A New View of the World

Author: Kosh_len <len[at]stdio.com>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. But I have to thank them for giving me such fun people to play with Summary: A road trip leads to old forgotten memories and a possible new future for Xander.

Warning: Crossovers ahead, and guess what, I'm not telling you just yet what they are, ruins all the fun.

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.


Firstly :A warning out of the box. This story contains an AU of one universe, which lends itself to this one. If you don't like AU stories, please don't continue, I'm really not in the mood to have my box filled with flames.

Secondly : This is my first foray outside of the J-verse, please excuse my bumbling along the way, I'm still trying to get this whole writing thing down.

Thirdly and most importantly : Thank you Mac, Rabid_X, Thommboi, Tenhawk, and Shollin for being my Betas on this story and giving my the confidence to post this.

With that said, on with the show.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

"I just cannot believe my luck. I cannot fucking believe my luck," shouted Xander Harris to the heavens.

The heavens chose not to answer beyond having the sun seem to glare down a little hotter.

Xander sighed, popped the hood on the old car and watched as a cloud of smoke rolled out from beneath it. Looking intently at the engine, he wondered what he might be able to do to fix it. Starting slow at first, the young man started checking things over beneath the hood. After a while, his hands started working almost on automatic, adjusting and tinkering. A wire twisted, the plugs checked. Nothing was left untouched, but in the end, the old car refused to start.

Giving up, the young man started rummaging through the car, tossing things into a small backpack. Staying at the car in this heat would be suicide, and as no one had driven by in hours since he had taken to the back roads, he knew abandoning the car and walking toward civilization was necessary.

According to his map, he was only a finger and a half away from Oxnard, but even he knew it was still hours of walking, possibly longer. Shouldering his pack, Xander took one last look at the old car and set off down the road, hoping and praying someone would drive by and take pity on him.


Resisting the urge to reach back into the pack and pull out the last bottle of water, Xander trudged on down the road, struggling to put one foot in front of the other. What had seemed as a good idea at the time had turned into a nightmare.

Walking until he couldn't take any more, the boy had finally succumbed to the heat and taken shelter beneath a rocky overlay, only to discover the snakes that had taken up residence beneath it didn't like his presence. Listening to his instincts, Xander had moved slowly away from the reptiles and settled into a semi-shaded spot the snakes hadn't seemed to want. Closing his eyes to rest for a moment, Xander hadn't awoken until well after dark.

Cracking his eyes slowly, he tried to remain calm as he discovered several snakes around him, trying to keep their bodies warm against his body heat. Going on instinct and dumb luck, the boy slowly managed to extract himself from the cold reptiles without getting bitten. Moving rapidly away from the snake den, Xander found himself back on the highway and walking toward Oxnard.

Where the day had been blazing hot, the night was slowly becoming bitterly cold. Xander pulled a coat from the pack and put it on, never slowing and continuing forward, slowly but surely placing one foot in front of the other.

As he walked, he marveled at how crisp the air smelled and how bright the stars seemed. Everything seemed sharper in the desert, including the pain in his feet.

<Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot,> he thought in an almost mantra-like pattern.

Your Mother was home when you left - You're right!
Your Father was home when you left - You're right!
Your Sister was home when you left - You're right!
Sound off - One Two
Sound off - Three Four
Bring it on Down
One Two Three Four One Two... Three Four!

Your Girlfriend was home when you left - You're right!
Jody was home when you left - You're right!
The Preacher was home when you left - You're right!

Sound off - One Two
Sound off - Three Four
Bring it on Down
One Two Three Four One Two... Three Four!

Xander frowned and slowed his walk as the words came from his mouth. He shook his head, wondering where in the hell he could have learned the song. Shaking his head and blaming it on the stress he moved on, willing his tired feet forward.

<Left, Right, Left, Right,> he thought again.

Around her hair she wore a yellow ribbon
She wore it in the springtime, in the early month of May
And if you asked her why the heck she wore it
She'd say she wore it for her soldier who was far, far away
Far away
Far away
She wore it for her soldier who was far, far away

Around the block she pushed a baby carriage
She pushed it in the springtime, in the early month of May
And if you asked her why the heck she pushed it
She'd say she pushed it for her soldier who was far, far away
Far away
Far away
She pushed it for her soldier who was far, far away

Around his grave she laid the pretty flowers
She laid them in the springtime, in the early month of May
And if you asked her why the heck she laid them
She'd say she laid them for her soldier who was far, far away
Far away
Far away
She laid them for her soldier who was far, far away

Blinking, Xander stopped his singing and his walking. Once again, marching cadences had come from his mouth.

"What the hell is going on?" he asked no one in particular.

Shaking his head, Xander moved on, hoping to make Oxnard by dawn. Placing one foot in front of the other, the young man moved steadily forward, yet before he saw the lights of Oxnard, he saw the sun rising across the horizon. Sighing, he trudged forward into the dawning day, hoping that the town was just a little farther down the road.


With a growl, Xander tossed the empty bottle of water over his shoulder, listening to it clatter loudly against the rocks behind him. He had tried to conserve it as much as possible, but the 32-ounce bottle had finally given up the ghost. Leaning back, he tried to will his body to cool off in the shade of the rock outcropping he had found just off the road.

The noonday sun had roasted his skin, causing blisters on his neck and face, but he had continued on. According to his map and his estimations, he had less than a knuckle left to travel, but considering how bad his original estimate was, it could be well over another day before he reached the town.

Inwardly sighing, Xander wondered how his journey across America had gotten so screwed up so quickly. Riffling through his bag, the boy searched, hoping that one more bottle of water would be inside the pack. His heart soared when he noticed another bottle in the bottom of the bag, but the excitement quickly deflated as he pulled out an empty bottle designed to decontaminate water from streams and lakes.

"Where the hell did I get this?" he asked himself as he pushed the bottle back into the sack.

Thinking back, he remembered randomly grabbing it at the store one day, along with several other items that could only be defined as survival items, for no apparent reason other than that he might need them at some time. How they had ended up in his travel backpack was beyond him though.

As he sat there, Xander started noticing a sound coming from the distance. Peeking around the edge of the rock, he saw nothing, but he knew he could hear something approaching from the desert. It sounded almost like the roar of an engine, a low rumbling, but his couldn't quite place it. His eyes scanned the horizon, which seemed too darken. Finally his brain clicked into what was.

"Oh shit," he exclaimed as he dived back behind his rocky cover. "Just my fucking luck. A goddamn sandstorm."

The roar grew louder and louder, and slowly the wind began to pick up. Tiny pebbles of sand started to sting the boy's skin as the winds started to rip around the rocks. Pulling his jacket up around his head, he tried to use the flimsy cloth as a breathing filter and minor amount of protection. Balling up his body, he tried as best to protect himself, hoping the storm wouldn't last long.

The noise of the storm grew louder and louder as he huddled in his temporary shelter. He tried to tune the noise out, but it only grew louder. Clamping his hands over his ears, he tried in vain to dampen the noise, but it was no use. As the noise grew louder and louder, Xander felt himself fading into unconsciousness.


Opening his eyes, the boy knew instantly something was wrong. His first clue was the fact that the desert had been replaced by a dark misty jungle, its trees sounding full of life. The second was his attire. Where he had been wearing jeans and a T-shirt before, he now wore the BDUs of an Army Ranger.

"What the fuck?" he asked as he looked around the jungle.

He seemed to be in a clearing, the trees growing up above him, cutting him off from the sky above. The fog hung low in the trees, making it hard to see more than a few feet into the treeline. A small path led out of the clearing, heading deeper into the jungle. In the distance, Xander thought he heard a growl, but he wasn't sure.

"Well, I don't think I'm in Kansas any more, Toto," he said to himself as he stood up and dusted himself off. "As much as I hate to do this, looks like there's only one way to go."

Walking slowly and carefully down the jungle path, Xander studied everything around him. The trees sounded full of life, but he never saw any movement beyond the occasional flicker at the edges of his vision. He would turn to look, only to find nothing there.

The path ended abruptly in another clearing. In the center of the clearing, Xander could see a fire pit, with several tree stumps around it. An animal of some sort roasted on a spit over the fire and the smell of the meat made Xander's mouth water. He froze as he noticed a man sitting quietly on one of the stumps, watching him. The man looked like a soldier, dressed in BDUs much like the ones Xander wore. A boonie hat was pulled down low over his eyes, so the boy couldn't make out much of the face. He sat looking down into the fire, a stick in his hand, stirring the embers.

"Finally made it here, I see," said the man, his voice not quite gravelly. "You've been making enough noise that most of the jungle knows you're here."

Xander stood in shock as the man spoke, glancing around the clearing. When he looked behind him, the path he had come down was gone.

"What the hell!" he shouted, turning back to face the man, his Sunnydale Weirdness Meter pinging to its maximum. "All right, Mister, what the fuck is going on?"

The man chuckled, pointed to a log on the other side of the fire and waited. The two stared at each other for a moment, Xander barely able to make out a pair of blue eyes staring back at him from beneath the hat.

"Sit," said the man. "Some explanations come easier sitting down."

With a sigh, Xander sat down on the stump, watching the man carefully. He noticed there were no patches on the uniform the other man wore, no rank insignia, no name patch. A combat knife was tied to the man's thigh and Xander could make out a gun belt around his waist.

"So?" Xander demanded as he crossed his arms across his chest.

The soldier just smirked and stirred the fire some more. The smoke rose high into the air, swirling around in the light breeze and mixing with the mists that hung in the jungle.

"This is, for the lack of a better word, a dreamscape, Chief," said the soldier. "A place of refuge, created by your mind as a place to hide."

"A jungle?" asked Xander. "You've got to be joking. And wait a second, if this is my mind, why are you here?"

The soldier shrugged before continuing.

"The sandstorm pushed you over the edge mentally and physically, so you shut down. Your mind retreated to the safety of here. When it's safe, I imagine you'll just wake up. You might even remember being here."

Xander sat puzzled, taking in what the man before him said. His mind was working, but he wasn't sure he completely understood. Finally his brain made one connection.

"You're Soldier Boy!" he exclaimed.

The soldier nodded and continued to stir the fire.

"That's the name you've given me," said the man. "Not sure I can even remember mine anymore."

"What do you mean?" asked Xander, concern in his voice.

"It's nothing," said the soldier. "Just been in here a while, I guess."

"Where is 'here' exactly?"

The soldier stood and walked to the edge of the clearing, looking out into the trees. Magically, another path appeared before him, heading deeper into the jungle that surrounded them.

"Like I said, this is sort of a place of your creation. A safe refuge from the troubles of the world," the soldier said. "Mainly from what I have seen, you come here only in your dreams. I don't think you've been consciously awake here in years. Not since ... Never mind."

"Whoa there, not since what?" demanded Xander as he stormed over next to the soldier.

"It's not my place to tell you, Chief," said the soldier as he began down the new path.

"Whose is it then?" asked Xander.

The soldier pointed behind Xander and the boy whirled around, only to find no one there. He turned back to face the soldier, but the path and the man were gone, leaving him standing in an empty clearing. A low growl came from behind him, and the boy slowly turned.

The jungle seemed closer than it had before, as if the clearing had shrunk. The fire pit and stumps were gone, and the jungle had grown silent. Out of the darkness of the jungle Xander could see two dark eyes staring at him. The boy moved left and right, but the eyes of whatever watched him followed his every move.

As Xander moved, the clearing seemed to get smaller, the eyes dragging him in. As he turned, searching for an escape, he heard the low growl grow closer. He looked over his shoulder and saw the dark eyes moving toward him, hidden in a wall of darkness. He could hear the animal's feet touch the ground as it padded toward him. Backing away, he stopped when his shoulders hit a tree behind him. He tensed as whatever the darkness held grew closer, the growl almost filling his ears.

In his mind's eye, he could see the beast tense and then jump toward him. Xander let out a yell and as he screamed, birds in the nearby trees took to the air, and then there was nothing.


Xander sat bolt upright and looked around. The stars shone down on him from an empty sky, and the wind was nonexistent. The storm, it appeared, had passed. Glancing at his watch, Xander estimated he had been out for nearly seven hours.

Gathering together his belongings, he stood and looked at his shelter in wonder. The storm had been a bad one; he could barely make out the road in places. Behind his shelter was nearly a foot of sand that hadn't been there before he had taken cover. Shaking his head in amazement that he had survived the storm, Xander tossed his bag over his shoulder and continued down the road, determined to make the town by dawn.

As he walked, Xander pondered the strange dream, trying to figure out the meaning behind it. The strange monster, the soldier, and the jungle. None of it made sense. He could vaguely remember having dreams like that before, but none of the details were there.

Foot after foot and mile after mile, he continued forward. Twice he had caught himself singing military jodies, only to stop himself mid-cadence. It wasn't that he didn't mind the songs, they didn't annoy him, but he found the fact that he knew them a little disconcerting.

Thinking back over things, he began to wonder how much the soldier had influenced his life. The way he now polished his boots stood out clearly as something outside the norm, having only started after the Halloween incident. Sighing, he remembered an incident several weeks ago, where he had found himself up exceedingly early, his bed made tight enough that he could bounce a quarter off it, and not a single memory of doing it.

His mind tallied little things here and there, the little nuances he had picked up and that had become part of his daily life that he had never noticed. The nuances weren't necessarily bad, but the boy realized they just weren't him.

"And how do you know that?" asked part of his mind.

Frowning, he wondered where the thought had come from. Stopping and looking around, he glanced to see if someone else had spoken. Seeing no one, he began to walk again, when he felt a breeze across his nose, and he realized he smelled something.

"Water," he said as his feet instinctively began to follow the smell that had floated in on the wind.

He quickly found himself headed off the road into the seemingly barren land. He came to a halt when he found a small stony ravine that he hadn't noticed from the road. Even in the daylight Xander wasn't sure he would have spotted it, for it was nestled just beyond a rise that blocked it from view.

Skittering down the rocks to the bottom of the ravine, Xander glanced around again, trying to find the source of the smell in the darkness. Moving several rocks, he let out a gasp as he noticed a small wet spot in the sand. Digging down into the sand, Xander let out a cry of joy as he felt a small trickle of water flow through his fingers. He scratched the hole a little wider, and his eyes grew wide as it began to fill with water.

Almost cackling, he dove into his pack, seeking the water filtration bottle. Tearing the lid off the bottle and sticking it into the hole, he impatiently waited as the bottle began to fill up. Sealing it up, he waited the few minutes the bottle had suggested to let the silt settle, his mouth and body craving the precious elixir. Finally, unable to wait any longer, he brought the bottle to his lips and sucked some of the cool water into his mouth, preparing to revel in the first taste of liquid in days.

As the water cleared his lips and hit his tongue, Xander immediately realized something. It tasted like hell, a bitter nasty hell. Gagging, he tried to keep the small sip of water down, but his mind and body couldn't stand the taste. Scrambling away from the water supply, Xander found himself dry-heaving, his body trying to purge itself of the vile-tasting liquid.

As the heaves settled, Xander sat back and stared at the bottle, wondering to himself what the hell had just happened. The water hadn't smelled bad, but the taste had been overwhelming. Rooting through his pack, Xander wondered what he could do. Finding a small can of Sterno and some metal cooking gear from his brief stint in the Cub Scouts, he wondered if he should boil the water.

"Take a small sip," said a voice in his head. "Let yourself get used to the taste."

Shaking his head, he pondered what he could do, his eyes never leaving the filtration bottle. Sighing, he picked the bottle back up and turned it in his hands, wondering what was wrong with him. Finally, he steeled himself, brought the bottle back to his lips and took a small sip.

The taste wasn't as bad as it was the first time, the bitterness greatly reduced. Waiting to see if his body reacted like it had before, he was surprised when the heaves didn't hit. Tentatively taking another sip, he found the taste even better this time.

"Not too much, you'll make yourself sick," chided the voice. "Slowly."

Nodding to himself, he took slow easy sips, letting his body slowly absorb the water, and as time passed his body slowly began to feel better.

Xander filled up the bottle every now and then, not entirely sure his water source wasn't going to vanish at any moment. Finally deciding he had enough water to get him into town, Xander covered the small pool back up and climbed to his feet. Putting the bottle into his pack, he climbed out of the ravine and back onto the road, reinvigorated into trying to make it to town.


The sun rose and Xander's heart fell, for there was no sign of the fabled lost town of Oxnard on the horizon. Wearily, he trudged on, his eyes scanning the horizon for the town, a rescue, or a shelter. Seeing nothing, Xander continued on, placing one foot in front of the other, and carried himself forward.

Idly, he thought he heard something as he walked, but seeing nothing in front of him, he kept moving forward. A loud honk made Xander nearly jump out of his skin, and finally he looked over his shoulder and saw the battered blue truck that had rolled to a stop behind him.

Rubbing his eyes, he wondered if this was a mirage, but it seemed awfully real. Through the dust-covered windshield, Xander could see two American Indian men sitting in the cab of the truck.

The passenger door opened and an older man with a friendly face stepped out with a concerned look.

"You okay, kid?" he asked.

"Please tell me you're real, please tell me you're real," begged Xander.

The old Indian blinked at the request and looked back at the driver, who had also stepped out of the truck to watch the scene unfold. Xander could see he was a younger man, maybe a little older than he was.

"Yeah, kid, we're real. Why do I get the feeling you've been out baking your brain a bit?" said the older Indian. "That wasn't your car we passed back down the road, was it?"

"Yeah, conked out on me day before yesterday," said Xander, his hands starting to shake a little. "Figured I wasn't that far out of Oxnard, so I started walking."

"Leonard, we passed that car almost 80 miles ago," said the younger man.

The older man stared at Xander in amazement, wondering how it was possible that the kid had survived this long on the road. A smile grew across his face as he noticed something about the boy. Then suddenly...

"Shit, Ed, catch him!" he shouted as Xander began to slump to the ground.

Xander heard a buzzing noise in his ears and his head suddenly began to swim. The world seemed to slow down around him, and he could make out the two Indians moving toward him at a slow pace, their strides looking exaggerated to his mind. The buzzing got louder and then all he saw was black.

The two men made it to the crumpled young man at almost the same time. The older of the two looked him over before he slid his arms beneath him and stood with Xander in his arms.

"Get a move on, Ed, we need to get this kid to the nearest town!" he practically shouted as he carried the still form back to the truck.

"What's wrong with him?" asked Ed as he settled into the passenger seat and gunned the engine.

"Hyperthermia; his body has overheated from the sun and dehydration," said the older of the two men. "I've got a couple of tricks that will help, but we're short one cold creek or an ice pack. If it weren't for the three 's'igeekáawu' following him around, he'd have probably already died."

"Huh?" said Ed as he looked back over his shoulder to see if he missed anyone.

"Just drive, Ed," said Leonard, shaking his head as he watched the strange look his partner shot him.

Leonard did what he could to stabilize the boy as the truck tore down the road. Silently he prayed to the gods to keep the 'adéli' alive, but considering what walked with the young man, his faith was already bolstered that the boy would be all right.


Opening his eyes, Xander sighed as he realized he was back in the jungle clearing, dressed in the camouflage clothing again. The noise of the jungle filled his ears, and from down the path, he could smell the campfire again.

"What the fuck," he mumbled as he picked himself up off the ground and walked slowly and quietly down the road.

The clearing was still the same as it was before, the crackling fire sending smoke up into the foggy night-shrouded air. On one of the stumps sat the soldier, a smirk clearly written on his face.

"Welcome back, Chief," he said. "Figured I might see you again soon."

Resisting the urge to throttle the man before him, Xander instead calmly sat down on the stump across from the soldier and picked up his own stick to stir the fire. As the two men sat in an uncomfortable silence, Xander studied the soldier across from him.

The darkness was hard to pierce, and the firelight seemed almost to dance away from the man, shielding him in the shadows. The uniform gave nothing away; all rank or insignia patches had been either removed or long ago lost. The BDUs were torn and tattered, as if they had seen battle constantly.

The man's face was also a mystery. Where Xander had first thought the shadows and the hat had hidden the man's face, he could see now that it was hidden with face paint as well. Stripes of green and black added to the concealment, with only his two eyes staring back out of the darkness toward Xander.

"What the hell is going on?" Xander asked finally.

"Well, this time, your body overheated enough that you've shut down in an attempt to save itself," said the soldier. "Honestly, I'm amazed you made it as far as you did."

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?" demanded Xander hotly.

"Chief, from what I've seen you've got a lot of guts, a lot of courage, and more willpower than anyone I have ever known," said the soldier. "But everyone has limits. I figured you would have reached yours a while ago, but instead you kept pushing on till you reached a place of semi-safety."

Xander snorted and started into the fire. He watched as the glowing embers rose up into the sky, melding with the stars. He tried to trace the ember as it floated higher and higher into the air, and then suddenly he felt a burning pain in his leg.

"None of that, now," said the soldier with a grin on his face and a hot stick in his hand.

"What the hell was that for?" demanded Xander as he dusted hot coals off his pant leg.

"It's one thing to get lost from the real world and hide from it in here," said the soldier with a shrug. "It's another to get lost in here."

"And what, pray tell, does that mean?" asked Xander, only to see the soldier shrug.

The two sat in silence, each studying the other, yet neither speaking.

"You're really no help, you know that?" said Xander finally.

"Don't look at me, kid, I've only got a few answers here myself," said the soldier. "Hell, in some ways, I'm even more confused than you are."

"So who should I ask then?" questioned the boy.

Seeing the soldier point beyond him, Xander immediately started shaking his head.

"Oh no, I'm not falling for that again. I turn around and something ugly is going to try to eat me again."

The soldier shrugged and stood up, heading down a path behind him. Xander watched in amazement as the path closed itself off behind the soldier, leaving a thick wall of vegetation where the path had been.

Sighing, Xander started to stir the fire, watching the tiny points of light float into the sky. Suddenly he felt a chill run up his spine as a low growling noise started to fill his ears.

"Oh shit," he said as he heard whatever it was behind him start to move forward, followed by the blinding pain and then darkness.


Chapter 2

Sitting bolt upright in the bed, Xander took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down. Glancing around the room, the young man instantly wondered where the hell he was, until he noticed the stark white everything and immediately deduced his most logical present location.

"Hospital," he said with a sigh.

Closing his eyes, he tried to remember the events that had put him here, only to find them a rough blur. He vaguely remembered the car dying and then trying to walk to civilization, but things got gray really quickly after that. His mind was still deep in thought when he heard the door open, ushering in a nurse.

"Oh, you're awake, Mr. Harris," said the Florence Nightingale clone with a look of surprise on her face. "The doctors didn't know when you would wake up, considering the condition of your body when you came in."

"Condition?" asked Xander.

The nurse nodded and moved into the room, picking up a clipboard and making some notes. She picked up his arm and took his pulse.

"Yes," she said with a nod. "You were severely dehydrated, as well as hyperthermic. The sunburns on your face, neck and shoulders were also fairly severe. I think the thing that confused the doctors the most was your unresponsiveness. Your brain was active, but they couldn't seem to get any reaction out of you. It was very strange."

The nurse moved on to check the rest of his vitals, continuing to make marks on the chart as she moved around the room. With a flick of her wrist, the nurse made neat work of the chart before hanging it back on the end of the bed.

"The doctor will be in to see you here in a few minutes," she said with a nod and departed.

Glancing around the room, Xander wondered idly how long he had been there. Sunnydale life sometimes led to hospital stays, but they had been few and far between. Rolling with the punches had become trademark part and parcel of his life; nothing had yet kept him down long. A man wearing glasses and a long white coat stepped into the room, a smile on his face, breaking Xander from his musings.

"Ahh, Mr. Harris," said the doctor in a condescending tone. "My name is Dr. Begin; the nurse told me you were awake. You had us really worried there for a while."

Shrugging his shoulders, Xander waited while the doctor repeated the nurse's examination, with a few added variants for fun. Finally snapping off his gloves and tossing them into the biohazard can, the doctor settled down onto a stool next to the bed.

"You are quite a lucky young man," started the doctor. "If the two gentlemen who found you hadn't done so when they did, well, I'm afraid you wouldn't be here with us. You were greatly dehydrated as well as suffering an extreme case of sun poisoning and sunstroke. We have done our best to rehydrate you and get your core temperature down."

"So how long till I can get out of here, Doc?" asked Xander, cutting the doctor off in his endless description of his present medical condition.

"Well, we'd like to keep you here under observation for another day if possible, just to make sure you're OK, then you should be free to go," replied Dr. Begin.

"But I don't have to stay if I don't want to?" asked Xander.

"You could sign yourself out AMA, but I highly recommend that you..." started the doctor.

"If I can have those papers, please," said the boy as he started to climb out of the bed.

"Mr. Harris, you've been unconscious for almost two days for no apparent reason," stammered Dr. Begin. "I must highly recommend you stay in bed so we can figure out what caused you to have that sort of reaction."

"Sorry, Doc, no can do. Places to go, people to see and all that," grinned the boy, who paused as he realized the IV tube was still attached. "Any chance of getting this removed or do I have to do it myself? And where the hell are my clothes?"


The hot summer sun beat down on Xander almost immediately as he walked out of the hospital. Walking away from the hospital and into Oxnard proper, he immediately headed toward police headquarters to see if they might know if his car had been brought in and where it might be.

"Hey kid!" shouted someone.

Looking over his shoulder he saw two American Indians walking toward him, smiles on their faces.

"Hey, umm, guys," said Xander with a hint of confusion in his voice. "What can I do for you?"

"We figured you'd still be in the hospital," said the younger of the two.

"What's this 'we' business, junior?" said the older one. "I told you he'd be out and fine soon enough. I'm Leonard Quinhagak and this here is Ed Chigliak - we didn't get a chance to introduce ourselves last time."

"Last time?" asked Xander, becoming more confused.

"Oh, sorry," said Leonard with a comforting smile. "We're the ones that brought you in from the desert. Never seen a guy as crispy-crittered as you before; granted, we don't tend to see a lot of sunburns where we come from in general."

The younger Indian nodded in agreement, a wide, goofy smile on his face.

"Yeah, don't see many sunburns in Alaska," Ed said, shaking his head. "Frostbite, snow blindness, and windburns, but no sunburns."

"Alaska?" asked Xander skeptically.

"Yeah - Cicely, Alaska," nodded Ed.

Looking at the older Indian, Xander waited for the man to correct his partner, but was amazed when he nodded in agreement.

"What the hell are you two doing in California then?" he said, starting off toward the police station.

The two men followed in step with Xander as he walked, dodging around the people on the sidewalk.

"That, my young friend, is a strange story. Before I tell it, can I ask where you're going?" asked Leonard.

"Police station," responded Xander. "Need to see if they know where my car is."

"State troopers hauled your car in yesterday," said Leonard. "I think it's down the street at that garage. You've... got a small problem, though, if I saw correctly."

"What do you mean?" asked Xander as he stopped midstep.

"You'll just have to see for yourself, kid," said the older man.


"What do you mean someone stole my tires and stripped the engine?" shouted Xander as he stared at the remains of his car.

Scratching his head, the trooper looked at his notebook, trying to keep from laughing at the ranting young man.

"Well, sir, it appears that shortly after you were brought into the hospital, someone decided to remove the more choice bits off your... umm... classic there," said the officer.

Staring at the remains of the beat-up '57 Bel Aire he had gotten from his Uncle Rory, Xander idly wondered if they had managed to get the engine running again. When he had gotten back after the summer, he had planned on restoring the car, but those plans appeared to have been squashed.

"We're looking into it to see if any local boys might have done it, but we got some good kids in this town," said the cop. "Honestly, we've not got a lot of hope of finding who took it. Somebody out there has probably souped up his old truck or something with the parts, and you'll never see them again. I'm sorry, kid."

Grumbling, Xander wandered over to the remains of his car and started looking over it. The owner of the shop soon joined him, and the two set at hammering out a price to repair the car. The officer and the two Indians watched as the boy and the mechanic argued back and forth, working an odd dance that would have been more at home in a Middle Eastern bazaar than in a small California town.

After ten minutes the two seemed to come to some sort of deal, and Xander waved at the mechanic and started out the door. Pausing for a moment, he moved to the trunk of the car and popped the latch. He grinned and pulled out an old beaten Army rucksack and a smaller pack. Tossing them over his shoulders, he headed out the door.

Leonard narrowed his eyes as he watched the movements of the young man before nodding at the state trooper and following the boy, Ed hot on his heels. The two Indians found Xander leaning against the outside of the building, rubbing his forehead. His eyes looked a little bleary when he looked up at the two men approaching, but he quickly cast his eyes downward before looking up with an infectious grin on his face.

"You OK, kid?" asked Leonard slowly.

"Yeah, just trying to figure out where I can get two grand so I can pay Mr. Horn in there," said Xander with a sigh.

"Well, considering how well you just haggled in there, I'm sure you'll find something in this town," replied Leonard. "Where the hell did you learn to do that?"

"Used to talk my way out of punishments from my father," said Xander with a half-hearted grin. "Never thought I could do something like that though. Don't know about you two, I could use some food, and you I believe were going to tell me how you two ended up here in California."

"Yeah, I could use some food," nodded Ed.

"All right, pups, let's go find some grub," grinned Leonard as he motioned the two young men down the street.


The diner was empty when the three men entered and the waitress motioned for them to sit anywhere. After a few moments, she came over and took their orders, leaving the three in silence.

"So, I got to ask, what brings two guys from Alaska all the way to sunny California?" asked Xander finally. "I know you guys are short on daylight and everything right now, but what the heck were you doing out there in the desert?"

Leonard looked at Ed for a moment, then back at the young man before them. He wondered how much he should tell the young 'adéli', but considering the way they met, he almost had to wonder if it was fate that they had taken that wrong turn.

"It's an odd story, kid," began Leonard. "I'm a shaman of my tribe, and Ed here has the potential to be one, if he'd ever get Hollywood off his mind."

"Hey!" said the younger of the two indignantly. "My last script got great reviews."

Grinning, Xander watched the two men break down in banter. They effortlessly slipped from English to their native tongue and back, never giving up the argument, one which Xander could tell they had had many times.

"Anyway," said Leonard, cutting off the argument. "I had a vision..."

Leonard paused to watch the reaction of Xander. He frowned when he didn't get the incredulous look he expected. Xander simply nodded and waited for him to continue.

"I got this vision from the Great Spirits, telling me it was time for me to go on a spirit walk and that I needed to take Ed here with me," said Leonard, jerking his thumb toward the young man next to him. "Ed showed up about 15 seconds after I finished the vision with two tickets to some movie opening in Hollywood from some pen pal of his."

Ed nodded and grinned.

"So Leonard looks me square in the eye and says 'Ed, there are spirit walks, and there are road trips. But it looks like we've been called to go on a spirit road trip, so get in the truck, we got places to go,' " Ed said in a pseudo-Leonard voice. "So we started south last week and here we are."

Dinner arrived before Xander could make a comment, and the three happily dug into their food. A small part of Xander's mind cautioned him to take the meal slow, since this was technically the first solid food that he had eaten in days. Ignoring the voice, Xander dove into the greasy burger he had ordered with a vengeance.

Soon the meal was ended and dessert had come and gone. The sky had darkened and night was settling in.

"Where you staying, kid?" asked Leonard.

"Well, since it appears I'm stuck here for a little while, I'm going to need to try to find someplace, but tonight I'll probably just crash at a motel somewhere."

"The place we're crashed at had some rooms," said Ed. "Probably get one cheap there."

Xander nodded and followed the two men down the street, chatting companionably as they threaded their way through the darkening streets of Oxnard. Upon reaching the hotel, Xander was pleasantly surprised to find a room available for a decent rate and checked himself in. Bidding the two men goodnight, Xander slipped into his room and settled down for the night.


An hour of nothing on television and forty-five minutes of tossing and turning later, Xander decided that sleeping wasn't an option. Dressing himself in patrol clothing, he decided to take a walk around his temporary home to see what the local nightlife was like. Arming himself with his stakes and crosses, Xander left his room and stepped out into the night.

"Couldn't sleep, eh, kid?" asked a voice from the shadows.

Looking over his shoulder, Xander could see Leonard standing in the darkness, an old pipe in his hand.

"Yeah, after sleeping for two solid days, my body just isn't ready to go down yet," replied the boy with a grin. "Figured I'd head out and see what the town was like after dark."

The old Indian looked out into the darkness for a moment, then put up his pipe. Opening the door to his room, he said something to Ed then shut the door. Turning back to Xander, he smiled.

"Want some company?" he asked.

Shrugging, Xander turned and began to walk out of the parking lot of the motel. Leonard quickly followed and joined step with the boy. The two walked in a companionable silence down the street, but Leonard watched as the boy almost seemed to be hunting or prowling for something, like a wolf ready to pounce.

"You didn't seem caught off-guard when I said I had a vision," said the shaman, finally breaking the silence.

"Yeah, well," said the boy after a moment. "The town I grew up in isn't exactly normal, so visions are kind of par for the course."

The shaman quirked an eye at Xander, waiting for him to continue, but he never did. Leonard kept quiet, figuring he'd get an explanation when the boy felt more comfortable. The two continued down the street, with Xander seemingly watching everything, yet trying his best not to show it. They moved in and around the few pedestrians that were still out, until they reached what seemed to be the edge of town. Turning down a street, they were almost run over by an old woman who moved hurriedly down the sidewalk. The two men looked at each other and shrugged before walking on.

Neither expected the scream that suddenly erupted from behind them.


Agnes Williams grumbled to herself as she headed down the sidewalk. Silently berating herself for letting Merle Thompson keep her well after dark, she vowed not to let the woman keep her so late for bridge again.

After living eighty years in Oxnard, she scarcely noticed things as she passed them. In her mind, she could remember the days when horse carts filled the streets instead of the cars. The buildings, many of which were not boarded up, were full of life and hope.

During the First World War, the town had flourished, but when the Depression came, it seemed as if the life had been sucked out of the tiny town. Those fleeing the dust storms of the Midwest filtered through town, seeking a scarce job, but seldom found any.

Life had been hard in the town during those years. She could remember her father struggling for all his worth to support his family. Struggling to put food on the table and keep the bills paid.

When she had married, her father had given up some of his hard-earned land so she and her husband might have a place of their own. When the second war had come, she watched as her husband went off to fight, never to return.

Agnes had struggled forward after her husband's death. She worked the farm by herself for a while, but finally gave into love's call a second time, when she was courted by a veteran of the war, one of her husband's best friends. They had been married in the spring of forty-six, nearly four years after her first husband's death at Wake Island.

Life and time had moved forward. The children she had looked forward to raising never came. She and her beloved husband worked the land, fighting the constant fight against nature itself to bring life to the small town on the edge of the desert.

Her husband had passed away the year before, and she could hear the bells on Saint Peter's gate getting louder and louder each day, but she refused to give in to the call just yet, by God. She had work still to do, land to take care of and places to see.

She barely noticed the two men she nearly walked over as she hurried down the street to her truck, determined to get back to her farm before it got much later. Her mother had always made her promise not to stay in town after dark, it just wasn't safe. She had broken that promise only a few times; tonight was the latest she had ever stayed in town.

She could see her truck in the distance, and she quickened her pace. She was almost there when she heard feet shuffling behind her. She slowed and turned, only to see several young hooligans appearing from a nearby alley.

"Well, well, what have we got here," said one of the men. "Out for a late-night stroll, Granny?"

Ignoring the men, she reached into her purse and fumbled for her keys.

"Hey, I was talking to you, bitch," the man said, making a grab for her arm.

Agnes gasped at his quick movement and smacked at him with her purse.

"Stop fighting, you old bitch," snarled the man. "This will go a lot easier for you if you don't."

Several of the other men stepped out of the alley and made moves to grab her. Lashing out, she scratched the leader of the men across the face with her keys. She let out a scream as his face began to morph and his eyes turned yellow.

"I'm going to make you pay for that," he said.

"I don't think so," said a cold voice behind them.


Billy Martin had been running this town for the past three years with an iron fist, or at least he liked to think so. No one had stood his way when he had become master. While he wasn't up to the true master status like William the Bloody or Angelus, there was none that could say that didn't control the night in the small town.

When one of his childe had spotted the little old lady heading down the street, he had figured she would make an easy early-evening snack, before they went out for the true fun. He hadn't expected the fight the old crone was putting up, let alone getting his face scratched.

"I'm going to make you pay for that," he said, wiping blood off his face.

"I don't think so," said a cold voice behind him.

Turning, Billy was surprised to see a kid who looked no older than nineteen standing only a few feet away. Behind him was some Indian piece of trash who looked scared out of his wits. What gave Billy pause, though, were the kid's eyes. They were hard, dark, and full of anger.

"This is none of your business, punk, back off," he snarled. "Unless you want to become dinner too."

"Nah, I don't think so, I'm kinda the high-fat, high-sugar variety," replied Xander. "I'd hate to ruin your slim girlish figure."

"Kill them both! Drain them as well! Turn them if you want, I don't care, but kill them!" shouted Billy as he turned his attention back onto Agnes.

It was a mistake he would regret in the last few seconds of his unlife.

Billy turned back to the old woman, leaving the two would-be heroes to the three childe he had brought with him. The fear in the old woman's eyes was exquisite and Billy drank it in.

The other three vampires smiled at their master's orders and moved in on the two interlopers. The older of the two turned to run, but stopped when he noticed the young man standing his ground. As the three got closer they immediately noticed one other thing about the young man. He had stakes in his hands.

Xander tried to squash the fear that was building more and more as the three vampires closed. He had no Wicca backup, no werewolf backup, no Watcher backup, and most importantly, no Slayer backup. It was just him to save the old woman, and he wasn't about to back down.

"Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more," he muttered as he blocked the first poorly thrown punch by the vampire.

Ducking and weaving, Xander dodged punch after punch, trying in vain to drive his stake home. Finally he saw his opening on one of the vampires, which he rapidly took advantage of. With one quick thrust of the stake the vampire exploded, his dusty remains scattering across the ground.

As he turned to find the other vampire, he failed to see the fist that was rapidly approaching his head. The impact drove Xander into the ground, his head bouncing with a thud. His vision blurred for a moment, and where one vampire had been before, several dozen swam before his eyes before congealing into one threatening monster.

With a short, quick, and exceedingly violent kick, Xander brought the vampire down to the ground with him, the two wrestling for all their worth, one fighting for its meal, the other fighting not only for his life, but the life of two other innocents. The importance of winning this battle became exceedingly clear as Xander heard a strangled cry from Leonard.

The teen's eyes shot up, looking to where the shaman was being backed up by the vampire. Leonard's shirt was ripped in places and his face was bloody, but the old Indian fought on. From somewhere he had produced a long knife, trying his best to keep the beast before him at bay, but it was quickly becoming a losing battle. With the vampire's quick speed and strength, even Leonard knew he wasn't doing well.

"Your friend is going to die, just like you are, kid!" snarled the vampire that Xander was fighting with. "We'll feast on your blood, and if you're lucky, we might turn you so you can take Eddie's place."

As the vampire grinned menacingly at the boy he was struggling with, his dead brain registered something. The boy's eyes were changing colors, starting at brown, then fading to a blue, before settling on black. His would-be victim had also started to growl, a low growl that slowly built up into a howl of rage.

Xander exploded into motion, throwing the undead off him before springing to his feet with a fluid hop. His now-black eyes tracked the vampire he had thrown, ensuring it wasn't getting up yet. Darting forward, he grabbed one of the stakes off the ground and pivoted, flipping the stake over in his hand like a dagger, and then tossing it at the vampire attacking Leonard, hitting it in the back, exploding it in an instant.

Leonard watched the boy's movements through the falling cloud of dust. There was a precision and a brutal aspect to his motion. The Indian watched as Xander stalked the vampire who had been attacking him, feinting in and out with his remaining stake, using the piece of wood almost like a stiletto. Leonard blinked, and suddenly there was an explosion as the vampire died from a blurred quick thrust.

Xander suddenly whirled and moved toward the last vampire who as being held off by the old woman. The vampire itself had been brutalized by the small woman who had produced a Maglite from her purse and had proceeded to pummel the vampire, but she was slowly but steadily running out of steam.

"I'm going to kill you, bitch!" shouted Billy as he dodged another blow from the flashlight.

"As I said before," whispered a cold voice behind him. "I don't think so."

Billy turned to look over his shoulder, only to see the boy from before standing directly behind him. The boy smiled at him with a feral grin before plunging the stake he held into his back.

"Well, shit on me," the vampire mumbled before falling to dust.

Xander's eyes quickly swept the area, checking for any remaining vampires. Seeing none, he turned toward Leonard.

"Shaman OK?" he asked in an almost stilted tone.

When Leonard nodded, Xander smiled. Then his eyes rolled back into his head and he crumpled to the ground.


Opening his eyes, Xander looked around the jungle and sighed.

"You've got to be kidding me," he shouted to the dark skies, scaring birds from the trees.