Chapter Twenty

Buffy ran down the tunnel after her friends. She wanted to be with Xander, but he was right. Falen is more powerful than she is. The only hope they have right now was to run and leave Xander behind. The group then came upon two steel doors. The ones Xander had told them about. They pushed them open and walked out of the cave and into the forest. The wind whipped around them, causing their bodies to shiver, stinging their skin. They all looked up and saw huge dark clouds forming over the cave.

"This does not look good," Cordelia muttered next to her.

They watched as the sky crackled with energy and prayed silently for the friend they left behind.

~ * ~ * ~

Nicholas needed help. He existed in on a plane of incredible insight. He knew so much now. But right now he was concerned for someone else. Xander. He's in trouble. He needed help. Xander was still weak from the blows he had taken earlier. He needed a chance to breath. But how? Nicholas could only think of one way.

~ * ~ * ~


Buffy straightened at the sound of her name. She looked around and saw her friends still entranced by the sight before them. The clouds were forming above the cave, churning with energy. She didn't think that they heard someone say her name. <Could they even heard the voice?>

"Great, I'm going loopy," Buffy mumbled softly.

<Buffy. Do not be afraid. I am speaking with you telepathically. I am a friend of Xander's.>
<Yeah. We merged our bodies to stop Falen. But we need help. Falen's hurting him...>

Suddenly the voice faded out and was replaced with another.


"Xander?" Buffy whispered.

Buffy felt the rage build within her. She couldn't lose him now. Not after everything they went through. She ran towards the cave, ignoring the shouts of her friends. Then suddenly she felt something knock her to the ground. Willow.

"Buffy, you can't," Willow said as she pinned her to the ground.

"I have to. I heard him. He's calling for me. Please, let me help him," Buffy pleaded.

Willow looked at her silently and then stood up. She pulled Buffy from the ground and said, "If we go. We go together."

Buffy hesitated, then nodded.

Buffy turned towards her other friends and yelled over the wind, "Stay here!"

Buffy spun around and ran towards the steel doors, with Willow by her side.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander vision was blurring. He could barely move as Falen pummeled him.

"This was supposed to be a day of rejoice!" Falen roared. "MY day of rejoice! I was supposed to drink the Slayer's sweet blood. I was supposed to use the Slayer's power to open the gate. But you had to go and ruin it!"

"Well, good guys can be annoying that way."

Falen and Xander both turned to the source of the voice. Buffy. Falen smiled and dropped Xander to the ground. It advanced towards the Slayer, licking it's lips with it's forked tongue.

"Well, it looks like I'll get a second chance after all." Falen said happily.

"Not likely."

Falen turned around only to be punched by Willow. The demon staggered back. It was still weak from the fight with Xander. It roared and grabbed Willow's arm and swung her into the wall of the cave. Willow fell to the ground, but quickly recovered and attacked Falen again. As they fought, Xander watched Buffy make her way to him.

"I thought I told you to leave," Xander said as got up.

"Well, you know me. I don't want my friends to be killed. I'm kinda stubborn that way," Buffy acknowlegded with a smile.

Suddenly a figure flew past them, landing on the dirt ground a yard away.

"Willow!" they both yelped in unison.

They ran to their friend. She was hurt, but still alive. Buffy swung around and ran towards Falen.

"Buffy, no!" Xander screamed after her.

<This is exactly what Falen wants.>
<Nicholas, I know this.>

Buffy kicked Falen in the face, then swung around and kicked again. She punched it again, then pivoted up, snapping her leg in a full arc that collided with Falen's face. It went spinning away. Buffy advanced to deliver another attack, but didn't get the chance. Falen grabbed her leg and squeezed it, causing a few audible snaps. Buffy cried out in agony and fell to the ground. Falen's clawed hands stared to glow as he delivered a blow across Buffy's face, drawing blood. The demon then brought a devastating blow to her head. A blow that would have killed an ordinary person. It raised it's massive arms to deliver a killing blow onto the unconscious Slayer.

<Xander, we have to do this now!>

Xander screamed loudly, catching Falen's attention. The energy around Xander crackled with sheer intensity. If Xander Harris could have seen himself, he would have been amazed and scared. He would have seen his normal brown eyes turn white and shine with power. He would have seen white energy dance across his body. He would have seen his body of flesh and blood turn into a form of pure energy.

Xander saw the fear in Falen's eyes. A part of him felt sorry for it. But his heart told him that this was absolutely necessary. Falen started to bring his arms down to Buffy's body, but didn't get the chance to finish. It was then that Xander nailed him. The energy poured out of his body in a huge river of energy. He saw Falen's body convulse as the energy ripped into it's body. Falen's body lifted off the ground.

"Too... Late..." Falen gasped out.

Xander let forth a last burst of energy that caused Falen to shudder. It's form shifted into the female form, then the male, then the demonic form. It's face was shifting so fast that it was a blur to Xander now. Then Falen exploded in a burst of raw energy.

Xander gasped as he fell to the ground. He looked at his hands and saw that they were flesh again. He got up and ran to Buffy, who was barely conscious. He felt a hand on his shoulder and whirled around defensively. It was Willow. She was clutching her side as she knelt next to him.

"How is she?" Willow asked.

"We need to get her out of here." Xander answered as he brushed Buffy's hair from her face.

<It's not over...>

Suddenly behind them a rush of flame flared. Xander whirled around and saw the flames part. And for a moment, there was darkness, then Xander saw it. Hell. The flames there rode high. He heard the screams of the damned and felt pity for them. And from the fires and brimstone, he saw a lone figure walk towards the gate from a distance. The figure was all black. His body looked like one huge shadow. Something that couldn't possibly exist in this flame ridden world, but existed nonetheless. And even though Xander couldn't know for sure, he knew this was his enemy. The Devil.

"Oh god," Xander murmured

<Falen took some of Buffy's energy to do this.>
<How do we stop this Nicholas?>
<Xander there is one hope.>
<Go. Now with your friends. I'll stay behind to stop him.>
<No. I will not leave you here to die.>
<Xander, I died a long time ago. You know that. You know everything about me. We have lived each other's life. You know everything about me, as I know about you. I never had a real family. I was abandoned as a child, but you gave me what I never had. I'm asking you as my friend, my savior, my brother, leave. Please.>

Xander felt a huge pain within him and felt as if his soul was being ripped in half. He clenched his eyes shut and quickly opened them to see Nicholas standing next to him. The two looked at each other solemnly.

"Can you control the demon?" Xander asked sadly.

"Yeah. I feel it writhing within me, but I will do this," Nicholas answered.

"I'll never forget you," Xander whispered.

"I'll never forget you either," Nicholas replied, "but you know this. You know the answer. Close your eyes and feel it."

Nicholas smiled and turned towards the gate, he held his hands out and whispered softly. It took him a while to realize what he was saying.

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallow be thy name..."

Xander turned around and ran to Willow and Buffy. He motioned for Willow to go ahead while he would catch up. Willow nodded, still clutched her side, but got up and ran towards the tunnel. Xander scooped Buffy up in his arms and ran after her. He paused and looked at Nicholas one last time. A white energy flowed from his body into the gate. The cave filled with an eerie aura of goodness and peace. Xander spun around and ran faster than he ever ran before.

~ * ~ * ~

Giles watched the doors intently. <Where were they?> He saw the doors open and watched a figure stagger out. The doors closed behind the figure as he or she ran towards them. It was Willow. She was clutching her side, obviously in great pain. Angel ran to her and picked her up. He carried her to them, where he laid her down on the damp grass.

Suddenly from the sky a bolt of lightning struck the top of the cave, causing a huge explosion that lit up the entire area in light.

Giles clenched his eyes shut, slowly muttering a prayer under his breath. Even though he had not prayed since he was a teenager, he hoped whatever God existed could forgive him and help the two children that he considered to be his daughter and son.

~ * ~ * ~

Nicholas felt the energy sear out of him. He was being drained quickly.

"God help me..." he whispered.

Then around him the walls of the cave lit up, filling him with energy. He felt the joy, the peace, the love, and let it all out.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander ran so hard his legs were pumping. He slammed his body against the door, opening it. He spotted his friends and ran towards them, still cradling Buffy in his arms. He felt her stir slightly, but gave more thought to getting them away from the cave. They all smiled at him as he stopped in front of them. He put Buffy on the ground carefully, laying her head on his lap. She smiled up at him gratefully.

<Nicholas? How?>
<Tell her.>
<And thank you.>

Suddenly a large flash of light enveloped the cave. Xander and the rest watched in amazement at the wondrous sight of beauty. Then an explosion of pure good blew it all apart. Xander threw his upperbody over Buffy, protecting her from the rainfall of stone chips. When the shower of dirt and stone stopped, he looked up. Where the cave had stood, there was now a crater. Xander and Buffy stood up and saw a small trail of smoke rise from the crater.

"I'm sorry about your friend." Buffy said next to him, still weak from Falen draining her.

"Me too. But he's free now. At the last moment, before the explosion, he gave up everything he had to close the gate. And then, a flash of light." Xander responded softly. "He's there now. In heaven. At peace."

He turned toward the friends that had thought they lost him. The ones who nearly died for him.

"Let's go home." He whispered.

Without any argument, the friends walked off. Ready to face the next day.