Well it took forever, but it really didn't feel like such a long time honestly. Anyway, here's the first part of chapter four. Big thanks to Marns for being my inspiration, and for giving me a push in the right direction, even though it took a while to get this posted. I was going to wait for the rest of the chapter to get written down, but in all honesty I think trying to make the postings longer might just make the writing harder. Anyway. I really suggest you start back at chapter one before reading this since I've cleaned up and revised the story slightly. Thank you all for your kindness and patience.Coming together~*~
As Wesley finished his story Xander forced himself to take a deep and slow breath and close his eyes for a while to center himself before saying anything.
“Well. That’s. I really don’t know where to begin or what to say to all of this. You’ve definitely had a harsh few years, all of you. And Wes, I love you, you know that. But I can’t say I blame Angel for losing it in the hospital. And frankly I think you’ve made some…fairly bad decisions. You all have. But we’re only people trying to fight the good fight, not saints or gods and even they get it wrong sometimes.”
Looking up after this part of his speech Xander caught a glimpse of a small, sparkling tear making its way down Wesley’s cheek. Ah hell, come on. I’m not father type material Wes, what did you want me to do? Pat you on the back and tell you it was all okay? I don’t think I’ve ever see you cry before buddy, looks like Spike’s not the only one in need of some TLC around here. I’m only one person though, I don’t… Oh quiet, Xander, just one thing at a time, take it one step at a time and tonight, no, tomorrow, you can call Methos and have him comfort you in turn.
And suddenly his conscience had started to sound like Giles again. Very odd that, must be the proximity to his old hunting grounds that did it, all the familiar people.
Xander knew that if he turned his head just thus and closed his eyes while gazing through the lower layers of the astral he’d be able to see the threads of warped reality spinning out from the old Hellmouth. Yes, the actual portal was gone, but it had been where it lay for a long time and had been one of the more active Hellmouths, according to Methos. It would influence the spiritual realm and thus reality close to its former home for many years to come. Speaking of the astral world -Xander was feeling decidedly dirty after having left the Wolfram & Hart offices.
“It really isn’t purged at all, is it?”
Blinking once at the unexpected turn of the conversation, Wesley paused for a moment before picking up on Xander’s meaning.
“It’s cleaner than it used to be, a lot cleaner even.”
“It’s strange how it doesn’t feel at all like the Hellmouth.” There, change the subject from recriminations and be productive at the same time.
Wesley dried his eyes and put his glasses on once more, his face morphing into lecture mode, probably without conscious thought.
“Yes, it’s quite fascinating actually. The Hellmouth is a nexus of energies, but it isn’t exactly evil per se, more like chaos and order all twisted together in one point to such a degree that the fabric of space-time itself cannot hold up to the influence. Even calling it the Mouth of Hell is really inaccurate since it doesn’t actually lead to hell. Well it does, but only in the same way that it can lead to other dimensions and worlds; theoretically it should work as a time machine as well. It all depends on the wishes of the one opening the gate. In fact, should someone ’pure and true’, if you pardon the expression, do so I believe they could even open the door to a virtual paradise in every way, or even the realm of the powers. If they knew how to call that particular sphere of reality forth of course. That is why power hungry demons and warlocks and other assorted creepy critters try to gain control over the nexus. Well, that and the sheer immensity of the power one could generate while standing in the middle of it. There might even be enough power there to wipe away every demon on the planet…”Danger, Will Robinson,
He raised a hand to halt Wesley’s stream of words.
“Don’t even think about it Wes. Xenocide is not a place we want to visit, ever. Willow is one of the more powerful witches alive for the past centuries and her sense of self has practically been annihilated since starting to work with the Hellmouth energies.” One Chaos, one Order and one Balance magician might be able to do that together though. Definitely a good reason for keeping the thing sealed for all time.
“I know that, I’m not daft!” Wesley bristled before blushing a bit as he remembered the conversation they’d just had. “Well, at least not as daft as that. It’s all very hypothetical, I can assure you.”
Xander raised an eyebrow as Wesley’s language became more stilted and well, British. It always seemed to do that when he was upset.
“I know you probably wouldn’t do anything like that Wes, but walls have ears around here you know.”
It was a testament to how estranged they’d become that Xander had to add that ’probably’, but that was where they stood right now and there was no use denying it. Besides which; Wesley had always had a streak of the ruthless. One could almost think he’d grown up a Hellmouth babe as well. Then again, he had been raised by the head of a secret society and a coven so maybe that evened out things. Hellmouth born might even be less
odd in comparison.
“So that’s the past all done with. What’s going on right now?”
Wesley looked down at his beer and frowned.
“Technically we’re still trying to change Wolfram & Hart from the inside, but I don’t know. Things are actually moving along quite nicely, but I can’t help to think we came about all of this a bit too easily. And Angel…well, you’ll see.”
“I don’t doubt it. Anything else?”
Wesley shrugged, almost imperceptibly.
“Everything, nothing. I don’t know.”
“All right, I know how that goes. I guess it’s time to visit the lion’s den once more then. Wish me luck.” The last was said as Xander smoothly rose from the chair, manfully not wincing at the slight creak of his back. There had been a lot more sitting in the last few days than his body was used to, sitting that wasn’t in lotus position that is.
His words granted him a small smile.
“I rather think it’s Angel who’ll need it, but I do wish you success.”
Xander nodded sharply, then he took out his wallet and left money for the check, with a generous tip.
“I’ll see you around Wesley, but please don’t return to the offices or try to find either of us tonight. Tomorrow evening, will be soon enough to know if anything has been helped.”
Wesley acknowledged the thinly veiled order with a slight nod of his own and then sank back into contemplating his beer, still untouched, while Xander left the table and the bar.
After briefly considering his options, Xander started walking towards Wolfram & Hart while picking up his cell phone. He punched the digits to his earlier cab driver and just as the phone was picked up on the other side, he realized that he’d never asked for the demon’s number. Oops, oh well -I still need a cab.
Xander blinked in surprise. What an odd way to answer an official line.
”This is Xander Harris. I’d like a taxi at,” he cast his eyes about for a street sign ”4th and Mathers, as soon as possible.”
”Oh it’s you, the Africa man. I’ll be there in 2 minutes.”
There was a click and Xander slowly lowered the phone, looking at it with a small frown. He didn’t remember things going this smoothly for him in the States before. This time it really is paranoia Xander, the guy knows Minya for Pete’s sake.
Besides which; he hadn’t felt anything more odd than the usual Demon undercurrent when in the cab earlier, so there really shouldn’t be any reason to worry. Internally wincing at his own Jinx, Xander sat all these thoughts to the side and dealt with another part of his grim reality -fixing Angel. Well, not fixing but… Get it together Alexander, what the hell is up with you? So they’ve had some shitty years in LA. Your life hasn’t really been a dance on roses either. Do not go reverting back to the old goof!Xander persona or Methos will have your head. Fuck, I will take my own head. Where the hell is that cab?
Scowling furiously until he noticed the frightened looks he was getting from passerbies, Xander leaned against a brick wall and waited. It wasn’t long before a yellow taxi pulled up and stopped just a few feet in front of him. His driver waved cheerfully and Xander greeted him with a smile, if a bit more stilted.
The cab smelled like sand and sulfur. In the old days Xander would have recoiled slightly from that, but his hyena self yipped happily and all he felt was a slight loosening of his shoulders and the last of the wrinkle on his forehead disappeared. He absolutely refused to purr however, even though the cab smelled like Africa and was a wonderful change from the smoggy exterior of downtown LA.
Xander pulled back from his reverie to answer.
”The best magic store in town, if you know where that is. I’m in need of some…wares.”
”No problem. That’s Satori’s, it’s in the quay area though. There’s a store that’s a bit less stocked just ten blocks from here. We could go there instead.”
”Do they have Spirita Linius there?” Xander knew he shouldn’t have told Wesley he’d fix Angel without having all the necessary ingredients for the job, but this one he hadn’t managed to get to when in Africa and it should be available in any well stocked magic store. It was a crucial ingredient for many love potions after all.
”Are you looking for some romance?” his driver asked jokingly.
”Not really no,” Xander answered and felt his mood change once more. His eyes were inexorable drawn to the window and the buildings outside. Maybe once, him and Angel…they might have happened, or if things had just been a little bit different, but now… He just didn’t know anymore.
”Hey,” the tone of voice had softened and the demon gave him a sympathetic look in the mirror. ”I didn’t mean to bring up bad stuff. We’ll go to Bala’Ma, they’ll have what you need for sure. I mean, they don’t sell Vargas Eyes or stuff like that, but they do have the basics and more. Sound good to you?”
Xander nodded tiredly.
”Yeah,” he mumbled, before he resumed his gazing out. Then he caught himself; that’s what he’d been doing in the first ride and he’d forgotten to ask…
”That’s right,” he said, and turned to look at his driver.
”I never caught your name the last time. You know I’m Xander, by now. Who are you?”
”People call me John.”
Xander blinked the weariness out of his eyes.
“No, no, don’t be. It’s a perfectly adequate abbreviation.”Oh please, I’m too tired for College words,
Xander thought with a slight inner whine.
“Right,” he smiled. “So, what’s it short for?”
John laughed and looked in the back mirror.
“It’s nice of you to ask, but you really don’t want to know. It’s got 24 syllables.”
Xander smiled in appreciation of the cab driver’s good humor.
“Got it. Well, it’s nice to meet you John.”
“It’s an honor to meet you Knight. ~*~