Date written: Sun 26 Aug 2001

Author: Starway Man

E-mail: theop@kew.hotkey.net.au

Disclaimer: The Angel/Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar, Kuzui, WB and UPN; no copyright infringement is intended, and no money is being made from this fanfic.

Main characters: Xander, Angel, Drusilla

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Rayne’s former site for script references, and Nick Midian for his input and advice.

Rating: R-ish (some violence, language and intimate relations)

Warnings: There are some spoilers present for up to BTVS season 6 and Angel season 3, and some character death also present, I’m afraid.

Classification: Action-Adventure, Angst, Alternate Universe

Summary: Amy Madison gets de-ratted by Willow and Tara. Upset at the way her life has turned out, Amy does something about it – which changes everything from 1998 on.

Title: Knightcurse

***

 

Part I: Tempus Fugit

Who in their right mind would have ever suspected that a former demon and a Zeppo, of all people, could have affected the fate of the world so much?

In the latter half of the 21st century a woman named Buffy Anya Harris was born, descended from Alexander Lavelle Harris and his wife, Anya Jenkins-Harris.

And 20 years later, she was the driving force behind permanently closing the mystical portal called the Hellmouth, located in Sunnydale, California in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Amongst other things, this resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of vampires in the world, as well as evil demons and other nasties in general.

Eventually, even the Powers-That-Be smiled in contentment, as the inhabitants of Hell were denied access to their favorite playground and humanity made its world secure.

Yes, the future surely looked grand.

Or so it would have been...

...if two witches, named Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay, hadn’t succeeded in de-ratting a fellow Wiccan named Amy Madison.

***

Sunnydale, California. October, 2001

In a large room, Willow and Tara were surrounded by books, while the rat that was Amy ran around on Willow and Tara’s bed.

"Argh!!" Willow growled, snapping her book shut. "I got nothing here. You?"

Tara looked discouraged. "Me too, o-on the zip factor. How long did you say you’ve been trying to do this?"

The redheaded witch sighed. "Since 1999. God, I can’t believe it’s been over two and a half years already..."

Tara tried to comfort her lover. "I have faith in you. We’ll succeed eventually."

Willow smiled, giving a look of adoration to her beloved blonde companion. Then she turned back to her book, and found a passage that looked interesting...

"Look at this," Willow said, as Tara leaned over. The blonde Wicca looked at the cover of the book, before staring at Willow.

"Uh, ‘The Curses of Hecate’?" asked Tara.

Willow nodded enthusiastically. "That was, like, Amy’s favorite. I think we’re onto something!"

Reading the rest of the passage, the young witch got up and started preparing some herbs and powders. A few minutes later, they were ready to begin.

"Goddess of creatures great and small, I conjure thee to withdraw!" Willow yelled, as her eyes turned black. "Hecate, I hereby license thee to depart!"

The rat on the bed stopped moving, as Tara burned the herbs and powder. "Amy Madison, let thy bondage be ended, and return to thy human form!" the young woman called out.

The rat’s body started to glow with a bright yellow light, and two seconds later turned into the naked brunette form of Amy Madison.

"It worked! It worked! Finally!" Willow yelped, with the unmistakable sound of geeker joy.

***

Even though Amy was initially very confused, the joy of being human again quickly overcame her. "Willow?" she turned to her old friend. "You did it! I’m back!"

They briefly hugged, before Amy realized she was naked and tried to cover herself up. "Oh! Uh...nudity factor here, can I get some clothes?"

"Sure," Tara replied. "You look like mostly my size..."

A bit later, when she was dressed and presentable, the reborn human started peppering Willow with questions. "So what’s the date? And who’s your friend? Uh, and do you happen to know where my father is? And what about..."

"Amy, slow down!" the redheaded witch said. "One thing at a time here."

"She’s right," Tara agreed. "Uh, I’m Tara by the way."

Amy smiled. "Nice to be finally introduced properly," she said to her fellow Wiccan. Tara just blushed, and looked away.

Willow then said, "Uh, Amy? The date...it’s October 26th, 2001."

For the first time, Amy looked shocked. "But that’s...nearly three years?! I’ve been a rat for that long?"

Willow nodded sadly. "And, uh, your dad? He thinks you died. He, he left town ages ago. I dunno where..."

Amy couldn’t help it – she burst out crying. "NO! What-" she spluttered in disbelief.

Willow tried to comfort her, but Amy would have none of it. She then started sniffling and asked the other two witches, "Uh, could you guys give me a few minutes here?"

Willow and Tara nodded. "We, we’ll be at the local Starbucks," Tara stammered, as she and Willow walked out the door.

A short while later, Amy came out of the bathroom, having dried her tears. She still didn’t feel any better, though.

If anything, the young woman felt worse. The brunette was depressed about all the years she had lost along with her father, and basically didn’t know what to do with her life now.

< I didn’t even finish high school, > she thought miserably.

Amy sat down on the bed, and idly started looking through some books. When she suddenly snapped and screamed out loud to herself, "I SHOULD NEVER HAVE GOTTEN INVOLVED WITH WITCHCRAFT!"

The young witch then suddenly stopped, astonished upon hearing her own words. < Is it possible...? >

Amy then rummaged through the book collection furiously, until she found the volume she wanted. The book the young Wicca found was a treatise by Allenstein on the nether realm, a place beyond the physical world.

A place Amy had once visited, as an exercise in astral projection.

A place she could visit again now, to find her past self and convince her never to practice witchcraft...and end up a rat.

A short time later, Amy was sitting cross-legged on the floor and dabbed a streak of red paint on her forehead. The girl knew that what she was about to do was dangerous, but she didn’t care.

The young brunette chanted four times, "The inward eye, the sightless sea...Ayala flows through the river in me..." as a mist of rolling light appeared from her hands, and formed into a circle around her.

Her breathing getting faster and faster, the witch collapsed backwards as the ritual progressed and the light dissipated. Amy was aware that it was completely foolhardy and insane that no fellow Wicca was there to be her anchor, and bring her back if something went wrong.

But then in her current state of mind, it made no difference to Amy Madison if she never came back to this place.

***

In the coffee shop, Willow and Tara were sitting at a table, talking over a cup of decaf.

"You think Amy’s gonna be okay?" asked Tara timidly.

Willow shrugged. "I-I’m not sure," she said honestly. "I mean, it’s like she’s lost so much – especially maybe her father..."

And suddenly, reality blinked.

For maybe two seconds, Willow saw Oz – her werewolf ex-boyfriend, that had left her – sitting there, instead of her lover Tara.

Scared, Willow asked, "Uh, Tara? What...?"

Tara looked like she was freaking. "Willow! I-I thought I was back home with my family, for a second!"

Tara and Willow looked at each other. Then at the same time, both of them said, "Amy..." and rushed out of the shop.

At that moment, at the house located at 1630 Revello Drive, Buffy and Dawn Summers were engaged in one of their sisterly fights.

"Buffy, I did NOT take your sweater!!" Dawn shouted.

"DAWN...!!!" Buffy shouted back at her sibling, in a menacing tone.

Suddenly the younger sister switched tactics, and the brunette teenager smiled in a charming and heart-breaking fashion. "Have I told you lately, how happy am I that you came back from the dead?"

This tactic caught Buffy the vampire Slayer completely off-guard. Ever since her resurrection a few weeks previously, everyone had tried to avoid the topic after the initial celebrations.

After all, dying twice and coming back to life wasn’t exactly your standard idle chitchat.

But whatever cutting reply she had in mind, Buffy never got the chance to voice it.

Because of the arrival of a vampire sired in the 19th century, who had once been a feared killer and was now the laughing-stock of the demon community, on account of a behavior-modification chip placed in his brain by the military.

As the peroxide-blonde demon known as Spike came up from the basement, he said to Dawn, "Nibblet. Don’t even start – that line’s never gonna work with big sis, and we all know it."

The young girl who had once been an ancient form of energy known as the Key groaned, "Spiiiiiiike..."

And then suddenly, Spike vanished.

The tall, dark-haired souled vampire known as Angel was standing there instead, in his place. He looked at the youngest member of the Summers clan and asked, "So, Dawn – how’s school going?"

Dawn and Buffy couldn’t believe what they were seeing. "Angel?" Buffy choked.

The man looked at his beloved, the eldest Summers daughter and asked, "Yeah, Buffy?"

"How did you-?"

And then Angel vanished, and Spike reappeared.

Dawn looked at Buffy and asked in amazement, pointing in Spike’s direction, "Did you just see-?"

The Slayer nodded. "Yeah!" Then she turned to Spike. "Spike! What just happened?"

The blond vamp was almost catatonic. "I, I don’t know," he stammered. "Bugger me if it wasn’t just – it, it felt like I was a...a whole big pile o’ nothingness, or somethin’ for a while there..."

Dawn asked in confusion, "What does that mean?"

Buffy shrugged and said quickly, "We, we’ve got to talk to Giles about this!"

Dawn and Spike looked at one another. "Uh, Buffy," started her sister, "he’s gone back to England now, remember?"

The Slayer looked annoyed. "Right," Buffy frowned, as she remembered about the Englishman’s departure. "Okay. Well, we better get over to the magic shop anyway, try to research this or something."

And with that, the trio set off for the car.

In the central business district of Sunnydale, the ex-vengeance demon now known as Anya Jenkins was busy serving customers at the magic store she had inherited from Rupert Giles – the previous owner, and Buffy’s Watcher gone back to England.

"Have a nice day, and please come back with more money!" she called to the two departing people.

Just as the customers left, her fiancé Alexander Harris – known more simply to everyone as Xander – walked in through the front door. "Hey, sweetheart," the dark-haired young man greeted his betrothed.

"Xander!" the blonde woman said in delight. Anya then walked up to him, and gave him a big kiss.

"Ah, sugar," Xander grinned in his own goofball way. "Honey, please, gimme some more sugar..."

Anya obliged, and the two kissed again, long and passionately. The deep and affectionate love between the business capitalist and the glorified bricklayer, was obvious to anyone who might have seen them.

"If you think this is good, just wait till our wedding night," Anya teased Xander gently, as their lips broke apart and then they disengaged from each other.

Xander grinned at her. "Did I tell you I have something...special planned for the occasion?"

Anya was intrigued. "What? What?"

"Oh, I don’t want to spoil the surprise...use your imagination."

Anya got a funny grin on her face, as the 1120-year-old nymphomaniac indulged in her favorite fantasy: the one where two Xanders were making love to her.

"Ahn? Sweetheart, wake up!" the man once described as Buffy’s White Knight said.

She who had been Anyanka, patron saint of scorned women snapped out of her fantasy. "Xander? What is it?"

Xander took her hand, and smiled. "Nothing. You know, I almost can’t believe this is happening, that the old Harris curse hasn’t caught up with me..."

Anya looked confused, so the young man explained, "You know, my previous luck with women. I mean, hey, look at my track record – Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Faith, the preying mantis lady, the Inca mummy girl...even Drusilla, that one Valentine’s Day..."

Anya stopped him with a shake of her head. "None of that matters anymore. You’re mine now, just like I’m yours."

Xander nodded. "I know." Then he paused, as if debating with himself whether to say something.

Eventually the Zeppo said, "Ahn, did I ever tell you about my dream – the one where the First Slayer went and ripped my heart all out? I was in the basement and my father said to me, ‘The line ends here with us, and you’re not gonna change that’. That’s why I’ve been thinkin’...after we’re married, maybe we could think of starting up a family."

Anya was touched. "Xander. I love you! And don’t worry, everything’s gonna be wonderful, for the rest of our lives together..."

Xander smiled happily, and was about to move in to kiss her again – when he spotted a green stone on a necklace, hanging around the young woman’s neck. He looked at Anya’s face, which was like a frozen mask.

The jewel then vanished, as Anya recovered and then screamed, "NO! NO! NOT NOW! NOT EVER! I DON’T WANT THAT ANYMORE!"

Xander was getting frantic. "Honey, what? What just happened?"

"I was – Xander, for a moment I was Anyanka again!!" Anya exclaimed in horror.

"Are you-"

"YES I’M SURE! I was a demon for over a thousand years! I’ll NEVER forget what that feels like!"

Horrified, Xander asked, "How?!"

Anya started pacing, in fear and horror. "I don’t know!!!" Freaking, she tried to think of an answer.

"I mean, my old boss D’hoffryn made it perfectly clear that neither he, nor anyone would help me get my powers back! And, hell, I don’t want them back! I mean, it’d be impossible anyway – because Giles destroyed my power center, in that other universe..."

The blonde woman then broke off in terror. "What is it?" asked Xander, afraid of the answer.

"History must be changing," Anya whispered.

In a louder voice she continued, "I-I mean, somebody must be making things different – so that Cordelia never made that Wish, and I never lost my powers, it’s the only thing that I-"

Xander had started to seriously lose it upon hearing those words, when Anya vanished and a demonic form stood before him – the green jewel glowing triumphantly around its neck.

Anyanka was back, and madder than ever – at the males of the species.

The vengeance demon looked around in confusion, then glimpsed Xander and frowned in disgust.

"WHO ARE YOU?" the hellish creature growled, before deciding she didn’t care and vanishing out of the magic shop.

Xander yelled "NO!!!" as the timeline finally unravelled completely, his scream of anguish exactly like the one of a damned soul in the pits of Hell.

And even the higher powers mourned, as they abandoned their plans with the loss of the Harris lineage.

 

Part II: De-Bewitched

Sunnydale, California. February, 1998

Within the halls of the Sunnydale High School, Ms. Beakman’s American Literature class was coming to a close. The bell rang, and Ms. Beakman said, "Papers on my desk. Anybody tries to leave without giving me a paper, is looking at a failing grade."

As all the students got up, Willow Rosenberg confidently walked down the classroom aisle and stopped next to Amy Madison, greeting her friend. "Hey, Amy."

The 17-year-old Amy smiled. "Hey. Are you guys going to the Valentine’s Day dance at the Bronze? I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun."

Willow turned to look at Buffy with a huge smile on her face, as the Slayer joined them. The blonde Chosen One just looked at Willow, who was bursting to share the news about her new boyfriend Oz, and so she said, "Go ahead. You know you wanna say it."

Willow faced Amy again, grinning broadly, and replied, "My boyfriend’s in the band!"

Amy smiled and laughed, glad that her friend had found someone. "Cool."

Buffy said thoughtfully, "I think you’ve now told everybody."

Willow corrected her at once. "Only in this hemisphere."

Amy turned to face the other blonde present. "What about you?"

The Slayer just waved off the question, not wanting to deal. "Oh, Valentine’s Day is just a cheap gimmick to sell cards and chocolate."

The young witch could sense the truth behind Buffy’s words, though. "Bad breakup, huh?"

Buffy was too tired to try to fake it anymore, about how she felt about losing her lover – the vampire once known as Angel. "Believe me when I say, ‘uh-huh’."

As they all walked up to the teacher’s desk, Buffy handed in her paper and got a curt "Thank you," from Ms. Beakman. The Slayer then headed out of the room, as Willow submitted her paper as well.

"Thank you," Ms. Beakman said again, as Willow followed Buffy out.

As Amy stood in front of the lit teacher, she felt a slight tingle of anticipation. The blonde-haired girl was about to perform her first feat of magic to get out of getting a failing grade, and didn’t notice Xander Harris standing behind her ready to submit his own paper.

But as she was about to start her magic mojo, suddenly her vision wavered, and the blonde daughter of a psychopathic witch found herself in a completely white place, like in those cheesy movies about the afterlife.

Amy then saw a brunette girl, with completely black eyes float towards her. And at that point she seriously started to wig out, because the brunette looked like an older version of herself.

"Who the hell are you?" the Amy from 1998 asked nervously.

The ex-rat Amy smiled. It was not an expression of humor, but more a heartfelt grimace of pain. "I’m sure you’ve already guessed. I’m you. Amy Madison. From the future."

"No way!"

"Yes way. Now listen to me, I’m here to warn you-"

"Hold it," the younger Amy demanded. "Where are we? And why’d you bring me here?"

"This is the nether realm, you know that," the brunette snapped impatiently. "And like I said, I’m here to warn you about..."

"Wait," the blonde interrupted again. "Prove that you’re me, first. Looks aren’t everything – and if you’re me, you should know that."

The future Amy frowned, having forgotten how stubborn and impatient she could be after all those years of living as a rat. "Our mother Catherine – she switched bodies with us, sophomore year."

The blonde schoolgirl countered, "A lot of people – well, at least some – know about that. You’ll have to do heaps better."

The brunette’s face went cold. "You remember that night when Mom came back from the Bronze, majorly pissed? She was in our body, and this hot guy hit on Willow Rosenberg instead of her. She came home, and beat the crap out of me – us."

Amy shivered, convinced. "Okay. I promised myself never to tell that to anybody. So, shoot – what’s the dire?"

Her future self sighed, and told her everything. Her involvement with magic. Her relationship with the so-called Slayerettes and, finally, her ending up as a rodent.

"What?" To say the young blonde was a little incredulous, was like saying the earth was a little bit round. "I end up as a rat, if I become a Wiccan? Are you seriously spaced?"

The older Amy then brought out her ultimate weapon. She floated towards the other girl, merging their bodies for a moment, including memories of the future.

Amy Madison, the naive high school teenager, screamed in absolute horror.

As they separated, Future Amy sliced one of her nails across one of her younger self’s palms. "This was no dream," the brunette warned her, as she vanished.

The blonde girl blinked, and then suddenly found herself back in Ms. Beakman’s class. "Well?" the teacher snapped at Amy, waiting for her paper. Behind her, Xander was beginning to get impatient too.

Amy collapsed forward onto the floor, her head colliding with the wooden boards with a huge thump. As she tried to get up, her head bleeding, Xander assisted her to rise in concern. "You okay, Amy? That looked like a way nasty collision!"

Amy just looked at the small scar on her palm, and knew it hadn’t been a nightmare.

Destiny came to a grinding halt, and then lurched off into a new, currently unknown direction.

"I-I’m sorry," Amy stammered to the teacher. "I, I didn’t do the work. I know this means I’ll fail, but I can’t-"

Ms. Beakman interrupted her, looking at the blood, "We can discuss that later. Right now, you need to go see the school nurse. Mr. Harris, can I count on you to assist her there?"

Xander nodded, handed in his paper and helped Amy out of the room.

***

Los Angeles, California. February, 1998

At that moment, in the temple of the channels to the Powers-That-Be, the brother and sister Oracles suddenly materialized. Wearing gold-painted bodies, and clothes with an unmistakable ancient Greek influence, they stared at each other.

"Well," said the male.

"Well," replied the female, in the same tone.

"Not even we saw this coming."

"What was to be, will no longer come to pass – all on account of one mortal girl?" asked the sister in amazement.

The brother looked aside for a moment. "The Auguries say ‘yes’."

The woman looked frightened. "The demon with a soul will now not come to us? Who then will take his place, as the warrior for the cause?"

Her male counterpart suddenly relaxed. "Another has been – will be – chosen. In my opinion, a more suitable candidate than the lower being to whom you refer."

The sister looked at him. "And what of Vocah?"

The brother looked content. "Our deaths one day, at the hand of the warrior of the underworld...are no longer prophesized."

The female Oracle smiled. "Good. Death was not something I was looking forward to. I’m sure neither of us would have liked it." They then vanished.

***

Sunnydale, California. The next day

Xander Harris was feeling very depressed. The previous night at the Bronze, his sort-of girlfriend Cordelia Chase had dumped him, right after he had given her an expensive locket for Valentine’s Day.

< How can this be my life? > the young man thought, as he walked along within Sunnydale High. < What am I, cursed? >

A young man passed him in the hall. "Dude," the jock said briefly, having heard the news and patting Xander’s shoulder. "Way to get dumped."

He continued down the hall, and Xander did the same – his misery growing. He then looked up, and saw Buffy Summers coming the other way. "Oooh, Buffy, my bud, you will not believe..."

The Slayer barely looked at him. "Can’t talk right now. Angel."

Xander knew that any situation involving the formerly good vampire, was more important than some self-pity trip. "Do you need help?"

Buffy shook her head, not wanting him to get involved. "It’s alright," the Chosen One muttered, as she quickly made her way towards the library and the meeting she had scheduled with her Watcher.

Xander watched her leave, then continued down the hall. A group of girls passed around him, staring and giggling at him.

Knowing he was the butt of all the jokes, the boy just exhaled and watched them disappear. But then he heard Harmony Kendall, one of the snobbiest girls in the entire high school start talking to him, and looked over at her.

Harmony said simply, "Gee, Xander, maybe you should learn a second language so that even more girls can reject you," as she and the other girls around her laughed in his face.

Xander was about to move off and mope, when he saw Amy Madison. A girl he had actually helped the previous day.

So, feeling a change of heart the teenager turned to face the Cordettes and said confidently, "Pardon me, ladies – but there’s a damsel who was in distress, that I currently need to see."

Ignoring the scowl on Harmony’s face and the astonishment on the faces of the other girls, Xander joined Amy. "Hey, Amy. What’s the up?"

"Xander," Amy said nervously. She didn’t know why, but suddenly his presence made her uncomfortable. "Uh, nothing much."

Xander noticed her discomfort, but decided to ignore it. He pointed to the bandage on her forehead and asked, "How’s the head?"

"Hurts a little," the blonde girl admitted. "But I’ll get over it."

"Right," the dark-haired boy then replied, a little unsure of how to continue.

"Thanks for the concern," Amy finally smiled at him and gave his hand a squeeze, before walking off.

"Huh," the young man grunted, before spying Cordelia with her sheep and deciding to exit stage left, having had enough of their insults for one afternoon.

The next day, the high school library was like a war room as Giles sat on the main table, looking through one of the Watcher diaries and researching with Buffy.

The subject of their scrutiny being the vampire Angelus’ old behavior, at this time of year.

The British Watcher said, "Look, here's another. Here. Um, ‘Valentine’s Day’. Yes, uh...‘Angel nails a puppy to the...’"

Buffy was in no mood for such a gruesome story, even though she had asked for details about her former love’s behavior during this time, so she interrupted him. "Skip it."

Giles looked flustered. "Uh, but it..."

Buffy didn’t look at her father figure. "I don’t wanna know. I don’t have a puppy. Skip it."

Giles simply closed the book, understanding what his Slayer was going through. "Right you are. I'll get another batch."

As he got off the table and headed into the private office, Xander walked in and headed for Buffy. "Hey, Buff."

"Hey yourself, Xand," the blonde Slayer looked at him. "Where’s Willow?"

He shrugged. "Probably with Oz. Again. Where’s G-man?"

"Where else?" Buffy almost snickered. "Getting a book."

Xander shrugged again. "Maybe I can help out? I mean, it’s not like I have a steady squeeze to waste my time on anymore."

Buffy looked at him. "Yeah. I heard about you and Cordy. That’s her loss."

Xander grimaced. "Right. Not really the popular theory."

Buffy looked up at him, and smiled. "You’ll find someone else. Remember what you said to me in the graveyard, the other night?"

The boy grinned. "You mean, finding someone better from a parallel universe? Oddly enough, given the possibility with this being the Hellmouth and all, not a major comforter here."

Xander suddenly remembered that he had class. "Tell Giles I gotta go, but I’ll come back," the teen then said to the Slayer, as he walked out.

True to his word, after lunch Xander returned to the library and offered his help to the Watcher. But just at that moment, Jenny Calendar walked in.

The technopagan/computer teacher had been ‘persona non grata’ with the rest of the Scooby gang for some weeks now, on account of her lies about her background and her part in that business of Angel losing his soul, and reverting back to Angelus.

And so far, all her efforts towards reconciliation had failed. But she who had been born Janna Kalderash, of the tribe of gypsies that the female vamp lord Darla and her troupe had massacred in 1898, was determined now to succeed.

She strode to Giles, and started talking. "Rupert, we need to talk. Hey, Xander. Look, Rupert, I know that you’re angry at me, and I don’t blame you, but I am not just gonna go away."

"Uh..." the Englishman started to say.

Jenny then looked at Xander. "Could you give us a minute?"

The boy nodded, and headed for the door. Stopping outside though, the young man couldn’t help himself – he looked through the glass window, and listened in on the rest of the conversation.

Jenny tried to pick up where she’d left off. "I know you feel betrayed..."

Giles interrupted her mildly, "Yes. Well, that’s, that’s one of the unpleasant side-effects of betrayal."

The beautiful gypsy looked down at the table. "Rupert...I was raised by the people that Angel hurt the most..."

She paused and looked aside, then she said, "And my duty to them was the first thing I was ever taught. I didn’t come here to hurt anyone, a-and I lied to you because I thought it was the right thing to do. I...I didn’t know what would happen. And I didn’t know I was gonna fall in love with you."

Jenny paused again for a moment, before looking back up at Giles. They exchanged a meaningful stare, but then she looked away again. "Oh, God. Is it too late to take that back?"

Giles looked anxious. "Do, do you want to?"

Janna looked at the Englishman steadfastly. "I just wanna be right with you. I don't expect more. I just want so badly to make all this up to you."

Rupert Giles then looked at her, remembering his own pleas after the affair with the creature known as Eyghon, in which Jenny had almost been killed due to his actions.

The fact was that he still loved this woman, despite what she’d done; and now Rupert knew that she loved him back. He put his hand on Jenny’s cheek and stroked it, as the woman closed her eyes for a second in sheer pleasure.

And the next moment, they were kissing like a pair of high school teenagers.

Xander watched the show with a huge grin on his face, and then noticed Willow and Oz coming down the corridor. He motioned to them to join him, and look inside; and as soon as they did so, Willow’s jaw nearly fell to the ground.

Oz – the werewolf, the musician, the unfazeable guy with often-changing hair color – merely raised one eyebrow.

As Xander led his friends away, they started chortling and giggling amongst themselves. "The Watcher Man is gonna be seein’ some action tonight," the teenage boy quipped with the knowing grin still intact, and felt better than he had ever since Cordelia had dumped him.

***

Later that night at an abandoned factory, three vampires were about to embark on a path that would change their unlives forever. Their names were Angelus, Spike and Drusilla, and once the most feared pack of the undead in Europe.

In this era, Spike was not yet the chipped, lovesick, even heroic White Hat he had become; he was the original ‘William the Bloody’, one of the worst killers humanity had ever been plagued with, and only had eyes for his beloved undead companion – Drusilla.

Granted, he was in a wheelchair right now because of Buffy and her friends, but the ‘Big Bad’ – as Spike liked to call himself – knew that that wouldn’t last for too much longer.

Someone else who also understood that was Angelus, the vampire Spike had once considered his sire, his ‘Yoda’.

A vampire who had been cursed with a human soul for nearly 100 years but was now free, the reborn Scourge of Europe had delighted in teasing and tormenting Spike over his injuries. Also, lately Angelus had started rubbing the fact that he could satisfy Drusilla’s every need, right into the cripple’s face.

And his childe was definitely in need right now, as Dru had been tossing around and groaning nearly all day.

"Can’t you get her to shut up already?" Angelus grumbled to Spike, as he walked around the factory in annoyance, waiting for sunset and trying to ignore Dru’s moaning and babbling.

Spike shrugged. "She’s havin’ a vision," the British-born vamp said to the Irish-born one. "You DO remember about them, don’t ya mate? Wouldn’t wanna think that soul you once 'ad, caused ya memory to become full o’ holes or whatever."

Angelus just grinned, knowing Spike couldn’t beat him in their insult matches. "Sure I remember about the visions. Sit 'n Spin."

Spike glared, but then Drusilla let out a very loud moan and the bleached-blonde vampire wheeled himself over to her. "Dru? What is it, luv?"

"It’s all different," the black-haired vampiress whispered, as she finally got up off the table and started to sway to music only she could hear. "It’s all so different now, it’s like a whole new world. Miss Edith says there’s a world of possibilities, even."

"What possibilities?" "What are you talking about?" Spike and Angelus asked respectively at the same time, then glared at each other.

"The wicked witch didn’t cast that naughty love spell," Drusilla then said, before shutting up.

Angelus waited, but when it appeared she would say nothing more, he got mad. "I had to listen to her ranting all day, just for THAT? I’m out of here," he snapped, before the dark-haired vamp swept out.

"Good riddance, bloody wanker," Spike mumbled, before focusing back on Drusilla. "Tell me more, pet. What’s all this about a spell?"

"My kitten," Drusilla said dreamily, in her British accent. "The White Knight..."

"Who?"

"The darling boy who went 'n made a big mess, but now he didn’t, 'cause that 'orrid little girl told herself not to practice magic no more," the vampiress finished up happily.

Spike was still completely puzzled, and like Angelus before him quickly lost interest. "Whatever ya say, Dru..." he said, shaking his head and turning away.

The crazed vampire paid him no attention – Drusilla made a decision based on her vision, and quickly ran out of the factory.

***

Later that night at the Bronze, Xander Harris came out of the nightclub alone, in a fairly good mood. He had hung out with Buffy, Willow and Oz, they had spent a pleasant evening together, and now the Slayer was going to walk him home.

The male teenager had been a little over-protective around Willow at first; but after Buffy had glared at him and not-exactly-subtly kicked him in the shin to back off about Oz, they had all relaxed and all had gone well.

In fact, the best part of it – at least in the dark-haired young man’s opinion – had been Harmony spotting Xander’s locket, being worn by Cordelia.

"Cordy, oh my God!" the blonde airhead had exclaimed, her mouth wide open. "When did you get that? Wait – I bet it’s from Devon, to win you back...Valentine’s Day, and all that! And it’s from Tiffany’s, am I right?"

"Puh-leaze," Cordelia Chase had sneered, taking off the article of jewelry and holding it out. "Devon? Like, I’d ever go back to that musical retard. And Tiffany’s?! Harmony, does this look like it’s ever been anywhere near a blue box? I don’t even know why I wore it – I mean, it so totally doesn’t go with my shoes..."

The leader of the pack of Cordettes had then surreptitiously slipped the locket away into a pocket, and unconsciously looked in Xander’s direction.

Unfortunately for her, the Slayerette had witnessed the whole thing, and could not stop grinning at the momentary horrified expression on his ex-girlfriend’s face.

But as the old saying goes, all good things come to an end, and now it was time for him to go home and get into bed...before his drunken parents started screaming at each other.

Suddenly though, as Xander came out, a hand grabbed him.

One completely lacking human warmth.

Covering his mouth, the hand plus the body it was attached to dragged the struggling boy away, with supernatural strength.

And as they reached the enclosure where a Slayer named Faith had been destined to kill her first vampire in Sunnydale, the teen was let go and he turned around to see Drusilla, smiling at him in full game face.

"Don’t fret, kitten," she said, mouthing the words from her vision. "Mummy’s 'ere."

"Drusilla..." Xander said nervously, starting to reach for the stake he always carried with him.

"I finally found you...so, how do you feel about eternal life?"

It was one of Xander’s worst nightmares.

"Your face really is a poem," the insane British vamp continued, not noticing the horror that was now on the dark-haired boy’s features. "And there’s no mob of girls around to stop me, this time..."

Xander finally brought out his stake and rushed the female vampire, but he was doomed even before he started moving. With inhuman speed, Dru knocked his arm aside and threw him violently against the wall.

The young Mr. Harris was stunned, and in a second Drusilla was there, growling and biting him on the neck. He struggled, but it was no use.

As she finished feeding and Xander started to lose consciousness, the vampiress used a claw to open up a wound near her bosom – and forced the boy to drink.

When the becoming ritual was complete, Xander collapsed – dead. Drusilla simply giggled – just like the madwoman she was – and picking him up, the undead creature carried the teenager’s corpse off into the night.

***

The next day at Sunnydale High, Willow and Oz were walking along, discussing the previous evening. "I had a lot of fun last night," the redheaded hacker giggled, as she held onto her boyfriend’s arm adoringly.

"Me too," Oz replied in his short, monosyllable way.

"Really?" Willow asked.

"I say it, I think it," Daniel ‘Oz’ Osborne shrugged.

"It’s just that...I mean, you were with the ‘Dingoes’ a lot for your sets, and at the start Xander was sorta..." the girl trailed off, gesturing helplessly at what her childhood best friend had done.

"He’s just protective," the young werewolf looked at her and smiled. "It’s cool."

Willow smiled and nodded, before the two of them started to make out. And they might actually have needed to get a room, if Buffy hadn’t found them a few seconds later.

"Hey! Knock it off, you guys!!" the Slayer decided to have a little fun. "People are staring!"

Willow instantly broke off the kiss, looking around in fear. Buffy just grinned, as Willow and Oz then stared at her when they got the joke. The musician just shrugged it off, but Willow...

"Buffy!" the young woman hissed at her best friend, in semi-anger.

"Sorry," the blonde giggled, as they started walking along. "Couldn’t resist."

Willow snorted, as she calmed down. In truth, she was glad to see her friend smiling, even if it was at her expense – because ever since they had lost Angel, the Slayer had had precious little to smile about.

"Have you seen Xander?" the computer nerd asked her friend, changing the subject as they entered the school building.

"Not since last night," Buffy frowned, her smile vanishing. "Guess he bailed on me, 'cause I kicked him under the table."

"You okay?" Oz then asked the Slayer, noticing how uptight she looked.

The Chosen One shrugged. "Uh, it’s just that I found a bleeding human heart nailed to my front door this morning," she stopped, noticing their expressions. "Valentine’s Day gift from Angel, or so I’m guessing."

"Gross!" Willow said sympathetically. "Uh, did your mom..."

"Giles kinda warned me a while ago that this sorta thing might happen, so, I managed to deal before Mom could find it and wig. Last thing I need right now, is a case of her backseat mothering."

The others grimaced. "Buffy..." Willow started to say. "You think maybe you should..."

"Tell her the truth?" the Slayer finished the question sardonically. "Giles would have an absolute cow, if I so much as brought it up – you know, secret identity, sacred duty, ‘you are the Chosen One’, blah, blah, blah ..."

The three friends then saw Giles and Jenny walking down the corridor, chatting and laughing together. They looked very happy in each other’s company, and the Slayer felt her stomach roil as she witnessed what they had...and she had lost.

"Buffy...!" Willow started to say, but the blonde girl just turned and walked away.

Giles and Jenny saw her doing so, and quickly joined the teenage couple. "Uh..." Giles started to say.

"Before you stammer about it all day, Giles, we like already know," the redheaded girl told him simply.

"W-w-what?" the librarian looked at the technopagan, who simply shrugged as if to say, ‘It wasn’t me.’

Oz stated deadpan, "That you’re back together."

"Who-?" started the Romany woman.

Willow giggled. "Xander stayed behind and eavesdropped on you guys from the hall yesterday, and he-he invited us over to watch the show."

Giles looked annoyed, in his own special British way. "Um, typical behavior for him, I-I suppose. Uh, well, well, where IS Mr. Harris, as a matter of fact? I-I-I could do with an assistant today to, to help me research."

"You haven’t seen him?" Willow asked, a definite notch of worry in her voice now.

"No, not this morning," Jenny said quickly. Looking at Rupert Giles, the computer teacher then said uncertainly, "Maybe he’s sick today..."

Willow noticed Cordelia walking along on the other side of the hallway, and broke away from the group to question the cheerleader. "Cordy!" she called out.

The brunette girl looked around, hoping no one had noticed. "Willow, could we NOT do this in public?" she hissed at the hacker.

Willow shrugged. "I just wanted to know if you’ve seen Xander."

The teenager who had been May Queen then looked VERY uncomfortable. "Not since the Bronze last night..." Cordy muttered, before quickly walking away. Leaving Willow behind, staring at her retreating back in confusion.

***

Night had fallen, and at the factory Drusilla was a manic whirlwind of energy. She rushed about here and there, fixing this and that, and spent a great deal of time talking to her dolls.

"What’s going on here?" Angelus asked, as he came back after an early snack and witnessed the activity.

Spike turned around and grunted, "Dru turned someone last night."

Angelus looked annoyed. "Why didn’t she say anything about it to me first?"

The bleached-hair vamp grinned. "Gee, I dunno mate – maybe 'cause the only thing you got on ya mind lately, is the damn Slayer?"

Angelus silently snarled at him, but before he could say anything Dru started clapping her hands. "It’s time, it’s time!!" the vampiress chanted, as she raised her eyes to the ceiling.

She then dragged Angelus and Spike over to a shallow grave, near the rear of the factory. Spike looked at it and then said to Dru, "Cor blimey, ducks, ya buried 'im HERE?"

Angelus shrugged, already bored. "Dru’s a traditionalist, you know that. This is like giving birth for her."

"QUIET!!" Drusilla yelled, startling her sire and her beloved. "HE’S COMING...!!"

And then, the Xander vampire burst out of the ground, snarling in pain and looking around in confusion as he dusted himself off.

Angelus and Spike both groaned at seeing him. "Oh bloody hell, not that wanker from Parent-Teacher Night!!" Spike swore.

Angelus was about to add his own scathing comment, when Dru grabbed Xander and forced him to look at her. "It’s alright, kitten," she said soothingly, as the newborn looked at his sire and calmed down a little. "Let’s get you a bite to eat..."

Drusilla then took Xander, who was still in his game face, to where two human captives were waiting.

Two young men, whose names were Hogan Martin and Jack O’Toole.

Drusilla pointed at them, and Xander knew what to do. A newly-risen vampire needed the taste of a fresh kill as soon as possible, and so the former teenager quickly sank his fangs into Hogan’s screaming body, draining him dry.

Jack initially just watched in horror, and then started struggling to get free. But it was pointless – as soon as Xander was done with the high school basketball player, he started on the amateur psycho, killing him in less than a minute.

Xander wiped his lips clean of the blood, and then reverted to his human façade. "Drusilla," he then said to his sire, as the vampiress came close. "The answer is, I love it."

"What?" asked Dru in confusion.

"What you asked me before," the dark-haired vampire said softly, coming closer. "How do I feel about eternal life? The answer is, I love it!" And then Xander grabbed Drusilla, and started kissing her full on the mouth.

"HEY! That’s enough o’ that!" Spike said angrily, wheeling himself closer. His jealousy soaring, the cripple looked ready to tear Xander apart. "I’M the only one who does that to her, peaches!"

As Xander and Drusilla ignored him, Angelus chuckled and said to Xander with a sincere grin, "Welcome to the family."

Spike looked at him in astonishment, but the 245-year-old master vamp ignored that. He was already thinking ahead, plotting how to use this development to his own advantage.

Initially, he had been just as annoyed as Spike, but Angelus now felt differently. < Okay, so the kid was a complete loser when he was alive. But hell, now he’s not Xander any more than I was Liam, after Darla made me in that alley. >

Angelus chuckled again. < This just might be the best way to throw Buffy off-balance – to use Xander, to destroy them all... >

***

At the Bronze, Willow, Buffy and Oz were sitting together at the Scooby gang’s favorite table. Their mood tonight was very grim, as they were very worried about Xander.

Willow looked around and saw Cordelia holding court in the nightclub, but the redhead had gotten to know the bitchy cheerleader too well not to realize when the brunette was worried about something – or someone.

Harmony and the sheep, although not the sharpest tools in the shed, also knew something was wrong with the leader of the pack.

"Cordy? Could we talk outside for a minute?" Harmony asked.

The head cheerleader shrugged. "Sure," and with that the two girls left the club, as the rest of the Cordettes spread out in search of hunks and gossip.

Outside the Bronze, Harmony wasted no time. "What is wrong with you?"

Cordelia was confused. "What’s that supposed to mean?"

"You haven’t danced with anyone all night! AND you rejected John Lee’s invitation to the pledge dance on Thursday – so what is wrong with you?!"

"Nothing!" Cordy said hotly, feeling her cheeks starting to flush. But Harmony could smell blood, and went for the jugular.

"You’re not thinking of taking that dork back, are you?!?"

Cordelia froze, at the other girl’s reference to Xander. Then she scoffed, "Harmony, don’t be such a sheep!" before angrily going back into the club.

Harmony shook her head and was about to follow, when she heard a woman singing.

Drusilla then appeared, stopped singing the old nursery rhyme her mother had taught her, and stared at the human girl. The blonde cheerleader stared back.

< What a ho! > Harmony thought in disgust. < Where did she get those clothes, the Salvation Army? And her cosmetics sense is such a crying... >

But the airhead was unable to finish that thought, as Xander Harris came out of the darkness to stand at Dru’s side.

She almost didn’t recognize him, because of the clothes – gone were the baggy shirts and trousers, as the guy in front of her was wearing a form-fitting white T-shirt, black leather jacket and pants. < Hmmm, not bad... >

Xander didn’t say anything – he just grabbed Harmony and kissed her deeply, with a lot of tongue.

He tasted cold and dark, and the blonde girl was shocked – but after he let her go, Harmony grinned. < Yummy... >

"Xander? Huh, I’m beginning to understand what Cordy saw in you! I LOVE the new look – y’know, with my help, I could make you popular within a month. This is a one-time offer though, of course. What do you say?"

Remaining silent, Xander just smiled. And at that moment, Harmony became afraid.

The young man vamped out, and as the girl turned around to run he grabbed her and just cleanly snapped her neck. Dead, Harmony fell to the ground.

Drusilla asked, "Kitten, why didn’t you feed?"

Xander looked at the corpse of his old tormentor, and angrily kicked the dead body before turning around to leave. "I wouldn’t touch her blood, if she was the last human on Earth!"

Drusilla tittered, and then followed him away.

 

Part III: Dis-Passion

Sunnydale, California. One week later

Angelus lurked in the alley, having just had a fresh meal. He watched as the vampire that Xander had become relentlessly stalked its prey.

The boy was fast, the centuries-old vampire had to admit that; and he was very quick on the uptake too.

Angelus smiled. He had almost forgotten what it was like to teach a young fledgling the ropes, and mold an inexperienced novice into a pure killing machine.

It was even better now than in the old days – the late unlamented Darla, his sire, had been around then, and to be honest – being the head of the family agreed with him completely.

He was so engrossed in his thoughts, the Scourge of Europe almost missed the kill and his grandchilde walking up to him afterwards.

"Having fun watching me, Deadboy?" Xander asked him, bringing him out of his momentary reverie.

"Yes," Angelus said simply and grinned.

Xander frowned. "What do ya want? What are you up to? 'Cause I know you hate me, just as much as I hate you – Soul Boy."

The older vamp let the insult pass. "Xander, Xander, Xander. Can’t an old man worry about his favorite grandson?"

The former teenager looked sick. "You call me that again, I’m gonna puke, Angel."

The soulless demon laughed. "I mean, look around you. Do you know where we are?"

The younger vamp did so, and realized what Angelus meant. "Buffy patrols near here, nearly every night."

"Right. I also taught you to always guard your perimeter – now next time, follow my advice. Or else I’ll hold Dru in my arms, as she cries over your ashes..." the dark-haired vampire laughed evilly, as he disappeared into the shadows.

Xander stared after him, cursing the fact his grandsire was right, before vanishing as well.

***

The next day at Sunnydale High, Willow and Oz met first thing in the morning, the redhead out of her mind with worry over Xander.

"It’s been a week, Oz!!" she blurted out to her boyfriend, who was trying his best to comfort her. "I mean, something MUST have happened to him! Otherwise, we’d have heard something by now!"

The musician wordlessly agreed, as he held her tight. Oz knew that living in Sunnydale was very dangerous, and people got killed all the time here. < Look at what happened to Harmony last week, > the werewolf suddenly thought to himself.

But still, he knew he couldn’t say that to Willow.

"We’ll find him," Oz said simply, meaning every syllable.

Willow looked at her loved one, and smiled and hugged him. She didn’t think she’d have gotten through this without Oz – her parents didn’t care about her, Giles and Jenny were just as worried as she was, and Buffy...

Well, the Slayer had a lot on her plate right now.

Not only did she worry about Xander, but Angel, Spike and Drusilla had been far too quiet lately – and there was now a definite air of friction between her and her Watcher, as she felt betrayed by his acceptance of Ms. Calendar back into his life.

The blonde Chosen One joined Willow and Oz at the library, and asked them, "Anything on Xander?"

As the young couple shook their heads, Buffy felt frustration mounting. < Damn it... >

Just then Giles came out of the stacks, and addressed them wearily. "Oh, ah, g-good morning, all."

"Giles, what, did you stay here all night again!?" Willow asked, noticing his rumpled clothes.

"Well, um, yes."

Buffy said grudgingly, "Are you okay?"

Looking pained, the Watcher said, "As well as can, uh, be expected, I-I-I suppose. No news on, um, Xander then?"

Everyone shook their heads, and Rupert Giles sighed. "Buffy, I, I’ve been working on a-a-a spell. Something to make one’s residence as vampire-proof as possible – I mean, we, we simply cannot afford to lose anyone else."

"Makes sense," Oz commented with a nod.

The British man then continued, "I was wondering, um – could you, uh, give a book I borrowed back to Ms. Calendar? I, er, gather you have computer science, next period."

Buffy had an incredulous look on her face and was about to make a wisecrack, but then she looked at everyone’s faces. They were tired, worried and didn’t need something like that to make things worse.

The Slayer sighed, looking at Willow, and the redhead told her what to do without words. "Oh, fine," the blonde girl grumbled. "Gimme."

The Watcher did so, and as she took the book...Buffy saw in her surrogate father’s face a plea to bury the hatchet, that this was no time to carry grudges.

The daughter of Hank and Joyce Summers sighed. < What a week I’m having... >

***

After the other students had left, Buffy slowly came up to Jenny Calendar’s desk. A memory surfaced in her mind; the last time she’d been there, it was after discovering the truth about who Janna Kalderash was and almost strangling her.

The Slayer blinked, forcing the memories away. < So not what I need now. > "Hey."

Jenny looked confused. "Hi." As Buffy looked at Jenny a moment then averted her eyes, the computer teacher continued, "Uh, is there something that...did you want something?"

"Just wanted to give you Giles’ book back," and the Chosen One laid it on the desk. "Look...I know you feel badly about what happened, and I just wanted to say..."

"What?"

Buffy couldn’t help it – she got mad. "Good. Keep it up."

"Don't worry, I will," the computer teacher replied, unsurprised at her attitude.

Holding up her hand, the Slayer suffered a feeling of guilt over what she’d just said. "Oh, wait. Um...I know Giles is going through a hard time. And that he’s worried about Xander, just like all of us..."

"Still nothing new, then?" Jenny interrupted, a worried frown on her features.

"No. I mean, he doesn’t say anything about it, but I know he doesn’t need my 'tude about you two getting back together right now. And I’m glad for his sake you two sorted stuff out – it’s not like I want him to be lonely. I don’t want anyone to."

Jenny leaned forward, a sliver of hope on her face. "Buffy, you know that if I have a chance to make this up..."

Buffy interrupted her at once. "We’re...good here. Let’s just leave it." As she walked off, the gypsy watched her go sadly.

***

Far away, Xander and Drusilla were together naked in bed. "Oh my, kitten," the female vampire purred, "I 'aven’t felt like that, ever since Spike and I last played with our favorite branding iron."

The Xander vampire laughed. "What do you see in him, anyway?"

Drusilla was about to answer him, when she started to moan and groan. "Dru, what is it?"

His sire got out of bed and bent over in pain, breathing hard. "The air. It worries. Someone...an old enemy is seekin’ help...'elp to destroy our 'appy home. Ohhhh..."

Xander didn’t get it. "What’s that mean?"

Dru started to shiver. "No, no, no..." she started putting her clothes on, as Xander followed her example. "Dirty, dirty, dirty soul. Mustn’t touch. Not my family. No..."

Her childe finally got it. "Ms. Calendar is gonna make with the magic mojo, and soulify? Come on, we gotta take care of this."

Drusilla looked hesitant. "What about Spike and Daddy?"

Xander snorted. "Like they’ll be any help! All Angel ever thinks about is how to get into Buffy’s pants again before he kills her, and Spike’s useless till he gets out of that damn chair!"

So saying, Xander dragged her along out of the factory. A short while later, Spike came rolling into the main room. "Dru?" he called out.

"Not here," Angelus smirked, as he stepped into the light. He handed his duster to one of their minions, who then promptly faded away into the shadows. "My money says she’s with Xander."

"And they’re doin’ what?" Spike demanded, instantly getting furious.

"Each other, probably," the older vampire laughed in the blonde’s face. "Come on, Spike, what do you think? Remember what you and Dru first got up to, back in 1880?"

‘William the Bloody’ had perfect recall, and Angelus couldn’t help himself. He continued, "I heard them at it, before I paid a little visit to Buffy’s house. By the way, Joyce now knows her sweet little girl isn’t a virgin anymore. But getting back to Xander, I gotta say – I was impressed! I mean – who’d have thought a twerp like him, would have turned out to be such a Viking in the sack?"

Spike was shaking with rage so badly, he would have gotten up and eviscerated Angelus if his legs had been working. Instead he grabbed one of Drusilla’s dolls off the table, and vengefully tore it to pieces.

"Have a good evening, Rollerboy," Angelus taunted him before heading off towards his room, with the feeling of a job well done.

But what he had actually done was to make Spike hate Xander so much, there was no avoiding his destiny now.

***

After Janna had paid a visit to the tarot shop that would one day become known as the Magic Box, and bought an Orb of Thesulah – a spirit vault for the rituals of the undead – she went back to the school to work on her computer program.

Something to translate the ancient Romanian liturgy of the soul curse into English, to be able to eventually give Angel his soul back.

Jenny had no way to know that Drusilla and Xander were hot on her heels, and that the female vamp had already killed the shopkeeper.

Giles then appeared, and stood in the doorway of her classroom. "Hello, Jenny."

The technopagan was startled. "Oh! Hi."

The Watcher then stepped into the room. "You’re working late."

"Special project."

"Oh," the Englishman looked interested. "What on?"

Jenny looked at him. "Rupert...okay, I wasn’t gonna say anything yet, but I may have some news. Good news..."

"That, er, sounds nice," Giles frowned. Just then the computer chirped, and Giles glanced at the screen. "Is, is that Romanian?"

"It’s the curse," Jenny said, as Giles glanced sharply at her. "Angel’s soul curse. I think-"

The machine made another noise, and the teacher went back to her computer. She tapped a few keys, and then looked up at the screen.

A short while later, a percent complete window appeared over the Romanian text, and the bar zipped across it. "Come on, come on..." Jenny muttered, as Giles looked on, baffled.

The bar then disappeared, and the English translation scrolled up next to the original text.

Jenny exclaimed, "That’s it! It’s gonna work!" She then hugged Giles. "This...will work."

"Angel...will be cursed – just as before?"

The technopagan started to print out a hard copy. "My best guess is, with some help...yes."

"H-happiness clause and all?"

Jenny stopped, and looked at him. "Rupert...I don’t know how to delete that part, without nullifying the curse."

Giles frowned. "You mean...ah. Buffy won’t like that. A-as if she hasn’t enough on her mind right now, what with Xander..."

"Someone mention my name?"

Both grown-ups turned around in astonishment, as they heard that unmistakable voice. "XANDER!!" they both exclaimed at once.

"Where have you been?" demanded Giles immediately. "Everyone’s been worried sick..."

"Oh, here and there," the vampire said casually, as he walked into the room. "So, what have you two lovebirds been up to?"

"Don’t change the bloody subject!" Giles almost yelled. "Willow’s been m-mortified, and Buffy’s been-"

At the mention of the Slayer’s name, the gypsy noticed a fleeting expression of disgust on the boy’s face. It was almost nothing, but taken in conjunction with his disappearance, and his new clothes...the teacher was reaching a conclusion, one that she didn’t like at all.

Without taking the time for thought, Jenny reached into Giles’ jacket pocket and tossed his cross to Xander.

The vampire instinctively caught it and then dropped it, roaring in pain. Vamping out, Xander glared daggers at Ms. Calendar. "I’m gonna kill you real slow for that, you BITCH!!!"

Rupert Giles, who was not a Watcher for nothing, simply grabbed his beloved’s hand and they raced out the door, managing to reach the safety of the library before Xander caught up with them.

"I’m calling Buffy, so I advise you to get out!" Giles yelled out to the undead creature, who was trying to break in through their barricade. He then got on the phone, and called the Slayer’s house.

Having suffered through the ‘talk’ about sleeping with Angel from her mother, Buffy was glad for any excuse to get away. "Yeah?" she answered the phone.

"Buffy, i-it’s me, Giles! Jenny and I are in the library – there’s a-"

The phone went dead, but Buffy could guess the rest. "Willow!" she called.

As Willow came in with Joyce Summers, Buffy made up a quick story. "It’s Jenny! She’s in the hospital!"

Joyce looked concerned. "What? Who?"

"Oz can drive us there," Willow said, catching on. "Uh, g’night Mrs. Summers."

"Good night, dear," Joyce said absently. Then she turned to her daughter. "Who’s Jenny?"

"A friend," Buffy said. "Mom, I know I’m in the doghouse here, but could I-?"

"Oh, all right," Joyce surrendered with a gesture. "But home before midnight!"

"I promise," Buffy muttered hurriedly, as she grabbed her jacket with the concealed weapons and left with Willow.

***

Later in the library, Xander had gone, apparently realizing the futility of trying to kill everyone without backup. And when Giles and Jenny met up with the teenagers, they told them everything.

Buffy, Willow and Oz were all completely shocked.

Even though the mortal children had anticipated the possibility, to have actual confirmation that one of their own had been turned was horrifying.

Horrifying for Willow, at the thought of having lost her best childhood friend.

Horrifying for Oz, at the possibility that the Xander vampire might go after his girlfriend.

Horrifying for Buffy, as she now not only had to kill Angel – which she’d failed to do a number of times – but she also had to kill someone who looked like her Xander-shaped friend.

It was almost enough to make her lapse into catatonia.

Jenny looked at them all and then at Giles, before deciding to share the developments about the curse. "Uh...Rupert, why don’t you tell them what else happened tonight, while I go get my printouts?"

"I’ll go with you," Oz said, grabbing a crossbow and escorting her out.

"Yes, well," Giles said, removing his glasses and tiredly rubbing his nose. "Jenny, has, uh...uh..."

"Spit it out, Giles!" ordered his Slayer.

"The soul curse. Jenny’s managed to...uh, with the aid of that dread machine, reconstruct it."

Willow was the first to react in joy. "That means – that means we can get Xander back! Oh – and Angel too!"

Oz and Ms. Calendar arrived back. "You told Oz?" inquired Giles, as they put down the herbs, the Orb and the printout.

"Yes," Jenny said absently. "Excuse me, but I need to study this..." she bent over the papers, that contained the transliteration annals for the ritual of the undead.

"When can we do the curse?" Willow wanted to know.

"Well, we need to set up..."

"Something occurring," Oz interrupted. "Uh, are you sure you wanna do this?"

They all looked at him in surprise. "What?" squeaked Willow.

Oz shrugged. "I’m trying to look at the big picture," he said in that calm, collected voice that was so his. "How do you think Xander’s gonna feel, once you give him his soul back?"

Giles scratched his head. "Well, he..."

Oz said quietly, "You think he’ll thank you for it? Or that he’d prefer you to dust him?"

There was a shocked silence, as everyone considered his words. Finally though, Buffy broke it. "We’re doing this. End of discussion."

"Buffy..." started Giles.

"NO," the Slayer said firmly. "I’M the one who has to live with killing Xander, if it comes to that. If there’s any chance to avoid it, I’m biting. If he ends up wanting to stake himself, we can deal with – afterwards."

Jenny came up to them and said, "I know what to do, but we may have a problem."

"Uh, what?" Giles asked.

The gypsy sighed. "The curse...the last time, the elder woman of my clan performed it, and she was highly skilled in magic. I dabble a little, but I don’t have that kind of power. I’m a technopagan, not a witch."

Giles looked at her. "Well, I..."

Jenny looked at him lovingly. "Rupert, I know you’ve done some spellcasting, but this is FAR beyond that. And you." The gypsy sighed again. "When I first came here, I investigated who might have that kind of magical potential. There were two people, according to the tarot cards I read, the bones I cast, even according to the tea leaves thing..."

"Who?" Buffy interrupted.

"The first is a girl named Amy Madison..."

"Forget it," Willow said at once. "Her Mom was like a witch, and an amateur psycho. She’s the last person that’d help us, with something like that!"

"Then we have only one choice," Jenny finished up.

"Who?" asked the hacker.

"You, Willow."

Everyone was stunned. "What?" demanded Buffy. "Are you nuts?"

"Hey!" said Willow, hurt. Then she looked at the gypsy. "Are you nuts?"

Ms. Calendar sighed. "Willow, the fact is...like it or not, you have the potential. And you’re our best bet to do this."

The teenager looked unsure. "I do? I am? But, uh..."

"How dangerous is this?" Oz suddenly demanded.

Everyone looked at him, shocked at his tone. Willow smiled, though. "Oz. It’s okay."

"But if you-"

Buffy banged on the table, and everyone shut up. "Will," the Slayer said slowly. "you don’t have to do this. What I said earlier..."

"Buffy," Willow gave her the ‘Resolve Face’. "Stop. Resolve Face, see? This is the only way not to have to kill Xander. I’m doing it." The redhead looked around at everyone else. "Let’s set up – right now."

A short while later the sacred circle was drawn, the herbs and incense were burning and the ritual proceeding. The curse was said, the Orb glowed with a mystical light, which then faded.

The people gathered within the library then waited, to learn the fruits of their labors.

***

A short time earlier at the Bronze, Cordelia was dressed in one of her best outfits, and looking absolutely spectacular. More than one jealous girlfriend had hit their boyfriends, who were openly drooling at her.

But the brunette, although she would have normally enjoyed such attention thoroughly and accepted it as her natural right, wasn’t in the mood tonight.

Because she was moping alone.

< Pathetic much? > the cheerleader asked herself sarcastically, as she nursed her fourth soft drink. < What is WRONG with you? >

Of course, Cordelia knew the answer to that – but she didn’t want to admit it, even to herself. Even though, she couldn’t get the image of a certain dark-haired boy out of her head.

< Unbelievable, > her mind kept trying to talk sense into her. < So you broke up with Xander. Big whoop! Spank your inner moppet or whatever, but get over it! >

Looking around the club, Cordelia could see various couples snuggling together or making out. She sighed, fingering his locket that she was wearing yet again this evening.

Fuming, the May Queen then thought to herself, < This is ALL Buffy’s fault! If she hadn’t made the jerk marginally more cooler by hanging with him, I would never have looked twice at the guy! >

Suddenly Amy Madison joined her. "Hello, Cordelia," the girl said simply.

The head cheerleader did a double take, noticing that Amy was now a brunette. "That’s a new look for you," she said, inspecting the other girl with critical eyes.

Amy smiled, patting her hair. "You like it?"

Cordy nodded slowly. "Goes better with your eyes, definitely. So what’s up?"

"Uh, I thought you looked like you could use someone to talk to. And I also just wanted to say goodbye."

Cordelia looked at her in confusion as Amy continued, "This is my last night in Sunnydale – after what happened to Harmony last week, I finally convinced my Dad for us to move to San Francisco. I don’t want to live in this town anymore."

"Fine," Cordelia shrugged, getting up. "Have fun, or whatever." Blowing the other girl off, the cheerleader paid the bill, went outside, got into her car and drove off.

Not far away, Xander was driving along in his own car, the previous owner of which he had killed at the local Espresso Pump. "Damn, damn, damn!!" he continually cursed, heading back to the factory, upset over his failure at the school.

Suddenly he felt weird – like something was hunting him. Ignoring it after checking the car, the vampire was then hit by the soul restoration ritual full-force, as his eyes glowed orange.

The feelings he had were literally indescribable. The demon felt the ecstatic pain, as its body became a war zone...

Blanking out, the former teenager lost control of the car and crashed into a tree. If he’d been human, he would have been killed instantly; but as it was, Xander only ended up unconscious.

It was under these circumstances, that Cordelia Chase found him again.

Stopping her car, the cheerleader looked on at the sight of the accident, aghast. She was about to call 911 for an ambulance on her cell phone, when Cordy spotted Xander’s groaning body halfway out of the wreckage. < Xander!? >

Stunned, the girl was unsure what to do, when she dropped her phone and it smashed into pieces on the ground. Cursing, she pulled Xander out of the car and into her own vehicle.

< Where do I go now? > Cordelia asked herself. < Sunnydale General, or the library – which is closer? >

Hearing Xander muttering Willow’s name, she decided on the latter and headed for Sunnydale High.

When she arrived there, carrying Xander (who felt ice-cold to her touch) to the library, Cordelia yelled out, "Giles! Somebody! Could I have a hand here?"

As the gang came outside, Willow screamed, "CORDY! Are you insane?"

The brunette couldn’t understand her fear. "What is your teenage trauma? I found Xander, it looked like he was in a car accident! So, help me – like, now!"

Giles and Oz took Xander off her hands, but to Cordelia’s surprise they immediately put him into the book cage, and quickly locked it behind them.

"Are you people seriously mental?" Cordelia demanded. "He needs medical attention!"

"You don’t know?" Buffy asked, amazed.

"Know what?"

Whatever the Slayer was about to say, it was forgotten as Xander regained complete consciousness, and the souled vampire took stock of the situation. "Where am I?" he asked in confusion.

"Xander," Giles looked at him sternly. "You’re in the library."

The undead creature looked at him, and tried to get out of the cage. "Hey, G-man? Why am I locked in?"

"That’s what I want to know!" demanded Cordelia, as Willow started crying.

"Cordelia?" asked Xander in confusion. Then he noticed Willow in tears. "Hey Wills," he said gently, "come on, let’s quit with the waterworks here!"

Buffy looked at Giles and Jenny. "Are you guys sure..."

"He doesn’t remember," Jenny said, interrupting her. "But according to the stories of my people, in a few moments, he will."

"Remember what?" Xander asked. The last thing he remembered was coming out of the Bronze that night...

And that, of course, was when the memories hit him like a hurricane.

"NOOOO!!!" the souled vampire screamed, hitting the cage as everyone recoiled. His game face, appearing like a tragic death mask.

Cordelia screamed, "He’s a vampire?!" before running out of the library in horror.

Xander himself was not in any better frame of mind, as he curled up into a fetal position and started muttering, "Oh God, oh God, oh God..." over and over again.

Giles quietly opened the cage, and beckoned the young vampire to come out. But Xander just sat there, almost catatonic, as the memories of all the people he had killed started to haunt him for the rest of his unlife.

The others then gathered in Giles’ private office. "I, uh, believe it’s worked," the librarian said tiredly.

"Yes, I think so too," Jenny agreed, looking at her favorite student. "You did it, Willow."

The redhead stopped crying long enough to say weakly, "That’s a good, huh?"

"Yeah," Oz said, squeezing her hand as Willow smiled at him. "We’re all proud of you."

"What about Cordelia?" Buffy suddenly asked.

"The werewolf shrugged. "Heard her car screeching out of the lot. Best guess is, that she’s gone home."

"We better check on Xander," Willow then decided, still greatly concerned about her old crush.

But as they went out, they saw the cage was empty, and Xander was gone.

"DAMN IT!" Giles cursed. "W-what was I thinking? I should never-"

"Rupert," Jenny said, calming him down. "We have other things to worry about."

The British man looked at her in confusion. "Uh, what?"

"Angel," Willow said, catching on and stopping her sniffling. "If he finds Xander, and realizes we can curse vampires now..."

"He’ll try to kill us, before we can do it to him," Buffy finished up. The Slayer looked at Willow and asked her, "Wills, if you think you can, we should do the ritual for Angel now."

Giles looked worried. "That, that may be dangerous, after channeling those magicks so recently..."

Willow interrupted him, "No, Buffy’s right! And besides, without a soul Angel might kill Xander now! The sooner the better, before anyone else gets hurt."

So saying, the White Hats once again set up for the magic ritual.

***

At the abandoned factory, Drusilla was rocking back and forth, just as Xander had done in the book cage and muttering, "Oh God, oh God, oh God..."

"Dru, will ya stop takin’ the name o’ the Lord in vain?" Spike snapped, his patience exhausted after ages of listening to the mantra. Angelus, also bored, for once agreed with him. "Now what gives, my ripe precious?"

"It’s my kitten," the crazed vampiress was almost crying. "He’s not my kitten no more. The White Knight’s come back..."

Angelus was the first to realize what she meant, and burst out laughing. "They restored his soul?" the soulless demon chuckled, not thinking about the ramifications.

"What?" demanded Spike.

Angelus kept laughing. "Take it from someone who knows, Spike – that’s a fate worse than staking!"

The platinum-blonde vampire thought about it, and realizing the truth started to grin and chuckle himself. < The little wanker won’t be around no more, if he’s now anything like Angelus was back then, > the demon thought to himself. < He – hang about! >

"You stupid git!" Spike then roared at Drusilla’s sire. "If they could do it to HIM, what makes ya think they won’t do it to US!?"

Angelus stopped laughing.

And right on cue, he started screaming as his human soul was once again entrapped within Liam’s long-dead corpse.

Dropping to his knees, the vampire that was now Angel again looked around in confusion. The last thing he remembered was being in bed with Buffy – what was he doing here, with Spike and Dru?

Drusilla got up off the floor, and pointed at him with rage-filled eyes. "You’re not my Daddy anymore! You’re the Angel-beast!"

Spike didn’t need to hear anything more – he gestured to the other vampires and yelled, "KILL HIM!"

But even though Angel was confused, there was nothing wrong with the 245-year-old vampire’s instincts and he fought off his attackers, before running off into the night.

But before he’d gotten far, the memories came back – and Angel howled in pain, falling to his knees, before scrambling up and skittering away, his mind telling him to get to some place of safety.

Huffing and puffing, Angel arrived at his old apartment, and he was so distracted over what had happened he didn’t even notice the presence of another vampire, until he heard the moans coming from the floor.

The older vamp switched on the lights, and was surprised to see Xander blinking in pain. "Ow!" the younger vampire growled. "What-?"

Then he saw Angelus, and sprang to his feet with a growl and a stake in his hand.

"Xander, no! It’s me, Angel. They, they gave me my soul back, just like they did you..."

The 17-year-old wasn’t convinced. "How do I know that? You could be trying to trick me..."

"Xander," Angel said tiredly, "I’m 245 years old, and you’ve been a vampire barely a week. If I was still Angelus, you’d be dust by now."

The boy considered that. "Persuasive. Not conclusive, here."

Angel sighed, the burden of his crimes too much to bear. He walked to Xander and his fellow souled vamp recoiled, until Angel got to his knees and said, "Please, kill me."

The young man couldn’t believe it. "What?"

"You know what I’m going through," the ancient vampire whispered. "You’re the only one that can. Please, if that’s what it takes to convince you – do it."

Xander looked at him, before dropping the stake, screaming and starting to trash the apartment. Angel got up, and just waited for the boy to vent his rage.

"What were you doing here?" he then asked, when Xander was done. "This is the first place I would have looked for you."

His interlocutor shrugged. "I couldn’t stay at the library, and I couldn’t go home. This was the one place I could think of, that meant...safety. At least for tonight."

"I know what you mean, and what you’re going through..."

"Do you?" the boy challenged him. "Did you die a virgin?"

Angel was confused. "What-?"

"Yeah, 'cause I did, you know," Xander started to pace like a caged animal, as he ranted on a subject very important to him. "My first time was with Drusilla!"

The older vamp shrugged. "Well, then, you’ve made love at least once in your life..."

"Knock it off, Deadboy! That had nothing to do with love! You know what Dru’s like – we just went at it, like animals. And THAT’S all I’ll ever have to remember, for the rest of eternity?!"

Angel could sympathize with how the boy felt. "Xander..."

The dark-haired young man shook his head. "I can’t live like this. That’s why, I’m gonna like kill myself in the morning."

Angel instantly got worried. "NO!"

Xander looked at him, "What the hell do you mean, ‘no’? What business is it of yours?"

The older souled vampire thought furiously. "When I got my soul back, I was with Spike and Dru," he temporized. "And when she told us what had happened to you, Spike and I laughed. My money says he’s still laughing at you, and Drusilla’s probably joined him by now."

The young vamp looked at him, knowing what Angel was trying to do. "Look, Deadboy..."

"I need your help to stop them. It’s as simple as that, Xander. Are you gonna abandon your friends and take the coward’s way out, or are you at least going to help me do that much?"

Xander sighed. He hated the fact that every time he spoke with the other vampire lately, he couldn’t argue with the logic of Angel’s arguments. "No promises, Deadboy, but I’ll think about it."

As Xander started to leave, Angel asked him, "Where are you going?"

"To find somewhere else to spend the night. I know you need your space."

The Irish-born vamp grunted in surprise. "Any ideas where?"

The American-born one shrugged. "I was thinkin’, maybe some crypt in a cemetery."

Angel shook his head. "I noticed an abandoned mansion on Crawford Street, on my way here," he said slowly. "If you decide to hole up there, I won’t tell anyone – not even your friends."

Xander then smiled in pain, and did something he thought he’d never do. "Thanks, Angel," he said, before disappearing out the door.

 

Part IV: Un-Becoming

Sunnydale, California. May, 1998

The vampire Drusilla lay asleep in her bed, dreaming.

Tonight she wasn’t dreaming Xander’s dreams, the sire-childe bond linking them in a mystical way no mortal could understand – she was dreaming about the past.

The vampiress dreamed of her own turning, after Angelus and Darla had finished having sex in front of her in that convent filled with corpses.

Dru also dreamed of what she had done with the human William, in that London alley 118 years before.

The bleached-blonde vampire himself was not beside her in bed – Spike was in one of Sunnydale’s cemeteries, watching Buffy, Xander and Angel patrol.

Back in March, William the Bloody had recovered the use of his legs; around about the time a major case of the flu, had hit half the population of Sunnydale High – including the Slayer.

He had gone to the hospital to strike while she was weak, but had encountered that damned piece of filth Xander, guarding her back at Angel’s request.

"Well, look at you," Spike had said to Xander, as they had come face to face in the corridor. "All dressed up in big brother’s clothes..."

It wasn’t a lie – Spike had his long black leather duster on and Xander his black leather jacket, but otherwise they were dressed identically.

Xander had only growled, "Take a walk, overbite."

Spike had grinned, "Now, why should I do that? After comin’ all this way to pay my respects to the Slayer 'n all..."

"Visiting hours are over."

The British vampire had then lost the smile. "You think you can 'andle me, ya great poofy wanker?"

The American undead had then grinned maniacally. "Not the way I handled Drusilla..."

Spike had almost lost it then, but the presence of a nearby security guard had distracted him and he’d managed to calm down. "The White Knight, eh? That’s what Dru calls ya nowadays. Too bad your own sire can’t stand the sight o’ you no more, idn’t it?"

Xander had only snarled softly, "You’re gonna die. And I’m gonna be there."

Spike was then jolted out of the memories of months before, when a group of vampires attacked the three warriors. Buffy, Xander and Angel quickly made short work of them though, and Spike heard some threats by Buffy against himself, before the Slayer slayed her intended messenger.

The soulless demon only grinned with great hatred, and turned and left the cemetery.

***

Buffy the vampire Slayer was worried.

Glancing around at her two undead companions, she thought back upon the recent past, after both vampires had had their souls restored.

The next night after the ritual, Xander had dragged Angel to the library – very much against his will – to demonstrate to the Scooby gang that he wasn’t a threat anymore.

Buffy had screamed and rushed over to hug him, but her happiness at seeing her beloved was cut short as she saw the misery and self-loathing in Angel’s eyes. They had hugged intensely, yes, but it hadn’t been the same as before.

And she had known, that it never would be.

Giles and Jenny had hung back, as had Cordelia – who had refused to look directly at either vamp present. Willow and Oz had gone over to Xander, who had been trying to vanish into the shadows and refused to look anyone in the eye.

"Xander, talk to me," the redhead had begged.

"There’s nothing to say. I’m a vampire. I have a soul. Thanks to you. Yay me," the young man had hissed out, turning his back on them.

"Please, just look at me..."

The souled vampire had sounded like he’d lost it, then. "You want to see my face, Will? You wanna see the real me?" Xander had then turned around, full game face on. "THEN TAKE A GOOD FRIGGIN’ LOOK AT ME!"

The young witch had then recoiled in shock, not having anticipated how angry Xander would become getting his soul back. "I’m leaving. Don’t talk to me. And don’t try to find me. 'Cause I don’t know how well I could control myself," and the young vampire had subsequently stormed out.

Oz had comforted his girlfriend as best he could, as she broke down and cried. He made her a promise, as Willow wept in his arms – no matter what happened, he would never walk away from her, like Xander had just done.

Buffy had gone all indignant and had almost chased after the Xander-shaped vampire to pound some sense into him, when Angel had caught her arm.

"Don’t," the souled vampire had warned her. "He needs time to deal with all this, and you can’t help him. You’ll only make it worse."

"But Angel-!"

"I mean it," Angel had said firmly, not letting her go. "The mood he’s in, you’d end up killing each other. And I’m not speaking figuratively."

That of course had cooled her down, and Giles had voiced his opinion. "Uh – Buffy, I think he’s right."

"Of course I am," the dark-haired vamp had said. "You people have no idea what he’s going through. You can’t – I’m the only one, who can even come close."

The rest of the evening had then gone further downhill, as Angel had explained how suicidal Xander was – and that the only thing preventing him from walking into the sunlight was Angel’s appeal to his sense of duty, that he had to help stop Spike and Dru.

"It’s only temporary, I know," Angel had said, "but it’s better than the alternative."

"You seem very protective of him," Jenny had observed, looking at the former nemesis of her clan.

The Irish-born vamp had shrugged. "He’s me, 100 years ago," he’d said, "and there is a...family obligation. He’s blood of my blood, childe of my childe; and, basically, if it wasn’t for him, for having a focus of someone to save – I think I’d have staked myself last night, after everything I’ve done."

That remark had sent chills down the Slayer’s spine, as Buffy had held him tighter.

Things hadn’t become much better either, as the months had passed; the young vampire had become a recluse, and Angel was the only one who could even vaguely reach through to him. Buffy had thought that majorly ironic, given how much Xander had hated the souled vampire when he was alive.

Eventually the boy had started to come out of his shell, like when Angel had asked him to guard her in the hospital when she’d killed Der Kindestod – and Buffy and Willow had had hopes, that somehow everything would go back to normal.

But that had all gone to pieces later in April, during the night of the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

The poltergeist, the ghost of the student Jim Stanley from 1955 had possessed Cordelia after they had tried to exorcise him – and Xander had become similarly enthralled by his beloved, Grace Newman.

Giles had said later that Cordelia must have been the most suitable vessel for James to use under the circumstances, presumably because of her feelings about her vampiric ex-boyfriend.

And so Xander and Cordelia had kissed, allowing James and Grace to resolve their issues and depart for the next world.

Unfortunately, Xander had freaked afterwards and instantly disappeared, leaving Cordelia alone and crying in the school. Angel had eventually found him, and ascertained that he was all right; the young vampire had been terrified, but otherwise unharmed.

Terrified because the boy had been sure he’d had a moment of happiness, and would lose his soul; but fortunately, that hadn’t happened, and Xander had eventually recovered and Angel had talked him into helping out again.

Buffy sighed, as she thought next of the incident with the Sunnydale High swim team; maybe, just maybe, if Xander had been around to help, the entire team wouldn’t have become fish monsters and vanished, before they’d nailed Coach Marin and Nurse Greenleigh for giving those boys doctored steroids.

"Patrol’s over," Buffy said to her two companions. "Time to go home." Neither vampire said anything, but simply escorted her back to her house.

The blonde girl would have preferred to escort Angel and Xander home, the protective streak because of her Slayer instincts a mile wide; but she still didn’t know Xander’s address nowadays, and Angel refused to tell her or anybody where he was staying.

***

The next morning, after Giles had paid a visit to the Sunnydale Museum of Natural History, Drusilla came out of their bedroom and walked up to Spike, who was sitting and reading the newspaper at a table in the factory.

The British vampire asked his beloved, "Nice sleep, pet?"

Drusilla closed her eyes, and leaned her head back. "The moon’s been whisperin’ to me...all sorts o’ dreadful things."

Spike was concerned. "What did the moon tell you?" He got up at once. "Did ya have a vision? Is somethin’ coming?"

Dru said dreamily, "Oh, yeah..." Then she whispered, "Something terrible. Psst, psst, psst, psst, psst, psst..."

"Where?"

"At the museum. A tomb...with a surprise inside."

Spike held his hand up to her head. "You can see all that in your head?"

Drusilla smiled. "What do you think?"

The Billy Idol-wannabe smirked. "I think someone’s been readin’ my paper..." he said, as the Big Bad held up his copy of the Sunnydale Press; the headline of which read, ‘Mysterious Obelisk Unearthed: Excavators Discover Ancient Artifact’.

Drusilla barely glanced at it. "That’s what’s been whisperin’ to me. Shh."

"Luv?"

"I hear whispering. Come on, Spike my sweet. We have to get that tomb."

Later, after Drusilla had murdered the museum curator and her vampires had stolen the artifact, Spike walked around in the factory, eyeing it in distaste.

"It’s a big rock. I can’t wait to tell all me friends. They don’t 'ave a rock this big," the Brit said scornfully.

Drusilla pouted. "You said I could 'ave it. Besides, it’s not just a rock."

Spike looked at her. "We have a lesson to give, then, ducks?"

Drusilla walked and talked dreamily. "Acathla the demon came forth to swallow the world," she said, as she strolled to the obelisk.

"He was killed by a virtuous knight who pierced the demon’s 'eart, before he could draw a breath to perform the act. Acathla turned to stone, as demons sometimes do, and was buried where neither man nor demon would wanna look."

The female vampire then started giggling. "Unless o’ course, they’re puttin’ up low rent 'ousing. Boys..."

Two vampires reached up with crowbars, and pried open the tomb. The lid crashed to the floor, stirring up plenty of dust. Inside was a tall, horned, stockily-built stone demon, with a sword protruding from the right side of its chest.

Upon seeing him, Drusilla closed her eyes, raising her hands to the sides of her head and beginning to sway back and forth. "He fills my 'ead. I can’t 'ear anything else."

Spike looked thoughtful. "Lemme guess. Someone pulls out the sword..."

"Someone worthy..." interrupted Dru.

"Mm. The demon wakes up, and wackiness ensues," completed the male vampire.

Drusilla opened her eyes, and lowered her arms. "He will swallow the world, and every creature livin’ on this planet will go to Hell."

If Angelus had been present, she would have missed Spike’s expression; but he wasn’t, and she didn’t. "Spike? Spike, my sweet! The fun’s about to begin! What’s wrong?"

The blonde vampire sighed. "Look, Dru – the truth is, I like this world. You’ve got...dog racing, Manchester United. And you’ve got people. Billions of people, walkin’ around like Happy Meals with legs. It’s all right 'ere. Why’d you wanna send it all to Hell?"

Drusilla wasn’t happy about Spike’s lack of enthusiasm. But unfortunately, she also knew just how to push his buttons. "You’re right, pet. And there’s Daddy and my kitten to consider – with their dirty souls, they’d be in torment in Hell forever..."

Spike quickly turned around, his eyes blazing. "Hadn’t thought o’ that!" The hatred he felt for the two other vampires, quickly outpaced any other consideration. "On second thoughts, ducks, you’re absolutely right. Let’s destroy the world."

***

That night, Buffy was on patrol, when Kendra – the other Slayer that had been called, when she had temporarily drowned one year ago – jumped out of the bushes at her.

"You know, polite people call before they jump out of the bushes and attack you," Buffy exhaled.

Kendra smiled and said in her Caribbean accent, "Just wanted to test your reflexes."

"How about testing my face punching? 'Cause I think you’ll find it’s improved," the other Slayer retorted.

"I was on me way to your house. Saw you walking. Couldn’t help meself."

Buffy smiled. "Which begs the question, and don’t think I’m not glad to see you, but, why are you here?"

Kendra started to answer, before Buffy interrupted, "Oh, wait. No, let me guess. Your Watcher informed you..." the blonde girl imitated Kendra’s accent, "Dat a very dark power is about to rise in Sunnydale."

"Dat’s about it," said the dark-skinned Slayer.

Buffy grimaced. "Great. So, you have any idea what this dark power is?"

Kendra was about to answer, when the girl went still and then sent a stake flying towards Xander, who was walking towards them.

Fortunately, Xander was able to duck out of the way. Before Kendra could resume the attack, Buffy grabbed her and said, "Whoa, Pink Ranger! That’s Xander. Remember him, the whole ‘not-being-allowed-to-talk-to-boys’ thing?"

The other Slayer looked confused. "But – dis is a vampire! I can tell!"

"Yeah," Buffy looked down, as Xander looked away. "But he’s got a soul-"

"Like Angelus?"

The Summers daughter squirmed. "Right."

"Angel sent me to find you," Xander then said, not looking directly at the Slayers. "There’s been a murder. G-man’ll need to see ya both pronto." Then he vanished so quickly, it would have made Angel proud.

"What’s de story wit him?" Kendra wanted to know, as they headed for the library.

"Drusilla vamped Xander some months ago. We managed to curse him, but..."

The second Slayer frowned. "Spike and Drusilla? You have fought dese two before. Dey should already be dead."

Buffy looked exasperated. "I know! I know!"

Later at the library, after Giles had gotten off the phone to the museum, he explained the situation to everyone. "The artifact has been stolen. A-and there’s no doubt about it, it-it contained the demon Acathla."

"Which means what?" asked Willow.

"Well, the, uh, the demon universe exists in a dimension separate from our own. With one breath, Acathla will, when activated, create a vortex, a-a kind of, um...whirlpool that will pull everything on Earth into that dimension, where any non-demon life will suffer horrible and...eternal torment."

Everyone was silent. Oz said it best. "Sounds like something to avoid."

Buffy tried to be positive. "Okay, people, we need ideas! I’m Slay Gal, so do we have any clue how to stop this thing already?"

Kendra said quickly, "We have." She then pulled a sword from her bag. "Blessed by the knight who first slew de demon. If all else fails, dis might stop it. I tink."

Giles looked at the sword, intrigued. "Ooh. May I? May I?" He then took the sword from Kendra, to examine it. "Thank you. Well, l-let’s, uh, hope all else doesn’t fail."

***

At the factory, Spike and Drusilla had already tried to activate Acathla, but failed. Drusilla had thrown a tantrum: "This is so...disappointing! There must be somethin’ I missed. The incantations, the blood...I dunno! But we’ll 'ave our Armageddon. I swear!"

Spike had then come up with an idea, and the next day in Sunnydale High a vampire had come into Buffy, Willow and Cordelia’s class to deliver a message, before combusting in the sunlight.

"You will come to her. You will come to her, or people will die. Tonight! Her hour is at hand!"

Buffy discussed it with Giles and Kendra after class, and decided to go face the insane vampiress in her favorite cemetery – with the other Slayer to stay with the others, in case something funny happened.

Once Buffy had gone however, Spike and his cadre of vampires attacked the library. Angel, Xander and Kendra fought them, but they were just too out-numbered. As Willow, Jenny, and Oz tried to escape, the demons knocked out the Slayer and the souled vamps, dragging Giles away.

Later at Sunnydale General Hospital, Buffy showed up and found Jenny Calendar. "Hey," she said to the computer teacher, the bitterness over Angel having faded ever since they’d restored his soul. "Dru never showed up. What happened?"

Jenny filled her in on the attack at the library, as they went to Kendra’s room where the other Slayer was in a healing coma, recovering from her injuries. "The police came by afterwards," the technopagan finished up, "and the whole thing was blamed on gang activity."

Buffy snorted. "Sunnydale PD. To serve and deny."

As they went into Kendra’s room, she saw Angel there, bruised and scratched up from the fight. She rushed into her beloved’s embrace, and noticed Willow and Oz were also holding tightly to each other, and even Cordelia was there.

"Where’s Giles?" the Slayer suddenly demanded, noticing his absence.

Jenny said softly, looking at Kendra, "The vampires took him. Goddess, if he..."

Willow interrupted her. "Hey, Giles is gonna be fine! I guarantee it."

Janna smiled at her, "Thank you, Willow."

Buffy took charge. "That’s it! This is the last straw. Nobody messes with my Watcher! I’m going home to get my weapons. Angel, you go scout the factory, I’ll join you as soon as I get the sword and some other stuff."

Angel nodded, and left. "You guys stay here, and if you see Xander, tell him to join us there!"

Buffy left the hospital, and made her way back to 1630 Revello Drive. But as she made her way up the driveway, she was attacked by Spike.

"Hello, cutie!" the soulless demon said happily, as they fought.

Joyce, hearing the disturbance outside, went out to see her daughter fighting for her life. "Buffy!" her mother screamed.

"Mom, get back inside!!" the Slayer yelled.

The distraction cost her dearly, however, as Spike stunned her with an uppercut and managed to get Buffy in a stranglehold. "Just wanted ya to know, Dru’s torturin’ your Watcher right now. Learned from the best, she did. Meself, I just had to 'ave one more taste o’ that Slayer blood before the big finale. Third time’s the charm, y’know?"

With the big speech over, the demon vamped out and was sinking his fangs into Buffy’s neck...when all of a sudden, Spike exploded into ashes.

Xander stood there, a stake in his hand and a look of satisfaction on his face. "Told you I’d be there," the souled vampire hissed at the settling dust.

Joyce couldn’t help it – she screamed. "WHAT is going on here?" she demanded.

Xander and Buffy looked at her, and the boy shrugged. "I’d tell her the truth."

Joyce’s eyes went wide, as Xander reverted to his human mask. "Xander? But – but you’re dead! You’ve been dead for months!"

Buffy sighed. "Thanks for the save, Xander." Then she turned to her mother. "Look, Mom, I guess it’s time – the truth is, I’m a vampire Slayer."

The middle-aged blonde woman looked blank. "A what?"

Xander vamped out. "Yep, vampires are real, and I’m your proof. They’re evil, they live in Sunnydale, and for the past three years your daughter’s been kicking their asses. That’s why she got thrown outta Hemery High, and why she’s always getting into trouble."

Buffy mock-glared at him. "Way to be subtle, Xand-man."

Joyce looked stunned. "Vampires?"

Xander took Buffy’s cross in his hand, and growled in pain as the sacred icon burned his flesh. Ignoring the smoke, he then showed his hand to Joyce, as the Slayer’s mother’s eyes went wide.

"But if vampires are evil..."

"Xander’s a special case. Look, Mom, we have got to go. The bad guys have kidnapped Giles, plus they’re planning to destroy the world..."

"What?"

"I promise I’ll explain it all, when we get back, but right now we so have to motor!" Buffy then hugged her mother. "I love you, Mom."

Ignoring Joyce’s look of fear and confusion, Buffy and Xander raced away.

When she got to the school and made her way into the library, the Slayer found a short man wearing a strange hat waiting for her. "About time you got here," the guy said with a Queens accent.

Buffy frowned. "Who are you?"

"Whistler," he said nonchalantly.

"What are you doing here?"

"I’m waiting for you."

Buffy started looking for the sword. "Why?"

Whistler decided to lighten things up. "'Cause I-I-I need a date to the prom."

The Slayer was not amused. "If you have information worth hearing, I’m listening. If you’re gonna crack jokes, maybe I’ll pull out your ribcage and wear it as a hat."

Whistler whistled. "Hello to the imagery! Very nice."

Getting serious, the man continued, "So, listen. Everything is happening, just as the Powers foretold it would. This is Angel’s big day. He was meant to be here, to stop Acathla. Lucky for you guys, he’s recovered from his creepo phase after you two made with the smoochies."

Buffy waited for more, then exhaled. "That’s it? You don’t have anything useful to tell me, do you? What are you, just some immortal demon sent down to even the score between good and evil?"

The balance demon was impressed. "Wow. Good guess."

The blonde girl stepped up to him. "Well, you wanna try getting off the fence and picking sides, maybe fight evil once in a while? 'Cause I’m sick and tired of doing it myself."

Whistler looked at her, knowledge of the future reflected in his eyes. "In the end, you’re always by yourself, sister. Bottom line is you’re born alone, and you’ll die alone."

Buffy looked disgusted. "Spare me. I got some vamps to kill, and a demon that needs its ass kicked!" So saying, she grabbed the sword and started to leave.

Her interlocutor called out, "The sword isn’t enough. You gotta be ready. You gotta know how to use it!"

Buffy stopped. "Whistler...what exactly do you mean by that?"

"Angel’s the key. His blood, the sire’s blood, can close the gate to Hell if Crazy Girl opens it up. That’s all I can tell you. That and it’s all on the line here, kid. So you two better not screw up."

The Slayer just looked at him, before she left and found Angel and Xander outside. Buffy said to the older vampire, "Angel, have you ever heard of someone named Whistler?"

***

At the factory, Giles was tied to a chair, and he had been badly tortured by Drusilla. The insane vampiress smiled, as she cleaned his glasses. "Now, let’s go over it again. How do you wake up Acathla?"

The librarian just shook his head. "Don’t know."

Drusilla sighed. "I wish I could just turn you, like I did with my kitten, but that naughty Slayer of yours wouldn’t gimme the time." She sighed again. "You know, I can stop the pain. You’ve been very brave 'n all...but it’s over. You’ve given enough."

The vampiress leaned down, close to Giles’ ear. "Now, lemme make it stop."

Giles was panting and shaking with pain. "Please..."

Drusilla kneeled to face him, a sweet expression on her human face. "Just tell me what I need to know."

The Watcher said weakly, "In order...to be worthy..."

"Yeah?"

Giles finished up, "You must perform the ritual...in a pink suit of armor." To his credit, the British man didn’t back down, even when Drusilla glared at him. "Crazy bint!"

Dru stood up. "All right. Time to get my branding iron."

And then Angel, Buffy and Xander broke into the factory – pissed, and out for blood. They started destroying the vampires guarding Acathla, as Dru abandoned Giles and joined the fight.

"Get Giles to safety!" Buffy yelled to Xander, who left the fight and took the Watcher out of there.

Drusilla tried to do the ritual again, but she failed. By a strange coincidence, Buffy’s sword sliced her forehead as she battled the vampire soldiers, and the female vampire touched her own blood streaming down her head.

"O’ course," Dru whispered, as she had an epiphany and yanked out the sword.

There was a flash of light, and then the 138-year-old vampiress tried to buy time for Acathla to destroy the world.

But it was too late; her cannon fodder had been wiped out. "So what’s it gonna be, Daddy?" the ex-London girl smiled at her sire, standing in front of the statue.

Angel sighed, and sliced the sword along his palm, covering the blade with his blood. He didn’t want to do it, but his demented childe had given him no other choice.

"I’m sorry, Dru..." the souled vamp whispered, as he drove the sword into Acathla. Straight through Drusilla’s stomach too, closing the portal that had begun to form – but not before the insane vamp was sucked screaming into Hell.

***

The world had been saved, and everyone had gathered back at the hospital where Xander had dropped Giles off. Buffy’s mother had been summoned there too, and learnt the whole amazing story of who Buffy was and what she did.

She didn’t exactly look thrilled to see Angel again though, and so the souled vamp decided to make himself scarce. Before he left though, Soul Boy heard Joyce asking, "Where’s Xander?"

And suddenly, Angel began to get very afraid.

Tearing around Sunnydale, the vamp finally found the fledgling standing alone, in a deserted park. And Angel had known for ages that the sun was coming out, as he joined the other souled vampire.

"Xander," the former Scourge of Europe said nervously, "the sun’ll be up soon, we gotta find cover..."

The other vamp just stared at him, and Angel abandoned pretense. "Don’t do this."

Xander just smiled softly. "I’ve done what I had to do, Deadboy. Spike and Dru are histoire. Now, I just wanna rest in peace. I think I’ve earned that much."

"But the danger’s not over," Angel insisted. "You know that. And besides...the others, especially the girls, they still need you."

The dark-haired 17-year-old replied again in that soft voice, "Angel. Buffy has you, Willow has Oz, and Cordy...she dumped my sorry ass a long time ago."

"You still feel something for her. And she still loves you. Even I know that."

Xander chuckled bitterly. "Yeah, but too bad about that pesky happiness clause, huh? Anyway, she’ll find someone else soon enough."

A voice with an Irish accent then said, "Ya really believe that?"

Xander and his companion turned around, Angel looking suspiciously at the stranger in a cheap suit. "Who are you?"

"Name’s Doyle," the Irishman said.

Angel and Xander stared at him, the boy crinkling his forehead. "You don’t smell human," said the younger vamp in confusion.

Doyle looked a bit miffed. "Now, that’s a bit rude. So happens, that I am very much human."

He sneezed, and blue spikes popped out all over his face. "On my mother’s side." The Irishman then shook his head, and the spikes disappeared. "Well, anyway, you know I’m not a vampire like yourselves."

Xander looked bored. "So – what do you want?"

The half-breed replied, "I’ve been sent – by the Powers-That-Be."

Angel was confused. "The powers that be what?"

Doyle ignored that. "Lemme tell ya both a little bedtime story. Once upon a time, there was a young vampire. A real nasty killer, he was. And he belonged to one of the meanest vampire families in all the land. Then one day, he’s cursed by his friends; they restore his human soul. And all of a sudden, our boy is mad with guilt. You know: ‘what have I done?’ He’s freaked. Suicidal."

Angel began to back off, the meeting reminding him of his own recruitment to the cause by Whistler over two years ago. Xander didn’t notice and said to Doyle, "Congratulations, I’m getting sleepy."

The half-man shrugged. "Yeah, well, it’s a fairly dull tale. The boy is freaked as I said, helps kill the bad guys, and now just wants to die."

Xander asked the messenger from the Powers-That-Be, "So?"

Doyle continued, "So, I’m goin’ to tell ya what happens next. You see this vampire, he thinks he’s helped by killin’ the bad guys. Plus stayin’ away from the humans, his friends, so as not to be tempted by that sweet taste o’ their blood."

The Irishman shook his head. "But that’s where he’s makin’ his big error, see. Because he’s got a chance at redemption, to make up for all those people he’s murdered, and he’s not gonna get it that way."

Angel butted into the conversation. "What I want to know is exactly who sent you."

Doyle shrugged again. "I’m honestly not sure. They don’t speak to me direct. I get – visions. Which is to say great splittin’ migraines, that come with pictures. A name – a face. I don’t know who sends 'em. I just know whoever sends them is more powerful than any of us present 'ere tonight, and they’re just tryin’ to make things right."

Xander looked at his new acquaintance. "Why me?"

The half-Brachen demon stared at the souled vamp. "Because you’ve got potential. And the balance sheet isn’t exactly in your favor."

Angel stared at the newcomer. "So then, why you?"

Doyle looked away. "We all of us got something to atone for."

Then the man looked at Xander. "Look, kid. High school’s over. And you kill yourself now, it’s all over. But if ya come with me to LA, if you do get killed, at least the odds are it won’t be a meaningless death. Who knows? You may even end up savin’ some helpless 17-year-old kid from a crazy female vampire, outside some nightclub."

Xander looked ready to kill the other man, and Angel instantly knew how Drusilla had turned him. The older vampire then said to the boy, "Xander. Please. I know you can’t stay in Sunnydale anymore – but this would be a, a fresh start. I – do it for Buffy if nothing else, because I don’t know how to explain the alternative to her."

Xander sighed, knowing he was running out of time if he was going to choose to take up the offer. "You know a decent place to stay?" the so-called White Knight asked the Irishman.

Doyle never blinked. "No."

"And there’s a good chance that I’ll die?"

The messenger shrugged. "Who knows?"

In the space of a heartbeat, the vampire made his decision. "Fine. Let’s go to Lala land." Xander then turned to Angel. "G’bye, Deadboy. Tell the gang that I – that I’m – oh, hell, tell 'em anything you want."

"Car’s over here," Doyle said, as he led the boy away. "And once we get to where we’re goin’, there are some people I want you to meet..."

"Who?" asked Xander, as he got in the car.

"Oh, you’ll see..." Doyle’s voice trailed off, as he got into the vehicle with tinted windows and started it up.

The vampire known as Angel stood there in the park, and had no way of knowing the chain of events that had been set in motion as the car drove away.

That the following February, in the absence of a Slayer called Faith a demon named Balthazar would recover his strength in time to slaughter his enemy – the Mayor of Sunnydale, a long-lived demon worshipper named Richard Wilkins III.

And that eventually Angel would find the Gem of Amarra with Giles’ help, and after killing Balthazar and attending Buffy’s graduation ceremony – presided over by the new Mayor, Allan Finch – he would journey to LA and give the Gem to his grandchilde, to give Xander the greatest chance of survival.

Or that 15 months from now, Doyle and his undead partner would save Cordelia in LA from a vamp named Russell Winters, thus earning the enmity of the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart in the process.

Or that later Xander would utterly destroy that law firm and everyone in it – save one man – after they were responsible for killing Doyle, who died saving three blind children from a lethal assassin as Cordelia watched helplessly.

Or that in the year 2000, the demon Toth’s pherula gemina device would split Angel into the human Liam and the vampire Angelus – and his human self and Buffy would eventually engage in a marathon 30-hour session of nonstop lovemaking, before reluctantly rejoining his two halves.

Or that in three years, when Xander, Cordelia, and four other people – known as Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok clan, Charles Gunn, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Winifred Burkle – returned from a demon dimension known as Pylea, the broken-hearted 248-year-old vampire would be waiting to tell them that Buffy had died, taking a dive in Dawn’s place.

All Angel knew, as he stood there, was that Xander had left Sunnydale forever – and his loss was something the Scooby gang would take a very long time to recover from.

THE END