Disclaimer:  The Characters of BtVS are owned by Joss Wheldon, Mutant Enemy, and FOX.  No Copyright infridgement intented.

I Was Looking For You
by Karen


Doyle’s nose itched.  That was about the most interesting thing going on in his life at the moment.  He twitched his nose, trying to keep from
scratching it.  He vaguely wondered how long he could avoid scratching it, then nearly laughed at himself.  Dear God, he must really be bored.  He chanced a look at Detective Lockley; she was still prattling on about something or another.  What was it Cordelia had called her?  ‘Creepy cop lady’ or some such nonsense?  Boring cop lady was more like it.  How did Angel stand it?  The half demon looked over at his friend and narrowly avoided laughing out loud.  Angel looked about as interested as he felt.  At Cordelia’s sigh, Doyle turned his gaze to the brunette.  He felt a pang of envy at the sight of her painting her fingernails.  It wasn’t fair that she had something to do while he and Angel just sat there like idiots.  He had half a mind to take her polish and start painting his own nails, but that was a look he really didn’t think he could pull off.

Doyle’s gaze turned back to Kate, and he strived to look interested.  To be honest, he had no clue what she was talking about; he just hadn’t been paying any attention to her.  For a while, he’d thought that maybe, just maybe, his brooding buddy would fall for the woman, but now he sincerely hoped he didn’t.  He didn’t think he could take much more of her.  No, Angel most definitely did not need Detective Kate Lockley.  The woman was pretty enough, sure, but she was dull as dirt.  The only remotely interesting she had ever done was pull a gun on him and Cordelia, and she’d been under the influence of the damned talking stick at the time.  What he wouldn’t give for some excitement...

The door slammed open, and three young women - all quite the looker - stormed in.  A redhead, a blonde, and a brunette, Doyle mused.  That
certainly covered all the bases.  Doyle was so busy staring at the beautiful girls that he almost didn’t notice the rather extreme reactions of his
coworkers: Angel leapt up from his chair, knocking his coffee over in the process, while Cordelia completely missed her fingernail, leaving a trail of plumb nail polish halfway down her thumb.  Kate, on the other hand,  just looked annoyed at having the story of her latest bust interrupted.

Angel had opened his mouth to speak, though he had no clue what to say, when the door came open again, and someone else burst into the room.  Someone with bleached blonde hair and a black leather duster.  Spike.  Angel sat back down heavily, astonishment crossing his features.  Spike was here.  Again.  Only this time, he was with Buffy, Willow, and Anya.  Just what the hell was going on?

Spike sighed, then decided to ignore the annoyed-looking woman sitting in the chair opposite his sire’s desk.  He looked Angel directly in the eye.  “We need your help.”

Angel turned his gaze to Buffy and Willow, silently questioning the girls.  Buffy simply stared at Kate, surprise evident on her face.  Willow, however, returned his gaze.  She nodded slowly.  “It’s true.”  She took a deep breath, then continued.  “Xander’s missing.”

Part One

“Have you gone to the police?” Kate immediately asked.  Angel, still a bit stunned by the girls - as well as his childe’s - sudden arrival,  hurriedly cleaned up his spilt coffee and got himself another cup.  Cordelia had grabbed her nail polish remover and was furiously trying to fix her nails.  Doyle was simply watching the scene unfolding before him with a great deal of interest.  He was most definitely no longer bored.  Plus, the blonde girl was absolutely gorgeous.

The aforementioned blonde raised her eyebrows at the woman.  “No, we haven’t.  We came here,” Buffy replied with exaggerated patience.  She had no use for Kate’s suggestions.  She just wanted to find Xander, beat up the bad guy, and get back to Sunnydale.  She hadn’t wanted to come to LA and face Angel, but Willow and Anya had convinced her it was necessary.

“Why haven’t you gone to the police?”

“Because we trust Angel.”

“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t...”

“Look, lady, give us a break.  We just got into town.  If we decide we need the police, we’ll go to them,” Spike bit out.  “Right now, we’re here.”  The furious vampire looked over at his sire.  “So, will you help us?”

Angel sipped his coffee, then turned his gaze back to the girls, ignoring Spike’s question.  “Why is he here?”

“He’s the only one with a car,” Willow shrugged.  Then, realizing that Angel expected more of an answer than that, she continued.  “He’s kind of an... associate of ours by default now.  We’ll explain everything to you later.  I promise.”

Angel nodded, accepting Willow’s answer, but another question was nagging at him.  “Where’s Giles?  He has a car.  Why not use his?”

“Oh, he’s in England,” Anya spoke up.  “With his orgasm friend.”

For the second time that night, Angel’s coffee was a goner.  Doyle covered his mouth, trying to hide his smile, while Kate’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“His what?” Cordelia sputtered, looking more than a little disgusted.

“His -”

“I think they got it the first time, Anya,” Willow interrupted.  “And I think we need to have another talk about what’s proper to say in public.”
Calmly, Willow cleaned up Angel’s spilt coffee, then brought him yet another cup.  She was used to Anya’s... interesting outbursts.  The poor vampire in front of her was not.  She smiled gently at him as he accepted the coffee from her, a grateful smile on his face.  She turned back to face the others.

 “Any other questions?”

“Who are you people?”

“They’re Willow, Spike, Buffy, and Anya,” Cordelia piped up, pointing to each one as she identified them.  “They’re old friends of mine from high school.  Well, three of them are.  Sort of.  And Spike’s an old... well, let’s just say Spike and Angel go way back.”

“Old friends?” Kate mused.  There was way too much tension among the occupants in the room for that to be the whole truth.

“Yes,” Cordelia huffed, a bit angry that Kate didn’t seem to believe her.  “Old friends.  Also clients, which means you’ll have to excuse us now.  We have business to discuss.”

Kate sent the younger woman a dirty look, then got up from her chair.  She looked around the room, her gaze settling on the little redhead; she seemed to be the most reasonable of the group.  “If you do decide to go to the police, ask for Detective Lockley.  I promise, I would do whatever I could to help find you’re friend.”

Willow nodded her understanding, and Kate left.  Cordelia followed her to the door, then shut and locked it behind the policewoman.

“Now,” she began a bit angrily.  “Just how the hell did you manage to lose Xander?”

Part Two

“We didn’t exactly lose Xander, Cordelia,” Willow said, a bit exasperated.  “He was just... taken.”

“When?” Angel asked, all business.  Buffy was completely ignoring him, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of letting it bother him.

“A week ago.  It happened sometime during the day.  Buffy and I were supposed to meet him after class - it was the last day of finals - but he
never showed.  We went to his place, but he wasn’t there.  No one’s heard from him since.  We’ve been looking, researching.  We have some theories.  I e-mailed copies of everything to my account.  If you have Internet access...”

Angel immediately stood up.  “In my office.”

Willow followed the vampire, leaving the others behind in the outer office.  Once they were inside his office, Angel shut the door, determined to avoid any distractions while he and Willow discussed the case.  Besides, he didn’t think he wanted to hear anything that came from Anya’s mouth, especially if it was about Giles and his friend.  With a sigh, the vampire sat at his desk and got to work.  The tiny redhead waited for Angel to get online, then quickly took over.  After a moment, the printer across the room began shooting out information, and Angel stood to get in while Willow sat in the chair he vacated.

“It’s just a couple of articles,” the redhead told him apologetically.  “Xander’s mom reported him missing, so it ended up in the papers.  It’s
probably not any help.”

Angel sat on the edge of his desk, hardly acknowledging the girl’s statement.  After a moment, he set the pages down and turned to look at
Willow.  He hesitated, not sure what to say.  To his relief, Willow spoke first, taking him off the hook.

“It’s just the basics.  How long he’s been gone and stuff like that.”

“It took his mom three days to report it.”

“I know; face it, his parents care about as much as mine do.”

Angel shifted uncomfortably; he wasn’t sure what to say to that.  He jerked his head towards the office door at the sound of Spike’s harsh laugh, then turned back to Willow.  “What exactly is going on with Spike?  Is it safe for him to be out there?”

“Yeah, he’s totally un-bitey.  Is ‘un-bitey’ even a word?  I doubt it... Anyway, he can’t eat people, or even hurt them anymore.  We don’t know what was done to him.  He doesn’t even know.  This group... well, they kidnapped him.  He escaped, then later discover that he couldn’t hurt the living anymore,” Willow said, purposely neglecting to mention the fact that Spike’s lack of bite had been discovered when he had attempted to eat her.

“Okay...” Angel replied slowly, more than a bit confused.  But his questions about Spike’s sudden domestication could be answered later.  Something Willow had said earlier had come back to him.  “Theories.  You said you have theories about what may have happened to Xander.”

“Um, well... Faith’s missing.”

“Excuse me?”

“Faith’s missing.  From the hospital.  When Xander turned up gone, we explored all the possibilities.  She disappeared from the hospital over two weeks ago.”

“And you think...”

“Consider it, Angel.  She and Xander... had a fling, of sorts.  She knows how Buffy and I feel about Xander; for God’s sake, he’s our best friend.  She hates us both.  Me, for telling her off at the mayor’s office.  Not to mention the fact that I was never exactly nice to her after the whole Xander thing.  And Buffy’s the one that put her in the hospital in the first place.”

“But that doesn’t mean...”

“Her knife’s gone.”

“Her knife?” Angel repeated dumbly.

“The one that Buffy stabbed her with.  Buffy kept it, and now it’s gone.  It was stolen.  Nothing else was taken.”

“And Xander’s stuff...” he began, remembering the article.

“Was seriously slashed,” Willow finished for him.  “With a very sharp knife.”


“Yeah.  Faith.”  Willow stood and came to stand beside the much taller vampire.  “There’s something else.”


“My fish.  After... after Angelus killed them,” she began, taking Angel’s hand as the vampire flinched at the mention of his alter ego, “my parents replaced them.  They were killed a few days ago.  In the exact same way.  Faith knew that story.  Cordelia told it to her, back when Faith first came to town and we were all friends.  It was before we even knew you’d come back.  And now...”

“Tell me,” Angel urged when the girl trailed off.

“We  think she came here to LA.”  Willow stopped and turned to face the handsome vampire.  Angel squeezed her hand, silently urging her to finish her thought.  After a moment, she did.  “She tried to kill you once, Angel.  We think she may have come here to finish the job.”

Part Three

Cordelia watched Spike warily.  Buffy had explained all about how Spike was completely harmless, but the brunette still didn’t trust the blonde vampire.   It wasn’t so long ago that he had paid some demon to torture Angel half to death.  Finally deciding that Spike wasn’t going to rip anybody’s throat out - he was, in fact, sitting on the floor drinking a cup of coffee - she turned her attention to Anya.

“What, may I ask, is she doing here?” the former cheerleader asked.

“Well, ducks,” Spike began, “I guess you could say that she’s Xander’s orgasm friend.”

Cordelia blanched at the echo of the former demon’s earlier words.  “Oh,” she said in a small voice.

Spike immediately felt guilty; it wasn’t an emotion he was accustomed to.  He sure as hell didn’t like it.  But she just looked so small and lost all
of sudden.  That was not how Cordelia Chase was supposed to act.  She was supposed to be upbeat, rude, and completely obnoxious.  All the qualities he liked in a girl.  “Sorry, pet.  Shouldn’t have put it so bluntly.”

“That’s, um, okay,” Cordelia said softly, amazed and a little touched by the vampire’s apology.  She gave herself a small shake, them turned her gaze to the Slayer.  “So, Buffy, what’s the what?”

With a sigh, Buffy sat on the edge of the desk and told Cordelia and Doyle everything she could.

Doyle tried to pay attention; he really did.  Unfortunately, he was slightly distracted by the blonde Slayer.  He knew that this was Angel’s ex, and he had no idea how to explain how the two were acting.  Angel was holed up in his office with that attractive redhead, and Buffy was sitting out here, seemingly without caring that her former love was just a room away.  Of course, Doyle reasoned, it had been what, seven months since the whole graduation fiasco happened and Angel had left Sunnydale?  Perhaps old wounds had begun to heal.  Or else they were just avoiding each other like crazy.

“Any questions?”

The Slayer’s voice pulled him back from his reverie.  Doyle glanced around the room, grateful that no one had noticed that he was zoning out.  He could just ask Cordelia what the hell was going on later.  Stretching slightly, Doyle asked the question that had entered his mind several minutes before.

“Where’s that Oz chap?  Why didn’t he come?  If I remember correctly, he had a van; you could have left blondie over there at home.”

The Slayer winced slightly, then glanced over at Angel’s office door as if afraid Willow had heard the comment.  “It’s not really a good idea to
mention Oz at the moment.”

“Why not? Doyle asked, worried that the young man had been injured in some way.

“He cheated on Willow with some bitch,” Anya stated bluntly.  “If I still had my powers, I would have given him syphilis, or something equally as bad.   Maybe boils.  Boils are always fun.  Big, oozing ones.”

“Well, that’s... quite the image.  You know, it’s not nice to call someone a bitch.”

“Why not?” the former demon returned indignantly.  “That’s what she was.”

“She was a werewolf, like Oz,” Buffy explained.

“A werewolf,” Doyle repeated.  Angel and Cordelia had neglected to mention that little tidbit.  He glance warily at the door to the office that held Angel and Willow, then returned his gaze to Anya.  She’d said something about having powers.  Did that mean...  “So,” the half demon continued.  “Is there anything else I need to know about you people?  Like... is one of you going to sprout wings and fly or something?”

“No,” Anya scoffed, “of course not.  We’re not faeries or anything.”

“Oh, good.”

“Willow’s just a witch, and I used to be a demon.”

“Oh, Lord.”

Part Four

It had been difficult, but they had finally done it.  Granted, it had taken a lot out of them, and they had argued about what course of action to take for nearly an hour, but they had managed it.

They had figured out sleeping arrangements.

Because the trip to LA had been a bit... unplanned, to say the least, the group had failed to get hotel rooms, and it was way too late to think about it now.  It was nearing dawn, and all the semi-decent hotels nearby would probably be full.  Besides, they didn’t have enough money to put themselves up for very long, even if the hotel was only semi-decent.  So rooming with Angel, Cordelia, and Doyle it was.

Spike, of course, had to stay with Angel, much to the dismay of both vampires.  Staying with anyone else would have posed a pesky sunlight
problem (which several people wouldn’t have minded, but said individuals were too nice to say anything to that effect.)  However, there was still that whole ‘Spike and Angel might kill each other’ problem.  Just days before, they had discovered that Spike could still whale on the undead, and the prospect of finding twin piles of dust the next morning didn’t really appeal to the others.  Because Willow seemed to be the best moderator (not to mention the fact that she was the only one Spike would admit to being able to stand, and Angel would hate to do anything to traumatize the little redhead), she was chosen to stay with the two vampires.  Besides, she was the only one of the group that Angel was willing to let stay.  He didn’t want the added tension of having Buffy around - being forced to deal with Spike would be bad enough - and he refused to have Anya stay with him.  There was no telling what would come out of the girl’s mouth, and Angel wasn’t about to take the chance that the former demon would antagonize Spike.

Buffy, much to Cordelia’s dismay, was staying with the former cheerleader.  In all honesty, the brunette had been sort of hoping that Willow would be staying with her.  Now that the whole Oz/Veruca debacle had occurred, Cordelia felt an odd kinship with the redhead. Both of them had had their hearts broken: hers by Xander (though she hated to acknowledge it), and Willow’s by Oz.  Plus, she wanted all the details about what had happened with this Veruca chick.  She didn’t think Buffy would give her all the dirt.   Because she was slightly miffed, she purposely avoided telling Buffy about her ghostly roommate James.  She had to admit it; she was anxious to the Slayer’s reaction when she found out about him.  She made a mental note to keep her camera ready at all times.

Anya was staying with Doyle.  She didn’t really care who she stayed with; she just wanted to get Xander back.  She missed him.  The girl knew that Doyle was the only one even remotely willing to let her stay with him, but she didn’t care.  Quite frankly, she freaked Angel out.  Cordelia, on the other hand, had flatly refused to allow the former demon into her home.  Doyle, although still a bit wary of the girl, had reluctantly agreed to let her stay with him, but only after he’d been reassured several times that Anya no longer had her powers and that there was no danger of him waking up with some horrible spell-induced disease.

He just hoped they were right.

Part Five

Angel sat at his kitchen table, doing his best to ignore the people in the other room.  He had no problem with Willow being there; he rather enjoyed being in the company of the redhead.  However, he hated having Spike over.  With an unneeded sigh, he stood and walked over to the couch, where Spike and Willow were watching the late late late movie.

He came to a stop beside the two, and he froze when he looked down at the pair.  Willow was laying limply against the side of the couch, her face so pale... Angel made a movement toward her, terrified that Spike had injured her in some way, before he saw the telltale rise and fall of her chest.  She was asleep.  Angel allowed himself a soft sigh of relief before he glanced in the direction of his childe, meeting knowing blue eyes.

“First of all, we told you that I can’t hurt the living, and Willow,” he continued, eyeing the consistant movements of her chest that ensured that
she was breathing, “is most definitely alive.  Second, even if I could harm her, she would be the last one on my list of people to kill.  I’d start with Xapper, then his girlfriend, then the idiot Slayer, then... I’d go with the Watcher.  After that, I’d eat her.  Save the best for last and all that.”

“Charming.  Remind me to kill you if you ever get the ability to bite people back.”

Spike simply smirked.

Heaving another sigh, Angel leaned down and scooped the tiny redhead into his arms.  He headed off toward his bedroom, but stopped after only a few steps.

“What is it?” Spike asked.

“One bed.  One couch.  And I am NOT sleeping on the floor in my own home.”

“Well, I’m not sleeping on the bloody floor, either!”

Angel shifted Willow in his arms, then looked down at the sleeping girl.  She was going to get the bed; his sense of chivalry would allow nothing less.  However...

“Fine.  You get the couch.  Willow and I will take the bedroom.”

“But Daddy, what about your soul?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Spike, I’m not going to take advantage of the girl.  I’m just going to sleep with her.”  At the younger vampire’s snort of
laughter, he hastily corrected himself.  “Beside her.  Not touching her.  It’s a big bed.  She won’t even know I’m there.”  Another snort of laughter from the bleached blonde on the couch.  “Oh, shut up.  You know what I mean.”  And with that, Angel left the room.

To sleep with Willow.

In the same bed.

Beside her.

Not touching her.

Part Six

Someone was in bed with her.  Someone big.  Definitely not Oz.  Oz was only about as tall as she was.  So... it had to be someone else.  Someone much taller, much bigger than she.  Had she done something stupid?  Had she gone out and ended up in bed with some strange guy?  Oh, no.  Oh no oh no ohno ohno ohnoohno.....  Biting her lip, with a fearful expression on her face, she flipped over, determined to get her mortification over with quickly.

It was Angel.

Nice, tall, sleeping, fully clothed Angel.  It was then that her terror slipped enough for her to realize that she, too, was fully clothed.  Well,
except for her shoes and jacket; they were gone.  She immediately turned back over to once again face the wall; she didn’t want Angel to wake up and find her staring at him.  With the realization that she was dressed came clarity, and she recalled the events of the night before.  She was in LA, staying with Angel and Spike.  They were there to find Xander.

Faith had Xander.

Truth be told, Willow and Xander had grown apart recently.  Part of it was simply growing up, part of it was Willow going to college, part of it was Anya.

But she still loved him.

Not in the all-consuming, ‘I have a crush on my best friend’ way that she had in years past, but it was still love.  He was her best friend - or one
of them, anyway - and she loved him as such.

She missed him.

Without realizing it, Willow began to cry softly.  She was so worried about Xander; she knew what the brunette Slayer was capable of.  She’d killed the deputy mayor.  Okay, it had been an accident at the time, but Faith had chosen the path she had taken after that.  The path that led to joining the mayor, nearly strangling Xander, and trying to kill Angel.  And so much more.  Willow still had nightmares about the night she had been captured by the mayor’s men.  When Faith had held a knife to her throat...

And now she had Xander.


The sound of soft but desperate sobs pulled Angel out of his sleep.  The vampire opened his eyes slowly, stretching as he did so.  He immediately saw the source of the weeping, and it took him a moment to remember why there was a woman in his bed.


Slowly, trying not to startle her, he raised a hand and settled it gently on her back.  Immediately, the hacker turned over and buried her face in his chest as her sobs grew louder.  Angel cautiously wrapped his arms around the tiny young woman and pulled her closer.

“Willow?” he whispered, his mouth close to her ear.  “Willow, please tell me what’s wrong.  Did you have a nightmare?”  It was the only thing he could think of.

“Xander.”  Her voice was so quiet that he hardly heard what she had said.

“You had a nightmare about Xander?”

Willow pulled away slightly, embarrassed to discover she was crying all over Angel.  She hadn’t even realized what she was doing when she turned to him.

“No, not a nightmare,” she whispered.  “I just miss him.”

Angel lifted a hand to Willow’s cheek and wiped away the tears.  “You’re worried about him.”  When the redhead nodded forlornly, Angel pulled her closer to him, so that her head rested against his shoulder.  “It’s okay, Willow,” he murmured into her hair.  “We’ll find him.  I promise.”

It wasn’t long before they were both asleep once again.

Part Seven

Everyone sat around the office, not sure what to say.  No one looked liked they’d had a particularly restful sleep.  Well, except for Spike, who was humming the theme from “Mission Impossible” while drinking a cup of coffee.  Buffy made a mental note to cut down on the vampire’s caffeine intake.  Well, either that, or just stake him.

“You okay?” Doyle asked the Slayer as he poured himself a cup of coffee.  His time with Anya hadn’t been particularly restful, but he couldn’t really blame the girl for it.  Anya had woken up crying around dawn, and she hadn’t been able to fall back to sleep.  Although she hadn’t asked him to, Doyle had stayed up with her, trying to distract her.  All of his feelings of unease towards the former demon had disappeared when he’d seen her obvious fear and grief over what had happened to her boyfriend, and Doyle now saw her as nothing more than a frightened girl that just happened to be over eleven hundred years old.

Buffy glanced at the Irishman, offering a rather pathetic attempt at a smile.  “I’m fine.  Or I would be, if Cordelia had told me she has a ghost!”

“Cordelia...” Angel admonished, but there was laughter in his voice.  He couldn’t believe she had neglected to tell Buffy that; the Slayer’s reaction had probably been hilarious.

“You have a ghost?” Spike asked, intrigued.  He hoped it was a nasty one.  He hoped it had scared the silly little Slayer senseless.

“But he’s a nice ghost.  He would never hurt anybody.  And I want a new coffee pot.”  Cordelia directed her final comment to Buffy.

“He’s the one who dropped it!”

“He wouldn’t have dropped it if you hadn’t screamed like a ninny!”

“Well I wouldn’t have screamed if you had told me you had a ghost for a roommate!”

“Look, he was just trying to be nice and make us breakfast, and you ruined it.  I want a new coffee pot!”

“Cordelia,” Angel began, exasperated by the petty fight, “I will buy you a new coffee pot.  Okay?”

“Fine,” the brunette huffed.

“I’m not staying with her again tonight,” the Slayer announced.

Doyle glanced at Anya, a question in his eyes.  At her blank look - she still hadn’t entirely mastered the subtleties of communicating without words (or suggestive hand gestures) - Doyle nodded in Buffy’s direction.

“Oh.  You wanted to know if it was okay for Buffy to stay with us?”

“Yes, Anya.  That’s what I was asking.”

“Sure.  You don’t snore do you?”

“Not that I know of.”

Anya turned to Willow.  “You share a room with her.  Does she?”


“Okay.  You can stay.”

“Gee, thanks,” Buffy returned dryly.

“Um, guys?” Willow interjected.

All eyes turned to the redhead.

“Do you think maybe we could concentrate on trying to find Xander?  Then maybe we won’t have to worry about who’s staying where anymore...”

Everyone immediately got ready to work.

Part Eight

He was chained to the wall.  For the millionth time in the past week, Xander tested his bonds.  There was no way he could free himself; the bonds were too solid.  He stilled as Faith came into the room, a smile on her face.

“Comfy?” she asked with a laugh.

“Why me?” Xander asked for what had to be the ten thousandth time.

“Why not?” Faith returned, running her hand down his chest suggestively.  “Wanna have some fun, Xander?” she whispered, brushing her lips against his.

“Why is it that woman only want me for sex?  Not that I’m complaining.”

“Because,” the dark haired Slayer responded with a laugh, “it’s all you’re good for.  I mean, face it, you’re not that bright.”

“Okay, now I’m complaining.”

“You wouldn’t be complaining if I screwed you.”

“Don’t be so sure about that.”

Angry, Faith slapped him across the face, then leaned in menacingly, smiling wickedly when Xander tried to flinch away.  “Are you forgetting who’s chained the wall?” she taunted.  The brunette Slayer pushed herself away from him, positively livid.  How dare he speak to her that way.  “I’m the one with the power here!” she yelled, her control slipping.  “I’m the one with the power!”  She grabbed her knife - the knife she’d taken from Buffy’s room - and approached Xander.  She ran the blade of the knife down the center of his chest, not really to hurt him, but just pressing hard enough to let him know it was there.  “I could kill you, you know,” she whispered.

“Wouldn’t that ruin the plan?”

Faith turned away for a moment, and when she turned back, Xander was thankful to see a semblance of sanity return to her dark eyes.  Her spells had become increasingly closer together over the past few days, and he was afraid that she would simply lose it completely soon.  “You’re right,” she said softly, sounding for all the world like a lost child instead of a cold-blooded killer.  She rested her head against his shoulder as she continued.  “First, I have to kill Angel, for not wanting me.  Then Buffy, because everyone loves her best.  Then Willow... she never liked me, anyway.   And Giles.  Buffy was always his favorite.  Then Cordelia, just because she’s a bitch.  Then, it’ll just be you and me, Xander.  Together.”

“That’s right,” Xander whispered as his knees turned to jelly.  For once, he was grateful for the chains that held him up.  Without them, he would have collapsed onto the floor.  “Just you and me.”

He could not allow that to happen.

Part Nine

The search had been fruitless.  They’d asked around at what seemed to be a miilion places, all for nothing.  Buffy found herself wishing she were back in Sunnydale, where information could be found through either reading one of Giles’ books or beating up Willy the Snitch.  Unfortunately, Giles was in England, and his books were useless against an enemy like Faith.  His books carried no information on the evil
that was purely human.  Willy had proved useless in this case as well.  Buffy had gone to him early on for help, and she had believed him when he said he knew nothing.  In the end, she hadn’t even beaten him up, not even for old time’s sake.  She just didn’t have it in her.

Buffy stretched her tired muscles and looked over at Anya, who was already asleep on Doyle’s sofa bed.  A wave of guilt hit the Slayer as she saw the lines of worry that were etched on the former demon’s face, even in sleep.

“It’s not your fault, you know.”

“It feels like it is,” Buffy whispered as she turned to face the Irishman.  Anya turned over in her sleep and groaned slightly, as if something was
disturbing her.  A nightmare, perhaps?  Just another thing to feel guilty about.

“You feel responsible for them, don’t you?” Doyle asked as he headed for his kitchen.  The Slayer followed him, and for that he was relieved.  The girl needed to talk to someone.  It may as well be him.

“Why shouldn’t I feel responsible?  I’m the Slayer!  I should have -”

“What?  You should have known?  Please.  What are you, omnipotent?” he interjected as he leaned against the counter.

“I thought only guys could be impotent,” she said in a small, confused voice.

“Not impotent, omnipotent.  All-seeing?  All-knowing?”


“Well, are you?” Doyle demanded, hating himself for speaking to her this way, but knowing he had to get through to her somehow.  “Because if you aren’t, then it’s pretty damn foolish to blame yourself for something you had no control over!”

“I’m the Slayer.  He’s not.  I shouldn’t have allowed him to get involved.  I should have made him stop after the Harvest.”

“Do you really think you could have stopped him?  Kept him from joining you and fighting?  Do you think he could have walked away from what he’d seen at the Harvest and gone on like nothing had happened?”

“Everyone else did.”  The whisper was coated in tears.

“But he’s not everyone else.  Is he?”

“No, no he’s not.  He’s Xander,” Buffy whispered brokenly, giving into her tears.  “I’m so scared.”

Doyle pulled the young woman into his embrace, his heart breaking for her.  “I know, sweetie.  I know.”

They stayed that way until Anya awoke.

Part Ten

Willow sat in the middle of Angel’s bed, watching as he read a book.  She stifled a yawn, and the dark haired vampire looked over at her.

“You should go to sleep.”

“I feel like a should be doing something.  I mean, Xander’s out there...”

“I know,” Angel replied, closing his book and standing.  He walked over to the young witch.  “I feel like I should be out there, too.”

“But you have sun issues.  I don’t.”

“No, you don’t,” he agreed as he pulled the bedcovers down.  He gently pushed her back against the pillows, then pulled the sheet and comforter up to her chin.  “You do, however, have sleep issues.  You need to get some.  I won’t let you out there to look for him until you’re rested.  Understood?”

“Understood.”  Willow stuck her lower lip out in a pout, and Angel had to push away the rather startling urge to taste that enticing mouth.  Pushing himself away, he put some much needed distance between himself and the redhead.  He turned to leave the room.


Relunctantly, the vampire stopped and turned to once again face the redhead.   “Yes, Willow?”

“Don’t you need to sleep, too?  I mean, I know you’re a vampire and everything, but you did sleep yesterday...”

“Yeah, Willow, I could use some sleep, but, um, I need to, um...”

“Feed?” she asked tentatively.

“Yes.  That’s it.  Feed.”  Angel quickly grabbed onto the suggestion Willow had offerred to him.  “So, I’m going to go... uh, feed.  Now.”  He left the room quickly, nearly running into Spike, who was standing at the door eavesdropping.

“So, Daddy,” the younger vampire said with a wicked grin.  “Your pants a bit too tight?”

“Shut up, Spike.”

“You wanted to jump the little witch.  Don’t deny it.  I can sense these things, you know.”

“Well, you are love’s bitch after all, Spike.  It’s expected of you,” Angel replied tightly as he reached into the refrigerator and retrieved a bag of
blood.  He ripped the plastic and drank it straight from the bag, not even bothering to warm it.  After he was finished, he tossed the bag in the
trash, then turned to face his childe.  “I’d appreciate it if you’d leave me alone about Willow.”

“And if I don’t?”

“I’ll tell everyone you have a crush on Cordelia.”

“Now wait just a damn -”

“Of course, everyone probably already knows anyway.  I mean, the way you were looking at her...”

“Fine.  Stop already!  I’ll leave you alone about the witch.”

“Good,” Angel replied as he turned to leave the room.

“Where the hell are you going?”

“To bed,” the older vampire answered shortly.  “I need some sleep.  You should get some, too.  We’ll be searching for Xander all night.”  Angel
stopped at his bedroom door, not sure if he wanted to go in.  If she was asleep, he knew he could control himself.  However, if she was awake, he wasn’t sure he could keep from kissing her, especially if she pouted in that enticing way again.

With a sigh, he walked into his room, then stopped short.

Willow was asleep.


Part Eleven

“Xander!” Buffy sat straight up in bed, her small form wracked with sobs.   After Anya had awoken, she had gone off to get food, insisting that Buffy get some sleep before they continued the search.  She may have been a former demon without a grasp of some of the finer points of humanity, but she knew exhaustion when she saw it.

Buffy let out a hiccuppy sob as she remembered her dream.  Xander... oh, God.  Hurt.  And Faith was just standing there, laughing.  Did it mean

“Oh, God, Xander.”

Suddenly, Doyle was there.  He wrapped his arms around her, rocked her gently.  “It’s okay.  It was just a dream, sweetie.  Just a dream.”

“Maybe not,” the Slayer whispered.  “My dreams can be...”

“Prophetic,” Doyle finished for her.  “Kind of like my visions, but without the migraine that comes with it.”

“Have you had any visions?  About Xander?”

“None.”  He ran his hand down Buffy’s cheek, wiping her tears away.  “Which could mean that your dream wasn’t necessarily prophetic.  You’re worried about him.  It could just be...”

“My fears coming out in my dreams.  I know.  I have prophetic dreams, but I still have nightmares, too.”  She leaned against him, taking comfort in the half demon’s presence.  After a moment, merely being held wasn’t enough.  She didn’t know where the feeling came from, and, quite frankly, she didn’t give a damn.  Pulling away slightly, so that she could see his face, Buffy just stared at him for a moment.  Then she did what she wanted to do.

She kissed him.


Willow was in his arms.  Somehow, in the restless sleep the two of them had managed to fall into, they had become hopelessly entwined, a jumble of arms, legs, and bedclothes.

And he was holding her.

It felt right, and it terrified Angel to admit it.  How could he be falling... in love, lust, whatever... with Willow?  She was Buffy’s best friend, for goodness sake.  It didn’t matter how sweet or smart or incredibly lovely she was.  She was still Buffy’s best friend.

And she was also very awake.

“Hi,” she whispered, making no movement to extricate herself from his embrace.  If anything, she seemed to snuggle closer.  “Is it dark yet?”

“No, we still have a little while left,” Angel replied after taking a quick glance at the clock on the wall.  They still had an hour left before it was
safe for him and Spike to go out and search.  Because Willow seemed content to stay where she was, he tightened his hold on her, loving the feel of her in his arms.  After a moment, however, he looked down at her, wondering if she had fallen asleep again.

That may have been a mistake.  It may have also been a most felicitous occurrence.  It just depends on how the situation is looked at.

To Angel, however, it was definitely a good decision.

Because Willow wasn’t asleep, and she was looking at him in that was probably a pretty good match for the way he was looking at her.

So Angel did the only thing that he could do in a situation like that.

He kissed her.


Doyle stared at Buffy, shocked to the core by the girl’s kiss.

“I’m... I’m sorry,” the flustered blonde began.  “I didn’t mean to embarrass you or... I’m sorry if you didn’t want to kiss-”

With a slight grin, Doyle stopped her fracture monologue by covering her mouth with his.


Willow pulled away, gasping.

“Willow?  Is something wrong?  Oh, God, I’m sorry.  You didn’t want me to kiss you, did-”

“Shut up,” she said, clapping her hand over his mouth.


“The kissing... well, a big yay to the kissing.  Lots of applause, and you get a gold star.”  She pushed herself up so that she was leaning on her
elbow.  “In fact, I’d really like to try it again.  Only this time, try to remember that one of us needs to breathe on occasion.”


And that was all Angel managed to say before Willow pressed her lips against his.

It was all either of them said for quite a while.

Part Twelve

Willow’s fingers flew over the keyboard, trying to turn up something useful while Doyle continued calling his contacts.  Angel stood behind her, his hands gently kneading the tense muscles in her shoulders.  The two had yet to discuss what had happened earlier that day, both deciding that finding Xander took precedence over their unplanned makeout session.  Because of this, she wasn’t sure how to react to Angel’s sudden attentiveness, especially with Buffy only a few feet away.  Willow had no idea how Buffy would take the news that she and Angel had ended up rolling around on the vampire’s bed like a couple of horny teenagers until Spike had finally interrupted them by knocking on the door and announcing that it was sunset.  Given the knowing grin Spike had shot their way, Willow was certain that the bleached blonde vampire knew exactly what he had interrupted, and she was just thankful he hadn’t said anything.

What Willow had failed to notice, however, was the knowing looks Buffy had been sending their way.  Angel, on the other hand, had more than seen the looks, he had managed to catch the Slayer’s eye during one of them.  The small smile and nod she’d given him had told him all he needed to know: she knew that something had happened between the witch and the vampire, and she approved.  The fact that she was sitting so close to Doyle had led to another revelation - she had moved on as well.  To tell the truth, Angel couldn’t have been more pleased with her choice.  Doyle was nice, smart (although he didn’t always show it), and loyal.  He would also treat Buffy right.  If he didn’t, he’d have Angel to answer to.

Angel felt Willow’s shoulders slump under his hands, pulling him out of his thoughts.  “What’s wrong?” he asked, leaning down so that he was looking over her shoulder.

“Nothing.  Well... not nothing.  Something’s wrong... I found nothing.  Did that make sense?”

“Unfortunately, yes.  It means we have no leads.”

“Not necessarily,” Doyle interrupted as he hung up the phone.

“Meaning?” Cordelia asked.

“Frankie - one of my more trustworthy contacts - says he’s seen a girl matching Faith’s description - down to the tattoo on her arm - near Phil’s,
and she’s been spotted at Charly’s, too.  Alone.”

“What about Xander?” Anya put in, concerned.

“He’s not with her willingly, so she wouldn’t let him go out,” Buffy replied.  “It makes sense that she’d be pretty much by herself.  She’s not
exactly a people person.”

“Yeah,” Willow added.  “She’s more of a ‘kill the people’ person.”  The redhead turned to Doyle.  “Who exactly are Phil and Charly, and where can we find their places?”

“Couple of seedy bars in the bad part of town... Charly and Phil are a couple of seedy bar owners.  Fat, smelly, very stereotypical,” the half
demon answered.  “They’re a few blocks away from each other, but odds are we’ll find the girl within the area.  It’s in the no questions asked part of town.”

“Then let’s go ask some questions,” the Slayer replied.

Part Thirteen

They had to split up.  It would let them cover more ground at a faster rate, and it was a lot less suspicious to have two or three people wandering around together than eight.  Willow watched patiently while Buffy threatened to pound on some guy in a bar.  It had been decided that the two females would be more likely to get information from people, especially if they pretended to be looking for a friend they were worried about.  They looked young enough to pull it off without people thinking they were cops, and waitresses were more likely to be sympathetic to a couple young and seemingly defenseless girls looking for a friend.  Unfortunately, it also opened them up for lewd propositions, one of which Buffy was currently answering with a knee to the groin.

Willow sighed, bored with the whole thing; it sure as hell wasn’t helping them to find Xander any faster.  She pushed herself away from the concrete wall of the building and headed down the alley.  Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest thing to go off by herself, but her partner was otherwise occupied.   She found herself wishing that she’d gotten to go with Angel and Doyle, or even Spike, Cordelia, and Anya.  She hadn’t mentioned the whole Angel thing to Buffy yet, and avoiding the topic had been hell on the little redhead.

“Willow!  Damn it, Wills, don’t go off alone like that!”

The witch turned to see the Slayer coming toward her.  “Did you have a nice fight?”

“Wasn’t much of a fight.  I know I shouldn’t have beaten him up, but all the crude remarks just got to me.  Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not.  Something’s bothering you, and it’s not Xander.”  Enlightenment suddenly crossed Buffy’s face.  “It’s the Angel thing, isn’t

“Angel thing?” Willow squeaked.

“Yeah.  I know there’s something between you two, and I say go for it.  If you want to, that is.”

“You don’t mind?  Are you sure you’re Buffy?  You’re not possessed, are you?”

“No!  Gosh, Will, can’t I be happy for you?”

“I don’t see how.  I mean, it’s Angel.  You should be beating me up right now.  Is that why you beat up the bar guy?  You wanted to pound me, and you were just projecting your rage on him?”

“No!  That’s not it at all.  I’m not mad at you.  It’s been, what, six or seven months since Angel and I broke up?  It’s time to move on... it’s more
than time, really.  I’m glad you and Angel have a thing.  As it happens, I may have a Doyle thing myself.  And that sounded incredibly wrong.”

“You and Doyle?” Willow grinned.  “That’s just... wow.  I’m all happy inside for you.”

“Thanks,” Buffy replied, returning the grin.  “I’m pretty happy inside myself.”  She stopped suddenly at a rather nondescript door.  She stepped
back from the building, looking up.  “Looks empty.  Doesn’t mean that it is, though.”  She quickly kicked in the door, effectively destroying the lock.  “Oh, looky.  The door’s open.”

Willow smiled slightly.  “Then let’s go in.”


Barely a block away, Doyle’s vision sent him to his knees.

Part 14

The two entered the abandoned building silently, glancing each way.  “You go left; I’ll go right,” Buffy instructed.  “Yell if you need help.”

“Got it,” Willow answered as she headed alone down the hallway.  She continued on her way for a while, checking doors as she came to them.  With a sigh, she opened the last door in the hallway and was greeted by a set of stairs.  The basement.  Stepping carefully through the semi-darkness, she headed down, wondering if she should have called for Buffy before doing this.  The basement was divided into two rooms, and Willow took only a cursory glance at the first before heading to the second.  It was there that she found what she was looking for.


“Oh, God,” Willow muttered as she rushed to her friend’s side.


“Yeah, Xan.  It’s me,” she said, gently touching his bruised face.  "Oh, God, what did she do to you?”

“Get the key.”


“The key.  It’s over there,” he directed, nodding his head toward the far wall.  As Willow scrambled for the precious piece of metal, trying to avoid the enormous amount of broken glass that surrounded her, he continued speaking. “We have to get out of here.“

“Yeah, well, I’m working on that,” Willow said, then cursed quietly as she cut herself on a shard of glass.  “We’ll have to find Buffy, though.  She’s somewhere in the building.”

“I hope she doesn’t run into Faith,” Xander replied.  “She’s even crazier than before.  She beat me up during one of her loony spells, tossed the key - and a bunch of breakable stuff - during another.  She plans to kill everyone and keep me prisoner or whatever.”

Willow came back to her best friend and immediately began to work on the chains that held him in place.  She had to practically press herself bodily against him in order to reach the ones on his hands, but at this point, it didn’t matter.  She managed to get his hands unchained, and she stumbled back a bit as she came down from her tiptoes.  The added weight of Xander pressing against her didn’t help either, and she ended up landing on her butt on the basement floor.


Xander hurriedly bent down and snagged the key, quickly unlocking his legs.  He stretched as best he could; being chained up almost continuously for several days had left him incredibly stiff.  He reached down and pulled Willow to her feet, checking to make sure she was all right.  Once he had established that she was, the pair turned to head out and find Buffy.

They never even saw the blow coming.


Doyle pushed himself up off the ground, leaning heavily against Angel as the vampire helped him stand.  He allowed himself to simply gasp for breath for a moment, then forced himself to speak.  He knew they didn’t have much time if they wanted to stop what was happening.

Part 15

The two entered the abandoned building silently, glancing each way.  “You go left; I’ll go right,” Buffy instructed.  “Yell if you need help.”

“Got it,” Willow answered as she headed alone down the hallway.  She continued on her way for a while, checking doors as she came to them.  With a sigh, she opened the last door in the hallway and was greeted by a set of stairs.  The basement.  Stepping carefully through the semi-darkness, she headed down, wondering if she should have called for Buffy before doing this.  The basement was divided into two rooms, and Willow took only a cursory glance at the first before heading to the second.  It was there that she found what she was looking for.


“Oh, God,” Willow muttered as she rushed to her friend’s side.


“Yeah, Xan.  It’s me,” she said, gently touching his bruised face.  “Oh, God, what did she do to you?”

“Get the key.”


“The key.  It’s over there,” he directed, nodding his head toward the far wall.  As Willow scrambled for the precious piece of metal, trying to avoid the enormous amount of broken glass that surrounded her, he continued speaking.  “We have to get out of here.“

“Yeah, well, I’m working on that,” Willow said, then cursed quietly as she cut herself on a shard of glass.  “We’ll have to find Buffy, though.  She’s somewhere in the building.”

“I hope she doesn’t run into Faith,” Xander replied.  “She’s even crazier than before.  She beat me up during one of her loony spells, tossed the key - and a bunch of breakable stuff - during another.  She plans to kill everyone and keep me prisoner or whatever.”

Willow came back to her best friend and immediately began to work on the chains that held him in place.  She had to practically press herself bodily against him in order to reach the ones on his hands, but at this point, it didn’t matter.  She managed to get his hands unchained, and she stumbled back a bit as she came down from her tiptoes.  The added weight of Xander pressing against her didn’t help either, and she ended up landing on her butt on the basement floor.


Xander hurriedly bent down and snagged the key, quickly unlocking his legs.  He stretched as best he could; being chained up almost continuously for several days had left him incredibly stiff.  He reached down and pulled Willow to her feet, checking to make sure she was all right.  Once he had established that she was, the pair turned to head out and find Buffy.

They never even saw the blow coming.


Doyle pushed himself up off the ground, leaning heavily against Angel as the vampire helped him stand.  He allowed himself to simply gasp for breath for a moment, then forced himself to speak.  He knew they didn’t have much time if they wanted to stop what was happening.

Part 16

Willow fell to the ground as Faith’s punch hit her in the side of her head, leaving her ears ringing.

“You bitch!” Xander shouted, launching himself at the girl.  She deflected him easily; his inactivity over the past week had left him clumsier than usual, and besides, she was the Slayer.  He wasn’t.  She flung him against the wall, where he lay stunned and barely conscious.  By this time, Willow was on her feet again, and Faith turned to the girl, ready for a fight.

“Guess I’m going to have to alter the plan a bit.  You were supposed to be the third to die, not the first.  It really pisses me off when someone
messes up my plans, did you know that?”

“Yeah, well, deal with it,” Willow replied as she ducked a blow.  She knew she was no match for a Slayer, and she hoped and prayed that Buffy had heard Xander’s shout and would get there in time.

Faith’s next blow landed hard on Willow’s chin, and the redhead tumbled backwards, hitting her head on an exposed pipe.  She fell to the ground, barely managing to maintain consciousness.

“Buffy!” she screamed hoarsely as Faith flipped her onto her back and straddled her.  Willow’s eyes widened and she struggled frantically when she saw the knife in Faith’s hand.  The brunette grinned wickedly, then grabbed Willow’s hair and rammed her head into the concrete floor when she grew tired of the struggles.

“I’d love to hear you scream, Red,” she told the girl’s unconscious body.  “But you were really getting on my nerves.  Now... where do I begin?  Oh, I know.”  With a look of concentration on her face, Faith lowered the knife to Willow’s shoulder.  She grinned as the blood began to seep out.  Maybe the pain would wake Willow up, and then she’d get to hear her scream.  She lowered the knife again, this time intending to slice the girl’s cheek.

Her knife never made it to the goal.

Instead, it flew halfway across the room, and Faith found herself yanked to her feet and face to face with a very pissed off Buffy.


“Where the hell is this place?” Angel yelled frantically.  Willow.  Buffy.  Dear God, they were in danger.  How could he have let this happen?  How could he have allowed them go off together?  How could he have nearly insisted upon it?  He should have gone with them.  He had to find them; he had to have the chance to let Willow know how he felt about her.  If the almost physical pain at the thought of losing her and the panic he felt were any indication, he was already halfway in love with her.  He turned to face Doyle, who was valiantly trying to continue on in spite of his pounding migraine and aching body.  The pain on the half demon’s face was eclipsed only by his obvious worry for Buffy.

“Where is it?” Angel questioned again, less viscously this time.

“I don’t know.  It’s a warehouse or something.  Come on; we have to find them.  We don’t have much time.”  Doyle stumbled into the alley, remaining upright only because Angel caught him.

As Angel pulled Doyle into a bit more of an upright position, something caught his eye.

A wide open door.

With a broken lock.

Part 17

Faith grinned wickedly at the other Slayer.  “Well, well, who do we have here?  I always planned to kill you before I offed the little witch.  Now it
looks like wishes really do come true.  Too bad Angel isn’t here.  I’d always planned to kill him first.”

“You aren’t going to kill any of us, you crazy bitch,” Buffy said hotly, striking out at the brunette.

Faith dodged the blow, grabbing Buffy’s arm and twisting it behind her back.   She relished the sharp cry that the blonde let out.  “Don’t be too sure of that, B,” she replied as she shoved the other girl into the wall, twisting her arm even further.

Tears sprang to Buffy’s eyes at the intense pressure Faith was applying to her arm.  It had been so long since she’d fought against a Slayer, and she had forgotten just how strong the other girl was.  With a strangled cry, Buffy managed to lash out with her foot, knocking the other Slayer away for a few precious seconds.  She glanced at her friends.  Willow was still unconscious, and a small pool of blood had formed on the floor by her injured shoulder.  Xander, on the other hand, was slowly beginning to regain his senses, and the young man groaned as he pushed himself into a sitting position.  Buffy actually took a step toward him before she realized her mistake.

She had taken her eyes off Faith.

The blow hit her on the right cheek, and Buffy staggered back at the force of it.  Faith’s hands locked around the blonde Slayer’s throat, and Buffy gasped helplessly for air.  The punch had caught her off guard, and by the time she’d recovered her bearings, Faith had already cut off her air supply.   She clutched fruitlessly at Faith’s hands, trying to loosen the girl’s grip.  She choked as her vision blurred, and tears began to fall as she realized this was the end.  She had failed, and now Faith would probably kill Willow, too.

And then it was over.

Faith’s eyes registered shock as the hands gripped her head from behind, and that was the girl’s death mask.

Buffy stumbled at the sudden absence of pressure, and Doyle caught her before she hit the ground.  He knelt beside her, rocking her gently and
rubbing her back.  Wincing, the blonde Slayer rubbed her hand over her throat, then looked up at her rescuer.


The dark haired vampire stood over his victim, stunned.  He had killed a human being.  True, she had been evil, but she was still human.  He had
broken her neck, snapped it like a twig.

Just like he had done to Jenny.

“Angel?” Buffy rasped.  He shook himself out of his reverie and looked down at the girl in Doyle’s arms.  “You saved me.  You saved all of us.  Thank you.”

< You saved all of us. >

The words hit Angel like a ton of bricks, and he immediately turned to find Willow.  She lay unconscious on the ground, and Xander had managed to crawl over to her.  The young man looked up when Angel dropped to his knees on Willow’s other side.  Xander had pulled Willow’s shirt off her shoulder, and the gash Faith had made was exposed to their sight.

“Is she going to be okay?” Xander whispered, gesturing to the wound.

“It’s deep, but not life-threatening or anything.  It’ll heal, but it needs stitches,” the vampire replied, gently running his hand over the redhead’s
cheek.  “We need to get her to a hospital.”  He glanced at Xander, taking in the cuts and bruises, the raw places on his wrists where the chains had been.  “You, too.”  The vampire lifted Willow in his arms, and Xander stood up slowly.  They turned to look at the pair behind them.  “Can you-”

“We’ll go find the others, tell them what’s happening,” Doyle interrupted.  “The nearest hospital-”

“Is three blocks away,” Angel finished for his friend.  “Go get Cordy, Anya, and Spike, then come there.”

“Is she going to be okay?” Buffy asked, concerned for her friend.  Had she been too late?  Had she failed her?

“I hope so,” was Angel’s only reply.

Buffy tried not to cry as Angel headed to the hospital with her two best friends in the world.

Part 18

She lay as still as death, and Angel had to keep reminding himself that the doctor had said Willow would be fine.  Her shoulder had been stitched up, and she had actually regained consciousness for a few minutes before drifting off to sleep.  Surprising as it was, the blows she had received from Faith had only resulted in a minor concussion, and Willow would be free to leave the next day.

The vampire looked up from his vigil at Willow’s bedside as Xander entered.

“How is she?” the teen asked, seating himself on the girl’s other side.

“She’ll be okay.  She was awake for a little bit, but the doctors were here, so I didn’t really get to talk to her.”

“But she did wake up?” Xander repeated, relief evident in his voice.

“Yeah.  What about you, though?” Angel asked, eyeing the bandages on the young man’s wrists.  “Shouldn’t you be in a hospital bed somewhere?”  Like Willow, Xander had suffered a minor concussion, and Angel couldn’t believe that the doctors had let him go, especially when the numerous bumps and bruises the boy had were taken into consideration.

“I signed myself out.  They couldn’t exactly stop me.  Look, no offense or anything - I’m glad you showed up when you did - but how did you know where to find us?”

“Doyle had a vision... that’s how we knew there was trouble.  So we looked.  It was just lucky that we were only a block or so away.”

“I assume Doyle’s the guy that seemed really friendly with the Buffster?”

“Yeah.  He works with me.”

Xander nodded, then gestured to Angel’s hand, which was gently stroking Willow’s hair.  “Do you want to tell me what happened while I was being held captive by a raving lunatic?  I think I’m kind of lost here.”

“What?  Oh, you mean...”

“Buffy and Doyle, you and Willow.  This is not the way my world was a week ago.”

“It just... happened.”

“Do you love her?”


“Willow has been my best friend for about fifteen years.  I think I have the right to know.”

“Does it really matter?  No matter how much I care, I still can’t be with her.”  It was a conclusion he’d come to a few minutes before.  The same
conclusion he had come to with Buffy, but, somehow, this one hurt worse.  Maybe it was because he’d never get to tell her how he felt.  It would be cruel to tell her he loved her, knowing that he couldn’t be with her.

“Don’t be too sure of that,” Xander replied, wondering if he was making a huge mistake.  Did he really want this for Willow?  Did it even matter what he wanted anyway?  In the end, it should be her choice.  He just had to make sure Angel gave her one.

“What do you mean?”

“The curse,” Xander began.  “She’s... she’s looking for a way to make your soul permanent.  Before the whole Faith thing, she had a pretty good lead.  If it works out... you can be with her.  In that way.  But not for a long time, buster.  She still needs time to completely get over Oz, and she
shouldn’t just jump into bed with you simply because you can.”

“Xander, I would never pressure her...”

“I know.  And I can’t believe we’re discussing this.”

“Neither can I.  Why the sudden about face?  You hate me... or don’t you remember?”

“Trust me, I remember.  But Willow deserves to be happy.  If it happens to be you that makes her happy, so be it.  I mean, I’m dating a former demon... who am I to say something about Willow dating you?”


“Just think about it, Angel.  Don’t write it off without giving it a chance.   If she cares for you as much as you obviously care for her, she deserves a say in whatever decision is made.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Look, I’ve got to go find Anya.  She’s still not completely convinced I’m okay.  Take care of Willow for me.”

“I will,” Angel said to an empty room as he resumed his silent vigil.

Part 19

“It’s almost time to go back to Sunnydale,” Buffy whispered with a sigh.  She and Doyle were curled up on his couch pretending to watch a movie, but they were really just enjoying being together.

“It is, isn’t it?” Doyle whispered softly.

“I don’t want to go.  I know it’s been less than a week, but I don’t want to leave you.”

“What if you didn’t have to?”

“What?” Buffy asked, raising confused eyes to his.  Was he going to ask her to stay?  Did he actually care enough to want her to?

“Well, I was thinking... do you people have any use for a half demon that gets skull-cracking visions?”

“You... you would come with me?  Just like that?  What about Angel?”

“I like you much better,” he replied, planting a quick kiss on her lips.  “And yes, I would come with you just like that.  I’d have to tie up a few
loose ends, but I’d do it.  I don’t particularly care for the thought of you leaving me behind.”

“I don’t either.  But leaving Angel and Cordelia alone...”

“Well, with any luck, Angel’s going to convince Red to stay here with him.  And Spike’s been making noises about staying as well.  Says he wants to start over somewhere new and all that.  I think he really just wants to try and get in Cordy’s pants.  So what do you say, Buffy?”

The Slayer rose to her knees so that she was looking into Doyle’s face.  “I say, please come back to Sunnydale with me.”

“Gladly,” Doyle replied, taking her mouth in a kiss.


“This is boring,” Willow announced from her spot in the middle of Angel’s bed.  “I’m okay, you know.  I’m allowed to get up and move.”

“I’d prefer it if you rested for at least another day.”  When Willow opened her mouth to protest, Angel raised an eyebrow at her.  “Humor me.”

The redhead sighed and snuggled farther under the covers.  She’d been released the day before, and Angel hadn’t let her lift a finger to do
anything.  He also hadn’t said a word about what had happened between them.

“What’s going on with you, Angel?  You’ve hardly talked to me since I woke up.”

“Xander told me,” the vampire blurted as he sat on the edge of the bed.

“Told you what?”

“That you’re trying to make my soul permanent.”

“Well, nothing’s definite yet...”

“Why?  Why would you do that for me?”

“Because you deserve to be happy.  It’s not fair that everyone else - no matter what they’ve done - can be happy, but you have a damn curse that won’t let you!”

“How can you think I deserve happiness?”

“For one thing, I just told you a reason.  You deserve the same chance for happiness that everyone else gets.  Besides, I care about you, Angel.  I always considered you a friend, and now... now I’m not really sure what we are.  Why the sudden questions, Angel?  Don’t you want your soul to be permanent?”

“Of course I do.  It’s just... do you know what you’re getting yourself into?”

“With the spell or with you?”

“With me,” he whispered.

“You tell me.”

“I’m a vampire, Willow.”

“I kind of already knew that.  And it doesn’t change my feelings.  I mean, Xander’s dating a former demon, Buffy’s dating a half demon, and I’m willing to bet that Cordelia will end up with Spike.”

Angel sighed.  “I’m not doing this very well, am I?  It’s just, I keep trying to come up with reasons why we can’t happen, and all I come up with
is how much I want to be with you.”

“You want to be with me?  Really?” Willow asked, scooting across the bed to be closer to the vampire.

“Really,” he confirmed, running his hand through her silky hair.  He pulled her close, carefully avoiding her injured shoulder.

“Well, now we both know that we want to be together, so that’s settled.  What happens next?”

“It kind of depends on you.  I’m a selfish guy, Willow.  I don’t want a long distance relationship.  I want you here.”

“You want me to move to LA?”

“If you’re willing.”

“I... I could transfer to UCLA, I guess.  And be research girl through e-mail...”

“And Doyle will be in Sunnydale, so he can help them with the research...”

“Doyle?  He’s going to move for Buffy?”

“Yeah.  He told me he was going to tell her today.”

Willow giggled, and Angel looked down at her.  When he caught her eye, he raised his eyebrows in question.

“It’s just... well, I wonder what Giles is going to say when he gets back.  I mean, Doyle in Sunnydale... dating Buffy no less, and Spike and I will be here, with you and Cordy.  He’ll probably never have the courage to leave again.  Who knows what he’d come back to?”

“Does that mean you’ll stay?”

“How could I not?  You’re what I want, Angel.  I’m not going to give it up.”

“Thank God,” Angel murmured before pressing his lips against hers.

For the first time in a long time, both of them felt like they were finally home.

The End