For The Love of...

Author: Andrew Parkinson <slayersdownunder[at]>

Paring: Xander/Dawn, Xander/Vi

Rating: R

Summary: The world had changed, but the job wasn't over. The Watcher's Council had to be re-built, Slayers had to be found and trained and the World still had to be saved from the Night. For Xander Harris, veteran and survivor of the Sunnydale Hellmouth, his life had just begun another rollercoaster ride.

Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Buffy - The Vampire Slayer. Mutant Enemy, FOX do. I am using them for my own non profitable needs.

Distribution: On my fic Archive -,
The Xanderzone archives - - (under Hazman11)
and anywhere else. Just tell me so I can check out the site.

Dedicated: To Adrena

Feedback: Yes please, we are all feedback junkies.

Latest addition

Chapter One
Darkness Ascending

San Diego
June 2012

The rock that ricocheted off one of the many gravestones that lined each side of the narrow asphalt path was just one indication to the mood of the woman that had kicked it.

Her bitter tone was a clearer one.

"Oh, I'll take the other side," the girl muttered; though from the pitch in her voice, it was obvious that she was mocking someone else.

Katherine Franklin didn't like being told what the deal was. Especially when she took into account who had given her that "suggestion". Katherine, or Kate as she insisted everyone call her, was special. It wasn't because of her looks, though no one could've said she was anything but attractive. She had the height of a model and the body to match, well, that is if the modelling industry remembered that women with some curves were more attractive than sticks with skin stretched over them. She'd remarked a number of times, while flicking through some glossy magazine, that she was aware of the irony that she was helping that same industry profit from buying the magazines in the first place. But she liked fashion, so there really wasn't any choice. Her red hair fell to her shoulders when down, though at present it was tied back in a ponytail.

No, she was special for another reason. For Kate was a Vampire Slayer. That title, however didn't mean she was as special as it use to mean. It didn't mean she was the chosen one, or even her countries chosen. Nor did it mean that she was Californian's chosen. Shaking her head, she reluctantly remembered that she wasn't even San Diego's own chosen one.

It wasn't that way six years ago. One early March night in 2006 she'd gone to bed worrying about nothing more than how she was going to pass her Math mid term the next day. Sometime during the night, she'd woken feeling the most amazing rush flowing through her body, and in that one moment she felt as though she was connected to something very powerful. Not that she had any idea on what exactly had happened. Apart from suddenly being a lot faster and coordinated at sports, she didn't really see any tangible difference till about two months later, when a old English guy and a young woman, not too much older than she was, turned up on her doorstep, and told her of her birthright.

"Funny birthright, considering I'm 15," she'd told them not believing a word of it. They'd apologised profusely about the time it took to notify her, but some internal problems with their organisation had meant the delay had been unavoidable. She'd taken a bit of selling on the whole idea of who, or more precisely what she was. The whole idea of her having to put her body on the line for some English organisation didn't appeal greatly to her, or her folks. It was only when her Watcher sat down with Kate and her parents and explained that she was there to train her, guide her and help her in whatever she decided to do in life, that she decided to give it a go.

Looking back she'd never thought that the same woman would become one of her best friends. But over time she did, and for that Kate could never be anything but thankful.

For a number of years it was just the two of them. Defending the City against the forces of darkness. Which to be fair wasn't all that dark. San Diego was never a hotbed of demonic activity. And there was never any real danger of any of the local inhabitants having to face the hounds of hell. Kate and her watcher saw to that. Then around three years later, she was told that there was another one. Roberta Hernandez. Two years younger and thinking it was pretty much the coolest thing going, Roberta and Kate had a love hate relationship. Roberta loved to piss Kate off, and Kate hated it. Then six months ago came Ashley Harrison.

In circa 2012, she was one of three. And as far as she was concerned, in this case, three definitely wasn't a charm.

Taking that reality into account, Kate didn't feel all that special. It wasn't as though she felt like she was owed anything special. In those moments when she was lying in bed, simply thinking into the darkness of her room, she knew what the real problem was. She was jealous. She'd been doing this for six years, and she was sick of it. She saw the look of joy that was still on Roberta's and now Ashley's face, and she knew she used to feel like that. Somewhere in the last few years, she'd lost it, and that was the reason why she didn't feel all that special anymore.

Which would pretty much make her life totally suck, except for one thing. Kate loved the fact she could kick ass. Kicking undead demon ass, was an even bigger bonus. It fact it was all pretty good. She loved her city, she liked her watcher, and she even liked Ashley.

Roberta, unfortunately lived life to its fullest, making sure to enjoy everything and having fun every minute of the day. Even taking into account her wish that she still felt the thrill of being the slayer, it still irritated the heck out of Kate. Even more since Kate was technically the senior slayer. Another thing that Roberta didn't seem to take too seriously. And that was why Kate was walking along, kicking anything she could reach and wishing sweet torture on her fellow slayer.

What was worse, it was just another boring night in the life of San Diego's undead.


Mount Hope Cemetery may have been close to downtown, but in the middle of it you would have no idea. The lights from the city centre and the streets never reached in that far. Even the full moon above gave only the faintest of glows, almost as if it's light couldn't penetrate the eerie darkness of the area. The shadows that it did fuel were hardly recognisable from the darkness around them. The steady wind that had been blowing for most of the night provided the only life in the place. Flowing through the trees, the branches caught the breeze and swayed with it. The leaves rustling in it's movement providing an aural backdrop to the atmosphere. It was a fairly cool night; the temperature hovering in the low sixties. Definitely not cold, but just cool enough that when mixed with the wind, there was a distinctive chill in the air.

The cool serenity was broken with a start, as a male figure burst through one of the thick hedges. The natural barrier slowed him somewhat, making him fall off balance. But it was only a momentary distraction, as he was on his feet soon after and running away at full speed yet again. His head kept whipping around, looking for his pursuer, then turning back just as quickly to avoid running into another obstacle. Running around the side of one of the bigger mausoleums, he stopped suddenly, throwing himself against the wall, hoping to find some time to think up a plan.

After a few moments, and with little success in the thinking of a better idea, he slowly leaned to his left and poked his head around the corner of the stone building. He squinted his eyes and scanned the area, hoping to catch a glimpse of who he'd been trying to avoid. Completing his second scan of the area, he still couldn't see anyone. He let himself wonder for a moment if he'd been lucky enough to lose his pursuer. But not for very long. He couldn't believe it would be that easy to lose someone who had already shown was very determined to track him wherever he went.

He took a step out, hoping to see further around a corner, when suddenly he felt himself being forced back against the wall, a severe sharp pain coming from his left shoulder. Looking down, he grimaced when he saw why. Protruding out of his body was a steel bar. The force of the impact having forced more than half of the object through his body and a good deal of it now lay imbedded in the wall behind him. With it being locked into that place, he found himself pinned there, not being able to move away from the spot.

The agony was beyond anything he'd experienced, but he fought to keep it inside. He needed to be level headed to get out of this. Fighting the pain it caused even when doing a simple thing like lifting his head, he looked up and could make out a shadowy figure slowly moving towards him. He wondered if it was the pain that was masking his attacker's identity of simply the lack of light. But even now, a mere few feet away, he struggled to focus on the figure.

"Where is he?"

The voice was male; there was no doubt about that. The harsh vocal chords sounding like coarse sandpaper stood out sharply. But even with the raspy voice, there was no mistaking the intent.


The shadow moved closer till his face was only inches away. At that distance there was no missing what he was. Human.


The human twisted and pulled at the steel spike. Each movement increasing the agony that shot through the intended victim. He stood there; watching blankly as his hand caused more and more cries of pain. His eyes un-blinking. His mouth closed in a tense line.

He lightened the pressure he bore down onto the bar. "Where is he?"

"I don't know who you're talking about, man?"

If he'd been hoping for pity, he was very much mistaken. The cold unfeeling eyes that watched him as he fought the pain lacing his body had no pity. Apart from determination, he couldn't see anything in those eyes.

"Marcus! Where is Marcus!"

The volume of his threat had risen, as had his twisting on the steel with each word. Blood was flowing freely out of the wound, and as it was twisted more and more, the sound of bones scraping then cracking filled the air, accompanying the cries of pain.

"I don't know," came the pitiful response. He felt no more fight, and was starting to long for death.

"You're lying..."

"Hey! What are you doing?"

At the sound of the voice, both victim and assailant turned as one. Neither one showed much surprise at hearing the women's voice. Nor did they show any shock at who it was when they saw her. It also didn't stop the torture from continuing.

"This doesn't concern you," the shadow told her, turning his back to her and re-applying pressure to the steel. He was about to ask the question again, when in the split second before being thrown through the air, he remembered that it wasn't a good idea to ignore a hyped up slayer. The split second however was no where near long enough. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and before he knew what was happening, he was flying through the air, landing with a thud on the ground a dozen or so feet away.

The woman looked over at the fallen man. He'd landed on his front and face down, but she could see his body raising and falling, telling her that he was still breathing.

With a look of sadness she then turned to face the prey, still half dangling from the stone wall. "I can't let you go," she told him, pulling a stake out from under her jacket. "Though it does seem rather unfair to stake you while you are already hung up."

"Just do it slayer," the vampire answered. "I couldn't fight you anyway."

Kate couldn't be sure, but the vampire looked as though he was welcoming death. She shrugged, and went to plunge the stake in.

"Katherine, no!"

As quick as her reflexes were, the words came just a little too late. She stopped herself as soon as she heard the words, not so much in acquiesce of the instruction, but because of the shock at being addressed by her full name. But the tip of the stake had already passed through the layers skin and pierced the heart, and in a second all that was left was a sprinkling of dust at her feet. Not that she was looking there any more. Since he'd spoken, her attention was only on the other person. There was something in the voice that unnerved her. It wasn't so much that the other person has simply said something. In a way it wasn't even that he knew her name. But there was something about the way he said her name, that bred familiarity.

"Who are you? How do you know who I am?" she asked curiously.

Getting up slowly, the man's voice held a lot of anger. "You've just killed my last lead." He said no more, and turned and started to walk away.


Whistling a merry tune, Roberta Hernandez walked along at a brisk pace, following the path that led around the opposite way to where she'd 'suggested' Kate go. In truth she had no particular reason for doing so. It was just another amusing way to pass the time on yet another routine patrol through Mount Hope Cemetery.

Athletic in build, but standing only five feet and four inches tall, Roberta had never excelled at anything, but had enjoyed it all, when all of the sudden three years ago, she was able to run faster than any of the other girls at her school. It had been a buzz at first, suddenly becoming powerful. That was until the rumours and suspicions started. She had to be on drugs, they'd said. A curse of her greatly improved hearing. Nothing was ever proved of course, but when a few weeks later, a young woman had turned up at her doorstep and told her the truth of things, and at the same time offered a scholarship to any school in the area, she accepted greatly. She wasn't bitter. That was something that she tried to avoid at all times. She had a gift. Of that she was sure. She's been mistaken in trying to use it to become popular. She didn't need it. She loved life and very quickly got knew friends, as well as her Watcher and the other slayer, Kate.

Well, that wasn't entirely true. Roberta thought that Kate was a nice girl, if you took the stick out of her ass. It was a little unfair. Kate was nice, very loyal, very supportive, but she seemed to have taken her birthright as a Slayer to be as much burden as she did a gift. While Roberta just thought it was the neatest thing in the world.

Roberta knew however that her outlook on it all was a handy beneficiary of San Diego's fairly tame nightlife. Sure there were vampires to kill, occasionally. The odd demon popped up to cause trouble, but as far as end of the world battles, they seemed to be centred on Cleveland. And as that was the most heavily occupied area of slayers, no one yet had suggested they were needed to join them.

No, Roberta was happy with her area of responsibility. She loved her city, and being its protector, even if un-acknowledged was pretty cool in her books.

She had reached the point where the two paths crossed, and was surprised not to find Kate waiting for her. She looked around, trying to make anything out in the blackness that seemed all encompassing. She decided to walk back along the path Kate should've taken, thinking that maybe Kate had been distracted.

She'd only gone a short while when her hearing caught the sound of two voices. One was Kate, and the other one was male. Odds said it was a vampire, she thought, as she took off in their direction.


Having someone simply walk away as if she weren't important was a novel experience for Katherine Franklin. One that she didn't like and would be quite happy never to have happened again. She looked on astonished for a moment, before her mind vocalised her thoughts.

"Hey, where are you going?" she called out to him as she started to run to catch him up.

"Just go home, Katherine," she received in return.

"Hey, no one calls me that name. Especially if I don't know them."

Just as the shadow was about to turn around, another voice entered the fray. "And even then, she hates it with a passion."

The man paused, seemingly checking out who had addressed him. "A slayerette?...No, another slayer, I presume."

"Yeah, and who might you be?" Roberta asked, standing a few feet away, looking briefly at Kate to make sure she was okay.

"No-one," he replied and turned to walk away again.

He only got so far when he felt an arm grab him and pull him around. Kate recoiled a little seeing his face. It wasn't so much the patch on his left eye, but the 6-inch long scar that started above the eye and went below it that shocked her. Whatever had happened to this man, it was brutal, that much she knew without having to ask any more.

"Go back to your watchers," the man said.

There was something in his voice that was almost caring, even if buried under the rough, gravely tone.

"We only have one watcher," Roberta replied, before Kate told tell her to shut-up. She was surprised when the man actually responded in surprise to that information.

That bit of information seemed to make him stop for a moment. "So Giles did win that one," he commented to himself. "I'll stay out of your way as much as I can, slayers," he told them, as he turned and walked away.

Both Kate and Roberta ran to follow him, not wanting to let him out of their sight. "You can't just walk away," Kate told him.

"Well I am," he replied, not even brothering to face them. Almost as if he could feel it, when Kate grabbed at him to turn him around, he didn't let her succeed like he had before. With a quick drop of his right side, and in a flurry of movements, Kate found herself lying on her back, looking up at him, his foot planted firmly on her chest.

"I don't want to fight either of you," he told her, and then looked towards Roberta, the warning clear. "I'll be in town for a short while, then gone. I won't get in your way, and you can stay out of mine."

When he took his foot off her, Kate rolled away and than stood up, wanting to make sure she was in a good position for whatever might happen next. But to her surprise, he was no longer there. "Wha...where did he go?" she asked herself, and then repeated the words to Roberta.

"I'm sorry, I didn't see," she replied. Kate couldn't be sure but it looked as though she was almost succeeding in holding back the laughter.

"You didn't see!" she repeated incredulously, "what the heck were you doing?"

Roberta couldn't maintain the straight face any longer as she burst out laughing. "Oh man, you should've seen your face."

Yeah, Kate felt real special.


Books, books and more books. As if school wasn't bad enough, she had to study even in her other life. Somehow Ashley Harrison doubted this is what people had in mind when they thought of super-heroes. In fact the only thing that seemed to fit in with all that she supposed would happen being a super hero is that, like Clark Kent, she was told to keep her powers secret.

That seriously reduced the pros of the whole deal.

Of course that aside, she couldn't lie to herself about how she felt. She loved being a slayer. Sure there were thousands across the world, but heck, in a world of billions, she still felt pretty special. And in the whole scheme of things being a slayer, even one that was only recently called was about the best part time job she could think of while surviving the horrors of high school. She was going to start Public High School in a few months, but thanks to the Watchers Council, she was now going to a Private School, had money for fun and more importantly, had the self esteem she had been lacking for most of her life.

She was pretty unlikely as a slayer. She was tiny. More than once, Ashley had wondered if her body would ever actually hit puberty and grow. She still, to her chagrin, looked like a twelve-year-old. Only now she was a twelve-year-old who could save the world.

Well, she did like to dream about that.

No, all and all, she loved the life that she now had. It was just the double homework that annoyed her. So it was on this Friday night, her designated Slayer homework night, that she was sitting at the table of their watcher's apartment, doing research on various baddies that go bump in the night. That and getting her watcher to tell her plenty of stories from previous adventures. Those tales almost made the homework worthwhile.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the voices of her two fellow slayers, as they approached the door to their watcher's apartment. Ashley couldn't help but giggle at the bickering twosome. Having no siblings, Ashley couldn't help but think that this was the closest she would get to it, and she enjoyed it immensely. Even if Kate *seemed* to hate with it a passion.

"I'm telling you, I should've had the digicam with me. There'd be money in that shot," Roberta told her.

"God, would you just shut up!" Kate shouted back as the door opened, and found herself facing a grinning Ashley. "Don't you start as well, Ash."

Ashley looked from Kate, to the still grinning Roberta, then with all innocence replied, "Not going to say a thing."

Kate rolled her eyes at the look on Ashley's face and had to catch herself from laughing. Damn, it was hard to keep up the rage with her looking at you like that, Kate thought, wondering if she was ever that cute or manipulative when she was just 14.

"Where's the boss?" she asked the youngster.

"I'm here," came the reply as a woman walked down the internal staircase. She stood about the same height as Kate, though her build was slender. Her dark brown hair cascading down her back, she walked with an air of authority that belied her age of 25. There was a beaming intelligence behind her eyes, and even without the authority of her position, she seemed to automatically command respect. To the three slayers, she was there guide and friend. Respect came easily to them. "So what happened?" she asked as she walked over to the threesome, who by now had sat themselves down at the table.

"Kate, got shown up by some dude," Roberta told her, causing Kate to wince, not just at the fact that she got shown up, but by Roberta's use of the word dude.

"I did not," she replied almost automatically, then checking herself she added, "he got lucky on the third attempt." As soon as Kate said so, she could tell her watcher wasn't happy with the news.

"Who was it?"

Kate shrugged, then looked at Roberta, happy to see that she wasn't contradicting her. "But the worrying thing is he knew me."

"That you were a slayer?" the Watcher asked, concerned that this person knew things he shouldn't.

"He seemed to know lots. About Slayers, Watchers. I can't be sure, but I'm almost positive he mentioned Giles," Kate answered her, pausing for a moment before continuing. "He also knew my name. Called me Katherine," she admitted trying not to spit as she said so.

"Well," her watcher replied chuckling a little, "that got him on your shit list straight away then." She then got a lot tenser. "Still, levity aside, this could be serious."

"Girl, you know that you *are* American, or did your schooling in England warp you that much," Roberta taunted. "Levity aside, sheesh!"

Her watcher rolled her eyes. "Yes, I'm very well aware of my birthright, more than you realise," she replied a little mysterious. "And good gawd, I don't think you can lecture anyone about their abuse of the English language."

"She has a point," Ashley added. She enjoyed getting in her own playful digs when she could.

"Shut it, junior," Roberta teased back.

"Okay, lets get back to what happened for a moment." They all turned to face their watcher, knowing that she was correct. "Was he human?"

"Yeah, I didn't sense anything different," Kate replied.

"Nor I," Roberta added.

"He was torturing a vampire, when I came upon him," Kate continued.

"Not killing?"

"No," Kate replied shaking her head. "He could've killed it anytime he wanted to, but he seemed to take almost pleasure it making it squirm. There was something that he wanted to know."

Her watcher was getting more and more intrigued. "What was that?"

"I don't know, sorry. All I heard was the name, Marcus."

As soon as Kate had said it, she could tell that the name struck with some familiarity with her watcher. "What is it?" Kate asked.

Her watcher walked over to the bookcase at the end of her living room followed by the other three. "I'm sure I've heard that name before," she replied, a look of concentration etched on her face as she searched her memories.

Kate, who had been watching the books being pulled out of the shelves, saw that Roberta and Ashley had started looking through the many photos that were on the top shelf of the bookcase, seemingly more interested in them, then who or what Marcus was.

"What else happened?"

Taking her eyes off the younger two slayers, Kate turned back and answered. "Not much. He didn't seem to want to hurt us. In fact it was almost as if he had wanted to avoid us."

"Well, here it is," she answered pulling out a leather bound book and taking it back to the table.

Kate had seen that type of book before. It looked like the same one she saw her watcher writing in each day. "I had to read through these journals when I arrived. It's a tradition that each Watcher passes on the journals to the next, but I was surprised when these were left with me." Kate noticed that her mentor seemed lost in thought again.

"The previous watcher?" Kate asked.

"Yeah." The reply was soft and almost sad.

"Did you know him?"

Her watcher only nodded, and Kate didn't push it.

"Yes, here it is. Marcus was the leader of a local gang of vampires, whom the previous slayer had killed a number of their members." Shrugging she added, "Not much I know, I probably wouldn't have remembered, except it was one of the last entries written."

The sadness that Kate had noticed before had remerged on her watcher's face. The one question she'd held off on asking now escaped her lips.

"What happened to them?" Kate asked. She saw a multitude of emotions play across the face of her watcher in the split second before she opened her mouth to speak.

Whatever answer she would've received was interrupted by a shout from across the room. "Oh my god!"

They both turned to see Roberta coming towards them with a photo in her hand followed by Ashley. She thrust the photo out to Kate, who took it. "What am I looking at?" she asked.

"Him," Roberta answered, pointing at a young man who in the photo was standing behind their watcher, with his arms wrapped around her. As Kate studied the photo second by second, the feeling that Roberta was correct in her assumption became crystal clear.

She passed it on to her watcher. "It does look like the same guy tonight. Well, except for the fact that he doesn't have the scar and eye patch."

The gasp that greeted those words surprised them all, and Kate could tell that it had affected her watcher.

"What is it?" she asked.

When she received no answer, she asked again. "What?"

Still no response.

"Dawn, who is it?" she asked more urgent now.

Dawn Summers, watcher to three slayers and veteran of the time before there were many, didn't know whether to cry or laugh. In the end her answer escaped her lips in an almost haunted tone.


Chapter Two
The New World

June 2003

He was sure it was meant to feel better than this. They had just saved the world.


But no matter how many times Xander Harris kept repeating that to himself, it did little to fill the hole he was feeling inside.

It was a fine, if a little hot sunny day in Los Angeles. The sort of day that should make you feel vibrant, ready to enjoy whatever came along. But at that very moment, sitting in a Coffee shop a mile or so down the road from the Hyperion Hotel, Xander didn't feel much at all.

He reached down and brought the mug to his lips. Sucking in slightly he took a sip, sending the bitter taste of coffee across his taste buds, then down his throat.

"Ahh, the sweet hit of caffeine. Just what I need," Xander told himself, as he placed the mug back down on the table, wishing that the coffee would be all that he needed. The warmth from the summer sun, combined with the heat from his beverage, had succeeded in raising Xander's own internal temperature to the point where beads of sweat were starting to drip down from his forehead. He grabbed a napkin and wiped the beads away.

He watched people go about there everyday life as he took another sip. The population of Los Angeles seemed to have recovered swiftly after being released from Jasmine's thrall. The initial depression and feelings of loss had evaporated just as soon as most people remembered what they had in their real lives. He sat there for a while, simply studying the people as they went about their business. They all seemed like they had places to go, things to do.

He envied them that.

He never thought it would feel like this. Victory. It was meant to be sweet, wasn't it? The bitter taste of his coffee as he took another sip, felt a heck of a lot sweeter to him than how his life felt at present.

He'd said goodbye to many friends over the years in Sunnydale. His other childhood friend along with Willow, Jesse, had died almost as soon as he'd discovered the truth of the Hellmouth's particular nightlife. From then an almost a constant string of friends, or acquaintances passed away as Buffy and the Scoobies, of various sizes, fought for what they believed was right. Some affected him deeply. Joyce, Mother to Buffy and Dawn, and the one female adult in his life that actually seemed to care, died of natural causes. It was a cruel irony that made it even harder to accept in some ways. Where as Tara Maclay was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It hurt still to remember them both.

Then there were the various Slayers in Training that had arrived on the doorstep of Revello Drive over the last six months. Some he'd barely known. Others like Molly and Amanda had almost become his friends.

But he wondered if by then he'd become immune to it all.

Anya. His ex-fiancee, current off and on lover, friend, confidant.

They'd held a memorial service for them all a few days after they'd arrived in Los Angeles. He'd spent some time remembering all of his friends. Too many had died. He was certain of that.

But why was he okay with it all. He thought of Anya and it hurt, but not the crippling hurt when Joyce died, or the aching pain at seeing Tara's body, or the total disbelief at seeing Jesse turn to dust.

Anya died, and yet he could drink his mug of coffee without breaking down.

And he hated himself for it.

In the two weeks, since they'd been in LA a lot of things had already changed. The group of survivors that had fled the town of Sunnydale before it turned into a great big crater had been diminished somewhat since that first day when they surprised the heck out of Angel. Xander couldn't help but smile at the memory of the look on the vampire's face, before he quickly pulled Buffy aside to ask what the heck she was doing. They'd returned a few minutes later and were all assigned rooms. It was rather fortunate that Angel had a hotel.

There were wounded to take care of. A number of the Slayer's had suffered injuries to varying degrees, as well as Robin and Andrew. Then there were families to call, to reassure that they were safe. There were also families to call to advise of the passing of their daughters. He could see the weight that duty put on Giles's shoulder.

And then a day after the memorial service, they started to disperse. Most of the slayers wanted to go home. Now stronger and safe, in the short term at least, he couldn't begrudge them that. Some of them lived in adjoining states, while others had to travel to various countries.

Andrew had seemed a little apprehensive about telling them all he was leaving. Xander wondered if Andrew was worrying about whether Buffy would let him go. But there was no indecision there. He had an Aunt who wanted him to live with her and her family in Colorado. Xander was sure everyone hoped that Andrew could make something of his life.

Xander was certain he was brave enough to do so.

Then it was Willow's turn to talk to the rest of them. He wasn't all that surprised that she and Kennedy wanted to spend some time together, nor that Kennedy wanted to go home and see her family. But the quickness of it all did surprise him a little. But leave they did just yesterday.

And now there was just seven of them left. Buffy, Dawn, Giles, Faith, Robin, Choa-Ahn, Selina and himself.

In two days time it would be four, as Faith, Robin and the other two new slayers were heading to Cleveland to see what was up in that city.


He couldn't help but smile. The voice was like music to his ears. He really didn't know how hard these last two weeks had been if it wasn't for her. He looked up, bringing his hand up to block the sun from shining into his eye.

"Hey Dawnie," he replied, motioning to her to take a seat. "What's up?"

She shrugged, half looking at the menu in an attempt to hide the fact she was studying him closely. "Just thought I'd grab a drink, saw you sitting here," she replied non-chalantly.

Xander raised his eyebrow. "And you came to this coffee-shop because..."

Dawn flashed him one of her patented smiles, and Xander was sure butter would remain rock hard in her mouth. "Just lucky, I guess," she told him. She knew she'd been found out, but didn't care.

As her lips moved and separated arching into the warm smile that she liked to give him, Xander could feel himself feeling better almost immediately. He could actually feel his guilt dispersing with each word she spoke in his company, and before long he found himself laughing along with her.

And even as he did, he knew he'd hate himself even more, once she was gone.


No matter how many times, Xander walked through the corridors of Wolfram and Hart, he never got over how weird it was to find that Angel and his crew were in charge of this huge building. The mere fact that they kept Cordelia there, instead of in a hospital was the biggest indicator just how massive their resources now were.

He just wished that it would do some good for her.

It was such a cold place. Nothing like she would've liked, Xander thought. At least they'd brought in some flowers and the sheets weren't the sterile white colour usually found in hospitals. But one thing he was sure of was Cordelia would've hated this room.

He could scarcely believe it when he was told that his former highschool girlfriend was in some sort of mystical coma and they had no idea when, or even if, she'd get better. Seeing the looks on Angel, Gunn and Fred's faces was enough to tell him not to sound off any of his own questions. He was certain they'd done plenty of that themselves over the last few weeks, since they'd found her.

At least, with their newfound wealth, or at least resources behind them, they were certain she was getting the best of care. He just wished they'd liven up the room.

He'd started coming to see Cordelia almost daily, ever since he'd found out. Not that he thought it actually did anything for her. In a way it did a lot for him. There was a four-year gap in their friendship, but she was a former girlfriend, and visiting with her, gave him something to do.

She was also an incredibly good listener. Well she'd have to be, Xander realised, considering she couldn't interrupt him, or better yet, judge him.

It was what he really needed.


"Where's Xander?"

The sound of the teenager's voice turned both Gunn and Angel's head towards the doorway of their office.

"I think he's visiting Cordelia," Angel replied. He noticed the slightly disappointed look that crossed Dawn's eyes. "We're about to head to the office. You can come with us, if you'd like?"

Dawn shook her head. "That's okay. Thanks anyway," she replied before turning and walking out into the foyer of the Hyperion Hotel. Gunn looked over at Angel who shrugged slightly in response, before getting back the to the plans they were going over.

It wasn't that Dawn begrudged the fact that Xander liked to visit his ex-girlfriend each day. Far from it. It was just that over the last few days, he'd seemed a little distant, and she wished that he would just talk to her. Finding out he was gone again, meant she couldn't do that.

She walked over to the staircase, and was about to step up, when the voices of Giles and her sister, came wafting down. The persons themselves followed soon after.

"Hey guys," Dawn called to them, as she went to pass.

"Dawn, could we talk to you for a moment?" Giles asked, holding out his hand to stop her movement up the stairs. He then gently guided her, till she turned around and led her over to the seats in the middle of the foyer.

She let herself be led, wondering what was so urgent. She hadn't seen a lot of Giles or Buffy in the last few days. But that was as much her fault as anything, as between her own stuff, and being with Xander she'd had scarce free time.

She took her seat and waited for them to start. There was a moment of silence, and she looked from Buffy to Giles. She could see on both of their faces some sort of apprehension and that in itself did little to calm her own nerves for whatever it was they wanted to say.

She decided to start, instead of waiting. "What's up?" she asked brightly, hoping that it was a good thing they had to say.

She noticed that both Buffy and Giles looked at each other briefly, seemingly trying to get the other one to be the one to ask. It wasn't the sign that Dawn was really hoping for. She was about to ask again, when Giles talked first.

"How would you feel about moving to England?" he asked, a little delicately.

Whoa, England. That was not what Dawn was expecting. Strangely enough the first thing that ran through her mind was relief. There was a small part of her that feared that Buffy would want to head to Cleveland. As much as Buffy had always seemed to protest her want of a normal life, and how much of a burden being the chosen one was, Dawn also knew that there was a huge part of her, that felt like she belonged in the fight. She felt that in all of the gang. She knew that Faith and the others were leaving for Cleveland soon, and she had to admit she was happy to see Buffy deciding to do something different.

But after that was the total confusion about when moving to England became even a possibility. Moving to another country seemed like such a big thing. It wasn't like just moving house, or changing schools.

School? Didn't she have to go to school in a few months?

What about their friends? Or more in particular, one friend.

It was also obvious to her that this decision wasn't just made today.

"When was this decided?" she asked.

Buffy looked apprehensive as she answered. "Giles and I have been talking about it for the last few days, but we only really decided this morning."

"So, if I decide to stay, you are going to be fine with that?" Dawn asked, not really needing an answer. There was no way Buffy would let that happen.

"Technically you're still under my care, Dawn. I couldn't just leave you," Buffy stated.

Dawn just shook her head. It was maddening to her that she wasn't being considered an equal yet again. "So I really have no choice then? Why did you even bother to ask me?"

Giles could see that it was getting out of hand, and felt the need to say something. "What I would like is for you and Buffy to come back to England for a holiday. Enjoy the summer, god knows you both deserve it."

At that there was no argument.

"Remember when I said I wanted to show you the world?" Buffy asked. "Well now I can, well at least the British part."

Dawn had to admit to herself that it didn't sound like the worst plan in the world.

"And there will be much more to discuss, but over that time, you can decide if you and Buffy wish to stay and for yourself, finish your education in England." Giles paused a little, and then decided to tell Dawn more than he and Buffy had originally discussed. "Whatever you decide, I have to return. There are duties I have to perform. The Watchers Council needs to be rebuilt, the many Slayers that Willow activated by performing the spell, need to be found and helped. It falls to me to look after that."

"And to me to help," Buffy added looking at Dawn. "It needs to be done."

"So you're joining the Watcher's Council?" Dawn asked.

Buffy shook her head slightly. "Not exactly. But I will be part of it. I want to make sure that the Slayers have an easier time and get the support they deserve."

"The Watchers Council won't be like it was, Dawn. There will be many changes," Giles told her, and seeing that Dawn was about to ask another question he added, "however that can be discussed at another time."

Dawn shut her mouth, a little disappointed. Her interest was definitely peaked by whatever changes there would be in the new Watcher's Council.

"Where would I go to school?" Dawn asked.

"We would have to work that out, but whatever you choose, it will be catered for." Giles couldn't resist a smile, when adding, "The Watchers Council has a fortune in monetary reserves and I believe it is about time that money was spent on something worthwhile."

Dawn frowned at the news. "How will you get your hands on it?"

"Well, lets just say that between Willow and I, we were able to arrange my sole access to the accounts."

Neither Buffy nor Dawn could help laughing at this. "I wish you'd been in charge these last few years," Buffy quipped.

"Well, yes, the old ways were rather unhelpful in those circumstances. But that's one thing that we will be changing."

The small bit of annoyance Dawn had felt at being left out of whatever preliminary discussions that were had by Giles and Buffy, had evaporated away at the thought of what they were discussing. She totally understood Buffy wanting to be a part of making the Slayer's lives easier, making sure the hell she went through on occasions was never foisted onto another. And the whole idea of going to England for a holiday sounded really neat.

There was just one thing nagging at the back of her mind. Something that came very clearly into focus as the front door to the Hotel opened and Xander walked in.

Seeing him walk in, she couldn't help but smile. She knew that he saw it, as he walked straight over to where she was sitting and took a seat next to her.

"So what's up today?" he asked.

"Trying to decide if I want to go to England," Dawn replied. She liked that she could talk about this with him. "What did you decide?"

It didn't take long for Dawn to realise she'd made a mistake. She'd never thought?

"Oh, sorry," she said, turning back to face Giles and Buffy, anger written clearly on her features. Sure getting angry at them may not be logical, but it sure masked the embarrassment she felt.

"Umm, I haven't been asked," Xander replied quietly, before getting up and walking up the stairs in silence.

As soon as he was out of sight, Dawn let out the one question that had been on her mind. "What the hell? Why haven't you spoken to Xander?"

"We wanted to talk to you first, Dawn. After all you're my sister," Buffy replied, obviously uncomfortable at Dawn's accusations. If she thought her words would placate the brunette, she was to be rather surprised.

"But you've been discussing this for a couple of days, and talking about re-building the Watcher's Council, and I'm not talking about with wood and a hammer. Why haven't you been speaking to Xander?"

At least they both had the good grace to look ashamed, Dawn thought as she noticed the look on both of their faces. "You've got to be kidding me," she said in disbelief.

"I do plan to speak to Xander, Dawn. I didn't just ignore him, but Buffy and I had other things to talk about first," Giles told her. "We wanted to talk to you first."

"I suppose I should feel happy about that," she said, not really feeling that at all. "Talk to him," she told them, getting up and then almost running up the stairs to where Xander had disappeared a short time ago.

Giles and Buffy watched her go, before turning to each other. "Do you think Xander will go for it?" Buffy asked.

"Well judging by what I just saw, I doubt Dawn will, if he doesn't." Giles paused for a moment, wondering how to put the next question. "Is Xander and Dawn...involved?" He didn't think so, but the way she'd just acted he did wonder.

Buffy however had no such indecisions. She laughed a little, almost not believing Giles could ask her such a question. "They're really not," she told him, in between giggles, before calming down. "They are very close. I think Dawn thinks of Xander has her big brother. And you're right, I do think it will hurt her really bad if he doesn't come with us."


Wiping away some of the steam that had gathered on the mirror, Xander stared at himself after exiting the shower. He winced as he looked at the hole in his head, where his left eye used to be. He didn't blame anyone. Accidents and injuries were a part of the life he'd chosen to do. But it was a constant reminder of the final battle of Sunnydale. While it didn't occur on the final day, it was a testament to what they had lost.

His self-anger had grown even more in the last few days. It pissed him off no end that no one seemed to be really mourning the loss of not just Anya, but all the others. Even including, though he loathed admitting it, Spike.

But what pissed him off most was that he felt like the biggest hypocrite in the world.

He adjusted the eye patch so that if fit comfortably in place, then wrapped a towel around his waist and opened the door to his room. He hadn't gotten far, only about one foot, when he came to a sudden halt.

Dawn. Dawn was in his room. Dawn was in his room, and he only had a towel on.

And she had noticed.

That smile was definitely wicked, he'd decided, before gathering his courage he strode forward and announced. "Do you want to go out for a couple of minutes while I get changed?"

"Oh spoil all my fun," she joked, only half being truthful. She walked outside and closed the door behind her. Leaning back against it, she couldn't get the image of Xander out of her head. It so pre-occupied her thoughts that she didn't even notice the passage of time, and when Xander opened the door she fell backwards only to be caught in his arms.

"Oops, sorry," she stated with a smile, enjoying that Xander had to grab hold of her, and she was now resting against his chest.

At least for a brief moment till he righted her.

"Not that I don't like seeing you, but maybe it would be best not to just go into my room without knocking," Xander told Dawn, as they re-entered his room. She sat down on his bed, while Xander was still fixing things up from the night before, trying to make the room a little more tidy.

"I wanted to see how you were," Dawn told him.

Xander couldn't help but smile. "And I'm glad you did, but I may have come out of that bathroom with even less on..."

"Uh-huh," Dawn interrupted enjoying watching Xander squirm a little.

"AND...that is one discussion I don't want to have with your sister, when she accuses me of traumatising you." Xander could see that Dawn was about to argue, so he added. "Yes, I know you aren't a little girl anymore, but do you really think that would buy me any brownie points from Buffy?"

Dawn had to admit, "No, I doubt it would."

"And yeah, you know the whole privacy thing," Xander added, thinking that considering all the people that had been living at either Buffy's or his place for the last six months, privacy had been seriously compromised way before today. In fact that being the case, it was really no wonder Dawn just came in. It was what they were all use to doing.

"I did knock first," she told him.

Xander nodded. It didn't bother him, in fact, what bothered him the most was that it *didn't* bother him.

They each sat there in silence for a moment, the revelation downstairs being unspoken, but on each other's minds.

"So...England," Xander ventured, before having to laugh at how awkward it sounded. He was gratified to see Dawn laugh in return. "What's the what?"

"I'm sorry Xander, I thought that they would've talked to you about it first," Dawn started to say, but Xander waved her apology away.

"S'okay Dawn."

"Well to make a long story short, Giles wants Buffy and me to come to England, me to finish school and Buffy to help him rebuild the Watcher's Council," Dawn told him.

Xander was silent for a moment, thinking it over. "Sounds like a good thing," he told her after that.

"Yeah," she admitted. "It would be cool to see another country." She could see that Xander was still mulling over the implications of what she was saying. "Giles said that he wanted to talk to you," she told him, wanting him to know that they hadn't forgotten him, even if it felt like it to her.

He could tell she was trying to help him and he couldn't resist smiling at her in turn. "I doubt there's much of a job for me at the Watcher's Council, Dawn. Well, unless they want me to rebuild the building," he joked.

Seeing that his humour didn't work its usual spell on Dawn, he apologised. "Sorry, but you know what I mean."

"I know that's crap, Xan. There's heaps you can do. You've only had seven years of experience, not like that could help anyone," Dawn protested to him.

Xander sighed, he knew that Dawn was speaking the truth, and that her opinions were a little biased, much like his own of her. "I'll see what Giles says, I suppose."

Dawn could tell there was still something worrying him. Something more than just the England thing. It had been bothering him for a number of days. And even though she suspected it, she couldn't work out what *it* was.

"What's wrong, Xander?" she asked.

Xander looked into her eyes, wishing that he could tell her. But he felt so disgusted with himself, he just couldn't. Not to her, not to Dawn. So he covered it up as much as he could. "I'm just a little down. Cordy's not getting any better it seems."

She was sure there was more to it than that, but as far as Dawn was concerned at least he was talking to her. "But she's not getting any worse though, is she?"

Xander shook his head. "But, god, I don't know."

He didn't want to admit to her all the thoughts that were running through his head. He didn't want to pile all of that on her shoulders.

Especially since he really had no idea of what exactly to tell her.


Hearing a knock at the door, Xander looked up from the papers he was working on, and called out, "Come in." He wasn't at all surprised to find Giles poking his head around the corner.

"Are you busy?" he asked.

Xander pushed the papers to the side and shook his head. "Not at all." He waited for Giles to walk over and take a seat opposite him. It wasn't difficult for Xander to notice how nervous the elder Englishmen seemed to be.

"I'm sorry about earlier, Xander. It wasn't meant to be a rebuttal of your abilities."

Xander simply nodded not saying anything, letting Giles explain fully what he meant.

"I did plan to talk to you and want to now, if you'll listen?"

Xander nodded once again.

By now Giles realised this wasn't going to be the easiest talk. He removed his glasses and laid them on the table, wanting to talk eye to eye with the younger man. "Well, you know that I'm rebuilding the Watcher's Council?"

"Yeah, I'm not sure how I feel about that," Xander replied.

"How so?"

"They weren't exactly helpful before, Giles. You don't think that everyone would be better off without them?"

"No I don't. This isn't before Xander. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of girls who have suddenly become powerful, who also suddenly have become targets."

Xander shook his head. "You really think killing a slayer is going to be the big bragging point now? Anyway, how will the vamps know where a Slayer is, if that girl isn't out destroying them anyway."

Giles frowned, even with the misunderstanding earlier, he hadn't expected Xander to be this objectionable to his plans. He couldn't be sure, but he was almost certain there was more to it than being left out of talks with Buffy.

"Yes, you may be right, but Vampires and demons seem to know where a Slayer is, and they automatically become a bigger target. Willow's spell unleashed this force on them, and we have a responsibility to make sure they're okay."

"Maybe," Xander replied. "But what if they don't want to fight? What if they just want to go to school, get an education and hopefully a half way decent boyfriend."

"Then that is what they'll do," Giles replied. He noticed with some gratification that his answer seemed to have stumped the younger man temporarily. "I'm not stupid, Xander. I realise that the Slayers were treated like glorified slaves by a lot of former Watchers and the hierarchy of the Watchers Council especially. I'm not just going to bring back the old regime. I really want to make things better."

It was probably the first thing that Xander had really listened to and agreed with since Giles entered the room and as he respond he couldn't help but give the brit a slight grin. "Well, that does sound like a good idea."

"Well, I'm glad you agree, as I want you to be one of our new Watchers."

Giles had only gotten the words out of his mouth for barely a minute when Xander suffered a slight coughing fit. To say that he wasn't expecting that would be the biggest of understatements. He looked over at the elder man, and tried to see if there was any sign of humour on his face, but found none.

"You want me to be a watcher?" Xander asked incredulously.

"Yes. Do you think you can't do it?" Giles replied.

"Well, I'm not a stuffy brit for one thing," Xander quipped back. Giles non-plussed look told him, his attempt at humour wasn't totally successful. "I mean, all those prophecies, books..."

"It won't be like that all the time. And what's more the role of watcher is going to change as well. I see it more of a support mechanism for the girl who you will be looking after. And I have no doubt that you could fill any part of the role."

Xander was still rolling around Giles words in his head. He had been thrown through quite a loop from this revelation and didn't quite know how to respond. In the end it made his own problems even more difficult. "So what would happen?"

"Well," Giles replied, the slight smile showing Xander that he was happy to see that he'd not rejected it, "you'd have to come to England for six months or so. We are still short on all the details, well, mainly cause the Watcher's Council doesn't exist at present, but there would be some training involved, obviously." Giles took a breath. "To be honest, Xander, we really haven't worked out all the details. I just wanted you to know that I want you on board."

Xander nodded. "Thanks."

"So what do you think?"

Xander shrugged. "I really don't know. Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered, but I really don't know."

Giles could see the indecision on Xander's face and knew for certain there was something more playing on his mind then just taking Giles up on his offer. "Is there anything you want to talk about?" he asked.

Xander shrugged. "Not really. It's just, well you know, for the first time in almost seven years I don't know what to do."

Giles could understand perfectly. "I understand. No need to rush or anything."

"Thanks," Xander said, hoping to change the subject for a moment. "So, what's going to happen with Faith?" Xander knew that she was to leave soon, and hadn't been told how that would affect her legal status of escaped prisoner.

"Well, technically Faith perished in the final battle of Sunnydale," Giles replied.

"And you pulled that off, how?" Xander asked.

Giles looked a little uncomfortable in answering, Xander thought. Maybe it was one of those things he wasn't meant to know. "The Watchers' Council has contacts in most world governments. It makes flying in and out of countries a lot easier when you don't have to worry about immigration laws."

Xander nodded, thinking that it made sense of how all the SIT's turned up for a seemingly un-ended stay. "So you got someone to declare Faith legally dead?"

Giles nodded. "And her records were classified and she'll get a new identity. Hopefully since she won't be in California she won't run into anyone that knows any difference."

Xander had to nod his head in admiration. "Well I'm impressed. Did you always have these contacts?"

"I never did, the Council did..."

"But since you *are* the Council..."

"Yes exactly," Giles answered, and Xander was sure he was enjoying the power just a little bit.

"Well then," Giles said as he got up to leave. He turned back to face Xander. "If you want to talk..." He left the invitation hanging out there as he walked out.

Maybe it was a solution, Xander thought as he watched Giles exit. Maybe, just maybe.


Dawn sat back in one of the chairs in the foyer of the Hyperion Hotel and watched as Xander sat at the counter talking to someone on the phone. Every now and again he threw a glance her way, which she duly smiled in return. She couldn't be sure, but there seemed to be some sort of shadow on his face as he smiled back.

A few days ago, they'd said goodbye to Faith, Robin, Chao Ahn and Selina. Well, to be 100% accurate, it was Lisa, Robin, Chao Ahn and Selina. Needless to say Faith wasn't at all happy with her new identity, but it was a necessary evil.

Dawn did wonder just how all that was pulled off, but with a few half answers she'd learnt enough to know that there was some high up government manoeuvring.

But ever since they'd left, Xander seemed to be even quieter. The only times he wasn't was when she spent time with him by themselves. It was the only time where he was almost like the Xander of old.

This little niggle that she'd had at the back of her mind for the last few days, refused to budge. It just sat there, itching away, making her worry that something was happening that she didn't realise.

Once he's gotten off the phone, she saw that he was smiling, but then as he turned his head to face her, the smile lessened somewhat. It did nothing to ease her worry.

"Who's on the phone?" she asked, hoping the itch wasn't getting stronger.

"I've just gotten in contact with some of the people I use to work with in Sunnydale," he told her.

She could tell that he was being very careful with his words, almost as if he was worried about saying the wrong thing. "Are you going to go out with them?" she asked.

"Umm, no. They're starting a job in a few weeks and wanted to know if I was interested," he told her.


The words escaped her lips before she realised what the exact implications of them were. She looked straight into his eyes, searching for the truth, hoping to find that she was sorely mistaken. That deep inside she'd see the love she was so desperately hoping to find.

What she found was the truth.

"You're not coming, are you?"

She could see how crushed she must have looked, reflected in the reaction on Xander's face. He looked in pain as he spoke to her. "I'm sorry," he simply said.

Dawn steeled herself, trying to bear up to the huge shock that she'd just received. She swore she wouldn't cry in front of him. No matter how much her heart felt like it was bleeding, she wasn't going to lose it. "Can I ask why?" she asked. Her voice was spoken at a very even tone.

"I need to find myself," Xander replied.

"I don't understand," Dawn said, the confusion in her voice unmasked.

The breath that Xander took before answering was clear to her. That little niggle had not been so little. And it was something that Xander had obviously not felt okay in telling her before. Her heart felt totally ruptured at that realisation.

"I need to find out where I fit into this world, Dawn. Everything I had is gone," he told her.

"Bullshit!" she protested. "I'm still here. Buffy and Giles are still here. Aren't we something?"

"Yes, of course you are," Xander agreed quietly. He reached over and grabbed her hand. "I think I need to try and find my own way for a while."

Dawn shook her head. "You could do that in England. You don't have to become a Watcher." Her voice was rising as she spoke each word. Xander didn't respond, he simply looked at her, pained at the hurt he could see on her face.

His silence was a like a red rag to Dawn. She could feel her heart healing with anger and found that she had to turn away from the man she considered her closest friend. She steadied herself, before turning back to face him. "Do what you think is best then, Xander," she shot back at him.

Shaking her head she got up and took off up the stairs, refusing to answer any of Xander's calls for her to stop.


"This is a call for all passengers on British Airways flight BA773 flying to London, via New York. Would all passengers who have not done so, please proceed immediately to the customs area for check in."

Those were the words that he had been dreading hearing. He looked across to the other seats where Buffy and Giles were already getting up, and wasn't surprised to find Dawn looking at him, a stricken look all over her face.

They'd wasted the last week. He knew that and he was sure now that she did as well. Looking back he knew that there could've been a much better way to do things. He was certain about that in relation to lots of things in his life.

Giles came forward and held out his hand. Getting up, Xander took it and then gave the Englishmen a hug. "Thank you," he told him, hoping that those two words would convey everything he wanted to tell him.

Giles nodded, smiling a little sadly. "The offer still stands. Whenever."

Xander nodded in return, which Giles acknowledged before taking a step back. As Buffy moved forward he could see that she had a few tears in her eyes.

"I never thought I'd be saying goodbye to you," she told him. "You will write, call, e-mail?"

Xander could tell Buffy was a little lost at saying goodbye, and was looking for a little reassurance. "All of the above, Buffy," he told her, before embracing her warmly. "Have fun okay." More than anything else, he meant it and hoped that Buffy could find it.

She nodded and then moved away to where Giles was. As she did her younger sister came into Xander's view. He felt like crumpling as he gazed onto her face. And then he felt her hit him as she rushed forward and wrapped her arms around him. He closed his arms around her, and let them both enjoy the feeling of being in each other's arms for a moment. It felt so right, and yet he still felt guilty for enjoying that feeling. But *this* time, right now, he was determined to enjoy it.

"I'm sorry," he told her.

She looked up at him. "I'm going to miss you, so much."

"Same here," he told her, trying to keep smiling as a way not to show how sad he was.

Dawn laid her cheek on his chest, still holding him tight. "I can't believe this is happening."

Xander had to agree. Now that it was real, a big part of him was slapping him in the head for letting this happen as well. He found it hard to reconcile his reasons at that moment.

"I can't believe you aren't going to be there for my birthday," she told him, stepping back so she could look him in his eyes one last time.

"I'll call you. All the time," he said trying to reassure her.

She looked at him steadily, gathering courage. "I love you," she told him.

More than anything else, it was those words that almost made Xander lose his composure. "I love you too, Dawnie," he told her.

"We have to go."

Giles's voice was soft, but authoritative. Their time was up and both Xander and Dawn knew it. They hugged each other again, and then Dawn let go to pick up her hand luggage. She gave Xander one last smile, before joining Buffy and Giles, where her sister wrapped her arm over her shoulder and they all walked off to the customs area.


The next few weeks were not the best of Xander Harris's life. More than once he woke up in the morning and wanted nothing more than to get on the first flight to England. But he'd made his decision and he just kept telling himself it was for the best, each day.

A month or so after the others had gone to England, Xander got the first great news in a long time. Overnight Cordelia had come out of her coma, and while she was still weak, it looked like she would be okay.

It was more than anyone had hoped. Though no-one would admit it, he could sense that everyone had accepted Cordelia would never awaken. A few days after that she was brought back to the hotel, and though weak, she had managed to give him a look, that at least told Xander, she knew he was there.

That was two days ago, and Angel had told him this morning that she felt well enough to have visitors. It was all he could do to not run up there straight away. He did manage to calm himself somewhat and after breakfast he made his way to her room.

He knocked on the door and poked his head around the corner. This room was more like the Cordelia he remembered. Vibrant and full of life, he could see her touches in it, even though she'd only been back for a day or so.

"Hey!" he called out a little louder than he meant to.

"Oh my god, Xander!" Cordelia exclaimed. "I can't believe that you're here. And what the hell happened to you?"

Xander realised that she'd seen his eye patch. Even in the short time since he'd lost his eye, he'd grown accustomed to it, and thought the storytelling was over. With the benefit of a coma, he knew Cordelia had no chance to hear the story.

"Well I can go, if you want," Xander replied, leaving the gruesome details out of it for now.

"Don't you dare. Oh my god!" she said for the second time. "Come here."

Xander walked over and gave her a warm hug, making sure not to squeeze to hard, just in case. "It's so good to see you awake," he told her.

She frowned at those words. "Angel said you used to visit and talk to me almost every day?" she asked.

"Umm yeah, I've been in LA for over a month now," he replied.

Cordelia shook her head. "And you had nothing better to do?"

Xander could see the humour behind her comment, and laughed a little with her.

"So what happened?" she asked softer this time.

Xander shrugged. "You know the usual, big bad, only this time he decided to stick his thumb into my eye." Xander could almost hear him tell Cordelia as if it had occurred to someone else.

"Well, okay, but you're fine otherwise?" she asked.

Xander nodded, glad for the lack of worry she was showing. "I'm okay. I'm working at one of the construction sites downtown, nothing in the field, more in the office, but luckily I had some contacts who remembered me."

"That's great," Cordelia said. "So what's Buffy and the others up to?"

"Well, Buffy, Dawn and Giles are in England, Willow and Kennedy, that's her girlfriend, are in New York State at present. Faith, and a few others are in Cleveland, and I'm here."

At his last statement, Cordelia frowned, something that Xander didn't miss. "What?" he asked.

"Why are you here, Xander?"

"I don't understand."

"Yes, you do," she told him. "Why aren't you in England?"

Something fishy was up. "How did you know about Giles's offer?" he asked suspiciously.

"I didn't," she replied. "I'm just trying to work out why Buffy and Dawn are in England and you are in LA."

Xander rolled his eyes. "I'm not defined by Buffy you know. I can have a life separate from her."

"And what was Giles's offer? What was that?"

"Giles offered me a position as a watcher," Xander told her, his tone telling her that he no longer thought about it.

"And you turned that down, why?" she asked.

"God, what is this, twenty questions? I just wanted to do something on my own, okay!" he told her, his voice rising at each word.

"That would be fine if it made any sense," Cordelia bit back, before reducing her tone. "The Xander Harris I remember wouldn't be in LA."

"The Xander Harris you remember may well be disgusted with me," he replied softly.


For some reason it was easy to talk to Cordelia. He didn't know why. Maybe it was their history. Maybe cause he knew she wouldn't sugar coat her comments. Maybe he just missed her that damn much and just wanted a good kick in the ass.

"Anya died a month ago," he told her.

"I'm sorry," Cordelia replied.

"I mean we weren't engaged, or even together any more. Well except for sex before death, sex," he told her, which caused Cordelia to raise her eyebrows in response. "Hey its almost a tradition," Xander told her in his defence.

"Sure," she replied, drawing out the word, wryly smiling.

"Anyway, you'd think I'd be broken up about it, hell, I'd think I would be. Yeah it hurt, but not more than two weeks later I realised that I had feelings for someone else."

"And that's why you stayed here?"

"No, well part of. God, I don't know, I'm just all fucked up. I don't know what I want. I...I just thought if I got my own job or something I could take back my life, be in charge of it. Than maybe I would be able to work out all the other stuff."

Cordelia looked at him, questioning him with her eyes. "Has it worked?"

Xander shook his head. "It hurts being away from them," he told her. "And well me finding myself hasn't been all that great. It's not bad, but I feel as though I'm missing something."

"Buffy?" Cordelia suggested.

Xander was about to answer when he realised what Cordelia was asking. "Oh, god no. I don't feel for Buffy like that, haven't for years, Cordy."

"Well, so I'm not up on all your history, I mean when was the last time we actually talked?" Cordelia replied.

"Years," Xander admitted.

"Yeah, so give me a break," Cordelia said with a smile. Then as if she'd suddenly worked it out, she added softly. "It's Dawn isn't it?"

Xander looked a little spooked that she'd worked it out, but realised that it wasn't all that difficult. "I don't know what I want," he admitted to her. "I just know I miss her."

"Does she feel the same way?" Cordelia asked.

"I don't even though what way I feel," Xander told her. "But Dawn and I grew really close these last six months. I just miss her company."

"And you feel guilty about that, cause Anya only recently died?"

Xander shrugged. "Yeah."

Cordelia looked at him straight in the eye. "Go to England. Sort out your feelings, have a holiday, grieve, fall in love. Do all, or only some of these things Xander, but get out of here."

Xander started to argue. "But I have..."

"You have nothing. It's as though you've stayed behind to tend the graves. You need to get away."

"What if I don't want to join Giles and the others in the Watcher's Council?"

"Then don't. Just live."

Chapter Three

July 17th 2003

Slowly her eyelids flicked open. The sun that was pouring through the small gap in the curtain lit up half the room, while the rest remained in semi-darkness. Sitting up, Dawn Summers shook herself slightly to wake up, before pulling the covers back and swinging her body around to place her feet on the floor.

"Nope, definitely don't feel any different," she said to herself. Getting up off the bed, she slowly made her way to the wardrobe doors, which were open and unhooked her dressing gown off the hanger and slipped it around her shoulders. She looked at herself in the mirror as she tied the robe together, and couldn't help but think back to America and the one person she wished that was here with her on this day.

Trying to shake the thoughts away, she walked across her bedroom to the bathroom, turning the shower on when she got there. The room quickly filled with steam, warming her body as she let the robe fall, and slipped out of her nightshirt and panties. The hot water rushed over her body, as she dipped her head under the spray and let it envelope her, washing away the sleep and invigorating her for the day to come. Something she was looking forward to very much.

To her surprise, she had found that she loved it in England. Well beyond her expectations, Dawn enjoyed almost every day with a passion she'd forgotten she'd had. They'd spent the first few days staying at Giles's family estate, while he took care of his personal business. Then after that they'd gone on what was pretty much a three-week non-stop tour of Great Britain. She knew Giles was doubling up, meeting with various people he needed to, but he never let it interfere with the holiday he had promised both her and her sister.

One of the marvels of the time spent in England was that Dawn was able to see the sister she'd long since thought gone. The Buffy that remembered fun. The Buffy that truly wanted to enjoy the world. All that Dawn had feared was lost from Buffy, since she'd been pulled back from Heaven, was rediscovered in those weeks. Dawn loved being in Buffy's company as she truly discovered what it was like to live again.

She knew it had to end however, and so when they arrived at their final destination, a small cottage on the outskirts of, Aylesford, Kent, she wondered if her love affair with the country would be over. It didn't take to many days for her to know that it wouldn't. She thought it was a little naughty for Giles to keep spending the Council's money on them. But when she found out how much they had, the financial crap they'd put up with over the last few years and the fact that they needed somewhere to stay, she got over it pretty quickly.

There was such a homely feel to this house, that she felt right at ease straight away. It was mainly brick and mortar based, with a small garden at the front and back. The real joy came when you walked in. The wooden walls, fireplace, old style furnishings and designs on the ceiling all contributed to the feel of the place. She had a very luxurious queen sized bed in her own room, which actually had four posts on it, something that she never thought she'd have. Added to it, was the en-suite, a godsend, after the sharing of the single bathroom in Sunnydale.

The village they were living in was friendly and very laid back. There was plenty of history about the village, and unlike most of the history at school, she found it interesting. She was a little worried that it might be a bit slow for her after the hustle and bustle of California, but Giles seemed to know what they needed and after being here for two weeks, she could only agree on how right he was.

Yes, life was pretty much perfect for Dawn Summers.

If you didn't count the Xander Harris size hole in her heart.

Almost every day she'd receive an e-mail from him, and she loved each one. But as soon as she'd finished reading it, it would just remind her of the distance between them.

And today was her birthday, and he wasn't going to be here to celebrate it with her.

She turned the water off, and stepped out of the shower. She reached over and grabbed her towel, to dry off, and tried as hard as she could to remember that today was a happy day.

And that Xander Harris was the one missing out.


A little more than thirty minutes later, Dawn walked down the stairs of her home, and into the kitchen. She still needed her cup of coffee, and doubted that she'd ever be switched over to tea no matter how long she stayed in the 'Mother Country'.

She'd just poured herself a cup of coffee, when there was a knock at the door. Dawn glanced at her watch and frowned wondering who felt it necessary to visit at 8.00am in the morning.

"Coming!" she called out, as she stood up and walked to the front door. Opening it, she didn't see anyone for a moment, till she looked down and saw a box, wrapped in gift paper and a bow, on the doorstep. She put aside her fears of a trap, and reached down to pick the card up off the box. Opening the envelope she pulled it out and read the front cover.

It simply said, "I'm sorry."

Opening it up, she gasped a startled breath as the writing made it clear to her, who'd sent it. "Xander," she whispered, truly touched by it.

"Yes, milady."

She gasped again at the sound of his voice, and looked up, to her right and left searching for him. "Xander!" she called out loudly this time, hoping that her mind wasn't making her hear things that she only dared dream about.

"Happy Birthday, Dawn."

This time there was no confusion as to where the voice came from. She spun around with the biggest grin on her face, and just beamed at the man who stood behind her. "Oh my god!" she screamed and jumped into his arms, making sure that he was actually there. He'd looked much the same as he had when she'd last seen him. Except it had been weeks and that was too long.

"I'm sorry," he told her again, as he hugged her back just as hard.

"It doesn't matter," she replied into his chest. She pulled away and looked up at him, sure that he had never looked so good to her. "I can't believe that you are here."

"I couldn't miss your birthday, could I?" he replied.

"I'm so glad you couldn't," she told him. "Are you..."

"Here for good? Well indefinitely would be a better way of describing it," he told her. "I'm going to have a long talk with Giles, Buffy and yourself and see what happens."

"Sounds okay to me," Dawn told him. She could tell that she was still gushing, but she couldn't care. "Hey, how did you get inside?" she asked.

"Ahh, well you see I had some help," he answered and then as if on cue, Buffy came out from around the corner.

"Happy Birthday Dawn," she said, with the biggest shit eating grin, Dawn had seen on her face in years. She knew at once that Buffy had known about this for quite a while and had kept it secret from her.

"" Dawn said.

"Great wonderful sister?" Buffy answered, clearly enjoying herself.

"Yeah, lots of that stuff," Dawn replied. Then looking at both of them, she told them, "Thank you."

"Well, I've got a few suitcases outside, do you have somewhere for an out of work American to bunk down for a few days?" Xander asked.

"Oh, I think we do," Buffy responded, then paused looking at Xander. "It's really good to see you again, Xan."

There was a spark in Buffy's eyes that Xander hadn't seen in so long, and when he replied, he meant everything he said. "It's really good to see you again, Buffy."

"Oh My God! Xander!"

He didn't have to turn around to know that Dawn had opened her present. He'd wondered about what to get her. Remembering that, like them all, they'd lost so much when Sunnydale became it's own sink-hole, he'd remembered her favourite necklace, and during one of his last days in Los Angeles, he'd traversed from jeweller to jeweller looking for something similar. Finally he'd found it. It was gold, the necklace itself made of small and thin tiny links. It looked too delicate to wear, and when Xander had handled it, he was a little afraid of breaking it. But the saleswoman assured him that if he treated it carefully it wouldn't just fall apart on him.

The charm that sat in the middle of the necklace, which was now hanging down on the top of Dawn's chest, was a simple gold star, with a small diamond in the middle. It wasn't an expensive stone, but it suited the necklace well, and when the sunlight caught the diamond, it made the star sparkle. Something that Xander felt Dawn needed no help in doing, especially with the smile she was beaming at him now.

Dawn crossed the few feet between them and kissed him on the cheek. "It's beautiful," she told him. "Can you put it on?"

"Of course," Xander replied, taking the necklace from her, and when Dawn spun around she gathered her beautiful sheet of long brown hair to one side. When Xander leaned down to loop the chain around her neck, he became dizzy with the intoxicating scent of vanilla as he leaned in close to Dawn's shoulders to fasten the delicate clasp. As soon as he was done, Dawn turned around again to face him, and reached up and held the star in the palm of her hand. After a few moments, she looked up into his eyes, and Xander knew she could see how pleased he was that she liked it.

"Thank you," she told him again. Though Xander needed no words to tell him that. Her eyes had already thanked him many times in those seconds.


The spare room that Xander had been set up in thankfully had a bed in it, and though it wasn't the most comfortable of mattresses, he'd definitely slept on worse over his lifetime. The jetlag that had been added to his lack of sleep of course sent him off to la-la land before he could really notice any bumps in the mattress anyway.

Sometime later, he awoke, and for a moment had no real idea of where he was. The mainly white curtains on the windows had been drawn back, letting the sunlight stream into the room, but it was a light that seemed a lot softer than the harsher morning light when he arrived. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and saw that his jeans were neatly folded and sitting nearly on the chair, by the side of the bed. Standing up, he then reached down and picked them up, slipping one leg into them, then the other. He shook his head to try and clear the cobwebs, and let everything become clear to him again.

For the first time in almost three months, and even in a foreign country in a bed that he had never slept in before, he felt at peace.

As he opened the door to his room, and stepped out onto the landing, he could hear the sounds of music wafting up the staircase. He checked his watch, hoping that he hadn't slept through the start of Dawn's birthday party, and was grateful that he hadn't.

As he reached the bottom of the stairs he saw that some of the preparations had obviously been completed and others were in progress. The music was a welcome accompaniment.

Rounding the corner and walking into where he assumed the kitchen was, he stopped in his tracks, watching as Dawn danced away while preparing some of the food for the party. It was almost hypnotic the way she swayed her hips moving her body in rhythm to the beat. He didn't however want to embarrass Dawn by having her think he was staring at her, even though he so was. Quietly he backed a few steps around the corner and then when he was out of sight, he announced his presence.

"Hello! Dawn! Buffy!"

Having thought that he was loud enough, and hearing that she'd turned the music down a little, he then stepped around the corner again. This time Dawn had stopped her dancing and had obviously followed his voice and had started to come looking for him.

"Hey!" he said as he came into eye contact with her.

It was amazing to watch how her face could just light up when she was happy. It was almost intoxicating to Xander and he couldn't believe that he almost said goodbye to that vision.

"How you feeling?" she asked as she walked up to him and gave him a quick hug.

"Good, great even," he answered. "Doing stuff for the party?"

Dawn nodded as she went back to the kitchen bench. "Yeah. I mean it's not going to be a huge party or anything. Just you, Buffy, Giles and a few people that we've met so far. Probably won't even break a dozen."

Xander shrugged. "It'll be fun though."

As she answered that smile reappeared, and Xander felt like he was under a spell again. "Of course it will be. You're here."

He could feel his face getting hot and he could only imagine how red it must be, but he had the good grace to accept he compliment. "I'm glad that I am."

She walked over to him. "I need to go and grab some stuff, can you take over," she said indicating where she was preparing the food.

Xander nodded, "sure." He picked up the knife and was about to slice into some of the various vegetables when, he heard Dawn call him.

"Hey Xan."

"Yeah," he replied looking straight ahead into the window, seeing her clearly in the reflection. She was laughing slightly at him and then spun around and walked away.

About five seconds later, Xander realised what the implications of that was.


"I must say, I'm very happy to have you in England, Xander," Giles told him.

The party had been going for a few hours and while it was a small affair, everyone was in a very good mood and Xander had found himself totally enjoying himself. He'd had plenty of time to talk to Dawn, Buffy, and even some of the people he'd not met before. Some of them were from the local village and others were some of the people they'd met while getting support for the new Watchers' Council. He could tell that Dawn cared little for most of them, she was happy to have her family with her, and to see her so happy was more than enough joy for Xander.

"It's good to be here, Giles," he replied, setting his drink down on the top of the fireplace. He looked over to where Buffy and Dawn were talking animatedly with a couple of the other party attendees. "I'd forgotten how they look when they are so happy."

Giles nodded. "You look happier yourself."

Xander nodded. "I have moments, but I feel like I'm in the right place."

Giles paused before responding, and Xander was almost certain as to what he was about to ask. "Have you given any thought to the other part of my offer?"

"Giles, my good man, why spoil a party on such matters," Xander replied, his voice carrying an almost regal edge as he tried to palm off Giles's question. "We'll talk about it tomorrow, okay?"

Giles nodded, realising that Xander was having all together too much fun mocking the English accent, and that more importantly, now wasn't the best time.

"Can I drag him away from you?" Dawn asked, having appeared almost out of thin air in front of them. She reached for Xander's hand and pulled him away and onto what was the impromptu dance floor, just as a slower song came over the speakers.

"Well this is a nice co-incidence, isn't it," Dawn told him, the sparkle in her eye, glinting just a little more than usual.

Xander had to laugh a little. "Yes, it is."

Dawn wrapped her arms around Xander's neck, while Xander wrapped his around her waist, resting his hands on the small of her back. She was still looking up at him, so there was a small gap between their bodies, but not by much. "You looked like you could do with rescuing."

"Nah, I was okay, but feel free to rescue me anytime you want," he told her, savouring having her arms around him as he swayed to the music.

"Have you..." Dawn stopped herself, and then relaxed and laid her head on Xander's chest. "Thank you for being here," she said softly, just loud enough for Xander to hear.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," he replied, as they started moving to the beat of the music, no longer noticing anyone else in the room.

"They look very happy," Giles said, looking at the dancing duo, when Buffy came over to him.

Buffy looked over and had to agree. "Yes, they do."

"So, you still think that they aren't involved?" Giles asked.

Buffy looked a little shocked, holding her hand up to her chest in mock surprise. "Why, Giles, I didn't know you were into gossip."

She let Giles splutter for a few moments, before letting him off the hook, by waving her hand, telling him that she was kidding. She glanced back at the twosome and smiled. "I don't know if they are, but seeing them so happy, I really wouldn't care if they were."


August 26th 2003

It amazed Xander just how much Giles seemed to have achieved in the almost two months since they left Los Angeles. He knew that this was all part of Giles's hard sell at getting Xander to start training to be a Watcher. Though he had yet to make up his mind on that point, he had to admit that the facility he, Buffy and Giles were walking around was pretty impressive.

The old Manor house, situated part of the way between Aylesford and Chatham, looked to have been built hundreds of years ago, and with its adjoining buildings there certainly was enough room for what Giles had told them he wanted to facilitate. The first building they went too was the smallest, which was in the middle to being converted to a new three level gymnasium. While it would hold the usual assortments of equipment any modern gym would have, it also had a level specifically for live action drills, and another one for sparring.

"The Slayers that are in England, and in some cases Europe will all spend some time here training and learning," Giles told them both, though Xander could tell that this wasn't news to Buffy. Something that was confirmed when she spoke.

"Part of my job will be overseeing all the Slayer Training," she added, at which Xander simply nodded, not saying anything.

"Unfortunately it won't be possible for every Slayer to come here. For the moment we have no exact idea how many there are. But even when we do know where they all are, it would be more feasible to replicate the training around the world, versus bringing them all here," Giles said, as they all walked through the bottom level and out to the open areas again.

They continued their tour, with Xander just following silently with them. He could tell that they were both casting little glances his way to see if there was any indication of what his opinion was, but he gave none. He'd started to get some nasty suspicions as soon as the tour had started and wanted to remain quiet till he had gathered all his thoughts on the subject.

They walked through the entrance to the next building, and Xander could tell that it was being made up to house various people. His own expertise at carpentry made that a no-brainer.

"This will be the dormitories for all students that require it, whether they be Watchers or Slayers. Top floor will be for females, middle for Males and the bottom floor," Giles said as he opened a big wooden door, indicating for them to look inside, "will be for the cafeteria and recreational rooms."

Xander nodded. "Looks good."

It was his first comment on anything that he'd been shown, and it was all he was going to say for the moment.

"Umm right," Giles spoke after realising that Xander wasn't going to add anything else. "Well, the main building is this way."

Giles led Buffy and Xander out and up the fairly wide path, almost a mini road, which led to the huge Manor House. It was a rather daunting place. The council building may have been blown to smithereens almost a year ago, but as he had seen so far, the Watchers' Council obviously had other significant assets.

The main building was definitely intimidating. He'd never seen anything like it in America. It looked to be at least three levels high, though he was sure there would be a level below ground as well. Each level was lined with huge windows, and against the reddish tinged outside walls, the stonework on the entrances and white edges, it was striking in how much it dominated the landscape. It wasn't Buckingham Palace big, but it was big.

They walked through the columned and arched entrance, seeing a huge marble staircase taking pride of place in the middle of the foyer. The floors were polished wood, and the walls were all covered in varied range of portraits and landscapes.

"This will be where everything else happens," Giles told them. "In this building, will be where all theory based training will happen, there is an extensive library being stocked on the second level, as well as other resources. The actual Council will sit here as well, it's offices and Chambers are this way."

As Xander followed them both, the one thing that stuck out to him was that this part of the building was already completed. And to his trained eye there was no expense spared, from the furnishings, the carpet, the drapes, the doors, absolutely everything looked incredibly opulent.

It merely confirmed something that he'd hoped wouldn't be the case.

"Well, so that's the complex," Giles started. "There is still lots to do before we become operational, but we can't put it off indefinitely." He looked at Xander before asking, "what do you think?"

Xander held his gaze when replying. "Who has funded all of this?"

"The Watchers' Council has significant funds available to it," Giles replied.

"I'd say," Xander muttered a little under his breath. "I don't like how this is being spent."

"What do you mean, Xander?" Giles asked.

Xander shook his head, signalling with his arms around him. "Look at this place. How much was spent in here. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of pounds, I don't know. But nothing seems to be spared."

"Yes, well, some of the council is used to such things," Giles replied, and Xander could tell he understood exactly what Xander was saying.

"I thought you wanted things to change? Why are they even still on the council?" Xander challenged.

Giles looked stressed as he replied. "That's a very long story, Xander." Seeing the steeling look Xander gave him in response he added, "one you obviously want to hear."

Xander watched as Giles took a deep breath. "Okay for the sake of myself who actually wants to be home for dinner sometime today, I will summarise it for you. The Watchers' Council as we know it has existed for about 700 years. Obviously it's genesis was hundreds, perhaps thousands of years before that, but this organisation can be traced back till the 1300's. What's your English history like?"

Xander rolled his eyes. "Pretend I know squat."

"Okay, well Europe from that time and up till less than 200 years ago, one of the main sources of power was held by the Catholic Church. They controlled countries, Kings, and more importantly had huge levels of land and money. To this day the Vatican is extremely rich. Over time of course different religions branched off, and countries asserted their own power, and the Catholic Church today is an all-together different institution. The Watchers' Council was set up with funds from the Catholic Church, and since, at the time, the majority of demonic activity seemed to be based in England, they set up here.

"As happens with history, in England, through a number of ruling families, the Anglican religion was born. The Catholic Church tried to overthrow Kings and Queens, but through it all, they still funded the Watchers' Council."

"You mean we're going to be working for the Pope?" Xander asked, the idea sounding ludicrous.

Giles shook his disapprovingly. "Around 300 years ago, the people who ran the Watchers' Council decided that they'd had enough of being dictated to by the church and they struck out on their own. By then the ruling families had gathered quite considerable wealth on their own, and no longer needed any funding. Those families have been the backbone of the council since then."

"Well they've been doing a bang up job then, haven't they?" Xander replied. "So let me guess, even though good ol' eye poker, Caleb, blew up the Council headquarters, these people still survived."

"No, some didn't. And might I remind you that I'm part of this history, you're deriding," Giles told him, obviously a little hurt from Xander's outburst.

"What's got you so upset, Xander?" Buffy asked. She'd remained silent through Giles's talk, but felt the need to speak, if only to provide a buffer to the others.

"You told me, both of you, that you were determined to make a different Council. To actually look after the Slayers, help the world," Xander replied.

"And we are," Giles defended his role. "There are lots of changes that we are putting in place."

"I will never let them experience the hell I went through," Buffy added.

Xander shook his head. "Take a look around, guys. What is the first thing that was completed here? And at a totally over the top level of luxury. What makes this Council so different from the other, apart from a Slayer being on it?"

"Unfortunately we are reliant on the support of the older families. While I may have access to the purse strings, they could stop that if they weren't being listened to." Xander could tell that Giles was trying to make him understand. "There has to be compromise for this to work, Xander."

"As there should be, Mr. Giles!"

The bellowing voice from the entrance way caused them all to turn. Standing there, looking as though he was trying to come across as regal, stood a very upright middle aged man. The receding grey hairline, spectacles and foxhunter outfit made him look more like a joke in Xander's eyes.

"Ahh, may I introduce, Simon Worthsworld," Giles said speaking to Buffy and Xander. "Member of the Inner Council and one of the main backers of the rebuilding.

"Miss Summers," Worthsworld said approaching her. "A privilege to meet you at last." He pulled the charming act off quite well.

Xander didn't buy any of it. Especially when he turned and regarded Xander as if he was dirt. Xander knew that he'd been listening in outside for quite a while. "And this is?"

"Harris, Xander Harris. One of people from Sunnydale, whom I'm hoping will join us here at the Council," Giles told him.

Xander watched Giles's reactions and body language as he talked to Worthsworld. Whoever this guy was, Giles was making damn sure that he didn't offend him. Xander could care less.

"So, you've been on the Watchers' Council for years, I take it?" Xander asked.

"Yes, young man," was the reply he got.

"Great, just what we need. Another impotent politician." Xander turned away from the startled man and spoke to Giles and Buffy. "I'm out of here. But thanks, you've given me plenty to think about."



Sitting peacefully on his bed, reading the latest Harry Potter book, Xander chuckled to himself as he heard the door slam below and Giles's voice bellow up the staircase. He was actually surprised that it had taken this long for Giles to turn up.

Thankfully Dawn was out with friends, cause Xander doubted this would be all that silent.

"Xander!" The second call was even louder than the first.

He could hear the footsteps thundering up the steps, and wasn't surprised that when his name was called again, the door opened at the same time, banging a scant second later on the wall, from the force of Giles's hand.


Xander put his book down, and looked across at him. "Yes, Giles," he answered.

Giles seemed to be shaking his head, trying to work out how to put into words what he wanted to say. "How could you? You just insulted..."

"I just insulted a fat rich prick who has made his livelihood off the blood of girls like Buffy, Faith and every other Slayer," Xander replied cutting Giles off with his own venom.

He could see Giles deflate, seeing the truth in Xander's words. "You're right of course." Giles walked over and took a seat. "But damn, Xander, do you realise the tightrope I'm walking here?"

Xander held his tongue and thought about what he wanted to say. He respected Giles more than any other male figure in his life, and even though he was pissed at him, he still wanted to show that respect by at least arguing his points well.

"Why is the Watchers' Council in England, Giles?" he asked, his tone a lot more conciliatory than earlier.

Giles looked a little puzzled. "I thought I explained it..."

Xander nodded. "Yeah you said why it came here. And that made sense. England and Europe were the centres of world trade and power for so long. But at least for the last one hundred years, it makes no sense being here. How long was the Sunnydale Hellmouth in existence? Didn't Wilkins create Sunnydale just over a century ago? And the second Hellmouth, in Cleveland? I think you will find that's in the USA as well."

"Yes, well Vampires and demons to tend to follow where the world power moves too," Giles told him.

"And it would make sense for the Watchers' Council and Slayer's to be there as well." Xander sat up straight. "You know why they haven't moved? You do don't you?"

Giles nodded. "Because this is their powerbase."

Xander agreed. "They don't give a flying fuck about Buffy or any of the other Slayers, or Watchers who aren't part of their families. This is their own personal powerbase, giving them money to burn, a secret government, and girls who were practically slaves in their service."

"Xander, I hope you don't think..." Giles started to say, protesting his difference.

"I know Giles, you were an exception. As are a number of the Watchers, I'm sure. But it is the Watcher's out there in the field, they are the ones who see the reality."

"I understand and agree with what you've said, but I don't..."

Once again, Xander interrupted him. "How can *this* council be any different if the majority are still made up with the Men and Women who resided over the previous one. I know you and Buffy are on it, but how many others can you honestly say without any hesitation have the Slayer's best interest at heart?"

"It's true there is a lot of the old guard, but we need their influence to make sure it all happens. Do I wish I didn't need them? You're damn right I do. Does it make me sick to have to treat people like Worthsworld with respect, when I'd like to walk over his fat arse? Of course it does," Giles told him.

"Then why?"

"Cause if I didn't, then I wouldn't be involved, they would control everything, and then the Slayers would really have no-one to look after them," Giles replied heatedly. He took a breath and added, "I may be in charge but I know well enough that I'm here as a compromise they've made. If I don't show as much flexibility, then I will find myself getting fired once again."

Xander was silent at this, and after a few moments, Giles continued. "We can't look after anyone from the outside. Sure I could keep Buffy and a couple of others safe, like we all did in Sunnydale, but there are hundreds, maybe thousands of girls out there. We need to be on the Council to help."

"I understand," Xander responded. "You can only change the system from the inside."

Giles nodded. "That's why I want you there. I know implicitly that not only will you have the skills, but you will also make sure that the slayer you are assigned to will be looked after and not left to fend for herself."

Xander nodded again, deep in thought.

"Whatever you decide the first course will be starting in four weeks," Giles told him. "Some people have been sent into the field already, but only to Cleveland."

Xander frowned. "Why? I would've thought that Robin would've been a perfect candidate for Watcher?"

"Yes, well he would've," Giles admitted, then laughing. "Would've, Wood."

Xander shook his head at the appalling pun.

"Right, well...because of Robin and Faith's relationship someone else needed to be assigned." Seeing that Xander was still looking for more information, Giles added, "If you are a Watcher, it is forbidden to be in a relationship with a Slayer."

Xander nodded. "I suppose considering that they freaked at the Father-like relationship you had with Buffy, I shouldn't be surprised."

"And so, apart from the two Watchers that have been sent there, your class, if you join will be the first of the new group of Watchers." Giles paused, before asking, "So, are you in?"

"You think Worthsworld, would let that happen?" Xander asked.

Giles smiled. "I think he'll have to compromise."

Xander couldn't help smiling in return. "Well, I still have a lot to think about, but if you can get him to be okay with it, then maybe you *will* have the clout to make the changes we both want."


It had been a few days since Xander and Giles's talk, and the younger man had yet to make up his mind about what he wanted to do. And to be honest, at the moment he was thinking about more immediate and important things

There was a multitude of emotions running through his head as he sat on the couch in the living room, waiting for Dawn to come down the stairs so they could go out. He'd asked her as any very good friend would. However as the day came closer and the hours ticked away, he began to realise that the little butterflies that were running wild in his stomach were because he had started to think of Dawn as something more than just a very good friend.

It confused him, what they had. There wasn't any way to really describe it. Sure they were as close as family and over the years he'd wanted to protect her like any big brother would. Of course thinking like that got very weird these days. On the other hand they'd become very close this last year, and she was way more than 'just a friend' to him. Not that being a friend should be marginalised. Just that Dawn was in this special category, and he liked her being there, which only served to confuse him more.

He had stated to himself on a number of occasions that he wasn't ready for a new girlfriend yet. It wasn't just that Anya had passed away this year. He'd been in some sort of relationship for years now, and with his life in such a state of flux, he decided that he should get it all together before jumping into a new relationship.

It was at about the same time, when those thoughts were running through his head, that Dawn made her entrance down the stairs. Any thoughts were now an incoherent mess.

It was still relatively warm in England in late August. Not Californian warm, but England warm. The type of warm where a weather report could say it was a warm and windy 50 degrees and no one would dispute. Unless of course they were from California, which is why Dawn had a coat with her. But for now, she was floating down the stairs, taking Xander's breath away. Her chestnut hair flowing freely down past her shoulders, seemingly to catch the wind, even though there wasn't any blowing inside. Her Burgundy coloured blouse, contrasting nicely with her black skirt, which reached half way down her thighs.

And suddenly Xander wondered if she'd seen him looking too hard.

His own jeans and jacket ensemble wasn't formal in any way, but it looked good and Xander knew they would make a very attractive couple tonight.

"You look really nice," he told her as she reached the bottom of the stairs, feeling it was safe enough to open his mouth.

"Thank you," she replied as her lips separated into that smile that seemed to melt his moods, even on the frostiest of occasions.

"Shall we?" he asked, and when she nodded, he held the door open and waited for her to walk out.

They drove into the city listening to some music on the radio, commenting on various things, but mainly just enjoying the normalcy of the situation. They were two young people, going out to dinner and a movie. Something both of them were very much looking forward to.

The small café that Xander had chosen was not too busy when they arrived. It looked very cosy, and inviting. They followed the waiter and took their seats, then started perusing the menu. A short time later the waiter duly took their orders and then they were by themselves.

"Have you made any decision yet?" Dawn asked.

Xander wasn't surprised that she'd asked. They'd talked about it, after Buffy had asked Dawn if Xander had said anything to her. Of course Xander hadn't, so Dawn wanted to know all the details about his visit. Xander could tell the shock on her face was real, but she also understood his reasons for getting so worked up over it.

He shook his head. "Not yet." He could tell that she was anxiously awaiting his decision, and even though it was up to him, he did want to know what she thought. "What do you think?"

There was a look of shock that passed Dawn's face for a moment, then happiness at being asked. "Well, I want you to stay, but that's something separate," she admitted, with a slightly shy grin.

"If that was all I needed to decide, I would've done that the first day I arrived, Dawn," Xander told her. His heart pulsed a little at the way her face lit up in reaction to his words. "But this is sort of a life decision, or at least a number of years decision."

"You could get posted anywhere?" Dawn said, though she was more thinking out loud.

"Yeah, though I'd probably be in the States. Easier that way," he answered. "Think of it this way, you'd have a place to visit anytime you wanted to."

"Anytime?" Dawn asked teasingly.

Xander was very straight in response. "Anytime. You could have your own key."


The night had gone well for both of them. The dinner was nice, and the movie fun, but more than that, they had spent the time together and enjoyed every minute of it. Without either of them thinking about it, during the movie Dawn had snuggled into Xander's side and laid her head on his shoulder, while Xander's arm wrapped around her shoulders in response. They stayed that way for most of the film, both of them enjoying the closeness they were feeling.

Now as they walked through the door, Dawn didn't want the night to end. She knew she was totally smitten with Xander. She knew it, and didn't want to hide it. But she also knew that as much as Xander seemed to be moving on, he was still hesitant about getting into another relationship. The one thing Dawn was sure of, if her and Xander did get together it wasn't going to be a fling, or bit of fun. It was going to be as serious as her feelings for him, and she hoped his feelings for her.

"Would you like a coffee?" she asked, both wanting one herself, and trying to keep him up, so they could spend more time together.

"Yes, thanks," Xander replied, flashing her that lop sided grin she thought was so cute.

She walked into the kitchen to boil the water, when she realised that Xander had followed her. He took a seat next to the kitchen bench, and watched as she got the cups ready. She didn't feel at all self-conscious at him watching her. She liked that she could have his total attention while doing something so mundane as making coffee.

"I think I'll take Giles up on his offer," Xander said, somewhat out of the blue, so much so that Dawn stopped what she was doing and walked the few steps over to where he was sitting.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

Xander nodded. "Yeah, I do have major problems with some of the things going on, but in the end, Giles is right. If I want to change things, have a say, then I have to be on the inside."

"Yeah," Dawn replied softly.

"If I can make the life of one Slayer better, than it will be worth putting up with the crap that I am no doubt going to have to put up with."

Dawn giggled slightly, causing Xander to raise his eyebrows. "What?" he asked.

"Oh, I was just picturing you in tweed," she said, before stepping back quickly enough to avoid the playful swat of Xander's hand.

"Just for that, I'll never show you," he retorted playfully, though he saw a look of sadness just edge it's way onto Dawn's face. "What is it, Dawnie?" he asked.

She looked a little embarrassed. "I'm being silly," she told him.

He reached over and lightly took hold of her hand. "I don't care how you think you're being. What is it?"


"You're going to get posted somewhere, and I'll be in England for at least another year and a half." She caught herself, and realised how she must sound. "I'm sorry, I'm being selfish."

"Don't apologise. It was a consideration, you know."

Dawn's worry broke as her lips parted and the grin that she knew Xander loved broke out again. "Really?"

"Yeah," Xander replied, almost shyly.

"I just don't want to lose you, Xander," Dawn told him, softly.

"You never will, Dawn. No matter where I am, I'll still be yours," Xander replied, squeezing her hand for a moment. "You want to check out what's on the TV?" he asked, letting go of her hand.

Dawn knew that Xander didn't want the night to end either.


September 23 2003

It didn't take long into his first day at what he was laughingly calling 'Watcher High' for Xander to wonder if he'd made the right decision. He hadn't moved into the dormitory. To be honest he didn't see the point with Buffy and Dawn's house being so close. Buffy had started University last week, something that Xander and Dawn were very happy about. They both could see the joy on her face when she came home the first day. Even though she already had some duties already with her role at the Watcher's Council, Giles had been adamant that she was going to get some of the life she'd missed out on in Sunnydale. Dawn's own classed started tomorrow and with them all studying he figured that it would be a good environment to stay in.

Also, moving in with people he didn't know and leaving the two of them was never really an option to him.

He stifled a yawn, hoping not to get lockjaw. He really doubted that Buffy or Dawn's classes would be as bad as this. He sat there on his not so comfortable chair, trying not to yawn again, as yet another totally mind numbingly boring instructor droned on about some minute demon detail. Xander seriously doubted that this instructor had spent a minute in the field. He wondered if teachers had a gene in them that made them so sleep inducing.

The décor didn't help. Much as he'd expected, the areas of the Watcher's Campus that weren't for the actual council were no more luxurious then your regular college, and sometimes even less. Considering the subject matter they would be tackling, it struck Xander as a very bad sign that there seemed to be no inspiration at all.

But as much as it grated with him, he knew he had to attend these classes. Giles had made it clear that they are required and even though he and the others in the initial intake of trainees were being given the condensed version of the course, he still needed to listen, study and pass.

The other thing that Xander quickly noticed was that he wasn't some anonymous student. He had guessed that most of the other students had met at some time or the other over the years. His impression of the upper class was that it was in-bred enough for that to happen. But what surprised him was that he kept getting stared at, pointed at and whispered about. At first he thought it may have been his eye patch. He was amazed at how quickly he'd stopped thinking about it, and it was only when someone looked at him a little longer that it played on his mind. By now his sight had compensated well enough that he didn't have that constant reminder either.

But it quickly became apparent it wasn't anything to do with that. And it also became just as apparent that it wasn't complimentary either. Something that was proven as he walked out of his latest class.

"Hey, American!"

Xander stopped and turned at the address. He hadn't met any other Americans since he'd been here, so he felt pretty safe to assume that it was meant for him. Even before he'd turned around and faced the person who'd addressed him, the snotty, full of himself, upper class voice, gave a good indication of who it was.

"Yeah," Xander replied, bored already. He drew out the word just a little more than necessary, making sure the three people walking up to him saw.

"So you're one of the famous survivors of Sunnydale?" one of them asked.

"Yeah," Xander repeated again.

The three males that stood in front of Xander laughed to themselves, as if they were aware of some amazingly funny joke that Xander hadn't been let in on. The middle one, the one who had addressed Xander, seemed to be the ringleader of the little troupe, and judging by the way his sneer and lip seemed to be hereditary, Xander gathered that he was descended from one of the families Giles had talked to him about.

"Well, as interesting as this has been," Xander spoke, as he turned to walk away, before a hand grabbed him on the arm to hold him still.

"Don't you turn your back on me," the middle one told him.

Xander chuckled, thinking it funny that a snot nosed English Upper class twat could actually think that line would make Xander do anything other than laugh. "Yeah, right," he replied.

"You have no idea who I am, do you?"

Xander studied the man. He was almost six feet tall, Xander estimated. His blonde hair cut short and conservative, his build slight, and his nose slightly pronounced. He was truly unremarkable, till he opened his mouth and then Xander thought he sounded too much like a characterture of every funny toffee nosed Brit he'd ever seen in movies.

"No, should I?" Xander responded, making sure he sounded suitably unimpressed.

"He's the son of Simon Worthsworld," The stooge to his right responded. Xander was almost certain this guy was only kept around to make the leader feel big. He was short, overweight, had glasses that were horribly out of style, as was his mop of black hair. Apart from the same upper class accent, he could see no similarity between the two.

"He's on the Watcher's Council," the one on the left added; though Xander noticed he spoke without the usual sneer of the other two. In fact, compared to the first two speakers, this third person seemed almost restrained. Sure he had the same 'full of himself' accent, but unlike the others, he seemed to lack the demeanour the others oozed all over you. He too wasn't all that remarkably looking either, with his dark brown hair and freckled face. But without the sneer of the others, Xander felt that he at least could look at him without laughing at the ridiculous attitude.

"Oh yeah, I ran into him a while back," Xander replied. "When I was being shown around by the *head* of the Watchers' Council." Xander couldn't help but add that part. In truth he could care less for whatever political points these three were wanting to score. He just liked rubbing their noses in it.

"The names Edward. Edward Worthsworld," the middle guy said with the air of someone that expected Xander to react to those words. "This is Reginald Rainsworth," he continued, indicating to the guy on his right, "and Charles Sutton," to the left.

Xander nodded his head at each, "Well, fascinating as this has been, I have somewhere to be." He turned and walked away, not bothering to look back even though he was sorely tempted to see the spluttering on their faces. He'd walked down the hall and was about to turn a corner, when a voice spoke to him.

"You may want to be careful of them."

Xander stopped and looked to the open doorway, at who he guessed was another trainee. "Those three? I don't see the threat."

"It won't come up front, you know. They never do."

Xander nodded, thinking that not a truer word was spoken. "Xander Harris," he said holding out his hand, which was duly taken with a firm handshake.

"William Dorscet," the fellow student replied. While his clothes made him blend into the rest of the casual sports jacket and trouser wearing set, the pleasant inflictions in his voice were in stark contrast to the others. He stood just over six feet tall, had mid brown wavy hair that was cut mid length, and also had the confidence of someone that was sure of their position in life, without having to stomp on others.

"Well thanks for showing me a friendly face," Xander replied. "Most people have either wanted to sneer at me, or simply look through me."

"Ahh," William said, walking out the door and joining Xander as they proceeded down the hall. "Most of the people here have very long ties, family ties, to the Watchers' Council. You may have gathered that you aren't all that popular with them."

"Really?" Xander replied sarcastically. "I never thought saving the world would make me *unpopular*."

"Well as ridiculous as it sounds, what you and the rest of the people in Sunnydale accomplished is almost irrelevant as far as some people are concerned." William stopped and pointed to a picture that was on the wall. Underneath it was the name, 'Edward Worthsworld.'

"That is Worthsworld's Grandfather. The man that he was named after. He was head of the Watchers' council, and had a tremendous amount of power and wealth. What you and the others did, directly impacts those two things. Consequently, you aren't wanted in this establishment."

Xander shrugged. "Well, they better get used to me, cause I plan to pass this course and help out. I could care less about the money and power."

Xander noticed that William seemed to be looking him up and down, appraising him a little. "I guessed as much. Good to hear, though you may have gathered it won't be the popular theory. But then again, you aren't like them."

Xander nodded. "Probably helped that I wasn't born with a silver spoon."

"I *was* born with a silver spoon, I'll have you know," William replied with mock indignation.

"Yeah," Xander responded. "Difference is you aren't walking around with it shoved up your ass."

Chapter Four

December 25th 2003

There was something so warm about this day, which was rather ironic as outside the temperature had dropped below freezing the night before and as yet, the mercury hadn't shown any signs of changing. The snowstorm that had arrived on Christmas Eve had been unexpected in its volume, but no less welcome. All of the inhabitants of the cottage had experienced winter at Christmas time, but since the three of them were from the much warmer climate of California, the 'winter' that that they experienced was almost a polar opposite to the English one they were now revelling in. And the one person, for whom the English winter was not anything new, was seeing it from a very different perspective, as he stood in the doorway, watching the other three in the front yard.

The snow continued to drift down, the tiny white flakes being blown along by a steady breeze. The visibility was cut to under fifty feet, but it mattered little to any of them.

Standing a little away from the other two, Xander had his arms wrapped around his body. The thick winter coat, gloves and beanie all keeping his body warm. He found it hard not to smile as he watched the two Summers girls put the finishing touches on their masterpiece.

The white Christmas had been both enticing and infectious. Even though at the start he'd felt like a little kid, he never even considered resisting Dawn or Buffy's effort to drag him outside and rope him into the building of their first snowman. They'd rolled up all the snow that had settled in the front yard, forming a quite substantial snowball. Xander had thought that it would make a good base, but the two girls had other ideas and said it would make a better middle.

While the snow fell back to the ground, replenishing what they'd taken from the front, they set about rolling up the side of the cottage, till the ball they'd collected was a nice proportion for the head. Dawn rolled it around till it was leaning against the already completed middle, before looking for the new stock to fill the much more substantial base.


The driveway and path that led to the road was the most obvious place, and so she set off to start, while Buffy and Xander followed behind. By the time they'd gathered the snow from the driveway, about fifty feet, it took two of them to push it. Though Xander was sure if Buffy had been one of the two, they would not have needed any other. However, he was doing something with Dawn, he felt absolutely no need to make comment. It was a little thing, but he couldn't deny the simple joy he felt from doing anything with her.

After rolling the base into position, the middle and top balls were lifted on top, then Dawn and Buffy added the old jacket, scarf and pieces of coal and a carrot to top it all off. Giles had taken a few photos of them around surrounding their creation, and Xander had to admit that he'd never thought that it would be so much fun.

Still deep in his thoughts, he was woken from them, when something cold and wet hit him on the chest. The spray splattered against his face, the only exposed part of his body. Looking up, he saw a very guilty looking (not that she was trying all that hard to hide it) Dawn, half hiding behind the snowman, while Buffy stood a little distance away, not even remotely trying to be cagey, as she applauded her sister's aim.

Smiling, he leant down, rolled a small snowball, and feinted to throw to Dawn's right. This of course made her move to the left, so with perfect timing and accuracy, Xander's snowball collided with her stomach, causing a loud smack on the waterproof coat she was wearing.

He knew he was baiting her, but Xander couldn't resist in walking slowly towards her, his grin growing as she looked up at him with a slightly hurt look, one that Xander didn't buy for a minute. He could see her hand down by her side, and knew she was ready to strike again. He slowly brought his other hand out from around his back, revealing his back up weapon, ready to be fired, at which her eyes went wide in realisation.

Just then Buffy's laughter broken through to both of their hearing, and Xander and Dawn's eyes locked. A little movement of an eyebrow on Xander's part, a wink from Dawn, and in unison they both turned and launched their snow grenades at the unsuspecting other part of their trio. Both their aims were true and the cold masses, smacked into her at the same time. At which point a stunned expression appeared on her face, which seemed to be fixed for a few seconds.

In those few seconds, Xander and Dawn fell onto the ground, laughing their respective butts off, their hand's finding the others as they fell, each giving the other a gentle squeeze as they touched. As they took their eyes of her, Buffy's shock disappeared and in the blink of an eye, she'd bent down and grabbed two handfuls of snow, compacting each in her hands, as she stalked forward towards the other two, who were having way to much fun at her expense. She whistled slightly at the two cackling opponents, making sure they knew for just a second what was coming then fired off both handfuls at once.

And so it went on and on. Snowballs flying, Xander getting frequently set upon by the other two, and lots of wrestling, when one of them hit the ground. Standing at the doorway, holding a cup of warm tea in his hands, and looking out on the playing threesome, Rupert Giles, couldn't have been happier and knew without a shadow of a doubt the decisions that he'd made, and that they'd agreed to, had been the right ones.


There was full, and then there was *full*.

The button that was presently holding Xander's pants together had been straining since mid way through the main course, but now, Xander truly wondered if it would hold up to him standing up at all. He was sure his waist had expanded by at least six inches since they'd sat down for the Christmas feast less than two hours ago.

He remembered some of the meals Joyce use to make and invite him around for, but even by those lofty standards, they'd certainly been blessed with the spread that had been laid out for them today. Looking around the table he'd had to admit that for a while, he'd never thought it possible. No offence to any of them, but considering what their meals had mostly consisted of over the last few years, this was more than just a couple of step ups from take away pizza's. But Giles was adamant that if they could stop an apocalypse, they should have no problems in cooking a traditional English Christmas dinner, with roast pork lots of Yorkshire Pud, and more food than they could poke a stick at. Xander put aside the fact that he had no idea what the heck 'Yorkshire Pud' was, and went with it, as did the others.

The proof as they say is in the pudding, and as the Yorkshire Pudding turned out to be absolutely delicious, he'd have to say they all succeeded beyond their dreams.

"You like?"

Xander turned to his right to where Dawn had asked him. Her eyes shimmered the reflection of the fire's flames, her face almost glowing, and for a moment, Xander thought she was asking about something totally different, but quickly caught himself before replying. "It was wonderful," he told her, gracing her with his biggest smile. He then turned to the others and added, "truly, incredible. I never thought..."

"We had it in us, Xan?" Buffy asked. The grin on her face was evidence enough that she was both very happy with how it turned out, but also that Xander, their first official Christmas Guest, had approved.

"Well, yeah," Xander responded, looking just a little sheepish.

"See Giles, I told you he'd have no confidence in us," Dawn said in mock hurt.

"Then consider me wrong. That was absolutely the best Christmas meal I've ever had," Xander added.

"High praise indeed," Giles answered. He stood up and started to clear the table.

"I'll help," Xander said getting up as well.

Dawn watched as Xander and Giles collected the plates, dishes and cutlery. The day felt so good, so right. The three most important people in the world to her were there, and they had all had a fantastic day. Her memories were filled of happy Christmases. Sure most of them never actually happened, but they were good memories. And the first *real* one they'd shared in Sunnydale was a very happy day as well. But even though on occasion her mind did drift back to her Mother, Dawn knew that her Mom would want them to be happy, and she could say without a doubt that this was the best Christmas she'd ever experienced. Real or otherwise.

She didn't even pretend to ignore the little jolts she received inside each time Xander looked at her, or when their hands would *accidentally* touch each other when talking, playing, or just getting the other's attention. They'd spent so much of the last few months together; she had no doubt about the fact that they were both feeling the same things for each other. Having him living in the same house was anything but a hindrance to them hanging out. But in the back of her mind was the sure knowledge that Xander was going to be leaving in three months. Probably being sent back to the United States. She tried not to think about it. She knew that she would hate that day with a passion, and so it was only when she actually thought about if they'd have a life together, did she let such things enter her mind. Usually all she thought about was how much she'd wish that he'd make a proper move on her, and just snog her senseless. Which she was sure she would be, especially if he was anywhere near as good at kissing as what Anya used to rave on about.

After they'd all cleared away the table, and the afternoon seeped into night, she sat there, with the rest of them laughing, talking and listening to the music that played in the background. The early sunset of four in the afternoon certainly gave them a long night to look forward to. Sometime during the evening, Xander came and sat next to her on the couch, and it seemed natural to lean into him. She'd long since given up worrying about what Buffy or Giles would say about such an action. It had occurred so much, that it probably would've looked strange if they sat apart.

She was half-sure that Buffy could see that there was something more developing between them. Occasional half stairs, and little smiles, gave her clues. But she still wondered what her sister's reaction would be if her and Xander did start something official.

She'd like to think that Buffy would be very happy for them, but even though she had recaptured the great relationship she had with Buffy, she thought that it might be weird on some level to see one of your best friends kissing your sister.

Not that they had yet. Not really. Not a real, knees quivering, tingling inside passionate kiss. The little pecks they'd shared were way to 'friendly' for Dawn to even consider them their first real kiss. As Giles and Buffy got up to get some more drinks she felt the butterflies flutter in her stomach in the hope that Xander might make a move on her. He did. Unfortunately the move involved him getting up and picking up the rest of the mugs that were sitting on the coffee table. As he moved to stand, his hand came down on to her lower thigh. "I'll be back in a second," he told her, flashing a grin, as he gently squeezed her leg, before taking the mugs with him as he walked to the kitchen.

Dawn followed him as he left, her mind screaming out to him to come back here and kiss her. But even though sometime their minds seemed to be synced, on matters such as wants and desires, she'd guessed he might need some more careful prodding. Watching him go, her eyes drifted up, till they came upon the one bit of mistletoe they'd hung from the ceiling.

A smile broke out on her face as she thought about it. Sure it was a little cliched, but it might just do the trick.

She got up and walked over to the corridor, leaning against the wall, just to the right of where the mistletoe hung down, and waited.

She didn't have to wait for long.

"Hey," Dawn said lightly as Xander came back from the kitchen. Dawn was leaning against the wall in the small corridor, and smiled warmly at Xander as he approached.

"Hey, Dawnie," Xander said, as he came up to where she was waiting for him.

She playfully slapped her hand against his chest. "Hey, I'm not 12 anymore," she said jokingly.

Xander couldn't help but run his eyes over Dawn's figure, her words sub consciously making him do so. "Ahh, the one thing that you're not, is 12," Xander told her with quite a bit of conviction. He was happy to see the red blush appear on Dawn's face. For a moment their gaze met, and Xander found himself lost in the little pools of beauty he was facing. All he could think was that he'd never seen anything as stunning as the vision in front of him. "You're so beautiful," he spoke, his voice almost a whisper.

"Pardon," Dawn replied, not quite hearing what he said, and a little scared to have confirmed what it was he did say.

There was something in her voice that gave Xander all the courage that he needed. "I said," he replied, this time a little louder," you are so beautiful."

The blush appeared again, though not as much. Xander could see the corners of her lips reaching upwards just a little, and the barest of smiles forcing its way through whatever embarrassment she had. He reached down with his hand and cupped her cheek, gently, letting her rest her head slightly in the palm of his hand.

Her eyes drifted up, and after a second Xander's did as well. His mouth opening in a smile, that told Dawn that he knew it was no co-incidence where they'd met. He knew and he liked it.

Her own smile grew larger and larger.

His finger lightly rubbed up and down the cheek, before turning her gently to meet him. He searched her eyes for the signal he was waiting for. As he bent forward, just the barest of movements, he watched as she closed her eyes and leant forward a little herself, and Xander knew she was waiting for what he'd longed to do for the last month. Slowly he edged closer, his lips quivering slightly, the adrenalin pumping through his body, making him shake slightly at the thought of kissing her. The surface of his lips seemed to be tingling, as if surrounded by static electricity, waiting for that connection to be made.

Only a few inches above her, he too closed his eyes, wanting to experience the sensations of her lips on his, purely from a touch sense, heightening the little shivers that were about to flow between them.

"Daw...Oh my god!"

At the sound of Buffy's voice, Dawn and Xander both opened their eyes at the same time, just as their lips almost met. The slight movement of their heads, reacting to the interruption, threw out their alignment and that little movement resulted in their noses colliding together, their lips missing their intended target and each of them smacking against the others face, a little harder than they'd hoped.

As Buffy spoke, neither of them could turn and face her. "Umm...I'll be in the...yeah, I'll be somewhere else."

Dawn was still pinned against the wall, as Xander pulled back his head, and looked at her. "Well that certainly didn't go to plan." He laughed a little, trying to hide his frustration and embarrassment at how moment had train wrecked before their, and Buffy's eyes.

Dawn's face told him that she felt even more embarrassed that he did. She glanced over his shoulder and sure that Buffy had indeed gone. Part of her wanted to run to her room and hope that Buffy might put down what she saw as a graphically real hallucination brought on by some extremely potent egg nog. However there was two factors counting against that. One, they had served no egg nog, potent or otherwise and two, even in her most sincere wishes she knew that there was no way on Earth Buffy wouldn't be using what she'd just seen. It would fuel for months the endless amount of grief Buffy would send her way. With that in mind, and wanting to avoid actually talking about how her dream moment had turned into someone else's joke without humour, she decided to face Buffy now and try and diffuse the power her sister felt she had.

Dawn couldn't meet Xander's gaze, as she ducked out from under his arm and told him, "I better go and see what Buffy wants."

It was written plainly over her face. He wanted to stop her and tell her that one botched kiss didn't stop what they were feeling for each other, but something told him that she'd made her big move and it had fallen incredibly flat.

"Do you want a coffee?" she asked.

Xander looked up at her and saw the same smile she usually wore. The same smile that she'd worn for the last few months since he'd arrived in England. But there was a little bit more to it. An almost pleading edge that was hidden mostly, only for him to notice. He wanted to rush over to her, take her in his arms and kiss her the way that he'd hoped he would've seconds before, but that smile was telling him differently. She wanted to be reassured that they were okay, and at that moment, making sure she knew that was more important to him.

He smiled warmly back at her. "Sure, sounds good." He could tell by the subtle change in her smile, that she was gratified that they were okay, but it didn't stop him for kicking himself for not being more selfish, once she'd left him alone in the hallway. He couldn't help but look up at the mistletoe and shake his head, wondering if maybe it was fate.


February 27th 2004

The vast library, like most of the building that the majority of Xander's classes were in, was grand in scope. The natural darkness of the wood that lined the floors, walls and bookcases, seemed even darker with the lack of natural light. The few windows that there were, high up on each of the side walls, only let in scarce amount of sunlight. For that they relied on the artificial lights that had been places at certain points around the room.

Each of the walls were stacked high with various texts and in order to reach the books on the top shelves, you had to use the sliding ladders, which were firmly anchored to each section. Then there were the rows of shelving that filled in parts of the middle section. Xander must have guessed there were thousands of books, and in studying for his classes, he guessed he would've been lucky to have read even one percent of them.

A problem, he might have with some of the traditional families and their offspring, but one thing Xander couldn't argue with was the help those families had been in rebuilding the Watcher's Council Library. Left with only a few books after the main headquarters had been destroyed, the library now was made up from many sources. Some were found in various other buildings that the Council owned in the United Kingdom. Others were donated by members of the new Council. Still more were found through sources in the government, and then others had to be bought the old fashion way. They were easily spotted. Not just the much smaller amount of dust covered them, but they also tended to have illustrated dust jackets, bland one-coloured ones, like most of the older stock.

At the back of the library was the area that was set-aside for quite study. Xander had found that it was an even better place for simply thinking. It was here where he could have time to himself without having to listen to the whispers being spread about him. His little confrontation with Worthsworld and his cronies, at the start of the course had spread very quickly throughout the whole class, and while some of the students had been suitably impressed, (Xander had figured that the Worthsworld's had trod on many toes in the past), to most of them, it had only proven their initial thought, and that was that Xander didn't belong with them here in the Watcher's Academy.

Not that he let that worry him. He enjoyed the company of some of the other students, but he was here for one reason. To learn what he needed to know, to be the best watcher his slayer could ask for. It was more than just a job description; it was his reason for doing it. So if some of the toffs were upset at him, Xander could care less.

And since they'd finished all their formal classes, Xander assumed that his contact with them would be limited if not non-existent from now on.

"Hey, Xander."

Xander looked up and saw William Dorscet approaching him. "Hey, Will," he replied, offering a seat with a wave of his hand for the other trainee to sit down. "Watch ya up to?"

"I just wanted to find you before heading off," William replied warmly. "I'm heading off to Scotland for the rest of the week, till I hear about where I'll be posted."

Xander laughed. "Well not all of us have a ancestral home to go to."

"No, not all of us do," William agreed, joining in the joke. As long as they'd known each other, Xander had ribbed William about his inherited financial back up, and William had accepted the gibes in the good grace they were given. "You're welcome to come."

Xander shook his head almost immediately. Not that it didn't sound incredibly inviting. Just that there were other reasons for him to stay. "I can't, sorry."

William nodded, understanding. "Dawn."

"Yeah, and Buffy and Giles to lesser extents. I mean I'm probably heading back to the states in a week or so, and I want to spend as much time as possible with them before I do."

"They must mean a lot to you, I try to avoid most of my family for the majority of the year."

"Yeah, well I try to do that with my actual family as well," Xander responded. "But they're more...I don't know. They're not family, they're much more."

William could see the indecision on Xander's face and let him off. "I know what you mean," he told him, even though he was only guessing as to what Xander meant. He'd never had anyone that he felt that close to, to compare. "Well, keep in touch, okay?" he said, getting up and offering his hand to Xander, which was warmly met and shaken.

"You too."

William nodded in return and walked out, leaving Xander to ponder just what exactly he was going to do. He knew that sometime this week he'd find out where he was going to be posted. None of that was a surprise. Neither was the fact he'd be in the US. A part of him was wondering if he should take it.

He'd passed the course well enough. Certainly not top of his class, but then he never expected to be. And while he was sure that half the theory they'd been taught would not be remotely useful in the field, he had to admit that overall he'd enjoyed his time here. And he was looking forward to being a Watcher in the field. But the thought of saying goodbye to Dawn was providing a roadblock in those plans.

More so cause they'd seemed to go backward since Christmas. He wondered if she was waiting for him to make a move, and then on the few occasions when he felt as though he was being very overt as to what he wanted, he was sure he could see her shy away a little. So most nights they stuck to the comfortable, very close friends stage. It was nothing for Dawn and him to snuggle together and watch TV, or listen to music, but no kissing.

And while he did enjoy every moment of that, he had started to wonder if that was all they'd ever have.

His thoughts were broken by the sound of voices coming closer.

"Sshh! Wait till were back a little further."

Xander was sure he knew that voice, and wondering just what exactly was going to be talked about he kept his silence and listened.

"I hear that they're trying to get a number of amendments put through before we graduate."

Xander couldn't see who'd said those words, but by the inflection and tone, he had a good idea. There was nothing like the sneering sound of Worthsworld's voice, to bring sharply into focus who he was, even when you couldn't see him.

"What more liberal rubbish?" one of his cronies asked.

Xander's curiosity was definitely peaked by now and though he cared little for their opinions, Worthsworld's father was another matter. He had power and position and was definitely from the old school. The type of person that drove Xander nuts that he had anything to do with this council.

"I'm afraid Rupert Giles and that insufferable Summers woman, try every meeting to tear down what we've had for centuries," Worthsworld replied.

Xander had by now crept over quietly so that he was just behind one of the stacks. He peered over the top of one of the books, trying to get a better view of what was going on.

"Surely they won't let it happen," his other offsider asked. Xander recognised him as Reginald.

"I wouldn't think so, but my Father says that he has to take things slowly. Giles has a lot of support, and with my Father not being actively involved for a number of years, a number of council members are not as giving as they once were."

"I can't believe that they're thinking about providing a salary to the slayers. Where do they think that will come from? Why should they need it anyway?" Charles complained.

Xander watched as Worthsworld shook his head. "I still can't believe they banned the Cruciamentum."

"I know that's just outrageous," Charles agreed. "A time honoured tradition of finding out if the slayer was any good. What are we supposed to do now if they are below par?"

Worthsworld may have been going to reply, but it was cut off as Xander came around the corner. His eye raging, and his temper simmering just below exploding. "How about you teach them and train them to be better," he spat at the three of them.

"What do you want, Harris?" Worthsworld asked him.

The contempt in his voice sounding just as funny to Xander as it always had. "Why are you here?" Xander asked. "You obviously care little for the Slayers. Why even bother?"

Surprisingly it was Reginald; the one that Xander actually thought might have his own thoughts that rebuked Xander's challenge. "I care for the tradition of the Watcher's Council. I care that what my family has been a part of for hundreds of years, is not thrown down the lavatory by you and< your American friends."

"A newsflash, the council isn't about you. It's for the Slayers. One of these days, you might actually realise it." He turned to face Worthsworld and the other one. "Though I doubt you two will."

"You were lucky to even pass the course, Harris," Charles retorted.

"Wow, you can actually have your own comeback, I'm sort of impressed," Xander quipped back. "The only good thing about you idiots passing as well, is that you'll want to stay close to the power, here. Which hopefully means that no slayer will ever have to put up with seeing you every day."

"You and your caring for the Slayers," Worthsworld spat at him, as though the actual idea of such an act was abhorrent to him. "I would enjoy your time as a Watcher while you can."

The threat did little to move Xander. "I think you three should know something."

"Yes, and what would that be?" Worthsworld asked. His tone left no doubt in Xander's mind that he wasn't really interested.

"Your time is over. You are virtually obsolete. Newsflash, morons, there are more Slayers then Watchers now. It is about them, it should have been for the last thousand plus years as well, but now, it is definitely about them." Xander shook his head at the three of them, and turned to walk away from them.

He'd got a few steps before he turned back with a look of horror on his face. "I can't believe that you actually called Giles, an American. He'd be mortified."


March 2nd 2004

The tapping of his toe on the hard floor was the only accompaniment to the silence as Xander waited for Giles to come and get him. The chair he was sitting on was comfortable enough, but the growing impatience inside of him was enough to make him continually squirm.

He glanced down at his watch again, and realised that, no, he wasn't late. It only felt like he'd been sitting here for ages. He got up and was about to stretch his legs, when the inner door opened and Giles poked his head out.

"Xander, good. Could you come on through?"

Giles held the door open, letting Xander walk through before he closed it and followed the younger man. Xander had been to Giles office on numerous occasions, so Giles didn't have to show him the way. Once they'd entered the office Xander took a seat across from Giles's desk and waited for him to sit down.

He casually glanced around the room, never ceasing to be amazed by the amount of books that he had in his office. He was sure that the official Watcher's Library would love to have most of them.

"How are you?" Giles asked.

It was a warm opening, but a little formal and just for a second Xander wondered if he'd gotten the reason for this meeting mistaken. "I'm fine, Giles," he replied; though now looking at Giles he could tell that the stress of his position was starting to show. Not a lot, but the bags under his eyes, were the clearest indication that a restful sleep, was not being had by the senior watcher.

"Good, good," Giles muttered, seeming to be thinking over what exactly he was going to say next.

"Is something wrong?"

Giles slipped the glasses off his head, and placed them on the desk in front on him. Xander had seen that action before and it meant that Giles had something very serious to say. "Your graduation, or not, has been the discussion of our Council meeting today."

"Okay..." Xander replied the word dragged out as he didn't really know what to say to that. He hadn't been told that there was any possible problem that would necessitate him being the topic of discussion. He'd thought about little else this week and as the days went by, his wanting to be a Watcher grew and grew. To hear that there may be a hurdle that he couldn't get over was frustrating to say the least.

"Needless to say your confrontation with Worthsworld, was not the actions that the council was hoping to see in one of it's new Watchers."

Xander couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You have got to be kidding me?"

"I assure you I'm not, no matter how much I wish that it was."

There was a look on Giles face that Xander thought looked very much like Disappointment.

"So what, cause I told the jerk a few home truths, I'm not going to be accepted into this esteemed organisation?" Xander did little to hide his distain for the Watchers Council in his words.

"Judging by your tone, I have to wonder why you would want to be?"

The confusion Xander felt amplified, and for a moment he felt like walking out and telling them all to go to hell. But this was Giles. His friend. In many ways his mentor, and it hurt to see the look of disappointment on Giles's face.

"Giles, what is this? You know that I don't see eye to eye with what used to go on here. I thought you and I were on the same page there? And I know you have to be diplomatic with things, but I don't. I remember you being less than diplomatic when you were Buffy's watcher." Xander's tone had taken a much more conciliatory edge.

"It isn't that simple, Xander." Giles took a sip of his drink, before continuing. "As you know you are very much looked upon as my student, my recommendation. Everything you do does reflect on me, and..." Giles held his hand up stopping Xander from interrupting him at that point. "...And when I have to tip toe through the political minefield that is the Watcher's Council, I had hoped for more support. Instead I find that it's usually the case that you've laid out more landmines for me to tippy-toe around."

"I'm sorry," Xander replied.

Giles nodded in acceptance.

"No, I'm sorry that you feel that way," Xander corrected, shaking his head. "I can't believe that you are actually telling me that I shouldn't have told Worthsworld that he was wrong about his way of treating the slayers. My god, that man thinks that they are just a weapon, no more important that any other piece of machinery."

"And he is just one trainee," Giles told him.

Xander stood up and shook his head. "No he's not Giles. There are many more like him, maybe more than there are like us. Your new Watcher's Council may have been conceived with good intentions, but I see very little difference from the one that it grew out of."

Giles was about to argue, when Xander put up his hand, this time stopping Giles. "If you could actually believe that I would simply keep my mouth shut and walk in acquiesce behind all that middle age crap, then you really didn't get to know me over the last few years."

"Are you finished?" Giles asked.

Xander sat down, slumping the chair. "Yeah."

"Well, as I was going to say, the council is split down the middle as to whether to have you appointed as Watcher, and it is up to me to say yes or no."

"So what is your decision?" Xander asked.

Giles shook his head. "No, it's not that easy. I want to hear it from you. I want to hear what you want to do."

Xander thought for a moment. There was a big part of him that wanted to tell Giles to go and jump in a very big lake. But he remembered back to when he decided to do this. There was one reason, and that reason still stood.

"I want to be a Watcher," Xander told him very seriously.

"Why?" Giles asked.

"Because I want to make sure that at least one girl doesn't have to go through the crap that Buffy did. That at least one girl will be looked after."

Giles nodded his head. It was what Xander had told him originally.

"To be honest, Giles, I thought we both wanted that. I thought that was what we were doing this for. To get a whole range of Watchers who would look after, train and help the Slayers."

"It is Xander," Giles told him. Xander could see even clearer now, the worry and weariness on Giles's face as he spoke to him. "But the reality of it all is that it will take time, and many minds will need to be persuaded for that to happen."

Xander was silent at this, not wanting to start the argument again.

"In the meantime, I am hoping that out of this first class, there will be some that will be following the *new* ways, and..." Giles looked Xander very squarely. "...I hope that you will be one of them."

It took Xander a moment to realise what Giles was telling him, but when he did a huge grin broke out on his face and he leapt to his feet. "Really?" he asked.

Giles stood up and held out his hand. "Congratulations, Xander. You've passed your last tests and it is my honour to appoint you to the position of Watcher."

Xander shook Giles's hand warmly. "I didn't think..."

"You exasperate me sometimes, Xander, and I have a feeling that you will cause more ripples over the years, but you are right in what you say. Your reasons for being a Watcher is why I asked you to be one, and as long as you keep to those reasons, all other things...well, we can handle them as they happen."

Xander's grin got larger again. "Thanks."

He could see the pride on Giles face and Xander wondered how the ex-librarian would've reacted if seven years ago, Xander had told him that he would grow up to become a watcher. Smiling at the thought, Xander guessed that a lot of spluttering, cleaning of glassed and denial would've been involved.

"You have enemies on the council, Giles," Xander told him seriously.

The elder watcher nodded. "I know, and I'm not alone. You, Buffy and others all have been marked by some as doomed to fail. That's why we have to be careful."

"I don't know if they'll be content to simply wait and see what happens," Xander told him. "Just watch your back, okay?"

"I will. With Willow and Kennedy are arriving next month, we should at least have some back up in numbers if nothing else."

"That's good," Xander replied. All the sudden it hit him. The Scooby's, at least the core group that had survived all of the trials of the last eight years would be in England. All of them, except himself. He hadn't seen Willow, his childhood friend since she'd left with Kennedy soon after the end of Sunnydale. He'd known that she would eventually be based out of the Watcher's Council. Having become *one* if only briefly with the essence that flowed through everyone of the chosen many, Willow was their best tool in locating new Slayers. Already she'd proven way more accurate than the old methods. Methods that had missed detecting Buffy till very late, something that Giles had reminded some of the more conservative elements of the ruling council, when they questioned bringing Willow into the inner sanctum. The look on some of the member's faces when the motion had been passed, was a memory that Xander enjoyed, and having seen the same look on Giles face soon after that meeting, he knew he was not alone.

"So do you want to know where you'll be posted?" Giles asked, breaking Xander's thoughts.

"Sure," Xander responded.

"As you were the only American studying with this class, it would make sense for you to go back to what you know."

Xander nodded, agreeing with that. He'd assumed as much.

"So, how does California sound?"


March 13th 2004

It was killing her. Slowly, softly but steadily. She felt sick to her stomach, but she could do nothing about it. He was leaving. Tomorrow morning he would be going to Heathrow and then flying back to the states and away from her. It was becoming almost a habit for them. Being separated by the Atlantic Ocean as well as the continent of North America. Only this time, Xander had done as she'd hoped he would, and getting angry would be even less fruitful than the last time she wasted her energy and their time doing just that.

She wondered if they would be forever doomed to waste the small amount of times they had together.

No. Waste, wasn't the word to describe the last few months. They'd still been talking, still hung out together. Living in the same house made it rather pointless to do anything else. But there seemed to be a barrier between them, or more precisely the *them* that she thought they would've been by now.

And on that mark, she knew it was mainly her decision. Whatever went wrong Christmas night, it had temporarily brought back all her insecurities about pursuing Xander in a relationship. The main one being that she was deathly afraid of losing his friendship. To say he was her best friend was an understatement of massive proportions, and that was not something to risk losing lightly.

She could tell that he was making little efforts to test the waters and part of her wanted to accept the offer. But a bigger part wanted to keep it safe, keep what they had. It was nice and secure, and she felt loved by him, even if it wasn't in the exact way she'd hoped.

On the flip side, she also had to admit that part of her wanted him to just jump on her and kiss her, making sure that their tongues did all the work for a while, instead of the constant thoughts that were running around in her head.

But then almost two weeks ago, he'd arrived home. His face lit up and she knew without being told that he'd passed his course, and had no doubt been told where he was going. She tried to be happy for him, really she did. She smiled, and said congratulations, hugging him tightly when he opened his arms. But she felt empty inside.

And that emptiness grew into resentment. She knew it wasn't logical, or right. And she hated feeling that way towards the person she loved so completely, but then even she knew that human emotions were sometimes not very logical. And even though she knew that about herself, it didn't cease the emotions from still manifesting and making the last week hell for both of them.

She wasn't nasty to Xander. But the closeness they had, even after Christmas was now missing. Occasionally she could see him, out of the corner of his eye, staring at her, looking for a sign, but she couldn't give it to him.

And now it was his last night. He was going to be leaving tomorrow.

Buffy had said goodnight to them both a few minutes earlier. All and all, Buffy had been more than kind in her reactions to what she'd witnessed on Christmas Day. Dawn was almost sure she felt a little bad for interrupting them, and it didn't surprise her when Buffy left the two of them alone. And while she was happy for that, and she was sure Xander was as well, it did rather leave a vacuum in the conversation. Both of them having so much to say, yet not saying anything. They were sitting on the carpeted floor. Dawn in front of the two seater, and Xander in front of one of the singles. Only a few feet apart, but it may as well have been much wider.

It got too much for Xander. "I'm going to miss you," he told her softly.

She got up the courage to look him in the face. It screamed out his feelings to her.

"Don't," she told him a little more sharply then she originally wanted to.

She could see the confusion on Xander's face as he asked, "What?"

She turned away slightly. "Look at me like you love me."

Xander's fingers touched her gently under her chin and turned her face around so that once again his look was boring into her soul. "I do love you," he told her earnestly.

She could see it. There was no denying the truth that was plainly written on his face. But the irrational doubt remained. "Then why? Why haven't you made a move on me?"

Xander looked a little embarrassed at being asked out of the blue. He sighed before answering. "Gosh, Dawn. I mean after Christmas..." He left the memory of that non-event hang there, knowing that there was no words that he could say that would adequately describe how unsatisfying that had been for both of them. "And well, with my shipping back to the states, I didn't think it would be the best thing to do."

"The kiss *was* a bit of a let down," she admitted gently.

"Yeah," Xander agreed. They'd never actually talked about the kiss. It had been this stumbling block to their feelings, and neither one of them had brought it up since then, till now.

Dawn raised her face to look at Xander and could tell that he too was thinking the exact same thing. Slowly but surely each of their mouths started coming apart, and turning up at the ends. "It surely wasn't what I expected," Dawn told him through her growing grin.

"Oh I don't know, I thought our noses must have enjoyed it," Xander replied.

She didn't know exactly how, but the tone had turned light-hearted in those few seconds, and she couldn't resist having a dig at him. "You know I expected much better from a guy with your reputation."

"Well my reputation may be slightly exaggerated," Xander replied.

"I think so," Dawn responded, a challenging tone in her voice.

Xander shifted a little across the carpet that was separating them, edging closer as he spoke to her. "But I think I might surprise you," he told her softly.

"You think," Dawn replied, breathlessly, her eyes getting bigger as she knew what was coming. There was a voice in the back of her head telling her this was not a good idea, but as his lips got closer and closer, she stopped listening. She felt his hand lightly graze against her side, as it slid up her back, just as she felt his lips touch down on her.

In that first almost fragile touching, the edges just seemed to brush against each other, before the fullness of lips settled on the other's and softly, slowly they moved against one and other.

Their bodies, that had been mostly separated as their mouths met, started to inch closer and closer. As their mouths started to become more active, passionately massaging the other as the kiss became more urgent, their bodies came into contact, and each of them wrapped their arms around the other, holding them close, as the kiss continued.

She felt Xander open his mouth, and she slid her tongue out just a little to meet his. There was an almost indescribable feeling as the two tongues met, sliding against, around, and over each other. The little nerve endings each getting massaged by the slippery movement.

Her hands were running through Xander's hair, and down his back, feeling the muscles on his body, even through the clothing. She could feel Xander's hand running up and down her back, from her shoulder blades and down to her ass, massaging the cheeks through the denim material that made up her skirt.

"Oh, god, Xander," she sighed, as their mouths broke for the first time. There was a fire burning inside her, and it was threatening to take over. His kisses had ignited it she wondered if and when it would ever go out.

Their mouths met again, and became re-aquainted very quickly. In their passion, Xander had fallen back, and she was now lying mostly on top of his body. She liked being there, looking down on the face of the man who lit up her heart. He was comfortable, and it felt so good being in contact with him. Little things like his smell filled her senses just as much as his taste and his touch did.

They rolled a little, their arms each wrapped tightly around the other, and Dawn found herself on the bottom, with Xander leaning over her. He bent down to kiss her, and as he did, Dawn, almost involuntarily, felt her hips thrust up a little. The sensation she got sent fireworks going off inside her. There was no doubt just how excited Xander was. She felt it all so clearly, and...

Abruptly the connection was severed, and Xander felt the cooler air on his lips for the first time in minutes. The warmth that his body had revelled in was now moving away, and when Xander opened his eyes, he could see Dawn looking at him from a foot away, her skirt had ridden up with their movements and she now struggled to pull it back down her legs.

"Dawn?" he asked her, wanting to make sure she was okay.

"I'm sorry, I can't," she said shifting away from him, as he inched closer his hand held out for her to grab. He could see the sorrow in her eyes, and it matched the pain that he was now feeling in his chest.

"Please, don't!" he called to her. His mind was racing, trying to work out what he'd done wrong, and more than anything else he didn't want to have his last night in England, his last night with Dawn end like this.

Dawn got up and sat on one of the chairs opposite him. She waited there and Xander knew that she was waiting for him to do likewise, which he did, giving them a nice space between them, before she spoke.

"I can't do this, Xan. Not tonight, not like this," she told him. There was a tear running down her cheek, and Xander could hear her voice breaking as she spoke. "You're leaving and...and...I don't want this to be a good-bye present."

She couldn't say anymore, and with one longing look at Xander, she got up and walked away.

"Dawn!" Xander called out to her again. "Dawn!"

On his second call, and as she reached the stairs she turned back to face him, and Xander could see that her face now ran with tears. His heart was breaking as he realised that in their passion they had said goodbye to each other prematurely. He wanted to run over to her and hold her. Tell her that he just wanted to spend the night with her, hold her, nothing else. He wanted to savour every minute of the time they had left. But with one look on her face, he could tell that wouldn't be a choice, and that the night was already finished.

"I do love you," she told him, her words broken by the emotion in her voice.

Xander had no chance to respond, before she walked up the stairs and left him sitting by himself, surrounded by only the memories of her and the fire, which roared on, oblivious in the corner.


Chapter 5
Half a World Away

March 14th 2004

No matter how much he squirmed and shifted in his seat, there seemed to be nothing that Xander could do to get himself settled. His aggravation wasn't helped by the fact that he was flying economy class. The Watcher's Council may have lots of money in their coffers, but they sure weren't going to spring for first or business class seats. Not that Xander would've accepted them. Even for his own comfort he'd rather not be a hypocrite.

None the less, he couldn't escape the fact that his restlessness was not helping him weather the flight any easier. The trip so far had been a lonely, thoughtful one. No matter how much he tried not to dwell on it, Xander couldn't ignore the hole he felt in his heart. A hole that seemed to grow larger as each mile went past them on the water below. At least he was able to get a window seat. He turned towards the window slightly, and looked out at the setting sun. With his back turned away from the rest of the plane, he could almost believe that he was by himself, and not sharing one of three slightly cramped seats in the fourteenth row.

He wasn't totally rude to his fellow passengers. A few pleasantries and courteous greetings had been passed. He'd smiled warmly at them, when he asked them to move, so he could slip out to get to the restroom, a few hours ago. But that was about the sum of his interaction and at the moment, Xander felt it was all he could manage. Conversation of any length was just not achievable at least not without blurting out the most intimate details of his life. He had way too many regrets swimming around and around inside his head, for that not to happen. And those were things he didn't want to share with strangers. To be honest he doubted he would share them with friends.

The only person he longed to talk to at that moment, was in a small village, in a small country, that was getting further and further away with each second. He wondered if she was feeling the same. Did she feel the hurt he was feeling? Was she sitting there staring out of her window at the sky, trying desperately to feel some sort of connection with him?

They'd decided weeks ago that only Giles would accompany Xander to Heathrow. The last thing Xander wanted, and Dawn agreed, was to have to have a goodbye in an airport terminal. In truth, Xander would've been quite happy to go to the airport himself and say goodbye to them all before hand, but neither Giles, nor Buffy and Dawn would hear of it.

In the weeks leading up to his departure, he'd thought long and hard about what it was going to be like leaving them all. The complicated relationship he was sort of having with Dawn at that point didn't help. But in all the various fantasies and dreams he had, never once did he foresee how it actually turned out to be.

He doubted he'd gotten any sleep the night before. Nor did he have any idea how long he'd actually stayed downstairs. The living room, empty except for the fire which slowly burned down till it was only embers warming and lighting the now dark room, gave little comfort to him that night. He had no idea how long he'd spent looking up at the staircase to where he'd seen the last glimpse of Dawn as she disappeared around the corner. Was he expecting her to come back down and talk? He didn't know, but it wasn't until the fire had long since died and even his sorrow could no longer keep the cold from his skin that he got himself up and walked slowly up the stairs.

On the way back up to his room, he'd fought within himself not to walk into hers, but somewhere in his own need, he recognised Dawn's. And that was that. He'd fallen asleep, been woken up a scant few hours later, and packed the car. He'd hugged Buffy warmly. Both of them realising that it would be months till they'd see each other again at least. For friends that had seen each other almost every day, except for little things like holidays, running away and dieing, it wasn't a shock for them to be feeling sad.

"Dawn!" Buffy yelled up the stairs. "I can't believe she's acting like this," Buffy muttered apologetically to Xander.

"It's okay Buff," he replied. "We said goodbye last night."

He knew without looking into Buffy's eyes that his voice had showed her the truth behind his words. When Buffy was about to say something, he slightly shook his head, getting the message to her. Buffy responded with a slight, sad nod of her head. "Are you okay?"

Xander shrugged. "I will be."

Giles had hooted the horn at that point. Both Xander and Buffy realised that the time was up. Xander glanced up to Dawn's window, and for a moment he thought that he saw some movement in the curtains. He held his gaze there for a few moments, looking for a sign, but there wasn't any. He turned away and opened the passenger side door to the car. Just as he was about to get in, the front door to the cottage opened.


Even now, hours later, it still amazed Xander how much his heart soared at that moment. The mere sound of her voice was all it needed. He could hear the sorrow, fear and pain in it. He could also hear the love she had for him in that simple word and it made his heart feel so much lighter. The weight he'd carried on his shoulders since the night before had been lifted.

He turned and a split second later, his arms were full as Dawn ran into them, wrapping her own arms around his body. Her head was buried into his chest, not that it blocked out the sounds of her sobs.

"I don't want you to go." He could just make out the words and knew that she wasn't seriously asking him to stay. But it warmed his heart no end to hear them.

They stayed like that, wrapped in each other's arms for minutes. It was so warm, so comfortable, and for those few fractions of time, no one else existed. Not until they both heard a cough. Giles had at least managed to sound apologetic.

"You call me as soon as it's done," Dawn told him.

"I will," Xander replied, having forgotten momentarily about his upcoming medical procedure.

"I mean it, no matter what time it is," she added, trying to drag out the time they had. But he knew there was no more time to be stretched. There would be no time for a proper goodbye. This was it, and he had so much he wanted to say. He hoped that he could convey all he wanted to do, as he bent down, and met her lips, kissing them softly for a moment, before pulling back and smiling as happily as he could at her, before getting in the car.

He watched Dawn walk over to Buffy and put their arms around each other as Giles drove him away. He kept his eye on them and didn't turn away till the car had rounded the corner and both of them were no longer in view.

He'd have to write to Giles and thank him for his discretion in not mentioning Dawn at all on the trip to Heathrow. Thankfully with Xander's first posting coming up, Giles was more interested in discussing those matters.

Four hours later he was sitting on a plane, and it was slowly rising in the sky over London. And now a further five hours along, Xander felt all the emotions hit him again. At which point he'd decided that the window provided the best corner for him to crawl into, and with his headphones blaring one of the in-flight music stations he tried his hardest to block out the world around him. Still no matter how much he tried all he could think about was how different things might have been if he'd been able to keep his desires in check the night before.


March 30th 2004

"...they all got up. Good Morning, San Diegan's, it's 7.00am on this fine Tuesday morning..."

There are many ways to wake up in a morning. The sound of a radio alarm blaring out at a totally unhospitable volume was better than having a marching brass band start up in your bedroom, but for Xander that morning he really couldn't tell the difference. As he opened his eyes, both seeing and not, just for a moment he wondered where exactly he was. Then a fraction of a second later the memory resurfaced and as he looked around the room that was now his bedroom, he had to admit that it was at present, incredibly spartan.

Not that he had any time to change that, he'd only been in San Diego for one day. Outfitting his place was just one of many things he still had to do, but in the whole scheme of everything, it was pretty low on the list. Even in his half sleeping state, Xander knew what was number-one on that list. And he also knew that there was no reason to put it off any longer.

Which would be fine if he actually knew where to start.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed, and stood up, arching his back and stretching out the cobwebs from his limbs before slowly making his way into the en-suite bathroom which was situated just to the right of the bedroom.

The steam from the hot water filled the room quickly and after letting his boxers fall to the floor, he stepped under the water and let it wash over him.

The strangest thing, he thought, was the silence that you have when living by yourself. He had no television, no radio to keep him company or even provide some background noise pollution. It had been so long since he could really say that. Sure there had been short times when technically he'd been living by himself since he moved out from his parents in 2000. But in those small times he was either going out with Anya, or Buffy, Willow or Dawn were around so much, he never had to think about being by himself.

Not for the first time since he'd left England, he stopped what he was doing and just reflected on the fact that for the first time in almost eight years, none of those three were likely to come walking through his door unannounced. When he'd agreed to this posting he not only was taking up a new career, but he was changing everything he'd known since he first hit the guard rail outside of Sunnydale High in 1997.

And then there was Dawn. He'd been back in the US for almost two weeks, and the hole in his heart seemed to be showing no signs of healing. It became so obvious to him just how much he'd come to expect her to be by his side. When he'd gone into Eye surgery at the Jules Stein Institute in LA, he had realised just how strange it seemed for her not to be there when he came out from under the anaesthetic. Cordy had been there instead and while it had been great to catch up with her again, it wasn't he same.

He'd called Dawn straight after. He knew she'd be waiting for news as soon as the procedure was completed, and thanks to the Internet, he was able to send through some photos of his new prosthetic eye, or more accurately, his face showing it in its rightful place. The other, the eye alone would've just been weird, not to mention a little gross. Talking to her had been wonderful and it was easy to tell just how excited she was. They'd been on the phone for ages, but the distance that was now between them was never more evident then in the fact that neither of them talked about the goodbye they'd given each other.

Xander turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, grabbing the towel he'd set aside earlier and drying himself off. His gaze caught his reflection in the mirror and not for the first time since he'd gotten the replacement did he find it slightly off-putting to see himself without the eye-patch once again. Not to mention that even though he could see two eyes it was still very apparent to him that he was seeing them both through only his right one.

Wrapping the robe around his body, he exited the bathroom and then the bedroom, walking down the internal staircase and over to the kitchen, turning on the coffee machine and slipping a couple of slices of bread into the toaster. In the couple of days before he'd gone into the Institute, he had just enough time to get some essentials for the new place. The apartment itself was very nice. Xander had been rather surprised at how homely it felt. Two bedrooms upstairs, a large dinning/living area downstairs with a moderately sized kitchen. Bathrooms both up and down and even an internal laundry. It was probably about thirty years old, but had been renovated some time in the last decade, that was for sure. But the one thing he knew it wouldn't have was appliances and as he rarely felt like going out for breakfast, especially in a new city. Knowing his luck, he was just as likely to walk into a café that had the hygienic reputation of a sewer than the local treat. Breakfast may not be the most elegant of meals that he prepared for himself but without the hit of caffeine and carbs, he was not ready to face the day. And for that he needed a coffee maker and toaster.

He sat down at the counter, thinking about the day ahead. The day had arrived. He had to go and meet his new Slayer. Which he admitted to himself was a much simpler act since he was fortunate enough to already know her. But there was one thing that made this a little different. She lived with her parents. Meeting parents wasn't Xander's forte. Apart from Buffy and Dawn's mom, his experience with parents was not something to fall back on. But on the bright side, at least he knew Vi. Xander had been surprised that his Slayer was someone that he knew. He didn't even realise that she was from San Diego, not having spent that much time after the fall of Sunnydale to get to know such little details. But they had gotten along okay during the battle with the first, and he saw no reason why they couldn't again.

He had almost finished his breakfast when he saw, sitting on his desk, the one thing he had so far avoided thinking about this morning. It was almost pulsating at him, drawing him nearer, though Xander knew that was just in his mind. It wasn't that he was trying to avoid it, just that he didn't really know what to say.

Slowly he walked over and sat down in front of it. He picked it up and held it in his hand, looking at it from both sides. Not that there was anything strange about it. In fact it looked just like any others of its type.

And then he knew that he wasn't going anywhere till he'd done what was the most important thing to him at that moment in time. He reached over and grabbed some paper and a pen and started writing.

Dear Dawn...


It was with some trepidation that Xander arrived at his destination. He'd located it easy enough, only being a short thirty minutes, even with the traffic, along the 805 from his home in University Heights to Del Mar. He got out of his car, locked the door and walked up the paved walkway to the front door of the house.

One of major changes with the New Council was the way the Slayers' families weren't cut out of the truth. And while it was problematic and had no guarantees that it would make the task any easier, with there being a multitude of Slayers there was no chosen one any more. It gave all the girls the chance for a normal or almost normal life. The old ways of taking the girls and training them, or keeping their destiny secret wasn't applicable anymore. There was no need for it. If Vi didn't want anything to do with her destiny, though Xander doubted that would be the case, he wouldn't put any pressure on her. The one thing Xander wanted to achieve beyond all else was to be a help to his Slayer, not a hindrance.

The down side to all this togetherness was that no matter how much Xander was there for his Slayer, he also had to meet the parents. Now that he was standing outside the front door, he couldn't help think that it was add if he was on the first date with a new girl and had to face her Father's grilling before being allowed to leave.

Of course he was there for a totally different reason, but he felt no less nervous. Like everything else it was new and unknown. The place he was standing in front of certainly looked pleasant enough. If anything it looked rather more opulent than he'd been expecting. Though that preconception was based solely on Vi and considering the stress they'd all been under during that time, it was misplaced.

The large wooden doors stood proudly in front of him. The polished finish contrasting nicely with the brick and stone work around it. Predominantly white, the house was tinged with red wood, and it gave the residence a framing effect that Xander found quite stunning.

He waited patiently after ringing the doorbell, and it was only a few moments after when the door opened and a pleasant looking older lady answered.

"Hello, may I help you?" she asked. Xander could tell from the slight inflictions in her voice that she came from an educated background. She looked as though she was in her early forties. Her blonde hair, had just the merest tinges that weren't as vibrant as they had no doubt been a few years back, and her clothing was conservative, but Xander could tell that she held herself highly and put quite a deal on appearance.

"Good Afternoon. I was wondering if Violet was home," Xander asked, keeping things as formal as possible.

"No, I'm sorry, but she's out at the moment," came the reply. Xander could tell that he was getting the once over, and for a moment was glad he had tur ned up in a nice casual outfit. "Are you a friend from College?"

"Umm, no, my name is Xander Harris. I'm Violet's new watcher," Xander said.

It didn't take long for Xander to realise that he'd probably said the wrong thing. There was a look of fear on the face of the person he assumed was Vi's mother. She took a step back, and for a moment Xander was afraid that she was going to close the door on him. While it wouldn't be the first time such an action had been frequented on him, Cordelia's mother had done it more than once, it wasn't the reaction he was expecting this time.

Unlike a lot of Slayers, Buffy included, Violet's parents already knew all about Slayers, Vampires, Demons and the like. Giles had visited them when he went to pick up Vi and bring her to Sunnydale more than a year ago. They also knew that a new Watcher would be assigned to her. But seeing the look in her mother's eye, Xander was sure that either they had forgotten about all the 'bad things', or he was about as welcome as a tax collector.

"Bruce!" she called out, turning her head to point down the hallway towards where Xander assumed Vi's Father was situated.

"Excuse..." Xander started to say, tyring to get whatever situation was developing defused, but Vi's mother waved him away with a quick flick of her wrist, signalling very succinctly that that topic was tabled till the arrival of the other parental unit.

Which didn't take long. From behind her, Xander saw a gentleman of about the same age walking towards them. Though he wasn't as tall as Xander, there was a certain presence about him as he quickly walked towards his wife, determined and confident. His appearance, semi-formal coat and trousers, only added to the overall effect.

"Yes, dear," he said as he arrived at his wife's side and slid an arm around her, protecting her in case she needed it.

"This man says he's Violet's new Watcher," she replied indicating towards Xander.

Xander could see the change in his demeanour as soon as his wife said those words. The curious protectiveness had been replaced by an almost hostile glare.

"We don't want anything to do with you," he told Xander and proceeded to shut the door on him, leaving the young Watcher simply stunned on the porch wondering just what to do in this situation. Certainly all the scenario's he'd played out in his head hadn't prepared him for this outcome. Usually they were kept secret, so this sort of confrontation wouldn't occur. Or in situations like this one, when there was no need for secrecy and the family had accepted the destiny of their daughter the up front method was thought of as the best.

To have been rebuked like that, so unexpectedly, was something that the handbook nor Xander's own mind had thought possible. Which in hindsight he kicked himself for being over confident on that point.

So without any other plan, Xander simply took a seat on the porch and leant back against the door. If nothing else, he hoped Vi would be home sometime before dinner, and maybe then he'd get a friendlier reaction.

He could hear the heated sounds of her parents talking inside, though the wood muffled the sounds enough to hide any of the words. There was no temptation to simply walk away. As soon as he arrived in America he was on the clock, so to speak. And while he cared little for the organisation that was paying him, he did care greatly for the duties he was to perform and the slayer that he would be looking after. The fact that he knew her and liked her already meant even more that he was determined to do the best possible job.

If that meant sitting in the warm San Diego sun for a few hours, he would. In the end it would mean little whether Vi's parents wanted anything to do with him. Vi could easily come to his place if that worked easier. Vi was over eighteen and if he wanted to be blunt, it was up to her, not them.

He'd been out on the stoop for close on fifteen minutes when he heard the sounds of footsteps walking inside, coming closer and closer. They stopped at what Xander guessed was just inside the door. He moved his back a little off the wood, just in case it was opened quickly. Sprawling onto the floor was not the second impression he wanted to give them, especially after the first one went so off kilter.

The lock clicked over and the door opened. Xander turned his head and looked up, seeing that her Father had been the one to open it. Xander stood up and faced him.

"Pretty stubborn I see," he was told.

"No where else to be," Xander replied.

A curt nod was all that he was returned with till, "Well you may as well come inside."

"Thank you," Xander said, walking past the outstretched arm that Vi's father had out to guide him in. He stopped just inside the door, and waited for him to shut the front door and show Xander where he wanted him to go.

Xander walked silently behind him, looking briefly at some of the art that hung on the walls. He had to admit that they had a nice place. Not super rich, like Cordy's folks, but well off enough that Vi must have really been roughing it at the Summers' household. Xander thought that gave her extra points for not complaining in the least.

They both entered what he thought must be the family room, or maybe the games room. Xander found it hard to know for sure. Either way, there was what looked like a super comfy sofa, a couple of recliners, a bar and open French doors which seemed to be leading out to a rather resplendent pool area.

The lady who had answered the door earlier was sitting down in front of what looked like a pot of freshly brewed coffee and a selection of pastries and in that moment Xander wondered if someone in the background was humming the Twilight Zone theme. He kept his thoughts to himself and sat down where he was offered.

"Coffee?" Vi's Mother asked.

"Thanks," Xander replied, and then took the mug when offered. He scooped in his own sweetener and cream, before taking a sip and enjoying the first hit of the caffeine on his pallet, before placing it back down on one of the coasters in front of him.

The tension rose as each second of silence passed. For a while no-one said anything, their eyes just glanced at each other, looking for an opening to say something.

"I'm Bruce Leighton," the man said a few seconds later, holding out his hand which Xander shook, "and this is my wife, Susan, although I expect you already know that."

Xander nodded, "I knew your names, yes."

"You're not what we expected," Bruce told him.

"You expected me to be British?" Xander asked.

"No, old," he replied, then added, " and British."

Xander shrugged. "Yeah, the new world order is a bit of a change for some."

"I thought you might be her boyfriend," Susan said.

"Oh," Xander replied. "Nope, definitely not."

"No, I can see that," Susan replied again.

Xander wondered what she actually meant by that, and was about to ask her, when she continued.

"You seem a little too sedate for that to be the case," Susan clarified.

Xander didn't know what exactly to make of that.

"What exactly are you here for?" Bruce asked.

"I'm Vi's Watcher," Xander replied.

"And what does that exactly mean?"

"The short answer is that I'm here to help her in any way I can. The long answer takes in training, advising, listening and anything else that pops up. They'll probably end in 'ing' as well." Xander hoped his attempt at a joke, as lame as it was, might break the ice which was still nicely frosting over the whole room.

"Forgive me, but what exactly can you teach her. You look only a couple of years older than she is."

And he realised it hadn't. "I am, but I have also been involved in this since I was fifteen."

"Well the last two had been involved for longer than you had. One died and the other took her away from us. We hardly heard from her and then on the news we see the town that we'd sent her to was now a giant hole in the ground."

"But Vi was okay," Xander confirmed.

"Oh sure, she was okay, if you don't count the almost new personality she seemed to inherit."

There was some sadness in Bruce's voice that didn't ring true for Xander. "Huh?"

"Vi's a little wild," Susan told him.

Xander thought that he might have the wrong dimension, or house. "Vi? Funny hat, shy Vi?"

It suddenly dawned on Bruce that Xander knew his daughter. "You've met her?"

"Yeah, we were in Sunnydale together last year. That's where I was all my life till, well you know..." Xander replied leaving the rest of the story hanging. He was sure Vi had filled in all of the details.

"Oh wait, that's where I've seen you before," Susan told him. She walked over and picked up a photo album that was in one of the book cases on the shelves. She brought it back and laid it open in front of Xander. Xander could see himself in some of the photos. Vi had obviously gotten copies from some of the other girls, as he couldn't remember her having a camera.

"Pardon me for asking..." Susan started to say, looking at Xander.

"My eye?" Xander responded.


"I got fitted with an artificial one just before I came to San Diego," Xander told them.

Susan nodded silently. Xander could see her features soften just a little, and while on the outside he remained as cloaked as ever, inside he was chuckling, most mothers can't help feeling anything other than maternal.

Well, all except his own of course.

Noticing how Susan's body language had warmed up slightly towards him, he thought it might be okay to get some answers. "Umm look...I wasn't expecting a civic reception when I arrived, but I didn't expect the one I got either."

Bruce walked over and sat down in the other recliner. "I'm sorry son, but the Watcher's Council is mud in this house. Her first Watcher seemed harmless enough but seemed to act as he had more right to our daughter than we had, and the second took her away from her home." He held up his hand to stop the protest he thought would be coming from the young man in front of him. "I know, I was told that it was for her safety. But, I don't know you from a hill of beans and you are telling us to trust our daughter with you. We did that last year and it still feels like we are picking up the pieces of that mistake."

"I'm sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about," Xander responded. "To be honest I would've thought the fact that she came back alive would've been enough. A lot of girls didn't," he told them gravely.

"I know she told us," Bruce replied seriously. "She did come back to us, and we are eternally grateful for that, but she is a very different girl from the one that I kissed goodbye."

"Well there were some changes that happened," Xander ventured wondering what exactly Vi had told them.

"Yes we know all about the super powers," Susan told him. Her tone left to illusion to how much she disliked the idea. "I know she is meant to be safer now, but her whole personality has changed as well."

Xander did wonder if this was information he shouldn't be privy to. It wasn't his job to go behind Vi's back. He was to make sure that she came to him above all else, and this might not be the best way to start off that relationship.

"I'm sorry, but I probably shouldn't be talking to you about this," he told them. "I want you to trust me, and want to be open to you contacting me, but my first loyalty is to your daughter. I can't and won't cross that trust."

"I never expected you to do anything else, Xander."

All three of them turned to the entrance of the room. While they could all see who it was, Xander was more surprised than the others. Standing there with her hands on her hips, looking slightly pissed, Vi was definitely not the girl Xander remembered. Her orange/red hair remained, but the confident look behind her eyes and stance were new. The low rider jeans, tank top and boots all shouted attitude and Xander could tell it was all shooting straight at her parents.

She walked, or stalked Xander thought, over towards them. Xander got up, and accepted the hug from her, that she gave for a second. "It's good to see you," she told him.

"You too," Xander replied, trying not to look too stunned at the transformation that she had undergone.

"Let's go and talk," she told him.

"Violet..." Bruce started to object.

"Dad, I'll be back in an hour or so. Just gotta go over things with my Watcher, here," she told her father in a tone that Xander knew meant, leave it alone.

Saying nothing more he followed her out, and as they got outside and she walked over to his car, he could tell that she wanted to get out of there.

He unlocked the door with a quick push of his thumb on his key ring, letting Vi get in and himself before asking her what was wrong. He turned to look at her, but could tell that she wanted him to drive. Starting the car, he drove off, part of him wondering just what her parents might be thinking about right now.

"So, what's up," he asked her, as they drove off down the street.

"Parents, ugh!!!" Vi responded.

"They seemed okay," Xander replied, not wanting to point out that considering his and his other friends, Vi's parents, at least on the surface looked like a godsend.

Vi turned her head, which Xander caught just out of the side of his vision. "You haven't had ..." she paused for only a fraction of a second, and in that time her demeanour changed almost totally around. "...Oh my god! Your eye!"

Xander had to chuckle. Enthusiasm like that was contagious. "Yeah, got two of them again."

"I can see that," Vi replied, smiling at him. "Looks good," she told him, as if it was a requirement for him to get her approval. She then softened her smile. "Sorry about before, you've arrived in the middle of a year long conflict between me and my parents."

Xander spotted a café up ahead and pulled the car over to the first parking spot he saw. "Come on, lets have a drink and catch up," he told her. It may not be the most professional way to get to know his slayer, but the situation was a little different and he was sure that she needed a friend who understood at present, not a task master.

They each ordered their drinks and when the waiter walked off, Xander turned to face her. "You look well," he told her. It wasn't an overstatement. Anyone who had seen Vi before Sunnydale became the world's largest sinkhole, could only marvel at how she'd blossomed.

"Thanks, you too," she told him, looking at his clothes. "I guess in Sunnydale we wore whatever was handy."

"Yeah, bigger things tend to take precedence," he replied. "So what's up with your folks? To be honest I thought that would be the easy part."

Vi shrugged. "They don't think much of my life decisions since I came back home."

"And they were?" Xander ventured.

"Dropping out of college, having fun, going out, kicking undead butt," Violet answered.

"Ahh, the staples of teenage life, I remember them well," Xander commented only half seriously.

"Yeah, cause you're a big responsible watcher now," she teased him.

"Well, I'm not sure I'm bigger, but yeah."

"I was very happy to hear that you were coming here. I had nightmares that I'd get someone that made Giles look like a rebel," she told him. "At least you've been there and know what it's really like."

Xander nodded, he'd hoped that all new watchers would have a more world wise attitude, but with his experiences in England fresh he knew that would be a long time in coming. "I'm here to make your life easier, not harder."

"So you aren't going to make me go back to college?" she asked.

Xander laughed. "I've known enough Slayers to know I couldn't make any of them do anything they didn't want. No, I'm not going to make you do that. If you want to do that, I can help, or more accurately the Watcher's Council can help financially, but if you want to do something else, we can help with that as well."

"Wow, things are a little different then?"

"Not as much as I would like, but I can make sure that the good old WC isn't the thorn in your ass that it was before."

"Cool, that's the last thing I need," Violet replied, before taking another sip.

Watching her, Xander wondered what happened to the girl her knew. The new Vi wasn't unpleasant, but something had definitely changed.


One thing became very apparent to Xander within a few seconds of Vi and him setting off on their inaugural patrol that night. San Diego was a heck of a lot bigger than Sunnydale, and he was sure glad Vi had a car to get herself around. As fit and as fast as she was, getting back and forth between her parents place at Del Mar and Downtown San Diego, or University Heights where his apartment was situated.

He'd never thought much about how easier Sunnydale had been with its smaller locale. He supposed the fact that the Hellmouth was there and the City had been built around it on purpose, was what made it harder then the stature of the city should've made.

He could feel the adrenalin starting to flow through his veins as Vi and he exited his car and made their way into Mt Hope Cemetery. Thankfully they'd found somewhere to get in without any trouble. With it closing at four in the afternoon, Xander hoped that security guards were not an added distraction they would have to work around. Vi had assured him that she'd never had any problems, though from Vi's description most nights she rarely ran into anything. Still the probability of this night being a bust in the slaying tasks, did nothing to quell the little bit of excitement that Xander was feeling to be actually patrolling again. He didn't crave it, like some he'd seen. But there was an undeniable feeling of being alive you got when you were doing something that could be dangerous.

Which was in quite contrast to his companion. Casting a side glance towards Vi, Xander could tell, even in the murky darkness that surrounded them that Vi was bored. She was walking along, twiddling the stake in her hand as if it were a stress ball, her head bopping along to a non existent song. She certainly looked the part. Decked out all in black, with clothes that were both comfortable and able to move with whatever movements she might have to do.

Somehow Xander realised that Vi was expecting not have to do any exertions tonight.

"So..." Xander said trying to break the silence with conversation if there wasn't going to be any action.

"Hive of activity isn't it?" Vi responded sarcastically.

"Seen worse nights, that for sure," Xander replied with a smile, knowing that she had as well.

"Yeah, well not every night is Sunnydale busy that's for sure," Vi answered.

"Has there been *any* nights that have been Sunnydale busy?" Xander asked, surprised at the thought.

"No," Vi admitted. "A girl can dream can't she."

"You want to have to face that night after night?" Xander queried.

"Yeah, well no, god I don't know. I mean, I'm a Slayer and I do very little of it."

Xander nodded understanding. "You miss the thrill of it all?"

"Yeah, you know the fight, the rush..."

"...the injuries, the death, the end of the world," Xander broke in.

Vi rolled her eyes. "Smart ass. You know what I mean."

Xander pulled on Vi's arm, just lightly enough to stop her from walking. "Yeah I do. Can I give you some advice?"

Vi got a little twinkle in her eye, as if she found the notion funny. "I'm sure you can."

Xander let it pass. "Don't let being a Slayer define you. There is so much more you can do and be."

"What if I don't want to be," Vi replied. "Duck!"

"Huh?" Xander replied just before he was pushed out of the way, as Vi went flying past him. He turned around to see her launch a flurry of kicks and punches at what Xander assumed was a vampire. No doubt, this vamp was now seriously regretting taking this particular route through the cemetery.

There was a synergy to how her fists and feet hit the vampire. To the untrained eye it would seem like a blur of arm and leg movements, but Xander had seen enough fights in his life to see exactly how Vi attacked the creature. And he had to admit she was very efficient. There may not be many undead problems in San Diego, but by the looks of it, Vi was more than capable of handling herself. He slowly got up and watched as she pulled a stake from inside her jacket and thrust it into the vampire's chest. A short second later it dissipated into a cloud of dust.

Xander was slowly nodding to himself in approval, when she looked up and smiled at him. "See, ain't nothing cooler than that," she told him. "Come on," she added, grabbing at his hand to pull him further along the path.

"You know, pushing me out of the way, isn't a standard way of attacking your adversaries," Xander told her thinking that he should be finding something to reduce the rampant confidence she was exuding.

Vi tried to stifle the giggles in her, but couldn't. "Sure, Watcher man."


April 9th 2004
Aylesford, Kent

Humming softly to herself, Dawn Summers walked casually up the path that led from the road to her and Buffy's house. She often enjoyed the walk home from school. It wasn't that far, just a couple of miles, and in lieu of any other exercise, she knew it wouldn't hurt. But more than that, it also gave her time to think. And that was something she'd been doing plenty of over the last few weeks.

School was her sanctuary. No one there knew anything about the Watcher's Council, Vampires or Slayers. She could just blend into the background with various other students and apart from her accent which no matter how hard she tried, still stood out, she was just another pupil. She'd even started to discover some nice people. Of course she knew that they'd been there all along, but it was only now, being alone, that she started to actively socialise with her own classmates.

But that wasn't Xander's fault. She knew that. She'd decided to spend most of her free time with him. Even now looking back, she was sure she wouldn't change that time. She treasured it. But she did wonder occasionally if things would've been better if she'd gotten to know other people better than she had.

As she arrived at the doorstep, she put an end to such thoughts. It had become an almost ritual, the closer she got to home, the more she started to second guess her 'relationship' (if you could call it that), with Xander. But she was just as determined that she'd stop her train of thought before entering the house.

Today, however, there was one thing that would make that nigh on impossible. And it was sitting on her front doorstep. Still a few feet away, she could tell who it was from. She knew that writing as clear as her own. She took a couple of tentative steps, not knowing exactly why. It wasn't as if she thought it was dangerous. At least not physically. Maybe her soul was trying to protect itself, steeling her against what the package could mean.

Either way, she reached it soon enough and bent down to pick it up, holding the small parcel in her hand. She couldn't help but turn it over and run her finger tip over the name and address on the back.

Xander Harris

18071 Cypress Ave

University Heights

San Diego, 92116 California USA

Even though a part of her was futilely trying to protect herself, there was no way she could deny how much her heart leapt at the simple viewing of Xander's name and address written in his own handwriting. Her feet seemed to be floating a little off the floor, at least that's the way it seemed to her. She opened the front door, walked inside, closing it behind her with the flick of her wrist.

She heard it close in the background as she entered the kitchen and sat herself down at the table. The package held firmly but almost tenderly in her hands with her elbows resting on the table in front of her. She didn't know why, but she kept looking at it, not opening it.

There was something different about this then the e-mails they'd sent back and forth to one and other. E-mail was great, phone calls too, but now in her hands she had something tangible. And it was different. She could feel that inside.

After a while the staring at the package got a little ridiculous even for her and she started to open it. When she'd done so, she reached inside and pulled out two items. The first was an envelope with her name on it, written in Xander's handwriting. The second was a small box, with a gold ribbon wrapped around it.

It didn't look like a ring box, to her, but whatever it was, it did peek her interest. She carefully undid the wrapping and opened it. As the top of the box, was slowly drawn up and she saw what was inside, her free hand rose to her mouth and she gasped, before a tear and a cry escaped her lips.

"Oh my god!" she said to herself, as she looked upon the contents with love emanating from her eyes.

She then carefully opened the envelope and took out the letter that was inside.

Dearest Dawn,

For two people who never found it difficult to talk to one another, you probably wouldn't believe the number of times I have written 'Dear Dawn' followed by a few lines and ripped up the paper. There seems so much I want to say, but no way to say it. It is strange not being able to see you every day. I now live in a nice apartment and it seems so empty without your presence. It makes me realize just how much I wasted our time together in England.

I think I will regret to my last days the way our last night together went. I should've realised that then wasn't the right time and I am grateful that you at least had the sense to stop it. I wish I had the courage to show you how I felt earlier, but like most things it seems I let the flow take me too long.

I want you to realize just how much you mean to me. I was in an almost completely dark place when we left Sunnydale, you were the only bright light in my life. Yes it took me a while to grasp that, and a little longer to get over the guilt of it, but that is a fact that can never be changed.

You are so precious to me. Your merest presence could make me happy, while to see you smile at me, warmed my heart in ways I didn't know it could be.

None the less, I am now a long way away from you, and will be for some time. It sucks no end that we should be parted. For even though we aren't together, friendships such as ours should not have an ocean between them. But no matter how far away, I want you to know that you will always be welcome here. After all, you have your own key now (I take it that you have already opened the other box, at least if I have taught you right you would have).

I must admit that I find myself a little off kilter still. No doubt you felt some of the same when you arrived in England last year. I can only hope that it works out as well for me.

You are constantly in my thoughts and I hope that you are well.

All my love,


Dawn didn't react for a moment, until she reached up to brush away a tear from her eye. At that exact moment in time she wanted nothing more than to be wrapped up in the arms of the man she was in love with. To be held safely and securely and feel the warmth from his chest as she rested her cheek against it. Instead she could only hold his words in her hand, and try to put aside the coolness of the air in the kitchen.

She was so caught up with her thoughts that she didn't hear Buffy arrive home from University.

"Hey Dawn," she said as she walked into the kitchen and placed her bag down on the chair opposite her sister. "Dawnie?" she asked, not having gotten a response the first time, and seeing that her sister was engrossed in a letter. It didn't take all that much skill to work out who the letter was from.

Buffy walked around the table and put a hand gently on Dawn's shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Dawn looked up, trying to smile in response to her sister's question, but it got lost in the midst of a sob which escaped her lips instead.

"Hey, it'll be okay," Buffy said wrapping her arms around Dawn, holding her for a moment. "Xander?" she asked, more for confirmation than any actual need to know.

Dawn nodded her head up and down. Buffy didn't need to say anymore. And she wasn't *that* much wrapped up in her own life to totally miss what Dawn had been going through over the last few weeks.

"I don't know what to do?" Dawn asked.

"About Xander?"

Dawn nodded.

Buffy took a deep breath. She had tried to stay out of Dawn and Xander's relationship as much as possible. She was happy for them. At least she was when she could see how happy they were. At the moment however, that was not the impression that Dawn was giving her, and she wondered if now was when she should tell Dawn her thoughts.

"Do you love him?" Buffy asked.

Dawn looked at Buffy like she'd just asked the most blatantly obvious question ever heard in the world. She titled her head and raised her eyebrows.

"No, I mean, do you truly love him. To you see yourself spending the rest of your life with him?" Buffy ventured carefully.

Dawn shrugged a little. She was tempted to say yes straight away, but something in the words that Buffy spoke made her actually think about the question. "I used to." She got this far away look in her eyes, and Buffy could tell she was reliving some fantasy she'd had. "I think I've dreamt about our wedding and children ever since I had a crush on him."

"But now?"

"I don't know," Dawn admitted. "I mean will Xander and I ever live in the same country again? I may want to go to University in England or he might get posted anywhere if something happens to Vi."

"You know that if you really want it to happen, then you both can make it work," Buffy told her.

"I know," Dawn replied softly. She knew she was having one of those days when you felt just a little too sorry for yourself.

"But, if you aren't sure. I mean if you aren't 100 percent certain that you and Xander will live happily ever after, then you shouldn't cut yourself off from life," Buffy said. She could see that Dawn was about to argue and so she continued. "I'm not saying go out and find yourself someone new right now. God knows don't use me for a guide, but you're only 17 Dawn, you have so much to live for. Trust me, as you grow up feelings can change."

"Don't write my feelings for Xander off like that," Dawn argued.

"I'm not," Buffy relied, keeping her voice calm. She could tell Dawn was putting up protective barriers and the last thing she wanted to do was to get into a shouting match with her sister at this point. "You will find yourself and your feelings growing and changing, and I just don't want you to miss out on anything."

"Is that why you haven't been in contact with Angel...or Spike?" Dawn asked delicately. She had avoided the subject for most of their time in England. Buffy had thrown herself into her new life with such joy, Dawn preferred not to dwell on her past.

Buffy smiled softly. "Time gives you perspective, Dawnie," she told her sister. "Xander's a great guy, and I love him dearly, but I can't tell you what to do; you will have to decide that for yourself."