And the rest is

Author: Charles Parker <charles_parkerh[at]>

Timeline: Post BtVS S7 & AtS S5. Sequel to "Best Laid Plans" and "A Fair Exchange".

Summary: That which lies beneath.

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

Buffy Summers considered herself fairly easy to get along with most of the time. Sure there was the Slayer stuff where she was required to step up and be the leader. It wasn't a role she relished truth be told. As soon as they had left the ruins of Sunnydale, she had relinquished much of her leadership role back to Giles, Willow and Wood. They were the ones better suited to the tasks of finding food, lodging, and starting to locate a place where all the 'baby' slayers could stay.

While they worked, she had closed herself from them and had a good, long cry. Some of it she shared with Dawn over losing the place where their mother was buried. Some of it, she shared with Willow as they mourned the loss of Tara. Buffy even spent a little time with Giles as he tried to come to grips with the fact that he couldn't visit Jenny Calendar anymore. Mostly she cried for herself and for the loss of Spike, a man she had fallen in love with but who didn't believe she loved him.

When Xander was discovered to be missing, she had dried her tears and set off on a frantic if futile search for him. He was untraceable by Willow's considerable magic skills. Unknown in occult circles, it was as if the earth had opened up and swallowed him whole much like it had everything else in her life. After learning that Andrew was the last person to speak to Xander, the mood at the motel had gotten particularly ugly. Giles had subjected Andrew to an increasingly violent and nasty talks that finally Dawn had to step in and save the poor boy from 'Ripper'.

Between the presumed deaths of the man in her heart and the one she knew longest, Buffy had been shaken to her core. Eventually she had taken the suggestion to accompany Faith and Wood on their trip to Europe. Robin had originally planned for just himself and Faith to get away, to show her the world as he had promised. Buffy's addition had made things uncomfortable for awhile until a shouting match in the streets of Paris had served as the breakthrough for the slayers. Following that rather public spectacle, a long and honest talk had ensured between Buffy and Faith. The subjects of Angel, Joyce, the other survivors of Sunnydale had all been discussed in a brutal and frank manner. They didn't agree on all of them but they at least understood where each stood.

It was at that time Buffy had encountered Travis for the first time. Faith and Robin, sensing what was going on, quietly arranged to depart and leave Buffy to deal with the man. They had kept in touch via phone calls, email and were the least surprised of anyone when Buffy had returned with them to Cleveland with her newest lover.

Still it had been a huge shock to return home and meet again with both Angel and Spike. The shock and pain in her heart she saw mirrored in their eyes. Especially when she discovered their involvement with other people. Buffy was aware they felt the same way about Travis.

Those were the same emotions she had seen in Xander before he slumped to the ground. The stake used to dust vampires now driven into his chest. Vaguely she was aware of her surroundings until Faith just grabbed her and shook her.

"Snap out of it Buffy!"


Faith shook her head as she turned her attention to the fallen man. She registered the sound of an ambulance as well as police sirens approaching. The Boston slayer knelt down, quietly she noted that he was still breathing, if shallowly. Hoping she knew what she was doing, she grabbed the stake and pulled out. She quickly turned and threw it as far as she could and in the dark of night she could barely see it arc through the night air and land in an upstairs window of the abandoned building.

The Library

Harmony burst into the library startling the other people in the room. Her chest heaving as her long dead body instinctively tried to draw air into her colds.


The blonde vampires blinked before she answered her old friend, "Hey Cordelia, Willow, Dawn..."

"What. Is. It." The tone in former seer's voice told her not to beat around the bush.

"There's been an accident."

Willow's head turned around and her gaze focused on Harmony.

"Buffy and Faith were trying to save someone and Xander got hurt."

Dawn's voice cracked slightly as she spoke, "What do you mean got hurt?"

"Buffy stabbed him. By accident." She added.

All the color drained out of the other girl's faces at that. There was a pause before chaos erupted.

"She did WHAT!"



Harmony shifted her gaze reading the anger and surprise on each girl's face. Cordelia's jaw tightened dangerously and her eyebrow twitched briefly.

"Dawn, get your coat. We're going to the hospital. Which one is he at?"

"Sacred Heart."

"Wait. I'm coming too."

"... Okay Willow. Harmony tell Angel where we went."

Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital

Faith stared at the vending machine mentally contemplating her situation. On one hand she was really thirsty and could do with a drink. On the other, she hadn't eaten since leaving the school and her stomach was grumbling. Too bad, she only had enough money for one. With a sigh, Faith dropped in the coins and punched in a number. She then collected her Snickers bar, opened it and started eating. The ambulance ride had been unsettlingly and silent. Buffy had been on the verge of tears staring at Xander's body.

She leaned back against the wall as she ran through things again.

Head into town with Buffy to blow off some steam. Check.

Have a good time in a club. Check.

Save a girl from some vamps. Check.

Stake said vamps. Check.

Almost kill Xander.

That last one almost deserved a 'check' as well. She had come within a hair's breath of actually doing that. It wasn't like he could have stopped her, slayer strength and all. Faith shivered involuntarily at the memory of that night. If it wasn't for Angel showing up and saving her then...

Best not to think like that. She wasn't that person anymore, prison and working with B and Angel had changed her. Not to mention hanging around Giles and Willow, who she learned, had fallen off the wagon as well. Then there was her relationship with Robin.

The son of Nikki Woods had been stubborn, thoughtful, and tough when needed as well as understanding and accepting of her. He didn't pry into her background, instead he focused on the present with her. Faith had initially tried to push him away but he had stubbornly refused to leave. So slowly, steadily their relationship moved from sex on the eve of the apocalypse that was becoming more.


She looked up and saw the nurse on duty standing nearby.

"Yeah, what?"


"Faith, my name is Faith."

"Faith, the young man is out of surgery now. He will be in a recovery room and kept under observation."


"May I ask, where the other young lady who was with you is?"

"Buffy? I have no idea."

At that moment, Faith's slayer hearing heard vomiting coming from inside the lady's restroom. Mentally dismissing the woman, she entered the bathroom to find the elder slayer puking into a toilet. Or at least attempting to, whatever food Buffy had in her stomach had long since been regurgitated and she was only dry heaving now.

The blonde slayer paid no mind to her as she continued trying to puke into the bowl. The only thing she was able to add now was her saliva mixed in slightly with mucus from her running noses. It slowly dawned on Faith, that Buffy had been crying given the redness around her eyes and the tremors running through her body.

"Hey B, you all right?"

Buffy's answer was to heave one more time before slumping backwards away from the bowl on her butt. She brought her hands up to her face, as more tears started to fall.

"B... Buffy, are you all right?"

There was silence except for some quiet weeping from Summers. Faith tried to discern something from the other slayer but was unable to do so. At length, Buffy stopped crying and let her hands fall to her lap. Faith opened her mouth to repeat her question when she spoke in a quiet voice.

"No. I'm not all right."

"He's gonna be all right B. Nurse says he's out of the body shop and is recovering nicely."

"I killed him Faith."

"B. Didn't you hear me? He's not dead."

"He might as well be. I STABBED right in the chest. It was only dumb luck I missed his heart and only nicked the horta or whatever that big one is called."

"But he's not dead."

Buffy was quiet for a little bit. "I didn't know it was him. I should have looked before I staked."

"Buffy, it's not all your fault. X shouldn't have run into a fight like that without saying anything, you know. He should have said something so we could have kept an eye on him. Or let the other dude take over."

"I was careless Faith. Again. I almost did..."

"You almost killed a man like I did."

There was an uncomfortable silence as both slayers thought about that. Faith broke it first, "Buffy. This isn't you. It's not your fault. You know that. G told me that he told you, accidents happen."

Buffy's voice was quiet and soft when she spoke next, "But Why?"

The Boston slayer didn't have an answer for that, even if she knew which question Buffy was asking. She put it out of her, resolving to speak to Angel about it later. Instead she offered her friend a hand to stand up with.

"Come on B. we gotta get cleaned up before the gang gets here. Wouldn't want them seeing you like this."

Buffy didn't answer her as she went to a sink and mechanically began cleaning herself. As such she was unable to see the concerned look on Faith's face as the younger slayer pondered the night's events.

Chapter 2

"How could you."

There was coldness in Dawn's voice that hurt worse then any injury she had suffered. Buffy trembled slightly as she searched in vain for an answer. An answer that would make sense, that would stop the pain she felt insider herself.

"I didn't know."

"Is that your answer for everything?"

Buffy shifted uncomfortably under her sister's glare. Her throat became very dry as she tried to answer Dawn.

"I... I didn't know it was him. One second I was fighting vampires then... Xander...I swear Dawn I didn't know."

The younger sister took a step toward her as fresh tears started falling down her cheeks. She opened her mouth to speak but only a slight squeak came out. Buffy moved toward her and the two sisters embraced as each silently wept.

Faith watched the scene with apparent non-interest. Dawn had immediately sought out and confronted her sister as soon as she had arrived at the hospital. Off to one side stood Andrew who was alternating between concern for Xander and joy for the scene between the sisters.

"How did it happen?"

She glanced beside her noting that Cordelia like herself was trying to remain non-interested in the scene before them.


"I'm sure it was."

Faith didn't bother answering her. Her dark brown eyes flickered towards the wall-mounted clock, as she awaited the arrival of Wood and Angel.

Recovery Room

Willow sat at the bedside of the man she once called friend. Well more then 'friend', more like her whole world. A world that began with breaking the yellow crayon in pre-school and ended... When had it ended? When he walked into the library after a two-year disappearance and announced that he no longer wanted her in his life. Or when he had gotten engaged to Anya and left her at the altar. Maybe it had ended earlier then that in a sleazy hotel room...

No, if she was honest with herself, it had ended the day Xander had laid eyes on Buffy Summers. That was the day her hopes and dreams of being Mrs. Harris had died and crumpled to ash. She still had the wedding invitation she had made as a child, hidden away.

For now, the one time would be Mrs. Harris, mother of three, sat and waited for her one time ideal husband, Mr. Harris, to wake up.

Waiting Room

"Run through it again."

Faith sighed and then told Angel for the fifth time the events that led up to Buffy's accidental staking of Xander. The ensouled vampire listened intently as he monitored Faith's reactions while telling the story. He trusted Faith completely, he just needed to make sure she didn't leave out any details.

"So the girl she was running from some," He paused to make certain none of the hospital staff was in earshot, "vampires?"

Faith nodded but Angel saw the uncertainty in her eyes.

"Faith, was there, something else? A demon?" Angel glanced over at Wood in annoyance before returning his gaze to the slayer. The brunette looked at them with uncertainly before answering.

"There was something else out there. I don't know what though. I couldn't see or hear nothing but the vamps but I felt something else."


"And then it was gone. Like someone switched off a light switch."

Angel considered this bit of information then nodded at Faith and started to head out of the room.

"Where are you going?"

He turned and looked back at Wood, "I'm gonna go check on the girl. We can't help Xander right now. But maybe we can find out what's going on with her."

The one time head of W&H paused to say hello to Willow as she came from Xander's bedside and headed down the hall.

The former principal of Sunnydale High watched him leave. Then he returned his attention to an increasingly fidgeting Faith. Robin gently laid his hand on hers, his touch seemingly soothing and calming the jittery slayer.

"Just looking for my smokes."

"Thought you were gonna quit."

"Picked the wrong night to start, didn't I?"

Silence reigned as their fingers intertwined and Faith leaned back against him. Resting her head on his shoulder, Faith said nothing as she watched the seconds tick by.

Down the hall

"There you are. How is she?"

Angel ignored Spike's question briefly as he took in the scene. Unlike the waiting area near Xander, this place was fairly quiet. There was a policeman on duty outside of the room where the girl lay. Nurses and doctors went about their tasks in quiet.

"All right you poof. How is she? How is Buffy?"

He fixed the younger vampire with a measure look. "She's... okay. The others are with her." There was a pause as he stepped past Spike. "Dawn wasn't happy with her."

"Stupid wanker. Should have kept his nose out of it."

"What happened to Xander was an accident. Leave it at that Spike. Now how's the girl?"

The bleached blonde vampire looked at him, skeptically before speaking.

"Girl's fine. A few questions about where her head is and such by the locals but nothing since. Docs have her pretty well knocked out. Checked up on her little while ago, she's sleeping all graceful like."

"Police have nothing to go on?"

"Nope. Just mumbling about punks with scarred up faces. Look don't ignore me mate, you can't stand there and pretend this is all and good. I know you Angel, I know what's going on in that big forehead of yours. This whole business has got you spooked. Not just about Buffy but about the other one too."

"Faith is fine. She has," Angel hesitated, "Wood to help her and the others, it won't be like before."

"And Buffy? What about her?"

"She has the help she needs."

"Please. You don't mean that sodden burke. He's as rotten as the night is long."

"I trust her judgement."

"Saw how well that worked out mate. Do you trust him? Sod this. I'm going to check on her."

Angel watched him leave in quiet.

Xander's hospital room

He watched the unmoving young man lying in the bed before him. Dressed in a hospital gown that robbed every wearer of their dignity, with tubes and wires attached to his chest and arms. Alexander Harris hardly looked like a great threat yet in the mind of the half demon at the foot of his bed, he was.

Travis had long since considered his knack for having good luck at precisely the right time, an advantage that had kept him alive. When business was down, he hit upon a new product or service that brought profits back. When a deal went bad, he found a way to rectify it. And when a client demanded compensation, a sacrifice was made. And then of course there was Buffy...

Now as he looked down at the man before him, again his good luck had come to him. He had happened into the meeting between Harmony, Angel and Spike. And had interjected himself into the trip along with Wood. Neither vampire liked the other man and the feeling was mutual so nothing was said when he came along

Still a certain amount of planning had been required along with a quick visit to his office, ostensibly to retrieve his wallet and other documents they would need to assure the hospital staff. Along with those items he had retrieved something else. Something that had come into his possession a good six years prior to meeting Buffy.

"Funny, I had thought dealing with you would be harder." He spoke in a low, quiet voice, barely audible above the hum of the machines. The half demon moved silently until he was by Xander's bedside, idly he traced the IV line that fed into his arm. There was a slight smile on his face as he produced a syringe from inside his coat. Silently he injected the contents into Xander's IV bag and smiled wider when the machine didn't react and it's results remain unchanged. He replaced the needle inside his coat as he stepped back.

"Were you to awaken or pass away. Things would change people would change. Questions would be asked. This way we both benefit. You get a long rest and I get to keep what is mine."

Chapter 3

"Buffy, there you are"

The blonde slayer looked up at her current beau with traces of tears in her eyes. She closed her eyes as he pulled her into a tight embrace with his arms around her waist. Travis felt his shirt moisten slightly and heard Buffy sniffle slightly. He drew back and looked down at the small woman that had captured his heart and held it in her hands.

"Why are you crying?"

"Why am I crying? Isn't it obvious, I just put someone I care about in the hospital. It's because of me he almost died."

"Buffy," the half demon tenderly cupped her chin, "You did nothing wrong. It was an accident that could have happened to anyone. It wasn't your fault, Alexander didn't give you and Faith any warning. And he shouldn't have been there to begin with. He knows his combat abilities are limited at best."

The slayer said nothing, she just leaned her head against his chest. Behind him, Travis sensed someone staring. He looked over his shoulder and saw Spike staring at him with barely disguised jealousy in his eyes.

"All right, so what do we do now?"

"Nothing Miss Chase. There is nothing we can do except wait. The Hospital will call and alert us if there is any change in Alexander's condition."

Cordelia opened her mouth to object but Dawn spoke first. "Someone should be here, for when he wakes up."

"And someone will be Dawn, when he wakes up tomorrow. Tonight, we're all tired, especially your sister and Faith. We should return to the school and continue our normal activities."

"Now wait a minute, mister-"

"Ms. Chase, please. I understand your intentions but Alexander is beyond our help at the moment. Let the hospital staff do their job and watch over him. We can check by in the morning and they have our number in the event of an emergency. In the meantime, I suggest we continue with things as normal at the school."

"I hate to say it," Robin began drawing the attention of the others, "But Travis has a point. The school comes first. The girls come first."

Everyone seemed to accept Robin's words and started preparing to go. Dawn reached out and tapped Willow lightly on the shoulder, drawing the red head out of looked like some deep thinking.

"Huh, Dawnie?"

"It's time to go Willow."

"But Xander-"

"We can check on him tomorrow." The expression on Dawn's face clearly indicated that she didn't like what was going on but was going along with it anyway.

Willow nodded and mechanically stood up, gathering her purse and coat. Everyone else was similarly preparing to leave. Travis kept his arm around Buffy as the group started out only to see Angel the hallway.

"You guys headed back?"

"Yes, we have things to do Angel."

The former Scourge of Europe seemed to nod at the other man's words. "Okay you do that, Spike and I are will be along in a bit."

The blonde vampire perked up at hearing that, "What we will?"

"Yes. We're staying."

Spike opened his mouth to object but saw the look on Angel's face. He recognized it from LA and clamped his jaw shut. Silently the pair watched the others leave with Dawn shooting an unhappy look at them as she followed her sister.

"All right peaches, what's the deal? Do you think Harris is going to be eaten up while lying in his bed like snack cake?"

"This isn't about Xander, Spike. We can't help him. It's about the girl."

"What about her?"

"Faith said she was running from something."

"Yeah lots of somethings, walk on two legs, drink blood, kind of kin to us. I think I'm familiar with them."

The former head of Wolfram & Heart looked crossly at the other man, "She also said she sensed something else. Something... odd."

"Hmm... odd... oh what the hell. Could be fun, better then staying here and watching the whelp sleep."



Amy was literally shaking with rage, sparks were running through her hair and the very air around her was sparkling and shimmering. Kennedy stood back as Andrew continued to sputter his way through what happened. He was trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to tell the story and not have Amy over react. Finally at one point, she just reached out and touched his arm. He yelped slightly and jumped back in pain.

"Hey you shocked me, that wasn't very nice to do."

"Right now I'm not in a very nice mood, " the former cheerleader- turned-witch-turned-mouse-turned woman growled at him.

Andrew gulped nervously.


"Do you know what I like the most about my job? Aside from the obvious travel opportunities, I enjoy the chaos that results."

The man known as 'Mr. Thomas' was addressing his latest guest, Jason Voorhees. The masked serial killer was still frozen in place thanks to the other man's earlier actions. Though not able to move physically, Jason's eyes followed his captor around the room.

"I mean really who wouldn't? Every place I go...bloodshed, fear, terror, and death follow. Marvelous isn't it? You yourself are also such a creature. You are unique even in my experiences. I have visited many worlds and seen great many creatures and people but you are perhaps the most intriguing yet. I wonder what you could tell me, what knowledge lies within you that could be shared."

Mr. Thomas smiled at his guest even as he opened the door to his left. As soon as the door was fully open, a bluish light formed within the space, coalescing and shaping itself into a portal. The 'businessman' turned and moved towards his frozen captive. He easily hoisted Voorhees with one hand and carried him back to the doorway. He made sure to lock eyes with Jason before speaking again.

"It's of no matter to me. My comrades will discover whatever secrets and knowledge you possess. They are like me, always seeking to further what we know of life, death and everything in between. Things such as pain, suffering, be it theirs or yours, means nothing to them or me. Enjoy your stay Mr. Voorhees, it will be most enlightening... for us."

And with that, he threw one of most dangerous and unstoppable killers through the portal. The doorway pulsed for a moment before closing and disappearing into nothing. Leaving the remaining man to laugh.


Harmony yawned her way through her paperwork. Being the only secretary at the slayer school really sucked sometimes. She had to answer the phones, fill out a huge number of forms, file those forms, and bring other forms to be signed by Robin among others. And then there was the endless amount of filing and bringing Angel his blood because Robin refused to have her bring his coffee. All in all it was very boring and tedious. But it was an improvement over her last job even when answering the ringing phones like she did now.

"Hello Crestview."

"Oh, hello this is Dr. Joel Fleischman at Sacred Heart Hospital."

"Oh, Hi."

The man at the other end of the phone cleared his throat, "I'm fine actually, this number was given out by a Buffy Summers to be used in the event there was a change in the status of either of Kit Dee or Alexander Harris."


"Well there's been a change in Mr. Harris's status."

"Oh right, the stabbing thing."

".... Yes, Well Mr. Harris's status has changed."


"He's slipped into a coma."

Chapter 4

"Hello Ms?"

"Uh, yes... You said he's coma-like?"

"Not coma like. He's in a coma. A very deep one it appears. I was hoping to talk with Ms. Summers more about the nature of his accident. That way we could figure out more about his condition."

"Yeah, can they call you back?"

"Why yes... Or they can come talk to me or the doctor on duty at the hospital."

"Okay, bye."

Harmony hung up the phone.

"Now what?"

A little bit later

"He's WHAT!"

"In a coma. The doctor was very specific about that. He said that Xander had slipped into a deep coma."

The faint dark rings under Buffy's bloodshot eyes seemed to deepen as she absorbed this news. She didn't move for a few minutes and privately Harmony was wondering if she had fainted on her feet again. Finally she took a deep breath before turning around to her right.

"Willow, we have to go see him."

The red head, still seemingly out of it, nodded.

"Buffy, the school,"

"Will be fine." She crossed the distance between herself and Travis. "I need to see him, to see if I can help him."

His hand, briefly enveloped hers as he met her eyes, "and Are you sure you can help? If the doctors say he's slipped into a deep coma, then there is very little that can be done."


He watched the two of them leave in silence. Then his gaze shifted to the faces of the two vampires in the room. Travis noted the jealousy and anger flash across each's face.

"And you?"

Angel resisted the urge to growl at the half-breed. "Spike and me are going to check the alley, Andrew managed to find the police report online."

"He did, did he? That was enterprising of him."

"Little whelp used the door the witch made. Says that police found another corpse at the girl's place."

"I suppose you two would be the best choice to investigate that."

Angel's eyes narrowed as he bit off his retort, turning on his heel he left the room trailed by Spike.

Sacred Heart Hospital

"Buffy, I don't know if I can do this."

"Willow you can do this. You did it before."

"That was different. You were different. Xander is-"

"Willow please."

At last the red head nodded and took Buffy's hand in her left hand as her right sought one of Xander's hands. Buffy likewise took his remaining hand in her own. Silently each girl looked at each other and then at their friend, then closed their eyes. Then there was flash of white light...


Buffy's eyes opened and she found herself in a familiar setting, Sunnydale, California. Or rather a version of it, that existed inside Xander's mind. She was standing in what was the main street that ran through the town. But instead of the shops that had lined the street in the real Sunnydale, here she saw the Magic Box, the entrance to Revello drive, and what looked like two high schools. Looking on the other side of the street, she saw Willow's house, Xander's home, the apartment complex where he lived, she even saw UC Sunnydale and Giles's residence.

Tentatively, she started walking down the street, looking for well anything. There was one thing she noticed the whole 'town' was deserted. The eerily quiet streets heightened her sense of unease.

"Well hello Blondie."

Buffy jumped nearly a foot in the air and whirled around to find Cole quietly smirking at her.

"Been a while slayer. How ya been?"

"I'm here for Xander."

"Well seeing as how this is his mind, I'd say you're in the right spot to be looking."

"Where is he?"

Cole shrugged then frowned and nodded in a direction, "Check over there, the construction site. I think that's where he might be."

Buffy turned her gaze to where he was looking and after a bit of searching found what he was referring to. She could faintly make out a figure working there and turned her head to thank the other man but he was gone.

Taking a deep breath she started walking towards the site. Seemingly in seconds she arrived, looking around she spotted whom she was looking in for in a corner. Cautiously she approached Xander from behind, her eyes dipped slightly as she saw what he was doing, brick- laying. Methodically, he laid down a row of wet cement and then brick by brick he made a row of them. Unfortunately as he added each new layer, the one on the very bottom seemed to sink into the ground.


The carpenter stopped working and turned back to look at her for a few seconds before resuming his work.


"Just say what you've got to say Buffy."

She walked around until she was in front of him. Then she reached out and touched his hand irritated he stopped.

"Okay Buffy what is it?"

"Xander, I want to say that I'm sorry."


"And I'm sorry that I hurt you like this."

"'Like this?' is that ALL you came to say?"

"I... I don't understand."

"Let me give you a piece of news Buff. The world doesn't revolve around you. Other people have lives and problems too you know. Or have you forgotten that?"

"I'm trying the best I can Xander."

"Really? Were you trying your best when let them take Willow? Or put Robin's life in danger?"

Buffy remained silent in the face of his rant. Abruptly the one-eyed man looked down at her and shook his head. "This is pointless. Just get out of here, I've got a lot of work to do."

Saying that, he resumed his brick laying and after a few minutes of watching him at his apparently never-ending task, Buffy walked away. She replayed their conversation in head, trying to make sense of it. In the distance, she caught site of her old high school and set off in that direction. Right before she reached the area she remembered as the quad, there was another flash of white light.

Buffy blinked at first thinking she was back in the hospital room but then she saw she was actually in a snowy plaza area. To her left she could see a large outdoor skating rink. On her right were numerous picnic tables and benches, at least twenty by her count. Then she noticed all the signs and writing were in ...Japanese?

"What is going on?"

A sound caught her attention and she turned to see a young Japanese girl running from a group of men. She could see the girls breath visible in the cold winter's night. A second later she noted the girl was carrying a katana with her as she ran from the pack of young men and boys. They caught up with her just as she reached the plaza and the closest grabbed her by the shoulder. Surprisingly she dropped her shoulder, grabbed the man by the wrist and threw him into a table, bouncing his head off the concrete in the process. The move surprised the others as they stopped and watched.

Abruptly the man popped up his face changing to that of the familiar one of a vampire. Likewise the other men's faces changed to that of vampires. With quiet and murderous intent, they stalked towards the girl, driving her back into a corner. Buffy felt sick to her stomach as she prepared to watch what would be a one-sided battle.

And a very large sack bounced off the heads at least two vampires. The others paused to watch the sack hit ground spilling...presents. The apparent leader of the vampires snarled in Japanese though strangely Buffy could understand him, "What the hell?"

The sound of jingling bells drew everyone's attention a figure standing on top of a light pole. He was dressed in red with white trim. He had long white beard and appeared slightly overweight. Even so, it was a fairly long time before the young girl broke the silence.


"Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas" Santa spoke in Japanese accented English. He looked down at the mass, smiled broadly then with one hand grabbed his beard. Abruptly there was the sound of fabric tearing, as he seemed to tear his clothes off and fling them from his body. Buffy blinked in surprise as she recognized the figure now standing on the light pole.

"And a HAPPY NEW YEAR!" Cole grinned as he casually flipped off the pole, landing beside the girl.

"Greetings, young maiden," he spoke in Japanese to her, "I was in the neighborhood passing out good cheer when I saw these things chasing you. Being the gentleman I thought I would lend my assistance in this matter. What say you?"

The girl looked from the kind face of the man in front of her to the snarling and twisted faces of the vampires. Quickly she made her mind up, "My answer is... yes."

Cole nodded and took his place beside her, putting his back to hers. He withdrew the handle of his sword from within his coat and ignited the green, pulsing energy blade. The girl likewise unsheathed the razor sharp blade of her sword.

"I'm Cole by the way."



The vampires choose that moment to charge and Cole and Sakura started their attacks, cold steel and green light weaving a deadly pattern through their ranks. Buffy stared at the light show until she had to blink and suddenly found herself back in the quad area of Sunnydale high again.

Confused she looked around and found she wasn't alone in the quad. Cole was laying peacefully on one of the tables. Silently she approached him, intent on getting answers.

"Meeting didn't go very well, did it?"

Crap, he had heard her after all. Sighing her defeat, she trumped up to the table where he was and plopped down the bench.

"No. I don't understand what's going on. I apologized for hurting him. I want to make amends but he doesn't seem interested."


"I didn't even get a chance to ask him about the pills."

At that Cole's eyes opened and he turned his head and looked at her. "Pills?"

"Dawn found a bottle of pills in his room. They were the same prescription as my mom had before she..."

"Oh, those pills. They're for the pain."

Buffy's head shot up and she focused more intently on him. "Pain? WHAT pain?"

Cole sighed, "When you get done after a night's patrolling and slaying, you're probably pretty sore, right?"


"Well considering X doesn't have your accelerated healing, durability or anything else. How do you think HE feels after going along on one of your patrols?"

"I told him, he shouldn't come-"

"Please, after he followed you into the sewers, it should have been obvious that he was coming along come hell or high water. So why didn't you bother training him?"

"I didn't think about it."

"Uh huh, and the Troll? You didn't think anything MIGHT be wrong after he got pummeled by the same hammer you used to beat down the Hell-bitch."

Buffy didn't say anything.

"At least tell you took him to the hospital after he stopped Red Wreaking Hood?"

"No...He didn't want to go."

Cole sat up and looked at her with a mixture of surprise and disgust on his face.

"God you really are clueless", Cole sat up as he glared down at her, "Okay Summers, here's the deal. X's body has been thru seven years worth of physical abuse without the benefits of any real training or even regular checkups. Part of that is his own stubbornness but a part of it belongs on you, his alleged 'friend' for not helping. And don't get me started on Books-a-Million. On top of that, he's just buried his OWN parents."

Buffy's voice was barely above a whisper, timid, lacking in her normal strength.

"Can't you help him?"

"Hell no I can't help him. I can't even make the change, if I want."

She looked up at him in surprise, "You can't?"

"Nope. Per the terms of the spell it has to be consensual, he has to want the switch when he's in control and vice versa. If one of us tries to force the change, there is a chance it seriously damage one or both."

"He's in a coma now"

"Great, do you want to turn him into a brain-dead, drooling vegetable too? Because that's what will happen if I try to force the change."

"But can't you lend him your strength or someone?"

"Again No, I can't. In the first place, it's extremely dangerous for him as is. And in the second, I don't know how. I'm not THAT familiar with magic that I'm willing to alter thousand year old enjoining magic on a whim. Sheesh."

Buffy looked downcast again.

"Look you want to fix things? The solution to all of Xander's problems is in that school locker over there," He gestured to a group of lockers standing alongside the wall. All but one were open, their doors ajar revealing the empty contents within. "You open it, you'll find all the answers."

The slayer stood up and walked over to the lockers with Cole watching her. She reached and touched the cool metal door of the locker and tried the handle. It refused to open and she tried harder. Again the door refused to open. She kept pulling on the door handle, using all her slayer strength on it and the door stubbornly refused to open.

Finally she gave up on trying the handle and started fiddling with the combination lock. First, she tried Xander's birthday. Then Willow's, then her's, even Dawn's. The locker stubbornly refused to open. Then she felt something tugging at the back of her mind and was just about to remember it when she heard Cole's voice behind her.

"Oh, looks like your quarter's up."

There was another flash of bright light that blinded Buffy and she found herself back in the hospital room, holding hands with her best friends. She smiled sadly down at Xander and then looked at Willow while still wearing the same sad smile.

"We have to talk."

Chapter 5

"Buffy, I don't know about this. It sounds really dangerous."

"I agree with Willow."

Buffy glared at Kennedy, then looked around the room. She saw similar misgivings on the faces of the others present. "Look, I know this sounds a little crazy."

"Buffy, this isn't crazy. This is dangerous. A person's life is at stake. Xander's."

"All of our lives were at stake back in Sunnydale, but we did what we had to do and we won."

Buffy walked over and stood in front of Willow. She grasped the other woman's hands in her own. Her own uncertainty was mirrored in the redhead's eyes. The slayer took a deep breath before speaking again.

"Will, you know what Cole said. Xander's pain and part of the reason why is our fault. We've got to help him, somehow."

"But this... Buffy I don't know. Messing with magic like that... It could kill him."

"Not to be mean but Willow's right."

Buffy's attention shifted to her right where Fred sat. The mousy, one time physics student continued, "Magic dealing with other magic is almost completely hypothetically and the results are completely unpredictable."

"We know that, we've done it before with the slayer scythe and activating all the potentials. Oh and that time in Minnesota too."

"Please Willow, can we at least look for something?"

The witch and former hacker stared into the blue green eyes of her best friend and nodded. "Okay I'll look thru the books we have, maybe something there can help us. But I just want you to know, I'm only agreeing to look."

Travis watched the two women clasp hands. While he was outwardly calm, inside he was laughing. The liquid he had used originally had been purchased from an occult merchant some years before. Once in a person's system, it brought about a deep coma-like state from which there was no escape unless the antidote was used. And the vial that contained the antidote was half a world away in Europe locked in his personal safe.

Silently he stepped forward and placed a reassuring hand on each woman's shoulder. The half demon smiled as each turned and looked at him, "Thank you Willow. I'm sure if there is a way to help Alexander, you will find it."

Buffy and Willow smiled but then the red head her attention back to the other woman, "Buffy there is one thing I have to do first."


"I have to talk to Xander myself."

Buffy nodded and then looked around the room, somewhat surprised.

"Where are Angel and Spike?"


The '98 green Saturn pulled into the empty parking lot of the closed video store. It's two occupants stared down the street, noting the yellow police tape around one of the buildings. After a few minutes, the driver exited the car with the passenger following him, complaining all the way.

"Oh how the mighty have fallen, went from a Jag to a ruddy four door sedan."

"No one forced you to come along Spike."

"And miss the opportunity to see the great one at work. Why I shudder at the thought."

The two vampires quietly slipped into the back alleys and made their way to the house. Reaching the back door, Angel paused to note frame was splintered and the knob looked slightly bent. Then he entered the building with Spike in tow.

"Remember don't touch anything, we don't need to give the police any fingerprints."

"I know that you poof."

Angel didn't bother responding as he started carefully looking around the apartment. The house furnished like one would expect given it's owner. Photos adorned the wall, knick-knacks were scattered throughout the home. He still smelled the faint scent of human blood in the air and tracked it upstairs. In the bedroom upstairs is where the scent was strongest. Angel noted the broken window as he made his way to where the bed was. After examining the bed for a few minutes he left and went back downstairs. Spike was in the kitchen apparently rooting through the girl's things.


The blonde vampire turned around in surprise then he saw who it was.

"Oh it's only you."

"What are you doing?"

"Just looking for a bit of Wheatabix. Ran out yesterday and Andrew hasn't gone shopping yet."

"Come on, we have to get back to the school."

"Oh all right, bloody Elton John-like ego has to do things his way."

Sacred Heart Hospital

"Are you sure about this?"

"No but that's why I have to talk to Xander first. He might know more about what's going on."

Kennedy kissed her girlfriend, "Be careful Willow".

The red head blushed slightly and then took Xander's hands in her own. She concentrated on his face as she tried to re-establish the mental connection she once held with him. There was a flash of white light and Willow found herself on Sunnydale's main street again. She noted the lights were on in the Magic Box and made her way to it. Unlike the real Magic Box, there were no ringing bells here just a silent, empty shop.

The witch looked around noting the shelves were filled with their customary products. The displays were still setup as she remembered them. Even the books and magazines about which Anya and Giles had been fastidious were carefully and neatly arranged. She found him in the back room sitting on a weapon's chest that was near a window. The sunlight filtering in through the panes of glass cast him in a warm healthy glow. He also didn't seem surprised to see her.

"Hey Wills."


Hesitantly she made her way over and sat next to him. In his mind, Xander still had both of his warm brown eyes, not like the cold impersonal ones she saw now.

"Whatcha ya doing?"

"Just thinking about stuff. I guess. Things I did things I didn't do. The usual."

"Buffy told me what happened. What you said to her. She was really hurt by it."

"Well I'm really hurt by what she DID not said."

Saying that Xander hopped off the chest and started walking around the room. He lingered at the training dummy, circling around it before continuing. "I mean after all this time, she still doesn't even know me."

"She knows your birthday?"

"Please she got me socks and a tie."

"You needed them though."

"Willow," He paused, "she didn't care that I had to stake Jessie. That I love Anya. Or what happened to Dawn."

"She did what she thought was the right thing Xander."

"Yeah, amazing how the right thing turns out to not involve me."

"Graduation, that involved you. Getting everyone ready to stop the big, slimy Mayorsnake."

"Yeah and if Riley had been, she wouldn't have paid me the slightest bit of attention. And she would have been right. Maybe if Riley had been there or Faith... maybe fewer people would have died. Maybe Harmony wouldn't be a vampire or Larry would be here."

Xander's shoulders slumped down as he leaned against the practice dummy. "I screwed up and because of me people got killed."

Willow opened her mouth to interject something but then he started talking again, "I guess that was when she decided I wasn't good enough to watch her back. I was just good enough to watch her pet vampire." The last word was punctuated with a punch that left the dummy shaking. His arms hung loosely at his sides as he stared at the dummy then looked over at his best friend.

"Help me Willow."

And then he was gone, no flash, no sparkles just gone. Willow looked around the room in confusion. One minute Xander was there and there were talking. The next he was gone and the room was empty. Hesitantly she looked around the empty room, finding nothing she went out the back door intent on finding him.

"Hey Red, what's shaking?"

Startled, Willow turned around and saw Cole sitting on a pile crates just outside in the alleyway behind the Magic Box. Cautiously she walked towards him until she was standing only a few feet from where he was seated. Cole merely eyed the witch with a bored expression on his face.

"Where's Xander?"

Cole shrugged, "He comes and goes. Not real coherent from time to time."

"I, Buffy and I want to help him. We-"

"Kinda late for that."

"I know he's not useless. He's got experience, skills from the army guy he was-."



"I said they're gone. Wiped out. Erased. Faded away. He's got nothing. No soldier memories, no hyena senses. Nada."

"H-How do you know that?"

Cole frowned at her question. "Okay W, it works like this. You know your body has an immune system that works to remove anything it perceives as infection. Anything even transplanted organs, right?"

Willow nodded and the hunter continued. "The mind works the same way pretty much. Anything it perceives as been threatening, like say a whole bunch of new memories and thoughts that it personally didn't create, it removes. And that includes the memories X had as a soldier, even though he was 'Private Harris', that wasn't him really so his subconscious erased away those memories. And the hyena stuff is long gone."

"Can't we bring them back?"

He looked a little surprised at her question but shook his head. "Nope. He's already had his head messed with a couple of times before. You all have. If you try to bring back what he tried to forget, you could end up driving him insane."

Willow remained where she was, not having moved at all during his explanation. Cole looked over at the witch and took a little pity on her. "I know it sucks, believe me. Hell I don't like it and I've doing this supernatural crap for over a decade." He turned and looked up, "Looks like your quarter's up. Sorry I couldn't be more of a help."

Cole watched the witch disappear and shook his head, "Oh X, what am I gonna do with you?"

Chapter 6

"Ms. Chase?"

Cordelia looked up and saw two of her former pupils standing in the doorway. "Hey Vi, Rona. What can I do for you?"

The two young slayers looked at her for a moment before answering, "We were wondering where is... Xander?"


"Yeah we wanted to talk to him and to Cole. We haven't seen him really since the assembly and the arm-breaking."

"Oh. Why didn't you go see him earlier?"

"We were...kinda..."



"Well with the arm breaking thing and how different he was from Sunnydale."


"Well in Sunnydale, we really didn't notice him. I mean he was the guy that helped fix the windows. And he and Faith went into the vineyard and saved Kennedy and us and then he got his eye poked out-"

"What Vi means is that... we didn't notice him a whole lot until he was gone. And then Buffy and Willow went nuts. And Mr. Giles wanted to kill Andrew because he saw Xander last."

"But Dawn stepped in and saved him."

"Yeah, she's the one that told us and the others about Xander."

"So where is he?"

Cordelia paused to consider her words before answering, "He's in the hospital. He had a little accident. And he's recovering now."

The girls seemed relieved and dejected at the same time. Vi seemed to sag a bit, leaning against the doorway for support. Rona noticed and lightly clasped the other girl on the arm. The would-be-actress- turned-former-drama-teacher tried to reassure the girls.

"He'll be okay. You'll see."

The Library

"What are you doing Willow?"

The red headed witch looked up to see one of her former childhood friends watching her intently. When Willow didn't answer right away, Amy moved closer to her. Her gaze fell upon the table in front of them, which was crowded with books, scrolls and papers. She picked up an open book noting it was written in a language other then English. Amy put down the book and stared hard at her former classmate.

"What are you doing?"

Willow swallowed before answering, "I'm trying to help Xander."

"How is researching spells going to help Xander?" A horrified look appeared on Amy's face, "Are you planning on casting a healing spell on him? You know those things are dangerous!"

"No, I'm not going to cast a healing spell on him," Amy looked a little relieved at that. "I'm going to try alter the enjoining spell that links him and Cole."

"You're going to WHAT!"

Willow looked up at her, "You heard me. I'm going to try to help Xander."

"By messing with the spell that helps keep him alive?"

"I'm not 'messing' I'm trying to help him."

"Willow this is dangerous. You could do serious brain damage or even kill him."

"Amy," the red head began quietly "Do you remember when we about ten and we at my house planning a sleepover the next night?"

"Yea, I remember. It was you, me, Xander and Jessie."

"Right, well Xander ended up staying past his curfew and got in trouble with his dad..." Willow's voice trailed off slightly, "When I saw him the next day his back was really sore and red. But he told me he was coming because I asked him to. When I was in his head... he asked me to help him. I have to try."

"By 'trying' you mean putting his life in danger."

"Amy!" Willow calmed herself before responding, "right now he's in a deep coma. The doctors don't know when or if he'll ever wake up."

"People wake up from coma's all the time. You were in one, Cordelia was in one..."

"That doesn't mean Xander will."

Willow's statement seemed to hang in the air.

"Will you help me with this spell? I know you know a lot more about magic then you let on."

Amy looked down at the various texts and closed her eyes for a few minutes then opened them and returned her gaze to Willow's face.


The red head seemed to nod even as her shoulders sagged slightly. She took a breath before speaking, "Thank you for being honest. And for caring about Xander."

Then she resumed studying the book in front of her. Amy watched her for a minute before turning and heading towards the exit. She paused briefly at the doorway, conflict still etched on her face but went out the door.

Angel's apartment

"Wait so you're saying what that girl was running from wasn't vampires?"

"No Faith, I'm saying that something attacked her in home and whatever it is, it wasn't a vampire."

"How do you know that?"

"The door was locked. But whoever got it open was stronger then a human. The knob was bent and the doorframe showed signs of being forced."

"And a vampire can't get in without an invite." Wood finished. "Just to play Devil's advocate, maybe one of the girls gave a vamp an invite."

"Why? According to police reports, the girl in the hospital was hysterical over seeing her lover killed in a brutal fashion."

"Maybe she didn't the person was inviting was a vamp?"

"Possible but there was no bite marks on the body and despite the woman's state of undress it doesn't appear like whatever killed had any sort of designs on her."

There was a pause before Faith spoke, "Looks like we need to have a chat with the girl."

The library

Willow finished lighting the candles centered on she was sitting. She took a deep breath in the darkened room to calm herself. Then she started reading from the book in front of her. Although the former Sunnydale high witch had been unable to find a spell exactly suited to her needs, she had found one that was very, very close. Translating the form of Latin used had taken much longer but thankfully she still had plenty of practice. Still, Latin wasn't her strong suit and on this night that would be enough.

Sacred Heart Hospital

The room in which Alexander Harris slept had been empty of visitors since Dawn and Andrew and left hours earlier. The nurse on duty had just completed his check and wouldn't be back around for three hours. Thus there was no one present to see the shimmering cloud form in his room, small at first but growing larger.

Crestview library

Willow continued her chanting, speaking syllable in a rhythmic pattern. The spell had to be spoken just the right way to achieve the desired result. Thus she was being extra careful with her pronunciation.

Xander's hospital room

The glowing mist seemed to reach up from the floor and envelop Xander in it's thick haze. The machines recording his heartbeat and other vital signs registered no change. Indeed, nothing was happening until Willow made a small mistake. She spoke a word just a half a beat out of rhythm and unaware that she had done so, continued on, finishing what she thought was a successful casting.

In the Sunnydale that existed within Xander's mind, Cole stood in a dirt field. The hair on his arms and on the back of his neck was standing up on end as he looked around.

"What the hell is going on?"

Without warning the ground in front of erupted as a slab of granite shot up into the air. Similar slabs followed it to his left and right. The hunter uneasily tried to back away but a fourth slab appeared behind him. Cole took one look around him and tried to flee but couldn't. He looked down and saw his feet were encased in solid rock as the four slabs closed around him.

"Well this doesn't look."

Then the four slabs closed around him and there was a flash of light.

Back in the hospital room, the glowing mist seemed to shake and then fall apart. There was silence, the machine tracking Xander's heartbeat began registering increasing activity. Quietly Xander's eyes flickered open and tiredly began looking around the room. Slowly he searched about the room, trying to figure out where he was and why he was there. At first there was confusion on his face, then anger slowly began replacing it.

Gently but firmly he grasped the needles and wires attached to his body and removed them. Then he stood up ever so slowly, made his way to the dresser and began searching for his clothes.

Chapter 7

"He was big. Tall...dark..."

Kit was shaking as slightly as she spoke to her visitors. They had identified themselves as FBI agents William and Liam. Detective Liam, the senior agent, wrote this down in his notebook.

"Is there anything else you can tell us?"

Detective William asked earnestly.

"A mask, he had on a white mask."

Detective Liam wrote these details down as well. He closed his notebook and nodded to his partner. The two men stood and started out the door.

"Thank you very much Kit. We'll be in touch." Detective William's voice reassured the girl, "For I suggest you get some rest."

Out in the hallway, Detective William scowled at his partner. "This is the last bloody time we go as FBI agents, mate."

"Shut up Spike. We got what we needed."

"Right now what?"

Angel looked around for a bit then met other vampire's gaze.

"Let's go check on Xander."


"Angel said WHAT!"

"Xander's gone. His hospital room is empty and according the nurse and administration he signed himself out."

"Shouldn't they have CALLED US when he woke up!"

Harmony frowned as she tried to remember the details of the story Angel told her. "The hospital said it last checked on him at 11:55 PM. Sometime after that Xander apparently woke up. At 12:20 AM He appeared at the front desk wide-awake and dressed. By 12:25 AN, he was signed out and left the hospital. At least that's what Angel figures."

Buffy sank back down into her chair, still not quite believing what she heard.

"Where are Angel and Spike going now?"

"According to police records there were only two other violent incidents. One was a double homsexualicide, two guys that it looks like worked a record story?"

"A record store?"

"Yeah the Jakked & Plains record store."

Hearing that name, Cordelia sat up straighter and the hair on the back of her neck stood straight up. Robin took note of that immediately, "Sound familiar?"

"Yeah, Xander works there."

Willow's eyes grew as large as saucers at hearing that. Kennedy was still holding her hand as the witch opened and closed her mouth.

"Does Angel know about that?"

"Probably not.

"Tell him."

"Harmony," Fred began, "What was the other incident?"

The blonde vampiress looked down at her notes, "Umm... a multiple murder site in a movie theater. Hmm, 3 bodies were found. Two with severe neck trauma."

"Harmony, tell Angel that too."


Xander looked himself over in the mirror. A little scruffy around the edges, in need of a shave, shower and new clothes perhaps. He didn't look too bad for a recent stab wound victim. The former carpenter ran his hand over the stab wound noting the scar left there and scowled.

"Little Miss Muffet wants to play with sharp sticks does she?"

He moved closer to the mirror, staring intensely at his reflection. "Yes...I think it's time let her in on a little secret. No... Not just her but all of them, time for a few less secrets and a few more questions."

Xander paused as he examined himself again in the mirror, focusing on the left side of his face. "No, this will not do. I think it's time for me to stop lying as well."

He brought his hands up to his face and touched the fake eye. Then Xander smiled as he brought both hands to his face.

"Let's get started shall we."

The streets

"Well that was a fabulous waste of time peaches. Went to the blokes's place and found nothing there either."

Angel sighed, "If you had been paying attention, Spike, instead of running your mouth. You would have noticed the door was forced just like at Kit's house."

"Right then, so our mystery demon shows up, kills those two stoners. Then he shows up a few blocks away, kills one woman and whiffs on killing another. Right. Now where are we going?"

"To check on the final incident Andrew found in the police records. A mass murder in a movie theater about a day before the two guys were killed."




Andrew fell off his stool from where he had been reading something. He glanced up to see the smiling face of Dawn Summers looking down at him. "Ow. That really, really hurt. I thought you promised not to do that anymore."

Dawn giggled slightly as she helped him stand up. Andrew tried to straighten up while Dawn brushed the dirt off and smoothed the wrinkles.

"What are you doing anyway?"

"Oh I was reading the Wizard." He held up the magazine. "And later on I was going to use the price guide to update my comics." The former trio member beamed.

Dawn frowned, "I thought you weren't going to sell those."

"I wasn't, I just like being current."

"Uh huh."

"Really," Andrew insisted.

"I believe you."

"Really I mean it."


It had been a simple matter to get into the theater. After the bodies had been discovered and removed, the place had been closed. The deceased film projectionist had actually been the sole owner of the place and upon his death ownership of the property had been passed along to another family member. At present said family member had yet to show up and claim the property so it remained dark, abandoned and in the same state it had been when the bodies had been found.

Which is why it was easy for Angel and Spike to gain entrance thru the rear of the building. A quick search revealed no signs of a robbery, which agreed with the police department report. The first theater was empty, containing nothing but old popcorn, candy and trash on the floor. In the second however, the scent of blood hung in the air, wafting up from stains on the floor and on the seats.

Angel bent down and examined the seats closely as Spike watched with a bored expression on his face. The older vampire noted the pattern of the blood had seemingly stained the seats and carpet. He also noted the indentations and marks left in the seat itself.

"What a shovel?"


"The police report said that one of the bodies, a girl, was found literally pinned to her seat. A shovel had been thrust through her ribcage, heart, lungs and was still stuck in her. So again I ask, why a shovel? Why didn't the killer use some more traditional, like a knife?"

"Oh, it's tradition he wants. It never stopped you or me from using one before."

Angel glanced over at his cohort, "That was different."

"Why because we were soulless back then?"

"No because you and I, are strong enough to use just about anything as a weapon. A normal person would used something else more effectively."

"Oh... well maybe he found it."

"We don't know if it's a 'he' or not, remember Baltimore."

Spike's expression darkened at that, "Thank you very bloody much. I thought you said you weren't going to bring that up again."

The other vampire ignored for a moment as he backed up while keeping his gaze on the seats. "And I thought I told you never to call me 'peaches'."


Angel's gaze roamed about searching the adjacent seats then dropping to the floor. There it halted and his eyes narrowed as he moved in closer. Spike looked on attempting to uninterested but failing miserably.

"What is it?"

"Ash and ...dust."

"Oh, well I mean look the old place. Could use a major cleaning or perhaps some redecorating,"

Angel glared at him briefly halting Spike's ramblings.

"Not THAT kind of dust and ash. The 'other' kind."

"What other...oh. Well some poor sod got himself staked. Mystery solved."

"Hardly. Something came into this place, killed 3 people and a vampire. And it looks like whatever did it with ease."

As the two vampires were leaving the theater, Spike started talking again. "Right so something that goes bump in the night shows up, kills three people and a vampire all of whom were facing towards the screen."

He stopped by the doorway, "That's a wonderful theory you got there Angel. Got any suspects?"

The older vampire turned around with a retort in mind to finally shut up his partner. Then he noticed the movie poster behind Spike. The former LA detective walked closer to the wall as Spike moved aside. The blonde vampire looked from the movie poster to his grandsire with a confused look on his face.


On the movie poster were emblazoned the words Friday the 13th written in bloodily red letters. But what took up most of the poster was what Angel was staring at. Jason Voorhees standing with his legs slightly apart, shovel in hand. 'He was tall, kind of dark... had on a white mask.' Kit's words reverberated in Angel's mind as he stared at the trademark hockey mask and an uneasy feeling formed in his stomach.

"We have to talk to Buffy right now."

Angel didn't say a word after that and Spike in tow he left the theater. The two vampires didn't say a word to each as they headed towards their car, their only concern was in not being spotted by the police. And they weren't as they drove off. Had they bothered to check more closely, they may have noticed the familiar form of Xander Harris following them.

Chapter 8

"Okay so this is what we know," Angel began addressing the group. Buffy, Willow, Kennedy, Dawn, Cordelia, Amy, Fred and Andrew were seated at one table. Faith was sitting on top of another table with Robin by her side. Travis stood behind Buffy's chair his hands lightly touching her shoulders while Spike leaned against the wall off the side.

"According to the girl, Kit, her attacker was a large man wearing a mask. Her house and the house of the other two victims showed signs that they're attacker was very strong but necessarily a vampire." He paused before continuing, "We also checked the movie theater, site of at least 3 deaths. We also found the remains of a vampire."

"Right, now what about the rest?"

"The Rest?"

"Spike. The theater was showing a lot of horror movies the day those people were killed. One of them was a Friday the 13th film. The main villain of those films as some of you may know, is Jason Voorhees. A supernaturally strong, serial killer who is extremely difficult to kill. He wears a white hockey mask, similar to the one, the girl described as her attacker wore. And in the film, he uses a shovel, which happens to be the weapon used to kill at least one of the victims."

"So you think a movie monster is responsible for killing those people?" The skepticism was evident in Buffy's voice, "How?"

"It's the hellmouth Buffy."

The library doors banged open as a dark haired man casually strolled in, "Which means that ANYTHING is possible. Anything meaning all of your worst nightmares."

"Xander!" Dawn practically leapt out of her seat and grabbed him in a hug. Everyone else was watching in stunned silence for a few seconds before Dawn looked up and frowned. "What happened to your eye?"

Her hand lightly grazed the black eye-patch covering the left side of his face. "Nothing, I just decided to stop hiding behind a lie."

There was coldness to his words that sent shivers down the spine of many present. Buffy cleared her throat as she stood up and made her way close to Xander. Dawn disengaged herself as he turned to confront her older sister standing before him. Tentatively, Buffy spoke, "I'm sorry Xander. I just didn't..." Her words trailed off as Xander enveloped her in a hug.

"'s okay Buffy. You know I love you."

Tears started streaming from Buffy's eyes as a smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. A similar expression was on Xander's face as he released her. And then he slapped her across the face, hard enough to knock the slayer off balance.

Buffy looked up holding the side of her face, "Why?"

"Why? Well like I said, I'm tired of hiding behind lies. Besides I thought you got off on being hurt. You know like how Spike did you."

Pain and surprise flashed in her eyes at hearing that. Xander gave her a cold smile, "Bet you're surprised I know that aren't ya? Whistler told me a lot of things in that motel room. He also showed me a lot of things. Not the least of which was you and bleached evil. From the first kiss after a song and dance, to the building breaking first time to the end even. Boy I bet Angel would be really hurt to know that not even hours after you kissed you were busy spreading your legs for the thing that tried to rape you in your bathroom."

He advanced closer to her and she backed away in return. "I saw it all Buff. Sometimes two or three times even. You really have to hand it to Spike, he made you howl like no one else ever did." Shame and embarrassment were Buffy's face as much as pride and gloating were on Spike's.

"Still, I think you got what you wanted. Didn't want a normal life, so now you can't have one."

Her voice was shaking as she spoke, "What do you mean?"

"What I mean is, Buff, that having intercourse with a vampire is not without it's downside. In this case, thanks to Spike and well... Angel. You won't have to ever worry about being a mom or making Dawn an aunt."

"That's... not..."

"Having you been taking care of yourself Buff? Been to the doctor recently? Surely you noticed when 'that time of the month' didn't hurt as much anymore? See the bottom line is by opening yourself up to sex with a corpse, you've made yourself dead inside. And not even being the Slayer will change that."

Xander smiled as he watched his words hit home and Buffy started shaking as she collapsed on the floor. A strangled sob came from the table as Fred started crying as well and hiding her face in her hands. Spike moved towards her but a glare from Angel stopped him. Wordlessly Cordelia grabbed her friend and pulled her in a supportive hug.

"Oh how sad."

Spike turned, glaring at him as he moved closer, "You bastard."

"I'm a bastard Spike? Funny, I think that term fits you more. I mean at least I know who my father is."

"I'll rip you lungs out and wrap them around your head."

"Careful Spike, Dru wouldn't like that. Oh, wait I guess it really doesn't matter what Dru wants. It's not like she can speak for herself anymore."

Xander's grin was as cold as any worn by Spike and his laughter sent flashes of pain, shock and rage through Angel and Spike. The blonde vampire took a menacing step forward only to be halted by Xander's out-stretched hand. "Hold it I'll deal with you in a minute."

He turned his attention to where Faith and Robin were and grinned at them. Faith was off the table and standing in one fluid motion. Xander clapped lightly in response.

"That was nice, been practicing?"

"I don't like being surprised."

"But you do like the attention, don't you Faith?" Xander's gaze seemed to pin her in place as he spoke. "I mean that's why you let 'Uncle' Kevin take those photos, right? I mean what else would a 13-year-old girl want? Money, attention, a place to sleep, warm meals... so what if those photos weren't exactly Kmart. You didn't care as long as your needs were met. Why I bet you didn't even blink an eyelash when he came for you that night."

Faith turned away, she was unable to meet his gaze any longer and sank slowly down into a chair nearby. Wood stepped in front of her, eyes ablaze, "That's enough Alexander."

"For her it is... maybe. But what about you Robin?"

"What about me, Alex."

"Well I was just wondering if Faith knew about Monique. And Sarah. And Kelly. And Brianne. And the others."

"Who are they?" Dawn's voice was surprising loud in the quiet room. Without turning and looking at her, Xander answered. "They were Slayers. Young girls about Buffy's age when she was called for the most part. Wood knew them He worked with them. Lived with them, slept with most of them."

Faith started shaking in her seat as she took a deep breath. Wood looked from her to his accuser, surprise replacing the indignation he had felt.

Spike stood behind Alexander watching with some amusement as the black man squirmed. "Well done whelp. You've managed to piss off just about everyone, including your bloody hero."

"Hero?" Xander asked as he turned to face the vampire once again. "You mean Buffy. Of course it always comes back to her doesn't it? Especially with you Spike. Don't know why though, she wasn't your first slayer." The one-eyed man paused briefly as he contemplated his former roommate, "Maybe it's because she was first WILLING slayer you had."

The smile on Spike's face vanished and Xander continued, "Don't you remember Spike? The 70's, New York, a lonely, empty subway car. Her screams and pleading in the night, I think her name was... Nikki."

Behind him, Wood's head snapped around and a look of pure hate and rage appeared on his face. He tried to charge past Xander. The former carpenter seemed to sigh as he grabbed Wood in one fluid motion and threw him backwards bouncing his head off the table.

"Wasn't finished yet Rob." He returned his attention back to shirking vampire. "Problem Spike? I thought you were the Big Bad, the big bad ass, equal to Angelus, together they were the Scourge of Europe."

Spike was still reeling when Xander punched him in the stomach, folding him in half. Then he backhanded the vampire face-first to the ground. Xander looked down at the stunned vampire with his duster askew. And then he smiled as he stomped hard on the small of Spike's back. The sound of bone breaking and tendons tearing echoed through the room. Spike let out a roar of pain as he felt his back break.

Grinning Xander grabbed Spike by the neck and held him up in front of the stunned group. "Oh look, I broke Spike, how sad. Here's a pop quiz Spikey, You're in the same room as two irate slayers, and their boyfriends. Not to mention the fact that you raped and killed the mother of one of them. And oh by the way, I just broke your lower back. What do you do?"

Saying this, he let go and let Spike drop to the floor with a thump. He turned and looked over the stunned group, "Mind you that wasn't all the lies exposed, there will be more."

Willow stood up, "Xander what are you doing?"

"Be quiet Wills, This is for their own good. And no Lethe's bramble this time."

Willow reddened and she sank back down in her seat.

Xander turned around, seemingly satisfied for the moment and then looked back at the group. "Let's get going, Dead man walking."

There was no response and he got irritated, "Hey, Angel. COME ON already."

The ensouled vampire looked down at Spike lying the floor before answering, "What?"

"You said there was a killer on the loose, right?"

"There was."

"Then, let's go find him and kill him."

Chapter 9

Angel caught up with Xander as he was reaching the parking lot. The vampire noted the purposeful stride in the other man's as he reached him.

"Xander, WAIT!"

The former carpenter paused by a nearby dumpster as Angel approached him slowly.

"You mind telling me what that was all about back there?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about you going in there systematically ripping people you know and love to shreds without any reason."

"I have my reasons."

"Then let's hear them."

"Why the hell should I tell you? It's not exactly like we're buddies."

"No, But I thought we could have a man to man talk."

"Except you're not a man either."

The two stared hard at each for long minutes before Xander looked away and let out a sigh of resignation.

'The amulet."


"The amulet, you know what I'm talking about."

"The one Spike wore... that destroyed the Sunnydale Hellmouth."

"Yeah except that's not really destroyed now is it? Anyway, the amulet... it wasn't supposed to go to him. It was meant for someone else."

"I gave Buffy a choice Xander it wasn't my decision to leave. I-"

Angel looked up to see the other man glaring at him. "What?"

"Not everything in life revolves around you Pulse-less or around the bleached wonder," Xander practically snarled at him. He took a deep breath before continuing, "The amulet... it was meant for me."

The former Scourge of Europe blinked, "You? But I was told that-"

"That the wearer had to have a soul and be stronger then a man. I know. The morning after you left...Buffy and I were talking and she called me 'her strength'."

"So how did..."

"I don't know. All I do know is that I was the one that wore the amulet into the Hellmouth. And that because it was me, the Hellmouth was totally and irrevocably destroyed. Not to mention the fact that fewer people would have died."

"But you would have died instead."

"Don't you think I don't know that, Deadboy? But... Anya... My family would have been safe. All it would have taken was the sacrifice of one good man." Xander punctuated that last part by punching the dumpster, leaving a fairly large dent in the side of it. Angel looked on, noting the size of the dent in the wall of the dumpster at the same time as he ran Xander's words thru his head.

"It doesn't really matter now does it though? I can't change the past and nothing will bring them or it back." Xander stuck his hand in his coat pocket then pulled out his would have been wedding band and looked at it.

"She's not totally gone if you can remember her."

"You mean like how your son isn't dead either?"

Angel stiffened slightly at hearing that, "How did you..."

"Whistler remember? He showed everything that happened with you, Jasmine, Connor, Cordelia..."

"That wasn't her."

"No, not all of it. You're really lucky for a corpse. You get all the breaks. Us normal guys still have to make rent. Come on let's go find us a killer."

Angel said nothing as he got into the car with Xander and they drove off.

The Library

Buffy was on her knees tears silently streaming down her face. Deep inside, she had always entertained the possibility of having a family, with one or two children. It was a dream she had since childhood, and while the identity of her husband had fluctuated the idea itself never died. Until now, she bowed her head as she fought to keep her sobbing at bay.

"Buffy..." Travis was by her side, gently holding her as her whole body shivered.

"Buffy," Dawn was by her sister's side, taking her hands in her own.

The soft sound of weeping drew Travis's attention back to the table where Fred was still crying into Cordelia's shoulder. Faith was checking on the still unconsciousness Robin.

"Not to trouble anyone but would someone mind giving me a little bit of help here?"

He growled briefly at the downed vampire, "Andrew please assist Spike. Take him back to his room and lock the door."

The young man nodded and went to assist the fallen vampire.

"Why bother? I say let him stay there until Robin wakes up and stakes him."


"What? Don't tell you don't think the son of a bitch doesn't deserve it."

"That wasn't him... that was the demon within him."

"Yeah well from where' I'm sitting Willow, it doesn't look like there is a lot of difference between the two."

"Now is not the time for such comments." Travis's deep voice cut through the arguing lovers. They blanched and turned their attention to him. "Dawn, take your sister to her room. Ms. Chase I suggest you do likewise with Ms. Burke."

Andrew struggled as he drew the paralyzed vampire to his feet and draped his arms over his shoulders. Cordelia meanwhile was walking her friend out the door.


The women stopped and looked back at the vampire, "Fred... I didn't know."

The former physics student looked at him with dead, sad eyes while Cordelia merely glared at him. Spike sighed, then watched as Dawn and Buffy made their way out of the library as well with the younger brunette supported her elder sister. Just before they left the building, Buffy gave him a last look over her shoulder.

"All right Andrew... let's go boy."

Travis watched them leave before returning his attention to where Faith was kneeling over Wood.


That got his and Faith's attention and they turned to the table where Amy was standing and yelling at Willow. Kennedy had left her seat and was interposing herself in front of her girlfriend. The brunette witch was shaking with anger as she ignored the younger girl and glared at Willow.


Travis strode closer to the girls, "What are you doing?"

"I'm not doing anything. It's what SHE did."

He turned his attention to the other witch, "Willow, what is she talking about?"

"The spell."

"What spell?" even Kennedy turned and was looking at her.

"I cast a spell," the red head hesitated, "I cast a spell on Xander."

He fought to keep his face impassive, "What sort of spell?"

"When Xander was in his coma, I went inside his mind. To try and wake him up. I couldn't but he asked for me to help him. That's all I was trying to do..."

"SOME HELP..." Amy practically growled at her.

"What exactly was the spell you cast Willow?"

"I was trying to use Cole like a battery to give Xander a jumpstart."

Inwardly Travis groaned, raged and screamed. He had gone to a great deal of trouble to use that poison on the boy and this young woman had undone his work in less than a fortnight.

"All right then Ms. Rosenberg, I suggest you figure out what exactly your spell did. Because it appears young Mr. Alexander is not the same man as he once was."


Chapter 10

"It's okay Buffy, we're here now."

Dawn silently guided inside her apartment and shut the door. Buffy automatically went to the couch, no sooner had she sat down then she again buried her face in her hands. The young brunette watched her tears start up again. She sat down next to Buffy and lightly touched her arm.

"Go away."


"I said go away Dawnie. Leave me alone."

"And I said 'No'. Why should I? All you're going to do is cry and wallow in your own pity."

Buffy's face peeked out from beneath her hands, "I'm a horrible person Dawn."

"No you're not. Misguided, naïve, stick-figurish, but not horrible."

"I'm dead inside Dawn. Mom would be ashamed of me. She couldn't bear to look at me."

"What? What are you talking about? Mom wouldn't be ashamed of you any more then I am. And I happen to think you're pretty darn great... for an older sister."

"Even though I'm... dead inside?"

"You're not inside, outside, upstairs or downstairs. You're Buffy, you're MY sister."

"Xander doesn't think so."

"Xander doesn't know you as well as he thinks he does."

Buffy looked up at her younger sister, "what? I've known Xander longer then anyone. Even Willow."

"And? I've known you even longer. Xander isn't infallible you know. I know you love Spike."

A shiver ran up the Slayer's spine as Dawn continued, "Just like I know you love Angel. Not to mention Willow, Giles, Faith, and of course Moi."

"So what are you saying exactly?"

"That Xander just really needs to pull his head out of his ass right now."

"I stabbed him Dawn. I almost killed him."

"So? You did the same thing with me. You told Giles that you have sent me into the portal against Glory."

"Dawn, I-"

"It's okay Buffy. I know you weren't all right in the head then. The First, Spike, everything. You're better now."

"I hardly call feeling like I've been cut open and gutted, 'better'."

Dawn dismissed her objections, "You're yourself now. No more post I'm-back-from-heaven-anger or I'm-the-Slayer-and-the-only-one' stuff. Now you're just Buffy."

The blonde still looked doubtful.

"Dawn, not all of that was... wasn't me."

"Don't worry about it. We'll go to the doctor tomorrow. Okay?"

Buffy nodded as she let Dawn pull her into a hug. With her face buried in the younger girl's long hair, she missed the wave of relief that washed over Dawn's face.


Andrew was huffing slightly, carrying Spike was hard considering he was literally dead weight. The bleached vampire's legs were drug uselessly behind him while one arm was wrapped his neck. Spike's other arm reached out and he used the wall to steady himself.

"S'alright lad. Take a break. It's hard work carrying a body up and down flights of stairs and such. I should know after all."

"You're not dead. I mean not 'dead' dead, you're undead."

The former trio member managed to open the door to the apartment and move Spike inside, "Where to?"

"Recliner by the telly. Want to be front and center when Ol' Robin comes in to dust me."

Andrew shot him a horrified look even as he assisted the vampire into the chair. "Robin's going to kill you?"

"Well let's see he just found out that I raped and killed his mother. And thanks to Harris, I'm a sitting target. An easy, fresh kill for any bleeding fool."

"You could lock the door?"

"What so it would take Faith a little longer to break it down for him?"

"Why would Faith do that?"

"She's his bleeding woman, she'll do her bloody best to help him get me what's coming to me."

"So you want to die?"

Spike looked crossly up at him, "Nobody wants to die. I just don't know if I deserve to live. I mean look at what I did to Buffy and Fred. Ruined their lives I did. Been better off with Junior Watcher and the Whelp. Stupid sod I am."

"But they choose you..."

"Damn right they did. And I enjoyed the 'choosing' I did. Made them both holler and scream better then anybody else did. Bet that poof Travis wishes he could do the things I did."

Andrew looked uncomfortable and nervous after that. "So... So you're glad you did those things?"

"Damn right. Wished they had a better ending but don't regret what I did or why I did it. I went and got me soul back for Buffy's love. Completed the trials of that damned demon shaman. Went all nuts for a few weeks. That's what I did for love. Then that bleeding Wolfram & Heart trinket shows up and fries me."

"But you're here now. And you've managed to help out a lot, even Angel said so."

"Captain Forehead will say anything to that conscience of his. It's even bigger then his ego. Go on, leave me be whelp. I'll face me bloody fate on my own."

Andrew looked concerned as he left the apartment, he almost locked the door on his way out but thought of Spike's words and left it open.

Across town

"So this is it?"

"Yes sir. All of the pieces were accounted for."

"Seems awfully small."

The being known as Mr. Thomas reached into an open box and picked up a charred foot. There were other pieces, some recognizable, some not scattered in the other boxes. Frowning, he turned to his underling. "Are you sure this is all of it?"

"Yes master."

"And you say he was defeated rather easily?"

"Yes master, at the time of his creation, all weapons were forged."

"Well that was awfully short sighted of his creators." He frowned then smiled, "Still it's nothing that can't be ... improved. And his other abilities?"

"They will return when he is made whole, master."

"Good...I think those could stand some improvement as well."

The chilling sound of Mr. Thomas's laughter echoed throughout the rooms and halls of his residence.

The streets of Cleveland

"So what exactly are we looking for Xander?"

The one-eyed man seemed to ignore the question as he scanned the streets. Angel kept looking at him out of the corner of his eye as he drove. The memories of Xander's harsh words and actions towards Buffy and Faith kept his grip tight on the steering wheel. The crippling of Spike and sizable dent in the dumpster had convinced him that something was very wrong with the young man. The problem was he wasn't really sure he could do anything about it.

"Relax Dead man, If I was going to do something to you, I would have."

"So what's stopping you?"

"Stop the car."

Angel did as he was told and looked over at Xander who was already unbuckling his seat belt. With a grin he turned and smiled at the vampire, "Found what I was looking for."

He quickly followed Xander's lead and followed him as the latter walked towards a man sitting on some steps. The man was dressed in a somewhat dirty white T-shirt and baggy, loose fitting jeans. He also seemed to be wearing an excessive amount of jewelry in Angel's opinion. Xander moved closer and addressed the man as soon as he was within comfortable speaking range.

"Hey, what's the world man?"

"Nothing man."

"Cool, I got this party lined up and I need some entertainment. You know nothing high end, but nothing cheap looking either. Just something solid, you know what I'm saying, think you can help me out?"

"Yea Dawg, I can help you out. It's gonna be a couple bills though."

"Cost isn't an issue. So we got a deal?" Xander offered his outstretched hand.

"Deal." The other man took it and they shook hands. Then Xander yanked the other man to his feet and head butted him, knocking him out in one blow. Smiling, he picked up the unconscious man easily and headed back to the car. Angel followed closely behind him, "What are you doing?"

"Relax Fang, Nobody's gonna miss this guy. We just need to go to another part of town. You know someplace with less people and more unpleasant things. Now are you gonna drive or am I?"

Silently Angel got behind the wheel and drove off.

"Turn left and head over the bridge, I want to go below 42nd."

"That place is crawling with vampires."

"I know that."

With little traffic, the duo made their way to the area and entered an alleyway behind one of Cleveland's many deserted buildings. Xander slapped his captive lightly to awaken him.

"Wake up sunshine."

"What the fuck man, -"

"I'll ask the questions shit head answer correctly and we all can walk out of here and go home. Answer incorrectly and," Xander punched the brick wall beside the thug's head leaving a good-sized hole.

"Get me."

"I gotcha."

"Good, a few days ago, a girl and two guys were murdered in their houses. One girl escaped went kinda nuts. Hear anything about it?"

"Only what I read in the papers."

Xander responded by stomping on the man's right foot. The sound of breaking bones was heard, as was the man's scream. "Wrong answer. Now try again. Did you hear anything about it?"

"Fuck no man," terror crept into his voice, "that kind of shit is see no evil, hear no evil. You know."

"Oh is that it? That's how things work."

"Yeah, we don't see, hear or know shit about stuff man."

Xander said nothing as he produced a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. The man's eyes grew wide as he saw them. "Hey man, what are you doing?"

"Nothing," Xander said as he casually handcuffed the man to a pipe that ran the length of the alley. He then picked up a beer bottle and smashed against the brick wall. With an expressionless face, he lifted the dirty white T-shirt and lightly slashed the man across the belly. Wrinkling his nose, he stepped back away from the man.

"Couldn't wait till you get home could ya? You just had to go and piss yourself."

"Let me the fuck go."

"Patience my young padawan."

"What are you doing?" Angel's voice betrayed his barely surprised shock and increasing anger.

"Fishing. Come on, you don't want to scare them all off now do you?"

Xander lead them around the corner and waited with an increasingly sickened Angel by his side, ignoring the man's frantic pleas. The former detective was just about to go set the man free when he heard it. The sounds of shuffling footsteps approaching down the alleyway. The pleas from their 'bait' seemed to die down as he thought someone was coming to rescue him. A low growl that reached their ears said otherwise and then the man renewed his pleading. Xander seemed to smirk then he dashed around the corner with Angel on his heels.

Angel barely had time to take in the scene of a vampire in game face stalking towards the man before Xander tackled it. After a brief scuffle, Xander emerged in control of the vampire, keeping it pinned to the ground.

"Looks like we caught ourselves a live one, in a manner of speaking of course. Now what shall I do with you?"

He seemed to contemplate for a minute, "Maybe I should throw you back? Or just stake you and be done with it?"

The trapped vampire growled at him. Annoyed Xander leaned down until he was almost face to face with the demon, "Listen up ugly, we both know how this is going to end. The only question is how will we pass the time until then. I can make it fly or drag it out for days, what's it gonna be?"

The look in the thing's eye said it all. Xander sat up, satisfied, "Now that we understand each other. I have some questions. A few weeks ago, a couple of out of town types entered the city. They seemed pretty familiar with the tunnels, know who I'm talking?" The answering growl caused him to shake his head as he casually removed the crucifix from around his neck and then pressed it into the cheek of the vampire.

There was the smell of burning flesh and a howl of pain before Xander removed it. "So what do you know?"

"Nobody knows anything about them. Or the new guy."

"A few days ago, two men and a girl were murdered in their homes. One girl escaped, chased by some of your friends. She said she was running something else. Any idea what?"

"I don't know anything. Word is the new guy had something to do with it."

"Who is this 'new guy'?"

"Nobody knows. He looks human but he isn't. He's scary bad. Tore thru 3 gangs like a lawn mower. Word is he's the biggest bad-ass in town."

"And yet no one knows anything about him?"

"He's scary man. He keeps out of stuff. Doesn't care for feeding or money or anything. Just shows up and demands things be done or given to him. Anybody that doesn't hop to dies."

"Interesting. Thanks for the info."

Xander smiled at the captive vampire before he tore it's head off. As the creature dusted he turned and looked back at the other two. Angel's normal guarded expression was replaced by one of surprise and ever so slightly, fear. The other man was staring at him, unable to move. He dusted himself off as he made his way over to his 'bait'.

"Hey man, thanks a lot. I couldn't have done that without you. Thanks to your courage and sacrifice, hundreds of thousands of lives are safer now."

The man at last found his voice, "Y-You really mean that? I helped save people?"

"Yeah you did. And as your reward, you'll never have to worry about things like that attacking you again."

The man smiled as Xander reached up to where to where the handcuffs were.

"There is just one thing my man, I saw in the paper where one of your girls, a 14 year old runaway was found dead, raped and with a whole lot of smack in her system."


"So..." Xander smiled at him as he withdrew a knife from the small of his back and plunged it thru the back of the man's head, straight thru the brain stem, killing him instantly, "So I hate evil regardless of age, race, sex or species." He withdrew the knife, wiped it on the man's shirt and walked away.

"Coming Dead man?"

Chapter 11

Streets of Cleveland

Angel stared across the seat at the man sitting in the passenger seat. He certainly resembled the man he once knew, eye-patch and all. But his actions certainly were not the same as those of Alexander Harris.

"Who are you?"

His passenger stared out of the window with a bored look on his face, "Not this again. What's your problem corpse-o."

"My problem is you just fed a man to a vampire."

"I didn't feed anyone to anything. I stopped the vamp before it could feed. Besides, if memory serves, you're a fine one to be accusing others of feeding people to vamps." He turned and stared at the former detective behind the steering wheel, " Or have you forgotten those lawyers you gave to Darla and Drusilia."

"I made a mistake."

Xander leaned closer to the vampire, "Buffy was willing to feed Faith to you. She was willing to feed Wood to Spike. Tell me did they make mistakes?"

"Buffy isn't the issue here."

"Oh she isn't? You know she may have been your girl but she grew into Spike's woman."

Angel's face was unreadable as Xander continued, "I bet it just eats you up inside that Spike was inside her only a few hours after you came to save the day."

"You know I'm beginning to wonder if you're the one with the Buffy probl-". Xander snatched him around the throat and yanked him across the seat.

"Problem? She was my dream girl. A perfect, shining light in my crappy life. She was the one I looked to when things were bad, when I was scared, I asked myself what would Buffy do. Turns out she would rather fuck the demons then kill them."

"And you resent her for it."

"Naww... See people never really change, they just grow. Buffy was a minor screw-up. Now she's a major fuck-up."

"And yet you still love her."

Xander's smile sent shivers down Angel's spine and his answer set off alarms inside his head.

"Love her? I don't love Buffy. I will NEVER love Buffy. If I had to choose, it will NEVER be her, Angel. It will never be her."

He let go of Angel's throat and sat back in his seat. "Back to the manor Jeeves. I got some thinking to do."


"That should be the last piece." As soon as he spoke the man backed away as bolts of red and purple energy ran through the creature's body. Sparks erupted briefly when separate bolts crossed paths. At length the energy faded and nothing happened for a time. Then slowly the thing's eyes moved and it seemed to draw breath. It's eyes opened to reveal red irises as it sat up, examining the room around it.

A movement toward it attracted the creature's attention. It watched as a strange man walked up to it smiling. Reflexively the creature reached out and touched his chest. It seemed surprised when it did so.

"Something wrong?"

"You cannot be burnt. There is no humanity within you."

The man smiled, "Of course not. I am far beyond anything you have ever seen or known."

"Why did you restore me?"

"It is said that you were brought forth to separate the righteous from the wicked and burn the righteous down. I was somewhat disappointed in your previous efforts so I made some improvements to you. You are no longer the Judge as you were, now you are the Judge as it will be."

"What do you ask of me?"

"You shall assist me in my mission, you shall be the one that burns the truly righteous to ashes."

"Yes... My Master."

"Excellent." The man smiled as the bluish demon moved off the table. He watched as the Judge's gaze fell upon the other men within the room. Silently it approached them and laid it's hands upon them, after a second it removed them.

"There is no humanity within these men."

"No there is not, I found the locals to be a bit lacking and created more suitable help."

The larger man with a twisted face and yellow eyes growled slightly as he spoke, "We serve Master Taurkass, with our lives."

"So to then shall I."

The Library at Crestview

Willow was poring over various books, when the library doors banged open. Xander strode in with an air of confidence around him even as Angel silently followed behind him. He smiled as he spotted Willow, Kennedy, Amy, Travis and Andrew sitting around reading. Faith was off to one side tending to Robin who had a bandage wrapped around his head.

"I tell ya folks, the traffic out there is murder." He chuckled lightly at his joke. "Right Fangface?"

Angel made move to answer and Xander frowned, "well fine sulk if you want to. I'll you around."

The ensouled vampire watched him leave before turning to the others. Travis was the first to speak, "Is there a problem?"

"That's not Xander. It maybe wearing his face and speaking in his voice but that's not him."

"You seem pretty confident."

"The Harris I knew would never strike a woman. Let alone Buffy or Faith."

"And you know this how?"

"I didn't spend all my time in Sunnydale Mooning over Buffy. I saw some things."

"And yet you didn't act on what you saw? A pity, if you had perhaps this entire situation might not have come about."

"What are you guys talking about?"

"What we are discussing Kennedy, is that Angel apparently was and observed Mr. Harris during his formative years yet never acted to help the boy. A mistake that perhaps led Alexander to his current spiteful state."

"Kinda doubt that 'T'. X maybe fucked up in the head but the guy I remember wouldn't attack us."

"Oh yeah right like you said two words to him the whole time."

"Willow, I just watched him use a human as bait to lure out a vampire and kill it and the bait. I think it's safe to say that's not the man from Sunnydale."

The room grew very quiet after that.

Willow's voice was shaky when she spoke again. "Xander would never do anything like that."

"He wouldn't," Everyone's attention turned to Robin, "But Cole would. You can see it in his eyes. He's a cold son of a bitch."

"Cole..." Travis repeated, "He attacked Faith and Buffy earlier. He said he was stronger then any slayer. Strong enough to break a vampire's back."

"Oh god, the spell..."

Angel's gaze flickered to Willow, as did everyone else's. A hardened look came over Amy's face as she glared at the smaller witch. Travis interceded before she could do anything, "What spell Willow?"

"The enjoining spell."


She looked up at him, "When we were fighting ADAM, he was too strong for any of us. He handled Buffy easily. Xander talked about making a 'combo Buffy' to beat him."

"'Combo Buffy'?"

"Yeah, Giles found the spell, it joined Me for my magic, Giles for his brains and Xander in Buffy's body."

"Giles was used for his brains?"

"Yeah there were some spells that I couldn't read because they were in Sumerian and other stuff. He could read but couldn't cast them. So we needed the enjoining spell."

"And Alexander was what?"

"He was Animus, the-"

"The heart."

The half demon looked back at Amy. The brunette witch continued speaking, "He was the most important part of all."

"And why is that Ms. Madison?"

"The heart is the support of the enjoined. Without it to support and keep the others separate they wouldn't have been able to work right and might never have been able to leave Buffy's body."

Amy took a deep breath and let it out. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the redhead. "Willow, what exactly did you do with the enjoining spell Mr. Giles showed you?"

"I used it..." she hesitated before continuing in a meek voice, "I used it as a template to create a spell to give Xander a boost from Cole."

"Except it didn't give him a boost from Cole." Angel moved closer to the group, "It merged him with Cole. Xander and Cole are now one individual, combining both of their personalities, traits, skills...feelings."

"So it's not really Harris anymore." Travis finished for the vampire.

"Oh so should we call him Cander now? Or maybe Xole?" Andrew saw everyone staring at him strangely.


Chapter 12

"H-hi Xander."

Andrew did his best to act nonchalant as he watched the one-eyed man to face him. Xander appeared to study him closely for a minute before smiling. The former Trio member smiled in return while inside his stomach was doing flip-flops.

"Hey Andrew. What are you doing here?"

"Oh nothing. Just wanted to drop by and say hi, so 'hi'. Ummm... What are you doing?"

"Just thinking about how people never really change, only grow. I mean take Faith for instance, she went from The Mayor to Angel to Wood, none of them are really that different, just little less creepy then the previous one."

"Robin's a good guy."

"Sure he is. Buffy thought he was such a good guy she was going to let Spike eat him. Maybe she got 'good' confused with 'tasty' again. There is no such thing as a 'good' vamp only 'staked' and 'unstaked'."

Andrew blinked, swallowing hard before responding, "Spike and Angel have saved the world with their courage."

"Courage?" Xander arose from the recliner he was sitting in and stood facing the younger man, "You call that courage? Deadboy was so courageous he was willing to let Buffy die because he was scared. Only after he got into her pants did he show some balls. Same thing with Spike, I guess of the power of Buffy is fucking her makes you brave. Kind of appropriate when you think about it."

He moved closer to the smaller man, "No Andrew, you want to know what Courage is? Courage is standing up to your old man, knowing he's going to beat your ass until it's so bruised you can't sit down. Courage is telling your mom that you poured her beer down the sink then feeling the sting of a belt on your back. That's what courage is, the rest is all fluff. Crap any idiot can do."

"But what about saving the world?" Andrew whimpered.

"I've saved the world Andrew, more times then anyone knows. I took down the zombie gang of Jack O'Toole. While everyone else was busy fighting the Sisterhood of Jhe in the Library, I was in the Boiler room with Jack staring as the last few seconds ticked away on a bomb that would have blown us all to bits."

The Library

Willow was pale as she and the others listened to Xander speak.

"Shit, I knew he was up to something tooling around in that ride after dark. Fuck."


Angel said nothing he merely watched the speaker in silence.


The off duty police sergeant watched as two fairly expensive luxury cars illegally cut across several parking lots and in one case, tore the bumper of one sedan. He smirked tiredly as he pulled up behind the cars. As he exited his jeep, he noted that the occupants of either car had yet to move.

"All right folks, get out of the cars and let's see some id's."

The doors on the second car opened and out stepped a handsome man, dressed in all white designer looking clothing. The handsome man smiled at the rent a cop as the first car opened it's doors and out stepped what the cop could only call a blue monster with green streaks on it's face. The creature's gaze set chills running thru his body. It turned, raising it's clawed hands up and released a blast of yellowish-white energy at a young man. As the bolt struck him, he didn't even have time to scream before he was consumed by it and reduced to ashes.

Years of training kicked in as the sergeant drew his sidearm and pointed at the man in white's head. He instinctively released the safety as he centered his sights between the man's eyes.

"FREEZE. Don't move."

The man smiled and took a step towards him, acting so on reflex the sergeant squeezed off a round. The man's hand and arm reacted so fast all he was a blur. The sergeant's eyes widened as he realized the impossible had happened and the man had caught the bullet between his fingers.


The man's voice crystallized the fear in his stomach. And his smile struck him cold, then the man's wrist snapped around, as his hand seemed to flick something. The sergeant didn't even realize he was dead as the bullet bored into his skull and killed him instantly.

Mr. Thomas laughed as he watched the human die, then turned his gaze to his latest creation, "Burn them all."


"Don't shake now Andrew. It's far too late for that. I know why you're here, I know you're wearing a wire, I smelled it on you, and the second you walked in."

The former geek opened his mouth to refute that but the cold look in Xander's eye stopped him. "Yeah, that's right. I know about you and Tucker or at least what happened to Tucker. You remember don't you Andy? When Tucker came home that one night? Or at least the demon wearing Tucker's face came home. You remember what happened, don't you?"


"You remember the screams... and who saved you?"

"Jonathan did."

"Yeah, good old Jonathan. The man you murdered in cold blood was the man who saved your pathetic life. I betcha that feels real good when you sleep at night."

"You said I was a Max Mercury."

"I lied. You're more like a Caliban, a former murderer turned hero. Nobody really trusted him and the smart ones were counting down the days until he turned on them. Again."

The Library

Willow sat back in her chair, trembling over what she had heard. Right now she was trying to decide what was more shocking, Xander's confession or his exposure of Andrew. Try as she might, the witch knew her former lifelong crush was not lying on either count. The sound of books dropping to the floor drew her attention and she looked up to see Dawn and Buffy in the room. The look on the younger Summer's face as she listened to Xander's voice over the speaker was one of pure shock and horror.

"I-I..." Dawn's jaw worked as she tried to form a coherent sentence.

Just then Harmony burst into the library. "Guys there is something horrible going on at the North Mall.

North Mall, East Parking Lot

'Mr. Thomas' watched in delight as the death and destruction spread across the parking lot. He watched as the 'new and improved' Judge incinerated whole families, lone individuals, and even family pets. Behind him several cars burned and with the increasing heat, more threatened to. A movement at the far end of the lot attracted his attention and several familiar faces emerged from a van.

"Oh this should be interesting."

North Mall

"I can't believe it's really him. All put back together again."

"Believe it Will. And this time we don't have a Rocket Launcher handy."

Buffy hefted her scythe, "but we do have this and magic."

"Buffy I don't know if I can hurt him. My magic...I don't know..."

"Don't worry Red," Faith hefted the high powered rifle in her hands, "We got this."

A familiar voice issued forth from inside the van.

"That's not gonna be enough."

The three women turned back to see Xander emerge with a cocky grin on his face. "That's gonna do jack shit to him Faith."

"Yeah, well never hurts to give it a try." She turned her back on him and walked away. Buffy tried to ignore them as she got Willow's attention, "Okay so if you're not sure about an attacking spell, how about something to help me? You something that can hide me, close enough to use this."

Xander watched as the two women conferred before the blonde walked off in the direction of The Judge. Behind him Angel watched him from the driver's seat.

Across the parking lot

The Judge continued his path of destruction when he felt a stinging pain flash through his back. He turned around in time to be stabbed in the chest with the scythe by Buffy. The ancient demon roared in pain before grabbing the weapon and yanking it from his chest. Showing no emotion he flung the weapon to the ground and stared at the girl before him.

"I don't understand. That weapon was designed to kill true demons. It should have worked."

"No weapon forged can harm me girl."

He took a step towards the girl, raising his hands towards her as yellowish light encircled his hands again. There was the report of a rifle and the judge's shoulder reacted as it was shot. Then it shrugged off the impact and stepped forward again. Again there was the sound of a rifle as Faith shot him in the face. The judge paused and then shrugged off the impact of the bullet.

"Nor can any device created by the hands of mankind hurt me."

"Hey ugly I can got something that can hurt you."

Buffy blinked as she heard Xander's voice and then saw him emerge from behind some parked cars. He was wearing a grin on his face as his hand dove into his coat pocket and emerged holding something she recognized as hilt of the green bladed sword. He flicked his wrist, igniting the blade.

"That weapon will not help you boy."

"Oh yea, well big blueberry, let me clue you in on something. First, this weapon wasn't forged it was BORN. Second, the girl who carried it wasn't exactly human. And third, it's not 'boy' I'm the asshole that killed you last time.

The Judge seemed unimpressed and returned his attention to Buffy. "This conversation is over, human. The Righteous shall all burn."

The Blue demon raised it's glowing hands again and pointed them at Buffy. The slayer froze as she realized she wouldn't be able to out run the blast in the confined, smoke-filled area. Xander blinked as though in slow motion the blast appeared to begin to be released, then he moved. There was a blinding flash of light and Buffy shut her eyes as she braced for the end. She heard the sounds of the energy impacting something but didn't feel it.

Slowly she opened her hers and saw Xander standing in front of her, clothes smoking. Xander turned and faced the demon again. A grim, determined look came upon his face as he did so.

"That was unexpected."

The Judge again blasted forth it's power and again Xander was struck by the full force of the blast. He was knocked back only a step but began walking towards the Judge. More blasts issued forth, each striking home with unerring accuracy. Xander's clothes began to disintegrate under the assault, he began to bleed but refused to be deterred. Soon he had walked to within only a few yards of the creature.

"Like I said asshole, I'm the guy that killed you last time even if I didn't pull the trigger. This time I aim to finish the job."

The Judge seemed confused as Xander raised the sword and then slashed across his body. A wave of green light seemed to fly from the blade and strike the Judge causing it to wince in pain. Xander followed with more slashes, each adding another bit of green light that struck home and caused the Demon further agony.

Eventually the Judge's body was spike with numerous bits of green light. Looks of pain of were on it's face as it tried to move.

"Master...Taurkass... I serve you with my life."

Xander raised the sword above his head with both hands and then brought it down with a cold look on his face. A much larger wave of Green energy blasted forth and struck the Judge. The demon screamed in pain as the energy atomized it, reducing it to nothingness within seconds.

After it was gone, Xander stood and stared at where it had been. Dimly he became aware of his own wounds as he turned to face Buffy. He started walking towards her, moving slower and drooping slightly with each step. The blonde slayer watched as he came within a feet of her and the sword slipped from his grasp, it's blade vanishing as it hit the pavement.


That was all he could say before his legs gave out and he started collapsing, Buffy moved and caught him in her arms. She turned and saw his face become serene and gentle as he passed out.