Cry Havoc Once More

Author: Knife Hand <d_lutke[at]>

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy. I would buy it but I am broke.

Summary: The final battle is about to be joined and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Friends will become enemies and enemies will become friends. A look at the final battle and the path that lead to it. (Multi Crossovers)

Spoilers: First four series of Buffy with some elements of five and six.

Feedback: Constructive feedback appreciated, flames unappreciated

Rating: R

Authors Notes: For the purposes of this fic, I am assuming that Giles was in his late thirties/early forties during the series, thus he is in his late fifties here and will probably take a more administrative role that combat. I just wanted to make that clear.

Latest addition

We always thought it would be simple, like it was in high school. Humans versus demons, clear cut good and evil. We also thought we knew what a true Apocalypse was. We were wrong. Now it had come, The End of Days, Armageddon, the end of all things, the final Apocalypse. One final battle to determine the survival of humanity, and the ironic thing is that it is not lead by a demon, or a vampire bent on destruction. The end of the would was to be controlled by the hands of a black knight and his dark queen, two humans, fallen heroes of the light who had once given all they were to save what they would now destroy.

The dessert was bathed in the semi-light of an eclipse, on that had lasted for over a month. This area, which hardly ever received any rainfall, was about to have a deluge, of blood. One final battle was about to be joined with the forces protecting the world, the forces of Light, on one side and the destroyers, the forces of darkness, on the other. In one of the camps a man sat, tall and strong with dark hair and soulful brown eyes. He was looking over paperwork when a man entered the tent.

"Sir, there is an official request by the enemy for a parley in no mans land." The man said.

"Thank you." The tent's inhabitant replied and the man left.

"You're really going to meet them? Unarmed?" came a feminie voice from another entrance that lead into another tent.

"Of course." The man replied.

"Why, Xander?" the woman asked.

"My reasons will become apparent, Tara. Don't worry. I want you and Faith there as well. The presence of a Slayer should shake them." Xander said with a smile.

"Ok. I trust you. For now." Tara said before leaving the room.


Both of the camps held humans, vampires and demons. While the different species hated each other, in both cases the banded together in a united goal, to defeat the enemy in the other camp and follow through with their camps' mission. Many of the demons and vampires on the side of light were there mostly because they liked the way the world worked and did not want that to be disrupted while others had no genuine desire to harm humanity. As he walked through his camp, with Tara and Faith following him, Xander passed demons and vampires, the latter he particularly despised, but he figured that it was worthwhile to keep them as long as they worked towards the goal, above all was the goal. Taking another look around, Xander saw the humans this time. People from all over the world, from every nation. Military men and women, street fighters, martial artists, cops. All of these people were preparing themselves for battle, cleaning guns and such.

Another group, the Immortals, sat in another area of the camp cleaning and sharpening swords, axes and other bladed weapons that were their trademark. For millennia the Immortals had fought, engaging in single combat, the winner gaining all the knowledge of the loser, only really dieing when their head was separated from their bodies. The Immortals, though a small portion of the army numbering only several hundred in an army of millions, would be a pivotal part of the upcoming battle.

Putting the Immortals out of his mind, Xander jumped into the jeep that waited at the edge of the camp, with Tara and Faith, and drove out through miles of no mans land to the parley point, walking the last few hundred feet to prove that they had no weapons in the jeep. There they waited for the parley party from their enemy, but they did not have to wait long. Their enemy had also sent three humans as their parley, which did not surprise Xander as these three were at the head of the enemy's command structure.


The three enemy humans stoped about ten feet from Xander, Tara and Faith, glancing quickly at Faith, knowing that she was a Slayer. One of them, a blond woman stepped forward and Xander mimicked her.

"Why are you here?" the woman asked.

"You called a parley just for that?" Xander replied smirking.

The other woman and the man looked at each other but the blond did not visibly react to the comment.

"You know that you aren't going to win." She said.

"Such arrogance, I'm impressed." Xander responded calmly.

"I ask again, why are you here?"

The blond looked like she was getting annoyed.

"The answer is simple." Xander said, pausing for effect. "I'm evil, Buffy."

For a second you could hear a pin drop before Xander continued.

"We are going to destroy the world and from the ashes we will rule."

"But..." Buffy began.

"But what, Buff? You thought that you, Wills and Giles would come out here, talk to us and suddenly we would be on the same side, like we used to. Wake up and smell the carnage, the world does not work that way." Xander said.

"I'm so going to kick you ass. You know I can stop this." Buffy threatened.

"I don't think so. This is a definite first for you, Buff. You see, you created us; you made us what we are. In a way you are responsible for what we do." Xander said with venom in his voice.

Xander turned, followed by Tara and Faith towards the jeep.

"This parley is over." He announced.

"See ya later B, Red, Jeaves." Faith said, jumping into the back of the jeep.

They sped back to their camp, leaving behind three very confused and angry former friends.

"Everyone keeps weapons and armour close till this is over." Xander ordered and Faith nodded in the back seat.


Xander sat at his desk in his tent, a dagger sitting close at hand, looking over some reports.

"Come to bed." Tara said from the same doorway she had occupied earlier.

Xander looked over at his dark queen, who was dressed in a very seductive and thin nightgown. Xander glanced down at the VERY boring reports before following Tara into the sleeping chamber. Quickly changing into his night attire Xander lay down beside Tara and began to gently run one hand up and down her side while the other absently played with her silky blond hair.

"Do you regret it?" he asked quietly.

"Regret what, exactly?" Tara responded.

"Being here, like this." Xander said.

"No. I mean I sometimes wonder how our lives could have gone differently, but generally no." Tara said softly.

"I can't imagine like that anymore. Tell me about it." Xander whispered.

Tara rolled over and faced Xander, and began telling him all the notions she had come up with. What if Buffy had not excluded Xander after they defeated ADAM? What if he had not been run out of town by has 'friends' for his 'own protection'? What if Willow had used less magic when patrolling with Buffy? Would that have stoped the magic addiction? What about if Willow never slept with Amy while on a magic high? What if her family had not come back and kidnapped her? What if Xander had not saved her? Even, what if she had never fallen in love with Xander? They talked for hours, Tara telling Xander all her dreams of what life could have been, be they mundane or bizarre, even by Sunnydale standards and for a while they could forget that they were about to lead an army to destroy the world, that they would face off against and kill or be killed by people that they had called friends, even lovers. They could forget the darkness that consumed their lives and just be like any other couple in love, be each other's world.


Buffy stormed into her tent.

'How dare he? How dare he blame me for his choices? All I ever wanted to do was keep him safe. He was my best friend. How dare he go all evil on me when I loved him?' Buffy suddenly stoped at that thought. 'I love him?'

Before Buffy could consider the implications of that thought she was interrupted by someone at the tent flap.

"Buffy? Methos, Albus Dumbledore and General Hammond are here to see you." The messenger said.

"Send them in. Tell the other section heads that there will be a meeting in the morning." She replied.

The three leaders entered the tent, Methos representing the Immortals, Dumbledore the wand baring Witches and Wizards and General Hammond representing the elite Airforce command know as the SGC. The discussed the upcoming battle long into the night.


The armies faced off, several hundred feet apart, it had been three days since the parley and the battle was about to start. Xander, Tara and Faith stood at the centre of the Army of Darkness's ranks dressed in full battle gear. Xander stood tall and imposing in his armour. It was black and red plate mail covering his entire body, with leather and chain mail armour underneath. His gauntlets were fashioned to represent claws while his mantle, which extended down over his backplate, was made to represent dragon wings, although it was enchanted so that it wrapped around him like a cloak when standing still but did not impede his movements in battle while retaining its strength. His helmet was fashioned after the head of a dragon but leaving his face exposed. On his back, coming through a slit in the mantle's back, was a wicked looking Claymore, the blade totally black while the crossbar consisted of two battling dragons and the pommel made to represent a dragon's claw. At his waist were an axe and a mace, fashioned in a similar style to the sword. Coupled with his grim expression he was a formidable sight, however anyone who discounted or belittled the women at his side would learn that they were wrong, in a definitely painful and probably fatal lesson.

On Xander's left stood Faith, who was dressed in thin, black leather. The only armour that she had on was made mostly of hardened leather that had been magically strengthened. She had shin guards on that protected her lower legs and had many small spikes facing out of the armour, so that anything she kicked would be punctured by multiple spikes. She also had bracers on that extended from her elbows down over her hands and while the bracers did not have the spikes of the shin guards, they did have blades protruding from each end so that a punch or elbow would cause a painful wound. Over her shoulders, Faith had shoulder guards with large spikes, which not only protected her shoulders and upper body but allowed for an additional weapon if she tackled someone. In each hand she held a short, black sword that she handled with ease and that had a three inch long spike in place of a pommel, and she also carried a pair of daggers in her belt.

On Xander's right stood Tara, who looked the most vulnerable. Tara was dressed in a simple yet elegant dress that was semi-tight to the waist but loose below the waist for freedom of movement and with slightly loose sleaves. The material, which appeared to be silk, was magically enhanced to be stronger that it looked. In her hands was a rather plain looking black quarterstaff, many people would miss the carefully carved dragon that graced the staff, that she held with a familiar ease, which appeared to be her only weapon. Tara was the most dangerous because in addition to the throwing knives that were hidden up her sleaves, she knew magic that made her more dangerous to anyone who crossed her than either of her companions.

Now, with the certainty of a fight, Xander was pulled into his memories, as he had been for every fight since that day over fifteen years earlier, that flashed by his minds eye in an instant that seemed to take years, and through his bond with her, he could feel Tara being likewise pulled into her own memories, a curse that the both shared and could not change but in the back of his mind Xander knew it was worth it, as long as he was with Tara.


15 Years Ago - End Of 2000

Xander slumped as he felt his soul returning to his body. It had been an incredible rush being joined in Buffy's body to defeat ADAM. While himself, Willow and Giles were still weak, a hairy demon broke into the room only to be killed by Spike. Because he was still coming down from the magic experience and insulting Spike was as natural as breathing, Xander did not pay any mental attention to the conversation (AN: this is because I can't be bothered looking up the episode and copying the dialogue. :) ). Buffy emerged from the secret lab with Riley and hugged Willow, almost ignoring Xander despite the fact that the spell had been his idea, and Spike said something stupidly macho before they headed out into the chaos of battle.

While Buffy and Riley took point, Xander went drag, bringing up the rear and incapacitating a lot of the demons and vampires that tried to attack the group that Buffy and Riley never noticed. When Graham and the other Initiative Soldiers joined the group, Xander traded the blaster for an M16. Utilising his soldier memories to their fullest, Xander organised the soldiers into a covered fallback that managed to keep the demons at a distance behind them. The last cover pair was Xander and a soldier he did not know, they waited as Buffy and Riley pried open the elevator doors and began to get the soldiers into the elevator shaft. As the evacuation continued, a group of demons and vampires poured around the corner. Most of the demons were killed by the burst of gunfire from the M16's, even a few vampires were killed when the bullets ripped through their necks, effectively taking their heads off. The soldier managed to stop more demons and vampires by throwing a grenade around the corner, leaving them to face one big, hairy demon and two vampires.

The two vampires came at Xander while the demon attacked the other soldier. Xander heard a few shots ring out before he was too busy to notice anymore. Xander shifted his grip on the now empty M16, and using it like a baseball bat, swung the rifle, almost taking the head off one of the vampires and driving it into the wall. The second vampire was more cautious and managed to disarm Xander, sending the rifle flying out of reach. Xander, in the true, extremely paranoid tradition of the Scooby Gang, pulled a stake out of the back of his trousers and prepared for hand to hand. Xander did fairly well against the vampire, as it was only a fledgling, managing to land several solid punches and kicks, one of which cause the vampire to stumble back. Taking this opportunity, Xander kicked the other vampire in the head as it tried to rise and staked it. Mad at the staking of its companion, the final vampire made a classic and final mistake, it charged trying to land a haymaker, which Xander dodged and used the opening to stake the vampire.

Xander looked over at the other soldier. He had managed to slow the demon down with the shots he had gotten of and was using his rifle like Xander had. As Xander turned, the soldier made a mistake, allowing the demon to disarm him and rake its claws across his stomach. Xander immediately jumped into action, grabbing the demon from behind and, with the strength born of an adrenaline rush, threw the demon into the still burning bodies down the corridor where it began to burn before it ran off. Xander grabbed the injured soldier in a fireman's hold and carried him to the elevator shaft.

"Medic!" he called as he got there.

Xander looked around seeing only soldiers. Riley, Buffy, Willow, Spike and Giles had already gone to the surface. The medic quickly began to work on the soldier but in the end he was unable to help him and the soldier died.

"Thank you, Xander." Graham said.

"No problem. Never leave a man behind, right?" Xander said before he sadly began to climb the ropes to the frat house above.


Xander was just finishing has last set of bench presses when he heard the door open. Looking up to his spotter, Graham, he saw his friend mouth a name.

"Come on in, Tara. I'll be finished in a second." He said as he continued with his daily exercise.

In the three months since the debacle in the Initiative, Xander had been excluded more and more from the Scooby Gang that he had basically founded. At first it had been as normal. Tara had been integrated into the group and had quickly become friends with Xander, once commenting that he was a 'cutie' and insinuating that if she was not gay and currently dating Willow, she might consider dating him. Then things had begun to change. Buffy had slowly begun to exclude him from her patrols, saying that she could not protect him and he could not protect himself yet she refused to train him. Instead she took Riley and Willow, for 'magical backup', generally leaving Xander and Tara behind to research or just to worriedly wait for those they cared about to return.

One day, a few weeks after the fight, Xander had accidentally met Graham on the streets, Graham having returned after his debriefing in Washington. Graham and the small group of former Initiative soldiers that had returned respected Xander for what had happened during their extraction from their overrun base and they quickly befriended him. The small group had trained and patrolled Sunnydale, avoiding Buffy and her patrols as Xander knew her patterns and Tara, the only other Scoobie who knew about them, helping them out in any ways possible. This little group had great success, particularly when Xander insisted that they all begin to learn melee weapons such as stakes and swords rather than just guns and blasters. The downturn in demonic and vampiric activity was noticed by Buffy and the Scooby Gang, however Buffy, as usual, put it down to her own prowess and the demons now learning to fear her, suddenly after four years.

Xander finished his last bench press and sat up, not noticing or caring that he was shirtless. Wiping the sheen of sweat off his body revealed a well toned and muscular physique, which had been hidden for years under his baggy clothes and enhanced by his training. It is amazing how fit you body can become from simply absorbing twelve years of bullying. The sight made Tara blush slightly and look away until he had a shirt on, however she did notice the tattoo of a cross on Xander's right shoulder.

"So what can HC do for our favourite blond Wicca?" Xander asked.

"HC?" Tara said, confused.

"Hell's Commandos" Xander clarified.

Tara smiled at the name and gave a slight wave back to Graham, who had waved as he exited the gym. All of the members of the newly named HC liked Tara, thinking of her as their unofficial mascot and good luck charm. If she ever asked for anything, they would do everything in their power to get it for her, but she never abused this, making the soldiers respect her even more. After the downfall of the Initiative, the HC had managed to acquire Lowell House as their base of operations and had given Tara an open pass to visit.

"Right. Xander, there's going to be a Scooby meeting this afternoon and they want you there. It's probably one of Buffy's I'm so great meeting but you should still show."

"Alright, I'll show." Xander said before pausing. "How is Willow?"

"She's fine, I guess. I think she's using too much magic though." Tara replied slightly sadly. "I'll see you this afternoon."

With that, Tara turned and walked out. When she was gone, Xander walked into the main house.

"Alright everyone. Party tonight for Tara's Birthday." He announced with a grin.


Xander was bored. The gang was sitting in the Magic Box, which Giles had purchased. Willow was sitting next to Tara, holding her hand but generally overlooking her girlfriend, who deserved more in Xander's opinion. Giles sat in his typical position at the head of the table while Anya, Xander's ex-girlfriend, them having broken up after the Initiative incident because he might have died and then there would have been no one to give her sex, stood behind the cash register counting money. Buffy was going on about the demon that had injured Riley, who was now in the hospital; a demon that Xander knew was relatively weak, for what they had faced. The door opened and everyone glanced at the door to see three people. One was a man about their own age with a weak attempt at a beard, next to him stood an older man and the third was a young woman, about the same age as the first man, with blond hair. Everyone at the table, except Tara, turned back, intent on the conversation or being bored in Xander's case. Tara, on the other hand, looked terrified, and Xander was the first to notice.

"Hello Tara." The older man at the door said.

"Father, Donny, Beth. How, I mean what are you doing here?" Tara stuttered nervously.

"It's that day, and we've come to take you home." Mr Maclay said. "We thought that you had gotten this out of you system, but we were obviously wrong."

Mr Maclay gestured around at the magical items.

"Get back here you sodden wanker!" came an irritatingly familiar voice from the back room.

Suddenly the door to the training room burst open and the demon that Buffy had been talking about earlier came bursting in, followed by a pissed off Spike. Buffy managed to intercept the demon and kill it by driving a stake through its chest, which will kill a surprising number of demons.

"What the fuck is that?" Donny asked.

"A demon. Der." Buffy replied.

"See what you've done? How many more demons are going to come because of you?" Mr Maclay screamed at Tara.

"What are you drivelling about?" Xander said.

"She is part demon, evil. As are all the women in our family, but we know how to control her." Mr Maclay said.

"Um. What kind of demon?" Anya said in the back.

"Huh?" said Donny.

"What kind of demon. Sure some are evil but others have led productive lives that help the community." Anya said.

"Demon is demon, evil is evil." Mr Maclay said.

"With the exception of Tara, hands up if you are, were, dated or raised a demon." Xander said.

Everyone in the store, except the Maclay's raised their hands.

"Spike?" Xander said, gesturing to Tara.

"Right." The chipped vampire said.

Spike walked up to Tara and punched her in the nose then clutched his head in pain.

"Hey!" Willow said angrily.

Xander just smirked.

"She's human." Spike declared.

"Let me guess." Xander said, turning on Tara's blood relatives. "It has been a family tradition, passed down for generations, that the women were part demon to keep them under control. You sicken me."

"It's none of you concern. Tara, come with us." Mr Maclay said.

"N No." Tara stuttered.

Mr Maclay stepped towards Tara, only to be stoped by Xander.

"You lay a finger on her I'll break all your bones, sting you up for a week and then stop being nice." Xander growled.

"We're her blood kin, who the hell are you?" Donny demanded.

"Her friends, her family. We care about her." Xander said, before turning on her farther. "You're just the fucking sperm donor."

Donny threw a punch which was grabbed by Xander, who twisted Donny's arm around behind him.

"Leave now. If I ever see you again, you'll beg for death." Xander growled before throwing Donny, Beth and Mr Maclay out of the Magic Box.

There was a pregnant pause before anyone spoke.

"Who's up for some Bronzing?" Buffy said.

"Well Tara can't. She has a prior engagement. I have to be going too." Xander said with a lopsided grin.


Xander and Tara walked down the street towards the former Lowell House.

"What did you mean when you said I had a prior engagement?" Tara asked.

"One of the guys found a tome in one of the nests we cleared. It seemed to be magical so we thought you should have a look." Xander said.

It was true, it was just not why he was taking her to the house. After they walked for a while, Xander broke the silence.

"Did you have something arranged with Willow?"

"No. She, umm." Tara began.

"Forgot it was you birthday? Just like she forgot to pay attention to you and forgot what Spike's reaction to hitting you was?" Xander said.

"Maybe. And hey, that hurt you know." Tara said, mockingly angry.

"Maybe, but it worked." Xander replied with a grin.

They soon walked into the house, with its lights off to be met by the members of HC screaming 'Surprise!' and 'Happy Birthday'. Needless to say, Tara was stunned.


Almost eight months had passed since Tara's birthday, which none of the other Scoobies remembered. In that time Xander had been completely removed from the Scooby Gang and Tara was on the way out as well. This had indirectly led to the current situation. Xander and the HC's were closing in on the library of the old, ruined high school, The Hellmouth. Xander had a bad feeling as Buffy and he Scooby Gang were not there. With her contacts in the magical community, Tara had discovered that a group of humans and demons had recently found a new way to harness the energy of the Hellmouth. The reason that the Scooby Gang was not here was because Buffy relied on Giles for information and Giles believed that if it was not in some musty tome, the older the better, then it was not a cause for concern, thus no Scooby Gang as this ritual was definitely not in any books.

Xander had the twenty members of HC set up around the old high school library in five teams of four. Xander had not let Tara come, despite her protests, saying that there was no magic that could help. The real reason was that Xander and the HC wanted Tara to spend her last hours without worry in the arms of her lover, Willow, should they fail, as opposed to fighting and dieing besides them as they knew she would. Not one of them would bear it if she died.

Xander looked into the ruins of the library where he had spent most of his time in his final three years at high school and swore under his breath. There were seventy individuals in the room. While twenty were human, fifteen of which were tied up, the rest were fairly powerful demons, with the exception of five who were weak, generally harmless and bound like most of the humans. In effect there were fifty hostiles and twenty hostages.

Xander divided the HC, with the exception of his group of four, in two. One half would attack the left flank with their guns and blasters, trying to gain the enemy's attention while the other group would try to break through the right flank with their swords and pistols to try and rescue the hostages. Xander's group would support whoever needed them the most. Xander just preyed that they would win, knowing that there would be a very high casualty rate.


Faith spat blood into the darkness and heard it hit the cell wall a few feet away. She hated Prison, she hated solitary. The only reason she was in solitary was because she had been in fight earlier. Ok, it was a BAD idea to beat the other prisoner so badly, but she had no choice. The other prisoner thought she could make a name for herself by taking on Faith, with a knife, but she had learned that Faith was not to be messed with, learned the hard way, and Faith had been sent to solitary, bruised by the batons carried by the guards. Faith hears voices and a key being turned in the lock.

'That's not right. I'm in here for six weeks and it is not time for chow.' Faith thought.

The door opened, blinding Faith after hours of darkness. While she is blinded, one of the guards quickly steps into the cell and jabs her with a needle.

"Watch out for this one, she's dangerous. Maybe she'll su..." a voice said before Faith blacked out.


The HC's were dropping like flies. There were ten dead and another six seriously wounded, three of them critical. They had gotten the hostages/sacrifices out and had killed about thirty of the enemy, including all five humans, however this still left twenty demons to face, with only four able bodied or slightly wounded soldiers. They had moved most of the seriously wounded soldiers out of the battle zone and were preparing to go down fighting. Then Graham had an idea, explosives. They had about ten pounds of C4, however it would need to be set off inside the group of demons. Graham was injured, having been shot through the shoulder by one of the humans before they were killed.

Mike and Danny volunteered to blow the demons, covering each other and each having a detonator. Xander tried to object, saying that he should go but they said he was more important than they were, he was their leader. Mike and Danny ran out into the demon horde, Xander and Graham providing covering fire. One of the demons let loose a barrage of flying spikes, which injured Xander, cutting up his side, and killed Mike. Danny dived into the middle of the demon pack in a move reminiscent of a Gridiron game, getting sliced in the process. When he landed, Danny set off the explosives, incinerating the Demons and making Xander and Graham duck for cover. Graham called for ambulances and, assisted by an injured Xander, dragged the surviving HC members outside the old school, losing one of the critical soldiers in the transport.


Tara awoke with a start, she knew something had gone wrong and Xander was injured. Gently getting out of bed, so a not to wake Willow, Tara quickly dressed and left the room. Willow snuggled into the sheets, her naked body cold due to the departure of her lover, but she quickly fell back to sleep, not noticing that Tara was gone.

Tara ran, her chest heaving and fear, as much as exertion, taking her breath away. When she arrived at the old high school she saw police cars and ambulances. There were only two Hell's Commando's there, Xander and Graham. Another had died before the ambulances had arrived and the rest were either at or on route to the hospital. As Xander and Graham's injuries were minor, they had been treated on site. Tara ran over to Xander, checking his injuries then looking into his eyes.

When she did, she was shocked. She saw something die in Xander. Despite all that he had seen, Xander had managed to maintain some innocence, some of that carefree attitude of children and it was that she saw die. Tara's heart broke for Xander, he had lost part of what made her love him. Not the way she loved Willow, but love none the less. She saw him harden, not in body but in spirit, and it frightened her, but she still trusted him absolutely. What else could she do, he was her absolute best friend and she platonically loved him.

Although she was frightened, it was not of him, but for him. She had seen before the anguish that one who had suffered such a tragedy could experience and she never wanted that for Xander. Tara slung Xander's arm over her shoulder and helped him walk away.

"Don't get any ideas." She said with a small laugh.

"Yes Sir. I would never do that to my best friend. Or Willow." Xander replied.

They slowly moved off into the gathering darkness.


Faith opened her eyes to see a different cell to those in the Prison. This cell had a grilled door that lead into a pit that was surrounded by spikes and cheering fans. The door opened and Faith was pushed from behind into the pit.

"Fight or die." A voice said behind her just before she entered the pit.

Faith looked around the room and saw two things. The first was that she was unarmed and second was the other woman. The other woman slowly moved towards her, her right hand encased in a spiked gauntlet and her left shoulder covered by leather armour, dressed in a skimpy outfit. Faith moved cautiously, bread from Hellmouth experience and Slayer instincts. Faith could hear the cheering but it all got turned down when the other woman came at her, leading with the gauntleted right. Now it was survival and Faith's instincts took over. Dodging, punching, and moving. Faith tried to incapacitate the other woman but she kept coming, and eventually, running purely on instinct, Faith saw her opportunity. She dodged an attack from the other woman, slipped behind her and broke her neck. When she heard the snap, Faith realised what she had done. Falling to her knees, ignoring the blood flowing from her wounds and the suddenly loud roaring of the crowd, Faith wept. She had killed again and she did not even know the woman's name. This was not why she had given herself up to the cops, it was not why she had gone to jail. Faith continued to weep as she was dragged out of the arena and into a holding cell.


Tara walked into the Magic Box in a black dress, which surprised everyone there, especially since she was crying.

"Baby, what's the matter?" Willow asked, leading Tara to the table.

"Xander's gone. He's left town." Tara sobbed.

"Good." Buffy said, not noticing Tara's shocked expression. "Now he won't get hurt because he jumps into fights that are beyond him."

"YOU BITCH!!!" Tara screamed, trying to get at Buffy, being held back by Giles, Willow and Anya. "Are you that fucking blind?"

"Tara, what are you talking about?" Giles asked calmly, cleaning his glasses.

"Haven't you noticed the downturn in Demonic activity? Do you still see Xander as useless?" Tara accused.

"Ok, Tara. Clam down and tell us why he left." Willow injected

"He left because a week ago he lost fourteen friends when he saved the world, friends we buried today. His friends, my friends, had to die because Buffy won't get her head out of her ass and Giles does not believe it is real unless it is in a really old book."

"Hey!" Buffy said.

"Maybe you should start from the beginning." Giles suggested, ignoring Buffy's comment.

"Why? Will you believe me now when you didn't before?" Tara spat.

With this Tara stormed out of the store.


Tara smiled as she walked up the stairs. She was going to surprise her lover, Willow. In the eighteen months since Xander had left, things had gotten rocky. Willow had become addicted to magic, even going so far as to get magical boots from a sorcerer named Rank. With help from Giles, Anya and Buffy, Tara had managed to get Willow down off the magic high, even starting on some small spells. Several days ago Willow and Tara had managed to turn Amy back into a human, from the rat that she had been for the last few years. Tara idly played with the pendant necklace that Xander had given her for her birthday over two years previously. She missed her best friend but they kept in regular contact. She still got birthday and Christmas presents from him.

Tara opened the door to her room, hers and Willow's, and was stoped dead in shock, based on two senses. First was an all to familiar smell, two be exact but she only really noticed one, the strong smell that always reminded her of strawberries. The smell of Willow on a magic high. The second smell was associated with the shocking display that she saw. With an array of items that she did not want to think about, she saw Amy and Willow. Together. On the bed. Naked!

Tara ran. She ran through the streets emersed in anguish, grief and heartache. She did not even notice the white van that was parked just ahead of her or the fact that somebody threw open the door just before she reached it. When she hit the door she fell to the ground unconscious.


Xander moved slowly along the rafters of the supposedly abandoned warehouse. Xander had bee pushing himself very hard in the eighteen or so months since he had left Sunnydale, doing eighteen to twenty- two hour days. He was always training, finding whoever he could to help him improve himself. After the disastrous victory of the HC, Xander had decided that he would never again risk other people's lives by leading them into battle. Despite the fact the he was pushing himself almost beyond the limits of human endurance, Xander still made time to keep in contact with Tara back in Sunnydale. Xander had not forgotten his old team mates. He had pulled every string he could lay a finger on, and the HC's were given the chance to be reinstated in their military service and the posting of their choice, or for those who did not want to return to military life, a large pension for the rest of their lives.

As he quietly moved along the rafters, Xander heard voices. When he passed the final internal wall he saw a large group of demons. In the centre of the demons were three humans, teenage girls, bound and gagged. Xander paused for a minute, his mind raging. There were definitely WAY too many powerful demons for him to even contemplate engaging them, he would be dead in under a minute, forget even reaching the hostages let alone rescuing them. On the other had he could not let the girls be sacrificed. One reason was that he had spent his life trying to save people and his conscious would not let him walk away without helping.

Unfortunately this was not the primary reason for stopping the sacrifice. That reason was, if the demons managed to ritually sacrifice the girls, then they would summon an obscenely powerful demon that would ravage the city, New York, and would make Olvikan, the demon that the Mayor of Sunnydale turned into, look like a harmless garden snake. Xander made a decision. Pulling the rifle off his back, where it was holstered next to a sword, Xander took aim at his targets.

'I hope I'm doing the right thing.' He thought as he slowly squeezed the trigger.

Shots rang out.


Faith sat in her cell, waiting. Her cell was different that when she had first arrived, about eighteen months prior. When she had arrived it had been completely bare, except for the bed, now it was slightly more personalised. Her bed was bigger and softer, she had books that she could read. Basically, it felt like either a Spartan style bedroom or a luxurious prison cell. Faith had learnt some things about the battles that she participated in. Firstly, they were always to the death. Secondly, they were ancient in origin. (Think Conan the Barbarian, the tournament that Conan was in.)

The Roman Gladiator games had been based on this tournament. Some of the competitors, like herself, were slaves or prisoners, fighting not only to survive but to ultimately gain their freedom. Others fought for the riches that can be won, while other fought for the sheer thill of the fight. There were three rings of compition; women, men and demon. The women fighters were generally fast and agile, but not overly strong. The male fighters relied more on brute strength to win battles.

The demon compition was something else again. Mostly chosen from the most aggressive demons that could be found, they were fast, strong, brutal and many had special abilities. A normal human, even one of the best fighters in the male or female divisions would be ripped apart in seconds, but when pitched against each other the demons gave brutal fights in which the spectators bet hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single match.

Faith was not a typical fighter. She had quickly risen through the female ranks, and as tradition dictated she got slightly better armour or weaponry for each victory. After she reached the top of the female competition, she was placed in the male arena, starting out with no weaponry or armour, again based on tradition. That had been nine months ago, now she was almost at the top of the male ladder and there was talk of her going into the demon ring, something that had never happened before.

Faith was pulled out of her slight meditative state by the cell door opening. A bundle was thrown in and the door closed again.

'Time to fight again.' Faith thought bitterly.

She still felt uneasy about having to kill, but it was survival. Kill or die. She had seen one new girl, back in the early days, who had refused to kill her opponent after she had crippled her. The overseers had killed the other girl regardless, then had stunned, raped and tortured the new girl. They had eventually killed her, but the lesson was thoroughly learnt by all.

Opening the bundle Faith slowly got ready. Once you reached this level, you were given time to prepare, unlike her first fight where she had been awoken and thrown strait into the pit. When she was finished, she was in what she had expected from the bundle. She had on a skimpy outfit, basically a sports top and bike pants but done up to resemble a primitive style leather top and skirt, almost like the earlier renditions of a cavewomen. Over that she had plain leather shoulder pads and shin guards. In her right hand she had a wicked looking sword that had a spike loop bar that covered her fingers. Her left arm had a bracer that had blades at the hand and elbow ends.

In earlier fights they had tried to give her more armour but she had refused to wear it, knowing that it was her agility as much as her Slayer strength and speed that allowed her to win, kept her alive. Tying her hair back into a ponytail, Faith again sat down to wait. The next time the door opened, she stood and walked out, moving down the passage leading into the pit. It was time to kill again, time for the crowds to cheer again.


Xander sat in his rented apartment with a stiff drink. Once again he had saved the world, but it had cost him dearly again. The last time it had cost him fourteen friends, this time it had only costed him his soul. He wondered if it was worth it. Three innocent lives for the world? Three teenage girls that he had killed?

Sometimes, when he saw what humans did to each other; wars, abuse, genocide, he wondered why the demons did not just let humanity destroy themselves, why he and others fought so hard for people who waste the gift that they have been given. But then he thought about Tara, and about Buffy and Willow how they used to be back in high school. There were reasons to fight, things worth protecting. On the spur of the moment, Xander picked up the phone and dialled a number from memory. He was shocked when no one picked up. That was the private mobile phone that he had given Tara, and she was never without it. Xander hung up the phone and then called the airlines to book the first flight to LA. As he did, he idly noticed the news report about a fire at an abandoned warehouse, the result of a few grenades and some Molotov cocktails that resulted in several dead demons, but not enough. He quickly packed his bags and emptied his apartment.

Xander was returning to the Hellmouth.


Present, Late 2015

Xander ran through the vampire he faced with his Claymore then he decapitated it. In the few seconds till he had to face his next opponent he took a quick look around. Through a gap in the chaos of battle, Xander saw Faith fighting a mixed group of soldiers, vampires and demons. She moved with deadly grace and economy, using her swords, bracers and shin guards to deadly effect and he saw several of her opponents go down in the seconds he watched her. Nearby he saw Buffy laying waist to several members of his army, not that he really cared, they were expendable. Buffy wore no armour, arrogant as always, and was fighting with a broadsword in one hand and a large battleaxe in the other.

Another break in the fighting showed Tara. She was dancing. Flowing from place to place in an almost hypnotic motion she was twirling her quarterstaff to keep enemies at bay, breaking wrists, arms, legs, heads, anything that got in her way. Occasionally she would send off a spell of some sort, maybe a fireball that would rip through ranks of friend and foe alike. Xander stopped looking around as he faced his next opponent, an Immortal who was probably several hundred years old. He idly notice that the eclipsed sun was sinking in the West, the fighting had gone on for several hours, and soon the armies would be calling it a night, so to speak, so that they could rest for the next day. As his reflexes took over, Xander's mind slipped back into the past.


The Past, Mid 2003

(AN: Kinda screws with your mind a bit, huh?)

Xander walked off the plane at LAX and hired a car from the rental booth. He had a perfectly believable excuse for the weaponry that allowed him to pass through airport security, something he had cooked up with Graham, who had rejoined the military as a supernatural advisor with the rank of Colonel, with full army clearance. Xander jumped into the rental can and drove out of the airport. He tried not the think of the terrible possibilities that had befallen Tara on the hour long trip to Sunnydale. Despite the tension that had developed in the past, Xander's first stop in Sunnydale was at the Magic Box, and it was to be as tense as ever.

Xander walked into the Magic Box and found that things had not changes much. Buffy was still pretending to research while Willow actually did research, Giles was half sitting on the ladder leading up to the restricted section and Anya was still behind the counter, counting the money. For a second it seemed like old times, the all looked up, expecting a customer, and when they saw Xander, they went back to what they were doing. For point three seven five of a second.

"XANDER!" Willow called and came bolting up to him and giving him a tight hug.

"Wills? Air?" Xander managed to get out.

"Sorry." Willow said, backing away.

"So? What brings you back to Sunnydale?" Buffy asked sightly defensively.

"Tara, actually. I tried calling her yesterday and she did not pick up." Xander said.

The room went shock quiet.

"Maybe she was out." Buffy commented.

"Nope. It was a private cell phone I gave her, she always had it on her. Always." Xander said, glancing at Willow when he said the last word.

"That was YOU?!?" Willow almost screamed, her face flushing with embarrassment.

"What happened? I need to know." Xander said.

"She left town." Buffy replied.

"Did she tell you?" Xander asked, not believing.

"No, but it was understandable." Giles contributed.

"Tell me everything." Xander demanded.

So they did. Willow's magic highs, bringing Amy back and the 'Incident'.

"You." Xander said, rounding on Willow. "You disgust me. How could you? And you," Now rounding on Buffy, "Are you fucking stupid? No note, no nothing. She disappears in SUNNYDALE and you think she simply left town? You of all people should know better. I, at least, am going to look for her!"

With this, Xander turned and stormed out of the Magic Box.


Tara woke in darkness and pain. She did not know how long it had been since he had been taken, running into that van was no accident. Since she had been brought here, wherever here was, she had been almost constantly beaten, she had even been raped. The clothes that she was wearing had been reduced to rags. She was chained to a wall in what could only be described as a dank basement, the windows had been shuttered, only letting minimal light in during the day. Her once shiny and well kept blond hair was now dirty and limp and she had bruising over her face and most of her body. Ever since she had been taken, she had silently preyed for some kind of rescue but with each minute that passed, her hope diminished and she slipped deeper into despair. She heard a door open and a flood of light enter the room, giving her a glimpse of the person entering the basement before the door was slammed shut again.

"NO! Please, no. Help. Somebody, anybody, Help! Help me Xander." She screamed as the figure approached. "Please, no. Please, don't do this. No, please, don't Donny."

After that, all that could be heard from the basement was horse screams of pure terror.


Xander approached the house, slowly, quietly. He had spent over two months searching for Tara, and it had led him here. His first clue was in Sunnydale. There had been a witness who had seen the abduction. From there, Xander had followed a trail of evidence, beating up snitches, paying bribes, pulling strings and calling in markers from all over the place. As the days and weeks slowly passed, he got more and more desperate. Finally Xander had caught a break that had led him to this house.

When he heard the scream, Xander did not hesitate. He ran across the lawn, broke down the front door and followed the sound to the basement. When he got there, Xander was shocked and appalled. He saw Tara, lying basically naked, huddled in a corner vainly trying to fend off a fairly large man. Then he recognised the man, it was Donny, Tara's brother. A rage came over Xander, and he raced over, pulling Donny away from Tara and slamming him into a wall, rattling the open chains nearby. Xander started punching and just kept punching Donny until he was a bloody mess. Then he went over to look at Tara. At first she flinched at his touch, but he quickly removed his long trench coat and wrapped it around her body.

"It's ok, Tara. It's me, Xander." He told her, over and over.

After a reasonably short amount of time, Xander was able to lift Tara, without her screaming, and move her to his car. Grabbing a few items from the trunk, Xander walked back into the house and when he left a few hours later he was wiping blood off his hands and the Maclay's were dead, their bodies still warm. After a few days and a few phone calls, the case was closed, an unsolved occurrence of a violent break and enter gone wrong.


Present, Late 2015

Xander looked over the semi sleeping form of his dark queen. While the physical scars of twelve years ago had healed quite well leaving barely any mark, the psychological ones were still haunted her. She was his only weakness, his driving passion in this world. For many years, she had been the sole purpose of his existence and he would not have changed that for the world. He remembered that once, years ago, he had found Angelus' diary, something that he thought even Angel had forgotten about. He remembered on passage that Angelus had written about passion.

'Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting, and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us, guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.'

The passage was true, every word, and Xander knew that without passion, firstly in a form with Willow, then with Buffy, even shortly with Faith and Anya, but most importantly with Tara, he would have been dead long ago. His passion had kept him going, given him strength, even given him the courage to risk his life for others. Now his passion was only for Tara, and for her he had chosen this path.


Present, 2015

Faith finished sharpening her swords and moved on to cleaning her armour. She had followed this ritual every night since the battle had begun, three days prior. She slowly ran the cleaning cloth across one of her shin guards, absently noticing the pattern. Each of the spikes was shaped into a thorn or bramble and the leather was engraved with the intertwining leaves of dozens of species of plants with thorns from roses to brambles. The bracers had a different design, with poison oak and poison ivy leaves engraved around the edge of the leather and etched along the edge of the blades. They also had large dragons inlayed in the centre of the leather. The design on her shoulder guards at first looked like chaos, but when you looked closely it was a giant battle scene, reproduced in miniature, with tiny figures frozen in the midst of combat.

Faith realised that she had been lost in the designs when someone was at the tent flap. She told them to enter, and the laundry boy dropped off her leathers and left. She looked at her now clean armour and wondered if she would get to fight the third Slayer. She really wanted a go at B, but Xander had indicated that he wanted to kill her himself. Subconsciously rubbing the almost invisible scar across her abdomen, Faith studied her armour, remembering the day that she had died, wearing armour that became the model for her current set.


The Past, Late 2003

Faith stood waiting to enter the arena. She was dressed in her full battle armour, two spiked shin guard, two bladed bracers, two one handed swords and full, spiked shoulder guards. When she had made it into the demon competition two moths prior, the organisers had decided that, due to the fact the demons had natural armour and weaponry, Faith would be allowed to use armour and weapons. The gate in front of Faith opened and she cracked her neck before stepping through.

When she jumped down into the pit, she saw her demon opponent for the first time. She swore silently to herself and knew that one of the big punters had arranged this match because they lost big on one of her previous four demon matches. The demon she was facing was powerful, with four arms, which had serrated beak like structures in place of hands, and tough armour like skin. Faith fought hard, harder than she usually did, the kind of fighting she usually saved for stopping, or bringing about, an apocalypse. Faith madly used her bracers to block blows, parrying with her swords, until she saw an opening.

If she was fighting a vampire or almost any other demon she would have won easily at this point, but she forgot that his demon had four arms. She drove one of her swords deep into the demon's abdomen while blocking an arm with the other, that's when one of its lower arms slashed across her stomach. Pushing through the pain, she used her two swords to decapitate the demon while it was still ripping through her flesh. Now that the match was over, doctors rushed into the pit and carried Faith off to their medical facility that was better equipped than most major hospitals.

While they were more than willing to let you die in the pit, once the match was over the organisers went to extreme measures to heal and keep the fighters healthy. The surgeons worked for hours repairing the damage done to Faith and did a good job, however at one point during surgery Faith's heart stopped. While they managed to get it started again strait away, no one involved fully grasped what this event meant, they were more concerned about how long Faith would be out of the pit.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, a young teenage girl suddenly felt remarkable good, an unexplainable sense of strength and euphoria. Little did she know that she had just been called as the Slayer and that she would be dead in under a month.


"No! Absolutely not!" Xander said emphatically into the phone. "I don't care what you were. She does not trust you; she may never trust you again. *Pause* Look Willow, I know you love her, but she is still fragile and she needs people she trusts. That is me, not you. *Another Pause* You know what? Fuck you, Wills. She was repeatedly raped by her fucking brother and all you care about is getting her back into the sack. I swear that if you come near her before she wants to see you, which may be never, I will not be kind to you, hell I'll kill you if I have to. Same goes for Buffy. Goodbye."

Xander slammed the phone into its cradle. He turned from the phone and walked through the very spacious New York apartment. Xander himself had redone the interior design so that it allowed for a reasonable size dojo in addition to the usual bedrooms, kitchen, living room, dining room. Xander walked into the dojo and watched as Tara worked on her quarterstaff forms under the instructions of her teacher. Tara was still afraid of people due to her experiences. Six months ago, Xander had rescued Tara from being kidnapped by her abusive family. She had suffered over two months of constant beatings, torture and rape. Xander had personally made sure that they would never do anything like that ever again. He had kept them alive for five hours, and that was saying something as many of the things he had done could quickly kill the victim. To his utter disgust, they had started begging for death after only twenty minutes, before he had even gotten into the swing of things.

Even now, six months down the line, Tara would not interact with others unless Xander was present or close by. To make it easier on her, Xander had hired only heterosexual women to interact with Tara, thereby taking any perceived pressure of sex out of all equations, and he also required them all to come to the apartment, so that Tara would not have to be exposed to a lot of people. While Tara had her own bedroom, it was not unusual to find her sleeping with Xander in the middle of the night. This was not sexual, however, it was because he was her safe place, where all the pain and memories faded away and she could forget those horrible two months.

Xander always made sure that the instructors knew the rules before they ever came into contact with Tara. One of the major rules regarded touching. There was to be no touching without Tara's consent and the trainer had to explain the reason for the contact and what they were going to do before hand, if it was a ritual or something that happened often, then the expiation can be skipped once Tara is used to it, but she must still be told what was going to happen.

The quarterstaff instructor left and Xander went into the kitchen to cook lunch, with Tara sitting on a stool at the counter, quietly watching him. He noted that she looked at him from under her hair, with her head bowed, like she used to when she was first introduced to the Scooby Gang. While they ate, Tara enjoyed the comfortable silence and the familiar presence that came from Xander. She still saw the gentle young man who would die to protect her.

What she did not see, as it never appeared when she was around, was the jaded man that he had become. Whenever he fought it was viciously, almost as if he became a berserker, the fabled Norse warriors who went into a battle rage that made them strong and brutal. He searched relentlessly for anything that he though might help her, techniques that could be taught to him, as her protector, or Tara herself; spells that could possibly help, people to teach her magic, either defensive or offensive. (AN: that's where you use magic to swear at people a long way away. Just kidding.) It did not matter to Xander where the help came from or what it would cost him, as long as it could protect Tara.

The new instructor arrived after lunch. As a Christmas present to Tara, Xander had offered to get an instructor for her in anything she wanted to learn, strangely she chose knife throwing. Xander explained the rules one last time to the new instructor then showed her into the dojo. Xander went to the far side of the dojo to perform his sword routines while Tara and the new girl got started. After a while he switched to his meditations, first looking inwards and then looking outwards. Xander was suddenly pulled out of his meditative trance by Tara's voice.


Xander opened his eyes and saw the new instructor holding on the Tara' wrist while she was trying to pull away. In an instant, Xander bolted across the room, grabbed the new instructor and slammed her into a wall with her arms pinned behind her.

"What? I was just trying to show her something." The instructor pleaded.

"I told you. Ask first and never without her permission. You have to earn her trust, she's been through more than you can imagine." Xander growled.

"Like what?" The instructor shot back.

She had live a fairly rough life (by normal not Sunnydale standards) and though that she had seen a lot.

"Do you want me to show you? You want to be afraid for the rest of you life?" Xander said, anger dripping from his voice.

"Xander, no." Tara squeaked.

Xander looked over at her and saw fear in her eyes. He quickly released the instructor.

"You're fired." He said, before turning to face Tara.

As he turned, the former instructor quickly gathered her stuff and left.

"I'm sorry, Tara. It's just I get so angry when someone tries to hurt you. All I want is to protect you." Xander said.

It was the sincerity in his eyes that made her believe him, as well as some instinct that told her that he would never have gone through with his threat.

They spent the rest of the afternoon just quietly sitting with each other.


Present, 2015

Xander looked at Tara's sleeping form and smiled. He rarely ever smiled anymore, almost as if he couldn't smile, and when he did, it was only ever for Tara. She had become the world to him, and he was only doing what he always had. He was protecting her. It sounds crazy, trying to end the world to protect one woman, but then again it is all a matter of perspective. He used to think that the Hellmouth opens and the world dies, now he knows that is not true. He is opening the Hellmouth to shift the balance, to change the world order and give Tara enough power that she will NEVER have to worry about anyone hurting her ever again.

Xander rose from the bed, after giving Tara a gentle kiss in the hollow of her neck, and pulled on some boxers. His well muscled body was covered in scars. A predominate scar was a burn scar that obliterated the tattoo of a cross from his shoulder. Xander lifted his left had and ran it through his lank, shoulder length hair (AN: think Aragorn, AKA Strider, as played by Viggo Mortensen, from the Lord of the Rings movies but without the beard. It just looks so cool.), absently noticing the small amount of scar tissue that formed a cross on his wrist. While this was his smallest and most unobtrusive scar, it was the most important and Tara had a matching scar on her own left wrist. It was a symbol of the day that had changed their lives, the day that Tara had been relieved of some of the burden of memory.

Apart from the scar on her wrist, Tara had only one other physical scar. It was not much to look at, barely an inch across just below her ribs and to the left of her spine, but it had almost killed her. A three inch section of a pocket knife had been embedded into Tara's back, missing anything major, during her captivity by her family. The broken blade shard had stayed in the wound for three weeks before Xander had rescued her. Due to the appallingly dirty and, naturally, less that sanitary conditions of her basement prison, the wound had been badly infected and she had required over a month in hospital to remove the blade shard and fight off the infection. Xander had been by her side almost every second, not following her into the lavatories or shower, to which the medical staff had stopped objecting after three hours for two reasons, one to shut Tara up and two, so that they could get some work done on her, for which she insisted on Xander's presence.

Tara stirred on the bed, turning slightly to reveal one bare breast, before slipping back into slumber. Xander noticed the predawn light, but could not keep his eyes off his slumbering queen. Soon full dawn would break and the fifth day of the battle would begin, neither side performing nightly raids. After a few more minutes, Tara began to awake. Xander moved to the bed as she awoke. Sitting with his back to the headboard, Xander set Tara down between his legs, where she leant back against his chest, they both felt an easy comfort, ignoring the fact that she was naked as easily as they ignored the upcoming fighting.


The Past, Early 2004

Xander leaned over and kissed Tara on the forehead. In the last six months, things had changed between Xander and Tara. Slowly they had changed from him helping her get her life together, to them living together as a couple. It had started simply. A brush of fingertips, an embrace held slightly longer. Over the months it had slowly but steadily progressed. Xander had never pushed, only going as far as Tara wanted and backing off at the first indication that she was the slightest bit uncomfortable. Last night had been special, Xander and Tara, at her initiation, had made love, and it had surpassed and of their previous experiences.

Xander rolled out of bed, slipping on some clothing, and shuffled into the kitchen to make breakfast. By the time Tara awoke, Xander had prepared an amazing breakfast and brought it to her in bed. Tara loved this little show of affection and they spent most of the morning just sitting in bed talking and being near each other. As evening approached, Xander prepared to go out, making sure he had his personal, light weapons on him, his pistol and a large knife.

"I love you, Xander." Tara said, almost making it a plea.

"I love you too, Tara. Don't worry. I will be back." Xander replied.

"Please, don't leave me!" Tara pleaded dropping slowly to her knees.

"Tara, honey. I'm doing this for you. Trust me. Please?" Xander replied, wrapping Tara in a hug and feeling, more than seeing her nod.

Xander rose and walked out the door leaving a very nervous Tara behind.


Xander entered the demon safe haven, cautiously looking around the area. The first thing he noticed was the pit, a large hole that had two demons fighting to the death in it. The next thing he noticed was the humans; there were a lot of them, almost as many as the demons, and almost all of them betting on the outcome of the match. Xander got directed to the man he had come to see by the human bartender. The 'man' was a powerful mage demon who owned some slaves who fought in the tournament, and Xander only knew him as Jerric, who only looked human. Xander sat down at Jerric's table and they began small talk. After an hour, and two matches, they had concluded their business, Jerric agreeing to Xander's request and Xander agreeing to Jerric's price. The next fight was about to start, one of the competitors was already in the pit, a large and fearsome looking demon, which looked slightly afraid.

"His opponent is one of mine. She is really quite remarkable." Jerric said.

Xander looked down at the emerging figure. Surprisingly it looked human, with long dark hair, a deadly gait. It's only armour was spiked shin guards, bladed bracers and shoulder pads with large spikes. In each hand she held a short sword. When she looked up, Xander was shocked. Firstly because it was Faith, but mostly because of the look in her eyes. They looked almost dead, a hardened look that was more at home in the eyes of world war one soldiers than women in their twenties, even Slayers.

"You own her?" Xander said, with a slight growl.

"Uh, yah." Jerric said nervously, knowing that this human was not to be messed with.

"How much to buy her?"

"At least a million dollars." Jerric said. "She's an excellent crowd pleaser."

"Done. Payment will arrive with the other, if she survives, but she gets released right after the match. And I want specs for her weapons and armour." Xander said authoritatively.

"Um. Ok." Jerric responded.

Ever since he had established the Hell's Commandos, Xander had been funnelling and investing his assets quite successfully. He now had something in the vicinity of a quarter of a billion dollars in various accounts and portfolios. He was also owed favours by many people and demons, from the highest ranks of the government to the depths of the underground, both criminal and demonic. He loved the policy of 'don't use a cannon to kill a flea.' In the pit, the match began.


Present, 2015

The increased bustle of the camp brought Xander out of his thoughts. He watched Tara dress and began to do so himself. He slowly got to his plate mail armour, Tara had to help him do up the straps due to their somewhat awkward positions. They dress in a comfortable silence, neither saying a word until they were about to leave the tent.

"I love you, you do know that. Don't you?" Xander said, slightly nervously.

Tara looked at him.

'After all this, he is worried about me breaking his heart?' she thought.

"I know. And I love you too, more than I ever thought possible." She replied aloud.

Xander let out a small sigh of relief and then led Tara through the tent flap. As they walked through the camp, Xander noticed how the troops looked at them, be they demon, vampire or human. They feared Xander, they would do whatever he asked because they were afraid of what he would do if they didn't. They did not fear Tara, the adored her. She really was their queen, and they would do anything for her out of love and devotion, which ultimately was more powerful because, odds were, there was something out there that they feared more than Xander, but there was nothing that they love more than Tara.

The armies lined up for another day of battle, noticeably smaller than on the first day. Over the five days, somewhere in the region of one point five million combatants had been killed, with millions more still fighting. Xander, Tara and Faith lined up in the centre once again, staring across the flats that were now blood-soaked, at their enemy, their former friends.

"From time to time, we must cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war once more." Xander said quietly, remembering the ancient Greek words.

"Amen to that." Faith said, as Tara lightly brushed his hand with hers.

Then the charge began and battle was joined.


The Past, Early 2005

Faith leaned up against the wall watching. She had been staying with Xander and Tara for over a month now and Tara was starting to trust her. The years that she had spent in the Tournament had taught Faith a few things, namely patience and self control and she had not asked or expected anything from them, and because of that she had given and gotten more than she had expected. Faith had been accepted into the household, almost as a sister, and provided security and protection, in return she got acceptance and love, something she had always craved.

Faith noticed something between Xander and Tara and it always reminded her of that Billy Joel song 'Matter of Trust'. They may joke about it sometimes, but the trust they showed each other ran deeper than any connection she had ever seen between two people, even hatred which ran deep.

Because of that acceptance Faith just stood despite the demon in the house, particularly this demon. Xander had left explicit instruction for her not to do anything to the demon, which looked human, until after the ritual and out of sight of Tara.

Faith watched as Xander and Tara performed one of the final stages of the ritual, their blood contribution. Each made a small cross on the inside of their left wrist, pouring a small amount of blood into the ceremonial bowl. When the required amount was given, the demon waved his hand over the cut, sealing it in a cross shaped scar.

The demon mixed the blood and other ingredients in the ceremonial bowl, chanting as he went. After a few seconds, Xander and Tara began to fall asleep, almost floating backwards till they were lying on the floor. Out of each of their slumbering forms came a kind of mist. The mists had an ethereal quality and were mostly a luminescent sliver colour but there were also areas of dark blackness. As the two mists rose, Faith realised that the mists were representations of Xander and Tara's Souls. When the mists reached about five feet above the slumbering forms, with almost invisible threads tracing back down to the bodies, the two distinct mists began to send off streamers to each other, intertwining the two Souls.

After a while, the demon constantly chanting, the two Souls had merged into a single body of swirling mist, and new streamers were starting to come off the edges. Faith watched as the mist separated into two again, with most of the silver elements floating above Tara and most of the black above Xander. The glowing sliver mist, with thin trails of blackness coursing through it slowly began to descend towards Tara's body, while the black mist that had larger trails of sliver, than the black trails in Tara's, began to descend towards Xander. Just before they entered the bodies, Faith noticed that there was a thin silver streamer that connected the two bodies of mist, which became invisible as the mist entered Xander and Tara's bodies.


Faith re-entered the apartment after 'escorting' the demon out. Personally she liked it when the bodies disintegrated; it prevented a number of messy questions, plus this particular demon had kept her in captivity, forcing her to fight for her life. Before she had left the room, Xander and Tara had come around from the spell induced coma, and Xander seemed to be taking the darkness quite well, forging the anger, pain and anguish into a force that could be harnessed. Tara had been more her old self, not shy exactly but the terrible burden had been lifted, the only remnant being a slight wariness around her eyes, but trust was extended to Xander and Faith.

As Faith entered the kitchen area, she found Tara looking sad and Xander hanging up the phone with a pain filled expression.

"Joyce is dead." Xander said quietly.

Faith was rocked to the core by this news. Everyone who had ever been a part of the Scooby Gang had seen Joyce Summers as their substitute mother figure, just as Giles had been the father figure. All of the teenagers, except Buffy, had not had a strong maternal influence till they had met Joyce.

Xander was from a household where he was ignored when he was not beaten, similar to Faith's own upbringing before she hit the streets, except he had not suffered as much physical abuse and no sexual abuse, unlike Faith. Willow's parents had been constantly absent, more interested in their own lives that that of their daughter. Oz's stoic exterior was just a way to cover his lack of maternal or paternal influences, growing up basically on his own, while Tara's upbringing was on the same level as Faith's, although she was not sexually abused as a child. Tara and her mother had been treated like slaves by her male kin and her mother had died at a fairly early age. Joyce Summers had become the mother the Scooby Gang never had.

"Pack your things. We're going to the funeral." Xander said, leaving to pack his gear, followed by Tara.

"At least we can say goodbye." Faith whispered before heading to her room to get her gear together.


The Present, 2015

Xander glanced around and saw Tara struggling slightly against seven vampires and a large demon about seven feet away through the swirling throng of battle. Xander sheathed his Claymore on his back and drew his Axe in his right hand and his mace in his left. He waded through the anarchy of battle attacking anyone and anything that got between him and Tara. Tara was whirling her quarterstaff so fast that it blurred but Xander could tell she was on the defensive and, from the small trickle of blood running from her nose, it looked as if she was magically tapped for the minute.

One of the vampires made a mistake, he overextended in a thrust of the sword he was carrying, allowing Tara to smack the sword away, breaking the vampire's wrist at the same time and counterpoint hitting the side of the head of the demon that was attacking her from the rear. This allowed Tara time to stake the disarmed vampire with the end of her quarterstaff while Xander, who had just arrived at her location, decapitated the demon with his axe and crushed the scull of a vampire with his mace. Tara staked the skull crushed Vampire then forced three vampires back, whirling her staff extremely fast, Xander took this opportunity to calmly place his axe and mace though their loops in his belt, crescent kick a nearby enemy vampire and draw his Claymore. He stepped in, fighting back to back with Tara, her staff and his sword equally deadly to anyone who tried to attack them.

Out of the corner of his eye, Xander spotted Faith fighting beside on of their two dozen senior most commanders, who had seventy-three mid-level commanders directly under her. Getting back into the fight directly in front of him, Xander idly noticed that small connection that he had with Tara, the subconscious reason he had looked for her moments ago, and still a slightly strange feeling even after ten years.


The Past, Early 2005

The funeral of Joyce Summers was a fairly large affair, especially since it was being held after dark. Buffy, Giles and Willow stood in a small clump in the front of the crowd. Opposite them stood Xander, Tara and Faith. Near the Sunnydale gang stood the LA gang, Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, Gunn and Fred. Graham, with a small security detachment, and the other four surviving members of the HC stood near Xander's group. Among the crowd, Oz and Spike were also noticeable, but there were many adults that Joyce had know, mostly through the Gallery, and a fair number of teens that Joyce had helped in her volunteer work as a crisis counsellor. The silence and the tension in the air felt like it could be cut with knife.

After a few minutes, the priest did his part of the funeral and asked of anyone who wished to speak about the deceased. For a long moment, no one moved, and then Xander made his way to the podium.

"Joyce Summers was an amazing woman who will be deeply missed. I know that for us younger adults, like Faith, Tara, Willow, Oz, and myself, even to Graham, Mickey, Paul, Adam and David, although to a much lesser extent, Joyce was like a mother to us." Xander said, indicating to the Scooby Gang and the former HC members as he named them.

"For most of us, our home lives were precarious at best, downright awful in some cases, but when our group, the Scooby Gang came together, we were family. Joyce was the mother, she pampered us and made us feel loved, Giles was the father, answer man and the one we could turn to when we had problems. Faith, Tara, Willow, Oz, Cordy and I joined Buffy, Joyce's daughter, as the siblings of the family.

"Things were not always easy in this makeshift family but Joyce meant more to her adopted children that anyone else in the world and we realised how lucky we were to have met such an amazing woman who selflessly cared for all those around her, something I don't think that her own daughter appreciated as much because she had never seen the darker side of parent/child relationships. Joyce Summers was a true ray of light in the darkness that often seemed so black, she gave selflessly of herself and never asked anything in return. Her death is a tragedy and the world is a poorer place without her in it."

Xander stepped down from the podium into a contemplative silence. He walked back to Tara and Faith, wrapping an arm around Tara. The crowd began the procession of placing a rose on Joyce's casket as the filed past, as everyone, except Buffy, thought that Xander had said everything that needed to be said.

Buffy on the other hand was just angry, in her mind the only one who was entitled to speak were Giles, because he had ended up marrying Joyce, though she chose to keep her own name, and herself as she was Joyce's daughter. End of story. Other reasons why she was angry, though she did not admit to them, ranged from Xander's appearance with both Tara, acting intimately, and Faith, the homicidal rogue bitch Slayer to the fact that he had effectively said that she did not understand her own mother. Buffy practically threw her rose on the casket and stormed out of the cemetery in a rage as the other mourners drifted off, Giles and Willow following Buffy.

Xander, Tara and Faith walked back to the motel that they were staying at for this short stay in Sunnydale in silence.

"Pack your things. We're leaving in the morning." Xander said as they arrived at the adjoining rooms they were staying in.

"We heading back to New York?" Faith asked.

"No." Xander said. "We're going to Europe."

Xander put his arm around Tara and they went into their room to comfort each other on the loss of their mother figure, laving Faith to enter her room and deal with it alone.

Chapter 9

The Past, Early 2005

Xander packed the last of the suitcases into the back of the Taxi. It was the day after Joyce Summers' Funeral and he, along with Tara and Faith, were leaving Sunnydale again. Xander turned and caught a full arm slap with full Slayer strength behind it to the side of his face, sending him sprawling across the pavement and bitumen.

"YOU BASTARD!!! HOW DARE YOU!!!" the irate blond Slayer screamed with amazing lung capacity for such a petite woman. "How dare you even imply that I did not know her. She was my mother, and you will never know how mu…."

"Silence!" Tara said commandingly, and magically stopping Buffy's voice.

Buffy stared in shock at the Blonde Witch, whose eyes had gone black.

"You really did not know how truly special she was, or how lucky you were. You had everything that we ever wanted in a home life, and you have no idea how many times you almost fucked it up!! Xander and I both stopped your mother throwing you out when you were acting like a total bitch. You better hope we never meet again, or you will regret it." Tara's soft voice held anger and power beyond anything that Buffy had ever heard before.

"Ditto." Faith added as she and Tara helped Xander into the taxi.

Tara waved her had at Buffy as the cab pulled away, releasing the Slayer's voice.


The Present, 2015

Xander looked over his army, now only ninety-seven thousand strong, but Buffy's army had also been cut down by attrition to about the same size. The battle had moved in the three weeks since it had started, as attested by the seventeen mile long swathe of broken and bloody ground. Although the battle had moved, neither side had gained any ground; the battle had just rolled sideways as the ground became unsuitable for battle. The crucial stage of the battle was just beginning. Before, with so many combatants on either side, it had simply been kill everyone from the enemy camp you can. Now strategy was involved, and that made the battle more dangerous. Two days ago both sides had started 'night' raids into enemy camps and now the battle lines were visible, as opposed to the multi mile fronts when the battle had started.

Most days Tara, with some of their Army's finest commanders, directed the battle from a small hill behind Xander's lines, using runners or radios to communicate with the field commanders (more often using runners as it is harder to get a message from a runner, alive or dead, than to pick it up off the airwaves). The five best immortals, of the fifteen who had survived so far, stood guard whenever Tara was directing the battle. On some occasions, Tara joined in the battle, but now she never stayed more than three feet from Xander, knowing that as the numbers of the armies reduced, Buffy and her elite would be gunning for Xander, Tara and Faith. Tara's flair for directing battle had come from Xander's soldier memories, which had been shared ten years ago.

When Tara was not directing the battle, the duty felt to her protégé, a wand witch in her late twenties, who had a brilliant mind and the courage to fight, as well as lead. Yes, Hermione Granger was one of their best strategists.

Tara stood on the hill today, and while Xander was glad she was safe, he missed being near her. Xander cracked his neck and looked at Faith.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Always, but don't we have a fight to start?" Faith replied with a grin.

Xander just shook his head. As he slowly drew his Claymore, Faith let her swords roll over the back of her hands in a tight circle, first the left then the right sword.

"For Tara!" Xander screamed, raising his sword over his head.

"For Tara!" his army echoed.

The tide of darkness descended on the shield of light, who stood stunned for a second then raised their own war cry and charged.

"The Light!"

The two armies clashed and the sound of battle raged. Through a small gap Xander saw a familiar figure.

"Faith! Keep an eye on the left, I'll be right back." Xander called.

Xander approached the figure as it sliced one of his demons in half, not that the demon mattered to Xander.

"Hey Deadboy." Xander challenged.

Angel whirled to face Xander, his trademark duster swirling. Angel brought up his bastard sword (couldn't help myself, the guy's a prick) and an axe. Xander simply nodded, sheathed his Claymore and drew his Axe and Mace; he wanted to face Angel in a fair fight. They closed the distance, the Black Knight facing off against the Champion.


"Faith! Keep an eye on the left, I'll be right back."

Faith grunted when she heard Xander's shout, partly from what he said and partly because she was blocking a powerful blow with her left hand sword. Twisting, and slicing the opposing demon's guts open, Faith glanced to the left flank of her section. There she saw a fifteen year old girl laying waist to demons and vampires.

'The third Slayer. Damn, how does the X-man do that?' she thought, rushing to intercept her.

"Leave this one to me boys." She told the demons, who backed off.

"So, you're Faith?" the teen said.

"Yep, and you're the third." Faith said, slashing at the other Slayer.

"Name's Cat." She said, blocking Faith's slash with her fighting stick.

Cat launched an attack with her sword, while putting her fighting stick away, and drawing a wicked looking dagger.

"Heard this was yours." Cat said, parrying a blow with the dagger.

"Just want you to know I'll get that back." Faith said.

Faith and Cat let lose, Slayer versus Slayer.


The Past, Early 2007

Xander, Tara and Faith approached the manor house carefully. Word on the street was that the residents were evil, they had killed indiscriminately and were said to be inhuman. Those less concerned with the court system and Jeopardy, those who knew what lay in the darkness, said that it housed one of the three largest repositories of mystical knowledge in Great Brittan, along with the Watchers Council and a School that no one seemed to know where it was located. For the last two years, ever since Joyce Summers' funeral, the three of them had searched Europe, searched for anything that would help their 'family' to survive, to help Tara most of all. While they had found many weapons and spells and such, the search had been generally fruitless, till they had learned about the manor in front of them.

Sneaking up to one of the second story windows by way of the balcony roof, Faith jimmied it open and they climbed inside.

"Sounds like a meeting downstairs. Want to crash?" Faith whispered.

Tara nodded shyly, Xander just smirked. Xander pulled a crossbow off his back and they stalked to the door. The door led to a small walkway that looked over a large hall. In the hall a large group of people in black robes stood facing a 'man' seated on a large chair on a small podium. The 'man' in the chair had a head that looked like it was half snake and was preaching about purity and extermination of the 'Muggles' and killing some person called Harry Potter. After about a minute of the speech, Xander got bored and shot the 'man' through the heart with his crossbow.

"Man, that guy was boring the hell out of me!" he said loudly.

"They killed Lord Voldermort. Get them!" one of the black robed figures said.

The mass of black robed figures turned and pointed what looked to Xander to be long, thin, blunt stakes.

"SILENCE!" Tara commanded, and the black robes all lost their voices.

With a wave of her hand, Tara summoned all the wands from the shocked black robes. Some of the black robes charged.

"All yours Faith." Xander said casually.

Faith just smiled and intercepted the dozed charging black robes. They were all down in under ten seconds, with broken bones and such. They quickly herded all the, now complacent, black robes into a small storage room with only one door and no windows. Tara spelled the door so that only one of the three of them could open it.

"Tara, look for the library. Faith, have a look around." Xander said.

After an hour, Tara had found the library and they were moving out the books, with the help of the thirty odd prisoners that they had released. The prisoners seemed ecstatic that the snake-man was dead. One, a young woman almost twenty by the name of Hermione Granger had explained about the Wizarding World and how the black robes were Deatheaters. Thirty minutes later, they had removed all the pertinent books and the former prisoners were going back to their lives. Hermione and several of the others said to contact them if they ever needed any help, and left contact details.


Present, 2015

Xander spared a second to spit into the ashes that used to be Angel, returning his Axe and Mace to his belt and drawing his Claymore as he did. Angel had simply underestimated the former Scooby, not having seen him in action for over fifteen years.

"Told you I'd be there." He said to the ashes as he turned away, decapitating a demon that was about to attack him as he did.


Faith snapped Cat's arm, causing her to drop the dagger. Faith forced Cat back by a brutal assault, which Cat barely deflected with her sword. Faith kicked Cat, a spin kick but as she kicked Cat she dropped her body low opposite to her kick, supported by one bent leg, sheathing one sword and grabbing the dagger as she spun. Cat reeled from the kick long enough for Faith, a veteran of the Tournament, to drive the dagger into Cat's heart.

"Told you I'd get this back." She whispered, before pulling the dagger and letting Cat drop.

Faith put the dagger in the back of her pants, pulled her one sheathed sword, and started laying waste to the enemies around her.


"Damn!" Buffy screamed.

She was standing on the hillside directing the battle, and had just seen Xander kill Angel and Faith kill Cat. Two of her best warriors had just been cut down.

"Get me my weapons, and some light armour." Buffy ordered.

"Buffy, wait. The day's almost over, you wont reach the battle in time to do any good." Giles said.

Buffy went off in a rage, basically leaving Giles and Dumbledore to direct the battle.

'Agh. When did everything go so wrong?' Buffy thought to herself.

Chapter 10

The Past, Mid 2007

"How's she holding up?" Xander asked, firing again into the figures racing along the rooftops to cut them off.

"She's holding on, but we need to get to safety, fast!" Faith replied, adjusting her hold on Tara, who was currently unconscious.

They were running, heading for a place that hopefully meant safety. A group of shadowy figures rushed from a nearby alleyway, only to be cut down by a silent volley of fire from the compact assault rifle in Xander's hand. One of the figures rose and continued the charge. Xander released the assault rifle, letting its harness strap guide its fall back to his side, as he drew a longsword. Quickly running through and decapitating the figure, which dissolved into a pink slime, Xander then sheathed the longsword, retrieved the assault rifle and smoothly replaced the spent clip, while keeping pace with Faith.

"That should be the place." Xander said, pointing at a house across the street.

Xander quickly checked the silencer on the assault rifle as they crossed the street, then fired a burst into a figure emerging from the street behind them. Faith slammed on the door as Xander covered the street. The door opened, revealing a lanky twenty-ish year old man with wild dark brown hair.

"What the hell?" he said.

"Where's Hermione?" Faith asked.

"Harry, let them in." came Hermione's voice from the back.

Not waiting for him to move out of the way, Faith pushed past Harry and carried Tara into the house, laying her down on a sofa. Xander backed into the doorway, still covering the street and firing periodic bursts into the darkness.

"Need a barrier spell of some kind here." Xander said.

Hermione pulled out her wand and said a spell, erecting a shimmering barrier around the house.

"That'll last a little while." She said. "Maybe fifteen minutes."

"Right." Xander said, putting down his assault rifle.

"Now wait a damn minute. Who the hell are these people?" Harry demanded.

"They're the ones who saved me from the Death Eaters and killed Voldermort." Hermione said.

"But they just killed people." Harry said.

"Only Tarakkens." Xander said. "Ok, we need to secure the house and get Tara active."

"I'll take the house." Faith said. "Hermione, anyone else here?"

"Tarakkens?" Harry said.

"Nope." Hermione replied.

"Ok, Hermione, get on waking Tara. She got knocked unconscious. Faith, get going on the house." Xander ordered.

"Tarakkens?" Harry said again.

"Right, on it." Faith said.

"I'll see what I can do for Tara." Hermione said.

"Get her awake and she can make a better barrier." Xander said.

"Who the hell are Tarakkens?" Harry practically screamed.

"The Order of Taraka. They are an ancient society of Bounty Hunters, but they only take Assassination jobs, never dead or alive. Tara, Faith and I have an extremely large bounty on our heads." Xander explained.

"Why?" Hermione asked, after muttering a healing spell on Tara.

"We pissed off one too many demons." Xander said absently, looking out carefully through a curtained window.

"It might even be the Watchers Council." Tara said groggily from the sofa.

"Good point. If they can't control Buffy or Faith, they will want to kill one of them. They would go after Faith because they don't want the Hellmouth unprotected." Xander said.

"Plus we took out about a dozen of their retrieval teams. The place is clean. Need some work to make it secure and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of weaponry." Faith said, returning.

"How you feeling, Tara?" Xander asked.

"What you felt after, oh say, the HC's visit to High School, only about five times worse." Tara said. "Give me about five and I can do a barrier spell."

"Take ten, Hermione's got us covered till then." Xander said.

"So, wings, what's the deal with repeato boy over there?" Faith asked Hermione.

"Wings?" Hermione asked.

"Faith has nick names for everyone." Tara explained.

"Let me guess. Hermione. Feminisation of Hermes, the winged messenger of the Greek Gods." Hermione said.

Faith nodded and Xander chuckled.

"You've been reading way too much Faith." Xander said.

"Yah, well that's what happens when you don't let me kill stuff." Faith said.

"Mostly Vamps and Demons." Tara whispered to Hermione.

"Ok. So the nick's a stretch, I'll work on it X-man. Question still stands. What's his deal?" Fait said, indicating to Harry.

"His name is Harry Potter. He's my boyfriend." Hermione said.

"Way to go, girl. So he kinks of vanilla?" Faith said.

"Faith. Shut the fuck up." Xander said.

"Got it, Boytoy." Faith said, using her old nickname for him.

Xander gave Faith a grin before checking the window again.

"Alright. Hermione, stay with Tara. Tara, whenever you are ready get on that Barrier spell. Faith, you and me are going to secure the house. Start at the back." Xander ordered.

"What about me?" Harry said, defiantly.

He was used to taking charge in dangerous situations and he did not know these people or what was going on.

"You can get Tara something to eat and drink. Then you can either, do as Tara says, stay out of the way or curl up in a ball in the fucking basement for all I care." Xander said before walking out of the room.


The Present, 2015

Xander let his helmet drop to the floor. Exhausted, he struggled with the straps on his dirt and blood stained armour. Tara helped him with the straps and they dumped the armour and his weaponry in a pile in his 'office' tent, to be taken away for cleaning. Xander stumbled into the bedroom tent and flopped down on the bed. Tara followed him in and began to massage his back. After about half and hour, Tara finished the massage and curled up next to Xander, his arms wrapping around her almost of their own accord.

"Tell me again." Xander whispered.

"Tell you what, again?" she asked, tuning to look him in his soulful eyes.

"The lives you imagine."

She closed her eyes and snuggled into his side, her head now resting on his chest.

"Which one?" she asked gently.

"A peaceful one." Xander whispered back.

"Alright." Tara said, thinking for a minute. "Ok, I'm driving into a small town. It's late in the afternoon and the sun is just setting. I pull into the bed and breakfast, the only place in town and…."

Tara outlined the life they would have had. She met Xander in the Bed and Breakfast, his car having broken down while he was on his way back to Sunnydale. She gave him a lift and after a few days in the car, he tells her all about his home town, and how much he had lost in the struggle there. She decided that she did not want to go to collage on the Hellmouth, and he had decided that he had enough of the darkness, so they changed directions and kept driving, living off the money Tara had saved for collage tuition. They travelled around America, before eventually settling down in a small town in Mayne, where Xander apprenticed under the local carpenter while Tara set up an apothecary, dealing in herbal medicines and tending their garden.

They got married and had three children, two girls and a boy, and Xander became known for his fine quality tables and cabinets. Their eldest daughter, Katherine, took after Tara and apprenticed at the apothecary, eventually taking over when Tara retied. Their middle child, their son Jessie, became a big shot high school football star, before blowing out his knee in his final year, after that he moved to New York to go to collage and ended up a successful author and middling successful businessman. Marie, their youngest, took after both her parents. She love woodwork from a young age and she learnt from her father and eventually some of her works became so sought after that the sale of a single piece could cover living expenses for the whole family for an entire year. Xander could not be prouder. She also loved nature, tending to the garden with Tara and taking lessons in the theoretical and religious aspects of Wiccan Witchcraft, although she did not display any magical talent. When they retired at age sixty-five, they had four grandchildren. Jessie having a boy and a girl in New York with an artistically unrecognised sculptor, who he loved more than life itself, a trait he had gotten from his father. Katherine had two girls with a local boy that had been her high school sweetheart. Marie never got married or had any children, all her passion was directed into the garden and her woodwork. Xander and Tara had both died peacefully in bed at the tender age of ninety six.

Xander stroked her hair as she finished the story. He was always swept into the worlds she described, amazed at all the detail that she put into the fantasy. Xander idly wished that they could have lived a different life, only so that Tara would never have had to endure what she had gone through. The sound of a nite raid penetrated the tent, but Xander just kept stroking Tara's hair as she slowly slipped into the land of sleep. He lay there unmindful of the death occurring around the tent as he simply enjoyed the comfort of the woman he loved more than anything.

An hour later the raid commander reported to Buffy's tent, informing her that they were unable to locate the enemy's command tent or the quarters of their three highest ranking offices; Xander, Tara and Faith. Buffy waved away the commander, barely containing her anger. Giles quickly, and accurately, surmised that Tara had case concealment spells around the tents, making it impossible for them to be located during a raid. Willow said that she could try to take down the spells but it would take a long time to prepare and the chance of success was slim at best. Slamming her fist into the desk, Buffy fumed while, across the length of the battlefield, her opposite number lay calmly with the woman he loved, thinking about another life.


Chapter 11

The Past, Mid 2007

"We need reinforcements." Faith declared.

They had secured the house and there had been a standoff with the Tarakkens for the last twenty-eight hours, however Tara would not be able to hold the barrier spell for much longer. They were seriously lacking in weaponry for when the barrier failed. Both Hermione and Harry had their wands, but in a fight Xander trusted Harry about as far as he could throw The Watchers Council's Castle. Xander still had his longsword and they had found a rake handle that would do for a staff for Tara. Unfortunately all the guns were empty and the best that could be found for Faith was an old wood axe from the basement and a few kitchen knives.

"I know a few who would help. They feel they owe you from when you rescued us." Hermione said.

"Alright, but make sure they are willing to kill the Tarakkens." Xander said.

"I'll adjust the barrier so that you can Apparate through it." Tara said.

"Wait a second." Harry said.

"I'll stand by in case any of the inbound tries anything." Faith added.

"WAIT A GODDAMED SECOND!!!" Harry screamed.

"What?" Xander said casually.

"We can't kill them?" Harry said, motioning out the window.

"Bullshit! They're here to kill Tara, Faith and myself. They'll kill you too because you're in the way."

"X-man's right. You go out there, and don't kill, you'll get one in the back ten seconds later." Faith added.

"I won't kill." Harry declared.

"Fine, then get the fuck out of here." Xander said. "This ain't a Sunday picnic."

"No!" Harry said, stepping up to Xander.

"Fine." Xander said, resigned.

Harry never saw the right cross that knocked him unconscious.

"Dump him in the basement." Xander said. "You got a problem with this?"

"No. I owe you guys, and by the sound of it, those bastards are worse than Voldermort ever was." Hermione replied.

"Good. When Tara's done, get going."


Xander looked over the thirty odd Wizards and Witches gathered in Hermione's house, ordering them to their positions. Hermione had the foresight to get everyone who was coming to bring any weapons, other than their wands, along as well, so now Tara had a proper Quarterstaff, Faith had two short swords and Xander had a proper axe as a secondary weapon. Several of the Witches and Wizards had swords, axes, staffs and crossbows. One Muggle loving Wizard had a MP5/10 assault rifle, but he would not let anyone else use it, so Xander had placed him at the front to cause as much initial damage as possible. Xander and Hermione were leading the attack that was going out the front door, with Tara and the gun wielding Wizard directly behind them, with thirteen other Witches and Wizards behind them. Faith would lead the other sixteen Witches and Wizards out the back door, to take out any Assassins out the back then circle around to help Xander's team.

"Do it." Xander ordered.

A few seconds later the barrier that surrounded the Granger residence glowed a bright purple and then disappeared with a slight rushing of air. This was immediately followed by the surging forward of the two teams from the house. Xander and Faith ran at a slight crouch as a stream of curses, crossbow bolts and bullets streaked from behind them. The Tarakkens saw that they would get annihilated if they stayed put, so they rushed in, trying to close the gap so that the hail of spells and bullets would be less effective. The first ranks of Tarakkens to reach each group were ripped apart by a pissed off Slayer, wielding the same type of weapons that had made her both famous and infamous in the Tournament, and a fallen White Knight enraged that they would try to harm the woman who held part of his Soul, literally. It was the fiercest battle that London had seen for hundreds of years. Fifty plus of the most deadly Assassins in the world, against thirty-four defenders.

Xander swung his longsword, gutting the Tarakken in front of him, then he had to duck a curse, which stuck an Assassin further along, stunning it long enough for the Witch it was fighting to burry her axe into his skull. Glancing around, Xander saw Tara holding off three Tarakkens with her quarterstaff, and Faith's depleted force hitting the Assassins from the rear. Caught between Xander's and Faith's forces, the remaining Tarakkens were quickly annihilated. As the last Assassin went down by Xander's blade, he turned to make sure that Tara was alright. When he found she was, he let out a wordless yell, joined in quickly be the other combatants. A yell to prove that they were still alive. There were only eleven Witches and Wizards left on the street, the rest were dead, scattered among the bodies of the Tarakkens. Hermione, limping from a wound in her leg, was supporting another Witch, who had a gash across her stomach and a broken arm.

"Let's get everyone inside and see to the wounded." Xander ordered.


The Past, Late 2007

"Alright. Everyone knows their jobs, let's get into position." Xander ordered as he surveyed his troops.

The hundred troops split up to their assigned positions. All of the Witches and Wizards who had survived the battle at Hermione's place that happened five months ago were here, along with others from the Wizarding community, a squad of soldiers that they had saved from demons two years ago, a few Wicca's, a few vampire hunting gangs and various other groups and individuals who either owed their lives or had vowed to help Xander, Tara and Faith. The troops moved quickly into position around a group of three seemingly mundane office buildings, which disguised the entrances to the Order of Tarakka Headquarters. Ordering the troops he would lead personally into final position with hand signals, Xander waited.

[Go! Go! Go!] Tara's thoughts came to Xander and Faith through the telepathic link she had set up for this raid.

Xander silently ordered his third of the troopers into the hideout as Tara and Faith did the same.

In their long and insidious history, dating back to the times of King Solomon, the Order of Tarakka had never been attacked on their own soil, and as such were completely unprepared for the brutal and efficient attack upon their headquarters. A few morbid individuals in the control centre, knowing that their deaths were at hand, watched with awe as the attack was lead by their three biggest bounties. Xander, Tara and Faith had multiple bounties consisting of, well over three billion Pound; four and a half billion US dollars; one and a half billion deutschmarks and four hundred and seventy five million Yen. One individual noted that while Xander and Faith lead from the front, Tara's group would often throw themselves between danger and the Wiccan. A mere twenty minutes after they had entered the headquarters, all the Tarakkens in residence were dead. Once the place was cleared, Xander had teams search all the rooms for any equipment or books that could be useful.

"I want a team on the computer system, get me lists of every single Tarakken Agent not at the compound." Xander ordered as he moved through the halls. "Get all weapons and artefacts catalogued and inventoried when we get back, and I want a full listing by tomorrow night."

"Xander! I think you ought to see this." Tara said, holding up a book from one of the libraries, "All the other volumes are being readied for transport, but look at this."

Xander scanned over the text, and then gave Tara a questioning glance.

"It's called the Dragonartic Armour. It's mystically enhanced with all kinds of spells and such, however it's most prominent feature does not directly relate to the wearer. Apparently it gives the wearer the ability to transfer a great source of energy into the living body of another, thereby giving the recipient total access to that power, and something about the denizens of the power. It's kind of vague, but what do you think?" Tara explained.

"We'll look into it." Xander said.

"Yo, X-man. Time to haul ass." Faith interjected, receiving a nod from Xander. "Listen up, ladies. Let's get the fuck outta here."

The ninety-six surviving members of the raiding party pulled out of the hidden base.

[Do it.] Xander said over the link.

Xander, Tara and Faith each dropped several Thermite-Plasma grenades down the access points to the base and ran like hell. Thirty seconds later the three buildings were in flames and the underground base had been reduced to molten slag. The most valuable of the recovered items, along with Xander and Tara, were Apparated back to the staging base for this operation by the Witches and Wizards. Faith accompanied the rest of the loot, being transported back by truck.

Xander and Tara were walking down one of the base's halls when they heard raised voices.

"I can't believe you went and did that!" Harry's voice came through a solid wooden door.

"Well, you know what? I don't care! It had to be done, it was done." Hermione replied.

"But you killed!"

"I can't believe you, Harry. It's perfectly fine for you to have to kill Voldermort for killing a few people over a bunch of years, but it's not ok for me to help take out the Tarakkens."

"That's different. Voldermort was a monster."

"These guys were worse. They have traded in death for hundreds of years. To be invited to join, you have to have killed at least a hundred people, and then you must kill your family as an initiation." Hermione tried to explain.

"IT'S STILL NOT THE SAME!!!!" Harry screamed.

"I feel sorry for you, Harry. Blinded by you own fame. When I return, I expect you to be gone, and if I never see you again, it'll be too soon."

The door opened and Hermione emerged, shaking her head. She nodded to Xander and Tara before heading off down the hallway.

Copies of the Tarakken files that revealed the dossiers and current locations of all its field agents were sent to law enforcement and Intelligence Agencies around the world, which resulted in hundreds of lighting raids resulting in arrest or the suspect being killed while resisting arrest.

Two days later the body of a young man was found hanging by a rope from the ceiling of a hotel room, a unique scar in the shape of a lightning bolt was on his forehead. The police investigation determined the cause of death as Suicide. The Daily Prophet ran a small article in the back of the paper, after the Quidditch results, entitled "Boy who lived, dead." All in all the death of the most famous young Wizard was a footnote, overshadowed by the headline "Ancient Assassin Guild Destroyed, Hermione Granger To Be Commended."