Cosmic Musical Chairs.

Xander sighed as he woke up, smiling at the man standing beside the couch. "Hi, Angel," he said happily. "Are you enjoying your vacation?"

Wesley came out of the bedroom, glaring at the young man. "He's not here," he said firmly. "Angel is not in this apartment." Xander pointed at the man he could see. "That's your imagination."

Angel said something and Xander laughed. "He said those are cute boxers, when did you steal them from his laundry."

Wesley huffed and went back to his room, slamming the door.

Xander looked up at his new friend. "So, do I *have* to call him? 'Cause he won't understand and he'll be mean." Angel said something else then disappeared. "Okay," Xander sighed, getting up and walking into the kitchen. The least he could do was make coffee for his keeper. "Here you go," he called. "Coffee and toast."

Wesley came out of the bedroom, toweling off his hair, in a robe, but more calm. "You didn't have to," he said as he took the cup and the plate of toast. "Thank you."

"Welcome," Xander said, heading into the bathroom so he could shower too. Maybe he'd even put on clothes today. Wesley had let him spend the rest of his money on the clothes he wanted, it was his treat for getting dressed at all yesterday. He came out a little while later, dressing in his new leather pants and silk shirt, and longer black cloak, and settled down to put his head on Wesley's leg.

"Go blow dry your hair," Wesley ordered. "I've got to go to Sunnydale today and you're not staying here alone. I refuse to come back and find the building in ashes."

"I wouldn't do that," Xander said, giving him a sexy pout. "Too many of the people here don't need to atone." He got up and went to do as he was told. Going to the hotel meant that he could tell Fred all about what she had to do, besides suffer that is.

Wesley stared after the young man, not trusting the complacency of him taking the order.


Xander sat down next to Fred and wrapped them both in his cloak so Gunn would quit staring at them. "Don't cry, ask for them both," he suggested. "Did you know that you had to kick him? You get to beat up on him and take out all the pain of what you've been through on him, and then you get to have fun and make him suffer like you did."

Fred wiped her eyes. "I'm sure, but I can't do that."

"Of course you can, you just have to let those nasty emotions out, let them take over for a little while. I did and I used to have your job."

She shook her head. "I know you're trying to help, but this is Angel's job, not mine."

He grinned and kissed her on the collarbone. "If you win, you get to call him back." He stood up, heading over to hide under the desk again so he could go back to his rocking. When he rocked and sang, he could hear from the people who needed his help.

Fred looked over at Cordelia, who shrugged. She'd been close enough to hear. "I can?" she asked timidly.

"Apparently. Wesley said something about it, but that you couldn't call him by name. Xander, if you hum that damn song one more time, I'm going to come over there and pull your lips off," she yelled.

"But I'm calling for help," Xander told her, giving her an innocent look. "Someone has to come and unlock the door for her."

"Whatever," Cordelia sighed. She went to the weapons locker and pulled out a small knife, tucking it into her bra. She grabbed a few more things for everyone else and handed them out. "Might as well be prepared," she suggested, just as the lights went out.

Xander started to laugh. "And he calls himself a bad man but he's really just a pussy."

"Great," Gunn sighed. "Just what we need. No lights and a bad guy wannabe."

The lights came back on and both women were gone.

"He took them, he took them," Xander sang. "He's gonna get it now."

Gunn walked over and yanked Xander from under the table. "Who has them and where are they?" he asked calmly. When he didn't get an answer, he shook the young man. "Where?"

"They're not here and you can't be there. It's for women," Xander said solemnly. "Men can only open the doorway. But they'll be fine. They're *strong*." He grinned and went limp in the restraining hands, falling onto his butt on the floor. "Thank you. They've got help, he's already here. I can hear him."

"If you say so. What part of town are they in?"


"And where's that?" Gunn asked patiently.

"In the vampire realm."

"And what vampire is going after them?" Gunn asked.

"Spike. He and Wesley have to take care of me. The Powers said so."

Gunn groaned and went to put his weapon up. Looks like he wasn't in on this one. He called Wesley on his cellphone. "Hey, it's me. Fred and Cordy were taken to somewhere called Illarium?" He grimaced. "That had better not have been my brakes, English, or you're in deep."


Spike frog marched the two women into the hotel and pushed them, watching as they landed at Gunn's feet. "Bloody bitches," he muttered, looking around. "Where's the whelp? Got a dream said I was to take care of him now. My punishment," he sneered.

"Yup, you are. You need the torment," Xander said from under his table. "Now, Fred, call on the bastards and demand some help from your helpers."

"I call on the Powers to send me someone to help train me," Fred called. She'd thought long and hard how to call up Angel. She didn't care about anyone else, she wanted her Angel back. "If I don't get trained, I'm gonna die soon."

A muted flash appeared in the doorway, opening a portal.

Fred ran through, then she screamed and came running back. "It's him," she panted, pointing, not caring that the cut on her cheek was bleeding again.

"Who?" Cordelia asked, walking over to look through it. She knew better than to walk through a portal without checking it first. The man on the other side made her heart twist. "Doyle?" she breathed, walking in to free him from the pole. "But we were told Angel was going to come back."

"He is," Doyle moaned, holding his head. "Gods own hangover," he explained as he was led back. He smiled at Fred. "Where is he? You can find him."

"He's...." She looked at Spike. "I feel you, not him."

"He's behind him," Xander said happily. "All he needs is a host body and he can come back, but someone had better watch him better this time."

"Great," Cordelia sighed. "More cryptic advice. Just what this world needs."

Spike turned to glare at the boy. "Bloody hell, whelp, which body?"

"Anyone. They'll die and he'll take them over," Xander said, giving him a smile. "They said you need the torment to thrive, but that Dru wasn't the right one for you to angst over." His grin got brighter. "Do you pet well?"

Spike grumbled something and headed up the stairs. "Gonna go nap," he muttered as he walked past Fred. "Stay here."

Fred looked at Cordelia, she was the smart one now. "What do I do?"

"We go find Angel a body," Gunn said, then he shrugged when the women glared at him. "What? It seems like we're being pushed in that direction."

"So, we what? Go grab just anyone?" Cordelia asked, glaring at Xander. "Which body?" she demanded.

"Whoever. Someone nasty if you want. You've only got an hour though." He started to hum again. "And he said make it someone smart and tough. He can only work with what the body already has. They're going to be turned."

Gunn shuddered. "I hate to say it, but I can go find you someone who's ready to die right now. Tough, smart, good body. Bit taller than Angel, does that matter?" he asked Xander. Who shrugged. "You don't know?"

"All I was told was that they'd change to become him."

"Okay then," Cordelia sighed. "Can you get him here? Would he consent?"

"He's suicidal," Gunn told her. "This would be good for him." He walked outside, going to find his friend, the one he'd been trying to keep from killing himself. He wondered if this made him a hypocrite.

Cordelia pointed at the table. "Cover up and stay under there or go lay down with Spike."

Xander scampered up and went up the stairs, following the thoughts to where Spike was. He walked in and took off his cloak, knowing that this person would make the thoughts stay away too. He stripped down and crawled into the bed, draping himself along the cool body. "Do you pet well?" he begged.

"Sure," Spike said, starting to pet the warm back. "You sick? You're hot."

"Just needing petted," Xander told him. "Then the thoughts will all go away." He smiled up at his new keeper. "Do you like Wesley? We'll have to tell him about this part."

Spike groaned. "You're my new Dru then," he decided. "That means I'm your keeper."

"But I'm here to make him atone too."

"Then we'll do somethin' to him and he'll be better. You can't have both, I don't share."

"Okay," Xander said, snuggling into the cool body. "Your hands are nice. I bet they pet and don't scratch too hard."

Spike rolled his eyes. The boy was insane and only going to get worse. If he had any sense, he'd put the boy out of his misery. And out of Xander's too. But he *was* lonely..... He rolled over, trapping Xander beneath him. "Do you like being scratched, pet?"

"Sometimes," Xander admitted, biting into the side of Spike's face. "Sometimes I don't."

Spike laughed. This was a good game.


Wesley walked back into the hotel, just in time to see Angel coming back to himself. He frowned as the transformation finished, then looked at Cordelia. "I'm assuming that Spike is here?" he asked as he put down his briefcase.

"Upstairs petting Xander," Cordelia said as she handed Angel a cup of coffee, not one made by her though. "Here, how do you feel?"

"Did someone explain this to you?" Gunn asked Wesley, who didn't look that surprised to see their formerly dead friend.

"Rupert found the prophecy years ago and wrote it down in a letter for me." He tossed over the letter. "I was quite shocked, but he was correct in everything except me taking care of Xander." He glanced around. "How badly was Fred injured?"

"Not that badly. Needed a few stitches," Gunn told him while he read. "Okay, this sucks," he announced, handing it to Angel. "How do we know his soul is permanent now?"

"Because your friend was alive when Angel inhabited him," Wesley told him, sounding calm. "His soul is anchored into his body, which still thinks it's living. Even if his soul wasn't pure, it will not be dislodged without a lot of work."

Spike clapped from the stairs. "Pet heard you were back," he said in greeting. "Pouf," he said in greeting. "Didn't old Rupes find where it said you had to atone too?"

"I don't have anything to atone for," Wesley said stiffly. "My mother said Xander was quite wrong about what he thought I'd done."

"Hold it," Cordelia said, starting to rub her forehead. "What did he say?"

"That he's part demon," Angel said, looking over at Wesley. "And he's right. Your mother might not want to admit it, but the boy was right. I could smell it on you back in Sunnydale. I still can," he said, sounding a little amazed.

"Good, now that we've got all that, gotta take the boy and the new pet somewhere."

"No," Angel said as he slid off the table. "Xander stays here. His gifts will be useful."

"His gifts are gone," Fred said from the stairway. "Staking you sent them away. That's why he kept trying to get away from you, he knew it'd be bad."

"Oh, even better," Spike told him, grinning evilly now. "Before the bloody little buggers left, they filled his head with every prophecy known to them and all the information they'd gathered about everyone they'd ever met. He's on that long slide down into Dru's territory right now."

Everyone groaned. "I'm sure you'll take good care of him," Wesley told him. "I'll pack his things if you'll wait here for a bit."

"Oh, no," Spike said happily, "you're comin' with us for the first six months. He said so." He walked over and grabbed Wesley, looking at his Sire. "You okay with that?"

"Fine, just bring him back in one piece and healthy," Angel told him, smiling as his childe walked his friend away.

"Excuse me?" Cordelia asked. "What was that about?"

"Wesley should have read the whole note," Angel said with a shrug, handing it to her.

She read it and grimaced. "Eww," she said, handing it back by two fingers, which she wiped on her jeans. "Anything else that sickening that we need to deal with?"

"Doyle has a cold," Fred said quietly. "He's sneezing up icky stuff."

"That's easily fixed," Gunn said happily. "And I get to have my truck back."

"Very true," Angel told him, smiling at him. "Did you know that this body had a fetish?"

"No, and I don't want to either," Gunn said, walking out of the hotel quickly. He had a home to go to and he was probably needed there for something.

Cordelia smiled up at her boss. "Now what?"

"Now, we train Fred to take Xander's place in the cosmic circle, and you get to take Wesley's," he told her, clapping her on the back. "Be in tomorrow night with work out clothes and ready to sweat." He headed up to his room, hoping no one had packed anything. These baggy jeans were *so* not him.


Angel opened the letter from Spike, smiling at the happy face written in blood at the top. "They're all fine," he announced. "Wesley was killed but Spike saved him just in time because of Xander. He makes an interesting vampire," he said, continuing down the letter. "Xander broke him in?" he asked, sounding a little shocked. "Spike didn't turn him but apparently Xander broke Wesley in. Wes will be back in a few weeks, when he's ready to leave his Sire and brother." He handed the note to Gunn, who was manning Cordelia's desk while she and Fred sparred.

"Boy looked like he had some talent in breaking people," Gunn noted as he read. "Huh, English really was part demon, huh?"

"Yup, and not even he can doubt it now," Angel said with a grin. This new body liked that expression a lot, especially if they were naughty. Now if only he could get over the urge to have someone bigger than Gunn, but built to about the same proportions, spank him.

Cordelia sighed as she hopped up onto the desk beside them. "How's Xander and the ewwish one?"

"Just fine," Gunn told her, handing over the letter. "Wes is coming back in a few weeks." He laughed as she carefully put the letter down. "Could be worse. Could be human."

Angel sniffed the letter. "Dog."

"Why did you have to tell me that?" Cordelia asked, hopping back down. "We're going to shower and coax Doyle out of his room. Later." She ran up the stairs, going to do for her friend what Angel had done for Fred, who was a lot better now. Fred was almost a good substitute for Xander. "Doyle," she called, tapping on the door. "Would you braid my hair after I'm out of the shower? I want to let it dry in the sun."

"Sure," came the muffled voice. "Come get me then."

"You know, I've been thinking," Gunn said downstairs. "This cosmic position thing is very odd."

"It is," Angel agreed, "but it's comforting in some way. Someone had to be Xander when he wasn't. Someone had to be me."

"Someone had to be Fred," Gunn joined in. "Okay, I get it, but what about the rest of us."

"Do you really want to find out?" Angel asked dryly, heading to his office. The mind he was in remembered these books about strange places, fantasy novels. Maybe he'd give them a try.

Gunn groaned and shook his head. "Nope, I don't want to see who the Universe and Powers would put in my place. It might be Cordelia." He picked up a newspaper and decided he should do something that required his mind going elsewhere. He would have to get the picture of Cordelia as him, and him wearing her little cropped tops, out of his head soon, or he'd join Xander in the land of loony and she really would get his job.


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