Buffy and Doyle were leaning against a wall, taking a well-deserved rest. They both watched admiringly as Mrak literally tore a Scourge demon in half, the hard way.
"I really needed this." Buffy said mopping sweat off her brow.
"Me too, haven't had a good fight in a while. And these guys aren't that tough when you can face them a few at a time. They get kind of scary when you have a thousand of them staring at you." Doyle said absently, from a place of memory.
"This is just right for me. I didn't get to have a workout today and this hit the spot... Hey Mrak! You've torn him into enough pieces that I think he's going to stay dead." Buffy said laughing.
Mrak looked over at Buffy and rolled his eyes, then his head turned quickly as he saw some more Scourge. Within a second, all three of them were on the hunt.
* * * * *
Cordelia moved from one person to another, trying to turn them so they would be comfortable. She was the only one left conscious in the room. All of those with heartbeats to begin with, had steady heartbeats now.
When she came to Angel she was surprised. There were two Angels lying side by side. They were exactly the same but somehow opposite. One of the Angels was wearing a white shirt and tan pants. The other was dressed in Angel's usual black ensemble.
She had kind of expected two Spikes when she got to him in the circle, but there was just the one, probably for the best.
Finally she heard a groan as Ares began to wake. He immediately went to Joxer and took him into his arms. Ares just held him close and gently rocked. Strife was next to awaken, he did, move for move, exactly the same thing as Ares.
Leo awoke and went immediately to Piper. He looked at Ares and Joxer then to Strife and Cupid. He scooted himself behind Piper and pulled her close and began to rock her too.
Xander woke next. His head hurt and he felt confused. On second thought, he felt that he could see more clearly than ever before. His life up to this day had been confused. He surveyed the room, when his eyes fell on Spike, lying alone and unconscious he forced himself up and went to Spike's side. He pulled Spike into his lap and petted his hair.
Joxer came awake to a wonderful sensation. His beloved was holding him close and protecting him. He snuggled into Ares chest and sighed in contentment. Then he noticed something different. A flash of panic flew through his body because this couldn't happen. He checked again, it was still there. With a sly smile he decided to test it out. Joxer turned himself so that his mouth was by Ares' ear.
"I love you, Ares" he said quietly.
The rocking stopped. Ares sat, shocked. He turned to face Joxer and with a grin Joxer stuck his tongue out at Ares.
Ares pulled him close and began to cry.
* * * * *
Giles came to wakefulness and saw the fallout of the spells that had been cast. He recalled the words of some of the individual spells and what he was seeing began to make sense.
* * * * *
Angel woke up feeling like he had been torn apart. As he looked to his right he thought that perhaps he had because he saw himself. He tried to understand what he was looking at when he realized that he really did feel different than before. He could feel weakness and hunger and something else that he couldn't remember.
The figure next to him woke up and groaned. When their eyes met there was confusion before the first Angel spoke. "Are you Angelus?"
The second Angel examined himself and said, "I think maybe I am. But I don't feel insane... or evil. I just feel like I was before, but lighter."
"I think I'm human." The first Angel said in wonder as he tried to feel his own pulse.
"Then that means that you are Liam not Angel. I mean, we were Angel, isn't that how it worked?
"Yes, I think it is." Liam said with a smile at his counterpart.
* * * * *
Doyle, Mrak, and Buffy came back into the hellmouth chamber. They were all feeling pretty good after some cathartic violence. When they saw their friends laying around the floor Buffy went to Giles, Mrak went to Drucilla, and Doyle leaned against the wall watching, wistfully.
* * * * *
Spike woke up to a wonderful sensation. He was being held and petted and loved. A warm body was holding him tight like he was precious. Then it registered, 'A warm body?' Spike's eyes snapped open. His eyes met Xander's and he understood. The boy had finally let loose of his masks and decided to be himself, and he loved Spike. That was perfectly fine with Spike. He had known he liked the boy since he lived in his basement. But as long as the whelp was hiding who he was behind that goofy act, Spike wasn't interested in dodging the theatrics.
"Do you mind?" Xander asked Spike seriously.
"Not at all love, took you bloody long enough." Spike said with a smile to take any sting out of the words.
Xander pulled Spike's face close so they could share a kiss. Xander was surprised by the cold wet sensation of Spike's mouth. He knew Spike didn't have body heat but hadn't considered what it would be like to kiss him. The sensation wasn't unpleasant, or unwelcomed, just unexpected.
Spike was honestly surprised by the boy's kiss. He never would have credited the whelp with being able to kiss like an adult. But the boy was slow and steady, taking what he wanted without forcing at all. Spike was usually one to be in control but this he approved of.
* * * * *
Cole woke to find himself lying beside Mrak who was soothing Drucilla. He looked over and saw Phoebe laying unconscious a few feet away. He slowly made his way over to her and cradled her head in his lap.
He gently smoothed her hair and took inventory of himself. The power of the source of all evil was gone. But he still had his own power. He hadn't expected that.
"You're not evil anymore?" Phoebe asked weakly from his lap.
"No, I'm just me. The me that I was born to be." he said with a smile.
"But you were born a half-demon." she said in a tone that made it a question.
"Yes, I am a half-demon. Like I said, I am what I was born to be. I'm asking you to accept me like this." he said with assurance.
"No, I will not be with someone who is evil." she said with permanence.
He understood now. She was a bigot. She didn't want him. She wanted what she could make of him. Without any anger toward her he understood that they could never have had a chance. She always wanted him to be something other than what he was.
Cole looked around the room and noticed Doyle leaning on the wall and obviously feeling alone and left out with all the romance in the room.
"Phoebe, you're right. I'm a half-demon and you could never accept my demon half. And no matter how much I would try to change, ultimately I can only be what I am. You don't have to worry. I won't be stalking you or trying to get you back anymore. But I might still come by sometime and invite you to lunch or something." he said with a friendly smile.
"I... I'd like that." she said disbelieving.
Cole helped her to her feet and went to lean on the wall.
* * * * *
Buffy was looking around the room in wonderment at the people behaving so differently. "What happened to them? Did the hellmouth change them?" Buffy asked, concerned.
"Not precisely. The spell that we used to close the hellmouth was written in such a way that it gave each key the possibility to gain something that they need. And the power of the gods amplified the effects to go beyond the wording of the spells." Giles said, figuring it out as he spoke.
"So spill, what did it do to Xander and Spike?" she asked curiously.
"I believe it restored Spike's soul, not in the way that Angel's was. Angel's was cursed with a thrice damned conscience. Spike's is just a normal human soul. Spike may choose to become something other than what he was, the option is his."
"What about Xander?" She asked while watching Xander and Spike tenderly kiss.
"Xander has the opportunity to be himself, whoever that may be." Giles said succinctly.
"I don't know him well enough to say more than there is some pain in his past that he hasn't been able to deal with. Now he has the opportunity to deal with it."
"I can see what happened to Angel. But why?" she asked while watching the two forms of Angel talking.
"I believe that this is partly the result of the curse. Because the demon and soul were both cursed to enhance their emotions, it had the effect of putting two angry dogs into a pit. The curse prevented soul and demon from fusing as Spike did, so the body split instead. The human Angel has the opportunity to live his life and make something of it. The vampire Angel has the opportunity to be good, if he chooses."
"Who was the fifth key?" she asked.
"Cole, he held the power of the source of all evil. The power was used to close the hellmouth. As I understand it, he has the opportunity to be what he was born to be." Giles said with thought.
"And what's that?" Buffy prompted.
"I have no idea, whatever he chooses to be, using whatever abilities he has." Giles said, getting to his feet.
"So what was the deal with the gods, why did we need them?" Buffy asked, honestly curious.
"The gods provided the power to support the keys. The witches cast the spells they needed, if the gods hadn't been there, the keys would have been drained of life energy and probably killed. And the spells wouldn't be powerful enough to bind the hellmouth closed." Giles said in lecture mode.
"But what's the deal with the keys? I mean, why couldn't the witches and gods cast the spells without them?"
"Because they truely are keys. Their essences were used to form the magical bonds that seal the hellmouth. Without the keys, the spells would be like setting the combination on your luggage to 000. The keys create an effective binding."
"This mumbo jumbo is too much for me. I'll stick to slaying if you don't mind." Buffy said, back into perky mode.
"I wouldn't have it any other way." Giles said with a grin.
* * * * *
Ares finally separated from Joxer and made his way to Giles, he didn't have a great understanding of witchcraft and wanted to know what had been done to his beloved.
"Giles, do you have a moment?" Ares asked, but it sounded more like a command.
"Of course Lord Ares, how may I help you?" Giles asked in full polite mode.
"I want to understand what the spell did to Joxer. It changed him and I want to know why." Ares said with concern.
"As I understand the spell, it actually took the keys and the gods back to their childhood forms and rebuilt them. The effects of certain traumas in earlier life were negated or altered as an effect of the spell." Giles said in lecture mode.
"Then that's why he grew his tongue back?" Ares said in wonder.
"He did? Remarkable. I hadn't considered that effect. I mean, I knew that each of the keys was altered but I hadn't considered how the gods would be effected. Did the experience change you at all?"
"I don't think so."
"Perhaps it's because he was born a mortal. A child god would be able to deal with traumas as they happened." Giles said, thinking outloud.
"I'm going to go back to Joxer now, thank you for your help."
* * * * *
Cole made his way to the wall beside Doyle. "Do you mind if I join you?" he asked timidly.
"Naw, don't mind at all. M' name's Doyle, you're Cole?" Doyle asked, extending a hand.
"Yeah." Cole replied.
"I couldn't help but overhear what happened between you and your girl. I'm sorry, I just told Cordelia that I'm a half-demon today and got about the same reaction... except she didn't try to kill me."
"I'm beginning to think that I don't belong with humans, but what other choice is there? Demons treat us like we're filth because we have human blood." Cole said despondently.
"What we do is stick together. There's a lot of us halfie's running around. We just need to be good to each other. An it's a damned site better than being looked down on by humans AND demons." Doyle said with some fire.
"I think you're right, what say we get out of here and have a drink? I know a really nice place in San Francisco." Cole asked plesantly.
"Sounds like a good idea, I'm just gonna let Angel... the Angels know I'm going so he... they don't worry." Doyle said before bouncing off to talk to Angel.
* * * * *
Doyle walked up to the Angels and asked, "Angel, can I talk to you for a second." His gaze shifted from one to the other, not knowing which was his boss.
"Don't worry Doyle, I'm Angelus, he's Liam. We've decided that I'll be using the name Angel because... well..." Angelus stammered.
"The name Angelus comes with a lot of baggage." Liam said from behind Angel.
"Right. Anyway, it's me you probably need to talk to. What did you want?" Angel said.
"Uh... I'm leaving with Cole, just didn't want you to think that I got lost or sumthin. If any visions come, I'll call you on the cell." Doyle said before turning to leave.
Angel and Liam watched as Doyle talked with Cole for a few seconds before they disappeared in a dark blur.
* * * * *
Leo walked up to Giles and said, "We are going to be leaving. Phoebe want's to get home so she can go to work in the morning."
"I understand but do you think you can wait for just a few moments before you leave?" Giles asked casually.
"I suppose..." Leo began to say when Giles whistled to gain the crowd's attention.
Giles spoke to the group, "Now that we are all awake, what say we go back to my place to have a celebratory drink before we go our separate ways?"
There was mass agreement as the divinities began to flash people out of the chamber.