Frag 'em all an' let the PTB sort it out

Author: eckles71 <eckles71[at]>

Disclaimer - I own nothing here.

Couples - take a wild guess.

X-Over - BtVS/Angel and Duke Nukem

Latest addition

Giles Apartment;
0826 hrs;
18th of April, 2004.

'Buffy' Elizabeth Anne Summers sat alone on the couch in her Watcher's Lounge, fiddling with the diamond engagement ring on her second left finger. Her features were fixed with a glare that was known to make the strongest opponent crumble to her will. But for the first time in her life, this gaze was directed at none but herself, as she stared intently into the reflective glass surface of Rupert Giles Liquor Cabinet. The image that returned to her awaiting eyes was a room full of people she considered her closest friends, and dearest family.

No words of comfort, or support were being offered to the blonde Slayer, only looks. Looks of disappointment, anger and pity. It was hard to believe that little more then eight hours earlier, these very same people where in this very same room celebrating as thou it was the end of days. When in fact they were celebrating because they had stopped the 'End of Days'.

Buffy cast her head down, haunted by the vivid flashes of memory linked to the earlier gathering. She had never seen everyone so happy at the one time before. Willow and Dawn had been singing. Connor was in the process of experimenting with the various drinks available under the watchful eyes of the re-admitted friend's to the 'fold' Wesley Wyndm-Pryce, AND the encouragement of the Rogue Slayer - Faith. Gunn and 'Fred' were in the corner whispering sweet nothings into each others ears whilst Oz was debating with Giles over which Rock n' Roll Bands of the 60's and 70's had a greater influence on today's culture. And Angel was drinking Champagne like it was going out of fashion, reveling in the new sensation's of taste (which wasn't blood, or bland) that had been absent in his life for close to 240-years.

Angel was human again, and Armageddon would have to wait another 1,000 years to take place. He had successfully earnt his humanity back from the 'Powers That Be'. But it could not have been possible, if not for the man who had devised the battle strategy, and was at that time happily sitting at her side.

This was truly one of the happiest moments of her life. Only just falling short of the Marriage Proposal she had received three weeks earlier from a man she referred too and looked upon as her 'Heart'.

What she had put him through since the moment she met him eight years earlier could only be described as 'Cruel & Unusual Punishment'. He loved her, and still maintained that love for her, even through periods when she was undeserving of it. When she did finally open her eyes to the life around her, it was as though she had lived in darkness, and for the first time been introduced to the Sun.

This man, who had been able to soften the heart of a High School 'Queen Bitch' to the point that she eventually became a Heavenly Warrior. This man, who had been successful in curbing the 'All-Men-Are-Evil' inclinations of a Vengeance Demon. A demon that had cherished this mantra for close to 1,100 years and had, possibly, for the first time in her entire life experienced the emotion Love - thanks to him.

This man, who was always there for her. Protecting her when he could, and correcting her when she was wrong. She was blinded by his uncompromising love, and warmed by his passion. But she feared that due to her actions several hours earlier this was now no-more.

She had now corrupted that love, that trust, by way of an indiscretion that now pained her. She could only imagine the thought's that were now going through his head, and prayed that Charles Gunn and Wesley could find him in time.

She had destroyed him as effectively as she would have dusted a newbie Vampire. Dracula, The First Slayer, even Spike had told her there was a darkness within her. It took years of counseling from the Watcher's Council and the support of a Knightly Man to overcome her dalliances with Spike, and of the emotional displacement she felt upon her 'return'.

He had held her hand throughout the therapy, as she spoke in graphic detail of the activities she and the Chipped-Vampire engaged in, and of the perverse feelings and sensations that arose during those moments. At no time did he ever recoil from her. He was of course visibly angered and disgusted from what he had heard. Especially when she spoke of her first 'encounter' with the Vampire when she was invisible. Yet to his eternal credit, her 'Heart' remained quiet, not once leaving her side during those humiliating sessions.

And it was then that she knew. Knew that it was love and not a harmless High School Crush, as she had so often entertained in her mind, he had felt towards her. And it was with this realization that she began to develop 'fresh' feelings for the one male in her life that had never left, betrayed, or used her. She now looked upon him with new eyes, and she didn't see him as her Xander-shaped-friend anymore. Gone was the wise-cracking teenager she had matured with, and had spent her darkest hours beside. She saw him possibly for the first time in along while. And she could now understand why all these amazing women in her life were drawn to him. Cordelia, Anya, Willow, Faith, and even Dawn.

So why did she do it? Could the Council have been wrong? Was there a darkness within her? She silently prayed there was, she doubted that she could look upon his face if there was a conscious decision behind her actions.

A light cough from Dawn drew her from the internal ramblings of her mind. She once again searched the room for any signs of understanding, forgiveness, sympathy - she found none, except in the eyes of the one person she wanted to see least of all. She wished that she could claim being drunk, taken advantage of, raped, or drugged. But she couldn't, Slayer strength and metabolism cancelled out all those arguments.

When Xander had left to drive Dawn back to her Dorm at SDU several hours earlier. She was imminently beset upon by a drunken Angel with the intention of creating forbidden L'amour between them. The alcohol had released a century's worth of inhibitions within the former Vampire. When Angel was human 225 years ago, he had a reputation as being a 'Player', the more unattainable the person; the more he desired to bed them. Angel - Liam was a creep, a charming creep who enjoyed the game of seduction and conquest. And to her current regret, Buffy surrendered to Angel's features and Liam's flowery words.

Maybe being a little bit tipsy also aided Angel/Liam's cause, but she was also drawn to the wrongness of the deed. It was going to be her and Angel's private, secret experience. No- one was going to know, or find out as long as they were done before her 'Heart' returned.

She was desperate to capture that moment, that future, which was stolen from her by the return of Angelus. She was engaged to a wonderful man, a man who loved her more then his own life, and she returned those feelings, but she felt cheated by fate. If love existed between her and Angel, she reasoned it was better to find out now then one year into the future; this belief was concurred by the drunken Angel as the pair haphazardly made their way upstairs to her and Xander's Bedroom. This theory and justification was flawed, and deep down she knew that sex did not equal love. But for some unexplained reason she felt drawn to the thirty-minute affair.

But despite her intentions, it was all a wasted effort, the alcohol Angel consumed caused 'problems' that every male drunk experiences when they try to prove their virility. So a compromise was met by the two, they just held each other. Naked and in each others arms, the two former lovers drifted off to sleep against their will.


It was at this fragile moment that the God's above decided to mock AleXander Harris as they had done so often in the past. As the young man innocently ascended the steps of 1630 Revello Drive, taking care not to awaken Angel, who he presumed was sleeping in the spare bedroom. He felt a bout of trepidation, a feeling which origins he could not explain. Growing up on the Hellmouth as a child, Xander had learnt early in life to trust his instincts, he felt that he should be concerned - but he could not explain why.

With care he grasped the handle to the door of his and Buffy's bedroom and quietly opened it. Instead of spying the slumbering form of his fiancée, he witnessed her naked - encaptured in the arms of an equally clothe-less Angel, with a gentle smile gracing her face.

At viewing this spectacle his world collapsed.

Buffy hadn't heard him return, or seen him enter. A numbing shock consumed his body as he withdrew from the room as silently as he had entered it.


It was the *click* of the bedroom door, and the sound of someone staggering down the stairs that drew Buffy from her pleasant slumber and her dream of a Wedding Day in the not so distant future, certainly within an 8-month period - that was still a secret, one she didn't want to share with the Groom-to-be until things got back to normal. Out of habit she turned to the clock on side table, but the face that came to view did not belong to her Heart. It was Angel's. Suddenly the memory of what they were going to do assaulted her, with desperation she willed her eye's into focus as she read the florescent red numbers beside the sleeping man's head - 45 minutes had past. This meant ---. She then heard the front door close. Pulling the bed sheets over her body, she approached the window. What she witnessed was Xander walking down her footpath like a Zombie.

It was then that the realization of event's struck her. She slid down the wall, hugging the sheets to her form, as a chasm grew in the core of her being, silently weeping over what she had sacrificed as a result of a mindless whim. It took two hours for the Slayer to draw herself out from her cationic state. Angel was still asleep in their bed, her and Xander's bed. New tears a washed her face as she forced herself not to scream out apologies to a man who was no longer there. She then, like a junkie experiencing withdrawal, awkwardly crawled to the telephone and called her Watcher.


Giles organized the collection of Buffy and Angel by Gunn and Wesley, and imminently called Willow and Dawn. It was however, not until the arrival of the Blonde Slayer to his Apartment that he learnt of the circumstances of her urgent phone call.

Giles had always looked upon Buffy as the daughter he never had, and Xander - the son he always wanted. Never in his life had he felt so disappointed in her, and so frightened for him.

Xander Harris was a man of extremes, how he would react to this 'betrayal' was concerning. The former Librarian recalled the tale told to him years earlier of the Construction Workers impulsive reaction to viewing Spike and Anya together, and he feared for the now humanized Angel. Spike, at the time was a soulless beast, but would Xander carry out the same form of retribution on a human? He wish he could have answer that question.

The Watcher knew of Xander's longtime affections for his Slayer, he also knew that it was always pure and untainted. When Buffy agreed to his Proposal earlier in the month --- well, he had never seen the young man that ecstatic. Not even when Anya and he had announced their own doomed and impending nuptials a couple of years earlier. But to walk in --- He feared for the young man safety.

Giles concern was shared by Gunn and Wesley, who imminently volunteered to go in search of the Construction Worker. Quite possibly, thought Giles, to avoid the drama that would be played out when the others arrived. If he hadn't felt obligated to remain and supervise his charge, he would have happily joined the mismatched duo in attempting to locate his 'adopted son'.

Willow, Faith, Fred, Oz and Connor were the first to arrive (06:32 am). They were already aware that something important was happening, as Gunn and Wesley and the rest of the LA Crew, minus Angel, were staying with Willow and Faith. When Giles had called for the services of Wes and Charles earlier, it imminently arose suspicions and concerns in the household. With the exception of Oz and Faith, everyone else in the group were displaying signs of Hang-overs from the party earlier. This, Giles thought, was fortunate - there was less of a chance of yelling if everyone was afraid to raise their own voices.

When the Englishman was questioned to the importance to the re-gathering he declined - stating that he would explain everything when Dawn eventually arrived. It did not take a mathematician to identify the only missing person. With an unspoken dialogue the recently arrived group separated into two. The girls focusing on Buffy, and Connor and Oz directing their attention towards Angel.

As the young women casually approached the blonde Slayer they were all taken aback by her anguished expression. When Willow motioned to hug her longtime friend she was stunned when Buffy forcibly removed herself from her loving embrace. But she was no less stunned when a set of firm hands were placed on her, and she and the others were steered away from their dearest friend, by her very own Watcher. The stern look upon Rupert Giles face removed any wish the three women had towards explaining his reasoning. They would just have to be silently content with their curiosity until Dawn arrived.

Blending into the darkened corner of Giles living room Angel observed the events that unfolded. Regretting his presence, as the Werewolf and his son made their approach. To his surprise, no challenge was offered. Oz's lupine senses had obviously picked up Buffy's scent upon his own. With this realization Oz lowered his head and shook it sadly, when his eyes returned to Angel's he was met with pure contempt. Connor, who did not possess the same K-9 abilities of the young Bass Player to his right, was accredited with his own innate ability and instants. That will happen when you are forced to survive to adolescence in what is considered by many in the Demon World as the Worst Hell Dimension amongst Hell Dimensions. The Vampire-child was able to draw his own conclusions to what took place, and he knew them to be correct when he saw the shame in his father's eyes.

But before Conner could bite out an accusation at the man responsible for his conception, Dawn arrived.

With care, Giles herded the group before him. Placing himself between Buffy and Angel, and the recent arrivals. He then commenced retelling the story that Buffy had told Wesley, and Wesley, him. The most affected by this tale were both Willow and Dawn. Willow because of her long-term, and brotherly relationship she had with the Slayer's fiancée, and Dawn because of the deep and loving feelings she once shared with her sister towards this man.

It didn't take much provoking for both women to attempt an attack on either guilty party. An ill timed apology from Angel was enough. Whilst Faith restrained Willow, Connor grabbed Dawn. Thou both young women were not the physical equals of their captors it did not halt or silence the angry words, questions and solemn oaths towards the two. It took several minutes for the hysteria to die, when it did, the Magic Shop Owner provided the Blonde Slayer and humanized Angel the opportunity to explain themselves. Neither offered any explanation, just an apology no- one wanted to hear.

The silence in the room was deafening, as all awaited the successful return of the 'Underworld' P.I.'s. Despite the eagerness of Oz, Willow, Faith and Dawn to join the search for their friend, their request was declined. Giles dictated that given everyone's current mind frame, that it would be unwise. There was also the fact that Wes and Gunn were searching randomly and that it would be a waste of energy to investigate over covered ground. Reluctantly they all complied, but this only added to the tension that now filled the room.


(8:42am) Charles Gunn and Wesley Wyndm-Pryce shared a defeated look as they stood before the front door of Rupert Giles Apartment. The news they had was not good. The only silver lining was the fact that it was not conclusive. They had a theory of what had happened to Xander. A theory that was born from the realistic interpretation of the evidence at hand.

"You sure you wanna do this Wes?"

"I don't think either of us have a choice in the matter. It's got to be one of us, and I don't see you volunteering."

The pair then proceeded to play a quick best-two-out-of-three game of 'Rock, Paper & Scissors'.

As the victor patted Wesley on the back and wishing him good luck. Charles Gunn opened the door, and the two entered to awaiting eyes.


The absence of everyone's favorite Xander-shaped-friend in the presence of the two Man Hunters was enough for a chorus of sobs to commence in the Living Room by Buffy, Willow and Dawn.

Barely finding the strength to speak the obvious question, Giles voiced "No Luck?"

Before Wesley could answer, the word's - "Screw this!" was then called out as Faith made her way past the women and the men in the Apartment. Making a direct and determine strides to the front door, with the obvious intention of instigating her own search for the lost Scooby. What paused her passage was her Former Watcher. Wesley was not the flop she remembered him being from years earlier. There was a dangerous edge to him now, one that she had to admit slightly frightened and aroused her. The Man Hunters again exchanged a look between each other. And indicated to Giles to follow them outside. Ensuring that no-one followed, Giles instructed Oz and Fred attend to the girls with their grief.

That instruction was of course disregarded by Faith who followed the three outside.

With the door closed, Wesley and Gunn lead Giles and Faith to their vehicle. As they did, Wesley shared with his fellow Watcher and former Slayer what they knew.

"We finished the sweep of the Cemeteries and Bars earlier then we expected - No luck. We then went to 'Willy's Place'. He was just in the process of closing up when we spoke to him. He didn't know anything about Xander, but he did say that he heard that there was a lot of commotion down at the new High School an hour or so earlier, and that some human was involved.

"When we arrived there were visible signs of a 'B & E', an entire outer wall was blown inwards, and the corridors were littered with these."

With this, Gunn opened the trunk of his car to the now curious eyes of the Watcher and Rogue Slayer. Within was a Demon Giles had never seen before in his life. In person, or in the precious Tomes in his care.

The beast resembled a human, but supported the facial features of a Pig, or wild Boar. Stumped the aged Englishman looked to and asked his junior composite "Have you seen one of these before?"

"No --- I was hoping you might be able to shed some light on its species or Genus for me."

"No --- no, sorry. The 'Human' Willy spoke of, was it Xander?"

"We think so." These were the first words the African- American had spoken since their return.

"Any Proof?" Faith countered.

"Yeah - Piggly-Wiggly, what do you guy's see?"

Leaning over the brim of the trunk to get a better view of the creature, Rupert Giles began a preliminary inspection. "Well --- the left side of its head is absent. Gun Shot by the looks of it.

"Look closer Man!"

Faith leaned over the aged Englishman's shoulder. She saw it imminently - "It's been Staked."

Both Los Angelian's nodded to the brunette's identification. Wesley then added "There's more", rolling the 'Pig-Man' to its side, he produced a fragment of a shirt from the side of the opened trunk. It was the same one Xander had worn the evening before. And it was covered in what was unmistakably blood.

"His?" was all Giles could usher out.

"These things bleed green Man." At this statement, Gunn gestured to the collection of green blood that had begun to pool on the interior carpet, and pointed once more to the material in Wesley's hand "That's human. That's Xander's. We joined the dots on this."

"So you found no body?" was all Faith could say. Feeling thrilled at the words as they left her mouth. But instead of receiving encouraging nods from the two men, what she received were grim expressions.

Wesley step forward, and spoke another discovered fact. "There was a Bomb. It looked as if it was a rather advanced Bomb. Its power source seemed to have been met with, err --- sabotage. With it destroyed, it ceased to function."

Giles almost staggered backwards, as Wesley's words sunk in [A Bomb at the School, atop of the Hellmouth? Insane!] "My God! What happened? Were all lucky to be alive. Bu--- but what has this got to do with no body?"

Gunn then took over the discussion as Wesley closed the trunk. "G. Faith. The area surrounding the bomb's housing was totally pulverized, ground zero stuff. Anybody within a dozen or so meters of the Power sources destruction would have been vaporized. We - Wes and I, think it was Xander who disarmed the bomb, and destroyed the source."

"How can you be sure? He might still be alive --- hurt." Desperation was now choking Giles words.

"We checked the Hospital before we came back G. No John Doe or Harris's admitted. Look, we suspected it was Xander because there was a bloodied palm print - human palm print, on the Bomb's cylinder. Look Giles, ---Faith, I know this might be difficult to believe, we weren't as close to the Man that you guy's were. But let's look at the facts:

Wesley then took over from his friend, who was now receiving death glares from Faith. "We have to accept that unless Xander appears in the very near future, --- we have to conclude that he sacrificed his life to save the world and prevent the Hellmouth from opening.

"Giles, Rupert. There's something else."

The elder Englishman looked upon the younger version of himself curiously as Wesley continued. "I think what happened with Angel and Buffy early this morning wasn't their fault. I've been doing some thinking. I think when we vanquished Garatok yesterday evening, because it was Angel who struck the killing blow, and because Buffy was the closest to the incident. Well ---" Wesley looked down to his feet and then towards the Apartment as he considered his next words, "Because those two were the ones in closest proximately to the Demon Lord's death, I believe they temporarily absorbed his 'Dark' energies. Both Angel and Buffy admitted that they didn't know what came over them. I think it was the dominance of Garatok's essence that compelled them to --- do what they knew was wrong, and damaging." Wesley let the sentence end.

All Rupert Giles could do was nod slowly, as he considered what was said. Silently berating himself for not considering that possibility himself earlier. After a moment he took Xander's shirt from Wesley's hand and led the three back to his apartment. With each step he prepared himself in breaking the news to those assembled inside.


The SunnyDale High School
18th of April, 2004

Without willing them, his feet followed a very old and familiar path back to the beginning. The chill of the pre-dawn air making his breath visible, as he stood before the exact spot that once held in place a sturdy railing. The very same spot he had proposed weeks earlier, and where he had literally fallen heads-over- heels eight years before that at the sight of the 'new-girl'. A 'new-girl' that would change his life in so many wonderful and terrifying ways.

During the 20-minute expedition to the re-built High School his mind swam in the memories of himself and his intended bride-to- be. He thought they were happy - he was; he thought they were going to create a family together - he wanted to; he thought she loved him without question - he did for her. But one day, --- no not even a full day - mere hours of Angel being Curse and Vampire free and they were once more together.

He wanted to scream but he had no voice. And he hurt too much inside to try and seek it out.

Hurt - not pain. Pain was intense, this was hollow. He felt empty, as thou the beating organ that was used to pump his blood was now no longer there. Sitting down on one of the lonely steps before the School he helped rebuild he considered his options. The options of an angry and destroyed man.

The first was going back home and beat Angel to an inch of his life, and he could do it too. He had held his own against Vampire's and other Demons successfully in the past. And these denizens typically possessed the strength and speed of three times that of the average man. Angel was now released of those physical abilities now. He could beat up an average Man - no problems. He quickly disregarded that thought, he still would have come off the loser of that fight regardless of whether he won or not.

The second was to go to Giles or Willow and cry out his discovery to them. He imminently discounted that consideration also. Buffy had made her choice, it may have sickened him, but a choice was made - and it wasn't him. He may have lost a lot this evening, but pride wasn't one of them. If he did go to either Scooby members it would only make him more pathetic then he felt at that very moment. Only this time he would be exposing his pathetic-ness to the world, and not dwelling with it in private.

The third option was to wander into 'Sweet Memories' and just offer himself to the first pack of Night Creepers that came his way. It was this third choice that was now finding a home in his desperate thoughts. To find peace, and be released from the hurt he now felt.

Suddenly the sound of a small explosion, Gunshot's and a high pitched squeal drew him from his suicidal ponderings. Turning his head towards the direction of the melee, he suddenly noticed one of the outer sidewalls of the School's Main Building had been blown inwards. This sight turned his burning heart into ice as the cool morning air caught in his throat, and a question now raised itself in his head - 'Who would want to break into the High School so dramatically?' Answer: No-one. But access to the HellMouth? That was a question with a more frightening answer.

Pausing slightly to consider notifying the others was his only delay towards the human sized dark breach to the side of the building. Xander decided against it. His rational - Whatever was happening would probably be all over before they had a chance to organized themselves. That and the fact he doubted he could look at Angel without giving into his first option.

With as much stealth as he possessed he approached the ready- made access at the wall. Drawing out a stake from his coat pocket Xander cautiously entered the School Building.

As he stepped over and through the rubble he heard more gunshots, followed by an unearthly animalistic yelps. He then heard a human voice echo down one of the many corridors. "Ya gotta luv what I do, cause I do it sooooo well!" this statement preceded more gunshots and more pained squeals.

In the Hall Xander stood still, trying to get his bearings to the new school design. At the sound of the sixth to seventh gunshot he was able to draw a bead on the direction of the battle and proceeded at full pace down the corridor.

As he rounded one of the bends he came face to face with one of the strangest Demon's he had seen running from the opposite direction - AWAY from origin of the human voice he had heard seconds earlier. The Demon's body resembled a man, with its facial features it's only deviance. It resembled a Pig. A very panicked Pig.

As the two met the 23-year old instinctively thrust his lone wooden weapon into the chest of the creature. Xander wasn't expecting it to go 'Poof', but regardless, when a Heart is impaled it's was just good manners to drop dead. All he received from the 'Pig-Man' was a now familiar squeal and a backhand blow across the face.

As the construction worker staggered backward from the impact his ears were met with the order "Hit the floor Moron!"

Xander immanently complied with the direction. Only when he was sucking lino a second later did he question why he wondered why he had thought the command was for him. These doubts were expelled when half-a-second later he heard another gunshot, and a dull thud as the beast fell beside him with the left side of his head blown away. Grabbing the creature's weapon, which curiously resembled a Ray Gun of sorts, Xander stood up to welcome his savior.

What strolled into view was a Kurt Russell look-alike on steroids. Attired in black fatigue pants, a crimson tank top, army boots and attitude. With each step he took, the stranger displayed an arrogance that can only be earnt by either the very lucky, or the very best. Chomping down upon a cigar that seemed to emphasis the sneer across his mouth the stranger spoke in a tone that expected no questioning, only obedience. "Get the Fuck out of here!"

"I can help. I've dealt with things like this before."

"Like Hell you have." By this stage the stranger was now standing a couple of feet from the Zeppo of the Scoobies. "Just cause you got one of their guns, don't mean you know how to use 'em. This is my play date, and I don't share well with others. So GET!"

Coolly Xander replied. "No"

Edging his face closer to Mr. & Mrs. Harris's pride-&-joy the poster boy for testosterone-r-us countered Xander's direct and simple answer. "Leave this to professionals. You'll only get yourself killed."

"Maybe that's what I want. But I'm telling you this - I ain't going anywhere."

Leaning impossibly closer to the construction worker, the Rambo wannabe whispered his next statement. "Save yourself some grief. Run home to your fuckin' bed, hide under the covers, act like this never happened and leave this to real men!"

After everything that he had experienced in the last few hours, this was the final straw. The last thing the Zeppo wanted, and the last place he wanted to be - was here. He DID want to be home in his bed, he DID want to be under its covers. But it was now, in his mind at least, no longer his bed. It was Buffy's and Angel's bed now - and he wanted no part of it. And as much as he may have wished otherwise, this night did happen. His worst nightmare happen - Buffy had chosen to be with someone else, someone she obviously loved more then him.

He was surprised that this thought no longer upset him, he was more angry then saddened. After everything he had been through with her over the years, this was how she treated his affections? She didn't even extend him the courtesy of breaking up with him before jumping into bed with another man. He deserved better then that. He remembered a promise he made years earlier about no-longer being anyone's Butt-Monkey. Well as far as he was concerned this was as good a time as any to keep that promise. So the 6'1" did something he had wanted to do for the last thirty-minutes. He hit something.

After close to a decade of fighting Demon's and Vampires, and years of Construction work Xander Harris knew the kind of power he could throw into a single blow. As his fist met chin, Xander then knew he was in trouble, it felt as thou he had hit a bag of cement. The stranger stood firm to the blow, his eye's now locked upon the fiance*, FORMER-fiancée of the Slayer. The only evidence to Xander's effort were the extra thick sunglasses that now lay at their feet.

The first impulse of Xander was to apologize to the man who had possibly saved his life seconds earlier. But he didn't want to apologize. He wanted a fight. He wanted to release his anger and to hurt something as much as he himself hurt. His muscles burned for a physical confrontation.

He stood defiantly before the 'Pig-Man'-Killer waiting for a reaction. The one he received was not one he was expecting. 'Rambo' smiled. It wasn't a 'That-was-a-nice- punch-Smile', and it wasn't a 'I-respect-you-now-Smile', it was the kind of smile you'd expect on the face of a person who invited you to come over to their place for Dinner - if that person was Hannibal Lector.

But before anything further took place between the two men, there was a slight shimmer to Xander's left. The Kurt Russell lookalike bit out a warning, and pushed the Scooby to the floor. When Xander turned back to where he was standing he saw an erect Lizard shimmer from the wall. It didn't appear as much as revealed itself, it had blended to the background like a chameleon, and now stood revealed in all it's Raptor like Glory.

The last second assistance Xander had received from his fellow human had cost his intended opponent greatly. A deep gash from the claw of the Reptile was visible and bleeding dramatically as the stranger ducked slashes from the creature as he tried to extricate a weapon with his good arm.

Xander fumbled with the gun he retrieved from the Pig- Soldier, desperately willing his absent and nearly forgotten 'Solider' experience to come out and play. In a flash of inspiration the Zeppo's fingers found the right position on the Ray Gun and fired. What was left in the wake of this action was a chaircoaled scaled figure, and Testosterone-Man voicing every curse under the sun, and inventing some fresh ones just for the hell of it with a limp left arm gushing blood.

Xander quickly removed his shirt and tired it over the wound site. Supporting the stranger as best he could. The Zeppo then forced his memory of the new school design forth, trying to identify the quickest and most direct route to the Nurses Office.

A few moments later the two men found themselves before a locked door. A locked door that was then immanently kicked opened. Once inside Xander placed the, he guessed 34-year-old, on the patient table and then began Jimmying open the various locked draws in search of medical supplies. As he did so he tried to get a dialogue established with the bleeding man.

"OK. What's going on here?"

With a sharp intake of air the stranger replied bitterly "Something that's way beyond you."

"There are a lot of things beyond me. Fame, fortune, a girl-friend who won't screw other guy's behind my back, but like I said back there - I can help, just tell me how I can and I will." The construction worker said this last bit with enough bitterness for it to be picked up from his patient.


"What did you say?"

Repeating his reply with a growl in his voice the man stressed his answer "You heard me. Your whipped. What happened? Your girl do the nasty with another bloke and you want to become some sort of hero to show her up?"

Xander was staggered at the insight of this Neanderthal, but chose to disregard the challenge to his manhood; he had more immediate concerns. "I have nothing to prove - to anyone, but I got a feeling the stakes in this are too high for me to ignore, and you're in no shape to deal with it yourself."

"Thanks to you."

"Maybe - but it doesn't change the here and now. Mainly that something is happening, and you're in no shape to stop it on your own. So answer these questions - Who are you? What are those things? And what do they want?"

In no short order the stranger answered the questions without batting an eye as the young man tended his wound with surprising skill. "I'm called Duke. Those things are genetic freaks - Hybrid Soldiers - products of a Regillian Alien Force. What they want is simple, they want what every Alien 'B' Movie plot say's they want - World Conquest."

Gauzing and taping the wound site up as best he could Xander posed his next question, even though he kind of expected the answer would involve the HellMouth. "Okay, how do they intend to do this?"

"They have a Reality/Time Gem. It's suppose to, once it's absorbed enough energy, explode and warp our reality making every man, woman and child Regillians. Instant population - without War, and no destruction of Planetary resources. Simple and devious. I don't know why they've established a base at a High School - but they have."

Placing the left arm in a sling before the pained hisses of Duke, Xander asked another question. "What kind of power source do they need?"

"Anything that gives off energy. It could be Hydro, Heat, Solar or other Radiation, Dimensio*"

"*Bingo! I know where this Gem is." Picking up the Ray Gun in his left hand, then helping Duke off the table with his right. Xander exclaimed before his patient "Dammit! I knew the Hellmouth was involved in this somehow."

"Hell - what?"

"A dimensional portal to all things not nice. Look I think I can get us there. I worked on this School a couple of years ago, and I know a few short cuts and blind spots that should help us out. But this has got to be a team effort; you can't do this on you own. So until we disarm this 'Gem-thing' we're on the same side. That means, we work together - Deal."

Duke extended his right hand and shock Xander's in a firm grip "Deal."

"Right then, let's go save this miserable Planet we call home."

As the two men exited the Nurses Office, the veteran of this and many other clashes flung the shirt that younger man had offered him to temporarily heed the blood of his wound into the outer corridor. The blood-soaked material met the floor unceremoniously and was ignored as the pair stalked forward as two lone champions for the world.


The SunnyDale High School Library

Duke hated to admit it, but the Loser who had taken a swipe at him fifteen minutes earlier was good. The young man operated like someone who had done this kind of thing for years. The body count of 'Pig Skin's' and 'Lizard Lips' were testimony to this fact. And Xander Harris was also not afraid to die. In the six minutes since they had left the Nurses Office, the Construction Worker had insanely thrown himself willingly into ambushes and crossfire. He survived each confrontation because the alien freaks had never planned for someone to be suicidal enough to take that kind of approach - that gave the 23-year old the advantage, an advantage that cleaved a green bloody passage to their goal.

The two men stood before the bomb, the younger was watching the door. The elder with his left arm in its sling was watching the time mechanism count down. Duke studied the device with care; the bomb was not designed as others were in the past. There were two fasteners on opposing sides of the Gem; he needed to release both simultaneously for the Gem to release its stored energy.

Duke scratched his chin in deep thought as Xander kept firing at the lone entrance, doing his best to hold back the tide of Pig and Lizard Warriors from storming in and reclaiming their prize. Doing his best to deliver the Sunnydale visitor as much needed time as he could.

Duke looked down to his injured left arm and tore it out of his sling; the aggressive motion caused the wound to once more open. As blood again flowed down his forearm he tried to will it into action. But the damage the Lizard Lip's had done to his muscles was to great, he needed time to heal. And Time - ironically, was not something he had in abundance at the moment.

Regretfully, he turned to the man beside him. He hated the idea of asking for help; he hated it more that he had to ask it from someone he didn't know. But the young man was right; the stakes were too high. Over the din of gunshot's Duke yelled out his request, knowing without a doubt in his mind that the 23-year old would agree. "Yo Moron!"

The shot's paused briefly for Xander to deliver both an amused and annoyed look. "Got a problem?"

Duke indicated to his still limp arm, and gestured to the bomb with his chin. "This thing is going to blow in two-minutes if we don't stop it. And then it's goodbye Beer, Girly Bars and Mom's Apple Pie. You think you can lend me an extra hand?"

Xander gritted his teeth and nodded as he blew another escapee from Jurassic Park away. "What do you need?"

"Just another set. You take one side, I take the other. When I say 'Go!' You release the clasp - but don't take your hand off the Gem. Whatever you do." Duke's voice began to strain under the urgency of his next words "If you want to survive this - you've got to ride the Eye."

Xander took another shot at the door for good measure, just to keep the Pig and Lizard Hybrids at bay. "What Eye?"

"The energy backlash. It'll crisp everything in this room, and deposit the Gem somewhere else in the Time-stream. Past or Future, got no way of telling. But we'll be going along for the ride."

Xander's face became placid as he measured what was said to him - how could he refuse. Reality was at stake! As if he didn't need any extra encouragement Duke sounded into his private thoughts with an old slogan "Tough Men make Tough Choices - so how tough are you?"

Xander fired several shot's, one directly after another, and positioned himself on the opposite side of the Gem that Duke was on. "Why not? It's not like I've got anything here worth sticking around for?"

"Righteous. GO!"

And with a smooth action with his hand, Xander and Duke unfastened the clasps and were then drenched in a soft blue light.


The SunnyDale High School - Corridor 'D' - Ground Floor.

The blue light basked over the corridor as two men emerged from its center, one with reddish/blonde hair, the other - wild long dark hair with wisps of gray at his temples sporting a full beard. They both moved with practice ease as they drew their weapons and placed their backs to each others scanning the distance for any unwanted presence.

It was the man in the blue tank top with a 'flat-top' hair style that spoke first. "Anything BS?"

"Nope - You?"


They both lowered their weapons and turned to face each other. It was the man called BS who noticed the architecture "OK, judging by the looks of things we're either late 20th Century or early 21st. You got any preference?"

The red haired man pulled out a cigar and lit it "I'll take Early."

With a half-hearted grin, BS answered "Late for me then." It had been an almost ancient bet between the two that the one who picked the right time-period got the free booze at the first Bar of call. Over the last four years of 'traveling' together Duke had displayed an almost uncanny ability to guess the right periods. Not that it ever minded Xander Harris - he never paid for the drinks anyway. They were always able to find a Bar Keep more then willing to put it on their 'Tab', to avoid a possible altercation with the two --- of coarse later on there would always be a Bar Room Brawl, and then the Bar Keep would always have other things on their mind then to think about the cost of a couple of drinks.

The two brutes strolled the corridors with raw power in every step, if you rode 'the stream' enough times your body would begin to compensate for the rigorous pressures it experienced as a result of time travel. When Xander - BS, slide the stream the first time he emerged on the other side exhausted. It was as if he had done a 1,000 hours of intensive workout followed by a triathlon, it took him two day's to recover from the experience. Now it no longer fazed him, and he presently possessed a body Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of. With each pace BS began to slowly notice familiar things before him, when the two hulks turned one of the bends they saw a dead 'Pig Skin'.

Duke quickly raised his weapon ready for another skirmish with his age old foe. BS placed his hand over the nuzzle of the Gun and slowly lowered it from his partners site. "I think --- I know, where we are Duke. Congrates, you won another one." BS then walked in front, taking leed as the Rambo reject followed. When they came to the blown in wall Duke recognized his handiwork and whispered out "The hellmouth?"

Xander answered - "Yep, the Hellmouth!" There was a twinge of regret in his voice, as he would have given anything to be anywhere - anytime else. In the distance, a 100 or so meters off, the two Hybrid Alien Killers saw a Black Convertible Mustang. That wasn't the curiosity. The curiosity belonged to the two men - one African/American the other White struggle to put something into the trunk of the car. Xander imminently recognized Charles and Wesley from his bitter memories and made an effort to call out. But the car peeled out of the Student/Staff Car Park without stopping. Suddenly the screeching sounds of police sirens echoed down the still quite street.

BS looked to Duke with a smile one his face. "Typical of the SunnyDale PD, a buck short and a week late." Xander then began to jog following the direction of the escaping Mustang with Duke in tow.

"Out of curiosity BS, where are we goin'?"

Without losing stride or pace, BS answered his partner "Consider it a Safe-House, a place where we can put up our feet, grab a shower and a couple of brews and work out what the Fuck happened to get us back here."



The two Time Warriors had just come over the crest of one of the many inclines and declines of Watkins Street; at the bottom was the familiar Apartment block. Out the front, as best as Xander could make out, was Giles, Faith, Wes and Charles around the car he had seen the later two depart in thirty minutes earlier. Xander slowed his run, and Duke matched his pace. Both men had been running non-stop for half an hour, but neither displayed any evidence of exhaustion. They weren't even breathing hard.

The small group then turned and followed Giles back into the apartment complex. An Apartment Complex Xander and Duke entered 2- minutes later. Xander stood before the door of an old, old friend, preparing to knock. Suddenly an outburst of emotion could be heard on the other side. Duke and Xander didn't have to communicate a word to each other as they both simultaneously kicked the door in.


Chapter 3

It is said that the most dangerous thing on this Planet is an injured animal.

This is a very popular misconception.

The most dangerous thing on this Planet is Purpose. An animal with a Purpose will stop at nothing to achieve its ends. If you got in its path it with go around you, over you, under you, and if necessary - through you, to meet their objective. Man is an Animal. And to meet a man with a Purpose is to meet a man whom you do not want to stand in their way.

With this information at your disposal now consider this quandary. If one man with Purpose was considered dangerous, then what would you consider two?


The front door of Apartment 12 splinted inwards, as if it had been constructed from the weakest of woods and not that of proud oak which had held off a dozen onslaughts of a dozen different Demon's fists over the years.

The hulkerian duo each had each drawn a personal weapon of choice for close quarter battles prior to their damaging kicks, taking a brief second to absorb the scene before them. The wailing cry's that they had heard a couple of seconds before had presented both their imaginations with a false impression of the expected peril within. These assorted female cries were not the upset panic of people in fear of their lives, these cries origin were in simple misery. A misery that had now been silenced as both men strode forward into the humble Californian dwelling. Each weighted and trudging footstep cracking the remnants of the front door below their heels.

Like true hero's born they made their presence felt without saying a single word.

One looked as if he was harshly chiselled from flesh and 'Cut' like Stallone in his golden days of 'Actiondom' with a reddish-blonde flat top, he had edged closer to the groups then his partner who seemed to have lagged in his approach.

The other intruder stood easily a foot taller and possessed a physical build more fitting of the latest in Hollywood's stable of Action Hero's and Wrestling Icons. His body was not as defined as his partner's was, but it was not any less impressive with its healthy girth of muscle and 'Rock'edness.

With everyone's attention now directed towards them and with the various wails now silenced. They continued to step forward across the foyer determinedly like a pair of marching soldiers. Their time-weary eyes continually searching the room for any sign of a threat.

*No*, correction; only one pair of eyes searched the room. The second pair, the one belonging to 'BS' had his trained only in one direction. The centre of the room.

Amongst the apartment's open areas small groups were embracing others, but in the centre of the room there was only a lonely pair. A couple that the other numbers had seemed to have emotionally and physically distanced themselves from during these sadden seconds prior to the 'entrance'. These isolated two were made up of a mid-twenty year old blonde haired, lean woman and a dashing darkly dressed man.

At scoping what his partner was focused on, the 'Buzzcut' looked appraisingly at the body language of the man beside him and made a judgement on how he should deal with all this. This assessment took but a flicker of time to make. Afterall, when you are forced to make such instant calls on the spur you become damn good at them and Duke and BS lived their lives like this for far too long. Living only by the seat of their pants and making the rules up as they went along. Where others would stall for a moment or two to meet a conclusion, these two would simply react. Their life style could not afford them the luxury of seconds, especially when seconds was the enemy that could decide the ultimate fate of Mankind.

The assorted famine sobs and yowls may have ceased at their sudden intrusion, but the women were all still weeping over their unknown heartache, all except for one - A Brunette in a navy tank top and black jeans. The males, with the exception of the one still in the caring embrace of the blonde, all began to take aggressive poses to the uninvited strangers and a few, including the brunette female, began to advance on the Time-Warriors.

The scene was a tense one, but it all but earnt a dry chuckle from the shorter of the two strangers as he lowered his shotgun and strapped it comfortably under his right arm. The weapon now fully visible and easily accessible for future use if called upon. With gruff confidence the man known to a select few as Duke addressed the advancing party. "Ease up Boy's n Girl's. We're not lookin' to send any of ya to da Hospital, so don't make us. We'd much rather have a brew then a brawl, and a bath over a Punch-up any day. So don't you put us in any position where we'd be happy to do both, right BS?"

To his right, and strangling the grip of a Viking Battle-Axe he had taken from one of his earlier adventures with the man on his left, the one called BS remained silent. Staring heatedly at the two 'Lovebirds' several meters away from him.


With his ex-fiancee unashamedly in the arms of her Lover, Xander Harris found it easy to ignore the unwanted nickname he had been saddled with by Duke at the beginning of their 'relationship'. Most who had heard the moniquer automatically came to the obvious, yet erroneously conclusion to what it meant. BS actually stood for 'Boy-Scout'. But right now, the once-Zeppo didn't feel much like a Boy Scout; he felt like a man who was experiencing a rebirth of hate and loathing.

When he had left Sunnydale with the Time-Saviour he was in a flux towards what decision he would make towards Angel about what had happened with him and Buffy. One of these earlier thoughts was pounding the Pretty-boy into hamburger meat, but he dispelled that decision as it would have reflected poorly upon him. That thought now quickly returned at seeing the sight before him and that nagging piece of conscience that stayed his hand years earlier was now no longer heard by him.


Xander remained deaf to his partner of four-years and took a menacing step forward, still holding his Axe. Displaying no intention of putting it down or sliding it back into its place of concealment in the mix-matched tanned leather trench-coat he wore. Commencing a threatening path towards his objective.

Following him at a respectable distance, Duke spoke out in his typically rough growled voice, guessing only too well what was on his Time-Partner's mind. Given where they were and when, it wasn't a tough call to make at figuring who the two were. "BS, whatever you wanna do - don't."

This statement stalled the dark haired juggernaut in his progression and he then looked questionary at his short statured friend. Again, with his trademark, and annoying sneer like smile, Duke padded down his pockets in search of something within before he continued on with his words. "At least don't do anythin' until I've had a chance to make myself good and comfortable for the Show."

'Nukem's name and origin, unlike 'BS', was still a mystery to the dark bearded partner. Several times he had asked what Duke's real last name was; he had thought it only fair as he knew his. Duke would just repeat the same thing, supporting a sneering smile as he did so, that 'Everything reveals itself in time'. It was frustrating and annoying, but then again what else could he have expected from Duke. It was how he was, self confidence bordering on arrogance. With more testosterone in his pinkie then most He-men had in their entire body.

The pinnacle of physical perfection that was now Xander Harris was once more satisfied with the VERY characteristic comment of Duke and nodded turning his head back to face his target. But instead what he came face-to-face with was a figure. A standing figure of a smaller man. A man who was easily now almost two-thirds his size and just as easily half of his body-weight. A man standing detiremanly in his path. A figure of a man he called a friend a lifetime ago.

This quizzical man that blocked his way, stared up and down at the 'Muscle-Beach' Poster Child before him, and sniffed the surrounding air. The Werewolf then stepped back in disbelief. He had detected the familiar scent when the 'stranger' first entered the room, but he could not believe it until he had gotten a closer whiff. Turning briefly to the others, then back upon the bearded 'friend' he whispered out a name he couldn't believe he was uttering. But scents don't lie. And neither did he. "Xander?!?!?"

His name hadn't been used in a long time. It was now almost foreign to his ears. But that didn't mean it had been forgotten by him. Nor of any of his past friendships. Nor of the circumstances of his decision 4-years earlier which led him to partner himself with Sexist-Neanderthal he now called his best friend.

His decision to join Duke in his Time-War was one based on an unfortunate circumstance that he had placed to rest in his mind. But now, seeing the foundation of his distress together, still in eachothers arms as they were to him years ago. This sight easily resurrected the heated and dead feelings within him once again for both and everybody to witness

"Outta my way Oz!" The voice was low, husky, and full of twisted emotion. But everyone in the room recognised it, even the ex-Vampire, and fiancee. The two hastily ungrasped eachother as they both freshly took in Xander's new appearance as the strawberry haired flat-topped co-intruder lit up a cigar he had now found in one of his many pouch-pockets and stalked around the room towards the couch.

As the partner to Xander passed the lycanthrope, Oz, for the briefest of seconds turned his head to face the stranger. Capturing his scent as he passed. The Bass Player's normal smooth brow crinkled at what he detected. But that was because what he detected made no sense, the reddish-blonde male's scent was familiar. Familiar and muddled. This, however, was something he could consider later; he had a more urgent business. So with more bravery that even surprised him, the Werewolf shook his head clear of the 'strange-ness' of the other unidentified male and extended his arms out to Xander. "No-way, Man. Not until you lose the Hatchet."

Xander looked down at the Battle-Axe still in his white-knuckled hands and nodded solemnly to the request. He had been so fixated at seeing Buffy and Angel together that he had forgotten that he was still holding it. Without effort the one time Fiancee of the Slayer placed the ancient weapon in the Lycanthropes hands.

As Oz accepted the burden weight he staggered lightly foreward, offering everybody present a visual appreciation of the surprising weight of the weapon that the former Zeppo had been handling with ease. The collection of heroes then stood aside silently as Xander passed them by, Willow and Dawn's expressions dictating a hundred unasked questions. But Xander's own expression towards the blonde and the one-time Vampire neutralised any words that could have found voice within them both.

Xander halted his menacing approach a meter before reaching the freshly separated two. Both expressions of the couple lost in shock at the impressive transformation of memory that they held hours before of this same man. It was obvious to those present that time had significantly elapsed for the male-Scooby, the thickness and length of his beard indicated as such, and the silvering of his temples dictated that at the very least either years or several traumatic ordeals by this man had been faced in his hourly absence from them.

It was too stunning a sight to take in and differentiate between what was, and what is. Angel looked at Buffy; her eyes redden and still betraying her horror at being told mere moments earlier that Xander, HER Xander, was believed dead by Giles, Wesley and Gunn. This now hasty 'resurrection' of the man she loved was one she was still stutteringly trying to realize was true. The once-vampire urned to still be holding her, to comfort her through his enigmatic return. But he knew such advances, even if they were purely platonic in nature would undoubtedly be unwise. And given the now surprisingly muscular width of Xander Harris, and of his own now depleted vampiric speed and strength, it would be tournamont to suicide if he was to do so.

Angel was human once more, possessing the average strength, speed and tolerance to pain a human of his size and general make-up possessed. And one look at Xander now immanently told him that the one time carpenter easily outclassed him presently in all of the above areas.

Uncomfortably, the recently restored human attempted to offer out his hand and an apology of what he believed Xander was undoubtedly due after witnessing the two of them together. An apology of their actions whilst they were under the essence-thrall of the newly deceased Demon King. And his hand as an equal and better. Yet before he could offer more then a syllable an odd statement and question came from the bearded 'Scooby' towards the wide-eyed gathering. "I'm thirsty. Duke, you thirsty?"

Puffing away contently on a distastefully smelling cigar, with his legs now comfortably extended along the leather couch belonging to the English Watcher, Xander's partner in Time answered the query with a pronounced sneer on his face and voice as it carried towards the direction of Xander, Buffy and Angel. "Is a bear Catholic?"

Xander picked up one of the half-emptied bottles of JD that still littered the room of the British born from the celebration they had earlier the previous evening. It was one of many semi-full bottles that had been started and never finished; yet still hadn't had the opportunity to have been cleaned up from. Xander then tossed it over his shoulder towards the direction of the man called 'Duke's' voice, refusing to take his penetrating eyes from Angel.

Daftly the senior Time-Warrior caught the bottle with one hand and begun to swill down several gulps that would have made a normal man sick. With the bottle drained Duke released an unflattering burp allowing it to slip to the carpeted floor.

The collected shock of everybody had now worn off, and each member of the once quietened group began to silently decipher what events had happened to Xander in the last few hours to have him re-present back into their lives so drastically changed from the night before. They would have each asked the same questions, but all were more then slightly un-nerved at the answers it would inspire. So they remained silent - again. Watching.

In a second attempt to find his voice Angel spoke. "Xander, I*"

A very muscular right hand held itself up in a stopping gesture. It was enough for Angel to silence his words at the direction as he watched Xander pick up another vessel from the floor. This one was a third empty bottle of Vodka that Connor had started earlier the previous night but couldn't stomach more then a couple a glasses.

Unscrewing the top, the bearded Scooby bought the bottles top to his lips. Air-pockets rose through via bubbles of the clear alcohol, indicating triumphic gulps. After four impressive demonstrations of constitution the Time-Traveller lowered the bottle from his mouth and announced to the still silent room. His voice boomed darkedly, refusing to pause for interruption.

"Have to say this is all an unexpected surprise, Duke and me ride on in back to Town and all I was hoping for was a chance to lay low for a few hours and shower, maybe shave, wash the duds an' clean the weaponry. Was gonna do it all on the sly too, you'd never have known. But then I we saw Wes an' Chucky load a Pigskin and I knew we had to intervene. An' look who I found when I did, all nice and cosy with eachother. Ain't my life grand?"


"That was rhetorical, Duke."

"Yer breakin' my heart, BS. Do what ya gonna do, an' do it! We haven't had a bath since 1412, and I hated to mention it to you but yer getting pretty ripe."

Xander ignored the comment and took another swig of the vodka in his hands. "That's mighty good stuff, not the typical rot-gut I've gotten used too." In his peripheral vision he spotted Willow about to say something, the *something* he could only guess at, but he knew he was right. He had made Willow promise him on his 15th Birthday that if she ever saw him begin to drink in excess that she would stop him. He spoke out sharply, his target the red-headed witch, but he was addressing everyone with his undercurrent of meaning. "What?!? You guy's all look surprised, what's the matter can't a man drink in the a.m. anymore?" Willow bowed her head ashamedly. "Oooohhhh, I get it. You're thinking that this is against character, right? Well, I think it's now pretty clear to one and all that a lot of things have changed lately; this is just one of them. Will you all look at yer'selves, with your gaping mouths, all thinking how can this be? Well kiddies, that's an easy mystery to explain. I'll give you a hint, just a word, and let you all work it out for yourselves -Infidelity."

The bitter comment cause no reaction, the bearded giant was expecting that. It meant he had an advantage over the 'couple', the truth was already out. But most of all he had an audience for what was to come, and he knew form people's lack of verbal defence to the 'hint' that the once-upon Vampire and his once-upon fiancé had no supporters against him. In those few seconds of silence a bright inspiration came. One he saw Duke do in Italy approximately 70-years ago. Causally he ignored the imploring eyes of his once Lover and continued. "After her betrayal and the 'Eye' my entire life changed, maybe not for the better, but it did change and the Drinking just helped smooth out the transition. Ya'see Deadboy, Buff, Gang, over the years I've been away I've learned to do whatever it took to lessen my pain. The pain Romeo and Juliet right here had bought into my life. I did it all, from crawling into the bottle to 'Riding the Dragon', I did it everything until it either ebbed or until I had none to feel."

Xander then raised the bottle in a mock salute to the two infront of him and took another couple of gulps. When he had finished he then turned the bottle over the former-Vampires head, allowing the remaining contents to bathe itself over Angel.

The newly restored human, accepted this indignity and humiliation in humbled silence infront of everyone. Feeling that Xander had more then the right to express himself in this fashion. Hell, in any fashion that the original Scooby felt justified in executing for the betrayal of friendship he had undertaken towards him by himself and his Fiancée.

As the clear fluid dripped through his hair and upon his clothing Angel remained quiet and willed himself not to visibly react. Xander progressed with his words as he then negotiated through the still stunned-silent group of people. Dropping the empty bottle to the floor as he made his way towards the enigmatic and amused Duke. "I've seen battlefields, and fought a two-man war whilst I've been gone, guys. Fighting the same tired and annoying enemy that has never made it into any of Giles History books. Mainly because me and Duke did whatever we could to never allow such a thing to happen. Still, and without a doubt these Muther's deserved to be in there.

"Christ, Giles, if you guys only knew the truth you'd dedicate an entire Wing of the Watcher's HQ just to them. Rigillian's, Lizard lips and your friend the Pigskin in the trunk of the car out front -If you only knew the truth and how close they have all come to fuckin' with history ---" Xander let the statement linger, as if he didn't feel he had to add anything to finishing it off for what it implied. "Duke and I have had adventures, and I have seen and faced terrors from your worst nightmares. I've nearly died six-times and would have been earth food long ago if not for this man." Xander then gestured to the strawberry blonde He-Man as he continued with his account. "But despite everything and through it all, there was always that 'Pain'. A 'Pain' that was with me since the beginning, and was only lost either through combat or booze.

"I could deal with a lot; I *HAVE* dealt with a lot, even before I rode the 'Eye'. So you guy's found eachother again. And yes, I know I should be all gushy, with the 'true-love-conquers-all' crap, but I wasn't. What can I say about those feelings other then I'm obviously a sore Loser? Eerrrnnn. Wrong!" By this stage the now 'older' Xander had reached his destination - the couch. Leaning forward slightly he withdrew from the startled mouth of his compatriot, the still lit stoogie. Xander then proceeded to draw in a deep polluted breath from the cigar and continued his pace around the lounge room. Unaffected by the hostile looks being delivered to him by his fellow Time-Warrior.

"You both wanted to be with one another, that's all good. I could've accepted that. But you should have at least come clean with me Buffy, Deadboy. I deserved to have been told, and not have discover it how I discovered it. You should have given me the opportunity to pull out with a measure of dignity before the two of you started to jump each other like rabbits. I should have been told that you two still cared for one another and be given the chance to break things off."

Buffy had finally drawn herself from her shocked stupor and began to rapidly process what was being said to her and skited towards her 'Heart', avoiding the various bottles and glasses that still lay on the floor like an obstacle course. "Xander, stop. No, you have it all wrong. It wasn't what it looked like. It was a mistake*"

"*You've made a lot of those over the years haven't you, Buff?" Xander's question held menacingly in the air as he began to reapproach the once vampire, all awhile still smoking the freshly liberated cigar. "Mistakes, I mean. Tell me, was I a mistake as well? Was what we had together somekind of cosmic blunder that you wanted to white-out and replace with something else? Something ---perfect?"

"No. No, you're perhaps the only one good, right and perfect thing I've ever done."

"That's touching. It really is, Buff. Not buying any of it though, but it's still touching to hear." The journey was now complete, as 'BS' had returned back from the place he had left several seconds earlier with the blonde Slayer desperately grasping his upper arm on his right side trying to get his attention. This attempt however was easily ignored by the muscular juggernaut as he spoke, addressing his following words to the entire room, and not just to the alcoholic drenched human and blonde at his side. "Anyway, like I said, over the years you learn to cope with the 'Pain' the best you can. Infact, the 'Pain' you introduced into my life made me a stronger person. After awhile of 'Travelling' with Duke I started to look at things differently. I started to look at things --- right. I started to look at 'us', you and me Buff, differently. And with the fortitude of your betrayal I dissected the true nature of our relationship together."

"Xander, please no. Don't say anything else, please. Not until you've heard everything that's happen.*"

"*Why? So you can try and talk your way out of what you and Angel did? Try and flog it off as something that really wasn't any of your fault? Geez, Buffy. For once, just once, take responsibility for the stuff you've done! We were a wrong fit from the start, Buff. How else could we have ever ended up?"

"No, we weren't. I don't believe that, you don't believe that. We're meant to be together!"

"No Buffy, we aren't. I was a sycophant, didn't you see that? I do. I realise all this now. Duke over there helped me realize that." Again, Xander gestured to the silent yet observant intruder sitting upon the couch. "I was always holding out for you, thinking that you could do no-wrong. But there wasn't ever a real balance or a partnership between us. There was just *you* and only you. There was never me, or an us, there was only you. Everything evolved around you and your burden of being a Slayer, of being the important one out of the two of us. Of being the one who had a place and a significance in the World.

"I accepted this and supported you in everything, even when I thought your actions were wrong and stupid. But when I thought back over all the years I knew you I couldn't truly remembered if you ever willingly supported me in the same way I always did for you. And if you did support me it was more so I think out of obligation. As a type of repayment for the friendship I offered you and not for the feelings I felt.

"Do you know what it was like playing the role of your side-kick or comedy relief, Buffy? My only one true claim to fame it seemed was being the guy who stupidly and stubbornly loved you. I was your confident, your advisor, and your most dependable little helper. Now I realize that saying all these things that it may make me come off as bitter and jealous, but I'm not those things, really. Not anymore, you have your destiny and I have mine. I loved you Buffy, as much as I dared love you and I loved you more beyond that. But I can't help but think that sometimes my emotions for you weren't appreciated."

"I *appreciated* you."

"But I don't think you loved me, Buffy. Cause if you did, then you wouldn't have taken my feelings for granted." Xander shook his head angrily. "To think that you both thought that you could *do*what you did to me, and I would just accept it?!? That you would have sex with him again and I'd be all fine with it?

"I was forever a shadow just waiting in the wings for you to notice me and my feelings for you, and I felt like I would spend my entire life as that shadow. But then after one of your 'Sessions' with the Watcher's Psychiatrist you asked me if any normal and sane guy could love a train-wreak like you. I said - 'Yes, because I did.' You then kissed me on the cheek and said 'Where was I hiding all your life?' I replied that I was never hiding, I was right in front of you just waiting to be seen. You then kissed my cheek once more, hugged me, and then moved your lips to mine. I don't know for sure whether you felt anything when they met, but I sure did. And then you asked me out on a god to honest *Date*. Me! Finally you were seeing me, finally you were kissing me. And we did Date, we had fun, and after several fan-tab-olous evenings out we eventually made Love to one another. And when we did I never felt so content, so fulfilled and so totally 'there' in my entire life. And I used to think that you felt the same as well. So after several months of contentment, fulfilment and 'there-ness' I asked you the question I thought I would never get a chance to ask, and this time it was your turn to say 'Yes' to me.

"With that simple word - Yes, the past, yours and mine, didn't matter anymore to me. The past was history. We were going to make a future and I was prepared to sweat blood to make that future a great one."

As these words declared themselves tears easily flowed down the tracks that had been earlier established on the Slayer's cheeks. "Xander, I *do* love you."

The three words that once meant so much to his ears, now easily slid off of him now. "I treated you good Buffy, better then you deserved sometimes, and you know it too. I've treated you like a Queen, with nothing but love and respect since the moment I met you. And I held onto that despite every crappy thing I saw you do and have done to me by you over the years. Even when I was with other people, I always put you first. And let me tell you this - they knew. They knew how I felt about them in relation to how I felt about you. Cordelia, Willow, Anya, they all knew I loved you more then them. And I took every heartache you delivered to me and I willingly ignored and accepted all your transitions against me just to hear you say those three little words that your now speaking.

"But now? Now I see the kind of things I did to hear them repeated by you, and it revealed a mandible person in myself. I was weak to you, and the memory of how I was now sickens me to the point I want to barf. I used to quietly love, with the insane hope that one-day you might see this love, this respect, this devotion, and be able to reflect it back upon me. But I didn't honestly believe you ever could, and in time I guess I was proved right. Still, I foolishly thought that it was conceivable that you would at the time. Afterall, I did ask, and you did say 'Yes'. On the front steps of SunnyHell High I asked you to marry me, and you said 'Yes'!

"But being asked to Marry someone isn't like being asked 'Do you want Take-Out tonight?'. It's about what I just said. Love, Respect, Devotion. Man, these must be alien concepts to you. Cause one month later, and three hours after DB being 100% oxygen dependent ---" Xander maintained his stony expression as his significant other began to tremble in fear of what was about to pass from his lips. He didn't finish the sentence, he left it hanging for a moment, unwilling to mentally recall or verbalize the image that welcomed his tired eyes when he had opened their Bedroom door. So he instead recommenced with a new approach from his paused stride. "Love, Respect and Devotion. That's three parts of the Marriage Vow's I had hoped we'd take one day Buff, to be joined as one under God. I Loved, Respected and was Devoted to you. But marriage isn't a two-way street, it's all one-way. With both man and wife heading in the same direction together and I couldn't do the journey all by myself. If you didn't feel the same for me, then ---- then even though I probably have enough love for you to spare, it's still would not have been enough to make a successful Marriage work. It just couldn't.

"I've seen crappy marriages Buff; I'm the product of a crappy Marriage. And I'll be damn if I was going to be part of one. Where you were concerned my love it seems was just never enough for you - *I* wasn't enough for you. Whether it was a fight, or for love, I guess I was always the last resort and second best. So I'm cutting my losses, and I'm getting out while the getting is still good."

"Xan--- Xander, we can wo--- work through this. You don't know the full story. I love you!"

"The full story? The full story is that after less then an hour of me being away taking Dawnie, your little sister, back to her Dorm, I come home to find you two both naked. In our bed. Are you telling me that didn't happen? That my eyes were betraying me? You two weren't in eachother's arms with you smiling and basking in the afterglow?"

"No afterglow! Nothing happened! Nothing! We were in a trance-type-thing. Angel and me, we absorbed the dark emotions of the ---*" Buffy looked at the unwavering expression on her Fiancees face and knew that her words would not hold any sway. And she was not prepared to giveup on their relationship as easily as Xander had. "*Giles, Wesley. Tell him. Please, tell him what you told us!"

Rupert Giles stepped forward carefully and addressed the 'man' he had watched grow like a Son. "It's true. We believe that Angel and Buffy absorbed the negative essence of Garatok when they killed him. That this essence made them incline to follow their baser and darker desires to engage in acts that they knew was wrong."


Even the renowned confidence of both Watchers had to relinquish that it was indeed only a theory. One that they believed, but without witnessing it, it was all it could be at this time.

The blonde Slayer, realising that her hopes at retrieving Xanders heart --- her 'Heart', were slipping away quicker then she thought possible, and was about to offer another declaration when the stranger on the couch intruded upon her words. "Did ya know? What it was you were both doin'? Did ya both know it was wrong?"

Xander's eyes refocussed on 'Duke' for a second, and then returned with a fresh intensity towards her bluish-green, understanding the depths of the question made. "The Man asked you a question, Buffy. When the two of you were doing an impression of the beast with two backs. Did you know it was wrong?"

An annoyance for the 'Intruder' grew within the Slayer as she shouted out her answer. Half in anger and half in grief of the misery it had caused her this morning. "WE DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! Angel was too drunk; we just held eachother - that's it!"

Duke remained unaffected by the outburst. "But did you know? Hell, did you even care?"

"Of course I cared. When we were making it up the stairs together. I knew it was wrong." As she turned her head to once more look at the face of the man she loved her hair whipped about her as she repeated the statement. "I cared, Xander. I did. I DO! But I couldn't --- we were just --- we couldn't stop ourselves." Buffy hoped her words would settle any doubts towards her state of mind at the dark time, and she was right. It did. Only not in the fashion she was expecting.

"You knew it was wrong? But you did it anyway. I wonder just how much of you DID try, Buff. I mean it falls directly into pattern with you doesn't it - You saw an opportunity for me being gone, being outta the 'know' for a bit and you both took the opportunity." An old, but never forgotten hurt rose in the once-Zeppo as his words settled colder then ice. "Just like your 'relationship' with Spike. You said that you knew *that* was wrong as well, but you did it anyway. Because it fulfilled a part of you that needed the excitement and the danger he offered you. <Humph> Still, I suppose I should be grateful that this time you refrained from doing it while I was in the room with you, huh?"

Xander then offered a bitter and dark laugh at his own expense as he shook his head again, and then continued as Buffy and Angel tried to recover and find voice. "Y'know Buff, if you cared for me as much as you say I would have expected some kinda morals to have kicked in, especially if you knew it was wrong." Xander took a deep inhaling of the Cigar and looked at Angel's quiet presence. "And as for you 'Mr Superior'? You with your 100 year experience of holding back your Vampire/Demon self, you sayin' you couldn't find the fortitude in you to just say 'No', even if it was for one hour?"

"I --- I was drunk. I couldn't ---*"

"Ah, I see." The hulkerian Scooby looked into Angel's eyes deeply and voiced a cold demand to the weak excuse. "You must both think you're pretty untouchable, huh? Throw that story around about possession and being drunk and it explains everything. And you guys come off looking like the poor victims, an' smelling' like roses. But you weren't the victims - I was! But not now, not anymore. I'm not anybodies victim any longer."

Xander then took another puff of the liberated cigar before he continued berating the guilty face of Angel. "You were drunk? That's all you got ta say? You were Drunk? My Old-Man used to clap me around the ear-hole when I was a kid, an' guess what - that excuse didn't wash with me then and it has even less effect on me now.

"You weren't drunk enough to make it up the staircase. You weren't drunk enough to get undressed. You weren't drunk enough to get on my bed with my Fiancee. MY BED! *OUR* BED! WITH MY FUCKIN' FIANCEE! You think 'I was drunk' is going to cut it with me, Angie? Guess what, it won't. So why don't you go burn in Hell, Angel!"

Xander drew in another breath through the cigar before continuing, exhaling into his face. "Here let me warm you up to the idea and your future." With a casual flick of his fingers, the half finished Cigar flew across the short distance and met the alcohol-drenched clothing. From this brief introduction there was a light bluish colour rise at the base of the flames from the dark clothing. Orange flames began to lap at the material adorning the now human.

With a vice-grip Xander then grabbed Buffy and pulled her away from the burning Angel as the inflamed man hastily dropped to the floor and began to roll around to smother one of nature's four elements. Hollering in surprise and pain. The collection of onlookers ran to assist the previously ostracised hero, and once the fire had been successfully extinguished, all looked towards the assailant with blatant fear of what they just witnessed. With a cruel smirk rising through the dark beard, the man called 'BS' addressed the trembling Angel. "I'm not a Victim anymore, Angie. I'm a Victor now."

"Yeah? Well I'm not one either. Why'd you do that?"

BS then turn his attention away from the now redden skin and burnt clothing of his foe and a looked at the face of Angel's son, replying to his question without restraint to the bottled hatred he maintained within him for his father. "Cause I didn't have a rusted pair hedge clippers handy."

Another dark laugh was then heard coming from Xander's back by the man called Duke. The son however did not find the statement as amusing as the stranger and commenced an approach towards his father's attacker with a hostile look in his eyes. By the forth step there was a deep sounding 'click-clack' heard about the room. Looking pass the mountainous shoulder's of Xander Harris, Connor spied the source of the familiar noise.

The source was a Pump-action Shotgun held by the stranger with the nuzzle maintained upon him. "Like I said before 'Jack Corner'. Just cause I don't wanna send any of ya to the Hospital, it don't mean I'm not prepared to. So why don't you make any future girl of yours happy and back the fuck off." As Duke said these final words he slowly altered the angle of his gun downwards, until its line of sight met the teenager's crotch. "Better do it, Junior, and do it now!"

With his eyes now bearing on the weapon and the man holding it, the child of two Vampires slowly backed away. It was a physical action that did not diminish the growth of anger within him though for both men it was directed upon.

Buffy still stood at Xander's side in a state of shock, as was Willow, Fred, Dawn, and Giles to what they had just seen Xander casually do another. She stood oblivious to the still maintained grip on her arm by her 'Heart' until it was roughly pulled by the Time-Warrior as he began to walk to the Patio, dragging the blonde beside him without effort or thought. Announcing his intentions as he did so. "Let's us go outside for some privacy. You got things settled in here, Duke?"

"It's sweet. Go ahead an' have your chat, I don't think you'll be bothered by anyone. And if they try do, 'Gloria' an' me will have some choice words with them."

Another familiar and mirrored smirky-smile was returned under a bearded face as BS continued to semi-drag Buffy out into Giles Courtyard.

Chapter 4

The glass sliding door closed with a heavy 'click' to offer privacy to the pair. Without too much care Xander released Buffy in the direction of the Patio furniture. The momentum of her fresh freedom caused the Slayer to stagger backwards unceremoniously until one of the seats caught under her and she fell back into it.

"We're out here Buff, cause I didn't want to create a scene."

The Blonde Slayer didn't know whether she should have found either amusement or fear in what was said, especially after seeing what had happened 15-seconds before. If he was serious, then it certainly didn't bode well for her.

Bluffing her fears away, she took a stance that had always served her well when confronting Demon's and Vamps. With as much false confidence and conviction as she could muster she decided to demonstrate this honed skill on one she never thought she would ever have too. "Well you did a fine and dandy job avoiding all that with Angel. You hurt him, Xander. What did all that achieve except to make us all well and truly frighten of you, too make me frightened of you?"

The growl in his voice, the low rumbling that seemed now to be always present when he spoke, emerged once more at the voiced and sarcastic concern of the Slayer for the once-vampire. But unlike before where his words carried a raw heat in their creation there was now instead a slightly settled tone of resentment. "Don't you go worrying yourself over what I just did to your fuck-buddy? He'll be alright; it was all pretty much for show. Superficial burns at best, at worst that little face of his won't be getting much action anymore from the fairer sex no more." That was all pretty much for show"

With this comment another dark and almost twisted laugh rose in his throat. "He does squeal like a little girl doesn't he?" Another throated chuckle exited him, one that caused Buffy's eyes to widen at the casual snideness just made to a 'once friend's pain. Xander noticed the desperate look offered to him for the Lover's fate and addressed the female sitting at his side with an unfeeling, yet very evenly spoken explanation. "I couldn't have let him walk away from me with out taking something from him, Buffy. Duke would never have let me hear the end of it if I did." Xander then surprisingly sat calmly in the plastic chair next to her and looked into is lap with a dead-man's look, a look of contemplation. The words that then followed to her ears were chosen with care. "I don't know why we're back here Buff. Man, I'd give anything to be some where and some when else, trust me on that. But *we* are here. So you, and everybody inside had just best deal with the arrangement and stay out of our way until we leave. Cause truth be told, Duke, was dead serious about the whole sending people to Hospital thing. He's got no problem taking out civilians if they give him any grief, or if he doesn't agree with their politics."

"How could you agree to be with someone like that, Xander. Someone who hurt's people and pulls gun's on them. Hurting Angel because it'll bring you a type of twisted favour from him*"

"Let's get one thing straight here, Buff. I don't give a damn about Angel. What I just did to him was a fragin' slap on the back of the hand, and a gift. In a month, his burns will probably be all gone. But I've had to deal with what you two have burned into my memory for four years."

"Xander, I was - *we*, were possessed, kinda. Giles and Wesley's said*."

"Save it, Buffy. That theory is like a dying man's grasp - pathetic and weak. You can sell it all you like to everybody else, but this Black-Duck ain't buyin'. That's cause I was there, I walked in. I saw the two of you holding eachother - naked. It was Spike all over again, and I'm not gonna take a back seat and bury my feelings like before."


"Drop the subject, Buff. For your own good, you don't want me pissed off more then I already am."

"Why, what are you going to do? I don't see any bottles of alcohol around. What are going to do?"

Xander then looked directly at Buffy's face, her false resilience easily breaking through. "There was a Slaver in Rome, he used to auction off girls and boy's too perverted disgusting old men and women. Kid's there had a value lower then cattle, and for many 'special bidders' these children only had one worth. If this Slaver thought you would buy big on his 'Stock' he'd invite you into his Private Tent to --- demonstrate how 'compliant' to instruction these eight and nine year olds could be. Do you really, REALLY wanna know what I can do to you without any alcohol around, Buffy? Let me just say this much, that guy, after me and Duke found out what he was doing, he never gave anymore demonstrations ever again. An' you wanna know something else - Duke did it all with a smile on his face. And before you get all holier then thou and carried away with 'It-was-a-human-and-he-had-a-soul-crap', like you usually do. Let me just say I was right there with him, holding this bastard down. Listening, unmoved as that sick Toga wearing asshole was pleading and begging for his --- equipment. He was one twisted-puppy, and he totally deserved what we did to him. So in relation to that - consider what I did to Deadboy as restrained in the extreme, and don't go testing me."

Xander's expression began to drift from committed anger to desperate loss as the threat was said, a misery clear in his dry eyes of a remembrance of an innocence that had maybe been lost to him through this act and possibly more 'justified' assaults on people.

Buffy saw this brief vulnerability as an opportunity to desperately make a connection with this 'stranger' once more. A stranger she needed too --- NO. Wanted too keep in her life to the point that all she could feel was pain at his potential loss from her. Slowly and carefully her hands drifted over the chasm of space that separated the two. When they clasped his, she was imminently taken aback not only by the coolness of his body temperature, but at his skin's coarseness. The fake confidence she had left her as she soothingly whispered her concerns to him. "Xander, tell me. What happened to you?"

At the gentle request his tone also became softer, smoothing over it's roughness and for an instant he sounded to her like her 'Heart' once more and not the callous and hardened man he sounded like a moment earlier. "Nothing good, but nothing I'm ashamed of either. God, the things I've seen Buffy, the things I've been apart of, the stuff I've done. Forget that man you and everybody else knew yesterday, he's gone. Gone and dead, and as far as I'm concerned it's --- it's good riddance. He was like I told you inside, he was weak. He could never have made the dark moral decisions I've made over the centuries. I can't stop people doing evil things, it's in our nature. We all have good and bad in us. But some of us find it easier to give into the darkness then to embrace the light. But just cause I can't stop evil, it doesn't mean I can't stop people doing evil things."

It was at the conclusion of these words that the man referred to as 'BS' caught himself in his 'weakness' of yesteryear and righted himself, turning and looking into the features of a woman unable to know what she should be feeling at that moment. "But I didn't bring you out here to hash over the 'no-times' with you, Buff. I ride the edge, but that's my call. And I'm telling you this to educate you on just how far I now am from the lap-dog I once was. The two of us have an issue that's gotta be closed, and we can do it easy, or we can do it hard."

A dread and fear overwhelmed her as his tone progressed to sound like chiselled stone with each spoken word. If he was prepared to incinerate Angel in full view of everyone then what was he prepared to do with her now in private? How dangerous was he now? Unconsciously, she withdrew her hands from his and wrapped her arms over her stomach in preparation for any physical assault. Whatever was to follow she was going to offer the life she held within her all the protection she could. But she wasn't going to raise a hand against him, she couldn't. This was still Xander, there still had to be a piece of the man she was devoted too inside this shell. Something inside her told her, a suspicion, that he led her out to have just words.

Mixed fears and thoughts conflicted, still she wasn't going to do anything that would encourage a physical melee with him so she fought herself to keep silent until the right opportunity let itself be known to her.

With a deceptively calm voice, and yes, it was deceptive to a lay-man, but not to her. Because she could easily tell through the now clenching of his fists and jaw that despite its even tone there was a torrent of tired and bitter emotions underneath his delivered words. His composure had now returned to the man he was inside Giles Apartment, and the gentle man she loved was once again lost to her, to be replaced instead by this 'no-nonsense persona'.

His booming and commanding voice seemed to carry nothing but hurt directed towards her. "I meant what I said in there earlier, Buff. I really don't think this could have worked between us. You and me. We may have tried, but we would have failed. We both just had too different a goals and expectations out of our lives.

"Since you were 'Called' your very existence has been centred on the violence and the excitement of the Night; you might deny it now, Buff. But the truth is that you've received many opportunities to 'Retire' over the years, but you've turned 'em down each time. The want's of my Life was the opposite too yours. Always for the peace and the quiet, I never went looking for the excitement even though it always seemed to find me. Your resigned to the whole Slayer = Early Grave equation, and I wanted to reach 120, and God willing, be surrounded by Children, Grandchildren, and Great-Grandchildren, as well as still be in the arms of someone I loved since the moment we had been wed. I wanted that woman to be you, but you live your life like your not expecting to make it to thirty.

"Basically Buffy, I wanted to be with someone I could have built a future with, but you don't think you had one. I can't give you what you need, and you have by your own past, refuse to deliver to me what I want.

"This Engagement thing we had going between us was a mistake from the very start. We both obviously got caught up in the passion and the convenience of knowing eachother so well that we confused our long standing familiarity for one another as love. You 'found' me when you needed somebody stable, devoted, loyal and caring. You were having some very emotionally trying Sessions with the Watcher's and you saw me as the one Guy in your life who was always at your side being just what you needed when you needed it the most - like always. I was dependable and safe, someone you knew who would never consciously hurt you.

"I was someone whose feelings you could also control with a touch of your fingers and a battering of your eyelashes. I --- I guess I --- I --- deep down I guess I always suspected that. That your love for me was not the same as my love for you. But at the time I didn't care, I had you finally in my life in the way I always selfishly wanted. But truth was at that vulnerable stage of your life you didn't need a Lover I wanted to be, deep down you needed a Friend I should have been. I betrayed you worse then Spike ever did, Buffy."

Buffy shook her head and quickly addressed what she believed in her heart of hearts what was false and wrong. "No, you didn't. I know what your doing, Xander Harris. Your trying to make me turn against you. Telling me these stories, telling me how much you've changed. Trying to make yourself sound like the bad-guy and me as your victim. Your hoping I'll believe you, that deep down your still not the most honourable and courageous and sweetest man I've ever known. You're trying to encourage an argument, one in which I'd agree with you on how badly you took advantage of me, and how much of a monster you now are. But that's not true, I've got your number, Mister. And you won't trick me into saying otherwise. And you DO love me, Xander. What you did to Angel moments ago is evidence of that. Can't you see that! You DO still love me. You wouldn't have done what you did to him if you didn't feel threatened by him and upset at what you thought happened between us. You still love me, just as much as I love you."

"Dammit, Buffy. Give it up already. I don't care for you any more - End of Story. I got over you years ago, and there hasn't been a day go by where I haven't cursed your name or memory in one form or another. And there hasn't been a single time-period I've visited in 4-years that I haven't tried fucking myself silly in. Point - three weeks, and about 150 years ago, me and Duke got ourselves good and horny in India and decided to pay the 130-wives of a local Maharajah a late night Booty-Call. We didn't leave and we stayed hidden in that Harem for a week. I Karma Sutured my ass off. And they loved it, trust me Buff, these women were weeping when me and Duke had to slide our selves gone."

Though her resolve was set, the longest living Slayer's lower lip did began to tremble at the claim. "That's not going to work either, Xander. I love you. And though I DO care how many women you say you've bedded, it won't change my feelings for you. It won't."

"Gee-ZUS! Don't you get it? I'm doing you a favour - go to him, love him, fuck him stupid all you want. Him, or somebody else. I. DON'T. CARE. We got nothing here anymore Buff, and now my life has taken me along a path that I can't escape. And believe me - I've wanted to escape it, more then once. But I just can't."

"What are you talking about? You're here now. You don't have to go anywhere, and if that psychopath in there tries to take you from us, I will personally rip his arms off and beat him to death with them. You have a home, Xander. You have me, and Dawn, and Willow, and Giles, and Faith. You have a family, Xander. It's here."

"I've got no home anymore and my 'family' has been replaced by responsibility, Buffy. One that I can't just give up or throw in. An' don't go calling Duke a psychopath, cause if he's one then so am I. You might look down your nose at him, Christ, before we hooked I probably would have done the same. But he sees the World more clearer and more simpler then you will ever know. Grey doesn't exist for him, there's right and there is wrong. And if he sees wrong he's not afraid to step up to the plate and make things right again. When you were always bullied as a child, he's that imaginary kid who would always be there to stand up for you. Only in his case he's real. It doesn't matter if it's 5-1 or 50, Duke will stand up and take the world on and go down in a blaze if he saw the little guy being stepped on. He's the every-man Hero, the guy every red blooded, red-meat eating guy wishes they could be like, and he needs me to watch out for him, even though he won't admit to it.

"Look, I linked up with him because when we met his arm was injured cause of me, but it's now 100% and even though I got a standing invitation by him to bail whenever we hit a sweet 'Period'. One where I can blend in with the locals and make a fresh life for myself, I just can't. I mean the man has saved my life, Buffy. I owe him."

"Well, I've saved your life too, Xander, and a lot more then just once too. By your reasoning you owe me just as much. So I'm asking you too stay. Please."

"No, Buffy. I can't." The was no mistaking the resolution, and Buffy knew that in hearing the four word reply that there was more to the story and reason then what was being passed along to her. She had to retrain herself with silence, but she was confident that Xander, if not badgered, would impart this truth to her if she didn't imminently follow the statement with further questioning. She was relieved that she still knew Xander well enough, fore after several uncomfortable seconds, he did just that.

"I've nearly slipped out of the 'Eye' half a dozen times, Buffy. The first time was in a happening Town of Sodom, I'm sure you've heard of it, existed nearly 3,000 years ago. Man, did that piss Duke off, he liked it there - it had a Hell of a night life. The latest was in scenic Pompeii about eight months ago. And we all know what happened those places." Xander looked down into his lap again, more it seemed in shame then in something to look at. The word - 'Eye', Buffy chose to remain silent too, sure that it's several references would be made clearer to her in time. She just watched carefully how Xander's dry eyes became heavy and tired with each passing second of silence.

"The History Channel says both places were thought at the time to have offended their 'God' and were vanquished due to their affront to them. A 'Majestic Will' thing, so to speak that served as a lesson to all the other cities that were also under lapsing in losing their way. Ha. God's Will my Ass - it was me. I did it - not God. My clumsiness, that you guys always joked about, caused the death of families and untold following generations. Cities fell to extreme environmental forces because my body skimmed the 'Eye' at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

"Everytime I nearly slipped and was about brake free of it's pull something really apocalyptic happened to the environment, the period and the place that surrounded me. I nearly died each time, and if Duke wasn't there to grab me and pull me centre again on each occasion I would have been lost and scattered in the stream. I lived while other's died because of me. Now, I've just come to accept my Fate as a Life Sentence. So for them I am now married to the same Bitch that has Duke. So just deal with it like I've had too."

This news was too much to take in and the Slayer's mind reeled at the telling. Shakily she had to clarify what she had heard just to be sure. "Sodom, Pompeii? --- Xander, what are you saying? What are you really saying?"

"Buff, what I'm trying hard to say, without getting all wallowly here, is that Civilisations have ended and thousands of people have died because of me and I owe each and everyone of their memories my very Life to make their unknowing sacrifice mean something. So there you go, in a nutshell, your sitting beside a Mass Murderer. One whose scale of Death would make Angelus green with envy." Another half-hearted and strained chuckle left the muscular giant, and it was then that Buffy began to understand this man beside her a bit better.

She thought her believed infidelity with Angel would have injured him, of this she did not doubt, but it certainly would not have led Xander to losing himself in the bottle, or in empty moments with other women, or other chemical pursuits. The Xander she loved had more character then that. These incidents were the true source of the 'Pain' he had mentioned earlier, and the anger he carried around was directed at no-one other then himself over the innocent lives that had been lost during his travels. And this, she knew in her heart, was why he was trying to draw so far away from her declarations of being loved. He didn't want to hear the 'L' word because he didn't believe he deserved to be.

"And there my Parents and High School Guidance Councillor thought I would never contribute a damn thing to the World. Look, I might not be evil, Buffy, but I sure as Hell ain't all good any more either. So if you wanna be with 'LiveBoy' in there, then for God sakes be with him - who am I to judge. I don't like him, and I don't like you either. But I'm not gonna stand in the way anymore of your true romance. I said my piece to you and I've taken a piece out of him. Do what you want - it's your Life, and because it's your life it now don't concern me anymore."

The news of the lives lost in the past because of her 'Heart' was too much for the Slayer too absorb, or even for her too care about at that moment. These cities were dust and existed only in legends and history texts. Her man, was real and was with her now and she could not give him up. She would fight tooth and nail to keep him. "Xander, get this through your thick skull. My life does concern you, and - I DON'T LOVE ANGEL. I. LOVE. YOU!"

Instead of reacting to the raised voice, the Time-Traveller closed his eyes and continued talking ignoring her declaration. "Duke tells me that sometimes there are opportunities to break away and change the future; you just have to know it when you see 'em. A flux here, a stream-spasm there. It's possible. I've seen a few of 'em over the 'swims'. The last was a couple of months ago for me; we were just leaving Berlin in the height of the Nazi-Reign. Yep, that was an interesting time and a half, definitely one that would make the memoirs."

"Xander, please. If this --- guy, is telling you it's free for you to go. Please, for me, for whatever love you have for everybody here, abandon this self-destructive quest and stay."

Xander picked his eyes gaze off his lap and looked into the shimmering blue of the woman beside her. To her surprise there was no spark, or mirth in them anymore. They were dead and devoid of possibility and potential for happiness. "I just told you Buffy, I can't. He needs me, and the World needs Him. Because if Duke fell and there wasn't anyone there to pick up the Cause to fight his fight the Planet as we know it would disappear into something Alien and unrecognisable.

"Sure, the guy might rub people the wrong way, and yeah, he might be the male equivalent to Faith, but I've never doubt that his intentions are good ones, Buffy. The guy makes the tough calls, and he does it like he was born to the job. And though yeah, I have been tempted at times to bail on him in couple favourable zones, I just can't. Because he needs me there to watch his '6'.

"That man deserves respect. Christ, he not only deserves it Buffy, he's earnt it. I've followed him head long into places that a sane man wouldn't think of going and an insane one would piss all over themselves in fear at contemplating it. He's a real hero, he's as rough as gut's, but he's still a Hero, Buffy. And he - WE, get the job done. But again, we're getting side tracked - that's him, Buffy. It's not you and me. And right now, what we're about out here is all about you and me. I want to finish this clean, so give it back to me so that Duke and me can take care of what it is we're here to take care of and be gone."

Without another word offered towards the intended prize and what it might be, Buffy closed her left hand into a fist and withdrew it out of reach of his. Guessing full well what his quarry was and the true purpose of excusing themselves to privacy from everyone. "N----n-no. No, I won't. You can't ask me too. We can't end it like this, Xander."

"What do you mean 'End'? Haven't you been listening to me? It's been ended for me for years, Buff, despite your theory of me still loving you. I can't move on with my life, as pathetic as it is, until I have closure with this one. Now give me back the damn Ring. Let Angel buy his own."

"Xander, I don't know how many times I can keep on repeating this until you believe me, but I don't want be married to Angel. I want to be married to you, and only you."

"But guess what, I DON'T want to be married to you!"

"So What? Are we now back to you trying to hurt me and start an argument again? Haven't we established that that's not going to work? There is too much at stake here, Xander. A lot more then just your damned and damaged ego. You have to accept that what happened to me and Angel last night didn't happen the way you think it did. If I could have fought it I would have."

The former male Scooby turned his head away and barked out another dark laugh at what was just stated in desperate love. This reaction only made Buffy cease taking the defensive and encouraged her to begin on taking an offensive approach. Something she was not prepared to do earlier, but Xander's famous stubbornness left her no choice. "You think it's easy to break a compulsion as twisted as the one that had both me and Angel? It wasn't --- isn't. If it could have been easily done I would have done it; I would never jeopardise what we have for something that didn't matter too me anymore. You're my life now, Xander, not Angel. Breaking Garotok's claim on us was impossible until after it had run its full coarse. Even after I had no clear memory of what we were doing, it was a haze. And believe it or not, when you walked in and saw me smiling it wasn't because of Angel, I was lying next to you, you were the cause of my smile - NOT ANGEL!"

"Is that so? Me, huh? Well guess what? I've had my mind zapped a couple of times the last few years, and yeah, sure it's tricky, but if you're determined enough then yeah, you can break and sever control if you want too."

"We'll you're the one with the experience, I guess. But then again you would, huh? I mean how many times were you possessed or in someone's thrall, Xander? Mr Hyena-slash-Soldier-slash-Dracula's Toady. You've got nearly three times more experience at that kind of thing then the Average Joe, and if memory serves you weren't exactly able to depart from any of those on your own back then. So please give me the benefit of doubt and instead of denying what I'm saying, how about instead just consider that maybe what I'm saying is conceivable. That maybe, just maybe, I couldn't resist what I did even if I tried!"

"If I say it's 'conceivable' will you give me back my Ring?"

"Xander, if it's conceivable. If it is conceivable then that means we have a chance to fix this between us, and that you can accept that this wasn't anyone's intent. That it just happened, and then we can start to talk about this like civilised people and not upset ones. To talk about us, you, me, together as one under God like you said inside, and about --- about our unborn child. About our future together." With this final sentence and claim, Buffy Anne Summer's, separated her hands from over her stomach, placing them on either side of her waist to assist visually what was now lying and growing unseen within her womb. Carefully watching for a reaction in the large male sitting beside her.

With the last two sentences said Xander's world ceased to spin; caught within a matrix of emotions all awhile an impossible toothy smile began to slowly grow on his face. Anger, distrust, disappointment, hurt, and a personal sense of failure as a man all left him in this brilliant moment. His hands trembled and then raggedly placed themselves upon her stomach. Trying to feel for something of his growing within this woman's belly. Speechless was the word that best described his reaction and his weary eyes that seconds early seemed to have no spark now illuminated with joy and possibility.

The reaction Buffy wanted was the reaction she got from him, another swell of relief consumed her as she once more was proud at how well she knew 'her Xander' regardless of what he said. Sure, it was a gamble; she certainly didn't want to use her 'condition' as a Trump Card. If Xander was to stay, he had to stay for her. But she couldn't deny it - she loved him. Heart, Body and Soul. And she would do anything to ensure he maintained a presence in her life. So if she had to fight dirty with his 'Fate' to keep him with her, then she would. Confident that in time they would patch whatever problem of distrust that remained if for no other reason then for the benefit of their child to be.

After a fragile moment of being caught between words and deed, the one-time Zeppo effortlessly lifted her off her seat, and held her poised in the air like a rag doll. He then began to spin her around in jubilation at the news he had now fully absorbed and prayed was true. The fluid motion of the physical act caught the Slayer by surprise and she yelped out and squealed in shared delight with the man holding her suspended in the air.

In midst of her surprised vocalisations the door leading into and out of the Apartment of Rupert Giles opened forcibly. A concerned audience, fearful of the action's that was taken upon the now humanised and slightly roasted Angel, barrelled out to protect the female from a repeated fate. As all their feet made sound upon the clay tiling of the patio Xander turned to face his assorted challengers. Possessing a smile brighter then a 1000watt bulb shone through the dark beard. "I --- I'm going to be a Daddy!"

The gathering came to a sudden stop, all unsure how to process the statement and divorce this scene from the one that they were all expecting.

"Excuse me? Did you say *"

"Yes, Giles. Daddy. As in I'm going to have a child, well not me exactly, Buffy's having the child I just helped with the fun bit. She's pregnant. I'm going to be a Father, everyone."

The thick muscular and strong arms of the male then laid a now dizzy and flushed faced Chosen One back to Terra Firma gently as Rupert Giles stuttered out a response. "Good --- Good Lord. Bu---Buffy, is this tru*"

Taking a sharp breath the eldest and longest serving Slayer in the history of the World addressed the man who she thought of as more of a father then her own. "Three-weeks and a day since I tested Positive, Giles. It's true. I'm totally in the Family-Way. I was just waiting for the right time to break the news to the man who got me 'knocked-up'. And well, I know the circumstances weren't perfect, but this was a kinda now-or-never kinda thing, one that had to be told or ---."

Nothing else was said as motion and reactions erupted around the parent's to be. Unsurprisingly the LA crowd did not know how to react except to look at their respective and aching employer in an effort to gauge how they should respond. Angel offered a tight smile to Buffy, but didn't approach the pair like the others, a coarse of action everyone else in his 'Posse' copied.

Willow went directly into gibberish-mode forgetting her earlier anger at Buffy and terror at Xander, hugging them both to the point that they were almost out of breath and their bones could almost be heard cracking under her embrace. Just as everyone's favourite little sister start to rapidly jump up and down around the two excitedly, voicing various names, sex and thoughts of becoming an actual Aunt and losing the forever 'Little' title that had been linked to her by everybody.

Holding his body next to hers, Buffy reached up on tiptoes and whispered into her Heart's ear. "xander ---"

As if he knew what she was going to ask he lowered his voice and addressed her amidst the excitement. "Don't spoil this for me, Buffy. Don't ask if we're okay now, cause I don't think I can answer. Just please don't push this. Don't try and ruin this moment for me with something I don't want to think about at present." Buffy smile shrank a piece and she nodded acceptance to the wish.

Faith tentatively moved to the side of the group and joined Giles, standing beside him, sharing in his staggering disbelief. It was known, or atleast, she was always told that Slayer's once they were 'Called' became barren. 'Potential's could have kids, but once you became a Slayer actual motherhood was lost unless you actually considered adoption as an option. It was due to this now proven false information that never had her bother with taking any preventative Birth Control measures over the years. This news had floored her as much as it was flooring 'Jeeves'. But despite everything, there was an unmistakable glow of pride coming off the English Watcher to her left at hearing what was announced, and the brunette Slayer could almost swear she saw his eyes misting over.

To the back end of the group, still holding the Viking Axe, stood all 5'2" of Mr. Daniel Osborne. An expression across his face that carried a answer to an unspoken question which had been bothering him for the last 5-minutes. An answer that his lyconthoped senses identified and now his intellect had offered him an explanation too. The werewolf's eyes drifted to the smiling Buffy and then to an overjoyed Xander. It made sense. Total sense, in a 'Back to the Future' kind of way.

Then, almost on que to this pondering, taking up the tail of the exodus from the Apartment Lounge Room. The stranger called 'Duke' came into full view of everyone. Returning his Shotgun under his leather Duster. Squinting his eyes, Oz could almost make out common traits and characteristics of this 'Duke'. The sneering smile, the short stature, the 'Buffed' physique, the nose, the shape of the head. If this man was a Time Traveller as he now believed, where was it written that he had to have originated in their time?

"DUKE, DUKE. Did you hear? I'm gonna be a father." Xander's words did not earn him the reply he was expecting from his partner and friend. The Time-fighter just shrugged his shoulders, nodded his head and then turned his back on the scene. Stalking once more in the direction of the room he had just exited. With this demonstration of indifference, Xander's feeling of excitement ended. His vibes death was quickly imitated by everybody else as they watched Xander's earlier compatriot pass from view. Only one thought presented in the returned Scooby's mind - 'How dare he ruin this moment for me!'

It didn't take much for everyone to break away as Xander made and pushed his way pass them confront the man who had just dismissed his joyous announcement and left their presence without saying a word. Xander caught up with him in the lounge room as he was picking up a nearly full bottle of 'Johnny Walker' from the floor. "A SHRUG! I get a Shrug? Not so much as congratulations, after everything we've been through together, only a Fragin' shrug?!?"

Without stalling in the activity of his drinking arm the questionee took a gulp of brown liquor before he addressed the questioner. "So you made yourself some 'Baby-batter', an' the Leg-spreader got herself one in the chamber. What'cha want me to say?"

Xander swiped the bottle aside and stood a menacing toe-to-toe with the diminutive titan. "Don't you dare call her that!"

Duke looked up and sneered another smile, unaffected at the imposed threat made to him by Xander's advantage in height over his own. "Hey, you've called her that more then I ever did. Or are you getting yourself selective amnesia?" Duke, then took another gulp of his drink as everybody gathered around. "Besides, you should be pissed right now, not defending her."

Oblivious to the audience, the Heart of the Scoobies pressed an answer. "What are you talking about?"

Duke laughed outloud and sat down on the vacated sofa, pulling out another cigar from one of his pouch pockets. "You always did have a problem thinking Linearly, BS. But I'm sure it'll come to you --- in Time."

Buffy approached Xander from behind and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Ignore him, Xander. Don't let him or anything ruin this moment for us, remember?" In her affectionate applications she felt Xander's body begin to stiffen. And a rumbling menace that dwarfed all his earlier toned efforts softly and slowly left his mouth.

"Don't you dare touch me. How could you?" Startled, Buffy released her 'Heart', unsure what had just happened. With his freedom, Xander turned around and seemed to snarl at her. "I just worked it out - Three weeks and a day? Three weeks and a day?" The question repeated as Xander stepped forward and the blonde Slayer stepped back to match him. "You've known for three weeks and a day. And you were still Slaying during that time, and the other night when we fought Garatok. You volunteered to take point of the assault with Deadboy over there. YOU JEPODISED MY CHILD'S WELFARE AND SAFETY FOR ANGEL'S WELFARE AND SAFETY!!!!"

Buffy looked imploringly at Xander and then around the room, but all she got was the equally surprised and disappointed looks to the claim. Looks that had been returned to her an hour before by everybody when they all thought Xander was missing and that she and Angel had slept together.

"Deny it, Slayer! Just deny it! You willingly put our - MY child in danger." Buffy's mouth gaped open but no words escaped in her defence. Her silence stung Xander's ears, and in response to her lack of an answer he unconsciously raised his hand in a threatening fashion as he remembered witnessing his own father do many times as a boy. Yet he was able to catch himself in shock with what he was about to do before it descended upon her.

Now it was Xander's turn to be speechless as he looked in dreaded contemplation at the offending hand. After a moment he looked up and then around the room to everyone, and in their shocked presence he felt lost and alone. His eyes eventually strayed towards Duke and then drifting upon the shattered door the pair had walked through 6 long minutes earlier. Xander then turned and walked out the Apartment alone. Leaving in silence and thought, much as he had done on a Wedding Day he preferred never to have imitated again.

"XANDER! XANDER, WAIT!" The blonde Slayer was about to chase after him when her left arm was grabbed tightly. When she turned to see who was stopping her she saw her reflection returned to her by a pair a black sunglasses. Instinctively, her right free hand made a fingered ball, lashing out at Xander's 'Hero'. But to her sudden surprise the enigmatic stranger seemed prepared for the intended blow and caught her fist effortlessly in his palm. He slowly then began to apply pressure to both his grips, one hand on her left arm and the second capturing her right fist. He squeezed to the point that bladed pain stabbed up both her arms and she had no choice but to whimper out for him to stop.

Her captor then edged closer into her personal space and whispered out advise that seemed to fill the silent room. "If I were you, I'd let him be." Duke then released both his grasps as he eyed through his darkened shades the pregnant woman. "Sometimes guy's need their 'alone-time'. But don't you go fretting and get your frillies in a bunch, he'll be back. BS isn't the kinda guy to desert his responsibilities, he's not goin' anywhere. If you really knew anything about the guy then you'd at least know that."

Buffy placed her hurt hand under her left armpit, her eyes hot with tears. "Go to Hell."

The man looked genuinely amused at what was stated. "My life is Hell, I just grab my slice of heaven where ever I can, and trust me Lady seeing you low like this is sweeter then an Angel's kiss to me."

Buffy tried to keep her emotions in check, which was, considering everything that had transpired in the last couple of hours since she awoke from her 'Trance', nearly impossible for her to achieve. "Who are you to judge me and Xander? You don't know a damn thing about us, or how I feel about him."

"Lady, you humped a guy and concealed your pregnancy from him. If I didn't know anything else about you then that would have been enough for me to get a clearer idea of the type of person you are."


"Whatever you say babe, but the damage is done regardless."

"Xander was never like this before; he would have heard me out."

"And he would have probably swallowed every piece of shit word you spooned inta his mouth. But he ain't that gullible anymore, Sweetheart. You can't play him no more."

Buffy's eyes burned, afraid at what was being said might be in a small fact be true and that she could not desperately reason with her 'Heart' any more. "You're a lonely hurtful little man who doesn't and wouldn't know love if it stared them in the face." There was a certain gratification on Buffy's part where she saw Duke flinch slightly at the insults, so she continued. "Xander said you were his hero; he's been walking around here, torturing Angel, behaving in a way that would measure up to your scale of what you think he should do. He respects you. But he's better then you. You're just sad and lonely and you're angry because of it."

"Listen up, Darlin'. You say I know squat about you, then trust me when I say you know even less about me." Duke then turned his back of the Slayer and took a few paces forward and replied with an almost surprised and proud twang in his tone. "He said I was his Hero, huh? An' you think he tryin' to be just like me? Well I'll be damn, an here I thought that it was the other way around."

Buffy could see she was losing her momentum towards the stranger and hastily tried to reaffirm her argument. "You wish you were like him. He was good and he was decent and you did something to him, being with you changed him. He never would have lifted a hand to me, he never*"

"He never, never, never, never, never." Duke mocked over. "That Boy Scout never did a lot of things until he met me. An' if I changed anything about him like you say then it was for the better. When I came across him I couldn't even recognise him as a man. He was pathetic. He was shadow of what he is now, not a bit of visible muscle on him or a backbone worth a damn. He just discovered his woman - you, shacked up with Crispy over there, an' he was a real mess. Boarding on the teary-eyes and deciding on what method to 'off' himself. All because his 'Skirt' wanted to see if the Grass was Greener and the Orgasm longer on the other side.

"For Frag sakes, if I gave him a dress the picture would a been complete. The only thing that changed my opinion on whether or not he even had a Pair was that the guy was able to throw a punch like a Mules kick in the groin."

Duke then went over to the couch and picked the half drunk Johnny Walker off the carpeted floor. "Only one man I know can throw a punch like that, but that guy he was sure as Hell wasn't the guy I was lookin' at. I couldn't have recognised him in this sad specimen, even if I had an eternity to burn." Duke raised the bottle and took another drink, ignorant of the intense attention being directed his way by a certain Bass Playing Werewolf. "But now he can Fight like a Real Man, Drink like a Real Man, Fuck like a Real Man, and deal with Real Man problems. So relax that Mattress Back of yours, I got no doubts BS will stand up and do the right thing, for you and for Junior. So just lay back, let us finish up and let us come full circle here. And you can have him back - All New and Improved. For however long he can stomach bein' around you."

As he sat down again on the Sofa he had left a moment before to stop Buffy's pursuit he growled out a claim in her direction. "You took his Balls, Lady, and I gave him a fresh Set to replace 'em." Duke then turned his attention to the silent ensemble, amused at how so many people could keep so deathly quiet with all the drama happening around them. He then picked up the still lit cigar from where he laid it down and then blew a dark misty cloud into the clear air. He then looked over everybody slowly and smiled like a predator who just found his prey half beaten to death and bloody. "So whose side are you all gonna take in this? You gonna go side with her or BS? The slut or the Hero?*"

Faith William's who had often received the put downs such as Slut and Whore when she was going through adolescence immanently felt offended and angered, so she quickly interrupted before anything more offensive could be used on her Sister-Slayer. "*B's right. You got real women issues don't cha, fella? Think maybe it's cause you can't keep any of 'em happy that you have a problem with 'em?"

Duke's predator's smile grew as he faced-off with Faith. "Nah, I love women and when I come to Town women love me. Infact I love as many women as I can." He then jerked his thumb towards Buffy. "I just don't like her, never did, never will."

Buffy stood up straight and turned to face Xander's Time Companion. "Like I care what you think of me? I only care about*"

"*Yourself?" Duke's fluid interruption and introduction of the word made himself laugh a dry chuckle as he met Buffy's gaze. "Y'know my mom was like you. But I never knew her, she cheated on my Pop's just like what you did to BS and that was it as far as he was concerned. And just like you she took risks when I was in her as well. Guess she hated the idea of what having me would've done to her girlish figure so she went out just waiting for an 'accident' to happen to her. I guess an 'Accident's was probably thought of by her as being so much smoother on the conscience then an Abortion. She kept her 'Family way' a secret just like you, probably in the hopes that when she miscarried no one around her would be the wiser."

The captive eyes of everyone in the room slowly turned towards Buffy. Willow and Dawn sharing a slow shaking of their heads trying not to believe the worse of the sister and best friend as Duke continued with his tale his cobalt blue eyes hidden behind dark lenses narrowed upon the blonde Slayer. "My Old Man however eventually found out she was carrying, and man was he pissed at not being told. Anyway, he made damn sure I came to Full Term safely. No way in God's green Planet was he not gonna allow any kid of his a chance to having a normal and happy life. At his first opportunity he took me away from her and her fragin' 'Family', changed our names and raised me up on his lonesome."

Duke briefly paused in his story, as an inner curiosity directed towards himself made him ask why he was availing so much of his personal history to these people in this room that he should hate so much, well all with the exception of one, when he was so adamant to keep it confidential from BS over the years. He shook his head clear of this distracting thought and then continued. "My Old Man never talked too much about her as I was growing up, only kept one photo of her and him. I just knew her face, name and her special part-time job - that was it. And that's all I wanted to know. Didn't even know she 'kicked-it' until two years after it all happened. I was seven at the time, just old enough to be treated like an adult where it came to talking about life and death and all that. Pop's and me both found out together when one night when he was doin' his special type of 'Neighbourhood Watchin' he bumped into an old squeeze of his."

Duke then surrendered a knowing smile to the room with this announcement. "Man, I remember that night sooo well. She was something, she was. What a Hellcat. Tried moping the streets with him, but she made the mistake a lot of people made - nothing Alive or Dead gets the better of my Old Man. A neighbour who saw it all go down told me that she was like a whirlwind of kicks and punches, but my Dad, my Old Man, took all she had to give an' stayed solid. He probably only threw a few punches that connected, but my Old Man's Haymakers would floor a charging Rhino.

"Cops were eventually called in, mainly because the fight was lasting far longer then most and my neighbour was getting worried about him. Most of the guy's my dad takes on pretty much --- disappear after a few seconds of a Throw Down. Anyway it was all bad luck for her cause the Blues knew Pop and knew him to be totally Righteous. She was collared, and then printed - turned out she had herself a Sheet that said she was a very naughty little girl in her younger days."

Duke then blew a couple of perfect smoke rings into the air. "Dad let her stew in the Tank for the night and then dropped the Charges of Assault on her in the AM. She rocked up at our door step shortly after her release all right and angry. But my Dad was a lot angrier, she then broke the story to him and me of how my biological Mom was all broken hearted when my dad stole me away from her and went into hiding." Duke gave a solemn little laugh. "Never knew about all that - about him stealing me. Anyway, he must have reckoned he had good reason to do it, he was never afraid of makin' a stand when he thought he saw somethin' wrong was going down. The Hellcat told us how she - my biological Mom, was out one night and met the wrong group of people at the wrong time, nuff said I guess. Closed Coffin kinda stuff. Surprise was my Old Man grieved. Do you believe that? He mourned the Bitch that didn't want me." Duke then stared into his bottle, and swirled it's contents around slowly as he spoke the venomous words.

"What happened next?" The Time Traveller looked up from the moving liquid and faced the man who voiced the personal question with suspicious eyes. Oz felt as if he was violating something very personal, and he was sure that if Duke hadn't already been liquored up on Jim Bean, Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker that he would never have received an answer to his curiosity.

Seeing the werewolf as no threat, Duke took another drink and continued with his brief synopsis of childhood. "Like I said, he mourned her. Didn't talk about her much though. The Hellcat stuck around, feeling a kinda obligation to me I guess, as she and my 'Birth-Mom' were kinda 'related'. She babysat for me while my dad was working and dealing with his grief. The days went to weeks, weeks to months. Yeah, she was somethin' alright - Even at eight years of age she could give me a woody with an errant comment and suggestive look. Totally tasty. After a few months my Dad came out of his self imposed shell an' he became fun to be around again. Started going out an' 'Watching' the Neighbourhood like the old times, only exception was this time the Hellcat went with him. Shortly after that things started to get H & H between him and my Sitter. And a little after that I had me the sexiest Step-Mom in the City to come home too from school." Duke then turned from looking at Oz and smirked in the direction of the nearby brunette.

Levelling her anger off Buffy addressed him again. "I guess you expect me to feel that I should begin to get all teary and feel sorry for you and your broken home life. Forgetting the arsehole you turned out too being and what your influence has done to the one man I love."

Duke stood up from his seat once more and dropped the now empty bottle to the floor. His mind set, his raw physical power seemingly radiating off his body. "You ain't been listening to me, Lady. I didn't come from no broken home, I had a decent life growing up and I was loved in it. LOVED! I had my Dad, and I had my Step-Mom and they were all the family I needed or wanted - They were my Parents. That other woman? The only worthwhile thing she ever did for me was give birth and then willingly drop out of my life." There was little doubt by the Time Traveller's posture that he was on the verge of doing something, and given his earlier demonstration of pulling firearms and of Buffy's discover condition all the men protectively approached him and barricaded the blonde Chosen One as a precaution incase he pulled out another weapon.

Duke observed the displayed alliance and laughed bitterly. "Y'know, I kinda hoped there would be at least one of ya I could count on as bein' on my and BS's side, instead of her's. I mean, what the Frag has she done this morning to have you all want to take her side in everything, huh?" Duke lifted the cigar to his mouth once more and then approached Daniel Osborne. "Ya got somethin' of BS's I believe?"

The Viking Axe was handed over cautiously as the Warrior sneered at the sudden defensive postures being undertaken around the room. With the Axe in his grasp he walked towards the door, the male assortment of Fang Gang and Scooby's slowly parting as he approached them. When he got to the opening he turned and faced his collected audience. "When BS calms down, and takes in everything that he's just worked out. He'll be heading for a place where he can kip for a bit. Someplace he knows, someplace where he can feel safe --- somewhere he can take out his aggression." Duke removed his cigar from his curled mouth before he continued. "I just hope little Miss Slayer over there has the good sense not to go off home for a good while, and that her Property Insurance is all paid to Date. Cause I'm guessing Furniture, TV's, Mirrors and Portraits are now as good as being in yesterday's trash."

Duke then turned his back on everyone, facing the morning light and straightened the collar of his coat. "Oh, one last thing. It's my understanding that Slayers are as fertile as Death Valley, yet for some reason your Preggers? Wouldn't it be fair to say that some Dick-Wipe up top wants you to have a kid, and if that's so then wouldn't it mean that they have somekinda fucked up Plan for him. A type of Destiny? Somethin' he'll be condemned to do until he bites the big one? BS used to go on about how you used to whine about being chosen to be a Slayer when you were just a teenager. Well *Buffy*, this kid of yours future was fucked with since the moment he was conceived. So out of you two who do you reckon has the bigger Beef with the ones calling the shots? So lose the Woe-is-me routine, it's stale."

And with this said he stepped forward into the light and disappeared from the view of everybody. With the Time Traveller's absence the room slowly parted back into it's various groups and teams.

After a moment Buffy addressed what every body was murmuring in groups about. "Guys, I would never, EVER place my and Xander's child in danger. I want this Baby, I do. This is a piece of me, and it's a piece of Xander. Dawn? Willow? Giles? *You* believe me don't you? Can you honestly believe I would hurt or try and kill off any part of me, or any part of Xander. I couldn't. I --- I just wouldn't!"

Both called upon females approached and hugged Buffy reassuringly, whispering their agreement that the idea in itself was preposterous to even voice. This was all Buffy needed and wanted to hear at that moment as she broke down in relief within their shared embrace.

"Umm, Guy's. There's something I gotta tell you about that Duke guy." The LA and Sunnydale Groups turned to face Daniel Osborne.

Buffy removed her head from where she had buried it into Dawn's shoulder and spoke, half angry half teary. "No offence, Oz, but I don't want to think about that jerk at the moment."

"Err Buffy, you out of everybody here had better hear what it is I've got to say."

"Fine, what is it about the Guy other then the fact he wouldn't bother pissing in my mouth if my teeth were on fire?"

The Bass Playing Werewolf nervously scratched the back of his head trying to think of the best approach to breaking his theory to the two groups. In the end he decided the earlier Movie reference he made to himself would probably best serve in explaining the situation better. "Well Buffy, you know the character Marty McFly in Back to the Future?"