A Fair Exchange

Author: Charles Parker <charles_parkerh[at]hotmail.com>

Timeline: Post BtVS S7 & AtS S5. Sequel to "Best Laid Plans."

Summary: What does being human mean?

Feedback is always appreciated.

Author Notes: Round and round, the ship goes. Where it lands, the

Author doesn't know. Will it be (A)my, (B)uffy, (C)ordelia, (D)awn, (F)aith, (F)red, (H)armony, (K)ennedy or (W)illow that wins the Xandman? Vote now.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

"So what do we do now?" Kennedy asked.

Alex looked over at the group. "Amy, where are you going to stay?"

The former witch turned mouse paused to think, "I don't know."

"She can stay with me." Everyone turned and looked at Dawn. "What, I have room. She can sleep on the couch."

Amy considered briefly before accepting, "All right."

"So where are we going to sleep?"

"You can stay in my room." Wood told her. She and Riley looked at each other briefly, then nodded.

"Where is Xander going to stay then? I mean it's going to take some time to fix up Fred's room."

"He can stay with me." Cordelia said with a glint in her eye.

"Why Ms. Chase, are you trying to seduce me?" Alex cocked his head and raised his eyebrows for added effect.

"In your dreams Harris."

"HEY! WE'RE TALKING HERE." Faith yelled. That got everyone's attention and they turned towards where she and Buffy were standing. Willow was still sitting the table staring at them while Spike and Travis lurked in the background. The dark haired slayer moved closer to where Alex was with a curious look on her face.

"How did you do that?"

He looked at her as he reached in his coat and removed something. Without saying a word he tossed the book the table. Willow reached out and examined it, "An Albanian to English dictionary?"

"Like I said, you don't know me Faith. And just like Buffy, you never bothered to try." Alex walked away, leaving her confused.

"So the plan is I sleep in Cordelia's umm room?"

"I think so, yes." Wood told him.

"All right. You couldn't by chance show me around this place tonight could you Robin?"

"Be more then happy to."

As the group began making their way out the door, Angel tapped Harmony on the shoulder and they steered Fred away from them.

"What's going on?"

Angel looked at his onetime employees; "We have to talk Fred."

"About." She hissed.

"About you and Spike."

"That's none of your business."

"No but Cole is making it his business. And I don't think you want to get on his bad side."

She glared at him; "I can handle myself."

"Fred, there are things about Spike you don't know. Things that didn't make into any book."

"I know all I need to know about Spike."

"You didn't know he attacked Buffy in her bathroom." She flinched at that remark and the anger seemed to drain out of her. The former physics student tried to raise her gaze and look at her lover but for some reason she couldn't. Reluctantly she let the former detective and his secretary lead her from the room.

Quentin Travers looked on at the scene for a few seconds longer, watching as Harris led the others from the room. He turned towards the other two men near him and addressed them, "Well Rupert, I believe it is time for you to begin packing."

With an air of resignation, Rupert Giles stood up and began to gather his coat. Travers turned his attention to the other ex-Watcher. "Mr. Pryce."

The younger man nodded, his nervousness fading "Mr. Travers."

"We have become aware of your activities after your initial dismissal from the council."


"Well the council would like to speak with you about those activities and discuss some other matters. It would be most convenient if you would accompany Mr. Giles and myself back home."

"Yes of course. I'll um pack my things and be ready to leave in the morning."


Satisfied the head of the Watcher's council nodded at the balance demon as he made his way out of the library and headed for the parking lot. Giles and Wesley followed at a distance. Whistler watched the men leave, and cast a glance back up at where Buffy, Faith and Willow were. Shaking his head, he also turned to leave when Willow's voice stopped him.

"Why is this happening? Why is he doing this?"

"If you have to ask the question, you wouldn't understand the answers."

Willow watched him go, following the others. She returned her gaze to the dictionary in front of her. Xander's words came back to her, 'you don't know me' and 'you're part of the problem'. She sighed, wondering what had happened that she no longer knew the man he had become. Maybe it was time, time had passed and they had changed. She went from a shy computer nerd that pined at a distance to a powerful witch involved in a healthy relationship with another woman.

And yet...

"Are you all right?" Travis approached Buffy from behind. Slowly she turned towards him; eyes filled with tears that hadn't fallen. The half demon wordlessly pulled her into a hug.

Spike sneered at the group, "Bloody wanker. Acting all high and mighty then those better then him." He continued muttering as he departed through the tunnels that led under the campus.

Faith didn't move for a long time as she thought about what had happened. With Xander and with Cole, the harshness of their words and the intensity in each's gaze.

"Damn Xman, who are you?"

Sometime later

Alexander entered the darkened room, flipping on the lights as he did so. This was the 'faculty gym' AKA the real training room used by Buffy, Faith, Kennedy and the others when they wanted to work out. Wood had shown it to him earlier. There was both a 'heavy' punching bag and a speed one. The floor was covered with mats and in the corner, weights were stacked up in a neat pile.

(Nice setup)

'Looks like. You want to check it out for yourself?'

(If you don't mind.)

'Be my guest. Just remember got work tomorrow at the record store.'


Alex's face changed becoming that of the blue-eyed Chosen warrior once again. Cole walked around, examining the entire setup closely. Grunting he turned his attention to the windows, with a little effort he opened it but not the screen. He took a deep breath inhaling the scents the night air carried. Exhaling the Hunter stepped onto the backs, removed the jacket he wore and began stretching his limbs. As was his custom, Cole began talking to himself.

"Twelve years on the job, facing down zombie lords, master vampires, ancient undead mages, demon knights, a freaking insane hell god. And I still can't get a vacation."

(Don't forget Death, the grim reaper itself.)

"Oh thank you very much Alex I had forgotten how much I enjoyed THAT particular experience." He shivered involuntarily at the memory of that confrontation. "That ranks right up there with being shot and throwing myself into the hellfire to save the planet."

(Yeah but look at the bright side. You got a cool sword out of it to kill Death's shades.)

"True, the little life-sucking bastards. Still I don't like remembering those things. It freaks me out and I already have enough nightmares." He felt Xander nodding in agreement with him.

"Still there were some good memories in there. Hanging out at the Playboy mansion for a couple of weeks was fun."

(... I hate you more then words can describe)

That got Cole laughing for a good five minutes. As his laughter faded, he cast an eye towards the hallway beyond the door.

"You gonna come in here or stand out there all night Ken-doll?"

Kennedy had a disapproving look on her face as she entered. "Don't call me that."

"Okay Kenny."

She shot another withering look at him only to see Cole continue smiling at her.

"Fine. Listen about earlier, I only did that because I owned you one and because I think Buffy isn't in the best frame of mind sometimes. But don't you dare hurt Willow."

The male chosen warrior digested her words before replying. "All right but fair warning. Willow does have a fairly big problem with abuse and power and if she can't control it..." He shrugged.

Ice formed in her stomach as she realized what he meant. "She can control it. I know she can."

"We'll see, only one person I know of can stop her and they're not on the best of speaking terms you understand."

Kennedy bit her lip as she spoke, "About that. I came here to say something to Xander."

There was a pause as Alex's face shifted into being. "Yes Kennedy?'

"I'm sorry you lost your eye, saving me. Thank you."

He looked at her for a long time, staring right into her eyes before he answered.

"You're welcome."

Chapter 2

"Don't worry." Her voice was husky and served only to fuel his emotions even more, "I'll steer you around the curves." She finished as she began moving above him. He felt their heartbeats increase, their bodies tinged with sweat and desire. When it was over, the bliss of the aftermath, the warmth of holding her and soft she felt now... He felt her hands move up his chest, massaging his muscles as they did so. Then suddenly they were around his throat, crushing it, choking away the air from his body. He struggled trying to free himself but she was too strong. His cries became quieter as life faded from him. He pleaded silently with her, she merely tossed her dark brown hair out of the way casually and spoke in her husky voice, and "It'll all be over soon, X." She leaned back, tossing her hair as she did so.

And then she was different but the same. The same black hair, but shorter. Her skin was paler with veins that could be seen. Her eyes were black with power; her touch was cool as she stroked his now bleeding cheek. A somewhat goofy grin was on her face as she spoke, "Poor baby, it hurts so much doesn't it? I'll make it stop hurting, I'll make everything stop hurting." Slowly confusion spread across her features, "Why? Why did he leave? Why was she taken away? Where were they?" She was crying now, tears flowed down her cheeks, taking with them her sadness. Black hair became a vibrant, deep shade of red, color flushed through her face and her body. Hesitantly she leaned down and brushed her lips across his and settled down on him. Her head rested in the space between his neck and shoulders. Somehow his arms were around her supporting her tiny frame. She spoke softly into his ear; "I love you."

He was surprised to hear that and looked down at her as she looked up at him. Her deep green eyes became less green, more blue. A gentle, warming smile was on her face framed by golden blonde locks. Slowly she started backing away from him until one of the shadows itself reached for he. He tried to call out a warning but his voice was gone. His fear became confusion as the shadowy figure did not hurt her but pulled her into a lover's embrace. The same smile was still on her face but the warmth from it and from her was gone. At least he could speak, "Why?" She seemed to hear him and tilted her head at him. Strangely he felt his question was answered and asked a second, "What about me?"

"What about you?"

"Where do I belong?"

"Right where you are."

He looked to his right people going about their daily business. Each took notice of him and was repelled by his presence so much that they hurried away. Looking further, he saw a man and a woman with a baby carriage. They gave no sign of being afraid or repelled by him, expressions of pity were on their face and he felt a deep pang of regret mixed with sadness resonate through him.

A flicker of movement to his left attracted his attention. They were all there, from before, along with others. Some he knew some he did not. They walked near him and he cried out but they didn't hear and continued on their way. Again and again He cried out but they didn't hear and they walked away. Leaving him alone, behind him he could still hear and see the other people walking around, carrying on with their lives but in front of him, all he could see was the group of people he once knew rapidly moving out of sight, leaving only a barren street.

Slowly he sunk to his knees sobbing as he did so. Tears tried to flow but stopped, they would not fall, and instead they clung to him, unwilling to be released.

(Time to wake up.)

Alex's eyes snapped open to a still dark apartment. Slowly he looked around trying to get his bearings. He was laying on a couch with a blanket draped over him. In the background he could hear water running as someone was showering. 'Cordelia must be getting ready for her day'.

(That would be a big ten-four, good buddy. It's time for you to get ready too, can't be late for work.)

With a groan, Xander got up and stretched as he heard the bathroom door open. Behind him, Cordelia watched appreciatively as her ex boyfriend bent over and began rooting through his bag for fresh clothing. Quietly she made her way to her bedroom door, she paused and announced, "Bathroom's all yours Xander." And then she went in and began getting dressed. Silently he padded to the bathroom and pushed the door closed. From inside her bedroom she heard the shower running as she finished dressing for the day. A not so innocent thought came to her and quietly she left her bedroom and tiptoed to the bathroom. Cordelia pushed on the door just enough to open it a crack so that she could see Xander's reflection in the mirror. A bright red blush colored the former seer's cheeks at what she saw.


"Are you sure this is the place?"

"Yea this is it."

Cordelia parked her convertible and followed Xander up into the store. She was looking around the place when she heard a muted 'damn' and saw Alex talking with a co-worker. Smiling she waved to get his attention, "bye Alex, see you tonight." "Bye Cor."

After she was gone, Alex went behind the counter only to met by James and Keith. Keith was a black man from a nearby neighborhood that worked as a DJ on the weekends while James was a 'professional student' at a nearby community college. Each had been working at the store for around six months when He was hired. Aside from some initial resentment at being passed over, they got along well and were starting to become good friends. Right now though they were staring at him with surprise on their faces.

"Problem fellas?"

"Yeah since when did you start hitting a supermodel?"

"Hitting a super model?"

Keith gestured at the front door, "That fine woman that was in here a minute ago".

"Oh her," Xander shook his head. "She's no super model. She's Cordelia Chase."

"She yours?"

"No. We dated in High school but that's a long time ago"

"Damn, would have killed to be in your high school."

Xander shook his head as he walked away at that.

Late in the afternoon, Alex had a visitor, Wood.

"Hello Alex."


He looked over at younger man for a second before asking, "Can we talk in private? I want to discuss some things."

Xander nodded and went to the front counter, "Hey Terry. You've got the store. I'm taking my break." He then led Wood out the door and around to the alley around back.

"All right then Wood, what do you want to know? Why me, the simple one-eyed man, why am I in charge? Why did I cut everybody off?

"No that's not it." He began. "I don't know everything that happened between you and Buffy, Willow and Faith. It's none of my business what you do or say to them. All I want to know is what are your plans for the school?"

Alex pondered before responding, "That depends. Was the school setup to be a school or to teach them how to be slayers?"

Wood's silence told him the answer, "That's what I thought. I gather there aren't many real teachers there."

"No, mostly just ex-watchers that we found and persuaded to help."

"That'll have to change. Most of those girls are just kids. They need to learn to read, write and do Geometry, not how to kill a demon."

"Buffy won't go for that."

"You leave Buffy to me, to us."

Wood looked at him oddly, "Both of you huh? You guys working out the details of this as you go?"

"Something like that."

"And what's he got to say about Buffy?"

There was a pause as Cole took over. "What I have to say is that the whole lot of them need some serious mental help. Not to mention some beatings along the way."

Wood's expression darkened as he tried to speak but Cole cut him off. "Look I like you Robin. You're a good guy, you've got the tragic past thing, which I respect and your abilities as a fighter speak for yourself. But Faith has major emotional problems, some of which are not her fault but some are and she HAS to deal with. For God's sake she killed in cold-blood and got off on it. The only people that have been able to reach are an immortal warlock, a vampire with a soul and yourself."

"Are you saying there is something wrong me?"

"I'm saying that I couldn't save my father no matter what I did and you can't save your mother this time either."

Wood was silent as Cole's words sunk in.

The chosen one continued, "As far as Buffy goes. She's got some real issues; she trusts and prefers the company of dead guys to that of the people who saved her ass. She has absolutely no use or regard for civilian losses and other people's pain. That is a very BAD thing in my opinion and it's something that cannot be passed onto the others. It may come to a point where I can't let her just walk away."

"What about Willow?"

"Willow will be dealt with."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you have a right to know. Because you risked your life for someone that valued the life of the thing that killed your mother over yours. That is why I am telling this, You deserve to know."

Cole sighed and his features changed back to that of Alex.

The principal/demon hunter looked over at the younger man with a confused look on his face. He spoke in a tired voice; "I used to think when I was a kid, that when I got older, life would make more sense. When my mom was killed, I thought there wasn't anything to smile about anymore. When I met Buffy, I thought that maybe I could still do some good and When I found Spike," his voice cracked a little, "I thought it was a second chance. And now with Faith, I thought I had found redemption."

"Do you feel redeemed?" Alex asked.

Wood didn't answer.


"Just sign right here sir."

"And this will be it?"

"Ah no, there will still be a waiting period of a few days while everything is processed but you have my guarantee that myself and my staff will work to see this done and by the end of the week, everything will be done."

"I like the sound of that." The man flashed a dazzling smile and signed the required documents. Done, he handed the forms back to the other man behind the desk who filed them away in a folder. He then turned and offer his hand, "Welcome to Cleveland Mr. Thomas, I look forward to doing further business with you and your company.

Mr. Thomas smiled and shook his hand, "As do I."

Chapter 3

"How could you? How could you choose HIM over ME?"

"Not too long ago, I would have been the one asking that question."

Buffy recoiled slightly at the rebuke. Angel remained where he was, standing by the bookcase in his office. They had been meeting on 'school business' for several minutes when she finally stopped beating around the bush and now the fight was on.

"Is that why you did it? Because you're still jealous? I thought we had this talk already. God, between you and Spike. I really should have locked you two in a room and let you fight it out."

"Why didn't you tell me that he tried to rape you?"

The question catches Buffy off guard and she shifts uncomfortably before answering, "It wasn't important. I took care of it."

"Buffy, you're important to me. You know you could have asked me for help."

"I didn't want your help all right? It was me that started it and it was me that ended it. Spike and I helped each other, we needed each other then."

"What made you need him more then the others?"

"He saw me for what I was. A woman not a slayer, the good and the bad. And he loved me for it. That's why I...why I loved him. He was in my heart. And I suppose he still is, just like you." She looked up at him with a hopeful gaze.

Angel said nothing, he wore a blank look on his face.

"Isn't that why you fell for Cordelia? Because she was there?"

"That was different. Cordelia didn't-"

"She didn't what? She didn't try to win your heart? To make you fall in love with her? Tell me what she didn't do Angel." Buffy's voice was cracking.

The souled vampire didn't respond and looked away rather face her.

"That's history now Angel, you and Spike are the past. I'm with someone that makes me happy. He gives me what I need what I want in a relationship." She paused and then continued, "A future maybe with the white pickett fence after all."

Angel looked uncomfortable hearing that, sensing this Buffy pressed on "So why did pick Xander over me?"


The incessant ringing of the cell phone seemed even louder in the darkness. Grumbling at being woken up, Alex turned on the lamp beside his bed and squinted. He located the cell phone on the nearby dresser and answered it.


"Good evening, Alexander. I trust you are feeling well?"

"General Claxton."

On the other end of the call, a man in his fifties, wearing the uniform of a US army general leaned back in his chair. He was seated at a circular table in a fairly modern looking conference room. Around the table where several other people, some dressed in uniforms, others wore suits and civilian clothing.

"It's good to hear from you general." Alex's voice came through the speakerphone loud and crystal clear. "But, I take it this isn't a checkup call."

"You are correct Alexander, I have with me someone who is somewhat concerned about the methods applied by yourself and Cole in taking over this situation.

There was a pause and then Cole's voice came through the speaker, "I take it this someone is who is familiar with this mission?"

A female voice answered him, "Actually Mr. Rayne and Mr. Harris, I am not. I was just assigned this to this position within the last month."

"To who am I speaking to?"

The blonde woman in her thirties smiled at the uncertainty in his voice, "Dr. Victoria Berns. Senior project consultant."

"You've GOT to be shitting me. ANOTHER REMF?"

Dr. Berns frowned, "Mr. Rayne and Mr. Harris, I am fully qualified for this post. And I am extremely displeased to read of your violent and combative nature towards Ms. Summers and her companions in the reports filed by Agent Finn. I do believe a less aggressive, more open-handed policy would have yielded better results in this matter."

There was a pause before Cole spoke, "Dr. I'm gonna go out on a limb and make some guesses about you, your life and your career thus far, do you mind?"

A little surprised, she answered, "No not at all."

"Good, here's what I get from you. You're probably in your early to mid thirties, grew up on and went to college on the West coast. You went to school on someone else's dollar, probably your father's. Majored in political science, psychology and some other class. You've never worked at a blue-collar job in your life. You're likely pro- choice, anti-gun, all for suing tobacco companies, against spanking children and probably turning an interesting shade of red right about now. Am I right?

Through clenched teeth, Dr. Berns hissed a reply, "Is there a point Mr. Rayne."

"I'll take that as a yes. And my point is this; you have NO idea what the hell is going on here. You probably think this situation could EASILY be resolved by holding hands and singing as well as government funding. Well here's a clue lady, this situation is one GIANT cluster- fuck and you want to give the people RESPONSIBLE for creating this screw-up MORE opportunities and more power? Sheesh. General Claxton?"

"Yes Cole?"

"The project is proceeding as scheduled, I trust that the people and items requested are on their way?"

"Yes, they will begin arriving sometime this week."

"Good, thank you General."

"I do have one question, I am aware that Alexander has taken a job at a nearby local store in addition to his new duties."

Cole leaned back on the bed, his features changing and becoming that of Alex before he answered, "Yes. I have. What of it?"

"May I inquire as to why you are doing this Mr. Harris? Surely you are not in need of funding."

"It's personal Claxton. Goodnight"

"Goodbye Alexander."

After the line went dead, Dr. Berns exploded. "That is the most arrogant egotistical bastard I have ever heard. I cannot believe that he would be entrusted with this mission when he is not even capable of carrying on a civil conversation with his superiors."

The general and the others around the table watched her rant with faint amusement. When it was over, Claxton leaned back and addressed the still upset woman.

"Dr. Berns," She looked over at him, "Are you familiar with the history behind this project and behind the events of the Sunnydale hellmouth and Los Angles?"

"I have read accounts summarizing what occurred and the individuals involved."

"But not the reports generated by this office and those of the Watcher's council?"

"No, Sir."

"I suggest you do so at the earliest opportunity. Pay particular attention to the events describing the battle with the 'First Evil'."

"With all due respect, General Claxton, I am very well informed about that time. And about the spell used by the Slayer."

"And what did you think of the spell and the decision to use it?"

"I thought it was a brilliant stroke of genius. The Slayer created an army with which she defeated both the creatures known as Turok-han and the priests known as 'Harbringers'. She also empowered the potential slayers around the world to be able to defend themselves against demons."

The general nodded, "You do realize Dr. Berns that Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg were college dropouts that struggled to hold a job like yourself? That the second most experienced slayer is both a high school dropout and an ex-con? And that their principal advisor in all this, Rupert Giles, dropped out of college and participated in activities that best described as vulgar?"

"Not to be rude General but what is your point?"

Claxton took a deep breath before answering, "I was taught to use a gun at a fairly early age, Dr. Berns. I learned to respect its power and to control it. The actions of Summers and her friends have created a dangerous shift in the world. While for the most part, the girls empowered by the spell are good citizen types; there is a fairly significant portion that is at best unreliable. Indeed, we have field several reports of newly created slayers engaged in acts that are immoral and criminal."

"Rogue slayers."

"Correct, indeed it is because of them that we became aware of Cole and his abilities. He has proven instrumental in controlling and reducing the rogue slayer problem. To date there have been 20 rogue slayers, all dealt with in part because of Cole."

"You mean he subdues them and you rehabilitate or kill them."

"No doctor, while there is a facility where a few of the former rogues are being rehabbed, most of them are deceased. As I have said before, Cole has been very useful in this aspect."

The meaning of his words was not lost on her. "You sent a killer into their midst."

"No I sent three very good men on a mission that is instrumental to the survival of this planet. Men who are loyal, trustworthy and will see that this mission is completed."

"You believe that this Alexander Harris is capable of carrying out this mission? He is a civilian after all with limited skills."

"On the contrary doctor, according to our reports as well as those of Agent Finn, Harris maybe the most qualified of them all."

There was a lull as she pondered the General's words. Claxton took pity on the woman, "I'll have the write-ups as well as the video taped interviews with both Alexander Harris and Cole Rayne sent to you. I suggest you watch the interviews and read the reports before you return here."

Dr. Victoria Berns nodded in agreement.


"Hey Amy, come on in. I was just getting ready to go out."

"Thank you, Queen C."

Cordelia frowned a little, "We're not in high school anymore Amy and I'm not the bitch queen anymore."

"Yeah, it looks like Buffy has that well covered."

The two former cheerleaders smiled at that, "but anyway, Amy, you don't have to call me that anymore."

"Okay compromise time, QC?"

"I don't know."

"Oh how about Flamingo Legs?"

Memories of Amy's ten-year-old birthday party flashed through Cordelia's mind followed by a look of horror on her face.

"Okay QC it is."

They both laughed.

"So where are you going?"

"Umm Well I was going to pick up Xan, er Alex from work."

"Alex," Amy's voice grew soft as she spoke. "He's a really good guy. Isn't he?"

Cordelia stopped playing with her hair and turned around to focus on the other woman as she continued talking. "I can't believe that he would have turned out like that. I mean I always thought he and Willow would be married and having lots of kids or whatever. Not... living like this. No offense Cordelia."

The former seer sat down opposite Amy and answered, "No I didn't think it would end up like this either. I thought Willow would dump Oz and live out her childhood dream. Or that Buffy would finally let him in, I never dreamed she would choose another vampire over him or that he would end up with Anya."

Amy's voice was quiet and a little unsteady; "He talked about her a little. She was trying so hard to be human, so hard to be normal again. He really loved her with all of his heart. When he talks about her, you can feel how much he loved her. How much he misses her. On the way here, every time a love song came on, he looked like he was about to cry. Sometimes he did, you know, tears just sliding down his cheeks."

Cordelia looked at the other woman and saw the tears in her eyes, tears she felt in her eyes too. Tears that had welled up out of sympathy and grief yet refused to fall.

Chapter 4


He could hear them coming now in the darkness. Low, tortured moans of creatures that should have been left in peace reached his ears. The rain increased now, providing a steady backdrop to cries of the things approaching him. His gaze shifted first to the axe leaning a nearby tree, then to the shotgun in his hands. There had been little warning beforehand, little time to gather ammunition for it, little time to prepare. The smell of rotting flesh reached his nostrils, they were close. He thought briefly of the others, his friends, classmates, his father, people he had known all of his life, in the town behind him. Would he ever see their faces again? Or hear their voices?

"Probably not. Still have to try though. For them."

As the first of them shuffled into view, he shifted his weight and called out to them, "Here I am you unholy sons of bitches. Fresh meat awaits."

They heard him and started moving faster towards, anxious to feed their never-ending hunger for flesh. Silently, Cole Rayne offered up a prayer and began the first battle (and what he was sure his last) as a champion. **End Flashback**


"Are you sure about this Buffy?"

"Of course I'm sure Willow. I'm not going to let some jackass who the council likes just waltz in here and take over. And I'm sure as hell not going to let them run MY life anymore."

"I'm with you B."

Buffy nodded at Faith's words and entered the auditorium with Willow and the other slayer on her heels. Inside were all of the slayers at the school along with the staff. The young girls shifted in their seats at the appearance of the two elder slayers and the witch. Most knew the exploits of the two slayers and the witch. Many idolized them, looked upon on them as living legends and great heroes, especially Buffy. Who else could tame and turn the lives of two vampires, and convince them to regain their souls for her.

The blonde slayer smiled as she saw the girls focus their attention on her. Behind her, Willow and Faith stood in silence, watching her and them. She addressed the gathered slayers, "All right, I'm sure you're all wondering why this assembly was called. Well there have been a lot of rumors and stories going around campus and this assembly is to clear the air and put these rumors to rest. I will begin by answering any questions you may have. Now who is first?"

"I am." A familiar voice called out causing Buffy to scowl and everyone in the audience turned to see Alexander Harris enter the auditorium.

"I have some questions Buffy. Starting with why are you lying to these girls about who you are and what you did?"

She glared at him as he climbed up on the stage and made his way to the podium. "I have told them nothing but the truth, Xander."

"No, you told them the truth according to Buffy, not the truth of what actually happened." He stepped in front of the microphone and faced the girls. Buffy made no move to stop him as he began speaking to the young slayers; "Buffy Anne Summers entered my life just about nine years ago. When I first saw her, I was honestly stunned by her," that drew a few smiles from the girls and he continued, "but then I learned there was a lot more to her then just her looks."

The smiles on the girls faded as Alex spoke, telling them the truth of what had happened in Sunnydale. He told them everything. From the time he was possessed by the spirit of a hyena to living the life of a soldier on Halloween. Alex told them about Angel, the Master, Buffy's life and death battle with him, the use of CPR to bring her back, the return of Angelus, the life and death of Jenny Calendar, Cordelia, the opening of Acathla. When he told them about lying about the re-casting of the soul curse, he stopped and looked behind him. Buffy and Willow wore looks of rage mixed with confusion. The slayer spoke in a voice quaking with rage, "You bastard, how could you?"

"How could I? I was worried that you might DIE, Buffy."

"Might die? Is that another flimsy excuse for being jealous?"

"I got over you a long time ago Buffy. Especially after I realized you let a corpse into you."

He turned his attention back to the Slayers and continued speaking. Alex spoke of Faith, Oz, Kendra, The Mayor, Faith's fall to darkness, Amy, the Ascension at Graduation Day, the Judge, their first year in College, the Initiative, Anya Tara, Adam, the enjoining spell, Spike's chip, Dawn, Riley, Glory, and Buffy's sacrifice. The young slayers were spellbound as they processed what they had heard. When he spoke next it was in a more somber tone as he related the events of Buffy's return, the appearance of Sweet, Willow's magic addiction, Buffy's relationship with Spike. He pulled no punches as he spoke of his failed wedding to Anya and her return to demon status and embracing Spike, Tara's death, Willow's attempt to destroy the world and ending with Spike's attempted rape of Buffy in her own bathroom.

By the time he spoke of the events leading up to the destruction of Sunnydale, the girls were no longer spellbound and instead were stunned. Alex's voice was cold and emotionless as he told them about Spike's return with his soul, Anya's return to humanity, Andrew joining the group, Willow and Kennedy beginning their relationship, the return of Faith and the addition of Wood to their ranks. He held nothing back he described the battle with Caleb, the loss of his eye, the confrontation with Buffy, her declaration that only Spike was watching her back, the discovery of the scythe, and the final battle with the first including the death of Anya and Spike's sacrifice as he best understood it. Finished he stepped away from the microphone and looked over the assembled group of slayers.

No longer were they gazing up at Buffy with admiration in their eyes, now they were scared of her. Buffy opened her mouth to say something but saw a number of the girls flinch and turn away from her. Her jaw clamped shut and she turned on Xander.

"What the hell do you think YOU'RE doing?"

"I'm telling them the truth from someone who was there. I think they're owed that much."

"The truth? All you're doing is undermining what we're trying to do here and-"

"And what? Your authority? Your compassion? You don't have either one. You have no authority or compassion for anyone, you're selfish little bitch."

"I am the most experienced Slayer, I'm the one who saved the world."

"Okay, A) We've all saved the world at one time or another, B) you're the most experienced slayer, so what? That gives you the right to decide to kill Anya and spare Spike or Angelus? Is that it?"

Buffy took a step closer to him, "I am in charge here Xander."

There was a pause as Alex's face changed and Cole took over, "Not anymore Summers. I already told you, you've been replaced."

Faith moved from where she had been until she was close to Buffy, "Ain't no one gonna be replaced except for your sorry ass." She growled at him.

Cole seemed amused, "Oh I guess one public embarrassment isn't enough for Summers and you Southie look like you need another asskicking."

The dark slayer looked over at Buffy, "What you say B? A twofer?"

Buffy nodded and both girls assumed fighting stances. Cole smirked and widened his stance, "Bring it on."

Willow started, "Guys please stop."

The two slayers ignored her and attacked. Cole blocked Buffy's first punch and deflected Faith's kick into the older slayer's midsection. He followed that up by kicking Faith in the stomach and ramming his forearm into Buffy's chin so hard that it staggered her. Moving quickly he grabbed Buffy by the arm and slung her into Faith halting the second slayer's attempted attack. Faith pushed Buffy off of her just in time to be punched in face. She felt her head snap back from the force of the blow and was left in a daze. Buffy tried to capitalize by launching a spinning backhand at Cole only to have it snatched and stopped by him. Faith staggered to her feet and tried to attack again only to be restrained by Wood. In her condition, she was too woozy to shake him off and watched what happened.

Buffy tried in vain to break the hold he had on her arm. Travis made a move towards intervening but was frozen in his tracks by the cold gaze of the other man.

Cole leaned in close to her; she could feel his hot breath on her neck as his icy voice sent shivers up her spine.

"Hey Buffy, remember all those times other people saved your ass?"

She quit her struggling for the most part and was silent for a bit before answering, "Yes."

"Did you ever thank them?"

"No." her voice was tinged fear.

"Don't you wish you had?"

Buffy's eyes widened as she felt him lean back. Without warning, Cole twisted her arm sharply. She felt the tendons and ligaments in her shoulder tear sending her into agony. Agony that intensified as Cole broke both her arm and snapped her wrist. Finished, he let go of her arm hang limply by her side.

Not bothering to pay attention to the wounded slayer, Cole strode to the front of the stage and addressed the slayers. "My name is Cole," he told the assembled girls, most of who wore expressions of fear and shock at what had happened.

"As of this moment, this school is now under the guidance and leadership of the Watcher's council. Alexander Harris and I will now be the ones in charge of all major school decisions. Robin Wood will remain on as principal. In the upcoming days, we will be conducting a review of everything related to this school. Including your grades and overall classroom performance."

He paused, watching the passive reaction he was getting, 'Good'. "Until that review is complete, I am adding a few new rules which will become part of the curriculum. One, all patrols will be conducted only by people I approve of and with my express approval. Two, All classes, study groups and clubs that NOT directly related to academics and real world scholastic pursuits are immediately suspended."

That had a much stronger impression on them, 'No more full contact sparring matches in gym today'.

"There will be new teachers coming to this school. They will be fully qualified and you WILL give them your full and undivided attention. You will show them respect and you will learn what they have to teach you. Any violation of these rules or of the old ones will be broughtto Principal Wood's attention and that will make ME unhappy." He didn't glare at them; the tone in his voice was enough.

"Good, I'm glad you all understand. I'm a fairly easy guy to get along with as long as we follow the rules."

Finished Cole hopped off the stage and walked out of the auditorium. He had made it just halfway down the hall when Wood caught up with him.

"Was that really necessary?"

"Breaking Buffy's arm or the speech?"


"Yes. Different means, different paths, same goal."

"She may very well hate you for life because of that."

"I'll make a mental note not to expect a Christmas card."

Wood grabbed his arm as he changed back to Alex.

"I hope you know what you're doing."

"Me too Robin."

Chapter 5


Alexander sighed out of boredom. It was another lazy day in what was shaping up to being a lazy week at the store. Aside from Tuesday, when most of the new albums came out, business had been slow. The week's biggest seller thus far was a dance compilation album and that was NEVER a good sign. 'Especially on a hellmouth'.

Such was his boredom that he was going over the order forms for the past two shipments and reorder stocks. He was deeply engrossed in this task and didn't pay attention to the customers trusting Keith and James to watch over the store. He meticulously ticked off each item as he accounted for it.


Alex looked up in annoyance and located the source of that booming voice. Travis stood just inside the door, seething with anger. Behind him, Alex caught a flash of red hair, Willow. Resigning himself to the inevitable, he put down the paperwork and stood up. He leaned over and said something to the other two men and then headed out the side door into the alley. He was waiting there when Travis and Willow followed a few seconds later.

The half demon stepped forward slowly; his appearance flickered between human and his demonic side. Rage was evident on his face as he curled his hands into fists. "You bastard, how dare you attack her."

Willow managed to get between the two men and tried to restrain Travis. She turned her head to try say something and was surprised at what she saw. Alexander looked bored and uninterested in at what was going on.

"Let him go Will."

Surprised she did so and he brushed past and stalked up to the younger man. From his superior height, Travis glared down at the other man, "I hope you have a very good reason for me NOT to beat you to pulp. BOY."

Alex just looked up at him calmly; "Go ahead, better men then you have tried."

The half demon was about to say something when Willow interrupted him, "Travis no violence, please it will only make things worse."

The older man opened his mouth to say something then thought better of it and stepped back while still glaring at Alex. Willow exhaled softly before turning her attention to her oldest friend, "Okay Xander, I'm not normally one to say this but, What the HELL were you thinking? You hurt Buffy, you let her get attacked and injured." She finished.

Alex wasn't impressed, "It never fails Will. Given a choice, nine times out of ten you side with her."

"And what's that supposed to mean, you hurt her Xander. You attacked one of your best friends."

"She wasn't my friend. And neither are you. See friends talk to each other, they're there for each other. They care about each other."

"Buffy and I care about you."

"Bullshit. You didn't bother looking for me for TWO FUCKING years Willow. If I was such a 'good friend' WHY DIDN'T YOU LOOK?"

Willow flinched at his tone.

"I'll tell you why, because I wasn't important to either one of you. You didn't give a damn about me. I wasn't Buffy's 'Xander-shaped' friend; I was her 'Xander-shaped' doormat. Something she could wipe the filth and dirt from her day off on and never have to worry about. And YOU, the second she paid any attention to me, you relegated me to back burner status."

"That's not true, I cared about you. You were always my best friend."

"Sure I was Willow. That's why you kept siding with her when it came to EVERYTHING."

"I did not."

"Oh no? How about with Angelus?"

"That wasn't her fault. She didn't know about the curse, nobody did."

"No but, how many people died because she didn't stake him?"

"If she had staked him who would have saved you from Faith?"

"Did it ever occur to Wills that maybe without Angel around to distract us, that we could have stopped Faith before she went off the deep end?"

Travis raised an eyebrow as he listened to the two people speak. He was trying to identify the emotion in the younger man's voice. 'Guilt maybe?'

"She turned her back on me Willow, not just once but TWICE for a vampire. She preferred to feel the touch of a corpse then the helping hand of a friend."

Willow got angry, "Is that what this is? Jealous because she didn't pick YOU? That she would rather be with Parker, Riley, Angel or Spike rather then you?"

Her accusation hung in the air as he took a deep breath before answering, "I was jealous of Angel. I admit that. I was jealous that she would rather be with him then me. But I got over that I even respected Angel a little for leaving town when he saw how much he hurt her. Then came Parker and Spike and I realized that Buffy just loves jerks. The more a guy can hurt her the more she likes it."

The red head didn't say anything as he continued ranting, "I mean I helped her out when NO ONE else would. When Angelus turned Theresa as a way of sending his love, it was ME that was there for her. When she was feeling down because some vamp bitch in college kicked her ass, I was the one that cheered her up with tales of working at the 'Fabulous Ladies Night' club. When she needed a pep talk after Riley left, it was ME who did it. And when she was trying to put her life back together after everything with Spike, it was me, Xander, the 'useless one', the guy with no future, that was there for her and Dawn."

He paused for a second, "And you know what I got in return? Nothing. When I was right about Angel, did she say anything? No. When everyone found out about us, she didn't say a word to me. When my wedding fell apart, she didn't even TRY to talk to me afterwards nor did anyone else." Willow suddenly couldn't meet his gaze.

"And when I was stuck bleeding like a pig over the entrance to the Hellmouth, did she stop to check on me? Did she ask how I was doing? No. She ran to Spike, to check on him. The super strong vampire with a soul, the same vampire that had tried to rape and kill her before. The same vamp that fed off of Wood. The one man she felt was watching her back when NO one else was. She didn't give a damn about anyone else or me. All she could think of was herself and what happened to her."

"That's not true." Willow managed to get out, "When you disappeared, she was surprised and when you didn't come back after a few weeks, she started getting frantic and twitchy. She couldn't sleep and finally Giles had to send her overseas to try and calm her down. But she was really worried about you."

Alex remained unconvinced, "Yeah right. She was worried all right. She was worried that her favorite doormat wouldn't be back. That she would have to try and live like a real person." He gestured in Travis's direction, "Looks like she needn't have worried. Once she got her new toy, she was fine."

The half demon frowned at his words, as he had listened to the conversation his anger had cooled considerably. Now he idly wondered what was going on between this young man and his lover.

"But Buffy's not the only one who treated me like crap."

"That's not true, Xander. I've always been your friend."

"You sure as hell didn't act like it. We used to get together at your house to watch Monstervision. As soon as Buffy showed up though, it was bronzing with her."

"You didn't seem to mind."

"It was either go to the Bronze you guys or sit at home and listen to my parents, Will. What did you think I had a choice in the matter."

"Buffy was new in town, she was the Slayer-."

"And I was your best friend."

Willow lowered her gaze to the ground, unable to meet his gaze. "When your parents were out of town, you used to stay at my house and sleep in my room. We'd talk about Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, we even talked about Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. We'd make s'mores in the microwave and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before falling asleep in front the TV at your house. And then other people came along and you decided they were more important then me and pushed me away."

"Xander, we weren't going to be kids forever."

"No but I thought we were going to be friends."

"We were friends."

"No we weren't. You picked Buffy over me. You picked Oz over me."

That got her attention, "I loved Oz."

"And you didn't love me?"

"Yes, I mean No, I mean. You had Cordelia and you would rather have been with her THEN ME." Her voice was breaking.

He opened his mouth to say something but caught himself and remained silent as a hurt look momentarily flashed across his face. His actions went unnoticed by Willow but not by the half demon that was watching with increasing curiosity.

She found her voice and spoke first, "Besides you seemed all love-y dove-y with Anya that you didn't seem to care."

"I didn't care?" Anger crept back into Alex's voice, "When Oz skipped town and left you in tears, who was it that let you sob on their shoulders and held your hand every time you looked like you were about to cry? Then Tara showed up and you started becoming all super witch."

"Don't you DARE talk about Tara Xander!"

"I loved Tara, Willow. I loved her like a sister. But that didn't stop me from concerned about you. I mean you cursed me, Buffy, even Giles. Christ Willow, did it ever occur to you to stop and think about what you were doing?"

The witch didn't answer him. She stared down at her feet trying to find some meaning the dirt and cracked asphalt below. The wind gently brushed a few strands of her hair across her face. She brushed them back not hearing the deep breath Alex took, not hearing him at all until he began speaking.

"I spent what would have been my honeymoon night drinking myself into a stupor in a motel room, Willow. I did the same thing when we first left Sunnydale and stopped in Oxnard. Each time I hoped somehow, somebody would come and see me. But no one ever did, least of all you and Buffy. When I needed my friends the most, I found out I didn't have any." He spoke that last part in a sad voice.

There was a long pause before Travis moved. He quietly walked past Alexander and touched Willow on the arm, startling her. She looked up at him with a confused look on her face. "I think it's time for us to go Willow." Numbly she nodded and started walking towards their car.

Travis watched her go for a little before turning and looking at Alexander. He had also been watching his former best friend leave when he saw the half demon looking at him intently. The two men stared at each other for a long time before Travis spoke.

"My condolences on your losses."

Alex blinked in surprise and then nodded. Silently each man left the alley with a lot to think about.

Chapter 6

The ride back to the school was quiet for the most part. Travis deftly moved in and out of traffic while Willow sat in the passenger seat. Both were deep in thought over the conversation they just had.

Although he had apologized publicly to the boy, inwardly Travis still seethed with anger. In the span of a few short days, his structured way of life and perfect setup had been blown up and tossed aside like garbage. The school hadn't been his idea but he had adapted to it quickly. In part because he recognized how foolish it would be to oppose it and in part because of Buffy. She was hurting physically and emotionally over what happened but she was still his and he would do whatever was necessary to keep her as such.

Which brought him to the current problem. The actions of the Watcher's council had thrown everything into chaos. Their 'champions' as it were had single-handedly managed to upset the two elder slayers and the Witch, not to mention removal of the school figurehead in Giles. They had also managed embolden Wood to the point he was asking questions. Questions that could lead to other questions with answers that the half demon didn't want known. Especially by his present lover and her companions.

Attacking Harris physically was out, though he was stronger then the human, he was certainly no match for Cole. And any direct assault on the former carpenter would likely trigger a negative reaction from the others. Perhaps an indirect attack then? Magic? Or through some intermediaries. Both methods had risk; Magic could be detected and possibly traced while hired help could be made to talk.

Travis frowned as he pulled up to the school and paused. Willow looked over at him expectantly. "I'm terribly sorry Willow but I have a meeting that I must attend to." She nodded dully and got out of the car. He lowered his window and added, "Please don't tell Buffy about my behavior, I don't want her getting upset right now. I'll be back before dark." The witch nodded and made her way into the school. Behind her, Travis raised his window, put the car back into gear and drove off.


Cole had stalked his prey for almost three minutes when the opportunity came. He listened intently while gripping his weapon of choice. Then he heard it, he waited half a heart beat and swung with all of his strength. And promptly whiffed as the ball broke to the outside corner, leaving him swinging at air.


Annoyed, he tapped the ball on the ground and returned his attention to pitching machine. Just as he as was about to swing, a familiar voice interrupted and he only got part of the ball.

"Hey Jerk."

Cole turned around and saw his visitor, "Hey Ken-doll." She glared at him in response. He held up his hands in surrender and made his way over to the machine and shut it off.

"So what's on your mind, Ken?"

"Oh, I don't know how about you assaulting the most experienced slayer in front of numerous eye witnesses?"

"Someone's a little upset I see."

"A little? You snapped her arm and separated her shoulder! What is the matter with you? Failure to communicate MUCH?"

"I can communicate just fine, Ken-doll. To me it sounds like the issue is the language and the content of the message."

"And what is the message? I hate you because of Xander?"

Cole paused as he considered her question, "Hate? No but, I'm disappointed in them. As both friends and in theory champions, they leave a lot to be desired but that's how people are I guess."

"If people are like that, why can't you just let it go?"

"It's not up to me to make that choice, Ken, it's up to them. Look; picture the relationship Xander had with everyone like a tree. Okay?"

She nodded slowly.

"Now trees grow slowly but steadily for the most part. They provide shelter and structure for countless animals and plants. So much so that while you're busy watching the birds on their branches and the squirrels on their limbs, you never really notice the leaves on the tree. You still with me."


"Okay now the problem is trees, even the strongest ones are susceptible to things like diseases and termites and other things. Those sorts of things can kill a tree and cause it to rot from the inside out. Now you can step in and prevent that but only if you pay attention."

Kennedy blinked as understanding spread across her features, "Buffy and Willow didn't pay attention, did they?"

"No, they didn't."

"And you hurting Buffy, was that for him?"

"No, I hurt Buffy because she needed it quite frankly."

"Okay, now I'm lost again."

Cole sighed, "Buffy Summers has gone most of her life and all of her time believing that she above all others is right and that she alone is the one to make every choice."

"And she isn't."

"No man is island and no slayer is the law."

"So you hurt her because she thought she was?"

"Kind of. She's been raised and taught that it's her way or no way at all."

"And you're trying to make her think differently."


She frowned at him, "Kind of heavy handed don't you think?"

"You mean taking a club to a situation that needs a feather?"


"A little." He admitted.

She cocked her head to one side, "What makes you different? What makes you better then her?"

"Nothing makes me better, but I choose to be different."


Cole leaned back the chain link fence a distant look coming into his eyes, "Well, I'm 28, I've been doing this thing since I was 15. I wanted to be a doctor but ended up working as a mechanic after high school for four years. I spent seven years protecting the LifeSpring in my hometown. Then I wandered around the world for awhile, went to Asia, Africa, Europe, even South America. Took on Zombies, Vampires, Shapeshifters, Demons and Golems. You name it, I probably killed it."

"And killing things makes you different?"

"No, choosing to accept other people's help and not treating them like redshirts on Star Trek, makes me different."

"And with the school?"

He smiled at her; "I'm open to suggestions. I was going to meet with Wood and the others individually but I'll listen to any ideas you got."

Kennedy paused to think about that, "Any ideas?"

"Any ideas."

She seemed to mull that over and then saw that he was smiling at her.

"And what are you smiling about?"

Cole waited, then answered in a soft voice, "Nothing. You just remind me of someone."

The young slayer blinked twice, feeling a faint blush on her skin. She shook it off and put a dirty look on her face, "I'm in a healthy, committed relationship. And besides, I don't do guys." She finished in a huff.

He had to laugh as he started walking away from her and restarting the machine. Idly he swung the bat, "That's okay Ken-doll, neither do I. Although there was this one time, I needed a ride."

The look became a scowl and Cole smirked a little, "I was just kidding. I didn't need the ride."

Behind him, the machine whirred up and spat out a ball MUCH quicker and much faster then he had anticipated. Cole turned around just in time to catch the ball right on the chin and promptly collapse.

Kennedy almost started forward but then noticed how he was lying on the ground. She couldn't help it, she started giggling and then laughing. On the ground, Cole slowly drummed his fingers on the ground as he looked up at the laughing girl. He turned and looked up at the ceiling muttering to himself.


"Don't you dare tell anyone how I got this." Cole was holding an ice bag to his face over a rather large and impressive bruise.

"You got it fighting some unspeakably nasty demons, gotcha." Kennedy said in semi-sweet yet serious voice.

The Hunter shot her a dirty look and the two of them set off for the school.

Around the same time, a different sort of conversation was taking place within the VIP rooms of a private club. Travis watched the other man intently, when he had been alerted that someone wanted to meet to conduct a business deal he first thought was to blow it off. But after recent events, he was glad he hadn't.

"So, you will be able to meet the requirements I have for the shipping of my order in addition to the actual order itself" The other man inquired.

"Yes, your order will be processed and shipped as soon as the funds clear."

The man smiled, "Indeed. I was most happy to learn that someone such as yourself was available in this city. Suppliers of 'exotic' materials such as I require are so very rare in this world."

The half demon smiled at his client, "I have been involved with my family's business since I was old enough to walk. I have participated in numerous trips involving both 'freight' and 'passengers'. Believe me when I say that your shipment will come through untouched and without arousing suspicion."

Each man smiled at the other as they shook hands.

"I believe you, Mr. Travis. A pleasure doing business with you."

"And I say the same to you Mr. Thomas."

Chapter 7


"Is he going to be all right?"

"I don't know, Maria." Gwendolyn Post spoke in a reassuring tone, trying to calm the young girl. "He was very confident going into the trial. And he's survived this long as Hunter."

Maria slowly nodded in acceptance.

"But you really don't know if he's going to wake up?" The older British woman turned and addressed the young black teenager. "No I do not. Cole has proven to be a strong and resilient fighter but this is his first test as Hunter that he must face on his own. If he is strong enough in mind and spirit then he will be fine. Otherwise..."

"He won't wake up."


"Hey, it's okay M. Cole's a real strong dude, he can do this. I mean he survived your cooking and all, I'm sure he can whip this."

The young Hispanic girl glared at him for a second then smiled faintly at his remarks before returning her attention the prone body of their friend. Silently they watched, from time to time his body would twitch and they would take a deep breath hoping he would wake up and it would be over.

Gwendolyn Post quietly fingered the knife she carried on her belt, mentally going over instructions she knew by heart. 'In their eighteenth year, the Dreaming shall test the Hunter. If he is sound of mind and spirit, he will emerge with the maturity and wisdom that is part of his birthright. Should he fail to awake it is the task of the Keeper to ensure the next Hunter will arise'.

The British watched her charge with care, praying that he would awaken and dreading her duty should he not.

**End Flashback**

Art Strubble was uncomfortable.

He wasn't uncomfortable with his job; he had been doing it for two years. Before then he had served in the merchant marine for five years. These days he mostly just made 'deliveries' to people and places across the globe. Granted the 'people' weren't always normal or even human he thought, and the cargo was never normal, sometimes it wasn't even dead. Those things didn't bother him anymore; a healthy paycheck helped to soothe away his concerns.

No the reason he was uncomfortable was because of the man he was looking at. He had dealt with a number of customers personally. Some of them were hard cases; some of them were just weird. This guy though was different for some reason, and that unknown reason was why Art's skin was crawling.

"I take it there were no problems en route?" The man, a Mr. Thomas inquired.


"Good. I was wondering if you would be so good as to move this crate into the room down the hall. I have specially prepared it for this crate's contents."

"I ain't no moving man."

"Then go and get one of the other men from outside to assist you."

Art frowned but moved to the door, he called out to the nearest man, "Hey Gene. Come here and help me with something." Not bothering to pay attention to the other man's response, he turned around and walked back into the room. The other man joined him and the two of them struggled to lift the crate and move it down the hall into the room. Behind them Mr. Thomas quietly went to the door and locked it. As he walked down the hall, he pulled on a pair of gloves and followed them into the room. The door clicked shut behind him and there was another clicking sound as it locked. Then silence for a few minutes.

Then the screams began.


"Excuse me, Miss?"

Harmony looked up from her typing, surprised. "Yes?"

"Hello I am Mrs. Hollings. I am one of the new teachers for this school. I was wondering if you could direct me to the school principal's office, I was told that I needed to meet with him when I arrived here."

"Sure wait ONE second." She picked up the phone dialed the connection, "Hello Mr. Wood? Yes one of the new teachers is here and she says she had a meeting arranged with you. Oh okay." The female vampire hung up the phone.

"He'll be right out Mrs. Hollings."

"Thank you."

Robin Wood came out of his office, a little concerned about meeting with these 'new teachers'. What he saw took his breath away. A stunningly attractive black woman in what looked like her late twenties or early thirties was seated in the office. Wood took in a deep breath as he took in the sight of her. Mocha colored skin dressed in conservative if alluring blue business suit. Trying to appear professional, he walked over and introduced himself.

"Hello Mrs. Hollings, I am Principal Wood." He held out his hand, which she took and in turn sent his pulse skyrocketing.

"I am pleased to meet you, Principal Wood."

"Please call me Robin."

"Oh all right, my name is Janet. I must you're not what I expected." The way she finished that sentence almost caused Robin's right to tick noticeably.

"And you're not what I was expecting either." Robin mentally kicked himself for saying that. There was an awkward pause before he continued, "We were just beginning a meeting regarding the future of this school. Would you care to join us?"

"Why thank you Robin, I would love to."

He tried to will his heart to slow down as he led her to the conference room where the meeting was taking place. Graciously he held the door to the room open and invited her to enter first. Inside the room were Alex, Cordelia, Dawn, Amy, Andrew, and Kennedy.

"Everyone this is Mrs. Hollings, one of the new teachers, Alexander told us about." Cordelia noticed the slight change in Wood's demeanor around the woman and wondered what that was about. The new teacher made her across the room and introduced herself to Alex.

"Hell Mr. Harris, I am pleased to meet you. As I said to 'Robin', you're not exactly what I was expecting. The former carpenter accepted her hand and shook it gently, "Thank you Mrs. Hollings. I am happy that you are here and I look forward to working beside you for many years to come."

She smiled back at the younger man and took a seat at the table. "Now before we can continue this meeting," Alex began, "I must ask Mrs. Hollings if she's aware of the nature of this school and it's mission."

"Well, I was told that this school is for 'special young ladies'. If that is what you're asking."

"Do you know what you mean by saying 'special young ladies, Mrs. Hollings?"

The teacher seemed uncertain, as she looked around, "Former gang members?"

That brought a light chuckle from the group, "Not exactly Janet."

Wood leaned over and pressed a button on the intercom, "Harmony could you come in here for a minute."

There was silence in the conference room until the blonde entered the room. "Yes?"

"Harmony would you go stand by Mrs. Hollings?"

She did as he asked. "Mrs. Hollings, could you check Harmony's pulse?"

The black woman looked confused as she grasped the other woman's wrist in her hand. She concentrated trying to count the beats but felt nothing but blonde woman's cold skin. Mrs. Hollings released Harmony's wrist and looked confused. "You didn't feel anything did you Mrs. Hollings?"

"No. I didn't."

Wood nodded and then looked at his secretary, "Harm show Janet, your other face."

"Other face?"

Janet's confusion increased as the beautiful face of the young woman changed, taking on a more frightening appearance complete with yellow animal like eyes. Mrs. Holling's almost fainted as she moved back away from the woman in fear.

"That's enough Harm."

"Okay." She reverted back to her normal human appearance.

"What? What? What?" The teacher was stuttering and Alex gently touched her arm. Calmly and quietly he explained about Vampires, Demons, the Hellmouth and the Slayer.

As he spoke, Mrs. Hollings's fear and confusion faded and a look of understanding spread across her face. "So you're saying that Vampires are real?" Alex nodded. "And that to stop them there was a chosen one, a teenage girl that was given the power to fight and kill them. But now because a spell, there are hundreds of Slayers across the world. And that this school was founded to teach them?"

"Yes. Kennedy here," Alex gestured, "is a full slayer."

The teacher looked back and forth between Kennedy and Harmony. Wood saw her confusion and spoke to her; "Harmony is an exception Janet. She's trying to redeem herself and only drinks animal blood." The female vampire nodded eagerly.

"Are there anymore exceptions?"

"Yes, at this school there are two vampires with their souls, Angel and Spike."

"So they have their souls but Harmony doesn't?"

"It's not that I don't want my soul back it's that I don't how to go about getting it back." Harmony supplied.

"That's something we can look into a later date Harmony." Wood told her which brought a smile to her face.

"In the meantime, Mrs. Hollings, we'd like your input and help as we try create and form a stable curriculum that will benefit the young slayers the most."

Janet frowned for a second, "I thought you said this school was founded to teach them, shouldn't there already be courses of study in place for that?"

Alex answered her, "The original intent of this school was to teach these girls how to slay and survive. We want to create a curriculum that gives them a normal education and teaches them how to live not just survive."

"What you're asking for will take a lot of hard work not to mention dedication, effort, time and money."

"Money is not a problem as for the others, that's why I asked for people like yourself. I wanted the best people for this project and you came highly recommended."

The teacher thought for a few minutes before speaking, "When I was graduating from Northwestern, I always thought I'd be shaping the hearts and minds of the future of the world. I just didn't realize it would be like this." She finished with a smile; "I accept your challenge Alexander Harris."

"All RIGHT!" Dawn shouted as she jumped out of her seat with her fist straight up in the air as Andrew clapped. Everyone else just looked at them. Blushing she sat back down and the others turned to look at Andrew who slowly stopped clapping. Then Cordelia started giggling, it became laughter and spread to the others, even Wood had to laugh.

This went on for several minutes as they laughed themselves out of breath. Kennedy waived her hand about, trying to get everyone's attention while she regained her breath.

"Yes Kennedy?" Alex spoke while trying to take some deep breaths.

"Well I do have one suggestion that might help make things better. I know it's a big deal or anything but."

"But what?" Wood inquired.

She looked at the others; "Can we ditch the uniforms? I mean, they're really ugly and are severely out of date."

There was a pause while the others looked at her and then Cordelia and Harmony looked at each other then at Dawn and Amy. There was an unspoken conversation between the four girls and then they along with Kennedy, looked at Wood and Alex. The two men shifted uncomfortably under their gaze for a minute before Robin spoke, "I'm sure we can come to an agreement about replacing or renovating the dress code."

Alex quickly followed him, "Yeah in the meantime, who wants Pizza? My treat?"

The girls smiled at their discomfort.


Buffy Summers walked into the faculty apartments in a huff. Wincing slightly from the injuries inflicted on her left arm. She was still angry at what had happened to her, in front of the young slayers no less. Cole had taken her and Faith down with ease. Then he had effortlessly torn her shoulder and broken her wrist as though they were twigs. That she had attacked him first didn't justify what he had done to her in her opinion. He had tried to maim her in front of her students and worse yet, he had done it with all the effort of someone using a can opener.

Then there was Xander and his words. The lie he had told her that sent Angel to hell. She hated him for that. For making that decision for her, what made it his right to decide that? 'Worried that she might die or just plain old jealousy. God he's still such a child sometimes. I wish he would just stop trying so hard. Why can't he accept being with me, with us.' She blinked trying to clear her mind and get her attention back on what she was going do.

However, all that changed as she saw someone else waiting for her in the lobby. Seeing him drove all reason and coherent thought from her. Buffy's eyes opened wide and she gawked for lack of a better term as he walked over to her.

"Hello Buffy." Hank Summers greeted his daughter.

Chapter 8

Hank Summers looked down at the girl standing in front of him. She had long dirty blonde hair that curved at the end with blue green eyes that peeked out at the world. Her left arm and shoulder were wrapped carefully in a sling that seemed grossly out of place compared to the rest of her clothing. No matter how old she got she was still his little girl, Buffy.

"Hello Buffy."

She didn't answer right away. Her eyes took in the sight of him. He looked older then he ever had to her, with brown hair fading into gray. His tired voice echoed the lack of emotion in his eyes.

"Why are you here?"

Hank Summers paused as he considered her question; "Your friend Alexander called me. He said we needed to talk".

Xander. Damn. "Well he was wrong, we don't need to talk because I have nothing to say to you."

"Buffy, please. I know I haven't done a lot of good where you and Dawn are concerned. But please let me try."

She looked him over warily before acquiescing, "Fine, follow me." And with that, the daughter led her father up into her apartment. When they were seated, she turned her attention completely to him, "Okay we're here, so talk."

Hank shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. "I'm not going to pretend that I can possibly make up for all the mistakes I made Buffy. I'm just trying to."

"Trying to what? Get back into my life?" She accused him.

"You left me, mom and Dawn all alone so you could be with your secretary off in Spain. You weren't there when we needed you. When Mom was sick, when Dawn was struggling and depressed and when I-." She halted momentarily, "When I needed you, you weren't there."

"No, I wasn't. I screwed up. I thought my work and what I wanted were more important then my family. And I was wrong."

"Oh, and just like that I'm supposed to forgive you? For what you did? For leaving?"

"Buffy please."

"Please what? You left Mom and us high and dry."

"Buffy, I loved your mother-"

"You sure as hell had a funny way of showing it."

He took a deep breath, "Buffy I loved your mother. When we got married it was one of the happiest days of my life. When you and Dawn came along, I was just as happy. But, people change over time. I changed, your mother changed. Our relationship changed, we just grew apart."

"We grew apart? That's your excuse?"

"It's not an excuse Buffy, it's the truth. Your mother and I just ended up going in different directions. I know the divorce was hard on you and Dawn. I'm sorry you were caught in the middle like that. I tried to help when I could. I sent alimony and child support for you and Dawn. I sent her enough money so that you could go to college."

A twitch of emotion ran through her as that bit of information came to light.

"I didn't learn that Joyce had passed away until almost afterwards. And I just lost it. I almost lost my job; I ended the relationship I was in. I started drinking heavily, I was in a very dark and rough place."

Buffy found herself nodding slightly. Her father continued, a distant look coming over his face, "Luckily I had friends, some old friends of your mother and I from college days. They found me and helped me. They listened to me when I needed someone to talk to. When I needed someone, they were there for me." He swallowed forcing some unpleasant memories back.

She sat quietly as images from her past flashed through her mind, memories of things she had done and the people she had known.

"Buffy? Is there something bothering you?"

She didn't answer him, "Buffy I know about some of the things you did. I know about Spike, Angel and Riley. I know you're not like other girls." His daughter looked up as surprise and fear spread across her face. "Dad, I-."

"You don't have to say anything. I know you have a special duty. And I can't think of a better person to handle it."

"I'm not the only one."

"No but you are the best one. You won when others failed."

"Some winner, Sunnydale is just a hole in the ground."

"But, you're here. Dawn's here. Your friends are here."

"Not all of them. Mom's buried in there too."

"Buffy your mother isn't in Sunnydale."


"She's in you and Dawn. In your face, in your voice, in everything you do, that's where Joyce is. Not in some hole in the ground."

Buffy shuddered, "She's not in everything I did. She wouldn't do some of the things, I've done. Or be with the people I'm with."

Hank looked at his daughter as she seemed to shrink before his eyes, "Buffy, you can't keep doing that."

"Doing what?"

"Blaming yourself for everything. It's not all your fault, you're still a young woman, you're still growing up."

A few minutes of uncomfortable silence passed before she spoke again, "Dad, about Angel and Spike-."

He raised his hands up as he interrupted her, "You don't have to explain anything to me, Buffy. I know they were older then you and that maybe that's what you needed."

Buffy blinked thinking 'he doesn't know' as Hank continued, "And I know that sometimes, girls without a father, try to find him again in their lives somehow."

Buffy's stomach was in knots, as she listened, "I don't want you trying to justify to me what happened or why you did those things. All I want is for you and Dawn to be happy. So are you?"


"Why not?"

"Because I don't know what to do."

"What do about what?"

"Xander, Alexander, he hates me. He thinks I abandoned him. And now he's here trying to-"

"Buffy, stop. Xander, he was the one that called me?" She nodded. "Your mother mentioned some of your friends last time we talked, she said there was a boy that was always around you and always trying to help. That was Xander wasn't it?"

Buffy nodded, "He helped me out on the first day of school. He even saved my life once."

"And why does he think you abandoned him?"

"I didn't choose him." The words slip out before she can help herself.

Hank sighed, "Why not?"

"He wasn't. He wasn't what I wanted."

"And is what you have now, what you wanted?"

"It's better what I've had."

"That isn't what I asked."

Her silence spoke for itself.

"Buffy, you can't go through your life afraid."

"I'm not afraid of anything."

"Then why are you here instead of trying to fix things with your friend?"

"Because I don't know what to do."

"I think you do Buffy. I just think you're afraid to do it. You're afraid of your friend and I don't know why. That's something only you know."

Hank stood up slowly wincing as he did so; "I'm going to go see Dawn before I leave."


He looked down at her; "I have a flight to catch tonight Buffy. I can't stay, I wish I could but I can't."

Hesitantly, Buffy stood up and faced him. Father and daughter stared at each other uncomfortably before she moved to the door and opened it. Hank followed and went out into the hall. "She's usually in the library right now. If not her room is one floor up, second door down." He nodded and prepared to leave.


Hank turned around to see her come to up him slowly. She bit her lip and embraced him awkwardly. He brought his arms around her and spoke gently into her hair, "I love you." "I missed you."

They stood like that for a while. Afraid to let go, afraid to say goodbye one more time.

Chapter 9


"So we're all in agreement that this is the curriculum we'll be teaching?" Alex asked the other who nodded. Seeing that he returned his gaze to the outline on the paper in his hand. The original concept of the school had taken all the facets of a Slayer's life Weight training, reflexes, weapon instruction, etc... and meld them with a few 'normal' courses like English and math. After a lengthy discussion about the purpose of the Slayer as it relates to society (which featured a lot of philosophical talk from Andrew, oddly enough) it was decided to reverse that.

From now on, the academy would be run like an actual private academy. The 'normal' courses like English and Math were expanded and a great deal of focus and emphasis would be placed on them. In some cases, they found themselves having to create new classes like chemistry and modify old ones (Ancient Languages) to fit to be more relevant (Spanish). Changes were also made to the school's day to day activities, starting with the relaxation of the uniform rule and an agreement to update and improve the cafeteria. Other decisions like creating a program that would allow the girls to get part time jobs and begun earning a paycheck were considered but tabled for the moment.

The biggest decision came regarding the 'Slayer' courses. After a heated and detailed debate between Dawn, Kennedy and Wood, a few things were decided. First, every day would start with a 15-minute calisthenics session. Nothing too strenuous just enough to get the girls awake and ready to go for the rest of the day. Three one hour sessions per week were scheduled for more thorough workouts. It was decided that the girls who performed the best in those workouts would be eligible for additional instruction PROVIDED that they match their physical feats in the classroom.

None of the young slayers would be allowed to patrol until they passed a series of psychological exams and tests. Additional exams and tests would be administered every few weeks and after every patrol the girls went on. Alex who had enough nightmares after patrolling with Buffy for a lifetime insisted the last part.

Satisfied that everything was in order, Alex signed the paper along with Wood and the others. Copies of it would be faxed to the Watcher's Council headquarters as well to the headquarters of the Initiative.

"Anything else?" Wood asked.

"Yeah regarding the faculty situation," Alex began, "We need to discuss the future of some faculty members." A phrase that sent warning bells off inside Dawn and Cordelia's head.

"Alex, you mean Willow don't you?" Dawn spoke quietly sensing Kennedy stiffen in reaction.

He looked at her as he answered, "And Winfred".

"Is there a problem with Ms. Burke and Ms. Rosenberg?" Mrs. Hollings inquired.

"Willow... she was a hacker when she was younger, her background as a teacher is limited to filling in when the computer teacher at our high school was killed. She's not really qualified to be a teacher."

"Neither was Cordelia and she's done a pretty good job." Kennedy interjected.

"Kennedy, I know you care about Willow," He began, "But she's got a lot to deal with now. And it's not going to get any easier for her down the road." Alex hoped his tone and the look in his eye would convey the message to her.

"What about Cordelia?"

"I'm quitting."

Everyone looked at her in surprise, "What? I was never a really good teacher. Hello, failed actress trying to teach drama?"

"You're not a failure Cordy, things just didn't break for you and there was a lot of other stuff going on."

His words brought a sweet smile to her face, "Thank you Xander."

"What about Fred?" Amy tried getting the conversation back on topic

"Fred?" Mrs. Hollings had a confused look on her face.

"It's her nickname," Cordelia explained, "and I'm kind of curious myself Alex. She is our only physics teacher and she's very smart."

"She sure doesn't act like it. Look, Fred maybe one of the most intelligent people around but she's got some 'issues' that I don't think the students should be exposed to." Everyone nodded, all but Mrs. Hollings realizing that by 'issues' he meant 'Spike'. "And until she does, I don't want the chance those issues will hurt the students. We'll find a new teacher to teach physics." The others smiled, none more so then Wood.

As the meeting broke up, Wood walked over to Alex with his smile still firmly in place as he clasped the other man on the back.

"What?" Alex was confused.

"Twice in the meeting you referred to them as 'students', I'll make you into a educator yet."

Alex groaned in response.


The man knelt down in front of the doorway. The floor beneath his feet was inscribed with unrecognizable markings and symbols. The room changed, taking on an air of darkness but filled with energy. The man smiled as he watched a dark purplish energy form inside the open door, the energy expanded outward until it formed a sphere less then two feet in diameter. Inside the sphere, a cloaked figure sat upon a throne cloaked in darkness.

"What news you bring me?"

"I bring much news, my lord. This world is different then any other. It's energies and resources vast, it's people weak and ignorant."

"And of it's defenders?"

"They are also weak and ignorant. Unable to stand apart from the darkness, they willingly stay in it."

The figure gave but a simple gesture and the sphere seemed to shake and then dissolve. As the last the of it's energies faded away, the man remained where he was. He listened to the sounds of his 'home' beneath him. The sounds of things that preferred to remain unseen.

And Mr. Thomas laughed as he listened to those sounds.


"Hello mate, Buffy kick you out of her room?"

"Hello," there was a pause as Travis gritted his teeth, "Spike." He had neither the time nor the inclination to deal with the vampire. "To what do I owe this visit?"

The blonde vampire smiled, he knew the half-breed disliked him as much for his behavior as much as the fact that he had Buffy before him. "Just popped around to see what was going on. What with Xander being all 'Big Man' and throwing his weight around. First time the whelp gets any power what so ever and he's all into people's business."

Travis pretended to be uninterested in what Spike had to say. "If you have business with Alexander I should think you would be best served speaking with him about it."

Spike lit a cigarette, very much aware that the other man hated the smoke. "Ain't that simple mate. Xander's got that other chap in him. Neither one of them is likely to give me a fair shake in any sort of deal."

"And why is that Spike?"

"Well," he took a drag off of the cigarette, exhaling the smoke as he spoke, "I don't know much about the other bloke but Harris has plenty reason to hate me. Shagged his girl and his 'hero' both of them, right in front of him I did. Better then he ever could."

The half-demon didn't react to the implied message that the vampire 'knew' Buffy better then he did. Instead he waited for Spike to continue which he did at length; "Way I figure it. It's only a matter of time before the boy decides to try and take his frustration on me. "

"It seems as though that would be a problem between you and him, then William."

Spike exhaled a large puff of smoke out of his mouth before answering, "You'd think that but it wouldn't just be me he'd be after. There's the poof, yourself and Buffy herself of course."

That got a reaction, albeit a small one.

"Yeah, the whelp's always been a little jealous one he has. Always wanting the slayer to look at him like she looks at you or me or Angel. It always irritated him that she saw him as just the scared little boy he was, not like a man. The other one did it too you know. Talked to me like a man ought to be talked to. I think she even thought of Ol' Broody like that."

Spike's words hung in the air like the smoke from his cigarette. Silence followed as Spike extinguished the butt of his cigarette and walked out the door. He paused before leaving the apartment, "Be seeing you around mate."

Norfolk, Virginia

Dr. Victoria Berns sat at her desk, examining the pile of documents, folders, DVD's and CD's. It was the sum of the project's knowledge about the three point men involved in the mission. There were detailed written profiles of Riley Finn, Alexander Harris and Cole Rayne; both the Project and the Watcher's Council had evaluated each man. Finn had further profiled Harris and Rayne in separate reports while Finn's commander had written one on Riley himself. Additionally there were detailed accounts and summaries of actions and encounters that each had been involved in. With Harris and Finn their accounts had been checked against the official records for veracity whenever possible and verified. In the case of Rayne, his accounts were deemed 'unproven but in the absence of any contradictory evidence, acceptable'.

The problem she now faced was in evaluating all three. Agent Finn was fairly easy to understand. A boy born and raised in the heartland had jumped at the opportunity and had until the incident with Dr. Walsh, obeyed orders without question. After her death, Finn had gone AWOL siding and operating with the slayer, Buffy Summers, and her companions including Harris for a short time until circumstances necessitated the intervention by former Initiative members for his health. Shortly there after, Finn had rejoined the military and left Sunnydale behind. His absence ended when he returned with his wife to neutralize a spawning demon. Things between him and Summers had not gone well and his departure was the last time he had been around Summers personally. The slayer's action regarding the vampire known as 'Hostile 17' AKA Spike AKA William the Bloody were apparently known to him but he made no note as such in any of his files. In the end, she decided that Riley fit the mission specifications. He was dedicated, experience, well trained, not prone to rash decisions and with a good moral background.

The other two were less of a sure thing in her opinion. Cole was an unknown at this point. He appeared competent in the field, intelligent, capable of taking commands and extremely effective in combat. There were concerns about his 'condition' as it were but no evidence to give them cause for worry, yet.

Alexander Lavelle ('What sort of name is Lavelle?') Harris could very well be cause for concern. Born and raised in Sunnydale itself, he had remained ignorant of his home's 'nightlife' until his sophomore year of high school. Judging by what records there were his childhood had not been a pleasant one yet not a unique one either. He had forged strong ties to several other children including Amy Madison, Jesse McNally, and Willow Rosenberg. Ties that for some reason had started fading roughly the same time as the slayer Buffy Summers arrived.

She read through the accounts and summaries regarding the adventures of Summers, Harris, Rosenberg and Summer's watcher, Mr. Giles. At some point the group had given itself the nickname 'The Scoobies' and others had joined it's ranks including two vampires, a werewolf, a former demon, Summer's sister, two female lovers of Rosenberg, the second slayer, the son of a slayer, a former gang member, a thief, and no less then two former classmates of Harris's. There was a pattern there she was certain of it. Pulling out her notepad, she started writing down the names along with a simple one-word description. When Dr. Berns reached the end, she was startled by her results. Next to each there was a word that described them, "vampire", "witch", "slayer", all except for Harris. The space next to his name was blank.

Confused Victoria looked over at the stack of evidence before settling on the stacks of DVD's and CD's. With a sigh, she reached out, picked them up and sat them down next to her computer. Carefully, she opened the disk drive on her machine and inserted the first disc. As it began to play, she flipped to a fresh sheet of paper to take notes and prepared herself for a long day.

Chapter 10


"So I guess you're it."

Cole spoke as he regarded the figure in front of him. A man dressed in medieval-looking clothing with coal black hair and grayish skin. His face was that of a cruel, harsh man with burning red pools of light where their eyes had been. Swallowing, he noted the creature seemed to be studying him as well and continued talking.

"You're the new 'big bad guy' drawn here to kill me and destroy the world or whatever." He paused to look more closely at the creature, "What the hell are you anyway?"

The thing's glare seemed to intensify as its eyes glowed brighter. Had Cole been chewing gum he surely would have swallowed it. As it was, he felt his body go numb and fear seemed to shoot through him. The phrase 'blood turning cold as ice' immediately ran thru his mind. The creature raised its right hand and pointed it at him. Black lighting tinged with purple erupted forth from it and for a split second Cole thought he was going to die. That though vanished as the lighting struck him but didn't kill him. Instead, it wrapped around his body, binding his arms to his sides and rendering him unable to move.


Cole looked up in surprise as the thing spoke. It seemed to regard him for a second before walking towards him. The creature stopped right in front of him and continued it's visual inspection.

"You know, if you're just gonna speak one word at a time, this could be a REALLY long conversation and I have work in the morning."

The creature flicked it's wrist slightly and Cole was yanked off his feet. He hung suspended in mid-air, his body rotated until he was lying on his back facing the ground. Confused, the hunter looked up at his impromptu captor.

"Hero," the thing repeated it's first word in a voice that sent chills up and down Cole's spine. He listened as it continued. "Heroes are a lie. An illusion created by themselves and those around them. I am the truth. I am POWER made flesh." It paused and regarded him, "for decades I ruled my people as a man, now I will rule ALL people as I am now."

Cole struggled to free himself briefly before replying, "Oh is that so? What you're gonna go on Donahue and bore people to death with your life story until they let you rule?"

The thing simply raised it's hand and Cole went backwards slamming into a mausoleum behind him with enough force to knock the air out of his lungs. The creature remained where it stood and slowly lifted it's other hand in a simple gesture and spoke, "Arise".

He took a deep breath trying to his wind back before he answered, "I'd like to but he seem to have me a little tied up here." When it didn't reply, Cole opened his mouth to say something else when he heard the noises. Noises he that sounded familiar, somehow. He looked around trying to sense where the sounds were coming from when he saw a skeletal arm burst up from beneath the dirt. Others joined it and as he watched a half dozen things dragged themselves from the ground. They didn't resemble zombies, vampires or anything else he had previously fought. Indeed, they looked little more then walking skeletons though unarmed ones. Of course in his current imprisoned state, it mattered little if they were armed or not.

Cole was so caught up in analyzing the situation he paid no attention to the sound of stone and rock moving behind him. The chosen one gulped and put on a brave face, "I don't think the groundskeeper here is gonna appreciate you messing up his work like that. He's pretty touchy about that sort of stuff. I remember this one time-". His voice died as the red-eyed creature focused it's attention on him again.

"Consider this, a harbinger of things to come. Hero." And then it faded from view.

To his relief, Cole felt his bonds weaken so slightly. Of course that meant little as the skeleton looking things started walking closer to him. He shifted his weight trying to break free and succeed in falling face first into the dirt. As he lay there momentarily stunned he heard the sound of something moving and felt something approach him. Looking up, Cole expected to see one of the skeletal creatures grinning down at him. Instead he saw the stony face of a gargoyle stature staring at him. Except that most statures don't have blue glowing eyes or the ability to growl at people. The gargoyle leaned closer to him and opened it's mouth to reveal surprising sharp- looking teeth. At that point, Cole said the first thing that sprang to mind.

"Oh boy."

**End Flashback**


The two people, a man and a woman moved in unison. Each was a perfect reflection of the other; their movements were smooth, conducted with an air of grace and no wasted motion. Slowly they finished and brought their hands together in front of themselves. The woman took a deep breath and let it out trying to remain calm. Behind her, Angel watched with concern on his face.

"Faith, you've got to keep your calm."

"Trying to Fang, just not doing so good."

"What's wrong."

She seemed to shrug off his question and walked away from him to where her workout towel lay. Faith silently mopped the sweat off her brow as Angel watched her.

"Faith," He began.

"I heard ya the first time Angel," She paused, "I just thought I had more time."

"More time?"

The dark slayer turned around to face him; "I should be used to it by now, running out of time. I mean it's been like that my whole life. Every time something good happened it wouldn't last. It would always fall apart one way or another. I thought I was used to it, even in SunnyDale, I knew things wouldn't last. When I came back with Red, I thought this was going to be it. One way or another, I wasn't going to be able to just walk away this one."

"But you did."

"Yeah, just not like I thought I would. I mean, I had people who I thought I could hang with, a guy that cared a little about me and everything. Then HE goes and screws everything the hell up."


"Yeah, Xman. I mean, what gives him the right to strut on in here and kick the shit out of us whenever he wants."

Angel waited a minute before answering, "I don't recall him doing that, Faith."

She looked at him in surprise as he continued, "As I remember it wasn't Xander who attacked you first and even then he was defending himself."

"Defend himself? He beat the shit out me, threatened to kill you and Spike. Then snapped B's arm like a twig."

"That was Cole, Faith. Not Xander."

"Yeah well X, sure as hell didn't stop him."

"No he didn't."

Faith just looked at him incredulously, "And you're okay with what he did?"

"No, I'm not okay with what he did Faith. The Xander I remember wouldn't have done any of those things. But, the Willow I remember wouldn't have tried to destroy the world and the Buffy I remember wouldn't have done a lot of the things she did either. The man I see now isn't the boy I knew in Sunnydale. He's changed, become a man. A man I don't recognize, never dreamed he would be and somehow I don't think anyone else did either."

He looked a little harder at Faith, "I don't know what happened in Sunnydale after I left. I know things and people changed, I guess I didn't realize how much they had changed."

"Why did you leave?"

"Because I wanted what was best for Buffy. I wanted to see her walk in sunlight. I wanted to see her happy. I guess that didn't work out."

The slayer considered his words briefly, "You know when you came back from Hell, X was all for seeing me stake you."

Angel nodded, "I couldn't really blame him."

That threw Faith for a second, "What?"

"He had to stake his best friend Faith. He helped organize patrols with Willow, Cordelia and Oz when Buffy ran away. He blew up a demon with a rocket launcher," the vampire paused noting the surprised expression on her face, "Xander was always there trying to make things easier for Buffy. If it meant staking me so that Angelus couldn't threaten her anymore, he would have done it."

"That's why you're not pissed that he lied to Buffy about the spell."

He nodded. "I don't know what happened in those last few days in Sunnydale Faith."

She held up her hands to stop him, "I didn't do anything to him, A."

"Not even tell him you're sorry?"

Faith frowned at that, "What is it with you guys? First Wood, now you."

"Wood told you to apologize?"

She shrugged in response and Angel focused on her more intently, "Why didn't you? Why haven't you?"

"Didn't seem important."

"Doesn't it seem important now Faith?"

Silence followed Angel's words before Faith threw the towel down and stalked from the gym. The vampire watched her leave and then lowered his gaze to the towel on the mat.

"Good luck Xander."


Amy watched as Dawn, Cordelia and Andrew chatted amiably with Mrs. Hollings. A little further away Wood and Alex were talking. She felt someone touch her arm, turning she found Kennedy staring at her rather intensely before nodding her back towards the conference room. Silently she followed the younger woman back inside, closing and locking the door as she did so. Turning she found Kennedy was now glaring at her in undisguised hatred. Amy didn't bother waiting for the slayer to open her mouth before starting.

"So I guess you're still pissed off at me."

"Still? You tried to KILL her AND me."

"And? She tried to kill ME BEFORE. Hell, she tried to destroy the whole world before. Xander was the only one that stopped her." She finished with a trace of bitterness in her voice.

Kennedy continued to glare at her, "Willow wasn't going to blow up the world. She could have stopped herself." That provoked a harsh laugh from the other woman.

"Willow, stop herself? God how naïve are you? When we were kids, she was desperate to get attention, especially Xander's. That's all she wanted was for him to never leave her alone. She started hacking into the school's computer to bump up his grades and arrange his schedule so she would always have him around."

The slayer blinked at hearing that bit of news. Amy continued on, "She pined away for him for years, always wanting him to see her. And when she FINALLY got him, she threw him away. Yet there he was, stopping her killing all of us. He was the only that could."

Kennedy swallowed, "I could have stopped her."

Amy laughed, "Yeah right. Not even Tara could have stopped her." She noted the slayer's reaction to that name. "Problem Kennedy?"

"No." Her voice wavered slightly drawing a slight smile from Amy. "I guess you're more confident then I thought I would be. I don't know if I could handle never being more then second best to Xander."

And with that Amy unlocked the door and left the room, leaving the young slayer deep in thought.

Chapter 11

"I told you he would go for the dress code changes. He was putty in my hands."

"Our hands you mean."

Dawn smiled at Cordelia as the two of them chatted and watched the others. Amy and Kennedy had retreated back inside the meeting room for the moment, doubtless to discuss their little problems. Andrew was excitedly explaining something to Mrs. Hollings who was doing her best to look interested and follow along. Xander and Wood were quietly talking off to one side.

Cordelia's expression changed suddenly and Dawn looked behind her, trying to see what she was looking at. The younger brunette turned and a look of surprise spread across her face.


"Hi Dawnie," Hank Summers slowly approached his youngest child. He stopped a few feet from where she and Cordelia were standing. The area around them became silent as the other people watched the meeting of father and daughter. Tears slowly trailed down Dawn's cheeks as she tried to come to grips with what was happening. She was shaking slightly as she addressed him.

"I... I can't believe it's you."

"It's me Dawn. I promise it's me."

"Where were you? Why are you here, now?"

"Dawn, I promise I'll explain everything. But can we talk in private?"

The one time Key hesitated and looked back at Cordelia and the others. Slowly they nodded their agreement and Dawn bit her lip. Still shaking somewhat she gestured at the door they exited. Hank followed her inside, pausing to allow Kennedy to leave the room.

Xander watched the events unfold with a minimum of interest. He had contacted Hank and persuaded him to visit his children, if nothing else then to provide a sense of family and finality to Dawn's (and secretly Buffy's) lives. Now as he looked on, it looked vaguely possible that something more could develop. Perhaps Dawn could indeed salvage a relationship with her father.

'Good for her and him. Learn to love one another before it's too late'. A sharp pain went through his head, causing him to wince involuntarily. 'Damnit. Pills must be wearing off.' What happened next also caused him to wince, though not from physical pain.

"Yo Harris."


He watched the dark slayer stride towards him with an intense look on her face. Beside him, Robin Wood watched his girlfriend slow down and halt in front of the other man. Faith slowly put her hands on her hips as she sized her target up before speaking.

"Been a while X. Way you been acting, a girl could get the wrong idea."

"And what idea might that be Faith?"

"That you're avoiding me."


"And it's not just me. It's Red and B too. Seems to me like ever since you came back and took over, you been running from us."

"Well I guess you would be wrong then Faith."

"Oh?" She cocked an eyebrow as she studied him.

"Your idea wasn't wrong, I was avoiding you."

The Boston native waited for him to continue and then frowned when he didn't.

"Why are you avoiding me?"

"I guess you forgot that part of my speech where I said I didn't want you in my life anymore."

"I thought that was B and Red."

"That was for all of you."

"Even C and little D? You seem awfully chummy with the people don't want in your life in anymore."

"I changed my mind."

"Oh and that applies to them but not to us."

"They're my friends."

"And what does that make B? And Willow?"

Alex didn't answer her. Faith's frown deepened as her mood soured, "What does that make me?"


His answer seemed to surprise her as he continued, "It makes you nothing. Just the same as I was to you, nothing. You mean about as much as a coffee table to me."


"No, no bullshit here Faith. I don't give a rat's ass about you or your feelings or anything else. As far as I'm concerned you don't matter anymore then cashier at Doublemeat Palace."

An incredulous look covered the slayer's face briefly. She shook it off and a look of resolve took it's place. "Harsh words to be saying, X." She spoke in a questioning tone.

"Nothing harsh about it Faith. Just the plain and simple truth of the matter."

"Oh, well you sound kinda intense for a guy that is just speaking the truth. Sure you don't need a workout to let off some steam?" Faith's voice had taken a sultry tone, "What about Rob, umm for a group workout?"

Wood opened his mouth to try and defuse the situation when he noticed a brief shudder run through Alex. The former carpenter closed his eyes briefly, as he appeared to try and regain focus. Faith blinked as she watched him apparently calm himself down. Mentally she congratulated herself for taking him down a peg. That is until he opened his eyes and fixed her with a look that formed a ball of ice in her stomach.

Slowly clenching and unclenching his hands by his sides, Alex started walking by her. Realizing her mistake, Faith tried to get his attention.

"Look, I'm sorry."

He barely paid any attention and continued walking away.

"Xander, damnit. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I tried to kill you."

That slowed him momentarily then he began walking again. Faith grew upset and grabbed his right arm trying to stop him.

"X, didn't you hear me? I said I was sorry."

"Yeah, you're sorry. I'm sure family of the people you killed are okay with the fact that you're sorry. Sorry doesn't mean a hell of a lot. Especially coming from you."

Faith tried to say something as she yanked again on his arm. In retrospect, she would recognize her biggest mistake was grabbing his upper arm by the shirt and not the arm itself. Doing so would have led to things playing out differently. Instead, Xander was free rip his arm out of her grasp and backhand her across the face. It's a blow she's seen many times in her life and sometimes even been a victim of prior to her being called as a Slayer. Faith never again expected to struck like that, least of all Alexander Harris. She was left to hold her jaw and cover her bruised cheek as she stared at the man who hit her. The look is one she is also familiar with, having seen it accompany the blow she just received.

Silently the others watched along with her as Alex walked away from them. Blinking, Mrs. Hollings turned her attention to a stunned Andrew Wells. She cleared her throat politely to get his attention again before asking, "Does that happen often?"


The hellmouth in this city was far smaller then it's Sunnydale counterpart. It had only recently come into existence in the 1950's. Presently it was buried deep under the city as yet unearthed by those around it. Yet despite those factors, it was not inactive. Indeed, it was prone to releasing minor waves of energy that spread outward across the city. In Sunnydale such waves led to the creation of ADAM and drew vampires in droves. Here they attracted far fewer vampires but tended to have other, more interesting and sometimes deadlier results.

In this case, a wave, unique in both composition and strength was released and slowly spread across the city, seemingly searching for something.


Xander managed to make it to his room with no other distractions. He slammed the door shut and headed towards the bedroom. Like the rest of the apartment it was bare, stripped almost entirely of furnishings. Fred's things had been moved into storage mostly as the logistics of finding her a new place to stay had not been worked out yet. Adding yet another apartment building was an idea that had been considered but nothing had been decided.

Right now, He didn't give a damn about any of that as he located the bottle of pain pills. Quickly, Alex opened it and popped two pills into his mouth. He swallowed them with the last of the water from a glass by his bed. Xander refilled the glass with water and drained it before placing the glass on the counter. He put his head in his left hand as he hoped the throbbing pain would subside soon. His right hand slipped into his pants pocket in search of something. Finding it, he unconsciously wrapped his hand around it's familiar shape. It's thin shape and cool metal feel brought his attention away from his physical pain to something else, a different kind of pain. One that didn't go away with pills and hadn't faded in more then two years.

'Some things are forever'.


The wave released from the Hellmouth found what it was looking for in a dingy movie theater. Here it found feelings of fear, betrayal, grief, vengeance and murderous desire. The theater itself was unremarkable save the fact that it was running a marathon of slasher films. What was remarkable was what was happening in the theater itself. There a group of friends had gone to the movies on what they thought was another fun trip together.

At least that was the plan before one of their number revealed himself to be a vampire. The former young man in question, Toby Myles, had been turned the previous night and had lured the others to this location. He had already killed one of his former friends quite violently by ripping his throat open and splattering blood everywhere, even on the movie screen. He was in the process of draining the projection booth operator/usher that had come to try and save the others. Sitting in her seat was his blood splattered best friend nerdish girl with blonde hair named Crystal. She was too terrified to move, having seen the fates of the others. Now tears mixed with the blood on her face as incoherent mumbling as she wept and cowered.

Toby grinned at her as he continued to feed off the corpse in his arms. Neither he nor Crystal noticed the flicker of light behind him. Instead the vampire kept his eyes firmly on the girl in front of him as he finished feeding. He didn't pay attention to the footsteps of the rather large figure that came up behind him.

It was only when he smelled something strange did he release his hold and happen to glance back. As he did so, something rammed thru his chest. He barely had time to recognize the wooden handle of a shovel and mutter "What the fuck" before he turned to dust.

Crystal started blubbering as she watched him dust, thanking her rescuer even as fresh tears came from her eyes. That was until she saw who had saved her and her eyes widened as the figure flipped the shovel around in his hands.

"Please no. Please. Please I didn't do anything. Please don't do this. Please, Plea-", her cries were cut off as the shovel was shoved through her chest, ripping apart her heart and lungs and pinning her to the seat. The hulking figure watched as her blood leaked out and stained the carpet before walking out the fire exit out into an alleyway.

He paused to seemingly survey the empty alley, turning his head in each direction. His eyeless hockey mask gave no indication of his thoughts or if he had any thoughts at all. Instead, Jason Vorhees picked a direction and started walking.


Chapter 12

Dawn considered the man before her. Though her memories of Hank Summers were fake, the feelings they generated were all too real to her. This was indeed her father, the man that as far as she knew had abandoned her, Buffy and their mother.

Across from her, Hank Summers studied his youngest daughter. Though he would never know that she was never 'his', her appearance, voice, everything about her spoke to him on some level. There was a gentle strength about her, a trait he felt not only from Joyce but also from his own mother, Anne. Hesitantly he cleared his throat before speaking.

"That's a lovely dress you're wearing."

"It was a present from Cordelia. She's a friend of mine."

"A friend?"

"Well, more like a sister."

"Oh. How are you getting along with Buffy?"

"We're good. Things were rough awhile, had trouble making ends meet, but we're good."

"Dawn, I-I never meant to hurt you or her."

"Well you did. You ran off and left me and Mom without saying a word."

"If you're waiting for me to make an excuse Dawn, I can't. I can't excuse what I've done, what happened or why I did it. There are no words or reasons to explain why. I can't even tell you it won't happen again. All I can do is say I'm sorry that it happened and that I hope one day I can your father again."

Dawn looked over at him, thinking for a long time before answering, "Okay."


Faith shifted beneath the covers of her bed. The feel of the satin sheets on her bare chest usually felt erotic and helped get her going. But not right now, now all they did was keep her away for some reason. The bed shifted as the lamp overhead clicked on, bathing the room in it's soft light. Wood sat up on his elbows looking over at her. He watched for a second, gauging the expression on her.

"What's the problem Faith?"


"You seem worked up about something."

"It's nothing, all right."

"Faith," he let his hand drift down and grab hers, "what's wrong?"

As if in answer, she brought her other hand up and cupped the ugly bruise on her cheek and tried to look away.

"Oh. Is that still bothering me?"

"Yes it's bothering me. The last asshole that hit me like that, ended up in the emergency room."

"Faith...You did the right thing."

"What? By letting him hit me? Or letting him walk away?"

"Both. You're not the woman you were back then. If Alexander can't see that then that's his problem."

"When did you get so sappy?"



She remembers that trip well. The serene cityscape covered in snow, seeing her breath in Gorky Park on a crisp winter day. That was one of the few trips they had taken that really was both business and pleasure. A guilty smile graced her face.

"I see your remember."

"You looked hilarious in that fur cap."

Wood let of her hand and leaned over her. He looked down into her eyes, seeing and sensing the desire building within them.

"I thought I looked pretty damn good myself."

Their lips touch gently for a few seconds before Faith responds in a sultry voice "Always fishing for a compliment. We got work to do tomorrow W."

"Faith, that's tomorrow," Robin kissed her deeply, feeling her legs spread to allow him access. He left a trail of kisses from her mouth down her and across the top of her chest.

"This is tonight."


'I like the quiet'.

'Or rather I USED to like the quiet'.

Xander shifted slightly in 'his' new bed. It wasn't really new or even his, Fred had brought it with her from LA. When she had relocated, the bed had been something she had been forced to leave behind until she could find room for it. Truthfully Xander would have happily slept on the floor if that were an option. But Cordelia and Dawn had insisted. So on another's bed he slept; at least he had been able to buy a new mattress, sheets, pillows and everything else. He was damned if he was going to sleep on the same sheets where Spike and Fred had consummated their relationship and did God knows what.

The thought of Spike and Fred together revolted him on many levels. He knew that Winfred had been involved with another man, Charles Gunn before Spike. Gunn was similar to himself in many ways; a normal human with no real powers other then a strong right hook and willingness to fight. Or he had been until making deal of sorts. He didn't know the specifics he didn't care to. All he knew was that Gunn wasn't here and none of the former Team Angel members knew where he was.

He glanced around at the now barren walls of the apartment. Fred had taken down all the photos, paintings and other things she had and packed them away in boxes. Likewise most of her furniture was gone as well as all of her clothing. There had been quiet discussions about adding another wing to the apartment complex but nothing had been agreed upon as of yet. For now, Xander was left with a mostly empty apartment with only a few generic tables, chairs and a beaten up recliner in it.

It's strange, he hasn't been a place this barren since... since the motel two years ago. Back then he understood, the motel room was supposed to be featureless. It has new people in it every night, new heads on pillows, etc... It's whole purpose was give someone a place that looked like home for about 24 hours. This room's emptiness was different though, some one had lived here, and they had been making a life for themselves.

Until they had been forced into leaving. Forced to pack up their things into boxes. Forced to put aside their memories, thoughts and feelings for the will of another. They were adapting to their new situation though, after all, a person's greatest strength is often their resiliency, and he should know that better then anyone. Given the things he's faced, the fact that he survived is in itself a miracle.

But not everyone survives or makes it out. Xander brought his gaze down to the object he held in his hands. It's only a simple, golden band; there is nothing extraordinary about it save on the inside. There, written in a flowing style script was the word, "Forever". That one word is enough to have the grief well up inside him again.

'Forever' didn't happen and it almost killed him. If it had happened, maybe he would have died anyway. But, he'll never know, it like a lot of his life was swallowed up and consumed by the darkness he faced on a daily and nightly basis. It's not like he didn't try though, he really thought maybe he had shot again. Just a glimmer of hope until the end.

Now all he has are memories, memories that grow fainter during the day but return at night. Especially on a night like tonight, on nights like this he would get out of the shower and lay down. He would feel her cuddle up to him, silently pleading to be held and he would. Xander would revel in her softness, her warmth, and her desire to be there with him.

He missed having that warmth, her smile, and the sound of voice as she blurted something out, the expression on her face and in her eyes. He even missed having her cold feet on his back at night. He even the odd food she developed a taste for, taking up most of the refrigerator space.

Nights like this, the loneliness seems to draw his memories to the surface. Xander remembers shopping for the ring he now holds in his hand with her. Anya was nervous yet excited about it. They had tried on and discussed rings for almost an hour before finding the ones they wanted. After both were sized, they had decided to customize their rings, adding 'Forever' inside the band. The glow on Anya's face as they left the shop had been such that he joked that she could turn a vamp to dust with it. They had giggled and returned home.

He would have bet anything that seeing her after giving the ring for real, that the glow then would have visible for miles around. But he never got the chance, instead the only thing he gave her was pain and grief, things she returned full force by being with another and letting him see it all. Still even after all that, he thought they had a chance. Xander knew she had her ring, he had seen it in her purse. He had been of a mind to drive them out to Las Vegas, have a quickie ceremony and return home. But even that idea was gone, buried under tons of rumble and debris.

One part of him raged to no end that her sacrifice had gone unnoticed and unacknowledged while the actions of another had been hailed and lauded. Part of him wishes to do anything to get them to see what she did and why she did it. But he knows that if it hasn't happened now, it will never happen.

Anya is gone.

She'll never laugh again at his feeble attempts at humor.

She'll never make tactless remarks about his bedroom performance, his life or the life of others around them.

She never smile again as she counts up the money in the Magic Box, an act though shallow in appearance is uniquely Anya and something he loved because it was her.

Again, he glances at the barren walls, the emptiness of the room, even the harsh impersonal nature of the ceiling. He imagines feeling her warm breath on his neck as they lay together. And he catches himself straining to listen for her.

Silently, he places the ring in a place where he sees it without moving from his pillow and lies on his bed.

Once upon a time, he liked the quiet.

Now, he hates it.

Chapter 13

Willow woke up to see sunlight streaming into the room. Rolling over she sees that Kennedy isn't in the bed with her. Quietly she gets up and dresses herself in brown skirt and plain white blouse. She leaves her apartment, the blood red color of the hallway walls bother her for some reason. As she enters the parlor, she bumps into the nightstand near the door. The witch glances down at the cheese slices arranged on the silver platter before her attention is drawn elsewhere in the room.

The sight she sees is disturbing yet riveting. Before her, a couple is having sex on the floor of the parlor. The man she cannot see but the woman seems familiar. It's with a start that Willow recognizes the woman as Harmony, wearing a black halter-top with white trim. Just for a second, her eyes dip down and see where the couple is joined. Harmony rolled her hips as the man beneath her thrust upward into her with hard, repeated strokes. She leaned forward with her back still to her partner as she rode him towards their mutual climax.

At some point, Willow knew the couple was aware of her and that she wasn't the only one in the room watching them. Turning to her head, she sees Faith and Buffy are with her as well. Returning her attention to the couple as they bask in the afterglow of their orgasms. Harmony shamelessly slid off her partner who sat up, giving the others a clear look at his face as he tucked himself away.


He smiled as he and Harmony stood up slowly. His gaze roamed briefly over the other three women as his arm slipped around Harm's waist. A lopsided grin with a somewhat different air spread across his face as he spoke.

"Hiya Wills."

The witch was quiet before responding. "Xander, what are you doing?"

"What I want."

"Why now?"

"Why not Buffy?"

"Why her?"

"My choice Willow."

"It shouldn't be her."

"Now you're just hiding."

"I am not."

"Keep your finger in the hole Will."

"What is she to you?"

"She's here, Buffy."

"Sounds like you've changed X."

"All of you helped."


Xander paused as he looked at Buffy then, turned his attention to Harmony. He cupped her chin and drew her close to his face as he spoke. "I owe you for this."

Faith blinked as she noticed a pair of legs on the floor behind the couch. She returned her attention to the conversation.

"Why do you owe us?"

Xander smiled as he gazed into Harmony's eyes. Then as he turned towards them, his face changed, becoming more demonic looking, complete with feral, yellow eyes.

"Because you helped make me the man I am now."

Buffy was shaken; too late she noticed the shotgun in Xander's hands. A look of disbelief mixed with incomprehension covered her face. Slowly, Xander raised the gun and pointed it at the girls.

And then he fired.


Faith groggily made her way into the kitchen/dinning room area of the apartment complex. She rubbed her yes, reflexively searching for the light switch before she realized the lights were on. Squinting, the brunette saw that Buffy and Willow were also in the kitchen. Willow sat at the table, taking small sips of tea from a cup that shook slightly from time to time. The elder slayer stood near the counter, nibbling on a piece of toast as her eyes roamed around the time.

Faith mentally shrugged and opened the refrigerator. She withdrew the orange juice and proceeded to drink directly from the carton. For a few minutes there was no sound in the kitchen other then her swallowing. Buffy elected to break the silence first.

"Rough night?"

Willow looked up nervously, "No. No, not a rough right. Very, very soft night. Quiet too."

Faith tossed the now empty juice carton in the trash. She noted that Buffy and Willow again were watching her. Pursing her lips, she decided to broach the obvious subject.

"Anybody else just have a fucked up dream?"

Willow blanched and Buffy's eyes went wide for a few seconds before returning to normal.

"I had a dream where I went to Macys's to buy silverware and I ended up buying matching wool knit scarves."

"That's not what I was thinking about B."

Willow got up and walked over to the sink. She held her teacup loosely in her hands staring out the window into the night. Her mind kept returning to the disturbing images she held in her subconscious.

"I was talking about one where Xander was fuc-"

Willow's teacup slipped from her fingers and clattered into the sink. She blinked as the liquid slowly went down the drain. Tentatively she reached for her cup noting with dismay the thin crack along the side.

"We shouldn't be dreaming about Xander. He's our friend, our Xander- shaped friend."

"Even if he hates us B?"

"He doesn't hate us. He can't hate us, it's not who he is."

"Don't know about that. He seemed pretty hateful to me when he took over the school."


The Boston slayer shook her head, "S'alright B. I think the whole thing is just getting on my nerves a bit. How about you and me head into tomorrow and do some damage, slay gal style."

Buffy paused and appeared to think about it.

"I don't think that's a good idea."

Both slayers turned their attention towards the nervous Willow.

"What I mean is, he sounded pretty determined when he said we shouldn't be doing anything without telling him."

Faith narrowed her eyes but Buffy interrupted the babble first.

"Well I don't care what he thinks. I'm a grown woman who's fully capable of handling herself in the city. I did just fine in LA WITHOUT his help." She returned her attention to her sister slayer, "Faith, Tomorrow we party."

And with that, Buffy left the kitchen. Faith smiled slightly and followed her. Willow was left behind to look at them in surprise.

"I got a bad feeling about this."


James slowly made his way into his and Keith's ground floor apartment. They had decided to share one after being kicked out by each of their prior roommates. Between them, they made enough to cover rent and a few other things. Right now James was feeling the effects of one of the 'other things'. Namely some pot they had bought earlier in the week. He and Keith had split it half, smoking one half that night, saving the other half for later. Well tonight had been 'later' enough for them and they smoked it. And right now James had the munchies.

The struggling college student rooted around the cupboards looking for something to eat. After a quick search, he elected to have some cereal. He giggled as he remembered the commercial for this particular brand and added the milk. Before he sat down at the table to eat, he noticed the back door was open. Smiling he shuffled over and shut it then sat down and started eating his late night snack. So caught up was he in the bliss of sugary goodness that he never felt the hand that yanked his head backwards and the searing pain of metal slash through his throat.


Keith's voice rang out through the apartment. The part time DJ slowly made his way into the dimly lit kitchen looking for his roommate. Like James he was also high from the pot they had been smoking.

"Hey Jay man, what the fuck you doing. Having cereal in the middle of the night."

The black man saw that he was ignored and moved closer. Annoyed that James still wasn't looking at him, he reached out and shook his fellow stoner. James slumped from his chair to the floor, knocking his cereal bowl over as he did so. Keith's eyes first went to the blood that was all over the table then to James's body on the floor and his slashed throat.

At that point, he started shaking and stepped back from away from the body and bumped into something. Slowly he turned around and looked at what he had backed into. What he saw was a hulking figure with a hockey mask on. That was the last thing he knew before Jason Voorhees grabbed his head in a vice-like grip and snapped his neck. Jason stepped back allowing the body to fall to the floor. He surveyed the now empty apartment before leaving via the backdoor. Almost as afterthought, he shut it behind him.

Chapter 14

Alex closed the book he had been reading and slowly rubbed his eyes. His experience in dealing with contracts and permits in construction had given him an idea of what to expect when dealing with the regulations in running a school. At least that's what he had thought going in. Xander had found out fairly quickly that while the basic principle was the same, i.e. multiple forms to be initialed and signed, confusing legal policies written so as one needed a degree almost to understand them, etc, he had grossly under-estimated the sheer scope and size of everything.

Not for the first time, he was thankful that Giles and Wood had been around to handle most of it. He was also somewhat thankful that the experience Angel's former teammates had gained in Los Angles had been extremely useful as well. The efforts of Fred and Wesley in particular had been instrumental in making the process as painless as possible.

Still there were seemingly mountains of paperwork; manuals, rules to read through and he had to take breaks from time to time. Especially when the letters started getting fuzzy and things got blurrier then usual. That was happened more often now, one eye struggling to do the work of two. He had to careful lest he overtax himself.

Tired, he pushed the button on the intercom, "Harmony, would you tell Cordelia and Dawn I'll be late for dinner and that Buffy should go ahead and start without me."

There was a pause as his former classmate turned vampire, current secretary answered, "Umm... She's not here."

"Cordelia's not here?"

"No, Buffy's not here."

Xander stared at speaker for a second before asking the inevitable, "Where is she?"

"She and Faith went into town."


"Well they looked like they were out to hit the clubs."

Xander growled as he released the button and stood up. He took a moment to hit the lights as he slammed his office door shut behind him. Dawn found his apartment door wide open with him searching angrily for something.


He paused briefly to acknowledge her presence before resuming his search.


"What are you looking for?"

"Something important I need to go in town."

"Why are you going into town?"

"Because your sister and Faith have apparently decided that the rules don't apply to them again. I think I need to have another talk with them."

"So what does this have to do with the", she broke off as Xander found what he was looking for, the hilt to the green bladed sword, "thing."

He looked up at her as he hung it from his waist, "Knowing your sister, odds are she's already managed to attract a great deal of trouble already."

"I'll be back", he intoned in a mocking accent.

Dawn grinned after him as he left. She was just leaving when she saw something out of the corner of her eye. Turning she walked over to the counter and picked up a nearly empty bottle of pills. Carefully she read the label on the bottle, her face turning an ashen gray as she did.



Faith looked around, subconsciously moving in time to the beat of the music. This night out on the town was just what she and Buffy needed. The club itself was one of many she had found during their stay in Cleveland. Presently it was playing techno and remixed versions of old Christmas tunes in a token effort to fit in with the holiday spirit. Not that she minded really but she didn't think the original version of 'Jingle Bell Rock' had drum machines, keyboards or other electronic instruments in mind when writing the song.

She resumed her scanning of the crowd and quickly located her fellow slayer. Buffy currently had a crowd of guys around her. It looked like at least one was actually grinding on her, which brought a grin to Faith's face. They both needed this night out, B needed it more in her opinion.

'After all, it's not everyday, you get your tail kicked AND fired from the job you built.' A dark look crossed her face momentarily scaring off a few guys that had been about to ask her to dance. Faith both physically and mentally shook off that thought and the feelings that accompanied it. Tonight was all about having a fun, wild night on the town and she was damned if some guy was going to screw it up.


Two sweaty young women dressed only in their underwear collapsed on a bed together. They held each other close as they tried to catch their breath. Sighing, one girl pulled the other in for a deep kiss with their tongues exploring, tasting one another. Reluctantly, they broke the kiss and pulled apart, each contemplating the other.

"That one was the best yet."

"Uh huh."

"No regrets."

"Only that we waited so long to start."

One girl's hands started caressing the other through her underwear. She pouted as the other girl stopped her, "mmm.... Sorry baby but I've got to shower." Seeing the other girl's frown, she added, "Although if I hurry, maybe we will have time for anot-". She was caught off in mid sentence by a deep kiss from her partner.

"Hurry up Kit."

Kit nodded, quickly gathered her things and went to the bathroom. The other woman heard the shower starting and reclined back on the bed. Sighing, she closed her eyes as the memories of what they had been doing and would be doing again started playing in her mind. A smile spread across her face as she felt herself getting excited again. One hand caressed her rapidly hardening nipples, while the other started stroking herself through her panties.

She moaned quietly at the sensation, lulling her head slightly at the feeling of silk rubbing her body. Vaguely, the girl felt another's presence in the room and opened her eyes expecting to see her lover watching her. Instead she a hulking figure with a mask looming over her with a long metal rod in his hands. She opened her mouth to scream but before a sound could escape, Jason slammed the length of metal through her body and the bed beneath. A quiet gurgle escaped her lips as her blood started staining the sheets and covers.


Kit opened the bathroom door and started toward her bedroom, dressed in a light blue-green satin nightgown. She blinked as her eyes tried to adjust to the darkness within the room. Silently, the freshly showered girl walked into the room looking around. Finally she spotted the other girl lying on the bed in the darkness and started towards her.


It was then that Kit noticed the other girl wasn't moving. With a quiet gasp, she took a step back as her mind tried to comprehend the horrific scene in front of her. Before she fully understood what had happened, she sensed she wasn't alone. Kit turned around just as Jason grabbed her by the hair and yanked her off the floor. The combination of seeing her lover's dead body and now being confronted with her near death reduced the young woman to tears as she screamed and begged for her life. Jason ignored her cries and threw her through the window sending her body crashing to the ground below.

But, Kit didn't die on impact. She lay stunned on the ground, pain and shock shooting through her body. Yet, somehow, she started to stand up albeit slowly. With glass in her hair and her body bleeding from numerous cuts, she started running trying to put as much distance between her and the murderous figure that lurked in her apartment.

Jason watched her get up and start running before following her. It didn't matter to him who she was, or why she hadn't died when he threw. She was like the others, another that had to pay for what had been done. He would kill her and the others no matter how long it would take him. It was his job to finish after all.

Chapter 15

The Library


The red head looked up in surprise as Dawn came into the room. There was a troubled look on her face as she approached the Sunnydale native. Willow blinked as the younger Summers stopped in front of her.

"Dawnie? Is there something wrong?"

As in answer, Dawn held out the pill bottle in front of her. Surprised Willow gently took the pill bottle from her and examined it. As she read the label, Dawn started speaking in a trembling voice.

"I-I recognized the name on the bottle. Mom... had them in her room..."

Shaking slightly, Willow turned her attention to the laptop in front of her and typed in the name of the drug on the bottle. What she found in her search started her shaking her further. The red head slumped back in her chair, slowly she looked up at the younger woman.

"Dawn, where did you find this bottle?"

Hesitantly, the brunette answered "It was in Xander's room."


The back door to the club opened as Buffy and Faith to emerge from the nightclub as well as spilling forth the music from inside out into the night air. They paused to regard each other in the cold night air before laughing.

"Geez B. That guy may never walk right again."

"Serves him right."

"Oh, college boy getting a bit big for himself, huh?"

Buffy smirked, "from what I was feeling, he wasn't 'big' at all".

Faith cracked up upon hearing that. "Good thing T ain't here or else he'd ripped that kid in two."

Their laughter was cut off by a shrill scream in the night. Both slayers immediately froze, looked at each other and then took off headed in the direction of the scream.


Kit screamed again as she backed away from the things approaching her. She had been so intent on running away, she hadn't bothered to notice where she was headed. Or that she was being stalked not by the figure in her apartment but by several men with twisted faces. She stumbled along the alleyway, willing herself to keep moving even though her body ached.

A few hundred feet behind her, a group of vampires lurked. While they were all hungry, none of their recent kills gave them quite as much joy as the girl they were now pursuing. Her fear and terror laced blood filled the air with an intoxicating mixture that called them to her. They would trap her soon enough and feed but for now, they were enjoying the hunt.

Further behind them, unnoticed by both the vampires and the girl, was the hulking figure of Jason Voorhees. He didn't know who those men were in front of him were or why they were after the girl. To him, they were like any of the others, just more people to suffer his wrath. He almost didn't pay attention to the figure in front of him, until it stepped in his way.

"Now, now my dear boy. I think you've caused enough of a stir."

Jason looked down at the man oddly before raising his hand that held the knife. He prepared to stab this man and then continue on with his mission.

"I said that's enough." With a wave of his hand, the man froze the erstwhile serial killer in place. Then he stepped closer as he examined the motionless murderer for a few seconds. Smiling the man looked directly into the eyes of Voorhees as he spoke.

"Yes. You'll do nicely".

Silently both Jason Voorhees and the man known as Mr. Thomas shimmered out of view.

Not too far away, Xander sat behind the wheel of his weathered but still running Nissan Sentra. He had been out looking for signs of the slayers. With the windows down, he easily heard the piecing scream that rang out. Quickly he pulled into an empty parking lot and started sprinting towards where he thought it had come from. Xander opted to cut through some buildings as a shortcut to where he was headed.

The Library


Cordelia had come to the library to find Dawn. They had planned on going to the video store and getting a movie to watch with Xander, Andrew and Harmony later. Instead, she found Dawn standing very still staring off into space by Willow.

For her part, the witch was also strangely silent and unmoving. A slight pang of unease washed through the former Seer's body. This was the Hellmouth after all (or now it appeared one of them), strange things weren't out of the ordinary, in fact it was the norm.

Abruptly Willow slumped down in her chair and stared at the floor. Cordelia breathed a little easier at seeing her friend move. She stepped closer and tentatively wrapped her arm around Dawn's shoulders.

"Dawn, what's wrong?"

"Xander... he's sick." Dawn looked up at her for a second, tears starting to form in her eyes. Wordlessly, the former cheerleader pulled her into a hug as the girl started crying softly. "What do you mean he's sick? He looked as strong as ever yesterday."

"Cordy... Dawn was in his apartment earlier. She found this there," Willow gestured at the pill bottle on the table without looking up.

"What are those for?"

"Pain pills. Dawn recognized them, Joyce used to take them before she.."



Faith grunted as she spun and delivered a crescent kick to the vampire she was fighting. The force of the blow staggered the vamp backwards, long enough for Faith to use her stake and dust it. She quickly turned her head and saw the girl they were protecting, cowering in the corner. She and B had disposed of the small group of vampires easily enough when they arrived. But more had come, lured apparently by the scent of the girl's blood and her cries.

Buffy was fighting two vamps at once and she was doing fairly well. Or at least she was until a third vamp struck her from behind, knocking her down. The Blonde slayer hit the ground and rolled onto her back. Snarling, the three vamps closed in, the first two she kicked in the face. The third never got the chance as a pair of strong hands grabbed on and spun him around.

Reflexively Faith deflected the punch aimed at her head and grabbed the vamp's arm. Turning her hips and shifting her weight, the dark slayer threw the vampire to the ground and away from her. Seeking to press her advantage, she advanced towards the fallen vamp as it tried to stand. Behind her, the rusted metal door banged open causing Kit to scream. Acting on her instincts Faith kicked the door behind hard, hoping to stagger the new arrival.

"Hey B! Reinforcements!"

Buffy had just dusted one of the vamps when she heard the door open. With her back turned she couldn't see what emerged into the alley but she heard Faith strike the door and the warning shouted to her. Sensing the new arrival behind her, she quickly dusted the remaining vampire. Pivoting on her heel, Buffy turned and slammed her stake into the chest of her would be attacker.

She was briefly surprised when the vampire didn't dust. Then as she saw the blood start to flow, her surprise became shock. Especially when the longest lived slayer on record looked up and saw the face of the man who had once brought her back to life with his breath.

Time seemed to slow and stop in the alley as Xander looked at Buffy. Flashes of shock pain and hurt flashed across his face and in his eyes. Xander blinked once and then slumped towards the ground.

The End.