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Echoes of the Fallen

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Fallen May Rise". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: YAHF- Xander lost a bet with with Willow, where he had to dress up as a Jewish character for Halloween. Well, he stuck to the bet, and now, he must overcome the memories of a man who wanted only to protect his people, no matter the cost.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > X-Men > Xander-Centered(Recent Donor)ChilordFR181492,971195516222,1302 Jul 094 Dec 09Yes
CoA Winner CoA Winner CoA Winner CoA Winner CoA Winner

Transitions III

Chapter 4: Transitions III
 
Disclaimer: These aren't my characters, only my interpretation. Magneto belongs to Marvel, Buffy characters belong to Joss Whedon and the various studios/networks.
 
Author’s Notes: Now the darkness comes, and into it we delve, to explore the fall. *Edit* Has been edited for grammar and a few mistakes
 
-*-*-*-
 
“I should have killed him when I had the chance.” Her voice was soft as she looked down over the fresh grave, the cool moonlight over head highlighting the smooth, polished stone.
 
“Yes, you should have,” his voice answered her as he looked down onto the tombstone. “But, this isn’t just your fault.”
 
“Isn’t it?” Buffy Summers looked up at the boy next to her, her eyes shining with the glistening sparkle of unshed tears. “I could have stopped this, I could have prevented it all. If I’d just killed him when I had the chance.”
 
“He wore both the faces of the man you love,” he said it gently, softly as he would reach up and quietly set his hand on her shoulder. “That’s never something that’s easy. Especially so soon after…”
 
“I still should have done it. He was just another vampire.” The words slipped past her lips as she would speak, her body stiffening for a moment under the contact before she slowly relaxed and allowed herself to lean back against him. “Just another vampire.”
 
“Right, just another vampire.” Xander snorted softly and shook his head. “Did you read what the Watcher Diaries said about him?”
 
“I… couldn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to,” she said softly as she leaned back against him, her eyes slowly falling shut as she curled her body against his own.
 
“Angelus, was the reason the four of them were known as the Scourge of Europe,” Xander spoke softly. “He didn’t just kill. He didn’t just torture… He destroyed, shattered, defiled, what ever it was that took his fancy at the time. Angel told you about Drusilla, yes?”
 
“Yes,” she spoke softly, her eyes distant as she shuddered slightly as she leaned in against him. “Is that what he wants to do to me?”
 
“For some reason, I can’t see you joining a convent,” Xander responded with a slight, grim smile of his lips.
 
“Psh, after my last experience? I could so totally write off sex for the rest of my life.” She shuddered slightly before looking up at him. “So, what did you mean by it not being just my fault?”
 
“You didn’t know, Buff,” he said softly, his eyes distant for a moment, before a flash of anger could be seen, burning across those dark orbs. “But someone did. And I’m going to have words with them.”
 
“How?” She almost shivered at the tone in his words, so reminiscent of the start of the year, of that side of Xander that he never willingly revealed unless properly provoked. “Jenny’s dead. Her uncle’s dead…”
 
“There are always ways,” he spoke up, so softly she could barely hear him, but his words sent a shiver of fear like a trickle of ice down her spine, and yet, still reassured her. “Neither of us was born Romani, but… Vengeance will be done for this.”
 
“Xan…” she clutched at him, her arms tight as he could feel how easily she held him. “Don’t. That isn’t a path you want to start down.”
 
“Oh, but it is.” He gently tightened his arm about her, before closing his eyes slowly. “I won’t pretend to have been close to her, but… She was an innocent in this. She was aiding her tribe, her people, she was doing her duty, and they held something so vital from her. They killed her, as much as if they’d broken her neck themselves.”
 
“You know that isn’t what she’d want,” she countered quietly in turn as she looked up into his eyes. “Not for you to go after her people like that.”
 
“They cast out one of their own, like a lamb to the slaughter!” The anger and venom laced his words. “They should have protected her! You DON’T sacrifice your people! You don’t toss them away like that!”
 
She could feel his knees weakening as his fingers clenched back against his palm, knuckles white with anger, even as he reined his temper back as she whispered to him, her hands, gently rubbing against his back,.“Shhh… Yes, they did wrong Xan, but, we can’t make the same mistakes they did.”
 
“They should pay,” he said it with such vehemence for a moment, the girl found herself nodding with him before she caught herself, rubbing his back softly.
 
“Yes, they should,” she agreed softly. “But, it’s not our place.”
 
“It’s not your place,” he corrected softly, before he slowly looked back into her eyes. “Me… I have something to say about it.”
 
“Nothing of the killing or maiming type, Xander,” she chided softly. “You have to keep me in line, remember?”
 
“Yeah, I know,” he responded quietly, fingers slowly unclenching with a sigh. “I just… It’s wrong.”
 
“Yeah, it is,” she agreed softly. “Yeah, it is.”
 
-*-*-*-
 
“Open up, Giles!” Xander didn’t quite yell as he struck the door, almost pounding on it as he refused to let the man stay there in peace.
 
“Damnation, Xander!” the words burst past the man’s lips in a thick snarl as his sunken blood shot eyes glared down at the boy as he swung the door open. “Leave me the bloody hell alone!”
 
“No.” Xander sniffed the air a moment, before glaring even more harshly at Giles as he shifted a box in his arms then pushed his way into the man’s apartment. “And what the hell, Giles?! Drowning yourself in cheap whiskey?”
 
“Listen you little sanctimonious wanker…!” Giles immediately snapped back at the boy, before he was cut off by a sharp cut of Xander’s hand.
 
“She deserves better than that.” Xander glared at the man as he set the box down on the man’s coffee table, before he grabbed the cheap bottle of whiskey and dragged it over to the sink and emptying it. “You know that.”
 
“If I want to drink myself into oblivion because the woman I love is DEAD, that’s MY choice!” the Ripper was out as Giles roared back at the boy, as he watched the boy take two clean glasses from the cupboard. “What the bloody hell are you doing?!”
 
“I told you,” the boy responded as it ignored the anger rolling off the man. “She deserves better.”
 
That said, the boy walked over to the couch, seating himself without a word as he set both glasses down. Giving the man a glare, he pointed to the chair nearby and spoke once more. “Sit!”
 
“Boy…” The growling was only growing now, but something about the look in Xander’s eyes made the man acquiesce. “What are you hoping to accomplish by this, standing here all night, refusing to let me drink? Do you actually think that…”
 
“I’m not here to stop you from drinking, Rupert Giles.” the European drawl was back, in full force as he glared at the man, while opening up the box he’d brought with him. “I’m here to stop you from insulting the woman’s memory with that poor excuse for whiskey.”
 
“Good Lord!” Giles stared a moment, as he then looked incredulously at the boy across from him. “Johnny Walker Blue Label?”
 
“I told you G-man.” Xander smiled slightly back at the British man next to him as he opened up the bottle and poured a stream of that amber liquid down into the waiting glass. “She deserves better than the cheap shit. Got it?”
 
“Indeed.” The words were far more subdued as he took the glass in hand, and then arched a brow as he watched Xander poor himself a much smaller portion. “However, I do think I should point out you’re too young to be drinking, even back home. Which does raise the question of how you managed to get your hands on this whiskey in the first place.”
 
“My Uncle Rory.” Xander responded easily enough as he lifted the glass up. “And in my house hold, its more a miracle that this will be the first bit of alcohol I’ve had.”
 
“What?” Giles blinked in shock as he looked incredulously at the boy before him. “And what do you think you’re doing then?”
 
“Honoring a friend, and reminding the man she loved that he’s not alone,” the boy responded with a slight smile. “Besides… I’ve got entirely too much knowledge about decent alcohol in this head of mine you know.”
 
“Well, one drink won’t hurt I suppose,” Giles hedgingly allowed, before raising his glass up quietly. “To Jenny.”
 
“To Jenny, and all those we’ve loved that have been taken before their time,” Xander answered back. “Cheers.”
 
“Cheers.”
 
-*-*-*-
 
“I could be mistaken, but I do believe visiting hours are over.” The words came in a cool, crisp snap in that European drawl as they slipped past Xander's lips, his dark eyes unblinking as they locked onto the figure before him.
 
Flowers in hand, Angelus offered a smile back at the boy, a hungry, predatory thing. “Well, I'm practically family.”
 
“Why don't you come back during the day, with that nice, bright, beautiful sun shining overhead, hmmm?” Xander countered back, a tight smile on his lips as he would stand unflinching. “That way, we can all get together, and take a nice, sunlight stroll through the park.”
 
The smile dropped the vampire's face as he pushed himself even closer, so Xander could smell the scent of blood on his lips. “Boy, if I decided to walk into Buffy's room, do you think for one microsecond you could stop me?”
 
“That's the question, now isn't it, Angelus?” Xander leaned forward, meeting the slightly taller man's eyes with his own, gaze burning back. “Could I stop you? Could those cops over there? How about all the orderlies that are about? Hmm? That leaves me curious. Shall we find out?”
 
There was a flicker of hesitation then, a spark of something akin to fear in the vampire's eyes as he looked into Xander's own, there was no fear in them, only a cold, icy certainty that he'd seen so very rarely in the past. “The Slayer's White Knight. Still in love with her hmmm?” He sneered back, before leaning in, whispering into his ear. “It must eat you up that I got there first.”
 
“First, means very, very little in the long run, Angelus,” The tone slipped so casually back, before suddenly it shifted, and again the vampire's personal space was invaded as the boy's lips hovered above his ear. “It doesn't matter who it starts with, only who it ends with...” He paused a moment, letting the words sink into the vampire's ear. “You will be ended, and then, when your ash settles onto the ground, then, all your terror, all your accomplishments, all the things you long to be remembered for? They'll be forgotten, dust in the wind just like you will be.”
 
The vampire snarled in return, suddenly jerking back as his eyes bore back into the boy's, a flicker of pale yellow slashing across them, almost glowing as he curled his lip back. “Oh, you think it's that simple, do you boy? You think that you can pull those pretty words out, and I'll go scurrying off into the night? I am ANGELUS!” He paused, snarling as he hissed back at the boy. “Perhaps I should remind you of that, hmm? Starting with your family perhaps? That little red headed friend of yours? Everyone else you've ever cared about?”
 
That eyebrow arched up on the boy's brow, before he would slowly take a step towards the vampire, his eyes burning with a cold radiance that had the vampire taking an unconscious step back from him as he spoke. “You think to break me, little vampire? You think to shatter me? Torture me?”
 
He paused a moment, saying nothing before a cold, bitter laugh escaped his lips. “Auschwitz couldn't break me, the Sonderkommando couldn't break me, watching my daughter die, and my wife, the woman I loved so desperately, looking at me as if I was a monster like those who we had been bound by in that camp didn't break me.”
 
The was a weathered steel in his voice now spoke of a strength forged in pain, experience and determination, as the boy continued on with the voice not his own. “My children, turning upon me, looking at me as if I were a monster, couldn't break me. Watching, as I failed again and again to protect the people I had sworn to protect, didn't break me. Monsters worse than you have tried, and failed. Now, you DARE to think you can do what they could not, pitiful little vampire?”
 
Angelus found himself shrinking back, fear, again gripping at his heart, for some reason he couldn't quite fathom, as he again backed up, retreating from the boy's advance as he that cold, burning voice pounded into his ears. “You wish to take from me what I hold dear? What I cherish? You wish to force me to relive the greatest pain I ever felt?” His voice, hissed in challenge then as he pinned the vampire with his eyes. “Go ahead, try it, find out what the last ones who did discovered.”
 
His voice shifted then, slightly, Xander again shining through as he locked his eyes on the vampire and rolled up his sleeve. “I have the memories of that life, of his life, his pain. I bear the marks he did, his scars... How much do you want to gamble, that it didn't end up in every part of me hmm? How much do you want to gamble that hurting me like you've threatened to, won't unleash a monster that will end you, and start a wave of terror on your kind? How much do you want to bet that when you're back in Hell, they'll see you addressed with agonies even beyond your comprehension, once it’s learned that it was YOU who released him?”
 
Cold and harsh came those words as he glared at the vampire with such force, Angelus almost felt his knees buckle beneath that gaze. “Tell me, Angelus, how MUCH?”
 
A snarl on his lips, the demon tried to forced the anger back through his eyes, the primal, savage thing that had made him so feared before as he slapped the white flowers he'd brought against the boy's chest. “Tell her I stopped by.”
 
As he watched the vampire walk away, Xander shook his head, fighting down the sneer that threatened to flood across his face, before he walked over to the desk and the nurse on duty. “Excuse me, Ma'am? Do you know anyone who could use some flowers?”
 
“Oh, they're beautiful!” The woman smiled up at the boy before frowning slightly. “Aren't you going to give them to your friend?”
 
“They're from her psycho-ex,” the boy responded quietly. “She doesn't need them, but I thought perhaps you could find someone who did.”
 
“Ah, one of those guys that can't let go?” The nurse nodded in sympathy. “Poor girl. Don't worry, I'll make sure they end up with someone who appreciates them.”
 
“Thanks.” Xander offered the woman a soft smile, before walking back to the chairs outside Buffy's room, and resuming his silent vigil. Some time later, when one of the security detail noticed the boy practically camped out in front of the door, he moved towards him, intent on waking the boy and sending him on his way. However, a few quiet words from the nurse, and the man gave a slow nod of understanding, looking at the boy with a mix of admiration and sympathy as he continued his rounds.
 
-*-*-*-
 
“So, anything interesting happen while I was stuck in the hospital?” Buffy asked as she walked next to Xander under the bright sky overhead. “Willow told me you were there, with me the whole time.”
 
Xander winced slightly and shrugged as he lightly rubbed against his arm where the he'd impacted painfully against the wall from Der Kindestod had shoved him off when he'd been a bit too eager to try and help. “Oh, not much, mainly just a lot of sitting around, waiting, talking to some nurses, getting glared at by the cops and security.”
 
“Oh?” She arched her brow casually towards him. “So, Angelus didn't try anything?”
 
“You think he would have?” Xander asked back, suddenly a bit nervous. “I mean, with all those orderlies and the cops around...”
 
“Thing about nurses is, they like to gossip,” Buffy said in a frighteningly conversational tone. “Especially when they're impressed by someone.”
 
“Oh?” the nervousness the boy felt before took a sudden, sharp spike as he lightly widened his eyes, staring back at his blonde friend. “Really now? So, you uh, got some juicy, nurse, hospitally gossip huh?”
 
“Yeah, imagine my surprise when they were talking about how lucky I was to have a friend who was willing to show up, and intercept my 'psycho-stalker ex-boyfriend,' so I could rest peacefully and get better,” her face hardened slightly as she glared a bit at him. “Because, I know, my friend, Xan, would have let me know if that certain ex of mine HAD shown up, right?”
 
“Errr... Slipped my mind?” Xander offered up hopefully. “You know, with Der Kindestod and everything?”
 
“Uh huh, why didn't you tell me, Xan?” She glared slightly at him, her arms crossing about her chest.
 
“It wasn't really anything you had to worry about, honest!” he protested with a slight shrug. “He came, he postured, he threatened, he turned tail and ran.”
 
“What did you do?” Buffy half demanded as she glared at her friend. “Because there's no way he'd normally just back off like that.”
 
“I may have, kinda, sorta...” The remainder of his response was cut off into indistinct mumbles that she couldn't quite pick up.
 
“Kinda, sorta WHAT, Xan?” Her eyes were glinting dangerously as she tightened her lips.
 
“Went full out Magneto on him?” The boy offered up with a helpless shrug. “Used all the pain, all the experiences, all those times, all those things that ate at him, and made him so strong, and channeled it against Angelus.”
 
“You do that creepy Magneto voice on him?” Buffy asked, a brow arching up.
 
“Hey, it’s not creepy,” He grumbled a bit as he mock glared at her. “I think it’s quite distinguished and educated.”
 
“Hence the creepiness when it’s coming out of your mouth,” she countered with a slight grin on her lips. “The whole, Xander sounding educated and distinguished thing.”
 
“Humph.” Xander grumbled softly as he gave the slightest of glares back at his friend before shrugging slightly. “I talked as if I was Magneto. To be honest, it kinda creeped me out. But, I also knew it was the best way to send Angelus running.”
 
“Just, don’t do it too often, I like my Xander shaped friend, Xander shaped.” She leaned against him quietly taking care not to put pressure on his injured arm. “So, what did he have to say?”
 
“Eh, stuff.” He shrugged slightly before waving vaguely with his hand. “Trying to mess with my mind, threatening me, etc etc etc.”
 
“Uh… huh” Her finger jabbed against his side. “Talk Mister.”
 
“You’ve been hanging around Willow too much, you know that?” He grunted softly before slightly shaking his head. “He threatened to kill my family, Willow, anyone I ever cared about. The usual kinda thing for him, ya know?”
 
“And?” She was pressing now, a feeling nagging at the back of her mind as she watched his response.
 
“The rest, is private, Buff,” he said softly before shrugging gently. “Leave it at that.”
 
“Xander…” The words were starting to harden as she looked up at him expectantly.
 
“No, Buff,” Xander spoke back, his voice soft but firm as he looked down at her with an unflinching gaze. “All you need to know, is that  he taunted me with some stuff, I taunted him back, I came out on top.”
 
“But…” There was a look of uncertainty in her eyes, a worry that refused to vanish.
 
“Leave it, Buff,” he said it softly before pulling ahead, his words softly echoing in her ear before she jogged up to his side once more and they continued their walk in silence.
 
-*-*-*-
 
“Ok, that was both freaky and therapeutic.” Buffy shuddered slightly. “And traumatic… I wonder if I gained more scars than healed.”
 
“Probably,” Xander agreed as he smiled happily back at her.
 
“And why’re you in such a good mood, huh?” She scowled at him, pouting lightly. “I kissed Angelus!”
 
“Yes.” Xander nodded sagely in response. “But this time, I wasn’t the one possessed, and Angelus got shot. How can I not be happy?”
 
“But…” Buffy pouted even more as she half glared at him now. “I kissed him! And he got away!”
 
“Yes, well.” Xander paused a moment. “That is a bit of a problem. Still… Angie got to be some spirit’s play toy this time instead of me, a girl’s in fact! And, he got shot! Come on, lemme have my moment, Buff!”
 
“Ok, fine.” She kicked a loose rock in sullen annoyance, sending it rocketing through the air and embedding itself in a tree. “Have your moment.”
 
“Thank you.” Xander paused, his eyes closing as he took a deep, slow breath, then carefully exhaled, a silly little smile plastered on his lips for that moment, before fading away as he looked at her once more. “Ok, done.”
 
“Good, otherwise, I was gonna have to go and talk to Cordy, and then you’d have to come along to help with therapy,” the blonde girl, was grinning viciously at her friend now.

Xander gulped, audibly as he looked back at his friend. “And now?”
 
“Now, you’re still coming along, oh pack mule.” She smiled, a little too sweetly at him. “I just won’t be all upset with you.”
 
“Joy.” Xander sighed as he was pulled off out into the night.
 
-*-*-*-
 
“If those damned mutates hadn’t killed that bastard, oh the things I’d do to him!” Xander was growling as he flipped through the report in his hand, staring at it as he twitched again. “And without the bloody equipment I need… Ugh.”
 
“Not of the good then?” Buffy was sitting on a nearby library table, swinging her legs lightly as she looked at where her friend was going over the report with cloudy eyes.
 
“I’m just… sensitive about people fucking with my genetic make-up,” Xander responded with a sigh. “Doesn’t look like anything too much though, I had too low of a dosage for it to have affected me too much. It took months for them to get to where the rest of them were.”
 
“This is what you get for being all happy about me being the one possessed for a change,” she countered, a definite smirk on her lips. “So, nyah!”
 
“Bah!” He grumbled softly as he glared back at her. “You know of course, that now it's going to come back to bite your cute ass, right?”
 
“Um, ew?” A new voice interrupted as Cordelia walked into the library, eying the pair of them warily. “I don’t need to hear about the kinky freak show you two indulge in.”
 
“Why Cor, jealous we left you out?” Xander countered with a slight waggle of his brows.
 
“As if,” the cheerleader responded, even as a faint blush erupted across her cheeks. “So, what’re you looking at?”
 
“Test results from after that swim team thing,” Xander responded with a negligent wave of his hand. “Wanted to make sure I didn’t have anything nasty lurking around.”
 
“Mmm…” Cordelia paused, her eyes going distant for a moment, as she lightly licked her tongue across her lip.
 
“Um, Earth to Cordelia?” Buffy asked hopefully, “You there?”
 
“Huh?” The girl blinked a moment before coming back to earth. “Oh, sorry, was just remembering speedo boy here.”
 
“Oh,” Buffy paused a moment, her own eyes growing distant as she too mimicked Cordelia’s earlier lick across her lips. “I see your point.”
 
“Aren’t I supposed to be the one treating you two like the pieces of meat, instead of the other way around?” Xander said jokingly as he flipped through another page of the report.
 
“Keep telling yourself that, Xan. Keep telling yourself that,” Buffy responded with a smirk on her lips.
 
“Thanks, I will,” he responded back, chuckling slightly as he flipped through another page of the report.
 
“Xander, what’re you doing with that?!” a new voice squeaked across the library as a blur of red could be seen, just before Willow ripped the report out of the boy’s hands.
 
“Well, I WAS reading,” the boy responded mildly, suppressing the more than slight spike of annoyance that Cordelia and Buffy could see flashing through his eyes. “Since, ya know, it IS about me.”
 
“Why?” she responded, eying him suspiciously for a moment. “We both know its way over your head Mister.”
 
Fingers clenched slightly against his leg, where Willow couldn’t see, as a strained smile fell across his lips. “Maybe, but I am smart enough to understand the difference between malignant and benignant.”
 
“Oh.” Willow blushed slightly and bowed her head. “But, seriously, you should just leave this stuff to me. What’re best friends for, right?”
 
“Right,” Xander responded with a slight nod of his head as he looked over to where Cordelia and Buffy were watching.
 
It was an interesting thing to see really. The wincing sympathy in the eyes of Buffy as she offered a slight shrug back at him behind Willows back brought a slight nod of acknowledgment and understanding. The slightly pulsing fury in Cordelia’s eyes however, almost brought a smile to his lips
 
“Test results back?” Oz spoke up as he walked in a few moments later, looking at where his girlfriend was pouring over the pages of paper.
 
“Yup,” Xander responded back with a casual nod.
 
“Good?” the werewolf asked with a quiet quirk of his brow.
 
“Not bad,” the dark haired boy shot back with a slight shrug.
 
“Cool.” With a nod, Oz wandered over to an empty chair near Willow and watched her animatedly devour the notes in front of her.
 
“Oh, and Oz?” Xander spoke up, looking over his shoulder at the shorter boy.
 
“Yeah?” the musician responded with an arch of a brow.
 
“Next time, you're wearing the speedo,” Xander said with a soft smirk on his lips.
 
“Keep Dreaming,” Oz shot back coolly before pointing towards Buffy and Cordelia.
 
“Yeah, keep dreaming speedo boy.” Cordelia grinned, a feral glint alight in her eyes as she crossed her arms about her chest. “Any future situations that call for a guy in a speedo, you're it.”
 
“And in a few situations that don't too,” Buffy added as she grinned at him, like the Slayer that caught the vampire. “In fact...”
 
“Evil women.” he grunted softly before sighing just a bit as he would shake his head again, and quietly made his way towards the door, muttering softly. “Thank god I burned that damned speedo.”
 
“Oh, don't worry, we got extra.” Cordelia called back as she shared a wicked grin with Buffy. “Of course, we should head to the beach sometime... if you wear it, you can come with us.”
 
Xander froze on the spot, before slowly turning around, looking from one of the girls to the other, before turning again, and walking out the door without a word, muttering under his breath all the while about 'evil women.'
 
-*-*-*-
 
“So, you found a disk Ms. Calendar made that, that contains the ritual to curse Angelus with a soul once more,” Xander spoke up softly as he would lean back in his chair. “That's... interesting.”
 
“Interesting?!” Willow stared at Xander in shock as she looked at her friend. “We can get Angel back! Then...”
 
“Then he can have the added burden of trying to kill the girl he loves, trying to torture her, destroy her and her friends,” Xander responded quietly as he pursed his lips. “Trying to end the world... Killing even more people, including Ms. Calendar herself...”
 
“Xander, I can understand where you're coming from,” Giles responded quietly. “But, this may indeed have been Jenny's final wish.”
 
“Vengeance from beyond the grave,” the boy responded ruefully as he cast his eyes over towards Buffy and Cordelia. “How very Romani. You're awfully quiet, Buff.”
 
“I just don't know,” she admitted quietly, curling up in her chair as she rested her chin on her knees, while Cordelia lightly rubbed her back, staying silent for the moment. “I mean... I could have Angel back... But... All the things that Angelus has done.”
 
“But, he's like, your soul mate!” Willow protested quickly, her eyes shining. “You two could be together again!”
 
“Well, be that as it may,” Giles spoke up, obviously uncomfortable with the idea as he looked down at the pages in front of him. “I-I'm not quite certain I have the skill or understanding of the dark magics to even attempt this spell.”
 
“I can do it!” Willow spoke up again, eagerly. “I've been studying Ms. Calendar's books and everything, I can pull this off!”
 
Xander's head snapped over, staring at the girl with suddenly, almost terrified eyes, but any response he could make was preempted by Giles. “I, ah, don't think that's a very good idea, Willow. This kind of spell, if it goes wrong, if its not cast exactly right, can let very, very bad things in.”
 
“I can do this, seriously, I can do this!” the red headed girl said vehemently as she looked up at Giles. “We can do this!”
 
“Well, uh, what exactly do we need for this ritual?”
 
Xander shook his head quietly, and tuned out the conversation between the Watcher and Willow, his eyes falling on Buffy, studying her as he could see the war of hope, anguish, fear and determination playing across her features. For an instant, she met his eyes, before looking away, guilt lingering in her eyes. In that instant, he knew what her choice would be.
 
Shaking his head sadly, Xander pursed his lips once more, before releasing a slow drawn out sigh. “I think, it's a very bad idea... But, if we are careful, VERY careful, with Giles watching to make sure nothing goes wrong... All right.”
 
-*-*-*-
 
“I wanna try again,” Willow said softly to the room, as Xander, Oz and Cordelia all stared at her.
 
“Can you guys give us a minute, alone?” Xander looked back at the other two in the room, who slowly filed out of the room with a silent nod of understanding on their faces, before he turned back to his red-headed friend.
 
“I can do this Xander,” Willow spoke up, her face firm. “See? Resolve face!”
 
“No, Willow.” He was speaking softly, firmly as he looked down onto her face. “Not with what happened, you were just in a coma! There's no Giles here to make sure nothing happens. You’re not anywhere NEAR 100%, and this thing is dangerous enough.”
 
“But…!” The bandaged girl immediately protested as Xander brought his undamaged arm down and lightly pressed the girl back into the bed.
 
“No.” Xander shook his head looking firmly down into her eyes. “We already lost Kendra, that troll Snyder got the police on Buff, the vamps have Giles. We’ve lost enough already.”
 
“But, I can do this!” she declared firmly, her eyes angry as she looked up at him. “I can give him back his soul!”
 
Xander pinched the bridge of his nose, before glaring down at the girl. “No, Willow. No more sacrifices. We tried, we got burned.” He shook his head and sighed. “I’m gonna go help Buff rescue Giles, and hopefully we can stop everything before he awakens Acathla. Promise me you won’t try the spell while I’m gone.”
 
“But!” immediately she protested, slightly pouting as she stared back at him.
 
“PROMISE Me, Willow!” he said it again, a weathered force in those words as he stared back down at her.
 
“Fine,” she responded finally, sulking back in the bed as she pouted up at him. “I won’t do it.”
 
“Lemme hear it, Wills,” he said it so softly, as he looked down at her, gently resting his hand atop her own.
 
“I promise, I won’t try and cast the spell.” She jerked her hand away, glaring at him now with slightly gleaming tears in her eyes. “Are you happy?”
 
“No,” he said it softly with a sad, resigned smile. “But I’m not going to be worrying as much, “I’ll see you when I get back with Buffy and Giles.”
 
“Fine,” she snapped back, crossing her arms about her chest as she watched him walk back out of the room, Oz and Cordelia filing in after his departure a moment later.
 
“Hey again,” Oz said softly as he reached up, stroking her hair. “You doing ok?”
 
“Yeah.” Willow nodded softly, before looking at her boyfriend. “I need you two to go to the library and get my stuff, I’m gonna cast the spell.”
 
“Huh?” Oz blinked slightly. “That, makes sense, but not… I take it I’m missing out on something here?”
 
“Cordelia can fill you in on it,” she responded quickly. “Just… I need you to hurry.”
 
“Xander was okay with this?” Cordelia spoke up, looking at the girl doubtfully as she crossed her arms about her chest.
 
“Of course he was,” Willow responded simply. “Resolve face, see?” She pointed to her face again as she continued, “He went to tell Buffy.”
 
“Right.” The cheerleader looked at the girl, still in doubt, her eyes narrowed slightly before she shrugged. “Come on wolf boy… Let’s get this over with.”
 
“I’ll be back,” Oz said softly as he reached down and kissed Willow’s hand for a moment before the pair slipped out of the hospital room.
 
“Stupid head, Xander,” Willow muttered quietly under her breath as she leaned back. “Thinking I couldn’t do this… I know I can!”
 
-*-*-*-
 
“Hey.” The voice was soft as he rose from his landing, Xander’s face set in a grim resolution as he looked back at his blonde friend. “Cavalry’s here… Well, one guy, who’s not really in too great of condition to fight, but, here.”
 
“Xander!” She blinked a moment, before holding up a stake, offering it to him. “Here.”
 
“Thanks,” he responded softly as he took the pointed shaft of wood, then eyed the sword in her hand. “For Angelus?”
 
“A-yup.” She nodded as they both began to walk towards the mansion. “You know you’re not here to help me take him on right?”
 
“Considering me with the broken arm? Kinda figured that.” He nodded in turn. “I’m here to get the G-man out of there while you’re dealing with them.”
 
“Good,” she said quietly as she tightened her grip on her sword. “I wanna do this and get it over with.”
 
“Yeah,” Xander said softly, shaking his head a bit. “Willow wanted to try the spell again.”
 
“What?” Buffy froze softly in place, before looking over at Xander, her face unreadable as she almost lost her grip on her sword. “Why would she…”
 
“She’s Willow,” he responded quietly, his eyes distant. “I made her promise not to try it.”
 
“Good.” The blonde girl released the breath she didn’t realize she was holding as she started forward again. “I just want to end this.”
 
“Me too, Buff. Me too,” he said softly, tightening his grip on his stake before offering her a world weary grin. “Once more into the breach, my friend?”
 
“Once more,” she agreed with a nod, a grim smile on her face as she hefted the blade in her hand, and they made their way into the mansion.
 
-*-*-*-
 
“Anyone heard from her?” Xander asked quietly as he walked with the group, Oz pushing Willow’s wheel chair steadily behind her as Giles walked at an unsteady pace at his side.
 
“I’m afraid not.” Giles shook his head with a sigh as he looked over at the group. “We went back to the mansion. It was empty, save for a dormant Acathla.”
 
“Well, we knew that the world didn’t end, because…” Oz paused, gesturing around them before resuming he pushing of Willow’s wheel chair.
 
“Yeah, so world is saved.” Willow nodded, shifting slightly in her chair.
 
“Are you sure you should out of bed?” Giles asked the girl as he looked down at her, his voice softly weary.
 
“Look who’s talking,” she shot back with a light smile on her lips.
 
“Yes, well, indeed.” He nodded, smiling vaguely with a gesture of his hand before resuming his walk.
 
“I… Think the spell worked,” Willow spoke up, hesitantly, somewhat proudly. “I could feel something go through me.”
 
“Plus, that orb did that really cool glowy thing,” Cordelia added as Xander suddenly froze in place.
 
“What… did you say?” The words were whispered out, the dark eyes suddenly locked onto Willow.
 
“Maybe Angel was saved, and they want to be together,” Willow babbled on, doing her best to ignore the look Xander was sending her way, and the confusion on Oz and Cordelia’s faces. “Because, ya know, like making up for lost time?”
 
“You PROMISED me, Willow.” The words hissed past his lips as he suddenly glared down at the girl in the wheel chair. “You promised me you wouldn’t do the spell!”
 
“No, I promised I wouldn’t try the spell, Mister,” Willow corrected with a slightly triumphant smirk on her lips. “I didn’t try, I DID it!”
 
“Wait, you told us that Xander was okay with it…” Cordelia spoke up, narrowing her eyes down at Willow. “You lied to us!”
 
“Willow, that was incredibly dangerous, and reckless!” Giles added, sternly looking down at her with a face full of disappointment.
 
“I knew I could the spell!” Willow protested. “I told you, I could do it!”
 
Xander just stared down at the girl, his oldest living friend for a long moment, before shaking his head. For a moment, he gave Giles and then Cordelia a silent look, moving his eyes from one to the other. Then, without another word, he turned and walked away, heading alone back into the school.
 
“Well, Buffy’s got to show up soon, right?” Cordelia spoke up, looking at the rest of them. “I mean, we still have school to finish up.”
 
“Yeah,” Willow agreed with a nod, “She’ll be here in a while.”
 
No one saw the blonde figure slowly turning away from them in the distance as Buffy slowly made her way away from the school.
 
-*-*-*-
 
“Hey, Mrs. Summers,” Xander said softly as the door was opened up in front of him. “Is Buffy here?”
 
“I…” The woman froze, her reddened eyes staring, distant as she clutched a letter in her hand. “She, she left…”
 
“What…?” There was a look of shocked confusion on his face, as he looked back at the mother of his friend. “What do you mean she left.”
 
“We, we had a fight,” the woman said numbly. “And, she just… left. And, and she didn’t come back. It’s all my fault.”
 
“Wait, what happened?” there was a grim shock of fear in the boy’s eyes as he studied the woman before her, memories rising unbidden as he remembered the shock, the denial and the emotions that he’d seen so many times on the faces of parents who’d discovered their child was a mutant.
 
“The police where here, about that poor girl that had been killed and the rest of you being hurt. They were telling me she was responsible for it.” Her voice was numb in shock, distant as she rambled on in recollection. “Then, after they left, she came, then we were attacked, she did something, shoved a stake into his chest, and he just turned into dust! Then she started telling me this crazy story about…”
 
“Vampires,” he finished for her, his lips set into a grim line as his eyes hardened, staring back at her as he continued. “And her being the Slayer. The chosen one forced to fight and save the world.”
 
“You… knew?” She stared back at him, her eyes wide. “I mean, she told us before, but… It all seemed so insane! She seemed insane, then, after she went to the… after she got help, and then she seemed like she got better!”
 
“What did you do to her?” His tone had dropped to almost arctic temperatures as he stared back at her, those dark eyes glinting, cold as his face set into a grim mask.
 
“Th-the institute, it helped her!” Joyce responded, staring back at the boy in front of her, shuddering at the intensity in his eyes, taking an involuntary step back. “After she burned down the gym, they made her better!”
 
“No,” he spat back as he glared at her. “It made her closed off. It made her alone. It made her feel betrayed by the people who were supposed to be there for her no matter what.”
 
“We, we didn’t know!” the woman protested again, her eyes wild. “It was so insane! She sounded insane!”
 
“But, she wasn’t.” He was growling now, his eyes burning in anger. “She was pushed into a nightmare she never wanted. A nightmare NO one should have to endure. She was pushed into it, and told over and over again, she was all alone, and you proved it to her. I’ve spent the last two years, trying to show her otherwise, but she just can’t see it, because of YOU.”
 
“I… I…” The words struggled to get past her lips as she stared wide eyed at the boy who stood there, his face, darkened in an emotion she could only call wrath as he stared back at her.
 
“What did you say to her? Why did she leave?”
 
“She… she wouldn’t stay! She insisted on going out again, on going out there…” Again Joyce was rambling, her eyes so distant as she stared past Xander, back into the past. “She wouldn’t tell me what was going on, she just kept saying she had to save the world, again! A teenage girl, saving the world!”
 
“She did,” he countered back, his voice soft. “She had to save the world, and she did save it, AGAIN. Twice she’s kept the world from being sucked into Hell.”
 
“I… I couldn’t just let her leave,” Mrs. Summers was staring, suddenly collapsing against the wall next to her as Xander’s words hit her fully. “I couldn’t just let her go! I… I told her if she left, she shouldn’t come back.”
 
“You WHAT?!” Finally his voice couldn’t restrain the emotion inside of him as he glared at the woman in front of him fully. “She’s your DAUGHTER! She had to go out, and do the hardest thing imaginable. She had to go kill the thing wearing the face of the man she loved, to save the world, and you tell her that?!”
 
“I… I just… I didn’t know what to do!” She was sobbing now, the tears streaming down her face as she clutched the letter in her hand. “And now, now she’s gone! I… Oh god, what have I done?”
 
“You forgot, that above all else, she’s your daughter, that it’s your job to make sure she always has a safe place to come back to. That she always has someone to care for her,” he hissed his words as the memories of a father weighed by the guilt of his failures burned through. “You forgot, that it doesn’t matter what she can do, what she has to do, she’s still your DAUGHTER! You forgot that you’re supposed to love her, unconditionally!”
 
“I do!” she protested, her eyes watered, tears streaking down her cheeks as she stared up at the boy who seemed suddenly so much older than she could imagine.
 
“Then, when she gets back, I suggest you remember that,” he hissed those last words as he turned his back on her and started walking away.
 
“When?” there was a tremor of hope in that single word, as she looked up at him with red, tear stained eyes.
 
“When,” he repeated back, and then, he was gone, down the street and walking away as he left the woman to slowly recover from her experience.
 
-*-*-*-
 
“What can I do for you?” soft, words slipped past the blonde waitress’ lips as she settles up to the table, not quite looking at the boy sitting there.
 
“Well, Anne, I suppose you might help me find a friend of mine.” The all too familiar voice deadpanned. “She’s a cute blonde, about your height, about your build, about your age… Only girl in the world like her?”
 
The waitress froze in place as she raised her eyes disbelievingly up and met his own, as a whispered voice slipped past her lips, “Xander…?”
 
“Ayup,” the boy responded with a soft smile. “Missed you.”
 
“How..?” She stared at him, disbelievingly at him as she almost dropped the pad in her hand.
 
“I cheated,” he responded simply, pointing at the watch on her wrist. “Homing device, in case you ever got kidnapped and we needed to find you quick. Also works in case you run away.”
 
“So, you here to try and take me back?” she asked, her voice bitter as she gave him a soft glare.
 
“Nope,” he responded with a slight shake of his head. “I’m just here to make sure you’re all right, talk to you, give you a few things, stuff like that.”
 
“Not take me back?” She looked him, suspicion in her eyes as she eyed him warily.
 
“I talked to your mother.” The words were quietly bitter as they left his lip, a shake of his head accompanying it. “And I know something probably happened with Angelus and Acathla, and all that put together…”
 
“Willow did the spell,” Buffy said softly as her whole body slumped in defeat.
 
“I know,” Xander responded quietly. “She blurted it out when we brought her back to school.”
 
“It was too late,” she continued, her whole body slumping in defeat, her voice flat, dead. “He’s already awakened Acathla… The only way to stop him… I had to …”
 
As she trailed off, he looked up at her, into her eyes, his own soft and understanding as he whispered his response back to her. “I’m sorry.”
 
“I sent the man I loved to Hell,” she said softly, before shrugging again. “Mom…” She trailed off, her eyes flashing with pain for a moment. “Whistler was right, I am all alone.”
 
“Who?” There was a new look of confusion on his face, marred by a spark of anger. “Who told you, you were all alone?”
 
“Immortal demon, works to preserve the balance between good and evil, yadda yadda yadda.” Buffy shrugged back once more, the apathy rolling off with that simple, repeated motion. “Told me how to stop Acathla if Angel awoke him. His blood woke him up, his blood put him back down.”
 
“He told you, you were all alone in this?” Xander stared at her, disbelief rolling off him as he stared. “What the hell?!”
 
“Hey, Anne!” A voice barked angrily. “We got other customers! Quit socializing and get back to work!”
 
“Look, I…” Buffy spoke up, pain in her eyes as she. “I can’t go back, not right now… and I need this job, so…”
 
“Actually, no, you don’t,” he said softly as he reached into his jacket and pulled out a bank book. “That’s part of the reason I’m here. To give you this.”
 
“What…?” She blinked in shock as she took the item from him, staring at it for a moment as she opened it up, eyes frozen wide as she saw the balance written in it, and the debit card next to it. “Xander… this is…”
 
“I started one for you, Giles, Willow, hell there’s even one for Cordy and Oz, not that Cor will probably ever need it.” He grinned slightly, before tapping his forehead gently. “I’ve been selling some designs, splitting up the profits, so I could make sure that everyone was taken care of.”
 
“I can’t…” She started to say, pushing the bank book back at him, even as she felt his hands wrapping over hers, pushing it back against her body.
 
“You can, and you will,” he said it firmly. “You aren’t in this alone, Buff. I told you that,.” He paused a moment, before throwing her a lopsided smile. “Now, how about we go get you some real clothes and a real meal?”
 
For a moment, she was caught in indecision, before she could hear a voice calling out, “Hey, Peaches, you gonna get that sweet ass of yours over here to take our order?”
 
As he could see the angry glare wanting to rise up in his friend’s eyes, Xander turned his head, his face shifting into a cold, hard mask as he caught the roughneck who spoke’s eyes. “No, she won’t.”
 
Whatever response the man might have made, was cut off, nervously as he caught the look in the boy’s eyes. The cold, weathered promise was given in silence. The certainty of pain was in those eyes, a thing that would be delivered to the man if he continued, from someone who knew how to keep his promises.
 
“Come on, Buff,” he said softly as he rose out of his seat, and offered her his hand, a soft grin on his lips. “Lets get out of here.”
 
For the time since that night, Buffy smiled in response, as she took that hand, and with a call out to her former Boss, allowed her friend to lead her away.
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