Part One

*The poem is 'Tis the Last Rose of Summer' - Thomas Moore

"Oh my God! Oh yes, yes, more! Yess!"

Spike rolled over and threw his pillow at the ceiling. "Bloody Hell woman, shut the fuck up!" He flopped back down on the bed rolling to his side. "Xander, luv, you awake?"

"I am now," the human muttered sleepily. He yawned and turned to face his highly annoyed lover.

"They're going at it again. You can't tell me they're just human. I've known lust demons that showed more restraint." Spike raved while gesturing at the ceiling where the moans were once more increasing in volume.

Xander blinked, once, twice. He barely registered the noise coming from the upstairs apartment. He was a very sound sleeper, a legacy of argumentative parents. He rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Sweetie, we talked about this remember? They're newlyweds. He's leaving for six months. He's going to be gone on Monday and then everything will settle down okay?" Xander smiled tiredly at his grumpy boyfriend.

Spike glowered back. "It's obscene, I tell you. How's a bloke suppose to get any sleep" He grumped.

Xander sighed, "You know what part of the problem is, it's only three a.m. and you're already in bed. That's why you can't get to sleep. It's the middle of the day for you."

Spike smiled slyly and started to walk his fingers up Xander's arm. "Well, you could try to wear me out." The blonde waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Xander slapped lightly at the foraging fingers. "Stop that. I've tried to wear you out twice already and that's my limit for a work night."

Spike pouted, crossing his arms and huffing. He watched his lover out of the corner of his eyes.

Xander just smiled. "Pouting's not going to help, Blondie." Xander propped his arms on Spike's chest and rested his head in this hands. "Look, I really like falling asleep next to you. I adore snuggling, but I also appreciate the fact that maybe you still have a lot of excess energy to work off. What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to stay with me and watch me sleep. You can go out prowling. I won't mind."

"You sure pet? I don't mind staying, really?" Spike asked, one foot already on the bedroom floor.

Xander flopped over to his back. "I'm sure." He watched Spike hop into his jeans and yank a t-shirt over his head. Spike sat back on the bed to pull his boots on. The vampire stood and bent to give his lover a kiss.

"Tomorrow night though pet, you and me, we'll give that silly bint and her bloke a run for their money, alright?" Spike grinned, snatching his duster.

"Right, I'll pencil it in my calendar, Friday night, competitive sex. Let the games begin." Xander murmured, already falling back to sleep.

"Oh God, yes, again!"

Spike rolled his eyes and headed for the front door.

* * * * * *
L.A. - the next morning

"How long do you think he's going to stay up there?" Cordelia asked, staring at the ceiling and filing her nails. "I mean I know she was the love of his un-life and everything, but it's been a month now." The young woman turned to Wesley. "You're sure he's not up there sketching, because if he's started that whole obsessive artist thing again then I'm all for nipping it in the bud right now."

"Yes Cordelia, I'm sure. He's just sitting and reading poetry." Wesley answered without looking up from his book. "He says he's fine. He just needs some time alone."

"Hey," she said jumping up and stalking over to stand in front of the ex-Watcher, tapping on his book page to get his attention. "It's not like he's Mister Stability at the best of times. It hasn't been that long since we got him back in line." She sighed. "You're just happy because he's not challenging you for the alpha male position you guys like to indulge in."

Wesley looked up and scowled. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

Cordy rolled her eyes. "Oh please. For the past month ever since "She who cannot be Named" died, every time I get a vision all you have to do is go upstairs and say 'Angel, vision, let's go!'" She sing-songed, "And he does exactly what you say. No arguments, no 'Wesley, maybe we should do this instead,' no trying to take control of the situation and be boss. Let's
face it, you love it." She punctuated each point with a tap of her finger on the book.

Wesley narrowed his eyes and closed the book with a quick snap. Cordelia had already removed her finger and smirked at him. Wes gave her a reluctant smile in return.

"I'll grant you that he has been unusually tractable since Willow brought news of Buffy's death. However, he eats fairly regularly. He's responsive to questions. He just wants to be alone. He's really acting very normally for a grieving person."

"That's my point!" Cordy exclaimed in exasperation. "He's acting too normally. He's not a human, isn't there some sort of vampire grieving ritual or something he should be going through, I mean, he's acting like okay, she's dead, I expected this, so let's all just move on. Doesn't that strike you as odd?" Cordy stared into his eyes, willing him to agree.

Wes stood and paced around the desk, clasping his hands behind his back. " I suppose he has taken the whole situation rather calmly." He turned to face the dark haired young woman. "You have to understand though, Buffy lived a very long life for a Slayer. She was in her twenties when she died. Only a handful of Slayers have ever lived that long."

He ran his hands through his hair. "I confess; I wasn't the least bit surprised to hear that she'd died. I've been waiting for it, as I'm sure Rupert has, as well. I suppose I rather assumed that Angel has also and that's why he's been taking her death so calmly."

He sighed, "You're right though, Cordelia, whether it was expected or not she wasn't just his lover, she was his mate and no matter how much Angelus hated her, there are vampire grieving rituals for the loss of one's mate."

"Great, what are they? Wait a minute, do they involve blood and gore? What am I saying, vampires, of course they involve blood and gore." She wrinkled her nose at
him, "The things I do for the people I love, ewww!" She shuddered.

He gave her a commiserating smile. "Yes, well, the blood letting involved is relatively minor. It is the sharing of the blood that is important. Unfortunately the blood must be shared with the surviving mate's family."

"Oh we are so not getting back the Wicked Bitch of the West and Ms. Looney Tunes." Cordy shook her head. "Not going to happen. But hey, what are we, chopped liver? We're family." She said gesturing to Wesley and herself. "We certainly have put up with enough grief to be considered family."

Wesley adjusted his glasses and agreed. "Yes, while including Darla or Drusilla would be inappropriate and even though Angel may consider us part of his family we still need a blood member of the line for the ritual." Wesley looked troubled.

Cordy waved her hand and gave a sunny smile. "No problem. We'll just get Spike. Willow said he's been helping them out. He even got himself smoshed trying to save Dawn." She sat in Wesley's chair, crossing her legs and resumed filing her nails, problem solved.

Wes looked at her in disbelief. "Cordelia, didn't you tell me that the last time they met, Spike tortured Angel for the Gem of Amara? Even if Spike would agree to take part in the ritual, what makes you think that Angel would allow it? They don't even like each other."

"Haven't you listened to a word I said? He's family Wesley. How much crap do you put up with from your family?" Wes opened his mouth to answer but Cordelia continued. "How much crap do I put up with from my family?" The young woman questioned, putting her hand to her chest. "The answer is - a lot. Okay? And do you know why?"

Wesley opened his mouth again but Cordy soldiered on. "It's not because we like these people. My Gosh Wes, lots of people don't like their family. Heck, I don't even like you guys half the time and I love you. But that's the definition of family: defending to the death people you normally just want to smack. You know?" Cordy declared earnestly. "Don't worry about
it." She stated confidentially. "Spike will come. We'll do the ritual. I'll even make some punch or something; and Angel will damn well like it if he knows what's good for him." She finished ominously.

Wes removed his glasses, opened his mouth, closed it and shook his head. "I'm deeply disturbed that your explanation made sense to me. I'll just go make sure we have everything we need for the ritual and let you make any phone calls that are required." Wesley retreated shaking his head and muttering to himself.

Cordy snorted elegantly and started filing her nails deciding to wait until afternoon to make the phone call. She glanced back up toward the ceiling. "Family," she sighed.

* * * * * *

Angel stared at the poetry book in his lap.

'Tis the last rose of Summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh!

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one,
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o'er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love's shining circle
The gems drop away!
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! Who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?'

He sighed deeply. Buffy, Darla, Dru, and even Penn, all gone now or as good as gone. No one should outlive his or her family; his children, his Sire, his Mate.

He felt so old. He closed his eyes, leaning his head back. He wished he could cry but all he could do was sit and stare or read his poetry. He missed Buffy. He hadn't been with her for over a year but just knowing that she was alive had been a comfort, now that comfort was gone. He smiled sadly. Cordelia and Wesley kept coming up to check on him. Gunn had stopped by twice. Even Fred had tapped softly on his door late at night, just to check on him.

He knew they were worried that he would go rogue again but frankly, he didn't have the inclination or the energy. He wondered; if he could see his face, what would he look like? He
reached his hand up, tracing his cheeks and eyes, his lips; it all felt the same. Shouldn't it be different; shouldn't he be different?

He sighed softly again, 'When true hearts lie withered and fond ones are flown, Oh! Who would inhabit this bleak world alone?' He returned to staring at the book in his lap.


Part Two

Angel wasn't aware of how long he had been staring at the picture on the wall. It was a charcoal sketch of Glencoe that he'd created from memory. Darla had taken a fancy to Scotland or rather a Scottish laird. They'd paid the man and his family a visit one summer. When all was said and done, Darla had acquired some rather striking jewellery and together they'd managed to destroy one of the oldest families in Europe. For the most part, Angelus had been bored; the scenery had been impressive though.

He closed his eyes, trying to will away the memory of Darla naked but for that magnificent diamond necklace the laird had given her; mouth bloodstained, hair tousled about her shoulders. Angel frowned, what had been his name, MacGregor, MacGruder? Whoever, he'd
been a fool. Darla had spent the summer leading the man around by his short and curlies, sleeping with him under his wife's nose and tormenting the woman with the knowledge over dinner.

Darla had ended up convincing the man to kill his wife and children to make her happy and he'd been so deep in her thrall that he'd done it, slitting their throats one night. He remembered lounging on the bed, the room lit only by the fire and a few candles, watching the laird kneel at her feet; offering the necklace to her with bloodstained hands. His Sire had smiled that sweet, sweet smile of hers, petting his head as if he were a faithful hound before she'd torn out his throat. Angelus had laughed; the man had looked so comically surprised. Then she'd danced for him, round and round and round the room, the firelight warming that body dressed in diamonds and blood.

He started; there was a gentle scratching at the door. Angel smiled kindly, "Come in Fred." The door opened just enough for the shy young woman's head to peek around the corner. "Am I bother'n you?" she whispered.

"No, of course not." He gestured invitingly.

She smiled at him, closing the door quietly. She sat on the floor by his chair smiling shyly again before dropping her eyes to the floor.

"Wouldn't you rather sit in a chair?" Angel asked.

Fred looked up and shook her head and smiled. "I like the floor. It's, um, low." She said with an embarrassed laugh.

Angel nodded his head in agreement. "It's harder to spot low prey."

"I like your room too. It's all dark and quiet, like a cocoon or a shell." She whispered brightly. "It's a good place to just be."

"Thank you, I think." Angel nodded again. "Why are we whispering?"

Fred blinked and bit her lip, giving a nervous laugh. "I didn't realize we were."

"It's all right, I don't mind." Angel whispered back reassuringly.

Fred inched closer to him, wrapping her arms around her legs. She rocked slightly back and forth before settling into place against the side of the chair.

Angel reached his hand out to touch the young woman's head before memories again intruded. This time they involved another dark haired young woman, troubled in mind, sitting at his feet and singing to her doll. Angel dropped his hand with a slight grimace.

Fred turned her head and smiled up at him trustingly. Angel reached for the book on the table by his chair. "Would you like me to read to you, Fred?"

She smiled shyly, "I'd like that. What are we reading?"

"Wuthering Heights," he said with a self-deprecating chuckle. She laughed aloud, then clapped her hand over her mouth and blushed. Her eyes sparkled as the dark haired vampire raised one eyebrow slightly and began to read.

* * * * * *

Wesley was seated at the front desk reading over Prother's "Demonicus, Volume II" when Gunn entered the hotel.

"Hey, Wes my man, something up with the Forces of Darkness?" Charles asked as he hopped up to sit on the counter.

"Good afternoon Charles." Wesley greeted with a smile. "No, I'm researching vampire grieving rituals. Cordelia believes that performing such a ritual would be cathartic for Angel."

"Vampire's got grieving rituals? I thought they were more like survival of the fittest." Gunn said with a frown.

"Only in the case of mated pairs, as with Angel and Buffy. In such an instance when one of the pair ceases to exist, then..." Gunn held up his hand.

"You know something, I don't want to know."

Wesley blinked. "It's really quite fascinating."

"Yeah right but I don't really care whether vampires grieve for each other or not. They don't grieve for us and that's all that matters. Get my drift?" Gunn smiled grimly.

"Ah, yes, I do understand." Wesley cleared his throat. "I was going to ask you if you would like to participate, as the ritual involves the remaining mate's family but I understand."

"Hey, I didn't say nothing about not participating." Gunn said indignantly. "I just said I didn't want to know. What'd we do, go out and kill something together. I can get behind that, as long as it's a demon." The young man looked at Wesley expectantly.

"No, it's actually quite restrained in terms of vampire custom. There is a sharing of blood." Gunn grimaced. Wesley held up his hand, "But only between members of the same bloodline. The rest of the ritual is just a formal acknowledgement of loss."

Gunn nodded, "Okay, I can get behind that. So the Princess thinks this'll help the big guy out?"

"Yes, she feels that he is taking Buffy's death too calmly and that a formal acknowledgement of loss will help him cope with her death in a more healthy manner."

"That's cool, I can see that." Gunn nodded again in agreement.

Wesley frowned, "Well, I did try to explain to her that Buffy was rather long lived for a Slayer and that Angel must have been expecting her death for sometime; that is why he is being so calm."

Gunn shook his head at the ex-Watcher and gave him a perplexed look. "Yeah so? Man, it don't matter if he's been expecting her to die or not; it's still got to hurt. One of my guys, his lady had cancer for over a year. He knew she was gonna go, but it didn't matter
any when she went. He still freaked. You ain't never prepared as you think you are when death comes knockin."

Gunn hopped down from the counter, walking over to the coffee pot and started to pour himself a cup, then stopped. He pointed at the pot and mouthed "Cordelia?" at Wesley. The ex-Watcher shook his head and pointed at himself. Gunn smiled in relief and finished pouring the coffee.

"So, besides us, who's gonna be at this gathering?" Gunn asked blowing on the coffee.

"Cordelia believes that she can convince Spike, Angel's grandchild to attend. He has been aiding the Slayer in Sunnydale, due to circumstances beyond his control, and she thinks that he will attend this ritual." Wesley shook his head. "I have no idea how she believes she can convince him to attend but she did not seem unduly concerned."

"Well if anyone can do it the I'm sure the Princess can." Gunn said unconcernedly.

Wesley cocked his head to the side, "Perhaps you're right. She can be quite persuasive."

Gunn laughed, "Is that what we're calling it now?" Wesley snorted inelegantly.

"Calling what now?" Cordy asked, as she walked into the room from outside.

Gunn jumped a little and Wesley's face took on an entirely too-innocent expression. "Nothing," both men said together.

The tall brunette fixed each man with a hard look. "See that it stays that way. I'm going to call Sunnydale now. I'll let you know when Spike and Xander will be here." With a final look she headed toward the back room.

Gunn shuddered, "Man, you got to find some way that if Angel ever goes bad again, he don't ever turn that woman. Can you imagine her as a vampire?" Gunn shuddered again.

Wesley nodded passionately in agreement. "Yes, there are some lines which should not be crossed." He bent toward his book again before he abruptly looked up, "Did she say Spike and Xander?"

* * * * * *

Xander slipped his hard hat off and pushed his hair back. One of the things he loved about his job was getting off early on Fridays. Come in half an hour early and get off half an hour early. It was only four o'clock but the boss had called a halt for the day. He waved good-bye to his crew, exchanging quips and good-natured ribbing as he headed for his car. He slipped inside, throwing his gear in the back seat. It was time to head home, grab a shower and see what his honey had made for dinner tonight. Spike had turned into quite the cook.

He shook his head. He had been worried about the way Spike had been acting what with the cooking and all. The vampire kept insisting that it was a relaxing pastime for him. It had never looked very relaxing to Xander. So, Xander had gone to the Magic Box to question Giles about it one afternoon. Giles had been sitting next to Dawn helping her study.

Xander had ruffled her hair. She'd groused at him and he'd laughed, and then tackled Giles about Spike's bizarre behaviour. Giles had nodded his head, cleared his throat and then started to explain, in a very roundabout way, vampire-mating rituals. He'd just begun on providing for one's mate when he'd suddenly looked quite startled. Giles had turned to look at
Dawn incredulously. She smiled sweetly in return. Giles had then muttered something about needing to do some research. Xander would have to come back later. Xander couldn't be sure but he could have sworn that Dawn had kicked Giles. The whole incident had been very bizarre. He hadn't heard anything about vampire mating rituals since then.

Xander had just started up the car when a ringing noise caught his attention. He hunted around his vehicle until he came up with the cell phone. Giles had managed to turn the waterlogged phone in for a new one.


"Xander? Hi, it's Cordelia."

"Cordy?!? How did you get this number?"

"Willow gave it to me. Where are you? Can you talk?"

"I'm in the car. I just got off work."

"Is Spike with you?"

"No, why would Spike be with me?"

"Gee, I don't know, maybe because he's your boyfriend?"

"How, who, wha?"

"Oh please Xander. You forget to whom you're speaking. Willow told me."

"Willow, my Willow?"

"No some other Willow. Hello!" Xander heard her tapping the phone against something hard. "Now pay attention. I need you to talk the bleached wonder into coming down here to L.A. We want to do a, I'd guess you call it, a vampire type wake for Buffy. Now, I know that Angel is not one of your or Spike's favourite people but Wesley says there's this grieving ritual we can do that will make things easier for him. All we need is a member of his blood family and of course us, his 'real family'. So if we could get this set up for tomorrow night say, then we could do this blood thing and all get on with our lives. Okay? So, I'm figuring
you guys could get here about ten-ish?"

"You want me, to convince Spike to go to Los Angeles to take part in a ritual that will make the grieving process easier on Angel?"

"Okay, look Xander, I really need you to keep up here. Yes. That's. What. I. Want. You. To. Do."

"Why would he do this? Why would I do this?"

"Because, you owe me."

"For what?!"

"Oh, I don't know, let's see; making out in closets and sullying my reputation when you obviously had no intention of ever trying to actually get me into bed. I would go so far as to say that the entire incident with you kissing Willow was just some sort of knee jerk reaction to stress and didn't have anything to do with actually wanting her. So, I'm willing to forgive
you for that. However, you do owe me for the fact that you used me as cover while you secretly lusted after Fangless, probably ever since Angel offered you to him. Am I close?"

Xander took the phone away from his ear and just stared at it for a moment. "I can't make any promises. I'll do my best."

"I know you won't let me down."

"Did Willow mention anything else in your obviously in-depth chat?"

"Like what?"

Xander smiled evilly, "Nothing. Like I said, I'll see what I can do."

"Xander, I know he's not your favourite person but he's really hurting right now."

"I understand Cordy. Far be it for me to get between Queen C and one of her chicks."

"Dope. See you tomorrow night."


Xander hung up and let out a long sigh. "Oh boy. Maybe I can just bash Spike over the head or something. It might be easier." Xander shrugged his shoulders and rubbed at his neck. "I always knew that whole thing with Cordelia would bite me in the ass one day." He backed the car up, mentally preparing his plan of attack.


Part Three

Cordelia blew out a quick breath as she replaced the phone receiver. She glanced up at the ceiling, steeling herself for the confrontation ahead. She picked up her purse, pulling out a mirror and making a quick check of her makeup. She stood, smoothing her hair into place and headed up the stairs to Angel's room.

She turned the corner just as Fred was slipping out of Angel's suite. The two women exchanged wary looks. Fred offered a hesitant smile, which Cordelia returned with a brisk nod. Fred hurried back to her room. Cordy pursed her lips; that would be another problem to
tackle later, as if she didn't have enough to do.

She marched up to Angel's door and gave sharp knock.

"Come in Cordy." Angel opened the door smiling at the tall young woman. "I seem to be very popular today."

Cordy's features softened slightly. "How are you?"

"I'm fine and yourself?" He inquired politely, standing aside to let her in and gesturing to a chair.

Cordy sat precisely, smiling sadly to herself. Angel was always so polite; standing when she entered a room, holding doors for her. He'd always had the air and breeding of a gentleman. She'd been able to tell that he'd come from money even before she'd heard his history. His upbringing had always been obvious to the former May Queen. She'd never told him but he reminded her of her grandfather, an officer and a gentleman of the old school, a man whom Cordelia had adored.

Cordelia had spent every August with her grandparents at their summer home on the lake. Her grandmother had been a strict woman but fair and Cordelia had loved her albeit rather cautiously. Her grandfather on the other hand had been indulgent, calling her his Princess and teaching her to swim and ride. Whereas her parents barely paid her any attention at all, her
grandparents seemed interested in everything she did and thought. Every night at dinner, she'd recite the day's activities, with her grandmother asking pertinent questions. If her grandfather had been involved in her activities, he would throw in the odd impertinent remark. Cordelia would try to stifle her giggles while her grandmother frowned, "Really Edward," she would say admonishingly. Her grandfather would just wink at her grandmother, who would give a half smile in return, before resuming her questions. Her grandparents had been married for fifty-two years before a sudden stroke had taken her grandmother one winter afternoon. Cordelia had been twelve.

After that, there had been no more summers by the lake. Her grandfather had come to stay with them and Cordelia had watched him slip further and further away each day. It wasn't that he sat in his room and pined. Every morning he got up, dressed impeccably and came
down to breakfast before heading out to run the day's errands. Every morning Cordelia would ask him how he was and every morning the answer was the same; "Fine, Princess, I'm fine and yourself?"

It wasn't that she couldn't talk to him. He still listened to her and asked her questions but she could tell when she looked in his eyes that he wasn't really here, in the present, anymore. He was spending more time in the past, reliving his memories of her grandmother, their conversations and time together.

In desperation one morning after her query and his answer of "Fine, Princess, I'm fine and you?" she'd burst into tears and begged him not to leave her. Her mother had been horrified and insisted that she control herself. A 'Chase' did not have hysterics at the breakfast table; she'd been coldly informed. Her grandfather has shushed her mother and led Cordelia into the parlour. He'd dried her tears and wiped her face, then he'd gently kissed her forehead but he
hadn't promised to stay. A week later he was dead, having slipped away in his sleep. Cordy hadn't cried at the funeral.

She mentally shook herself and focused on the dark haired vampire seated across from her. "I know what you're doing," she thought to herself, "and you're not going to get away with it. You are staying right here if I have anything to say about it, and I do."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "So, you're fine." She smiled thinly.

Angel frowned uneasily, "Yes, I'm okay." He took an unnecessary breath, "Look, I know that you're all worried that maybe I'll do something crazy. I can understand how you might feel that way considering what we've all recently been through but really, I'm fine. I'm not going to do anything wild. You don't have to keep checking on me."

Cordelia nodded and gestured for him to continue.

Angel blinked in confusion. "I'm not sure what you want me to say?"

"How about 'I feel as though my heart's been torn out by the loss of the love of my life?'" The young woman said dryly.

Angel swallowed hard, "Of course I miss Buffy. I did love her, but she was a Slayer. They always die at a young age. Besides, grief is different for vampires, really I'm fine." He said gently.


"I beg your pardon?" Angel stammered.

"You heard me. I don't need to repeat myself." Cordelia sighed and shook her head wearily. "I know you all think I don't have a sensitive bone in my body, but I've really tried to be patient."

She stood agitatedly and began to pace, stopping suddenly and turning to face the dumbfounded vampire. "I'm sorry, but you're not fine. You're in denial. Your mate is dead and you didn't even go to the funeral. If that's not denial, I don't know what is. Now, I didn't want to do this, Lord knows I have enough to deal with in my own life without trying to
organize other people's, but you leave me no choice."

Angel stared at the young woman with trepidation. "What did you do Cordelia?"

"Tomorrow night we are going through the formal grieving ritual for vampires. We will meet in the lobby around nine thirty. Spike and Xander will be here along with Wesley, Gunn and I. If it doesn't make you feel uncomfortable and I can pry her from her room, Fred will be there as well. You are going to do this so that you can get on with your life, un-life, whatever. We are going to do this because we're family and we love you. Now, do you have any questions?" She asked politely.

Angel stared at her in horror. "Spike is going to be here? He said so?"

"Yes of course, he's the only blood member of your family that isn't immediately going to try to kill the other guests. Of course, considering his personality, the guests may try to kill him, but I'm sure that Xander will keep him in line."

"Xander is going to be here as well?" Angel asked faintly, suddenly feeling the need to sit down. Wait, he was already seated, thank goodness.

"Well of course, Xander's going to be here; he and Spike are a couple." Cordy smirked watching Angel's face closely. She could have sworn he blanched.

Angel returned her look piteously, "A couple?" he squeaked. "Can't you just stake me now?"

"No, I'm sorry. We care for you too much to put you out of your misery that quickly." Cordy patted his hands comfortingly. "It's for your own good. Now why don't you come downstairs and get some lunch. C'mon." She coaxed.

"What if I decide not to be there?" Angel ventured.

Cordelia smiled at him sweetly reminding him suddenly of one of Darla's sweet, sweet smiles before she pounced. He gulped.

Angel stood grudgingly. "You're a scary lass." He said, unconsciously reverting to his native brogue.

She smiled brightly, "Yes I am and you'd do well to remember it." She said in a fair imitation of his accent.

He returned her smile with reluctant admiration and let her lead him to the door.

* * * * * *

Xander entered the apartment quietly. He closed the door and sniffed; something smelled good. He could hear the shower running and he took a quick peek in the kitchen. There was loaf of something with little green bits cooling on the counter and a thick salmon steak marinating in a pan. He smiled and slipped his coat off, hanging it up in the closet.

He opened the bathroom door a crack, "Lucy, I'm hooome!"

"I heard you pet!" the blonde shouted back. "Be out in a minute, unless of course, you'd like to come in here and join me?"

Xander hesitated, sex first or talk first? After they talked he might not be getting any sex for awhile on the other hand he didn't want Spike to think he'd used sex to soften him up. Oh fudge!

"No honey, I'll wait for you to get done." He answered. It really sucked being one of the good guys sometimes.

"Your loss luv." Spike sing-songed.

Xander pouted, "That's what I'm afraid of," he thought. Shoulders drooping, he headed into the bedroom, slipping out of his work clothes and into his bathrobe. He returned to the living room and switched on the TV., channel surfing until he found 'Bad Day at Blackrock' with Spencer Tracey. This was a good one; he sat down to watch the movie and wait for Spike
to get done.

The vampire bounded out of the bathroom, wearing only his jeans. He hopped over the back of the couch and landed with a bounce next to his lover. He pulled Xander to him, clasping him in his arms and pulling him down so that the brunette lay on his lap. He looked deeply into the young man's eyes, "Look into my eyes, you can see only me. You are mine, mine do you hear me?"

Xander's lips twitched but he held the vampire's gaze. Spike dropped his head closer, closer before quickly striking for the young man's neck and blowing a loud raspberry on his throat. Xander whooped and Spike swiftly changed direction, capturing the brunette's laughing mouth. The kiss deepened as Xander held on tightly. Spike slipped his tongue out, nipping and licking at the young man's lips, before diving inside and again deepening the kiss. His hands wandered everywhere, rubbing and squeezing then with a final nip and lick he released his pet's mouth.

Xander dropped his head back to Spike's lap, trying to catch his breath. He stared up and gave the blonde a rather dazed smile. "Miss me?" He asked.

"Nah, not particularly, luv. Why?" Spike asked innocently.

Xander smacked the blonde's behind and Spike gave him a roguish grin. "Let me up, idiot."

"I love these little pet names you have for me ducks." Spike laughed setting the young man upright with no effort. He gave Xander's arse a quick squeeze before flipping back over the couch and heading into the bedroom.

"Well, you're in a good mood." Xander huffed. "That pesky chip still working lover?"

"Yeah the poxy thing is still zapping me." Spike said, exiting the bedroom while pulling a t-shirt over his head. He came over and gave Xander another quick kiss. "Can't I just be in a good mood once in awhile?"

"Yeah, of course. I'll just grab a quick shower." Xander motioned to the bathroom while retying his robe.

"Dinner will be ready when you get out, doesn't take long to broil salmon." Spike said taking out his cooking essentials which included a really bizarre pair of extra long oven mitts that Willow had made for him. They went almost up to his shoulders. There was also a flame retardant full body apron. When Spike was fully dress in his gear he resembled a medieval knight in armour.

Xander shook his head and went to take his shower. He shampooed his hair and let the hot water wash over his shoulders. He was developing a tension headache so it was best to just get this done and ask Spike about L.A. over dinner. Deadboy was definitely not one of
Xander's favourite people but this wake sounded like it might be a good idea not just for Angel but for Spike as well. Besides Spike had dealt with Gabriel it was only fair that Xander should deal with Angel.

Xander smiled to himself, it didn't sound like Willow had told Cordelia about him. His little Wills still had a few issues with the former Queen C. Maybe he could appeal to his honey's baser nature and use that as incentive. He realized he was grinning like a fool and gave himself a mental slap. "Bad Xander, no, that would be wrong!" He sighed, just have to play it by ear, he guessed.

He slipped on his comfy clothes, rubbing his hair dry as he walked into the dining area. The table was already set. The loaf of bread he'd seen early was partially sliced and set out along with a green salad. Spike was carefully manoeuvring the salmon out of the oven and slipping it onto Xander's plate. He motioned for Xander to sit and then stripped off his protective gear, deftly closing the oven door and then popping his mug of blood into the microwave, in one smooth, coordinated motion.

Xander took a deep inhalation of salmon. "This smells great, kind of orangey?"

"Oranges and crushed almonds sprinkled over the top." Spike smiled, taking his mug out and seating himself. "Dig in luv."

Xander grinned, reaching for piece of bread, he looked at the little green bits in the bread and raised his eyebrows in question.

Spike grinned back at him a little self-consciously. "Zucchini bread," he stated. The vampire bit his lip while Xander took a bite.

"Mmm, Spike this is really good, kinda of like Willow's banana bread."

The vampire settled back in his chair. "Yeah, a bit. Course you got to grate the zucchini really fine, but basically your fruit and vegetable breads and muffins are the same."

Xander blinked, "Well, it's really good. Yup, really, really good." Xander trailed off.

Spike looked at his lover worriedly. Something was obviously on the young man's mind, something he didn't think Spike would like. Soddin Hell, it better not have anything to do with any angels. He'd had just about enough of Xander's 'family' over the past month. Not that the violence hadn't been fun and due to his now enhanced reputation, there wasn't a demon in
Sunnydale that would willingly mess with him.

"You'll never guess who I heard from today?" Xander began. Spike tensed.

"Who's that luv?"

"Cordy, can you believe it? Gosh, I haven't talked to her in ages." Xander half laughed while moving the salmon around on his plate. Spike waited.

"Kinda a bummer though. I didn't get a chance to spring our relationship on her, seems like Willow already told her." Xander gave a strained smile. Spike didn't return it.

Xander took a deep breath, "Anyway, she'd really like us to come down to L.A. for a vampire wake, is what she called it. It's going to be tomorrow night and it's for Buffy, so that Angel can formally say good-bye." Xander stared at Spike, who hadn't moved.

Spike carefully stood up and took his empty mug over to the sink. He had turned away from Xander "No." he said clearly.

"I know he's not your favourite person. He's not my favourite person either . . ." Xander started.

Spike turned around. He had his stone face on, " I said 'No'. The time to have honoured the Slayer was when she was still alive. He didn't even show up for the bleeding funeral."

Xander stood and moved toward his lover, reaching out his hand to carefully rub Spike's shoulder. "I know, he should have been there, but I kinda got the impression that he's been living in the land of denial."

Spike snorted and moved away from Xander in agitation. "He hasn't been in denial. He's been guilty because he knows that if he'd been here, she wouldn't have died." Spike slammed his hand down on the counter, cracking the surface. Xander winced.

"If he'd been at his mate's side like he should have been we could have beaten Doc. He never would have got to Dawn and Buffy, Buffy never . . ." Spike broke off and gave Xander a twisted smile. "He should have been here."

Xander felt his heart twist as he watched the torment Spike was in. He moved forward again, clasping the vampire's hands in his own. "She didn't call him honey. Willow said he wasn't even in this dimension. He couldn't have been here. It was Buffy's choice to sacrifice herself . . ."

Spike yanked his hands away. "I am so bleedin sick of hearin how it was Buffy's choice. I know, all right, I know! But that doesn't mean he still shouldn't have been here. She was his mate; you don't leave your mate! I never left Dru. She might have thrown me out
on my ear, but I never just walked away, not even the last time, tried to kill her but I didn't leave." Spike laughed angrily, shook his head and stared hard at the floor. "You don't walk away." He said more to himself then Xander.

Xander swallowed past the lump in his throat and moved next to Spike, not touching, just leaning back against the counter. "Maybe he finally realized that." Xander said quietly.

Spike laughed coldly, "Yeah, well that's my grandsire all right - a day late and a dollar short when it comes to love and loyalty. Angelus, Angel, it doesn't matter what he's calling himself. When the going gets tough, he's gone. Bloody Bastard!" Spike spun away from the counter, heading into the living room. He grabbed his duster and went to the front door. Xander
followed him out.

He stopped, with his hand on the knob, not looking at his lover. "I gotta go out for awhile, pet. Don't wait up." Spike yanked the door open, slamming it on his way out.

Xander spent a minute staring at the door. "Well, that went real well. Guess, I can cross out the marathon sex session for the evening." He said self-mockingly. "Dysfunctional family? Is there any other kind? Thank goodness, I've got experience." Xander kicked at the couch then went to clean up the kitchen before using his tool kit to repair the cracked counter.

* * * * * *

Xander stared at the bedside clock again, five a.m. and no Spike. He knew if he looked out the window, he'd see false dawn lighting the sky. He went back to staring at the ceiling in the light of the bedside lamp. It had taken him about three hours and a run to the all night hardware store to fix the kitchen counter. He'd tried watching TV. for awhile, then about three a.m. he'd given up and gone to bed. After tossing and turning for half an hour he started to read a book Willow had loaned him on quantum physics. It was interesting but he hadn't gotten very far. He kept straining his ears, hoping to hear Spike's key in the lock.

Xander abruptly sat up, he heard Spike. He quickly lay back down grabbing his book and flipping it open, pretending to read. He heard Spike moving around in the living room and then held his breath in anticipation. Spike entered the bedroom, glancing over at Xander. The blonde smirked, "Book's upside down luv." Xander glanced down and blushed, snapping the
book closed and setting it aside.

Spike sat down on his side of the bed, toeing off his boots and shucking the rest of his clothes before slipping under the covers. Xander tried to surreptitiously give his honey a thorough going over. He didn't look beat up and he didn't smell like he'd been drinking.

Spike settled back slipping his arms behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. The two men lay side by side in silence for several minutes.

"If the stupid bastard's finally decided that he should honour his mate with the blood ritual then I guess I should show up." The vampire laughed softly, "The Slayer'd probably get a kick out of a right proper demon send off."

Spike turned to Xander, his eyes soft, "You think she'd like it?" He asked a bit anxiously.

Xander turned on his side to face the blonde. "I think she'd love it." He said sincerely.

Spike sniffed, "Bloody wanker should have called me himself though, but I guess it's enough that he had the Ice Princess call you, knew I hang up on him, I suppose. 'Sides, it's not like Dru or Darla are gonna do it."

Xander mentally bit his lip and crossed his fingers. "Yup, had Cordy call me, all right." Xander nodded focusing his eyes on Spike's chest in seeming fascination.

Spike smirked when he noticed where his pet's eyes were staring and felt his shaft start to harden. He rolled fully to face his lover. He ghosted just the palms of his hands over the brunette's chest, barely touching and always avoiding the nipples. Xander reached his arms out but Spike gave quick shake of his head. Xander groaned, rolling to his back and flinging his arms over head. Spike continued his light touches before bending his head and blowing softly across the young man's nipples. They hardened almost immediately. Spike took a moment to admire his handiwork before continuing the movement of his hands, only now they started to drift lower; across the tops of the hips, around to the back, a quick dip below the waist line of his sweatpants to cup a firm buttocks, then back around to the front. And all the while, Spike blew soft, cool air across his pet's chest.

Xander gripped the headboard, straining to stay still. He felt Goosebumps developing all over his body, every hair standing on end as if electrified. He felt Spike's hands move to cup his ass, kneading and manipulating the firm flesh, while he blew against his still covered but rapidly hardening cock. All of a sudden, the vampire gave a quick nip to the shaft through the material. Xander gave a yell, his cock hardening completely and now straining to reach the
blonde's mouth. Xander panted as he looked down his chest to see a grinning blonde demon resting his chin on Xander's hip.

"Please Spike, please, take me in your mouth, please." Xander pleaded. Spike nuzzled the barely covered shaft, mouthing it through the material. He slipped his legs over Xander's, sitting upright on the man's thighs, straddling him. He gripped the waist of the sweatpants and tortuously began to inch them down the brunette's hips. Xander held his breath as his cock
was slowly uncovered. Spike tipped his head to the side studying the column before him. He wrapped both hands around the shaft, bending down and giving the head a darting lick.

Xander let out a strangled groan. "I swear, Spike, if you don't . . " Xander broke off with a shout as the blonde bent down and swallowed him whole. Spike was sucking so hard, Xander suddenly flashed back to a comparison by the blonde between himself and leeches in sucking until their victim screamed. Xander opened his mouth to do just that when Spike suddenly stopped and gripped the base of Xander's shaft hard. The young man gave an involuntary buck. He narrowed his eyes at the blonde and in-between gasps, threatened his lover with dire retribution if he didn't just fuck him now!

Spike gave him a devilish grin, reaching over and snagging the lube from the nightstand, preparing himself and his pet thoroughly. Keeping a firm grip on the shaft in his hand, he positioned himself, sliding down until he was fully seated. Xander groaned in delight, bucking up. Spike tightened his grip on the man's hips, raising himself leisurely, almost letting his pet get away, before dropping back down. Every time Xander tried to speed up the pace, Spike would stop, shake his head and resume the unhurried rhythm.

Xander was thrashing and moaning almost continuously now; pleas and imprecations all running together in one long string of sex induced nonsense phrases. "Spike, please, hurry, now, I mean it!" Unexpectedly he stopped, his eyes flared wide open; the pupils so large they appeared black. Spike froze staring down at his lover. Xander snarled out, what sounded like a curse in a language that sounded vaguely familiar to Spike before gripping the vampire's hips hard and flipping him over on the bed. Spike hit the mattress with a bounce, which drove the hard cock inside him deeper. He gave a strangled scream, shifting to game face and throwing his head back, throat bare, in submission. Xander bit hard before thrusting faster
and faster, his hips pounding hard enough to bruise. They came together in one long howl, twitching and bucking for a full two minutes before becoming still.

Xander dropped heavily onto the smaller man. He gasped, trying to catch his breath, rolling to the side to take his weight off the blonde. He bent down to lick the few drops of blood that had welled from his bite. Spike kept trying to nibble and lick at him, making odd little cooing sounds and nuzzling his throat.

Xander slowly became aware of an odd pounding sound. He and Spike glanced up at the ceiling toward the apartment above them. They looked at each other and burst out laughing as they cuddled together. "And the first round goes to the challenger." Xander murmured while Spike muffled his laughter in the brunette's neck.

As they were on the edge of sleep Spike asked, "Xan, what was the language you spoke?"

"When?" Xander murmured, already half asleep.

"You know, right before you fucked me into the mattress." The vampire said dryly.

"Mmm, I didn't say anything. Sleep now, talk later." Xander snuggled into Spike's shoulder and in moments was deeply asleep. The vampire hesitated before mentally shrugging his shoulders and dozing off.

Out on the balcony, what appeared to be a fair-haired man frowned deeply, disappearing in a scatter of sunlight.

* * * * * * *
Los Angeles - Law Offices of Wolfram & Hart

Lilah Morgan straightened her suit and knocked.

"Come in."

She entered a darkened office, silhouetted in front of the windows was the figure of a man.

"Is the ritual completed?"

"Yes sir. There were no problems. We also have reason to believe that the subject may soon be entering the Los Angeles area."

"Excellent that will make retrieval easier. You may go Ms. Morgan." Lilah hesitated, "Sir, this new course of action?"

"Doubts Ms. Morgan? Is your parochial school upbringing showing?" the man asked sardonically.

"No sir, of course not. It's simply that this firm has always been involved in more discreet activities against the Powers That Be. This plan could put us into open conflict with our enemies."

"You let me worry about that Ms. Morgan. I can assure you, I come highly recommended." He laughed.

Lilah shuddered slightly, quickly leaving the room.


Part Four

Xander and Spike had won the sexual Olympics by the time they had to get ready to leave for Los Angeles. Spike was packing the ice chest with snack food while Xander was on the phone to the Gang, letting them know where they'd be for the weekend.

The vampire's gaze lingered on his lover and he stretched, wincing slightly. Xander had been very energetic in his lovemaking. Spike frowned to himself; his pet had been almost wild. There had been a few times when he'd had to catch himself before he'd return it with his own demonic fierceness. He hadn't heard any more 'speaking in tongues' from his pet. That was really bothering him; he was sure he'd heard that language before somewhere, but where? He grumbled to himself, "you're getting senile mate."

He finished packing the carrot sticks. This little plastic crisper container he found really did keep the veggies fresh. He shook his head, modern miracles of technology. Well, if humans could make a chip that would keep a vamp from biting, of course they could make a container that would keep carrots fresh. He stared in the fridge and tapped his lip; should he
bring peanut butter for the carrot sticks? Yes, and he'd pack some of those yogurt raisins. Xan could have the zucchini bread from last night for breakfast tomorrow. His bloody Grandsire never kept any food  around and from Willow had told him, the Ice Princess, ex-Watcher and the Muscle lived on caffeine and sugar.

Xander smiled, watching his honey putter around the kitchen, talking to himself. He wondered whether Spike was even aware he was doing it. He rubbed at his shoulders. They'd had a very wild night or day, he supposed. He was a little embarrassed; he'd never been
so audacious, from virgin to sexual gymnast in the space of a few short weeks. He rubbed at his shoulders again, maybe he should do some warm up exercises next time.

He ambled over as Spike closed up the cooler. "On the road again," he warbled at his honey.
Spike hefted the cooler, unlit cigarette dangling from his lip, "No Willie Nelson, pet. If the evening starts out like that it can only go downhill, right?"

Xander plucked the cigarette out of his mouth and gave him what was meant to be a quick kiss. It rapidly turned into duelling tongues, the only thing slowing them down being the cooler in Spike's hands. The vampire moaned, "screw L.A. pet, let's just head back to bed?"

Xander gave a final nip and returned the cigarette to the blonde's mouth, and shook his head slowly, giving his lover a wicked grin. Spike snarled a curse then smiled ruefully. "You're picking up some bad habits, luv. I think I like it."

"Let's go honey." Xander keys in hand held the door open. "What's in the cooler?"

"Snacks, blood, stuff, you know?"

"Snacks? I already picked up some cheese puffs and donuts."

"Well you can just unpick them."

"What's wrong with cheese puffs?"

"They glow in the dark and even chaos demons won't eat them and they eat carrion."



* * * * * * * * *

Xander gritted his teeth while Spike sang "I Want to Be Sedated" at the top of his lungs. He was going to be patient with his stressed lover if it killed him. He glanced briefly over at the bouncing blond. Well one of them was stressed anyway.

"Hey boys, what's up?"

"Ahhhhhh!" The two young men screamed in unison. Xander swerved to the side of the road, slamming on the breaks. Spike vamped out and swung around in his seat.

"Bloody Hell you soddin, poofy, bleeding featherhead! Don't do that!"

Xander pried his fingers from the steering wheel, trying to get his heart rate and breathing under control. He turned to face the innocently smiling archangel.

"Are you insane! What's wrong with you? Somebody could have been killed!"

Oi! Somebody can still die!"

"Spike, it's okay. Deep breaths everybody, let's just all calm down."

"I'm calm," said Gabriel holding up his hand, looking at the boys.

Xander rubbed his temples gently. "Why are you here Gabriel?"

"I can't just stop by to say 'hi', see how my two favourite kids are doing?" Gabriel gave the two glowering young men a cheery grin. "So, we're going on a trip to see the family. That's great, you know I've always felt that family is very important."

Spike looked over at Xander with a beseeching look in his eyes, "I'm begging you here, let me hit him?"

Xander just shook his head. "We? No, no, no *we* are not going anywhere. Spike and I are going to Los Angeles. You are going to go wherever it is you go when you're not tormenting us."

"Well, all right then. You can't say I'm insensitive. I can tell when I'm not wanted."

Spike snorted.

"Spike, please?" Xander gave him the puppy dog eyes. "Really, Gabriel, why are you here?"

"They don't call it the City of Angels for nothing, you know." He turned to Spike and fixed him with a stare, "you tell that broody Grandsire of yours that there are trials and then there are trials." He clapped both boys on the shoulders. "Drive safely kids. There are a lot of crazy people out there." He said before shimmering out of existence.

Spike shuddered, "Cor that's freaky! And what the bleedin hell was he nattering on about?" Spike snarled.

Xander gave a deep sigh, "I don't know honey. Something must be up but you know angels, we just can't come right out and say what's up, nope, not us!"

"Them, pet." Spike corrected.

"Yeah, them, us, whatever." Xander checked the rear-view mirror and signalled to rejoin traffic.

"Is he going to just be dropping in on us for the rest of our lives, then?" Spike asked in a resigned voice.

"Yeah, probably." Xander said heaving a sigh.

"Bloody Hell!"

* * * * * * * *

They pulled up in front of the Hyperion Hotel at eight-thirty that evening. They had a slight argument about whether to go or not. Spike said that since they were early they should go get something to eat but Xander disagreed. He was tired and his back hurt. He grimaced; he must have pulled a muscle.

Spike didn't like the tired look in his pet's eyes. Damn his Grandsire and damn Gabriel too. "All right pet, we'll go in and make nice with the stupid gits."

Xander scowled at the blonde.

"The intelligent gits." Spike smiled.

"Right, let's go." Xander got out of the car and looked up in awe at the old hotel. He whistled, "nice place."

Spike flicked his lighter and lit his cigarette, squinting at the façade. "Big, dark and drafty;
perfect for the poof."


"Oh please, luv. If it wasn't for the fact that he needs electricity to keep his pets happy, Peaches would spend most of his time wandering around the halls with a candelabra in one hand, quoting Byron."

Xander snickered and then laughed uproariously. Spike raised one eyebrow.

"I'm sorry." He gasped, "I just got this mental picture of Angel dressed in a long white nightgown, like Olivia deHavilland in 'Rebecca'.

Spike snickered, "Oh, the Ice Princess would make a perfect Mrs. Danvers, wouldn't she pet?"

Xander leaned against the car, trying to catch his breath. "Stop, no more." He caught his breath but then Spike waggled his eyebrows and Xander started giggling again. It took about ten minutes for him to get himself under control.

Spike grinned happily at his smiling pet. Well this evening was going to be hellish but if his pet thought they should do this and it made him happy then maybe it was worth it. He took a last drag of his cigarette. "C'mon pet, 'once more into the breach,' eh?"

Xander linked arms with the vampire, "figures you would know all the bloodiest quotes."

They stepped up to the front door. Xander raised his hand to knock but the door was abruptly opened by Cordelia, "I wondered how long you were going to sit out there." She looked Spike up and down, "there's a difference between timeless and dated you know?"

Spike reached out and fingered the collar of Cordelia's blouse, "it's amazing what they can do with polyester now a days, isn't it?" Spike deadpanned.

Cordy narrowed her eyes and then gave a half smile, "touché." She stood aside to let them in and then raised her voice, "Angel! The scruffy one is here!"

Spike growled. Xander smiled and reached out to carefully hug the young woman. "Hey, Cordy, how you doing?"

She gave him a squeeze frowning as she felt him flinch a bit. "I'm fine Xander." She stood back and looked him over. "You look good, the whole gay thing seems to agree with you."

"Ah, yeah, well we're very 'in' right now." Xander patted her shoulder.

"Oh, please," she snorted. She led them into a huge entry hall. Wesley was seated on the couch next to a tough looking; dark skinned young man; that must be Gunn. The ex-Watcher stood politely and held out his hand to Xander.

"Xander, how have you been? I can't thank you enough for bringing Spike down for the ritual. It means a great deal to Angel." Wesley stood aside and motioned to Gunn. "This is Charles Gunn, our associate. Charles this is Alexander Harris. He worked with Buffy in

Gunn nodded politely but continued to watch the proceedings with a wary eye. He was carefully taking Spike's measure. What he learned from Wesley and Cordelia about the younger vampire didn't fill him with confidence. Man, from what Wes had told him, Angel's family was screwed up even by vampire standards.

Spike ignored the scrutiny, dropping onto the couch, and planting his boots on the coffee table. "Yeah, I'm fine; thanks for asking. Soooo, where's Peaches?"

Gunn snorted and Wesley pursed his lips. "Angel," he stressed, "is upstairs preparing for the ceremony."

"Brooding then, typical."

"He is not brooding. He is simply…"

"He's brooding," Cordy interrupted. Gunn nodded in acknowledgement. "In fact, I'd better get up there and start prying him out of his room." Cordy said before heading up the stairs.

Wesley snapped his mouth closed and returned to his seat. The silence stretched uncomfortably; Xander cleared his throat, "so, I didn't get to see the paper today. How are the Cubs doing?"

Gunn gave him an incredulous look. "Well, they're losing but that shouldn't come as any surprise. Normal state of affairs for that team."

"Just you wait, this is going to be their year." Xander settled into a chair.

Gunn leaned forward and shook his head. "In your dreams, man. They haven't won a pennant in my lifetime."

"They got to the playoffs." Xander argued.

Gunn snorted, "The only team that even St. Jude can't help." Xander laughed.

"Yeah but you got to admit that during a Cubs match, you have time to appreciate the pure beauty of the sport."

Gunn tipped his head, "well that's true." He grinned, "It's not like anything else is happening on the field."

Xander smiled wryly.

"Bloody boring game." Spike said shaking his head at his pet.

"I have one word for you - cricket." Xander said with a pointed look.

"I say, there's nothing wrong with cricket. Now there's a sport with pure beauty attached to it." Wesley defended.

"It don't even make any sense." Gunn gestured, and then turned to Xander, "you ever figured out what the heck the point of that game?"

Xander shrugged. "Sorry Wesley, but he's right. What is the point of cricket?"

Wesley opened his mouth to explain and then stopped in astonishment as Spike launched into a detailed and impassioned explanation of the game. Wesley found himself in the odd position of vigorously agreeing with every one of the vampire's points as they defended their game to the Colonials.

They were so busy arguing that he didn't even notice when Angel and Cordy returned. Neither did Gunn or Xander but Spike did. He abruptly stopped talking and slouched back in his seat, affecting a casual pose.

Angel came to stand by the younger vampire. "Hello Spike. I suppose I should thank you for coming."

Xander winced, oh that was gracious. In about two seconds his honey was going to figure out that Angel didn't ask him to come and all hell was going to break lose. He rubbed at his neck and tried to shrug his shoulders; maybe he pinched a nerve, damn his upper back hurt.

Spike's lips thinned but he barely looked up at the taller man. "Peaches."

Angel frowned before looking to Xander. "It's nice to see you again."

Xander stood and held out his hand. Angel looked a little startled but then returned the handshake. "Angel."

Angel smiled, "you've grown up."

"It happens to all of us sooner or later." Xander returned dryly.

Spike stifled a laugh. "Good one pet," he thought. This could be fun, let's discompose the broody vamp. Hell, he could be just as grown up as the next demon when he wanted to be and it would bother his Grandsire to no end. He sent a silent prayer upward, "Sorry Slayer. You can't expect me to be a little angel." He looked over at his pet and frowned.

"Xan, luv, your back still bothering you?" He asked, standing up and going to stand by the young man.

Xander rubbed at this shoulders again. "Yeah, I must have pinched a nerve or something."

Cordelia walked over and reached into her purse. "Not to worry. I am a walking medicine chest of pain relievers." She shook out two pills, handing them to him. "I'll get you some water."

Xander shook his head, "That's okay Cordy; kitchen's that way right," he said pointing? "You'd better stay here and mediate."

He turned and tapped Spike on the nose. "Be good." He almost laughed out loud at the astonished expression on Wesley's face. "I guess, Cordy didn't get around to telling everyone," he thought.

"So, you and Xander, do Giles and the others know?" Angel asked.

"Yes, everyone who we felt needed to know, knows." Spike said evenly.

"Do they approve?" Angel bit out.

"Well, now I don't know Peaches being as how we never asked whether they approved or not. Course, they're our friends so I think they're happy for us, yeah."

"You mean they're Xander's friends." Angel said.

"No, they're our friends. We've all been through Hell together what with Buffy's death and everything else we've gone through. It kinda brought all of us who loved her closer together." Spike said with a low growl.

"What are you implying boy?" Angel snarled.

"I'm not *implying* anything, you bloody poof!" Spike hissed.

Angel stepped forward in game face ready to beat some respect into his grandchilde. Wesley and Gunn had jumped to their feet to aid their old boss and Cordy was wondering whether dumping the contents of the flower vase on the two snarling demons would stop them or get her killed. In the midst of this tableau, there was the sound of shattering glass from the kitchen.

"Spike!" Xander cried.

Spike whirled and raced toward the cry. He skidded to a halt in horror. There on the floor before him was his pet, but it was his lover, as Spike had never seen him. He was on his hands and knees, head bent trying to catch his breath; and spreading from his bleeding back were two large white wings. They must have spanned six feet; the feathers looking wet, like a
newborn chick's.

The vampire hesitated for just a second and then dropped to his knees beside the stricken man. Xander leaned against him faintly, trying to catch his breath. He looked up and smiled weakly, "Damn, I really liked this shirt." He said plucking at the tattered remnants.

Cordy gave a squeak as she and the rest of Angel Investigations stared in varying degrees of awe, fascination or horror.

"Is this the 'and everything else we've gone through ' you were talking about?" Cordelia demanded.


Part Five

Xander panted, trying to catch his breath. Spike held him tightly as another shudder wracked his body. Xander let out a low cry, arching his back suddenly, and going into convulsions.

Spike grabbed hold of his sweetheart, trying to keep him from hurting himself. He turned to the stunned detectives, his eyes instinctively finding his grandsire's.

"Help me damnit!"

Angel blinked, then dropped to his knees next to his childe and the stricken young man. "Spike, get to his other side, be careful of his back." Angel winced and tried to keep from vamping out. Xander didn't just have wings, he smelled like an angel and it was playing havoc with the older vampire's demon.

Wesley interrupted, "Cordelia, get something to put in his mouth, so that he doesn't bite his tongue. Gunn, get the first aid kit!"

Both Gunn and Cordelia sprang into action moving like a well-oiled machine. Meanwhile, Xander's convulsions had slowed and he was winded, trying to catch his breath.

Spike bit his lip; the wings seemed to have grown another two feet or more. Wes dropped down next to the three men.

"Xander, can you hear me?" Wesley asked gently. He reached a hand out to touch the young man's back but quickly drew it back when Spike snarled at him. Wes gave Angel a beseeching look and Angel caught Spike's eye.

"Wesley needs to find out what's happening Spike. And, Cordelia's the best at first aid; let them check Xander out okay?" Angel requested very calmly.

Spike's eyes kept flickering from gold to blue and back as he stared at his grandsire. He hesitated momentarily, and then nodded his head abruptly. He smoothed his hand over his pet's hair, crooning softly to him.

Angel was reminded of past times when he had seen Spike do the same thing for Dru during a particularly bad vision. He sighed; and to think that just yesterday he was feeling sorry for himself because he had no family left. He watched his childe tenderly rub the back of Xander's neck and whisper that it would be all right in the boy's ear. Angel sighed again, his
childe was in love with an angel; yeah he was cursed all right.

Gunn returned with the first aid kit handing items to Cordelia as she knelt by Xander's head. Gunn stared down at the young man's bloody back and shuddered. Those surely looked like angel's wings, just like in those picture books he'd seen growing up but that just wasn't possible was it? Demons he could deal with but angels?

The young woman looked into her former boyfriends pain wracked face. "Hey, Xan," she said softly. Xander squinted blearily up at his ex. "Hey, Cordy. Wow, you're really tall, you know?"

Cordy rolled her eyes. "That's because you're on the ground, lame brain." Her harsh words were at odds with the gentle touch of her hands as she carefully cleaned the blood from his back and checked the area around the wings. "I think the bleeding's stopped as long as
these wings don't get any bigger. Let's try to get him out to the couch where he'll be more comfortable."

Angel and Spike cautiously lifted the woozy young man and helped him to the front room; laying him gently on the couch, face down. Spike sat down on the floor near Xander's head. Gunn nudged his shoulder, handing him a glass of water for his stricken partner. Spike nodded gratefully.

"Here, luv, here's some water for you. C'mon now, try to take a sip, that's it pet." Spike smiled. Xander reached his hand out and softly ruffled the blonde's hair.

Angel leaned back against the wall watching the couple. His nose kept twitching because of the angelic smell. His demon either wanted to rip into the boy or run; he couldn't decide which he wanted more. He didn't understand how Spike could stand to be so close to Xander. Aside from the flickering of his eyes, there seemed to be no outward sign that he was
bothered by the power emanating from the boy. Angel glanced at Cordelia, then over at Wes and Gunn. Out of all of them, only Wesley realized what was really going on with Xander.

The others seemed to think that this was just some sort of spell that had been put on Xander but Wes knew you couldn't just change someone into an angel. Humans couldn't just be changed into angels or demons. There could be outward changes made that could achieve the result of making the person act demonic but to be truly altered there had to be an offer and a choice made, at least on some level. However, demons were notoriously slipshod with their
methods of recruitment whereas angels; well they didn't seem to ever offer admittance to humans.

Angel frowned; he'd heard rumours of some sort of disagreement between the Heavenly factions. It wasn't something that was widely spoken of amongst demons; no one wanted to draw angelic attention, but there had been bits of gossip at the Master's court about a second war in Heaven. He'd asked Darla about it but she'd 'shushed' him and said the affairs of angels were not for the likes of them.

Gunn leaned against the counter and watched Wesley take several books from the shelves, rapidly flipping through them and muttering to himself. "Hey, Wes," Gunn said softly, "why would someone want to give a guy wings?"

Wesley stopped and looked up in confusion, "Give someone wings? Charles, I don't believe that anyone has given Xander wings. I'm rather more concerned that there is a very powerful spell at work to bring out Xander's inner nature for some nefarious purpose." The ex-Watcher went back to looking through his books. Gunn blinked, glanced at Xander then back at Wesley.

"Wait just a minute, are you tryin' to tell me that dude that looks like an angel is really an angel." Gunn's said, voice ended on a very raised note. Cordy looked up from her place by Xander and then over at Angel. Angel almost laughed; he'd never seen Cordy so flabbergasted in all the time he'd known her. She actually appeared to be speechless for once.

"Whoa, whoa, that dude who the vampire is practically droolin over, who the Princess dated is really an angel?" Gunn yelled, gawking at Cordelia and Spike.

"Hey, pet, you want to screech a little louder. I think I might have some hearing left in this one ear!" Spike snapped at Gunn. "And I am not drooling!"

Cordy still sat on the floor mouth opening and closing like a fish. Finally she locked on Angel, "No way, tell me, no way, right?" Cordy asked desperately.

Angel shrugged apologetically. "Oh my God!" Cordelia jumped to her feet in distress. Spike glared at her and she quickly lowered her voice. "I made out in a broom closet with an honest to God angel? Oh my God, Oh my God, do I need to go to confession or something?" She whispered hysterically.

"Cordy, you're not Catholic," Angel soothed the distraught young woman.

"But you don't understand, I had my tongue in his mouth."

"I've had more than that in his mouth luv." Spike smirked at her.

"Ewww! But not important, I mean, you're already damned what do you care?" Cordy cried.


"Okay, way too much information." Gunn waved his hands, shaking his head in denial. "Don't need to know anymore."

Xander raised his hand and head slightly, "Can I say something here?"

Cordy dropped to her knees in front of him again, "I am so sorry I groped you in the music room, although in my defence, I'd like to point out that you did have your hand under my skirt."

Xander blushed, dropping his head back to the couch. Spike raised an eyebrow and leered, "Under the Ice Princess's skirt? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more eh?"

"Am I talking to myself here? No more information please. I would desperately like to keep some of my illusions." Gunn complained.

Xander, face buried in the couch cushions, muttered, "Cordy, there's nothing to forgive. We were kids."

"Yeah, but you're an angel." Cordelia said.

"He was just a human boy then Cordy," stated Angel. "Believe me, if he'd been an angel I and every other demon in Sunnydale would have known." Angel gave Xander a hard stare. "He also wouldn't have gotten knocked around near as much, although, this probably explains why demons usually went for him. Although, I suppose it could have been his personality."

"Oi, that's my boyfriend you're talking about mate. There's nothing wrong with his personality. Aside from a disturbing tendency to listen to bad music, there's nothing wrong with my pet. You take that back!" Spike snapped, jumping to his feet.

Angel glared at him, "Or what?"

"I'll show you what you bloody…"

"Hey!" Xander boomed, "Knock it off." He stopped as everyone in the room stared at him. His voice had sounded impossibly deep for a moment. He also realized that he was standing upright, wings stretching out on either side of his back. He didn't even remember getting up. He blinked, took a deep breath and then flexed his wings cautiously. He now had an almost
twelve-foot wingspan.

Wesley approached him with interest. "Interesting, they seems to have lengthened as they dried, somewhat like a butterfly's wings. Do you think you could fly with them?"

Before the young man could answer a hesitant voice answered from the stairs. "Oh, I don't think so. The wing area to body mass ratio isn't correct. Unless of course his bones are hollow?" Fred peered around the corner with a timid smile on her face. "I heard yelling."

Xander looked the shy young woman over and then smiled kindly. "Sorry for the noise. I'm Xander and this is Spike, my boyfriend." Xander gestured to the blonde. Spike gave a brusque nod.

Fred bobbed her head shyly as she moved forward. She reached out a hand to the wings then stopped and glanced at Xander for permission. He smiled. She very gently touched the feathers and then beamed at him. "They're really pretty, but they're not big enough to fly on yet. You're too tall."

"She's right. I'd have to have at least a sixteen-foot wingspan to be able to fly. Besides," he said with a grimace, "something doesn't feel right. I feel too heavy."

"So, the wings are almost ornamental in nature. Interesting, this could be an important clue." Wesley tapped his chin.

"Excuse me. Not to interrupt Sherlock here, but could someone please explain, why Xander has wings. Why he was human and now isn't and what the heck is going on?" Cordelia huffed.

"I'm all for that," Gunn seconded.

"Well . . " Xander started but then Spike jumped in, "Xander was an angel. He rebelled but instead of being sent to Hell he was turned into a human, saved the world from his ex-mates, was forgiven, decided to stay on Earth and now shags me on a regular basis. Apparently somehow he's been changed back to an angel, probably by that pouncy bugger, Gabriel. Any
questions?" Spike dared the assembly.

"Well, I don't believe he is an angel; at least not completely, not yet." Wesley stated. Angel started to interrupt but Wesley held up his hand. "Now, it's obvious that some spell or ritual has been performed but for what purpose, we don't as yet know. I realize that to you and Spike, he seems like an angel but I believe that is because his inner nature has been reactivated. As Fred and Xander pointed out, he can't fly yet nor can he, I suspect, hide the wings?" Wesley asked.

Xander closed his eyes and concentrated but nothing happened. He shook his head.

"Yes, well, I don't believe that this is due to the Powers That Be or to the archangel Gabriel is it?" Wesley looked to Xander for confirmation. "Something else is at work and what we need now is information."

"Hey, why didn't I get a vision?" Cordy suddenly asked. "Shouldn't I have gotten a vision or some sort of warning that Xander needed help?"

"Princess is right, what's up?" Gunn asked.

"Yes, well, I have a theory about that as well. You never got a vision concerning Angel and his problems. Nor did you get a vision about Buffy and her final conflict. In fact you very rarely got visions concerning the Slayer or the other Powers that reside in and around Los Angeles." Wesley paced the lobby. "You see, I believe that our motto, 'We help the
helpless' is to be taken literally as far as the Powers are concerned. In this instance, Xander is
considered one of the Powers, hence no vision. I believe that we are rather expected to help
ourselves." Wesley finished.

"Well that's just bloody typical." Spike groused. "Well, what are we doing then?"

"Shhh, it'll be okay sweetie." Xander soothed. He took a deep breath before slowly sitting back down.

Spike dropped down next to him worriedly. "Tired pet?"

Xander patted the blonde's knee reassuringly. "So where do we go for help?"

Angel and Wesley exchanged looks, "The Host," they both said at once.

* * * * * * * *
It was decided that Wes, Gunn and Fred would stay at the Hotel and continue to research while Angel, Spike, Xander and Cordy would go to Caritas.

Angel drove in grim silence; Cordy by his side. She was happily chatting to Xander and trading barbs with Spike. Angel glanced in the rear-view mirror. Xander had managed to fold his wings up rather compactly and he was dressed in one of Angel's overcoats. Xander had
waved away the offer of a shirt. His earlier weakness was rapidly disappearing. He now appeared increasingly energetic and relaxed. He and Cordelia were chattering away while he kept one hand on Spike's knee, exchanging occasional teasing glances with the blonde. Angel returned his eyes to the road and brooded.

The bar was fairly busy when they entered considering that it was still under reconstruction. They managed to snag a table due in part to Angel's lowered brows, Spike's air of cheerful mayhem and Xander. He smiled brightly at everyone but he definitely got second looks from a good many of the patrons. Angel watched The Host freeze and then turn his head suddenly to look in their direction before he sauntered over. "Well, hello stranger." The Host said offering his hand to Xander graciously. Xander took it with a polite smile. Lorne held tight as Xander tried to withdraw his hand and stared intensely into the young man's eyes. "You're one of ol' Gabe's wayward children aren't you?" Xander nodded. "Be careful here sweet cheeks; usually when I get a visit from one of the boys upstairs they tend to travel a tad more
incognito. Right now, you're more flamboyant then me." Lorne released his hand and Spike scowled.

"Now don't get your panties in a bunch Blondie. I'm not making a move on your man. It's obvious you kids are head over heels." Lorne said playfully.

"And of course my favourite Princess and her champion," Lorne said inclining his head to Cordy and Angel. Lorne turned to the bar, "On the house Raoul." The bartender nodded.

"Now, call me silly but I'm guessing that tall, dark and winged here is the reason you've decided to pay me a visit tonight." He glanced toward the stage as the bat shaped demon on stage finished his rather squeaky rendition of 'Hotel California'. Lorne applauded, "Let's here it for Korvo folks and his lovely subsonic tribute to the Eagles.

"What's all this then? Why are we here with the flaming green one? How's some demon dressed in gold lamè suppose to help us figure out what's up with Xander?" Spike snarled.

"Hey, I think this place is great! C'mon honey loosen up, have a good time." Xander enthused, unabashedly looking around. He was tapping his fingers and grinning like a fool.

"Pet, just a little over an hour ago you were writhing around on the poof's kitchen floor. Now you're telling me to loosen up?"

"Yeah, but I feel fine now. God, I'm hungry. Do they serve food here?"

Cordy shook her head. "Will you settle down, Mr. Zippy. I know you've had a rough day but we are out in public." She turned to Spike, "The Host reads your aura. He's directly tapped into the Powers. The only drawback is that you have to sing for him."

Spike gave her a look, "Un-fucking-believable. You lot and this place are on the front line of the fight for good and you continually win? Makes me ashamed to be evil, it does."

"Yeah, yeah, we know you're bad honey." Xander waved away his love's concerns and gave the bartender a big smile and a request for snacks as he set their drinks down, blood for the vampires, and two mixed drinks for the humans. Spike glared at the bartender then frowned.

"Pet, you don't drink hard liquor."

"Lighten up Spike," Xander snorted. "It's just one." He laughed and leaned towards Angel and Cordy, "He's such a mother hen," he whispered.

Angel smiled slightly at his scowling grandchilde. "I know." He stared resignedly at Xander. "He's like that with people he loves." Spike gave him a startled glance.

The bartender returned with onion rings, Buffalo wings and nachos along with the play-list for the evening. Xander hummed to himself in between inhaling the food and flipping through the list. He glanced up and gave Cordy a sunny grin, offering her some onion rings.

"I don't know, is it safe to get my hand that near your mouth?"

He waggled his eyebrows at her. "You ought to know." He laughed boisterously while Spike glowered like a thundercloud.

Lorne returned to their table, eyebrows raised; "Well, someone's having a good time. I think we better get you to the stage ASAP sweetie. So what are you in the mood for tonight?" Xander pointed and The Host gave an appreciative chuckle. "Oh, I like you!"

The green skinned demon went to the stage and waved Xander forward. "Ladies, Gentlemen and others, tonight and out of town treat." The Host motioned him forward while gracefully omitting his name. Xander leapt on stage to scattered and somewhat nervous applause. He
launched into a spirited and surprisingly (to Cordy and Spike at least) good cover of Joni Mitchell's 'Carey'. By the time he was finished, various patrons were pounding their tables in approval and he left the stage to a standing ovation.

Xander returned to the table laughing and sweating. He had unbuttoned Angel's coat and dropped into his seat, gratefully accepting the glass of water Cordy handed him, drinking it down in one long pull. He flung an arm around Spike's shoulders and gave him a very
thorough kiss. "See that wasn't so bad," he said in between nibbles.

Spike reluctantly pulled away, "Pet, you're hot."

"I'm always hot around you, baby." Xander purred playfully trying to slip his hand under Spike's t-shirt.

"No, luv, I mean you're hot, like you've got a fever." Spike wiggled trying to capture Xander's roaming hands. Spike grasped Xander's hands firmly and tugged to get his attention. "Stop it pet, you're sick."

"And I'm afraid he's going to get sicker." Lorne said sombrely. "Look kiddies, let's cut to the chase. Something very big is involved in getting Xander here back to his roots so to speak. But what they've done is the equivalent of snow in July, pretty amazing but it doesn't last and it isn't meant too. Xander has one day, two at most before his body burns itself out trying to maintain this change."

"And then?" Spike asked calmly.

"And then, he'll die."


Part Six

Spike stared directly in The Host's eyes, "Who is it? Who's doing this to Xander, where do I find them and how do I kill them?"

The Host's gaze flickered to Angel briefly before he answered, "Who: I don't know. All I can tell you is that the power behind this particular spell was very dark. Where: well in this town there's a nice little glass and steel nexus of evil downtown. As for killing them, in that area you kids are on your own." Lorne looked uncharacteristically worried. "I don't think you can kill it. But hey, sweet cheeks and company routinely pull off miracles."

"Wolfram and Hart," hissed Angel.

"The lot behind Dru and Darla?" Spike asked turning to his grandsire.

Angel gave a curt nod.

"Twenty-four to forty-eight hours huh?" Xander leaned back in his chair contemplating the onion rings. He looked up at his friends, "Well that sucks for me." Xander twisted his hands out of Spike's grip; moving them to his face, "Don't worry. We'll figure something out."

"Oh yeah; we will." Spike stated grimly, "Count on it."

Angel stood, "Let's get back to the hotel."

When they got outside to the car Xander surprised Spike by grabbing Cordelia and hopping into the back seat with her while Angel stood at the door discussing something with Lorne.

"Oi! No I'm not sitting upfront with the brooder. Why can't I sit in back with you?" Spike pouted.

Xander crooked his finger, gesturing Spike forward, "Because I want to make out with Cordy and you'll cramp my style." Xander gave him a gentle kiss. "Talk to Angel okay?"

Spike glowered, "Don't wanna."

"For me, please? Besides, how you gonna save my life if you won't even talk to each other?" Xander wheedled.

"Oh, oh that's just not on pet. That's shameless manipulation that is." Spike exclaimed. "You've been hanging about the Nibblet too long. And we know were she learned it from, the Slayer." Spike held up his index finger. "When this is all sorted out and we get back home, we're having a talk. There are going to be some changes."

Xander nodded solemnly, "Absolutely, changes." He settled back in his seat and winked at Cordelia.

"Why aren't you in the back seat with Xander?" Angel grumbled.

"Because the two of them want to play patty cake. Why do you think, you great poof; just drive." Spike snapped reaching for the radio.

"Don't touch the radio. Don't smoke in the car. Don't yell at other drivers. Don't attempt to cause an accident. In fact don't do any thing at all. Just sit there and be quiet." Angel didn't even glance in Spike's direction as he started the car and pulled into traffic.

Spike glared daggers at his grandsire then whipped his head around to his lover. Xander gave him a 'thumbs up', and mouthed the words, "you can do it" at him.

"Right." Spike took the makings for his cigarettes out of his pocket and started to hand roll a smoke. Angel glared but Spike studiously ignored him and continued. "So in for a penny, in for a pound."

"What are you on about?" barked Angel.

"So, what made you decide to have the final send off for the Slayer. I'm just curious, seeing as how you wouldn't recognize an honest emotion if it bit you on the arse." Spike said calmly firing the first salvo. He might have given in to his pet but he was going to do this his way and damn the consequences.

"What did you just say to me boy?" Angel said very calmly.

"You heard me Angelus."

"My name's Angel." He snapped.

"Actually, from what Dru told me maybe we should come up with a third name for you. A name for the person who left a bunch of humans to their deaths, who set his childe and Sire on fire to punish them, who left his friends because he wanted to go out and wreck some
mayhem and didn't feel they'd understand." Spike tapped the tobacco on the paper in a neat line. "Although, you may have a point, maybe that was the real Angel and none of us had ever seen him before. After all Angel wasn't exactly a real person was he? He was just someone you made up so that you could talk to the Slayer."

Angel laughed harshly, "You think I don't know what you're doing? I know you, Spike. You try to stir everything up and then get what you want in the resulting upheaval. That's how you work; start a bar brawl and then eat a few patrons and steal a little cash in the confusion. Smash and destroy and cause destruction, it's the only thing you've ever been good at because you sure weren't any good at following orders for the good of the group."

"You bloody, sanctimonious bastard; the good of the group, what a load of rot. You think I don't know about you 'Angel'. You would have sold us all down the river if it had suited you. You never cared about our group all you cared about was being in control so that you could get the respect you thought you deserved." Spike snapped.

"Oh, I'm sorry was Angelus too demonic for your fine sensibilities, too evil? I'm a little confused, was it that Angelus was too much like a genuine vampire for you Spike? A little mayhem is one thing but true evil, well that just made the situation too real for what was left of poor little William? Accepting that you're nothing but an evil demon meant you couldn't just hide behind your grand love affair with Drusilla and pretend you were some twisted version of Romeo and Juliet."

Angel struck his hand to his breast; "Oh and then the final affront for the poor lost lad, evil Angelus was cursed with a soul and got a second chance." Angel glanced at him from the corner of his eyes and sneered. "Was it just jealously then, laddie? Is there a little part of you that wanted your soul returned Spike?"

Spike dropped his cigarette, snarling at Angel before starting over again.

"That's it isn't it?" Angel crowed. "I always could spot envy. Why did Angelus get a second chance and not Spike? Poor Spike."

"I don't want my soul back but you're right I do think a soul is wasted on you. It was wasted on you while you were alive and it's wasted on you now. And do you know why - because you don't want to feel anything but penitence. The entire time you were with the Slayer, all you felt was guilty and because of it you had to make it hard for her as well. Tell me something 'Angel'; did you ever love anyone but yourself when you were alive? Did you have any feelings for a woman beyond lust?" Spike spit out in derision, "No, I don't think you ever did. It was all just notches on the bedpost for you. That's why you never understood Dru and me and that's why you kept mucking up with the Slayer. You never had clue."

Angel gripped the steering wheel so hard that the plastic cracked, his mouth set in a grim line. "Maybe you're right; maybe Angel wasn't a 'real person'. Maybe he was someone that I created so that I could be worthy of her love. But I truly loved her. It was messy and it hurt and you're right, I wasn't very good at it. But I'm not going to apologize to you because I didn't conduct my love life according to your notion of what's proper. Everybody doesn't have to wear their heart on their sleeve to prove they've got one."

Spike sat ramrod straight in his seat, staring fixedly at the road. Then he very carefully finished rolling his cigarette, put it in his pocket and started on another.

Angel reached over and turned on the radio, picking a 'big band' station. Nat King Cole was singing 'Mona Lisa'. He also stared fixedly at the road.

Xander and Cordy shared a look and let out the breaths they'd been holding.

"You know what's scary? They really do sound like family." Cordy whispered. "Is that why you wanted them to talk?"

Xander nodded his head as he relaxed against the seat. He felt like his skin was humming with energy. All his senses felt alive. He knew intellectually that he was dying but still, he could see again, really see. He spotted a small bat flying in the night sky over a mile down the road. He wrinkled his nose; his sense of smell was also more acute. He rolled his head toward Cordy, giving her a lazy smile.

"You're pretty, you know? I want you to know that I never went out with you because I couldn't have Spike. Well, I guess I sort of did but that wasn't all of it. I really did like being with you. "

"You mean you weren't just in denial and afraid to come out of the closet?" She teased.


"I know, I'm kidding. I think I've figured out that angels are a lot like demons; they don't discriminate based on sex. You like kissing. You're very good at it and you just happened to pick girls; me, the Mummy girl, Willow, Faith. You never actually slept with Faith, did you?"

"No, that was a bad call sex wise. Spike was the first person I ever actually slept with."

"I envy you." Cordy smiled sadly. "You found Mr. Right and he found you. You're pretty lucky."

Xander pulled her to him in a gentle hug, "Yeah, even if this is all there is, I still feel blessed."

They pulled up to a stoplight and Xander suddenly leaned out of the convertible and yelled. "Hey, how've you been? Long time no see. Yeah? Cool, keep up the good work." He waved cheerily and settled back into his seat to face the collected stares of his companions. From their point of view, he had just been speaking to a street person asleep against a brick
wall. He smiled sheepishly, "Guardian angel, I used to know him."

"There's an angel over there?" Cordy asked.

"I can't sense anything." Angel squinted at the wall. Spike peered over his shoulder.

"Yeah, there are Guardian angels all over the place and no, most demons can't sense them. Which is kinda of strange when you think about it."

"People really have Guardian angels? What are they like?" Cordy asked excitedly.

"Like big old sheepdogs, very steadfast, very loyal. That whole war in Heaven thing; not one of them ever took Gabriel's side. He sent me to try to talk one over to our cause once because, they're built like tanks, you know? But, Huriel, that was his name, just looked at me and said, "I don't think so Alexander. That doesn't sound like a very nice thing to do, now
does it?" Xander said in a gruff old voice. He laughed. "You can't argue with that." He gave final wave as the light turned. "Ah, it's nice to see one again."

Spike looked at his pet worriedly. Xander was still sweating but he looked paler then before. What really scared the vampire was the look in his eyes. He recognized it; Drusilla had the same look in her eyes when she talked to the stars. It was obvious to the blonde that Xander was starting to slip away from this world and from him.

Spike ground his teeth. He wanted to howl in rage, smash everything in sight. This whole night had been nothing but Hell. He couldn't lose Xander. He wouldn't lose him. He'd thought that Dru's leaving had been painful and Buffy's death had been worse but he realized that losing Xander would lead him to whole new level of pain, and he wouldn't be able to survive

He took a quick look at his grandsire. Angel had scored a few hits this evening. He was right, Spike wore his heart on his sleeve and he had trouble relating to people that didn't. In a way, he reluctantly had to admire Angel. He'd created a whole new person from two parts that didn't fit together and didn't want to. He wasn't a demon with a soul or a human possessed by a demon. He was something unique and while Spike had never particularly cared for Angelus, he'd respected his power and knowledge. He didn't really know Angel but then he suspected; Angel had little knowledge of himself until recently. It must have come as quite a shock to realize that his soul was capable of evil all on its own without any help from the demon.

Spike had been content to leave things unsaid or fall back into old patterns of behaviour but he couldn't do that anymore; Xander's life was at stake. He needed to work with Angel.

Angel stared in the rear-view mirror. Xander looked terrible. His eyes looked half wild, like Dru when she was having one of her visions. They had to find out what had been done and soon or the boy would die. Spike would never survive that; Angel could tell that his grandchilde would take a walk in the sun if he lost Xander.

Angel sighed, knowing Spike, he probably hadn't thought about Xander's mortality and the future. He seriously doubted that Xander would ever let himself be turned. Spike never thought ahead; he just jumped in and went with the flow. Unfortunately rather then dying, he seemed to be blessed with his own demonic Guardian angel. He went from one scrape to another and never learned his lesson. He was also annoyingly astute. Angel hated the way that Spike could just grasp an emotional situation with ease. All the subtle nuances that puzzled and irritated Angel were an open book to Spike. Angel had accused Spike of envy but the truth was that he envied Spike his ability to read people.

He risked a quick glance at his childe. He had to admire the annoying idiot; no other vampire with a chip would still be functioning after two years. They would have died or destroyed themselves because they wouldn't have been able to adapt. He smiled to himself, and to think that Spike had once told him that demons don't change. His grandchilde had to be one of the most changeable creatures on the planet. If they were going to save Xander, he was going to have to keep up with the changes and learn to accept them.

He watched Spike turn around and yell at Xander to quit leaning out the window and haling every passing angel. He hid a smile; it looked like Spike would have his hands full with Xander for the rest of their lives, he supposed there was justice after all.

* * * * * * * *

Wes and Fred greeted them upon their return. Wesley had found the spell that was used on Xander. He had sent Gunn out to purchase some extra scrying herbs so they could garner more information.

He'd determined that the spell itself was relatively easy and essentially harmless. It brought out one's inner nature briefly. However, in order to shape a physical change, a ritual would have been performed using a great deal of power. He believed that the ritual had been specific to Xander, which meant that someone had known about Xander's past. He didn't seem
surprised to hear that Wolfram and Hart were involved.

"I've decided that our best course of action is to find out as much information as possible. To that end I've decided to look into the recent past using one of Xander's feathers as a centre. If we can determine who is behind this and why we can fashion a more effective defence."

"Good job, Wes. You too Fred, thanks for helping." Angel smiled.

Fred bobbed her head bashfully.

Cordy tapped Xander on the shoulder and handed him a glass of ice water. "Here, drink this," she said anxiously.

The young man smiled dreamily at her and sipped at the water. He set the glass down and slipped out of Angel's coat, dropping it to the floor. He started to sway and hum, reaching out a hand to a troubled Spike.

"Dance with me?"

"No, pet, why don't you sit here on the couch? Get some rest instead." He pleaded.

"No, I don't want to. I want to dance. You taught me how to dance remember?" Xander tugged Spike to him and began to hum a waltz." Spike reluctantly joined him, holding his lover close.

" 'I would have a white robe a halo newly acquired, I'd be at peace and I'd have no desire, if I'd lived right.' Xander sang softly. "You should let me lead, I'm taller." He whispered.

Spike tightened his grasp, felt his vision blur with tears, as Xander continued to hum and they waltzed gracefully around the room. "Please pet, don't leave me; don't go."

"Shh, it's going to be okay." He caressed Spike soothingly, stroking his fingers through the blonde's hair. "Pretty lights, look at all the pretty lights."

"What's that pet? What?" Spike pulled away in alarm catching Xander as he slipped to the floor. Spike cradled him carefully in his arms. Xander was drenched, staring at the ceiling with a half-smile on his face. "Help him!" Spike pleaded.

"Ice in the bathtub. That's what you do for a high fever." Fred said.

"I'll get what we have but . . . " Cordy cried, running to the kitchen.

"Got those herbs you wanted, whoa." Gunn halted abruptly. Angel grabbed him.

"With me, we need ice and lots of it now!" Angel yelled hauling him out the door.

"I've got the water running; Spike this way!" Wesley shouted.

Spike cautiously picked up the semi-conscious man with Fred's help. Cordy was already dumping their only bag of ice into the cold water.

"Do we have any rubbing alcohol?" Fred asked Cordy.

"Yes, yes, lots, for sore muscles. I'll be right back."

"It'll help to cool him off, the evaporation." Fred reassured the frightened vampire.

He kept bathing the water and ice over his pet. He could hear his rapid heartbeat. He focused on it, unconsciously matching unneeded breathes to Xander's rapid breathing. Cordy returned with the alcohol, dumping half into the tub. It seemed liked hours but was in reality only minutes before Angel and Gunn returned, filling the tub with several bags of ice.
Wesley checked Xander's temperature. It was dropping slowly.

Xander jerked suddenly and shook his head, blinking. "I'm freezing! Hello!"

Spike helped him from the tube, fussing over him as he dried him off and wrapped him carefully.

"Let's take him upstairs to one of the bedrooms. Let him get some rest." Angel suggested. He and Spike helped a woozy Xander to the second floor. Cordy followed with some extra blankets.

"I'll be back with a pitcher of water. Don't you scare me like that again Mister." Cordy's eyes shone with unshed tears and she swallowed hard.

Xander smiled tiredly at her. Spike hovered about the bed, fussing with the blankets and checking the pillows. Xander grabbed his hand and tugged him down to the bed. "Snuggles?" Spike nodded and spooned around his pet.

"I'll be down in a bit." Spike told Angel as the tall vampire left the room. He intercepted the water from Cordy and set it on the bedside table, dimming the lights as he left.

Xander fell into a deep sleep, his breathing slowing. Spike lay in the dim light, staring unblinkingly at the ceiling.

* * * * * * * *

Wesley had set the protective circle and crushed the herbs for the spell. The Angel Investigation's team sat in silence, waiting for Spike, each focused on their worries for the young man upstairs.

Spike walked slowly into the room and took a deep breath. Angel studied his childe and gave him an encouraging smile. Spike was bloody but unbowed.

"Let's get this done. I'm itching to kill something." Spike said grimly, returning Angel's smile.

They all knelt within the circle as Wesley began the chant, scattering the herbs to the four points and using the rest to cover the bowl of water in the middle of the circle. In the middle of the water he floated the feather from Xander. The water began to
shimmer, a soft white vapour rising from the surface. They saw the Wolfram and Hart building, robed figures in a circle, sacrificing something small and struggling. Then the vapour went black. A dark blotch grew in its midst and began oozing out of the vapour, dark tentacle reaching out to the participants in the protective circle. The water in the bowl started to boil and bubble before the bowl suddenly shattered. A wind whipped through the lobby, scattering papers and buffeting the team. There was the sound of shattering glass from all over the hotel. The wind abruptly stopped.

Spike howled and ran towards the stairs. Angel was right behind him.

"What is it?" screamed Cordelia. She skidded to a halt at the door to Xander's room. Spike knelt on the floor clutching a single white feather in his hands. Angel knelt beside him, supporting him. There was no sign of Xander. The room looked like a tornado had hit it; the
windows were completely gone. She gagged, covering her nose and mouth; and there was the most appalling stench of sulphur and brimstone permeating the room.


Part Seven

Xander screamed, getting a large iron spike driven through your wing hurt; it hurt even worst the second time around but he consoled himself with the fact that he only had two wings; therefore, this particular torture was over. At least they hadn't pounded the spikes through his hands as they crucified him; those they had only tied; and the pain cleared his head of the fever but now the fuzziness was returning. He wanted to take a good look at where he was but his head felt huge, too heavy to lift really. He felt a hand grab his hair and yank it upright; well problem solved.

He stared into the face of a handsome dark haired gentleman with a neatly trimmed beard wearing an Armani suit. The man gave him a cheery smile as he lit a cigarette with a small flame he conjured. Behind him, Xander could just make out a tall, nervous looking woman in a suit and two large unknown demons, also in suits. He glanced to the side, apparently the
same type as the demon holding his head up.

"Hello Alexander, awake and aware are we?" The bearded man asked with mock solicitousness. The demon dropped his head, but not before slamming it against the wall
first, for good measure.

Xander winced and then squinted at him. "Oh, it's you. What are you doing here, slumming?" Xander felt himself slipping in and out of consciousness again, his mind wandering.

The man reached out a hand and casually slapped him to regain his drifting attention; the sharp talon-like nails drawing blood. "Stay with me boy, you wouldn't want to be rude to Ms. Morgan by passing out now would you?"

"I think the least of 'Ms. Morgan's' worries is a dying ex-angel; if she's hanging out with you she's got troubles of her own." Xander retorted.

"Well, now technically Alexander, you aren't really an ex-angel anymore. I wouldn't be able to be so direct, shall we say, with a real live human." Again, he received the cheery smile over sharp, even white teeth.

"So, you did this to me, for what? Revenge?" Xander swallowed, his mouth was so dry. He closed his eyes briefly remembering the cool glass of water Cordelia had handed him.

The dark man laughed softly, "Oh, don't flatter yourself Alexander. You weren't by any means the raison d'être of this little exercise. No, you were just a happy by-product, a party favor, if you will." He gestured negligently to Lilah Morgan. "Her Masters wanted a show of good faith on a little contract we're negotiating." He leaned in close and threw an arm around Xander's shoulder, lowering his voice conspiratorially, "Demons, you know how they are,
don't trust anybody." He winked, "Not like us, eh Alexander?"

Xander just stared at him for a moment and then let out a painfully dry laugh. He glanced at Lilah. She was standing very still and straight, obviously not happy to be here and doing her best not to show it. She was failing miserably. "Your bosses are idiots if they're trying to do a deal with him. He's the king of double-dealing, the original master of manipulation. I've heard from my friends that Wolfram and Hart think they're hot shots but you're crazy if you think you'll be able to bind him into abiding by any kind of contract. He's probably forgotten more about contracts then you or your bosses ever knew."

The dark man absolutely beamed. He raised a hand to his hair and preened. He turned and smiled coyly at Lilah. She paled. "I just don't know whether to blush or kill him. I do confess to a certain love of the left-handed compliment though." He leered politely before dusting non-existent lint off the sleeve of his suit. "Well, enough of this delightful banter." He patted Xander's cheek almost fondly. "Alexander, a pleasure, as always." He motioned to his henchmen.

Lilah looked startled. "Wait, where are you going? We can't just leave?"

He blinked and looked at her perplexedly, "Why ever not dear? He'll be dead in a day or so and then you can come back and boil his bones or use the feathers to stuff a quilt or something. It's not really my problem." He gestured dismissively at Xander. "One angel, delivered as promised to do with as you please."

"But what about his friends? They'll be looking for him. You can't just leave him here without a guard. The Senior Partners won't be happy."

"Can't dear?" He spoke quite gently and Xander shuddered. He almost felt sorry for Lilah Morgan, almost. She also seemed to realize that her choice of words was perhaps not the most judicious.

The dark man glided over to her gracefully and reached out a hand, gently stroking her face. "Pretty little monkey, aren't you?" She closed her eyes briefly and swallowed. "Please," she breathed.

He continued to stroke her cheek, ignoring her plea. "I can do anything I want and you and your masters would do well to remember that fact. Having the Sunnydale Hellmouth closed is a bit of an inconvenience but there are other avenues to this plane of existence than through the gateways provided by Wolfram and Hart." He suddenly lashed out, slashing her cheek open to her chin. She screamed, throwing her hands up to her bleeding face. He casually raised his hand, licking the blood off his fingers delicately.

"As for the Senior Partners, if they don't like it, they're more than welcome to come on down and see me sometime." He smirked, "I think you'll find them less than eager." He whirled back to Xander with a chipper smile. "Again Alexander, farewell and adieu. I wouldn't hold out much hope for your friends finding you despite Lilah's misgivings. Someone would have to give them directions." He laughed and glanced around, "I don't see anyone around, do you?"

Meanwhile, Lilah had fumbled a handkerchief from her purse and was holding it to her bleeding cheek. She looked up at Xander fearfully. Xander sighed, all right; he did feel sorry for her after all.

"Lilah, dear do stop dawdling." Lucifer 'tsked' disdainfully as she tried to stop the bleeding. "And do stop that sniffling; humans and their incessant weeping. It's very annoying." He snapped his fingers and with a last wave at Xander they all disappeared, leaving the dying young man, hanging on the wall.

He dropped his head forward again, trying to summon the strength to pull his wings from the wall. He groaned and fresh blood spilled from the wounds. He wasn't going to be able to do this without passing out from blood loss or pain. He tried to concentrate and come up with a plan.

He tried calling out to Gabriel in the slim hope that the archangel would answer his cry. His voice was simply swallowed up by the absolute silence of the place. He coughed, feeling hot and cold by turns. At least he wasn't hanging in the dark. The room was filled with a soft glow, also, it didn't feel evil here; all he felt was a kind of neutrality. That meant he must be somewhere between places. That made a weird sort of sense. He wasn't of Heaven or of Earth right now, so the best place to keep him would be an in-between place. He groaned, well there were only several thousand of those.

He coughed again, this time the cough sounded wet and deep. He shivered as he started to slip out of awareness, his eyes growing drowsy. He knew the dangers of falling asleep, but he was so tired. His head jerked but then slipped forward again.


He raised his head slightly and peered blearily around the room. He must be having auditory hallucinations now. Great. His head drooped.

"Psst! Hey Xander, c'mon wake up!"

He jerked into full awareness and stared. Wonderful, now he was not only having auditory hallucinations but visual ones as well. He must be delirious, perhaps the fever was spiking. Spike, he wanted Spike.

"Hello, don't make me do something drastic."

He blinked but the vision didn't change. "Buffy?"

She waved giving him the bubbly smile he remembered from when they first met, "Hey!"

* * * * * * *

Spike knelt on the floor, clutching at all that was left of his pet, a single white feather. He felt cold and numb. He was only vaguely aware of Angel kneeling next to him, supporting him. He knew now who had taken his pet. They were up against it for sure. He thought he'd been scared when they'd gone up against the rebel angels but this was a hundred times worse. Lucifer could swat him down faster than Gabriel and make it hurt for eternity. This was the punishment for loving a white hat and hanging out with the bleedin creatures and caring. He moaned softly, instinctively seeking the comfort of a blood-bond in his distress. Angel
whispered soothing nonsense in his ear like Spike used to do for Dru during her spells. That caused him to pause.

Spike abruptly straighten and gave himself a shake. So he was up against impossible odds, well that was nothing new. And so he was up against the Head Bastard himself, well, he was probably going to get his arse kicked but he was damn well going to make sure to do some damage on the way down.

Angel had dropped his arm when Spike sat up. His grandchilde faced him with that stubborn expression he remembered so well. It had caused him endless trouble in the past but now; he felt his undead heart fill with pride.

"Well Peaches, you game? You know who took him? Who must be in on this with your lawyers from Hell?"

"Yes and I wish you would stop calling me Peaches." Angel groused.

"Okay, Gramps," Spike gave him a half smile.

"You can be such a trial Spike," Angel grumbled, rising gracefully. Spike looked startled.

Angel turned to the rest of the gang who were waiting expectantly. "Wesley, we need to find Xander and this time no spells, no Lorne. We're going straight to the source. We need to find the nearest portal to The Powers That Be."

"Are we sure, he's still alive Angel?" Wesley asked quietly. Cordelia gave a tiny cry.

Angel glanced at Spike who was still kneeling on the floor deep in thought. Angel frowned at him as he answered Wesley's question. "Well, why go to all the trouble of changing him and then stealing him if all they wanted was to kill him?" He answered reasonably. He knew that Wes had also figured out who else must be involved. The young ex-Watcher looked quite stricken but under Angel's gaze he took a deep breath and nodded his acceptance of the situation.

Angel turned to look at the other three members of the team. "It's not just Wolfram and Hart that's involved here. The power used to transform Xander and to kidnap him well that was …"

"Satan?" Fred asked hesitantly. Cordy and Gunn stared at her in shock for a moment before turning to Angel for confirmation.

Angel nodded his head and stared bemusedly at the newest member of Angel Investigations.

"Well, you know, angels and devils and brimstone. It kinda makes sense." Fred shuddered. "The Devil's a tricky fellow. I don't think those lawyers know what they've gotten themselves into."

"Maybe we should ask 'em?" Gunn had recovered from his surprise and now looked bull headedly determined.

Cordy clenched her fist. "I agree. Let's start kicking ass and taking names!"

"Spike?" Angel nudged his childe. Spike glanced up at his grandsire. "I was just remembering something Peaches, that bleedin featherhead Gabriel said. He said to tell that broody grandsire of mine that there are trials and then there are trials. Does that mean something to you?"

The tall vampire frowned and then brightened. "Maybe, just maybe it does. Let's get the gear together. We only have four hours until dawn. That's not much time but if I'm right." He trailed off.

"Are we going to storm the Wolfram and Hart building?" Wes asked.

"No, first we're going to pay a little visit to our favourite attorney." Angel smirked. Cordy gave a delicate tremble. Angel looked a bit too much like Angelus there for a minute. Then she shrugged, well, Lilah probably deserved it. Xander was right, no one should get between Queen C and one of her chicks. She followed Wes, Gunn and Fred out of the room and
downstairs towards the weapons.

Angel indicated that he wanted to speak to Spike privately. The blonde scowled. He was probably about to get the lecture about following orders. Well, bollocks to that! He was going to do whatever he had to in order to get Xander back alive and well. He didn't care about the Powers and he suspected that they didn't care about him. He would make a deal with the Devil if it got him his pet back.

Unbidden came an image of Xander's face and the disappointment he would gamely try to hide, upon finding out that Spike had done something truly evil to save his life. Spike grimaced. Bloody Hell! He was caught between a rock and a hard place for sure. What if he was asked to kill Dawn in return for Xander's life? Could he do it? And if he did, would Xander ever forgive him? "I'm caught in a bloody episode of 'Passions'." He thought to himself. He looked up and found Angel watching him with a small smile.

"What you bloody pouf?" Spike snarled.

"It's just interesting to actually watch you try to think things through. I can almost hear those unused wheels turning."

"Hah, bloody, hah! What did you want to tell me that you couldn't say in front of the stiffs?"

"Just that I understand that for you Xander comes first. He's your family, but Cordy, Wes, Gunn and even Fred; they're my family, just as much as you are." Angel smiled at him.

Spike stared and then tried to shrug nonchalantly. "Yeah, sure I get it, family, in other words, watch out for the civilians right?"

Angel shook his head at Spike fondly for the first time in Spike's memory. "Basically," he said wryly. "We'll get him back Spike. I have a plan."

Spike let out an unneeded breath and truly smiled for the first time that evening. "A plan eh Grandfather?" Two wily immortals shared a look, "Well then, the Devil and his lawyers don't stand a chance."


Part Eight -a)

"Man, I hope Angel knows what he's doing," muttered Gunn. "I don't know how much I like this idea of going to the Powers themselves; don't seem like the friendliest of folks. I mean if they were, would they have let the Devil take him?"

"Gunn's right, what if they won't talk to us? What do we do? What if Lilah doesn't know where he is?" Cordelia fretted, pacing around the lobby swinging her crossbow. What if they've already killed Xander, she thought. How were they going to beat the Devil? This wasn't just some demon; this was the Demon.

Wesley watched Cordelia pace around the room with compassion. He glanced at Fred. She sat quietly on the arm of the couch. Her time in Pylea had endowed her with a certain sense of calm in the face of overwhelming odds. Wesley could relate; his time with the Watcher's had taught him the same thing. This was a problem like any other and they would have to face it rationally and with a clear focus in order to solve it. Angel obviously had some information. Wes hoped he would share it with them. Cordelia had been correct. He'd rather enjoyed being unconditionally in charge these past months, making decisions and not having to butt heads with Angel over every situation. He had finally been able to put his training and knowledge to use. He had gained confidence in himself and as a result, Cordy and Gunn's belief and trust in him had grown as well. He was not going to take a backseat to the older vampire again.

He watched Angel and Spike descend the stairs, both very grim. He sighed, well he might have to step aside concerning Spike. He doubted very much if the blonde would take any direction from him. Perhaps his idea for locating Xander would help gain him the vampire's
trust or at least his cooperation.

"I have an idea but I want to know what you think," began Angel. Spike looked startled as he turned to stare at his grandsire. Angel took no notice as he continued. "I have some idea of where to start looking for Xander. Gabriel gave Spike some information that may prove useful. I think Xander is being kept at an in-between place, a neutral area that is controlled by
neither The Powers or Wolfram and Hart or in this case, Satan. I have an idea of how to get there but once there we still may have to search for him. Also, we need to find a way to keep the opposition busy while Spike and I find Xander. That's where you come in, we need a diversion."

"What makes you think that, well, that they didn't just take Xander to Hell?" Cordy asked quietly.

Angel shook his head, "No, if the two sides are working together, you can be sure that they don't trust each other. They wouldn't let Xander be taken somewhere that they'd have no control or power. Demons are notoriously suspicious of each other; they would be doubly suspicious of Lucifer. That's why I don't think he's at the Wolfram and Hart offices either."

The tall vampire looked at his friends expectantly. Wes had nodded his head in agreement at various points as Angel had given them his information. Now this was how a strategy session should function.

"I believe I have a way to allow you to find Xander. It's an extension of the spell we used to get information. Spike do you still have the feather from upstairs?" Spike nodded warily and proffered the feather to the ex-Watcher. "Excellent, now mind you, this is a very simple enchantment and it won't last more than a few hours. We don't have the time to make it more permanent. The feather will function as an indicator. I'll make it glow, shall I? The brighter the glow, the closer you will be to Xander, as long as he is still alive."

"I'll pay the visit to Lilah." Cordy hefted her crossbow to her shoulder.

"Cordy, I don't think you should go alone," Angel objected.

"Oh please, the day I can't handle Lilah is the day I turn in my Bitch Credentials." Cordy waved her hand dismissively.

"Angel's right Cordelia, you shouldn't go alone. Gunn can go with you. I'll go to the Host's place, oh but that leaves Fred by herself." Wesley looked at the young woman with concern.

"I'll go with you." She smiled bravely. "I mean, I've been outside before and we're just going to a demon bar." Her smile became more nervous; she swallowed hard and looked a little ill. "I'll be fine, don't worry about me."

Wes thought she was a very brave young woman, very brave. "Well then, that sounds like all the places we would go in our search for Xander. If they're watching us that should throw them off the scent and give you two a chance." Wesley stood, "Just make sure that you're under some sort of cover by dawn Angel and you too Spike. Now, let's get this spell done and be one our way."

* * * * * * * *

They had just wished Fred and Wes good luck and waved goodbye to Cordy and Gunn. Angel hoped this plan worked. He headed to the same entrance he'd used for the trials he'd undergone for Darla. Spike was sitting very still in the front seat. He had taken the feather from his pocket and was carefully smoothing it over and over with his hands. Angel hadn't told Spike and the others all his thoughts. Even if they found Xander, he was still dying. He'd taken Wes aside briefly before they left but the young Watcher confessed that he had no idea how to reverse the spell, usually only the caster could do that. Angel had a half-formed idea concerning that problem as well but he didn't want to tell Spike, at least not yet. Tonight, up in that ruined bedroom, was the first time Angel had ever seen trust in his grandchilde's eyes,
when he'd said he had a plan.

"Spike, when we find Xander there may be some problems. What I'm trying to say is that it might not be a simple rescue mission. I may say some things that well; look do you trust me?" Angel broke off in exasperation.

Spike laughed softly and faced the taller man with a twisted smile. "Angelus and his plans." He sobered and his eyes took on that very focused, mature look that had always thrown the older vampire. It had bothered Angelus. He'd called it insolence and tried to beat it out of the blonde. It bothered Angel even more. He felt as if Spike was staring at his soul.

"I'll trust you if you answer one simple question for me: why did you really leave the Slayer?"

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Buffy, you're not suppose to be here. Do you know how much trouble you could get into? You are seriously breaking the rules."

"Oh yeah, that's me, Buffy Summers, Rule Girl." She grinned saucily as she very gently grasps one of the spikes. "Do you want me to count or just yank?" She
bit her lip.

"One,two,three, yank!" Xander squeezed his eyes shut and then let out a yelp as she tugged the first spike lose. Blood gushed down his wing and he nearly passed out. Wow, who knew it could hurt that much coming out. Buffy supported him easily with a hand around his waist. She manoeuvred herself in front of him and grasped the other spike. This time it was the Slayer who yelled; "One,two,three, yank!"

Xander slumped forward. Buffy grunted and then carefully pushed him back against the wall. He slid to the ground leaving a rather alarming trail of blood from his bleeding wings. She pulled off her top shirt and tore it into strips and attempted to bind his wings.

Xander sat, breathing heavily. He was trying to get a handle on the pain, make it more manageable. Buffy was going to have enough trouble helping him. She might be strong enough to carry him but she was by no means tall enough. He felt very tired and not quite all
here; his memory was playing tricks on him as well. His memories of being an angel were getting all mixed up with his human memories and having Buffy here was confusing him even more because, because. He raised his head and tried to fix his gaze on the diminutive blonde.

"You're still dead right?" Xander coughed hard but tried to stay focused on his friend's face.

"Yup, that's me, Dead Rule Breaking Girl."

"How? I mean, you're really not suppose to sneak out."

"Xander, I did not sneak out!" She looked at him indignantly. "I may have left out the back door but that's not really sneaking; sneaking involves a whole level of deception that I just didn't engage in." She finished tying up his wings while she explained. "Besides Gabriel said it would be okay."

Xander groaned, "Gabriel said, oh Buffy, let me tell you what happened to me the last time I believed Gabriel when he said it would be okay."

"I know but this is different, besides you have no idea how many Slayers there are up there. They'll never even notice I'm gone."

Xander looked unconvinced even through the fever.

"Xander I had to come, there you were in trouble and no one was doing anything even though you're like an angel. Everybody kept saying how well 'if it's meant to happen', and I'm trying to explain that it won't happen if we just get down there and kick some butt." She stopped and stared at him with that well remembered half-frustrated, half stubborn look she had when events weren't moving fast enough for her. "Gabriel was the only one who would listen."

He reached out a hand and very slowly pushed back a lock of hair that had fallen forward. "That's my Buffster. I miss you. We all miss you so much." He started coughing again and she held him close until the fit passed.

She sniffed and rubbed her nose, a little teary eyed. "I miss you guys too, not that Heaven isn't great and all. It is, and seeing mom again and everything, it's really nice, but I still worry you know?" She stared at him with mock annoyance. "Although I would have worried less if someone had told me that they were an ex-Angel and smarter than Giles."

"Heh, did I mention how much more relaxed and perky you seem since the last time I saw you." He tried his best winning smile.

"Perky, you think I'm perky?" She looked slightly annoyed.

"Did I say perky, gosh that must have the concussion talking. I meant to say peppy, definitely peppy, peppier, peppiest." He laughed a little.

She smiled back. "Yeah, well, I'm much more relaxed what with being dead and all, the pressure's off." She got an arm under him and together they very carefully levered him to a standing position. He swayed slightly and then got his balance. "I really was morose there at the end wasn't I?"

"Well you know, weight of the world savage and all." He took a tentative step.

"Xander, I was relentlessly grim. I had no idea how bad it was until I died. Have you ever met those other Slayers? Oh my god, Xander try talking to them about anything like music or guys and you just get totally blank looks. It's like, 'did you do nothing but slay?' It's sad really. I was very lucky. I just never appreciated it."

"Bet they dressed well though. Every Slayer I ever met had a really keen sense of style." Xander was proud of himself. He was shuffling at a pretty good pace, although where they were going he had no idea. It was just nice not to be alone.

Buffy smiled and nodded in agreement. "Well, that's true. We Slayers do agree that we had an obligation to look good while slaying. So all that guff, Giles gave me about clothes just wasn't true. All the other Slayers made sure the Forces of Light were well represented in the fashion department." She sighed, "And I just channelled Cordelia, is this a sign of the apocalypse?"

"Ah Buff, where are we going? Do you have a plan or what?"

"Well, my plan is to get you away from here. I'm just kinda going on Slayer instinct. Gabriel said I didn't have much time, only until sunrise but don't worry, things'll work out."

"Okay, moving forward on faith, I can do that."

"So you and Spike huh?"

* * * * * * * *

Angel took a deep unneeded breath and continued to drive. He didn't even glance at the blonde. "I told myself it was because I wanted her to have a normal life; a husband, maybe some children some day."

Spike's gaze never wavered from his grandsire's profile. "But you know that Slayer's never have normal lives. They don't have husbands. They don't have friends. They don't have children and they don't usually live past twenty. So again, I ask you why you left."

Angel swallowed hard, "I know that, but you see if Buffy could have friends and family like she did then maybe she could have a husband and children and if she had that then she'd be different from all the other Slayers. She wouldn't die. She'd just go on living and even if I never saw her again I'd still know that she was out there somewhere alive." Angel felt his eyes sting and swiped at them half angrily. He must have some dust in them. "That's what was suppose to happen." He nodded to himself. "Yes, when I left that's what was suppose to have happened, everything was supposed to be okay."

"Except it wasn't okay, was it?" Spike asked softly.

"But it was supposed to be. I did everything right. I did!" Angel said angrily turning briefly to the younger vampire.

Spike stared at Angel with a forlorn sort of compassion and then said very quietly. "Step on a
crack and break your mother's back."

"What?" Angel looked confused at the non sequiter.

"It's something the American children say. It's a game they play with themselves, step on a crack in the sidewalk and break your mother's back. If you don't, then everything will be okay. It's a superstition, a way to pretend that you can change events." Spike smiled sadly at the older vampire. "You're a bit of a child in a way aren't you Sire? If I close my eyes and if I wish very hard I can pretend there are no monsters under the bed. But you and I both know that there are monsters everywhere and not all of them are demons. You played a game with yourself and lost. That's why you didn't come to the funeral. You're still trying to play 'let's pretend' that Buffy's not dead."

Angel gripped the already cracked steering wheel hard and sped up the car. He felt like he was gasping for breath, like he'd been running and he still needed the air. "You don't understand."

"I do understand; it's you that hasn't gotten it yet. You can do everything right, everything, and it can still turn out wrong. How many people have we killed that did everything right and we still came and took them away to death? How many? How many families, how many scared young women? Did Drusilla do anything wrong? Is that why you got to kill her? Is that why she died? No; good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people and that just the way it is and in your heart you know that, don't you?" Angel wasn't even aware of the tears running down his face. "No, if that's true then I should have stayed with her. If that's true then it was all for nothing and I did a terrible thing. If I'd stayed maybe she'd still be alive."

Spike leaned forward slightly; there was a part of him that was licking its lips and scenting blood. This was it, for all those times that Angelus had ever belittled him, for the taking of Dru, for Buffy's sake, he could tear into Angel and destroy him. He was weak and the weak, the sick; and the old were all fair prey. He felt his canines lengthen and unconsciously ran his tongue along them. The weak: Dawn and Dru, the sick: Joyce and Xander, the old, Angel. He hesitated as each face came to mind. If he'd been alive he would have said that he was caught between one heartbeat and the next as he stared at his Grandsire. The moment lengthened and he did nothing; just followed the trail of tears on Angel's face. Abruptly, he laughed to
himself in disbelief. He felt his fangs retract even as he called himself a fool. " 'You'll be in love until the day you die but you'll never be friends.' And to think I thought I had it rough with Dru."

"All you did was try to protect someone that you loved very much. It was irrational and not exactly well thought out which means it was probably the most human thing you've ever done." Spike glanced at him briefly then turned to stare at the passing streetlights. "She would have understood that. She wasn't the most rational creature."

"But if I'd been there, maybe?" Angel whispered.

"It was her choice, her decision." Spike answered. "It's done now, it's over. You can't go back, you can never go back."

Angel glanced at his childe. Spike was turned away, hands clutched tight around the feather. "I promise we'll get Xander back. I won't let you down." Angel swore sincerely.

"Sometimes you do everything right." Spike said without turning. He smiled bitterly to himself.

Angel stopped the car and motioned ahead. "We're here."

Spike acknowledged him without words and stared down at the feather in his hands. He couldn't really discern any glow. He hoped the spell would work. It had to work.


Part Eight -b)

"No way, health food and cooking, Spike?" Buffy laughed. Xander joined in but starting coughing so severely again that they had to stop.

"Xan?" She wiped his face tenderly with what was left of her shirt. His breathing sounded raspy constantly now and he was so pale.

"Just need to get *cough* get my second wind." He panted and smiled gamely.

She lowered him to the floor and slipped down beside him, leaning against his shoulder and doing her best to hug him around the wings. "So does Spike know you know about the food thing?"

"Naw. I did some research after the whole Dawn kicks Giles episode and found out that vampires bring their mates food and stuff. It's usually still alive and wiggling but he's modified that for me. I don't want to embarrass him or anything but I don't want him setting himself on fire either." Xander laughed a little. "He looks so cute in his apron and oven mitts though." He coughed hard and then panted a little before continuing. "I don't know whether I should say
this or not but I've got this fantasy of him in just the apron and mitts, kinky no?"

"Oh stop it!" Buffy ewwed and wrinkled her nose in mock disgust. She hugged him harder as he started to shake slightly. She didn't think they had much farther to go. She felt a constant tugging sensation but it was clear that it was going to be hard on Xander. She kept expecting him to pass out. She'd also noticed that his wings wouldn't stop bleeding, albeit sluggishly.
She tucked her hair back in a nervous gesture.

"You know, I'm going to have to give him serious grief if I ever see him again. I mean all that business about loving me and then less than two months later it's 'Buffy, Buffy who?'" She teased Xander gently. "Although it's not like I couldn't have figured your feelings out if I'd paid attention, the way you were taking care of him."

Xander blinked questioningly at her. "Wha?"

"Oh come on, I know I'm sometimes a little too focused on stuff." She stopped and looked at Xander as he gave a slight snort then smiled innocently. "Fine, I can be a single minded harpy. Happy? But even I couldn't help but notice every time I opened a refrigerator at the
Magic Shop, Giles's place, even my house, that there was a bag of blood in it. It was like a M.A.S.H. unit. You must have scattered blood every where."

He grinned goofily at her as she very gently nudged his shoulder. "Now he's returning the favor."

"You're still going to give him a hard time though aren't you?"

She grinned evilly, "Oh yeah, nothing personal but as a woman I feel it's my duty and considering all the trouble he caused me, my right."

"He really does love you." Xander defended his lover gamely. Buffy continued to smile at him. "Yeah okay, just remember, he's really a big crème puff at heart when it comes to romance."

She held up her right hand solemnly. "I promise not to mess him up too badly," then she giggled. "You ready to try again."

"I was born ready." Xander held out his hand as she tugged him to his feet. Xander stood still for a moment with closed eyes, trying to get his balance. "Buffy," he said without opening his eyes, "if I don't see him again."

"Don't say it, you'll see him, that's a promise. I did not come all this way for you to leave before the end." She straightened and tightened her hold. "You will see him again and we will make this okay."

Xander stared down at her earnest face. "Okay," he said gently, "okay. Let's go."

They started their odd shuffling gait again when Buffy halted abruptly. She turned to look over her shoulder. Xander glanced back, then at her. She frowned and then cautiously leaned him against the wall, putting a finger to her lips, "Shhh." She assumed a fighting stance.

There was the smell of brimstone and sulphur and several figures shimmered into existence before them. Xander hissed; one of them was Lucifer. The others were rather tall pale figures dressed in plain suits and carrying briefcases.

The Devil smirked at Xander, "Not leaving already, were you?" He glanced at the Slayer and sneered, "You're a long way from home little girl, best head back before you get hurt."

"I'm fine thanks, you and the stiffs can head out though, I don't mind." Buffy continued to stand protectively in front of Xander.

Satan turned away dismissively and addressed the suited gentlemen. "As you can see, one angel as promised per our agreement." He gestured towards Buffy. "A Slayer bonus if you can manage to grab her."

"Oh, no, I don't think so. No Slayers on the menu today." Gabriel admonished as he appeared.

The Wolfram and Hart contingent snarled silently and turned to Lucifer. "Fine, but Alexander is fair game." Gabriel said nothing.

One of the suited gentlemen stepped forward, keeping a wary eye on Gabriel and the Slayer while looking Xander over. "It's ill. It appears to be dying."

"Gentlemen, if you read the pertinent paragraphs in our agreement you'll see that I was to deliver one angel. There was nothing stated either verbally or in writing about what condition said angel had to be in. If you'd wanted him in good health you should have stipulated to that in the contract." Satan smiled politely.

The demon hissed, he indicated Gabriel, "This one will not interfere?"

"He can't. Alexander here is an exile and therefore not entitled to Heaven's protection."

"Then why Slayer?" hissed one of the others, a long serpent like tongue snaking out of its mouth.

"She's just trying to protect someone who she thought was a friend." Lucifer smiled gently at the Slayer. "He's not of course. He spent his whole life lying to her but you know humans, not the brightest of creatures."

Buffy glanced at Gabriel who now leaned against the wall serenely. He winked at her but she noticed his smile was a little tight. "I wonder if I can die again?" She thought. Just then the Wolfram and Hart partner stepped forward and she prepared to find out.

"Bloody Hell, Buffy?" Spike shouted joyfully.

Buffy risked a quick glance to her right and saw Spike grinning at her like a loon and a shell shocked Angel. She heard Gabriel mutter "About time."

"Oh guys, I have never been so happy to see anyone in my life or death."

Spike paled slightly as he noticed Lucifer but hurried to Xander's side. "Oh my pet, what a state you've gotten yourself in." Xander beamed at him.

"Spike. You found me." Xander clutched the vampire's arm as he gasped for air.

Spike carefully smoothed his hands over the dying man's face, cooing softly in distress. Xander nuzzled his hand. "That feels so nice and cool," he gasped.

Spike glared wildly at Gabriel, "Do something you stupid pounce, fix 'em!"

"I can't Spike. I'm sorry, Alexander is dying, and even angels die sometimes." Gabriel looked at the distressed vampire with deep compassion.

"He belongs to us vampire. Move aside." Hissed the suited demon.

Spike snarled, jumping to his feet, "Touch him and I'll rip your heart out!"

The demon hissed louder, its body elongating and growing as it morphed into a very large snake. Spike stood his ground and growled low. Buffy got ready to leap. Lucifer licked his lips in anticipation.

"Stop!" Angel stepped forward. "There's no need to fight, if you want the angel Alexander, you can have him."

"Angel!" Buffy cried out in horror.

Spike whirled and stared at his Grandsire in betrayal. Angel didn't flinch under the cold glare. He stared deeply into his childe's eyes, willing him to understand. Spike clenched his fists so hard his talons sliced into his hands and blood dripped steadily to the floor.

Spike swallowed past the lump in his throat then turned to Xander. "Do you trust me?"

"With my heart and soul." Xander said clearly. Spike stepped aside and indicated that Buffy should do the same. She stared at him and then looked to Xander for confirmation. The dying angel nodded weakly. She stepped back.

Angel stood in front of the demonic serpent. "As I said, you are welcome to the angel Alexander." He stood straighter and raised his voice in invocation. "However, before you take possession I would like exercise my right as previously granted to a second chance for the human known as Alexander LaVelle Harris of Sunnydale, California."

Gabriel stepped forward, "Done!" He knelt by Xander and gathered him gently in his arms. "Time to come home Alexander." A soft shimmering light filled the room driving the demons form Wolfram and Hart back. Lucifer snarled and stepped back one pace. Angel and Spike stood their ground. Buffy reached out a hand to both men and held on tight as she wept openly. They watched as Xander gasped his last breath and then in a flurry of wings and soft murmurs the light faded leaving Gabriel cradling the body of a young human male. Spike dropped to his knees and hesitantly reached out his hand. Xander's eyes flickered open and
he squinted up at his lover. "Hey there you. I had the weirdest dream."

Spike tenderly pulled his pet into his arms. "Did you pet, was I in it?"

Xander hugged him back, "Always."

Spike looked over at the kneeling archangel. "Whatever you want, mate."

Gabriel waggled his eyebrows, "Really, it's a deal."

"Where is our angel?" hissed the serpent angrily at the Devil.

The Devil ignored it as he stared malevolently at the friends. Gabriel stood slowly and faced him. "Ah, ah, ah," he admonished, "possession is nine tenths of the law."

The Devil relaxed slightly and then shrugged his shoulders. "Oh well, I fulfilled my part of the
bargain, what do I care?"

"What do you mean, your part of the bargain? There is no angel. The contract is null and void." One of the other suited demons snapped.

"Now, gentlemen, I think you'll find that the contract says I have to deliver an angel. I did." Lucifer stated with calmly but with a dangerous gleam in his eye.

"Liar!" hissed the serpent.

"Well that's the pot calling the kettle black." He laughed as the two sides faced off.

Gabriel waved Angel and Buffy closer. "Time to leave. These kind of negotiations never go well," he whispered conspiratorially. In the next instant they found themselves outside by Angel's car. It was perhaps an hour to dawn. Gabriel smiled at Buffy and mouthed the words "we have to go soon." She nodded. Spike was wrapping Xander up in his duster and coddling him, fussing like a mother hen. Angel stood a short distance away, glancing at her sideways. She walked over and caught his hand in hers.

"Hey, stranger, long time no see." She smiled shyly.

He clasped her hand hard for a moment and then suddenly turned and pulled her into a tight embrace, lifting her off the ground. She held him as he slowly rocked her, making those same soft cooing noises that Spike had made to Xander.

"It's okay, shh, it's alright," she soothed.

"I'm so sorry."

"For what?"

"For everything; for not being there, for not staying."

"Hey, set me down." She said gently. He carefully set her on her feet and she touched his chin, looking deeply into his eyes before she tugged him to a spot to sit. "I forgive you for being a big doofus guy." She grinned at him.

Angel looked a little startled. "What?"

"You know, sometimes I think you were so wrapped up in being vampire in search of redemption that you kinda forgot that you're just a guy. It's okay, because I got so wrapped up in being the Slayer that I forgot I'm just a girl. In the time I've had to think about things I realized that most of our problems with each other were just guy/girl problems. Sure, they had that Sunnydale tinge to them but they were just basically the same things that other couples face. I have my work, you have your work, where is this relationship going, do I really want a relationship, we don't talk enough; the usual really."

"Well, there was the sex thing," Angel added.

She cocked an eyebrow at him, "Are you trying to tell me that you actually could have had another moment of perfect happiness after what happened last time? I don't think so. Nope, that was just an excuse, for both of us really."

She held his large hand on her lap, sandwiched between her tiny palms. She peered up at him through her lashes and smiled. "We made a bunch of mistakes but neither of us had any experience with relationships so it was to be expected. Aside from the really bad parts, I wouldn't have traded the time with you for anything. I love you."

"I love you too. When I was with you, it was like having the prettiest lass in the county on my arm. I felt like the king of the world. I've never felt that way before, never. It was the hardest thing I've ever done to give that up."

"When I was with you, I felt like a princess. I had my very own hero and what girl doesn't wish for hero, at least every once in awhile." She patted his hand. "I want you to know that I do understand why you did it. You did it because you're a hero and you were being protective. You wanted me to have the best, but when I was with you, I had it."

He brushed her face softly, "Spike said I was a bit of a child."

Buffy laughed, "Well, takes one to know one."

Angel joined her laughter. "Yeah, well I suppose I'm learning that you never really finish growing up. I'll have to try to remember that."

He cupped her face in his hands, "I wish you could stay."

She covered his hands with her own. "I'd only have to leave again." Gabriel caught her eye. She noticed dawn was not too far off.

Angel intercepted the look and took her lips in a long sweet kiss. They broke apart reluctantly. "Will I ever see you again?"

Buffy gave him a final hug, squeezing him tightly, "I'll be waiting for you, so no more foolishness with lawyers and such," she scolded. "You gave Xander his second chance, now why don't you give yourself one as well."

Angel nodded sheepishly. She walked with him towards Spike and Xander. "Hey guys, I've got to go." She bent down and gave the still weakened Xander a careful hug. "Look out for the bleached menace. He's not always the brightest thing on two legs." Xander hugged her back. "You got it Buffy."

"Oi, figures that you'd come back and give me grief, luv." Spike huffed.

She reached out and pulled him into her arms and whispered in his ear. "And you, no more suicide attempts." She pulled back and looked at him sternly, "I just might get to see you again so don't screw up." Her face softened into a smile. "There are a lot of people who love you and are rooting for you."

Spike tried to clear his throat but failed and only gave a quick bob of his head. Xander caught his hand.

"Buffy, time to go." Gabriel came over. He gave Angel a thorough look and then smiled cheekily, "Not bad kid." He looked over at the boys, "Gentlemen, be seeing you."

Spike looked panicked, "Oi, when?"

Gabriel with Buffy by his side gave a final wave, "Telling you would take all the fun out of it."

* * * * * * * *

"So not exactly by the handbook but not bad." Gabriel patted the Slayer on the shoulder.

"You've seen the handbook? I've never seen the handbook. Where is this handbook?" Buffy demanded.

"Never seen the handbook? Well, it's a little late now." Gabriel waved airily, "Never mind, you got the important bits right. Hey want a cookie?"

"Chocolate, chocolate chip, oh yeah!"

* * * * * * *

They made it back to the hotel with ten minutes to spare. After much fuss being made over Xander by everyone and a quick explanation of events, minus Buffy. Angel led the boys up to a room.

They had decided on the way back that they wouldn't mention Buffy. When Cordy had asked Angel about the grieving ritual, he told her they'd had enough excitement for one weekend and that he was thinking about taking a trip; his first vacation in, well, ever. She given him a thorough look and then smiled agreeably before she kissed him on the cheek.

He hesitated and then said, "You're welcome to stay as long as you want."

"Thanks Angel. I really appreciate that. Maybe we'll stay until Sunday anyway." Xander caught Spike's eye.

"Yeah pet, if you want." Spike said nonchalantly wandering around the room checking out drawers and doors.

Angel sighed and turned to go.

"Hey Grandpa, you did alright back there." Spike said uncomfortably.

Angel gave him a hesitant smile, "Yeah?"


"Great and don't call me Grandpa." Angel stated before heading out the door.

Xander patted the bed next to him. Spike slouched over and sat down. Xander pulled him into a gentle embrace and kissed him deeply. Spike closed his eyes and
savoured the taste of his pet. "I thought I lost you luv, I really did."

"But you didn't lose me and you found some of your family again." They moved up on the bed and leaned against the headboard. Xander held Spike close.

"Yeah, well he's a bit of an idiot but it's not like you choose your family is it?" Spike groused
good-naturedly. "He came through when the chips were down though."

"That's kind of the definition of family." The sat quietly and listened to the city slowly come awake. Spike took the feather from his pocket and smoothed his fingers over it. Xander reached out and touched it carefully. "Do you miss it luv, being an angel?" Spike asked.

Xander bent his head down and gave Spike a kiss on the nose. "Nope, being an angel was just a thing. I would have missed you guys much more."

"I love you Xander." Spike said the words very clearly and formally as he looked up into the brunette's eyes.

"I love you Spike." Xander said solemnly in return, then he leered theatrically. "Wanna fool around?"

Spike waggled his eyebrows, "Oh yeah."


Down the hall, Angel pulled his pillow over his head and groaned.


Epilogue and Finale

Xander and Spike spent most of Sunday in bed, sleeping and making gentle love. Xander was still a little weak after his ordeal and Spike didn't want him to over exert himself. For his part, Xander was enjoying the peace and quiet. He was watching Spike sleep. He was also doing his best not to think too deeply about anything that had happened to him. He was concerned
though, aside from his one remark about losing him, Spike had said nothing at all about what had happened to Xander. Xander had ventured that he and Angel seemed to have come to an understanding and Spike had grunted in assent. The blonde hadn't mentioned Buffy or Lucifer or how he and Angel had found him so quickly: nothing. Xander was becoming seriously worried.

He wanted to talk to Spike about what had happened between he and Angel. He wanted to ask him how he felt about seeing Buffy again. He wanted to talk about what it had been like to be an angel again for a while. He'd lied when he said it was just a thing and his friends were more important. It wasn't a case of not valuing his friends; it was just that for a few brief hours he got to be himself again. He'd felt whole. When Angel had asked for a second chance for the human Xander, well he got it, but at the cost of the angel Alexander.

Every memory of his time as an angel before he'd been reborn was starting to fade. He was having trouble remembering anything about his life in Heaven. He could remember his life as a human clearly enough but those pieces of supernatural knowledge that he had brought with him to Earth were growing dim; the faces of his fellow angels, even that sense of exile he'd
grown up with; it was all fading and he wasn't sure how he felt about that.

He looked down at his sleeping lover and smiled softly. Spike needed a haircut although Xander hoped to persuade him otherwise. He wanted to see what the vampire's hair would look like longer. He reached out and carefully tugged one wavy lock down to curl in the
middle of his forehead. He looked so sweet even with the scar bisecting his eyebrow. Sweet and gentle and protective, almost harmless, Xander snorted to himself, and if I believe that I should be able to sell myself some swampland.

"I want to tell you that I am seriously freaked by what's happened to me. In the span of two days I've been enchanted and at least partially returned to my angelic form; all to be used as some sort of offering to seal a deal between demons. Lucifer picked me because I was an easily available exiled angel; he didn't even care enough about me to make it about revenge." Xander sighed to himself. "I don't even know what they were negotiating about, that's how
unimportant I was, just, 'here's an angel, they have a number of uses, and every evil law firm should have one'." Xander grimaced, "I should have been offered on the Home Shopping Network. "

He scooted under the covers, tugging them up to his chin and staring straight into Spike's sleeping face. "Oh yeah, and then the only way to save me was to let me die and that was creepy even though Gabriel was holding me and you were there, it was still terrifying. Was it like that for you when Dru killed you?" Xander's lips barely moved as he whispered. "Was
her face the last thing you saw and did you feel your soul fly away? Did you feel the demon come in?" Xander pulled his legs up and huddled in a little ball.

"You are a bleedin idiot, pet and I can't leave you alone for a minute." Spike opened his eyes.

Xander blinked, "Hey, no fair with the whole not breathing thing. Give a guy some warning."

"What and miss all that angst? Now you don't have to fret over how to tell me because you just did." Spike stated logically. "Why didn't you earlier? Why did you tell me everything was all right when it wasn't?" Spike waited expectantly.

"I don't know." Xander bit his lip and looked miserable. Spike tugged the young man into his arms. "Come 'ere and tell Uncle Spike all about it."

"Uncle Spike?" Xander looked at his lover askance. "Don't think for one minute that I'm sitting on your lap."

Spike grumbled, "Fine take the fun out of it." He cuddled the brunette under his arm. "Now, you're scared because Old Nick seriously screwed with you, well that's his specialty. The load of rot he gave you about you not being important, a lot of crap that was; I don't know how happy it makes you feel but he went after you because of what you did at the Hellmouth.
Come on Xanpet, you trying to tell me you're really the only fallen angel in the world? Why did he even bother offering an angel? He could have offered any number of things I'm sure." Spike snorted, "Can't believe you fell for that 'you're not important, bollocks'."

Xander ducked his head and mumbled, "Well, okay, maybe I was being a little silly. It's just that if someone is going to have you die horribly, you kinda want it to be a little personal."

Spike just rolled his eyes, "Pet, I can't believe you got yourself all bothered because you thought someone wasn't trying to 'personally' kill you. It was personal all right luv, happy?"

Xander kept his head down and nodded.

"Next, problem, you died." Spike closed his eyes briefly; "well that was a bloody scary event for me too." Spike took a deep unneeded breathe, "To answer your first question, yeah, dying was creepy. I drank her blood and kept my eyes focused on my Dark Princess but it didn't help. There was a part of me that knew, I think, that something terrible was happening to me, something worse than dying. I just kept getting colder and colder and every time I thought I'd gotten as chilled as a body could get, I got a little bit colder until finally, dying was actually a relief." Spike's soft voice trailed off; his eyes fixed on that long ago horror. "I was so cold that even though the thought of going to Hell scared me, I thought, well, at least I'll be warm, but you're not you know. You're never really warm again no matter how much blood you drink."

Xander touched his cheek gently; Spike shook himself and glanced down at his pet's face as Xander hugged him close. "Right, well, enough of that, over and done with a long time ago. In answer to your other question: no I didn't feel my soul leaving or the demon coming in. I felt nothing, nothing at all, pretty boring really." Spike reached for his cigarettes on the bedside table. Xander watched him fiddle with them. He knew he wouldn't smoke one while
he was in the room.

Spike was silent for a bit and then, "So did you feel your soul leave and something enter? Is that what you're trying to tell me?"

"No, yes, I don't know." Xander laughed wryly. "You know that old saying about not knowing what you have until it's gone? Well, I never really thought that I felt differently than any other human being. I mean, I knew that I was an angel once." Xander groaned, "I'm
not explaining this real well. I always thought that I was a human being that used to be an angel. When I died back there, when Alexander died back there, I realized that what I've been was an angel living in a human being, do you understand?"

Spike continued to watch him quietly but didn't answer.

Xander tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling. "Now I'm just a normal human guy who works construction. I'm nothing special anymore." He shrugged his shoulders slightly. "I know Alexander had to die so I could live but?" Xander ran his hand over his face, "I'm just so confused." He turned to Spike and was startled to find the vampire wearing an expression somewhere between irritation and laughter. Xander felt a little hurt, here he had just bared his
soul to his lover and he was not receiving instant sympathy. He felt his mouth forming a pout.

"Right, where do I begin? First off pet, you can't even see normal from where you're standing, so if you're worried about sinking into bloody, boring, beer bellied middle age mediocrity; don't. I'm not going to let it happen and I will make your life a livin' hell
if I catch the slightest hint of you trying to make it happen." Spike gave him a razor thin smile.

"Secondly, nothing special about you then? No, nothing special about someone who's apparently been possessed by an angel for the past twenty years; nothing special about a bloke whose best friend is a powerful and in my opinion slightly deranged lesbian witch. Of course the whole friendship with the Slayer, her Watcher and her non-existent until recently little sister is a bit odd but thank goodness your 'normal' relationship with your chipped vampire boyfriend makes up for it." Spike's voice had risen slightly.

Xander watched his lover with wide-eyed wariness.

"And finally, I nearly lost you last night, in fact since I've known you, I've nearly lost you on numerous occasions. Now mind you, except for the past few months or so, I probably wouldn't have cared too much, a little hiccup in my world but I'd have moved on. But
you're with me now, you're mine, and I don't intend to lose you anytime soon, got it mate?" Spike looked at him expectantly. Xander nodded quickly.

"You are going to take care of yourself. I am going to take care of you. We are going to take care of each other." Spike blew out a quick breath. "You see mate, I came to some realizations tonight too. I don't know what I'll do if I ever lose you."

Xander opened his mouth. Spike held up his hand,Xander shut his mouth.

"I know you want me to promise you that I won't do anything stupid; well I won't promise!" Spike snapped. "I can bloody well do something stupid if I want too, nobody does stupid better than me."

Xander kept from smiling, just barely. Spike failed to notice. He was on a roll.

"But I'm going to do my best to make sure I don't have to find out any time soon." Spike muttered to himself, "You probably won't let me turn you but bloody hell, what's the point of knowing a powerful witch if you can't get some sort of longevity spell or something. You could always drink some of my blood."

Xander wrinkled his nose. Spike caught the look. "I'm just reviewing our options." He looked exasperated.

"Are you done scolding?" Xander asked with a hint of a smile in his voice.

"I don't know, you done being confused?" Spike asked gruffly.

"Yeah, I think the Xanman's been pretty much put in his place." He started humming the tune to 'Stand By Your Man' as he threw an arm over the blonde's shoulder. Spike grimaced. "It's at my honey's side." Xander said kissing his lover deeply.

"So, sounds like you've done some thinking." Xander said as he gently broke the kiss. Spike grumbled good-naturedly.

"Might have," Spike said noncommittally.

"Well the reason I ask is because someone seems to have gone from Angel that Bloody Bastard to Gramps, not so bad. I may have been at death's door back there but I did note that someone seemed willing to trust his grandsire with my life." Xander nodded. "Yup, also noticed you didn't try to rip Buffy out of his arms." Xander looked at his lover keenly.

Spike looked uncomfortable. "I told you, he's an idiot but he's family." Xander smiled encouragingly.

"All right, we had a talk." Spike grumbled. "I knew that Angelus was a bastard but he was a damn good predator. He wasn't the sharpest thing but he had cunning. And then along comes this Angel bloke and he was like this plodding version of Angelus without any of the craftiness. Angelus was all sleek lines; cruelty and wiliness all rolled into one mean package.
Angel always seemed like the slow-witted twin brother with a hero complex; that was putting on airs for the Slayer. I thought, so this is what happens when you get your soul back, you become stupid and dull." Spike glanced at his pet. Xander looked a little confused.

"I didn't realize until he and I talked that I didn't know Angel. I thought he was just a dull version of Angelus. " Spike smiled somewhat fondly, "He really is a bit of a child. His head's all mixed up, sometimes he acts like a two hundred forty year old adult and other times he acts like he's twelve." Spike sighed then gave Xander an ironic smile. "Did you ever play at being a hero when you were a lad?"

"Yeah, sure, most little boys rescue things. Jesse and I rescued Willow's teddy bear from the forces of evil on many occasions. Of course, we also held him for ransom once or twice." Xander winked and Spike smiled fondly back.

"I used to come up with intricate plots where I battled the dragon to rescue the princess. " He gave Xander a self-mocking smile, "except I kept that kind of nonsense up until I was older than you, never really outgrew it either. Even death didn't stop me trying to rescue the princess."

"So? I'm still trying to rescue things from the forces of evil." Xander chuckled.

"Well, that's my grandsire, it's like he's a kid trying to do what he thinks a hero should do whether it's the best thing or not. I never realized how much alike we were." Spike glanced at Xander keenly. "I had him you know, in the palm of my hand."

Spike offered his open palm. "He realized that he'd screwed up with Buffy and I had him right here. All I had to do was?" He clenched his fist hard.

"What stopped you?" Xander asked quietly. Spike didn't answer immediately.

"Vampires prey on the weak and the sick and the old, that's how we thin the herd. Course we also just go on killing sprees for the hell of it too." He snorted and then focused his gaze on Xander. "You can't be a good predator if you feel for the prey. You can't get friendly with the food." He dropped his fist to his lap. "I saw your faces and I realized that everyone I
ever truly cared for was someone that by that logic, I should have eaten or destroyed."

He took Xander's hand, "Dru when she got sick; Joyce, Dawn, Buffy - you, and Angel."

"Bet that was a surprise?" Xander raised his eyebrows.

"Could have knocked me over with a bloody feather," Spike said morosely. "Angel; apparently somewhere I decided that he was part of my family and not just because of blood. I actually wanted to look out for the nonce. I found myself telling him that we had to just move on, can't change the past etc." Spike looked mildly disgusted. "Who knew that doing something good could make you feel so bad."

Xander snickered and Spike gave him a questioning look.

"Sounds like the title to a country western song." Xander bit his lip. Spike narrowed his eyes.

Xander did his best to hold his lover's gaze but then gave up in a burst of giggles. Spike sniffed disdainfully. Xander's caught his breath but his eyes were still crinkled in laughter. Oh look it was the return of the royally ruffled vampire. Xander stealthily reached behind his head to yank out a pillow but before he could attack, Spike leapt, flattening him to the bed.

"I may be a dysfunctional vampire mate but I'm still faster than you." He leered and began to tickle the helplessly giggling young man.

"Hey you two knock it off. There are people who would like to spend time with you, clothed, before you head home." Cordy yelled through the door.

"Be very quiet pet and maybe she'll go away." Spike whispered.

"You've got fifteen minutes to get downstairs for breakfast. After that I can't promise that there'll be any blueberry pancakes left."

Spike studied the panicked look on his pet's face. "Oi, the chit doesn't play fair." He rolled off the brunette and gracefully to his feet. He held out a hand and hauled Xander upright. "I've been set aside for pancakes. Do you think the romance has gone out of our relationship?" Spike said wistfully.

"But honey, its blueberry pancakes," Xander said using his best puppy dog expression.

"Go, shower," Spike waved him on his way. "And leave me some hot water!" he yelled at the retreating back. He smiled to himself, what a mess they all were, but a happy mess. He looked up at the ceiling, "Slayer, I can't promise you that I'll see you again. A lot of
things could go wrong, but maybe, just maybe mind you I'll be able to skate in on his coattails."

He heard Xander start to sing "Unforgettable". He smirked as he headed for the bathroom. You could get a lot done in fifteen minutes."

The End