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Fate Steps In

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wicked nominee

 

As soon as the last sliver of sunlight dipped below the horizon, Angel opened his eyes. He studied the ceiling, slowly coming to awareness, fighting it every step of the way. He had no reason to get out of bed. All that was there was an empty hotel. No noise, no smells, no people…no friends. They were all gone. Every one. Even Spike.

Angel choked back a sob. 'Oh, god.' Tears swirled in his eyes at the thought of his favorite Childe being nothing more than dust in the wind. The final advance against the Senior Partners' army was met with as much enthusiasm as a boot crushing a bug. They had no hope of winning and both sides knew it. One by one, they were picked off. At the sight of the bane of his existence disintegrating at the swing of an axe, Angel gave up. He fell to his knees, dropped his sword and waited for death.

He could feel the army closing in on him from all sides and he prayed to whatever god would listen to a former sadist turned force-for-good turned failure, to let his death be quick.

A faint smile crossed his lips.

At least he wouldn't spend the next 300 years in hell again.

That made him think of the letters he sent the day before. He said good-bye to Buffy, regretting that they couldn't make it work. Besides the obvious reasons, he realized that he wasn't in love with her so much as the hope she represented. If a slayer saw him as a man and not a beast, then perhaps redemption would be his one day.

There were letters for them all: Buffy, Willow, Dawn, Giles and Faith. He said his good-byes to them all…even Xander. Although, letter might be too much to call the one sentence he wrote to the Scooby. The shortest of all the missives and probably the one he meant the most.

Xander,

Thank you for the lie.

-Angel

Simple, short, and guaranteed to fuck with Xander's head, no matter how sincere. He'd pay to see Xander's face when he realized that Angel knew about his little lie to Buffy that got him sent to hell after Angelus' attempt to end the world. The look of righteous indignation that would cross his face as he figured out that Angel got the last word in would be worth all of Angel's possessions.

With that thought, on his knees, in a dirty alley, surrounded by a legion of warriors who were poised to kill him, Angel let a rare smile light up his face.

He would die a happy man.

It's very unclear what happened next. He woke up in the lobby of the Hyperion hotel, still covered in blood and ichor with his discarded sword at his side. It took him a few days to gather some useful information. The battle happened. All of his team were dead. He was no longer affiliated with Wolfram & Hart and the day he woke up, it was almost a full week after the alley battle. The blood in the fridge hadn't even gone bad yet.

He lost everyone but the world kept moving. Angel just stopped. He stops leaving the hotel for any reason. He only ate when he happened to pass the kitchen on one of his aimless walks through the hotel. He began to resemble the undead of monster movie fame. He ignored everything outside his hotel.

He doesn't look for Connor. He doesn't want to interrupt his life if he lived, and he doesn't want to deal with more loss if he didn't.

During these weeks of self-imposed exile, Angel get real acquainted with his bedroom ceiling. He knows where every mark, scuff, paint chip, and stain is. He stares at it for so long, when he closes his eyes, he can see it behind his eyelids.

So as he woke to a semi-conscious state at the start of this particular day, he realized that the ceiling above him is definitely Not the ceiling of his suite.

Angel quickly shuffles through his memory for something to identify where the hell he was. He doesn't move during the few seconds it takes him so as not to alarm his captors. He does a quick head-to-toe check of his body to figure out what was done to him so he could be moved. Because he definitely have been moved. That was not his ceiling…

Except it was.

It was an old ceiling. It was familiar. The last time he had seen it was back when he was living in…

Sunnydale.

Sunnydale, that had been nothing more than a crater for over a year.

With a somewhat renewed sense of vigor, Angel rolled out of bed. He grabbed the axe he knew was stored under the bed for just such occasions, gave it a swing, and strolled to the door.

Time to meet his hosts.

Chapter Text

Axe in hand, Angel crept down the stairs with the grace and stealth acquired by age and experience.  On high alert, he used his senses to locate his gracious host in the kitchen.  There was a minimum amount of movement behind the door suggesting he would have a good chance of taking them completely by surprise.  And then he’d get the hell out of there.  Wherever here is.

Angel opened the door, poised to attack when he got a good look at the occupant of the kitchen. He stood frozen in the doorway. 

He took in the sight.  But he couldn’t trust that.  The First had tricked him before and had only gotten bolder as the years went by.  Buffy and the other slayers may have defeated the army of the First but there’s no way to actually defeat Evil Incarnate.

He listened.  There was a heartbeat or a reasonable facsimile of a heartbeat.  It sounded just like the millions he’d heard over the years since he’d been turned.  But it was too easy to fake so it couldn’t be trusted.

He smelled the air.  It was the scent that convinced him.  He would never forget that scent.  Cinnamon, vanilla, and chilies overlaid by the floral notes of a designer perfume.  Sweet, spicy and woman all wrapped up in a picture of beauty, class and grade-A Bitch.  It was the scent that convinced him that this was indeed Cordelia Chase that sat at the kitchen table, eating Chinese food with a cup of what smelled like blood sitting at the place across from her.

“Sit down and eat before you fall down.  I know you’ve been grieving but I would’ve thought years of being in my presence would’ve taught you the value of looking your best no matter the occasion.  I was in a coma and I still got my hair and nails done.”  She gestured at him. “There’s no excuse for this sad display.”

“Cordy?”  Her look softened and she flashed a bright smile at him. 

“Yeah Angel, it’s me.”

Before she completed the sentence, he had crossed the room, gathered her up in his arms and held her close.  This woman had been through so much with him.  Sunnydale, the Scoobies, Doyle, Wolfram & Hart, Connor, and those were just the top five.  She was his compass.  When he lost her, he should’ve known he would lose his way soon after.

He valued Wesley, Gunn, Fred and Lorne, called them friend and mourned the loss of them, but none of them was Cordelia Chase.

They just stood in the kitchen wrapped around each other.  Angel didn’t want to let her go.  He couldn’t lose her again.  A few minutes into the hug, Cordelia patted his back and tried to ease out of the embrace.  He wouldn’t budge.

“Angel?” No response. “Angel?”

He grunted.

“Angel, I love you, but if you don’t let me go, I’m gonna show you the move my father’s bodyguard taught me when I first hit puberty.”  Angel reluctantly released her.  She gave him a small smile and sat back down.

“Eat.” She commanded before returning to her meal.  On autopilot, he sat down and took a sip of the cup in front of him.  Angel blinked as he processed the taste of the blood.

“This is human.”  He looked at Cordelia almost accusingly.  He could hear Angelus keen at the thought of something other than pig’s blood.

Cordelia nodded.  “Yup.  Now hurry up and finish.  We’ve got to get you back to your fighting weight.”

“Cordelia, you know I don’t drink human. I…” She cut him off.

“Look, not that the self-flagellation isn’t cute and all but you not starving yourself on nutritionally deficient blood is just one of the many changes we’re gonna be making.  So suck it up.  I want you to finish that and what’s left on the stove because if you get staked because you’re too weak and too damn slow to defend yourself, I will personally travel to hell to bring you back and I’ll take you shopping every day for a month—Shoe shopping.” She threatened.  “Now, drink.”

~~I like this girl~~ Angelus crowed. ~~I’m so glad I didn’t kill her.  Maybe I should’ve turned her.~~ 

Angel shuddered at the thought of a vampire Cordelia and shared the image with Angelus.  The demon recoiled. ~~Maybe not~~

Angel smiled at the demon.

“Stop taunting Angelus and Angelus stop poking at Angel.”  Angel’s head snapped up in shock.  “I need your full attention.  What I got to say is for the both of you because this affects you both.”

~~Who does that bitch think she is?~~  Suspicion rose in both demon and soul.

~~It’s almost like the lass is not afraid of me.  It’s fucking insulting~~

“Funny thing about being a higher power, having your body hijacked and practically raped for months on end by an old one who used your body to give birth to itself, being in a coma for a year and the dying.  Not to mention the million dollar therapy inducing trauma of sleeping with a boy whose diapers you changed not 8 months before.” Cordelia looked straight at Angel and he got the uneasy feeling she was looking directly at Angelus.

“Very little scares me now.” Her eyes narrowed.  “And I’m the Queen Bitch and you’d do well to remember that.  Now we’re gonna eat and I’m gonna explain things.”

Angel would never admit it out loud, but he was a little bit afraid of the woman in front of him…and a little bit in awe.  Nobody had stood up to Angelus like that since…

~~The boy~~ Angelus said in a wistful tone.  ~~And his backbone is still more impressive~~ 

Angel thought back to that night and agreed.

“If you two are finished reminiscing, maybe we can get back to the reason we’re here.”

“You can hear Angelus?  How?”

“A gift.”  Angel raised his eyebrows.  “No, really.  It was a gift.  I have been designated your life coach/therapist/guide.  Until my job is done, I will be able to hear both demon and soul when the need arises.”

“Who would do that?”

“The same being that brought us here.”

“Where is here?” Angel burst out suddenly. “I know where it’s supposed to be but it can’t be.  Sunnydale is a pit on the horizon.  It has been for over a year.  Hellmouth or not, towns don’t reappear out of thin air.  Buildings yes, towns no.” He said, thinking about Wolfram & Hart’s rapid rebuild after the destruction of the Beast.

“It hasn’t reappeared because it hasn’t disappeared.” She suddenly stood. “Take a good look at me, Angel.  What do you see?”

Angel leaned forward in his chair.  Cordelia turned in a slow circle.  For a full minute, Angel studied her but he could see nothing more or less than the beautiful woman she had always been.  She completed her circle and stood facing him with her hands on her hips.

“Well?”  Angel just looked at her with a clueless expression on his face.

~~Oh you lackbrain! You’ve taken too many hits to the head by Slutty.  I never thought you could shame me further but this is a whole new level~~ Angel could feel Angelus fuming in his cage.  He tried but he still wasn’t getting it.  Angelus screamed in frustration.

~~She’s a goddamn teenager again!~~  Angel’s face slowly morphed from puzzlement to shock as Angelus’ words sunk in.

“Finally!  We’re getting somewhere!”  Angel sputtered.

“How?  What?”  Then the full implication hit him.

“We’re actually in Sunnydale? Before it imploded?”

Cordelia nodded.  “We’re about 6 weeks before Miss Bottle-blond comes to town.”  She stared at him with a determined look in her eye.

“This time, things are going to be different.”  She straightened her spine. “We’ve got work to do.”

Chapter Text

Cordelia wouldn’t answer any questions until Angel finished his blood, including that left warming on the stove.  As he drank his second cup, he realized just how hungry he really was.  He felt the  lifeblood spread through his body, gaining a warmth unlike he had never experienced.  Even the end of one of Angelus’ massacres in which he gorged himself on his victims never felt like this.  Whose blood was this?

“It’s human.  Actually it’s more like human – plus.”  Cordelia answered the question he didn’t realize he had ask aloud.

“Plus what?”

“Human plus Frellian.  Freely given.” She added.

Angel could feel Angelus’ shock mirror his own. 

Frellian demons were almost considered myth they were so rarely seen.  There hasn’t been a confirmed sighting in almost 700 years because of effortlessly they blend into the human population.  They look human, act human, can even change their scent to smell human.  They can mate with humans but the demon gene is so dominant it would never be bred out no matter how many generations are descended from a full-blooded Frellian. 

They are completely unremarkable until threatened.  To take one on is to take them all on and no god or demon would save you.  They are warriors born and bred, nurtured from infancy in the ways of their culture.  It is said that the Spartan soldiers based their brutal training on the Frellians but had to tone it down to suit their weaker bodies.  However, a major difference in the cultures is that among the Frellians, strength was not everything.  If a Frellian child did not succeed in the arena, they may have their talents nurtured in other areas.

They are proficient in almost all types of warfare and magicks.  They have the innate ability to warp their surroundings making them immune to almost all hostile magicks, or changing the intention of the spell and granting an increased chance of success when casting their own magic.  They are most notably fast healers and if one should happen to gain the upper hand in battle and beat them into bloody submission, chances are you will die from exhaustion before they die from their injuries.

Their blood coveted amongst the highest echelon of demons.  A few drops taken orally will heal superficial injuries in a matter of seconds.  A tablespoon would heal tissue damage and broken bones.  A cup would bring the drinker back from the edge of death in less than an hour.  Legend has it that if a vampire were to drain a Frellian, it would gain immunity to sunlight, crosses and stakes and would increase strength, stamina and reflexes making them practically invincible, save beheading for an indeterminate amount of time, possibly forever.

To have a Frellian give its blood freely was a honor of the highest order and unheard of…

Until now.

“How did you find a Frellian?  And how did you convince him to give you his blood?”

“It’s part of the explanation to come but I will say that it is to be used sparingly.  There’ll be a delivery about every 7 weeks and it’s reserved for only the worst injuries.”  Cordelia pulled a small vial from her pocket.  “This is all that’s left.  Unless you are one step away from turning to dust or those you call clan are beyond help, you will not receive more and definitely not until the scheduled time.”

“But why…”

“No more questions.  I’m trying to enjoy my deliciously greasy Chinese food before my teenage body becomes horrified over the extra calories.  I’m already going to have to spend an extra 20 minutes in the pool in the morning to make up for it.  Now let me indulge in peace.”

~~Damn lass has a point.  Shut up and eat~~ Angelus growled. ~~Don’t you dare waste a drop of that blood~~

Cordelia waved her fork at Angel.  “What he said.”

Less than twenty minutes later, Angel washed his cup and pot from the stove and Cordelia put her trash in the bin.  Instead of sitting back at the table, she took her bottle of water and walked out the back door to the yard overlooking the town a few miles away.  There was two chairs and a table waiting for her with a notebook and pen resting on top.  They sat down and Cordelia took a minute to just breath in the air.  She closed her eyes.

“I never realized this town has a smell.  There’s nothing else like it.  It’s nothing obvious, at least that a human nose can smell, but those born and bred here can tell.  LA had a bunch of odors good and bad, but this smell is uniquely Sunnydale.  You only notice it when you haven’t been in it for awhile.”  She opened her eyes and looked out towards the lit town below.  “It smells like home.”

She snorted.  “I never thought I would ever willingly call Sunnydale home. But it is.  Even with the First, the Master, the vampires, the demons, and the ever-presented threat of death, it’s home.”

Angel stayed silent.  He thought back over his time in Sunnydale.  He’d been stabbed, poisoned, exorcised from his body, cursed, tortured by his Childer, teased and taunted by a teenage boy, sent to hell, and brokenhearted.  But he had also been loved, accepted…

~~Not completely~~ Angelus interrupted snidely.

~Shut up~ Angel growled at Angelus.

~~I don’t know why you’re getting so maudlin for anyway.  Unless we’ve been sent back to destroy the damn town, I don’t see many changes happening.  You keep fantasizing you’re a man and you need to be redeemed.  It’s never gonna happen and until you accept that, you’re gonna be miserable.~~

~Shut up~ Angel hissed.

“Actually Angel, he has a point.”  Angelus smirked.

“What?” Angel was dumbstruck. “Cordelia, you were one of my main champions.  You kept me going when I was ready to just give up and let Angelus take over.”

“Yes I was.”  Cordelia nodded.  “But that was before.”

“Before what?”

“Before I died.  Before that alley.  Before this little adventure began.” An angry look came over her face.

“Basically Angel, the Powers-That-Be, champions of all that is good and just and true, screwed us. All of us.”  Her face turned sad. 

“But Angel, they screwed you most of all.”

~~

Cordelia watched Angel as he processed her words.  This was gonna be the hard part, explaining what happened and what has to happen.  Part of her was hesitant to do what needed to be done.  This was the part that cheered Angel on his fight to redeem himself for his past.  She had believed whole-heartedly in what he was doing and want to let nothing and no one, especially not some blond twit, impede his success.  She was even willing to set aside her own love for him.  After the experience of Connor and Jasmine, she lay in a coma and vowed if she woke up, she would not let Angel get distracted again.  So when the PTB offered her the opportunity to say her good-byes and pass on a message to put him back on track, she jumped at the chance.

She gave a deep sigh in the silence.  It had all seemed so straight-forward, so logical, so easy.  ‘We should have questioned it.  Since when do we take the word of a stranger, especially proclaiming goodness and light?’  Perhaps it’s a result of the events of the last few years but it’s a suspicion, bitterness and ability to see around crooked corners that was well-earned.  So much pain, so much suffering, so much loss and all for a promise of a future that there was no sign of actually happening.

Yes they had been screwed.  But much of it had been their own fault.  Now it was time to correct that mistake. 

But first…

“You once told me that something drew you to Sunnydale, that Whistler only showed up after you were already here.  What brought you here?”

Angel thought for a moment. “I don’t know.  It had been tugging at me for a few years but the six months before I arrived was like a storm raging in my head. All I could hear was thunder.  All I knew was pain.   I knew I had to get to Sunnydale and as long as I was there, the noise and the pain would stop.”

“You were here for just over a week before Whistler came?  That’s when he told you about your redemption?  Told you to get close to the Slayer?” Angel nodded.  “What did he say?”

“’You will find your redemption at the side of the Slayer.’”  Cordelia shook her head in disgust.

“They certainly know how to make you draw your own conclusion by being vague.  No wonder they able to lead you down this path.”

~~What the fucking hell you talking about, cheerleader?~~

“Whistler and the Powers-That-Be.  They nudged and maneuvered you until you were right where they wanted you to be and they did it so subtly they practically got you thinking it was your idea.” Cordelia locked her brown eyes with his so he could see the truth in them.

“Angel, there is no redemption.”  Cordelia said in her usual ripping-the-bandage of way.  “At least not in the way you think.”

Angel saw no dishonesty in her eyes and a sinking feeling came over him.  Inside Angelus laughed uproariously.

~~So you mean all of the ‘good deeds’ this nancy-boy has been doing since meeting that bitch has been for nothing?~~ Cordelia looked at Angel with a slightly pitying look on her face as she answered Angelus’ question.

“Yes.”

~~

For the next few minutes all that could be heard was the sound of Angelus’ laughter.  If he’d been required to breathe, he would have died from asphyxiation from laughing so hard.  Meanwhile Angel was steadily growing angry.

“What do you mean there is no redemption?”  Angel said through gritted teeth.  Cordelia took a sip of water.

“The Piece-Of-Shits-that-be made it all up.  They prayed upon your feeling of remorse because you were an oddity.  You were a vampire who felt guilt, who felt pain, and who turned against his nature.  Even the oldest vampires, the ones who reclaimed their souls the usual way never forgot they were vampires at the core.  They didn’t brood—“

“What do you mean vampires who reclaim their soul?  And what usual way?  There is not usual way.  I was cursed with a soul.  The only vampire cursed.”

“Yes Angel.  The only vampire cursed with a soul.  But that’s not really true.  A more accurate description would be cursed with a conscience or the guilt you love to wrap around you like a security blanket.  A vampire cannot be given a soul.  They already have one.  It would be like trying to curse me with a soul.  There’s no point.”

~~I don’t have a bleeding soul, cheerleader.  I’m not like this bastard.  I still enjoy bathing in the blood of my victims and the more innocence the better. I get out of this cage again and I will unleash hell on Earth and there’s no little girls, blond or brunette, here to stop me~~

Cordelia sat unfazed by the snarls of the demon.  The only change in her expression was a raised eyebrow.

“Are you finished?” Cordelia ask.  Angelus growled.

“May I continue without the peanut gallery constantly interrupting?” Cordelia waited about 30 seconds before she continued. 

“When a vampire is first turned the soul does not leave.  In fact, it is an integral part of the vampire.  It is the soul that holds the memories and motivations of the complexion challenged.  When you were turned, your first instinct was to kill your family, your father because he was a bastard, the rest because they didn’t stick up for you.  There was no reason for the demon to go after them.  He has no ties to them.  It was the soul’s past experiences at the hands of your father and indifference of the family that drove the first deeds of the newly risen vampire.  When Spike was turned, his first deed was to turn his mother because he was dying.  What would a demon care about the soul’s mother?”

~~Will was always a bit soft.~~

“Because that is how he was in life.  He was a foppish mama’s boy who wrote poetry, and with the exception of his tendency to pick a fight over something like a bottle of Jack Daniels, he is still that man.”  Cordelia spread her hands on the table.  She gestured with her right hand, holding it up with her elbow on the table.

“Imagine a white string as an anchor or a core.  That is the soul.  It is always present and serves as a foundation.  It is made up of decisions, experiences, and morals--all the things that shape us and make up our personalities.” She gestured with her left hand, holding it up with the fingers spread. “This represents the demon after turning.  It’s a thick black loosely-braided cord that stands parallel with the white string but it quickly starts to weave in the white string.  Because the cord is so much thicker, it stands dominant.  But it is incomplete. After a few years of bloodlust, there is more of the white string woven through making the cord tightly braided as it progresses.” She moved her hands together and laced her fingers tightly. “More of the soul begins to affect the demon to the point where there is no separation of the two.  For the cord and the string to be completely interwoven, it will take a Master vampire of at least 200 years to achieve that completion.  Spike managed it a bit sooner because he started out with both more intertwined than usual.” Cordelia chuckled.  “If you ask me, Spike was the real oddity.”

“So what the hell happened to me?”

“In your case, you were almost at completion."  Cordelia spread her hands.  "Angel you got to remember, Angelus is not so different than Liam.  He was just molded by Darla, who was mad at the world because she was gonna die from an illness she got while being the plaything of anyone who could pay.  She wanted the streets to flow with blood and she took an neglected, selfish rake who wanted nothing more than wine, women and song because he knew he would never please his abusive father.  Angelus is just Liam crossed with Jack the Ripper. “Angel could feel Angelus preen at the words.

~That wasn’t a compliment, you bastard~

~~Still made me warm inside~~

“No it wasn’t a compliment.  It’s just fact.  For all intents and purposes, ‘Angel’, as you are right now, doesn’t exist.  You are a effect of the curse, not the soul.”

“So what did the curse do, if it didn’t give me a soul?”

“It took a sharp dagger and shredded that cord.  It separated soul from demon and kept them apart and isolated.  It took over 150 years of cohabitation and forced a barrier between the two. It almost succeeded. ” She nodded at Angel.  “But you, Angel, you finished the job.”

“What did I do?” Angel sounded indignant while Angelus stood at rapt attention.

“You slept with Buffy.”  Angel gaped at Cordelia.

“How the hell is me sleeping with Buffy have anything to do with my demon and soul separating if it wasn't the curse?”  He shot to his feet and roared. 

Chapter Text

"How the hell is me sleeping with Buffy and this cord unraveling have anything to do with the other?"

"Use your inside voice Angel! Sound carries and we don't want to have to explain the creature making the noise from the abandoned mansion!" Cordelia paused. "Wait, this is Sunnydale, home of the oblivious." She waved her hand at him.

"Roar away."

"How the hell did the night I spent with Buffy affect the bonding?"

"To put it simply, it was the straw on the camel's hump…or is it toe?" She shook her head sharply. "Anyway, the good deeds, the animal blood, the constant brooding, all of this, the demon could and did deal with. But falling in love with a Slayer, a natural enemy of the vampire, the actual bane of their existence, and mine, is not a positive or healthy thing in anyone's opinion. You set Darla and Drusilla on fire, actually killed your sire and those acts of betrayal were nothing compared to the betrayal of actually sleeping with the very woman imbue with the biological imperative to kill you was more than your demon could take." She stood up and crossed the few feet to stand in front of him and looked Angel in the eye.

"You Angel, are the reason Angelus broke loose. You spend all of your time obsessing over things that are in the past and that were not your fault. If you want to brood, brood over the fact that Angelus felt the betrayal so deeply that it shattered the bond and it shattered him. Angelus found himself alone and untethered for the first time in centuries and it drove him INSANE." Angel shook his head in denial.

"No. Angelus has always been crazy."

"But not crazy enough to kill all the humans, his food source. Not crazy enough to release Acathla. Not crazy enough to actually listen to an idea of Drusilla's and think it was a good one." Angel protested but the next words made him freeze.

~~She's right~~ Angelus said quietly. It wasn't the words but the tone of voice that made Angel take notice. Angelus was never quiet in voice or in deed. To hear him speak in Angel's head somewhat timidly was unnerving.

"What?"

~~She's right. Humans are disgusting, walking, talking bags of food but they're fun to play with. They are always new ways to break them and I have been out of practice for a long time. I love feeling of warm blood splashing across my face as I cut into their bodies with a finely made knife or even a rusty spoon. Until you slept with that bitch, I never wanted others to do it for me. I like the up close kill. I want to see the light fade from their eyes with my face reflected in them. It wasn't until after you slept with Miss Sunrise Wheat that I felt so much pain. I wanted the world to suffer. I wanted it to go to hell and it didn't matter how it was done~~ This little speech alarmed Angel.

The words were gruesome but they were sane-well, as sane as a vampire sired by Darla could be- and utterly unlike Angelus of recent memory.

"What did you do to him?" Angel asked Cordelia, shocked. If she could make Angelus sane, she was in possession of great power.

"I did nothing. This is beyond my power. There's a third party at play here, and they're on our side, which almost never happens." She sensed the confusion from both Angel and Angelus as they listened to her words. She tried to explain it in more detail.

"You know the two sides on this playground: The First Evil and the Senior Partners on one side and the Powers-That-Be on the other. The third Power could be considered neutral. It are like a parental figure for the two wayward children. It monitor but are mostly hands-off. It keeps out of the squabbles of the 'children' and only steps in when it consider things to be too screwed. It's this power that brought us here so we could change things. They felt you Angel and you Angelus had been used and abused much too often, by everyone including your sire, the line of Aurelius, the Powers, the Senior Partners, even the Scoobies and the L.A. Crew." Tears misted in Cordelia's eyes at the mention of the lost loved ones. Pulling a tissue from her pocket, she dabbed at her eyes to ensure her expertly applied make-up didn't smudge. This accomplished, she resumed the conversation.

"What's happening here Angel, is that you are meeting Angelus, the real Angelus for the first time. Our benefactor repaired some of the bond and changed your purpose. Your part of the curse was not to muzzle Angelus and repent for his deeds, which were usually guided by Darla, but to make him suffer. What better way to make him suffer than to have his body loathe his very nature and go against his instincts, fighting every step of the way. It's like have a lion turn vegetarian and eat plants or bugs and protect the zebras and gazelles from his former pack." She paused. "Do lions have a pack?"

"I think it's a den."

~~I think it's the fucking Lion King~~

"Oh yeah." To Angel's complete surprise, she started singing Hakuna Matata softly with a half-smile on her face. She finished the chorus and caught him staring. "What?"

"Being dead has really mellowed you out." Angel smiled.

"That's a piece of my childhood." She snapped. "I like to remember it sometimes. But I have no desire to relieve it. 16 is young enough, thank you."

~~Can we get back on topic here? Like the reason this Power decided to bring us here. And why the mansion? The first time we were at the apartment~~ Angel's smile turned into a frown at Angelus' question.

"A few reasons first of which, you're gonna have company in a few weeks. You're gonna need the room. Also a studio apartment doesn't exactly scream Master Vampire."

"Who's coming?"

"Don't worry about that right now. As far as why now, this is before the Power's got their hooks into you. This is when everything went to hell. So this is the first thing we got to fix."

~~So I'm going free?~~ Cordelia shook her head. ~~You said Angel wasn't real. That he was the reason I lost my sanity~~

"He was. Now he's the only thing keeping a leash on those more homicidal tendencies of yours. Angel you need him. Consider him the glue holding you and Liam together."

~~What?!~~ Angelus seethed.

"As a concession for Angel remaining more or less in control, he will consume human blood and let you out to play occasionally. For all intents and purposes, you will behave like a proper master vampire but you will limit your violence to the criminal element and other demons. It's for your sake as much as his."

"Cordelia, I will not let Angelus hurt humans." Cordelia eyes narrowed dangerously.

"You will. Just like not all demons are bad, not all humans are good Angel and the cops of Sunnydale can't take their thumbs out of their asses to do anything. Think of this as parole and these are the conditions of your release. You have a part to play in the very near future and I'm sorry Angel, but you are not that good of an actor."

"What part?"

"Very soon the Master will be dead and Darla and the Anointed One will soon follow, leaving you the head of the Aurelius line. You will take up the mantle, Angel."

"I don't want to be the head of…"Cordelia cut in

"Tough. Drusilla's unable to lead and Spike has his own destiny. Besides, he's more like a Lieutenant than a General. And a General you will become. Part of the reason the Hellmouth went to shit in the last few years was because there was no Master of the Hellmouth. You're gonna step into the role. Or rather, Angelus will."

"Angelus, Master of the Hellmouth? Are you insane?"

"Nope, but Angelus is and everybody knows it."

~~So they'll fall in line even with Angel in control. As long as that bitch Slayer isn't around, it'll be ok~~

"Oh the Slayer will still be there."

~~Oh, No! You are not going to allow him to play with my sanity like that! If he gets around her, he will start panting after her and try to prove himself to be a man again. I'll put up with his presence but if he starts chasing that twit again, I'll stake myself!~~

"I don't think that's gonna be much of a problem this time."

"Why?" Cordelia said nothing but check the delicate watch on her wrist and thought for a moment. She then turned sharply on her heel and strode back into the house. Angel grabbed their things and followed.

"Where are you going?"

"It's Sunnydale and I'm 16. Where else would I go? Come on. I'll drop you off at Restfield and you can patrol."

"What? No, I'm not patrolling. You still have to tell me what's going on."

"The Frellian blood you drank is gonna give you some excess energy to burn. You need to go work it off. But I'm leaving now and you can climb the walls here, over thinking things, or go kill things." He didn't move. Cordelia cut her eyes at him and stared him down for a full minute.

Angel looked away first and headed up the stairs to his room.

~~Pussy~~ Angelus taunted.

Angel ignored him and got dressed.

Ten minutes later, Angel had his clothes on, weapons loaded and hair done. Cordelia took a look at his clothes and sighed. Angel-wear. Of course.

"You know it wouldn't kill you to wear a little color."

"Black hides the blood. Plus it's cool." Cordelia and Angelus rolled their eyes in tandem.

~~Never say that again. And buy some leather! We are not suburban housewives. Our clothes do not need to breathe. There's no reason to wear cotton!~~ Cordelia nodded. Angel merely growled and walked out the door to Cordelia's car.


From the first day he stepped foot in Sunnydale to the day he gave Buffy the amulet from Wolfram & Hart, the town remained unchanged. To an outside observer, it is the quintessential suburb. Tree lined streets gave access to well-built homes with manicured lawns. It held a small-town charm that appealed to parents who were looking for a safe town to raise their kids. It seemed like an idyllic small close-knit community as long as you pay no attention to that high death rate per capita.

Mayor Wilkins knew what he was doing when he built this town.

Cordelia pulled her sports car up to the gate of the cemetery. Angel exited the car and gave a quick look around. Closing the door, he turned to Cordelia.

"I'll come by tomorrow. Try not to get yourself killed." With that, Cordelia peeled out in the direction of the Bronze, narrowly missing Angel's feet.

Angel watched her drive off until she rounded the corner out of sight.

~~Stop brooding and go kill something~~ Angel gave a huff of irritation.

~Is that your answer to everything?~

~~No. Torture is my answer for everything~~ Angel rolled his eyes and made his way through the cemetery.

~~You know what your problem is? You're not happy unless you're miserable~~

~Yeah, well, you're not happy unless everybody else is miserable~

~~Yeah but I'm happy~~ Angelus said in an are-you-dumb kind of way. ~~I would've been a lot happier if you've saved yourself the angst of falling in love with that twit~~

~Alright, I get it. You don't like Buffy. Can we move on already?~ Angel quickly spun around and caught the fledge who had been trying to sneak up on him directly in the heart with the stake in his hand.

~~Of course, I didn't like that bitch. I'm a vampire. She's a vampire Slayer. It's the way the game goes. But Faith was a Slayer too and I kind of have a soft spot for her. She had a dark side to her and she survived her life. I respect that. I'd kill her quick and clean instead of playing with her entrails while she watched. Her, I don't mind. It's the bottle blonde I don't like. And if you were honest with yourself, you'd realize you don't really like her either. On your left~~

Angel focused on two more fledges accompanying a Skothe, a demon with 3 eyes that shot acid out what is presumed to be its mouth. After dusting the vamps and driving a silver dagger through the eyes on either side of the gray demon's head, Angel made his way out of the cemetery towards the next one closer to the Bronze.

~What do you mean I didn't like Buffy? I loved her~~Angelus snorted.

~~Please. We were over 200 years old when you met her the first time. She was 15. If she could stop chewing gum long enough to see anything past her nails or a sale at the mall, I couldn't tell. She was a spoiled, selfish brat who was handed all of that power but who could nothing more than whine about having time to hang with her friends, who by the way, she didn't even appreciate~~ Angel could feel Angelus get agitated.

~~It's unnatural, a Slayer having friends but she acted like they were her due. As much as they did for her, she treated them like dirt, especially the boy. It's a wonder he didn't leave her face down in that damn puddle~~

~You seem like you actually care~

~~I may hate the existence of the Slayer on principle but they serve a purpose and that cunt wouldn't have been able to survive that bitch sire of ours let alone the Master without them. They are the reason she last as long as she did and she held more regard for her fucking make-believe fairy-tale prince charming than she did for the ones risking their ass. I respect the Slayer's power but I respect the boy more~~

~Xander?~Angel questioned, completing his sweep of the Parkview cemetery before moving through the shadows further into town.

~~The boy had nothing but guts and a quick wit and he outlasted a Slayer. He would have been a Childe to be proud of. He would've fought until the last drop~~ Angelus smacked his lips at the thought. ~~All that fire, fight and passion, mmm. A right treat that boy would've been. If I had had a better grip on my sanity, I would've turned him in that damn hospital…or maybe later~~ Angel felt rather than heard Angelus' voice drop to a seductive purr. ~~Much later~~

Suddenly thankful he wore a long jacket that sufficiently covered his front, Angel made quick work of a vampire out for his evening meal—a college student who thought she was on a date, by the looks of it. He sent the young girl on her way as he tried to examine the connection between the thought of Xander at his mercy and his burgeoning erection. Before he could start, Angelus started ranting about the useless vampires in this town and how he was gonna discourage such messy eating when he was the Master. Angel stalked down the now deserted street. He tuned Angelus out, too tired to continue the subject of Buffy right then.

He still had 3 more cemeteries to check out.


A shadow moved in the darkness a block from where Angel dusted the last vampire. The moon peaked out from the clouds, illuminating a strand of blond hair. The shadow stared at the retreating back of Angel.

"Angelus?" The night carried the words away on the warm evening breeze from the female with the smooth voice.


Angelus was quiet by the time they finished the last circuit of the night, ending up at the Bronze in search of Cordelia. She had been right. He needed to work off a little tension. The past few hours had been overwhelming with the massive amount if information he had to process in such a short time. It was just a fraction of what was coming and he knew the near future was going to be different for them all.

Angel was standing just outside the door of the teen club when a group of kids came pouring out. He checked his watch.

11:00. Closing time.

He was searching the crowds looking to waylay Cordelia when he felt Angelus perk up. He ignored the demon imagining he was just excited by the young blood on display when a scent reached him. The scent slammed into Angel catching him off-guard and almost brought him to his knees.

It was the most wonderful smell in the world. The smell was new and yet as familiar as the Earth itself. It was like a song that he could hum but never quite get the words right. It was beautiful and tragic, light and dark and it spoke to Liam, Angelus and Angel in equal measures.

And it was growing fainter.

Cordelia forgotten, Angel followed the scent trying to find the owner of the ambrosial smell. He knew if he found the bearer, everything would be all right. He needed them. They were a part of him he didn't know he was missing and until he held them, he could never feel whole. He felt Angelus' agreement with him and somewhere deep, he felt the soul stir in response.

Up ahead, he saw a young man in oversized clothing stand at the corner looking off into the darkness before setting off in the opposite direction. Angel reached the corner where the boy had stood and breathe deeply. He let the smell crash over him and he knew.

The boy was his.

Angel set off after him.

Just in time too. He wasn't the only following the young man. Without hesitation, Angel broke the shackles of Angelus' bonds and set him loose. No one would take their boy away from them.

With speed, skill and raw fury that was remarkable even for a Master vampire, Angelus made short work of all who crossed his path with the boy in their sight. The boy belonged to them. He was theirs to protect, to defend…

To love?

Whatever it was Angelus was feeling it didn't make his claim any less valid. The only thing keeping him from just taking the boy and marking him there on the street was because he didn't want fear from him. If Angelus had been thinking clearly, he would've been disgusted with himself. Angelus curbed his behavior for no one, especially a human but his instincts was screaming at him that it would be the wrong way to approach the beautiful young man.

Angelus tore the head off of the last of his opponents. Now that all the threats were taken care of, Angelus gradually ceded control to Angel, recognizing he needed to calm down so they could figure out what was going on. How could he feel so protective of a human at all, let alone after one sniff?

The young man reached the walk of a house that even in a crap neighborhood in the dark seemed depressing. Angel watched from a distance, hidden in the shadows, calm now he knew he had gotten his boy home safely. He saw the boy unlock the door and then pause. He tasted the air, just to hold onto the scent, to memorize its sweet, sour, bitter and tangy notes. He closed his eyes, not wanting to watch the boy disappear into the house, but he had to have one more look.

He opened his eyes and got his first clear look at the boy's face.  He took in the dark, messy hair that framed chocolate brown eyes and a mouth that seemed to be made expressly for Angel.

All sound drained away. All sights, smells and the ground itself faded to oblivion. Nothing existed but the smell of the boy and the smile on his face as he turned back towards to the street. Angel knew the smile was meant for him, just like he knew the boy couldn't possibly have known he was there. Just like he knew the words the boy whispered into the night were meant for his ears only.

"Thank you."

Then his boy turned and disappeared into the house, leaving a dumbstruck Angel outside in shock. Because the boy whose scent drove Angel, Angelus and even Liam crazy, that made them want to protect him, possess him, claim him, love him…

…was none other than Xander fucking Harris.


Xander Harris was bored.

He was stuck in a rut. Every day, he woke up, ate a bowl of cereal without milk, took some painkillers then hit the shower. Staying in the shower just long enough to do the essentials and never with the temperature close to where he wanted it, he then got dressed and made coffee for his parents, making sure the whiskey bottle was in easy reach of the mugs. Too many mornings he had been caught in the house after his parents woke up. His 'training' had ensured he knew to exit the house as quickly as possible. From there, he made his way 3 streets over from his house, far enough away that his father wouldn't catch him. At a safe distance, he began to collect bottles and cans for the very little bit of money that they recycling plant gave him in exchange. Between that and the odd jobs he sometimes picked up, he could afford a few luxuries like socks and underwear and soap. His toothpaste and deodorant dilemma was solved by the box of baking soda he kept in the cleaning products. The local Goodwill kept a stock of clothes that served a two-fold purpose. They were cheap and they covered the bruises that his father never let fade. The few times he had been to the hospital, it had been when his father was too drunk to remember to avoid the face and neck. Someone, a teacher, parent, or complete stranger, were always the ones to drag him there. He quickly developed a poker face that always fooled the person writing down his *wrong* information and he memorized the floor plans so he navigate the quickest routes out of the hospital to remain unseen.

Nighttime was usually spent with Jesse and Willow either at their house or at the Bronze. It was becoming increasing awkward to spend time with them as he was usually caught in the middle. A lot of it was because of Willow's attitude toward Jesse. At one point, the three of them had been inseparable but lately Willow was acting in ways that made him uncomfortable. He noticed her increasing desire to sit next to him or try to engage him in a conversation, making sure his attention was focused on her. If he tried to draw anyone else into these discussion, she always got a hurt or wounded look on her face, which made him feel guilty. When that happened, he always reminded himself of the little girl with the yellow crayon, even though the Willow of today didn't resemble her much anymore.

That was apparent in her reluctance to engage Jesse like she used to. She hardly acknowledged her friend anymore and would hardly have hung out with him if Xander wasn't also present. This was made crystal clear when Jesse started chasing Cordelia 'Queen C' Chase. Xander personally had no problem with Ms. Chase one way or another. In fact, he rather liked her straight forward personality. She was not one to suffer fools lightly and she wasn't afraid to let the fool know it. He preferred her honesty and sarcastic tongue to most girls dependence upon games and manipulation.

Plus it was fun watching Jesse make a fool of himself over her. Xander smirked to himself.

Jesse didn't have a chance in hell with her.

Willow seemed to take the opposite view. She acted as though Jesse had pissed in her Cheerios. She hated Cordelia with a fury and felt betrayed by her one of 'her boys' chasing after the enemy. If Jesse died tomorrow, Xander didn't think she would cry over him any longer than it took for her to escape the public and get herself alone.

All in all, he was starting to really dislike Willow Rosenberg.

Xander tuned himself back into his surroundings at the Bronze. The loud and terrible music from tonight's band didn't do enough to drown Willow's latest attempt to get his attention. She was entirely too close to him, under the guise of trying to be heard over the music despite the space in the booth and the fact he could hear Jesse from a foot and a half away. Jesse sent him a look of commiseration and sat back scanning the crowds for his target.

Xander watched him watch others and could see the exact moment Cordelia Chase entered the building. Jesse sat up with a besotted look on his face with a determined glint in his eye. He stood up to intercept her on her way to the Cordettes' usual table. He gave a low chuckle, shook his head, and sat back to enjoy the show.

Anything to alleviate the boredom, no matter how brief.


Xander followed his friends out into the warm night air. After crashing and burning spectacularly with Cordelia, Jesse spent the rest of the night working out a new strategy, using Xander as a sounding board while commandeering the pool table until closing. Willow sat in the corner shooting daggers at Jesse and Cordelia alike for some perceived slight. Xander used his skills as a distraction to calm Jesse and smooth Willow's ruffled feathers. He also succeeded at distracting himself from what awaited him at home.

At home, he was Alexander Lavelle Harris, son of abusive drunks and all-around town loser. Here, now, hanging with Jesse and to a lesser extent, Willow, he was just Xander. He tried hard to just focus on the Xander moments, wanting to memorize it all for later so he had something to console him while taping up his ribs for some deserved punishment like making too much noise by breathing.

This was the part of the nights he hated. Having to say goodbye to his friends and ending the latest pleasant experience that kept him from sliding a razor blade along his wrist. Having to go their separate ways at the intersection, watching Jesse follow Willow home even though he knew she didn't want him there. He would watch them until Willow's pastel sweater was almost invisible in the dark then he would turn to begin his own journey home to his personal brand of hell.

In an effort to forget about what new tortures awaited him at home, Xander started to recite the elements on the periodic table from memory. Upon reaching the end, he started singing the Elements Song to see if he could get to the end without tripping over his tongue.

Everyone, including his friends, assume he was lazy or challenged because he never made anything higher than C on his report cards. The truth was, Xander had a near perfect memory and way always reading when he knew he wouldn't be caught by anyone. Being smart was one thing. Letting people now he could solve college-level math at 12 was something different. Being smart got you noticed. When people notice you, they ask questions and Xander learned at a very young age that people asking questions was a bad thing. It was much better for his health for him to go unnoticed, even ignored. His smart mouth only got him attention for a minute before being dismissed from people's mind. They never listened to him after that because they figured he never had anything important to say and he was nothing better than the class clown. They only paused long enough to roll their eyes at him and then they continued with their lives without him.

When Xander started reciting Shakespeare sonnets, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck sit up. Someone was paying him a lot of attention right now. His heart quickened but not from fear. He knew fear. His entire life was fear. The town itself was wrapped in fear even if the general populace wasn't aware of it on a conscious level. Xander felt it though. He could feel the malevolence seeping into every pore. That's why Xander was a bit apathetic towards things that would scare the shit out of others. He felt fear all the time. It was almost like a security blanket.

Tonight, however, he felt something new. This feeling had a name yet it was so new, so unknown, so elusive that he was left grasping for it. This feeling followed him down six more blocks, across Ms. Jamison's yard with the creepy gnome and between the Smith and Locke homes.

It wasn't until he was climbing the steps to his front door that he figured it out. He found the word to describe the foreign feeling.

Safe.

Xander unlocked the door and paused with his hand on the knob. He turned back towards the silent tree-lined street and smiled into the darkness.

"Thank you." He whispered.

With that, he quietly opened the door and disappeared into the house.


In the cargo hold of a boat headed across the Atlantic, a child like voice rose through the silence.

"Spikey?"

"I'm here, luv." Spike gently laid in the bed and set his arms around the dark-haired woman who called for him.

"We have to go, Spikey. We are needed."

"Shh. We are going, pet. We're going to see the demon about a cure for my princess."

"Miss Edith says we must seek another. The cure lies with them."

"Who's that then?" Drusilla had a fearful look on her face.

"We must go to the mouth of hell for we are needed."

"The Hellmouth?" Spike shook his head firmly. "Oh no, I'm not taking you to the Master's court when you're this weak. I wouldn't take you at full strength."

Spike rubbed his princess' arms to soften his words.

"C'mon luv. We'll go to New York and see this guy with the mojo and then I'll take you to New Orleans. How's that sound? All the fat tourists with the alcohol flavoring you love with just a touch of hot sauce, just like you like it, huh?" She shook her head.

"We must go. The Dark Kitten will need our help. Miss Edith says he must be protected. He is the cause. He is the reason. The stars have bent the clocks for him and we must make sure it happens right this time." Spike watched as a sad smile spread across Drusilla's sweet face. She looked remarkably lucid at that moment.

"You won't be my Spikey anymore." Spike grabbed her hand and kissed it.

"I will always be yours."

"You shall get new armor and win the Queen's favor in battle. You will stand at the head of an army and you will change the past and protect the future. The stars shall lay the path and everyone will learn the dance. The Dark Kitten and the Queen will meet their equals. They will stand together and the tides will change. Secrets will come out of hiding, allies will make themselves known and the little Prince will return." Her eyes returned to their normal clouded, crazed state. "Tick tick tick. The clocks will not stop for us. No waiting. No stopping. Tick tick tick."

Spike sighed heavily and pulled out a cigarette.

"I guess we're going to bleeding Sunnydale, then."

Chapter Text

Xander undressed quickly in the dark. It was a warm night so clad in only his boxers, he crossed over to the window and opened it to let in a breeze. Feeling the air circulate in the stuffy room, he laid down in his bed, not bothering to get under the covers. He stretched out on top of his bed while he tried to calm his mind enough to sleep. He had to get at least 4 hours of sleep of he ran the risk of oversleeping and crossing the path of his father who was guaranteed to be in a bad mood due to his inevitable hangover and the sight of his 'lazy ungrateful fag of a son'.

After 30 minutes of random thoughts cluttering up his head, Xander felt that unexpected sense of safety and peace return. He lifted his head from the bed and opened his eyes. Once they adjusted to the almost total absence of light, he glanced around his room for the foreign, yet welcome, presence.

A quick search turned up nothing. Xander let his head fall back on the pillows and was just about to close his eyes again when he felt eyes on him. He immediately sat up and turned to the open window beside the foot of his bed. There, on the other side, he saw a shadow silhouette peering through the space. Xander couldn't see the face of his peeping Tom but he was not afraid. This was his protector, his guardian. This man was his.

Before he could process that thought, Xander felt himself saying the words, 'come to me'. He barely had the last syllable out of his mouth before the empty room was filled with the dark, looming figure. 5 seconds, minutes, days passed while Xander tried desperately to remember how to breathe. He couldn't see the face of the shadow but he stared all the same.

He closed his mouth and swallowed audibly in the silence. Without thinking about it, Xander laid down on his back, clad only in his Green Lantern boxers and reached his hand up at the vague outline. Without a word, his own covered Xander's body with his and sank into Xander's embrace. As soon as they touched, time disappeared. There was no sound, no smell, no touch but his. Xander spread his legs, letting his own settle between them. He can't remember ever being so hard but this was not about sex. He felt the weight against his hips, torso and shoulders but it felt right. This man was made for him and not even the threat of a beat down from his father would cause him to give him up.

Xander felt his senses overload, drunk with the feeling of his own. He felt the broad shoulders under his hands, smelled the earthy, primal scent emanating from the other. There was strength, wickedness, and more than a little danger hidden here. But there was also pain, loss, sorrow and a sense of resignation that almost brought Xander to tears. He felt a flood of protectiveness through every pore of his body and the teen held on for dear life. This decidedly male body belong to him and him alone and Xander knew that he would burn the world to ash if he was ever separated from this man or if anyone tried to come between them. Just as important as that certainty was the instinctive knowledge that his protector felt the same for him as well.

Suddenly there was a shift in the body above him. Slowly, reluctantly, his own started to disentangle himself from the long limbs of the dark-haired young man. Xander's body cried out in protest. He could still see only the outline in the dark and even though he heard no words spoken aloud, he heard his own in his very soul.

'Soon.'

Xander gasped as his woke up in his bedroom, in his bed, in his Green Lantern boxers feeling a gentle breeze wafting over his overheated body from the open window at the foot of his bed. There were no signs in the room that his protector had even been there but he felt the ghost of weight pinning him to the mattress, the last gasp of comfort lingering in the air.

It had been no mere dream.

Xander cradled his pillow and clung to the promise made to him.

'Soon'.

Across town, in the spacious master bedroom of an abandoned mansion, a dark-haired vampire opened his eyes in the dark. 3 weeks of defending Xander on his way home of dreams that felt more real than any vision filled him with such longing that it was hard to bear. There was never any such feeling for Darla, his childer, or even Buffy.

Angel didn't know why Xander had such an effect on him, especially this time. When he first met the boy, there was no recognition, no pull. He was just Buffy's little male friend. He could smell the jealousy rolling off of the boy when he got close. Angel never considered him anything better than the resident clown, someone to ease the tension when saving the world got to be too much on the other, more active members of the group. Angel never thought of Xander in any way.

So why were both human and demon in complete agreement when the thought of anyone or anything hurting the chocolate-eyed boy made him want to raze the world to ground and salt the earth?

He needed help understanding what was going on. He resolved to bring it up to Cordy the next time he saw her. He had put it off long enough, not wanting to share even a spectral version of his boy with anyone. But for now, Angel settled back down in his bed. If he couldn't hold the real Xander in his arms, he'd gladly settle for a dream version.

But only for now.

His promise was a whisper in the darkness as he closed his eyes to escape back into the land of Morpheus.

'Soon'

Chapter Text

"So. What's the food like on Mars?"

Xander blinked as Jesse's concerned and slightly mocking face came into focus.

"Huh?"

Jesse laughed. "Dude. You've been checked out for like the last 5 minutes. Some hot little college girls walked by in short skirts and you didn't even blink. It's like you were on another planet or something." He gestured to Xander's face.

"You just had some stupid smile on your face like you were tuned into something only you could hear." He lowered his voice. "Dude. Did you get superpowers or something and didn't tell me?"

"Something like that." Xander murmured. His best friend was awesome but he didn't think that he would want to hear about Xander being stalked by a male presence some of the day and most of the night and that he didn't feel threatened but safe and oh yeah, the increasingly erotic dreams in which he doesn't see the others face or hear his voice but always end with wet shorts and did he mention that just feeling the presence nearby is enough to sprout wood and thank the gods and goddesses above he wore baggy pants that hid all evidence of the appearance of said presence here in the building from the surrounding public and his nearby best friend and the smile on his face is anticipation of feeling the eyes on him and maybe he was considering giving a little show at his bedroom window before bed tonight in the direction of where he know his shadow stands watch…

Yeah, best not mention that. Thankfully, Jesse had a bit of a short attention span when surrounded by pretty girls. As they were currently in Sunnydale Mall in full view of the trendiest shop in the building, there were a lot of pretty girls shopping for the start of school on Monday. Blondes, brunettes, and redheads; all the colors of the rainbow.

They were all attractive young girls in tight jeans and short skirts and revealing tops. They carried their father's credit cards to buy tiny strips of fabrics that could laughingly be called bathing suits that weren't meant to actually get wet. It was a young boy's wet dream. It was his wet dream….before him. Xander wasn't sure if he liked it. He absolutely liked the feeling of safety and the dreams were most enjoyable, but the fact that it was a guy making him feel this way…

Xander had nothing against gay guys. Men who lie with men are a-ok in his book. He might not know a lot about love but why turn it down simply because of what the outside looks like? However, despite being that his father's favorite term of endearment for him was fagboy, he had never looked at dudes like that. He eyed Jesse for a minute and quickly dismissed him. Then he turned to the crowds. There was the same rainbow mix of colors among the guys. Tall, short, husky, muscular, squat, they were all there. He studied them. He mentally undressed them and imagined them in nothing but tighty-whities.

Nothing.

He saw the Cordettes walking through the entrance of a designer shoe store. He undressed them. There was definitely some excitement at the thought of those perfectly coiffed girls who were so far out of his league, they might as well be princesses to his farm boy, and seeing them completed undone at his hands. Oh yeah. That got a reaction from his Iron Man.

But curiously, it wasn't the same. It seemed almost muted somehow. Like watching a movie with the wrong prescription glasses or something. The picture's there, you can clearly make out people on the screen and maybe tell what color their hair or clothes are but not being able to make out features. You could still enjoy the movie, but there would always be something lacking because you couldn't see clearly.

Not really needing to but just to compare, Xander thought of his nightly chaperone.

Whoa. Since when was his Iron Man made out of Adamantium?

Reeling slightly from the rapid blood loss from his brain, he wasn't really aware of anyone around him until the figure in front of him spoke.

"Excuse me." Xander blinked and took a deep breath trying to restore normal functions by imagining his uncle Rory as a dancer at Chippendales.

There were no words for that image.

"I know this is really odd, but I saw your board there, and I noticed it had comic book characters on it and I was hoping you could help me. I was wondering if you could give me some advice for a present for my little brother." The figure in blue slowly came into focus.

A girl, who seemed to be a senior in high school or freshman in college, stood before him. She stood in between him and Jesse, patiently waiting for one of them to respond. He waited for Jesse to jump up and nonverbally call dibs on her but when a few seconds passed he turned to look at his friend.

He had known Jesse since before he was potty-trained, had taken baths with him, the pictures of which he knew that Jesse's mom still had somewhere, and he could read him like a book. Until now.

There was an odd look on his face. To anyone else, even Willow, he was completely besotted with the female figure in front of him. But under that was an expression never before seen on his friend's face. He wasn't sure but the expression almost looked like…

"I can do that. What universe does he read?" Jesse jumped up before Xander could even finish his thought.

The blonde girl shook her head in confusion. "Universe?"

"DC or Marvel? Those are the main ones although he could be into the obscure or the Dark Horse comics. How old is he?"

"Um, he'll be 8 soon."

"Ok, a little young for Dark Horse. So Superman, Batman, and Flash are probably more his speed. Or at least those would be the ones he'd admit to reading." Jesse laughed with a wink. Xander recovered from his previous confusion and shook his head at Jesse's innuendo. "You're looking to buy him comic books or action figures or what?"

"Well, I'm not sure. He's coming to live with me soon and he'll be in an entirely new place with new people and I want to make sure he feels welcomed. I'm in the middle of redecorating his room for his arrival."

"Oh, what color?" Xander asked from the bench.

"Red. He really likes red. And he likes black clothes." She laughed a little darkly. "He's a bit morbid, but what can you do?"

"Well, you, my lady, just happen to be in luck because we were just getting ready to go around the corner to our absolute favorite store, which just might have what you need."

"It's not Spencer's is it? I didn't find anything there." She said with a groan.

"No ma'am. If you like, I'll escort you there right now and I'm sure we can find something for him." Jesse did what might have been considered a knightly gesture and cocked out his arm for her to take. She wrapped her hand around it and Xander stood up to follow.

"I'm Jesse and this wretch is Xander. We are pleased to meet you, fair lady…?" The blond in the catholic school girl outfit smiled up at him.

"I'm Darla."


 

Angel walked to the rail on the upper levels of the Sunnydale Mall at the perfect angle to watch Xander. The second the sun went down, he had left the Mansion in search of the raven-haired boy. Even thought he started in the direction of the boy's usual hangouts, his feet turned him in this direction and he chose to follow the pull. He recognized the pull from the original time a few days prior and he was astonished to realize that it led him straight to Xander. He always thought it was Buffy or Sunnydale itself but after a few days of only following the pull and finding his boy every time at the other end, he understood what was happening.

What he didn't know is why. Why now? Why Xander? Why him?

And what made him forget it the last time?

The answers were slow in coming because when he wasn't busy leaving his message on the leftovers of the members the demon that dared to covet His boy for all to see, all he wanted to do is surround himself with the boy's scent and leave his mark on that gorgeous neck. Even Angelus whimpered at the thought of the boy using that beautiful mouth of his to leave his mark on Angel. Angelus submits to no demon, human or vampire.

But for Xander…

Angel suspected the pull went both ways. Right on cue, a bright smile covered Xander's face below for no apparent reason. Angel couldn't confirm or deny but he swear the boy knew the exact moment Angel was within range. This merited further research.

Angel was momentarily distracted by the sight of Cordelia leading a group of girls out of…was that a dojo? Cordelia already knew how to fight. With a Master vampire as a teacher and a hybrid as a tutor, she quickly picked up the lessons and became even more dangerous with a sharp blade to back up her equally sharp tongue. So why was she in a 2nd rate mall dojo?

He hadn't had much contact with the cheerleader but clearly a meeting was in order so he could figure out what her plan actually was. He tracked her until the group entered a shoe store a few doors down. He would have to make sure to reach her before she left the building.

~~WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING HERE?!~~

Angelus roared in his head and took control. Angel refocused on Xander who still sat on the bench below, not far from Cordelia. He had an slightly shocked look on his face as he stared up at his friend and…

Darla.

Angelus growled loudly, ignoring the wary looks of the customers milling around him. He began to leap over the railing when Angel stopped him.

~No!~

~~What is that bitch doing near our boy? If she touches a hair on his head…~~

~Not here. Not now. There's too many around.~

~~I don't care. I will gladly rip out what's left of her heart and crumble it before her eyes in front of everyone.~~

~And risk alienating Xander before he even gets to know you?~ Angelus paused.

~~I will make him understand. I have brought others around to my way of thinking before.~~

~But none of them were Xander. We would not harm him. The boy we know is stubborn and young and sees the world in shades of gray but that one down there is not the one we know. We don't know how He will react to such a display. Not to mention if we kill her now, others will notice. Like the Master.~

~~We killed her before~~

~And we'll kill her again.~ Angel snarled. ~She deserves all the torture we can heap on her head before granting a slow and painful death. But we must wait. Do not be rash like William.~

~~I would think you would want to spare her, with her being the mother of your son.~~Angelus said, calming his temper, eyes riveted on the trio below.

~If she threatens Xander's health or happiness, I will spit on her ashes after I'm through with her. Should take no more than 80 years or so.~ Angelus smirked. ~Connor is my son and I love him but things are changing. There is no guarantee that even if she lived, he would be born. A lot of choices had to be made in order for him to be here. Choices we are avoiding even now.~ Angel regained control of his body.

~I mourn the loss of my son but if I had to choose between Xander's happiness and the possibility of my son returning, there's no contest.~ His eyes followed their progress to the store Xander's friend mentioned.

~Besides, she's planning something. And how will we know how to evade the trap if we don't first see it?~ They listened as Darla stalked her prey. For now, she seemed to be focusing on the boy's friend, playing the part of the young confused woman perfectly. But Darla wasn't the Master's favorite for nothing. And she had been playing this game for centuries.

So they would watch.

And dull their knives in anticipation.

Chapter Text

It was the first day of school and Xander was already depressed.

To be fair, he was glad to be back in an environment that meant the bruises, back-to-school presents from his father, wouldn't be easily seen as that would raise questions and therefore would be confined to the torso. It also meant that he was guaranteed lunch, which isn't that case during the summer months. It usually came with an apple or cookie, something he could save for later, out of view of others. He had to be careful about drawing attention. Years of experience had taught him to avoid the wrong kind of attention.

Not that he was in danger of that happening anymore. He had spent many years establishing his 'cover' as a permanent resident of loser land. Things were hardly likely to change just because he had some invisible guy watching him, following him around town, sitting outside his window at night, and why wasn't he more freaked out by that?

He should be more freaked out by it, but the feeling of comfort was addictive. He wanted to soak it up before it was taken from him. With the exception of Willow and Jesse, everything good was always taken from him and though it seemed to be gaining strength, he wasn't sure how long this feeling would last.

Xander couldn't quite put his finger on why but he'd been feeling a sense of foreboding ever since the weekend. He barely left Jesse's side this weekend. Something was telling him that he needed to spend as much time with his best friend as possible. That his friend won't be there for him soon.

Xander snorted. 'Maybe Cordelia will lock him up turn him into a sex slave.' He thought as he absently kicked the ground, propelling his skateboard towards the front steps of the school. 'In his dreams.'

Xander swiftly maneuvered out of the path of some girl he didn't recognize when he felt that presence again. He snapped his head around hoping to get a look at His Own's face when he ran right into the handrail of the steps, flipping over and landing hard on the ground.

"Ow. That was humiliating." He groaned as he sat up. He looked up to see the girl he had avoided smirking down at him.

'What the hell's her problem?' She had the same kind of look on her face that Cordettes have when Jesse makes a fool of himself in front of Cordelia.

'Great. New girl's a bitch. Should fit right in.' He felt concern and…jealousy? Why would he be…

Xander's eyes widened as he realized that it wasn't his emotions he was feeling. Without realizing it, he instinctively started sending feelings of calm back, soothing the strong and slightly homicidal emotions.

'Shh. It's okay. Don't want her. Could never want her. Don't even know her. Calm. It's ok.' Xander tried hard to placate His Own.

'MINE' That came in loud and clear over the bond.

'Yours. Only yours.' Not fully aware of what he saying but knowing it was absolutely the right answer. 'Just like you are mine.' Xander sent back just as fiercely.

'Yours.'

"Hey dweeb boy. You ok?" an unexpected voice pulled him out of his head. Xander blinked.

"Um, yeah." He said. Cordelia Chase was talking to him? In broad daylight? In front of people? He must have hit his head harder than he thought. A glance at the Cordettes told him it was in fact actually happening and they couldn't believe it themselves. He shook his head to clear and got to his feet.

"You should stop tripping over stuff to get a girl's attention."

"Whose attention?" Xander asked, genuinely confused.

"New girl. I saw you looking up at her with that dopey face." Cordelia said with her queen face on.

"And if you could hear my thoughts, you'd have heard me call her a bitch. Hey, you and she should get along splendidly. I'm surprised you haven't already drank her blood as part of the initiation ceremony."

"Please, did you see her shoes? I would never sully my body with her fashion sense." Xander felt amusement at that statement from the other end of the bond, like whoever it was, was listening in.

Freaky.

"Oh I'm sure she just didn't want to get the nice ones messy on the first day. Maybe the two of you could bond over evisceration techniques of young boys. She could be your protégé."

"Please, I only teach the master class and she's not qualified. Knowing how to eviscerate without messing up yours shoes is a prerequisite." Cordelia was visibly enjoying herself.

'Huh. Maybe things will be different this year after all.' Xander chuckled and gave a flamboyant bow.

"Well I bow to the Queen and take my leave of you."

"Begone, peon."

"As you command." Xander grabbed his board and walked up the steps, passing the Cordettes along the way.

"Ladies." They all stared dumbstruck at him. He merely continued on his way into school. For once he was excited as well as a little scared to see what the school year would bring.

He felt the bond grow a little dimmer but before it faded into the background he heard the voice from before.

'Soon you will be mine completely.' Xander shivered

He couldn't wait.


Giles watched as his charge ran out of the library.

He took his glasses off of his face and began to clean them.

"That could have gone better." He muttered. But he wasn't worried. This was Sunnydale after all. Home of the Hellmouth, with demons and vampires alike walking through town. Buffy, (god, was her mother drunk or something when she came up with that), would find them soon enough.

Or they would find her.

In any case, the next few months should be an interesting experience. He was intrigued by this little town and a few of its residents. Some of whom seem to know more than they should.

He thought back to the day he arrived.

*flashback*

The overnight flight was abysmal, driving on the right side of the road is just stupid, and where the bloody hell was his tea?!

An aide had packed his belongs and shipped them to his new flat and it's been 3 hours and he is only now just finding the blasted things which were in a completely different box from the kettle. That was 3 hours in a different country, after a crap flight, and directions that a computer couldn't follow.

"Bloody European interns," he mumbled to himself as he wiped his hands clean on a towel. At this point, the knock at the door was a welcome reprieve from having to deal with the organization system of his 'assistant'. More like assist his way to an early grave from stroke. Giles took several deep breaths, navigating his way around boxes to the front door. By the time he made it through the maze in his front room, the knock had become rather insistent. He didn't know anybody in this blasted town, so he couldn't imagine who was at the door. Suffice it to say, he was not expecting a teenage girl at his threshold.

"May I help you?"

"Mr. Giles, my name is Cordelia Chase. May I speak with you a moment?"

"What is this regarding?" he blinked at the young woman in front of him. A beautiful young woman seemingly lit up by the setting sun, shining at her back.

"Your upcoming tenure at Sunnydale High." She flashed a brilliant smile at him. "I'm your welcoming committee."

"Oh." He stammered, at a loss. "Do come in. I was just starting to make a pot of tea. Would you care for some?"

"Please." She stepped inside and he shut the door. Giles gestured to the boxes on his way to the kitchen.

"Excuse the clutter. I haven't been here that long and haven't had a chance to get my things organized just yet." He set the kettle on the stove and turned the correct knob. She assured him it didn't bother her and cleared a space on the couch that came with the place. Hideous thing, really but actually quite comfortable. He spoke as he prepared the pot for the hot water.

"I was unaware that my arrival had been noted. I only just found my way here a few hours ago."

"I have my source, Mr. Giles." Cordelia's amused voice filtered through to the kitchen. At once a small tendril of suspicion curled deep inside him. It was immediately drawn into an internal battle with a modicum of curiosity.

"Why would your sources be interested in a high-school librarian? Surely there are more complex puzzles here in Sunnydale?" He filled the pot sitting on a small tray he had found in the box with the kettle.

"There are a great many puzzles and mysteries in Sunnydale but right now you are the one that interest me the most." She replied as he carefully found his way to the couch, tea tray in hand.

"How so?" he placed his load on the coffee table and cleared a space in the armchair nearest her.

"Why would a respected man with a doctorate, whose immediate former position was with the British museum leave to take a job in a small town high school library in a completely different country?" Only blinking gave away his surprise at her question.

"Is it the norm to investigate the school librarian so thoroughly?" he gestured towards the cream and sugar on the tray.

"Just cream." Cordelia waited until she had taken her first sip before continuing.

"When you live in a small town where you've known everyone since birth, you tend to notice the out of the ordinary." She looked Giles in the eye over the rim of his cup. "Especially the real unusual things."

"Oh? Are there unusual things here?"

She shrugged delicately. "Every small town has their secrets. We just tend not to talk about them."

"How long do you think it'll be before I'll be able to learn some of them?"

"Who knows? You're a smart man. I'm sure you would be able to suss out one or two as soon as the sun goes down. Many secrets come out to 'play' after dark. It can be disconcerting to those who haven't grown up here. The natives have developed a sort of 'sixth sense' here, even if they don't always listen to it."

"My goodness, Ms. Chase. You make it seem as though there are dangerous things lurking in the shadows of this nice town." Giles chuckled.

"Even the face of an angel could be hiding a demon beneath. But then again, the demon is not always evil." She set down her cup and stood up. "I'm sure a man with your resources and experience would be able to tell the difference."

"I like to think I would." He walked her to the door and opened it. She stopped in the doorway.

"Tell me, Mr. Giles. If a person or organization that you trusted for most if not all of your life lied to you about almost everything, including their origins, influence and actions, would you continue to place your trust in them?"

"No." He took off his glasses and began to clean them. "A lie of that magnitude would make me hard-pressed to trust anyone. At least without as much independent information as possible."

Cordelia nodded.

"I hope you will take those words to heart and remember that in the future." She reached into her purse and pulled out a small cylindrical object and handed it to him.

"What's this?"

"A welcome to Sunnydale gift."

"Thank you, Ms. Chase, but I hardly need mace." He held it out to her.

"Oh but this is a special blend. I designed it myself. You should keep it on you. Even at school. You never know." She began to walk away.

"What makes it special?" he called out.

She didn't turn her head but her raised voice carried back to him at the door.

"Holy water."

*flashback end*

Giles was startled out of his ruminations by an unseen presence in the stacks. It was possible they overheard his conversation with Buffy.

'Even an amateur would do better, Rupert.' He grabbed the tome off of the counter and turned to walk into his office. 'Ethan always said I was almost never fully aware of my surroundings.'

With that in mind, Giles stopped at the door and cast a light spell in the direction of the person, trying to determine if they were an enemy.

He was immediately hit with a powerful wave in response. Not particularly harmful, and completely undisciplined, possibly even unintentional but it rocked him to his core.

'Perhaps Miss Chase was correct." Giles walked into his office and closed the blinds.

'Perhaps there are a great many mysteries in Sunnydale.'

Chapter Text

I have been asked a lot in the recent months (*coughs* years *coughs*) about when I will be updating this lovely story. The answer is...

 

I don't know.

 

Seriously. I understand the frustration. I hate it when authors leave their stories unfinished. But real life is an asshole: I was diagnosed with depression/anxiety with agoraphobia, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 bone marrow cancer, my uncle was on the transplant list for a new heart for what seems like forever, my 8yo son was diagnosed with autism and most recently type 1 diabetes! Not to mention said son met his father for the first time last summer, his brother and sister a few months later and is schedule to meet his grandfather in the spring. And, my new business is....not. enough said.

I am stressed, people.

 

Also, I didn't want to post anything right now. I wanted to have about 75% of the story done before I started uploading chapters again because I didn't want to go through another years-long writer's block and leave you guys hanging.

 

So, to recap: Real Life is an asshole, medical issues affect all of your family all at once, be careful whose kid you have, and don't start a new business when you have agoraphobia and its a client-based business (event planning).

 

I will be back you guys. I promise.

 

It just might take a bit longer.