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Perchance to Dream


Part Ten

“Sod off, Peaches.”

Angel pulled his chair even closer to the couch and watched his boys with eagle eyes as the blonds finished another bag. Out of god knew how many bags of blood and it was the good stuff.

By Angel’s estimation, it was roughly a little more than one whole human and the blonds looked ready to burst. Angel was a little concerned. They should’ve been able to eat more than this. “I am not going to ‘sod off’. Here have another bag.” He tossed the full one to Spike, as Wil was still working on his. Everyone, but Xan, was on the other side of the room, far away from the feeding vampires and the bickering.

Spike tossed the empty at Angel, who caught it and put it in the trashcan near by, before motioning at the full bag. Spike looked down at it and made ready to toss it at his ‘weird arse’ sire’s face.

Angel raised his hand. “Do it lad and everyone in this room will be witness to the punishment.” Spike saw the flash of yellow and not willing to give Buffy more to use against him. He started in on the new bag.

Xan was tempted to say something. They looked about ready to hurl and Xan wasn’t sure if vampires could hurl, but if they did, these would be the candidates. However, this wasn’t his expertise, it was Angel’s. He should just sit here and stay out of it. Surely, the older vampire wouldn’t make them sick. If Angel thought they needed this much blood then he’d go along with it. Till it made them sick that is.

Wil handed over the empty, slightly shaking as he took the new. God he hadn’t fed like this in years. It too much, all the blood turning inside him, filling places and he felt so full but after his sire’s threat to Spike. He didn’t dare say anything.

Angel kept exchanging the empty for full bags and anytime either of the blondes looked ready to quit he flashed his teeth and yellow eyes. Angel felt a pair of eyes drilling into the side of his head. He faced Xan’s glare silently, begging for him to leave it.

Thankfully, Xan turned his attention to Wil. Angel was finally satisfied when there was a rosy coloring to the blonde’s cheeks and they appeared completely filled. Though it had only taken roughly less than 2 humans worth to fill them.

It was enough. Angel collected the empty bags that hadn’t made it to the trash. When he sat up both blonds flinched away from him and into the back of the couch, expecting more blood to be forced on them. “That’s enough lads, you did fine.” He turned to Xan. “Be ready.”

Xan’s temper flared. “Be ready for what? What have you done?” He caught Wil before he hit the floor and Angel leaned forward to catch Spike. Xan cradled the lax body in his arms. “What the hell Angel? Did you drug them?”

Angel let his anger flare in response, yellow eyes flashing. Xan was loud enough to draw the others attention and now they all were watching the face off.

It revoked old memories for those of the new order world. For those of this universe it was a totally new experience, a ‘Xander’ standing up to Angel and not backing down.

Angel held Spike’s body carefully and laid him delicately down on the couch. “No nothing like that. Do you think I would drug my own childer? I overfed them and now their bodies are using, the very much-needed substance, to heal, repair, and to put them back into better health. Vampire bodies shut down when they’re overfed after long periods of starvation.”

Xan felt slightly ashamed but not enough to back down. “You could have warned me.”

Now Angel looked a little sheepish before he smiled. “It was funnier this way. You should have seen your face.” He’d teach this guy to use him as a stress release.

Xan laid his precious weight on the couch, letting him curl up to his counterpart, making sure both were fine. He glared back to the smiling vampire. “Do I look like I’m laughing?”

Unsure how to calm the thick air around them, the others looked to each other and Giles dared to interrupt. “If you gentlemen are quite done? We have something to discuss.”

One more glare to the vampire and a softer look to the blonds and Xan made his way to the table. All the signs pointed to there was something on the watcher’s mind. He was cleaning his glasses and Xander and Anya had broken apart, must be serious.

Xan congratulated himself on never being that whipped and physically stopped himself from looking back at the couch. Xan took a seat at the end of the table, directly opposite of the watcher. He let Angel sit between him and Giles. That way if he got up to strangle the man for any reason the vampire would be there able to stop him. “What did you need to talk about Giles?”

“We,” he waved a hand to indicating the Wesley’s, “have been discussing something and we thought, we’d bring it to your attention.”

“And ‘it’ would be?” Xan wished for a cup of coffee, a magazine, something. This man had a serious love of hearing himself talk.

“I was thinking, perhaps we could send back a few things to help your fight like,” Giles started to fumble with the words and Xan straightened in his seat. This wasn’t pleasure- this was business.

“Such as?”

“Supplies, some magic spells, weapons. You name it and we’ll see if we can get it. I do seem to remember having a rocket launcher around here somewhere.”

Xan saw the sincerity in the watcher’s eyes and those of their universe standing around them. They wanted to help and Xan was damned if he was going to turn that down.
“Anything you can do would be greatly appreciated and in advance. I,” Xan looked at his teammates, “we thank you.”

Giles clasped his palms together. “Having said that. We’ll get to work on putting something together. Any questions?”

Xan couldn’t help himself. He saw his counterpart ready to make some smart assed remark and for once he let himself go. “Yeah, I have a question. Who discovered that you could get milk from cows, and what the hell did he think he was doing at the time?”

Giles paused to answer, before realizing everyone, including Angel, was laughing and reviewed in his mind what had been said. He threw a dirty look at the man and pulled away from the table. He glared briefly at his own universe’s Xander for good measure.

In the next few hours, Xan could only shake his head as the pile of donations grew. These people had enough firepower to take out a small planet and more was coming out of the storage room all the time.

Then again on both sides of the mirror they all had the thankless job of saving the world. Except in his world the enemy wasn’t to be named weekly.

Xan wandered back from checking on the blonds. Everyone had paused, whenever they past the couch, with various degrees of ‘ah how cute’ plastered on their faces.

Xan was honestly starting to wonder about their Xander. Maybe Xander had better taste then he’d given him credit for. If he was looking at the blondes like that than he must of had at least a thought or two about them horizontal. In Xan’s opinion it would be best if Xander kept those opinions to himself. Unless he wanted to find out what it would be like to be killed by a guy wearing his face.

Xan hoped he had a better time of keeping his emotions off his face than his counterpart did, because his own were definitely more of the R rated sort. Xan torn his eyes away from the couch as Angel approached and he walked away as Angel looked down. Even he felt it was rude to interrupt Angel in the middle of worship.

So peaceful, so perfect my boys. Angel tried to resist the urge to push their hair back from their faces or to give any of the soft touches he longed to. They looked so young and fragile. Once upon a time that had been just a look. An extra something that fooled people into trusting the wide, blue eyes but now it wasn’t. They were fragile and it torn at his soul.

The soul was saddened and the demon screamed for revenge. Angel agreed. However, it would be done his way, with none of that throwing the world into hell nonsense. That had proven to be just counterproductive.

Absentmindedly, his hand left his side to brush back the unruly blond mass of hair on his Spike, then ran a finger down the other’s face. Noticing what he was doing, he pulled his hand back. Even as out of it as they were, it had been awhile since Angel had been in this condition and who knew what they would remember.

Besides he had an issue to take care off. He pulled himself away from the couch. “Giles, may I talk to you for a moment?”

Giles looked up from where he was explaining something to Queen C. He made his excuses to her and placed an object, much like a strong tazor into the woman’s hand, before walking towards Angel. “Of course.”

Angel waited till they were out of earshot before turning to watcher. He struggle and won the fight to keep his voice soft. “Giles, I like you and I respect you. So don’t take this the wrong way but if you ever, and I mean ever, drug any blood you plan on feeding my boy again. I will kill you. Do you understand?”

Giles at first looked shocked and then logic and understanding pulled the shades up. He was a watcher and knew enough about the strangeness and strength of the sire-childe bond. Angel could threaten and painfully punish Spike, but for anyone else it was a death sentence.

This was a father protecting his child. No matter what species and Giles had to respect it and be thankful he was alive to agree. “Of course Angel, never again. But you must understand he,”

“I don’t care to hear it Giles. No excuses. Will you comply?”


“Then we’re done here. So need some help moving anything?” Angel led them back further into the shop, where the others could hear them.

Buffy had recently returned from patrolling to find she’d been volunteered for heavy moving detail. She gave Giles a look that suggested this would be asked about later. Giles nodded, hell he was just happy to have survived it.
He shook his head no towards Angel. Only to find the vampire had already joined Xan at the couch and was no longer paying him any mind, which suited Giles very well right now.

Angel and Xan were looking down at their angels. They had a twisted interpretation of heaven obviously.

Angel smiled down at blond vampire’s their skin was almost rosy. Then BAM, which incidentally was the noise his head made when it hit the wall. Angel decided three things instantaneously. 1. Ouch! 2. Spike was awake and he was not happy. And 3. Damn, now he remembered the reason why if you wanted to keep Spike as a pet, you did not feed him well.

Spike growled in full game face. “What the hell did you do to us, wanker?”

Angel shook his head trying to clear it. He wasn’t quite sure how Spike didn’t know what had been done to him. He must have skipped that lesson. Was a father’s work never done? “I overfed you. You fell out trying to make up for lost time. Let me go, now.”

Spike slammed him once more before letting go. “Warn a bloke next time.”

Angel staggered from the wall. Damn, he’d forgotten what a punch that kid packed. Xan was talking quietly to Wil, who looked better and since Xan had that under control. It was up to him to tackle hurricane Spike.

Queen C got to Spike first. “Oh you’re awake, do you feel better? I brought your duster from the hotel, all clean.” She fetched the duster from the chair it was draped over.

Angel wandered towards his boy, wondering why the hell these people liked his brat so much, when most couldn’t stand the crude punk. Spike slipped the duster on over the sweater. “Ta pet, fancy staying here and letting the silly bit take your place?”

She laughed. “I wish. This is a much calmer world.” She cast an eye at the couch and the men who sat on it, then to G, who was approaching them as he carried an armload of supplies. “But who’d keep them in line?”

Xan pulled himself from the couch and his shadow followed. “Now Spike, G would be very upset if his lady love chose to stay here. Not to mention we’d lose our best recruiter.”

“Giles!!!” The shrill shriek came from Buffy, swinging everyone’s head towards the situation.

A large blue circle was forming and Buffy’s scream had brought everyone from the back, running into the main room.

Xan called out above the sudden wind and noise. “Be ready, it’s got to be from our world. Grab a weapon!”

Quickly a semi circle was formed far back from the mouth of the circle. Two large masses stepped from the circle momentarily confused. Buffy called out. “Friends of yours?”

“No! Enemy shoot!” A wave of fire, bullets, arrows and a green bolt rained upon the figures and the first line dropped. Yet more demons poured from the circle, bodies piled and Xan knew it wouldn’t be long before one got through. Thanks to the witches, the pile was pushed clear of the circle, not giving anything a chance to hide.

Seeing fire rain from the witches, Xan called out. “Stop-figure out a way to stop this or move it! Now! We can’t let them through!”

A figure came through the light. One that looked all too human and yet bullets, bolts and green lightening only fazed away, leaving him untouched.

He looked around and unlike those before him. He was clear in his directive. Seeing the blond vampire’s, he grinned nastily. “William, baby I was wondering where you had gotten to and look you found another, double the pleasure.”

Xan had never heard a scream like that from a living, or un-living being. Xan pushed the blondes behind him and screamed to the witches. “NOW!”

Their Willow looked up and saw Giles. “We’re dropping the floor, READY, HANG ON!”

Giles caught on and grabbed everyone he could, while yelling. “OFF THE FLOOR!”

Giles grabbed his chosen one and threw her towards the stairs. Various people jumped onto counters and such. Giles was about to grab the stairs himself, when the floor went out from under him.

Xan watched the circle tilt then slide to the floor. He readied himself as the form of the elder dropped and floor disappeared.

Angel saw the watcher disappear and was unable to get there in time to pull him up. Angel jumped forward as Xan was engulfed and disappeared, taking both Spikes with him.

Angel yelled in desperation and did not think. He too jumped into the hole. No choice was his last thought as he fell.

Xan dusted himself off. Now this was the magic shop he remembered. He smiled at the guns surrounding him, well now he knew he was back. Having a gun in his face was just like home.

He surveyed the scene. The elder was surrounded and it looked like they’d brought some guests back with them.

Angel picked himself off the floor. It was the magic shop, but it looked like it was slanted in seventh level of hell. A sign rattled across from him on the wall, moving from the residue wind of the long gone portal. He struggled to make out the words. “When you die you’ll go to heaven. Till then, WECOME to Hell.” Angel thought he’d recognized the design style from his own stint in hell.

Xan helped his guests from the floor, noting not a gun had dropped from them. When Queen C trained them, she trained them right. Now all he had to do was make them believe it was he and that they were back, with interest.

Till then he greeted his guests. “Welcome to my side of the mirror. Otherwise known as hell.”


Inside the Looking Glass

“Reboot, baby what do I have to do to convince you it’s us?” They’d been in a stand off for the last 10 minutes, surrounded by guns and unbelieving faces. Xan could plainly see Reboot wanted to believe it was them, wanted too with all her heart, which was precisely why she didn’t.

“No man, what I see is two Xan’s clones with an elder, who came through a portal with him.” Reboot said these words, dismissing him and stared at her wife, or what she believed was a clone of her wife. Xan watched her tears gather.

A thin man stepped up next to Reboot with ratty, dark blond hair and dirty clothing. “I say we shoot them and let God sort it out. Our leaders are dead and this is an insult to their memory.”

Reboot turned on him. “Riley, I am not going to shoot anything that looks like our leaders, without being damn sure they’re clones.”

Reboot turned away from the man. “Alright you say, you guys went through a portal at the W&H headquarters and instead of taking you here, it took you to another universe. Where there was no new order and this elder came through a portal after you. Then Red moved the portal and you all fell through here.”

Reboot looked over each new person assembled before her. “Bringing Giles who’s dead. Angel who disappeared, another you.” Her eyes misted as they moved over Red and several tears escaped, running unchecked down her face when she looked at the blond vampires. “Two Spike’s, when ours was captured about four years ago. That’s a pretty weak story, man.”

“I know Re but it’s all true.” Xan glanced around him and saw the pile of supplies being routed through at their far left. “I brought you a coffeemaker. Darling, theres got to be a way.”

Reboot smiled at the coffeemaker comment, but it was short lived. She turned to Riley and he handed her a tissue. She wiped her tears quickly. “Why Riley, why them? I could shoot anyone else, easy. Oh God, I can’t make this decision.”

Riley held her arm and Xan was sure it was only thing that held her up. “You won’t have to. We’ll put it to a vote.”

“A vote! Riley are you mad? Do you think anyone can vote on this? We’d follow these people into hell without blinking and now you’d have me ask them to vote whether or not we kill them. If they really are the real things this army would fall apart! We have to be able to prove they’re clones and I will NOT be pardon to their murder! Until it can be proven to me.”

Riley nodded. “Alright, Reboot you’re the boss. We’ll do it your way, but when we prove they’re clones. Then it will be my turn.” He turned from Reboot, to the circle of well-armed guards standing around the elder.

The elder they had rendered powerless by removing his precious armband while he’d been struggling to get his ass off the floor. “Let’s get this asshole locked up. Place him in the high security cell, with four guards, until we figure this out and I get a chance to chat with him.” Without the armband, the elder was easily convinced to go as the demons with the guns directed him.

Xan racked his brain. There had to be a way. He could see Willow trying not to rush to her mate’s side. That was the kind of action he had to forestall. It could lead Reboot to making hasty judgments out of grief. He held up his hand, making sure his people knew not to say or do anything and let him do the talking. Hopefully, their tagalongs got the gist.

Willow looked at him, one eye tearing and full of misery. The E-eye, damn he was the seventh son of an idiot. “Reboot, your daughter she has an E-eye. She’ll be able to tell the difference between us and clones.”

Riley snickered at him and spun Reboot to face him. “Re, we can’t let a nine-year-old make this decision.”

Xan pushed. “We’re not. We’re letting someone trained to use the E-eye make the decision. Reboot, she’s been training for years to use that eye, ever since she was three and lost hers. She’ll know.”

Now Willow was crying and Reboot, her-own heart aching, nodded. “Fetch my daughter, Buffy, to me.” Armed guard brought in a little girl with long blond hair and one sweet green eye and another of machine gray. Before the little girl could see why everyone was standing around, Reboot spun her away and dropped to her knees in front of her.

So all could hear her instructions, leaving the answer to be above question. Reboot cupped her sweet face and spoke loudly. “My daughter, we have worked a long time telling fake people from real people. I need you to close your pretty green eye tight and no peaking. Let E-eye tell mom who these people are. Now you have to be very sure before you tell me okay, this is very important.”

Reboot leaned forward and kissed little Buffy on the head. “Do you understand? Can you do this? Be sure and if you can’t, tell mom now and we’ll find another way.”

“Oh mom, you know I can. Just leave it up to me.” The little girl even sounded a little like her namesake, confident and mature.

Reboot released the girl and took her hand, leading her to the front of the circle. One eye was tightly shut, so the little girl wouldn’t know whose life signs she was looking at.
Xan could hear the vampires behind him hold unneeded breaths. Giles and his own counterpart tensed besides him. Xan wasn’t worried, neither was his team. They knew, like he did, E-eye didn’t lie.

The process only took a few minutes. Xan felt the E-eye scan him and those around him then her green eye opened. The little girl shrieked. “MOMMY!” Willow hit her knees as the little girl launched herself at Willow. Willow held her close and cried into her daughter’s hair.

Reboot stood frozen her hand was still in the air where it had been resting on the girl’s shoulder. A chocked sob came from her throat and she hit the floor. Unable to regain her footing, the woman crawled the few feet to Willow and grabbed both woman and little girl in a hug. She screamed through her tears. “Praise God! My wife has been returned to me. Oh God thank you! IT’S THEM!”

The crowd was silent while the words rippled through and then the cheers and grateful yells erupted. Xan felt his blond vampire duck behind him as a flood of people rushed forward and he held up his hands to stop the flow, before they were overcome.

“My People, my friends, and my colleges, we’re glad to be back. Now did you really think one suicide mission would stop us? We’re back with interest, like I mentioned these are our counterparts. They’re not used to our ways so lets not overwhelm them. Before we celebrate, we have to see where we stand. Then we’ll celebrate not only our return but the capture of our first elder!”

The crowd cheered and stomped at the end Xan’s speech. Xan was just glad he hadn’t lost his touch. Riley called out over the loudness of the room. “Everyone get back to where you’re suppose to be and spread the word. Xan’s back!”

The crowd broke apart, slipping out into the world and into secret places within the walls and floorboards. Riley walked up and took Xan’s forearm in a strong warriors grip. “Xan, I’m sorry. I just, I’m so glad to see you.”

The strangers to this universe had to hold back their surprise when Riley hugged Xan, and Xander let loose a strangled coughed. Xan patted Riley’s back with a smile. “Me too, Ri, glad you didn’t decide to let God sort it out.”

“I thought you were dead. No one’s ever survived going to the headquarters. No one and when you didn’t come back. We were so sure. We were mounting an attack on the headquarters. Thank god you’re back.”

Xan’s smile dropped. “You were planning, what? Are you trying to get everyone killed? Riley, what the hell were you all thinking? You would’ve just died. They would’ve wiped you guys out. You know we don’t attack the headquarters by frontal assault.”

“But Xan, you were gone and Reboot, well she couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle it, we were falling apart,” Riley stiffened as anger twisted his features. “WE NEEDED YOU AND YOU LEFT! We thought you were dead and there was nothing left to do but follow you and take as many with us as possible.”

“Oh Ri,” he patted the mans shoulder, “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere, alright. I’m sorry but we had to do it. You know that.” The anger drained from the man’s face leaving hope.

“Yeah, I know. So where is the brat?” He dismissed the other Spike as being the one Xan had pointed out as being the counterpart. “Cause all I’m seeing is the other one and after all this you’d better not have failed.”

“Have you ever known me to fail?” Xan moved aside. The crowd had all gone their separate ways leaving Wil a little better off. However, he was still shaken after seeing the elder and had not moved from where he hid behind Xan. He glared as his stand between moved to the side and looked up at Riley through thick bangs.

Angel grabbed the collar of his Spike. He was well aware of Spike’s hatred of the counterpart Riley. Angel hoped for Xan’s welfare, from himself, if Riley said anything.

Riley just stared for a moment, taking in the hair, the stance, and then glanced at the counterpart. Who was much more like the Spike he remembered but he didn’t ever remember Spike wearing too big silk and sweaters. Deciding Xan knew what he was doing and this was their Spike, he shook off the shock.

“Hey, little bro. How ya doin? Long time no see.” The tone was soft concerned and it threw the visitors for a loop. Angel dropped his hold on Spike, who stood there gapping at the man. Giles looked for a chair and finding one, sank into it. Xander used his own hand to close his mouth.

“Hello Ri.” The blonde’s reply was barely above a whisper. Angel almost hit the floor when the shock didn’t stop there.

Riley briefly hugged the blond and mumbled into his hair. “I was so worried about you.”

Riley looked hurt when the blond flinched from the hug and jumped back as burnt. Xan caught his eye and nodded to let it drop, they’d go into it later. Riley’s face masked over the hurt. “All the same, little bro. It’s good to have you back.”

The blond nodded and gave the soldier a small smile before again hiding behind Xan.

Taking the attention from the blond, Xan addressed the small party still standing around. “Queen, G get the supplies where they need to go, grab all the help you need. Wes help them out and Queen don’t let Wes play with anything. I want to keep this place standing. Queen smiled and saluted. Wes mumbled but followed her. “Giles, Angel, Xander and Spike stick with me.”

G and Queen with Wes in tow jumped into action. The others nodded, having no clue what else they might have done. Xan turned towards the women, who had regain their footing and where still crying and hugging. “Will, Reboot, I need to be updated. Reboot, I need you to gather everyone that’s been making decisions.” At the women’s despairing look he continued. “Will, I’ll have her back to you soon. In the meantime why don’t you spend time with your daughter.”

“I’ll be in the conference room. Don’t be long.” He started towards the back of the shop, the others followed behind.

The back was nothing like Giles remember it. It was still a training room, but it was far more violent looking, not to mention rag-tagged. Xan led them pass odd machines and targets towards the supply closet, much like they had in the back of their magic shop.

Xander looked at his counterpart. “You guys meet in a closet?”

Xan smiled. “Yeah, the table just fit.” Still shaking his head at his counterpart. Xan opened the door and hit something. His hand moved so fast no one was quite sure what he’d done but the wall of guns slid away and revealed stairs.

Xan started down the spiral and heard Wil behind him but no one else and glanced back. “Hey come on or stay up there. That door closes either way.” Spike jumped down the stairs and Angel followed. The rest moved forward with a little more caution.

At the bottom of the stairs Angel couldn’t help but whistle. It looked like miles of clean tunnels, but that wasn’t what made Angel whistle and Giles catch his breath. It looked like hundreds of people down here all doing various tasks. An underground city, with stalls set up for bargaining, people working and living.

Xander babbled. “Oh wow, look at this place. What is it?”

Giles continued, not letting Xan even answer. “How did you?”

Xan held up a hand as people waved and yell their greetings, yet continued working. He turned left and walked down a tunnel making sure to say something to everyone they past by. Grasping hands and hello’s to all as he spoke over his shoulder to his group. “This is our city. Everyone that wants to get away from Wolfram & Hart comes here. All they have to do to stay here is live in peace, no fighting among ourselves- human- demon. I don’t care as long, as you obey the rule.”

Xan tossed a look back at Angel, knowing Spike wouldn’t need this information. “Vampires are welcome as well, but they cannot feed here. These tunnels were made by magic and cannot be detected by anyone. Nor can they be found by anyone that doesn’t know they exist. This is our main headquarters, our city, and our home.”

Xan turned down another corridor and hugged a child that reached for him and a mother, who cried at seeing him. She gasped her hands over her mouth to muffle the sobs. “I heard, but I did not believe. You have returned to us.”

“Of course Anna, you know me. I’m not one to leave in the middle of a war. How about you cook me up some of your special chocolate cookies.”

The woman beamed. “Oh yes, I will get to work on a whole batch.” She bounced away child on her hip and two more trailing behind her.

Giles stared. This man was a messiah to these people and it startled him to the core that Xan was capable of this. He was told but to see it, it was amazing. He looked towards his own Xander, who seemed to be in shock. Xander watched as people looked at his counterpart and him by proxy, with such hope and reverence.

Angel spoke up. “Do all these people fight?”

Xan stepped around a small child playing with toy soldiers and as they past the child said. “I am Xan and I will make the bad guys all go away.” Xan patted his head and the child grinned up at him.

“No, Angel. I’m not a monster only those who want to fight, fight.”

Angel faltered in his step and walked quickly up to the man. “No, that’s not what I meant. I just wondered about the number in your army.”

“There’s enough to give Wolfram & Hart cause to hate us and not enough to stop them. Here we are.” Xan opened a metal door, standing aside, as everyone filed through.

Xan waited until they were all in before attempting to get in the doorway. “Hey, I know it’s not much but can you all move into the room so I can at least shut the door.”

He pushed through them. A large, oval wooden table took up much of the room. One wall had breaks in the metal for narrow glass. The wall behind the table was a map of Sunnydale and L.A with blinking lights and circles. The other wall was a matrix of wires and machinery.

Xan took his seat at the head of the table before the map and in clear view of the rest of the room and the door. He leaned back in his chair waving and smiling at the narrow glass. When he turned to face those still gathered at the door, the smile dropped a little. “Alright, Wil take your usual seat. It will do people good for them to see you. The rest of you stay back and out of the way and don’t say anything.”

Angel nodded and pulled Spike away from the door and behind Xan, where they would be the most out of the way. Giles and Xander moved further down the same wall, away from the door. “What about getting us home?” The watcher sounded nervous to Xan’s ears.

“Giles, I know right now that’s the main concern for you but you have to understand, it’s not for me, not right now. I have to figure out where we stand and get things back in gear, before I can tackle your problem. However, as soon as it’s feasible, I will have people working on it. Agreed?”

Giles had no doubts Xan’s word was good. He also had no doubt that this man would lock him away if he did not agree and would do so without any thoughts or guilt. “Yes, of course.”

“Thank you for your understanding.” Xan studied the room, looking more relaxed now, than any other time they’d seen the man.

He turned his attention to Wil. “You don’t have to say or do anything. Let me do all the talking.” Wil nodded. Xan figured Riley would have gotten the word around before they showed up and no one would bother the vampire. If they did, they’d answer to him, his vampire. Where did that come from?

The door opened and the same multicolored haired woman, Reboot, entered. She was followed by three people, one of them being Riley. Reboot sat next to Wil but said nothing to him, just smiled and seemed happy with the shy smile that was returned. Riley sat next to Xan and nodded to Angel and Spike at the wall. “Should we wait for the other leaders?”

“No, they’re busy dealing with being back. I’ll fill them in later. Let them talk to their families and friends.”

“Alright. Well Reboot and I have been making most the decisions, but Mike here helped and so did Rachel, so I figured I’d better bring them.”

The other mentioned two stood at the door nervously and Xan motioned them forward. “Have a seat, we’re on the same side.”

The man, Mike coughed. “It doesn’t seem right, for us to sit at the table.”

Xan shrugged. “It’s just a table. Sit and tell me what the blazes is going on around here?”

The two hustled into the seats closest to the door. “Reboot, report.”

“Xan, we’ve been pretty quite since you’ve been gone.”

“What about the transport we had planned to stop.” Xan stared at the people sitting around them. They shrunk in their seats and looked at each other.

Finally Reboot spoke up. “Um, we didn’t get to it. We were to busy planning an attack.”

Xan exploded out of his seat, causing everyone in the room to shrink back. “I was gone 36 hours and you people fall apart. In 36 hours! I heard about this attack and who’s brainchild was that piece of stupidly?”

Riley and Reboot looked at each. “Ours Xan.” Riley mumbled.

“Since nothing has happened in the last 36 hours besides this readying for an attack you two can go.” Xan nodded towards Mike and Rachel and they were out the door before Xan finished his words. With a heavy sigh Xan dropped back into his seat. “Why? We’ve talked about this.” Xan dropped his head into his hands.

Reboot opened her mouth took a deep breath and began again. “We know it was only 36 hours but Xan that was lifetime of problems and decisions. I couldn’t do it, plan attacks, move people in here, and talk to spies. Hell Xan no one would listen to me and your spies wouldn’t even talk to me.”

Riley picked up when Reboot dropped her head. “It was the only thing we could do. The only thing people wanted to hear is that we were going to fight to get you all back or die trying. It was the only thing they would hear. Otherwise no one would do anything, they wanted to die.”

Xan raised his head, tears shinning his eyes. “You have to be stronger than that. When we go, you have to carry on. My god what about all those people in these tunnels, the children, who would have protected them?”

Reboot and Riley stared at the tabletop. Reboot mumbled. “We were going to leave people to take care of them.”

“Yeah, take care of them, who was going to bring food in here? Who was going to give them hope? There are thousands of people within the city, with stores and an economic system, living their lives down here. Without some kind of leadership, the city would be destroyed. We have more threats than just the new order, bandits, marauders, and god knows who else could move in. You cannot rely on us completely. One day we will go out there and we will NOT come back. It’s the risk we all take.”

Reboot turned red with the force of her emotion. “Not you Xan, not my wife, and not the rest of the leaders. I’m sorry, but if you do go out there and not come back. I will do the same thing and I’m sorry if that disappoints you, but I don’t give a damn.” Reboot stood in her chair and it fell to the floor behind her. She looked at Xan. “You had better be careful in the future Xan. That’s all I have to say.” She went around Wil and gave Xan a hug before running from the room.
Riley stood as well and watched Reboot leave the room. He leveled his gaze at Xan. “I’m sorry Xan. I really am, next time I’ll try to be stronger. Till then I’ll pray there’s not a next time.” Xan nodded weakly, as Riley left the room at a slower pace.

Before the man was fully out the door, Xan called out. “Ri.” The man turned in the doorway. The light making the shadows under his eyes stand out clearer.

“Make sure there’s a change of guards on the elder every two hours. I want the guards fresh and on the look out for anything and tell them I’ll be down soon. After that, you and Reboot take the day off and rest, you deserve it.” Riley smiled weakly and shut the door behind himself.

Xan slumped in his seat, only to straighten seconds later and wave in response to a knock on the glass. “Alright, I’m going to find some rooms for you all. Some of you might have to double bunk. We’re short on room down here.” Xan’s eyes landed on Angel. “I don’t suppose you’d care to make yourself useful. The Angel I knew had some very interesting ways of making people talk.”

Angel smirked, more devil than angel in the dark eyes. “It’d be my pleasure.”

Part Twelve

“And why the hell not, Peaches?”

Angel sighed and looked around the room. “Because I said so.” Angel had to admit Xan’s room wasn’t half bad as far as rooms in tunnels went.

“I have a right to be there. I know just as much about torture as you do.” Spike wasn’t content to look as Angel was. Spike opened boxes, drawers, and anything else that caught his eyes.

“Spike, don’t look through Xan’s things.” Angel tried to keep the weariness out of his voice. Xan hadn’t been kidding about the lack of room. Giles and Xander had a small closet right next to this room.

He, Spike, Wil, and Xan had to share Xan’s, being he had the largest room, two bedrooms and all. What concerned Angel right now were the sleeping arrangements more than anything else.

“He said to make myself comfortable and I’m going with you.” Spike rolled his eyes and continued to ‘look’ around. He couldn’t understand why Angel was being such a wanker. He had every right to help torture the elder.

“No William and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Spike left the drawer he was looking into open and stormed across the room and into Angel’s face.

“Who the hell do you think you are? Telling me wot I can and cannot do? I am a master vampire. I am- wanker.”

Angel was expecting the first punch, but wasn’t ready for it and slowly picked himself off the floor. His lip already healing, his tongue slid out and caught the precious fluid.

The older vampire took in the proud stance of the blond, the fists ready to fight and tense body. The ‘fuck you and the world too’ look in those oh so blue eyes. The ‘come on’, smirk and as a sire he’d never been prouder. Ever since this roller coaster had begun he had smelt fear off Giles, Xander, but not his boy.

This one would last. This boy had lived through abandonment from his sire, from Dru, the contempt of Darla, rape, abuse, and a modification chip. Then on top of it all his childe had suffered the worst humiliation for a vampire ever, to beg for help from the slayer and yet he was ready to fight. A hundred and twenty something odd years ago, Angel hadn’t made someone immortal, but eternal. He was convinced this blond punk of a childe would outlive them all.

Till then, he still had time to see if his boy could love him with half the strength he loved this strange childe with.
Angel approached the blond and reached out. Spike froze and Angel was sure he’d expected at the least a slap. Some Sire style punishment perhaps but he sure didn’t expected the hand cupping his face and the thumb tracing his bottom lip. Angel had to stop himself from smiling at the wide eyes and laughing in joy at the hope he found there. He didn’t want Spike to think this was a joke.

Angel let his other arm wrap around the waist of the blond, bringing him closer and unable to leave. Angel let his lips replace his thumb at the blonde’s mouth and smiled when Spike tried to find the earlier cut. He pulled back so he could look into the blue eyes. “I don’t want you near him. I know you’re a master vampire. I know you are incredible and strong but you’re my childe, my love.”

“You love me?” The tilted head, the question, the wish.

Angel opened his mouth to reassure his boy to tell him how sorry he was for the past. His mouth snapped shut. He could say these things but never make it clear. He withdrew his hand from the lovely face and brought the wrist to his own mouth and bit.

His boy watched enamored and struggling to get closer. Angel spun Spike, smirking at the hiss of passion from blond and pulled the leather duster off, throwing it to the floor.

Not giving Spike the chance to rethink this or protest, Angel pulled him back so he was leaning back against him. One of his arms around the blonde’s waist, the other waved in front of Spike’s mouth. Angel felt the slim hands, like iron bands, clamp down and then the sweet mouth.

Angel walked backwards, remembering there was a chair. There had to be a chair, thankfully there was. The back of his legs hit it and he pulled Spike onto his lap. The blood spoke far more eloquently than he ever did.

Angel let his head drop back against the chair, when Spike moved in his lap. He glanced back down to see the blond had tilted his head, giving his sire a clear view of a marble neck. Offering it to him.

Angel couldn’t remember the last time Spike had offered. He bent his head towards the neck before the boy retook the invitation.

Xan reached back, trying to make sure Wil was behind him. As always the smaller hand squeezed his before releasing him. His shadow was so silent, not that he minded, just having the vampire close cleared Xan’s head and let him think.

Xan had offered to let the blond stay with Angel and Spike but when he went to leave. Wil took up right after him and it made Xan’s toes tingle.

Learning after the ‘Riley mistake’, Xan was careful to keep himself between any well wishers and the vampire. There were just a lot of well wishers and it took him twice the time it should have just to fill the team in on the situation since their impromptu trip.

If anyone noticed Xan was talking for the vampire or standing between them no one said anything, past looking at him oddly. Xan figured they all thought he was being over protective, which of course, he wasn’t.

Xan also knew he was putting off a certain conversation. One he’d have to have with the vampire before he could question the elder. Damn it all. He had other things to do first. He wasn’t putting it off. He was belaying it for other matters.

Like talking to Giles and Xander. He stopped outside their room and though he was tempted to check on the vampires in his own room, right next door, he pushed it aside. He knocked on the right door. Giles answered and looked through a crack, before opening the door.

It was a wise precaution. Xan approved and walked in, knowing his shadow would follow but just in case he reached back. “Well what do you think of the room?” It was barely more than a closet. A set of bunk beds, table with two wooden chairs and a small room off to the side that served as a bathroom.

Giles gave it the same once over. “It’s fine. I was quite afraid we’d end up sleeping in the tunnels.” Giles paused to look at Xander, who seemed preoccupied and staring at something. Following Xander’s eyes, Giles saw Xan was holding the vampire’s hand and wisely chose not to notice it.

“Na, the tunnels make lousy beds. Just wanted to see how things were and I wanted to mention something’s.”

“Of course, we’ll listen to any suggestions you have. I did have a question though. You mentioned Buffy was no longer the slayer.” He tried never to put Buffy and dead in the same sentence. “So who is your slayer?”

“Yeah, Buffy died some time ago. Willow named her daughter after her, in memory. Our slayer doesn’t leave the hellmouth portal Wolfram & Hart opened. She stands guard there. At the most, she gets about 15 feet away from where the actual opening is, if something comes through she kills it. She has help and we send some whenever she calls. Her names Faith and she’s one hell of a woman.”

Giles coughed over the word. “Faith?” Xander laughed.

Xan took in their reactions and waited for Xander to quit laughing, before he responded in a serious tone. “Yeah Faith. Look I don’t know who, or what, she is in your world and I don’t want to know. Here she’s a good woman that saves this world daily, if not hourly. So if you want to keep your teeth. I would only say her name with the greatest respect.” Xander stopped laughing, completely and Giles nodded in apology. “Yes, we’re sorry. It’s much different story on our side. You mentioned you wanted to tell us something.”

“You.” He pointed at Xander, who looked behind himself and then back to his counterpart with wide eyes. “Yes, you. You’re my counterpart and so people will look up to you. Perhaps even mistake you for me.”

Xander looked down at himself, his orange shirt and lack of beard. “I doubt it.” He mumbled.

“Worse mistakes have been made. So let me set you straight. If anyone asks you a question, don’t act like an idiot and don’t answer it if it’s for me. Just tell them you’re the counterpart. Most of all LOSE that shirt. I can’t have anyone looking like me walking around like a k-mart blue light special. Got it?”

Xander looked at Giles, who nodded, hell that shirt was blinding. “Its very little to ask Xander. We are guests here and all.”

“But I like this shirt and what else could I wear?” Xander picked at his shirt sorrowfully.

“Come by my room and get something. Just don’t let anyone see you in that travesty of fabric. We’ll have to get some clothing for you people.” Xan added it to the list currently running in his head, schedule attacks, more guns, and meds. Supplies and clothing for the guest’s, handpicked for the fashion impaired.

“Now I hate to do this but can you guys go next door. I have to talk to Wil. He and I need some privacy.” Now Xan supposed he could have taken this conversation to his room, but he didn’t want witnesses. Or he could’ve taken it to his bedroom and shut the door, but he didn’t want to ruin that room for the vampire. He wanted that room to bring only happy thoughts and why was that important. Boy, he was in deep here.

“Of course Xan. Come along Xander.” They went to the door and slipped out, before the door shut Xan called out. “Hey Xander, don’t be shy about getting another shirt. We’ll be over in about 20 or so.”

The door was shut without a reply, but Xan was sure his counterpart had stuck his tongue out at him. Something to mention later, don’t stick your tongue out at the leader, unless you plan to use it. That would shock his counterpart into not doing it again. That or backfire and then he’d really have to look into hiring that shrink.

Wil followed him over to the bed. Xan sat down hard, trying to sort out how to bring up the conversation. The hand worked into his again and the blond looked up at him with so much trust. Xan felt the words choking in his throat.

Wil sighed. “His name’s Frank.”
Thirty minutes later they emerged from the room. Xan’s face was a mask of cold fury and his hands shook with the attempt to keep it reined in.

He knew he didn’t want to know. He’d known it was best left for Wil’s nightmares. With anyone else it would’ve been. He would have just asked the questions he’d needed answered and left it at that.

But, it wasn’t someone else. It was Wil. Spike, the blond vampire, who was filling a place in Xan he’d thought long gone. He’d tried to make that part of himself as small as possible. Leaders couldn’t have favorites, couldn’t have someone they’d give anything for and couldn’t, fall in love.

He took Wil’s nightmares into himself. In those dark places, Wil would no longer be alone and in that Xan showed himself where his heart had gone. No longer was his heart engaged in a war, but in the hand of a small, fiery blond vampire.

The blond behind him had no idea where Xan’s thoughts had gone. No idea what he now held and no emotion on his face, but for slightly reddened eyes.

Xan turned towards his own room and paused before entering and stared at the door. He thought an attack was the only thing that caused the butterflies in him these days and was please to find that it wasn’t so. “I think. I’m falling in love with you.”

“Me too.” The soft cockney voice replied.

Xan whirled around. “You think you’re falling in love with you too, or me?” He had to make this, not serious, just in case he lost this.

“With you.” Xan made to grab Wil in a hug but paused, hands hanging in the air, unsure how the vampire would react. Wil smiled, stepped closer and Xan wrapped his arms around him.

“Really, cause I never thought, and I didn’t, you did, or would, and really?” Xan smacked the back of his head against the door. All the same when Wil nodded, Xan smiled his first real grin in years.

Remembering, he’d promised himself he would smile more the day he rescued Wil. Now he had reason and a way to keep that promise. It dropped in seriousness with his next thought. “I’m going to rip his eyes out and give them to you as a gift, I swear.”

“Aw, you always know wot to get a bloke.” Xan shivered with the closeness of the vampire and whimpered when a soft kiss touched his neck. Then the blond pulled away and Xan, knowing he would never keep his new found love by hanging on, let him go.

Smiling at him, the blond touched his hand again. “I would prefer to get them myself.”

Xan had his doubts about letting ‘his’ vampire. Hey now he could say that, near the Elder but if it would bring some peace to Wil. “If he survives he’s yours.”

“He’ll survive. You don’t owe him like I do.” Xan had a feeling he was being manipulated, but since this was the most he’d heard Wil talk. He let himself cave. It had nothing to do with that fact that he’d been kissed on the neck and his blood was quickly flowing south.

“Alright, but don’t let it get around. Caving is bad for my iron hand image.” Grin back in place, he turned again towards the door.

Walking in, Xan didn’t know exactly what to think. Angel and Giles sat across from each other. Xander was tearing threw his dresser and there was no loudness, it was quiet too quiet. Angel had staked Spike.

They looked over as he came through the door and Xan could see the mop of blond hair on Angel’s shoulder. All right, so he hadn’t been staked, but he was still awful quiet.

Which could only mean. He walked around to the front of the chair and sat down next to Giles. Wil perched on the couch arm next to him. Yep, Xan smiled, fast asleep. If Spike woke up in this predicament, Xan didn’t want to miss it.

Too bad they had some business to attend to. He tuned into what Giles’ was saying.
“What information do you hope to obtain from this ‘Elder’?”

Xan shrugged and tried to pull Wil onto his lap, jealous of Angel, but the blond refused and he gave up. “Anything and everything he knows.”

“I could put a truth spell on him. It wouldn’t make him talk, but we would be able to tell the fact from the fiction.”

“Well then Ripper you’re with us. Deeming, you leave the Giles righteousness here.”

“Consider it left. Shall we be off then?” Giles slapped his hands against his knees and stood.

Angel nodded towards the burden in his arms. “Let me put him down first, which is our room?”

Giles’ eyebrows rose and Xander gapped from the dresser, a shirt dangling in his hands. Xan ignored them. “The room on the left.” He kept the YAY, to himself.

Wil leaned into him from the couch arm and whispered to Xan. “Remember, you promised.”

Xan whispered back. “Of course, never will I forget a promise to you. Will you take your counterpart with you? Please.” At least then he wouldn’t be alone.

“As you wish.” Xan looked closely at the face and sighed with relief at the start of a smile he found there. He was going to say more, but Wil left the couch arm and followed Angel into the bedroom.

As soon as the vampires had disappeared into the bedroom, he left his seat and called to Xander, who looked at him over the collar of the shirt he was putting on. Messy hair and wide eyes were the only thing Xan could see but he heard the muffled yes.

Once the shirt was over his neck, Xan came close enough to him to speak in low hushed, fast tones. “You need to stay here. Make sure they do and watch over them.”

Xander swallowed hard. “How the heck am I going to stop them if they decide to leave?”

“You’re my counterpart. I have faith you’ll think of something but if anything happens to them. I’ll have one less counterpart. Do I make myself clear and besides I’ll post guards in the tunnels.”

“Umm, I get it. Consider me the vamp sitter just don’t take to long. They don’t have the best record of paying attention.”

Figuring this was the best he could do. Xan glared once more at Xander as Angel came into the room. Once Angel had got his glare in at Xander. Xander flopped onto the couch and made shoo movements towards the door.

They slipped out into the tunnels and shut the door. Xan walking slightly ahead to lead the way and turned slightly towards Giles, no he had left Giles in the room, towards Ripper, who had at some point taken off his glasses. “What do you need for the spell?”

The Ripper smiled and Xan was glad the smile wasn’t exactly for him. “Nothing. It’s a word spell. If I remember correctly, I just need to break three fingers to make it work properly.”

Xan didn’t know whether to believe that was really part of the spell or not, but fingers didn’t matter. “Alright, go ahead.”

They were soon were past all signs of people and the tunnel became quiet and empty, their shoes made the only sound, clapping against the steel. The walk ended at steel door, which Xan touched and it silently slid open beneath his hand.

The room was huge. It had to be the largest in the tunnels. Almost warehouse size and glass boxes with a metal following each corner, packed the room, cubes roughly 10×10.
Many empty, some housing demons and humans in various stages of fury. They yelled and banged around inside their glass houses. Yet no sound was heard. Their faces clearly frozen in fits of madness no one could hear.

There were guards standing around in various corners and walls. Front and center, four guards stood around a cube, facing the glass and voice came over a speaker. “Leader Xan in the room.” The guards straightened in their already straight poses.

Angel was quite simply blown away. It was beyond anything he’d ever seen and looking at the other next to him. He could see the amazement in the watcher’s face as well. This was so far beyond their comprehension and experience. This was a whole different world, of this there were no more doubts and Angel knew, from now on he’d pay more attention. Angel tried to wipe the complete shock off his face and stepped closer to the man who had everyone’s attention. “Are these all the beings you’ve captured?”

“No, these are people I still need something from. We don’t take prisoners.”

Angel couldn’t argue with that but the respect he had for the man before him bloomed, into genuine like and respect. Who could fault someone so brutally honest and a first class warrior to boot? Xan was for winning this war and Angel grudgedly decided, perhaps he could trust leaving Wil in his hands.

Thinking of Wil, made him think of this bastard in the box. The bastard, who had dared touch what was his and the growl was out before he could force it back. When Xan turned he was looking into yellow speckled eyes. “I have to say something to the both of you. Before we proceed.”

Watching Ripper cracked his knuckles and Angel glare at the box. Xan knew he had to speak quickly before the dark impulses took over. “We have to leave him alive and mostly intact.”

Angel hissed. “Why? Do you think Wolfram & Hart will pay to have him back?”

Xan was hard pressed not to turn on the vampire for thinking he’d take the blood money of the monster. Not to mention return one to them. “I say this because I promised his death to another and since this is my show. I make that decision.”

“Who?” The vampire had little regret in his voice. Yet there was enough in his tone to acknowledge he’d made a mistake and knew it.

“Wil and Spike.”

Giles closed his mouth on whatever he was going to say. Angel looked ready to press it but Xan raised his hand towards the vampire. He turned and walked towards the box leaving both to catch up.

Angel mumbled beneath his breath as he approached the glass. “If he thinks I’m letting my boys near that monster,” but was cut off by a glare from the Ripper, who just wanted to get to business.

The cube held one chair, a bucket and the Elder. The man sat in his chair, looking at them, no expression on his face but a small tick by his eye.

Xan stared into the eyes of his prey and spoke. “Screen the box and no one bothers us, no one.”

He made way his towards the side door. Only noticeable by the metal surrounding it’s dimensions. Xan’s hand opened this as well. Ripper entered the glass cage, followed by Angel and then Xan, who shut the door behind him. A screen surrounded the box and Xan, flanked by his companions, studied the monster.

He looked so normal, so human. A human man who was losing his boring brown hair, who was overweight, and whose sweat bunched at his pits. A man, who had touched Wil, who had taken Wil’s voice, and used him, a man, who had sold his soul with those actions. A normal man, who most likely had a wife, children, maybe even a dog. A man named Frank, who hadn’t yet figured out, he was already dead.

Frank studied them as well and mistakenly took Angelus for the greatest threat. Dismissing Xan and Ripper with a glance and watching the vampire with keen, small eyes.

“Frank,” The man looked at Xan and posed, leaning back into his chair at the silky use of his name, a fake smile plastered on face. Xan continued pleasantly. “I wish I could say it was a pleasure to meet you. It isn’t, but your screams might make up for having to look at you.”

The plastic smile dropped a little. Frank nervously ran a fat tongue over his bottom lip, still eyeing the vampire, who stalked around his chair silently. He looked up at Xan, realizing this was the leader here. “They’ll pay. You have no idea how much they’ll give you to have me back. I’m important. Really think of what you could do with all that credit.” The voice was full of nerves, no real fear, yet.

“Really.” Xan paused. As if he was thinking this over, wearing a smirk, not unlike one he’d seen his Wil use, full of cunning and promising.

“Oh yes, I’m very important. I mean a lot to Wolfram & Hart. I’m an elder, the lifeblood. They’ll even pardon you for your crimes, if you ask.”

“You’re that important, huh?” Xan reached up and itched his beard, his head tilted, as if counting credits in his head. The Elder nodded repeatedly, moving back as Angelus picked up one of his hands.
“I guess there’s only one thing to do then.” The Elder’s plastic smile rose and he snatched his hand from the vampire. Xan looked down till he had the beady eyes looking into his own. “Find out, exactly why, you’re so important.”

For the first time since they’d walked into the room there was no smile on the man’s face. He squirmed in his seat. Xan could see the beads of sweat gathering on the high forehead. “Ripper, you want to begin that spell now.”

The elder focused his attention on the other man for the first time. “Rupert Giles, Ripper?”

Xan nodded, as the Ripper rubbed his hands together. “One and the same.”

The man moaned and closed his eyes briefly. Ripper moved in close, taking the Elders limp right hand into his own. “ÁëÞèåéá áðü áò íá åßìáé ãíùóôüò.” The Elder took a sharp breath and bit off the scream with his teeth as the first finger broke.

“Áò óçêþíïìáé ìÝóá óðáóìÝíïò êüêêáëï.” The finger next to the swollen, middle finger snapped with huffing breathes and yell from the man.

“Üðùò ÅÃÞ ëÝù áò áõôü íá åßìáé, åõëüãçóá íá åßìáé.” The Ripper move past the pinky to the pointer finger, which of all the fingers made the most noise, a crinkle and pop, the man screamed.

Ripper nodded his head and moved back. Xan looked at the swollen fingers, puffy and red twisted flesh. The man hugged his right arm with his left and Xan asked. “Is it done?”

“Yes, if he lies, those broken fingers will rise up.” A satisfied smile graced the watcher’s features and Xan could see Ripper greatly enjoyed his freedom.

Angel, or perhaps Angelus, stood watching. A look of contempt on his features, his eyes a flash dance between yellow and chocolate brown. “I say we get to the questions. So we can corrected him when he’s wrong.”

Xan glanced at the vampire, who licked his lips and paid no attention to Xan or to Ripper grinning next to him. Xan turned to the figure in the chair, which was only concerned with his broken fingers. “Wolfram & Hart codes for the armories?”

“I don’t know, scumbag.” He screamed, as the crippled fingers rose to stand straight up, before dropping.

Xan turned to the Ripper. “That works pretty good.”

“I seem to remember it working well the last time I used it on Ethan.”

Xan didn’t ask, instead he spoke to the vampire. “You’re up Angelus and remember what I said.”

“Can we call out for some tools? I need pliers, a piece of hose, and a lighter.”

Xan moved towards the door. Half wondering what the vampire was going to do with that assortment then realized he’d see first hand and called out the door. The items were delivered by a young guard, who handed them over with a look into the room and stumbled in his hast to leave.

Picking the hose and lighter from Xander’s hands. The vampire stretched it experimentally and walked towards their guest. “Have you seen what hot plastic does to human skin?”

The man gibbered in his seat, watching the vampire glide towards him. Ripper laid a hand on the vampire’s shoulder. “Really Angel, think of the smell.”

“I think it would smell pretty good.”

Xan squeezed his hand around the pliers and moved past the vampire and watcher. He grabbed the Elder’s chin and forced his head against the back on the chair. Raised the pliers and ripped out a bottom tooth.

Both men paused as the shriek interrupted them. Xan pulled the bloody pliers from the mouth and shook the blood from his hand and onto Frank’s shirt. Letting the tooth hit the hard floor it bounced twice, before resting at his feet.

Angelus smirked and tossed the hose over his shoulder. “That works too.”

“Much less mess, I agree.”

Xan paid them no mind. He held Frank’s chin as the elder’s hands frantically pulled at his arm, snarling bloody foam when the broken hand was used.

Xan pulled the pain filled eyes to his own. “You will tell me. It’s just a matter of how many teeth, bones and screams it will take.”

The man squirmed and Xan flung the face away from him. “Again, what are the codes to the Wolfram & Hart armory?”

Spitting blood onto the floor, the man glared up a twisted spectacle of pain and fury. “I’m not going to tell you anything. Did your whore tell you my name, huh? Did he tell you how I used to give it to him? How much he loved it?”

Xan’s hands balled into fists and he stepped back, taking calming breaths until he could see past the red. In the process, the pliers dropped from his hands.
Angel swept them up his face was expressionless. No sign of fury, a cold vampiric mask of indifference. He opened and closed the pliers as he approached the man. The Elder clamped his mouth shut. Angel signaled for Ripper to hold the other hand. Angel held his right and started with the first fingernail.

Ten fingernails latter, the elder could do nothing, but moan. His throat completely ravaged by the screaming. Angel slapped Frank’s face, till his eyes stopped rolling and looked his way. “Mention his name, speak of him one more time, and I will rip your balls off with these very pliers.” The vampire waved the bloody instrument in his face and stepped away.

“I won’t. I won’t.” The elder’s horse voice pleaded. Seeing now what this was truly about, the elder cursed the day he’d ever laid eyes on the blond vampire.

Xan walked as close as he trusted himself. “The codes.”

“I can’t. Please-I beg you,” The elder searched the faces before him.

The vampire answered. Still expressionless and the elder had feared the evil smirk less. “I can’t seem to care. So beg if you must, scream if you will, but this is the last place you’ll see before hell. So you might want to make it count.”

The elder winced and saw no hope there and he pleaded his case to the watcher. Who shrugged, “Abandon all hope all ye, who enter here.”

Again the elder found himself face to face with the last man in the room and the plea died on his lips. There would be no safety with this man. His eyes were so cold. They could not hold mercy for him.

It took 28 minutes before they had the codes and any other useless information the man could spill out. Xan could hold it in no more and tore himself from the glass box. Angel hot on his heals, leaving Giles to close the door.

Xan called out, not pausing in his fast pace, towards the door. “Remove the screen, replace the guards and leave him tied to the chair. I don’t care if he shits himself, understand.” The guards scrambled to obey the order and stayed out of his way. Even Angel was having a hard time keeping up.

Xan slowed at the door, as Giles, out of breath wiped his hands off with a wet cloth, caught up to them and handed them each one. Xan scrubbed at his hands. Angel could tell something had gotten to the man. He just couldn’t figure out what.

Xan threw the cloth in a bin and opened the door, again leaving them behind. They barely made it before the door closed on them. “Hey Xan.” Angel caught up with him, stepping in front of the man and stepped back a step at the expression.

Softer, he continued. “What is it? We got the codes?”

Xan nodded grimly. “Yes, we did. 10666WTB.”

“Yeah, so you can use that, right?” Xan pushed around him and to a small box on the wall. He punched a button, a red light flashed and Xan spoke into the box. “C”

“This your Queen, speak your peace.” Angel stopped himself from jumping. It was just a phone like thing.

“How the signal on the armband?”

“Still receiving. They think he’s still in the alternate universe. You got something?”

“Yeah and we have to use it. Before they realize he’s not in Kansas anymore and change all the codes.”

“Change all the codes? What did you get?”


“Ho-ly Shit! Let me gather everyone. Get your ass up here and don’t forget that code.”

Grim smirk in place, Xan replied. “I couldn’t if I wanted too. I’ll be up, till I’m there organize groups and hand out weapons.”

“Wow! The armory, yeah, you got it. Queen out.”

Xan turned away from the wall and continued walking. Angel caught up to him again. Giles not having a death wish, hung back and walked at a much more sedate pace.
“Xan, what does it mean? It has to mean something to you? If you couldn’t forget it.”

Xan turned on the vampire. “Damn it, leave it be.”

“No.” He grabbed the dark headed man’s arm, swinging him to hit the tunnel wall. “Tell me what it means?”

Xan seemed unaffected by the vampire’s sudden actions and leaned against the tunnel, letting it hold him up. Running a palm against his beard, tugging at it slightly, he met the vampire’s eyes. “Fine Angel, let me cure your curiosity. Level 10, room 666, William Taylor Banning.”

“Son of a,” Angel let Xan loose and turned to go back down the tunnel, towards the door.

Xan called out. “The door won’t open for you and even a vampire can’t break it down.”
Angel stopped and turned back towards them with the eyes of a seething demon “I want his blood.”

“And you wouldn’t be alone in that. However, we got our information and he is no longer our concern.” Xan turned back, leading the way towards the main tunnels and away from the nightmare behind him. He tried to make out his footsteps past the glaring in his eyes for the first time he truly realized the meaning of the phase to see red.

Translation: The above ‘spell’ spoken by Giles is in old Greek, translated to English it roughly means. “Truth from lies let be known. Let the lies rise in broken bones. As I say let it be. Moot Blessed Be.”



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The Spander Files