Author: Greywizard1235 <grey.wizard[at]>

Rating: PG for the present.

Disclaimer: All of the really good characters belong to Mutant Enemy and Crack-Head Joss Whedon, although he doesn't deserve any of them, considering the way he's destroyed them over the past couple years. I'm just borrowing them for a while. There is no intent to profit from this. Only the story is mine.

Category: At this point in time, I'm not really sure, although I am usually a very serious BX-shipper.

Summary: This is a response to the challenge to crossover Underworld with BtVS. Know up front, though, this story is most definitely NOT going to be the movie re-told, with Xander replacing Michael as the main character.

Time frame: Alternate Buffy-verse, branching off immediately after Grave.

Character Bashing: I don't think my treatment of Spike should be considered as bashing, but some people may disagree. Be warned, this is not going to be a story in which Spike is portrayed kindly in any manner. Based on his behavior in both the bathroom scene with Buffy and the final scenes of Grave, I do NOT think he was asking for a soul so that he could go back to Buffy, feeling all Dr. Phil touchy-feely, and apologize for his callous, ongoing manipulation and continuing sexual abuse of a mentally disturbed woman who had been in extreme need of serious psychiatric help the entire season. If you want to see a depiction of a nice-guy vampire named Spike (which I have done), read my story "Forever And A Day." If you want to see a vampire with a soul (albeit a soul like Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Speck, Slobodan Milosevic and other creatures like them), then read on, but don't say you weren't warned. Joss' apparently unwavering belief that possession of a soul makes you one of the good guys, in my opinion, is merely yet another indication that he either has been ingesting illegal pharmaceuticals or requires serious therapy.

Author's Note; This story branches off the Joss-verse immediately after the final Xander-Willow scene from 'Grave."

Latest addition

Chapter 1

A cliff over looking the ocean (Kingsman Bluff)
The far outskirts of Sunnydale.
May 21, 2002

The huge steeple has risen out of the ground, pushing through the earth and rising up at an angle. Willow stood only a few yards away, holding out her hands toward it, her eyes black with the power she had drained and stolen. Various stone carvings of demons, gargoyles and other monsters decorated the surface of the steeple, with a large carving of a snake-haired woman with her mouth open and a long snakelike tongue, another snake wrapped around her body, sticking out prominently from the side facing Willow.

As the steeple ceased to rise from the ground, protruding from the earth at a slightly crooked angle, Willow stood with her arms outstretched from her sides, chanting in a language intelligible to only a handful of people across the planet's surface.

"Proserpexa, let the cleansing fires from the depths burn away the suffering souls and bring sweet death," she intoned, as lightning began to crackle between her hands and the statue of Proserpexa.

As the winds swirling around her tossed her black hair, the black veins on her face seemed to somehow glow as the lightning sizzling around her.

The ground shook and the winds grew even stronger, as the bolts of green magic continued to shoot from Willow's body toward the statue. Wind raged around her, filled with dirt and debris, and the ever-present lightning.

Slowly, the statue began to glow a bright yellow-white.

Suddenly the stream of magic was interrupted and the glowing subsided, as Xander stepped in front of the statue. Willow looked up, surprised at the interruption.

"Hey, black-eyed girl. Whatcha doin'?" he asked, feigning nonchalance.

"Get out of here," the black-haired witch ordered him.

"Ah, no. You're not the only one with powers, you know. You may be a hopped-up uber-witch, but this carpenter can dry-wall you into the next century."

"I'm not joking, Xander," Willow warned her childhood friend, her eyes narrowing. "Get out of my way. Now."

Willow then sent a bolt of magic at Xander that lifted him off his feet and threw him to the ground at the base of the statue. Lightning began to flash about the statue again, the green magic flowing from the witch toward the statue.

The earth rumbled and winds howled as the statue's glow gradually mounted.

Xander sat up at the base of the temple, holding his ribs, then staggered to his feet and moved to block the flow of magic again, looking at Willow as she glared at him.

"You can't stop this."

"Yeah, I get that. It's just, where else am I gonna go? You've been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end ... where else would I want to be?" he asked her, the expression on his face a mixture of pain, love, resignation and determination.

"Is this your master plan?" the witch demanded scornfully. "You're going to stop me by telling me you love me?"

"Well, I was going to walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but ... it seemed kinda cartoon-y," the tall brunet admitted with a wry grin.

"Still making with the jokes," the witch sneered.

"I'm not joking, Will," he protested quietly. "I know you're in pain. I can't imagine the pain you're in.

"And I know you're about to do something apocalyptically evil and stupid," he told her, glancing back over his shoulder at the statue behind him, "and hey, I still want to hang. You're my Willow," he told her as he spread his arms wide in a gesture of acceptance.

"Don't call me that," the witch said angrily.

"First day of kindergarten, you cried because you broke the yellow crayon, and you were too afraid to tell anyone. You've come pretty far since then. Ending the world? Not a terrific notion," he stated, staring her straight in the eye. "But the thing is - Yeah, I love you. I loved crayon-break-y Willow and I love scary vein-y Willow. So if I'm going out, it's here. If you wanna kill the world? Well, then start with me. I've earned that."

"You think I won't?" the black-haired witch demanded, her voice rising

"It doesn't matter. I'll still love you."

"Shut up!" Willow screamed angrily, as she gestured with her right hand. Xander's head jerked to the side as if he'd been hit, three parallel cuts appearing on his cheek, blood flowing as if he had been clawed by an animal.

Lifting his hand to his cheek, he looked at his fingers, the tips covered with blood as Willow watched, panting and looking anxiously at him.

"I love you," he repeated, looking at her with an expression of love, sorrow and some other emotions she couldn't put a name to.

She made another slashing gesture, and Xander doubled over and fell to his knees. Panting, he got up again, his shirt ripped open over his heart, and more scratches and bruises became visible on his chest. He panted and grimaced from the pain but turned to face her again.

"" he panted, as the blood flowed down over his ribs

"Shut up!!" Willow screamed, frustrated and enraged at her failure to get him to curse her. Another blast of magic was launched at him - burns appeared on the right side of his chest and abdomen and he staggered backward but wouldn't fall down.

Willow hesitantly extended her hand, a puzzled expression on her face as a little bit of magic crackled around it, but not nearly as much as she had expected. Seeing the miniscule amount of energy the gesture produced, a look of surprise and anxiety stole cross her face.

Slowly, Xander moved toward her, still speaking in the same compassionate, low-voiced tone he had been using. "I love you, Willow."

"Stop!" the witch screamed, sending another magic blast, but, again, it was weak and barely staggered him at all. He continued walking toward her, as Willow continued holding out her hand, repeating the gesture, her face disbelieving as nothing happened.

Tears began to slide down her face.

"I love you," he repeated.

"Stop." The command/plea was barely audible as she began to cry and, as Xander moved up to her, she began feebly hitting him with her fists.

Xander merely stood there, allowing her to release all of the emotions roiling within her.

After a moment, she stopped hitting him and started to cry for real. She fell to her knees and Xander knelt with her, putting his arms around her and holding her close while she sobbed.

"I love you," he told her again.

As she continued to cry in Xander's arms, sobbing hysterically as all of the emotional body blows of the past forty-eight hours battered her already fractured psyche, the veins gradually faded away from her face and her hair returned to its normal flame-red hue.

"I'm sorry, Xand. I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," she kept repeating into his bloodstained shirt as he held his childhood friend as tightly as he could and tried to reassure her of his unconditional love for her.

"I'll always love you, Wills. Remember that," he whispered into her ear as her entire body shuddered with her sobs, a moment before his iron-willed resolve finally gave way before the physical damage inflicted on his body and blackness overtook him as he collapsed to the now blood-speckled ground.


Unidentified location
May 21, 2002

"Your pardon, my lord, but I believe that you would want to be notified of this report at the earliest possible moment," the tall dark-haired man said, as he moved forward, dropped to one knee and bent his head before the shadowed figure seated at one end of the cavernous room.

"What is it you have to tell me, nephew?" the darkened wraith-like shape demanded, its voice low and harsh as it echoed through the room.

"One of our investigators reported to me this afternoon that he has determined that there is an excellent possibility that there is another surviving descendant of whom both our people and Lucien's have remained ignorant, my lord," the newcomer revealed, his eyes remaining fixed on the feet of the being before him.

"To the best of my knowledge, that has been proven to be quite impossible," the shadow-cloaked figure intoned quietly. "Are you implying that my sources have been lying to me?"

"No, my lord," the messenger quickly responded, "but it appears that the information on which they based their reports was quite possibly incomplete. Our investigator stumbled across his information while checking on an entirely unrelated matter. He has told me that he has reason to believe that the authorities of the town in question have apparently been falsifying at least part of any information they have released regarding fatalities in their jurisdiction for the better part of a century. The exact reason for their doing so is not clear at the moment, but he is now personally checking out all pertinent records and expects to have an answer for me within the next few days."

"Good. You will notify me as soon as you have received the results."

"Indeed, my lord. It will be as you say."


Sunnydale General Hospital
Intensive Care Unit
May 23, 2002

< Come on, Xander, don't do this to us, > Buffy Summers, currently the longest surviving Vampire Slayer in the records of the Watcher's Council, sat by the bedside of her best male friend in the world (although it had taken her a while to finally realize that, after everything that had gone on over the course of the past several months), holding his hand and silently praying for him to open his eyes and tell her one of the innumerable lame jokes for which he was known.

< Please wake up, > she asked him silently, for what had to be the thousandth time since she, Dawn, Giles and Anya had first discovered his and Willow's bodies lying on the ground near the remains of the temple Willow had been in the process of raising.

< I don't know how we're gonna manage to go on without you and Wills. Not after everything that's happened, > she told him wordlessly, as she stared, dry-eyed, at his comatose form. It wasn't because she didn't care about him; it was because she simply had run out of tears to shed.

< Dawn hasn't stopped crying since we found you guys, and I don't have any idea of what to do to help her get through this, > she told the sleeping man lying in front of her, < I'm only barely managing to hold myself together, Xan. How am I supposed to help Dawn deal with you being in here? I didn't realize just how much I was depending on you, on all of you guys, even when I was pushing you all away. Please don't leave us, Xan. >

< Please don't leave *me*. >

Staring at the brunet lying motionlessly before her, connected to myriad plastic tubes, lines and wires that all led to various pieces of mysterious electronic equipment that beeped or hummed or clicked at intermittent intervals, the petite, seemingly delicate blonde pondered just what this man had come to mean to her over the course of the past six years.

He had been the first person outside of the Council to step up and offer her support in her battle against the forces of Darkness, after inadvertently eavesdropping on her first conversation between her and her at-the-time-new Watcher, an outwardly stuffy, overbearing British librarian, whom she had eventually come to regard as the father of her heart.

At first, she had believed he was volunteering to help solely as a way to try to get close to her, to coax her into dating him, (And while she was sure that that thought was in the back of his hormone-driven mind, she knew it wasn't the only reason.) and she had tried to brush him off and send him on his way. Instead, he had ignored both her and Giles' discouragement and had stubbornly insisted on following her around as she sought out the various denizens of the Hellmouth, trying to determine the fate of his best friend, Jesse, abducted that first night when they had been met by vampires following the Master's bidding. In actuality, that stubbornness had turned out to be fortunate for her in the extreme, since without his assistance, she would have most certainly been trapped in the warrens of the town's sewer system and either died, or, worse, been turned by one of the Master's minions that same day.

It seemed, in the years since then, that they were continually taking turns saving each other's lives from the innumerable vampires and demons who arrive in town seeking the Hellmouth, interspersed with their ongoing efforts to prevent what seemed to grow to be weekly attempts at initiating apocalypses.

It seemed that ever since they had first met, Xander had been a bastion of support for her and the other Scoobies, both when dealing with the supernatural aspects of life here in Sunnydale, and while trying to establish and maintain some kind of life apart from the Slaying.

If not for his and Willow's efforts these past several months, she wasn't sure that she and Dawn would still have a house to live in, or even be together as a family.

Willow. Hacker. Girl friend. Confidante. Witch. Would-be world-destroyer.

Oh god, she still didn't know how she was going to explain to Xander about Willow. How could she, when she wasn't even sure she understood what had happened?

"Hi, Buffy. How're you doing today? How's Dawn handling things?"

The speaker was Sheila Curtin, a supervisor on the ICU nursing staff and a tall, imposing, yet grandmotherly brunette who had taken a shine to Buffy and Dawn immediately upon meeting the two girls when she came on duty the night Xander had been admitted.

"I'm doing all right, I suppose, Sheila," Buffy managed a small smile for the older woman's obvious concern for her and her sister. "Dawn's about the same as she's been since Xan came in. She won't be happy until he's out of here. And neither will I," she admitted, as she felt a lump rise up into her throat again.

"None of his vitals are looking very good, are they?" the petite blonde asked quietly, glancing over again at the various readings displayed on the monitors connected to the unconscious brunet.

"Now, don't you worry about Xander," the older woman advised her. "You two'll be back to talking about wedding plans soon enough. Any man who has you as his fiancée isn't going to be lying in bed any longer than he has to. Unless, of course, you're in there with him," she opined as she gave the Slayer a wicked smile, which brought a weak, somewhat embarrassed smile to Buffy's face in response.

< Fiancée. Boy, is Xan gonna be surprised when he finally does wake up, > the Slayer grinned to herself momentarily as she turned back to watch the brunet breathe.

Somehow, during the hectic confusion that ensued during the carpenter's admission, Buffy had been mistakenly identified as Xander's fiancée. And, after learning of the hospital's policy to permit only patients' family members admission to the Intensive Care Unit, Buffy had continued the façade at Dawn's earnest pleadings since, as his future sister-in-law, she had managed to persuade the ICU staff to allow her access to the comatose brunet.

The doe-eyed teenager had instantly become a favorite with the entire ICU staff when they saw the intensity of her devotion to the injured man who was her ostensible future brother-in-law, and they all went out of their way to comfort her whenever she was around. Like Buffy, the younger Summers had been spending her every free moment at Xander's bedside, leaving his side only to when forced to do so, to eat a meal or get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and only agreeing to do that when either Buffy or Giles was there to replace her at his side.

The day after the 'incident,' as Giles had referred to Willow's arcane berserker rage, Buffy had finally realized some of the ramifications of her agreeing to pass as Xander's 'fiancée' and had immediately called Anya's cell phone, only to be greeted with a message informing her that the number in question was no longer in service. A quick follow-up call to Giles had provided her with the information that the redheaded Wicca's rampage had finally convinced the former-vengeance-demon-turned-entrepreneur that her continued residence in Sunnydale would almost certainly not lead to a death from old age, and had then, accordingly, left for unnamed, but obviously much safer, locations.

The blonde's ponderings were cut short as an alarm on one of the many machines to which the brunet was connected suddenly began screaming an alert. As the Slayer stood there numbly and watched with mounting apprehension, an ever-increasing assortment of nurses and doctors began streaming in and out of the cubicle in which her friend lay.

"Code Blue! Get me a cart!"

She could hear various people yelling monitor readings and orders back and forth to each other as she was roughly shoved aside by someone wheeling in a cart with yet another esoteric piece of machinery atop it, which they then immediately began attaching to Xander.

"I'm sorry, Buffy, but we need you to move out of here for now," she could hear Sheila telling her, as she felt gentle, but insistent arms pulling her away from Xander and out of the cubicle his bed occupied. "You can wait in the outer reception area, and someone will be out to let you know what's happening as soon as we can. I promise. All right?"

Feeling as though she had been anesthetized, Buffy watched helplessly from the doorway to Xander's cubicle, completely unaware of the tears steaming down her face, as one thought kept running through her mind.

< Please don't leave me, Xander. Please, don't leave me. >

Chapter 2

"Whoa, that was one intense dream!" Xander said, as he opened his eyes to find himself lying in...

Hold on now, just where was he?

He seemed to be lying in his own bed, complete with the maroon sheets and bed covering that Ahn had picked out for them a year and a half before, and which had immediately become his favorites, and his bed seemed to be in his own bedroom, complete with the matching night tables and lamps and dresser and armoire. But when the hell had his bedroom been relocated to what looked to be a small clearing in the middle of a very large forest?

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more..." he said softly to himself as he checked out the situation.

Looking down, Xander found himself still wearing the same jeans and the same torn and bloody tee-shirt he had on when Willow...

He couldn't seem to remember exactly what it was that Willow had been doing, or what he had been doing, either, come to think about it.

All he was certain of, right now, was that it had been something he didn't want to think about.

Every time he tried, he got a truckload of feelings hitting him all at once: fear, despair, anger, love, loss, rage, desolation, isolation, injustice, an overwhelming urge to reach out and hurt someone so that they could feel the same pain he was feeling! He just couldn't handle thinking about it, right now. Maybe in a little while...

"You're going to have to face it, sooner or later, you know."

The unexpected, but vaguely familiar, voice made him look up in surprise, since he was initially unable to see anyone else around. Turning his attention to the forest around him, he finally managed to make out a shadowy figure crouched just beyond the diffused pool of light his bedroom lamps cast outwards.

"Who are you, and what are you talking about?" Xander demanded, not sure exactly what the stranger was referring to. "What do I have to face?"

"Everything," was the simple reply. "Those feelings you were just ignoring, for instance. They're all hers, you know, and you're going to have to resolve your own feelings about the two of you before you can help her resolve her own. The blind can't lead the blind anywhere, if you don't know where you're going. Except maybe off the side of a cliff, either with or without the anvil."

"Who the hell are you to be telling me things like that?"

"And before you can do figure out how you feel about her," the figure continued as though Xander hadn't spoken, "you're going to have to figure out how you feel about yourself. You have to decide who you really are, who it is you want to be and exactly what it is you want out of your life. You can't keep on ignoring things and hoping they'll just go away and let you alone, and hope that things will all eventually work out by themselves. You've been trying that approach for the last six years, and it hasn't worked out yet, has it? Don't you think it's about time you tried a different approach to crisis management?"

"Crisis? What are you talking about?" the carpenter demanded. "Just what the hell's going on here?"

"Open up your eyes, kid, and take a look around you. You've been denying a lot of things for years now, content to just let things drift along without making any decisions that would resolve things one way or another. Get your head out of your ass and pay attention, 'cause this is the last chance you're gonna get," the figure told him.

As if to punctuate the warning, a loud, shrill laughter-like barking suddenly erupted from the area where the figure crouched and echoed through the surrounding foliage, and Xander paled when he heard it.

"Oh, damn," he muttered to himself. "I know that sound."

"Yep, you certainly do," the shadow-obscured companion agreed. "Does that give you any clue about where you are and what's going on?"

"Somehow, I'm inside my head," the brunet replied, his emphasis making it a statement, not a question.

"Which means that you're the Primal Spirit that tried to steal my body sophomore year," he accused the figure. "But how come you're here, now? You left years ago, after the summoning spell was reversed."

"Not exactly, kid," the shadowy doppelganger moved slightly forward into the light to face his progenitor, revealing a much more feral and hirsute version of the image Xander saw reflected in the mirror each morning crouched at the outer perimeter of the lamps' light. Primal-Xander had moved with the speed and sleek fluidity that had instantly reminded the carpenter of the big cats and wolves he had seen at the LA zoo years before on class trips when he was still a child. He seemed poised to move instantly, a yellowish-green light illuminating his eyes as he carefully watched his twin. The animal spirit avatar wore only a ragged pair of shorts, exposing a leaner, solidly muscled physique that, even when motionless, somehow radiated power, a sense of potential violence and destruction tightly held in check, ready to be unleashed in a second.

"I didn't leave, kid," Primal-Xander corrected the carpenter. "You locked me up in the back recesses of your mind, as far away from your consciousness as you could get me, because you were too scared of what you saw in me to accept the truth of my existence. You put me in a cage and tried to forget all about me because you were terrified at the idea that I might possibly be a part of you. When you stepped into Willow's energy blast earlier and absorbed all of that energy, I managed to soak up enough power to let me break free.

"I'm not gonna let you lock me up again, kid," the Primal avatar quietly stated, as the brunet stared uncertainly at his alter- ego. "I'm free now, and I'm gonna stay that way. No more cages, ever again."


An unidentified home
Sunnydale, CA
May 23, 2002

"It's definite, Vincent. I've located her grave. She's buried in one of the local cemeteries, about six miles from here. The coroner's report noted that she died from extensive bite-like wounds to the throat, as if from a large dog or a similar creature."

The speaker was a non-descript blond youth of average size and height, wearing a neatly-trimmed mustache and beard, jeans and a dark green tee-shirt. He stood beside another equally unremarkable- looking, clean-shaven blond youth, who stared out the bay window of the house in which they were staying.

"What else have you learned?" Vincent asked, never taking his eyes from the quiet scene before him.

"A couple Polgaras I spoke with at the local demon bar said that a lycan named Oz was the one who killed her. I'm not sure that we can believe them, 'cause they also said he used to hang around with the Slayer, and was a personal friend of hers, that he and several humans helped her kill vampires. I'm trying to get independent confirmation from some other sources, 'cause I think it's possible that the Polgaras might have some kind of personal beef with this guy, and could be looking to even things up by siccing us on him," the first man elaborated.

"Find out what really happened, and who is responsible. Determine whether this 'Oz' did kill her, and whether or not he actually is a friend of the Slayer," the second man said quietly, once the report was completed. "If the Polgaras lied to us, kill them and leave their bodies where they will be easily found, so that everyone knows what happens to those that lie to us. If they spoke truly, and this 'Oz' is responsible for her death, find out where he is and why he did it. Then we will decide what to do about the situation."

"As you say, Vincent," the first man agreed, before turning and leaving the other man alone to continue staring through the window.


Unidentified location
May 23, 2002

"My lord."

The speaker waited patiently, head bowed in respect, for his Elder to recognize his presence.

Patience was, most definitely, one virtue that every member of the clan quickly learned after being 'reborn.' After all, when one effectively has an eternity of life ahead of them, then learning to plan for the long-term was a very important skill to develop.

Learning who one could trust was yet another skill one needed to learn, also, and after seeing the carnage that ensued during Kraven's unsuccessful coup attempt the previous year, it appeared that it was a skill far too many of his seniors and the Elders had failed to learn adequately. Or at all.

Not that he would ever care to mention that thought aloud, mind you. He liked the location of his head exactly where it was - on his shoulders, and not decorating one of the castle's trophy walls.

With Victor's death in the aftermath of the 'troubles' last year, Marcus was now the most senior of the Elders, and his disposition upon learning of everything that had happened prior to his revival had left him in a mood most charitably described as disgruntled.

"You have news for me, nephew?"

"Indeed, my lord," came the quick reply. "My source has informed me that the records he searched indicated that there is most definitely a surviving Corvinus child whose existence no one was aware of, and that he is tracking her location even as we speak. By tomorrow, at the latest, we will know exactly who she is and where she now lives. We will then be able to observe her and can contact her when you decide what is the most propitious moment," the speaker noted.

"Very good, nephew," Marcus smiled faintly as he considered the information he had received. An alternate source becoming available at this moment in time could be taken as a sign that the Powers were looking down on him, favorably. And after that fiasco last year with Michael and the traitor, Selene, it was past time for his luck to turn. Treason from a Death Dealer? What next?

Once he was assured that this new resource had been verified as suitable and acquired, and he made certain that she would be available solely for his use, then he would be free to hunt down both existing threats to his sovereignty and destroy them utterly.

Controlling access to this new Corvinus offspring would ensure that his plans would be unassailable. He would not only be immortal, he would be nigh omnipotent. Control of a source of raw power such as this child promised would guarantee that.

The Elder smiled to himself as his thoughts again re-examined the plans he had been forming over the course of the past six hundred years, not noticing the fleeting expression of concern and trepidation that crossed his liegeman's face for the barest instant, before being dismissed and replaced by one of devotion and subservience.

"Go and acquire this child for me, nephew," Marcus directed with a casual gesture of his hand, dismissing his retainer. "She is to be mine, and mine alone. Should it appear that another might acquire her, she is to be destroyed. Better that no one have her, than to allow someone else control her."

"I hear and obey, my lord," the messenger responded, touching his forehead in a gesture of respect and obedience before rising and hurrying from the chamber.

Pondering his liege's words as he silently moved through the apparently abandoned halls, he found himself agreeing with everything Marcus had said, although with a more personal slant to its sentiments.

< Yes, better that no one have access to her, and the potential power she represented, than to have someone other than me control her, > he smiled to himself momentarily, before banishing that expression and reassuming his more typical look of the devoted, but not too bright, retainer.

There were numerous plans that needed to be further refined, if he was to ever take his rightful place as patriarch of the Clan, and there was little time to waste if he were to take advantage of the opportunity Fate was offering him now.


"So what is it exactly that you're planning on doing?" Xander asked, in what he hoped sounded like a casual tone of voice.

"Exactly what I just said, kid," his doppelganger replied, staring impassively at his progenitor. "Staying free. You're never gonna pen me up like that again. We'll both be dead before I ever let that happen again, I guarantee you that."

"Well, I kinda think that with having just the one body available, it might be a little difficult for the both of us to try to run things here. Nothing run by committee ever turns out well," the owner of the aforesaid mentioned body noted, never taking his eyes off his more animalistic double.

"And I've never really been much on sharing the old bod, here," the carpenter stated quietly. "Especially with something that tried to rape one of my best friends."

"Hey now," Primal-Xander spoke up, protesting, "It wasn't like that. Not at all. The Buffster was most definitely interested in what we were doing, regardless of what she was saying.

"But you already know that, don't you? The nose knows, after all," the doppelganger continued. "Don't you remember smelling how excited she was getting when we were both in the teacher's lounge? She might have been a little frightened, but she was also getting wet at the thought of getting pelvic with us, despite what she was saying back then. I'll admit, we might have been coming on a little strong, but it's not rape if she's willing to go along with it.

"After all, she really didn't fight us all that hard or that quickly, now did she?" Primal-Xander concluded, cocking his head to look at his progenitor with a salacious grin.

"That's doesn't matter, one way or the other," Xander told his mirror image. "Buffy said she wasn't interested, and that's all she needed to do. Anything that happened after that was attempted rape."

"How very PC of you," Primal-Xander sneered from his position at the edge of the light's circle. "And why am I not surprised?

"You need to grow a pair, man!" the carpenter's spiritual twin snarled, staring him in the eye. "All you've ever done your entire life is let people dump on you. We shouldn't be talking shit from anybody! We've helped save the world a dozen times over! We're entitled to some fun - the world owes us that and more for saving their asses!

"I'm tired to seeing us play the lapdog to everyone you meet," the avatar told him. "And as of now, I'm through with it! From now on, this body is under new management! Faith had it right - Want, take, have! I'm gonna make sure that I enjoy our life. I'm gonna start taking anything and everything we've ever wanted," he smiled insolently, "and nothing's gonna stop me.

"Now, just stay out of my way and you won't get hurt," Primal-Xander warned as he rose to his feet and began heading towards the owner of the body they were discussing.

"Somehow, I don't that's gonna happen," Xander informed his spiritual mirror image, sliding off the bed to his feet and staring back at him. "I'm not about to let you run loose, man. Buffy and Dawn and the rest of the Gang have enough problems to deal with already. They don't need you adding to the mess."

"God, I simply can't believe you, you asshole!" the avatar laughed derisively as he continued staring at the carpenter. "Do you actually think you can stop me from doing anything I want to do?"

"Angelus asked me pretty much the same question a few years back, remember?" Xander smiled back, a bit ironically perhaps. "And you can also remember who it was that walked away, and who stayed where they were.

"If I wouldn't let one-fourth of the Scourge of Europe do what he wanted to my friends, why do you think I'm gonna let my own subconscious desires have its way with them?" he asked, tilting his head curiously as he looked at the advancing figure.

"And I gotta admit, you're right about me shoving you down into the darkest corners of my mind," he added as he watched his purported adversary advance, "but what did you really expect me to do? I was sixteen years old, for God's sake! Rampaging adolescent hormonal storms generally do not encourage much in the way of logical thinking, especially when you add in instances of mystical possession, you know.

"The idea that part of me didn't care about what Buffy wanted, that part of me could still even consider trying to jump her after she had said she wasn't interested? That terrified me, and you know exactly why it did. All I could think of was that I was turning into a younger version of That Bastard, that I was going to end up like *him*!" The brunet practically spat the last word out, and the look of distaste and revulsion on his face would have brought tears to the eyes of any of his friends, had they been able to see it.

"I'd kill myself before I ever let *that* happen," Xander stated, the note of conviction in his voice leaving no doubt about the sincerity of his intentions. "So, I'm thinking we've got a bit of a problem here, don't we?"

Picking up two stakes that he habitually stored in the top drawer of his night table, Xander adopted a defensive stance facing his dark side made manifest, as he continued speaking.

"By the way, where's Soldier Guy? He waiting back in the shadows to challenge the winner of this match?" he asked, not letting his gaze drift away from the yellow-green eyes of his opponent while he let his awareness expand out and away from him, soaking in the sounds and smells of the forest around them.

"Nope," Primal-Xander shook his head, a feral smile still on his face as he watched his progenitor. "GI Joe was never anything but a duplicate set of memories Ethan's spell overlaid on us for a while. Think of it like a summer tan, kid - it just faded away, a little at a time, until eventually there was noting left but the faintest recall of what had been there.

"This is between you and me, kid. Winner take all...survival of the fittest," the spirit told him with a grin, an instant before he leaped forward.


"I'll show that bitch," the blonde-haired figure muttered to himself as he lifted his mouth from the throat of the woman he was currently lying on top of. A few stray drops of blood dripped from his chin to fall on the now empty-eyed face of the petite blonde woman lying lifelessly on the bed.

"Thinks she can tell me it's over, does she? I'll show her. *I'm* the one who decides when it's over, not her! I'll show her who's in charge! And after that, I'll snap her skinny little neck like a toothpick," he announced to the empty room, as he rolled away from the naked body and stood up, picking up his pants from the pile they had formed on the floor when he had divested himself of his clothes a short while before.

Rummaging though the purse his latest victim had dropped on one of the overstuffed chairs in the living room, when they had first entered the apartment, he withdrew the small, tightly packed wallet and credit card case he discovered within, and ruffled through wallet's contents, pulling out a small pack of bills and carelessly letting the other contents fall to the floor.

Stuffing the money and credit cards in his pants pockets, Spike finished dressing himself, then matter-of-factly left the neatly kept apartment, not even sparing the body in the bedroom a second glance

"You're gonna find out real soon now, Slayer," he spoke to the darkness surrounding him as he walked down the deserted hallway.

"First thing I'm do is kill all of those bleedin' idiots you have hanging around you. Real slow-like. Maybe I'll even tape them, so you can see for yourself who's running things. Maybe I'll turn the 'Bit first, and let her help out. That'd probably damn well hurt, now wouldn't it?" he grinned to himself as the idea began shaping itself in his mind.

"Gonna tear your world apart, just like you did mine, bitch! Oh yeah, the Big Bad's back now, baby. You just wait and see."


Chapter 3

Sliding back and to the side as his doppelganger leaped at him, Xander frantically searched his memories for everything he had ever read about psychic battles. He'd taken the time to read a few books on the subject after that little subconscious run-in the Scoobies had with the First Slayer.

One thing that immediately came to mind was the fact that, even though the battle took place in your mind, you could die physically if you believed you died mentally. Another fact that also clamored for his attention was that strength of will counted for more than strength of body. In a battle of minds, he could conceivably overpower anyone, even Buffy, if he believed in himself firmly enough and refused to admit defeat.

Was he strong enough to accomplish that in this battle?

Well, if there was one thing he knew for certain about himself, it was that he could be extremely stubborn when he wanted to be.

He'd hung in there and continued fighting against the Darkness when Buffy and the others had tried to push him out of patrolling, to 'shield' him from the dangers that infested the town 'for his own good,' completely disregarding his feelings about the matter, because he was 'the normal guy.'

Yeah, right.

How many 'normal guys' went out at night looking for bloodsucking monsters at least four times stronger than the average human while armed only with a wooden stake, some holy water and a cross? Now that he thought about it, he really needed to talk to the others about upgrading all their weapons.

How many normal guys had spent a couple hours chauffeuring a bunch of zombies around town, had driven Uncle Rory's car over a female demon tough enough to beat down a Slayer, and ended the night successfully staring down the zombie leader across a ticking bomb that would have turned all of them into a very thin meat paste spread across the school lawn?

And, as he'd pointed out to his alter-ego, there was the time he'd stood up to Angelus, when Buffy had been hospitalized back during junior year, despite the fact that he figured he was probably going to die that night. There had been one thing he was certain of back then, though, and that was that if he died, he'd be dragging the bloodsucker along with him to wherever he might end up in the afterlife. That asshole wasn't going to get any closer to Buffy if he had any say in the matter. And since he had been standing in the doorway of her hospital room at the time, he'd had a lot to say about it.

He'd survived an apparently endless number of vampires, demons, zombies and other monsters drawn to the Hellmouth over the course of the past six years - there was no way he was going to let his darker side triumph and take over, when some of the nastiest evils in existence had failed to take him down!

No way in Hell.

In the milliseconds it had taken all of the above to flash through his consciousness, his 'body' here had reflexively dodging his doppelganger's attacks, knocking the night stand by the bed into his opponent's way to trip him, and then grabbing the bedcover and whipping it up into the air as Primal-Xander dove for him, to entangle him, if only for a moment or so.

< Think, man, think! > he urged himself. < Use your brain, 'cause he ain't! You're not gonna be able to dodge him forever. >

As he watched his opponent furiously tear the cover to shreds as it screamed its rage aloud, Xander reminded himself that this wasn't the real Primal Spirit that had possessed him all those years ago, because that had been banished as quickly as the Scooby Gang could manage, after they had verified its presence in him. He'd even had Giles do a scrying spell the next day, to make sure.

No, he told himself, this - this *being* - that now faced him was just a fragment of his own psyche, a part that had resonated with the Spirit's most basic persona, the baser, more animalistic emotions and behavior. A fragment that had gained enough strength from the energy Willow had blasted him with to break free of the bonds he had used to lock it away, once he had recognized it for what it was: his dark side, the selfish, self-centered, egocentric part of him that was concerned only with what *it* wanted.

The part that was only interested in was its own wants, its own desires. The part that believed whatever anyone else thought or wanted was unimportant, compared to its wishes.

The part that believed power justified anything and everything it wanted to do.

The part of him that didn't care about what other people wanted or how they felt. The part that believed that ignoring the fact that Buffy had said "No," after he had expressed his interest in pursuing something more than friendship with her, was okay because it wanted her as its mate.

The part that believed the same things The Bastard believed.

Was it any surprise he had panicked and tried to lock it away in the deepest, most secret areas of his mind?

He had spent too much time and effort hating The Bastard and trying to be as much unlike him as possible to even consider the possibility that there could be something inside him that resembled The Bastard.

So he had panicked and tried to bury that portion of his psyche and then tried to forget that it even existed. And for a long while, it seemed like it had worked.

Until now.

He wasn't fighting an intruder, he was fighting himself. That unrestrained facet of his personality that lacked any form of self- control, that wanted instant gratification. The part that acted on impulse, that just reacted to whatever was happening. The part that didn't plan ahead because it couldn't, because it lived in the always- present 'Now.'

And with that realization came understanding.

Opening his hands, he let both stakes drop to the ground and simply stood where he was, waiting. As the manifestation of his darker urges lunged towards him, hands looking to grab his throat, the carpenter waited until the last possible instant before falling backwards to the ground, while he took hold of his twin's outstretched arms and brought both feet up into his opponent's stomach, kicking out and throwing him overhead to slam forcefully into the solid wooden armoire behind them. A perfect Hollywood 'Indian throw.'

< Guess practicing with the Buffster paid off more than I thought. >

Maintaining his hold on one wrist, Xander took advantage of his twin's momentary disorientation to roll him onto his stomach and then pin him with a headlock, as he straddled his back.

"Just hold on a minute there, okay?" Xander advised, applying a sufficient amount of pressure to hold his opponent fast, as he attempted to escape the hold.

"We're in kind of a stalemate, here, from what I can see," he noted, as his Primal aspect ceased struggling and remained motionless, listening.

"What do you mean?" Primal-Xander asked after a moment's silence.

"Well, as you pointed out earlier, you're really just a part of me that I never wanted to acknowledge existed," the former so-called Zeppo pointed out. "And I'm pretty sure that you really can't kill me and take over this body, because you're not strong enough to exist on your own. I think, if you could kill me, you'd have done it before I woke up here, and not waited until I was awake."

"Maybe I just wanted you to know what was happening before I ripped your throat out," his opponent snarled back at him. "Did you consider that?"

"Actually, I did," Xander admitted, "but I really don't think you'd wait to take over any longer than you actually had to, if that was what you really intended. I think you need me to surrender control of this body before you can really be in charge."

Taking his Primal-inspired surrogate's sullen silence for agreement, the brunet continued.

"Now, as I said earlier, I think we're in a bit of a stalemate here, because you don't want to be locked away anymore, and I'm not about to let you run around unchecked and possibly endanger my friends."

"Well, if I can't kill you because I'm not complete enough to exist without you, then you can't kill me for the same reasons," the doppelganger pointed out. "I'm not gonna go away, and you're not gonna let me run things, so I guess we're both stuck here waiting to see who gives up first.

"Looks like we're both screwed, huh?"

"Yeah, looks like," Xander agreed. "On the other hand, we could skip the usual 'movie-of-the-week' semi-apocalyptic fight and try to work out things in a rational manner."

"Hold on a minute," Primal-Xander snickered as he turned his head to look up at his current captor. "This is a Hellmouth-y situation that involves two different aspects of your personality battling for control of this body, and you're using the word 'rational'?

"Now I know we're screwed," he grinned sardonically.

"What more can I say?" Xander grinned back. "Like you said, this is the Hellmouth - anything can happen, no matter how weird. Now, if you'll just stay cool for a couple minutes and listen to what I have to say, I'll let you up."

Xander quickly released his opponent as he flowed upwards to his feet, and took a step backwards to move out of range of any possible retaliatory attack.

"So," Primal-Xander grunted as he scrambled to his feet, "what's your brilliant solution to our problem?"

"Simple," the original answered. "We stop fighting for control and just accept each other. I stop denying you're a part of me, and you stop trying to take over and run wild.

"I think that what'll happen is that we'll merge together and form a combined personality that will have aspects of both of us, like what happened with the Scooby Gang when we fought Adam.

"The major difference, though, is that our merger will be permanent," the brunet pointed out. "Once we decide to join up, there's no going back."

The two apparently identical twins stood quietly for a few moments, staring at each other as they tried to consider all of the ramifications of the proposed action.

Finally, Primal-Xander let out a short, bark-like laugh.

"Oh hell, why not?" he smiled at his progenitor. "It's gotta be better than sitting around and staring at each other for the rest of our life.

"So, how do we do this?" he asked.

"Well, that part I'm not really sure about," Xander admitted.

"Well, in that case, why don't we do what Neo did in 'The Matrix'?" the doppelganger suggested with a big grin, as he launched himself towards his progenitor.

Bracing himself for the expected impact, Xander watched, speechless, as the Primal-inspired double appeared to smoothly flow into him, unimpeded, immediately upon the first instant of contact between the two.

Xander also immediately noted a steadily growing sensation upon contact with his double, a sensation as though he was being filled with some form of energy that now seemed to suffuse his entire being.

"Oh, shit."

A fraction of a second later, the world seemed to explode around him before everything swiftly faded to black.


"Buffy! What's going on?"

Hearing her sister's voice, Buffy turned to see the younger girl just entering the inner reception room for the ICU, apparently having finished eating her quickly-grabbed dinner downstairs in the cafeteria.

Dawn's face was white and the expression on her face a mixture of worry, dread and terror as she approached her sister standing outside the cubicle in which Xander lay, while her eyes were riveted with horrified fascination on the flurry of activity happening inside Xander's cubicle. The teenager's eyes were opened wide and obviously pleading for reassurance from her older sister regarding their friend's condition when she finally tore her gaze away from Xander's cubicle to look at her sibling.

"I'm not sure, Dawn," the Slayer told the younger girl as she stepped into the brunette's line of sight, in order to block her view of Xander's cubicle, and gathered her into her arms.

"One of the alarms just went off and everyone started rushing around, and then Sheila moved me out of there and said she'd be back to tell me what's going on as soon as she could," she gently informed her sibling, pulling her close against her chest.

The slim brunette fought against her sister's embrace as she frantically shook her head in reflexive denial of the news she had just heard. A moment later, though, she collapsed against the older girl as she began sobbing despairingly, her tear tracks quickly matching those already marking Buffy's face.

The petite blonde gently guided the two of them to a pair of seats only a short distance away and pulled the unresisting brunette down onto them, alongside her.

As Dawn wept brokenheartedly against her shoulder, Buffy stroked her hair and back reassuringly as she maintained her vigil over Xander's cubicle, her eyes never leaving the sight of the frantically laboring medical personnel within for more than the few seconds needed to periodically sweep the floor around them and to check Dawn's emotional state.

It couldn't have been more than five minutes after she had been ejected from Xander's cubicle (although it felt more like five hours to Buffy), before the Slayer spotted Sheila heading purposely towards the two of them, the tentative smile on her lips matching the cautious expression in her eyes.

"Dawn," the blonde murmured as she stopped stroking the Key's back, "Sheila's heading over here. I think it's about Xander."

The teenager immediately straightened up and pulled way from her sibling, sniffling and wiping at her reddened eyes with the sleeve of her blouse as she looked around, searching for the ICU supervisor.

"Buffy, Dawn," the older woman smiled reassuringly at both of the girls as they pulled their eyes away from the medical personnel now beginning to remove the varied pieces of equipment from Xander's cubicle they had so hurriedly delivered a few minutes earlier.

"Xander's doing much better now, and all of his vitals are looking good. Actually, they're looking better than they were an hour ago," she noted as she looked over at Buffy, obliquely addressing the concerns the Slayer had mentioned earlier to avoid upsetting Dawn. "We aren't really sure exactly what happened to cause it, but his heart stopped beating for a moment or so, before starting back up by itself almost immediately. I can tell you that his EEG and EKG readings are both good, and his heart and respiration look fine, and we're having some additional blood work done to see if we can figure out just what exactly it was that caused the arrest.

"Now, you have to realize that I'm not promising you anything definite," she warned, making sure to catch both girls' eyes as she spoke, so that she could make sure they heard all of the qualifiers on her remarks, "but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he were to wake up soon. Maybe not today or tonight, but soon, I think.

"It's nothing definite, mind you," she cautioned the two of them, "just a feeling I get when I look at him, but I really believe he's going to be fine. His condition has improved quite dramatically since he was first admitted, and I'm taking that as a good sign. A very good sign."

"Thank you, Sheila," Dawn smiled back at her a bit tremulously as she threw her arms around the nurse and hugged her, before turning and doing the same to Buffy.

"He's coming back to us, Buffy," she announced quietly in her sister's ear, as additional tears, this time ones of joy, ran down her cheeks. "He's not leaving us. He's coming back to us. He's coming back."

"Yeah, Dawn," the Slayer smiled back, her vision blurred by tears. "He's not leaving us. He's staying."

As she looked through the glass walls currently separating them from the unconscious brunet, she thought to herself, < We have to talk, Xander. As soon as you wake up, we need to talk, because now I know I don't want you to ever leave. >


Sunnydale General Hospital
Mental Health Care Unit
May 23, 2002
Approximately the same time as Xander's
confrontation with his Primal aspect

Giles let an exhausted, drawn-out sigh escape his lips as he gazed at the pale unmoving figure lying so passively in a fetal position on the hospital bed just a few feet away.

< God, please, tell me what it is that these children have done, that they deserve to be treated so callously by you and your servants, > he asked semi-rhetorically.

< They are barely more than children, and yet they have saved this planet so many times already. They deserve better than to be treated as shoddily as you have done, so far. Despite any mistakes they may have made in the past, I know them to be some of the finest people that the human race can offer, and they most certainly are beings that you should be overjoyed to see flourish and grow. >

< And yet, you repeatedly reward them with more travails and tribulations than Job himself could endure, > he asserted in a silent and angry harangue, as his thoughts shifted to consider his other child who also lay unconscious in this very same building.

< What more do you want from them? What more must they do before you will be content to merely leave them alone? >

Looking at the motionless form curled up on the bed, he sighed to himself and pondered some other, less charitable, thoughts that had come unbidden to him earlier that afternoon, when he had kept watch over Xander's unconscious body, while Buffy had taken an all-too- brief break for lunch.

< Xander, my boy. > The thoughts had spiraled around in his mind, as he had sat quietly, keeping watch over the seemingly sleeping youth lying quietly in the ICU cubicle. < You are most certainly one of my children, lad, in every way that truly counts, and for that I consider myself most exceedingly fortunate. >

< When we first found the two of you lying there on the ground, apparently not breathing, I thought that I had lost you both, and I chastised myself for never telling all of you how much you all mean to me. And that is something that I will most certainly rectify once you awaken, I assure you. >

< But, as I sit here looking at you as you lie there, I simply must ask: just what did you think you were doing - what was it that you thought you were accomplishing, boy? And yet, why do I even bother asking, when I already know your answer - attempting to stop an Apocalypse. But tell me this, son of my heart - exactly how in the world did you think you were going to achieve such a feat? You had no weapons with you, no spells with which to defeat your opponent, so how did you expect to triumph? Were you hoping to overawe Willow with the sheer magnitude of the foolishness of your actions? To shock her into inactivity because you were attempting something even more mind-numbingly idiotic than she was contemplating? She had already skinned and incinerated that worthless prat, Meers, from what Buffy and Anya have told me. Did you truly believe that she would even hesitate to do the same to you, simply because the two of you grew up together? > he had silently asked the unconscious Scooby.

His musings had then, quite naturally, turned to the reason for his surrogate son's hospitalization. More precisely, they had turned to the cause of virtually all of their present problems: another one of the children he had taken into his heart, Willow.

< Willow, you foolish, foolish child! What on earth did you really expect to accomplish with your histrionics? > he had demanded reprovingly of the witch, in the courtroom of his mind.

< Could you - would you - have truly opened up the gate concealed within Proserpexa's temple? Would you truly have unleashed her minions on an innocent and unsuspecting world, simply because some other foolish, selfish, self-centered and power-hungry child had inadvertently caused the death of the woman you loved? > he had silently asked her.

< Would you truly have sentenced the entire world to such an undeserved punishment, simply because of a moment of pique? Oh heavens above, child, I had thought you better than that, but it would seem, now, that I was wrong. What other mistakes have I made regarding you that I have yet to discover, daughter of my heart? > he had wondered, only to be distracted by Buffy's return and her resumption of her self-appointed duty as guardian of the comatose carpenter.

Now, as he sat and kept an equally concerned watch over his other stricken child, he turned his thoughts towards the multitude of mistakes he only now recognized that he had committed, errors which made him, in his eyes, equally responsible for all of the transgressions that the witch had perpetrated.

After all, only an pompous, overbearing prideful buffoon could be so overwhelmingly self-assured of the correctness of the example he provided that he could fail to ascertain whether any student he instructed had, indeed, established the requisite ethical and moral framework needed in order to properly and responsibly exercise the powers they developed as a result of that instruction.

Indeed, he had not only failed to provide the requisite foundation upon which the witch's arcane education had been constructed, he had exacerbated the situation by providing her with appallingly simple and undemanding access to volumes and tomes that only a handful of scholars had virtually begged for permission to view, in centuries past!

If there existed any sort of gallery in which the monumentally stupid and foolish were enshrined, he had no doubt, whatsoever, that his name and likeness were depicted therein, for all to view and to hold up for eternal ridicule.

Giles' silent self-condemnation was interrupted by the slight shifting of the slender figure on the bed and the barely audible murmuring that accompanied the motion.

"I'm sorry, Xand," he heard Willow saying in a tone barely above a whisper. "Please don't die. I love you, Xander. Please don't die. I didn't mean to kill you. I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry..."

The one-time all-powerful witch and would-be world-destroyer kept repeating her words to herself, outwardly oblivious to the world around her and the anxious reassurances that Giles and Buffy had tried to provide her since her admittance to the hospital.

The redhead's self-induced guilt complex, although one could argue that it was most admittedly deserved, had isolated her in a world that seemed to be inaccessible to anyone but herself.

The various doctors who had evaluated her had all confessed their inability to handle what looked to be a rather extreme, and quite rapidly accelerating, case of catatonic schizophrenia, and had unanimously recommended that her cases be transferred to a larger facility, possibly one associated with any of the more renowned hospitals or clinics, where the redhead could be further evaluated and possibly provided with a more optimistic course of therapy.

Watching and listening as his surrogate daughter drove herself deeper into her own isolated pseudo-reality, Giles could only pray, however futile the effort might be, that someone would soon appear and help his lost child find herself and her way back to her family, before she was irretrievably lost to them all.


An unidentified home
Sunnydale, CA

"So, what exactly is it you have learned, Christopher?" Vincent asked, as he sat quietly on one of the large overstuffed chairs that had been pulled towards the center of the rec room of their current residence. The remaining chairs and couches that filled the room were crammed with an odd assortment of other people, whose attire encompassed a wide range of occupations.

"First off, before I do anything else, I need to give you and the rest of the Clan some background about this town, sir," the bearded youth in the green tee-shirt stated politely, as everyone gathered there watched and listened intently. "Everyone here has noticed that there's something about the whole town that seems a little - weird, haven't you?"

At the various nods of agreement from his audience, the speaker resumed his explanation.

"Well, I checked with a number of sources, both here in town and in some other enclaves in California, and I have learned, beyond any doubt, is that this town is the site of the primary Hellmouth," Christopher stated. The audience surrounding him stirred at his announcement, but no one spoke as they waited for him to continue. "The power of the other eight Hellmouths, combined, isn't as great as this single one, here. Keep that fact in mind, because I'll be getting back to that later.

"Since it is the site of the primary Hellmouth, this town is also the home of the Slayer, along with a group of people who have been supporting her in her 'work' over the past six years. For some reason that no one I've spoken to can explain, the group apparently refers to itself as the 'Scooby Gang,' just like in the cartoon, " the blond grinned, briefly, before the expression on his face returned to the more somber one it normally wore as he went on.

"Before I get into anything else involving the town, everyone needs to hear what I've learned about the Slayer and this 'Scooby Gang,' so please, pay close attention. The current Slayer is a twenty-two year old woman named Elizabeth Anne 'Buffy' Summers, who was Called when she was approximately fifteen years old."

At the hushed buzz of conversation that erupted after that announcement, Christopher paused for a moment before reiterating his previous statement.

"That's right - she's been the Slayer for over six years. That's nearly three years longer than the longest living previous Slayer on record," he said, looking around the room and meeting disbelieving faces.

"And that is not the most significant item I learned. She and her 'Scooby Gang' are the ones who managed to kill the former Master of the Hellmouth, a demonic vampire named Heinrich Joseph Nest. In addition to defeating the Master, she and her supporters are also credited with destroying the demon known as the Judge, killing the former Mayor of the town after he successfully Ascended to full demon status, and reputedly killing a Hell-goddess named Glory, who allegedly killed the Slayer at the same time," he stated matter-of- factly to his wondering audience.

"Exactly how true that last part is, no one I spoke to knows for sure, since Summers is quite definitely alive, now, but the majority of the demon population around here believe that she died, and that she either came back on her own or that her companions resurrected her, and they go out of their way to make sure they avoid giving her any reason to notice them. A point of interest that might be important to us is that she has a younger sister, Dawn, who is approximately sixteen years old, and who attends the local high school. Since their mother died last year, the Slayer is now her legal guardian."

"All right, then," Vincent nodded, "this Slayer is obviously a formidable foe, regardless of whether she actually died or not. What else do you have for us?"

"Summers is not the only person around here we need to watch out for," Christopher stated unequivocally. "This 'Scooby Gang' that supports her consists of her Watcher, an Englishman named Rupert Giles, two witches, Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay, a vengeance demon known as Anyanka, a Master vampire identified as Spike or William the Bloody, and a man, who appears to be a completely normal human, named Alexander Harris," the bearded youth informed his listeners.

"The witch, Tara Maclay, died two days ago, in what appears to have been a very unsuccessful assassination attempt against the Slayer. The witch's lover, Willow Rosenberg, immediately went on a rampage trying to find her killer, and inflicted extensive damage on some sections of the town and the outlying countryside. The three people reportedly responsible for Maclay's death have all disappeared without any trace that I can find, and Rosenberg and the Harris man were both admitted to the local hospital two days ago with 'unexplained injuries.' Both of them are reported to be in serious condition, with Harris admitted to the hospital's Intensive Care Unit," the blond said to the group of very attentive listeners.

"I did some digging into the backgrounds of all of these people and the Slayer's Watcher, this Rupert Giles, was quite a hellion in his youth, if he really was who my sources believe him to be. According to them, back then he went by the name 'Ripper' and had half of both the mystical and criminal underworlds in London terrified of him and trying to avoid any contact, whatsoever, and the other half split between trying to kill him or trying to become one of his followers. Then, approximately twenty years ago, something happened and he turned his behavior around, almost literally overnight. As a result of whatever it was that happened, he became a stalwart member and proponent of the Watcher's Council, until some internal dispute, approximately four years ago, at which time he and the Council evidently parted ways. This guy is definitely not someone you want to tangle with if you can avoid it, people," he warned, looking up from the notes he had been referring to.

Christopher then returned his attention to the notes he had complied and went on with his briefing.

"The Rosenberg woman has been described by numerous people in the Arts who I spoke with as one of the most powerful witches they have ever met. Going by the academic records from her old high school, which, by the way, the group reportedly blew up in order to destroy their enemy, the Mayor of the town, after he Ascended to full demonhood," he noted parenthetically, "she's also got a genius-level intelligence, with a perfect academic record during her time there. She and Harris are said to have grown up together, and apparently regard each other as siblings. Rosenberg has also been described by people who have dealt with her as 'ruthless, arrogant and condescending,' and 'the type who thinks they know what's best for everyone else.' Again, by all accounts, another person you'll want to avoid, if at all possible.

"The vengeance demon, Anyanka, is reported to have had some kind of ongoing relationship with the Harris man for several years, but they apparently broke up sometime last year. The fact that he is alive and still possesses all of his entrails would seem to indicate that it was an amicable separation. She has also disappeared from the area, and no one knows what's become of her. And, since she is a vengeance demon, that's all anybody has to say about her," Christopher announced, with a slight frown. "Whether something happened to her, whether she's left for good, or is just temporarily out of town on some mission for the group is unknown, so we need to keep an eye out for her, too.

"The demonic breed vampire, Spike, is the same individual who once formed a part of the group known as the 'Scourge of Europe' during the last century, which some of you might remember from your time living there. It is not known why one of the demonic breed vampires is working with the Slayer and her group, but it is not beyond Rosenberg's spell casting ability to have used some form of mind control on him. He, too, appears to have disappeared from the town," the speaker told his listeners, "and, again, no one knows anything about what might have happened to him, or where he might have gone.

"The final member of the Slayer's support group, Alexander Harris, is the one I, personally, have the most concern about. Based on all of the information I've gathered, he appears to be nothing more than a normal human being, although he is regarded with an equal amount of respect by all of the demons I spoke with as the other members of the group," Christopher stated, checking his notes.

"In fact," he continued, "some of the demons I spoke with seem to regard him as more dangerous than the rest of the group. He was described by various demons as 'a nasty little shit,' 'one of the most vicious and brutal bastards you could ever meet,' 'someone you don't want to mess with' and 'probably the most dangerous member of the Slayer's group, including her.' As a point of fact, one of the demons I spoke with described having seen Harris grab hold of one of a group of zombies with whom he had been arguing and drag him alongside his car, before decapitating the creature by deliberately swerving across the street and sideswiping a mailbox with him. The owner of the local demon bar, who apparently has more than a passing acquaintance with him, said, and I'm quoting him here, 'The kid acts like he'd have a hard time figuring out how to use a broom, but don't let that fool ya. He's more dangerous than the rest of them Scoobies, combined. You pretty much know what the Slayer and the rest of them'll do in a given situation, but not him. Except that whatever it is, it'll hurt. A lot.' Although his school records indicate a mediocre, barely average student, I think we'll all agree that such things very seldom indicate an opponent's true capabilities.

"That pretty summarizes the background information for the town. The next part is everything we've been able to determine regarding Veruca's death," the blond man stated.

"As all of you probably already know, Veruca had transferred to UC Sunnydale last year from Chicago, since she wanted to see more of the world. The individual identified as Veruca's killer is a young lycan named Daniel Osbourne, nicknamed 'Oz,' who also attended classes here. He and his family are not members of any known Clan, and it is believed that he and his family are members of one of the 'Lost Ones' clans. In any event, this Osbourne is most definitely a friend of the Slayer, and apparently had been helping her out for several years. According to my sources, he left town approximately a year and a half ago, and no one knows where he went, or where he might be now.

"Prior to leaving town, he had been dating the Rosenberg witch, and evidently she and Veruca apparently quarreled over Osbourne, with the quarrel eventually escalating to the point that Veruca was forced to assume her wolf-form to defend herself when Rosenberg attacked her," the young lycan informed his listeners.

"From everything I have learned, Rosenberg did not challenge Veruca to a duel, as honor would have required, but instead made an unprovoked attack against her in one of the school buildings, after classes were over, when no one would be present to witness her cowardice. Veruca had apparently managed to avoid Rosenberg's sneak attack and had the witch at her mercy, when Osbourne attacked Veruca from behind and tore out her throat without any prior warning, in order to prevent her from killing Rosenberg.

"Based on this information and some of Osbourne's remarks, in which he said something to the effect that it wasn't safe to be around her anymore, and his subsequent leaving town and disappearing, it is my belief that the witch used her magic to mind control Osbourne and kill Veruca, and that Osbourne fled town to escape her.

"That is everything I have to report, at present, sir," Christopher said, turning and bending his head towards Vincent in a sign of respect. Pausing for a moment to let his audience absorb the information he had just delivered, he took a small sip from his water bottle and patiently waited for any questions that might arise.

"So, this Rosenberg witch is the one responsible for my sister's death, you say?" Vincent asked, his face as impassive as it usually was.

"All of the information I have gathered certainly points to that conclusion, sir," the bearded man replied. "Why else would Osbourne flee, if he wasn't afraid that the Rosenberg woman would continue to control and use him as she wanted?"

A rumble of assent from various listeners followed Christopher's last statement, and Vincent's head nodded gravely as he considered everything that had been said.

"Rosenberg must pay for killing my sister," the lycan leader stated firmly. "There is no question about that, whatsoever." His eyes narrowed in thought as he contemplated the best way to make the witch suffer, before her assuredly deserved death.

"These 'Scooby Gang' people, however, are most certainly opponents to be wary of," he stated, a concerned look on his face, "and this Harris person you described sounds far too much like a Hunter for my comfort. The fact that he regards Rosenberg as family means that he will undoubtedly view any actions taken against her as being against him, too. I think, therefore, that before we take any other action, we need to remove him from any consideration as an asset for this 'Scooby Gang.' "

His eyes widened slightly as an exceptionally vicious and cruel idea crossed his mind. A moment's further consideration confirmed the aptness of the inspiration for this particular situation, and a malicious smile lit up his face as he spoke.

"You said that Harris is seriously injured and in the Intensive Care Unit of the local hospital?" he asked, turning to look at his lieutenant, his words more a reiteration of fact than question. At Christopher's prompt "Yes, sir, I did," the Clan leader then gave further directions.

"I think, then, that we should do our best to ensure that this poor, injured man recovers from his injuries as quickly as possible. Ellen," he pointed to a small, delicate-looking brunette sitting among the half-dozen lycans gathered together in the room, "tomorrow, you should visit your injured cousin, Alexander Harris, at the hospital, so that you can be assured of his condition and his eventual recovery. Once you are alone with him, bite him and make sure that he will change when the moon calls, in three days time. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," the woman smiled ferally. "It will be as you say."

"This Harris and his friends will find themselves too busy dealing with his new 'condition' over the next few days to pay attention to anything else that might be happening around them," the pack leader smiled, his teeth glistening in the reflected lights. "And then, Miss Willow Rosenberg will discover what the consequences of attacking the Pack involve."