the Presence. They were special. He found joy in Willows babblings and Jesse's jokes. He discovered love and an ability to laugh at himself. He began to re-learn the lessons of faith and compassion. He'd always felt that his friends would have accepted him even if they knew the truth of his origins.

There were times when he was sitting with Willow or hanging out with Jesse that he just wanted to blurt out the truth, but some tiny part of him held back in fear that his admission would change their relationship. Besides, what difference would it have made, he didn't have any special powers or attributes unless you counted the fact that every demon he came across sensed "something" about him that irritated the hell out of them. No, all he wanted to do was hang with his friends and keep out of trouble until he could go Home. He'd been doing so well too, right up until the Slayer came to town.

As soon as he saw her he'd known this was a test - a test of faith. He had been drawn to her, drawn to that touch of the Divine that marked every Slayer. Like himself, she was one of Heaven's soldiers. To be near Buffy was akin being near a warm fire on a cold night. How could he not have loved her? And yet, she made him feel his Otherness all the more. He felt
lonely in a way that even Willow and Jesse's love couldn't wholly alleviate. He felt fear as well, because the presence of a Slayer so near his friends would put them in danger. Still, he hadn't been able to deny Willow when she said they should help Buffy. How could he? Then Jesse had been turned and in the face of his friend he saw one of the Fallen. As he struck the blow that destroyed the body of his friend, he felt his heart break but he hung onto his faith, just barely. "For everything there is a season and a purpose", he wept to himself. "I will protect Willow and the Slayer and keep my faith," Xander swore. "I will not fail."

It had been hard, harder then he could have ever imagined. Not only was he effected by the Slayer, but puberty had set in with a vengeance. In his calmer moments he would laugh to himself and think "good joke Father". And then there was Angel. They couldn't help but irritate each other. Every time he was near Angel he wanted to attack the demon to protect his friends, but Xander had clenched his teeth and repeated his oath to keep faith.

When they fought the Master and he saved Buffy's life, he thought his penance was almost over. Surely the saving of the Slayer was his final act of contrition and he had passed all tests? As the summer waned he waited to be summoned home, but nothing happened. Every morning he prayed for some sign, some word of direction. He hadn't understood what further task or test he needed to undertake unless it was the learning of patience, so he tried to accept and wait. Buffy returned, the school year started.

Then Willow had been taken for the Master's resurrection and he had struck out in rage at the Slayer in his fear for Willow. He had felt a coolness pass over his heart. He couldn't lose Willow, he couldn't. He would have no one and he was so lonely. They saved Willow and the others. He begged for forgiveness and understanding. He had been afraid and he had faltered.
He would continue to be patient if that was what was required. And so Xander waited. Then Spike came.

When Xander first saw Spike he almost wept. He felt caught between one heartbeat and the next. He couldn't quite catch his breath. At first he tried to tell himself it was fear and hatred; his close proximity to so many demons. But that lie lasted approximately two seconds before he accepted the true horror of the situation. He was attracted to a demon, one of the Fallen. How could this be? This could not, would not be allowed. This was punishment for his threatening the Slayer. It must be, he had stumbled and was being punished. Perhaps he had damned himself by threatening one of the Divine's instruments? He had hung onto his sanity
until the battle was over and then he ran all the way to the little church on the edge of town, beating on the door and begging for entry. The priest had opened the door and looked at him with sad, knowing eyes. Xander had thrown himself inside and stumbled to his knees in front of the alter and wept as though his heart were breaking.

The priest had held him and rocked him like a child while he cried. "I want to go Home, Father. It's too hard here and I stumble so often and I don't know what I'm supposed to do!"
Xander sobbed.

"Human beings stumble all the time, my child. There will always be a hand to help you up, all you have to do is look for it," the priest said.

"But you don't understand, Father, I don't belong here! I made a mistake and I was punished. I thought my penance was almost over, but now I'm being punished again, only this time the punishment is too much, Father, too much!" Xander said looking into the priest's eyes.

"Are you sure you're being punished, my son? Learning and change are often painful, but that is part of the process and there is no punishment intended. We humans just tend to take things a little personally. And as for not belonging here, well I don't believe that anyone is put where they aren't needed," the priest smiled.

"Father, I don't think you quite understand. I found myself drawn to someone, no something, tonight that is totally inappropriate. It's evil and wrong and obviously at the very least a test of some kind," Xander said rather stuffily.

"Ah, the priest said wisely, you've fallen in lust? Was it a demon, because this town abounds
with them. That is one of the drawbacks of living on a Hellmouth."

Xander's mouth fell open. "Yes," he stuttered. "It was a demon, a vampire and it was terrible because I felt as though I couldn't breathe and like time had stopped."

"Oh dear, child, that doesn't sound like lust to me and I don't think it sounds like lust to you either. That's why you're so upset," the priest said sadly.

"But it must be Father, because I can't love a demon. It's not possible", Xander whispered painfully.

"Well," the priest said briskly, standing up and helping Xander to his feet, "there are reasons for everything. I know this to be true. I don't know the reason for this but it will become clear in time. We shall wait it out, you and I."

That had been four years ago and every morning Xander went to the little church and knelt in front of the alter and prayed. Father Hanson had gotten older and a little slower, but he still heard Xander's confession and listened whenever he needed to talk to someone about Spike.

Xander wondered if the priest suspected that he wasn't quite human. Xander also suspected that the priest knew that he edited his "confessions" a bit. Father Hanson always listened and "tsked" and told him to do about a hundred Acts of Contrition and he'd see him tomorrow.

Xander's love for Spike had changed over the years. It had become deeper for being hidden.
When Spike got the chip, Xander had rejoiced quietly. He watched Spike try to find his way in this brave new world and his heart went out to him. He wanted to go to him and say he understood. He wanted to tell Spike to be patient, that everything would become clear in time, but how could he?

Xander had his faith and sometimes that wavered like a flame in the wind. What could he say to one of the Fallen, this is a test, pass it and all will be forgiven? Xander didn't know that but he wanted, desperately, to believe it. When Spike fell for Buffy and everyone else "wigged big time" as Willow put it, Xander felt hope, although his heart felt torn. One of the Fallen felt love for an instrument of the Divine. Unlike the others, Xander knew Spike's love was true no matter how badly Spike expressed it.

Xander knew a soul wasn't needed to feel love, after all, angels didn't have souls and they loved. He loved Spike and Spike loved Buffy. And then Buffy died.


Part Two

Xander found Spike sitting on top of his crypt, smoking a cigarette and staring off toward the brightening eastern sky. Xander felt his heart, already battered by Buffy's death, skip a beat. On the plus side, Spike hadn't thrown himself on the nearest sharp wooden object; on the minus side, it looked like he was preparing to greet the dawn.

"Hey Spike," Xander said loudly. Spike barely glanced down at him.

" Go away whelp," Spike said calmly. Xander sighed and shook his head.

"Stubborn vampire. Now I'm going to have to climb up there, probably breaking my neck in the process." Xander grumbled to himself as he climbed up the side of the crypt then dropping down next to Spike on the roof.

"You know if you commit suicide, you won't go to heaven," Xander joked.

"You're a right riot there, mate." Spike said without looking at him.

"She wouldn't want this, you know." Xander said gently. "I know you two fought like cats and dogs, but she trusted you in the end and she wouldn't want you giving up like this." Xander touched Spike's arm to get his attention.

"Spike, look at me, please." Xander pleaded softly.

 Spike glanced down at Xander's hand on his arm and then looked up into his eyes.

"Spike, we need you. Dawn needs you. She likes you, God knows why. She's lost enough, don't you think? And hey, who am I gonna trade insults with if you're not around, huh?" Xander tightened his hand on Spike's arm and smiled sadly. "Please, stay." Spike's eyes glistened and he quickly looked away.

"You don't understand, I failed. I was suppose to do one thing, look after the Nibblet and I failed and the Sla -Buffy paid for it with her life. It's my fault." Spike spoke so softly, Xander had to strain to hear his quiet confession.

Xander felt his own eyes tear up and quickly brushed his hand across them. "You mean the Black Knight failed to protect his Lady? Oh, I do understand Spike, believe me, because the White Knight failed his oath as well." Xander said, his mouth twisting in a bitter smile.

"You know, I've been "looking after Buffy" a lot longer then you have so I could argue that last night was my failure, more than yours." Xander held up his hand as Spike opened his mouth to interrupt.

"No, let me finish. I know, I'm just a guy with no super powers or special abilities, so how could I be expected to tip the cosmic scales, turn the tides of fate, hit one for the home team..."

Spike interrupted, "Or get to the bloody point." Xander laughed wryly, "Yeah, or get to the bloody point. What I'm trying to say is that nothing we could have done last night would have changed the outcome of that battle. It wasn't about us, our choices, it was about Buffy and her choices. We were just supporting characters, "All the world's a stage" and all that, you know? What happened last night, is what was meant to happen and we can feel guilty and angry and sad and hurt and everything else and that's okay but, being arrogant enough to think that we could have changed the way things went down last night? No. Take it from me, pride is a real killer." Xander said seriously. He looked deeply into Spike's eyes, willing him to understand.

Spike cocked his head to the side and just stared at him. Xander glanced toward the sky and nervously cleared his throat. "Hey, you think maybe we could take this inside?"

Spike stubbed his cigarette out on the bottom of his boot and brushed his hands off on his jeans, stood up and gave Xander a hard look then lifted his chin, looking for all the world like miffed royalty.

"Doesn't mean you've changed my mind you know. I just decided that I can do this any old time." Spike sniffed, hopping to the ground.

Xander stood and smiled gratefully. "Nope, your Highness, I know no mere human can change the mind of the Big Bad."

"What are you blithering on about whelp?" snapped Spike from below him.

"Nothing, Fangless, nothing at all." Xander said, letting out his breath slowly. Suddenly he laughed for the first time in days. "One step at a time, Xander" he said to himself, "one step at a time."

Xander carefully climbed down from the roof. He always found it ironic that a former angel wasn't more graceful. He spent years bumping into doors, tripping over non-existent cracks in the sidewalk and generally stumbling over his own feet. Neither puberty nor his love for Spike had helped his coordination problem. He was just beginning to feel comfortable in his body.

"And to think it only took twenty years." he thought to himself. No wonder Spike sometimes looked at him with something akin to pity. He entered the crypt, carefully closing the door behind him. Spike had lit the candles and turned on the TV to Good Morning America?!

"Spike, why are we watching morning television?" Xander asked.

"It's soap opera week and they're interviewing Timmy from Passions this morning." Spike
said, while heating a cup of blood to pour over his Wheatabix. Xander stopped, stared at Spike, stared back at the screen, then stared at Spike again.

"So let me get this straight. You were about to commit suicide over the hell of the past few days but, just in case you didn't, you remembered that there was an interview with a Passions' actor on morning television today?" Xander heard his voice rising but he couldn't help it. He tried to tell himself to be calm "He's a demon Xander. This is how they think. They have the emotional development of two year olds. See, want, take - every feeling is all encompassing as it's happening but it can quickly be replaced by another feeling. Spike had decided not to kill himself, for now. Therefore he was free to watch TV. I can accept this." Xander said to himself. "I will not yell. I will be calm."

He saw Spike looking at him warily. "Are you losing it mate, because if you are, I want you to move away from the telly, very slowly."

Xander took a deep breath, counting down from ten. "No, Spike. I'm fine. Do you have anything besides blood to drink?" Xander spoke very calmly and carefully. He leaned against the edge of an old coffin. Spike continued to look at him suspiciously.

"Beer in the fridge. Past couple a days catching up to you, pet? Here, you take the chair. I'll get the beer. Just settle in, it'll be alright." Spike said soothingly.

Spike watched Xander lower himself into the chair. Xander was taking deep even breaths and muttering "I can accept this." to himself.

Spike shook his head. Barmy boy. He'd always been a little off and the stress of the last few days hadn't helped. Boy needed to go out, get drunk and get shagged. He was wound tighter then a two dollar watch, he was.

Spike didn't let on but he rather liked Xander. There was something about him that made Spike feel alive. Xander was irritating as hell but he always treated Spike like he was a person and not just a thing. He traded insults with him and snapped at him and just generally told Spike exactly how he felt about him. If Xander thought Spike was doing something stupid,
he said so. If he thought Spike was being an ass (which was most of the time) he said so. With Xander, Spike felt real. He felt connected. Spike popped the top on the beer and handed it to Xander then settled on the floor to watch the telly. Xander took a swig and seemed a little calmer.

"Boy really needs to get shagged." Spike thought, "All those pent up hormones can't be good, wonder why I've never seen him with a bird." Spike mused. "Maybe he's a poof? Naw, I've never seen him with a bloke either. He seemed stuck on the Slayer but, no. It was like he said, more like a knight with his lady then a lover. Not like me though. I loved her proper." Spike frowned to himself.

 "At least I think I did?" Was it like Xander said, Spike's Black Knight to Xander's White Knight? What had he said to Doc? "I made a promise to a Lady." A demon's emotions were wild and fierce. They were like all the other creatures in the world without souls: faeries, elementals, and, Spike shuddered, angels. They all shared a swift, changeable nature that made them dangerous to mortals. As near as Spike could tell, (having thought of this for many years since the cursing of his grandsire), a soul was like a permanent memory that went with you from life to life to afterlife where it re-joined with its creator or could be permanently banished. To Spike's way of thinking, a soul was a frightening and rather fragile possession and he was glad he didn't have one. But that didn't mean he couldn't feel love or loss. Maybe though, he hadn't loved her in that forever way? Sod it! He was getting a headache. Humans had so many different words for every different kind of love. How was he suppose to know what he felt. Spike growled and Xander glanced at him questioningly.

"Humans!" Spike snarled. "Drink your beer!"

"Humans." Xander nodded sagely with a small half smile to himself. He settled back to watch the interview.


The old man and the Skeck demon bickered amiably as they started to pack up their kit in the alley they called home. They would spend the day making the rounds, looking for aluminium cans and anything else of value to sell, stop by the mission for dinner and then spend the evening playing chess as they did everyday. The old man carefully wrapped each chess piece
and lovingly stowed them in their box. The Skeck smiled and shook his head wrapping up their blankets and packing the shopping carts. He and the old man had been together for over a year now. The Skeck was large and fearsome looking and could give a good account of itself in a fight. Other demons tended to give Skeck's a wide berth. The old man was a wonderful conversationalist, on his good days, and played a grand game of chess. The Skeck did love chess. His human friend was moving slower every day and the Skeck sighed to himself. He didn't think the human had much time left. He would miss his little friend.

Suddenly he froze, his head raising, looking up towards the morning sky. He grabbed the old man, who squawked a complaint, and pulled them behind a dumpster. Three shapes fell from the sky, changing as they headed toward the ground, wings altering and pulling in, bodies streamlining, coalescing into what appeared to be three human males in long dark coats and dark glasses. The Skeck began to shake. It couldn't be, not here. They had never come here before. Although it had never seen one, instinctively it knew what stood before it. It had never been so afraid. It was the bogeyman made flesh, every demons' nightmare here in the alley.

"Angels, angels," it moaned to itself. The old man started and began to smile. There was a look of childlike wonder on his face. "Angels," he said. "Look my friend, angels." He patted the Skeck's arm, oblivious to his friend's terror. He stood up and started walking towards the men.

The Skeck made a grab for him but his fear made him clumsy and slow. "No, come back!" He hissed at the old man. "They're not what you think."

"You are angels, yes?" said the old man reverently as he walked to stand in front of them, his hand outstretched. The three stood silently, staring at the old man then one reached out his hands, touching the old man's face in benediction. The old man's face filled with a look of awe. The angel smiled gently, moving his right hand to the old man's chest before tearing
out his heart. The Skeck stuffed his hands into his mouth to keep from screaming as the old man's body dropped to the ground, a look of shock on his face and in his wide eyes. The angel dropped the heart on the body, wiping his hand on the old man's coat, then the three walked to the street and disappeared. The Skeck waited and waited some more before crawling out to the body of his friend. He held him in his lap, rocking slowly, keening to himself, "Angels, there are angels here in Sunnydale."


Part Three a)

"I can't believe I just sat through an interview with some actor playing a possessed puppet!" Xander slapped his hand to his forehead, hard.

"Oi! Timmy's not a puppet, he's an evil doll and a brilliant one at that!" huffed Spike. Xander fixed the vampire with an jaundiced eye and shook his head resignedly.

"Spike, you're a tasteless idiot and I have no idea what Dawn sees in you and I suspect that if I did, I would be afraid, very afraid."

Spike snorted and gave Xander the two fingered salute. Xander gave him a half-smile, then his expression sobered as he said, "We need to go over to Buffy's. Giles, Wills, Tara and Dawn'll be there. We need to decide what to do."

Spike sat on the floor, staring down at his breakfast mug, turning it around and around in his hands. "You go on, I'll be by later, alright?" he said quietly.

Xander half reached out his hand to Spike's down turned head but hesitated.

"Spike," he said gently, "remember, we talked about this, no one blames you but yourself. Everyone knows you did your best." Xander reached his hand out the rest of the way, touching Spike's head.

Spike looked up and Xander felt his heart twist at the sad, lost look in those blue eyes.

"Dawn knows you did your best Spike. She needs to see you." Xander dropped his hand from Spike's head to his shoulder and gave it a quick squeeze and stood up briskly. "Besides," Xander said with a smirk, "Dawn needs someone she can relate to right now,
you know, another kid, and you're the closest thing we've got."

"Oi, wanker!" Spike snarled, jumping up and stalking over to the kitchen area
of the crypt to wash out his mug. "In case you hadn't noticed, the sun's up, whelp." Spike snapped. "How am I getting over to Buf -, the house?"

"Gee Spike, I had noticed the sun was up but it does have a tendency to do that - During The Day! My Gosh Spike! Do you spend all your time complaining?" Xander asked, then held up his hand. "Wait, don't answer that. I already know." Xander put one hand to his heart and the other to his forehead in swooning gesture and sighed dramatically. "I haven't always relied on the kindness of strangers." Xander paraphrased in a very bad imitation of Blanche Dubois. He then gave Spike, who was glaring at him with murder in his eye, a wicked grin and a wink.

 Spike snorted, then laughed. "When I get this chip out..." Xander smiled and finished for him, "...Harris, you'll be the first to go!" Spike raised an eyebrow, "Idiot." he said almost fondly.

Xander felt his spirits lift a bit more. "My car's parked across the street from the cemetery's main gate, right near a manhole cover. Should be a straight shot through the tunnels, right?"

Spike nodded, "right, let me just grab my coat and..." Spike stopped.

Xander opened his mouth but Spike held up his hand and tilted his head to the side. Then he put his finger to his lips and motioned his head down. Xander didn't hear anything, but then he didn't have vampiric senses either. Spike stepped inside the sarcophagus that served as the entryway to his downstairs living quarters motioning for Xander to follow him.

Xander picked up a knife from the kitchen area and tried to move as quietly as possible after the vampire. As he stepped off the bottom of the ladder he saw Spike staring at the sewer access. Down here even Xander could hear the movement coming from the tunnels. It sounded like rush hour at Grand Central. He heard a babbling multitude of various demon tongues and what sounded like children crying and sheep?

Spike motioned to Xander to stay back and lifted the lid from the access. There was a scream and Xander heard someone snarl out "It's just a vampire." He walked over and looked down and felt his mouth drop open. It looked like every demon in Sunnydale was in the tunnels with everything they owned. They were jostling and shoving each other in a frantic bid to get somewhere. There were more demons then he'd ever seen in one place. He saw whole demon families, mothers and fathers trying to hold onto children and carrying their possessions on their backs. There were good balancing demons, neutrals, vampires, demons that normally would have been at each other's throats. Xander had an almost hysterical desire to laugh as he got a mental image of Noah's Arc - two by two.

Spike jumped down into the tunnel. He had a sudden flashback to the Boxer Rebellion. Everyone running, trying to get away from the oncoming armies. He grabbed what appeared to be a very delicate looking blue creature by one of its six arms. "Here mate, what's up then?" The creature turned terrified eyes up to Spike and started to keen in a high pitched voice like nails on a chalkboard. Spike immediately dropped its arm and it scuttled off. A group of fledges came towards him and he went gamefaced, growling at them to stop.

"Somebody is going to explain right now, or I'm definitely going to get violent." The lead fledge looked into his eyes and Spike felt a shiver run down his spine. The fledge was absolutely terrified. He could smell the fear. It permeated every part of the tunnel.

"What the bloody hell is going on?!"

"Angels are here" the fledge whispered. Spike felt himself blanch and leaned against the tunnel wall for support.

"Vampires can't faint," he consoled himself. "Besides, you go down in this lot and they'll
trample you into the mud. Get back to the ladder. Get back to Xander. It's going to be okay, just breathe. I'm hysterical." he thought. "I don't need to breathe. On second thought, maybe I do." Spike made his way to the ladder and looked up into Xander's worried face.

Xander reached a hand down to help him up and Spike grabbed it like a drowning man. "Spike, what's wrong?" Xander asked. "Are you okay? What did that fledge say, I couldn't hear. What's up?" Xander held onto Spike's arm as he went towards his bed and carefully sat down.

At this moment, Spike looked every one of his 126 odd years. Xander knelt down in front of Spike taking his cold hands and trying to warm them between his own.

"Spike, you're scaring me. Talk to me okay. What's wrong. Why is everyone running?" Spike looked into Xander's eyes and Xander felt his breath catch in his throat.

Spike's eyes shone with horror. Spike swallowed once and then said, "You probably won't
get this, but the devil's come to town."

"Spike" Xander said shaking his hands, "you're not making any sense. What devil?"

"Angels, Xander," Spike said fearfully, Angels." Spike stared at Xander waiting for the inevitable question and got instead Xander clenching his hands hard and saying

"Damn, I thought we'd have more time."


Part Three b)

Xander clenched Spike's hands hard, "Damn, I thought we'd have more time." He whispered.

"What?" Spike said, looking up. Xander was staring off over Spike's shoulder. Spike didn't think he'd ever seen such a fierce expression on the boy's face. Spike shivered suddenly, Xander didn't look much like a boy, right at this moment. He looked like someone that even a
Master Vampire would hesitate to tackle.

"Xander." Spike said hesitantly.

Xander snapped his focus back to Spike's face as he brought the vampire's hands together.

"Spike, I need you to trust me, do you think you can do that?" Spike's expression became wary.

"Trust you how, Harris?" Spike said coldly. Xander winced a little a Spike's tone and sighed inwardly. "So much for the morning bonding ritual." He said to himself.

"Right, I forgot you're Detail man. Forget it." Xander shot back snidely, dropping Spike's
hands. Spike raised his eyebrows. If he didn't know any better, he'd swear the whelp sounded hurt. Spike felt a slight pang. He hadn't meant to sound so curt, but for a moment there, that look on Xander's face had almost frightened him. He wanted to blame it on his frayed nerves from the recent revelation but the truth was - Xander had almost frightened him. The Slayer's pet: goofy, clumsy Xander, who'd always reminded Spike of some sort of overgrown puppy romping around causing chaos, always wanting to help and generally being a nuisance, albeit a cute one, Spike admitted to himself. But for a moment there, Xanderpup was gone and big, scary Xanderwolf took his place and Spike wasn't sure he liked the change. In fact, he was pretty sure he didn't like it, at all.

Spike took an unneeded breath and said, "What do you want me to do, Pet?" And just like that, Xander's face cleared, his eyes lit up and he smiled and he was Xanderpup again and Spike felt his muscles relax a bit.

"Okay, here's the plan: first, I need you to not faint okay?" Xander grinned to himself. Spike's face had taken on the "miffed royalty look" he got when he felt his dignity was being questioned.

"Yes, Xander, I believe that can be accomplished." Spike said disdainfully. It was all Xander could do not to laugh out loud. "I am so going to nail him on this some day. He sounds just like Giles when he's been affronted. Street brawler my Aunt Mazie, he's educated and I'm going to call him on it when this is over and Willow is going to owe me a Twenty." Xander sobered, "If we live."

"Right, secondly, I don't think the tunnels are gonna work for either of us. So, you wait here and I'll bring the car as close to the front door as I can get it. You make a run for it and we get to Buffy's pronto. Okay?" Spike looked at Xander incredulously.

"Pet, how you going to get to the front of the crypt? There's no road." Xander stared at Spike steadily. Spike's eyes widen and he breathed, "You're never going to drive over the graves are you?" Spike said, shocked.

Xander picked up Spike's hands again; bringing them to his lips and placing a gentle kiss on his knuckles then said gravely, "Desperate time's call for desperate measures. It's only five graves and most of these people are dead anyway. They'll forgive me. It's good of you to care though." Spike drew his hands away and stood.

"I'm evil, Pet, I could careless. It's just dirt and bones. I live in a bloody crypt. I'm a demon,
remember." Xander smiled gently.

"Of course, what was I thinking? I'll be right back. Get your sun gear and let's saddle up!" Xander ended in a passable imitation of John Wayne.

Spike shook his head, "The boy is absolutely barmy!" he said to himself.

Spike watched Xander open the door, take a quick look and slip outside. He gathered up his heavy duty "sun blanket". He could still hear the panicked murmurings of the demons in the tunnels. Angels, he shuddered again. He never understood why Humans thought those creatures were so bloody wonderful; from all he heard, they could give the worse demons a run for their money. But, Humans thought they were just the sweetest things, all soft white feathers and little halos. Maybe some, but those soldier angels, Spike shuddered again.

Demons were supposed to be so vicious and evil but for fuck's sake, they kicked our collective asses right out of this world! Spike thought. Little, fluffy bunnies, angels were not and if the Human's really thought about it, they wouldn't get within a hundred miles of one of the bleedin creatures. Xander sure seemed to understand that he….. Wait a minute. What did he mean

"I thought we'd have more time?"


Part Four

Honk ! "C'mon, Blondie, get a move on!" Xander yelled. "Jeez, any second now someone's gonna call the cops and I get to explain why I've got the Chevy parked on Great Aunt Mildred." Xander muttered, leaning over the seat and opening the back passenger door.

A Spike shaped blanket came flying out of the crypt and threw itself in the back seat.

"Go, go!" came a muffled yell.

Xander floored it in reverse, reasoning that like navigating a minefield, following his tire tracks out would do less damage. He winced as he knocked over the Smith family marker. "Oops, sorry, sorry." He managed to just miss the gate and spun a perfect donut in the middle of the street. He then floored it. "Why cot qest for vous" or some such nonsense came to him from the back seat.

"What?" Xander said distractedly. He was far too busy looking for any Sunnydale police cruisers to pay attention to Spike. He glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw the blanket float up into view.

"I said, I've got questions for you." Spike yelled before the blanket dropped out of sight

"Look Spike, would you mind if I waited until we get to Buffy's? I'd like to say my piece only once." Xander asked. Xander took the silence to mean yes and continued to drive. "This is it." He thought sadly. "I always wondered whether Willow and Jesse would have accepted me if they 'd known. I guess I'm about to find out, at least as far as Willow's concerned. I think Dawnie will be cool and Giles has probably seen it all." Xander smiled then he glanced in the rear-view mirror again and the smile faded.

"I can kiss Spike goodbye though. Although, I don't think he's gonna let me get close enough to do that. Oh good, my sense of irony is still working. Yeah me!" Xander pumped a fist in the air as he felt his eyes tear up.

Xander tried to swallow and felt like he had a whole cantaloupe lodged in his throat. "Oh Father," he thought. " I don't think I've ever seen Spike so scared. 'That's right Spike, I know my kind strike fear and terror into your heart but, hey, I love you and I think we can make this work. Oh, and that whole kicking you guys out of Heaven thing. That was just business, we're cool on that right?'" "Oh yeah," Xander sighed to himself. "Just like Romeo and Juliet," he hummed the sixties tune. "Except they actually loved each other instead of one secretly
adoring and the other barely tolerating." Xander gripped the steering wheel harder and sat up straight. If Spike had been looking, he would have seen Xanderwolf make a reappearance. "I don't care how many of my brethren are here. The way I feel now, bring 'em on."

He pulled the car up as close to the front door as he could get and saw Tara peak out the window. He waved and the front door opened to reveal Willow, tousled hair, sleepy eyes and still in her pyjamas.

"Xander, what's up?" she asked worriedly.

"Spike and I are coming through Wills. C'mon Spike" Xander said over the back seat. A Spike shaped blanket made a dash for the door with Xander right behind him. Willow quickly closed the door behind Xander as Spike dumped off his heavy blanket.

"You okay Spike?" Xander asked. The vampire brushed himself off and nodded in Xander's direction without looking at his face. "And so it begins." Xander thought. Xander turned to see Tara picking the discarded blanket off the floor while Willow waited for him to explain.

 "Look, Wills, I need you to call Giles and get him over here pronto. Tell him to bring over everything he's got on angels. I've got to pick up something at my apartment but I'll be right back." Willow looked worried and confused,

"Angels, Xander, what's going on? Why would we need to know about angels, are there some in trouble or something?"

Spike snorted, "Oh yeah, the poor little things." Spike said sarcastically.

"Well, at least he's getting his attitude back." Xander thought. "Spike, put a sock in it. Will, I'll explain everything when I get back, okay?" Xander asked.

"Alright." Willow said, with a quick nod. Xander nodded back. Good, Willow was in organizational mode. Spike went into the living room, picking up the remote control and flopping onto the couch and turning on the TV, while Willow went to the kitchen phone to call Giles. Xander turned around and nearly knocked Tara down. She stood there, with the folded blanket in her hands and a very calm look on her face.

"Do we know how many?" She asked quietly. Xander noted that she didn't stammer at all.

"No, not for sure. Spike just heard it from a panicked fledge and every demon in Sunnydale seems to be running for the hills. Three, I think." Xander said.

Tara stared steadily at him. "Do we know who?" She asked, still calmly. "She knows." He thought. Xander's faced smoothed out and seemed to lose all expression and Tara felt a quiver of fear slide down her spine, but she continued to hold Xander's gaze.

"The leader will be Micah. His lieutenants will be Mordacai and Stephen." Xander said flatly.

 "And how do you know this Xander?" Tara asked.

Xander lifted his chin, "Because I was supposed to be one of them." Xander heard a hiss from Spike. Xander had known that Spike was listening. "Vampiric hearing," Xander thought
bitterly, "you gotta love it."

Tara glanced toward the living room and her face softened as she gave him a small sad smile and stepped out of his way. Xander walked out and got behind the wheel of the Chevy. He took a deep breath, started the car and headed for his apartment.

Tara looked at Spike, sitting, jaw clenched, staring fixedly at the television. She was surprised he hadn't crushed the remote he was holding as he channel surfed so quickly she didn't see how he could tell what was on the screen. She could hear Willow on the phone with Giles. She could hear the hall clock ticking. She could hear Dawn moving around upstairs, the noise finally having roused her from her grief induced slumber. Tara thought she could hear every sound in the house, very distinctly. These past few days had been so frantic; full of pain and terror and deep confusion on her part, and finally profound grief over Buffy's death.

On top of all that, there was her worry over Dawn and Willow's reaction to the Slayer's death, neither one seeming to have accepted it. She was afraid Willow would do something foolish and irreparable. And poor Dawn was so lost and guilty, unable to understand how to go on when someone she loved so much had died for her. Tara was glad Xander had found Spike alive. She'd seen the same lost, guilty look in his eyes and she'd been afraid he would harm himself. She could tell that Xander had been afraid for Spike as well. She smiled to herself. She'd been very careful about keeping Xander's secret. She hadn't even discussed it with Willow whenever she fretted about how Xander never seemed to have anyone in his life and she was worried about him being alone.

Xander loved Spike. Tara had watched him covertly a few times, at Giles or the magic shop and caught him staring at Spike with such longing. Or Spike would make some sarcastic
comment and Xander would hide a smile before he snapped out a quick comeback. And when Spike did something really "demony" like the Adam fiasco or that crush on Buffy, Xander would get a sad look in his eyes and go kinda quiet like you do when someone you love does something wrong. But when Spike had stood up to Glory's torture she could tell how proud he'd been. She couldn't believe no one else had noticed.

She didn't know how she'd known but she always knew that there was something different about Xander. From what she knew about angels, she was feeling both awe and fear. Xander was an angel. Or something, Tara frowned to herself. He couldn't really be an angel because Spike couldn't hurt him. She was pretty sure demons would be able to hit angels so Xander must be human, but, by his own admission he hadn't always been; poor Xander and judging by the look on Spike's face, poor Spike.

Spike sat on the couch flipping through channels like his unlife depended on it. If he stopped, for even one moment, he was going to trash the living room and everything else in the house. It was all he could do not to switch to gameface.

"How could he do this to me? I liked him, damnit, I bloody well liked him!" Spike fumed to himself.

He wanted to let loose with a howl and engage in some serious violence but he couldn't. He was trapped in the Slayer's house on a perfectly lovely sunny morning with a grief stricken Nibblet upstairs and a bloody well powerful, and if he was any judge of character, none too stable witch on the phone in the kitchen.

For the first time since the Initiative had fucked with his brain, he was grateful for the chip, because having it for over a year had taught the vampire how to exercise self-control, sometimes. So instead of ripping the living to shreds, Spike flipped through daytime television and seethed in silence.

He could hear Dawn coming down the stairs and tensed. "I can't deal with this now." He thought to himself. "I can't look in her eyes and see the animosity. It's been a real bad day and it's only 9 am." Then Spike's every present sense of the absurd came to the fore. "On the other hand, bring it on. I can take it. I'm William the Bloody. I can take anything!" Spike thought wryly.

He steeled himself and looked up as Dawn walked over to the couch. Her eyes were red from crying and her hair was uncombed. She was in her most comfortable pair of sweats. She blinked and stared at his face, while he held his breath waiting for her to berate him for his
failure. Despite what Xander had said, Spike was sure Dawn blamed him, at least as much as he blamed himself.

"I was worried about you." She said softly, climbing up to sit beside him on the couch. She put her arm around his and lay her head on his shoulder.

"I'm glad you're back. Don't go away again without telling me, okay?" Dawn said softly.

Spike felt tears form in his eyes as he sat there frozen on the couch. Suddenly he smiled and felt warm for the first time in over a century.

"Never again, Little Bit, I promise." He said huskily.

"Good." she said, snuggling closer. They stared at the TV in silence. "Can we watch cartoons?" She asked.

"Yeah, Nibblet." He said gently. "But no Power Puff Girls, alright?" Dawn looked up at him with doe eyes and blinked twice.

Spike sighed softly, switching the channel and settling in to watch pastel colored girls with super powers.

Xander screeched to a stop outside of his apartment building. Luckily, most of his neighbors were at work. "Which is where I would be, if I hadn't had the foresight to take a few days off to battle another apocalypse. Yay me." Xander thought sarcastically.

He ran inside, heading directly for his bedroom dresser. He pulled the first drawer, then another and another more frantically.

"Where the Hell is it?" He muttered. "I know I put it here, dammit!"

"Tsk, tsk , tsk - no cursing. That's a sin, remember?" Xander froze, slowly turning around to face what appeared to be a fair haired man perfectly balanced in a crouch on the back of his couch.

He had an open book in his hand. The book Xander had been looking for.

"Gabriel." Xander said bitterly.

The Angel of Death gave him a slightly exasperated look and shook a finger at him.

"Alexander, c'mon now, don't I even get a hello, how are you? How was your time in Hell?" Xander just stared at him.

Xander's arrogance in following Gabriel's cause had gotten him exiled to Earth in human form and here the angel sat, looking for all the world like a cheery Uncle come for a visit.

"How about, I ask instead, what it's like to be forgiven?" Xander said flatly.

"You're sitting in the Presence again, fully reinstated but meanwhile, Micah and some of the good little soldiers you trained are busy implementing Part three of your Master Plan. You remember, the one that was going to get rid of all the humans and win us the war." Xander ended by shouting.

"Yup," Gabriel said, unperturbed. "Everyone complains about how hard it is to find good help these days but frankly, I've never had that problem. Of course right now, I'll grant you that's not really a good thing."

"What do you want, Gabriel?" Xander said tiredly. He rubbed his face. He was so weary. His emotions were battered; his body was still bruised from the fight with Glory. His only hope in defeating Micah and the others lay in the book in Gabriel's hands and if Gabriel didn't want him to have it, then Xander wasn't getting the book.

There was nothing he could do against an Archangel. Gabriel closed the book with a snap and hopped down from the couch.

"Absolutely nothing." He said briskly. "Just stopped by to give you a little moral support, a rousing speech about winning one for the Gipper, standing tall for your principles,…"

"If you start humming the theme to 'Rocky', I will have to try to hurt you." Xander interrupted him.

"Can you help us?" Xander asked seriously. "You helped start this, after all."

Gabriel brought a hand to Xander's shoulder. "I can't."

"Why not?" Xander cried. "That's wrong!"

"As a friend of mine once said, right before I killed him 'I don't know who's right or wrong anymore, all I know is sometimes, you just have to do what you're told.'" Gabriel looked at Xander with compassion. "I'm sorry, so very, very sorry."

Xander felt tears running down his face, wetting his cheeks. "I can't bear to lose more friends, Gabriel, I just can't. It hurts so much! You don't know."

"Shh, shh, my little one, my own." Gabriel said soothingly, as he hugged Xander to him. " I do know, I remember. I remember the ache and the sorrow; the loneliness and the pain. But, I remember good things too, hmm?" Gabriel lifted Xander's chin. "Would you rather never have known Jesse or Willow, friendship and love? Xander's breath hitched and he shook his
head. "Notice how I cleverly didn't mention Spike?" Gabriel said, pulling a handkerchief from his coat pocket and wiping Xander's cheeks.

Xander gulped. "Ummm"

"Yup, that about sums it up." Gabriel said. "We'll talk later. Gotta go. Be seeing you." The angel headed to Xander's open kitchen window.

"Wait a minute, don't you have any advice that's a little more concrete." Xander cried.

Gabriel turned to look at him, cocked his head to the side and looked like he was deep in thought.

"Nope." Suddenly the angel disappeared in a scattering effect.

Xander yelled to the room at large, "Your bedside manner still sucks!" he stomped to the couch grabbed the book and headed back to the car. " I hope Giles got there."

Giles, Willow, Tara, Spike and Dawn were all gathered around the kitchen table when Xander arrived. Everyone but Spike looked up as he sat down.

Giles cleared his throat. "I've brought all the books I had on angels. Tara tells me you believe there are three of them and the leader is Micah? Obviously I would like to know how you came by this information. Can we be sure that it is accurate? After all, Micah is a very powerful soldier angel and his appearance does not necessarily bode well for Sunnydale. Why
are they here and why now?"

Xander took a deep breath, "They're here because they know that the Slayer is dead and the Hellmouth is undefended." Giles looked hard at Xander.

"These angels want to open the Hellmouth?" He questioned.

Xander shook his head and gave Giles a twisted smile. "Oh no, they don't want to open it. They want to close it, permanently."


Part Five

"They want to close the Hellmouth permanently?" Willow said. She looked confused. "Well that's a good thing, right. I mean we've been trying to do that for years."

She looked around the table. Tara and Dawn looked as confused as she felt. Xander had that same twisted smile on his face. Spike was still staring down at the table top, not meeting Xander's eyes. And, Giles, Oh Goddess, Giles had a look of dawning horror on his
face. "Crisis time," thought Willow.

"Xander," Giles said very carefully, "Are you absolutely sure?" The Watcher's face had a grey tinge to it. He was holding himself very still and .

Xander stared at Giles for a moment, and then answered Giles question with one of his own.

 "We really are the last one open then? I was kinda hoping they screwed up, but I guess I should have known better. Synchronicity can be a real bitch." Xander glanced quickly in Dawn's direction, "No repeating the language," he said sternly. Dawn gave him a tremulous

Giles gave his head a quick shake, "Yes, I believe with Glory's defeat that Sunnydale is the last active Hellmouth, at this time. Of course, had Glory succeeded," Giles quickly reached across and squeezed Dawn's hand, "there would have been at least one if not more entrances to various Hell dimensions." Giles glanced away from Xander, obviously distressed, speaking more to himself then to the others.

"I can't believe I didn't notice or that someone at the Council didn't notice what was happening. We were just so happy at what we saw as victories over Darkness; that gate in Shanghai, the one in Arizona, and the last one in Krakow." Giles stopped, and fixed his gaze on Xander, "They counted on it didn't they, that we wouldn't notice?" Giles gave a sharp laugh.

" It's ironic, we prayed to the Powers for assistance and we got it. I suppose it proves the old adage, 'Be careful what you wish for.'"

Xander reached across, grasping both of Giles hands tightly, "Stop it Rupert! None of this is your fault, or the Council's or anyone else on Earth's fault. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I could have come to everyone sooner or told you or someone what was coming." Xander laughed bitterly.

"It's just ingrained in me to wait I suppose." Xander shook his head, dropping Giles hands and pulling back. "That's actually a load of crap. I didn't say anything because I was scared. I was scared of losing my friends and any life I'd made for myself. I was scared that some of my "old companions" might come looking for me. I was just - . Yeah they counted on you not to notice. Why would you? They also counted on me not to tell you or maybe," the young man said softly, " they just never thought of me at all."

Suddenly Xander stood up, turning sharply away from his friends, trying to get his emotions under control. He felt a hand just touch his shoulder before being quickly pulled away. He turned expecting to see Willow and froze meeting Spike's calm gaze. Xander didn't think he'd ever seen the blond look so calm, almost at peace.

"Sit down pet. You got the kiddies all bothered and there's enough emotion in the room already. You best explain to them what's up." Spike turned away and went to lean against the counter, pulling out the makings for a hand rolled cigarette. His hands were rock steady. The vampire didn't think he'd ever felt so clear-headed, not even before the battle with Glory.

He knew what was going down here, the demon inside completely quieted, settling down to wait like a good predator. Déjà vu, Hell against Heaven, deep racial memories made it easier to handle all the information coming at him. "Very Jungian," he thought with a smile. His glanced at Dawn. "Poor little bit, no rest for you, eh? No hopped up pigeon's going to get to
you, Nibblet. This time, I won't fail," he thought fiercely.

"Yes, please Xander, tell us everything. How did they know Buffy was dead and why is closing the Hellmouth bad, and aren't angels good?" Dawn felt like crying. Why couldn't it be quiet, just for one moment? She had hoped ever since Mom had died that there really was a Heaven and that her mother was there and that her sister was with her and now, here was Xander telling her that angels were trying to hurt them.

Maybe Heaven wasn't such a good place. She shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. Tara noticed and hugged her, giving her arms a rub.

Xander took a deep breath and sat back down. He looked at each one of his friends, at least he hoped they would still be his friends. Willow gave him a shaky smile and nodded encouragement. Tara nodded at him as well. Dawn looked scared and sad. Xander felt his
stomach twist. "Sorry, Dawnie." Giles looked resigned and Spike still looked calm and strangely enough, very grown up. He met the brunette's stare with one of his own and then cocked an eyebrow at him.

"C'mon angel," he smirked. "Time to explain the facts of life to the youngsters."

"Bad boy, give it a rest," Xander snorted. Trust Spike to stir the pot. "All right, it's like this. Once upon a time there was the Presence or God or the Divine whatever you want to call it and there were its creations, the angels and we all lived in Heaven happily enough. The Word was the will and we were instruments of that will. We served without question for time without end.

"Good little soldiers, they were," interjected Spike. Xander gave him a dark look. Spike swallowed. "Oops, Xanderwolf is back." Spike thought and subsided into silence.

Xander continued, "Then as you know, there was revolt and a war in Heaven. Tens of thousands died or were corrupted. But in the end, those loyal to the Divine were victorious and the troublemakers were cast out, to Hell."

"Revolutionaries," Spike interrupted again. "We weren't bloody troublemakers. Just didn't like the current system." Xander's jaw clenched.

"Spike," he said very carefully, "if you don't Shut Up, I am going to hurt you and you know I mean it."

Spike grumbled. "Just want to give an even account."

Giles gave the vampire a look. "Please continue, Xander."

"Right, as I said, the Troublemakers, were cast out. Everything's quiet and then humans appear. The talking monkeys, we used to call them. Gabriel, yes the Angel of Death, come blow your horn, Gabriel finds out that you, have souls; a little something extra, a spark
from the Divine."

It was Willow who interrupted this time. "Don't you mean, we Xander, we have souls?" She asked timidly.

He gave her a sad smile. "I don't know whether I have a soul or not Wills. For all I know, I'm just like Spike," he said, gesturing to himself, "just borrowing the body, you know?" Willow looked deeply troubled.

Tara reached over entwined their fingers as they shared a look.

Xander grimaced at the look on his best friend's face. "So, you have souls. Gabriel tells all of us that are willing to listen that we're being supplanted by the monkeys. After all we've done it won't be us sitting at the right hand of the Presence, it'll be the clever, little chattering apes."

His friends looked stricken and he realized how harsh he had sounded. He grimaced, "Still a little bitter, I guess." He tried to smile. "Look, you have to understand, we'd just been through this war and it's not that we hated you or anything, it's just that, well," Xander hesitated and looked uncomfortable.

"It's like being told the family dog's gonna rule the roost. Sure he's cute with the tricks and all but c'mon, and all you can feel is cheated and angry. And that anger just keeps festering until you gotta take some action or just explode." Xander's mouth dropped open as he and everyone else turned to stare at Spike.

"What, like I don't know," he said angrily. "You lot, all you think is that he and I," gesturing at Xander, "are so different. Well we're not. Angels, demons, we don't change. We get an idea fixed in our head and that's where it stays. How do you think we go on for hundreds, thousands of years at a time? The way we are when we're born, made, whatever, that's usually they way we stay, for bloody ever. We don't change, we can't." Spike looked angry and defiant and Xander couldn't help it. He smiled at him.

Spike looked a little startled and then for the first time since this whole discussion began, Spike smiled back. It was just a little smile but it was enough to warm Xander's heart.

"That's not true," Willow burst out, "Xander changed, he's my friend. He loves us, really loves us. I know he does!" Willow turned to Xander with a kind of desperation in her eyes. "Tell him Xan, tell him you loved Jesse and me. I know you did."

"Of course I loved you. I love both of you." He looked around the room. I've come to love all of you and we can change, we just don't do it very easily." Xander said huskily.

He swiped at his eyes, with the back of his hand. "Look, you gotta let me finish the story
because if I start crying now I'll never get through it." He smiled at her as Giles handed them both a tissue. She blew her nose and nodded. Xander continued.

"Gabriel said we had to get rid of you. We had a plan, and a backup plan and another plan. Those soldier angels love to plan. Of course, our plans started the second war in Heaven.

 Suddenly it's angel against angel. Everybody's yelling recriminations and choosing up sides and the Presence isn't saying anything; at least nothing we could hear." Xander shook his head.

"We were so sure we were right. Now I can't understand what we thought we were going to accomplish. We get rid of all the humans and what? We're the favoured children again. I guess you had to be there. Well Gabriel's first plan didn't work, and he got dragged to Hell." Xander laughed. "Hell couldn't hold him for long and he comes back, trying to screw with Michael's mission. That didn't work either. So it gets decided that Gabriel needs to be taken down a peg or two and they make him human."

Xander gave his rapt audience a sunny smile. "Trust me when I say that it's the most
humbling and enlightening experience you can ever go through." Spike snorted and Dawn and Giles actually laughed. The witches managed to look both embarrassed and a little proud.

Xander felt some of the tension leave his shoulders. It was going to be all right. He
still had friends.

"Is it that bad Xander?" Dawn asked a little hesitantly.

"Naw Little Bit," Spike answered, "Teen Angel there is playing it up for the sympathy factor. Aren't you pet?"

Spike and Xander exchanged a look, "Yeah, I am Dawnie although diapers were just plain humiliating. At least Gabriel was changed as an adult. I had to go through potty training, Ugh!" Xander shuddered dramatically.

Dawn laughed but then got a very quiet.

"Xander, not all angels are mean like that right? And Heaven's really an okay place? Is my mom there and Buffy. How did the angels know about Buffy, Xander?"

Dawn had such a pleading look on her face. Spike was looking at him fiercely and he got the message those eyes were flashing, " I don't care if you have to lie, don't you hurt her."

Xander got up and knelt by Dawn's chair. His gaze was absolutely clear and guileless as he said, "Joyce is in Heaven. Buffy is in Heaven. I know Joyce is there because she was one of the best people I ever met and I know now, that forgiveness is for everyone. I know
Buffy is in Heaven because my brethren are here. All of Heaven knows when a Slayer comes home, because she is the terrible, swift sword of the Divine. They burn too bright to long survive. No angel will harm a Slayer; no angel would dare." Xander intoned the words, imbuing them with an ancient power and majesty.

In that moment the others knew they were in the presence of an angel. Spike who had already seen the glimpse earlier felt a chill pass over him. "He's older than I thought," Spike reflected uneasily, "older and more dangerous. I'm glad he's with us."

In the hush that followed, Giles cleared his throat. "I'm glad. I always suspected, but I'm very glad to actually know. Thank you Xander."

"Yes, thank you Xander, I was so worried that she might have been sent somewhere terrible and I was actually thinking of trying to, well never mind, oh thank you!" Willow sobbed into Tara's shoulder. Tara smoothed her hair and rocked her gently.

Spike closed his eyes and sent up a prayer on the off chance that she'd hear it. "Good going Slayer, I'm glad you made it home."

Xander still knelt on the floor in front of Dawn. He smiled at her and she gave him a hug. "Xander," she whispered in his ear, "Do you think I'll get to see them, when I die, I mean?"

"I know you will. I've got connections." Xander said with a smile. He bent his head and gave her hands a kiss then stood up, briskly. "Okay, to finish up. If all of Gabriel's plans failed, the last ditch effort would be to permanently close all the entrances to Hell, any Hell. You see, bad souls have got to go somewhere. Once you've been damned you don't get a second chance. No rebirth, no do-overs, you've blown all your shots and the next stop is eternal torment - Hell. What happens though, if evil souls can't get into Hell? Where do they go? The answer, my friends, is no where. They stay right here and they are not the kind of people you want hanging around. Hitler, Stalin, Jack the Ripper, I think you see the problem.

Also, as Spike has no doubt figured out, all those demons we banish or exorcise won't be moving on either and that includes vampires. Stake one and nothing will happen except that you will get a very testy vampire. Chaos commences, the human race comes to and end and
no more chatty monkeys, end part one."

Xander swung his arms in an arc, turning with a flourish. "But that wasn't the end of Gabriel's plan. On the off chance that the evil dead didn't finish off the human race, there was a backup. There are a lot worse Hell Gods out there then the fashion impaired Glory. Damned souls are like a status symbol and monetary system all in one; kinda like cattle or sheep, the god or fallen angel that had the most souls has the most prestige and power. Gabriel figured that they wouldn't take losing their toys too well. They might hate each other, but they'd put it aside to get access to this plane of existence again. They're just not very careful creatures, you know. There wouldn't be much left when they were done breaking down the door."

Xander dropped back into his chair, "I've definitely horrified my audience, well except for Spike of course. How can he still look so calm?" Spike had finished rolling his cigarette and was getting ready to light up when he intercepted a stern look from Willow.

"Oh for bloody, it's the possible end of existence as we know it. I can't smoke?"

"But what if it's not?" Willow asked. "What about the effects of second-hand smoke on growing young girls?" Willow nodded in Dawn's direction. "Take it outside Mister." She said, resolve face firmly in place.

"Besides it's not the end of the world. Xander has a plan. Don't you Xander?" She looked at him with complete trust. Xander nodded his head, "Yup Wills, I actually think I
do. Gabriel never counted on us." Xander said with an amazingly evil grin on his face.

Spike nodded admiringly. "Well all right then, let's kick some angelic arse!"


Finale- Part One

"Spike! Language!" Tara hissed.

"Right," he said sheepishly. "Don't repeat that nibblet, eh?" Spike gave Dawn a wink. She giggled.

Giles sighed. "Xander, your plan?"

Xander pulled the notebook he had taken from his apartment out of his back pocket. It was a dog-eared journal covered in what appeared to be leather and bound with a strap. "I've been writing down ideas for years, trying to come up with a plan. I hoped I'd never have to try it but, I think I've done it." Xander opened the book and handed it to Giles.

" I want your opinion. Do you think this will work?"

Giles adjusted his glasses. Willow and Tara scooted their chairs closer for a better look while Dawn stood up to peer over their shoulders. Spike took Dawn's chair next to Xander, leaning back and fiddling with his cigarette.

As Giles read, his eyes got wider and Willow gave a gasp. She turned to look at Xander. "Xander, this is amazing."

"Yes," Giles agreed. "Xander, this is quite brilliant. It's also very dangerous." Giles narrowed his eyes. "This shows a very deep knowledge of magic. Where did this knowledge come from, is it innate?"

Xander bit his lip. "Some of it is and some of it comes from all our research sessions. You know, putting bits and pieces together. That's why I'm not sure if it will work."

"I can't understand a word," said Dawn. "For the magically challenged in the room, explanations please?"

Giles cleared his throat. "Basically, what Xander has done, is constructed a spell that will cause a bubble to form over the Hellmouth, if I'm not mistaken?"

Giles looked to Xander for confirmation and when the boy gave a brief nod continued. "If this spell works, it will result in the Hellmouth opening briefly, the spell will then use the resulting influx of energy to power itself and form a type of magical covering. The covering will constantly renew itself from the leaking energy of the Hellmouth. However, if this spell is not cast accurately, it will open the Hellmouth completely. If it does work, the covering will allow entry but not egress."

"Oh, I get it, kinda like a roach Hell motel, right?" Dawn bounced.

Giles raised both eyebrows, "Very good Dawn, that is essentially accurate, although it makes
for a rather disturbing picture."

Dawn beamed at the assembled Scoobies.

Xander grinned back at her. Then out of the corner of his eye he noticed Willow giving him the patented "Willow Glare". She had taken the book from Giles and was flipping through the pages. He swallowed, "Hey Wills, something up?"

"Alexander LaVelle Harris, don't you try to tell me that you just pieced a spell like this together over the years. Your innate knowledge must really be something! And don't you dare tell me that what you didn't know you just picked up from our research sessions!" She shook a finger at him. "Some of the margin notes are in Latin and Greek! All these year's playing dumb here and in school; Mister we are so going to have a talk!"

He heard Spike snicker and shot him a look promising retribution. "Wills, it's not like that, honest. I was just trying to fit in, you would have wondered how I knew Latin and Greek and … other stuff." He gave her his winningest smile. "Honest, I didn't mean to play dumb. I just sorta came with some of this stuff already in my head. You know, no assembly required?"

"Still angry here." She said.

Spike snickered louder, "whelp's in trouble," he sing-songed.

Xander pointed at Spike. "What about Demon boy here? He knows all this stuff too. I've seen him reading Latin. At least I had the whole "angel prime directive thing" going on, you know, don't interfere? Spike doesn't have that excuse."

"I don't need an excuse." Spike smirked. "I'm evil."

"Jerk," Xander muttered. "Please, Willow." He gave her his best sad puppy-eyed look. " I wasn't pretending to be dumb, honest."

Spike howled with laughter, falling backwards in his chair. He hit the floor with a thump but kept on laughing.

Xander stood up furiously and kicked at him. "You undead moron."

"Git," Spike shot back.



"Gentlemen!" Giles raised his voice. Xander continued to glare at Spike still lying on the floor. Spike waggled his eyebrows and grinned. Xander's lips twitched. "I'm not a slacker."

"Righto mate, that was below the belt." Spike held out a hand. Xander pulled him up. They stood eye to eye, Xander still holding Spike's hand. Xander suddenly realized what he was doing and blushed, dropping the blonde's hand like a hot potato. He cleared his throat nervously, quickly returning to his seat, head down so he didn't notice the confused look
from Spike and Giles, the speculative one from Willow, and the silent communication between Tara and Dawn.

Xander cleared his throat. "We need to get to the magic shop and get our stuff together. They'll try to move on this tonight. I know Micah, everything's on a timetable with him."

 Xander's concern for his friends shone in his eyes as he looked at each of them. "I
won't lie to you. These guys are tough. Micah's a soldier and a damn good one. Stephen and Mordacai aren't idiots but they're just basically the muscle on this, Micah will be calling the shots, taking him out needs to be our first priority."

Everyone rose, getting his or her stuff together. Dawn noticed Xander nod his head at Spike. They moved off to the corner of the kitchen together and there was a whispered conversation. It seemed to get a little heated. Spike looked angry for a moment but then
Xander put his hand on the vampire's arm. Spike looked grim then gave a quick nod and moved towards the living room. Xander noticed Dawn staring and gave her a rather sad smile.

"Xander?" she asked.

"It's okay Dawn, nothing to worry about."

"You know people make that mistake a lot. They think because you're young that maybe you're not too bright and I'm like really young but I do notice things, you know? Spike likes you. I don't think he knows how much, but he really likes you Xander. He likes you enough to do something that would cause him pain because you asked him." Dawn gave Xander a hard look.

"I don't want to lose Spike. I don't want to lose anyone but I really don't want to lose Spike. If you asked him to do something that hurts him, I'll never forgive you."

Xander sighed. "Dawnie, come here, please? I promise you that I will do everything in my power not to harm Spike or anyone. But, there's some stuff that only demons or angels can do and if it comes down to the wire I can't let Micah win." Xander gave her a tentative smile that wasn't returned.

"You know Xander, maybe you don't have any say in whether Micah wins or not. You ever thought of that?" Dawn turned and walked up the stairs.

Xander sat very still. "Out of the mouth of babes. Man, you'd think I'd get tired of stumbling over the same old vices. 'Pride goeth before a fall…' Spike's right, we just don't change." He slammed his hands down on the table and stood up, walking to the living room. Tara and Willow were waiting for Dawn. Giles had gone on ahead to open the store. Spike was staring at the TV.

"I'll meet you guys at the shop." He said to the girls. "Hey, Blondie, I gotta make a stop, wanta come?"

"Yeah, alright." Spike stood catching the blanket Xander tossed at him. They duo made a run for the car. "Not that this isn't exciting, pet, but where are we going?"

Xander quickly started the car backing out of the driveway. "Spike, you probably already know this but I'm an insensitive bastard. What I asked you to do back there in the kitchen. Screw it. I'm not Buffy. I'm no hero. I'm just an angel that got fired from their job."


"Spike, I'm on a roll. Let me get this out, okay?" Xander gestured to the floating blanket in the rear-view mirror, using his most pompous voice. "Spike if this goes wrong and it looks like they might close the Hellmouth, you can buy us some time by throwing me into it. The Hellmouth won't be able to close while a soul's stuck in the doorway." Xander grimaced and
shook his head. He was trying to keep his eyes on Blanket-Spike and the road at the same time. "What a load of crap. That was a terrible thing to ask of a friend. After what you've just been through, what all of us have been through, what kind of jerk would ask a friend to do something like that? You know, Dawn is way smarter than me. You would think after twenty
years and my less then stellar performance as a human being that the whole pride issue would become moot, but nooo."


"Excuse me! I'm trying to apologize here. You want to wait 'til I'm finished?"


Xander grabbed at the back of his head. "Owww!"

"Hey, Mr. Sensitivity shut the hell up! I bloody well get it all right? You're sorry, but you're an arrogant twit with obsessive/compulsive tendencies, much like another Angel I know. And no, you're not Buffy. She had better hair."

Xander pulled the car over and turned around. Spike had a bittersweet smile on his face. "Apology accepted, okay mate? Besides, I wasn't going to throw you in anyway. I lied. I'm evil. I get to do that. Now where are we going?"

Xander ignored the question. "So what were you going to do if things went south?" Xander reached out just touching the side of Spike's face. "Were you going to take the jump this time?" Spike just stared. Xander whispered softly. "Yeah, you're evil. You just keep telling yourself that." He traced Spike's cheekbone with the tip of his finger watching the vampire's eyes widen. "I want to introduce you to a friend of mine who might be able to help us. Dawn got me thinking." Xander laughed out loud turning out into the street. "Sometimes, you just gotta have faith."

Spike sat back in his seat, a little shaken. "The boy's an absolute loon." Spike listened to Xander humming along with the radio, tapping his fingers in time and he smiled. "Yeah, he's a nutter but he's my nutter."

Spike started keeping time to the music as well, dancing in his seat. For the first time in a
very long while, he felt young. Hell, it was a sunny, spring day, he had a royal fight to look forward to and he was keeping time with a good- looking fella that liked him. "Spike, old boy, it's time for you to get your head out of your arse and start taking a look around." Spike studied Xander, really looking at him for the first time. "I can work with this, so he's an angel, ex-angel. I'm almost an ex-vampire. And maybe he should be put on a daily dosage of Prozac ™ , but hell, I can live with that, I dealt with Dru and at least he's not talking to dolls. Our 'families' get along, well Angel gets along with the Scoobies and would probably stake me in a minute but that's not important." Spike mentally waved his hand in the air.

"Yeah, we just have to get rid of psycho, cousins from Heaven and we can make this work." Spike grinned and bounced in his seat in time to the music. He would have been horrified to know that at that moment, he looked very much like Dawn.

* * * * *
Micah stood across the street from the burned out high school, Mordacai and Stephen on either side. Micah smiled coldly. "Soon, brothers."

"It's not too late you know, thought and action do not have to be hand in glove."

Micah turned to see Gabriel crouching, balanced on the top of the bus stop bench.

"Look brothers, it's our fearless leader come to wish us luck on the eve of our victory." Micah said sarcastically. "Well Gabriel, have you come to stop us?"

"Me, nope." Gabriel shook his head. "I just thought you might want to take some time to contemplate. Events have a tendency to take on a life of their own once the action starts."

"That's it?" Micah asked. "We should think about what we're doing?" He laughed harshly. "We've had millennia to think about what we're doing Gabriel. Do you really believe on the eve of our final victory we are suddenly going to turn around and go home because we didn't really understand the consequences of our actions? Were you always this naïve?"

Gabriel cocked his head and smiled sadly. "No, I was never naïve. I used to be innocent once, but that's a story for another day." Gabriel leapt lightly to the ground. " 'A man's gotta do, what a man's gotta do.' Seems kinda silly though, don't it, if I can change why can't you?"

"Angels don't change Gabriel. Heaven doesn't change and we are the eternal guardians of Heaven; after tonight we will regain our favored status."

"Everything changes Micah," Gabriel gave him a hard look, " and in case you hadn't noticed you're not in Heaven anymore." Gabriel disappeared in a sudden scattering of light.

Micah glanced at his lieutenants. "Apparently his time as a talking monkey drove him mad. Ignore him."

The three returned to their vigil.

* * * *
Xander pulled up in front of Father Hansen's church.

"Oi, I'm not going in there!" Spike yelled from the back seat.

"Oh, don't be such a baby. C'mon, it'll be fine." Xander coaxed.

"I am not a baby you pillock." Spike said indignantly. "Just because I don't want to go into a church full of crosses and holy water in the middle of the day does not make me a baby."

Xander grinned. "You are so cute when you're flustered. I can literally see your feathers get
ruffled. C'mon, I'll run up and open the door, make sure it's safe and you make a dash for it. Trust me?"

Spike peaked out from under the blanket again. "How does he get his eyes so big? He looks like one of them bleedin Japanese anime characters." He thought to himself.

"All right." The vampire grumbled, "but if I go up in a puff of smoke, it'll be your fault."

Xander bounded up the steps of the church, opening the front door wide. "Hey Padre, you here?" Father Hansen turned around from his place by the altar.

"And where else would I be? You've missed Mass again." The man chided.

"I always miss Mass. You should probably just have cards made up, it would be simpler." Xander said with a gentle smile.

"But then I'd miss the joy of nagging and isn't that half the reason I joined the priesthood." The Father said dryly. "What are you doing loitering about, come on in."

Xander stepped half way in the door and said hesitantly. "I've brought a friend with me."

"Would this friend be blond and prone to bursting into flames in sunlight?" The priest asked shrewdly.

Xander looked startled for a moment and then laughed. "What are you, clairvoyant? Why do I even bother with confession? I could stop by and you could just give me the penance. You always seem to know what's going on anyway."

The old man walked towards him and lowered his voice, whispering conspiratorially. "But then you'd miss some of those boasting rights for a few of your misdeeds and I'd miss the vicarious thrill of hearing about them." Father Hansen gave him a wink.

The old man and the young one shared a moment of perfect understanding that was promptly shattered by an annoyed British voice yelling from the car. "I am literally roasting in here while you're chatting away."

The priest gave a wry shake of his head and raised his voice. "Come in my son. All are welcome in this church."

Spike streaked inside skidding to a halt just short of the font. "Whoa! This place is dangerous." He still had the smouldering blanket around his shoulders and his head was down. He risked a quick glance up toward the altar then promptly turned around with a shudder. Xander and Father Hansen were both smiling at him. Spike gave the Father a nod.

Father Hansen got a mischievous gleam in his eye, as he looked the vampire over. He then turned to Xander and with a perfectly straight face said, "You're right, he is cute but that's as far as I'm willing to bend on this matter." Xander made a choking noise and Spike puffed up a bit.

"He thinks I'm cute then, eh?"

"Well," the old man said solemnly, "as cute as a dangerous, blood sucking demon from Hell can be, of course."

If possible Spike puffed his chest out a little farther. "Terror of two continents." Spike said
proudly then suddenly remembered where he was and dropped his eyes a bit. "Of course that was the old days, you know before." He trailed off then asked quickly. "So, what are we picking up then?"

Xander was still frozen in mortification, staring at the old man.

Spike snapped his fingers. "C'mon whelp, stay with us here. Why are we here? What are we picking up?"

"For reasons that are escaping me at the moment I wanted to introduce you to my 'friend', and because I've got an idea on how to distract Micah and the others while we get the spell going and we need the Padre's help."

Xander quickly outlined the situation. The priest having been a long time resident of Sunnydale, didn't even blink when told about Xander's past, renegade angels and the plan to thwart them.

"So my son, what can I do?

"We can't take them on one on one Father." Xander said earnestly. "Spike's the only one physically strong enough to face off against an angel." Xander glanced affectionately at Spike. " We were both thinking of last-ditch efforts and kamikaze manoeuvres." Xander looked embarrassed. "If we go into a fight thinking like that, we've already lost." The young man took a deep breath. "A friend had to remind me that maybe it's not all up to me. And that got me thinking who else has a stake in this and that led me to you. So, you still remember the ritual of exorcism you were telling me about?

Spike gave Xander an admiring look. "Cor, pet, I love the way you think. Will it work?" He asked excitedly.

"I don't know. What do you think Father and will you do it?" Xander waited while the priest thought it over.

The old man tapped his chin, nodding to himself. "Don't see why it shouldn't, what they're doing, that can't be what God wants." The priest gave a decisive nod. "I'll do it! Let's get cracking boys, it's time to send these heathens back home!"

"He's a bit of alright, innit he?" Spike said.


Finale- Part Two

The Scoobies had already assembled everything they deemed necessary at the magic shop by the time Xander, Spike and Father Hansen had arrived. The priest was introduced to the friends, quickly putting everyone at ease with his calm, accepting manner.

After a fierce argument it was decided that Dawn would accompany them. She would aid the priest in the ritual. Willow and Tara would provide protection spells and Spike muscle, while Xander helped Giles perform the spell. Xander figured that Micah would keep to his timetable
and start his ritual that evening. If they could get to the high school first, Father Hansen's exorcism should draw the angels away from the library and he and Giles could cap the Hellmouth. None of the friends were naïve enough to think that succeeding in the spell would be the end of it. They couldn't exorcise all three angels and those left weren't going to take
defeat lightly. To that end they were all carrying weapons of some kind. Xander had explained that the only way to make sure an angel was really dead was to take out its heart. The girls blanched a bit but looked determined and Spike looked positively gleeful. Everyone but Spike looked a bit surprised when the priest pulled an Uzi and a machete out of his

"The Archdiocese distributes them to all the priests coming to Sunnydale." He said with a shrug. "Don't worry, I know how to use them - Korea." He said reassuringly. Spike gave him a thumbs-up.

"Ah yes, well. I suppose we're ready to go. It's unfortunate that we can't take the tunnels but they're too dangerous with all the fleeing demons. At least they shouldn't be expecting us." Giles said.

* * * *

They arrived at the high school in good time and without incident. It was decided that Xander would take a quick scout around the area. He parked about a three blocks away. Giles stayed in the car with Spike who was on the floor in the back seat under a heavy tarp this time, complaining mightily. Xander did a quick circuit but didn't see any sign of the angels.

He quickly walked it again becoming uneasy. Where were they? Perhaps they were already inside but for an angel to stay that close to a Hellmouth was inviting disaster. It would be extremely uncomfortable for them and there was a good chance that it would also draw unwanted attention from the Powers That Be. They usually had no say in the affairs of angels but in this case, who knows? Why would Micah risk that unless...?

Xander turned and ran back to the cars. He dashed back to Tara's car first. "I think we've got a problem. I think Micah's moved up the timetable, something must have happened. We go in now. Stay sharp." The witches nodded.

Father Hansen gave Dawn a reassuring pat. "Don't worry about us, my son. We'll watch out for each other." The two men shared a look. Dawn was to be protected at all costs.

"Don't worry Xander." Willow had her resolved face on. "We still have to have that talk!" She softened the statement with a smile. Xander grinned.

Tara looked at him calmly just as she had that morning. "You be careful too." She said.

"Don't worry we've got your six." Dawn piped up from the back seat. Xander blinked and she blushed. "Father Hansen's been teaching us battle lingo." She said.

"Great, between he and Spike, you're going to have one colorful vocabulary for a fourteen year old." Xander said dryly. Dawn tried not to look too proud.

He sprinted back to the car. "Giles, Spike, they know something's up. I say we take our chances in the tunnels and get inside then get the Padre and the girls in through the front door. They start the ritual and we head toward the library. They may know something's up but I don't think they know it's us."

"Bloody Hell! You'd think we could catch a break here. We keep risking it for the side o' right and where's the bleedin back-up eh?" The vampire said angrily. He lifted the tarp and Xander caught the gleam of gold in his eyes. "Where the Hell are the PTB when you need
them? Off giving bloody visions and cryptic messages, never around with any solid help when…" Spike was cut off mid-rant by a crack of thunder as the sky darkened ominously.

The warm spring day turned cold and gloomy as large thunderheads moved in on the quickening breeze. All three men peaked up at the sky. Spike slipped out of the backseat. He continued to hold the tarp up as he glared at the clouds suspiciously but it was clear that there was not enough sunlight left to do more then make the vampire uncomfortable. "Oh well, never mind." Said the slightly chagrined vampire.

Xander shook a finger at him. "You're always talking about me mouthing off but I swear."

"I just stated my opinion, mate, and it was a legitimate one."

"I'm just saying a little less lip."

"Yeah, yeah, all right, you don't need to nag."

"I'm not nagging. Who's nagging?"

"You, you pillock!"

Giles gave a long-suffering sigh as he watched the two men. The others joined him as Xander and Spike continued their 'discussion' while pulling supplies from the trunk.

"Bite me."

"Don't think I won't one of these days, mate."

"What was that?"

"You heard me."

"Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

Giles, the girls and Father Hansen shared a commiserating look. Giles raised his voice slightly,
"Gentlemen, and I use the term loosely."

Spike handed Giles his kit. And said sullenly. "He started it."

At that moment the sky opened up drenching the group. Giles gave Spike a look. "Perfect. Right, let's go." Said Giles as they sprinted for the front door. They fanned out before the school looking towards Spike. He had vamped out completely and stood very still then gave a quick jerk of his head. Xander tossed him the bolt cutters and Spike made quick work of the front lock. He then dropped to a crouch, carefully opening the door from near the bottom. Xander sprinted to his side. "On a count of three." Xander said and they opened both doors, rolling in and to the side. Nothing.

"Can you hear anything?" Xander mouthed at Spike. Spike shook his head and shrugged. He was still fully vamped, scenting the air and listening. He shook his head again. "Nothing." He whispered. "I can feel something but." Spike looked frustrated. "It's the Hellmouth pet. I can't get a clear sense of anything. It's like trying to feel through mud."

"I know," said Xander. "I can almost feel it vibrating. Something's definitely up." Xander turned to wave the others in when suddenly Stephen and Mordacai dropped from the ceiling; Stephen onto Xander's back and Mordacai, in front of Spike.

Xander gave a loud yell before he hit the floor, rolling over, trying to dislodge his opponent.

Spike and Mordacai snarled and swiped at each other, both vampire and angel having very sharp, talon-like fingers. Hissing and spitting they whirled and kicked at each other as Mordacai forced Spike down the hallway, further away from Xander.

Giles and the others burst through the doorway. Giles tried to pull Stephen away from Xander and was shoved into a wall for his troubles. Willow and Tara started to chant a protection spell but it seemed to have no effect.

"Damnit!" yelled Willow. "Nothing's happening. Just once I'd like a plan to work like it's suppose to. Is that too much to ask?"

"Honey, you're panicking." Tara soothed

"Sorry, sorry. I'm okay. I'm fine. So, what now?" Willow asked.

"Let's just bash him." Tara said, picking up the crossbow and axe they'd brought and tossing one to her girlfriend.

"Good, low tech, less chance for a glitch. I like it." Willow said, smacking the angel on the back with the axe handle.

Tara smiled. "That's my sweetie," also clouting Stephen with her crossbow. The angel snarled at them, tossing Xander aside and turning to face the girls. Willow swallowed hard. He had no eyes, just black holes where his eyes should be. "Is this what Xander would look like?" She thought. She quickly chanted the spell for a small fireball and hurled it at him. Stephen just laughed and swatted it away, advancing on the young witch. Tara swung at him again and this time he caught the crossbow in his hand, ripping it out of her fingers. Tara yelped and jumped back.

Meanwhile, Dawn was trying to help Giles to his feet while Father Hansen was seeing to Xander.

Xander gasped out, "Don't worry about me. We have to help Willow and Tara and where's Spike?" Xander glanced around worriedly.

"No Xander," said the priest. "Dawn and I will help the girls. You and Giles have to keep to the plan. They're trying to stall us. We don't have the time to waste. We'll take care of this one." The priest nodded to Stephen. "You'll have to trust Spike to take care of himself." He gripped the boy's arm hard. "Alright?"

Xander nodded unhappily. "Good luck. Giles, you okay?" Giles nodded although he was favouring his right side.

"I'm fine Xander. Let's go." Xander moved to the older man taking the satchel from him as they started down the hallway toward the library. He glanced back and saw the witches holding Stephen back as Father Hansen moved in to help, tossing Dawn her baseball bat. He
could hear the sounds of fighting down one of the side
corridors. That meant Spike was still alive and kicking. "Please," he prayed. "Please help them and keep them safe."

* * * *
Mordacai was giving Spike a run for his money but the vampire was still holding his own. They were both bleeding from numerous gashes and slices. Spike hadn't been able to get in close enough to use his fangs. "Damn," thought Spike, "and I always thought being a white-hat made you weak. I wonder if Xander was this tough when he was an angel? What am I thinking, of course he was, Xanderwolf, right? Fallen angel, yeah, just like me." Spike suddenly grinned at Mordacai through his fangs.

"Hey brother," he taunted the angel. "How's it feel to be down here with the monkeys in the mud. Quite a fall, eh?"

"You're not my brother." Mordacai hissed. "You're just one of the Fallen and not even a pure-blood at that. You wouldn't even be able to exist without that monkey's body you're infesting. You're nothing but an animal." The angel caught Spike across the chest with a talon, slicing the shirt and flesh beneath it.

Spike just laughed. "That's true enough mate but at least I know my place. I'm a demon from Hell. I was thrown out of Heaven for rebelling against the Presence. So why don't you explain to me how what you're doing is so different, brother." Spike emphasized. "I'm a little slow."

Mordacai howled, enraged and launched himself at Spike. The vampire had a quick glimpse of extended wings before the angel grappled with him, clawing for his heart. Quick as a snake, Spike's mouth darted forward as he sank his fangs into Mordacai's neck, drinking deep. The angel snarled and clawed but the vampire hung on like a pit bull. The angel's blood
tasted hot and cold at the same time. It was like drinking sunlight and holy water and Sire's blood and innocence all at once. Spike didn't know whether he would survive this feeding but he hung on and drank as the angel's struggles became weaker and finally ended.

Spike tore his mouth away gasping for unnecessary air. Mordacai hung limply in his arms. With a vicious laugh, Spike punched his hand into the angel's chest tearing his heart out and crushing it in his hand. Spike dropped the body to the ground, licking his blood soaked hand delicately; like a cat. He finished and looked down at the empty shell stating conversationally.

"I may be an animal mate, but that's not all I am. You gotta be able to think even when
you're having a good spot of violence. Like I told the Slayer, a vampire always carries his weapons on him." He pumped the air with his fist. "Who's the Big Bad, Angel-Killer, yeah! One down, two to go."

* * * *
Tara, Willow, Dawn and the Padre had backed Stephen into a corner but they were flagging badly. It was like poking a tiger with a stick. The Father couldn't use the gun for fear of hitting the girls. Willow didn't feel sufficiently skilled with the axe to risk swinging it in close quarters. Tara had fired several bolts from her crossbow but Stephen had swatted them all away with little notice and Dawn's baseball bat made no impression at all. The angel had a smile on his face that did not bode well for the little group.

"Well, well Father, beating up on an angel. This is not going to look very good on your resume. But then, they never send the best to a Hellmouth do they? Tell me, did anyone ever use the word cannon fodder directly in your presence?" Stephen laughed. "What a thankless job, huh? All those years of faithful service and you end up here on a Hellmouth with two
witches and a little manufactured monkey putting your mortal soul in peril." Stephen looked at him sympathetically. "You know, you might not believe this, but I do know exactly how you feel. You spend all your time, trying to do the right thing and nobody appreciates it, but you keep doing it because that's your job. Then these things come along," he said gesturing at the girls, "and suddenly you just don't matter anymore."

"That's what this is about?" The priest said incredulously. "Some sort of grand case of sibling
rivalry; Daddy's not paying enough attention so you're going to cause an apocalypse to get back at him? Son, why don't you just grow up?"

Stephen hissed slicing at Dawn as she got too close. He caught her just across the arm. She screamed and dropped the bat, clutching at the wound. Willow pulled her away. The wound was only superficial, but Willow had murder in her eye.

"We are not family! You're nothing but clever little pets and someday the infatuation is going to wear off." He screamed.

Tara took that moment to shoot her crossbow. She nailed his right shoulder to the wall. As he tried to pull away Willow threw another fireball spell at him while Tara calmly reloaded. She shot, nailing his other shoulder to the wall. Father Hansen lifted his gun but Willow put up her hand, stopping him. Tara loaded again and looked into Stephen's face as she took aim on his heart. "Oh we're family alright. We are the classic definition of a dysfunctional family. Believe me, I ought to know." She fired coolly, hitting right on target. The angel dropped forward only held upright by the bolts through his body.

"Father your machete please?" Willow said as she stood and held out her hand. He started to protest but seeing the look on the young witch's face, he silently handed her the knife. "Dawn, close your eyes." Willow said sternly. She then raised the knife in both hands and brought it down directly on Stephen's chest.

Dawn heard a crack and then wet, sucking sounds followed by tearing noises. She heard disgusted exclamations by Tara and Willow. She heard the priest muttering a prayer of absolution and then silence. She cracked her eyes open just bit and then quickly closed
them again. "Ewww! Are we going to get in, like, a lot of trouble for this?"

* * * *

Giles was leaning more heavily on Xander as they neared the library. The young man was worried. He knew Giles was hurt worse than he was letting him know. As they neared the library the vibrating feeling Xander had sensed earlier was stronger. "I've got a very bad feeling about this G-Man, sorry, I mean Giles."

"I think this is probably a very good situation to have a bad feeling about." He squeezed the young man's shoulder affectionately. They stopped as they rounded the corner in front of the library doors. One could almost see the vibrations in the air.

Xander's shoulders drooped. "I was trying to convince myself that he hadn't started yet." Xander gave the former Watcher a pained smile. "Hey, at least he hasn't finished. Giles are you strong enough to start the spell? "

"Just prop me up in a good corner and I'll be ready when you are." Xander smiled and eased him into a sitting position against the wall. Giles paled for a moment and closed his eyes then took a careful breath and gave Xander a game look. "I'll be fine. You watch your self." Giles said seriously.

"Hey, Micah doesn't know who he's dealing with, I've been doing hard time." Xander squared his shoulders, opening the library doors. Xander spotted Micah, sitting, balanced
on what was left of the banister by the upper stacks, staring down into the Hellmouth that seemed to be slowly collapsing in on its self. He didn't even look up as he addressed Xander.

"Well Alexander, so you're not dead. I would rejoice that my brother has returned to me if he hadn't returned as a traitor." Micah raised pitying eyes to Xander. "I don't blame you. Not even Gabriel could withstand the sickness rampant on this world." Micah shook his head. "The monkeys infect everything they touch. It's not your fault; come, come here to me, all's forgiven. As soon as this is done, we can all go home." Micah smiled gently and gestured.

"Home?" Xander asked and gestured to himself. "What like this?" Micah," Xander said wearily, "why are you doing this? Gabriel's been forgiven. The war's over and we lost. We deserved to lose. We were wrong can't you see that? I mean, think about what you're doing.
You had to wait until the Slayer was dead because you knew if you went against her the Presence would never forgive you. Slayers exist to protect this world, to protect these people, because they're loved. Don't you understand? We were never going to be put aside; love
doesn't work that way, Micah. Heaven's big enough for all of us. Please, just stop all this and go home, go talk to Him. It's not too late."

Micah leapt lightly to the floor in front of Xander. "He doesn't talk to me anymore." He said with anger and a hint of infinite sorrow.

"Yes, he does, Micah. We just don't always listen." Xander reached out but the angel slapped his hand away.

"I knew when Gabriel showed up that there would be a problem. I thought it might actually be something that could stop us, but it's just a dirty monkey with delusions of grandeur." Micah said contemptuously as he glared at the young man.

Suddenly the vibrating noise stopped and both Xander and Micah glanced to where the Hellmouth had existed.

"You lose Alexander." Micah smirked.

"No." Xander shook his head in denial. "I don't believe it. I don't know how, but I know, you won't win."

Micah looked at him incredulously. "You really are insane aren't you? It's done Alexander. We've won. This was the last possible portal to any Hell dimension. Either the evil dead of this place will destroy this world or those fools who style themselves Hell gods will. It's done. The way is closed." Micah gestured to the floor.

Xander closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them again they were calm and deep and Micah felt a strange shiver of apprehension. He also caught a faint sound of chanting, coming closer. He forced a laugh, a rite of exorcism, for an angel? This young one really was desperate. Xander's gaze never wavered. "Sometimes Micah, you just got to have faith because faith is all you have."

Micah stumbled back feeling a strange tugging on his being. He felt his spirit being pulled but his body was strangely heavy. He stumbled again, trying to move as the doors to the library opened. There was an old priest chanting the ritual with the girl-shaped key those monks had created helping him. There were two witches holding candles and herbs and a vampire holding up an older magician. Alexander turned and smiled at them before returning his gaze to Micah. "My friends," Xander said with pride and affection in his voice.

The tugging became stronger and Micah snarled. "So you send me home, so what, we've still won. The Hellmouth is closed." The exorcism came to its climax and a portal opened above the angel's head. Micah felt his feet leaving the ground then suddenly there was a tremendous crack as a beam of pure light shot from the portal to the closed Hellmouth.

"Ready Giles?" Xander said calmly.

"Ready," answered the older man.

The Hellmouth cracked open as Micah was sucked toward the newly made opening and down into the pit. Giles and Xander shouted out the words to their spell as the cold winds of the Netherworld blew through the room. But the friends remained unmolested, bathed in the
soft light from the slowly closing Heavenly portal. There was a tremendous clap and sudden silence. A newly created bubble glowed in the floor of the library. The light from the Heavenly portal dissipated as it closed and everyone felt the loss of the warmth except for Spike, who was left feeling rather as if he'd been spanked, but not too severely, although he
did have an overwhelming urge to rub his behind.

Dawn was the first to break the silence. "I thought when you exorcised something you sent it back where it came from, why did Micah get sucked into the Hellmouth?"

Xander walked over and hugged her. "Let's just say that Dad was way pissed with him."

Dawn's eyes got big. "Wow and I thought Buffy was strict."

"Spike, you okay?" Xander looked the vampire over carefully noting all the tears and bloodstains though no actual physical damage.

"Bloody great mate!"

"And Mordacai?"

"You know, you probably don't want to hear this but if I'm ever staked and sent to Hell the fact that I just helped kick some serious angelic ass is going to earn me some major points."

Xander just stared at him. "You're right, I didn't really need to hear that." Xander took the support of Giles' other side. "C'mon guys, hospital, bath, food, bed in that order."

He looked at Spike again and shook his head.

"What?" asked the vampire.

"I can't believe you just said that."

"I keep telling you lot I'm…"

"We know," they chorused, "you're evil."

Spike smiled proudly. "Well yeah."

* * *

It had been a week since the Battle of the Angels as Spike insisted on calling it. After they had taken Giles to the hospital and had five cracked ribs taped, they had dropped Father Hansen off at his church with many thanks. He'd given them all hugs, even an embarrassed Spike, and invited them all to drop by anytime. He'd also confessed that he was probably going to leave the entire incident out of his weekly report to the Archdiocese. What they didn't know
wouldn't hurt them.

It was Saturday night and Spike, Willow, Tara and Dawn were gathered at the Bronze waiting for Xander. Spike was off getting drinks for the table. Giles was enjoying a peaceful evening at home, recuperating with the help of his friend Olivia who had come over to
nurse him during his convalescence. Spike had remarked that Giles would be lucky if he survived his convalescence. He'd been shushed but privately agreed with by the girls.

Willow was looking for Xander when she spotted him in the corner talking with an older man in a dark coat. Willow frowned. Who was that? She didn't recognize him per se but he somehow seemed familiar. She was about to ask Tara when Spike returned with their drinks and noticed where she was looking. He paled and sat down hard.

"Spike, what is it? Are you okay?" Willow asked worriedly. She saw where he was looking. "Do you know him?" she said nodding towards the couple.

"Yeah, that's the bloody Angel of Death himself. That's Gabriel." Spike said dejectedly.

Willow bit her lip. "Do you think he's come to take Xander home, maybe make him and angel again?" she whispered. "He won't go." She said fiercely. "He loves us, remember?"

Spike tried to put on a brave face. "Pet, a choice between us and Heaven? Not much of a choice, if you ask me."

Tara and Dawn looked at the two of them and shook their respective heads, disgustedly.

"You two are born neurotics do you know that? Xander is not going to leave the two people he loves most in this world. Not without a lot of kicking and screaming, okay? Look here he comes." Dawn said.

Xander wove his way along the dance floor and over to the table sitting between Willow and Spike. "Hey, what's up?"

"Are you leaving?" asked Spike.

"I just got here." Xander said confusedly.

"Just answer the question mate." Spike said a bit desperately.

"No Spike," Xander said slowly and carefully. "I thought I would drink my soda, dance a little and then go home. Is that okay with you?" Xander was about to tease the blonde more when he noticed the hint of tears in the vampire's eyes. He looked around the table. Willow didn't look any too steady either. He looked across at Dawn helplessly.

Dawn snorted. "These two," she pointed at Willow and Spike, "saw you talking to Gabriel, who I guess was like your boss, or something, and now they've convinced themselves that you're probably going to get your old job back and leave us."

"No way guys." Xander put his arm around the two unhappy friends. "I'm not going anywhere for a good long time. Sure, Gabriel did say that I could come home if I wanted to but you guys are my home. Don't you know that?" He gave Willow a kiss on the forehead
and a squeeze. Then he turned to Spike and did the same. "C'mon Blondie, want to dance? It's a slow song."

Spike snorted. "Only if I can lead."

"I'm taller, I should lead." Xander said standing up and pulling the blonde with him.

"You only get to lead if you can dance, Harris and you can't dance."

"What do you mean, I can't dance. I dance."

"No you have something resembling a seizure in public. That's not what civilized folk refer to as dancing, mate."

"Since when are you civilized?"

The girls giggled watching the arguing couple make their way to the dance floor. Willow sighed and took her girlfriend's hand as the duo apparently gave up the debate and Spike just laid his head on Xander's shoulder as they swayed to the beat. Xander stopped briefly to gently kiss Spike's mouth. The two smiled at each other and went back to their dance.

"About time." Said Dawn, slurping her soda.

The End.

On to ' Dancing Lessons ' (sequel to ' Fallen Angels ' )