Crossed

by *Stars*

Email:  stars91@gmail.com

Disclaimer:  I don’t own a damn thing.  It all belongs to Joss Whedon and his evil band of minions at Mutant Enemy.

Spoilers:  Takes place around S6 BtVS and S3 AtS.

Pairings:  B/A of course…anyone else, you’re just gonna have to read to find out.

Summary:  A blast from Angel’s past shows up in search of a family heirloom, forcing the AI gang into a trip to Sunnydale. 

Dedication:  To Nick, Mrs.B, Dreamer and Foxglove.  You guys rock!

A/N:  I have tried to stay as close to the actual story lines as possible, though some items and events have been changed for storytelling purposes.

A/N2:  This was my very first fic.


The year is 2002, and this story begins in Los Angelas, CA during the early morning hours….

Chapter 1 –

Angel was walking slowly back towards the Hyperion Hotel.  The looming art deco building that dominated the entire block was his home and where he feels most comfortable.   It wasn’t much further now.

Exhausted from another vicious fight, a hard won defeat of a terrible creature, he made his way towards home.  Back to his co-workers.  Friends they were, really.  More importantly, he made his way back to his son. 

As he walked slowly down the street, he had the nagging suspicion that someone else was there, that someone or something was following him.  He stopped and looked behind him, but there was nothing there.  Slowly and cautiously he continued walking.  He was continually glancing from side to side, though, in order to try and see, what he could sense was still there.  Whatever it was, it was familiar.  He knew this person, this thing, but it was not showing itself.  

//She cautiously went from tree to tree, from light post to light post trying her best to view this man she once knew.  To view this man, without him knowing she was there.  But, she got too close and she knew it….//

Suddenly, he stopped and called out loudly, “Who are you?  Show yourself!” 

//She knew she had pushed her limits, she had tried too hard to see that angelic face that she once knew.  She knew it was time to go, at least for now.//

There was no answer.  Suddenly, he realized he could no longer sense the being.  It was gone.  He was too tired from the fight to give much more thought to what had been following him.  Whatever it was, it was now gone.  He was thankful for that.   Only a few more blocks and he would be home.  Back home, he thought, and smiled.

He clambered up the steps to his room, tired and torn.  He had given much strength to fighting that creature, and now was desperately in need of some sleep.  He quietly walked over to check on Connor is his crib.  To his great delight, his son was sleeping peacefully.  Angel walked to his bed, and collapsed on it.  Soon it would be daybreak, and he needed to get some rest before Connor decided it was time to get up.

Chapter 2 --

When he awoke the next day, he automatically turned to look at the clock.  It was 6:30 p.m.  ‘That couldn’t be right,’ he thought to himself.  ‘Connor would have been up way before then.’  In an instant he was standing next to the crib.  Connor wasn’t there.  In his place was a beautifully handwritten note that said:

When you decide to wake up sleepy-head, Connor will be downstairs with us!
   
        ~Cordy~


He heaved a great sigh of relief, and smiled at the beautiful handwriting on the note.  He decided to take a quick shower, and then head downstairs to see what the others were doing.

After showering and dressing, he made his way downstairs.  When he reach the landing, he saw Cordelia setting quietly on the bench in the main hallway holding Connor.  She had become such a wonderful mother figure for Connor, he thought.  He didn’t believe that he could have found anyone any better, that would care so deeply for his son.  The pleasant thought was quickly removed from Angel’s mind as Cordelia stood up, announcing….

“Okay guys…..vision.  At the corner of 9th and Broadway, there is a …. ewwww that is just gross….” 

“A what?” said Gunn, anxiously anticipating the arrival of a demon that he could take his frustrations out on. 

“Oh, sorry!” said Cordelia.  “There is a rather large and disgustingly green, slimy, two-headed something that is about to attack a group of homeless people staying in the abandoned building there.  You need to hurry.” 

Excited at the news, Gunn turned to his co-workers, and said, “So watch ya all lookin’ at, lets go!”  Gunn walked to the weapons cabinet grabbed the biggest baddest ax he could find, and motioned for the others to get moving.  Angel grabbed a large sword and ax, and followed Wesley as the three of them made their way to the car.

//She had watched him carefully as he had left the hotel with his friends.  She thought she would be able to get closer to him this time since there were others around.  He wouldn’t be able to pick up her presence so easily as he had before.  She decided to glance quickly into one of the other’s minds to see where they were going.  She dare not try his, he was a demon and he would know instantly when she tried to enter his, but she was sure that the other two were human.  It would be easy to go quickly in and read one of them and get the information she needed without their knowing she was ever there.

She choose the pale skinned young man, and looked straight into his eyes.  Quickly and quietly she went in….’9th and Broadway, hurry, two-headed demon…’ was what she heard and that was all she needed.  She hurried off, so that she would arrive before the three of them did.  She would plant herself inside of the front door.  She knew he would go in first and this would give her the opportunity she needed.//


Upon arriving at the corner of 9th and Broadway they saw only the building.  Nothing more.   Angel gave directions to the others.  He would go in first, with Wes and Gunn to cover the side and back doors respectively.  As each of the men opened their designated door, the same site greeted them, nothing.  

//And as she suspected, the door flew open, and there he stood, as handsome as he had ever been.  She noticed that he appeared slightly older, but nonetheless still as stunning as she had remembered.//

“Maybe we should split up and search the entire building,” said Gunn.  “Cordy doesn’t have visions just for fun you know.” 

“Good idea.” said Wesley.  So despite Angel’s hesitance for them to split up, the three men did just that, each taking a floor to investigate.

//She wanted to stay, to watch him ever so closely, but when the three of them  decided to go separate ways, she knew that she must leave.  She quietly exited the building and began walking down the street, thinking about what she should do next.  Now that there was no doubt she had found him, she wondered how, how was she going to approach him?  Things had ended so badly between them….//

In a little less than thirty minutes they had combed the entire building and found nothing.  Not even a sign that a homeless person had been there, let alone a demon. 

“Let’s go back, maybe Cordy missed something in her vision, maybe she got the address wrong…” said Angel, knowing full well that couldn’t have been possible.  The visions came from greater powers; they couldn’t have been wrong he thought to himself.  With no other ideas the three of them decided that was the best thing to do, and they silently climbed into the car to drive back to the hotel.

//She found her way to her favorite park bench.  Though she hadn’t been here long enough to have really determined a favorite, she enjoyed the scenery from this one.  There were always birds, and little squirrels running about, it made her feel at home, more at peace with herself.  She sat there for what seemed like hours debating on how she should approach Angel.  That was his name now, she knew that.  But would he remember her?  Certainly he would have to, ‘you just don’t go through those wonderful times together and then have such a horrible ending without remembering any of it’ she thought to herself.  She sat on the bench quietly replaying those lovely moments over and over again in her head.  But she suddenly remembered why she sought him out in the first place and the streams of terror grew great within her.  She must act quickly, or everything would be in jeopardy.//

Chapter 3 --

Arriving at the hotel, Angel, Wes and Gunn slowly walked into the lobby, heads hung low as if they had been defeated.  Cordelia looked up as they entered, immediately animated.

“Did you kill it?” asked Cordelia excitedly. 

“Kill what exactly?” said Gunn with a bit of resentment in his voice.  He looked less than thrilled at the moment.

“You know, the two-headed demon thingy in my vision.” said Cordelia.  Puzzled, she looked at Angel for an explanation. 

“There wasn’t anything there.” Angel murmured, trying to sound diplomatic about the situation.  “Are you sure you saw everything?  The street address, was it right, are you sure?” asked Angel. 

“I’m sure, I’ve never gotten that sort of thing wrong before.” insisted Cordelia, standing there looking incredibly confused and increasingly frustrated.  She just couldn’t understand what had happened.

“Since we don’t know what happened, and it would likely be very difficult to find out, I suggest that we just go about our business for now and wait for Cordelia to have another vision.  In the mean time I will see if I can find some information on the demon that she saw.” said Wesley calmly.  

“I think I’m going to go back to the building and have another look around.  We had to have missed something." Angel murmured. 

“Good idea, keep looking!” said Cordelia, still not understanding what had went wrong.  She didn’t like her vision reporting being questioned.   Gunn was about to tell Angel that he would join in the search, but before he could speak the words a softer and more eloquent voice suddenly stepped in and distracted him. 

“I’ll go fix us some dinner, it’s getting late and no one has eaten yet.”  Fred offered, smiling shyly at them.  Gunn just looked at Fred and smiled. 

“I’ll help!” said Gunn, and off to the kitchen they went.

Without another word to anyone, Angel walked out the door and headed to his car.  Within moments, driving in a way no one mortal would dream of, he had reached his destination.  Parking the car and getting out, he glanced up at the building.  Corner of 9th and Broadway, ‘no mistaking that’ he thought as he read the green street signs which towered high above the pavement.  This was the right place, he knew Cordy wasn’t wrong about that.   

Angel opened the door to find things exactly as they had been earlier.  Nothing was different but he was determined to find something, some clue as to what Cordelia had seen.  He knew her well and her attention to detail was extreme.  Whether it be his crooked tie when they all got dressed up for a night out, or the street name in a vision, it just wasn’t possible for Cordy to have gotten anything wrong. 

“Look harder, feel it…” Angel told himself over and over in a quiet whisper as he paced the floor back and forth.    He finally stopped and stood in the center of the first floor room and closed his eyes, hoping that somehow, depending not on what he saw with his eyes but what he felt would make the difference.  It worked.  Suddenly he opened his eyes.  He felt something… but what?  He looked around the room, but could see nothing.

//After thinking on the situation and realizing the urgency with which she must act, she went looking for him.  She had decided to go back to his hotel, thinking maybe she would be able to catch him alone there.  When she arrived she saw him speeding off in his long, black car.  She debated her next move for a moment, then realized this might be the opportunity she had sought.  She decided to follow him.  Maybe he would go some place quiet where she would be able to approach him.  Recognizing where he was headed, she pursed her lips, confused as to his actions.  ‘Back to that building again?’ she thought to herself, but she followed him in anyway. 

She watched him quietly for a few minutes, as he paced the floor back and forth, apparently waiting for something or someone.  She decided she would show herself and tell Angel everything, but she hesitated just long enough, and then she saw it, standing behind him.  For a moment she just froze, utterly unable to move.  Realizing in a horrible second that Angel didn’t see it, didn’t even know it was there!  The terror that she had felt before suddenly came rushing back.  It was ‘Bangola,’ and he was going to kill Angel to get to her.  There was only one choice for her to make….//


There was that feeling again.  The same one he’d had the night before, as he had returned home.  He sensed something around him, a presence of some sort.  It was definitely something familiar, yet at the same time there was something else, something evil.  He glanced from side to side and finally with a growl coming from deep within his chest he shouted to all the shadows in the room…. “Show yourself, NOW!”

He was utterly unprepared for the sight that now greeted him.  She had just appeared, suddenly as though she’d been there the whole time and he just couldn’t see her.  He tried to speak, but the words just wouldn’t come.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity he breathed one word.

“Liz?” he whispered the word, as though anything louder would wake him from what he was now sure was a dream.  He closed his eyes for a moment, and reluctantly opened them again.  And miraculously, the beautiful figure, the face that he had tried so hard to forget so long ago, was still there standing before him.

She raced towards him and the moment he touched her hand they were gone, gone from the building, gone from reality, but where was he?  He couldn’t see nor hear anything, yet he knew he had moved but he could still feel her hand in his….  ‘What was this?’ Angel thought to himself, then suddenly he knew. 

He remembered doing this before, just once.  Long ago.  But the moment was never spoken of after, and despite his incessant questioning, she had refused to tell him what had happened.   ‘Would she tell me this time?’, ‘Why was she here?’ ‘After what had happened, why would she come to me?’, and suddenly he knew all of his questions would be answered.  Still the thoughts swarmed in his mind.  He felt comforted knowing that she would not only explain what had just happened, but that there would be many other things to speak of as well.

In a flash, it was all gone.  The world had come rushing back to him quickly, and he realized where he was, back in his bedroom at the hotel.  She was standing next to him.  He glanced at her quickly and began to speak but before he could get a sound out she raised her hand.  He stopped.  The look on her face was plaintive.  Demure, apologetic almost.  It looked wrong on her.

“I realize that I’m probably the last person that you want to see right now, but” she began.  Instantly Angel tried to interrupt her but the look in her eyes stopped him.  She laughed a little, shrugged her shoulders.  The laugh was one of resignation, “I need your help.” she said.

“But why me?  I can’t understand why you would want to see me, after the things that happened, I just thought….” Angel’s sentence trailed off. 

“Well,” said Liz, “You aren’t exactly the person that I’d like to spend my time with right now, but unfortunately for me, you are the only one who can help me.”  She looked away again.  Clearly this situation made her uncomfortable.  The utter surrealness of it overwhelmed both of them.

Suddenly, there were noises from outside his room.  The door flew open, and in marched Fred and Cordelia carrying Connor in her arms.  The look on their face sent a very clear message to Angel.  They looked pissed.  He sighed….He had some heavy explaining to do. 

“Connor needs to be changed.” said Cordelia sternly.  “I guess I’ll just get what I need and we’ll all go back downstairs.”  The look she shot at Angel was perfectly clear, in case the cutting tone wasn’t getting the point across.  He swallowed, the confusion and awkwardness of everything was draining his energy.  He reached out and put his hand on Cordelia’s arm.

“No, wait…uhhh…..it’s a long story, and maybe we should all go downstairs.” said Angel.  Cordelia paused.  The look on her face continued to speak volumes.  Angel could see her sizing up this new girl.  It didn’t appear that she liked what she saw.  She pulled her arm away and rolled her eyes. 

Liz turned to him suddenly and said, “I don’t think you should get these nice people involved in this.  This is way beyond the comprehension of a mere mortal.” 

That was of course the absolutely worst thing to say in front of Cordelia, with the possible exception of implying there was something wrong with her hair.  Angel knew he had to diffuse the situation, quickly.  It was gonna get ugly otherwise.  Before Cordelia had the chance to say a word, Angel grabbed her by the arm and motioned for everyone to follow him.

As Angel and his contingent of women marched down the stairs, Wesley and Gunn emerged from the office with looks of bewilderment on their faces.

“Who is she?” asked Gunn. 

“Someone who doesn’t think that Angel should involve us mere mortals in whatever this…..fashion hazard has going on!” spat Cordelia as she stared at Liz.  By this time Fred had decided that her best bet was to take poor Connor, who was now caught in the crossfire of words from Cordelia and the mumblings of Angel, and stay out of the way.  Although, to be honest, she wasn’t sure where ‘out of the way’ was going to be because everywhere she went, the argument seemed to follow.

Curious himself as to who this woman was, Wesley stepped up, cleared his throat and said, “uhhhrrrrmmm…. can we please do this in a civilized manner?”  He turned to address Liz.   “I know you are apparently concerned for our welfare madame, but I assure you, we are all quite capable of handling your problem.  We deal with things you might be unable to handle on a regular basis.”  Quite pleased with his remark, Wesley stepped back, smiled and waited for a response.

Liz took a deep breath and began.  Somehow this encounter had already gone quite wrong and she didn’t want it to get any worse.  “I’m sure each one of you are quite capable in your own right, but what I am dealing with is very dangerous and I don't want to get anyone hurt or killed.”

After seeing Cordelia’s eyes shoot furious glares of death in Liz’s direction, Angel decided he better suck it up speak up or they weren’t going to have to wait on some big evil to come kill them.  There would be one pissed off half demon who would be more than happy to send sparks his direction. 

“Liz, it’s okay, what ever needs to be discussed with me should be discussed with my friends as well.” said Angel. 

“You know…… maybe before we hear what she wants, maybe we should know who she is!” said Cordelia as she stood arms crossed glaring at Angel.  She could not believe the nerve of this girl.  And the fact that Angel still had not explained her presence unnerved her even more.

“That really isn’t that important.” said Angel, feeling quite anxious at the question.  As soon as the words were out of his mouth he knew by the look on Cordelia’s face that he had blown it.   

“Oh, but I think it is VERY important that we know all that there is to know about her and why she needs YOUR help!” said Cordelia, glaring once more, this time straight at Angel. 

He knew that this would be a losing battle and he’d just better fess up before anything else happened.  Looking at the scene playing out in front of her, Liz felt a little bad that she hadn’t done much to dissuade any wrong ideas or assumptions.  She really didn’t want to cause problems for Angel and his friends.  She decided to remedy that, hoping it would smooth things over.

“Maybe I should be the one to explain, if it is really that important to you.  There are a lot of things that Angel just doesn’t know.” said Liz. 

“Fine.”  said Cordelia, “I don’t care who gives the grim details, just give them.” 

Everyone found a place to sit and Liz began, “My name is Elizabeth Connors, and Angel and I were childhood friends.  Our parents owned property next to each other.  We were only small children when we met, I think I was about 7 and Angel would have been about 9.”  Liz looked at Angel in a way he hadn’t seen from her for decades. 

“So you are old, like as old as Angel?” said Cordelia. 

“Let her finish.” said Angel, and Liz continued.

“We became fast friends and on each Sunday afternoon during the summer months after we returned from the service at the local church, we would run off to the brook which ran through both of our lands.  I always brought some bread and fruit, and we would have such fun, talking and telling stories….”  Liz smiled as she reminisced.

“Okay, enough of the sweet stuff, get on with it!  Not all of us are immortal, I actually will grow old, I don’t have time for this to drag on and on..” Cordelia spouted off.  Looking appropriately chagrined, Liz continued to speak.

“So anyway, when we entered our teenage years, the thoughts of marrying and settling down grew more and more.  It just seem so natural.  We began falling in love.” said Liz. 

Angel looked at Cordelia to see what her reaction was to that statement was, but he already knew.  The look on her face was exactly what he had known it would be.  He didn’t even have to look.

“And?” said Cordelia.  Liz was clearly a little more uncomfortable now and Cordelia wasn’t about to let up.  Everyone just listened, interested as to where this was all going.

“And before the eve of my 17th birthday, in the dark of night, my parents tore me out of bed and we left Ireland.  I thought I would never see my dear Liam again.” 

“Who is Liam?” asked Cordelia in a puzzled yet annoyed voice.   She had officially decided not to even try to pretend with this chick.

“Liam was my given name.” said Angel quietly. 

“Oh.”  Was the unanimous sound from everyone.

“So, why did your parents make you leave?” asked Fred innocently. 

“They refused to tell me.  I begged them to explain why, but they simply refused to speak of it.  It wasn’t until a year later that I found out.” said Liz 

“I had began my life again in France with my parents.  My world was irrevocably changed.  I learned many things there, many things about myself.  My parents were the most powerful witch and warlock in this plain.  After my 18th birthday, they began my teachings.  I learned many new things and was just beginning to get things together, to have a life again….And what was when Liam showed up again.  Of course when he approached me one evening as I was walking home alone from a friends house, I was elated that he had found me.  I had no idea what had become of him since the night my parents took me away.  Thrilled to see him, and anxious to see him again, I asked him to come to my house and visit.  He refused and said instead that he would be seeing me soon enough but that I was not to tell my parents that he was here.  He wanted it to be a surprise." Liz looked directly at Angel as she said this.  He met her glance for only a moment before looking down at the floor.  She nodded and continued her narrative.

“I went rushing home.  And against Liam’s wishes, told my parents that he had found me and that I was going to be seeing him again soon.  They did not share my joy.  The panic washed their faces white, and they began to mumble things in Latin that I had never heard before.  They told me things that seemed insane, things that I could not believe.  They told me that if I did not leave soon, that I was doomed, that Liam would kill me.  Of course I was furious.  I had just been reunited with my true love!  How dare they say such hurtful things.  I told them they were just old and didn’t know anything.  They grabbed my arm and set me down and began to tell me of the blessings ritual that they had done at my birth.  They had visited a local shaman who was to bless me, but the blessing didn’t happen.  Instead the shaman saw a vision, a prophecy of what would happen.  He told my parents that a vampire, a very strong vampire would follow me to the ends of the earth and turn me to his side.  ”  She grew quiet, knowing that there would be questions.

“So this shaman…..he had seen through you as an infant….seen what you would become, and how?” asked Wesley. 

“Yes.” replied Liz. 

“So what did your parents do?” asked Gunn

“They took me home, and gathered all of their friends.  They came up with a blessing that would protect me from Liam, or at least from what he had become.” replied Liz.  The others looked puzzled. 

Gunn finally asked what they were all thinking.  “But you are still here and a vampire, what went wrong?”

“Nothing went wrong,” said Liz, “on the contrary, it worked just as they had planned.”   She smiled sweetly.  “They blessed my soul, so it would always stay with me.  They knew that was what would be lost when the demon took over my body.” 

“So, you were like the first cursed one then huh?” asked Cordelia. 

“I guess you could say that.” said Liz, “But I wasn’t cursed for all the bad that I had done, I was blessed so I could do good.”

“This is just fascinating!” said Wesley.  He looked as excited as if he had just stumbled upon a “Midsomer Murders” marathon on A&E.  “So what happened after you told your parents about Angel?” 

“They told me what the shaman had said, and what they had done to protect me, and gave me a silver cross to wear.  Each of them kissed me and told me that they loved me, and as this happened, we began to hear the screams from the street.  We all rushed outside to see what was happening, foolishly perhaps, as we were met by Angelus and his men.  He instructed them to take my parents and to leave me for him.” 

Liz never looked at Angel while telling of this.  She merely glanced at the floor and occasionally made eye contact with Fred, clearly sensing the gentleness in her.  Angel, feeling quite embarrassed and ashamed by the detailed retelling of his shady past got up and started to walk off.  He was almost into the office when he was halted suddenly by a slender arm.  “Where do you think you’re going?” asked Cordelia.

“Uhhh, I just thought I’d get out of everyone’s way.  I don’t think you need me here as a visual aid for this part.  It’s not like I don’t know what happens.” said Angel uneasily. 

“Yes, you do know most of it, but there are some things that I don’t know, and only you will be able to answer those questions for me.” said Liz.  “You owe me that.”   Angel reluctantly returned to his seat, and Liz began again. 

“I began to scream at the sight of Angelus.  His face, the yellowish eyes, the fangs, that was my first sight of a vampire.  He walked closer to me, talking so softly about us as children.  I pleaded with him to let me go, I told him that my parents were very powerful.  I tried to tell him that they could help him, but he said he needed no help, that he had found what would cure his pain.” 

“You.” said Wesley in a very sure voice. 

“Yes, he was referring to me.  He said that after my parents took me away, that he was so…” she was unable to finish.  When she still hadn’t continued Angel broke in.

“I told her that when I learned that she was gone, and that I wasn’t even able to tell her good bye, I was heart broken.  That began the spiral downward for me.  I began hanging out in the pubs until all hours of the night.  I gave up on things that were decent.  I lost sight of the dreams that I once had.”

“And that is where Darla came into the  picture?” asked Wesley.   Angel just looked at him and Wesley knew the answer was yes. 

“She offered me a way out, out of my misery, out of the horrid life that I had, and I took it.” said Angel shaking his head in disgust.  With a huge sigh, Angel continued, “After that, I was determined to find Liz, to find her and have her.  I wanted her to walk with me forever.   I was determined to find out where her family had taken her.  The people in her village weren’t eager to tell me as you can image.  So I killed all of her family’s friends until I finally found a young boy, who wasn’t interested in dying just to keep the secret of where her family had gone.  So, when I found out they had gone to France, I immediately went to find her.  It wasn’t very difficult, the people there weren’t quite as interested in protecting her family as had their friends before.  They didn’t care enough to die for it.  And after I found her, I followed her, for nights on end.  It had been close to two weeks before I made my move.” said Angel.

“Okay, now I’m getting confused, are we back to where Liz left off now?” asked Gunn. 

“Yes.” replied Angel and then he continued, “I told her that she was what would end my pain, that her pain would only last a few seconds, then she would be with me for eternity.  We could walk this earth together.” 

“But it didn’t turn out as he had envisioned.” said Liz.  “After I awoke from my death, I was greeted by Liam’s face staring down at me.  He was smiling, elated at what he had accomplished, but all was not as it seemed.  What he didn’t know was that I still had my soul.  I could never lose it and therefore would be unable to kill with him.” said Liz.

Angel broke in again, hoping to finish the story more quickly, “I was furious that she wasn’t like me, furious that when we went to hunt at night she would refuse to drink that which I had given her.  Darla found this amusing and taunted me for my failure."  “I was infuriated by this and threw Liz out into the street, and told her to leave, that I never wanted to see such a righteous fein again.”  He closed his eyes and turned away from the others.  Liz slowly picked up the story where Angel has stopped.

“So I left, and slowly I learned how to survive on my own.  I had returned to my parent’s house to find that there was nothing left.  After they had been killed, the townspeople burned their house down to prevent any further unnatural things from occurring.   I was devastated.  There was nothing there for me anymore, nothing at all.” said Liz. 

“I decided to go back to Ireland, to where I had grown up, where I had spent my happiest moments.   When I arrived, I found there to be only one remaining elderly lady of all those who had been with my parents at the time of my blessing.  She took me in and showed me the ways of my people.” She paused for a moment, then she continued on, “I learned how to use my powers, and what my purpose now was.  But, she was quite old when I found her, and though she taught me as much as she could before her passing, there were still great things for me to learn on my own.”  Liz’s voice grew very quiet.

“I was at her side when she died.  I held her hand as she took her last breath, and as she did so, she told me to take her favorite book, and leave for America.”  She sighed.

“What was her favorite book?” asked Wesley, still marveling at the story he was being told. 

“It was actually just a book of her favorite recipes.  It was what was inside the book that she wanted me to have.  There was a lengthy note from my parents inside.  They had known that I would come back and seek her out.” replied Liz. 

“So what did the letter say?” asked Gunn. 

“It gave me instructions on where to go to find the 'Cup of Reverence', and why I would need to find it.  It also gave great details about what to do with it after I had it in my possession.” said Liz.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever head of the 'Cup of Reverence'.” said Wesley.  He squinted as he mentally ran through his vast library.

“Most people haven’t.” said Liz.  “It is closely guarded by an extreme group from the Palkees Tribe of ancient Egypt.  They believe it to be the key to the opening of their afterlife.” she continued, “and if filled with the blood of the Chosen One, they will open the gates and all their ancestors will be free to walk the earth once again.” 

“The Chosen One?” asked Angel and Cordelia in unison. 

“Oh no, we aren’t going to deal with her again.” groaned Cordelia.  “Don’t you think we’ve had enough ‘save the world’, ‘save Buffy’ to last us a number of lifetimes?” said Cordelia to Angel.

Wesley rushed into his office and returns with a large book.  He hurridly scramble to find the correct page.  “I knew I had read about the Palkees Tribe before.  Yes, here it is.” he said, as he began to read a passage from the book.  “The Palkees are members of select group of warriors from ancient Egypt, dating back to 100 b.c.   They are fierce fighters, and have a strict code of worship.  They believe in an afterlife that will bore them all again into this world so that they may have reign over all earth and its people.  It goes on to say that these people believe that the 'Cup of Reverence', once it is filled with the blood of the Chosen One, and poured into the mouth of the beast…will expel their ancestors unto this world to sacrifice the human race in order to sustain their own.” and with that, Wesley had finished.

“So if this cup thing is what you are here for, haven’t you gotten it yet?  I mean you are all powerful and everything right?” asked Gunn. 

“It isn’t that simple.” said Liz.  “I have tracked down the Palkees Tribe here in America, but in order for me to retrieve the cup from them, I need something.” said Liz. 

“So that is why you found me, you need my help in getting this cup?” asked Angel. 

“No, not exactly.” said Liz.  “I need my silver cross back, you took if from me the night…”

Angel interrupted before Liz had a chance to finish, “I don’t have it.” Angel said quickly, “Besides, it was just a cross, you can find one of those anywhere.” 

“Do you know where I can find it?” asked Liz.  Angel hesitated for a moment, as the scenes from that dreadful night came flooding back.  He remembered it all so clearly……Liz pleading with him, the coldness he felt as he grabbed the necklace and ripped it from her neck.  The cross had burned his skin, leaving a deep imprint of what he had just done, but he hadn’t cared.  He had gotten what he came for.  Returning to the present he said “Yes, I know where it is.” 

“Okay people, excuse me for being a little less cerebral than the rest of you here, but if you are a vampire, what do you need a cross for and why would Angel have it?” asked Cordelia. 

“I was placing much hope on Liam keeping it, he always fancied hanging on to things that he found interest it, even if it were not in his best interest.  That cross was very special to me, and he had figured that out.  Even if he hated me, I was almost sure he would keep it, that was just the way he was.” said Liz.

She stopped and turned towards Cordelia, “Besides, it isn’t just a cross, it is an amulet, blessed by my ancestors over 1000 years ago.  It had been passed down through my family for generations, and because if its power, and my destiny, I can wear it without harm to myself, and it will protect me from Bangola.” she exclaimed proudly.  

“Who’s Bangola?” asked Cordelia. 

“Bangola is the leader and high priest of the Palkees Tribe.  He has great strength and powers, and if I am to defeat him and retrieve the cup, I must have my sacred amulet.” answered Liz.

After the explanation, everyone suddenly turns to Angel for his response.

“What? Why is everyone staring at me?” asked Angel. 

“Maybe it is because you know where to find the cross!” says Cordelia half-agitated at his stupidity. 

“Can you tell me where to find it?  We must hurry, the ritual must take place on the full moon of the eighth month.  We don’t have much time.” said Liz. 

“That’s in three days.” said Fred. 

“So, what are you waiting on Angel?  Tell her were she can find her thing so we can be done with this.” said Cordelia.  ‘And done with her too,’ she thought to herself.    Angel just stood there, not sure how to say it.  “Well?” said Cordelia. 

“I gave the cross to Buffy.” said Angel. 

Cordelia groaned again. 

“Who is this Buffy?” asked Liz.  

“Oh, she’s the Chosen One!” said Cordelia.  “You know the -  vampire -  slayer!” 

“Oh.  Then we must go and find her and you must ask for it back.  Then you must stay to protect her, while I go after Balgola.” said Liz.  “Where is she?”

“She’s in Sunnydale.” said Angel. 

“Well then, that will work out just fine, that is where I have tracked Bangola and his men to.” said Liz, “Bangola must have followed me here, because he was in the building with you right before I transported us here.  He knows that I am following him.  Even though I use my invisibility, he can still see me, and he knows why I am following him.” she continued.

“So that was the other presence I felt.” said Angel. 

“What does this Bangola look like?” asked Cordelia. 

“A regular man most of the time I suppose.” said Liz, “But in his demonic state, he…” and at that time Wesley interrupted.

“He looks just like the demon you saw in your vision Cordelia.”  And Wesley handed his book to Cordelia. 

“Oh, that is soo him.” she said, making a face.

“Why don’t I call Buffy, and let her know that we are on our way to pick up the cross, that way she can just have it out and ready, no need for useless chit chat.” said Cordelia. 

“That probably isn’t a good idea.” said Angel.  “She really isn’t going to be happy about seeing me again.” 

“I’m guessing your last meeting after her….return didn’t go so well.” Cordelia said. 

“No, it didn’t, I really don’t want to discuss it.  I just think we need to go and get this over with.” said Angel.  “Fred, will you find Lorne and make sure he can take care of Connor while we are gone?” he asked.  “I think we are going to need everyone for this trip!”  Liz turned to ask Angel about Connor, and then she thought it better that she not.  There just wasn’t time for any more long stories, and she was sure that would be one.

Chapter 4 –

Angel was ready to head out to his car when he remembered that it was still back by the building where he’d gone in search of what he knew now to be Bangola.  When Liz had spirited them back to the Hotel, his car had stayed there.  He wished that he’d realized this earlier. 

Angel turned to Liz, “My car, it is still at the abandoned building.”  He looked at her expectantly. 

“Yes, of course, I’ll take you there this moment, then you can drive back to pick up your friends.” Liz said.  Angel nodded.  Then realizing this might be the best chance he would get, he asked her what he’d wondered about so long.

“By the way, how did we get here?  I mean, I know it has happened before, that you’ve conveyed us or something, but how?” asked Angel. 

“My own special way of transportation” Liz said as she smiled coyly at Angel.  He smiled back, and while he wished she’d tell him more, he knew that was the best answer he was going to get.  He stood up and took Liz’s hand so she could return them to his car.

As Angel climbed into his large black car, Liz turned to him and said, “I will meet you at the Sunnydale Cemetery in approximately 3 hours. That should give you plenty of time to get my cross back, and get to the cemetery.  You do know where the cemetery is don’t you?”  Angel laughed softly to himself at this last question. 

“If I run into any problems, I’ll send Wesley and Gunn to let you know.  But I ask that you not speak to anyone that you see.  Things in Sunnydale are not always as they seem.  Just…..just trust me on this, Okay?” Angel looked at her to see how she’d react to him telling her once again not to talk to anyone.  He wondered if it reminded her of that night all those years ago when he’d said something so similar….

“I will respect your wishes, and I thank you for helping me with this.” Liz said softly. 

“Liz, I have no idea why you would want my help after what I did to you and your family, but I promise, I will help you full fill your parents’ wishes.” Angel said, knowing that was the least of the problems he was about to face.  Still, he wanted her to know that he was trying to make things up to her.

On the long drive to Sunnydale everyone was especially quiet.  All the passengers seemed to be lost in their own heads, thinking about things important or worrying to them.

Angel’s thoughts were about the last time he’d seen the Slayer.  The meeting he had with Buffy after she came back had ended horribly.  She seemed different somehow, and no longer connected to him.  This had hurt him horribly.  Although he knew, intellectually, that things would not work between them at this point, and it was worthless to pretend otherwise, still he always had hope that someday they would be together.  But those things she said to him, and the way she said them…… 

It was brutal and he had felt his heart break, all over again.  It made him feel sick, the way it hurt and because of this, he had said some things…..things he regretted saying now.  Connor, he thought, had been the only real bright spot in his life since then.  The thought of his son calmed him for a moment.  Then he realized something. 

‘Oh, god no!  Connor…..’, he thought to himself.  What was he going to say about Connor, how in the world could he explain that one?  If he had thought things were difficult between him and Buffy last time, he knew that finding out about Connor would makes things that much worse.  But, if no one mentioned it, then she wouldn’t have to know.  There wouldn’t be any trouble.  ‘I just need to get what I came after and go, no need for anything extra.’ he thought to himself.  But the anything extra was what he was about to get a whole lot of.

As they pulled into town, things seemed utterly unchanged to those in the car who were familiar with Sunnydale and it’s lonesome Main Street.  Cordelia took in all of the scenery, allowing herself to admit that it felt nice to be back home.  Wesley just sat quietly pondering what was to come.  He knew that whatever had happened between Angel and Buffy was just going to make this confrontation that much more difficult, and he was not looking forward to it.  Things never went smoothly in Sunnydale and he knew this would be no exception.

“So, this is the famous Sunnydale, home of the ‘Hellmouth’ huh?” said Gunn, not so much asking a question as just making a statement.  It was hard for him to reconcile the peaceful looking town with the horror stories he’d heard from Cordelia, Wesley and Angel.

“Yeah, this is it.  In all it’s glory…..don’t get too attached, we wont be staying here long.” quipped Angel, slowing the car down slightly  He turned right on the last side street on the road and  suddenly found himself in front of the Summers’ house.  It seemed like ages since he had first run down that street following her into the house.  All those memories came rushing back to him as he silently stared at the house.  No one knew what to say, and then finally Wesley broke the silence.

“You should probably go knock on the door Angel, we haven’t much time.” He gently said, aware of the delicacy of the situation. 

“Oh, yeah, right.  Of course.” Angel said as he climbed out of the car and stood in the street.  Slowly, he walked across the street, hesitating for a moment before he walked up to the front door.  ‘Knock, knock, knock,’ was the sound that came as he rapped on the door.  A strange sound to scare him, but it did just the same.  It seemed like an eternity as he stood there on the stoop.  He turned around and was just about to go back to his car when suddenly he heard the door swing open.

“Angel?” came the familiar voice.  And he slowly turned around. 

“Uhhhh…Hi, Willow, uhhh….” Angel stuttered, suddenly unable to speak.  He looked terrified. 

“Uh, Buffy isn’t home right now. . .” replied Willow, who was obviously as much at a loss for words right now as he was.  She was starting to catch the anxiety coming off of him and it made her even more nervous.

“Do you know when she will be back?” he asked.  “It’s important that I talk to her soon.”  He shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  Angel and Willow just looked at each other for a moment, both unsure of what the next step should be.  The redhead made the next move.

“Well, do you want to come in and wait for her?” she offered sounding very hesitant.  He nodded.  Angel slowly stepped inside the door.  More memories came rushing back.  Flashes of him and Buffy running through the door to escape the Three, flashes of Buffy in her room, on and on they went in what seem to him to be an endless reel.  He just stood there with his eyes closed, not moving a muscle, just remembering, when he was brought back to reality.

Cordelia had decided that she had been sitting in the car long enough.  She was going to see what the hold up was. 

“Where do you think you’re going?” asked Wesley, seemingly out of habit as he already knew exactly what she was going to tell him. 

“I’m tired of waiting here.  I’m going to go say hi.” she said, looking at him as though he had suddenly sprouted another head. 

“Cordelia, you know that isn’t a very good idea.” stammered Wesley.  She just looked at him, eyebrows raised.  ‘He didn’t really think he was going to stop her, did he?’  She thought to herself, trying not to laugh.

“Well I think it’s a great idea!  I can’t wait to meet the infamous Slayer.” Gunn burst out, as he hopped over the side of the car to join Cordelia.  In an instant everyone was standing on the stoop as Angel stood just inside the doorway, totally oblivious to the presence of his entourage. 

“Oh, uh, I see you brought friends?” asked Willow, trying to sound more cheery than she felt. 

“Hi Willow, gee, it’s been ages.” Cordelia bubbled in what she hoped was a very convincing manner.  This was harder than she remembered it being.  It’d been awhile since she’d felt the need to try to sugarcoat her words so fully.  She decided to just keep going with it and shot the redhead another beaming smile. 

“Is Buffy here?  We really need to talk to her.  Well, actually it’s Angel that really needs to talk…..” Cordelia trailed off mid-sentence.  They heard Buffy’s voice coming from another room.

“Will, you home?” Buffy called to her friend as she walked through the house, totally unaware of what was to greet her at the front door.  Angel wasn’t sure if he could go through with this now that he had heard her voice again.  Had his friends not already been standing behind him, he probably would have fled, but as things were, there really was no place for him to go.

Willow turned and looked toward the kitchen as she yelled, “Yeah Buffy, in here.”  She shot a quick look at Angel and the others.

As Buffy walked to the living room, she could see Willow standing at the door.  She continued closer, stopping when she saw who else was there. 

“Hi.” she said in a obviously startled voice.  She stared at Angel, her heart thumping furiously in her chest. 

“I need….I need to talk to you for a minute.” said Angel quietly as he glanced from Buffy to the ground and then back to Buffy.  He could sense her anger. 

“So….you brought back-up this time?” she quipped as she eyed Cordelia and the others.  The hurt was still radiating off of Buffy.  Still, Cordelia took offense to this snotty remark, and suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to straighten the little moppet out with a big “Listen here!”, but was stopped from saying anything as Angel answered Buffy’s question.

“I didn’t bring the others because of you.  We are here on business, and I just need to get something from you first.”  As the words came out of Angel’s mouth, Gunn groaned to himself.  Angel had absolutely no game at all when it came to talking to the ladies.  What he’d just blurted out was not going to get this thing done any faster, judging by the way the petite blonde’s eyes had doubled in size before narrowing to angry little slits.

“Business!  That is why you came here?” Buffy practically spat at him.  Her growing agitation was becoming more and more evident. 

“Listen” said Angel, as he grabbed Buffy by the arm, trying to diffuse the situation.  She looked at him with pain and hurt in her eyes and quickly jerked her arm away from him and turned away for a moment.  Sighing, she turned to face him.  They both stood staring at one another, neither knowing exactly what they should do next.

While the drama played out at the Summers’ house, unaware of how things were progressing, stood Liz, quiet and alone on the other side of town.  Realizing this “get the cross back” might take a little longer than she initially thought, she decided to get more comfortable. 

She sat on a stone bench in front of the “Sunnydale Cemetery” sign.  Images of Angel had been running through her mind since they had parted ways back in LA.  She couldn’t help but feel attracted to him again.  Those things that he had done soo many years ago had no bearing on her feelings for him now.  She felt like she was sixteen again and much in love.  The silence and the thoughts were quickly broken as she heard a lovely British accent come from behind her.

“Well, hello there.  You must be new in town.” said a very suave sounding man.  To her he was a stranger, but to practically everyone else in Sunnydale he was known as Spike. 

“Yes, yes I am.  Just waiting on a friend to come and pick me up, no need to worry.” said the soft spoken Irish accented woman.  She stood up so she could see this beautifully sounding man who had approached her.  As she looked more closely at him, he did the same with her. 

She was small and petite with beautiful light brown hair.  He smiled to himself.  Spike was ever so loving having a new woman to entertain.  After Buffy had left his crypt earlier, he was determined to find a new honey that would respect him for the romantic he was, and this little lovely would do just fine.  He noticed that she seemed a little uncomfortable, a little unsure, perhaps, but Spike was certain that he would be able to make her feel more at ease around him.  He was quite good at this sort of thing, he had to admit to himself.

“So pet, what is a beautiful young thing like yourself doing in a cemetery?” asked Spike.  As uncomfortable as she was talking to this stranger, especially after the warning that Angel had given her, she was enjoying the attention from him just the same.  ‘He is so handsome.  That beautiful blonde hair combed perfectly into place, and those cheekbones, they looked as if they had been sculpted by an artist.’ Liz thought to herself, as she stood there admiring her new acquaintance.  Besides, she was no ordinary girl, and didn’t have to worry about many of the same things that would be dangerous to someone with, say a pulse or a temperature above 60 degrees.

“Well luv, cat got your tongue?” asked Spike, trying not to sound too eager for a conversation.  Startled by what this mysterious young figure said to her, she quickly came back to reality and replied, “I told you, I’m….I’m…waiting on a friend.” 

“Well, well, a friend ehh?” asked Spike suspiciously.  “What kind of a friend asks to meet your pretty face in a cemetery?” He asked. 

“Well, if you must know, I requested this meeting place, I like to be alone you know, and I figured that this would be adequate.” said Liz.  Somehow the words had seemed much more clever in her mind than they actually did when she’d said them.

“You picked the wrong place to be alone Miss.  This is not a good place for a beautiful young thing like yourself to be sittin’.”  said Spike, now fronting a bit of concern toward his new prize.  This would be the part where she would be very taken with his sensitivity, if the previous conquests of the last 100 years or so had taught him anything.

“You need not worry about me sir, I am quite capable of taking care of myself.” Liz said in a quite reassuring voice.  Spike seemed surprised by her response, and just stood there gazing at her beauty, trying to decide what he should do next.  Her tone and mannerisms didn’t match her appearance, he realized.  This was no ordinary bird, he decided.

Chapter 5 –

“Rrrrmmmm,” was the sound that came from Wesley, as he cleared his throat, trying as hard as he could to get this show on the road without seeming to pushy.  He realized that Angel and Buffy had issues to work out, as they always seemed to have issues, but there just wasn’t enough time for a heart to heart at the moment.  Time was of the essence, and he was afraid of what might become of Liz if they wasted much more time here. 

Old and experienced as she may be, Sunnydale was unlike any other place on earth and he worried that Liz had underestimated it.  Buffy and Angel seemed to be utilizing the “utter silence” method of communicating right now, anyway, and Wesley was growing more restless by the moment.

Buffy decided to break the silence, “So, what is it that you need from me?” 

“Well” said Angel.  “The silver cross that I gave you……that night in the alley, do you remember?” he asked. 

“That is what you came after and brought all of the them for?” said Buffy in what seemed to Angel to be the most mean and uncaring tone he thought he’d ever heard from her, but she didn’t give Angel anytime to answer as she quickly continued, “Forget it, never mind, I don’t care anymore.”

And those were the words that nearly did Angel in, ‘I don’t care anymore’ is what echoed louder and louder in his head.  How could she say that, after everything that they had been through together, how….but the thoughts were gone from his head as she turned away from him and raced up the stairs and to her room.  He could hear her up there, could hear what she was doing.  She rummaged through her drawer and as quickly as she disappeared, she was back down the stairs and threw the small black box that contained the silver cross at Angel. 

She was hurt that he had wanted it back, and she was even more upset that he brought all of his friends there to humiliate her in the process.  Especially Cordelia, she was certain that she was just loving this little episode.  She had always wanted Angel, and apparently she was getting what she wanted.  It made Buffy fume to think that Cordelia had been there to witness this.

“There, you have what you came after, now you can take care of whatever business you have.” said Buffy with tears flowing down her face.  She turned and headed for the kitchen. 

Angel turned for the door, and caught Cordelia’s eyes as he walked outside.  She had seen the tears in his eyes, as he quickly walked out the door with Wesley, Gunn and Fred in tow, but Cordelia wasn’t going along to try and comfort him.  She had seen enough.  She had come to feel a great deal for Angel, this was true.  He had saved her life on more than one occasion, and she owed him, even more for helping her find herself.  She was grateful to him for showing her how to care more for others than for yourself, and  it was this altruistic spirit that she decided to do what she was about to do.  She was about to say some things that she had only thought to herself, and really didn’t care to share with anyone else, yet she knew she had to.  She knew how she would feel if she didn’t.  Cordelia braced herself for what was to come.

Meanwhile, Angel and the others were already in the car and had driven down the street.  Angel hadn’t even noticed that Cordelia had stayed behind.  He was trying to rationalize Buffy’s words.  He knew where they were coming from, he knew she was hurt and confused but it didn’t help to ease his pain.  All he knew was that he needed to find Liz and get this over with so he could go back to his life in LA.  Being back in Sunnydale was just too painful for him.  It was just too hard.  He stepped harder on the gas pedal, trying to speed this ordeal up in order to get it over with.  Soon Buffy’s house was out of sight.

Willow looked pained.  She knew how awful Buffy felt now, and as her best friend, felt obligated to try and help somehow.  She didn’t really know what to do, but she figured that she had to at least try.  “Buffy!” Willow called, a little half-heartedly, to be honest, and wasn’t overly surprised when there was no answer.  Willow moved as if she were going to follow Buffy, when she caught Cordelia’s eye for a moment.  The taller girl just shook her head.  Willow nodded and collapsed onto a chair. 

Cordelia went into the kitchen and found Buffy with her head down on the kitchen counter, crying quietly.  Following her instinct, she went over and put her arm on Buffy’s shoulder, not thinking that at the present time, that may not have been the best way to start this conversation.  Buffy spun around quickly, knocking Cordelia back against the refrigerator.  Buffy just looked at Cordelia with eyes that were as cold and calculating as any demon that Cordelia had ever seen. 

“What do you want?” asked Buffy, still crying uncontrollably.  Yet at the same time as she felt her heart would break, she also felt more rage inside of her than she thought she had ever felt before, all of it directed at Cordelia.  How dare she come here and gloat now?  Buffy thought to herself.  She’d seen what had happened, she’d been standing right there for the whole thing, and yet that wasn’t enough for her?  Buffy hadn’t been humiliated enough for Cordelia?  She had to come in here to make it worse? 

“You got what you always wanted, so why don’t you just get out!” screamed Buffy. 

“Got what I always wanted?” asked Cordelia not sure whether to be annoyed or puzzled by this statement.  She stood a few feet away from the Slayer, realizing by now this was not the time for the “there, there” treatment.

“You have wanted Angel since the moment you laid eyes on him, and now you have him.  He isn’t here on business, and I know that.” cried Buffy.   With tears streaming down her face she continued, “He told me how you two felt about each other…...I’ve known since I came back.  When we met……. after I came back……… he told me…. he told me about you!”  

Cordelia was shocked, everything that she was about to say to Buffy was stripped from her thoughts.  She was utterly unprepared for any of this.  It made absolutely no sense to her at all.

“What are you talking about?” she asked in a stunned voice. 

“You know exactly what I’m talking about!” exclaimed Buffy, looking more angry and less sad by the second. 

“No, I don’t.” said Cordelia, still puzzled at what Buffy was saying.

As Angel pulled up to the front of the Sunnydale cemetery, he saw Liz standing there in front of the entrance, engaged in conversation with someone.  Someone he recognized. He slowed the car to a stop, jumped out and ran quickly over to Liz.  He grabbed the one she was talking to, and promptly threw him to the ground. 

“What the bloody hell was that for?” asked Spike looking up to see who had so rudely interrupted his flirting.  He sighed dramatically when he realized who it had been, thinking he should have expected this.

“You, stay away from her!” demanded Angel.  He had his arm protectively around the girl.  Spike grinned. 

“Well, if it isn’t bloody Robin Hood and his merry men, here to save the day.” quipped Spike as he surveyed Angel’s reinforcements, deciding whether or not to getup right away.

“I don’t have time for you Spike, so just get out of here, now!” said Angel.  Spike had to admit that a little part of him loved watching Angel get all riled up like this.  It was just too easy to push his buttons and Spike simply could not resist.

“Oh, don’t get your panties all in a bind, I’m not hurting this pretty little thing, we’re just having a nice ‘lil chat.” Spike said as he gathered himself and stood back up. 

Fred couldn’t help but giggle as she found Spike’s little quips amusing.  Spike heard her and walked around Angel. 

“Well now, what do we have here?” Spike asked as he walked up to Fred, looking her up and down.  “Seems like big bad broody boy got himself another cutie.”  He smiled sweetly at Fred and shot Angel a coy look, eyebrows raised in a lecherous fashion.  “Doesn’t seem to take you long now does it?” said Spike, and with one swift punch, he was laying on the ground again.  This was beginning to seem like old times, and Spike was thoroughly enjoying tormenting Angel and the urge to continue was impossible to resist. 

Spike stood up, brushed the dirt off of himself and once more turned to Fred.  She smiled. 

“Now pet, you must be careful with this one, he gets a little, how should I say this…..” smiling ever so evilly at Angel, “angry, when you do the dirty, so you must be careful, hear me luv?”  And again Angel hit him, knocking him to the ground.  Angel stood over him, daring him with his eyes to stand up again, but for all of Angel’s intimidation Spike just laughed, laying there and grinning up at Angel.  It was just so easy, he couldn’t resist, just one more.

“What’s a matter?” he said staring up at Angel, “All ready do the nasty with her?”

Angel had heard more than enough by now, and it was getting harder and harder to beat his demon back down.  He hauled off and hit the younger vampire again and again.  He hated doing this, hating having to get violent without good cause.  Spike was a waste of effort for him, and it angered Angel. 

He hit him again.  However to Spike, it was more than worth a few smacks or punches, he had gotten to Angel.  After all these years, it was still one of his very favorite games to play.  There was only one other thing he could have said that would have gotten a “better” reaction out of him, and he was saving that one for the perfect moment.  When Angel had finished he grabbed Liz’s arm and headed for the car.  The others just silently followed.

“Buffy, I don’t know what the hell you are talking about.  What has happened to you?  You come back from the dead with everything except your brain?” said Cordelia who was getting quite tired of the accusations.  Knowing this wasn’t what she had come in here to do, she took a deep breath, relaxed and decided to try a different approach.

“Yes, I love Angel, but not like that.  We take care of each other.  We do have a special bond.”  Buffy’s eyes narrowed at this statement, and Cordelia shook her head and continued.  “But one that comes from working together and caring about the same things and the same people.” finished Cordelia in a more passionate voice than Buffy had ever heard from her. 

“He has saved my life and I have saved his, we love each other like family, because we are family.  All of us, Wesley, Gunn, Fred, Lorne, Angel, Connor and me.  I don’t know what he could have said to you to make you think that there was anything more to our relationship than that!”  Cordelia took a deep breath before continuing.

“It crushed him to learn that you had died.  He was devastated Buffy, he left all of us and went away for the entire summer, trying to find a way to deal with losing you.  He was finally dealing with things, finally accepting what had happened, and then Willow calls and says you’re back, what do you think that did to him?  Huh?” asked Cordelia, but she only stopped long enough to catch her breath, then she started again.

“How in the world could he possibly love me, there isn’t room left in his soul for anyone other than you.  You are his love, and you always will be and what you just did to him was inexcusable.  I don’t know why you acted the way you did, but you better get over it, because the apocalypse is about to take shape over Sunnydale again, and THAT my dear is the only reason we are here!”

Chapter 6 –

Liz turned toward Angel as they all climbed into his car and asked, “Who was that?”

“No one!” said Angel, “Besides, I thought I told you not to talk to anyone, you could have been killed!”  Liz was beginning to become annoyed with Angel’s tone, she had only been polite to the stranger.  Besides she was quite capable of taking care of herself. 

“Listen, all I need is the cross back and then you are free to go back to LA.  Did you get it?”  In response Angel reached in his black leather coat, and pulled out the small black velvet box and tossed it to Liz. 

“Where do we need to go next?” asked Angel, still staring ahead, not looking at anyone else.  Liz opened the little black box carefully, and gazed longingly at the cross.  She wanted those days back, the ones that she and Liam had enjoyed together once so long ago, but she knew they were lost forever.  Sighing, she gently pulled the cross out of the box and put it on.  She felt safe again. 

“Where do we need to go?” asked Angel again, impatiently.  Liz just looked at him, she wasn’t sure what had happened, but it couldn’t have been good. 

Suddenly, a quiet voice from the back seat asked, “Um….where is Cordelia?” it was Fred who asked.  She had noticed Cordelia was missing when they all got out of the car, but with all the excitement with that blonde guy, she forgot to say anything. 

Angel spun around quickly, looked at Fred, “You mean she isn’t here?”  He thought to himself…. ‘now how could I have missed that?’

“No.” replied Fred, “I don’t think she came out of the house with us.  She must still be at Buffy’s.”  Suddenly a new sickness ran through Angel.  If there had been much talking between Cordelia and Buffy in the time that they had been gone, things were going to get ugly for him very soon.

“What?” said Buffy, she still didn’t understand why Cordelia was making this so hard.  How stupid did Cordelia think she was, anyway?  She knew what had gone on between them, he had told her so much when they met. 

“Buffy, what EXACTLY did Angel tell you?” asked Cordelia.  Buffy turned away from her, looking out the window hoping that she wasn’t really going to have to relive that day. 

“Buffy!” said Cordelia once more.  Buffy kept quietly looking out the window, trying desperately to find the right words. 

Finally, she began. “Well, after they brought me back, I knew that the only person who would understand what had happened to me was Angel.  Which is why I called him.  We met at a hotel in Logan, and, I was so glad to see him again.  But things had changed, we both had changed.” Buffy’s voice was quiet and calm, and Cordelia leaned against the counter patiently awaiting the part of the story she knew she wasn’t going to like. 

“I told him how I thought that I had gone to Heaven.  How everything was so peaceful, and how I was so content and happy, and how it felt to be ripped out suddenly and brought back here to this hell.” 

“You were in Heaven?” asked Cordelia, in what she hoped was a supportive voice and not a doubtful one.  Buffy seemed to accept it for what it was.

“I don’t know……not for sure, but everything was perfect, I knew that I was were I was supposed to be.”

“So what did Angel say?” Cordelia asked.  Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath before answering. 

“He said he was really glad to have me back, and that was about it.  He said that he had been brought back from hell to finish his mission, and that must have been why the Powers had allowed me to be brought back as well.  He said that the Powers don’t allow something of that magnitude to be accomplished if they do not need it to be.” 

“So, what does all of this have to do with you being mad at Angel?” asked Cordelia.  So far, she wasn’t understanding what the big fuss was all about.

Buffy hated having to share this with anyone, especially with Cordelia yet she continued, “I said ‘I Love You, please come back to me, I need you,’ and……he just looked at me.  Just looked at me.  Like nothing.  I thought I was going to die right then…..again, after all that, after what I had choked up the courage to say to him, and…..he just looked at me.  No emotion at all.  The pain was unbelievable.  It still is.” 

“Did he say anything else?” asked Cordelia, knowing that she still hadn’t heard the whole story.  This didn’t sound right.

“No, nothing, he just looked at me, like I was some helpless dog that he had no use for anymore, so I…..” Buffy’s words trailed off then.  She wasn’t sure if she could physically do this, actually finish telling Cordelia about what had happened.

“Then you what?” prodded Cordelia.  This was taking longer than she had supposed it would.  And she still didn’t really feel like she was getting any answers. 

“Then I said some things that I shouldn’t have, and so he told me that he had moved on, that things had happened with you and it just wouldn’t work now.” 

Just when Buffy thought she was getting a grip on herself, those feelings came rushing back.  She hated this, hated Cordelia for making her tell her these things, especially since it was because of her in the first place that this was happening.

“He said things had happened between us?” asked Cordelia, beginning to realize now what Angel had done.  She pursed her lips.  This was all becoming way too clear.  God, men were SO stupid….what an idiot Angel was, she thought to herself.  And she was also thrilled that he had decided to drag her into his mess.

“Yes, things.” Buffy repeated, her lip twisted into a little sneer.  The audacity of Cordelia never ceased to amaze her, despite all the experiences she’d had with her back in high school.  Buffy mentally recited the “don’t kill humans” rule over and over in her head. 

“Well,” Cordelia began, “I guess being so deliberately evasive with you did the job.”  God, this was gonna be so intensely awkward….

“I don’t understand.” said Buffy trying desperately to hold back the tears.  What was she saying?  Buffy felt as though things were somehow, impossible as it seemed, getting even worse.  Cordelia seemed to sense this and tried to smooth things out a bit.

“Don’t you see, he said things for a reason.  Nothing intimate has ever happened between us.  Nothing.  Ever.  He just wanted you to think that something had, that way it would make it easy for you to get mad at him and not love him anymore.  He wouldn’t have to worry about you all the time then.  Pretty cowardly but that’s what I think happened.” 

Buffy looked doubtful. 

Cordelia sighed, again, and continued in a voice she had to fight so not to sound too condescending.  It was getting hard to remember to be angry with Angel, not with Buffy, no matter what else was in her heart. 

“The only thing we have shared is our mutual desire to help others, to help those in need.  I have the visions, he goes and saves the day, simple as that.” Cordelia said as she turned and looked away from Buffy, terrified the other girl would see through her at just that moment and know that she wasn’t being perfectly honest. 

She really wanted Buffy to think that it was really that simple.  ‘I did the right thing’ Cordelia thought to herself.  She couldn’t let the real feelings that she was having for Angel show through.  That would help no one.  She knew what she had do.

As the long sleek black car went sliding around the corner of Revello Drive, Liz was beginning to worry.  Still, she just didn’t feel right about asking, so she quietly kept her feelings to herself.  Angel quickly stopped the car in front of Buffy’s house. 

“What are we doing here?” asked Liz.  She was feeling a little out of the loop and it was bothering her, though she would never have admitted it to any of them.  Especially not to Angel.

“Cordelia……she’s, um, still here.  We need her before we can do anything else.” said Angel.  He was still disgusted with himself for not even realizing she was missing.  Fred had actually had to point it out to him.

“I don’t believe that she is necessary for us to accomplish what we came here to do.  We must hurry, I traced Bangola to a large abandoned house at the edge of town.” said Liz.  “He must be stopped before he begins the ritual, we must get the cup!” 

“I have an idea.” said Wesley.   Liz and Angel looked at him immediately.  “I think our best course of action is for Liz, Gunn, and I to go check out the house, see what we can find out about Bangola and his men.  You and Fred can stay here to protect Buffy.”  ‘And explain to Cordelia how we just left without her,’ he added silently. 

Angel just looked at Wesley, and gave a slight nod of agreement.  He certainly wasn’t enjoying the thought of being around Buffy again, especially since the mess he had made had probably only gotten worse while he was gone.  However, he knew it was for the best. 

“Angel, you should probably tell Buffy what is going on.  I mean, tell her why we are really here.  I don’t think she would like it very much if she found out she was being left in the dark.” said Wesley. 

“Been there and done that, and lets just say it wasn’t pretty.  I’ll let her know what is going on, if Cordelia hasn’t already!” said Angel.  

He and Fred got out of the car and wished the others well.  They quietly walked up the stairs of the house, with Angel dreading greatly what he thought was about to happen.  Each step closer to the house was worse than the one before, especially since he knew much of it was his own doing.  ‘Problems you make for yourself always end up worse than ones just forced on you,’ he thought to himself.

Chapter 7 –

Liz gave Wesley directions and the three drove quickly and quietly toward the edge of town.  Wesley pulled over about a block away as to not give Bangola or any of the Palkees members reason to suspect they were being watched. 

“So, why were you picked to take on these Palkees people anyway?” asked Gunn, “I mean I understand the whole Slayer thing, and Angel…..well, he’s a work in progress, but you….”  Gunn trailed off, a champion in avoiding saying things that would be received poorly. 

“Being chosen to fight evil is a very honorable thing.” Liz said in a very heavy Irish accent.  She was beginning to feel strange.  There was something coming.  An entity of some sort was beginning to surround them, she could feel it. 

“We must get out of here now!” she screamed, but it was already too late.  The Palkees had been waiting and watching for her, and they already had the car surrounded.

Angel just stood there looking at the door, trying to decide what he was going to say, but nothing was coming to him…

“Angel?”  They had been standing on the front porch for what seemed like an eternity to Fred. 

“Yeah.” replied Angel.  He knew what she was going to say, he just wanted to pretend for a few more moments that he didn’t actually have to do this.

“Are you gonna knock on the door?” she asked quietly, trying not to upset him.  She kept glancing from Angel to the door and then back to Angel.  Just as he finally raised his hand to knock on the door, it swung open. 

“Angel?”  it was Willow again, “I thought I heard voices out there….uhhh…..come in…..again…..” she paused, unsure of how to explain this next bit to him.  “Cordy…..uh, she’s still here.  She’s in the kitchen with Buffy.” Willow looked at Angel, and then glanced at Fred not having any idea what to say next.   It seemed that no one did.  They all stood there, silently, not wanting to be the first to speak when they all heard what sounded like the theme to some old show tune ringing in the air.  It lightened the mood considerably.  

“Oh, uh, I think your jacket is singing.” said Willow with a small grin on her face as she was then playing the music back in her mind trying to remember what TV show it was from.

“Uh….oh, yeah, ummm just a minute.” said Angel as he dug around in his jacket pocket trying to find his cell phone.  Finally he pulled the phone out of his pocket, “Yeah.”  He answered.  Fred raised her eyebrows at Angel’s not so vivacious phone greeting.

“Angel?  Where are you?”  the caller said.

“Cordelia?” asks Angel. 

“Yes it’s me, where are you?” 

“I’m in the living room.”  Angel answered.

“You’re where?” asked Cordelia as she looked through the kitchen doorway to see Angel on his cell phone glaring back at her.  She hurridly hung up the phone and walked into the living room. 

“What?” asked Angel.  Obviously the next drama was going to start sooner than later, he realized with a sigh. 

“Listen, I don’t know what your problem is, but I don’t appreciate you dragging me into the middle of it!” said Cordelia in what was very loud for what she intended to be a whisper.  

“What are you talking…” Angel began, but was interrupted by Cordelia. 

“You know exactly what I’m talking about!  You told Buffy that we….that we….well, you know, did things!” said Cordelia in a huff.   Angel turned and looked toward the kitchen and saw Buffy standing in the doorway watching him with tears slowly flowing down her face.  He took a step in her direction, but stopped as he saw her back away.  He turned back to Cordelia. 

“What did you say to her?”  he asked, instantly regretting it.

“I think the better question is what did YOU say to her!” snapped Cordelia, looking at him incredulously.  “I can’t believe that after all of this time you would just lie to her like that and to top it all off, you drag me down with you!” 

Angel just stood there looking at Cordelia, feeling a sickness growing over him.  He knew that Cordelia was right.  The feelings that he had for Buffy were still there.  He knew they were never going to go away, they were soul mates, they both knew that…… but a relationship with her was impossible right now.  A relationship that she deserved, anyway. 

But Cordelia, it was a different situation.  He had grown so close to her, and he was beginning to have feelings for her.  These were more than just the appreciation and admiration that the others felt for her, he finally admitted to himself.  He was beginning to have true thoughts of love for her, more than he had wanted to admit to himself before, let alone anyone else, especially her.

“I think you need to talk to Buffy, and get this mess straightened out, now!” said Cordelia.  Angel just looked at her.  “Now!” she harped at him again. 

“Did you mention….” Angel lowered his head to Cordelia’s ear and whispered, “Connor?” 

Cordelia pulled away and turned and said, “Are you nuts?  I’m not telling her about that!  That’s your issue, Mister!” and off she went to join Willow and Fred back in the living room. 

Angel lowered his head and walked into the kitchen, only to find that it was empty.  Buffy wasn’t there.  He walked to the back door and opened it to find Buffy leaning against the railing with her face in her hands still sobbing at what she had been told and because of what she knew she must confess.

“Uhhh, what are we supposed to do now?” asked Gunn as he surveyed the very large men who were slowly walking toward their car from all sides. 

“Listen, I can transport us out of her, but you must hold my hands, and not do or say anything while this is taking place, do you understand?” asked Liz.  “I have transported one other being before, never two, so this will take some concentration.” 

Gunn and Wesley quickly grabbed Liz’s hands and both closed their eyes and quietly thought to themselves how they hopped she could get them out of there. 

“Okay.” said Liz.  Gunn and Wesley opened their eyes to find themselves standing in front of Buffy’s house once more. 

“Couldn’t you have just gotten us the rest of the way in?” asked Gunn in a slightly miffed tone. 

“I have not been invited in, so this is the best that I could do.” replied Liz, in a somewhat more dry tone than they were used to. 

“Oh right, vampire thing, sorry I forgot.” said Gunn. 

“Vampire thing?  What vampire thing?  Who are you?” they heard from behind them.  As they turned around only one of them recognized the speaker. 

“Xander.” said Wesley.  They eyed each other uneasily for a moment.

“Oh god, Wesley has been turned into a vampire, get in the house!” shrieked Xander. 

“Xander, I’ve not been turned into a vampire.”  Wesley sighed.  “She’s the vampire.” he replied as he pointed to Liz. 

“Great, another lady vamp that will kick your….” Anya began, walking up to them with Dawn.  Xander shut his eyes for a moment, gritting his teeth in frustration before interrupting her with a stern “Shhhh!”

“You know this guy?” asked Dawn.  She didn’t seem very impressed.

“Yes, he was….a watcher, like Giles.” replied Xander as he looked at Wesley with a smirky grin on his face, obviously mentally rehashing the lack of glory accompanying Wesley’s brief tenure as Buffy’s new watcher.

“Who is that?” Wesley asked as he pointed to Dawn.  

“I’m Buffy’s sister, Dawn.  And don’t point at me.  It’s rude” retorted Dawn in perfect teen tone. 

“So who are you?” asked Anya directing her question to Gunn. 

“Gunn.” he replied, “I am an associate.” 

“So you both work for Angel?” asked Xander. 

“Yeah.” said Gunn. 

“But I’m still not understanding who she is.” said Xander, gesturing towards Liz. 

“I’m Elizabeth Connors, but you may call me Liz.”  Seeing the blank stares that were the only response, she continued.  “I was a friend of Liam’s many years ago.” She paused, anticipating the next batch of questions by these seemingly self-appointed protectors of Buffy and all things Sunnydale. 

“Who’s Liam?” was the question asked in unison by Xander, Anya and Dawn. 

“She is referring to Angel.” said Wesley. 

“Oh, but then you’re the vampire?”  asked Dawn. 

“Yes, I am sorry to be so rude to you nice people, but it is of great urgency that we speak with Angel immediately.  He is in this home protecting The Chosen One at this very moment.  May we go in to speak with him?” Liz asked. 

“Now listen here Miss Irish Accented Over Dressed Undead Lady, why would we invite you into Buffy’s house if you are a vampire?  Why would you even be around Angel unless he is….  He’s evil again isn’t he?” asked Xander as he threw his hands up in the air in disgust. 

“Angel is not evil again.  We are here on a mission.  We are here to help Liz.  She has a soul, like Angel.” replied Wesley.

“Ohhhhhhh……A soul.  Like Angel.  Okay…”  Xander seemed at a loss for words.  Anya put her arm around his shoulder and comforted him.

“You were very masculine and intimidating.  I found it arousing.”  she said in her inimitable “too loud to be a whisper’ voice.  Xander grit his teeth and sighed again.

“Buffy?”

There was that beautiful voice that she had missed so much, the voice she had almost resigned herself to never hear again.  Yet she could only continued to stand and sob into her hands.

‘How could she have been so mean to him? How would he ever forgive me for the things that I said to him,…..or the things I’ve done since?’ were the thoughts that kept running wildly through her head. 

“Buffy, are you okay?” asked Angel.  The concern in his voice was so real, so tangible, that it shook her to her very being.  Buffy turned slowly towards Angel, and looked up at him with tears welling in her eyes.  His eyes met hers, and then he put his arms around her and pulled her close to him. 

“Angel,” she started to say but couldn’t finish. 

“Shhhh, its okay Buffy.  Everything will be okay.” he said.  In a flash, she pushed him away and looked down at the floor.  She backed away, shaking her head and trembling.

“No, it isn’t okay, and everything isn’t…..” Buffy began in a hysterical voice.  Before she could continue, Angel slowly pulled her close once more, and brought one finger up and pressed it softly against her lips to quiet her. 

“I should have never said….I just wanted to help you move on.” Angel began, “I knew that it wasn’t a good time for us, not yet anyway, that’s why I said…implied that Cordy and I were, had….I’m so sorry.”  This was hard for him, yet he wanted to ease the pain he’d caused her.

“Angel, I….I’m sorry…..” Buffy’s words trailed off as she spied a slender figure peering out from behind a tree in the distance. 

“I….I….I need to go back in.” she said quickly, Slayer Buffy taking over. 

“Okay, but I have to talk to you, there are some things you need to know about.” said Angel.  Buffy nodded her head and Angel followed her inside.  She quickly closed the door and quietly, so as not to alarm Angel, clasped the lock to keep out, or at least make it more difficult for any uninvited party to get in.

Angel and Buffy headed through the kitchen, toward the living room.  Then the front door opened, and Dawn walked in, leading the way. 

“Dawn.” said Buffy, in a surprised sounding voice.  “Uh, your back?  I thought you all went to the movies.” 

“Yeah, some kind of funky odor running rampet through the theater, so they closed up for the night.  We found some of Angel’s friends standing out front though.” said Dawn turning to look behind her.  “Come in.” she said. 

“Friends?” asked Buffy, as she watched Wesley, Gunn and Liz walk in with Anya and Xander coming in behind them. 

“Wesley.” said Buffy.  Fred rushed from the couch to greet Gunn, she was beaming with excitement that he had made it back, in one piece. Angel turned to Wesley.

“You weren’t gone very long, what did you find out?” he asked. 

“Well, the Palkees Tribe has definitely made that abandon house their working point.” said Wesley. 

“Yeah.” said Gunn, “We pulled up about a block from the house and like ten seconds later, we were surrounded by ‘em.  Liz got us out of there though.”  

Buffy looked over at the girl he was referring to.  An immediate feeling of distrust and dislike came over her.  Liz came closer to Buffy, staring in a way not common in polite society.

“Is this The Chosen One?” she asked, walking slowly around Buffy, observing her closely as she did.  

“Yeah…” said Buffy as she cautiously watched Liz. “I’m the Chosen One.  Who are you?  Why do you want to know?”  

Angel broke in quickly, seeing the potential for more extreme awkwardness as the best possible outcome and extreme bloodshed as the worst.

“Buffy, this is Liz.  She is an old friend…”

“A really old friend.” added Anya. 

Angel glared at Anya for the interruption before continuing.

“of mine.” 

“And?” asked Buffy as she looked at Angel.  She was feeling less hostessy by the second here. 

“And I’m here to prevent Bangola and his followers from using the…..” Liz was cut short by Buffy.

“Bang who?  Angel, what is she talking about?  Friend of yours?  What is going on?” Buffy looked expectantly at Angel. 

He sighed, pausing before blurting out the rest.

“That was what I needed to talk to you about.  I came here as a favor for Liz, to help her.”  He tried to gauge Buffy’s reaction.  She seemed nonplussed, but the furrow lines in her forehead were starting to appear.

“Liz is a friend of Angel’s, she’s a vampire too, but neither of them are evil, at least that is what Wesley said.” Dawn said, trying to help, now that the tension in the room had reached suffocating levels.  It seemed that she wasn’t the only one not directly involved in the conversation who found the alternative option of absolutely anything else more appealing.

Xander cleared his throat.

“You know Buff, this place is beginning to get a little crowded.  I know how you hate parties…..so…..I think Anya and I are just going to head home.  Yeah.  You can call us if you need anything.  Okay?” he called as he ushered Anya toward the front door. 

“Uh, yeah, that’s fine.” said Buffy, still standing and staring quite intently at Liz.   Xander shot the others in the room a look of “good luck” before bolting out the door.

“Listen, I’m tired, and you guys apparently have a lot to talk about, so I’m just going to go to bed.” said Dawn.  

“Sure.” replied Buffy, still not taking her eyes off of Liz. 

As Dawn walked toward the staircase, she quickly hugged Angel, and whispered in his ear, “I’m glad your back.”  He gave her a strange little smile, but that was all she needed.  She knew things would be better now.

Buffy looked strangely at Angel as she watched Dawn go up the stairs and out of sight.  Angel just shrugged his shoulders, not exactly sure what Dawn meant, nor even sure if he wanted to know.  There were much more important things to worry about, and he was just about to be reminded.  

“What is that?” Buffy said in a very demanding voice.  Everyone in the room looked at her. 

“What the hell are you doing with that on?” Buffy looked straight at Liz, eyes flashing.  Liz could tell that she was ready to pounce on her, but Angel grabbed her arm before she could lunge at her. 

“Buffy….” Angel began but Buffy interrupted, “You gave the cross to her?  I thought you needed it for business?  I can’t believe this!”

Chapter 8 –

Just when things were beginning to go his way, it was back to the same ‘ol thing. 

‘I can’t believe that bint!  I can’t believe that after everything I’ve done for that girl she goes runnin’ back to him!’ Spike thought to himself as he walked back to his crypt.  Pausing at the door, he took out his cigarettes and lit one.  He shook out the match as a smile spread across his handsome face.

“Well, we’re done playin’ kick the Spike.  Now Spike is gonna play kill the Slayer!’   She’s playin’ out of her league on this one.  Thinks she can play both sides of the fence an get away with it, well not bloody well likely.”  He inhaled deeply on the cigarette.  “I think it’s time for me and bot boy to have our final words.”  Spike flicked his cigarette into the night air and sauntered off.

“Listen, I told you we needed to talk, and this is why!” said Angel, now becoming quite agitated.  This was getting worse by the minute.  Communicating with women was impossible. 

“You wanted to talk to me about her?” asked Buffy. 

“Would you just shut up for a minute!  Liz is….was a close friend of mine, and she has asked me to help her.” said Angel. 

“How about we just cut to the chase here, people.” said Cordelia.  “I mean, I really love all this chit chat, but come on, I’d really like to get this over with.”  Shooting one of her classic dry looks at Angel and Buffy she rolled her eyes and continued.

“So, here it is……Angel and Liz loved each other once upon a day, her parents took her away having been foretold of Angel’s demise, he lets Darla turn him into a vamp, yada, yada, yada, he finds Liz and turns her, she doesn’t lose her soul, he gets pissed, he throws her out in the street, she goes back to Ireland to learn her ancestry, and ends up finding her destiny!  What did I leave out?  Oh, her parents gave her the sacred cross amulet that will protect her, Angel takes it away when he turns her but saves it and gives it to you, not knowing exactly what it is.  Liz hunts him down to get it back so she can fight Bangola, and that in turn will save your ass from permanently leaving this plane as a sacrifice to the gods from the Palkees Tribe because in order for them to release their ancestors unto this world, the Palkees have to fill the Cup of Reverence with the blood of the Chosen One and let’s see, that would be you!” said Cordelia, now gasping for breath. 

“Oh.” said Buffy.  “You know, if you just would have said so…”

“Where’s robo man?” asks Spike as he walked down the stair’s of Warren’s house.  He saw only Jonathan, the wonder boy, sitting there dusting off one of the myriad geek artifacts displayed on a coffee table.

“Uh…..” was the only reply he could get out of Jonathan, but before he had to resort to alternate methods of interrogation he heard Warren coming down the stairs.  Totally oblivious to their guest, he started to speak. 

“Hey guys, you’ll have to check this one out…,” He paused, seeing the look on Jonathan’s face.  Turing around, behind him he saw Spike standing there, looking amused.  As usual.

“What do you want?”  Warren didn’t want to let Spike think he was intimidated. 

“Guess what, Mr. Fett……It is time to play doctor!” drawled Spike.  Warren’s face blanched.

“Listen, I thought we….” Warren didn’t have time to finish as Spike cut him off.

“We did have an agreement friend, but my end of the bargain has now come and gone, and I’m ready for you to fix this little bug those pesky government types put in my head.” 

“But…” Warren began.

“But nothing!  I got you plenty of face time with the Slayer.  She wouldn’t have been out to patrol all those times if it hadn’t been for me, so you see, you owe me now!  Just get whatever you need because it’s about time to play Operation.” 

“You know Spike, things have changed a bit for me.” replied Warren. 

“Oh they have, have they?” asked Spike with a bit of amusement in his tone. 

“Yeah, things have changed, and I don’t think I’ll be removing or deactivating anything of yours, anytime soon.” said Warren with a sense of authority. 

“Well, you know what friend?  We can go ‘bout this the easy way, or you can come with me and my friends, and we can do this the hard way!” said Spike.  He put his fingers in his mouth and let out an ear-splitting whistle.  Warren looked up to the top of the stairs to see two angry looking Kalthon demons standing there.

“We really should be deciding on a plan of attack.  Those Palkees dudes sniffed us out quick.” said Gunn. 

“Gunn’s right, we need to have a plan.”  said Wesley.  “Liz….do you know anything else about these people that might be of some help?” he asked.  She paused.

“Well, I could sense a lot of Merhandra energy.” said Liz. 

“What is Merhandra energy?  I’m not familiar with that term.” asked Wesley. 

“Oh, I know….Merhandra energy is mental energy, it is what reader’s or seer’s use.  Oh the Merhand demon, I guess that is where it gets its name huh?” said Willow.  Liz smiled and nodded at Willow in agreement. 

“Wow Will, knower of much info you are!” replied Cordelia.  Willow blushed.

“Yeah well, just ran across that one the other day in 6th Century Demonology, and it kind of stuck with me.” said Willow. 

“So, we know it has a lot of the mental mojo going on, so what can we do about that?” asked Gunn. 

“Well, mental energy has the same waves as energy of other sorts…radio waves, sound waves, you know, so if we could scramble the molecular signal that they used to locate their prey, maybe we would have a chance.” said Fred. 

“A chance at what?” asked Cordelia. 

“An ambush.” said Angel.  Gunn smiled at Fred and at that moment couldn’t have been prouder of his girlfriend, ‘she is so damn smart’ he thought to himself.

“Well, since you put it like that.” replied Warren. 

“Yeah, I’m puttin’ it like that!  Get your gear and lead the way ‘cause Spike is tired of bein’ tame!” said Spike. 

“But Warren, you can’t just….” Jonathan began but Warren just glared at him, and he went quiet. 
“Lay down here, on this table.” instructed Warren. 

“Now what ‘r you gonna do?” asked Spike.  He wanted to be sure this git knew what he was about, after all.  Didn’t want him messin’ up his brain.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about this since our meeting, and have decided that the best course of action would be to reduce the waves being received through the proton charged core.” said Warren. 

“What?” asked Spike.  The dirty look he shot Warren made it quite clear that layman’s terms would be preferred during this conversation. 

“Well, it would be like erasing a cassette tape with a magnet.  You know, erasing the information in the chip that allows it to control your behavior.  You’ll have like a clean slate so to speak.” replied Warren. 

“Cool.” was the reply from Spike, and he settled down on the table eager to become his old self.  “Let’s get started.”

“So if we know we need to reduce the Mer-whatever energy, is there like a spell or something that we can use?” asked Buffy.  

“First we need to be able to disassemble their outer field before we can disrupt the signals they take in.” said Liz. 

“Huh?” Cordelia looked blankly at Liz. 

“They have a force field type shield surrounding them, we need to break it down in order to disrupt the signals they read.” said Liz. 

“Will, why don’t you call Xander and Anya and have them meet us at the Magic Shop so we can start researching, maybe there will be some kind of spell in that book that you read.” said Buffy as she calmly gave out instructions.

“No problem.”  Willow gave Buffy a smile.

“If we do find a spell, we will need supplies and more magical power, than I alone possess.  We need another witch” said Liz.  Unconsciously, all eyes turned to Willow.  For a moment she was silent, then smiled and said,

“The Magic Shop will have all the supplies we need, and I’ll go call Tara and she can meet us there.  She’s a pretty powerful witch, she’ll be able to help you.” said Willow.  Buffy inwardly sighed with relief.  ‘Good for you, Will,’ she thought. 

“Cordelia, will you stay here with Dawn?” Buffy asked. 

“Oh…..uhh….sure.” replied Cordelia. 

“Fred, maybe it would be best if you stayed here with Cordelia too, I don’t want anything happening to you.” said Gunn with a small grin on his face.  Fred just shook her head in agreement, matching his dopey lovesick grin and gave him a quick kiss before she turned and walked to the living room to join Cordelia.  She was happy to stay out of the way, she wasn’t much for demon fighting anyway. 

“Wesley, Gunn you take Willow and make your way to the Magic Shop.  Liz, you can go with them too.  And Angel, you need to come with me.” said Buffy.  “We’ll need to hurry, it will be daylight in a couple of hours, so we’ll need to move so we can set up at the shop.”

“So how we doin’ back there mate?” asked Spike as he lay face down on the table.  He was so excited to think of what he’d soon be able to do that he could barely hold himself still. 

“Well, according to the x-ray, the chip is located in the inner cerebral cortex and attached to about a thousand nerve endings.” replied Warren. 

“And?” asked Spike. 

“And that means that it is going to take a bit longer with the proton neutralizer than I had anticipated.”  said Warren. 

“Now if you are back there just screwin’ with me the way that government doc did, then I’m gonna have to have my boys hurt you.” warned Spike. 

“Oh, no.  I’m just saying that it isn’t going to be like, one zap and you’re done.  This may take about a half an hour or so.”  said Warren. 

“Yeah, whatever, just get your little zappin’ thing goin’ ‘cause I’ve got some business to attend to when this is over.” was Spike’s reply.  He was bored with the details.

“Okay, here it goes.” said Warren. 

“Now be careful with the hair!  I got a lot of time invested in it, make sure you don’t mess it up!” said Spike. 

“Not to worry my peroxide buddy, everything will be back to normal in a little while.”  Warren sing-songed as he charged up the proton neutralizer.

“I hope they hurry.” said Willow as she, Wesley, Gunn and Liz stood waiting patiently outside of the Magic Shop. 

“Anya is the owner of this establishment now?” asked Wesley.  He’d been trying to catch up on the Sunnydale happenings while they waited. 

“Well, not exactly, she is just sort of running it while Giles is in England.” Willow told him. 

“So why did Giles decide to go back to England anyway, I can’t imagine there being anything there for him now?” asked Wesley. 

“Well, he mostly decided to go when Buffy died…..he was having a hard time dealing with her death, so he left.  I guess he figured that there wasn’t much more for him to do here.” Willow said quietly. 

“Buffy died?” asked Liz.  No one had mentioned this to her.

“Yeah, long story, but she saved Dawn’s life by doing it.” said Willow. 

“So you performed the ritual that brought her back?” asked Gunn, trying to make a little small talk with his new acquaintance.  The look on Willow’s face at this question made him stammer,

“Uh, I mean, look…..I’m sorry…” he sputtered out helplessly.

“Yeah, but my magic kind of got out of control after that, so I’m taking it easy now, you know, kind of wiccan rehab.”  She bit her lip for a second.  Brightening up, she added, “But if there is any magic to brew, Tara is the wicked wiccan witch to call!” She smiled, just as she did every time she thought of Tara.  

“Okay guys, just so you know, you have to pay for everything you take.  You know that right?” asked Anya as she and Xander approached Willow and the others. 

“Anya!” said Xander in a stern voice.  Sometimes he really wished there was a time delay on his girlfriend, like they had for live TV.

“So what’s up?  Do we have some heavy researching to do?” he asked, eager to help. 

“Yes.  We need to find as much information as we can on the Palkees Tribe, and the Merhandra energy that they use.  Also any information on the Merhand demons would probably also be beneficial.” said Wesley. 

“Where’s Buffy?” asked Xander. 

“She should be here soon.  She needed to talk to Angel about something first.” replied Willow.

“Listen, I know that things haven’t been so smoothly with us lately, but I hope you know that I’d never come here just to hurt you.” said Angel as he and Buffy walked alone down the street toward the Magic Shop. 

“I know.”  she said quietly.  She sighed, stopping in the street for a moment.  “I’ve just been a little crazy lately, with trying to keep Dawn out of trouble and with work and everything I just jumped to a lot of bad conclusions back there.  That’s really why I wanted to talk to you alone.  I wanted you to know that I was sorry.” she continued.  “I’ve not always had the opportunity to tell people that when I needed to.”  Angel pulled her closer, wanting to be sure that not only did she hear what he was about to say, but that she believed it. 

“I want you to know that nothing has ever happened between me and Cordelia.” He paused, he really did love her, as much if not more than he ever had.  As he looked into her eyes, he simply had to tell her everything.  “I…I just said that to make you think….I wanted your new chance at life to be better.  Free from me weighing you down, for you to get over me and have a chance at a relationship with someone that can be there for you.  I thought it was the only way.” he said.  Buffy turned away and began to walk again.  She new she was going to have to tell him, but this wasn’t the right time. 

“I understand.  We all say and do things that we think is for the benefit of others, and sometimes it just doesn’t work right.  All is forgiven, we just need to get to the shop and help the others.” she said.  She flashed him her best smile.  

“Right.” Angel agreed as he followed her.  He’d decided to keep his other news to himself for now.   He wanted to tell her the truth about everything, including Connor, but it wasn’t right, not now, ‘I’ll wait until this is finished.’ he thought to himself.

   “Okay.” said Warren. 

“Okay, what?” asked Spike. 

“Okay, as in okay, you’re done.” replied Warren.  Spike was quiet for a second. 

“You’d better pray that you did it right.” said Spike. 

“Or what?” snapped Warren.  “It isn’t like you’d be able to hurt me if it doesn’t work.” 

“I may not, but why do you think I brought my friends along for!  They’d be happy to break your neck right now!” replied Spike smiling sweetly. 

“Listen, there’s nothing to worry about.  Everything went as planned, so there’s no need to be all mean and big man threatening about this.” said Warren.  Spike sat up on the table, adjusting his coat so it would be just right. 

“Now, lets see, who shall I try my old self out on? ….You, come here!” Spike said as he pointed to Jonathan.  Jonathan got up, stumbling as he backed away from Spike. 

“Hey! Now you promised not to touch any of us, if we helped you.” said Warren. 

“I just want to see if I can hurt him.  It’s not like I want to eat him or anything.” explained Spike as he motioned for the two Kalthon demons to bring Jonathan to him.    The look on  Jonathan’s face was priceless.  God, Spike thought to himself, he’d missed this so much.  He pulled his right arm back, and with one swift blow, Jonathan was on the floor, and no blinding headache appeared.  Spike grinned. 

“Well all right then.” said Spike.  “Looks like you three book types may get to see the light of another day after all.”  Spike turned to the two Kalthon demons, “Let’s go boys, we have some business to attend to.”  Warren quickly helped Jonathan back up off the floor as they watched Spike and the others climb the stairs and head out toward an unsuspecting populace.

“Xander, see if you can find a book called ‘Demons of the Mind,’  it should have something in it on the Merhand demons.” said Willow as she read down through a list of books that Giles had left.  “Anya, do you know where ‘Magicks of the 6th Century’ is?  I know I saw it somewhere.” Willow continued as she began giving out instructions to everyone. 

“Willow is it?” asked Liz. 

“Yeah.” Willow replied. 

“Your friend will be here wont she?  I really do need the extra help.” said Liz.

“Oh, don’t worry, Tara will be here.” replied Willow trying to sound confident, and as she said that the front door opened. 

“Willow?”  called the familiar voice that she loved to hear so much. 

“Tara!  That’s Tara now, I told you she would be here.” said Willow as she ran to the door to greet her friend.  Willow took Tara by the hand and led her to the large table at the back of the store where her new friends were gathered.  “Tara, this is Wesley, Gunn and Liz.  Liz is Angel’s friend that I told you about.  She’s the one that needs your help.”  Tara took a seat next to Liz and asked,

“Wh…what do you need me to do?”

“What do you think they are going to do, about that Bangola creature?” asked Fred. 

“Oh, I don’t know.  Hopefully they will find some kind of spell in those books. Those are Giles’ books you know.  You would have liked Giles.” said Cordelia as she smiled to herself.  She would have never let him know how much she admired him, but she did and she missed him not being around when things were going wrong.  “He was a very smart guy, but not quite as stuffy as Wes can be at times.”  Fred just smiled as she walked slowly around the room looking at all the pictures of Buffy and her family. 

“Did I ever tell you about…” Cordelia was about to tell Fred more stories from the past when a noise startled them.  There was a loud bang on the kitchen door.  Cordelia and Fred rushed to the kitchen to see what had happened.  The back door had been kicked in and Spike stood in the doorway, a wicked grin on his face. 

“Hey, you can’t come in here like that!” said Cordelia. 

“Oh but I can luv.  You see the Slayer has let me in….and I don’t just mean into her house!” replied Spike, winking at Fred and Cordelia. 

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” asked Cordelia. 

“Where…is…she?” spat Spike as he peered over Cordelia’s shoulder trying to get a glimpse of the one he had came after.  “I want the Slayer!” 

“She’s not here, Spike.” said Dawn who had been woken up by the loud noise and wandered into the kitchen to see what was going on. 

“I’m just going to ask this one more time.  Where is she!” Spike repeated his demand again, this time with a more evil tone to his voice.  Dawn narrowed her eyes at Spike.  Something wasn’t right. 

“Dawn go back to your room.” said Cordelia. 

“I don’t have to do what you say.  I don’t even know who you are!” replied Dawn in defiance. 

“I’m a friend of your sister’s, and you need to go back to your room and stay there.” said Cordelia, now becoming panicked.

“Spike can’t hurt you.  He has some kind of chip in his head.  He just likes to try and scare people sometimes.  Don’t you Spike?” said Dawn.  She waited for his friendly cavalier smile to come and replace this new one.  She felt her heartbeat start to race. 

“I’m not here just to scare anyone ‘bit.  I need a word with your big sis, well actually I need a few words with her but that’s really a matter of semantics.” replied Spike. 

“She’s taking care of something important, you’ll have to talk to her later!” said Dawn. 

“I don’t think later will do.  I think you are going to tell me where she is right now!” said Spike as he vamped out.  Dawn stood motionless, staring at his face.  She’d seen his vamp face before but only when it was in defense of her or one of the Scoobies.  This was different.  

“I think it is time for you to leave now.  You will just have to….to talk to Buffy another time.  Like when she’s home.” said Cordelia as she gave Spike a great big push out the door and slammed it quickly to try and keep him out.  She didn’t have time for this crap.  ‘Freak,’ she muttered.  Still, she wanted to try and stay calm, she didn’t need Dawn and Fred to realize how unsure of herself she actually was. 

“What are we going to do?” asked Fred. 

“Dawn, call Buffy, she’s at the Magic Shop.  Hurry!” said Cordelia.  Dawn dialed the phone frantically, now completely scared of Spike.  The fact that she trusted him and saw him as a friend and now felt so scared of him troubled her.

“Hello. Magic Box.” said Anya annoyingly into the phone. 

“Anya, Anya this is Dawn.” 

“Dawnie I thought you were supposed to be sleeping!” said Anya.  She wanted to practice this “tell the young human what to do’ thing for the future and relished any opportunity to do so with Dawn, to the younger girls consternation.

“Anya!  Tell Buffy that Spike is here, and he’s…..” Dawn didn’t have time to finish.  All Anya heard after that was a shrill scream through the phone. 

“Who was that?” asked Willow. 

“It was Dawn.  Spike was there.” said Anya. 

“Great, all we need is that bonehead getting into the middle of things.” muttered Xander as he looked up from his research book.  Anya made a face. 

“No…..I think something was wrong.  I mean I think something is wrong with Spike.  Dawn said to tell Buffy that he was there and that he’s, and then she screamed and the phone went dead.” said Anya.  Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up.  Looks of concern flashed across everyone except Liz’s face. 

“You don’t think…” said Willow as she looked at Xander.  She didn’t even want to say it.
“That he’s found a way to de-chip himself.  Well, I wouldn’t put it past him.”  said Xander. 

“Fred!  Did Dawn say anything about Fred or Cordy?” asked Gunn, now becoming very upset at the prospect of his girlfriend being attacked by a vamp. 

“Uh, no, I don’t think so.” replied Anya. 

“What do you mean you don’t think so?” asked Gunn as he stood up from his seat at the table, knocking the chair back on the floor. 

“Hey, don’t talk to my girlfriend like that!” said Xander. 

“Well, MY girlfriend is the one being attacked by something, not yours!  I want to know who this ‘Spike’ is, and what the hell is going on over there!” exclaimed Gunn.

The door to the Magic Shop opened, and Angel and Buffy stepped inside. 

“Buffy!  Something happened!” Willow said as she rushed toward Buffy. 

“What kind of something?” Buffy asked.  In Sunnydale “something” wasn’t anywhere near specific enough. 

“Dawn called.” replied Anya. 

“What did she want?” asked Buffy. 

“Well…..we don’t know….exactly.” Willow said hesitantly.  Buffy just stared at her.  

“So what do you mean she called, but you don’t know what she wanted?” Buffy was now becoming concerned. 

“She said to tell you that Spike was there, and that he was…” Anya’s words stopped there.  No one else said a word. 

“And that he was WHAT?” asked Buffy.  A sick feeling started to grow in her stomach. 

“That is what we don’t know exactly.” said Willow, “The line went dead after that.” 

“But not before I head her scream.” added Anya.  Helpful.  That was good.  Being helpful was a good thing.  Anya thought to herself.  Willow just turned and glared at Anya, as she was trying to avoid telling Buffy about that part of the conversation.  Buffy was confused, Spike had done nothing but protect Dawn.  ‘Why would he hurt her now?  And how could he harm her? It didn’t make any sense.’ she thought to herself.  She stopped herself.  Going into action, she realized that there was no time for deep contemplation, they needed to get to Dawn, and quickly. 

“Run!” shouted Cordelia.  Dawn, Fred and Cordelia raced through the house, and up the stairs to Dawn’s bedroom.  Cordelia slammed the door as quickly as she could and flung all of her weight against it.  But the strong fists of Spike’s were quickly busting through the door.  They could hear him laughing.

“Go!  Get out of here!  Fred take Dawn through the window, hurry!” Cordelia said, trying not to be too loud and risk Spike hearing her, as she leaned against the door trying to keep him out. 

“What about you?” asked Fred.  She looked terrified. 

“Don’t worry about me, just get out of here.  Try to find Angel and Buffy.” said Cordelia, “Go!”  Fred and Dawn looked at each other and then at Cordelia before heading to the window and opening it quietly.  Cordelia mouthed “GO!” again at them and they ducked out into the night.  In a matter of moments they were on the lawn.

“Come on, this way.” said Dawn as she led Fred down the street and through a neighbor’s yard.  Fred looked back toward the house one more time, hoping Cordelia would be able to hold Spike off, before turning and running after Dawn.

  “I have to go to Dawn.” said Buffy, now fully panicked at the thought of all the unpleasant scenarios the situation presented.  She headed toward the door.

“I’ll go with you.” Angel said, following her. 

“Buffy, is there anything we can do?” asked Willow. 

“Stay here and keep researching, and if you hear from Dawn again tell her that we’re on our way.” replied Buffy. 

“I’m going too!” said Gunn, running to catch Angel and Buffy as they opened the door, “I’m not letting some Spike creep hurt Fred.  Or Cordy for that matter.” 

“Fine, just come on.” said Buffy, as the three ran through the front door and down the street.  The door slammed behind them with the familiar jingle of bells and Xander and Anya, Willow and Tara looked at each other, all thinking the same thing.  Liz said nothing at all.

Chapter 9 –

“Go Away!” Cordelia shouted as she struggled to keep the door closed.  She was getting tired and sore as the door pounded into her back over and over. 

“I ain’t goin’ anywhere until I talk to the Slayer!” Spike shouted back as he drove his fist through the door once more, barely missing Cordelia’s head. 

“She’s not here, and obviously if you need to resort to measurers like these, she doesn’t want to talk to you….Now leave!”  cried Cordelia but it was too late.  With one last swift kick, the door flew open, and Cordelia was thrown across the floor.  Dazed for a moment she saw him in the doorway.  Obviously the door attack hadn’t slowed him down in the least.  She hurriedly scrambled to her feet and grabbed the small lamp that was sitting on Dawn’s desk. 

“If you come any closer, I’ll…..” Cordelia warned, hoping she sounded more intimidating than she felt.  She’d seen him fight Angel, and while Buffy had certainly slapped him around a few times, Cordy wasn’t quite the superhuman fighter. 

“You’ll what luv?  Throw that at me?  You’ll attack me with a leopard spotted lamp?  That thing’s so flimsy I’m surprised it didn’t break when you picked it up.” Spike taunted.

Cordelia surveyed the room, trying to find a way to escape. 

“Oh, I don’t think so pet.” said Spike as he watched Cordelia’s eyes scan across the room, “There’s nowhere left to run my pretty.  It’s just you and me.” He locked his eyes on Cordelia and walked slowly and deliberately towards her.  Suddenly he stopped, “Hey, wait a minute!  Where’d the ‘lil bit go, and that other lovely?”  He looked around the room, taking his eyes off of this catch. 

‘It was now or never’ she decided, and so with as much strength as she could muster, Cordelia swung the lamp and smashed it on the side of Spike’s face.  He was knocked back, a bit off balance, as he was not expecting the strike.  Cordelia made a dash for the window. 

“Bloody hell!” said Spike as he grabbed the side of his face.  He laughed a little to himself.  He didn’t think that she had it in her, that one.  He remembered her being all posh and hand flailing.  Never thought she’d actually hit him.

“Ouch!” cried Dawn as she slowed to a stop in the middle of the street. 

“Are you okay?” asked Fred, now almost completely out of breath from running. 

“I think so, I must have stepped on something.” replied Dawn breathing as heavily as Fred was. 

“How much further?” Fred asked.  She hoped it wasn’t far.  She thought she’d gotten the ‘non-demon fighting’ assignment for tonight and was still a little overwhelmed by what had happened and how out of the blue it had been.

“I’m not sure, but we have to hurry!” said Dawn as she continued to lead the way down the street, limping as fast as she could. 

“If that dead Sonofa…. lays a hand on Fred, that’ll be the last thing he ever does!”  shouted Gunn as he tore down the street following Angel and Buffy. 

“She’s close.” shouted Angel.  He stopped for a moment and looked off into the night. 

“Dawn?” asked Buffy, as she followed Angel’s glance. 

“Fred!” exclaimed Gunn when he saw Fred and Dawn run into view.  In a second he was clutching her to his chest, inhaling the smell of her hair and murmuring his gratitude that she was safe. 

“Buffy!” cried Dawn, reaching for her sister.  Angel and Gunn glanced around and came to the same conclusion. 

“Where’s Cordelia?” asked Angel as he looked at Fred.  Fred’s eyes shone as she just shook her head. 

“She’s still in the house.  She was holding Spike off so we could escape.” said Dawn as she clung to Buffy, relieved that they were safe now, but worried for Cordelia’s safety. 

“I’ve got to get Cordelia.” said Angel, not stopping for a response from anyone. 

“Did he hurt you?  Did that bastard hurt you?” asked Gunn as he held Fred tightly in his arms. 

“No, but Cordelia.” said Fred as she looked up at Gunn.  She looked down at the ground, shaking her head.  “she’s still there.  Alone with him.”  

“Dawn, what’s wrong with Spike?” asked Buffy.  “I don’t understand what’s happening.  This doesn’t make any sense.” 

“I….I don’t know.  I was upstairs asleep, then I heard this loud bang.  I went down to see what had happened, and saw her and that other lady.  I saw them standing at the kitchen door with Spike yelling about needing to talk to you.” said Dawn as she cried in her sister’s arms, “I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” 

“Gunn, can you take Fred and Dawn back to the Magic Shop?” asked Buffy, “I need to help Angel.” 

“No!” screamed Dawn as she backed away from Buffy, “You can’t leave me.” 

“Dawn, it’s okay.  Gunn will take care of you.  I need to help Angel.” replied Buffy. 

“It will be okay Dawn.  Charles will protect us.” said Fred as she smiled at Gunn, now feeling completely safe with him back by her side.  Dawn looked accusingly at Buffy, but finally nodded her head at her sister, and turned to walk to the store with Fred and Gunn.

“Hey, I think I’ve found something!  Oh, no I found the Palkanees Tribe not the Palkees Tribe.  Why are there so many Palkthings?” said Xander with a hint of disappointment in his voice.  “I feel like I’m researching some kind of breed of dog.” he continued. 

“Just keep looking.” replied Willow, “I’m sure you’ll find something soon.” 

“Do you by chance have ‘Dimensions of Evil’? asked Wesley. 

“Uh, I don’t know.  Anya?” asked Willow, as she looked across the table at her.  

“Let me go check, it could be upstairs.” replied Anya, walking towards the ladder in the back of the store. 

“See if you can also find a book called ‘The Dark Arts of the Underworld,’” Wesley called after her.  To the others he said, “I believe that Merhandra energy has been considered to be one of the dark arts for at least the past two centuries.  Maybe something in the book could give us an idea of how to counteract it.”  He hoped he sounded more hopeful than he felt.

“Oh no you don’t luv.” said Spike as he rushed to grab Cordelia before she made it out the window.  She was halfway out when he grabbed at her, catching her left leg that hadn’t made it out yet. 

“Let go of me!” she shouted as she leaned back on to the roof of the house to try and gain some leverage. 

“Listen missy, if the Slayer’s too busy to talk to me, then I’m just gonna have to leave her a message.” Spike told her as he began pulling her leg back through the window, “And you’re going to be the message!”  He smiled again.  Cordelia knew that her options were now limited, and her only hope was to try and pull Spike out with her. 

“Cordelia!” shouted Angel as he ran quickly down the street.  He could see her on the roof of the house.  Hearing a yell, Spike looked up to see Buffy and Angel running towards them.   Cordelia took this opportunity to act quickly while Spike was distracted and grabbed his black leather coat and pulled as hard as she could.  Caught off guard, he pitched forward and they both went tumbling off the edge of the roof, landing with a giant thud on the grass lawn below. 

“Cordelia!” Angel shouted again as he ran towards her limp body lying twisted on the ground.  Spike jumped up quickly and decided his best bet was to run.  The Slayer he could handle, but with Angel there it would be more difficult.  Besides, they would be to concerned with their friend to waste time on him now.  He took off into the shadows.

“Is she okay?” asked Buffy. 

“She’s still alive, I can hear her heart beating.” replied Angel.  “We have to get her into the house.” Angel continued, as he picked Cordelia up in his arms and carefully carried her inside.

The door to the Magic Shop opened, and at the sound of the bell everyone inside stopped what they were doing to look up. 

“Dawn!” Willow yelled as she scrambled to get up from the table.  The relief etched on her face was comforting to Dawn. 

“Hey Will.” said Dawn as she limped across the room toward her. 

“Your hurt?” asked Willow as she gave Dawn a huge hug. 

“I guess.   I think I stepped on something.  I’ll be fine.” replied Dawn.  Now that she was safe, she felt a little tougher. 

“What happened?” asked Wesley as he walked towards Fred and Gunn. 

“That Spike creep attacked them.  That’s what happened.” said Gunn as he led Fred to the nearest chair to set down. 

“Spike attacked you?” asked Xander.  Anya’s, his, Tara’s and Willow’s eyes all met.  This wasn’t good. 

“Yeah, he kept saying that he wanted to talk to Buffy, and then turned all vampy on us.  It was really weird.  I don’t know what’s wrong with him…..someone must have done something to him….he’d never try to hurt me.  I mean, other than I guess he just did.”  sighed Dawn as she sat down at the table to check the damage done to her foot. 

“May I take a look at your injury?” asked Liz.  She’d been silent for awhile now, not knowing enough about these people and the situation to really feel comfortable saying anything.

“Who’s this?” asked Dawn as she crumpled up her nose at the site of another new person.

“If anything happens to her, I’m going to rip Spike limb from limb!” Angel growled, as he gingerly placed Cordelia on the couch. 

“She’ll be fine, I’m sure she will.” said Buffy.  She didn’t really know what else to say.  First aid wasn’t really her thing. 

“A…Angel?” asked a groggy Cordelia. 

“Shhhh…I’m here.” said Angel, as he grabbed a blanket that was on a chair close by and gently covered Cordelia. 

“What happened?” asked Buffy who was standing closely behind Angel.   Cordelia, with one hand on her head began,

“It was Spike.  He, kicked in the kitchen door……….and when Fred and I went to check on the noise, there he was, just standing there.” 
“What did he say?” asked Buffy, a little too quickly, now very concerned that her secret was out. 

“Buffy!” scolded Angel, as he turned away from Cordelia and gave Buffy a cross look. 

“He said that he wanted to talk to you, and we told him you weren’t there and he got real mad and vamped and…. and then I shoved him out the door and we all ran to Dawn’s room.  I tried to hold him off long enough for them to get out and find you.  Oh God!  Did they find you?” Cordelia started to sit up, frantic now that Dawn and Fred had made it to safety. 

“They’re fine.” replied Angel.  Cordelia nodded, smiling a little, and lay back down.

“I’m Liz, I’m a friend of Angel’s.” Liz said as she bent down in front of Dawn.  “Can I look at your foot?” 

“Oh, I guess that’s okay.” replied Dawn.  Liz reached inside of her dress pocket, and pulled out a bright lavender colored stone and placed on the bottom of Dawn’s foot where she had been cut. 

“Hey!  Ouch!  What?” were the only words Dawn could speak, and then the pain and the cut had disappeared.  Dawn looked at Liz, at the stone, and then back at Liz. 

“Better?” asked Liz, still looking concerned. 

“How’d you do that?” asked Dawn. 

“Ancient Koplanta healing stone.” Liz answered.  She smiled shyly at Dawn. 

“Cool!” said Dawn as she pulled her foot up to take a closer look at it.  Liz heard soft footsteps approaching and turned away from Dawn. 

“I….I’ve read about the Koplanta stones and their healing powers, but I wasn’t sure that they even existed.” said Tara, as she walked toward Dawn and Liz to get a better look.  Dawn proudly showed Tara her now unmarked foot. 

“Oh they’re real alright, just a tad bit hard to come by now days.” remarked Liz.   

“So, where’s Buffy and Angel?” asked Xander.  “They went to get you, right?”

“They went to rescue Cordelia.  She was still in the house with Spike when we escaped.”  Replied Fred.

“Do you think that they got to her in time?” asked Wesley, in a quieter voice than usual.  Willow smiled at him. 

“I’m sure they did.” she said, trying to sound positive.  “I’ll try calling the house.  If they got to her, I’m sure they will be there.  I mean the sun is beginning to come up now, so Angel would have to stay inside.” added Willow.  She got up and walked toward the phone.

“Are you sure you feel okay?” asked Angel.  He looked doubtful.

“I’m fine.  I fell a few feet off the roof, not a few hundred off a cliff, besides there have been worse things happen to me.” replied Cordelia as she sat up on the couch, still holding her head. 

“Do you want some water, or maybe some aspirin?” asked Buffy, trying to be helpful.  She still felt uncomfortable with the “mom” role.

“I’ll be fine, Buffy.  Thanks…. Just give me a couple of minutes.” Cordelia smiled at Buffy. 

“Hey, wait.  So what is Spike’s deal anyway?  He kept saying he wanted to talk to you and when Dawn came in the room she said something about him having a chip in his head and he couldn’t hurt us.  Not that that held true, but still.” said Cordelia. 

“A chip?  What kind of chip?” asked Angel. 

“You remember Riley and his commando pals?” asked Buffy. 

“Yeah.” said Angel hesitantly.  His lip automatically twisted into a mini sneer as he recalled the tall goofy looking guy that had been Buffy’s new interest the last time he had been in Sunnydale. 

“Well, that was part of their job.  The government had this little secret operation going where they captured demons, and did all kinds of freaky experiments on them…. Anyway, one of these experiments is where they would knock out the vamp or whatever and put these chip things in their brains to control their behavior.  They got Spike and put one in him.  After that he couldn’t harm humans anymore.” Buffy said, anxious to see their reactions. 

“Hurt humans how?” asked Cordelia.  “With his lack of fashion sense?  Because I’ll tell you, his style caused me greater pain than falling off the roof.” 

“Like at all!” said Buffy, ignoring Cordelia’s fashionista comment.  “No hitting, no biting, no nothing.” she continued. 

“No biting?” asked Angel with a smile on his face.  The thought of Spike being totally harmless was becoming quite amusing to him.  With Spike’s anti-authority tendencies it must have been brutal for him.  He smiled even wider. 

“Nope, no biting!  Even if he acted like he was going to bite someone it sent these incredibly painful bits of energy into his brain.” added Buffy.  Angel began to laugh, under his breath at first, but the more he thought about Spike being a helpless, hopeless vamp became too much for him and he began to laugh out loud. 

“What’s so funny?” asked Buffy.  The chip was old news now, and other than Xander, the novelty of it had warn off for most of the Scoobies. 

“Spike!  That’s what’s so funny, a vamp that can’t even bite anyone!” burst Angel as he continued to laugh at this amusing thought. 
“Um….Angel.” Cordelia got his attention. 

“Yeah?” Trying to contain his amusement was still really difficult. 

“You can’t bite either.” Cordelia reminded him, in an attempt to be diplomatic about the situation, and remind him of his own bite-less lifestyle.  Angel stopped laughing for a minute. 

“Oh…. urmmm….. yeah, but that’s different.” he said, trying to justify his laughter at Spike.

Suddenly the telephone rang breaking into their mini revelry. 

“I….. uhhhh…… I’ll just go answer that.” Buffy walked over to the phone and picked up the receiver. 

“Hello?”

“Buffy…… Buffy are you okay?  Is Cordelia okay?  What happened to Spike?”  Willow rapidly fired questions at her from the other end of the line. 

“Calm down Will, everyone is fine.”  replied Buffy.  She could hear Willow’s sigh of relief and quick shout to everyone that Cordy was okay. 

“Will?  Did Gunn get back to the shop with Fred and Dawn? she asked.  Buffy had trusted him with her sister, and wanted to be certain that she was safe.  

“Oh yeah, they made it back.  Dawn hurt her foot when they were trying to get away, but Liz fixed it with this neat little stone.” replied Willow.  “It was so cool.” she continued.  Buffy grabbed the opportunity of a mini lull in the conversation to divert Willow back to the topic at hand, sensing a big description of this tone thingy coming on. 

“Listen Will, we’re going to have to stay here until dark.  Can you take care of Dawn until we can get over to the shop?” asked Buffy. 

“Sure, but I could bring her home if you want.” replied Willow. 

“No, just stay there, and be careful.” Buffy paused for a moment.  “Will, I think…. We should remember that just because it’s daylight doesn’t mean we should feel safe.” she continued.  “Not everything bad only comes out at night, right?”

“Yeah.  Good point.  I’ll just keep everyone here and researching, and we’ll see you guys at sundown.”  Willow replied. 

“Good.  We’ll be there as soon as we can.” Buffy said, and hung up the phone.


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