Life Is But A Dream


by Lightles




"Okay." Willow sighed as she escaped to the relative tranquility of the kitchen. "If it gets any more tense in there, I think we're going to have several new cases of spontaneous combustion to add to the logs."

"I realize that things are..... uncomfortable...." Giles took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "But we're all adults....."

"Really? You might want to remind them of that fact." Willow smiled. "Of course, that means you'd have to go back in there......"

"No, no." Giles said, hastily. "I need to stay here and..... and......" his eyes landed on the two mugs sitting in the sink ".... prepare meals for Angel and Spike."

"Coward." Willow giggled, then grabbed a soda out of the fridge. "Well, if you're not going back, I guess it's up to me to keep the peace." Sighing dramatically, she marched around the small island that separated the kitchen from the main living area.

"God Speed." Giles saluted her with his drink. Willow stuck her tongue out at him, then took her seat between Buffy and Spike. As Giles filled the mugs with blood, he surveyed the little group and idly wondered how they had managed to avoid total anarchy. Angel and Cordelia's appearance on his doorstep shortly after sundown had been an unpleasant surprise in more ways than one. For starters, they had revealed that Cordelia was now having visions and that one of them had foretold the coming of a particularly nasty demon. Giles had then had to explain why Spike was wandering around his apartment unchained and unsupervised. A fight had nearly broken out in his living room, but total bedlam had been averted when Willow placed herself between the combatants and threatened both of them with unspecified punishments. The look on her face had been enough to shame both men into a grudging truce, but they had been glaring at each other all night.

Things had only gotten worse when Buffy, Xander, and Anya had arrived. Buffy had been on a date with Riley Finn and had spent much of the evening dropping not so subtle barbs about his superiority as a love interest. Cordelia, meanwhile, had apparently decided to revive her relationship with Xander and she wasn't about to let "some ex-demon tramp who obviously can't dress herself" stand in her way. Anya, meanwhile, felt the need to protect Xander from that "trashy, no-talent, ex-girlfriend of his." Willow and Giles had been caught in the middle of all this mayhem and the result was that they were the only two getting any real research done. Angel was staring at Spike so hard Giles half-expected the younger vampire to turn into dust at any moment. Spike, meanwhile, was doing his best to look like he was an accepted and beloved member of the group, even going so far as to drape his arm around Willow's shoulders. This had earned him a gentle elbow in the ribs and a stern "Behave yourself!" from her. Buffy was pretending to read, but she kept sneaking glances at Angel and Giles hadn't seen her turn a page in at least five minutes. Meanwhile, Xander was shifting uncomfortably, as both Anya and Cordelia had their hands on his knees and were working their way north. Everyone was startled when the microwave bell rang and Willow yelped at the same time.

"I found it!" she crowed happily, then held the book up for all to see. "Cybland..... he's a member of the Order of Revelation....."

"Oh no." Angel moaned softly.

"Order of Revelation?" Giles knit his brow in thought. "I don't believe I've heard of them."

"I'm not surprised." Angel's voice was unusually grim..... even for him. "They're highly secretive. Most demons aren't even aware of their....."

"Yeah, yeah." Spike drawled. "Can we skip to the good stuff, mate?"

"They're a cult dedicated to the total obliteration of the human race."

"Another one?" Cordelia looked incredulous. "God, are there any demons who *don't* want to kill us all?"

"They don't just want to kill us." Angel interjected. "They want to completely wipe mankind from Earth. They want to make it as if humankind had never existed."

"How?" Xander asked. "I mean, are they going to steal some nukes or something?"

"Nuclear missiles won't be enough for them." Angel informed him. "There's always the chance-however slight-that some people might survive a war. Besides, everything that humans created would still exist.... all the inventions, the monuments, the ideas......"

"They want to get rid of our ideas too?" Willow blanched. "But.... they'd have to go back in time and kill off the first humans, wouldn't they?"

"Actually, they'll probably make the first non-demonic organism that developed on this planet their target." Angel corrected her.

"Can they do that?" Giles looked aghast.

"It's very difficult, but it is theoretically possible." Angel sighed. "It's one of those 'at a certain time of a certain day you must dance around, speak the sacred words, and sacrifice several virgins' kind of things."

"Well then." Xander smiled gamely. "I guess we're all safe. I mean it's hard enough to find a virgin nowadays, especially around here." There was a general rolling of eyes at this.

"I don't think he meant that to be a literal description of the ceremony." Willow patiently explained.

"Oh." Xander looked somewhat sheepish. "I knew that."

"The Order of Revelation." Anya chewed her lip thoughtfully. "Where have I heard of that before?" Cordelia opened her mouth to make a witty retort, but Willow interrupted her just in time.

"It says here that they will bring back the realm of Hell and that Mephistophales will reign....." she skimmed quickly. "It goes on like that for a while.... lots of fire and brimstone and victory dancing, that sort of thing....."

"What does a demon's victory dance look like?" Xander wondered out loud.

"Way to focus on the important stuff, Xand." Buffy grinned.. "Does it say anything about when or where this party is gonna go down?"

"Well, the where is pretty obvious." Willow looked up, a grimace on her face. "I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count."

"Could it be...... our very own piece of Heaven known as the Hellmouth?" Buffy pretended to be excited.

"Give the lady a cigar." Xander applauded.

"Bingo!" Willow concurred. "As for when.... that's kind of unclear. There's a lot in here about portents, signs, that sort of thing....."

"What kind of signs?" Buffy asked. "I'd like to have some warning, if it's at all possible."

"I can't really tell...." Willow handed the book to Giles. "What do you think?"

"It *is* rather vague....." Giles read a bit, then spoke. "There's something about the 'confusion of dreams' and the 'end of illusion.'"

"That's just great...." Buffy grumbled. "Just once, I wish these prophecies would say 'Go to the corner of Main and Third. Stick a tire iron in the big demon's stomach. Wait for death. When demon turns blue, apocalypse has been averted."

"Uh..... well, no..... this isn't that..... er.... precise....." Giles stammered, but then his eyebrows rose. "Hold on a minute..... here's something." He trailed off as he continued to read.

"Well?" Spike impatiently drummed his fingers on the table. "Come on, then. Don't leave us in suspense."

"Well, I can't say that this is much more helpful than anything else, but it says that disaster can be avoided by 'the restoration of that which was destroyed, the joining of heart and hand, and the healing of that which is sick.' There's also mention of 'the Defenders.'"

"And once again we're completely clueless." Buffy muttered. "I just love these old time writers of prophecy."

"Tachnir!" Anya suddenly yelled.

"Bless you." Xander said automatically.

"What?" Everyone else turned to stare at her.

"That's where I've heard of the Order of Revelation before." Anya explained. "Tachnir is another vengeance demon. He's the patron of scorned men."

"Let's hear it for equal opportunity employment!" Spike grinned. Nobody paid him the least bit of attention.

"He and I worked a couple of jobs together and we got to be kind of.... friendly." She blushed under Xander's horrified stare and Cordelia's self-satisfied smirk. "He told me about the Order once when we were hanging around waiting for the locusts to show up."

"What did he say?" Giles asked, only barely managing to speak over Xander's panicked cry of "Locusts?"

"He said that in order to complete the ritual, they needed 'innocence, experience, joy, and grief.'" Xander began to bang his head on the table. After a moment, Buffy joined him.

"All right." Giles barked after this had gone on long enough. "We're not going to get anything else accomplished tonight. I suggest we all get some sleep."

"What time is it?" Willow asked.

"Quarter to two..... oh crap!" Buffy muttered.

"What's wrong?" Giles asked.

"We can't get back into the dorms." Willow explained. "There have been a bunch of burglaries lately, so they've instituted a curfew. If they catch anyone wandering around campus after 1 am on week-nights, they'll be arrested."

"Wonderful." Giles sighed. "I don't suppose you two have made arrangements?" he looked hopefully at Angel and Cordelia.

"Sorry." Cordelia smiled apologetically. "We were planning on crashing here."

"Gee, so glad I'm not you guys." Xander chortled. "My parents' basement is looking pretty nice right now. You coming?" he asked Anya, who beamed. The two grabbed their coats and quickly left. Giles was about to assign sleeping quarters when they came back in.

"Uh.... Giles? Got room for two more?" Xander looked sheepish, while Anya looked thoroughly annoyed.

"I don't understand this." she muttered. "The car was working fine on the way over here...."

"All right." Giles groaned mentally as he quickly reviewed his accommodation. "We've got eight people and two beds."

"I'm not giving up mine." Spike declared.

"Nor am I." Giles assured him. "The girls will sleep in here tonight. Xander and Angel will sleep in Spike's room." Before anyone could argue, he turned to Willow. "Would you mind collecting blankets and such?"

*******

An hour later, they had all gotten more or less settled and as the clock struck three, all began to drift off to sleep.

*******

Angel knew something was wrong. He was in a cemetery at night with a stranger and he was wearing a dress. He tried to stop to take stock of his surroundings, but he soon realized that he had no control over the body he was inhabiting. He suddenly stumbled slightly and, in the process, got a good look at himself. He was, indeed, wearing a dress, but since he appeared to be female, this wasn't particularly disturbing. As far as Angel could tell, he was a fairly young woman with long, dark hair of indeterminate color. The girl's heart was beating quickly and her palms were slightly sweaty. She wiped them on her dress and the stranger turned and gave her a reassuring smile. Reaching out, he grabbed one of the girl's hands and tugged her further into the cemetery. At his first touch, Angel knew he was a vampire and began to panic. Try as he might, he could do nothing to avert the girl's course, although from what she was saying, it sounded like she was trying to do that herself. As Angel listened to her prattle on about the ice cream shop, he noted that her voice sounded familiar, but he was too worried about the vampire to spend too much time thinking about it.

The pair approached a large mausoleum and the stranger asked the girl if she'd ever been in one before. Angel could sense the girl's combined fear and excitement as the boy stepped behind her and moved her hair away from her neck and he cringed knowing what was about to happen. To both his surprise and that of the girl, the boy pushed her from behind into the dark, stone building. As the girl scolded the youth for his behavior, Angel attempted to assess his surroundings. Like the girl, the mausoleum gave him a nagging sense of familiarity. He was so busy trying to figure out how to get the girl out of this dire predicament that he didn't pay attention when they were joined by someone else.

"Is that all you brought?" Angel's blood ran cold at the sound of the newcomer's spoke. She giggled then and he realized that he wasn't looking at an illusion or a figment of his worst nightmare. Darla was there and she certainly didn't look like a pile of ash, the way she had the last time he'd seen her. "Hardly enough to share." She smirked and Angel realized that his sire was completely unaware of his presence. The next thing either he or the girl knew, a second boy was falling towards them. He was pale and was holding his hand to a pair of puncture wounds on his neck.

"Jesse!" the girl squealed. "We're leaving!" she declared.

"Oh you're not going anywhere." Darla smiled sweetly. "Not until we've fed!" The vampire's human mask dropped, revealing her true demon visage. The girl screamed, then suddenly everything went black. Angel struggled to gain control of the situation, but he only succeeded in giving himself a headache. A few seconds later he found himself standing amidst a pile of books that had just been set on fire. A quick inventory revealed that he was still in the girl's body and that she was still alive, though not for long, if the flames were any indication.

"Buffy, I can't take it! It's too hot!" Angel's shock was overwhelming as he caught sight of the Slayer tied to a stake next to his host.

"I'm sorry, Will. If it wasn't for me....." Angel just had time to realize that Buffy must have been referring to his host when things went black again and he had the strangest feeling of sinking. With a start he realized that he, or rather his host, was really sinking into what appeared to be a linoleum floor.

"Giles!" she was shrieking as she attempted to grab the metal banister of a nearby staircase. "Help me!"

"Willow!" Things began to come together for Angel as he saw the librarian come tearing around the corner. He was inside Willow's body and, from what he could tell, he was witnessing scenes from her past. This was confirmed when the world went black and he found himself facing Gwendolyn Post, the evil Watcher and a big ball of flame coming straight towards him. The world went black and he/she was facing some sort of metal creature that had red glowing eyes and an apparent need to be loved. As scene after scene flashed through Angel's mind, he wondered why all of them involved situations where death seemed imminent, but then they all cut off at the crucial moment. As Angel watched Faith threaten Willow with a knife, his admiration for his friend rose. It amazed him that she could have survived all the horrors the Hellmouth could throw at her, yet still remain positive and upbeat. His heart broke for her as he watched the final fight between were-Oz and another werewolf who he presumed was Veruca. When the she-wolf was dead, were-Oz lunged for Willow and things went black again.

Angel's heart stopped (figuratively, of course) when he realized what was happening next. Willow was standing in the hall of Sunnydale High, the lights were off, and two hands were wrapped securely around her throat. Buffy was standing at the other end of the hall and Angel knew that Xander and Jenny were standing behind him. He also knew what was going to happen next. He felt Willow's fear as he pinched her cheek and called her "cute and helpless". He tried to blank out the words and screamed and screamed until he finally could hear nothing but the sound of his cries.

"Angel, shut up!" It took Angel a moment to realize that he was awake. He drew in a big breath to calm himself and opened his eyes. He found himself looking at the ceiling of Giles' basement. He propped himself up on his elbow and found himself face-to-face with a very unhappy Xander.

"Yeah, mate." Spike growled from the bed on the other side of the room. "Some of us are trying to sleep here."

"Sorry." Angel murmured as he lay back down. He continued to study the ceiling as he contemplated what had just happened. He knew that he hadn't been around for some of the scenes he'd seen in his dream-he hadn't even *known* Willow when some of those scenes had taken place. He made a mental note to talk to Giles about it in the morning, then slowly drifted off into a deep, dreamless sleep.

*****

Giles grumbled as he tossed for the umpteenth time. He had just drifted into a light sleep when he'd been awakened by Angel's screams. It had never occurred to him that sound could travel through the heating vents that connected his room to the basement, which Spike had turned into his home. He had finally begun to relax again when one of the girls had used the bathroom. The sound of the toilet flushing had permeated his consciousness, waking him fully again. Since then, he'd been trying to go back to sleep without any success. He had even resorted to reading old Watcher Diaries, which usually had a tranquilizing effect on him. That hadn't worked, so he as now reduced to tossing and turning in an effort to find a position that would induce slumber.

*****

Anya was used to being in other people's dreams. She'd done it several times in her capacity as a vengeance demon-some women liked their men to know why they were suffering such torments and the only way Anya was permitted to do this was to appear to the man in his dream as the woman he'd scorned. However, the minute she opened her eyes, she realized that this was definitely not one of those situations. For one thing, she was very definitely male. Whoever she was, she wasn't happy. With a start, Anya realized she was standing in Giles' living room and she was looking at herself and Xander. They were sitting on a couch and Buffy was stretched out on the floor in front of them. The conversation revolved around some concert that everyone was planning to go to, but Anya didn't pay attention as she attempted to figure out whose body she was in and why.

"Where is Willow?" Giles asked, coming around from behind Anya.

"She wasn't feeling too well." Buffy said. "I forgot to tell you." The Slayer smiled sheepishly.

"Is she all right?" Anya heard herself ask. With a shock, she realized that she had a distinct British accent and that she sounded genuinely concerned. A quick look at her hand confirmed that she had somehow landed in Spike's dream. Who else had such pale skin? As the conversation continued, Anya attempted to make Spike's body bend to her will, but she was powerless. Anya's frustration gave way to curiosity when she saw that Buffy and Xander were leaving and taking her body with them. Giles was making some comments about patience being a virtue, but Anya didn't pay much attention to Spike's response. She was, in fact, fascinated by the fact that there was no reflection appearing in the mirror that was hung only three feet away.

After Giles retired, Spike sat in the darkened living room and contemplated the shambles his life had become. Anya waited impatiently for something interesting to happen, but the only unusual thoughts Spike had were about Willow. Anya raised a figurative eyebrow when she realized that the vampire had what Buffy called "naughty feelings" about the red-head. She was surprised that she hadn't noticed it before, but she had to admit that whenever Xander was in the room, she had a tendency to forget about everyone and everything else.

Finally, Spike stood and walked towards the stairs that led down to the basement. Anya mentally grumbled to herself about how boring his dreams were, when both he and she were startled by a voice floating up from the room below.

"Well, it's about time." Spike reached for the light switch, but the owner of the voice apparently saw him because she said "Don't. You'll spoil the surprise."

"Willow?" Spike's brow knit in confusion as he slowly descended the stairs. When he reached the bottom he gaped at the transformation his bedroom had undergone. There were candles everywhere and the furniture had been pushed back into the shadows..... all except the bed, which had been moved into the center of the room. The simple white, cotton sheets had been replaced by black silk and Willow was sitting on them with her back propped up against the headboard and the top sheet artfully draped to cover her naked body. Spike's eyes bulged and he froze. Anya clinically noted both his physical and emotional reaction to the girl in the bed.

After a minute of simply staring, Spike slowly made his way to the side of the bed. Willow turned her head to look for him, but otherwise she remained still. She had a small smile on her lips, but Anya could see the trepidation in her eyes. As Spike continued to stare at her, she bit her lip and lowered her eyes. "I.... Oh God..... I'm sorry....." Both Willow and Anya were startled when Spike suddenly bent down, slipped his arm around Willow's shoulders and pulled her into a deep, soul-searing kiss.

When he finally released her, Willow was breathless and flushed. "Wow!" she breathed. Spike kept his arm around her as he sat down, kicked off his shoes, then curled up next to her.

"Are you sure about this, pet?" he asked quietly. "Don't get me wrong.... I want to..... but I don't want to cause trouble for you....." Willow put her finger on his lips, then leaned in for another kiss. This one wasn't quite as intense, but what it lacked in strength it made up in tenderness. Spike pulled her closer and began to tug on the sheet. Fortunately, Anya felt herself begin to feel a strange floating sensation, a sure sign that she was about to wake up. Before she totally regained consciousness though, she heard the dream lovers whisper tender words of affection to each other. Somehow, this gave her an odd feeling of comfort, but made her incredibly sad at the same time.

******

Xander snored lightly, which bothered his roommates, both of whom had sensitive hearing, but his sleep was untroubled with dreams that night.

******

Cordelia Chase was not happy. She was having a dream about being Buffy-which meant that she was wearing clothes that were definitely *not* purchased at the finest stores-and she was being subjected to scenario after scenario where Buffy and Angel reconciled. Each romantic declaration of eternal love and fidelity was more tear-filled and (in Cordelia's opinion) vomit-inducing than the last.

*******

Spike was also starting to feel like he was going to lose his lunch. He was having the same dream over and over and over again-he would find himself in Angel's L. A. office facing the Slayer and engaging in an incredibly ridiculous conversation. The minute he heard the voice coming out of his mouth, Spike realized with horror that he was somehow inhabiting the body of his sire. Then some demon would come crashing through the window and just as Spike was getting interested in the fight, someone would push the cosmic fast-forward button. Strange, incomprehensible images would stream past, but things would slow down just in time for Spike to cringe his way through yet another tension filled conversation between his sire and Buffy.

Things would only get worse when the Slayer jumped into Angel's arms and the two began making it like they were the last two people on Earth and they were responsible for re-populating the entire planet within two weeks. Spike tried to shut out the disgusting images and sounds as best as he could, but he was still left with a bile taste in his mouth and a churning gut. His interest was piqued again towards the end of the dream when Angel told Buffy that she'd forget everything that had happened. Finally, there would be a repeat of the first scene, only this time Angel would kill the demon and Buffy would leave. Then the dream would start over from the beginning. On the third or fourth go-round, Spike realized that this was more than just some demented figment of Angel's imagination. He recalled that Buffy had driven to L. A. the day after Thanksgiving to confront Angel about his secret visit to Sunnydale. However, she had come back that evening and said she'd only spoken to Angel for a few minutes. However, the dream seemed to take place over a day and night. Spike resolved to grill his sire about this in the morning, then resigned himself to another re-play of the undead "Love Story".

******

Buffy knew when her dreams were something out of the ordinary. After all, she'd been having those nasty prophecy dreams since she was 15. However, she'd never had a dream like this before. For starters, she wasn't herself. She wasn't quite sure who she was, but she suspected that she was Martha Stewart's love child or a distant cousin at the very least. She was wearing an oversized sweater with snowflakes all over it and she was sitting in front of a roaring fire. The house-rather, the cabin-in which she was sitting looked like one of those places that were pictured in magazines. There was artfully arranged greenery everywhere and candles that Buffy just *knew* were hand-dipped on almost every available surface. The place was ridiculously tidy and Buffy had the irrational thought that if she moved, the entire building would just collapse around her. That fear was soon dispelled, however, when she realized that she couldn't move, or rather, that she had absolutely no control over her body.

"Honey, I'm home!" Xander burst through the door, only it wasn't quite Xander. He looked somewhat older and he'd sprouted some serious muscles somewhere. He was wearing a suit, jacket, and hat straight out of a '50s sitcom, but he still had his trademark smirk.

"Xander!" Buffy squealed in what sounded suspiciously like Anya's voice. "I missed you so much!" She jumped up and threw herself into his arms. Things went kind of fuzzy then and Buffy got the impression that time was passing. When she could see again, she and Xander were curled up in front of the fire.

"Honey?" Xander said, after a few minutes of companionable silence. "I have a surprise for you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small jewelry box.

"What is it?" The more she listened, the more Buffy suspected that she was somehow in Anya's dream.

"Open it!" Xander pressed the box into her hand. She slowly pried the lip open and gasped. Nestled in the velvet lining, was a small heart-shaped pendant made of diamond.

"It's beautiful!" Anya breathed.

"Not as beautiful as you." Xander murmured. "Happy Anniversary, Anya."

"Oh, Xander!" Anya flung her arms around Xander's neck, giving Buffy a chance to get a good look at the wedding band encircling her left ring-finger.

"So." Xander grinned, after Anya finally, reluctantly, broke the embrace. "What'd you get me?" Buffy was surprised to note that Anya suddenly grew somewhat nervous.

"Well.... uh..... actually, your present isn't going to be here for a while, honey."

"Oh." Xander's face fell. "I understand."

"Xander...."

"No, really." He attempted to smile. "I'm sure it will be wonderful."

"Well, what if I just told you what it is now?" Anya suggested.

"But that will totally ruin the surprise." Xander protested. "It will be here in a couple of days, right?"

"Uh.... Actually, it won't be here for about another eight months."

"Eight months?" Xander looked at her incredulously. "Who are you using to ship this thing? Mutant snails?"

"Not quite." Anya giggled nervously. "It's not being delivered..... oh, wait! I guess it is, but I'll be doing the delivery."

"Anya, what are you talking about?" Xander looked thoroughly confused. "You're not usually this.... cryptic."

"And there's a reason for that." Anya shot back. "Put it together, Xander. It's coming in about eight months and I'll be doing the delivery." She watched for a reaction from him, but he merely stared at her blankly. "For crying out loud, I'm pregnant, you idiot!" Buffy stifled a mental giggle as she watched the play of emotions across Xander's face.

"Pregnant?" he finally managed to splutter. "As in with child? Bun in the oven? Having my baby?"

"Yes. All of the above." Anya's irritation with Xander vanished as he suddenly whooped for joy. He jumped up and grabbed her in a great bear hug. Buffy began to feel somewhat strange and the scene around her began to cloud, but before she totally lost contact with them, she wished the dream couple all the luck in the world.

******

Willow was in a mall. This was unusual, in and of itself, but she was also wearing high heels and walking comfortably, something which she had never quite gotten the hang of. She had a shopping bag slung around one wrist and a purse hanging off the other shoulder. She purposefully strode towards a trendy clothing store, wasting no time to look at the people and shops surrounding her. Once inside the store, she headed for the most expensive items and began critically inspecting the items on the rack. Willow caught a glimpse of her reflection in a mirror that had been placed near a hat-stand and realized with a shock that she was Cordelia. She attempted to move her arms and legs, but realized that she had no power over the body she currently inhabited.

Cordelia picked out several articles of clothing and marched up to the sales desk. There was no line and the clerk was unusually pleasant. Cordy reached into her purse and pulled out a small wallet. She withdrew all the cash, which was, coincidentally, the exact amount needed to pay for her purchases, then exited the shop with her bag. Somehow, the first bag had disappeared. After only a few minutes, they came across another store and repeated the process. Once again, there was just enough cash in the wallet to pay for the clothing. Once again, the previous purchases had disappeared by the time the clerk was done ringing up the new items.

The routine remained the same three more times, but on the fourth, instead of heading for the sales desk, Cordelia went back into the changing rooms. She hung up her purchases, pulled the curtain closed, then turned to face herself in the full-length mirror. Both Willow and Cordelia let out a small shriek when the reflection showed not one, but two bodies. The second belonged to a short man with dark hair, kind eyes, and a loud print shirt.

"Hello, princess." he said, softly.

"Who are you?" Willow asked. It was a moment before she realized that she was speaking with her own voice and not Cordelia's.

"What do you mean.... Jeez!" The strange man jumped back as if shocked by electricity. Willow turned to see what was wrong and gasped. Cordelia's reflection in the mirror was changing.... in a minute, Willow saw herself as she had been earlier this evening-dressed in a pair of jeans and a black sweater. "Who are you?" the man asked.

"I.... I'm Willow." Willow gingerly touched her face, but nothing happened. "Who are you?"

"I'm Doyle." Suddenly, the dressing room vanished and the two found themselves standing in the middle of a large, empty field. "There, that's better. I never did like malls."

"Doyle?" Willow searched her mind for a connection. "Wait, aren't you Angel's friend?

"Yeah.... and Cordy's." Doyle looked sheepish. "Although I don't guess she's too happy with me right about now." Willow noticed that he had a pleasant Irish accent.

"Oh!" She smacked her forehead. "You're the one who used to have the visions, right? But you gave them to Cordelia."

"Ho! Wait just a minute, there." Doyle held up his hands. "I had nothing to do with that. You be sure to tell her that for me, okay?"

"Okay." Willow looked around. "What are we doing here?"

"Well, I came to give some messages to Angel and Cordelia." Doyle bit his lip thoughtfully. "I've got some information that might be useful."

"About the Order of Revelation?" Willow asked, getting excited.

"Yeah." He blew air through his cheeks, then seemed to come to a decision. "Look, here's the thing. It took a lot for me to do this and I don't think I can do it again anytime soon. I'm gonna need you to pass on my words of wisdom, okay?"

"Of course." Willow nodded vigorously.

"Okay - this first message is for Angel. You can tell him that he doesn't have to be 'Mr. Martyr' anymore."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, it's over. The Powers that Be are lifting his punishment.... or part of it, anyway."

"They are?" Willow had read something about the Powers that Be and had heard more about them from Angel and Cordelia. "How?"

"His soul, ducks." Doyle smiled gently. "When you cast the restoration spell, you acted as a vessel for Them."

"I did?" Willow vaguely recalled the feeling that something was moving through her body. "But what does that have to do with....."

"Using your body and magic, the Powers restored Angel's soul..... permanently." It took a moment for this fact to permeate Willow's consciousness. She stared at Doyle for a moment, completely speechless, then suddenly she squealed for joy and grabbed him in a hug.

"This is great!" she babbled. "Angel and Buffy can be together and they can be happy. He won't ever have to worry about becoming Angelus again and he might even get a sense of humor...."

"Hold it!" Doyle held up his hand. "I don't have much time and there's still some more stuff we have to cover."

"Sorry." Willow calmed down, slightly. "What else do you want me to tell him?"

"He's suffered enough. For some reason, he doesn't count the time he spent in Hell, but that went a long way towards winning him redemption. Tell him this for me. If, after finding out about this soul thing, he chooses to leave out of some misguided feeling that he hasn't been tortured enough, I will personally haunt him every day and night for the rest of his days." Doyle grinned. "And I'll bring my bongo drums."

"Ouch!" Willow giggled. "I'll be sure to pass that on. Anything else?'

"Yeah - about these Revelation blokes - you and your crew are on the right track. You don't have much time, though. You've got the tools now to restore that which was destroyed and I'm going to tell you how to heal that which was sick in a minute."

"What about the joining of heart and hand?" Willow asked.

"Well, I can't really say much about that." Doyle grimaced. "Stupid rules. Just remember this, kiddo, love is a force that is powerful enough to overcome any obstacle. It transforms, clarifies, and enlightens. Everyone needs to remember that. Especially you."

"Me?" Willow grew confused. "What are you talking about?" When Doyle didn't answer, she sighed. "I guess this is something you can't tell me, huh?"

"Exactly." Doyle grinned. "Now, I have a message for Cordelia. Tell her that I'm so sorry I had to go and that I finally understand."

"Huh?"

"Don't worry. She'll get it.... eventually." Doyle looked at Willow, thoughtfully. "Although, she may need you to help her see."

"Okay...." Willow looked at him askance. "Like she's really going to believe me..... Hey!" She suddenly had a thought. "How am I going to convince them that I really talked to you? I mean, Angel's not going to believe that his soul is permanent based on just my word."

"Good point." Doyle unclasped an ID bracelet from his wrist. "Show them this." He handed the bracelet to Willow, then slowly began to fade.

"Wait!" Willow cried. "You didn't tell me how we can heal that which is sick."

"Yes I did." With that, Doyle vanished and Willow found herself back in the dressing room looking at Cordelia's reflection.

Continued