Black Suits Comin'

Author: eckles71 <eckles71[at]>

Disclaimer - Characters belong to Mutant Enemy & DreamWorks Pictures

Dedicated to: Paradox761, Stephen Howe, Wyrdradio, RockyD, DarkDyer, Lori, JimboS, Wicked Raygun, Michael Dunbar, Greywizard1235, Vampyr64, TenHawks & CSKtech.

X-Over: BtVS & MIB

Starts between Season's III & IV and progresses from there.

Coupling - Nothing yet … but you know it's going to happen.

Genre' - Comedy, a bit of Sci-Fi & Angst.

* - An interuption of speech. *emphasis* upon the word

Latest addition


0800 hrs
504 Battery Park, NYC

From behind the two-way Plexiglas observation window, the Field Agent known simply by his designation 'Jay' looked upon the latest possible inductees.

The sight that welcomed his eyes was an assortment of various military dress uniforms splashed with vibrant colors upon their left breast. Each ribbon representing some impressive achievement. For the man on street, to be in the presence of such individuals, such heroes, would be truly humbling. Jay however, could only fight back his yawns - Damn the Twins and their Centauri Shift Times.

These people didn't impress him. Their citations for bravery and achievements didn't impress him. What they knew was DICK - Nothing, less then nothing. No amount of training could ever prepare you for what was expected, or what was to come after you put on the 'Last suit you would ever wear'. That's what his 'retired' mentor said when he first joined, and it was true. You came into the Organization with a healthy dose of common sense, the ability to think on your feet and the determination to do whatever it took to achieve your goal. Everything else, you picked up with experience.

The memory of 'Kay' made him smile a little; it didn't however make him laugh. Jay found it hard to find anything amusing anymore. In the 52 weeks since he joined the Ultra Secret Organisation, he and his partner 'L' had single handily save the Planet nine times from either destruction or conquest. He stared at his own transparent reflection with tired eyes as he pondered that thought, maybe that figure was more, maybe it was less - truth be known, he stopped counting after four.

Field Agent Jay was on the brink of burnout, and what was worse - he knew it.

When he was first initiated into M.I.B. and partnered with Kay, the young New York Undercover Detective was stunned at how nothing ever seemed to faze the veteran, and he wondered if he too would ever become that complacent, that jaded, to the bizarre life that he now chose to leed. The answer to this question was supplied after his first six months.

The Planet Earth was in constant jeopardy, and he was part of the whole that kept it safe. But the threat never stopped, the danger never relented. He woke up each day with the fear that he would make a mistake. With some jobs - to go through a single shift with only one lone error was an accomplishment. For an M.I.B. Agent, that solitary blunder could cost a life, the country, or the very Planet itself. It took a special kind of person to go the distance in this job; few made it past the first couple of weeks before they either quit or disappeared in action. But Jay had a good … no - a GREAT Role Model. And if Kay could do it for thirty years, then he could certainly do it for a minimum of 15.

All he had to do was find the right partner, someone who could balance him out, and keep him sharp. L had recently accepted a lateral promotion to Xeno-biology and because of the transfer he was now left one short of a twosome. He couldn't fault her breaking up the partnership; Science was always more her area of expertise. And she would be able to accomplish more good in a Lab environment then she could in the field.

So here he was. Looking invisibly over those who were considered The Best, of the Best, of the Best - With Honors. One of these gung- hoes, thou they don't know it at that moment, would be offered at the end of the day the opportunity to become his new partner. With this realization the ebony Agent begun to firmly and repeatedly tap his forehead against his side of the glass wall and begun to consider the possibility of early retirement himself.

Then it happened - the final candidate arrived.

The Examination Room.

The door to the hidden elevator opened to reveal the figure of a late teen wearing a shirt that could only be considered the consequence of him losing a Bet. Cautiously he entered the oddly designed room and took in his audience with curiosity and amusement.

His arrival was met with the deep and thunderous sound of Zed's voice as it shock the visitor from whatever inner thoughts he was experiencing regarding his current situation. "Mr. Harris … so nice of you to FINALLY arrive, if you don't mind - could you please take a seat so we can begin this round of examinations."


"Yes Mr. Harris. You'll find the test and a standard 2B pencil on your seat. So would you please take it, and we can begin."

"Sur* … No! Look, I don't know why, or how I got here ..." The eighteen-year-old then begins to gesture to the other applicant's present "… and looking at the garnish on some of the uniforms, this is deep, so before I do anything - I want answers."

Before Zed could responded to the young mans outburst a sandy haired Army Lieutenant raised himself from his seat and addressed the late- comer "Lt. Finn; Riley John - United States Army. We are here because you are looking for the Best of the Best." The Twenty year old then turned towards the subject of the enquiry and continued with a tone dripping in conderscention "… and we're it."

"Ooookkaayyy … that might explain you guys*…. Waitaminit - hold-the- phone, that doesn't explain a damn thing. Do you fella's even have a clue why we're all here, or is it just propaganda slogans?" Turning his attention back to the barrel chested man who was obviously in charge the young Mr. Harris continued with questioning "Look Pal, I'm not the best at anything - ask anybody, so why am I here?"

With an air smugness that could only come from having a neutralizer in his back pocket the stout Leader of M.I.B. boomed his reply. "Mr. Harris, rest assured all your answers will be addressed - at the end of the Test Process, once the eye-examination has taken place. Now, could you please take your seat so that we can all begin."

Accepting that he would just have to go through the absurd motions of these trials before he would get any response to his queries. The teenager reluctantly sought out the only remaining eggshell chair in the bizarre room, and sat uncomfortably down next to Lt. Finn; Riley John.

The Leader of the M.I.B. then vigorously clapped his hands together, drawing everybody's attention back away from the youth. When all eyes were once more upon him Zed then enthusiastically continued "Excellent. Gentlemen, you have 50 minutes. Best of luck." At this, he then took several steps backwards as another hidden door revealed itself and exited the room.

The Observation Room.

"So Sparky, what do you think?"

Nodding towards the recent arrival on the other side of the glass wall Agent Jay queried his superior "This Harris, what's his story. I mean, isn't he a bit young?"

Joining the indigo figure, Zed addressed his Agent's question whilst chuckling with amusement at the various elite before him as they attempted to open their test papers and write their answers down upon the extra long and flimsy examination sheets. "Harris is a Case Recommendation, much as you were.

"Two months ago Que & Tee were checking out a series of dimensional spikes which were originating in his hometown of Sunnydale, California. Whilst they were getting a lock on the source they spotted young Alexander intentionally drive his vehicle into an unidentified Alien Being and rescue a young lady whom it was attacking.

"Que and Tee both thought this matter bared further investigation. But as they couldn't abandon their mission they marked Mr. Harris and sent a Nat-Cam to tail the youth and record his activities. After the young lady … thanked him for his assistance, this young man engaged in a number a squirmish's with some Deadies*"

"* Deadies?"

"Animated Corpses, the Par-Tarans use to employ them to scout the landscape of habituated Planets with the intent of conquest. Of coarse the Par-Taran Delegate here in New York assured us, and denied his Empires involvement in this incident.

"As we have not had any further occurrence since, we can only conclude that the actions undertaken by young Mr. Harris was enough to quell any desire of the Par-Tarans to engage in War. The surveillance footage of that night revealed to everybody who had viewed - minus the 40-minute 'thank you' of course, a resourceful and very determined individual. He approached several of his, we guess, friends. At each point he had the opportunity to seek assistance, yet he didn't. The lad took the initiative and dealt with this matter discreetly. A quality which we look upon favorably. The only question to the evening's activities was the Bomb?"


"The Deadies. They were going to blow up the Local High School - Why, we don't know, but Mr. Harris was successful in dispatching the Gang and coaxing the group's 'leader' into disarming it. When the Spikes ceased, coincidentally in the same location as the High School. Que and Tee were quick to find, dismantle and remove the Bomb from the premises, and what was left of the Par- Tarans puppets.

"Later that morning Que and Tee intercepted this young man on his way to school and neutralized him. Removing all memories of the Alien Creature, and of the Deadie Gang. They did however let him keep the memory of his encounter with the young lady, just in the event she asked any embarrassing or awkward questions later on. Que and Tee also placed a hypnotic suggestion for him, upon Graduation, too go on a Road Trip around the country. Leave his vehicle in whatever town he was in at a specified date - yesterday, and to catch the first available flight to New York for the annual testing of Field Agent's."

"And for just one night of activity, this kid was deemed good enough for M.I.B.?"

"YOU haven't seen the footage. I concurred with Que and Tee's assessment; this lad shows a lot of potential. A Diamond in the rough. Akin to a certain Detective James Edwards *"

The conversation was then abruptly interrupted by the squeals and screeching of the lone table in the Examination Room as it was dragged over the tiled floor to the seat of the only 18-year old present.

To Jay's left he heard the beep of the Stopwatch that hung around Zed's neck "84 seconds. Just 3 shy of your record Sport."

Agent Jay felt the tug on the corners of his mouth, and a chuckle raise in his throat. Suddenly these tests became a lot more interesting.

Chapter 1

1704hrs. 1999.

Xander Harris sat on the park bench and pondered the events of the day. His only companion - a tan Pug which had wandered up and joined him directly after Jay had left. The High School graduate welcomed the break and the quiet company as he deliberated on the truths which had been revealed to him.

Looking down at his new four-legged friend the Scooby noticed a collar with a medallion. Bending over to cup the shinny bone shaped piece of tin in his hands, the Zeppo spoke the dog's name "Frank, huh?" Xander then searched the animals face for any recognition to its name. The only lone display was the wagging of its curled tail. "So how are you going Frankie?" To this question the mini K-9 tilted his head, and offered Xander his right paw. The Californian smiled warmly at the little beast and replied "Nice to meet you too, Frank."

For the next three hours the only son of Mr. & Mrs. Harris silently relived the afternoon and the proposition he had received in the company of Man's Best Friend.

4 Hours Earlier

"Mr. HARRIS could you please explain to me why you saw it necessary to empty a full clip into little Tiffany's head?"

The question was met by muffled chuckles by some of the polite members of the inductees, those who were not as polite just laughed out loud. Lt. Finn; Riley John, was one of these few. Xander Harris just scowled at the All-American; this guy was quickly beginning to rate up there with Angel as one of his least favorite people on the face of the Planet.

Looking across the shooting range at the now decapitated form which used to be an image of a five year-old blonde haired, blue eyed school girl. The now alienated member of the testing group casually responded to the examiner "She had it coming."

Zed's voice carried ascertain mirth in it, from the M.I.B. Leader's angle of sight he could see Jay standing behind one of the several safety partitions shaking his head with a broad grin on his face.

The M.I.B. Senior Officer was not to have any favorites; each Agent had a limited shelf life, so it didn't pay to get too emotionally attached. But Agent Jay had borrowed under his skin, as had his successor. And Zed embraced the maverick's approach to his duties as a refreshing change of pace to the rigid policies that most Field Agents adhered to. In the span of that morning the barrel-chested superior had seen his second best operative [none could - in his mind, replace Kay as the Best.] smile and laugh more then he had in the past seven months. Returning his amused gaze back to the eighteen year old, the Senior continued with his questioning "Would you care to explain that for me, son?"

With a slightly annoyed tone in his voice the young man voiced his conclusion "C'mon, look at this place." The eighteen year old began to point randomly with his now empty weapon to the various cardboard cut-outs of creatures that resembled monsters from a child's nightmare. "The only thing here that wasn't suspicious - was her. And that made her the most suspicious thing of all. Aside from that, what would a little girl be doing walking down a street a night with demons and monsters every which where. This Girl is obviously a troublemaker - so I took her out before she could make some. "

"But surely one clean shot would have been just as effective as twelve? Did you really have to blow her head CLEAR off her shoulders?"

"Hey, where I come from if you don't take their head you're just asking for trouble later on." This response just earnt him another round of laughter from his group, and an amused smirk from Zed.

Reluctantly Zed raised his hands with his palms up, he then clapped them together to draw the full attention of the group once more. "Gentleman, you have all proven - with a single exception. To be a credit to your affiliated Units. Your assistance in today's trials has been appreciated, and additional commendations will be forwarded to your Defense Files as an expression of our gratitude. But we are not yet concluded, we have just one last test to administer. An Eye Examination." Zed then gestured to the third door in the Range Room. "With the exception of Mr. Harris, who I would like to progress no further in these rounds of testing, could you all make your way to the Room. I shall join you all shortly. Mr. Harris if you remain here someone will be by to answer your earlier questions, and to escort you from the premises."

Xander offered the 55 year-old a stubborn nod as the rest of his group made their way to the Eye Room. He couldn't help but take additional note of the smug smile on a certain Lieutenants face as he left the Shooting Chamber.

Behind Partition 4

"So Tiger, What do you think?"

"Harris … he's good. Whether it's blind luck - I don't know, HELL I don't care. The guy's passed every off-the-wall, think-outside-of- the-box Test we've given him. No Doubts - this dude has a definite talent for thinking on his feet."

"I agree. Definite potential. I'm just not sure if the two of you would be an ideal combination - that's all."

"What? Why not? You didn't object when I trained L up."

"Different mind-frame Sport - she's a professional. Junior and you however? The very thought scares the bejeezes out of me; it would be like putting C4 and Nitro together. But I have to admit thou, I am morbidly curious to see what will happen if I did." Zed then offered a slight chuckle and patted Jay on the back. "If you think you can get him to toe the line, I think I can sign him up as Approved. But make no mistake Agent, I've got a feeling this one will be a hand full. So what it to be Champ? Do you think that you've got what it takes to buddy up with someone just like you?"

"Anything Kay can do, I can do - only with WAY more style."

Placing his hand on the Agent's right shoulder Zed pointed to the lone and irritated figure of AleXANDER Harris has he inspected the various targets up close. "Well Son what are you waiting for?"

The Shooting Range

Strolling, more then walking. Field Agent Jay traversed the gap distancing himself from the planted feet of the eighteen year- old. Before he got close enough to extend a hand in universal friendship, Jay called out over the five-meter distance "Yo' Man, nice shooting. When I did this last year, I planted one dead-set between her eyes. But hey - that's cool. Where I use finesse, you opt for brute force. Either way, the Job gets done - Right?"

Meeting the African-American's right hand Xander replied "Rrriiiggghhhttt. Look, don't mean to be rude, but I was promised some answers*"

"*And your gonna get 'em. Why don't you com' n' walk with me."

Giving the room a last glance, Xander Harris offered the unknown man a crocked smile whilst rubbing the back of his neck. "Sure, what's the worst that can happen?"

Under his breath Jay offered the youth - "You'd be surprised." As they made their way to the second door in the room.

When the two got into the Hallway, Jay turned on his heels and slapped the morning's examination paper of Xander's into his chest.

"For starters Alex, *"


"Okay, Alexander, *"

"No, just XAN-DER"

"Right - Xander. For starters Xander, why didn't you complete the test? For that matter, why didn't you at least attempt it?"

"I'm no good with The Math. I mean I can add, and subtract an stuff, but the questions on that sheet were wwwaayyy beyond me. That stuff was soooo far beyond me; it might as well be on the other side of the galaxy."

A light smile passed over Agent Jay's lips. "Well, why didn't you take a guess at it?"

"Look I might not have gotten into College with the rest of my friends. But I'm smart enough to know what I can, and can't do. And I couldn't do that stuff, so I wasn't going to waste my time and energy B.S-ing, and taking wild guesses - cause that's all they would have been."



"Yeah - Good. There was no way you could have gotten any of those questions right anyway. Not without a Traterian Calculator at any rate."

"But those other guy's*"

"*Wasted an hour of their time trying to bluff their way through hoping that they would stumble upon the answer*"

Combing his fingers through his short cut hair, a question raised in the eighteen-year-olds mind. "*Waitaminit - what's a Traterian Calculator?"

"It's a mathematical - holographic device which is approximately 1,500 years more advanced then some of the most advanced calculators in use today. Y'know the CRAY's under the Pentagon - Nothing in comparison."

Stilling his feet mid pace, Xander waited for his companion to stop, turn and face him. When he did, the eighteen year old pressed another question. "Okay, what's going on here?"

Jay was hoping he could have made it to the Coffee Room before he had to answer that question, presenting the young man to the Wyrms would have made what he was going to say much more believable - after all, it did for him. But by the look in Xander Harris's eyes, it was obvious that the High School Graduate wasn't going a step further. "Right, here it is Xan, all my cards on the table time. Xander, I'm part of a top secret Organisation that monitors, protects and polices Alien life forms here on Planet Earth." Jay then stood waiting for the laughter, the old - what have you been smoking, question. Neither came. AleXANDER Harris just nodded knowingly, as if he heard stranger theories. The leading M.I.B. Agent then continued with his spiel. "And 'WE' are offering you the opportunity to join us - me."

After a moment, Xander answered. "Tell me more."

With this, the two young men began walking and talking as Jay started to sell Xander the idea too the importance of the M.I.B. Organization.

One hour later both men were outside and sitting on a park bench along the harbor with Lady Liberty in view.

"This is where I was left when I was told the truth. Sit, and think about what I said and what we're offering you - think about everything. The Pro's … and the Con's. What we do is important. But no one knows we exist, and no one must ever know. You gotta surrender everything to be an Agent; we work and live outside the boundies of Society.

"If you chose to become a member of the Organization you must - MUST, be prepared to walk away from everything. Your Life, Family and friends." Agent Jay then stood up, and motioned for Xander to remain seated. "If you want In, come back to the address tomorrow at 0730 hours. But for now, just think - hard." The former New York City Detective began to walk away from the youth, but as he got several paces away he turned. "Xan, it is worth it you know. And I think you got what it takes to go the distance. But only if your strong enough." He then turned and kept on walking as a 30- centimetre dog approached the youth.


He stared across the harbor to the still figure of a lady who held her torch high, and felt a foreign sensation creep across his body. It was pride. He may not have been a Slayer, a Watcher, a Wicca, a Werewolf, or even a souled Vampire. But they, this ultra secret Alien Monitoring Organization wanted him. They sought HIM out. Him - Xander Harris, the guy who graduated by the skin of his teeth, was being offered the opportunity to do something mega-important with his life, to make a real difference.

The only set back that he could see was that he had to walk away from everyone he loved. He barked out a short laugh which got Franks attention. Xander then picked up the relaxed animal and apologized for startling it, and began to stroke its coat. Frank's tail wagged in appreciation and observed the young man with its brown eyes.

Xander felt compelled to explain himself to the creature now curled up on his lap. "I have some friends Frankie, this year they've been … distancing themselves from me. Keeping me out of the loop, doing stuff without me, not even telling me about stuff. Anyway, I've just been offered this job. I want to take it. But I can't desert them, I don't want to desert them, but then again, didn't they desert me first?"

Xander then looked down on the K-9 and wished that the animal could speak so that he could receive some feedback or advice. This decision was one he couldn't make on his own.

Arching his back and stretching his arms and legs outwards, Xander lifted the Pug off his lap and worked the kinks out of his body. He then arose from his four hour contemplation, and made his way to one of the several Phone Boxes to his left.

As he picked up the receiver he began to feed all of his loose change into the telecommunication device, and started to dial the familiar Sunnydale number with the intention of covertly seeking some fatherly advice.


Rupert Giles, ex-Watcher and recently unemployed Librarian avoided the various stacks of Tomes that now lay scattered across his apartment floor, barely making it to his telephone by its fifth ring. As he picked up the receiver the British born turned over his shoulder and glared ice at the amused faces of the remaining Scoobies who had thought it more appropriate for the Master of the house to answer his own phone.

"Hello, Rupert Giles speaking."

<Hey Giles>


In the background Buffy and Willow ceased their conversation as their attention was now immediately focused on the phone call. In the span of seconds, both the Slayer and Wicca-in- training had pushed themselves away from the additionally book cluttered Dining Room table and joined their mentor. Both girls then began to frantically gesture to the British National to allow them each to immanently speak to the young caller. Rupert Giles just raised both his eyebrows and conveyed a smug expression that screamed to both girls that 'you reap what you sow'

<Yeah G-man, it's me. >

"Don't call me that."

Both Buffy and Willow couldn't contain their shared smiles. They didn't even have to guess what their Xander-shaped- friend had said to earn that familiar reply.

<So how's things in SunnyHELL. Miss me yet? > "Absolutely not. Your trip has provided us all with a much needed vacation. After all the excitement of the last few weeks a break from you has been welcomed." A wry smile then formed on the Librarians lips as he awaited his dry humor to sink in, the former Watcher then hastily corrected himself before the glare of the resident Witch and Slayer. "Of course we've missed you. And as for the Hellmouth, since the Mayors failure to 'Ascend', well, all has been quiet here, how's your Grand Tour of America progressing?"

<Good, . good. That's also good - about Sunnydale, I mean. >

Giles, whom was familiar with all his 'childrens' behavior removed his glasses and drew a pensive look across his face. He wasn't sure whether it was the soft tone of the young mans voice, or the fact that they had spoken for 15 seconds and he hadn't, as yet, asked about the welfare of his friends. "Xander, . is everything alright?"

<Yeah Giles, I'm fine - Really. Couldn't be better. > These words were followed by an uncomfortable silence. As the Librarian was about to add once more to the conversation Xander broke in and added to the strained dialogue. <Actually Giles, no I'm not. I'm at a bit of an impasse regarding a decision that needs to be made. And you know me, thinking and the Xan-man don't exactly go hand-in-hand. I need a bit of fatherly guidance here Giles, and as you're the closest one I've got . >

"Xander, all you have to do is ask."

<Here's the gist of it Giles, and please don't ask me to be Detail Guy - cause I can't."

Giles suddenly heard a deep intake of air on Xander's end, as the young man inhaled.

<Giles, if you were asked to do something very important, something that would make a difference, yet extremely dangerous. And to do it you had to give up something equally important and precious, but only just too you. Would you do it? >

"That depends Xander, how dangerous is dangerous?"

<No detail's Giles, rem*> Before the caller could continue he heard a brief struggle on Giles end. It was as though some short, yet mighty battle was being fought for possession of the earpiece. Before the New York bound Scooby could hypothothize on what fate may have befallen his 'surrogate parent' his left ear was met with a familiar, almost panicky voice, and he no longer had to surmise what had just happened.

"What's dangerous? Xander, are you there? Is everything alright? What's all this about danger?"

In New York City, a young man standing at the second public phone on the right was now cursing under his breath before the watchful eyes of a very curious Pug Dog.

<No everything's fine Buff. I'm A-Okay. I was just asking Giles something's that's all. It's nothing for you to worry about. >

"You're sure."

<Positive. Can you put the G-Man back on please.>

"Well, I'm here now, and my advice is just as good. So ask me. What was all that about danger?"

< *sigh*. Some people I met have asked me to help them out, that's all."

"That's all?"

<In a nutshell. >

"No Danger?"

<Buffy, crossing the street is dangerous if you don't know what your doing. They asked for my help, and I think . I really think I can. Help them I mean.>

In Sunnydale California, relief washed over the petite form of the Slayer, as she nodded to her equally anxious red haired companion to affirm that their Xan was alright. She trusted Xander, if he said he could handle something, he could.

Sure he was impulsive, and stubborn. But he was also careful - most of the times anyway, and in the times he wasn't - he never took unacceptable risks. Out of everyone in the Slayettes, it was Xander she trusted the most to watch her back in a fight.

Surprisingly more so then Angel, and Giles. Not because both her former lover and resident father figure wouldn't do, or give their all in battle, they would - she knew that. She had seen both men in action often enough. Yet these two men in her life, possessed in the heat of combat a unique form of Funnel Vision. They rarely were able focus outside the scope of the opponents they were facing. Xander could, he took everything in - Xan was wide-angle.

That was why he was her Key Guy during the Mayor's Ascension. That was why she asked him to lead the charge of the Students against the Mayor, and not Giles. Sure her Watcher would have made more sense to the layman, Giles being the elder of the group - aside from Angel. But Xan had that wide-angle thing, and the trust. Even from the Jocks, Cordettes and various other groups in school who had taken pleasure giving him such a hard time over the past few years - they all trusted him. And they were all prepared to follow his orders without question, to put their collected lives in his hands. Sure it may have been the Soldier Guy memories that guided his commands, but it was Xander Harris they were all looking too, and believed in.

It wasn't until he had left for his trip, and she had gotten over the worst of Angel abandoning her, did she realise how impressive his accomplishments were that day. Not only too organize the graduating students into a cohesive fighting force in a matter of hours. But also to direct the battle on two fronts, the Demon Snake on one side, and to the Vampires who were attacking their rear.

Yet with all the chaos and success of that mini-war, he didn't once lose track to what was happening to his friends - even Angel. When it was all over, he even came to tell her - too assure her, that the souled vampire, a guy he admitted to not liking, had indeed survived it all. Just to put her mind at ease.

She should have said something then, or shown her appreciation. Not for just being Supporto-Guy, but for everything else he did that day, including rigging the Library with enough homemade explosives to kill the Mayor. Yet all she could think about was her Angel.

The only thing she, as the Slayer, had to worry about was running - really fast! She promised herself that when he got back she would make it up to him, and let him know how much she depended upon him as a friend.

These thoughts warmed her, Xan may not have made it to College with the rest of the gang, but he was far from stupid, and she knew he would always find a way to fall on his feet.

A perverse smile spread across her face as she realized that she was for the first time in weeks having a serious conversation with her Xander-shaped-friend - and she couldn't have that. The opening he had delivered was too good to let go "They think YOU can help? Geez Xander, I guess that will be that last mistake they'll ever make." She then awaited the verbal volley to her serve, what greeted her ears was a strangled silence.


<. last mistake they'll ever make. >

Xander drew the receiver away from his ear and stared at it for a couple of moments.

Doing his best to disbelieve what he had just heard one of his best friend's say. Throughout this year he knew he was being pushed aside, but he naively forced himself to believe it was because they were all concerned for him. What his High School crush had just said drew figurative blood, and the sense of self pride he had experienced earlier dissolved away. He wanted to accuse her of being blind, to rub what had been offered to him in her face. But he couldn't - that's the trouble with being approached by Ultra Secret Organizations, they have to stay ULTRA SECRET. Besides, if Jay was right, this would be the last conversation he'd ever have with her and he didn't want it to be a bitter exchange. After taking a third moment to compose himself, Xander returned the instrument once more to his ear.

<Xan . Xander are you still there? >

"I'm here. Y'know Buffy, a couple of really heavy things have been laid down at me today, but that, that was the heaviest one of all Buff. I didn't - I DON'T deserve that. For three years I've been there for you, in whatever capacity you've needed me, every step of the way. When have I ever - EVER done anything to make you believe, to make you question, that at the crunch I am someone that could not be counted on? ."


"Buff, these people, these STRANGERS, have come to me and have asked if I'm prepared to help them. They think I've got the stuff. It's kinda funny . and sad. That people I don't even know have more faith in my abilities then you do. I would have thought after all this time you would see that I'm not the screw-up that I act like sometimes. But then again, I guess in comparison to the Deadboy I'll never be anything less to you."


"Look Buffy, I'm not angry with you for thinking of me like that - I'm not. I guess I've kind of encouraged it over the years with the badly timed jokes and everything - but I'm not a Screw up. And I DO take whatever is put in front of me seriously, I do. Even though I rarely show it." Looking at the Payphone change screen before him the Zeppo watch the figure count down.


"Look Buff, I've got to make this short and sweet now, as this thing is about to gobble up the last of my quarters. Thanks. Thanks for being you. Who I am, the person I've become, I owe it all to you and the rest of the Scooby Gang. Please tell Giles thanks as well. I've made up my mind; I know what I'm going to do. Give my love and best to Willow and Oz. And if you speak to Angel in the future, tell him he's the White Knight now - don't ask, he'll know what I mean by it. And Cordelia . tell her, tell her that The Zeppo will never forget her, and I hope she finds someone more deserving of her then I ever was. And finally, Buff you take care, stay sharp, please, please don't die. I gotta . I better," The young man fought hard for the words to escape his mouth, he didn't realize saying his final farewell would be this difficult. But he was sincere in what he had said; he had made up his mind. And the path he had now chosen led away from Demon's.

Succeed or fail he would stand-alone on his merits, and his own accomplishments. He could do this; all he had to say first is goodbye. ". It's . it's time I left you now. Bye"




Staring dumbly at the receiver in her hand, the Slayer was finally able to complete the sentence which was choking her throat. "Xander, I was joking." Buffy Anne Summers then placed plastic ear and mouth piece back into its cradle. And turned her watcher who was still vigorously rubbing the foot she had stomped on moments earlier. "What did he tell you Giles - precisely?"

Wincing, the Englishman responded "Precisely? Not blessed much, other than he was asked to do something important, yet dangerous. And that all he had to do was surrender something precious to do it."

"Okay, how dangerous? What was it he was asked to do?"

Gritting his teeth, the Englishman tried to restrain a scathing response to his young charge. "I was about to find out, until you decided to take the matter into your own hands. I guess it was obviously dangerous enough for him to call me and ask my opinion. Why, what did he tell you?"

"Nothing . he told me nothing. At least not anything I wasn't already aware of, except that the people who approached him think he's got 'the stuff', whatever the Hell that means."

"B...b...ut he'll be alright, right. I mean he's going to call back and tell us what it is he's going to do right?"

"I, I don't think so Will. I'm not sure, but I think he was telling me - us, goodbye, as in goodbye for good." The Slayer then searched her friends faces, letting what she had said sink in before she continued. "Xander was serious. Whatever it is, he's been asked to do, he doesn't expect to see us again."

"No . no. He wouldn't leave us."

"Not unless it was something important." The former Watcher repeated from what he had said earlier. "Xander. Xander is a capable young man; I think we are all making a mountain out of a mole hill. How often has he come through when all we thought was lost, hmmmm?"

Staring down at the plastic device she was holding moments earlier, the Slayer whispered to herself. "Yeah, he said that to."


[That's it. It's over. Ties are now officially severed. Scooby's? What kind of nickname is that anyway? What am I, in the fourth grade? MIB - Field Agent Xander Harris is waaaaaayyyy cooler. 'More Martini Mr. Bond?' Nope, nothing to regret, not here, not now, not ever. New City, New Life, New Start.] Despite the wide grin spread across his face, his eyes betrayed his sorrow. The former Scooby looked down at his four legged companion. "It's getting late Frank; you better scamper off home to your owner. I've got to hunt me a bed for the night. Big important start tomorrow." With this, Xander Harris dug his hands into his pockets, felt for his wallet that held the complementary MIB Credit Card Jay had given him hours earlier, and begun to seek out the most expensive Hotel Suite he could find.

When the dark haired 18-year-old was out of earshot, the Pug called Frank began to scratch behind his ear - that is what it would have looked like to the early evening Joggers who were beginning to make their presence felt. In reality, man's-best-friend, was pressing a stud on his MIB collar.

- Jay, this is Frank.

- Hey Frank, how did my boy do?

- Good, had me worried there for a bit, phoned in for a life- line. But he kept his lips sealed, and gave nothing away. Just said some Goodbyes, that all.

- Nothing to worry about?

- Naaahhh. The kid's alright, patted me and everything.

- So he has Frank-the-Pug's seal of approval?

- Yeah. Treat this one good Jay, and you got your self a keeper.

- Thanks Frank.

- No Prob's. Frank Out.



Xander walked along the street that would regularly lead him to his chosen destiny from this day on. The only difference between this day and those that would now follow is that this would be his first. He should have been appreciating the anticipation of starting a new and exciting career as an MIB Field Agent, yet all he was dwelling on was the life he had now chosen to leave.

The brief phone conversation he had with one of his dearest friends, Buffy Anne Summers, was still plaguing his thoughts. He didn't regret his words to the Slayer, truth was - they were probably a long time in coming. He only regretted that it was he who had to deliver them to her. Xander silently hoped she would not consider what he had relayed to her as a spiteful attempt to hurt her as she had hurt him with her own insensitive comment towards his usefulness moments earlier.

In the distance the 18-year old viewed the bland, non- descriptive and unassuming Building at the address of 504 Battery Park and smiled to himself. No longer was he to be third choice; he wasn't going to follow Angel or Giles anymore. He was going to be the Best MIB ever had - Past, Present and Future. The Ultra Secret Organization had --- was, giving him the opportunity to strike out independently from the Scooby's and he wasn't going to make them regret that decision.

As the Californian got closer to the MIB Headquarters he noticed the Agent that had introduced himself to him the day before as Jay. The African-American was leaning against the entrance scanning through what looked like a bunch of Tabloid Newspapers. As Xander got closer to the young Agent, Jay looked up from what he was reading and briefly glanced at his wristwatch.

"7:21am - Right on time. I take it you've decided that you want in?"

Slowing his stride to meet the Agent on the steps that led to the front door of MIB, Xander hesitantly answered the Senior Agent. "Yep, in the worst way possible - do you still want me?"

Jay didn't know how to take the insecure treble in the young mans voice, or his doubtful question. It was --- surprising. When he had witnessed Xander yesterday, the young man was in control of everything he was doing; yet now? What could have happened in the span of 14 hours that would make him doubt that 'they' would no longer consider him MIB material? --- This guy had some major confidence issues. Issues that Jay realized he had to tackle immanently before he walked his new partner through the doors behind him and began to introduce Xander to the other Agents. Agents, whom would be expecting this young man to have their back when 'the fan gets hit' - Every Agent had to trust their backup, they had to be confident that their support could handle whatever is thrown at them. With this statement, Xander Harris had assassinated any confidence Jay now had in the 18-year old.

A Field Agent not only had to walk the walk; they also had to talk the talk. It had taken Jay a month to realize that confidence was the key in everything an Agent did. If an MIB Agent exuded confidence then the ET's were more inclind to do what was instructed to them. Gesturing to the steps with his now rolled up papers Jay invited Xander to join him in a brief informal chat as he sat down.


"Nope --- Terrified. I didn't get a wink of sleep last night."

"You'll get use to that." Jay couldn't help but appreciate the honesty of the young man, most newbie's - himself included, would on their first day stride through the doors like they owned the place. And act as if they were the toughest, meanest and baddest thing in the niegbourhood. Those kinds of people really got on his nerves now, and he was grateful Xander wasn't one of them. If he did try and pull that tired routine the black Agent would have just neuralized him and send him on his way with no memory of the last 48hours. He probably might even have had him apply for work as a kitchen hand in some Male Strip Joint - just to teach him some humility.

"I was doing some checking last night in the archives. Did you know that with the exception of one other Guy, you'll be the youngest person ever recruited to the position of a MIB Field Agent?"

"Your kidding --- Really?"

"Really, cross my heart Man. And this Guy wasn't just good, he was the Best."

"How did that happen, I mean how did he become an Agent?"

"Funny Story, the Dude was running late for a date with his girlfriend and decided to take a short cut. Unfortunately he got lost, and ended up on an abandoned road where our first visitation was taking place. We didn't have 'flashy thingy's' back then, so he was recruited there and then - no questions asked. That man became a Legend in his own time. I'm telling you Man - this Guy was 'Mr. MIB' he is what we all aspire to be in this job. So much so, that they retired his designation when he left the Organisation."

"You mean you can leave? I thought you had a 'once in, never out' policy?"

"True, you'll be MIB till the day you die. But the Agency isn't heartless Man, if you don't think you can cut it any more, or it gets too much for you, they won't keep you around if you don't want to be here, aaannnndd they'll look after you afterwards - we don't turn our back on our own. Your part of our Crazy-Ass- Dysfunctional family now. So welcome home Bro." The ebony Agent then offered the young man a goofy wide smile.

This is what Xander wanted to hear, this was what he needed to hear - Acceptance, pure and simple acceptance. For who he was, and what he could do. All his doubts were now no more, he was MIB - body and soul, and it would take a team of wild horses to drag him back to SunnyDale.

Jay gently knodded his head as his words washed over the young man sitting on his left. True, Agent Jay wasn't certain what interior dialogue was being played in the 18-year olds mind, but he could imagine. Xander's slouching posture corrected itself, and his eyes became more focused - not as clouded as they were earlier. Basically, he was again the Xander Harris who had past the tests yesterday with flying colors.

It was a sad thing when a person's confidence in themselves peaked and troughed on what others thought of them. The former New York City Detective James Edwards wasn't clear on Xander's Home Life or his Social History - it wasn't any of his business. None of it was his business, that is - until now. Xander was now HIS partner, so it now became HIS business. And HIS business was to make Xan the best Agent he could possibly be. And to do this he had to subtly repair whatever damage was done to his partners ego by Parent's, Teachers and Friends over the years. Without realising it, MIB Field Agent 'Jay' made a silent vow not only to show him the young man the 'ropes', but to also 'adopt' the Californian and become the Big Brother AleXander Harris never had, and so obviously as well as desperately needed.

On his left wrist the stylish watch of Agent Jay beeped twice, indicating the 7:30am alarm. Standing up, Jay posed a question as he extended his right hand out to help the new partner off the step "Well Agent. Are you ready for your initiation into MIB?"

Without even processing the question, Xander accepted Jay's assistance. When he was once more standing up he began to brush the dust and dirt from his backside and looked at the doors in front of him. Suddenly they seemed a lot smaller then they were moments ago. He then turned to face the lone Agent beside him and offered his trademark half smile "I'm ready if you are."

Satisfied, Jay then opened the door, and the two men strolled into Foyer. With a Giant circulation Fan on one side, and a huge 'Woofer' on the other, with the only witness to a special moment in MIB history a solitary aged Guard. The pair entered the concealed security elevator and began their decent into the future.



From behind the sleek desk of the Main Office, amid the hub of incoming and outgoing Alien Visitors, Jay began to erase Alexander Levalle Harris's life piece by piece.

The individual in question was attending his first physical inspection on the third sub-level. A perverse smile crossed his face, as he considered whether or not he should have warned the eighteen-year-old of the various Probing that was to be expected. And for the umpteenth time he smiled to himself and said 'Naaahh.' After all, Kay never warned him.

Jay had found the deletion of Xander's life unusual to say the least. The permanent records of his High School were all lost due to a mishap two weeks earlier when a Gas Leak caused an explosion during the Graduating Ceremony. With this Dragon Slain, Jay then focused on the trivial identity sources, Public Library Card, Video Club Memberships, Bank Accounts etc. To his surprise, the Field Agent discovered a computized file of Alex. L. HARRIS in the database of the SunnyDale Police Dept. He was again surprised to discover that the young man he had taken under his wing was linked, or at least connected to several unsolved break-and-enters, as well as assaults.

There was also a young woman in a Coma in the SunnyDale Memorial Hospital with his name listed by Xander himself as her 'next- of-kin' contact. Agent Jay rubbed his chin in deep thought as he tried to determine the life this young man had led up to now, and what it revealed about his character. Jay then shock those thoughts from his head - regardless, whatever young Mr. Harris had done prior to today was now no more. This was emphasized ironically as his dark fingers kept pressing the delete button on his Terminals keyboard. Xander was now a blank slate, just like every other Agent in the building. Letter by letter the young man's name was removed from existence. S was followed by I, which was then followed by R and so on backwards - R, A, H, E, L, L, A, V, E, L, R, E, D, N, A. When he got to X Jay paused, typically an Agent assumed the designation due to the first letter of their name, in this case it would be A, but somehow it didn't feel right. After a further moment Jay bypassed the letter and removed those that followed E, L & A. The lone 'X' remained on the screen, and with a graceful tap of the Enter Key, it centered and magnified

The only things that Jay kept active were his new partners Driver's Licence and Birth Certificate, all which would be needed to identify the Replicant.

He had just closed off his System Access when he heard the familiar yelps of discomfort coming from a person who had just experienced their first MIB physical. Peering over his computer screen Agent Jay witnessed the now designated 'X' tepidly walk down the isle from the elevator, wincing with every careful tread. Jay couldn't help but laugh out loud at the sight, this earnt him a shy chuckle from X as he approached his Partner.

"You could've warned me about the Proctologist from Hell."

"Could've, but didn't. Have you used the cream, it helps. And I wouldn't be sitting down anytime in the next 6 hours if you can avoid it."

"Gotcha." As Xander got closer to the desk, he leant over for support and took a deep breath of relief. "Anything else on the menu today, or am I done?"

"Yep, Eye and Print scrambles."

"Two questions - What are they, and will they hurt?"

Pushing himself away from his desk Jay patted the young man on the back. "Naah, they tickle - Trust me. And what they do is erase your fingerprints and alter your Retina's so you can't be identified. Unfortunately this is a thing you have to do every month, just to keep clear of any ID's"

"Right." Without missing a beat, the former Zeppo once more stood tall, and slowly followed Agent Jay for the 'scrambles', feeling like he was being led like a lamb to the slaughter.


MIB HEADQUATERS - Corridor B; Sub-level 10. 12:18pm

"Tickle? Tickle? That did not come close to tickling you sadistic --- You enjoyed that didn't you?"

"Oh Yeah, and before you start blaming me X consider this. Not everything in your life will you receive fair warning. Shit happens. You are defined not on how you whine about it, but how you deal with it. Whiners are not MIB Agents; you've got to be cut from a tougher cloth, a whiner draws attention to themselves - you can't. You're to be invisible, forgettable."

Xander for the first time then saw Jay, not as a person - but as MIB. He saw the loneliness and the pride that came with that title. But he had made up his mind, he was going to be an Agent, and if the only people he could call on as friends were fellow Agents then that would be enough.

"C'mon X, I think it's time you said goodbye."

"Goodbye to what?"

"Your life." With this ominous statement Agent Jay once more took the lead and encouraged X to follow him once more down the corridor to another elevator that took them both to the third sub level of the MIB fortress.

As the pair exited the Lift, instead of turning left to the Medical Examination Rooms, Jay turned right and headed towards the Laboratories and Science section. There he opened the door with the title 'Replicant Genesis'. When Xander crossed the threshold of the door his blood chilled at the sight that welcomed him.

In the center of the room was a giant clear cylinder with a yellow florescent gel like fluid held within. But that wasn't what made him do a double take, that honor belonged to the naked figure that was immersed in the gel. It was him.


From out of nowhere the voice of Zed filled the room. "This my Boy is what that cell-sample you offered the Doctor's this morning was all about."

It took Xander a few moments to identify the source of the Head Administrator voice and locate the concealed camera that was in use. Once found however the former Scooby returned to his righteous indignation. "You --- you cloned me? - Why?"

The deep voice of Zed was both commanding and reassuring, and betrayed experience in dealing with this familiar line of questioning. "So that you can, when it is deemed time, return back to your old life without any --- awkwardness. And Son this isn't a clone, it's a replicant. True it is you in every way - physically, but it is just a body --- a shell, with minimal brain activity."

"And what does that mean?"

Stepping forward and placing a reassuring hand on the 18- year olds right shoulder, Jay answered "It means Xan --- X, that it will never wake up. It's in a permanent Coma. We - MIB, do this with all our Agent's. I've got one, Zed's got one, the Guy I was telling you before - Kay, he had one."

"But Why?"

Zed's voiced gently boomed "To avoid anybody looking for you for starters Lad. The Replicant will be discovered somewhere, wallet, ID and whatever else that maybe used too positively identify it as you. Once identified it will then be moved to whatever Hospital is deemed appropriate, and there it shall stay, on MIB 'insurance' of course, until you retire. And on that day, you will replace the replicant in its Hospital bed and then you'll just simply wake up."

"Isn't this a bit extreme, I don't need a false body. I mean I walked away from my life. Can't that be enough?"

"Son, we've been doing this for 50 years, in that time don't you think we would have worked out what works and what doesn't. We DO know what we're doing. And believe me this approach has proven to be the most effective in the past, and the positive side of it all is no one gets hurt."

"Hurt? What about my friends and family - what about them? They'll think this is me."

"That's the plan Son. Look - Can you honestly tell me no one from your past will try and seek you out. Even if it's just a humble Missing Person's Report, that is something we wish to avoid. So can you assure me that won't happen - Can you?"

Only one name came to mind 'Willow'. He felt physically ill, how far WAS he prepared to go for all this. An old and familiar voice in the back of his mind answered him, it was Soldier- Guy, and he was saying 'You'll go as far as you have too, and then take one step further'. The tiny voice had never steered him wrong in the past, he trusted Soldier-Guy, and Soldier-Guy had never done him wrong - it wouldn't be in his best interest, after all. But this felt so not-right. And here it was, this was what Jay was trying to tell him earlier. What was he going to do - Was he going to whine about it, or was he going to deal with it?

He felt as thou he was once more being tested, and maybe he was. All he knew was that his answer would dictate whether he would progress further as a Agent, or disappear back to SunnyHell with nothing but continual part-time Jobs to look forward to. And he refused to do that. To return to SunnyDale would be admitting to Buffy, and everybody he was exactly what they always thought him to be - The Zeppo. Hesitantly he approached the cylinder and took in his double; everything was as it should be, right down to the appendix scar. This thing could fool his own Mother with ease, but could he deceive them all like this? Gently he rubbed his chin, the swelling had gone down, but he swore he could still feel the indentation of Angel's knuckles from six weeks earlier.

He was told then that it was 'necessary'. Angel hitting him unconscious was necessary for Faith to believe he had once more turned back to Angelus. It was necessary to be kept out of the loop with the Mayor's Sting. It may have been necessary, but that didn't automatically make it right. Xander bought his hands up to touch the cool surface of the erect see- through container closed his eyes and whispered out his reply.

"Your right, someone would try to find me. So, how were you going to do this?"

Zed's voice suddenly softened "We usually use a Car Wreak, or some sort of assault, basically anything that can support a form of Head Trauma."

"I want him found in a Graveyard."

"Excuse me, Son?"

"I want 'IT' to be discovered in a Graveyard, drained of just enough of blood to keep it functioning, with puncture wounds here, and here." Xander gestured to the neck and wrist of his twin. "And I want it to look like IT was involved in a fight - a Big One. With, with --- busted lip's, black eyes, broken bones - the Works."

"We can do that Son, it's unusual, but we can do it. But wouldn't Vehicle Accident raise less questions, and be more simple."

"Not with my friends it wouldn't, this is what they would expect. This is how they thought I would end up - Give the Public what it wants, is what I say." He took out his wallet from his hip pocket and placed it on the top lip of the cylinder. "Here, and make sure this is found in its hand." From his back pocket Xander produced a wooden stake, it was his Lucky Stake and would be easily recognizable as his by Buffy and Willow if they continued to harbor any doubts. He placed the instrument next to the Wallet and addressed the curious face of Agent Jay. "Lucky Charm - I won't be needing it anymore anyway. Can you do that?"

"We can." Was the solitary response by Zed.

"Thanks." Xander then turned to face Jay, with his arms out wide he asked his new Role Model "Okay, what's next."

What he received was a cocky smile, and a proud tone "What's next is we get you Suited up. It's time for you to go to work Partner."

Xander smiled back, blushing slightly, Partner, he liked the sound of that. It implied equal, it implied belonging. That feeling that had left him the evening before now returned with a vengeance. He was proud again.



Xander emerged from the Changing Rooms feeling totally --- uncomfortable. The suit fit perfectly, it just didn't feel like him. He felt like a Mortician. He looked to Jay, expecting him to say something, what exited from his mouth was not what he expected. It was a simple comment that must have held some meaning to the African-American, as Zed who was standing beside him began to chuckle. It was "I still make this thing look good."

It was as though he had received a silent que, Xander then undid the top button of his white starched shirt and loosened his tie. It was still uncomfortable - only less so, but he now no longer looked like an Undertaker - which was good enough for him.



<Ring, Ring> As soon as the Englishman picked up the receiver his ear was assaulted by the voice of the young woman he considered as his daughter.

"Any Word Giles?"

"From who?"

"Xander. Has he called you, did you apologise to him for me"

"No Buffy, Xander hasn't called. But do not despair, I'm sure he'll crop up later. He'll be fine, as we discussed yesterday, Xander can take care of himself."

"I know. But you weren't speaking to him --- well you were, but ---. Giles, he sounded so --- I just want him to know I'm sorry. The things he said, he couldn't have meant it could he, about saying goodbye and all that. If he left Sunnydale, left us, without knowing I was only joking"

"Buffy, I'm sure you'll have plenty time to explain that to him when he gets back."

"If he comes back."

"You'll see Buffy, he'll show us here one morning in the not to distant future with a tale that only he could tell, safe and well."


"If you are truly concerned Buffy I'll contact a friend I have in the Sunnydale Police Department, if they hear anything concerning Xander, or anyone matching his description, I'm sure they'll let me know."

"As long as he comes home safe and well I'll be happy Giles, I don't need to know why and what fore's."

Chapter 2

SUNNYDALE; Giles Apartment, 06:42am

Rupert Giles stepped out of his bedroom and looked down upon his still Tome cluttered lounge and sighed deeply. What was in view was the back of his sofa with a visible tuft of blonde hair lain across its arm. He wished he could have fained surprise, but he couldn't. His Slayer had now recently chosen to spend more and more of her spare time in his presence these last few days.

After her nightly patrols, instead of adjourning home to her own bed, she would opt to use her private key to his apartment and settle in there. As he quietly trod down the wooden stair case he grimaced to himself - he could expect another frantic call from her mother anytime now, concerned for her lone daughter's whereabouts and safety.

He knew the reason for her nearly consistent habitation, and it wasn't his delightful company. It was because Xander might try to make contact again. That was why she always chose to sleep on the sofa instead of making herself available to the spare bedroom - the sofa was closer to the phone.

Carefully the Englishman spied down on his adopted daughter, gently stroked some of her stray hairs from her angelic and troubled sleeping face, then sadly he shook his head. If Xander himself had now taken the opportunity to walk through his door at that moment he would have happily throttled the SunnyDale graduate. Buffy's anxiety over the young man's fate had become infectious. Silently, and not for the first time in the four days that had past since Xander Harris's cryptic phone call, he thank the God's for Mr. Daniel Osborne, the young werewolf's calming and reassuring words to Willow over the absent Scooby was proving to be the only thing keeping the group functioning with any normality.

The old saying of 'No news being good news' could not be happily applied in these circumstances. The former Librarian cursed Xander Harris; he would have expected better of the young man then to say things like Danger, and Goodbye and yet not provide at least an appropriate explanation for his reasons. of course there was more said, but as yet the Slayer who had wrenched the phone from his grasp had not been inclined to share in full what young Mr. Harris had parted to her. He just knew that it affected her deeply. All because of an ill-timed quip by Buffy, and a misunderstanding at the young man's end. A pure and simple miscommunication.

The Englishman's thoughts were then interrupted by the phone as it pitched out its annoying rings. Closing his eyes and preparing his ears to the voice of Ms Joyce Summers, Rupert Giles was disappointed to be met by another. It was the friend he had approached two day's earlier at the insistence of the now stirring form on his lounge suite.

"Rupert its Det. Miller."

"Martin, so good to hear back from you so soon. I hope you can offer me some good news, I have some very concerned people here, of which I am one."

"I have news Rupert, but it ain't all good."

A chill ran down his spine as the Ex-Watcher turned his back on his still stirring charge and covered the end of the receiver with his spare hand. Conspiratorially he spoke once more.

"What do you have?"

"Your Boy Xander Harris was discovered early this morning, in a Cemetery in Oxnard."


"Yep, it was a 'SunnyDale Special', the only difference is, and here's the kicker, the Guy's still alive - Barely, but alive."

"Are you certain it is he?"

"Nope - the Oxnard Sheriff's made the ID, one of their Patrols was doing an inspection of the Towns Graveyard Car Park, it seems to be a popular place for the local kid's to go and --- err, do what teenage kids do. They found his vehicle there empty, they then did a sweep of the grounds and --- well they found him.

"As soon as they got him to a local Hospital they did the old ID check, the only thing in his possession was a SunnyDale California Drivers License. They then called us imminently. The Officer on the front desk knew I had spread the word about Harris, and forwarded the call straight to me. Giles what they got over there is --- well he's Pudding."

"Excuse me?"

"The Kid - Harris, the face is so swollen, and beaten that they can't be certain that it's the same guy in the photograph --- the only thing that they can confirm is that the guy has black hair, male, 6'1", and possibly in his late teens - early twenties. Whatever - whoever did this to him, if it is Harris, went to town on him and had a lot of fun with it."

"So-so it might not be Xander."

"I don't want you to get your hopes up Rupert, true it's all very circumstantial. But his car, his ID, and a very preliminary confirmation on the physicality's of the kid - it doesn't look good. Still, they need someone to positively ID him, and I would rather not have to make that call to his parent's until I was 100% sure Giles."

"He can't tell you himself?"

"Giles - the guy's lucky to be alive, he's breathing through a tube and probably will for the rest of his life."

"W---what do you mean?"

"Harris is in a Coma Giles - a Deep One from what I've been told. Barely any Brain activity at all."

With these words, the conservative Englishman's world fell apart. His legs buckled at this news. He would have surely have collapsed to the ground if he hadn't then been caught and supported by the now awoken Buffy Anne Summers who was presently standing at his side looking at him eagerly, and then back to the phone in the man's hands. Gathering his thoughts, the former Watcher returned to speak to the Detective. "I'll be there as soon as I can, let the Sheriff know I'll --- I ---"

"Can identify Harris?" Martin Miller finished for his friend.

"Y--- yes."

"Can do. Rupert, I'm sorry."

"So am I." With this whispered reply Rupert Giles shakily place the receiver back into its cradle, and made his way past his kitchen to the liquor cabinet. All before the worried eyes of a Blonde Slayer as her face creased in wonder to the identity of the person Giles was speaking to as well as the purpose of the call.



Daniel 'Oz' Osborne was man of few words, but when he spoke - people generally listened. The words that now escaped his mouth were dry, heavy and full of pent emotion. "We're here." For four hours the remains of the SunnyDale Scooby Gang drove in silence. All lost in their thoughts, fears and deep wishes. All with one destination - The Oxnard Hospital.

When Giles had called him that morning offering no reason or purpose for the 7am 'Emergency Scooby Meeting', he was more then half tempted to forgo the expected Research Session in preference to catching up on some much needed sleep. Between rehearsing with 'The Dingoes' and doing Gig's at the Bronze; reassuring Willow; and involving himself with Buffy in her Slayer duties. This little Werewolf was beat. But there was something in the Englishman's tone of voice, it wasn't timid or gentle as Giles speech often was - it was saturated with a seething anger. He remembered that tone well; it was the same one he had used when he would speak of Angelus after Miss Calendar was killed. Giles was angry, and Giles wanted revenge - Daniel Osborne owed it to the man to discover his grievance. Now he wishes he hadn't.

Oz repeated the statement to the three sitting figures in the back of his Van. It was Giles who made the first effort to move, his action prompted Buffy to follow her Watcher. Willow however remained still, frozen in fear of what the next ten minutes may reveal to her.

Giles sympathetically looked to the young Bass Player. Oz offered a cocked nod to indicate that he would stay with his girlfriend and follow them both in when she was ready.

Rupert Giles did not have to proceed to the front desk of the humble hospital, there were still plenty of Deputies in the foyer to receive directions from to the 'Mysterious' young man's who had been bought in several hours earlier.

Giles respectfully stepped out of the elevator and came to an abrupt halt before the hub of activity. This resulted in Buffy, who had been silently shadowing him since he had left the Van, to walk into him.

With care in his eyes the British Librarian turned around and looked down upon his charge. Buffy hadn't cried or spilt a single tear since her, and the rest of the group, had been told of Detective Martin Millers phone call. It was not that she did not care for Xander's - the possible Xander's fate. It was because she was confident that the person who now lay somewhere in this Hospital wasn't the wayward Scooby. Rupert Giles prayed she was right, and feared if she was wrong.

With Slayer in tow, Giles approached the Floors Nurses Station, and introduced himself. The 30-year veteran of a dozen different emergency Rooms offered the father-daughter couple an appraising eye, after which she waved over a young Resident Doctor.

When the 25-year old male arrived, he was advised by the 50-year old lady behind the desk the identity of both people and their purpose - to positively identify the new 'silent' admission.

With heavy feet that can only be earnt spending many, many tired hours on them, the young Resident led them both to a closed off see-through room. There was no mistake. Even with his eyes swollen shut, jaw half ajar, fresh bruising and massive swelling on the left side of his face. Paled skin and almost as much bandaging as a Horror Movie Mummy, there was no question to this being's identity - this was Alexander Levelle Harris.

To Giles left side he felt a desperate grasp of his upper arm as it tried to support the weight of a now shaking 18-year-old girl. The tears that had been held back by shear will now began to flow unabated as the Slayer wordlessly nodded her head to the Resident alongside Giles to indicate that this was indeed the youth that was on the Drivers License. As the mid twenty-something Doctor made his regrets, he withdrew from the room to offer the two privacy and to forward this information to the appropriate sources. The room seemed to fall to silence - with one lone exception. The only sound, an annoying ping of machines that's only purpose seemed was to register to their Hospital Owners that they were indeed still operational.

With a moment of privacy now availed, Rupert Giles haphazardly removed a crucifix from his tweed jacket, made a silent prayer and pressed it firmly to the sleeping figures exposed skin. There was no reaction. With this revealed, Buffy Summers nearly collapsed to the floor in relief. She didn't want to share her fear, but one of her greatest was that one day one of her nearest and dearest would be turned, and it would then fall to her to do what she was born to do.

Thou she was indeed relieved by the outcome of Giles test there was no comfort from the result, if Xander had been turned he would have awoken that night, and Willow could have used the Gypsy Curse that restored Angel's soul for Xander. The young man would be back with her - them, once more.

With gentle strength Giles drew Buffy to the rooms door and exited the presence of one they cared so much for - afterall there was nothing either of them could contribute in there anyway, other then make themselves an obstacle to Xander's care. As they once more approached the Nursing Station, a hesitant Willow and the emotionless face of Oz left the elevator. No words needed to be passed between the two couples. The red-teared eyes of the Slayer, and the solaced look upon the Librarian said it all.

In times of emotional distress Willow did what many people do, they try to run away and deny the reality that was upon them. But Willow couldn't run, her legs had become suddenly numb, and even if she could, there was no distance she might flee too that could escape the horrible truth of this moment. So she took the second option, she buried her head deep into her boyfriend's chest and cried fresh tears, as Buffy mirrored the same motion with her Watcher.


Twelve-minutes after the Scooby Gang had been steered into a private 'Family' Room, the Town's Sheriff revealed himself to the group. He stood tall and uncomfortable before the desperate and teared eyes of the two young women. Sheriff Jenkins would have preferred to discuss this matter further and in private with the victims British Uncle. But the 46-year-old foreigner made it quite clear that secrets would not be kept with his group. So reluctantly Peter Jenkins answered Mr. Rupert Giles questions to what he knew of the incident.

"We have no leeds to who did this to him. Evidence at the scene is --- well, nearly non-existent. There was a fight - of that there is no mistaking, turned earth, scuff marks, all the ear marks of a hell of a brouhaha. There are also indications that your boy went in hard and fast. He must have been a hell of a Brawler, just looking at what was done to him --- the kid went down fighting. He might even have had a decent chance if he had used a bat, or even a bigger stick."

This comment arose curiosity from the young blonde. "S---stick?"

"That's right Miss. The lad had a 20cm piece if wood in his right hand; we nearly broke a couple of his fingers to get the bugger to release it. At any rate, we couldn't find hide or hair of who he was fighting. With the kind of injuries he sustained, you'd expect him to have gotten a few decent licks in, but as yet no Doctors Surgery or Hospital Staff in the area has reported any additional injured patients who may have been involved in a brawl of this scale. It's as if they had all evaporated into thin air."

Giles was the first to pick up on the Sheriff's choice of words "They, Sheriff? Are you sure it was more then one?"

"The scuff marks indicate at least a half dozen --- maybe eight, it's hard to tell. And that's it - poof. Nothing. Not even footprints leading away from the site - how they managed that without leaving some trace I have no idea. Like I said - poof."

"Err, well thank you very much Sheriff, we all appreciate your honesty and directness regarding your investigation. I hope you keep us informed of your progress. I think we will all be staying for a couple of days, if your investigations reveal anything new ---?"

"Of course." Was the reply as the town Sheriff began to make his was to the door, but as he was about to turn the handle his action was interrupted.

The broken voice of the Slayer ushered out a strange request to the local man "The Stick Xander was using --- can, can we have it?"

"I don't see the harm Miss. It is only a piece of wood afterall."

As the Sheriff closed the door, it was Oz who found his voice first "I guess the Poof remark and the 'Stick' say's it all - Vampires. But SIX? Why? What would possess Xander to take on six to eight vampires all at once?"

"Ma-maybe it started out as one, or two and then they kind of ganged up on him, maybe---maybe". This speculation suddenly became too much for the young Redhead; she had held her tongue while the Sheriff was present, but no more. She was angry, angry with the young man who was having his breathing regulated by a machine at that very moment a dozen meters away. Angry that he had selfishly left them without any explanation, only to be discovered like this. It was a flawed hatred, she knew that - and tomorrow she would undoubtedly hate herself more for blaming Xander for all this, but if she begun to cry again she feared she would not have stopped. "It was those people. The ones who asked Xander to help them, we find them, we find out what Xander was doing. And then we find out the identity of the ones who did this to him."

"Sweetheart, I think it's safe to presume that the fact that there was no evidence of anyone leaving the scene, and the fact that Vamp's do go 'poof', and that Xander is still alive. It kinda tells us that he might have gotten them all - all by himself."

Willow almost staggered at her heart's third point "Alive? You call what Xander is going through now Alive?" She raged at her boyfriend, who had enough common sense to remain quiet to her question, and allowed her the opportunity to vent herself of the feelings that was consuming her.

Giles who looked upon the scene being played between the Wicca and the Wolf-man and shared her twisted reasoning and outrage, but for totally different reasons. The Watcher blamed himself. All the times Xander had observed him train Buffy in fighting and various defence techniques - he never once invited the young man to participate, other then play a role in 'protect the victim', or as punching dummy. It had never occurred to him that Xander might also sorely have benefited from those same teachings. If he had taken the time - the effort, maybe, just maybe the male Scooby would still be well. "Little good those facts do him now Oz. Dammit, what's that saying? - 'What cost Victory?" The former Watcher bit out to the orange dyed hair youth. As he stood alongside his Redheaded charge, the unemployed Librarian then turned and began to pace the small room like a caged animal - lost in his own pondering as Ripper began to slowly reveal himself to all. "What could have possessed him? Six at once, what on Earth was he trying to prove for God's Sake?"

With these words Buffy sunk deeper into her seat, fore she feared she knew exactly what he was trying to prove. And if she was right - then she may have been responsible. Her last words to her Xander-Shaped-Friend had been a jest towards his ability to help others. Xander was always a proud person; he accepted no pity or charity from anybody even thou he never hesitated to offer it himself. If he thought that she was indeed sincere with her barb, he would have made every effort to prove her wrong --- even if it meant charging headlong into a whole nest of vampires.

She understood their anger, their impotent fury better then they could imagine, fore she felt it to. It was her 'calling' to fight and destroy Vampires and denizens of the Night, but she had to admit she had been laxed in her responsibilities. She relied too much on others who's calling this was not. Xander had no right to have taken up her cause.

If he had only just left well enough alone, and not followed and involved himself in her first Hellmouth adventure when she arrived in SunnyDale, then --- then she would have been dead seven times over by now, and the world itself might have been over run with Darkness. Twin tears flowed down the visible tracks of her face. He had no right to make her realise all this now; Xander was the normal one, an average person - It was her job to protect NORMAL people from this kind of evil - not his. He wasn't a Slayer, a Watcher, a Werewolf or even a Wicca in training; he wasn't even a souled Vampire. Suddenly what Willow had just said dawned on her "Angel!"

To the surprised looks of her friends, Buffy Anne Summers continued. "Angel, he'll know. If there is a group of people out there hunting Vampires, he may have heard something."

Just then the Sheriff re-entered the private room with a humble piece of wood in his left hand. Despite the odd and pointy design of the 'stick' it was familiar to all present. Like it's owner - it was distinctive and unmistakable --- it's was just like Xander himself. With a humble weariness the Slayer carefully removed the item from the Sheriff grasp and held it tightly and mouthed the words of 'thank you'. The polite and aged Law-Keeper tilted his head in recognition to the silent words of the blonde, and once more left the group that had now become all the more reverent before the wooden instrument.

Buffy looked up to her Watcher, damn how uncomfortable it would make her; she needed justice. "Giles, I know you have his number - Call him, get Angel here now. WE need him."

Giles nodded in agreement.



It was 11:28pm when Angel walked onto the Hospital floor, without any guidance he directed himself towards the waiting area that had collected people he considered his friends and someone he looked upon as the love of his long, long life. He had received Giles phone call at mid-day, and if he could, he would have left right then, but sunlight and vampires do not make a good mix. So he spent the remaining hours digging up whatever he could on a mysterious group of Vampire Killers, and tracking Cordelia down whom Willow knew was also in LA and thought had a right to know of Xander's situation.

As he came into view of the small group his heart yelled out. Buffy looked so lost and vulnerable. He wanted to embrace her and kiss her sadness away, but he knew that would never happen. As long as someone she cared about was suffering, he knew she would never allow herself a moment of relief. Xander and Buffy had always had an odd relationship in his eyes. It refused definition. At times, when he would observe them in the Library or at the Bronze, the pair would mesh to the point that if he was not aware of the relationships the two shared, Xander with Cordelia, and the Slayer with him, he would assume them a couple. He always knew Xander Harris harbored feelings for the petite blonde, but he never thought she did for him. Looking at her now thou, maybe she did?

The Vampire made a gentle cough to draw the attention of the four lonely visitors. The sight of a familiar face in a room of strangers drew a twinge of a smile from everybody. Giles step forward to welcome the 240-year-old and to get right down to business. Moonlight was burning after all. "Were you successful?"

"Finding these people of yours, or Cordelia?"


"Cordelia is refreshing herself up downstairs --- she didn't take the news to well. She wants to be presentable for you all, and for Xander as well, of course."

"More importantly - What about the other thing?"

"Nothing. I mean, sure there are a couple of Vampire Hunters around. But nothing I've heard of out here. And the ones that do exist are pretty amateurish, just a bunch of street kids taking on the Night from what I heard. And Xander would only have hooked up with professionals, people who would have had a clue what they were doing."

Buffy now joined the pair in their private and hushed discussion, she spoke in a tone that balked no challenge "Fine, that settles it - we Patrol then. This place only has one cemetery, it shouldn't take to long. We find the local Big Bad, take it down and find out what actually happened, and who was involved."

"Very well Buffy, we'll remain here just in case there is a change in his condition. But you and Angel please be careful, this is an unfamiliar territory. We don't know what roams the street."

Angel hesitantly nodded; he was uncomfortable working with Buffy so soon after his departure, especially in the wired state she was in at the moment. And she wasn't alone, Giles, Willow and even Oz, the unfazable Oz, looked as if they were all going to jump out of their skin any second. But if he didn't agree, she would have gone anyway - alone. And if he wasn't there, and she did come across some Big Bad, or even A-Little-Bit-Nasty, given her current state --- he didn't even want to exercise those thoughts. But before he left, he had one thing to do. The vampire closed his eyes, he couldn't avoid it. He had to see for himself. Giles had described the injuries to him, and he had relayed this description to Cordelia. It may have been heartless, but he had to prepare her for the sight that would welcome them. He knew Giles would not deceive him, but he couldn't believe it, and he wouldn't - not until he had seen it with his own eyes.

Angel slowly drifted away from the group as Cordelia emerged from the elevator. With attention now placed upon the stunning brunette, Angel approached Xander's room. He did not enter, he didn't have to. He could see everything he needed too through the glass wall. He had a picture in his mind of what Xander may have looked like, but it wasn't anything like this. An old curse was whispered out in Gaelic. He may not have liked the guy personally, but he did respect him. He respected his bravery, his moral sense of right and wrong, and the noble purpose in which he seemed to do everything. Xander was a complex person who tried to flog himself off as an uncomplicated 'wisecracking' one. Respect was earned, not given. And Xander had earned his along time ago.

The young man had earnt his respect when he forced himself into his basement apartment with the intention of defying an ancient prophecy. Armed with only a Stake, a Cross and determination. The then sixteen year old threatened the 240-year old vampire to show him the way into the Master's Lair. That kind of courage was rare to see in one as young as he, and it always shamed Angel that the goofy looking, lanky teenager possessed more of it then himself.

Angel turned to reproach the group, but as he spun on his heels he came face-to-face with the young Slayer who was standing behind him. "What did he mean Angel? Xander's last words to me was to tell you that YOU were now my 'White Knight' and that you'd know what it meant - what did he mean by that?"

The Vampire felt the hair on the back of his neck creep up, and the heart that no longer beat become stiller as he reflected and chose his words with care. "It means that he wasn't expecting to comeback Buffy. And that he wanted me to --- to protect you for as long as there was strength in my limbs."

There was more, and Buffy knew it. Whenever Angel tried to conceal his past from her he always got poetic and flowery. It was always successful before because she was head-over-heels in love with him, and she would always get lost in his romantic words. But she wasn't anymore, at least not to the point in which she could be so easily distracted once again. "But why 'White Knight'?"

Angel shifted uncomfortably before her gaze, and was slightly relieved when he notice the rest of the group escort Cordelia in their direction. He then lent down and whispered in her soft white ear "I'll tell you outside." He knew she would not abandon this topic, so it was best they discuss it further away from the others.

Buffy didn't pause as she then strode past her friends towards the exit doors, Angel reluctantly followed, ignoring the looks The Slayers action had earnt from the others.


Angel was not at all surprised to find Buffy outside in the Hospital Car Park. Spanning the gap that separated the former lovers Angel removed his coat and offered it to the obviously chilled Buffy Summers. She accepted his gesture by repeating her earlier question with more stress in her voice then he had heard in a very long time.

"Because that's what he is Buffy - A White Knight. Everybody saw it; they just couldn't put a name to it. But Angelus could, and it wasn't intended to be a compliment. Rather an insult to his outdated belief of chivalry and virtue."

"What does Xander have to do with Angelus?"

"Everything and nothing Buffy. I don't want to get into details; the fact that Xander never told any of you about his private run-in with my Demon-self kind of tells you all you need to know."

"I---I'm beginning to think I don't know anything about him. I mean --- I've been there with him, we were close. We shared everything with each other. He has tête-à-tête with Angelus and he doesn't tell anybody? That's not Xander."

"No Buffy - that's exactly like Xander. Xander was ---"Angel looked upon the blonde beauty and knew he had to tell this tale, regardless of how it would paint him in doing so. "Buffy. Last year, when I wasn't myself. You were sick, in Hospital - remember?" Buffy slowly nodded to the question, unsure of the direction he was going. "I --- Angelus, decided to pay you a visit."

"N---now that, I don't remember."

"That's because it didn't happen. Xander wouldn't allow it." The souled Vampire then looked up to the light's glowing through the window's on the third floor, and wondered which light belonged to 'his' room. "I could have torn him to pieces in a blink of an eye; I could taste the fear dripping off of him. But he still wouldn't let me pass." Buffy stood wide-eyed to this revelation.

"There are those who are strong Buffy, and there are those with strength. Xander has strength, a strength that would surprise you."

"Why didn't he tell me?"

"Ohhh, like you needed another reason to see him - me, dead Buffy. I was at that time a Demon - a Monster. If you knew how vulnerable you were to me that night, what would you have done?"

"I---I don't know."

"Exactly - you're a VAMPIRE Slayer. You Slay Beings like me."

"It's not - it wasn't, that simple. I loved you."

"No - you loved Angel. Back then I was Angelus, you shouldn't of had to think about it Buffy. Xander didn't tell you about our meeting, because maybe he didn't know what you would've done. Meaning, grabbing your Mom and getting the Hell out of Sunnydale, leaving him, Willow, Oz, Cordelia and Giles to hold back the forces of the Hellmouth.

"You did that anyway - Run away. Sure it was minus your mother, and it was a couple of weeks after your Hospital stay, but you still ran away. Leaving Xander and the rest to do the best they could with what they had."

"I sent you to Hell!"

"I know - I was there. But you had no choice Buffy; it was me or the World."

"Xander lied to me."

"XANDER did the right thing!" Buffy was taken aback by the out burst, suddenly she realized the two of them never discussed that day before. Softly, Angel continued "You had to fight like there was no option, it was already too late Buffy, Angelus had started the ritual. I had to die - Xander did the right thing. He probably made the toughest call of his life when he decided to lie to you. But we were talking 6 Billion innocent lives Buffy. And as much faith Xander had on you to take me out - if it was just you and him - Sure. But Six Billion? He wasn't going to risk it Buffy, not just on faith. He had to lie, and I thank God he did - and so should you. He had to give you the edge needed to do the job you should have done when the Judge was assembled."

Angel paused, allowing his words to hit their intended mark. "And when you did leave - it was Xander who organized everybody to keep the Hellmouth at bay. Giles was too distracted looking for you. That's what I mean by strength Buffy. Almost anybody else would have, may have given up, but Xander wouldn't allow himself too, or anybody else."

"How do you know all this?"

"Cordelia. For the last five hours, I've heard little of anything else. She loved him, she still does."

"She hid it well."

"No Buffy, you don't understand - Xander was the one person she thought she could trust with all her heart. Not like the other Guy's she use to date. Xander made her vulnerable, an aspect, as we all know, Cordy doesn't like being. She trusted and loved Xander. That's why she took his betrayal with Willow so much harder then Oz did.

"She lashed out at him because she was hurt, and to his credit he never responded in kind, thou I'm sure he probably had a few cutting remarks stored away. Regardless, he never stopped trying to make it up to her, and believe me, he had plenty of ammunition. He could have destroyed her 'precious' reputation if he wanted too."

"What do you mean?"

"Example? He found out her father was penniless because of Tax Evasion. The I.R.S. took everything. He discovered she was working as a Part-Time Salesperson so she could buy a Dress she couldn't afford for the Prom. If it was anybody else, no big deal - A little after School work never hurt anybody. But this was Queen C, if her flunky's - her so called friends, knew of her circumstances ---" Angel didn't finish his sentence, he just shock his head sadly. "When he found out, he dipped into his Road fund and bought it for her. That's the kind of guy he is Buffy. That's the kind of guy he's always been."

For an unbearable moment the Slayer remained quiet. The light chill of the night air grew colder; she reactively drew the oversized coat tighter around her body. She looked up into the pitying eyes of someone she loved more then her own life. "I did this to him, he's here because of me --- this is my fault."

"No it's not Buffy."

"Yes it is! I told him - it was a joke. I told him he --- he*"

"*Xander is here because of him - not you. I don't know who these people were, and believe me; I'll do my best to find out. But they asked him for his help. And if Xander felt he could help someone - he would. What you said didn't change anything*"

"*Are you kidding - it changed everything. If I didn't take the phone away from Giles, if I didn't open my mouth*"

"*If's Buffy - 'if's'. Nobody is blaming you, only you are blaming you. Xander wouldn't. 'IF' Xander was here, he would probably be making some stupid joke about 'beauty sleep' and telling you that this was his call to make. We can't evolve our lives around ifs Buffy, there lies only regret, and take it from this souled Vampire - you don't want to live that life."

Feeling that their moment had past. Buffy withdrew Xander's stake from her back pocket with a look of retribution in her eyes. This moment quickly dissolved away to reveal a very frightened 18-year old girl "Do you think he'll ever wakeup?"

"I don't know Buffy, I hope so. Nobody say's 'deadboy' quite like Xander."

With this said, the two figures silently approached Angel's convertible and begun the drive to the scene of Xander's attack.



Jay flung open the door and exited the 'Universal Pawnshop'. He couldn't believe it. He just could not believe it. He then stepped into his requisitioned MIB vehicle and started to sulk. Jay kept sulking until he was joined a few minutes later by his new partner.

As 'X' fastened his seatbelt, he turned to face his partner. What were reflected back at him were a dead-eye stare and a question. "Where the Hell did you learn to do that?"

"Do what? I just asked him if he knew who was supplying the local Gramolians with Pychlorenic Discharges. That's all."

"He gave you a Rolex."

"I know, great isn't it - a bit gaudy, but I've always wanted one." Field Agent in Training 'X' removed the expensive Watch from his pocket, and admired it. "So when he offered it to me - I thought why not."

"I've been coming here, off and on for a year, been blowing his head away left, right, and center, and he's never - ever, given me a Watch. And that's not what I'm getting at. When I said you could take primary on Jeeb's interview - WHERE THE HELL DID YOU LEARN THAT? I mean, he was more afraid of you then me. And I'm the one with the history of smearing his back wall with his head. I mean he was so afraid of you, he offered you a $25,000 Timepiece just to get out of his store.

"So I'm asking for the third and last time - Where did you learn to do that?


"Home? That's it - 'home'."

"Actually, I learnt it from a friend of mine. We had a local snitch called Willy, and my friend, from time to time, would have to get information. On a few of those times, I went with her*"


"Yes - her. I just picked up a few things, Jeeb's kind of reminded me of Willy, so I --- I 'Buffed' him."

"You're 18-years-old, what do you know about shaking down informants?"

Removing a piece of paper from his pocket with an address on it, X offered the senior agent a half smile and a reply "Apparently, just enough."

Jay snatched the paper from the junior Agent grasp and smiled. He just couldn't believe it. For the last few days, Xander - X, just kept on surprising him. He had taken to MIBing like a duck to water. No matter how bizarre the alien life form he was introduced to was, the young man didn't flinch - in fact he took it all in his stride. And what he saw in the Pawn Shop was --- inspiring. X didn't need to blow Jeeb's head off to make a point, he just stared the Alien down. X had shown an edge. A dark edge. Slowly Jay's smile grew larger, he had an idea.

As Jay peeled off into midnight traffic towards the address on the piece of paper, his smile never left his face. This did not go unnoticed by X.

"Err, Jay. Did I screw up back there, cause if I did - I'm sorry."

Looking back at his partner Jay's smile softened "Naaah X, you did everything right. You did it better then right. It's just; I've got me an idea. I need to clear it with Zed after we take care of this Gramolian business, but I think he'll be interested."

"Okay - Spill what is it?"

"X, you did Bad Ass very well in there - do you know why?"

"I think so, Jeeb's didn't know me. He didn't know whether I was serious or not. You he knows, me - I'm the X-factor."

{Damn he's good.}" That's right. Nobody knows you, at least not yet. I've told you before; MIB Agent's are known the Universe over as fair, and straight shooters. It is a reputation we have fought hard to earn, but sometimes you get scum that think they can get one over on us. What we need is someone to shake things up a bit - get them guessing about how far they can push us before we push back. What I saw you do with Jeeb's is a perfect example of what we need in the field. One Lone-Wolf Type Agent. What I'm thinking about is introducing an old Police Technique and updating it a bit. "

"Okay, I'll bite. What Technique is that?"

Returning his eyes to the road, Jay answered "Good Cop/Bad Cop."


Sunnydale Memorial Hospital;
Ward 2, Room 3.

The Slayer laid her left ear upon Xander Harris's chest and looked up upon his still sleeping face. A gentle smile parted her lips as she was drawn into the rhythmic beating of his heart. She loved the sound it made; it was regular, unwavering, and comfortable---much like the owner. A tear began to collect at the base of the Vampire Slayer's eyes. This happened to her every time she visited with him privately, any second now she would be blobbing like a big-ole-baby and the Nurses would have to bring in a box of tissues for her. If the others were here she wouldn't be so weepy, it would go against her image, but the sight of him lying there would still tear her up inside.

She didn't feel ashamed of her feelings - this was her time. A valuable moment she could be herself, be venerable, and be a young woman slowly growing to love another. She never - ever, thought of Xander Harris as being the kind of person who could claim her heart. He was sooooo the opposite of the guy's she welcomed into her life. And that's what probably made him stand out from the crowd for her. He was gentle, not tough. He was funny, not dark. He also always tried to make the desperate and dangerous life she lived fun for her. The laughs he bought into her dark world in the short time that she knew him were precious; she only wished she had told him so to his face. She wished she had told a lot of things to his face.

She had only really got to know him - the true him, when Willow would visit and recount a story from their past. Those tales revealed a Xander she never knew. She had so easily accepted the façade he presented to the world as the real him; nothing could have been further from the truth. His history was a shared one; his home life was so similar to hers it silently frightened her. The only difference between him and her was that he never allowed it to corrupt his character.

Xander Harris was her friend, her first true friend in Sunnydale. And she screwed up that generous companionship. Of course she knew he was sexually attracted to her, she would have been blind not to have noticed. But it was all a game to her - innocent flirting and suggestive comments; it was never destined to go anywhere. She was adamant of that; it would have caused too many complications. But one night changed everything.

His 'first time' should have been a special moment. She certainly wished hers was, having a guy get her drunk and --- well, she preferred not to think of those times anymore. But even with the knowledge that she was going to be his first, she still chose to rob him of that golden memory, for no other reason then she could. She made her gift to him raw and carnal. And then kicked him out of her room partly naked when she was done. With no feeling of shame or regret, unlike now. Back then it was all about 'See, Take, and Have'. To his credit, he never said a word of their encounter to anybody. Most guys' she knew would have been high-fiving each other and bragging the next day. But he didn't, probably because it was nobodies business but theirs, and she had to admit, she was slightly flattered by that. No one had ever attempted to protect her honor before.

This is probably why when he came to her Hotel door a couple of weeks later regarding the Deputy Mayor matter and asked her for her 'version', she reacted the way she did. To put it simply - she snapped. She couldn't bare to see the look of distrust, doubt and disappointment in his eyes. She attacked him - no, correction - she tried to kill him. He had risked everything, his standing with Buffy and the other Slayettes, to try and get her to deal with this matter. He went against their collective wishes to provide her the opportunity to do the right thing without being forced. And for this effort she tried to murder him. More tears collected in her eyes as she relived this moment - What she wouldn't give to have him awaken for one minute and beg for his forgiveness.

If that was his only claim to her life it would have been enough, but fate had somehow got them placed in a double room together. Some idiot had written down that they were brother and sister, and as such, the staff put them both in the same room. When she 'awoke' from her coma, her first impulse was to gain vengeance upon Buffy for putting her there. But as she looked over the area and took in her environment - she saw him 'Sleeping' beside her. Surrounded by foil balloons, flowers, and 'Get Well' Cards.

She remembered removing herself from her bed and approaching him. She must have stood before his unconscious form for thirty minutes before a Nurse doing a Bed Check discovered her. Casting her mind back then, Faith thought it funny why that Nurse never bothered to question her about the pillow she had in her hand. The amusement was quickly forgotten as she recalled her intent and fresh tears now assaulted her face as the Vampire Slayer remembered this second shameful incident in which she nearly killed the man who was now the center of her life.

She would have been prepared killed him to send a message to Buffy. A message that would have made it clear to her 'Sister-Slayer' that she was back, and worse then ever. Yet for some reason she stayed her hand, was it love, curiosity, loss, or a pane of conscience? She didn't know. But what she did know was that this young man didn't deserve to be a message, he deserved more then that. When the Hospital called Giles regarding her 'improved condition', he and Buffy arrived in record time.

She recalled her first stuttered question to them - "What happened to Xander?" Their answer caused her to cry uncontrollably. She couldn't believe that she could cry over someone she had used, and nearly killed twice - but she did. She had never wept so hard in her life, and with this simple, and venerable reaction, she had made the pair consider the possibility that she was still redeemable, not only as a Slayer, but as a Human Being. Everyday since, she would find time to visit him. These moments helped remind her of the kind of woman he saw her to be, and of the person she wished she was. This was her time, her time to be with him.

But time, like many things, is a fleeting thing. A light whisper of a voice intruded the room with an uncertain welcome, "hey." Without moving her head from his chest the Dark Haired Slayer quickly used his covers and hastily wiped her face and removed the tear tracks from her cheeks. Faith didn't have to turn to the door to know who was there, she was expecting her visit. She was a lot like her in that respect; she needed her Xan- fix as well.

"Hey Baby-B."

"You OK Faith?"

Only now removing her head from above his heart the Slayer made a very feline stretching motion as she stood up. She then looked down upon the figure in the bed and replied the fourteen year olds question "Better then some D, you?"

Taking trepid steps into the private room the young girl shared in the spectacle of the sleeping man. After a deep breath she reacted to Faith's question with too much enthusiasm for it to be considered real. "Great, the Hospital is discharging Mom into Buff's care. She's getting the instructions from the Doctor now while Mom is packing. Should take a couple of hours for the Paperwork to go through, but yeah---Mom's coming home. I---I thought I'd check up on him, y'know---talk to him while I wait for things to get set. I haven't done that in a couple of days."

"He'll like that."

"Faith, ---were you just crying now?"

"Happens from time to time - when I stick my head into say hello to BoyToy here." The Slayer then looked at the second daughter of Joyce Summers, and flashed a pearl white predatory smile to the impressionable youth. "Don't mean I can't kick tail with the best of them, it just means that --- that I think this is a waste of perfectly good 'Man-Meat' - that's all."

Dawn just smiled and nodded not believing her blasé response for a second. After a brief moment she continued with a new direction of the conversation. "Cordy phoned, she's coming to town in a couple of days for her Monthly visit with Sleeping Beauty here."

Dryly Faith answered. "Oh goody, more Balloons."

"Yeah, she does kinda overcompensates doesn't she?"

"No less then Anya. Demon-Girl doesn't believe in coming second in anything does she? You watch - Cordy will buy a Card, and she'll get him a Gift Basket. May Queen will bring a couple of Roses and Anya will buy out a florist. It's insane."

"It's love."

"To bad he doesn't know. Meanwhile the flowers a wilting, the balloons are deflating and the chocolates are being eaten by everybody but him. Neither would impress Xander anyway. He's a simple guy, with simple needs."

A smirk played across the young girl's mouth as she spoke the following words. "Hey don't tell me this. Talk to Anya, she apparently knows him better then anybody, she is his Girlfriend after all!"

"One Date D - just ONE. And the way Red tells it, he was debating against gnawing off his own arm to dump her ass. Me an' the Xan-Man had more goin' on then she did."

"Yeah, but you put-out."

Faith just looked at the pint-sized Summer's sister and glared, those days were behind her now. She had turned over a new leaf - Hell, a whole forest. But people were still judging her by the sins of the past. She knew Dawn well enough to realize that it was a simple slip of the tongue - but it still hurt.

Dawn shamefully bowed her head. She had crossed the line of friendship and humor into the realm of bad taste and cattiness. It was hard to be fourteen and madly in love - nobody took you seriously, especially if the guy you had the Jones for was asleep 24/7. Dawn didn't apologize; she and Faith's friendship went beyond that. It was unique, in that honesty was it's lynch pin, if the two of them were honest with each other then there would never be anything to apologize for. "You don't like her do you?"

"Who, Anya or Cordy?"


"Naah, I like 'em enough. Just jealous is all. When he wakes up, he's going to have all these babes fawning over him, but who's he going to pick? I mean sure Anya's got the best shot out of the three of us. Cordy rode him wicked when they broke up, but they parted on good terms when she left for LA. But me - Christ, I tried to kill him. Red would have a better chance then yours truly, and she's off 'stick' now - Man I can't wait to see his reaction to that bit of news. Nope, Demon Girl Anya, is the only one with any real chance."

"I don't know, what about me?"

"You? Dawn, if he even considered it, your Sis would rip it off and feed it to him."

"Doesn't mean it won't happen. So what if he's older then me, it's just a few years*"

"*Six D, six years. Your fourteen, he's twenty, he so much as thinks it and he's into 'Registration' Territory."

"What about Angel, he was like 240 and Buff was 16. Do the math on that one, and Xander and me come off looking pretty good. Nobody gives him a hard time, or Buffy."

"Baby B, your sister was never one to make good judgment calls where relationships are concerned, not that I can talk - I suppose it's a Slayer thing.

"First off there was Dead boy; then 'love em & leave em' Parker - God, I hope that guy catches something. And now it's Captain Cardboard. Girl's got no taste. I mean take BoyToy here, he was under her nose for years, and he's twice the value of those guy's. The fact that he was around and she didn't snag him when she had the chance, just tells you how clueless she is."

"She knows."


"Buffy --- she knows. She knows how great Xander was - is. It hurts her y'know. Knowing that he's here and there wasn't anything she could have done to prevent it. Thinking she missed her chance. She blames herself for everything, the Vampire attack, the fact they parted badly, and that he could have been 'the one'.

"She hates coming here with me and Willow to visit him, because every time she does these things keep plaguing her thoughts. She hates it, but she still comes, even thou she spends hours afterward crying in her room. She doesn't think me and Mom know, but we do. Xander is special to her Faith. She once even told me after a visit that if it were possible she would change places with him in a heartbeat. Like I said - she knows."

"Great - more competition and B just went straight to the top of the list too." The Slayer smiled at her youngest friend and queried "Is she going to stop in tonight?"

"Probably not. She only comes when we 'bring' her, I don't think she's ever visited him on her own. It probably hurts too much."

Faith silently nodded, understanding that kind of pain. "Damn. Cordelia, Anya, You, Me and B?" The former rogue Slayer looked once more on the only male in the room and offered him a sad smile. "The guy's got his own harem going D. What's he gonna do when wakes up and finds out? - Could be interesting for somebody, ooorrrrr everybody."

Dawn blushed slightly at the remark, it was a comment she expected from Faith and she had gotten used to her humor over the 'years' that she had known her. But she still got embarrassed over the imagery they would create.

Suddenly the chimes of 'Born to be Wild' could be heard. Faith reached into hip pocket and withdrew her mobile phone. "Speak. --- Uh huh --- Meteorite? --- Giles know? --- Who else? --- Okay, I'll meet you at the 'Box'."

The Slayer turned to Dawn as she disconnected to call. "Gotta bail D, Red and g-friend spotted a shooting star come down."

"Do you need Buffy?"

"Naah, were getting the whole squad on this. Wood-boy, Will, T. & G-Man, Anya and me can handle it. It's just a Rock kiddo, nothing to get excited over. But as this is the Hellmouth, we better check-it anyway."


Picking her coat that was draped over the back of her chair the Raven-haired Slayer concluded. "Tell your mom I'll stop round to see how she is tomorrow. You and Buff have the night off and enjoy some down time with the parental-unit." Faith then looked at Dawn and gave a reassuring smile "This is nothing worth worrying yourself over D. It's a rock. Nothing bad happened because of a Rock falling from the sky."

"I'm sure that's what the Dinosaurs thought."

Faith smirked at the younger Summer's sibling and left without another word as Dawn sat down next to Xander and began to tell him about her last few days.


'M.I.B. Headquarters - New York City'

Jay jabbed at the halt button of the MIB elevator as it begun it's decent to the main floor of their Headquarters. Surrendering to the hostile gaze that was being delivered to him by his partner and friend 'X'. The African-American looked over his fellow Field Agent of one-and-a- half years and recommenced fighting a losing battle to contain his laughter.

'X' was not like other MIB, he was --- distinctive. He had to be. What the former Xander Harris looked like was the opposite of other Agents. 'X' was the designated Bad Boy, he still wore the suit - but he wore it in a way that showed little, to no respect. He spoke with irreverence to Superiors and he sported a permanent three-day growth and unkempt hair. 'X' was the guy you did not want on your case. At least that was what the manufactured image of him was. Only a few people in the Organization knew that the 'X' on public view was not the real person.

'X' was a character created through countless hours of watching 'Dirty Harry' Movies. When Jay proposed the idea of a 'Good Cop/Bad Cop' approach to MIBing to Zed years earlier, the skeptical leader decided to give them an opportunity to make it work. And work it did - Bad Cop X was a success. But the only problem with successful characters - one they didn't count on, was that people who play them are usually typecast.

Xander - 'X' had to maintain the illusion. If he broke character - the sham would be revealed and the effectiveness of 'Good Cop/Bad Cop' would be lost. This sad reality was something that prevented his partner from making friends outside the small circle of people who already knew the truth. But Xander had accepted it as his cross to bare in order to keep the Planet safe. And Jay knew X would maintain the deception for as long as it took.

Yet at that time - Jay needed to get over his laughing fit before the two joined everybody on the main floor. It would not serve 'X's image if Jay could be seen laughing at his 'dangerous partner' without repercussions from the same.

Xander stood patiently as a florescent orange gel soaked into his permanently wrinkled suit. He wasn't angry; he was fighting back his own laughter over the incident, only he was dealing with it far more successfully. "Nearly done?"

"Yeah, man --- done."

Motioning to press the resume button on the Elevator. X looked at his partner with a lopsided grin spread across his face. "Then I guess it's time to earn my nomination for an Academy Award."

The shiny steel doors opened to the main floor of MIB. Aliens of every race and culture turned to spy upon the new arrivals to the room as Jay and X left the confines of the Secure Lift. Those present who had made Earth a regular destination gave an equivalent of a gasp and took steps out of the way to let the gel soaked Agent pass uninterrupted as Jay, the more level headed and Extra-Terrestrial friendlier of the pair followed.

"It was a simple misunderstanding, I thought you meant*"

"*Fuel Sacks; I told you to hit his Fuel Sacks!"

"Correction White-Boy, you said blow up his Sacks, so I did."

"F-U-E-L Sacks not his ---" Agent 'X' then made a criss-cross motion of his groin. "God, I never felt so sorry for anything trying to kill me in my life. And as to this stuff on my suit - I don't even want to guess what this crap is."

The room was silent, fear for the Dark Agent obvious on every Beings face. Agent X's temper was notorious throughout the Galaxy, and beyond. Those that chose to cross him always regretted this decision. Even his fellow Agents, who instinctively and hastily placed on their protective eyewear on as X approached, knew never to challenge him when he was angry.

The silence however only escalated the under-breath remark Jay returned to his associate's statement. "That's probably a smart call."

With this X turned on his heels and faced his partner with a look of restrained rage, and the room held its breath. The words that were then ushered from his lips sent a chill down the spine of everything present that had one. "Anything I need to say to you can be accomplished with one finger. Now, I'm going to get cleaned up - I recommend you not be here when I get back."

X then made his way to the Agent's changing room as Aliens parted before him.

Jay cast his head down in mock regret and unhappiness and made his way to Zed who had viewed the specticial from in front of the Twins. As the ebony Agent got within whisper distance he heard Zed's voice meet his ears.

"Over doing it don't you think?"

Jay returned the hushed question with an equally hushed reply. "Naah, we haven't done a 'show' for a while, and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I mean, no way X could have made it through the foyer like that, without questions being asked as to how he got that way."

"And how DID he get that way?"

"A Polorak was about to release some spoors in a Subway Tunnel. We tried to stop him; X pounced to get him to drop and release the canister. The Polorak caught him, and was about to tear him in two, then I shoot off his Happy-Sacks. But that gunk isn't from him, on the way back we had some engine problems with the 'Ford' and Xan thought he could play mechanic. That's what's left of the Morkan Battery Cell when it exploded in his hands."

"He alright?"

"Only his pride was damaged. We had to call Z'olit for a Tow; his invoice is in my top pocket if you're interested."

Zed's voice then returned to its normal booming self. "I see --- anyway, now that your both back we need you two to do a 'Snatch Run'. Something's violated Earth Space. The insertion occurred 48 minutes ago, and already there been a callout."

"In 48 minutes? That was quick."

"Yes, they must have had an Operative in the Area. Anyway, this Moron phoned our 'old friends' at A51. Time is a factor Sport. We need to get this violator before those guy's do."

"Is it in New York?"

"Nope. California."

"Then why us? That's Que & Tee's Territory."

"Because Champ we need someone with a hometown advantage. Someone with knowledge of the Terrain to catch this guy before A51 does."

"Then wh--- X? This is Sunnydale ain't it?"

"Can't get one past you my Boy. The Twin's estimate you both got 28 minutes before A51 touch down."

A wide grin spread across the obsidian Agent's face. Agent X was always secretive of his past, and his former associations. Preferring to say that his life re-commenced when he became MIB - it was a worthy statement, if not a frustrating one. Jay was of the opinion that Partners should know everything about each other, but X remained tight lipped. What he knew was what Xander had chosen to share, and it painted a strange picture of the young man's history. Jay knew Xander was best friends with a guy called Will, or William, that his mentor was a Government Agent of some kind, a person he called G-Man, and his first love was a girl called Buffy (Buffy?), and that was it. "Oh Man, please tell me I can be there when he's told where we're going."

With a sinister smile, Zed answered his favorite Agent "Oh, I can promise you'll be there." as he walked away from the Main Screen.

The weights of the words slowly sinking in as he watched Zed back shrink into the distance. "Ohhhh Boy, I am definitely not going to be his favorite person tonight."

With care Jay approached the Agent's Changing Room. He opened the door and entered, seconds later several MIB Field Agent's impatiently exited, getting out of the field conflict that they were expecting to happen.

Within the now nearly empty room Xander and Jay exchanged an amused smile as 'X' continued changing. With the clock counting down, Jay knew he couldn't be subtle about what he had to say. "X we got a down craft. A51 is enroute. We need to get this thing before they do."

"Okay, no biggee we've done it before - we can do it again." Was sprouted as Xander began to do up his left shoe.

"X - it's in Sunnydale."

Xander froze, his eyes growing wide for a second. It was a moment's hesitation, but then the moment was lost as Xander then continued getting dressed. As he did so he replied the Senior Agent in an unfazed manner "It makes no difference where it is, we got a job to do."

Jay felt inwardly proud of his partner. Clapping him on the back as a demonstration of that pride. X was right, they were professionals, and they did stuff like this all the time. It just so happened that this time it was in his home town.

Moments later Jay and X were silently rocketing through the skies in their new requisitioned 'Ford' Sedan over a dark horizon towards Sunnydale, California. The silence was maintained until Xander spoke. "Jay, do you believe in Heaven?"

Stunned, Jay answered "I guess."

"Okay, if you believe in Heaven you must believe in Hell too right?"

"I suppose." Jay then looked cautiously towards his partner; this was not their average banter. X was going somewhere with this line of questioning.

Xander shifted uncomfortably in the front passenger seat, he had to tell Jay. If for no other reason then to protect and prepare him when they got to 'SunnyHELL'. Xander then took a deep breath and continued "Well partner, have I got a story to tell you, and believe me - it's all true. I suppose it all starts about five years ago when I was riding my skateboard to school ---"

Chapter 3

20minutes after the last Chapter.

Agent X drew in the musky aroma of the forest into his lungs, inwardly gaining the peace of mind that generally accompanies a person when they find themselves home. It is a peace that is acquired by familiarity and an in tuned knowledge of their environment. 'X' was home. New York was an exciting city and he always felt privileged to live there and do the job that he did, but it wasn't, and would never be a home to him. Sunnydale; California was.

The two dark dressed men continued on their track to the intercepted rendezvous site the 'Twins' had picked up for 'A51' by the knowledgeable local who had contacted them over an hour earlier regarding a probable Space Creature landing. With each step upon the leafed and stick scattered terrain, the darker and senior of the two MIB Field Agent's continued with his questions to his junior partner.




"Uh huh."




"Actually no, they don't exist."


"I have it on good authority." The smile that parted over Xander's face to the queries of Agent 'Jay' was not something that could be easily concealed. Even in moonlight. Ever since the Rocket powered late model 'Ford' descended onto the out skirts of his hometown three minutes earlier, the barrage of questions posed to him by his partner of 18-months bought him nothing but internal amusement. Finally the Student was teaching the Master.

As the two approached the designated landing site for the Government Funded Alien Hunters, they spied a sandy haired man standing beside a crater with a torch in hand looking expectantly over the horizon of the lake before him.

One of the things that made Jay and X a formable team in the field, aside from the fabricated and universally feared reputation of the junior member, was that both men were unnaturally in synch with one another. It was their co-ordination of actions during missions that had sprouted the most popular untruth within the MIB Agency.

It had been speculated that 'X' was once a human who had been experimented upon by an Alien Race whilst he was still a civilian, an 'abductee' as they are more popularly known. The results of this 'experimentation' allowed him to read and transmit thoughts. Ridiculous of course, but 'X' was an enigma even to his fellow Agents. And when people don't have answers, they theorize. All of the gossip that spread within the silent walls of MIB Central regarding the young man only aided and enhanced his reputation throughout the universe. Aliens liked to gossip as much as humans do, and it wasn't long before this tale had spread beyond the outer rim of the Solar System.

The fact that neither the Agent in question, nor the most Senior of Agent's - 'Zed', said or did anything to suspend this figment only encouraged others to believe its authenticity. It was one of the simplest and most believable of all the fictions, especially as anything with an antenna and more then two eyes would happily claim that they knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody who performed the tests in question upon the second youngest Agent in MIB history.

Most Off-Worlder's would say anything to boost their credibility amongst other Off-Worlder Communities. And thus the legend of MIB Field Agent 'X' continued to grow. Zed called it 'The three blind men and the Elephant' Strategy.

Zed kept 'the game in play' by affording 'X' unprecedented liberties. No one would dare tell the Director of the Organization "To stick it where the sun never shined", and no one would ever present themselves at Headquarters, or in the Field in a disheveled suit, with unkempt grooming practices. But Xander did on a regular basis; either would have gotten him early 'retirement' if he was anybody else. But Xander wasn't anybody else. He was MIB's pit bull.

The concept was simple, but it eventually took on a life of its own. A minimum of 5% of all Off-World Visitors were designated in the ID Databases as either Scum, or Undesirable Resident's. They would visit Earth, run their scams, and when the heat was on by MIB they would close up shop and leave or be deported from Planet side. One to three months later, they would only return and start up all over again. Why? Because MIB's were the good guy's, and MIB Agent's followed the rules. They, being that small 5% of Alien's did not.

'Jay', Xander's new partner, recognized the repetitiveness and the cost to time management. Of doing this over and over again and how it reflected and drained the resources of the Organization. So with the co-operation of Zed, and a few others whom he trusted with the truth. Steps were taken to convert Xander Harris into the Badest BadAss in the Galaxy. One that would have the Scum that frequented this side of the Universe to give serious thought before they went 'Independence Day' or considered crossing, or breaking the Laws of the Land on Planet Earth.

The 'Alien Experimentation' rumor also cemented and helped explain the theory as to why he always had such a 'Mad-on' for off-worlder residence. But the sad truth was, Xander didn't. Some of his best friends, like the Wyrms, were Aliens. But he had to keep those friendships confidential. It was a lonely life, but Xander never looked at the quantity, but rather the quality of his friendships. And as far as he was concerned he had the best. Jay, 'L', Zed, Frank, the Twin's and of course the Wyrms.

The two men approached the young man from behind, each taking care with their footing as to not to reveal their presence until they were both in position. When they had achieved this, Jay depressed his foot upon a dry stick, eliciting a snap. The sandy haired man spun around to face the cause of the noise. What he was confronted with were two unknown men in Black Business Suit's.

Jay stepped forward and quickly flashed an unidentifiable badge to the casually dressed man "Parks and Forestry - Division 6. We got word that something came down out here." Agent Jay then kinked his head towards the crater beside them and presented a wide smile. "Came down hard and fast, huh? What can you tell us about this Sir?"

As Jay begun to interrogate the man, Agent 'X' went and inspected the crash zone. Drawing out a concealed Ident-meter from his inner pocket and scanning the site. The Spectrum display presented an orange and green light. "We got Gamma, Beta, and minor Delta here Jay. But nothing in the Vehicle, no controls or guidance systems. And by the looks of things it isn't camouflaged, it's exactly what it looks like - a hollow Rock."

Jay then left the man to investigate his partner's claim, when he got to the hollowed out Meteor his brow arched. "Then how the Hell did it steer this thing."


"A Qarnaught?"

"I don't think so; they'd never be able to fit in there. Maybe it's a new kind of ET?" It was then that Xander looked upon the face of the man by the lake. The mid-twenty year old had followed Jay curiously over to the crater. Despite the years, and the moonlight, Agent X was still able to recognize his former test partner. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Finn; Riley J."

"Do I know you Friend? And if you don't mind me asking - What the Hell are you talking about, you guy's don't look Agency."

Xander then began to make his way out of the meteor made ditch. "Friend?!? Friend? You think we're friends?" Before Xander could make a second aggressive step towards the former Army Officer he was halted by his more level headed partner.

"Whoa there kimosabe, you know this guy?"

Never taking his eyes off Riley Finn the Agent answered. "This is the Dick who gave me grief on the day of the Testing."

"Oh." Was all that needed to be said as Agent Jay slowly removed his arms from his friend's chest.

Xander then approached his one time rival with impressive restraint to his feelings. It was only when Xander was no more then two feet away from the Lieutenant when Finn's eyes widened "Your --- your Harris, your Xander Harris. What are you doing here? You were still in hospital the last I heard." This statement caught the MIBer completely by surprise.

"You --- know me?" X then turned to Jay hoping that the senior Agent knew what, and how he was able to remember him after the neutralization at the Headquarters a year and a half ago. Jay shrugged his shoulders and portrayed an equally surprised look to the unasked question.

"of course I know you, I've taken Buffy and Dawn to see you often enough. Do they know you're awake? Has the Hospital informed them?" In another surprised motion Agent X then received a manly hand shake from the A51 informant. "Geez man, this is great news. After everything that has been going on of late with Glory, and Ms. Summer's, this will make their day."

Suddenly the light dawned on him; he realized that Finn was not referring to him but rather his long forgotten Replicant. A relaxed smile crossed his face as he realized that MIB had not been compromised. "You know Buffy and the Gang?"

"Yeah, have for over a year now. Fought side by side with them against Adam and the Sub-T's"

"Adam? Sub-T's?"

"Sun- Terrestrials, Demon's and Vamps. As to Adam, not an issue any more"

"Riiigggghhhhttt." Xander then turned to Jay, concealing his face from his 'new-best friend' with the back of his head; he wagged his eyebrows to his fellow Agent. Jay responded with a smooth motion of his hand, indicating his approval for him to take over the questioning. "Well then maybe you can tell me everything you know about our perp."

Riley Finn then led Xander away from the Meteor towards a figure that lay on the ground under a night shadow of a nearby tree. As they did this Jay took a Rad-Register of the 'craft' and stored it in the memory of his portable Tracking Device. Once he had accomplished this he then caught himself up with the pair.

Riley Finn continued the short distance in silence, unsure what he should share with the recently awoken Scooby. And inwardly analyzing how he could have found out about the Alien Dropdown. The only people who knew were the other Slayettes, and his old friends at 'Area 51', no-one else was informed. Giles, Willow, Faith, Tara, and Anya wouldn't have had time to stop off and inform anybody else on the way to the Library. And judging on the way Xander and the other guy - 'Jay' were conducting themselves, they were professionals and in the know. Therefore they had to be Agency, and as such had a right to know everything he knew so that a lid could be put on this thing ASAP.

The All-American had no doubts that he could trust Xander Harris, this instinct was based on all the thing's people he now called friends had said to him over the year. Buffy, Willow, Faith, Anya, Giles, Dawn, Ms. Summer's - Christ! Anybody and everybody who had ever met Xander Harris said that he was a man who could be depended upon and trusted above all others. A pain of jealousy crept over his soul as he pictured in his mind the faces and expressions of these people when they talked of him. Especially Buffy, she concealed it well, but he could tell there was something deeper then what she shared with him about the comatose friend.

"I don't know much; Giles and the rest of the Scooby's are doing a Research session down at the College Library. What we do know is that it has no problem in the killing department." The former Army Lieutenant presented a small vial of transparent gelatinous goo. "It's a Protien-alkaliod as near as I can tell. It has a rapid half-life, and is already breaking down." By this stage the three men had reached the body of an overweight man in his early 40's. "I don't know how it does it, but it looks like this poor guy choked on the stuff."

Jay then interrupted as a distant sound of a helicopter grew nearer. "You got any extra info on the Guy?"

Riley then turned his attention away from X and focused himself on Jay. "If it mean's anything, this guy was discharged today from the Psych Unit of SunnyDale Memorial Hospital."

Jay answered the 24 year old, "Could be useful, thanks Finn."

It was then that the Chopper came into view. Riley froze for a second, passing glances between the approaching air vehicle and the two men in his company as they both put on their sunglasses. "Hang on. You guy's aren't Agency are you?"

Xander smiled at the dumfounded expression on the All American as he answered. "We never said we were." At the conclusion of the sentence Riley was bathed in a bright white light.

Jay then stepped forward into the subject's line of sight removing his glasses as he did so. "All right Finn, you're going to tell these Area 51 Bozo's everything you told us, except the identity of this guy" The Agent pointed to the dead man on the ground. "And where he came from. You never saw us, or spoke to anybody else about this matter. Clear?"

Riley nodded to the question.

"Give us the Alkaloid, and attempt to discourage these guy's from finding 'Melvin the Martian'. Do you understand?"

Riley Finn again nodded an affirmative to the request as he handed the plastic container over to the ebony Agent. By this time the Helicopter was just about to land.

"C'mon X, let's get out of here before they spot us."

"Gimme a second Jay." And one second was all he needed as he delivered a right fisted blow to the face of the light brown haired Scooby.

The two men then hunched over concealing themselves in the dark shadows of the trees, using their dark suits to help blend into the background. They then quickly made their way back to where the 'Ford' had been parked earlier.

As they did so Jay conferred with his partner. "Not exactly fair X."

"Hey, I've been wanting to do that ever since that day, do you really think I'd let a prime opportunity like that pass me by?"

All Jay could do was laugh lightly to the question as he got back on track with what they were discussing earlier. "Fairies?"





"Don't get me started."


5-minutes later.

From behind the wheel of the MIB vehicle, Field Agent 'Jay' selected his words with care. When he was done he then voiced them to his partner. "This is a stupid, stupid, insane, stupid idea."

Unbuckling his seat beat X responded to his best friend's statement. "Your just saying that because it's *my* idea."

"Hence how I know it's stupid and insane. We can do this without letting them know."

"No we can't. The Avenger's are on a mission to find this thing, and sooner or later our paths are going to cross. That is a guarantee. When they set their mind to something, their like the Mounties my man - 'They always get their man'. Their like a dog with a bone - relentless. Just think of *"


A crooked smile was returned to the dark figure beside him. "Yeah, like us. Only we have more fun while we're doing it."

Xander removed himself from the Black vehicle, turned and crouched to face his partner. "Look I don't like this anymore then you do, but the Scooby's are involved in this. We need to put a leash on them."

"Then you check out the Hospital, and I'll play shadow."

"No offense man, but do you know how many African-American's there are in SunnyDale. Next to zero, you'll stand out like a sore thumb. We have to do this head on. And I've got the history."

"What you got is 'Water-on-the-brain'. If Cornfed was telling the truth, they think your still sleepin."

"Well then I'll have surprise on my side won't I?"

"Look man, I'm just trying save you from hurt."

"I know, and it's appreciated - believe me. But I have to be the one who does this. They'll trust me, you they won't trust, and not because your --- from New York, but because you're a stranger. And if memory serves, the Scooby's never had much luck with strangers who offer to help them. I'll let you know if they discover anything of interest, okay."

"Fine. Xander."


"We're still going to have to bleach them, you know that right?"

"Yeah --- I know." Agent X then closed the door and watched the vehicle speed off in the direction of Sunnydale Memorial. Only when it was out of sight did he turn and make his way up the steps of 'Sunnydale University Library'.


The first thing Xander spotted as he walked through the doors was what his MIB training had instilled in him from day one, 'No Witnesses'. He concealed his face as best he could as he made his way to the check-out desk. With a practice ease he navigated through the barrier in place, crouched down and quickly identified the cupboard draw in question. Opening the draw he turned off the Video feed from the security camera's scattered through out the building, and removed the Recording Tape from the VCR.

When he stood up after performing this odd action he came face to face with a woman who looked as though she was only several weeks away from compulsory retirement.

"May I ask what it is you think you are doing?"

"Campus Security Maam. We are about to perform an exercise in one of your sections shortly, Astronomy I think."

"Why wasn't I, or the rest of my faculty informed?"

"It's a spontaneous exercise Maam, what good is a test if you know its coming?"

"If that's the case why have you turned of the Security equipment?"

"Part of the exercise, to see how well your staff operates under extreme conditions."

"We're being judged? This is an official Test?"


The Senior Librarians face went whiter as she contemplated the ramifications of a fail grading next to her years of a perfect record. "H---how do we know if we pass?"

Xander smiled to himself as he tucked the VCR Tape of his entry down the back of his pants. "It's based on the reactions of your staff. You'll probably hear some squealing and carrying on in that section - if they ignore it*"

"*Ignore it, that doesn't sound like a feasible test to me*"

Agent X then interrupted the 62-year old before she could continue. "*To many people leap into a situation that they know nothing about, this is to judge their restraint in getting involved. There is a designated Chain-of-Command with these things. Your staff report to you, and you report to security. This, in this instance is me."

"So if my people ignore this disturbance, and instead report the instance directly to me, we pass?"

"With flying colors." Xander then left the aged Library worker and hid himself behind one of the many partitions. Silently and slowly counting back from a hundred as he observed the Librarian hastily and as covertly as she possibly could warn her co-workers of the forth coming Security Test, and what they must do in order for them all to pass successfully.

He felt a twinge of regret and guilt, maybe it was being back home, but he remembered a time when he couldn't tell a lie convincingly to save his life. Well, --- maybe one 'Lie'. He always had a 'Tell'. A twitching left eye was his give away; whenever he tried to conceal something it would involuntarily spasm. A sad smile grew; he remembered when Buff had first noticed it. It was when she was talking about Faith and her before a Biology exam. It was a spasm bought on by trying to keep the night - the hour, he and the Slayer Mark II, had shared a couple of weeks earlier. Buffy and Faith, the Angel and the Hellcat, how many of his fantasies centered on these two women who broke his heart. One because she thought him a joke, and the other --- because she thought he was a joke, hmmmmm, see a pattern?

He knew Faith didn't feel for him the same way he did for her, not after she kicked him out of her room, but he did have hopes that they had at least forged a 'connection' that night. Something that could be built and developed on together with time. He was now single; Cordelia wasn't giving him the time of day since the Fluke moment with Willow, so he thought why not. He had guessed he would never rate high enough in Buffy's opinion to surpass Angel. And he always liked the Vixen Slayer. But those hopes were destroyed, when Buffy told him that Faith considered the guy's she slept with as Jokes. This realization hurt. It hurt him deeper then he cared to let on in front of Buff, Giles and Willow. He thought that he at least mattered in some way to Faith. But to hear from Buffy that Faith considered him below consideration really stung.

Yet still regardless to this, and like Wild. E. Coyote he still needed more punishment from the Road Runner of Love. He went to her Hotel Room to display the depth of how much he did care for her, if she couldn't accept him as a lover, then at least a friend.

Instead of being grateful she insulted, and then tried to strangle him.

He had things try to kill him before, in the past, and undoubtedly he will in the future as well. But none of these moments had affected him so powerfully; some nights when he would lie down to go to sleep after policing the planet and protecting to from Alien harm he could still feel her grip around his throat.

Did he hate her? He should - but he couldn't. She taught him a valuable lesson that night, trust is a mighty weapon in the wrong hands. And these days's he gave that weapon away to only a few people/beings.

"3---2---1---0" The Agent then left his hiding spot and made his way towards the Science Section of the College Library.


Faith looked down upon the page and read out loud the passage she had skimmed over 20-minutes early, not realizing its significance until Willow had finished reading what she had acquired from her internet database.

"Primitive people use to believe the Moon was the cause of insanity. Sometimes they would pray to the Moon to send a special Meteor to fix the problem the Moon had caused. These Meteors were expected to 'Quell' the Madmen."

The table fell to silence with the completion of the last sentence. Then Tara spoke what everybody was obviously thinking. "The man in the Woods, he was a Mental Patient."

"Yep, it looks like the Guy got himself Quellified." Faith then closed the book and placed it back upon the pile that had gathered in the center of the Study table the Slayette's were using. Her eyes drifted up to face her ex-communicated Watcher, but then became focused upon the figure leaning against one of the shelves behind him. Her mouth parted and whispered the word "xander?"

Only Willow, who was sitting closest to the Raven Haired Slayer, heard her. And she responded to the odd statement about her friend. "What do you mean Xander? What does he have to do with this?"


Right after the last Chapter.

Xander had been looking over the 'Scooby's - The Next Generation', for two minutes. Invisible and beyond their notice. So close to them that if he was to take a dozen errant steps forward he would be once more within their ranks - so why didn't he? He wanted to, he never wanted to do anything less then this in his entire life, what kept him not enacting on this compulsion? His inner response to the internal question was direct and unchallenging - fear. He had too much to lose and too little to gain. He would reveal himself and it would be all for nothing. By night's end they would all receive a visit from a neutralizer and the memory of him would be removed. He would be suffering their presence long after this mission, and they would be ignorant of his. Xander would have been contented to remain like this for awhile longer, but unfortunately the clock was counting down, and Jay needed him to be the professional he always claimed he was.

Willow was sitting before a Campus Computer, her fingers dancing across the keyboard. The red-headed childhood friend was radiating a glow of someone truly happy. Every minor motion betrayed someone who was 100% certain of who they were and their place in the universe. To Willow's side, and looking over her shoulder stood another young woman whose wardrobe matched his friend. She was a honey haired brunette and looked as though she had been the product of two flower children.

On the opposite side of the table, slumped in a chair with an expression upon her face that conveyed pure boredom and the wish to be anywhere else but there, was to his surprise Anya Emerson. The last time he had seen her she was pursuing him down the Hall's of the Late Sunnydale High school asking if he could 'Make-out' with her. Xander suppressed a smile from forming regarding her persistence that night, and what happened between the two of them when she had caught up with him outside the school cafeteria, it was - -- intense. The following day, just before the Mayor's attempted Ascension she disappeared to part's unknown.

Slowly pacing back and forth between Willow and Anya, and past the unknown woman was Giles. Ever reliable Giles, maintaining his fatherly control over the small group. Nothing further needed to be said, Giles was in his opinion the rock that kept everyone focused. He was the foundation of the group, without him there would be no Scooby's.

The next seated face sent a chill down his spine. Faith. She had just started to read out a paragraph in one of the books. But his mind couldn't function on what she was saying, it was inwardly screaming - Demanding, to know what had happened to Buffy. Where was Buffy? If Faith was re-called then what had happened to the other Slayer?

When the Streetwise Chosen One finished she looked up in the direction of Giles. But like a magnetic pull, both their eyes locked onto each other. Xander couldn't deny it, regardless of his conflicted feelings he had towards the 'blonder' of the two, he still felt incredibly drawn to the raven haired vixen.

What was this attraction he had with Vampire Slayers? It bordered on an Obsessive Compulsion.

He watched as Faith mouth something he couldn't make out, and knowing that the jig was now up, shrugged himself off the polished wooden freestanding Bookcase and approached the small circle of people, as he did so all heads began to turn in his direction.

His appearance earned him a 'Good God' from Giles and voiced silence from Willow, as her mouth opened and closed repeatedly. Xander allowed the moment to pass, providing everyone the opportunity to shake their disbelief that he was indeed there and standing before them.

With deceptive resolve, Field Agent X drew out a vacant seat from out of the occupied table and sat. "Okay. This is a shock to you all - I get that, I do --- really do. And I realize your first impulse is to not believe your eyes and cast me as some imposter. But I assure you, I am me. This is not an illusion, so DO NOT adjust your sets." He wanted this brief and to the point, he then turned to face the senior member of the group. "Giles, what can you tell me about this Quellar Guy, what's my boy doing and how can I take him down?"

Giles folded his arms in visible defiance to the request and looked down upon this person with distrust in his eyes. "Now why should I help someone I don't even know?"

"Giles what did I just say? It's me, warts and all. And if this was a normal howdy do, what have you been up to, I wouldn't have a problem. But the seconds are counting away, and I need to know everything you do."

"What kind of idiots do you take us for? We happen to know that 'you' are still indisposed in Ward D, bed 2a. We know this because there has yet to be a day go by when one of our numbers doesn't check up on *you*. Didn't do you homework to well did you." Giles then twisted the seat to face him head on, his voice growing more menacing with each second. "I can't fathom the extent of someone so --- stupid as to think that they can waltz in with a face of someone we all care about and hold dear and expect us to divulge our research, our secrets and our vulnerabilities. Can you really be that foolish?"

For the last few seconds Xander sat and listened to Rupert Giles, or maybe it was 'Ripper' talking to him now, and silently threaten him. Waiting for an opportunity to confirm his identity to the skeptical group. Giles closing question provided that opportunity in abundance. With his patent half-smile and a twinkle in his brown eyes Agent X answered. "Oh no Giles, I'm twice the fool it takes to do something like this."

Rupert's face altered to the long ago remembered statement, only one other had ever heard Xander utter it, and Jenny had been past for some years now. The reserved Englishman blinked in surprise a few times trying to grasp what he had just heard. He then removed his glasses and vigorously polished them before a captive female audience. It was a sure sign to those who knew him well enough that he was deep in thought. When he placed the glasses once more on he leaned further forward to get a closer view of the man before him. When he spoke the quiet library seemed to become quieter with his utterance. "xander!?!" The young man seated before him smiled lightly and nodded. Instead of this pleasing the retired Librarian, his face became red with rage, his hands clenched themselves into a fist as his body trembled with restraint at realizing the young man before him was in truth Xander Harris, and that they all - his family - his children, had all been the victims of an elaborate ruse perpetrated by him. "You---you---CUR. You Scoundrel. You inconsiderate child."

"Hey! I take offence at that child remark, replace it with Stud and I'll let it slide."

"You think this is funny, you think you can joke your way out of this --- this cruelty you've perpetrated on us."

"Listen Giles, I'm not joking my way out of anything. I did what I did. It stunk, yes I know that. I wish I didn't have to do it to any of you, but it wasn't my call to make. It was Policy. Business, not personal."

"How *mercenary* of you." The Watcher stepped back and combed his fingers through his thinning almond colored hair roughly.

Willow had just removed herself from her seat and looked expectantly to her father figure. "Giles, what's going on?"

The Magic Box owner did not wish to snap at the young woman he loved as a daughter but the heated emotions within him were running to high. "It's Xander!"

"N-n-n-noooooo." The red head shock her head in shocked belief. "Xander's in Hospital with tubes and Oxygen, this isn't Xander, it --- it can't be."

The Agent looked towards his longstanding best friend. "But it is Will. That thing is, I suppose the simplest definition would be a clone."

"A---a clone. There are two Xander's?" The Agent nodded again. "Bbbuuuutttttt you're the original. The real one? The fake one, that's the one in Sunnydale Memorial right? Your not the clone?"

"You got it, accept no substit*" The MIB Agent would have finished that sentence if he hadn't received a mighty slap across his face. He didn't even have time to react; he just saw a swirl of red hair, then a stinging pain."

The strength of the blow caught him so much by surprise that he toppled out of his chair, and was then repeatedly kicked in the stomach by a heeled shoe. "You bastard! How could you put me through that?" Each word was punctuated with a solid kick to his ribs. If not for the superior Kevlar-like protection afforded him by his Suit it was doubtful that any of his ribs would have escaped unscathed. The foot blows continued until the 'Flower Child' drew the enraged Wicca from him.

Slowly and with care the Agent stood up, with his left arm wrapped around his ribs and his right hand rubbing the offended side of his face. "I suppose you all think I had that coming, huh? Well, Screw you Guy's! You think it was easy, to walk away from you all. I gave up the most precious thing I had - You! You don't like it? - Tough! You think it's unfair? - Well Boohoo. I've got a job to do people. You may hate me now, but I don't care, what I do is too important. But here and now - I need your help. So are you all big enough to offer it to me, or not?"

The spectacle the group had created in the past moments caused every Scooby to look expectantly to the audience they thought would have gathered. To their surprise no-one was caring. The other University students continued with their independent study as thou they had all been expecting a disruption.

"Look I'm sorry you feel betrayed. But I need you all now to help me and my Partner find this Quellar-Demon Thingy, before some other people do." Xander then awkwardly sat back down in his chair.

With a shaky voice Willow posed the inevitable question "Why Xander?"

A question Giles repeated with venom. "Yes - Why Xander. What did we ever do to deserve this callous treatment?"

"I told you Giles, it was business - not personal. The substitution and deception was necessary."

The Watchers eyes nearly bored out of his head to this claim. "Necessary? What kind of justifiable reasoning nonsense is that?"

By this time Xander's patience had thinned out. "It's the same 'Justifiable Reasoning Nonsense' you gave me. Or can't you cast your mind back far enough to the Mayor's Sting. Angel, Buffy, *You*. What was it you said 'The ends justifies the means', this was followed on with Buff's little speech on how the deception was all 'necessary', the only one of you guy's who even came close to apologizing for keeping Will, Me, Oz and Cordy out of the loop was the one guy I didn't want it from. Angel out classed you all." Giles averted his eyes away from the brown orbs of the twenty year old as they penetrated into him, just as Faith now found her feet suddenly very and sadly interesting. "I was in pain for over a week and a half because of what he did, it still hurts, y'know when I chew. I was hit square in the jaw - full Vampire strength, to illustrate to her" Xander pointed to the Raven Haired Slayer. "That he had once more turned - no pulling of the punch, if he did I wouldn't have gone down as quickly, or as easily as I did. And then the two of them walked away. I was unconscious Giles. In the middle of a deserted street - in SUNNYDALE! Vulnerable. Anything could have happened to me, a lazy Vamp, a demon looking for a snack - anything. Nothing did, but you three hadn't planed for that contingency did you? Still, I guess it all worked out well in the end, Faith was revealed to be a traitor, and I took extra strength pain killers for a month plus."

The table continued in silence as the present Scooby's absorbed his words. If he ended there, it would have been enough of shame bought upon the Rogue Slayer and Retired Watcher, but the battered Field Agent continued. "So damn you all if you think I treated you unfairly, and that my reasons aren't good enough. Because it happens to have been your reason as well. 'The ends justify the means' and It-Was-Necessary!"

After a moment of quite Xander began composed himself once more. "Look, I don't want to fight or debate this with you. I don't have the time. I just want you help - that's all."

Giles who was burning hot with rage a minute before suddenly had his emotions chilled at Xander's rebuke and nodded his compliance.

Willow looked completely dejected at the outburst; she was never its intended target. Only Rupert Giles and maybe Faith. The MIBer shifted the seat closer to his Red-headed friend and forced a gentle smile on his face. "Y'know Willow, you kick hard enough to stun a Batorian, and I should know, I've had to stun a few myself in my time."

Willow looked down on her dearest friend with questioning eyes [Batorian?]. She still felt hurt at what he did, but she would rather embrace that hurt then know that he was lying and experiencing a living death in that Hospital Ward. She softly smiled as a tear collected in both her eyes. "Who are these people that made you want to be with them rather then with us --- me?"

This question suddenly got the full attention of everyone. Xander stoked his friend's cheek to prove there were no longer any hard feelings and responded. "Its --- complicated Will. Maybe when all this is over, I'll tell you." It was a promise he intended to keep, and one he would have to take away after he told her.

Anya who had remained silent during the confrontation spoke her first words. "Sooooo it's agreed? He's Xander?" Giles responded with a curt nod of his head. "Good." The former Vengeance Demon Anyanka then walked over to where MIB Agent was sitting, grabbed him by his collar and lifted him up to meet her, and then proceeded to swallow his tongue and drain the oxygen from his lungs.

Xander began to struggle against the perceived assault. Giles, Willow and Tara were quick to come to the young man's defense as they forcibly removed the Magic Shop attendant from his person.

When the horny weight of the 1,100 year old was absent from his body, Xander quickly jumped back. Tucking in his shirt that the strawberry blonde had pulled out from his pants, and then checking that he wasn't missing any vital physical pieces. He then skipped back out of range of his unwanted lover. "What the HELL is she on? And is it even legal in this country?"

Faith by this time had sundered around the table and came up behind the returned Scooby. "She's got the need to breed BoyToy. And she's decided that you're destined to be the itch for her scratch."

Xander half turned to face the raven haired Slayer, never allowing his eyes to pull from the odd scuffle with the four before him. "What is going on with you people? I ask for help and I get a Soap Opera." The rhetorical question fell on deaf ears, as Giles was doing his utmost to pacify his shop steward. The scene created a bookshelf to collapse and odd looks from all of the other Library Patrons who had earlier done their best to ignore the demonstration.

But as Xander had hoped no Librarian came to confront them for the disturbance and no security was called. Granted he wasn't expecting a scene of this magnitude, but it was good to know he was still maintaining some control of the environment.

Xander grew tired of waiting asked another question, and decided to direct it entirely to Faith as she was the only one of the group not currently engaged in settling Anya down. "Where's Buffy?"

The smile that had formed on Faith's mouth when she spoke to Xander dropped a portion when she heard the concern in the Agent's question for her 'Sister-Slayer'. "B's home with Mom and D. We thought to give her the night off, y'know how easily tired she gets after jumping all those tall buildings in a single bound." The rogue Slayer couldn't help the bitterness that exited her mouth. It was almost too much for her to bare, to be so near to him yet not having him acknowledge her presence, only Buffy's absence.

The Chosen One's sarcasm was missed on Xander, he had heard that Buffy was at home and that was enough for him as he continued to watch with embarrassed wonder at the struggle before him against his exasperated ex-prom date.

"What do you mean not now? Why not? He's rested; he's had 16 months of rest. He's got energy to burn. I've been a good and dutiful girlfriend. I have physical pleasure coming to me. I'm owed pleasure and cuddles. He owes me Orgasms!"

In a half whisper to the beauty beside him, Xander spoke "Well that's not too embarrassing I guess. Errrr, Faith what does she mean - I *owe* her Orgasms?"

A refreshed smile claimed the Slayer's face. "Yeah, apparently the two of you are dating."

Xander then turned fully to face Faith, their eyes met again and the Agent felt electricity pass between them. [Man he needed help.] It was a perfect opportunity to say something romantic or witty, but he couldn't allow himself to once more get personally involved with her, not after the last time. So he splurged out another unrelated question. "I'm dating Anya? Since when?"

"Well according to her, you never stopped. It started with the Prom, the two of you went as a couple and because you never broke up with her*"

"*One date. It was ONE DATE!"

Faith barked out a short laugh as his words mirrored her own to Dawn three hours earlier. "Face it BoyToy, you have that effect on us gals."

Still looking fully upon Faith, and her looking up at him, he replied with an unmistakable audible sadness. "I never had that kind of effect on you." It wasn't a question, but a pained statement.

Faith held the look of Xander as he said these words to her, and she felt like deer caught in the High Beams of a Semi-Trailer Truck as it bore down on her. But before she could stutter out a reply that he was mistaken, Xander's attention was once more captured by the released strawberry blonde.

"Oh No! She's had her Xander-gasims. It's my turn now!"

Field Agent X lightly closed his eyes and tried to mentally will order back to chaos. If he had known how this would have ended up he would have taken Jay up on his offer to do the Hospital instead. Jay, --- Jay was counting on him. They needed info, and he was getting to personally involved into his past life. He wasn't Xander Harris anymore - there was no Xander Harris, Xander Harris was sleeping in a Hospital bed. He was MIB Field Agent 'X' - the guy you called when it was to tough for Bond (that last piece was his imagination running wild, but he and Jay *were* the Guy's on Zed's Speed Dial, which was just as impressive.).

When he opened his eyes again he came face-to-face with the scariest thing in the Universe, and he should know, an aroused woman who could not take a hint. After relieving himself with a "Gaah!" he instinctively reached out and grabbed the first thing that came into grasping distance and used it as a barrier between him and his 'girlfriend'. That thing was Faith.

Pulling the Slayer and presenting the beauty between him and his would be rapist. He held her close and tight to his body for protection against the ex-demon.

Faith fought hard not to reveal the secret enjoyment she felt as she sensed Xander's 'bulge' on her backside.

But her efforts of concealment were to no avail as Anya's face fumed. "Typical, I've seen this for over millennia. Men always go for the easy conquests."

Before the Slayer could respond to the slur of her rebuilt character, she was moved aside.

Xander's voice was calm and icy cool, as out of nowhere he seemed to find the inner strength to confront the former demon. Once again Faith noted that he was once more falling back into the character she found so attractive in him in the first place, he was protecting her honor. "That was uncalled for Ahn. I'm sorry my reaction to your --- blunt and enthusiastic attentions aren't what you expected. And who knows maybe another time and in another reality we could have been together. But what you just said to Faith was completely out of line - and you know it. The only reason I'm here is because of my job, not her and not you. And incase I didn't make it clear enough for you guy's earlier - I-DON'T-HAVE-TIME- FOR-THIS!"

"No Orgasms?"

X tried not to burst out laughing in frustration, she was persistent he gave her that. "I'm sorry Anya, I'm on the clock, not that I wouldn't want to give you Orgasms, my first time, was the last time if you catch my drift, and I'm plenty stored up. But Dinner first, Okay?"

The former Demon's voice was shaky, as thou she was losing grip with her fantasy one second at a time. "You didn't have dinner with her." She gestured to the young woman standing beside her Heart's intent.

"Not true, me and Faith shared some Gum."

"Spearmint" The Slayer offered in agreement.

Anya's face suddenly beamed as she picked up her handbag from the Library floor. Her hand then dove in, navigating through the contents of a Brush, her purse, key's and some tissues. She then withdrew her treasure and presented it to her intended beau with a hopeful yet seductive look. TicTac's.

Xander jiggled the plastic container in his hands, allowing its rattling sounds of the breath mints to echo throughout the Library. He could have refused the intent of the gesture, but he could not bare to damage this woman's heart, especially considering it would be a wasted exercise, as he would have to wipe her memory later, it was much smarter to led her on and get everything back on track. "Maybe---later?"

This earnt him a satisfied tilt of her head and a playful cute smile. 'Cute' that was the word. Anya was definitely cute. The Agent suppressed the thoughts growing in his head and tried to stay focused on the task before him. "Giles, talk to me - Quellar Demon, do's and do nots now please!"

Over the course of the next five minutes Xander received a crash course on what they had learnt on the Outer Space Creature, as well as its suspected connection to a Super-powered evil Being called Glory. Once he had been made available of all the fact's the Scooby's had access to the Agent removed from one of his inner pockets a device that resembled a mobile telephone, only it was more compact and appeared to have more buttons available then the average.

X- Jay, it's me. J- What you got for me X, and I pray it's better then what I have for you. X- Our Perp isn't Alien it's Demon. Where Charter free. We can take it down as hard as we want. J- It's a real life Demon? X- So I've been told. This thing is attracted to negative mental vibes. Kinda like a moth to a flame. J- Yeah, I kind of got that already. I just left the Mental Ward at the Hospital. It just chalked up another five to the list. X- Any trace? J- I was able to 'make it' to the Car park, then nothing. My guess is it hitched itself a ride somewhere. X- Check the Discharges. J- Scanning over them as we speak Partner. There are twelve possibles that coincide within 15 minutes after the last guy croaking.

To his side Willow was frantically attempting to get Xander's attention. Holding the device close to his chest to muffle the conversation from Jay, Xander looked expectantly at Willow.

"Buffy's Mom was Discharged tonight."


"She's been --- she hasn't been 'Well'. She's been talking to herself, forgetting stuff, --- that kind of thing. It's a Tumor."

Xander soaked in the bad news for a moment, and sadly returned to his partner.

X- Jay, is there a Joyce Summer's on your suspect list? J- Yep, fourth one down. <There was a pause as the Agent then began to read the details to himself> Released into the care of her daughter Bu*---buffy Summers? This is a coincidence right? I mean this being California, the name Buffy must be as common as John and Mary, right? X- No man, there is only one Buffy Summers. And with my luck *where else* could this thing have ended up?!? J- I've got the address; you want me to come get?

Xander once more smothered the communication device and looked to Giles. "G-Man, you got wheels here?"

"Yes, and don't call me that again."

"Sure, Scout's Honor." Xander then turned his attention back to the phone like device in his hand.

X- Jay, don't bother. You'd just have to double back. I got me a ride. Meet you there in ten?" J- The way you drive, try five.

Xander then pressed the disconnect button and proceed to leave the Natural Science Section of the University Library. It was not until he had reached the History Section several meters past when he realized he was alone. He turned to face the befuddled group of Vampire Killers "Are you coming, or aren't you?"

As one, the small group hastily joined the now more mysterious man that was once a friend and more to most of the group. The former Zeppo walked with the speed of someone jogging, his movements fluid and deceptive to an audience. To an observer it would have appeared as if he was just walking, even thou those who were following him a step behind were jogging to keep up. It was a nifty MIB skill he had pick up over the year plus he had been away. Running people automatically drew attention to themselves, walking people did not. And MIB Agent's were ones who were not supposed to draw attention to themselves.

With a brief thumb's up to the aged woman behind the Checkout desk, a gesture that earnt him a smile and a gracious nod from the elderly lady, Agent X left the Library with his following on tow.

As he was walking down the stairs at the front of the building he removed the Security Tape from its concealed place in the back of his pants and proceeded to draw out the reel. When the ribbon had reached a suitable length he tore it in two and threw it into a nearby Trash Can.

Willow, who was not used to exercise, being the Brain of the Unit, was nearly out of breath in her efforts to keep up with her childhood friend. "What, [huff] was [puff] that?"

Never losing his stride, the man who was considered the most dangerous person in the Universe answered. "The Security Tape from the Library. I don't think it got my good side."

Faith, who was having no difficulties keeping up with her heart's growing crush then posed. "Are you telling us, you just destroyed Campus Property because it recorded you?"

Xander didn't answer the Slayer's question; he just smirked and continued on his journey to the public Car Park.

"He's like a Secret Agent, like James Bond."

Giles bitterly replied to Anya's gushed statement, offended that she would compare the youth to 'Britain's Fictional Super Spy'. "More like Maxwell Smart."

By this stage of the conversation the group had made it to the Public Parking Area. Xander's head darted from vehicle to vehicle searching for the old and familiar European Citeron. "Where is it?"

The Alarm Disengagement beeping drew the MIBer's attention to a Red BMW Convertible two cars over. "You have got to be kidding me! - Yours?"

With smug pride the Englishman responded "Mine." Instead of receiving praise from the young man he once thought of as a son to him he received something else entirely.

"Can you say 'Mid-Life Crisis' Giles?" The twenty year old male then open the driver's door sat down and extended out his hands, presumably for the keys to the vehicle.

"Surely you can't be serious?"

"I am serious Giles, and don't call me surely." The smile then lowered and hardness entered his voice. "I really don't have time to debate this, now I see this going one of two ways. Both of them ending with me driving off in this Cherry Ride. The first has you giving me your key's, the second involves me tearing off the under panel and playing twist the two brightly colored wires. Your choice G-Man, so make it."

Reluctantly the Englishman handed over his set of keys to the dark suited 'stranger' behind the wheel of his vehicle.

"Good call Giles. Now, what are you all waiting for? Get in already!"

"Shotgun!" Faith couldn't believe she just said that out loud, it was impulsive and somewhere deep inside of her she could feel the old Faith that was once her stir.

With Faith's claim staked the remaining four squeezed into the rear seat of the convertible that was initially designed for three. Three - obviously very small people. As Giles squirmed, allowing the smaller of the quarter, Willow, to sit on his lap, he began to regret his generosity to his Slayer Charge. It was his vehicle after all. But it was the right decision to allow the Chosen One to sit up front. In the rear her physical capabilities would have been greatly restricted if there was an immediate need for them.

With everyone seated, Xander put the key into the BMW's ignition and turned. He gunned the engine for a brief moment, more or less to get an annoyed reaction from its owner in the rear view mirror. He then removed the same device he had spoken into earlier and pressed a sequence of buttons. He then placed the futuristic marvel on the dash with what could be judged as its front end facing forward. "Okay people; let's break some land-speed records."

Before objections could be voiced, the MIB Agent reversed full speed out of the parking space, and then put the vehicle's gear into Drive. He then placed pressure upon the accelerator. And began the journey to 1630 Revello Drive.


Sunnydale sped by them all at three times the legal limit, and with the exception of the man behind the wheel, the other occupants - Giles included, were screaming warnings, and prayers. As they approached the first of several Stop Lights on the way to 1630 Revello Drive, it was obvious to all who had the courage to keep their eyes open that they were going to be met with Red. Suddenly the device Xander had placed on the dash lit up and for the briefest of moments the Red light turned Green allowing the BMW to speed through the intersection unheeded. Seconds after this accomplishment the Traffic Light then turn it self back to Red.

Amid the excited, and near terrified screams exiting from Faith she noticed this devices reaction, she then turned to look at the Driver next to her. Something she hadn't been doing before as her eyes, as was everybody else's, was transfixed to the road and traffic before them. What she saw surprised her. She saw him smile; it was a light smile, a calm smile, a smile that told an unsaid story that he was used to driving waaaayyyy faster then this, and that traveling three to four times the legal limit was like a walk in the park for him. It was also a smile that said he was secretly enjoying the reactions of everybody else in the car.

Faith could feel her own smile suffocate the screams rising in her throat, it was a predator's smile, and it was the smile of the old Faith who lived for the adrenaline rush. Suddenly she was not as terrified as she was seconds earlier. And for the remaining 2- minutes of the journey she treated the experience like a child on a Roller Coaster ride from Hell.

As they approached Revello Drive Xander executed a perfect handbrake turn into the quiet street. The back of the convertible fishtailed as curses could be heard eliciting from its owner. As they got closer to the Summer's residence, Xander slowed the vehicle to the normal speed limit and swore his own blue streak. Discreetly parked out side of 1630 was a Black late model Ford with a handsome African-American leaning against the bonnet of the vehicle theatrically looking at his Watch and shaking his head in disappointment.

"What happen X, you take the scenic route?"

"Yeah - I got nostalgic for the bad old days. How long have you been here?"

Moving away from the Ford towards the BMW to spy out the additional occupants, the Dark Agent responded "One and a half minutes. Eeerrrrrr X, who are these nice and obviously terrified people?"

Joining his partner midway between both vehicles Xander answered. "70% of the Scooby Gang."

Jay took a deep sigh. "You know X, you've done a lot of questionable things in my time with you, giving the sterile Emperor of the Kwalarin Sector a Whoopee Cushion and telling him it was a device our ancestors used to enhance their Fertility was at the top of the list, --- until now. ARE YOU CERTIFIABLE! What are you doing? You should have 'Flashy-thinged them' as soon as you got the info we needed."

"Not Yet."

"Not Yet? Am I hearing you correctly, do you have any idea how many Protocols you just violated? Just about every one - if you lost count."

"I know, but not yet - please Jay. I need this."

"You need this? You need the shit kicked out of you for even thinking it, that's what you need." The ebony Agent then looked down to his toes, as the Scooby's exited the car to join the pair. "I can't believe I'm going to let you do this, but make no mistake Xan, they're going to be 'Flashed' by the end of the night, and I *will* kick the shit out of you."

The junior Agent smiled at his senior of one year bluster. "To late partner, it's already been done."

"They hit you?" Jay's face suddenly became stonier as he looked over the small crowd that had collected before him. "YOU HIT MA BOY?!?" The Agent just received a chorus of silence from the group. "Okay which one of you soon to be dead people thought you could take on my Partner, without going through me? Come on, own up. Take your punishment standin." It was one of the rare display's of protectiveness Jay often revealed when someone threatened his 'little bro'. James Edwards never had a sibling, neither did Xander Harris. But the bond that had developed between the two young men was just as defined as any between family. You messed with one; you had better be prepared to mess with the other.

Tentatively Willow took two steps forward.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me?" The Agent turned to Xander for confirmation. "Her?"

Agent X remained silent, but he didn't deny Willow's identity to the assault.

"When we get back to HQ 'X', you're going to do another session with Qutar; we're going to get those defense skills happening again. I can't believe she beat you up!"

"What can I say Jay, this is Sunnydale. It's the home of the impossible." The young Agent then made a light wink in Willow's direction, one she caught with an equally light smile as she rejoined Tara. It was true, she did assault Xander earlier, but he also didn't raise a hand to stop her from striking him.

"Well 'X' you got them here, so are you going to do the introductions or what?"

Xander then made his way to the Trunk of the Ford while he spoke. "Well the one who bested me - that's Will."

"Whoa! Will is a girl? You said it was a guy."

Never looking up from the array of weaponry that was stored in the concealed department. The Agents voice crossed the 3 meter distance. "Never did, I said Will was my best friend from childhood - that's it."

"Oh come on, how many boys when they were growing up have a girl for a best friend?"

Selecting a handgun like weapon and closing the back of the vehicle, Agent X joined his friend. "Like I said this is Sunnydale. Besides, what did you think she was when I told you Will was dating a guy called Oz.?"

"I just thought it meant he was Gay."

"Willow - Gay!" Xander allowed a chuckle to leave him as he placed the futuristic handgun in his holster. "Man you are soooooo way off your on Pluto bud."

With the eyes of the Detective he once was, Jay noticed how amused some members of the small posse became, and how uncomfortable the two strangle, yet similarity dressed women presented. "Err you want to rethink that Bro?"

Xander lifted his eyes to the strange question and witnessed what Jay was witnessing, he also saw Willow extend her hand out to Tara. He felt as though he had been hit in the stomach at full force by MIB's Alien Self Defense instructor - Qutar. "No nonononononononononononoonono. Willow you are NOT Gay!"

"Yes I am, and so is Tara. We're fulla Gayness."

"Nooooo your not, this --- this is a Hellmouth thing. It--- it has to be - isn't it Giles?"

"No it isn't. Yes, Willow is a Lesbian. And from what I have seen since her 'discovery', a very happy and contented one as well."

"So your Giles." Jay queried the Englishman; he received a careful nod as his reply. "Nice to meet you man, 'X' speaks of you, when he does speak of you, with a lot of respect and fondness. If you contributed to making him half the person he is today, man have you got a lot to answer for." The wide infectious cheeky smile of the man called 'Jay' then presented itself to the group.

A wry smile then formed on the Magic Shop owners face, unsure whether he should still be angry at the youth who had left his 'family' long ago under the strangest of situations.

Never drawing his eyes, his suspicious eyes, from Willow. Xander continued with the introductions. "That one there is Anya. And the one in the Black Jean's is Faith."

Jay did a double take on the last person. "Faith - The Psycho?"

"Faith - The Psycho" was the empty toned reply.

The Slayers jaw clenched, she had done a lot of things in the past she was no longer proud of, but she never thought for one moment that people still thought of her as psychopath.

Xander then looked at his partner and cocked his head to the house in front of them. "Is it in there?"

"Yeah, I'm getting a decent reading, I was just waiting for you before I kicked ass an' took names. Can't go into a probable death encounter with out ma little buddy can I."

"After all this time you still need me to hold your hand, that's very clingy Jay-man."

"Quit callin me that, it really tick's me man."

Xander passed an amused expression in the direction of Giles and was rewarded by the Librarian's equally surprised amused expression in return. Xander then apologized with his characteristic straight face to the ancient request. "Last time, I promise."

Under his breath the former New York City Detective could be heard mumbling. "Yeah, right, I believe that like I now believe in Leprechauns." The night air then chilled slightly and the two similarly dressed men then got straight down to business. "I think it might be upstairs, there was also a dude with white hair and a leather trench coat skulking around a few seconds before you showed up to."


Xander turned to Willow, "What do you mean Spike?" Xander turned to face his Partner. "Spike is a Vampire." He then turned and re-faced Willow. "What's he doing here?"

"Don't worry, he's harmless now. Got a chip in his head from a Government Organization that stops him from hurting people."

"A BMC?"

The Watcher removed his glasses and addressed the indigo Agent. "What?"

"A BMC - A Behavior Modification Chip. Those guys must have been using cutting edge tech. That stuff shouldn't be theoretically possible for us for another 12 to 20 years."

Xander looked at his dark skinned friend. "You thinking one of our 'Outer Towner's' sold the wrong thing to the wrong people?"

"Aren't you?"

In union the two Agents spoke the same name "Jeebs" before the lost and confused Slaying Party. Jay then conferred openly with his partner. "When we get back to New York, let's pay our head blowing friend a visit."

"Agreed. It'll give me something to look forward to. So you want to take Point and I play Support?"

"Only fair, it's my turn after all. Unless you have any objections of course?"

"Naah, it's good. The staircase for upstairs is in front of the front door, I'll take back. If things get hairy*"

"I'll holler." Field Agent Jay then looked over the assortment of oddly mixed people before him. "You Guys stay frosty, me an X'll take care of this one." The senior Agent then turned to his junior Partner and continued with an unsaid implication to his words. "An then we'll all sit down together, and everything will be taken care of. Won't it Xander?"

"Yeah --- Scout Honor." The two men then departed the group and made their way to their designated locations like a well oiled machine.

Faith stood silent, but even the most unfamiliar of people could recognize that she was agitated beyond words. The moment Xander opened the side gate leading to the rear yard of Joyce Summer's; she bolted to join the former Scooby for some privacy.

This did not go unnoticed by Jay as he crept up the darken porch, he then reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew his MIB Communicator and spoke in hushed tone into its transmitter. "x - lector's love child is comin your way."


{--- comin your way}

"I see her, thanks for the heads up man." Xander then folded his device and returned it to his pocket. Angrily watching Faith approached him. "I thought Jay made it clear - we'll handle this Faith, you stay with the others."

"Listen Xander, or is it 'X'? This thing is a Demon. This thing is in my Town. This thing is looking to chow down on a person I look to as the closest thing I have to a Mother. You really think I'm going to let you take this mutha down without me putting in my two cents worth?"

Planting his feet firmly, Xander Harris replied the Slayer. "You'd better."

"Or what, you're going to stop me?"

Xander looked carefully to the PTC-331 he had taken from the car's weapon store, its battery registering a full charge. He could stop her quite easily, and still have energy to spare if things went pear shaped inside when Jay made his play. But something deep inside him told him that this had nothing to do with the Hellcat wanting to fulfill her duty. "Why are you *really* here Faith?"

"I told you, Demon - Slayer. It's a destiny thing." Faith then attempted to make her way past Xander, but the Agent extended his arm outwards to block her path.

The MIBer then remained silent. It didn't take the brunette long to crack as he stared at her. Softly, almost like a scalded child she spoke. "I'm not a Psycho Xander."

Under darkness the Agent then led the second Slayer to a garden seat that was positioned an appropriate distance from the Summer's home. The lights from the house did not penetrate that deep in the rear yard so it also provided the pair with concealment. Music drifted over the distance as both could see Buffy attempting to do the dishes in the kitchen.

In a whisper Xander answered "I never said you were."

"Bull! I heard you, Giles heard you, everyone heard you."

"No Jay said you were, and I said that to confirm your identity to him."

"Well why does he think I'm a psycho? He must have got the idea from somebody?"

"Why? Gee, I don't know. Maybe it's because of everything you did before I left town. Look Faith I didn't exactly have much time to go into character analysis, as I only had about fifteen minutes before we touched down. I just told him the fact's as I knew them. You are a Slayer, you killed a human, you tried to pin it on Buffy, you then attempted to kill me, you then joined Mr. 'I-wanna- be-a-big-snake', and stayed with the 'White Hats' feeding him information about us. You then played a part in trying to turn Angel back into the sadistic son-of-a-bitch he once was. And when you were discovered, fled to the Mayor and became his Hitman/Enforcer. Was I lying? No. Now with those facts at his disposal I wonder how he could have come to the crazy conclusion that your psychotic, hmmmmm?"

Xander could hear Faith swallow something, maybe it was her pride? "I--- I'm not like that anymore Xander, I've changed."

"That's good to know, keep it up!" The Agent then cast his attention back to the house in front of them both.

"I mean it Xander, I've changed - Really. You, you helped change me."

These words drew his attention back to the Slayer seated beside him. "What do you mean I changed you? You never gave me a chance to 'change you'. It was wham-bam thank you Xan. Wait, hangon, on second thought's I don't even think there *was* a thank you, it was just 'Wham & Bam'."

Faith ignored his words and plowed forward with her confession, knowing that if she did not she would stall and not be able to finish what she wanted to say. "I wanted to make you proud to have known me Xander. What I did to you that night was unforgivable*"

"Faith, your not the first thing that has tried to kill me you know, I'm just grateful you weren't able to see it thru." The words flowed from the Agent's mouth easily, it was true. She wasn't the first, or would she be the last to try and take his life, but she *was* the most significant, only because she owned and claimed a special part of him that no one could ever take. She was his 'first'. His words may have formed a blasé response, but it still scarred his memories.

"No Xander, not that. Thou I am sorry about that to, I guess I'm sorry about a lot of things. I---I meant before, y'know when we ---*"

"Had sex?"

"Made Love."


Xander's face turn beetroot red under the moon's glow as he quickly stood up and began to fish out the communications device from his pocket. "Jay, Private Conversation. I would appreciate if you pulled back on the eavesdropping."

{Hey man, I'm your Partner. Which mean's I watch your back when you can't. I didn't know what she was planin' on doing to you when she went prowler.}

The redness in his face dimmed as X responded to Jay's declaration. "Appreciated. But I got this one under control; you take care of Quellar-boy."

{You didn't answer me Man; did you really have sex with her?}

Xander closed the receiver shut, and ensured that the transmitter was not sending any more information to his 'Big Eared' Partner. He then whispered to himself as he slid the third Millennium phone into his top pocket. "No man. I made love with her."

Turning back around to face the Raven haired 'Chosen' Xander's eyes once more met Faith's and he could see in the dying glow of the Summer's House that she had heard his hushed claim.

Faith stood up from the simple garden seat and moved forward towards Xander, it was three simple paces, but the two seemed to be a world's distance apart. By Faith's second step the Agent backed away. The Slayer froze in place, she was physically closer to him now, but was also even further away.

Xander could see her hurt at his actions. But felt resolute to them, he was not going to fall under her spell again. His voice took on a somber note as he addressed the young woman. "I can't Faith. Not again, I can't risk it again."

"What do you mean again?"

"Falling for you. I don't think you understand how easy it is. You're intense, passionate, spur-of-the-moment, direct and one hell of a knockout."

An enthusiastic smile grew on her lips. "So? You're not risking anything Boy Toy, this is a Sure thing. Just tell me you want me, and I'm yours. Body, Heart and Soul."

"Until when Faith? Until you wake up then next morning then kick me out your life again?"

"What makes you think I'm like that any more, I said I've changed and I have."

"Changed? Changed to what Faith?"

"You can trust me now Xander, I'd never do anything to hurt you - ever again. I made mistakes - dozies, and your number one. I had the best thing for me in front of me, and I laughed you off."

"That isn't what Buff said*"

"*What! How would she know?"

"She said that I meant nothing to you, and that you rated me, as you did all the guy's you slept with as nothing but a joke." Xander took a small pace forward. "Do you know what that feels like, being told by your best friend that you don't matter, and that I was just one of many convenient lay's to you. If it wasn't me that night Faith, who would it have been? The wino down the street? Who?

"Do you know how special I felt when she told me this? I didn't want to believe her Faith, I really didn't. I wanted to prove her wrong, that what we 'shared' did matter. That's one of the reasons why I came to see you that night, and we all know how that fared, don't we."

The Slayer's lip began to tremble as she again stated to the Agent. "I---I've changed Xander, please believe me."

"You haven't changed Faith, and neither have I." Xander once more took a seat on the Garden bench and invited her to join him. "I'm going to honest with you Faith. I've never told anyone this, not Jay, not Willow, not anyone. Y'know that 'Fluke' thing I had with Willow?"

"I know of it, sure who wouldn't, it was the most popular piece of gossip in the Scoob's for weeks."

The Agent blushed at this news, and then continued. "Yeah, well it was totally my fault. It's no secret that Cordy and I, well our relationship was --- I think that abrasive is the best term for it. We would 'tease' one another all the time; this would lead to 'Make-up Kissage'."

"Don't you mean 'Make-out' Kissage?"

Xander cocked his crocked smile and replied. "No, I stand by what I said. Those sessions in the Janitors Closet were the best. But I began to notice some subtle changes, with each passing week I was with her I was changing. Little things, aesthetic things that were not me. My dress sense improved, Hell, my entire wardrobe changed. When I was around people she considered her friends I held my tongue. Those kinds of things. It wasn't until me and Willow were getting changed in her room, when I realized that I was becoming someone I was not. The Tux, the Limo, the corsages. All things for a dance, but I felt as if I was being forced into it. I recapped on everything in those moments, and I realized something - this was not me. Then Willow came out from behind the blinds in her dress, and wow - she blew me away. Here was a young woman who held a torch for me for 12 years, and I just then noticed her. She cared for me - the real me. And I acted. If she was not in a relationship with Oz, who know what could have happened between us. Anyway, we kept that moment secret between us playing handsies and footsies with each other, and for those minutes I was me again. Not a knockoff of Angel."

"What's that suppose to mean?"

"That's who Cordelia was trying to make me into. She had the hots for Angel since he first revealed himself to us. But it was always him and Buff, she wasn't in the running either so she decided, I guess to make her own. It wasn't calculated or anything, it was purely subconscious I think. I mean, we still cared for each other. But I didn't want to be an 'Angel'. And you don't want to be a 'Buffy'."

"Wh---what do you mean, I'm not trying to be like her!" The Slayer then bit down on her lower lip to cease its trembling. "And even if I was, would that be so bad?"

"No, people should have role-models. Ones that suit them." Xander edged himself closer to the young woman. "Faith, I'm all for people taking second chances at life - considering everything, I would be hypocritical if I didn't. But this will drive you over the edge again in time, because you're not being true to yourself. You remember how pissed off you'd get when people, Giles and Wesley kept hounding you to be more like her?"

Faith nodded.

"I think you were great, right up until the part when you *did* go over the edge. I thought you were incredible."

Faith then down caste her eyes and gazed into her lap. "Then you would have been a fan of one."

"So? Do you do this for popularity? Cause if you do, man did you chose the wrong gig. Me and Jay have done our fair share for this planet, seen and done some pretty out there stuff. If we worked for anybody else, we would be probably household names by now. But nobody knows us, which I think is the coolest. And I'm not a Fan of one. You have others."

Faith offered a sad chuckle. "Yeah, like who?"

"Faith, you're a 'Chosen One'. You weren't born with these powers, they were given to you. When Kendra died, whoever it is upstairs who decides these things, looked down and saw you. Out of a Billion other teenage girls around the World - you were the one they chose. They looked at your soul and said 'Yes, she's the one who will fight for the Light and make us proud.' You have a fan Faith, one whose opinion matters above all others."

For the first time in a longtime Faith felt an inner warmth grow within her. No one had ever explained it to her like that before.

Agent X continued. "The world needs Faith. You have to decide, maybe not here and now, but please think this over. You could either be a second-rate Buffy, or a First Class Faith. You chose. I know who I'd want."



"You'd want Buffy."

"Again - What? Buffy and I are not a possibility, aside from the whole work issue. She thinks I can't*"

"*It was a joke Xander, a stupid joke that got out of hand."

"What do you mean a joke?"

"I heard all about it when I 'woke up'. She was teasing you. And then --- then the next time you show up in front of her you've got all these tubes, Oxygen and other stuff around you. That clone thing was cruel Xander, on every level."

"I'm not going to apologize for that."

"I know, that's why I'm not asking you to. But Xander, she --- she loves you." Faith didn't know why she was confessing this information to him; if she kept silent she would have a clear running field. He already knew about Anya, and he dropped that on its ass, Cordelia - he had just finished telling her that he recognized that Cordy was trying to make him something he was not - so she was out of the running as well. That just left Her, Buffy, and Dawn. And Dawn would be disqualified instantly because of age. She wanted this fair, no doubts or secrets. "Dawn told me, she's still hung up on you."

"Still?!? What do you mean Still?"

"Xander, she --- cares for you. Truly cares for you. Dawn say's that she comes home after each visit with your clone self and cries buckets. Her Boyfriend, Riley, is just someone to take the edge off and help push the sadness away."

"Finn! She's dating Finn?"

"You know him?"

"Unfortunately." Xander then turned to face the kitchen window and observe the figure within. Buffy had just turned the music she was listening to up louder, and buried her head into her sud soaked hands. "Is she crying?"

Faith whispered her answer. "Maybe. It's been a difficult time for her Xander, her Mom and you. As much as I personally think that the guy's a bore, he has helped her deal with everything like a champion. I'd hate to see how she could have handled it if he wasn't around."

"Buff's tough, she would have done fine."

"You think? The last time she had to face a crisis this bad, she ran away to LA for three months. She needs you."

"Why? Why do you guy's need me. I was no-one special, the only thing you guy's would count on me doing right was the donut run." Agent X took a deep breath and turned to face Faith once more. "I didn't leave because of the 'joke', and it was a pretty lame one if you ask me. I left because I had nothing to offer you guys, and I had people who saw raw potential in me and asked for my help. What would you have done?"

Faith didn't get a chance to answer, as they both heard a blood curdling scream coming from the upstairs floor. As a single unit they both left the seat and ran towards the back door of the Summer's residence.


Chapter 4

3-Days after the last Chapter
'Sunnydale Memorial'

His form lay nearly unmoving on the stiff hospital bed that was now his home. Wires ran from his chest and temples to the nearly unpronounceable machine that stood beside him, relaying their gathered information. This was a standard protocol that was done at least once a week in-order to monitor any progress of his condition. Today, like the rest that preceded it, there was none. Usually this was performed on the Saturday, early morning. As it was this time the figure that it was used upon received the least amount of visitors. But not today. This morning he had one.

An oxygen mask covered his mouth and nose, but even through the sound of the regulated delivery of O2 the light wheezing of his rhythmic breathing could be heard in the never quiet room. Several blankets were draped over him yet he still presented to the eyes ghostly pale, and was chilled to the very touch.

Cordelia Margaret Chase sat watching him. Her eyes trained like a Hawk in an effort to notice any irregularity or inconsistency to his near life-less action that would offer her a slightest glimmer of hope to his recovery. As always there was none. To some this would have been wasted day. But not to her. This day was her day. As such it wasn't truly wasted at all in her mind.

At least once every four weeks, when Angel could spare her, she would make the sad journey back to Sunnydale and spend it with Xander. She would always call ahead, and make it known she was coming so that various efforts could be made by the 'Locals' not to intrude on 'Her Day'.

Sometimes she would have enjoyed the odd company. But it was best she did this loving vigil alone. It was selfish, but she didn't want to share him with anyone else on 'her' day.

At this humble thought her mind involuntarily caste itself back to the origin of this decision - Anya. The former Demon didn't appreciate the attentions her sleeping 'Boyfriend' received from his first Girlfriend. In Cordy's mind there were no true rivalries for Xander's heart. She knew where she stood with him when she left for LA and he on his grand adventure that ended in mysterious tragedy.

She was confident of her permanent place in Xander's affections, but Anya wasn't as so. This only caused the one-time Demon's insecurity to only grow and fester as she competed with her and the other females in Xander's life towards attending to the sleeping male Scooby. The tension between them eventually got too foolish levels when a year earlier Anya had tried adjusting the angle of Xander's unconscious head so that it faced more her then the LA visitor. It was one of the many selfishly aggressive actions that the Magic Shop Saleswoman did in her presence, and on this day Cordelia decided she was going to take no more of it.

There were raised voices, name calling, thrown chocolates, flowers and semi-deflated foil balloons. An outsider would have found the sight amusing at the cattiness of it; unfortunately for both women the Charge-Nurse on Duty that day did not.

Since then she always phoned a head too make sure 'Her Day' was Anya-free.

The brunette beauty's legs were drawn up, her feet resting on the edge of the moulded plastic chair, her arms rapped around her legs with her chin resting on her knees. She fought back the exhaustion threatening to consume her. As usual she never slept well the days before her scheduled return to Sunnydale. Her sleep was always interrupted with memories of Xander. Some of them were perfect and made her heart swell. But there were others, too many others, like when they had broken up, or of the times before they had officially gotten together - when she was equally cruel to him, that bought her nothing but shame and self-loathing. Either way, she thought of nothing during these days post and pre visits but of him.

She rubbed her burning eyes and tucked a stray dark brown lock of hair behind her ear. And for the fifth time in ten minutes she again looked about the private room, amazed and grateful that Xander had the foresight to sign up with 'Manciple Insurance Brokers' before he had left. She was fearful of the condition of care he would have received if he had not. The private bed he occupied, and the personal care staff that attended to him would have cost beyond a small fortune each month if not for the exaggerated policy he had signed.

Administrators for the Company visited once every 3-month's to enquire into his continued status. These people, whom she had an opportunity to casually meet on one of her visits, were --- odd. But their attention and dedication to detail was incredible. Yet still, their strange behaviour and eccentricities were polar to everything she would have expected from people in such a position. Both employees were dressed in the same attire; it was almost like a uniform for the company they worked for. They both wore dark, smart, well-cut suits, but they talked acted more like Drill Sargent's then of staff from an Administration Office of an Insurance Company.

But despite their presentation and behaviour she was impressed by their care of her one-time Boyfriend. So impressed infact that she made an approach for a simular Policy for herself. Given her choice of fighting beside Angel it made sense to have an effective Insurance group to support her in the event of unusual injures. Surprisingly however she was advised that the Policy Xander was apart of was a special one and could not be just 'offered' to anyone in the General Public. It was all --- odd.

At any rate she extended and was grateful to them on Xander's behalf, but this still did not subtract from her developing a pretty intense dislike for Hospitals. This room in particular. There was no colour, no variety. Just pale, unstimulating, white walls.

Her eyes slid shut. She felt the tightness in her chest as she fought the tears building in her eyes. Cordelia opened her eyes and bit her bottom lip as her gaze again returned to the machine monitoring Xander's vitals. The rhythmic beeping only added to her misery as it never once changed. There was no variance; and there was no evidence that anything had or was ever going to change. It was as if Xander had been specifically created not to make any signed improvement at all but to stay in this perpetual form.

Desperately she drew her sight from the medical marvel and once again spied upon the pale, thin face of her long-ago first love amidst her typical gift of flowers, grapes and a bouquet of foil-'Get Well Soon'-balloons. Tears spilled down her cheeks anew. She couldn't hold back the sobs any longer. She turned her head slightly away from the sleeping form in an effort to conceal the outpouring of emotion. It was a redundant exercise as Xander was most likely unaware of her presence. But still, she didn't want him to 'see' her like that.

Her despised thoughts centred to only one tired thing, the same thing it always centred on when she saw his continually resting face - {it was a waste, such a terrible waste. He had such life, love and laughter to offer the World and now there was just *this*}.

His Brain Activity was barely registering as within the limits of safety. His Care-Team had admitted to the Scooby's two-weeks after his discovery at the Cemetery, and upon his transfer from Oxnard to Sunnydale Memorial. That if Xander ever did re-awaken, then there was at least 75% chance of permanent Brain Damage.

This was all old news now.

This was information she had gone to bed with nearly every night for close too 500 nights.

But still she had hope. Xander always made a habit of surprising people. When other's thought that something could not be done he found away to do it. The 'Judge' was a perfect example. Willow and Giles were stumped and these two were some of the smartest people she knew. But it was Xander who came up with the effective solution. And he did it with ease, like it was a casual thought barely worth mentioning. He thought of it, and he then went and retrieved the Surface-to-Air Rocket and Launcher without pause for reconsideration on the possibility that he might be wrong. Buffy may have taken credit for the 'kill', but it was Xander who was responsible, and could have done it all himself if he had wanted too. But instead he chose to step aside and instruct the blonde Slayer on it's operation so that she might be more 'instrumental' in the adventure and to help overcome her mixed feelings with the return of Angelus.

He amazed her that night. Not only with this selfless action for the Slayer, but also by the way he had talked down the Armed Guard, and the way he moved about the Armoury with purpose. He saw a problem, and he took the most direct approach to solving it. Thinking out side 'the Box' and not along the same rigid lines other's did.

She wasn't just amazed at his actions that night, she was impressed by them. And Xander would amaze her again; he would impress her again; in her gut she knew this. The Doctors may have given him 25% of ever recovering fully - It was a one-in-four chance, and she liked those odds a lot. She had learnt along time ago that where odds were concerned, if it was 'the House' against Xander, then the safest bet would always be to bet on her lovable Doofus.

Besides, it wasn't an unprecedented accomplishment. There was a guy, Kevin Brown, who two-and-a half years earlier awoke from a 30-year coma under simular medical conditions as Xander. If Mr. Kevin Brown could do it, then Xand could do it as well. Ever since he fell into his 'sleep' she had explored every and any reference to people who had miraculously recovered from 'Deep Comas' like Xander's.

Sure most of these people were found in the pages of the 'Inquisitor', 'Enquirer', 'Tattler' and the other Tabloid Junk that littered the Supermarket isles near the register, brandishing the old 'My Child is Part-Alien' Headline. But there were at least a dozen people from her last count that had just 'recovered' in a full state of health and no logical explanation of how they did so. And this gave her faith that Xander would be able to do the same. But this eternal and cherished hope did nothing to lessen her pain as she repeatedly heard the beeps continue throughout the room.

Distracted by the hateful noise she was then startled when a silent arm wrapped around her shaking shoulder's in fatherly comfort, she looked up to see the sad wry smile of Rupert Giles looking down on her. The aged Englishman took her hand and guided her up from the chair and embraced her in a reassuring fashion that she had often wished her own Dad was able to do. Giles held her against him as she continued to cry deep into his chest. After awhile her sobs began to subside, and then began to manifest themselves into hiccups. Her shaking shoulder's stilling themselves for a moment as she began to chuckle of the outcome of her misery.

Once the hiccups from the former 'Most-Popular-Girl-in-School' had settled. The former Librarian, and now Magic Shop Owner spoke softly. "I came as soon as I could Cordelia. What's wrong?"

With her eyes she directed Giles to the door. The Watcher complied with the unsaid instruction as the LA Seer approached the sleeping man and gently combed her finger's affectionately through her 'Sleeping Beauty's' hair and then followed behind. When she lightly closed the glass door, her face took on a more menacing appearance to the fragile one it had held a moment earlier. "Okay Giles, what's going on?"

"I'm not following you?"

"Xander. Why hasn't anyone been visiting him? I showed up this morning, filled out the Visitors Log and saw no one has come to see him since Dawn and Faith three night's back. We all promised eachother that someone would visit him once a day - regardless of Apocalypse-type stuff happening. Once a day, Giles. You were there, you agreed with the decision too. Even Anya hasn't signed in during that time. So what's going on?"

The middle aged man looked into the fiery and determined eyes of the Brunette. Only now understanding her anxious call to him an hour earlier. With a heavy and sorrowed sigh he posed two questions. "Has his condition changed? Has he improved, or declined?"

"N-n-n-no. No improvement."

<sigh> "Then what would be the point?"

Cordelia Chase mouth gaped open for a few seconds, and then closed. Out of all the answers she was expecting this was the one she was expecting the least. Through gritted teeth and presenting the measure of a person trying not to lose their temper in the public area of the Hospital corridor she ushered out words that could not conceal their angered intent. "The point is Giles - *this* is Xander. The point is - we all *Promised* each other, and him, we would not forget about him. The point is*"

"*The *point* is Cordelia that the Hospital has been advised on how to contact us if his physical state alters. The *Point* is that whenever one of our number visits him - Willow, Faith, Dawn, Buffy, Anya and yes, even myself. When we visit him it is emotionally taxing for all of us, and *we* are the one's who have to deal with the repercussions of all this - not him.

"We cope as best we can but we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted anylonger. And being who we are, and must do each night - We-are-in-no-position-to-allow-ourselves-to-be-distracted. Buffy, Faith and Willow bare a terrible toll after each session with him. And with our current Villain-of-the-year sniffing about Town valuable time is being wasted in maintaining this pathetic 'Watch' when we should be focused in defending ourselves satisfactorily against her."

Cordelia's face flushed quickly to match her reddened eyes. "Valuable? Pathetic? I don't consider my time - *anytime* with Xander wasted, *or* Pathetic."

The Englishman winced under the heated glare he received but held firm his renowned British composure. "I'm sorry, that was a poor choice of words. But in your opinion on this matter you, sadly, must accept you stand alone."

"What's going on Giles? What's really going on? This isn't like you. This isn't like Dawn, or Anya to not visit him. Even with a BigBad. Why the big turn around - really? Who decided this? There was a reason for this, so what was the reason? And don't give me that apocalyptic crap. When A.D.A.M. was large and in-charge you guy's still showed up to see him once a day, so what's the real scoop?"

The brow of the Englishman farrowed as he removed his glasses. His face became angrily pensive and full of thought as it countered Cordelia's questioning glare. But under her scrutiny something odd happened. His eyes then began drifting to nothing, as if he was trying to grasp a memory behind the actions and reasons to what he had just said and argued for.

It was true; Cordelia was right. Why did they abruptly stop now? It was as if his words belonged from someone else. He could never think like this towards Xander, even at his worst, and he certainly couldn't imagine any of the others doing so either. Even Tara, who had never actually known the young man. So where did this hostile opinion and decision originate?

After an uncomfortably long period he refocused on the attractive, yet visibly upset young woman in front of him and spoke softly, yet hesitantly in an effort to cool the heat that now seemed to radiate from the twenty year old. "I don't --- I don't know why or who, Cordelia. Your right, I can't think of a single reason why we *all* would have stopped doing that. Even with Glorificus." Rupert Giles rubbed his forehead before he repositioned his glasses on once more. "Everything was the norm up until a couple of days ago. Joyce had returned from her stint in Hospital and then --- and then we were all at Buffy's home. All of us. Faith, Willow, Tara, Dawn, Joyce, Myself, Buffy, even Spike, funny enough.

"We were having, I think, a 'Welcome Home Party' for Joyce. Something happened, something --- I --- I don't know. It's all like a drunk's memory. It's all fuzzy, and hazy, I can almost see it and know it. But still I can't seem to quite grasp it. I *think* we decided that as Xander's condition was not showing any signs of improvement, and that as long as the Hospital kept us informed of his Progress. Then*"

"*Who decided this? Was it you? Anya? Faith? Tara? Dawn? Was it Buffy?"

"I honestly can't remember Cordelia."

"Don't protect her! Don't you *dare* try and protect her! If she decided this for you all then I want to know!"

"I don't think it was Buffy, Cordelia."

"How could you not know who then? You said it was only a few day's ago - you going senile or something? Someone said 'Let's stop visiting Xander' and you all agreed to it. Not one of you challenged this?!? No one?!? There is only one person I know of who you all bend over backwards to make happy. So if it wasn't her, then who?"

"I just said I don't know. I can't remember precisely who preposed the idea. But I guess we all must have agreed to it given the resolve of everyone's absence the last few days. Maybe --- maybe nobody offered it; maybe it just drifted into our conversation at the time. And it was thought to have merit."

"You mean like 'Could you please pass some more Cake and oh-by-the-way, why don't were all stop visiting that lump of human flesh at the Hospital we called our best friend because it's cutting to much into my Martyr time'. It *WAS* her wasn't it!?!"

"Cordelia, Buffy would never do anything to hamper Xander's care, and she would never treat him with that kind of disrespect. None of us would."

"But you are, aren't you?!? Didn't you just call this a 'Pathetic Watch'?"

"I agree that was callas of me Cordelia, and I apologize for using that word. But truth be told there is simply nothing we can offer him but our love at this stage. And he has that regardless of whether we are here in the room with him or not. Buffy would always put Xander before herself. Always, and you know this. As would all of us. He is why we do what we do. He is our example of care and safety, of what could happen if we ever thought of ourselves as invincible and unstoppable."

"Xander *never* thought of himself like that!"

The former librarian tried to be considerate with what he was going to say but it all still came out sharp and piercing. "Of coarse he did Cordelia. You may not appreciate hearing this, and I loath to be the one saying it to you - but he did. The man took risks. Stupid ones. He jumped unprepared into situations. Situations that nearly got him killed several times over.

"He was courageous, no one disputes that. But the battlefield is littered with courageous men. That's why we encouraged him to take a more supporting role in our activities when Faith arrived. Not that it did much good. Xander took chances and he has ended up in his present condition because of them. And that is nobody's fault except his own. Not mine, not Willow's, not Angel's, not Faith's and certainly not Buffy's."

"Yeah, that's all nice and neat Giles. Blame it on the guy who can't defend himself. The simple fact is that Buffy and you bought him into this life, just like you did the rest of us. He always looked up to you, and he practically worshiped the ground on which Buffy walked.

"I mean have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, if you had shown as much interest in Xander as you did with Willow and her Mojo making. Buffy and Faith with their Slaying. Oz with trying to find cures for his were-ing. Or Angel with your late night discussions into Tome-Text's and prophesies. If you put half as much time and effort into him and his friendship as you did with all the others, that maybe he would still be with us all now?"

"Just about a hundred times a week, Cordelia. And I dare say that number would be doubled for Buffy. And tripled for Willow. Even Faith draws into a light depression whenever she thinks about him and the potential he possessed. And *yes* she uses that word - 'potential' when talking of him, though in what context I'm not entirely sure or am particularly game to enquire."

"So you're prepared to abandon his *needs* a second time? To give up on him like you did in High School, treating him as another wasted effort?"

"That's quite enough of that Ms Chase. Your distressed at our recent lack of involvement, and I understand and appreciate your feelings on this. I truly do" Rupert Giles now looked stonily upon the one-time Cheerleader. "But that's not fair - to any of us. Buffy has been dealing with a lot of issues at the moment. Joyce's tumour is a great burden for her, she has more pressures upon her now then she has ever had before. And yes, you are right there is a potential Apocalypse in the offing. One we are trying to deal with discreetly without getting Buffy to involved. She is overwhelmed by her new responsibilities of Carer for her mother and we are all doing our best to make sure the sacred duty she bares are lessened. All of us."

"All at the expense of Xander's visits. It's all because you have been chasing after the Slayer like you always do."

Rupert Giles was silent for a moment as he again pondered what was just said to him. It was obvious that Cordelia was not going to let any connection between Xander and Buffy drop. He wished he could have offered more in defence of his Charge, but he couldn't. He simply just couldn't remember. It did make sense. That this was probably why they indeed did stop visiting the sleeping young man. So *why* couldn't he remember it clearly?

Cordelia was dismissive of the Englishman's silence as she continued on. "If the situation was reversed, and I was the one, God forbid, ever in a Coma. Xander would visit me regardless. That's the kind of person he is. And he would do it for all of you as well, for as long as you needed him he would be there for you."

Cordelia turned and looked through the glass walls that made up Xander's room. Her body stiffened at the painful sight of his inactivity. "When Visiting Hour's are over I'm going to pay 'Miss Chosen-One' a visit and to pass on my best wishes to Mrs Summer's. Tell her I'm coming, and that she better be home when I arrive. This is not-on, Giles. This is not going to happen. You tell her that!" The brunette then once more turned to face the resident father figure of all the scoobies. Her voice becoming chilled with each word she directed. "Now if you will excuse me, I have to go back in and make up for three day's of neglect to Xander."

Cordelia then turned her back on the stunned, silent Englishman and re-entered the mechanical beeping room she had exited two-minutes earlier. Through the glass walls that made up the room Giles saw Cordelia bow her head over Xander's and kissed lightly his brow. Returning again to the seat she had vacated. Only one thought entered the Watcher's mind as he witnessed this sight - that he was glad he wasn't Buffy at this moment.

Still he had to offer his 'Charge' due warning of the impending storm that was to arrive on her door step in five-hours time. He just wished he could recall clearly why they all stopped coming to visit him. Now that the question was raised it was truly maddening. It was completely out of character for all of them, so why did they do it? Certainly Anya, Dawn, and Willow would never have abided to the agreement. So why did they? And why for GOD'S SAKE couldn't he remember it?


Several Hours later at 1630 Revello Drive.

Cordelia exited the cab and approached the home of her former teammate. As her foot fell to the path leading to the front door she saw Buffy swinging on the Veranda seat. Looking as lost and as miserable as she had ever seen her before. Even when Angelus was ruling the night. The sound of her heeled shoes drew the Slayer from her melancholy wonderings and the two met at the top of the Porch steps.



The LA Seer sized up her old adversary for Xander's affections and felt a pity for the Blonde before her. So much had changed. Buffy carried about her a defeat she had never witnessed in her before. Where once there was a respected competition between the two in the looks department there was now no longer any contest. The person who stood before her looked as if she had been worn down by life, and had accepted the unflattering role on the bottom of the totem.

As if reading Cordelia's thoughts on her current presentation Buffy shuffled back to the Swing-Seat and offered the vacant cushion beside her. As Cordelia joined the Slayer, Buffy spoke. "Giles called. Told me what you discussed with him."

"I told him to do that."

"I know. Look Cordy, I don't have an answer for you. I --- I just don't know why we stopped. I know why I stopped, but as to the others*."

This was enough; this was all too weird for the LAer. Everyone was doing the same thing but were unable to provide her with a unified answer. "WHAT IS GOING ON? YOU ALL GET COLLECTIVE AMNESIA OR SOMETHING?"

A half chuckle left the blonde's mouth at the raised voice and question posed. She may not have been looking as stunning as her High School rival at that moment, but at least she was able to keep her cool. "This is the Hellmouth. It's not out of the realm's, y'know. Look, I'm sorry. I wish I could care, but I don't."

This statement truly caught the brunette by surprise. Giles had told her earlier that Buffy cared deeply for Xander's welfare, and she had always believed this. But this alien comment was completely unexpected and made no sense to her. It made as much sense to her as Giles disinterest in Xander earlier that morning. "How could you not care? This is Xander!?! Best male-bud Xander! Save my miserable life several times over Xander. How can you not care?"

"I just don't - OKAY! Deal with it!" At the outburst, Buffy's shoulders sagged a bit in defeat realizing that Cordelia was now the one offering composure over herself. After a couple of seconds she redirected her answer with an explanation. "I've got too much on my plate at the moment to just focus on him anymore. Yeah, I'm grateful he saved my life, but I've saved his plenty. So I guess you could say we're even now. I don't owe him a damn thing."

This was becoming too bizarre for the LA visitor. This was not making any sense. This was pure Twilight Zone territory. And from her limited experience there was only one solid explanation when impossible and improbable things happened - Magic. "All right Slayer, we are talking major Whammy here! What have you guy's faced lately?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You know - Witches, Wizards, Voodoo, Voldermort?!? What has happened to you people? You used to give a damn about him. Now I find Giles is ho-hum, and you don't give a hostile Rat's."

At the accusations Buffy's voice became strained but not loud, it was an unwilling concession to maintain her elusion of composure. "Maybe we just got tired Cordy, ever think about that? You come down here for your once a month visit. You sit with him for like seven hours and then go back to Los Angeles. But we deal with him seven day's a week. We stare into his closed eyes and we deal with his loss daily. You try doing that for 16-months and not lose hope? There are only so many hours we can spend watching over someone who does nothing but 'sleep', and those are hours that can be spent else where."

"I didn't think it was a chore, Buffy. I thought you loved him, I thought you all loved him. If you love someone this kinda thing isn't supposed to be a burden."

With this said Buffy sat upright and stiffened her back and looked directly into the face of the Seer. "Well then, based on what you just said I guess I don't love him then."

Cordelia looked deep into the blonde's green/blue eyes and then shook her head in disbelief. "That's a load, and you know it. You're lying. I know, Buffy. Angel knows. Everybody knows the truth, Slayer. When Xander was discovered, we all dealt with it as best we could. But not one of us didn't notice how much more badly you took it then the rest of us. We all handled the news of what happened to him differently. But the way you handled it told everyone, even if you didn't voice it, how much you cared for him. You love him as much as I or Willow, maybe --- maybe even more so. So don't try and pull this crap on me, cause I'm not buying. You love him. Just admit it Buffy." To her own surprise she noticed her voice soften as she continued. "It doesn't make you weak to admit that you care for the Goof, Buffy. It make's you human."

Cooly Buffy turned and answered the gentle claims made. "No, I don't love him. I like him - sure, but I don't love him. And even if I did it's in a brother-sister type way like Willow."

Cordelia removed herself from the swing seat and stood up facing the frail looking blonde in front of her. Easily towering over the figure. "If I remember right, Willow had a urging for Xand that went unrequited for over ten years. I know how 'sisterly' Willow's affections were for Xander. Messy break-up remember. So if your going to be making comparisons like that I think I've hit the mark with what I've said."

With this statement the Chosen One before her seemed to give in as she buried her head into the palms of her hands. "Look, I'm tired of feeling guilty. I'm tired of crying myself to sleep at nights. I'm tired of how I suffer when I think of him in that Hospital surrounded by all that equipment. But most of all I'm tired of giving up so much of my one chance at personal happiness because I'm focusing on him then of myself. I deserve a life too, you know. I have a Boyfriend. But I haven't allowed myself to feel anything 'special' for him cause all my attentions have been on Xander. For the sake of whatever little happiness I might have, I have to move on from him." Buffy then stared down at her lap as she continued. "He did this to himself. As much as I'm sure you'd like to hold me in contempt and to blame, and I know that you do from what Giles told me earlier, but he did this to himself Cor - not me.

"He phoned us, didn't give us any info we could checkup on, got involved with a bunch of idiot's and ended up in a Coma. And I'm sick of it! Yeah, I used to care for him. I cared for him - Happy. But I don't anymore. I can't. There is nothing to care about now but a shell. If he awakens he's never going to be the same Xander. And I wouldn't be able to deal with that, so it's easier to just stop lov** err, caring for him!"

"25% Buffy. There is a 25% chance he'll be okay."

"And a 75% he won't. Look, I do care enough to hope he pulls through. I do, I really do. But I'm not wasting anymore of my time and life on him when I have a Mother who need's me more at the moment."

Cordelia studied Buffy for a moment. She wanted to pursue this, but it was evident that the Slayer was going to be immovable. So she decided to drop the subject and ask another question. "So, how's she doing?"

Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath, grateful that the Xander issue had been dropped, even if it was momentarily. "Not good. She's all over the place at the moment. Talking aloud to things that aren't there. Remembering things that never happened. Forgetful."

"I'm truly sorry Buffy. I liked her."

"Hey! She's not dead. Willow is looking into some spells; there might be something out there that can help her. The Doc's say she's in remission, but she's been 'strange' ever since we got her home. Talking about Cockroach-men from Mar's, Xander being dressed like a mortician, and a black-guy."


The Slayer looked down at her wristwatch and shook her head annoyingly. "Yeah. Look, I know it's an imposition. Especially after what I just said about Xander, but Dawn said she'd be home by now. And I have to get to the Pharmacist before they close to get some more medication. Would you---?"

Cordelia nodded. She may have been at odds with her eldest daughter, but Joyce was an innocent in this dispute. "Just point me in the right direction."

"Upstairs in her room. Dawn shouldn't be that much longer. Faith took her to get some new stylin' T's. Mom would really like to see you, she likes it when you visit."

"It's not an imposition Buffy, I like visiting her. Having it out with you wasn't the only reason for me stopping by you know?"

"Yeah, I know." The two parted at the foot of the stairs in the foyer. Buffy went to retrieve her purse, car keys and her mother's medication script as Cordelia ascended to the second floor. It may have been the Detective trade she was now working in with Angel, Wesley and Gunn. But as she entered the House she began to notice little things here and there. The front door frame looked like it had been recently replaced, there were dimpled impressions upon the wall besides the stairs that looked like they had been plastered and painted over in a slightly off colour of paint to the one that originally used on the wall and hadn't dried evenly.

She supposed these kinds of repairs weren't that surprising given that this was the home of the Slayer. There must have been more then the odd confrontation to explain these little observations so she just filed it away in the not worth dwelling on cabinet.

Lightly the LA Seer knocked on another appearingly new door that led to the main bedroom. "Mrs S?"

The face of the senior Summers woman beamed as the door opened to reveal the visitor. "Cordelia? Is that you? Don't you look pretty, what's the occasion?"

"Just been to visit Xander, wanted to look my best. Young, single Doctors about y'know. Must always look your best."

"Oh, there is a sweetheart of a one at the Memorial. Young, attractive very, VERY single. Helped look after me when I was in that cursed place. First name Ben, I can't quite remember his Surname though. But he was very nice to me."

"Next time I visit Xander, I'll check him out."

"Xander? Oh, Cordelia. Xander! You missed him, he was here. He would have loved seeing you. It would have been like a reunion."

Brunette smiled forcibly at the comments, remembering what Buffy had said down stairs about Joyce's memory. It was obvious from the expression that was now growing on the face of the Slayer's Mother that she knew that look being passed on to her and didn't like it at all.

"That's right Dear, smile politely at the rambling's of the Crazy-Old Lady. I've been seeing that face for the last two to three day's. Xander was here I tell you! He was here, and he had this nice charming young man with him. But will anyone believe me - No! Nobody believes me because I'm Tumour-Woman."

Cordelia couldn't help but chuckle. "Tumour-Woman? Is that what you're calling yourself?"

"I'm not crazy Cordelia. He was here. Looked like he was had three week's of Hangover's too deal with and could have used a good shave, and a haircut. And the less said about the condition of that terribly crinkled black suit of his the better. But he was here. But no-one believes me."

"Mrs S, I just came from Xander. He's in Hospital. Remember? Xander has been in a Coma for nearly a year and a half."

"No Dear, he's not. That's a --- what did he call it? A---a Replicant. A type of clone. The real Xander is a Alien Law Enforcer now."

The young Ms Chase wanted to explode in laughter. But after seeing Joyce Summers frustrated reaction when she smiled at her a second earlier she decided to take another tactical approach to curb the nonsense and introduce logic to the discussion. "Xander --- Xand wouldn't be doing that Mrs S."

"But he is! He had the whole Vampire-Beating-Coma-thing staged; replacing himself with this clone so he could pursue his new Career in New York City."

"Mrs Summers, no. Xander would never do that. That didn't happen. He's in the Hospital."

Joyce exhaled annoyingly. "You're as bad as Buffy and Dawn. And he did do that, that's what started the argument."

"What argument? No, wait, what am I saying, this is ridiculous. Why would Xander do that? Tell me why? He wouldn't do that to us! He's in a coma, Joyce."

"He said he did it because he was tired of being thought of as the groups Jimmy Olsen. He said he wanted to be more then just a Zeppo. He wanted to contribute to something, too make his own name and Destiny."

People who say silence is quiet probably have never truly experienced it. Silence can be deafening at times. Upon the words just spoken Cordelia was deafened as blood rushed to her head and her heart began to beat three times more then it was supposed too. After several seconds of deafening nothing she stuttered out a question. "Wh---what did you say?"

"He wanted to contribute to something*"

"*No before that. That other thing?!?" Cordelia remembered Buffy passing on Xander's last message to her using that word, that terrible and hurtful name she had dubbed him with. But when pressed for an explanation to what it meant, the beauty was too embarrassed at her cruelty to offer her one. So the title of 'Zeppo' was an unknown to the group and always had remained a secret between her and her Doofus. But Joyce had used the context correctly, and had even added the Jimmy Olsen comment aside.

"Zeppo? He might have said Zeppo, or he might have said Zeffo, or Zippo. I'm not good with the slang you kid's use today."

"NO --- no, it was Zeppo. He would have said Zeppo."

"You believe me? You believe me, don't you Cordelia!"

"Yes, Mrs Summer's I believe you, now tell me everything. Everything that happened with Xander, and don't spare the details." Cordelia Chase pulled over a chair and sat besides the bed. Her ear's hungry for words to be issued from the middle-aged Summer's woman.

Joyce sat up and repositioned herself in her bed. Making herself as comfortable as she could, delighted that on this occasion, unlike the others that recently fell before it, that she now had an avid listener. "Where would you like me to start, cause I only know a small portion of after Xander was poisoned."


"He's alright, Dear. Atleast he was when last I saw of him, that nice dark gentleman saved him. The other parts of the tale are really from accounts Faith and William passed on during Xander's revival."

"I don't care, just tell me everything."

With a warm smile at her attentive audience, Joyce Summer's began to tell the story of a night no more then three day's past. Putting into play pieces of the various parts of the tale like sections of a jigsaw for her welcomed visitor.


3-Night's Earlier

Faith pushed the back door open with a force as too nearly draw it off its hinges. In the dim light ahead she could just make out the golden bopping ponytail of her Slaying-Sister as Buffy sped her way through the Lounge Room. Dashing, much like herself, towards the cry's origin of Joyce Summers.

The blonde was just turning into the foyer of the Summers home as Faith exited the semi-darkened and noise polluted 'Rumba' playing kitchen. As the Raven haired 'Chosen-One' entered the Lounge Room she turned her head briefly to see how far behind Xander was from her.

In another surprise in a collection of many this evening she was startled to see that 'X' was nearly directly beside her. If she wasn't trying to catch up with the senior Slayer she would have paused for a moment in impressed shock. She was running full-bore, and Slayer speed was nothing to be taken lightly. If she and Buffy had wanted too they could have easily have broken any established track record. The fact that Xander was matching her pace was an accomplishment she could not express at that moment, but one she silently absorbed into herself.


At the sound of the scream Xander and Faith reacted as one. Easily dismissing the moment they were sharing and now solely focused upon the same objective. Joyce.

The two ran across the back lawn like expelled shots from a gun. The MIB Field Agent doing his best to keep up with the Slayer in front of him as she pushed the rear door open. Xander was quick to acknowledge that Faith was his physical superior so he allowed her to draw ahead alittle. Thereby placing the prime responsibility of moving aside any hindrances that presented themselves upon her. Every light obstacle she displaced on their frantic journey delayed her that fraction more.

This was his and Jay's 'Collar', and he wasn't going to let anything come in his way to claiming it. If Faith or Buffy got to the Queller before he or his partner Jay did then the Demon-Alien was as good as dead. And he couldn't let that happen, he wasn't ALLOWED to let that happen.

As the male followed the 'Chosen One' through the Kitchen his face betrayed the wax façade of calm. It was the falsest of impressions however. Without the benefit of a warm-up before the emergency action his muscles succumbed to a pained motion as he tried to keep up with the female. He could feel the tendons in his legs explode in a biting soreness as he met the strides of the beauty just half a second in front of him.

As his legs pumped in piston action he refused his features to explore any other image aside from total passivity. It took all his reserves of energy to match her quicken gait, and all his will not to display its effect. Every time his foot fell to the surface he wanted to hiss out in agony, but he couldn't allow himself that distraction. He had to make it to the Queller before the Slayers and to save Joyce.

The 'Old' Sunnydale-Xander would at this moment be making some quip, stressing to the Vixen running beside him that he needed to lay down somewhere before he collapsed. Yeah, that's what the 'Old' Xander would have done. Thankfully he wasn't *that* Xander anymore.

He accepted the pain that was shooting up his legs and let if fuel him forward, remembering one of the first lessons Jay and Zed imparted to him. 'An MIB Agent could never show any sign of distress, to do so showed a weakness to their opponent'. And MIB's were not weak - *HIM* especially. The myth surrounding 'X' could not allow him to demonstrate such baser frailties. Of the toughest guys in the room, he had to be thought of as tougher.

As the two entered the Lounge, hot on the accelerated heels of Buffy. Xander noticed at the corner of his eye Faith look back at him. She then turned her head back and he could see a definite sneer-like smile begin to form. On anybody else such a thing would be considered a challenge, on her though it was pure S-E-X.

Man, did he need help. He had no time for this. Personal distractions were not a priority at the moment. Finding and capturing the Queller alive was. It had been only seven seconds since they both jumped into action, and already he was allowing himself to be sidetracked by her. If he was getting diverted this easily by Faith, what would happen when he finally came face to face with Buffy?

He had to get out of Sunnydale as soon as possible.

This Town and residence was not good for him.

He was on Assignment, he had to squash his personal longings and be focused to the mission. The Mission being the safe apprehension of the Target Alien. This was to be considered a 'First-Contact' situation. As such this Alien or --- 'Demon' was an Ambassador of sorts. Proper diplomatic protocols had to be followed until they had identified its intention. It may have killed, but who was to say it was fully informed of what it was doing. In Queller-Boy's eyes it might have been innocent and unaware of the harm it was inflicting.

In the brief half-second this thought entered his head Xander mentally laughed at how far he had come over the year and a half he had been away from the old gang. Giles said it was a Demon, which meant it was evil through the core. There was a time in the early years when this would have been enough for him to insist on it being Slayed. Fortunately time *does* change things and people, and as much as a part of him was inclined to have it neutralized permanently, trusting Giles assessment of its threat. Rules were rules. He wasn't allowed to let this happen to the 'Ambassador' unless it posed a direct and imminent threat to himself or another.

MIBer's only took life (alien and otherwise) if there was no choice. He could not return back to HQ with a probable ET corpse. He had to try and take this thing alive first, and dead second and last.

Faith turned the corner into the front foyer. As she did so the familiar voice of his partner could be heard from the top floor. Xander followed Faith and was about to tackle the first step when he noticed the front door. It had been kicked in. Obviously by Jay several seconds earlier when the scream had been heard.

Xander knew how fast Jay could react to things. The Man was quicker then greased lightening when the need arose and the circumstances called for it. The Senior MIB Agent also had the benefit of being closer to the stairs then Buffy was from the Kitchen. So he undoubtedly would have made it up to the top floor before the Slayer had even gotten halfway through the Lounge Room. With the loud music in the kitchen playing and her adrenaline pumping she probably wouldn't have heard the front door being forced open.

As this deduction infested his thoughts another found a home in them. A flash of realization crossed his mind. If he saw the kicked in door then he had to presume Buffy saw it as well. This would mean that two plus two would equal five thousand seven hundred and sixty four by Buffy's count.

He feared that his partner was about to be an unfortunate victim of circumstance. As his second step fell under his black soled shoe Jay's voice travelled down the stairs. His words were heard being stressed out as the brunette Slayer and the Field Agent spanned the distance as quickly as possible. Man, did he hate being right about certain things.

"Look. I know what you're thinkin'. Middle of the night. Black Dude, White Woman and Daughter screamin' away. It don't look too good for me."

Generally Jay could talk his way out of any situation. The man was born with the gift-of-the-gab. But Xander also knew from experience that an enraged and upset Buffy was not someone who could be easily reasoned with.


By the blonde Slayer's warning, Xander and Faith had reached the top of the stairs.


As Faith ascended the carpeted steps she heard Xander's partner try and explain his presence to the 'Buffinator'. In her mind, it was a wasted exercise on his part. And she wasn't at all surprised when she heard Buffy warn him away from her mother and Dawn. Unaware that he was probably trying to protect them instead of offer them harm.

As she reached the doorway leading into the Master bedroom she saw Buffy making an aggressive approach to the indigo Agent. A small piece of her found this darkly satisfying and wanted to join in with her 'Sis'. It was the same small piece of her that wanted to knock him into next week when he called her a psychopath out on the street infront of the others, and 'Lector's Love Child' on Xander's communicator.

But she had changed.

She had tried hard to change.

And the fact that she was about to stop Buffy from beating the crud out of him was to her ample proof of this.

As she motioned towards the room she then heard Xander's stressed and hushed voice behind her. Instructing her to deal with the situation forming in Joyce's Bedroom. She then felt a hand on her back, Xander's hand, shove her into the Boudoir of the Slayer's mother and heard the sound of the door slamming behind her.


"Deal with this. I'll look for Marvin." The junior Field Agent then pushed Faith through the door.

As she staggered forward nearly colliding with the Queen-size bed he grabbed the room's door handle and slammed the door shut. The Agent then grabbed out a packet of vacuumed sealed Trestellic Gel from the inner pocked of his suit. Tore it open and hastily smeared it in the gap between the frame and the door around the lock.

As the Gel met with oxygen it began to harden. Less then two seconds later it was tougher then steel, it would hold this 'extreme' consistency for close to five-minutes before it degraded into a fine powder. This practiced application took the briefest of moments to achieve, and it wasn't a second too soon as the frantic jiggling of the handle and the pounding of the door could be heard from Faith on its other side.

Xander drew out his charged weapon from its holster. Acknowledging the fearful truth that he didn't know what this thing looked like, or what it could really do. Was it bigger then King Kong, or was it the size of an Ant? He had no idea. So he went with the safe assumption, given the size of the hollowed out meteor he had seen an hour earlier, that it may have been the size of a small child.

His eyes scanned the carpeted floor as the thumping of Joyce's door was heard in the background.

{No good. Nothing.} Xander then closed his eyes and cursed himself as a repellent odour consumed his olfactory sense. If you can't see anything Low, then you must always look High - Dammit! It's like I'm a novice again, I get to get away from this damn Town. The Agent then altered his gaze upwards. What he saw in the shadow of the ceiling was a cockroach-like figure the size of a two-year old human.

And what was worse - It knew it he had seen it as well.

The Queller reacted with a speed Xander was not prepared for. Diving for his throat the Alien pushed the Agent backwards using its falling momentum. Xander caught the creature and they struggled briefly. The alien's talons digging deep into his throat.

To force their release from his jugular the MIB Agent relinquished the hold on his weapon so that he could grapple with the creature more easily with both of his hands. In a momentary opportunity the ET then released its claim on his throat and escaped Xander's grasp. Fleeing down the stairs to the ground floor of the house, using its claws to dig into the side wall, offering it balance and coordination in it's hasten retreat.

Picking up his dropped Mist-Gun and checking that the canister hadn't been ruptured, or the charge expelled the MIBer limped down the stairs in pursuit. As he got midway he staggered, his equilibrium now becoming a grave concern. He could feel his body temperature increase and saliva pool in his mouth. His heart began beating at erratic and charged levels as he continued forward after the Demon-Alien.

There was only one explanation to these physical symptoms - he had just been poisoned.

When he got to the base of the stairs he quickly felt around his neck at the gash marks caused by the Queller's claws. {Thanks oh so much Giles for not pointing out that Quellers are Venomous.} He then began cursing at the Meteor-Man in several alien languages he had picked up over the years.

When Xander got to the darken Lounge he followed the sound of movement and a wafting offensive smell into the Kitchen. As he entered the room he blurrily-saw a figure moving towards the still opened back door. Without hesitation he stabbed at the light switch, bathing the semi-darkened room in brightness.

"Bleedin' Hell. Give a Guy a coronary why don't ya."

"SPIKE!?!" The left side of young Agent's body was beginning to go numb and he could feel a paralysis take over as he eyed the Vampire he remembered from years ago. His vision then began to progressively mist, but in the corner above the opened door he saw his target. With his right hand he cradled his left, offering strength and steadiness to the one that held his weapon. Easily ignoring the Vampire in his presence and the words he was saying to him. The MIB Field Agent became lost in the 'Golden-Zone'. The place athletes spoke of when they could see the Finish Line directly ahead, and everything else melted away. Lost to him were the injuries, and the distractions. There were only two things that existed for him now. Him and his Goal.

Spike looked over the crinkly dark suit and the strange man wearing it. How did he know his name? The Vampire hated not having all the answers, or the upper hand. But there was something about the guy's profile, something that stirred a memory. "Hey, wait. I know you - you're that Wanker I kidnapped. I remember you*"

"*DOWN!" To the Agent's surprise the Vampire complied with the Order as the Queller made another catapulting leap from the ceiling towards him. Only this time Xander was ready for it. As the creature fell through mid-air a sound of a *psst* was heard coming forth from the handgun, enrapturing the mobile figure in a fine pale mist-like spray.

As the Queller fell through the fog it became stiff and rigid. When it had completely passed all the way through the whitish cloud it met the floor with the grace of a three foot stone statuette.

"What the Hell is goin' on? What's with all the noise and music? An' what the 'ell is this thing?"

The MIB Agent ignored the questions and tapped the outer frozen shell of the Bug-like Alien with caution. Carefully maintaining his weapon on it. When 'X' was convinced that the mist had taken full effect, and that the Queller was in a true and rapid state of suspended animation, he then shifted the gun's aim towards the bleached haired Vampire and queried. "What are you doing here Spike?"

After seeing the effect of the handgun, the Vampire put up both his hands in a surrender-like pose. "Ain't that supposed to be my question Sport? The girl's and the Slayer's say your supposed to be sleepin' somewhere - So what are *you* doin' here?"

Xander stepped two paces closer to the Vampire, making the weapon more level as he did so. Evening it off so that it was pointing it directly at the Vampires head. It took Spike less then a second to realize that if any questions were to be indeed asked at the moment it would be done by 'The Wanker'. "I was bleedin' invited of course. I'm a Vampire, can't come in unless I had been given the okay now can I?"

Xander had to admit that despite the fact that he hated the idea, he knew from experience that Vampires could not enter a premise without invitation. And the fact that Spike was freely walking around downstairs told him that he had a certain familiarity with the Summer's Homestead. Slowly, but with a suspicious eye. Xander lowered his weapon as a fresh weakness overcame his arms. He then slumped against the wall and slid down to the floor, sweat beginning bead off his brow.

The Vampire looked down at the Agent, uncertain on how he should react to the sight. The non-caring Demon within him gave out over his burning curiosity. "Right then, if I'm not needed I'll be goin' now." Spike then made an effort to leave, but Xander endeavoured and achieved in reaching out with his last bit of physical strength and grabbed the hem of the Night-Dweller's leather coat. As he did so several contents that the bleached Vampire was trying to conceal fell out. A scarf, a blouse, and some old photographs of Buffy. Three of which had been taken when she was at least fifteen and at a Beach in a bathing suit. The MIB Field Agent's grip did not lessen as he looked on the treasure the Vampire was trying to steal away with. Under normal circumstances he would have been enraged - he was *enraged*, but he could also feel himself dying. So at that moment he didn't care for the trivialities.

The Universal Antidote all MIBer's were injected with each month was the only thing keeping him from going into paralysis. He quickly suspected that the disabling venom used by the Demon-Alien was too ensure that the victim could not fight back. The U.A. [Universal Antidote] had kept him mobile and conscious but even it was beginning to succumb to the Poison's Onslaught. He needed a 'Counter'; otherwise he would end up in a Coma for real or maybe dead. Only Jay could save him now. His Partner had to take a sample of the Queller's venom, rush out to the Ford, do an instant analysis and come back with an inoculation before his biological system was overridden by the Demon/Alien venom beyond any retrieval.

Valuable seconds were ticking away.

The mouth that held so much saliva seconds earlier became dry and parched as he whispered out a plea to a thing he would rather stake then ask for help. But like the photos on the Kitchen floor, necessity took precedent over triviality. "Help me--- Upstairs --- J --- poisoned."

Spike for a second looked lost, glancing back and forth between the Agent on the ground and the rear door just meters away. "Ahh Sod it. I'm going to regret this, I just know it."


Faith banged on the door for what was in her thoughts going to be the last time; she wasn't prepared to wait any longer. It had been 5-seconds since she had been pushed through into the room and she could just hear on the other side the sound of a struggle. A high pitched squeal, she presumed was coming from the Queller, and the sound of raggered gasps that could only have come from Xander. These noises littered her imagination on what was going on in the Hallway. And her imagination was presenting a dark and disturbing picture.

Yes, she was angry, but this anger was easily over shadowed with genuine concern. Xander was out there alone with a hostile, and she was stuck here playing babysitter. She was the Figher, Xander was the Jester. She should be out there. She should be with Xander, trying to protect him from that thing. Why couldn't he have just abided by the status quo of things?

From the carpeted floor that Jay had been knocked down too by the blonder of the two Slayers' the Agent sat upright, and crossed his legs in a relaxing fashion as he rubbed the side of his jaw. When he finally spoke it was not to address his assailant, who was then still standing over him with burning eyes of fury but to the young woman who had just stilled her frantic banging on the bedroom door five meters away. "Yo, Manson. Quit it. X'll be fine. Trust me; the man does some of his best work when he goes solo. He doesn't have to worry about civilians getting in his way."

Faith stalled her thoughts of forcing the door open and turned to face the floored African-American. "Don't you care? He's out there alone with a murderer."

Levelling his eyes upon the younger of the two Slayers' and still rubbing his jaw the Agent met the female's angry statement. "So? I'm in here alone with a Murderer too, but you don't see me buggin'. X can handle it. And if you ever imply I don't care what happens to my Partner you better start runnin' girl. And run far and fast too."

The MIB Agent then started removing himself from the ground and began to brush off imaginary dirt and dust from his black slacks without a care to the defensive pose that was now assumed by the elder of the Summer's brood. "You guy's got gall, you know that? When I met X he was like nothing. No backbone. Oh, he was committed and I'm not going to question his courage. He had more then enough for three Agents'. He just didn't believe in himself enough too make any judgement calls worth a damn. You guy's really screwed him over in the self-confidence area.

"But I guess that happens when people who he counted upon as friends always second-guessed him, and someone he liked tries to off' him. Man, with that all under his belt no wonder his confidence was all screwy. You broke him, and I fixed him. He ain't no pushover anymore Lector. The man can take care of himself, and he can take 'care' of you as well."

"WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM? I fucked up, I killed - yeah. I can't stop the wrong that I did, but I'm tryin to make right now. So get off my case!"

Jay casually shoved the Slayer who had knocked him down to the side. Easily ignoring her surprised features as he continued to engage in conversation with Faith. "I got a *problem* with all killers. Kinda of a residual thing from my last job. I used to put psychos like you away for a looonnnngggg time. But that ain't why I'm ridin you. You tried to kill my Partner. I don't like it when people, things, or 'Marvins' try to kill my Partner. They automatically get on my bad side. X never told tell me he slept with you though; he just told me he liked you, tried to help you out and you tried to kill him for that."

Faith looked awkwardly at the angry and proud man standing before her. Her only reply was an echo from the one she offered outside to Xander barely a minute earlier. "I'm not that person any more, I've changed."

"What? You found God or something? X is a decent guy. He's a stand-up, go to the Wall, first over the Hill, kinda Guy. And you tried to choke the life outta him. And you ain't gonna get a second chance with that on my Watch. So your gonna do what he wanted you to do and stay put here with me - where I can keep an eye on ya."

"GOD! I hate that I hurt him. I hate that I used him. I hate that I tried to kill him. But he's fighting for his life right now. I don't know how tough you think he is, but this thing has killed a dozen people tonight. And I don't want it to be a dozen and one!"

"Oh, so now I have to trust you, is that it? I just let you go off and do your Slaying thing? Hoping that X doesn't meet an unfortunate 'accident' while you're trying to help him out."

"I would never hurt him again."

"Damn straight. That's because I'm not giving you the chance. I got his back, just like he's got mine. You want to try and take him again you have to come through me, then your gonna have to come through Zed, then every other Agent around. We're MIB girl. *X* is MIB. Nothin more needs to be said about that, cause that says it all. We take care of Ours!"

Under the watchful and still confused eyes of Buffy Anne Summers the dark MIB Agent then sat on the corner of the bed beside Dawn. Whom her mother was still embracing. The proximity of the dark suited stranger to her family inspired a fresh anger for the unknown man that took president over her growing curiosity. As she was again about to force the late-twenty year-old black suited man off the bed and too the floor he moved his right hand with a stunning speed.

In a fluid blur Jay removed a miniature gun from his side pocket and held it awkwardly facing her. It was a laughable size and looked like it had been a prize in a Kracker-Jack Box. "Back off 'Skin-n-bone'. One shot is all you get with me. Try anything new and I'll introduce you to the 'Kricket', and then we'll see which of you two have the bigger Ka-POW."


3-Day's later in Joyce Summer's Bedroom.

"Wait, wait. 'Skin-n-bone'? He called Buffy Skin-n-bone?"

Taking another sip of her Earl-Gray Tea, Joyce Summers looked sternly at the LA beauty. "Don't laugh Cordelia. It's not funny. I'm very concerned about Buffy's weight at the moment; it's not healthy. The fact that she is being made sport of it by others is not a laughing matter."

"No---no, you're absolutely right, not funny at all." But despite the statement the corners of Mr and Mrs Chase's little princess raised a fraction. "What happened next?"


3-Day's Earlier (Again).

Not taking his eyes off the now stilled blonde Slayer in front of him, he addressed the brunette once more; his voice growing softer with each word. It had now lost the edge it had used when he spoke to her seconds earlier. It now relayed an emotion that was shared, and the words that came forth were spoken more to subside his own concern as much as try and relieve her of the same distress. "X can handle it Hannibal. The guy has stared down and taken on some of the badest Assassin's and trouble-makers in this Quadrant. That White-boy got serious 'Game'; sure he can't play in my League yet. But he got definite skill, so why don't you give him the benefit and quit thinking like he's made outta glass. Cause trust me, he's not."

This was too much for the elder Summer's daughter. How did Faith know this guy? And who was this 'X' and why was he out there alone facing a murderer? The clues and innuendoes only spoke of one person to her. But that was impossible. He was in the Memorial --- wasn't he? Yes, yes he was. Dawn had visited him no more then three hours earlier. So who were they talking about? It was part of this last question she voiced to the pair. "Okay, who's out there?"

Faith turned from the Agent to face Buffy. She so wanted to answer her question. She wanted desperately to be the one to tell her. But she knew she wouldn't have believed her words. She wouldn't have believed anybody until she was seeing him with her own set of eyes. Faith's line of sight then fell through her 'sister' and then upon Dawn, and then Joyce. His name was burning itself on her tongue. She just wanted to spit it out and share in their relief like a family would for one of their own. But she couldn't, to say his name would have only inspired a panic. But she couldn't lie to them either. After three pregnant seconds she began to speak and answer the question. "It's ---It's ---*."

The dark Agent on the bed lowered his weapon. A display of trust that he was hoping he wouldn't have to use it on the Questioner. Jay didn't know why he was going to come to the stuttering Slayer's rescue, but he did. "*His name is X, and he's my Partner. And as soon as he bag's this thing we'll be leaving you girls. So why don't we all just sit back and get frosty together until this thing is nabbed and bagged, Kay?"

Faith didn't know what she found more upsetting. The fact that she just then realised that throughout the course of her association with this 'Jay' guy she had never once heard him call Xander by anything else other then by a letter of the alphabet. Xander wasn't a letter. He had a name, he had a history. A history that this 'Jay' person didn't give a damn about or seemed to appreciate.

The other upsetting news was of the confidence the elder of the two Agents had held in his voice when he stated that he and Xander would be leaving as soon as the Queller was dealt with. It wasn't fair, and she wasn't about to let him not know that either. "He can't just leave. That's not right, that not fair! You can go, but he's staying - at least for a while. This is his Home. Xander isn't going anywhere."

As soon as his name left her lips the room held suspended in time, and the younger Slayer desperately wanted to have been able to take it back. Only the facial expressions of the other three women changed to the news. Joyce's brow arched and her eyes widened. Dawn mouth opened a slit, her face full of more attention to what was now going on then it was a second earlier, if that were anymore possible. And Buffy's? Buffy's face became expressionless, almost nauseous looking.

Jay got off the bed and stood fast against the brunette, easily towering over the female that possibly possessed six-times his physical strength and spoke without fear of her reprisals. "Understand this Hannibal. X has no home, except with us. And he is shipping out when we're done. If you don't know this, then you don't know X."

"Stop calling him that. His name is Xander. Use it!"

"I do use it, but I use it only when I have too. You don't get it do you? You'll never get it, and you'll never get him because of it. Him, like me, gave up everything to do what we do. And what X an I do is save your miserable lives on a weekly basis. We're no-bodies, we're no-where men; we're the mystery guy's everyone talks about who saves the day but no one can find after the smoke clears.

"We use letter's cause to use name's links us to a past we have to chose to leave behind. We have no Families, no Town, and no Home. We only have ourselves. X knew this when he signed on. I know he knew this, cause I was the one who told him. And still he reported the next day, right on time.

"X made a choice, just like we all did. In a perfect world maybe there could be a balance between a private and professional life. But look around you Manson. It ain't a perfect World out there. We have 'out-of-towner's' dropping out of the sky nearly everyday. Most good, a few 'iffy', and one or two damn right undesired. X an' me are trained to deal with the undesired."

This discussion became more personal as both warriors; one tech orientated, the other in possession of essence of an immortal fighting spirit. Both standing off with each other under the eyes of the other occupants of the room. "He's staying!"

"You can say that till the Cow's come home, but it ain't gonna happen. Besides, do you really think you could keep him here if he didn't want to stay? The guy is more then just another Black Suited cog in the Machine. 'X' is a Legend. He's our legend; an' he knew the shit he would have to pull to *be* that Legend. 'X' can't retire like other Agent's even if he wanted too, and he knew that when we started all this. 'X' will only leave us when he's zipped-up.

"He ain't stayin'. He can't stay. And even if he had a choice he wouldn't. Cause the Home he's got now, the *friendships* he has now, leaves all yours in the dust. I don't know too much on any of y'all, but what I do know is that he's better off with us then he ever was with you. Like I said - X is MIB, an' we look after ours."


3-Day's later, Joyce's Bedroom (Again)

"Wow. He said that?"

"Uh huh. Every word. Xander and he were close. Very close, almost brotherly close. I don't think Faith was prepared to appreciate that relationship though. I almost got the impression that Faith wanted Xander to stay because---" Joyce Summer's took another sip of her tea as she halted her statement.

"What? What did Faith want?"

"Cordelia, do you think that Faith may 'like' Xander?"

The LAer caste her mind back to the 'potential' comment Giles had made, and became defensive at the thought of the one-time lover and attempted murderer of everybodies-Xander-shaped-friend having anything more then friendly thoughts to the Scooby. "Why do you say that?"

"She just seemed so invested in getting Xander to stay. And there are of coarse the little things Dawn had said to me over the months about what she had said to her about him. After seeing this, and then there was that whole thing downstairs between the two of them, I got the impression that she may care for him in more then just the friendly variety way."

"Mrs S, I love you. But if you don't keep on with what happened and get to the end of this I'm going to kill you."

Another smile graced the lips of the 55-year old as she took another sip of her tea before she spoke anew.


3-Day's Earlier.

"Wait! Are you saying Xander is up and walking around out there?"

Faith turned her attention from the darken Agent and answered the question of the teenager. "That's right Baby-B. It caught us all by surprise when he rocked up at the Library, but it's him. I'd stake my life on it. I don't know what that thing in his Hospital bed really is, but he said it was a type of a clone."


Angrily the brunette stared mental dagger's at the Field Agent that had contributed to the discussion. "Yeah, that's right. Xand called it a Replicant. It was used to throw us off the scent and not go in search for him when he didn't roll back here to Sunnydale when he was supposed to have finished his American Discovery thing."

"And he's now outside fighting that Bug-Monster that was in here earlier?" These were the first words Joyce had said since the mayhem in the room had begun. To them a satisfied smirk formed on the Agent towards the growing grim face of the Senior Slayer who noticed its intended meaning. The meaning that she had jumped the gun, and should have listened before she acted.

Buffy looked at the Field Agent with the same kind of heat that was being generated towards him by Faith and took paces forward, as she passed infront of him she paused for a moment and offered a sideways look. The looks held for several seconds, she then took another two steps forward and kick the gelled-sealed door outwards with one blow. All without saying a word.

This behaviour was what Willow and Dawn had once termed 'Mission-Mode-Buffy'. In summery, it meant not even God himself would not or could not stand in Buffy's way and her objective when she went 'MM'.

The door splinted outwards and Buffy walked over the remnants with Faith, Dawn, the mysterious Jay, and a still disorientated Joyce following. Buffy may not had said a word following her discovery, but everyone knew where she was going. She was going to see if this was truly Xander.

She was going to face him and ask him the questions all the Scooby's had for him. The only difference between her and him was that she was not going to stop until she got the answers she seeked. And judging from the betrayed expression on her face, if she had to beat the answers out of the Junior Agent then she would - happily.

As they were all about to descend the stairs together, with Jay keeping close eye on them all. Especially 'Skin n Bone' and 'Manson'; Spike rounded the corner of the Lounge Room at the bottom. "Just what the Doctor Ordered, youse just save me a trip. Your Boy - Wimpy, he's in the Kitchen an' in a bad way. Say's he's been poisoned an' that he's dyin'. Asking for a thing called a J."

The tallest of the five did not hesitate, instead of pushing his way past the two Slayers, the Teenager and the Vampire; he braced his right hand on the stair banister and leaped over the side landing onto the foyer floor below. As soon as his feet hit the carpeted ground he made a desperate sprint to the kitchen and his ailing and dying Partner.


3-Days Later.

"So, what happened next?"

Joyce Summer's slowly placed her tea on the side-table of her bed and looked into the hazel questioning eyes of her single audience. Speaking out softly across the chasm of the metre that separated the two she said. "Let me put it this way Dear, ever heard of the expression of 'Going from bad too worse'?"