Chapter Twenty-One - Return and Remembrance

Peering through the porthole glass from the outside, Xander saw the orb of Thesula illuminate and disappear. Hesitantly, he entered the tense atmosphere of the library, where their eyes rose and fell at the noise of the door closing behind him. So the deed was done…the spell cast, but whether it worked or not…despite the cool glowing orb thing…was another matter entirely of itself.

He wondered what it was going to be like with Angel no longer Angelus…as he saw it, even with the soul encumbered him, he was still a walking, talking time bomb. He hadn't wanted this and he had spoke adamantly about it, but he had given in eventually and there wasn't anyway his mind and reason would have been transferred to them. Xander disliked Angel and knew that that feeling would continue throughout, despite anything that might occur in between.

Buffy took Xander's hand when he stood beside her and she glanced at Giles, "So, what are we going to do? Just wait?"

"Well, a flaw in our plan is that we haven't the slightest idea where, he might - " Giles began as they heard the door open and close.

All eyes rose, again, to a figure at the door, but this time, it was a while before they strayed away…if at all.

"Angel," Xander heard Buffy's voice say in a hush whisper as she let go of his hand and stood up, "Is it really you?"

The figure clad in black backed away slightly as she approached him but stationed his ground when she was a few feet away from him, "Buffy…I feel really…really strange…what happened?"

"You mean you don't remember?" she said as her forehead wrinkled in thought.

"N-not really…sort of…I remember feeling pain and then turning back to…oh, God, and then…" Angel struggled with the memories that were coming into light in his shadowed mind and he fell to his knees as they gripped him with their ugliness and their evil.

Buffy knelt down beside him, "It wasn't your fault…it wasn't you…it was that demon that took over…and it was my fault that that happened."

He looked up at her and grasped her shoulders so that as he stood, she stood too, "No…it wasn't your fault…it could never be your fault. Don't say that."

"But Angel…I…" she tried, but he held her close.

"I love you…"

Xander swallowed hard and he felt his heart beat accelerate in wonderment of what she might say. He knew she loved Angel, but in a different manner, she had told him that much. He trusted her…he believed her…

Buffy was taken into the magic of his eyes and replied, "I love you, too…"

…But that was until he heard the tone of her voice. His fingers dug into the wood of the table he gripped as her words ripped through him like a stake in the heart…and echoed in his mind in the remembrance of words that were once his…