Hero in the making

Author: Michael Wilson <wyrdradio[at]yahoo.com>

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Joss, Mutant Enemy, and a lot of other people own the characters from Buffy and Angel. I get nothing by writing this except maybe some kind words of encouragement and a few cheers... at least I hope.

Spoilers: None that I know of. Set Post Gift/Pre Season 6

Summary: With nothing holding him there, Xander leaves Sunnydale to live in LA with Angel and Cordy. When he gets there, he stumbles upon someone who has a new purpose for Xander's life.

Author's Notes: This story is a sequel to Darkest Before The Dawn, my Buffy/Angel songfic, and is a Buffy/Angel crossover. " " as always means talking... while * * means thoughts.

Feedback: Yes please!!!!!

Distribution: If you like it... please feel free to place it on your site... but please tell me first.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

The sound of hammering awakened Angel from his sleep. He looked over at the alarm clock and frowned.

"8:45 in the morning... who the hell is up making enough noise to wake the dead this early?"

Angel winced at the pun and rolled his eyes.

*Wake the dead... God, been around Xander too much. He's rubbing off on me.*

He climbed out of bed and threw on his robe, black of course, and stormed downstairs. When he reached the stairs, he noticed bright light and jerked back... then noticed it had a flickering quality to it that made him think it wasn't sunlight... then as soon as he thought that, it vanished. Angel peeked down the stairs and saw what looked like a construction site in miniature, with Xander hunched over a welding set.

*Oh.. so that's what that was.*

Angel walked down the stairs and cleared his throat. Xander straightened up and pulled off the blast helmet covering his face.

"Hey Angel... did I wake you?"

Angel nodded, glaring at Xander, and raised an eyebrow. Xander smiled and laughed.

"Sorry.. but I did a walkthrough about two hours ago and discovered you have a leak.. about two floors down... near your pool."

Cordelia entered from the basement just then and caught the last word.

"Pool.. we have a pool?!"

Xander nodded.

"Yeah.. you go down 2 floors.. then there is this long corridor... at the end is a t-intersection. You go to the right and you find a ballroom which was sealed off.. and to the left is a kitchen or cafeteria or something. It's pretty dark down there and I accidentally tripped over a broom and slammed into the wall. There was this hollow sound so I took a hammer and made a small hole. Found that someone, at some point, walled up the doorway to a pool... and it was full of nasty water. I made the hole bigger and crawled through and drained it for you.. it was then that I found the leak."

He pointed then to the pipes on the bench next to him and smiled.

"I'm almost done.. then I can head back down there and replace the busted pipe."

Cordelia grinned and turned to look at Angel.

"That explains your huge water bill now.. doesn't it."

Angel nodded, kinda in shock.

"Yes.. it does. I wonder what else is hidden about this place. You've done well, Xander.. very well indeed. I didn't even know those places existed."

Xander nodded and checked his welded joint. It was cool and looked ready.

"I'm heading back down.. do the two of you want to see it?"

Cordelia nodded and smiled while Angel just nodded.

"Hold on.. I'll get dressed."

He turned and ran back upstairs. While he was getting dressed, Xander grabbed a few tools and placed them in the toolbelt he was wearing. He turned to Cordelia and smiled at her.

*Damn.. she looks so good...*

She was wearing a pair of tight khaki pants and a grey top with a fringed edge.

"You look beautiful, Cor."

Cordelia smiled and blushed.

"Thank you, Xander. That's sweet."

Xander walked over toward her and waited for Angel. As he leaned against the wall, Cordelia leaned in and kissed his cheek. Xander smiled and blushed.

"What was that for?"

Cordelia smiled.

"For finding the pool... for caring enough to fix the leak without asking first... for telling me I'm beautiful... and for you just being you."

Xander blushed harder and smiled.

"I sure missed you, Cordy. With all the strangeness that is me and dating, you out of all of them... you were the only girl who actually made me think she loved me back..."

Cordelia's eyes widened in shock and she nodded.

*Did he just say love?*

"Well... yeah... and ok, what's taking Angel so long..."

Xander turned away and frowned.

*I upset her... I guess she doesn't care about me the way Angel said after all.*

He looked at his feet and thought back to one week earlier... when he had almost lost everything. Angel had stopped him... and had told him that Cordy loved him.

*I guess he was wrong...*

Xander moved to the stairs and turned back as he heard Angel join them. He watched as Cordelia smiled at Angel and in that moment... something inside Xander died a little. The look she gave Angel... the smile... it was something she only given him once, and that time the smile had only lasted a few seconds. The smile she presented Angel seemed to go on and on.

*I guess she likes him now... Angel was wrong...*

Xander blinked and shook his head... then started down the stairs. He could hear them talking as they followed. Their voices were so happy and Xander could almost feel the loving looks shared between them. It was something he didn't want to hear and so he tried to shut the sound out of his head... but couldn't.

"... and with a pool I'm going to have to get all new swimsuits... and I'm going to need to get some for Fred, cause her fashion sense is almost non-existent... oh, and get you, Wesley, and Gunn some shorts too... and don't you dare glare at me Angel you are going to swim..."

Xander closed his eyes momentarily at the bottom of the stairs and swallowed back the tears he felt forming.

*Don't even know why I stayed... only because of the hope... that she... but she doesn't... so why even bother...*

Xander sighed softly and walked down the hall to the next set of stairs, taking them faster once he reached them. He ignored the comments behind him as he lead them to the new section he had discovered. As he neared the intersection, Xander paused and waited for them to catch up... then headed to the left.

"It's this way..."

He walked down the hallway to a pair of double doors, then through them into the dim and dusty cafeteria. Xander heard them enter behind him and then smiled at Angel's gasp of surprise. Xander walked over to the wall and examined the large hole he had made. He pulled out a chisel and began to chip away at the wall... cleaning up the opening... revealing almost completely the doors themselves. All that remained was a section of plaster covering the side of the doors.

"Ok.. Angel.. if you can grab along the inside there and tug... you can pull it free. I already braced the top earlier... so nothing will fall."

Angel nodded and moved forward. He grabbed the plaster inside the hole and pulled hard... ripping the wall off of the doors completely; the doors swinging free now. Xander smiled and nodded.

"Good.. I'll reframe the doorway later... but for now..."

He pushed open the double doors and walked into the pool room. Holding the door open for Cordelia, he watched as her eyes lit up in awe.

"It's tiled... this is good work... like in Italy...."

She walked over to the edge of the pool and looked down into it.

"Ooh.. and it's deep... diving deep... oh wow, whoever made this must have had fun in mind."

Xander nodded and watched as Angel walked around, examining everything, smiling the whole time.

"This is good workmanship. I can picture what it must have looked like when it was built. If I ever decide to turn this into a working hotel... I can charge extra for this pool."

He stopped and turned to Xander.

"Thank you, Xander, this is... impressive."

Xander smiled and nodded.

"Yeah.. I know what you mean... and I haven't even fixed anything yet. Just wait until I'm done, this will be amazing. Now... you two, out. I need to get this pipe replaced then I can check the tiles and then I'll refill it. I'll come get you when I'm done."

Angel nodded and took Cordy by the arm.

"Huh... oh, yeah... sure thing Xander."

Cordy smiled at Xander then wrapped her arm around Angel's. Xander watched and tried to hide his wince, wanting to not let them see him emotions. He looked away from them and listened until the sound of their footsteps faded... then got back to work.

*Just finish this up, Xander... then you can decide what to do then. Nothing is holding you here, not after earlier...*

Xander sighed and got busy replacing the pipe, not knowing that he was being watched...

Chapter 2

Xander worked steadily, seeming to never tire, as he repaired odd things within the hotel. He had worked on the pool for close to three hours before he had it repaired, cleaned, and refilled and had immediately moved on to reframing the doorway as the others enjoyed his efforts. He glanced over at them as he ran a portable sander along the side of the door and frowned.

*This was a waste of time. I'm not needed here, not wanted, except as free work. I should have just gone ahead and...*


Xander stopped and turned to look back at the pool.


Cordelia leaned against the edge of the pool, water glistening off her body.

"Aren't you going to join us?"

Xander stared at her, his feelings floating near the surface... yet hidden behind his own self-hatred, and shook his head.

"No... too much to do today. Got to finish this up then I have some things I have to do."

Xander turned back to the doorway and looked it up and down as he heard Cordelia mumble something then dive back underwater. Xander listened for a minute then nodded toward the doorway.

*Finished... just have to re-hang the door and then I'm done... then its just a few leftover projects and I can leave...*

Xander unplugged the sander and grabbed the doors and quickly made short work of hanging them back in place.


Angel looked over and smiled.

"Nice work Xander... very nice work. Thank you."

Xander nodded and gathered his tools.

"I'll be upstairs working on room 217 if anyone needs me."

Angel nodded and then turned his attention back to Cordelia. Xander watched them for a second then headed upstairs. As he made his way slowly, his attitude growing ever darker, he still had no idea that he was being watched...


"You're saying that this guy is going to do something that will cause the entire planet to explode... literally?"

The man who has spoken turned to his companion, a floating ball of light, and waited for a reply.

<Yes... he is an enigma to our plans... a wild card if you will. He holds within him the potential for great good... and great evil... but has somehow managed to remain in perfect balance all this time..>

The man smiled, intrigued.

"Balance huh... like me?"

The ball of light flashed and shifted from a bright white to a soft gold.

<Yes... exactly like you... but whereas you are demonic in origin, he is purely human... a fact which confounds us completely.>

The man nodded and turned to look at Xander as he walked into the lobby and then up the stairs.

"So... you want me to keep an eye on depresso-boy here?"

<Yes... and when the time arises, we wish you to remove him from his timeline and place him in universe 293.>

The man blinked in shock and swallowed.

"Are you sure you mean him to go there?"

The ball of light moved closer and shifted to a shimmering silver.

<We are certain. Universe 293 will test him to the point of determining if he is worth of our gift... or just an abnormality in the system.>

The man sighed and nodded.

"Right... you guys know best... and if you think he can handle it... then I guess he can... but to send him there, they hate humans there to the point of almost genocide."

<A perfect testing ground for Earth's champion... or it's destroyer. Either way... he will be tested... and what remains will be dealt with later. Do your job, Whistler.>

Whistler glared at the ball of light and then grudgingly agreed.

"Yeah... sure..."

With a sigh, he turned back to watch Xander... knowing that soon the young man would be facing something only 1 in 10,000,000 should ever have to face... and the odds were clearly against him.


Xander pushed the door to room 217 open and stepped inside. He had been told that there was a hole in the wall and floor that needed to be repaired and then he had a broken bathtub in room 330... and a list in his room that just seemed to grow and grow with every passing day.

*God.. I hate my life.*

Xander sighed and got to work, knowing the quicker he got finished the better things would be. He grabbed his supplies and got to work, slowly repairing the hole in the floor first... then the wall. By the time he was finished, it was getting dark outside and he knew they others would be leaving soon.

*Off to fight the darkness... but do they invite me, no. They all think of me as the fragile one, the powerless one, the one who is a hindrance... a burden... just like Buffy and Willow.*

Xander paused in pain and bent over. Remembering Willow and Buffy in particular brought pain to him that almost brought him to his knees; Willow because she told him to leave and never return and Buffy because she left him, never to return, and that fact alone was enough to make Xander wonder if living was even worth it anymore.

*God... I miss you Buffy. Why did you have to leave me?*

Tears fell from Xander's eyes, wetting the floor, only to be wiped away as footsteps approached. Xander stood up and wiped his eyes then moved to the window.

"Xander... we're heading out. If you need anything, you have the cell phone numbers."

Xander nodded and stared out at the lights of the city.

"Yeah.. I have them."

He looked in the glass and saw the reflection of the person there and then looked away from the look of concern in the woman's eyes, a look he knew wasn't meant the way he wished.

"I'll be fine, Cordy."

Cordelia nodded and moved to the door.

"Have a nice night, Xander."

Xander nodded as she walked back downstairs... then waited until he heard the hotel grow quiet.

"Just a few more projects and then I can leave..."

Xander sighed and then heard someone else breathing in the room with him.

"Ah, but where will you go?"

Xander spun around and saw something unexpected.

"Who are you?"

The man smiled and leaned against the wall.

"The name is Whistler... and I have an offer for you that you won't refuse."

Xander smirked and shook his head.

"Who are you... the Godfather?"

Whistler shook his head slowly.

"No... I'm the man who is going to give your life meaning... by making you into the one thing you always wanted to be."

Xander frowned at Whistler and backed away.

"And what is that?"

Whistler grinned and moved closer.

"A hero..."

Chapter 3

"A hero..."

Xander stared at the strangely dressed small man and blinked in shock.

"Excuse me... can you run that by me again?"

Whistler smiled and nodded.

"I work for the Powers That Be..."

Xander sighed.

"Angel's bosses?"

Whistler nodded and continued.

"Yes... and one of them has told me to make this offer to you. They have seen the future... and it's not pretty. You are something they cannot place. You have the potential to be a great force for good... or evil. They want you on their side... before something happens to make you snap and go dark and threatening on us."

Xander listened to the small man's words and began to laugh.

"Me... dark and evil... oh please. I'm the Zeppo. I'm nothing. No one cares about me. I mean shit to everyone. No one wants me. No one loves me. No one would even notice if I was gone... so don't give me this powerful force bullshit. I know you're full of it. You can go tell your bosses that they can take their offer and shove it up their asses."

Thunder boomed outside and Whistler winced then backed away from Xander.

"You shouldn't have said that."

Xander frowned.

"Why the hell not?"

Whistler looked up and winced again.

"He didn't mean it. Just.. just give me some time to explain it to him. Please don't do..."

Lighting flashed outside and Xander turned to the window. Another bolt crashed nearer... then another.. until lightning struck the window itself... and then Xander. As melted glass rained down, a scream filled the room and Xander vanished in a burst of light... leaving Whistler alone.

"Damn kid... why did you have to go blow your mouth off like that... now you're on your own..."

Whistler sighed and walked away, fading away into nothing the further he got into the hallway...


Xander materialized behind a column and fell to the ground, his scream dying in his throat. He looked up in terror at a blood red sky filled with lightning and what looked like dragons... or something similar. A low roar came from behind him and Xander crawled away, peeking around the column to see two large demons fighting with weapons. One, a large red demon, held a giant battleaxe while the other, a pale blue demon, was wielding a longsword. Xander watched as they hacked and slashed at each other until the red demon managed to slice off the blue demon's sword arm; the arm and sword rolling to within a few feet of Xander.

*Where am I?!*

Xander gasped in shock and the bloody red demon turned in his direction. Xander tried to scramble back away from the demon but was trapped against a broken column. He could only move forward... toward the demon. Xander looked at the approaching demon, then down at the sword, and came to a decision. He reached out and grabbed the sword then ran forward, hoping to avoid the battleaxe long enough to get away. Xander ducked low and took a sloppy swing at the red demon, diving past him as he moved. The demon jumped backwards and swung down, and as the blade came closer... Xander closed his eyes and threw his arms up...


As Fred and Gunn entered the hotel, neither of them noticed the silence.

As Wesley entered complaining about the lack of research... neither did he.

Cordelia, complaining non-stop about demon blood, failed to notice anything as well.

Angel was the only one who noticed anything.

*It's too quiet in here.*

Angel looked around, his eyes moving from shadowy corner to shadowy corner.

*Way too quiet in here.*

"... and this stuff will not come out. I've told you that dozens of times, Angel, but you never listen to me..."

Angel moved toward the stairs, hearing the faint sounds of wind whistling upstairs. He sniffed the air and caught a faint trace of something...

"... takes tons of bleach to even get it halfway clean and by then it smells..."

Angel frowned, trying to ignore the endless rant of the week from Cordelia, as he tried to pinpoint what it was he was smelling.

"Something's wrong."

Cordelia stopped mid-breath and turned to stare at Angel.


Wesley moved closer then ran to the weapons closet to get more weaponry as Angel moved slowly to the stairs. He threw a couple more daggers to Gunn and Fred then moved up behind Angel as he broke into a run. Angel flew up the stairs then stopped, sniffing the air.

*Why can't I... oh no.*

Angel closed his eyes as the others caught up with him and took a deep breath.


Cordelia's eyes widened and she gasped as Angel took off toward room 217. Angel ran to the open door and winced at the destruction that was once said room. He moved into the room slowly and heard the others milling about behind him. He moved, sniffing the air, and then came to a stop next to the broken, melted window.

"The glass is melted. It takes a high temperature to melt glass..."

Angel looked down at Fred and nodded. He could smell ozone in the room... and something else.

"Lightning strike... there."

He pointed down to a spot on the floor and watched as Fred bent down to examine the carpet.

"There is the impression of two shoes here. Someone was standing here when the lightning struck... but there's no ashes or blood or anything."

Cordelia moved slowly to Angel and looked into his eyes. She could see worry in them and knew that he suspected something.

"What's going on, Angel? Where's Xander?"

Angel stared at the floor... then looked at the door. He had been in the room long enough, now, to know who had been here.

"Xander's gone... and I know who took him."

Gunn moved forward, an angry look growing on his face.

"Who did it and we'll go kick some ass."

Angel shook his head.


Wesley blinked and gasped.

"Why would he..."

Angel shrugged.

"I don't know... but I intend to find out."

With that said, he stormed out of the room faster than any of them could follow. Within seconds, the front doors slammed shut.


Xander winced and blinked, waiting for the demon to strike... but nothing came. He opened his eyes to see the dead demon impaled on the sword in his hands.

"Oh my god..."

Xander slid sideways out from under the demon and then pulled the sword free. He stared down at the demon and began to shiver in shock.

*Where the hell am I?*

He looked around and could see other creatures fighting off in the distance. Xander swallowed and then looked back down at the demons.

*Battleaxe... better take it... might be able to use it, or sell it if I can find something here that will buy it.*

Xander bent down and picked up the large battleaxe, grunting at its weight. He then carefully pulled it up to his chest and moved a few feet away.

"Ok, Xander, list time. One... get home. Two... until I figure out how, find food and shelter here. Three... stay alive."

Xander looked all around and saw what looked like a group of buildings way off to the east.

"Any direction is good, probably."

Xander sighed, yanked the longsword free from the demon's corpse, then took off, hoping that whatever he found next was peaceful...

Chapter 4

Angel ran down the tunnel until he came to the glowing portal of light. Stepping through, he was transported to another realm. He walked across the room to the two figures waiting and backhanded the one closest to him.

"Where the hell is he!"

The figure standing started to reply rudely but was stopped when a clawed hand appeared before her eyes.

"Say it... just say it and I rip off your face. Now tell me where he is!"

The figure nodded slowly and looked Angel in the eyes.

"The one you see has offended those above us. He has been sent away."

Angel growled in anger.

"Where and why!"

The figure rolled its eyes.

"Where... we cannot say, for we do not know. As for the why... he is dangerous to the future of this planet."

Angel shook his head and was about to say something else... but was suddenly thrown out of the room and back into the tunnel. The portal before him vanished as he climbed to his feet.

"Xander... dangerous?"

Angel frowned and tried to think where to go next. It was then that it hit him.


He turned and ran off down the tunnel...


Xander moved through the doorway, quickly moving out of the way of the large green demon that was exiting. As he stepped inside, he noticed he wasn't the only human in there. At the bar was a man in his 40's. Xander smiled and walked over... then slowed when he noticed the small horns barely visible at the base of the man's neck.

"What do you want?"

Xander blinked and sat down on one of the stools in front of the man.

"Where am I?"

The man glared at Xander and rolled his eyes.

"You're in my bar.... now, what do you want?"

Xander shook his head.

"Not here..."

He waved his arms around in a circle.

"... here, this place. What is it called?"

The man raised an eyebrow and grinned, revealing shark teeth.

"Ah... a new arrival. Welcome to the place you will spend the rest of your life... welcome to Quartoth."

Xander frowned.

"What's Quartoth?"

The man grinned wider.


Xander's eyes widened in shock as he began to shake in fear, beginning to understand just what that Whistler guy was talking about...


Angel walked back into the hotel and sat down. The others gathered and looked at him, their eyes asking questions they were afraid to speak.

"The Powers have taken him... but they won't tell me where..."

Cordelia moved next to him and sat down.


Angel was about to speak when someone beat him to it.

"... because your boy Xander is a Champion... they just haven't figured out who's side he's on yet... and that scares them... so they sent him away, to a place where he will be tested."

Angel glared at Whistler and went game face on him.

"You're going to tell me where he is or else I'm..."

Whistler stared Angel in the eyes and didn't even flinch.

"I'm going to tell you nothing. Your boy is gone. Accept that and move on. If he survives... they'll send him back to you. If not... then mourn him and move on. Do not... I repeat... do not threaten me."

Angel stared into Whistler's eyes and saw something... terrifying. He backed down and nodded slowly. Whistler sighed and looked up momentarily.

"I'm sorry... but there is nothing you can do."

With that said, he faded away from sight leaving a stunned and shattered group behind him...


Time passed and life went on...

Xander wasn't forgotten... but he wasn't remembered daily by them either...

In a sense... he faded from memory as if it was the natural thing...

But they were wrong...


Wesley stared at the book and reread what he had found there.

*The father shall kill the son... no, this can't happen... I... I have to do it.*

Wesley looked up and out into the main room and saw Angel playing with Connor. He looked so happy... but the book couldn't be wrong. He would kill... his son...

He looked back down and began planning what he must do...


Time was set in motion and things that were meant to be occurred...

Wesley took Angel's son and ran... only to be attacked and almost killed... with baby Connor being taken from him.

Holtz tormented Angel, flaunting Connor, until his ally appeared...

As the rift in space opened behind Holtz, with Angel watching helplessly, fate took that moment to push things out of balance...


Xander twirled his blade and sliced off the demon's head. He removed the teeth and placed them in a pouch on his belt. They would fetch a high price at the fair in Garle in ten days time.

"Another one down... and another 300 credits in my pocket."

He cleaned the blade then slung it over his shoulder and into its sheath. He was about to move on when lightning filled the sky and a large rift opened in the air a few miles from him.

*A portal... after so many years... I can finally go home.*

Xander tied his pouch securely to his side then took off toward the portal. He knew, from past experience, he only had a few minutes from the time it opened to use it before it closed. He was not going to miss this one and be damned anything that got in his way.


Holtz held Connor close to his body as Angel held everyone off.

"I'll take care of him..."

He then turned and ran into the rift. As he stepped inside, he failed to see the dark figure streaking toward him. He was busy watching the rift as it closed and only noticed the figure when a scream of anguish exploded near him. Holtz jerked his head around in time to see a gauntleted fist slam into his face... then the rest was darkness.


Xander arrived a moment too late, arriving just as it closed, and he wanted to hurt something. Without thinking, he spun around and saw the man he had punched. There was an aura of evil surrounding him and Xander grinned.

"You came to the wrong place pal..."

He drew his sword and slammed it into the man's back, killing him instantly. Xander then ripped the sword free and rolled him over to reveal... a baby?

"What the...?"

Xander bent down and picked up the infant. It started to cry and Xander quickly examined it for injuries.

"Hey... hey... calm down. You're ok."

The baby blinked and locked eyes with Xander... and stopped crying. Xander halfway smiled and ran a finger across the baby's head.

"There... good..."

He peeked under the blanket and smirked.

"... boy... good boy... be good for Xander."

Connor grinned up at Xander and cooed. Xander smiled and then something flashed through his mind. He had caught a glimpse of Angel before the portal had closed. He bent down and sniffed the baby. He could smell... Angel and... Cordy?

"How the hell...?"

A roar came from nearby and Xander jerked his head in that direction.

"No time to daydream now... guess its you and me kid."

He pulled Connor close to his body then took off at a run toward civilization... and away from whatever had made the noise...

Once again... he had no idea someone was watching him, only this time... they were smiling...

Chapter 5

Angel stared at the spot in front of him where the rift had been. He was too stunned to move. All he could do was repeat the same thought over and over.


Lilah stared at Angel and frowned... then motioned for her men to get in their jeeps and leave. Soon Angel stood alone in the empty lot... completely lost in thought.


Xander ducked the sword blow and launched a sweep kick at the young boy across from him.

"Good... very good Jesse. You almost had my head that time. You just need to lower your swing a little at the beginning and then twist your wrist slightly so that the blade snaps up at just the right moment."

The boy once known as Connor, now known as Jesse, nodded and smiled at the only man he knew of as family.

"So I'm getting better, Xander?"

Xander got to his feet and nodded.

"Much better. You can take out most demons with a good head shot... and yours is better than most of the hunters out there..."

Xander nodded to himself as he pondered that fact.

*Kid's strong, even for only being seven. It must be the connection he has to Angel. I know that he's his kid, there's no other way to explain it, but I still don't get it... I mean, vamps don't have kids or else Buffy would have been preggers way back when she gave Deadboy his happy...*

"... with the stake launcher?"

Xander blinked. He had been so deep in thought he hadn't heard anything Jesse had said.

"What was that?"

Jesse frowned then smirked.

"Getting old Pops?"

Xander growled.

"I'm not old... I'm... I'm... oh shit, I have no clue. All I know is I was 20 when I came here... and I think I'd been here about 10 years maybe when you showed up... and you're about seven or eight now... so that makes me..."

Jesse smiled.

"38... so you see, I was right. You're old."

Jesse giggled then ran away as Xander mock-chased him around their home... finally tackling him and tickling him without mercy.

"Say it... say I'm not old."

Jesse laughed, tears forming in his eyes.

"Ok.. ok.. you're not old!"

Xander smiled and let the boy up. Jesse wiped his eyes and smirked.

"You're not old... you're ancient!"

He then laughed and ran upstairs. Xander watched him leave then shook his head.

*So much like me... Deadboy's going to have a fit when he sees him... that is if he could see him...*

Xander took one more look upstairs before moving to gather up the weapons, putting them away. After all, it would ruin his reputation as a professional demon hunter if he were to leave weaponry just lying around...


Angel stumbled into the hotel and stared around in shock. Cordelia ran up to him and took his hand.

:"What happened? Where's Connor?"

Angel shook his head.

"Connor's gone."

With the words out, he collapsed onto the couch. Soon, one by one, they gathered around him. Over the next half hour he told them everything.

"You're saying you think you saw Xander on the other side?"

Angel nodded.

"I know I saw him... only it couldn't have been him.. because he looked..."

Cordelia grabbed Angel's head and turned it to face her.

"Looked what?"

Angel blinked.

"Older... years older."

He closed his eyes, remembering his time in hell.

"But maybe... I remember hundreds of years passing when I was in hell... but only a small amount of time passed here. Maybe he is experiencing something similar..."

Xander in hell, the thought alone was too much for Cordelia to take.

"No... he couldn't be... that's just wrong. We have to do something. Do you know where he was?"

Angel nodded.

"Yes, but there is no way in or out of there. He's stuck there... as is Connor."

Angel paused and looked up at nothing.

*At least Connor has Xander there. I just hope that he finds him and can get him from Holtz... before its too late.*

Cordelia nodded.

"Xander's there with him. He'll take care of Connor... I just know he will."

She looked at Angel and tried to smile.

"Don't worry, Angel. If anyone can find a way out of hell, Xander can."

Angel looked down at her smiling face and nodded.

"I certainly hope so..."

Chapter 6

The door flew inward as a young man rushed into the room.

"Father! Father... where are you?!"

Xander looked up from his work and shook his head.

"I'm up here... and how many times have I told you not to call me Father, Jesse."

Jesse ran up the stairs to Xander's loft workshop and came to a stop next to his desk.

"I know, I know. I forgot you prefer to be called Pops... in the excitement of having finally tracked down a traveler."

Hearing the news, Xander's eyes opened wider and his head jerked up in shock.

"Where and when?"

Jesse smiled.

"Rakom Gap. I saw a few hunters fighting it just 10 minutes ago. They had no clue what it was, but I knew... so I came running to get you."

Xander nodded and jumped to his feet, wincing slightly as he moved. He was in his mid 40's now and had slowed some.

"Get loaded up. Grab everything important. This may be the one shot we get. If we do this right..."

Jesse strapped on the stake launchers and nodded.

"We go home... right?"

Xander nodded.

"Exactly. We have to get there and catch it before it jumps ship... then hold on tight and hope we don't fry before we get where we're going."

Xander threw his battleaxe over his shoulder and strapped it in place then glanced around the room.

"That's everything for me... you?"

He looked at Jesse and nodded. He was about 17 now and was every inch a killing machine. Armed head to toe with weapons, the young man smirked a Xander-smirk at its originator and nodded.

"Do I look deadly or what."

Xander laughed and shook his head.

"Come on... its time to leave this place, for good."

Xander ran down the stairs and paused to write a quick note to anyone who happened to come by.

"Gone hunting... usual rules apply... if we don't come back feel free to keep anything here you want. Good hunting to you. à- Xander and Jesse."

He pinned it to the door and then followed Jesse outside... and onward to the Gap.


Cordelia thumbed through the catalog, again, this time looking for anything that might liven up Angel's wardrobe.

*Too dark... too bright... not good with his skin tone... *

She had been trying to find something, perfect, for him all morning.

"God I'm bored. I just wish something would happen."

As if asking for it summoned it to life, a vision exploded inside Cordy's mind. She jerked in shock and slight pain, falling backward out of her chair. Visions of a horrific creature flashed across her eyes... along with a young man and an older man... then a up close view of a stake pointed right between her eyes.


Angel stormed into the room and found Cordy lying on the floor.

"Cordy! What happened?"

Cordy sat up and then held onto Angel as he bent down next to her.

"Vision... demon... big and dangerous... teenage boy and an old man..."

Angel nodded.


Cordy blinked and then looked up into Angel's eyes.



Jesse jumped over the clawed arm that slashed toward where his stomach had been moment before, then flipped over the traveler's body... landing behind it. Xander watched from a few feet away, firing crossbow bolts into its side each time he had a clean shot... while monitoring the creature's magical output. He knew that if they could make it hurt enough, it would flee... into the time/space stream... and from there, they could travel on to Earth. All they had to do was survive the trip.

"You're almost there. It's pretty pissed!"

Jesse nodded and jumped into the creature's back, stabbing a painful but shallow gash between its shoulder blades. A wail of agony filled the gap and Xander nodded as the power change.

"Now! It's going to jump!"

Jesse nodded and jumped off of the traveler's back. Xander moved to his side and attached the ropes between them. The traveler began to shimmer and then a rift in time and space appeared. The traveler jumped into the rift... followed a second later by Xander and Jesse...


"... and I don't see how anything like that can happen. It's description doesn't match anything we know of. How can something like that just show up?"

Angel shrugged as he polished the blade of the broadsword in his hands.

"I don't know, Fred, but Cordy saw it... appearing here... so we get ready."

Fred nodded.

"We do that how?"

Angel was about to respond when a crackling sound filled the room. He turned slowly and noticed... something... shimmering about 12 feet off of the ground. It had the appearance of oil on water and there was the feeling of power radiating from it... strong power.

"Everyone back away..."

Wesley took Cordelia by the shoulders and pulled her behind the couch, with Gunn doing the same with Fred. Angel took a few steps toward the shimmer... then jumped back as it flashed and opened wide. Seconds later, the creature Cordy had seen fell from the opening, landing a few feet away from Angel.

"Angel! That's it!"

Angel glanced at Cordy then nodded. He brought his broadsword up and was about to attack when the opening flashed again and a young man fell out of the opening. He landed on his feet then spun around in a circle, releasing a volley of throwing daggers at the creature. It roared in pain and spun to attack... but the young man just leapt over it and slammed his sword down through the creature's head, killing it instantly.

*Those moves... where have I seen them before?*

Angel was about to speak to the young man when another person fell from the opening moments before it sealed itself. The newest arrival was male and clothed in a hooded cloak, hiding his appearance... but something about him immediately made Angel on edge. The young man turned toward the man and moved to his side, only to be brushed aside as the old man got to his feet.

"Excuse me..."

The young man jerked toward Angel and spun around. As he faced Angel, his arm snapped up revealing what looked like a modified version of his own stake launcher... only with three instead of one. Angel jerked in surprise and pulled his hands up just as the young man smirked. Angel swallowed and was about to say something... but the young man spoke first, and what he said chilled Angel to the core.

"Hey Deadboy..."

Chapter 7

"Hey Deadboy..."

Angel blinked in shock then swallowed hard as the old man moved toward the teen. He placed his hands on the boy's shoulders and whispered into his ear. The boy tilted his head then nodded, lowering the weapon away.

"Who the hell are you!"

Gunn was moving toward them, an angry look on his face. Angel shook his head and moved to stop him when the old man acted.

"Back away."

Light exploded off of his fingers as he made a throwing motion toward Gunn. The light surrounded his body and then formed into ropes of light that held him in place. Jesse growled at Gunn then calmed when the old man squeezed his shoulder.

"Angel... tell your people to stand down before they piss me off enough to go medieval on their asses..."

Angel tried to look within the hood to see the man inside, but all he could see was darkness.

"Stand down."

Gunn glared at Angel then nodded. As he did, the light faded away, freeing him. Gunn backed away and moved to protect Fred once more.

"Good move. Now, why don't we all just calm down long enough for me to get a good breath of air, bad as it might be."

The old man took in a breath and then coughed at the smog that he hadn't breathed in so long.

"Oh god... forgot how bad the air is here."

He moved to a nearby chair and sat down. Jesse nodded and perched behind him.

"God, I really need a Twinkie..."

At those words, two heads jerked at him in shock. In that moment, the feeling that they both had been feeling suddenly made sense. It all snapped into place. They knew who the old man was.


The old man smiled.

"Never could fool you, could I... Queen C?"

He lifted his head slowly, the hood falling back from his face to reveal a weathered, scarred... older Xander.

"It's been... a while. Did you miss me?"

Cordy trembled for a moment then ran across the room, launching herself at Xander. Her arms went around him and hugged him to her... releasing all the fear and pain she had felt since his disappearance.

"Oh God.. you're alive... you're ok..."

Xander winced and his eyes widened.

"Too... tight... Cordy..."

Cordy jerked and backed away.

"Oh God... I'm sorry. Are you ok?"

Xander nodded.

"Yeah, I'm good, just older."

He looked back at Jesse and saw him staring at Cordy and Fred, alternating between them.

"Don't even think about it, junior. They're off limits. I'll find you someone later... and anyway, the one here... almost in my lap... probably's as close to being your mom as you can get, from what I smelled off of you when I found you."

Angel's eyes widened in shock. He stared at the teen and sniffed the air.


Jesse turned to look at Angel, then looked back at Xander.

"Don't look at me, I didn't know what he named you, so I did my best Jesse."

Cordy looked at Xander then at the young man behind him and smiled.

"You named him Jesse... he'd like that."

Xander nodded and smiled as Angel slowly walked closer.

"Angel... this is Jesse... or Connor, whichever you want... and Jess, this is your dad."

Jesse/Connor looked Angel up and down and nodded.

"Don't take this the wrong way. I don't know you. He's been the only person in my life... so don't get upset if I don't feel what you want me to feel out of the gate. He's told me stories though... so just give me time."

Angel nodded, his mind in shock by everything.

*He's home... he's finally home.*

"I understand."

Angel turned to Xander and smiled.

"I saw you... when Holtz took Connor. I saw you attack Holtz. If you hadn't been there... I... I don't know what to think might have happened. Thank you. Thank you for protecting my son."

Xander looked up at Angel and nodded.

"No problem, Deadboy. When I smelled you on him, I figured that it wouldn't hurt to keep the little nipper safe. Plus, the whole baby thing... figured I'd give it a shot. Also... poor kid was so ugly, figured he'd scare away all the demons."

Jesse/Connor rolled his eyes, having heard the story before.

"No... you wanted to keep me because of the reactions of Shalie, Feiola, Degaila... and how many other of those crossbreeds?"

Xander blushed and shook his head. Cordy stared at him and a look of indignation crossed her face.

"You... with demons... ewww..."

Xander smirked at Cordy and winked.

"Don't knock it till you try it. Some of them looked just as human as you... though only half as beautiful."

Hearing herself being called beautiful caused a blush to creep across her face, silencing any rebuff she had. Seeing he had one upped her, Xander grinned.

"Why I do believe I finally got you. Damn... if only Buffy knew, she'd be laughing her ass off."

At mention of Buffy's name, the room grew quiet. Xander looked at them and frowned.



Xander blinked in shock and sipped his coffee.

"She's alive... and has been ever since a few months after I left Sunnydale?"

Cordy nodded and glanced over at Angel and his son as they talked in the next room.

"Willow and Tara, along with some of their friends, brought her back. She freaked for a while... then seemed to be ok. Um... do you want me to call them, let them know you're back?"

Xander thought about it for a moment then shook his head.

"No. They forced me to leave. They couldn't care less about me. I'm better off with them not knowing anything."

He got to his feet and stretched before grabbing another Twinkie, his fifth so far.

"Oh god these are good. I think I'm going to love you forever for having these Cordy."

Cordy smiled and nodded.

"I've been buying a box every few weeks, ever since you left... just in case, you know."

Xander looked into her eyes and nodded.

"You never gave up hope that I was still alive... somewhere out there? What about you and Angel?"

Cordy frowned.

"What do you mean?"

Xander frowned.

"Come on, you and Angel. You were always smiling and flirting with each other. You only had eyes for him and you know it. Hell, I almost point blank asked you out and you turned me down, then five minutes later were flirting with him. Don't you know that's why I went upstairs, why I wouldn't look at you when you left?"

Cordy shook her head. She hadn't known any of this.

"I didn't know."

Xander sighed.

"You were the only reason I even agreed with Angel about staying. He said..."

He looked away and shook his head. Cordy frowned and moved closer.

"What? Angel said what?"

Xander turned and faced her.

"He said you loved me. That's the only reason why I came here... on the off chance that you might... well, that you might want me."

Cordy's eyes widened in shock.

"I...I don't know what to say..."

Xander nodded and moved toward the door.

"Nothing to say. You've moved on and I've gotten old. What could have been is gone."

He glanced back at her then stepped into the main lobby, leaving a stunned Cordy behind him...

Chapter 8

Xander walked into the room and over to Jesse/Connor. As he reached the boy's side, he leaned over to whisper in his ear.

"We're heading out. I don't want you staying here tonight. You can come back tomorrow but for now... I want us to have at least one more normal day together... before everything..."

Jesse nodded and smiled.

"I know..."

Angel looked up and frowned. He had heard part of the whispered conversation, but not all of it.

"What's up?"

Xander turned to Angel and smiled.

"Telling Jesse that we're heading out. We'll be back tomorrow morning..."

Cordy entered from behind them and Xander could almost feel her frown.

"You can stay here."

Xander shook his head.

"No thanks. We'll be back in the morning... but for now, we have some things to discuss, alone."

He looked Angel in the eyes.

"I brought you back your son, Angel. You can at least give me one day to say goodbye. I was his father for 16 years."

As Angel nodded, Fred frowned in confusion.

*Sixteen years... and he was about 21 so considering the wait between his leaving and now he should only be 40 or so... but then why does he look to be almost 60?*

"... tomorrow morning around 10."

Xander nodded and moved to the door. Light flashed off of his hand and Fred caught a glimpse of a blue gem wrapped in gold and tied around two of Xander's fingers.

*Where have I seen that before?*

The doors opened and the two arrivals left leaving a stunned, yet happy, group behind. As Angel moved around, a grin locked on his face, Fred got up and headed for the computer... determined to discover just where she had seen that jewel before...


Jesse looked back at the building as they turned the corner.

"We're clear... you can drop the glamour now."

Xander grinned and a ripple washed down his body. As it passed through him, he seemed to become years younger... now looking barely in his mid-30's. He laughed and removed the hand tool from his fingers and slid it into his pocket.

"Don't see why you didn't just tell them about it..."

Xander shook his head.

"They wouldn't understand. Buffy was always 'kill first, ask questions later' when it came to the unusual. I don't want a stake through my chest. I'd rather just keep Atri a secret... and he agrees with me."

Jesse stopped and glared at Xander.

"Oh really... I want him to tell me that."

Xander looked into Jesse's eyes and nodded. Jesse stared into the man's brown eyes then watched as they flashed silver. Xander nodded, his face more solemn now, and when he spoke his voice was the deeper tone of Atri.

"I agree with Xander, Jesse. Xander's memories are not pleasant when it comes to the unexplained. We both feel a certain level of subterfuge is needed."

Jesse nodded and sighed.

"I think I understand. I just wish we could have been more honest with them. I mean, he is my father... right?"

Xander/Atri nodded.

"Yes child, he is. Xander could smell him upon you as a baby and knew it to be so. I did my own work when we joined and your DNA is not that of a full human. The vampire is your father."

Jesse nodded and they started walking again. They were just turning another corner when someone slammed into him, knocking him to the ground.

"Cassie... come back here!"

Jesse looked up to see a girl his own age staring down at him. She was beautiful and it took him a minute to remember to breathe.

"Are you..."

Xander/Atri had only spoken for a second when the girl screamed and backed away. Jesse looked at her then back at Xander and noticed the silver tone to his eyes was still there... Atri was still in control. Xander blinked and his eyes reverted to brown... but it was too late. A red haired woman ran up to them and grabbed onto the screaming girl.

"What did you do to her?!"

Xander backed away with his hands up and Jesse climbed to his feet.

"We haven't done anything, madam. This young woman ran into my son and knocked him to the ground... then she just started screaming after that."

Cassie shook her head and glared at Xander.

"He's one of them!"

Janet Frasier looked at her daughter then at the man before her.

"One of who sweetie?"

Cassie looked into her mother's eyes and swallowed.

"He's a Goa'uld!"

Janet's head snapped toward Xander as a look of surprise crossed his face. She pulled a gun from nowhere and quickly had it aimed at his head.

"Look.. I, I can explain..."

But there was no need as Janet suddenly discovered a sword blade under her chin... with the boy at the other end of it.

"Lower your weapon, now, or I will remove your head."

Janet swallowed as Cassie clutched to her side in fear.

"Well... seems we're at a standoff here, aren't we?"

She looked at the pair across from her and noticed a crowd was forming.

*Get a news crew... someone please get a news crew... I need help!*

As they locked eyes with each other, a siren could be heard faintly in the distance...

Chapter 9

Xander glanced at the crowd around them then back again at the woman. The situation was getting quickly out of control.

"Jesse, calm down. I'm sure the nice woman doesn't really want to hurt us. We scared her, that's all. Why don't you lower your sword and back away and I'm sure she'll lower her gun... right?"

Janet nodded slightly, avoiding the blade inches from her neck. Jesse looked at Xander then nodded, lowering the blade to his side. Janet lowered her gun then slid it into her purse. Xander nodded and scanned the crowd. He figured they had a few minutes before the cops arrived.

"We need to discuss this... but this is not a good place. Would the two of you be open to say... going into that cafe across the street?

Cassie looked up into her mother's eyes, her own screaming no, but Janet needed to know more. She nodded and looked at the crowd.

"What about them?"

Xander smiled.

"I can deal with them... now, after you, madam."

Janet frowned slightly and moved toward the street, Cassie at her side. They crossed the street quickly and out of the corner of her eye she saw the man flash something at the crowd. Within seconds, the crowd was dispersing.

*How did he...?*

They reached the cafe and Xander opened the door for them, letting them go inside first, then followed. Inside, they found an empty table and sat down.

"I want answers and I want..."

A young woman of about 17 appeared next to their table then and giggled. She was staring at Jesse as she pulled out a notepad.

"Hi, I'm Candi. Welcome to Carmine's. What can I get you?"

Jesse looked at Xander and shrugged. He had no clue what to order. Xander nodded and grinned.

"Ladies first."

Janet nodded, her eyes locked on Xander, and tapped Cassie's arm.

"Hot Chocolate... cinnamon roll."

Janet glanced at the waitress and nodded to herself.

"Coffee... cream and three sugars."

Candi turned to Xander and Jesse and grinned.

"I'll have... hmm... something really frothy and..."

He spotted a man a table away drinking something that looked good and pointed.

"Oh.. I'll have one of those."

Candi looked over and made a note then grinned at Jesse. Jesse smiled, weakly, and swallowed.

"Uh.. the same."

Candi nodded and almost skipped away. Jesse watched her go and wondered at why she was so happy... then glanced back at the strange woman as she spoke.

"Alright now... who are you and what do you want?"

Xander smiled and leaned back in his chair.

"My name is Xander and I don't really want anything except maybe to meet someone who loves Twinkies as much as I do... and has seen as much as me... or maybe not... but it'd be nice if she had an open mind about things... and might be nice to get the hell out of California finally... maybe go someplace cooler... always wanted to see snow... and..."

Janet stared at the man across from her in shock. He was babbling on and on about junk food, snow, and now... comic books?

"... and I really need to get back in touch with what's happened. I mean, I've lost a few years worth of comics... oh.. and tv, God I miss tv... and movies... I've missed a ton of movies probably..."

Janet looked at her daughter and saw her giving her the same look. They both thought the same thing... he's insane.

"Look... who are you... and why are you here?"

Xander frowned. He didn't like being interrupted.

"I told you. My name is Xander and I'm here because I was bringing Jesse here home to his family. After that, who knows... and why the hell do you care?"

Janet glared at Xander and moved closer.

"Cut the crap. I know what you are... snake-head. Tell me your name, you Goa'uld."

Xander frowned while Atri grew angry.

"I'm not a gold... or whatever you said."

Janet looked around and made sure no one was looking. She then slammed the heel of her shoe into Xander's leg and as he jerked in pain, his eyes flashed silver.

"Ha! I knew it."

Atri came to the surface and glared at Janet.

"I am Tok'ra, woman, not Goa'uld... since you insist on knowing. My name is Atri. Now I ask you, how do you know?!"

Janet jerked back in surprise.

*Tok'ra... oh god... and I... way to go Janet.*

"I.. I'm sorry. I didn't think..."

Atri nodded.

"No, you didn't think... no calm yourself..."

Xander's eyes faded to brown and he blinked.

"You really need to stop jumping to conclusions... and why don't you tell us who you are and why you made my buddy angry?"

Janet looked down at her hands and wondered how to start. The Tok'ra were their allies... and if she had just offended one of them... well, it wouldn't be pretty.

"I work for the SGC. I'm here with my daughter on vacation."

Inside Xander, Atri frowned in confusion.

*SGC... Xander, ask her what that is.*

Xander frowned.

"What's the SGC?"

Janet's eyes widened... then returned to normal. She needed to call the base... quickly.

"Oh.. my phone... I set it on vibrate. I need to take this."

She stood and moved off to the side. Keeping her back to the table, she quickly dialed Sam.


Janet smiled.

"Hi Sam... how are you?"

On the other end of the line, Samantha Carter frowned in confusion at her phone.

"Janet... I'm ok... are you? You sound... strange."

Janet laughed.

"I'm having a marvelous time with Cassie... here in L.A. Saw the sites... met some people... got some contacts for Daniel, like he asked..."

Sam jerked in her seat.

*Daniel... but he's... oh...*

She keyed an alarm and sat straight in her chair.

"Janet... what's wrong?"

Janet smiled and turned slightly to watch the table.

"I got him his prescription, like he asked, then got him some of those green ones, and some of those new gray one... you know they almost look... silver..."

Sam frowned as Janet spoke.

*Contacts... why is she going on about contacts... and colored ones at that... green and... silver... oh crap!*

"Janet... is there a Goa'uld near you?"

Janet shook her head.

"No dear, his cousin..."

Sam nodded.


Janet smiled.

"Exactly... but I can't remember his address...."

Sam turned to her computer and pulled up the database they recently updated on all Tok'ra.

"Ok.. give me the name."

Janet chewed on her lower lip. She had been on the phone too long.

"All we know is it's in an ok neighborhood and he said he parked his car next to... a tree."

Sam frowned in confusion and let the words pass through her mind.


Janet nodded.

"Yes.... oh.. you have to go? Will you call me back when you get the directions?"

Sam looked up as Jack entered and motioned him over. She quickly wrote down the situation and handed the phone over as she began to look up the name. Jack took the phone and took a breath.

"Janet... it's me Jack... don't start... now, can you get to someplace safe where we can..."

Sam entered the name and jerked in shock at what came up on the screen.

"Atri... lost years ago in the great battle. Renown tactician and strategist. Search ongoing for his whereabouts... high priority."

Jack stared at the screen and nodded.

"Janet... try to remain calm and keep an eye on this guy. Sam, Teal'c and I are on our way."

Janet nodded and smiled, feeling a bit more secure now.

"Thanks hon. Bye."

She walked back over to the table and sat down.

"Your Aunt Sam is going to get those directions for us to your cousin Jack's place. She said it might be a while so looks like we have some time free."

Cassie nodded, understanding slightly what her mom was saying.

"Sightseeing then?"

Janet nodded. She turned to Xander and smiled.

"I'm sorry for the inconvenience. Can I make it up to you somehow?"

Xander smiled and nodded.

"Since you have time, why don't Jesse and I show you some of the sites here? You don't mind, do you Jess?"

Jesse looked at Xander and caught the subtle meaning behind his words. He nodded and smiled.

"Sounds like fun to me."

Janet grinned and swallowed.

"Well then, since you've offered... that would be nice."

She smiled and looked up as Candi brought their orders... hoping that SG1 would arrive soon...

Chapter 10

It had been a long and productive three hours but they had had fun. They had seen most of the sites that people went to the most. Jesse and Cassie had their pictures taken with someone who they swore was famous while Janet and Xander watched and smiled. All in all, it was a great day. They had gone back to the coffee shop to rest once they were done, seeing as that was where they met.

"Thank you for a lovely afternoon, Mr. Harris."

Xander winced.

"Xander... just Xander... my dad is Mr. Harris and I hate his guts. Hearing myself being called that just makes me cringe."

Janet nodded.

"Sorry... Xander."

Xander nodded. He looked up at the setting sun and sighed. It would be time, soon, for him to do what he so didn't want to do yet. He wasn't ready... but he knew he had to do it.

"Jess... it's time. Your dad will be heading out and about soon. I... I guess this is it."

Jesse nodded and sighed.

"You sure you can't stay? I'm sure he wouldn't mind."

Xander shook his head. He wanted to stay, very much so, but he knew his life was elsewhere. He kept having these dreams about what Atri called a stargate... and he was certain that one of them was on the planet... and after meeting Janet, he was more sure of it than ever before. He needed to get to it, so he could get Atri home to his people.

"I have to get our buddy home, Jess. After how he's helped us... it's only right."

Jesse nodded and got to his feet.

"I'll miss you, Zeppo."

Xander got to his feet and smiled.

"I'll miss you too, Destroyer."

Xander looked down the street and watched the sun sink below the horizon. He knew Angel would be emerging soon.

"I'll walk you back and then say goodbye to them before I move on."

He turned to Janet and Cassie and smiled.

"I'd like a word with you later about something important. Can I have the address of where you're staying?"

Janet nodded.

"We're at the Ridgecrest. Just ask the bellman for Janet Frasier and he'll relay the message to us and we'll meet you in the lobby."

Xander nodded and smiled.

"See you then."

He and Jesse then turned and walked off into the approaching night, vanishing around the corner. As they disappeared, Janet turned to Cassie and took her hand.

"Jack and Teal'c are on their way. They might be at the hotel already. They'll protect us in case he was lying about who he says he is. Sam wants to know where he's been for so long... so we need to be nice to him. Can you do that?"

Cassie nodded and Janet smiled.

"Well, let's head back then."

They got to their feet and headed off in the opposite direction from Xander and Jesse... both groups preparing for something neither was sure would go well...


As Xander and Jesse entered the Hyperion, having restored the age illusion first, everything came to a halt and all eyes were on them.

"Well, got him back safe and sound Deadboy."

Angel rolled his eyes at Xander and nodded.

"Thank you... but I thought you weren't coming back until tomorrow morning?"

Xander nodded.

"Change of plans, sorry to say. I have to cut things short. I'll be heading out soon."

He paused and looked over at Cordy.

"Just came to say my goodbyes."

Xander walked over to Wesley, Fred and Gunn and shook their hands.

"Hope that you all have a nice long life. It's good work that you're doing and you just keep yourselves safe."

They nodded as Xander moved on to Angel.

"Angel... never got a chance to thank you for stepping in and stopping me from doing what it was I was going to do. Thank you. I know now that you were right... she would have kicked my ass."

Angel smiled and nodded.

"Thank you, Xander, for taking care of my son. I can never repay you."

Xander smiled and shook his head.

"I should be the one repaying you. Your boy kept me sane. Taking care of him... it kept me from going off the deep end and losing it all. He's special... remember that."

Angel nodded as Xander moved on to Cordy.

"Cordy... I'm going to miss you. You were a constant in my life - belittling me; caring about me; being comforting to me; being something for me to hold onto when all else was lost... through it all, you were there. I want to thank you for that. You'll own a part of my heart forever."

Cordy gazed at Xander with teary eyes and threw her arms around his neck.

"You be careful."

Xander nodded and hugged her tight.

"Take care of Angel... he loves you as much as I do... and I can see how much you love him too."

Cordy smiled and nodded.

"I promise."

They let go of each other and Xander moved to Jesse's side.

"You know how to reach me, Destroyer, if you need me."

Jesse nodded then watched as his second father walked slowly off into the darkness...


Xander walked into the hotel and over to the main desk.

"Yes... can I help you?"

Xander smiled and nodded.

"Janet Frasier's room... can you call her and tell her Xander Harris is in the lobby?"

The man nodded and checked the computer.

"Certainly sir."

Xander smiled and walked toward the lobby... not noticing the two men who were standing in the shadows, scanning the room. If he had noticed them, he would have seen them join Janet as she exited the elevator and then walk toward the lobby. When they entered, they walked over to Xander. As they approached, both Xander and Teal'c jerked to attention.

"What's going on here?"

Xander got to his feet and backed away. Jack smiled and raised his hands.

"Calm down... we're not going to hurt you... we just want to talk."

Xander frowned.

"Talk about what?"

Jack grinned.

"How would you like to rejoin the fight against the Goa'uld?"

Surprise crossed Xander's face and a smile slowly appeared.

"Tell me more..."

Chapter 11

Xander stared up at the mountain as the rental car drove slowly toward its destination. He was unsure as to how things would go once he was at the place he would soon call his new home, but he felt at ease about it... thanks to the woman sitting next to him. Xander glanced over at Janet and felt himself smile. She had, in a short time, become important to him. There was something about her that drew him to her. He didn't know what it was, but he liked it.

"... and we'll get you settled in and everything and then we can get you onto a team."

Xander nodded, half-listening, and stared ahead at the large gates that they were approaching.

"They're all interested in how you became Atri's host. Are you sure you won't tell me?"

Xander smirked and shook his head.

"You're going to have to wait for the rest. It's a long story, and one I don't want to have to do more than once."

Janet nodded, understanding. She could see a look of pain in his eyes everything she brought the subject up... and knew that something about it was very troubling for him. She would just be patient and wait.

"We're here. We'll be inside and settled soon, Xander."

Xander nodded and smiled, his hand sliding to the backpack at his feet... and the devices within.


The meeting room filled quickly within minutes of Xander's arrival. He stood at the window that overlooked the gate room and ignored them until they all arrived. His concentration was locked on the Stargate... and Atri was shocked that they had figured it out.

*They must be more intelligent than you let me know, Xander. Do you think they would let us open a gate to my home?*

Xander shrugged to himself and looked over his shoulder as the door closed with a bang.

*Don't know, pal. We can ask.*

Xander turned and moved to his chair. As he sat down, he noticed all eyes turn to him. A bald man cleared his throat and nodded to Xander.

"My name is General Hammond. I'd like to welcome you to the SGC. The Tok'ra have been notified of your return and Anise and Selmak are coming to see you."

Xander nodded. Atri recognized those names.

*So they live... good... very good.*

"Thank you. It will be pleasant seeing them again."

Xander took a drink from the glass of water in front of him and took a deep breath.

"You're all wondering why and how I became who I became. It all started like this. Vampires, Demons, Werewolves... they're all real. There are chosen protectors in this world, chosen by a group of beings called the Powers That Be. I pissed one of them off and was banished to a Hell Dimension called Quartoth..."


Xander crossed the ridgeline and paused to check his bearing by the blue star that hung just above the horizon, day and night.

*Just a bit to the left... and about 15 miles away... then a bit more to the right... ok, so I'm about a day's walk from home.*

He put away his telescope and began to climb down the ridge... then stopped when he heard the sounds of fighting. Having lived in Hell for many years, he had learned that when there was fighting... there was always a loser, and with said loser sometimes came money, weapons, or food... depending on the species. Xander was running low on all three, so he pulled out his sword and headed toward the sounds. They weren't too far off, so it took little time to reach the plateau where they stood. It was a young Fyarl Demon against what looked like a human.

*Another human... I wonder why no one told me about him... her... can't tell from here.*

He watched for a minute and saw the human was losing ground fast. It would be over soon.

*Help or scavenge... damn it... hang on.*

Xander sighed, rolled his eyes, and raced toward the fight. As he neared them, the demon slashed the human and it went down. Xander bellowed and swung his sword. The demon turned just in time to look shocked just as the sword's blade sliced through its neck. As it fell to the dirt, Xander moved to the human and found... her... still alive, but not for long.

"Hey... you still with me?"

The woman opened her eyes and stared up at Xander in a mix of shock and fear.

"Please... no time... can't let Atri die... please help me..."

Seeing that the woman was in pain and didn't have much time left, Xander just nodded and agreed.

"Sure... whatever... I'll help this Atri... just hold on."

The woman let out the breath she had been holding, then proceeded to rip open her shirt... revealing a strange mark on her stomach. Xander leaned down toward it and was startled as it opened and something snakelike exploded out of it. It flew at him and went down the front of his shirt. Seconds later, there was a sharp pain in his gut then nothing. Xander's eyes rolled back in his head and he fell back... unconscious.

Deep inside his mind, however, many changes were occurring.


"... and when I woke up, we were joined. Atri explained everything to me and it made sense, so I agreed to be his host from then on. I gathered my things and Oriana's thing, that was her name, and headed on home. I explained everything to the boy I was taking care of and showed him that there was nothing to be scared of. I then spent the next 10 years or so learning what I needed to know in order to get me, Jesse, and Atri out of there.... and then did so... and now I'm here. Atri was there for... too many years to count."

Xander looked back at the window and shook his head.

"If I've told you enough, Atri would like to see your logs of the locations you have discovered. He wants to offer to add to said log all of the settings he knows... as a thank you gift for helping us to get him home."

General Hammond nodded and smiled.

"Thank you. We accept your offer and are pleased you are here. Quarters have been assigned to you. You can get settled in and then tomorrow we'll get you started."

Xander nodded and stood.

"Thank you. May I go now, I'm very tired."

General Hammond nodded and Janet got to her feet. She smiled at Xander and beckoned him to join her. They then exited the room, leaving a semi-stunned group behind them.

"Demons... Vampires... are we sure this guy's all there?"

Samantha Carter rolled her eyes at Jack O'Neill and nodded.

"Yes, Janet ran a psych test on him. He passed."

Jack shook his head.

"Damn.. and I thought the Goa'uld were tough..."

Chapter 12

"Chevron Seven activated... chevron seven locked in place. Gate opening."

The middle of the giant ring filled with water-like light that exploded first outward then inward before it formed a solid gate. Moments later two figures emerged from the gate. Seconds later, it closed and the ring returned to normal.

"Where is he?"

The one who had spoken glared at the guards on duty and made them back away from her in fear. The man behind her rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"Better answer her... she's pissed."

The guard nodded and motioned to the blast doors that were opening. General Hammond emerged and walked toward them.

"Anise... Selmak... thank you for com..."

Anise turned to Hammond and glared at him.

"Where is he?!"

Hammond raised an eyebrow and frowned.

"He's in his quarters... or else he's with Doctor Jackson in his office."

Anise nodded curtly and stormed past him, almost knocking him aside. Selmak/Jacob moved next to the General and sighed.

"Excuse her. She's pissed. Selmak says she and Atri have... a thing."

Hammond looked interested.

"A thing?"

Jacob let Selmak take over to explain. His eyes changed color as did his demeanor.

"Anise and Atri were betrothed to each other many years ago. Atri went on an ambassadorial mission to work as mediator, against Anise's wishes. When he didn't return... well, it turned her into who she is now. It made her sullen and bitter and after so many decades... her anger has developed a life of its own..."


"So you say that this leads to one of the Goa'uld homeworlds?"

Xander/Atri nodded.

"Yes. I was sent on a spy mission once to this location and discovered the living quarters of three system lords who had formed a partial alliance. They had created an elaborate city that all three shared. It was something startling to discover. I wasn't able to notify anyone of their location before what happened to me."

Daniel nodded, amazed by the possibilities.

"I see. This is amazing. How many years ago was this?"

Xander/Atri shrugged.

"Time was different where I was. I have no idea how long it has been. For me... I spent over 300 years in that place. Time plays tricks on the mind but I would guess that it has been a few decades. It was a good-sized stronghold, however, and most system lords will keep such a location for hundreds of years."

Daniel nodded.

"So you're saying they might still be there?"

Xander/Atri nodded.

"Most likely."

A smile crossed Daniel's face as he made a note of the location, then jerked when the door to his office exploded inward.

"There you are!"

Daniel and Xander/Atri turned to see... a very pissed Anise standing in the doorway.

"Where have you been!"

Xander felt Atri cringe and retreat, leaving him alone to deal with this very angry woman.

"Hi... we haven't met. I'm Xander. I'm Atri's host. He's currently unable to speak with you at this moment so I'm talking for him. Now... as to where..."

Anise moved in close to Xander and glared at him.

"Shut up human. I will speak to Atri and I will speak to him..."

While she was yelling at him, Xander slid his hand into his large pockets and carefully slid his fingers into the hand device he had kept with him. When she began her threat, he locked the device in place and quickly brought his hand up and in place, triggering the gem in the center. In that moment, Xander glared back at her and shoved it into her face.

"Shut it... or I melt you."

Anise jerked back in surprise... then fear when she recognized what was pointed at her. It was one of the most powerful of the hand devices... one of the many that had been lost.

"You don't..."

Xander shook his head.

"I do so, Anise. I know what this is. I know how to use it, every way to use it, and if you keep yelling at me... it won't matter what Atri thinks, I will blast you into the next room."

Anise took a breath, her eyes locked on the teal gem in his hand, her body shaking slightly in fear. She stepped back and slowly calmed down. Once he could tell that she was calmer, Xander lowered the device and sat down on the edge of Daniel's desk.

"Xander... does General Hammond know you have that?"

Xander shook his head.


Daniel nodded.

"Do you have more of them?"

Xander nodded.


Daniel swallowed hard.

"How many?"

Xander smirked.

"Half a dozen or so. They each do different things, but most of them are weapons."

Daniel closed his eyes and gathered his thoughts. He knew ordering him to hand them over wouldn't work... but he had to do something.

"Can we place them in the vault?"

Xander glanced back at Daniel and slowly nodded.

"You can... except for this one and one other."

He motioned to his backpack. Daniel walked over, picked it up gingerly, then peeked inside and gasped in shock.

"My god..."

Xander nodded.

"The one with the silver insert... remove it and hand it to me, the rest you can place in the vault."

Daniel reached inside and carefully moved a few aside until he located the one Xander wanted. He removed it, handed it over, then closed the backpack and set it on his desk. Xander nodded and slid the device into his pocket... noticing that Anise's eyes were wide with shock and followed his every move.

"Where did you get that?!"

Xander smiled.

"Atri raided the armory before he left. He had a premonition that something bad was going to happen. Three of them, however, were found while he traveled."

Xander smirked and leaned back. He chuckled and cocked his head toward Daniel.

"You see, Atri has a bit of a wild streak in him. He doesn't like people attacking him, and when a small band of Jaffa did, well... you could say he went postal on them. He literally ripped them to shreds and took the weapons they were transporting."

Xander glanced back at Anise and noticed she didn't look angry anymore.

"You calm now?"

Anise nodded and closed her eyes.


Xander grinned and lowered his hand. He thumbed the device and it darkened as it went into standby mode... but he didn't remove it.


He hopped to his feet and walked over to the woman. Smiling, Xander let Atri take control and watched as he bent down and placed a kiss on her cheek.

"I missed you, Anise. Your new host is beautiful."

Anise's face reddened slightly as a slightly smile formed on her lips.

"I missed you too."

As Anise looked into his eyes, she could see the affection... but there was no love in those glowing orbs.

"You don't... you've moved on."

Xander/Atri sighed and nodded.

"I'm sorry. It's been over 300 years for me. I loved you for so long... but when I realized I would never see you again, I had to give up everything in order to survive. It's... it's just been too long for me. Like you said, I've moved on. I will love you always, but not as I once did."

Anise nodded, saddened, but understanding.

"I see. May I speak to your host?"

Xander took control and blinked. Anise noticed the change and leaned in, placing a kiss on his cheek.

"Thank you for bringing him home to me."

Xander smiled and nodded. He pulled her into a hug then let her go.

"You're welcome."

He titled his head to the side as he listened to Atri and then nodded. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the device he had placed there only moments earlier.

"Atri wants you to have this."

He handed the device over and watched as a look of awe came to Anise's eyes.

"How did you find this? It's been lost for millennia."

Xander smiled.

"Atri got lucky and held onto it. He knew if he ever made it home to you, that you'd want it."

Anise nodded, clutching the device to her breasts.

"Thank you."

Xander smiled and nodded.

"You're welcome."

He looked up at the clock on the wall and noticed the time. He had an appointment with Janet in 15 minutes.

"Sorry about this, but I have an appointment with the doc in a few. I'm going to have to run."

He moved toward the door and paused.

"How long are you going to be here?"

Anise gathered herself and her face returned to the ice queen that they were used to.

"Selmak and I will remain for three days. We have much to discuss with you before we all return."

Xander nodded and smiled.

"Ok... cool. I'll see the two of you later then."

Xander nodded to Daniel then headed off to Janet's office...

Chapter 13

Xander stared in the mirror and shook his head. He was wearing clothing that Atri hadn't worn in over 300 years... brought to him by Selmak's host Jacob. It was a strange feeling being in civilized clothing once more. He ran his fingers along the silky texture of the teal and black fabric of his pants and smiled at the crisp white of his shirt.

"So, how does it feel to be in... what is it they call it, civilized clothing?"

Xander laughed and nodded.

"Exactly. Atri is very happy right now. He didn't like my taste in clothing when first met him and hated the skins look I had later."

Xander turned around and smiled. He had been visiting with Selmak and Anise for the past three days and soon they would be heading back. The only question on their minds, however, was would Atri be heading back with them. Xander and Atri both wanted to go, but at the same time, Xander felt something holding him here.

"Have you thought about it?"

Xander nodded.

"Yes. Atri wants to go home... and I'm interested in seeing much of the universe... but there's something holding me here."

Jacob nodded.

"Doctor Frasier."

Xander nodded. He felt drawn to her. She was attractive, very attractive, but was it only that? He liked talking to her and spending time with her. They had had lunch twice and dinner once since his arrival. He felt he liked her... but was it enough to remain behind.

"I just don't know."

Jacob nodded.

"Well, come back with us... meet with the council. You can always return."

Xander looked Jacob in the eyes then slowly nodded.

"Right... I can do that."

He looked back in the mirror and saw that everything was in place.

"Well... this looks complete."

He turned around and smiled.

"After you."

Jacob nodded and moved to the door with Xander behind him...


Xander followed Jacob into the Gate Room and saw Anise and SG1 waiting for them with General Hammond. He noticed that Janet was there as well. They were standing at the bottom of the ramp that lead to the stargate.

"You're here... good, let's be going."

Xander nodded to Anise and moved to join her. He nodded to SG1 then smiled at Janet. He stepped closer to her and suddenly felt nervous.

"Strange to meet you then suddenly have to leave. I have much to thank you for. If I hadn't bumped into you, I would never be able to get Atri home. Thank you."

Janet smiled and nodded.

"It was a pleasure."

Anise watched the interplay between Xander/Atri and Doctor Frasier and felt jealousy surge within her. It was a slow heat that began to build and build.

"Atri... we go."

Xander jerked out of his conversation and nodded. He turned back to Janet and smiled weakly.

"Sorry... I have to be going now. I hope I can see you again soon."

Janet nodded and smiled. She leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips then stepped back blushing. Xander smiled, his face red, and then turned back to the others. Anise was glaring at him and Janet while Jacob strained to keep from laughing.

"Well... let's get moving then."

Xander smirked and walked up the ramp. Anise scowled and stormed past him, almost knocking him and Jacob aside. Jacob smirked and moved up beside Xander.

"She's going to be hell... I hope you know that."

Xander nodded and stepped up to the formed gate.

"I know... but it's none of her business what I chose to do with my life. Anything we had is gone for me. I'm sorry that she hasn't moved on. I had hoped she would understand after the talks she and I have had recently."

Xander shook his head.

"I can see that I was wrong. She hasn't moved on, won't move on. This will complicate things greatly."

Jacob nodded and moved to the gate.

"See you on the other side."

He stepped through leaving Xander alone. Xander looked back at the others, smiled, and waved.

"See you soon..."

He stepped through and was gone. Seconds later, the gate closed..."


Xander stepped through and was surprised to see so many Tok'ra waiting for him. It was more than he had expected. It brought a surge of emotion that was startling and almost overwhelming in its intensity.

"Welcome home, Atri, you have been missed."

Xander/Atri nodded, smiled, then moved within the crowd, speaking and being embraced by so many he had lost. Within minutes all were chatting and enjoying themselves... a lost brother was home.

Chapter 14

"We must take this plan and put it into action. Atri has brought us weaponry we can use to threaten the system lords into meeting for talks. We can then..."

Xander let his mind drift. They had been talking... more like arguing... for close to three days now, and it all seemed the same.

*They want to take our weapons and use them to scare the Goa'uld into meeting to talk? This is so stupid.*

"... and we can use the rest to force or hand with..."

Xander rolled his eyes.

*Good God... they're still going at it. Have they once asked for the weapons? No. It's all 'Atri will give us this' and 'Atri will give us that' and 'With the weapons Atri found for us'... not once did they ask if he wanted to let them have the weaponry.*

While deep in thought, he felt a hand brush against his arm... then it grabbed him and shook him forcefully.


Anise glared at him and bore a hole into him with her eyes.

"I said, hand over the weaponry, Atri."

Xander frowned.

"Hand it over?"

Anise nodded.

"Yes, hand it over... all of it."

Inside Xander, Atri rebelled against being ordered to do something. It was an affront to his dignity and position. He held a higher rank than Anise... than most anyone in the room.

"I'm afraid I can't do that."

Shocked silence filled the room... for a moment... then all hell broke loose. Within seconds he was ordered by no less than five people to hand over the weaponry. They went so far as to have three guards with staff weapons enter the room and target their staffs on Xander.

"You will hand them over, Atri. Now."

Xander shook his head.

"I have secreted them away in case something were to happen to me... something like this. I don't agree with you and your views. Your plan of action frankly sucks. You don't use weaponry to scare someone to talk to you. You use weaponry to go in there and kill them. This is war people. You have to kill them because by God you know they will kill you."

One of the men at the table rolled his eyes and laughed.

"Don't listen to him, it's his host talking... the childish Tauri."

Xander glared at the man and felt Atri screaming to take over. Xander nodded and Atri came forward.

"Silence Trevit! You loathsome little gutterworm! Have you... have you all grown so hateful in these years that you treat those who have freely given of themselves to host you... like garbage? You are pathetic."

He paused and glared at them in turn.

"I happen to share the same views as my host. I saw many things in my life. You can not survive this war by having peace talks with the system lords. The only way this can end is to hunt them all down, one by one, and kill them... all of them!"

He turned to Anise and snarled at her.

"As for the weapons... they are mine. I found them. I took care of them. I and I alone. I never offered them to you or to anyone else, so don't presume to take them from me without asking."

Anise moved to strike at him but was stopped by a dark-skinned woman next to her. Atri did not know her name, but was surprised by her actions.

"We didn't ask, Anise."

Anise growled under her breath and closed her eyes for a moment before she turned to Atri and opened them, trying to smile at him.

"May we please have the weaponry, Atri?"

Atri shook his head.

"For the uses you have decided upon, no. You welcomed me when I arrived, then turned around and ordered me about as if I were your personal servant. Everyone I have come across in my time here has acted as you... until they discovered who I was. Now... now that I see and hear what you have become, I don't want to waste my belongings on you and your pitiful peace talks."

Trevit jumped to his feet and glared at Atri.

"You will hand them over now or you will be forced to.."

Atri got to his feet and in under a second had a hand device pointed at Trevit.

"You won't force anything, Trevit. Try... and you, all of you, will be vaporized."

He angled his hand so the teal jewel was visible and heard them gasp.

"Yes... this is the one you think it is. I know how to use it... and the others... and I will not be forced to hand them over to any of you."

Trevit glared and clamped his teeth together.

"You cannot get away with this, Atri. You will be taken by..."

Atri fired a blast at Trevit, missing him by a hair.

"You don't have a leg to stand on Trevit. You wanted the great strategist on your side again. You wanted his weapons. You wanted his skills... but you failed to treat him like a person. You tried to treat him as a tool. I will not let you treat me in such a manner. I am leaving."

Trevit growled and jumped back.

"Stop him!"

The guards brought their staff weapons online and moved to fire. Atri triggered the hand device and melted their staffs with three quick blasts. He then jumped over the table and moved to blast them all. As he backed toward the door, it opened and Selmak entered.

"Sorry I'm late..."

Atri spun around and motioned him inside.

"Xander, what's going on?"

Atri glared at Selmak and noticed it was the host, Jacob.

"How does Selmak view my situation and my weaponry. Are they mine or are they the possessions of the group... only I am temporarily holding them for them?"

Jacob's eyes shifted as Selmak came forward.

"They belong to you by rite of discovery. Why do you ask this?"

Atri motioned to the rest of the room.

"They ordered me to hand everything I own over to them. I told them no and they attacked me. I tried to leave and they moved to fire upon me. What do you think of that?"

Selmak nodded.

"They were wrong."

Atri nodded and looked at the door.

"Will you open a gate back to Earth for me?"

Selmak looked at the others and saw many of them shaking their heads no.

"Yes, I will aid you."

He looked Atri in the eyes and gazed intensely at him.

"You do know that by doing this, you can never return."

Atri looked at what had become of the Tok'ra and nodded.

"I understand. I'll take my chances with the Tauri."

Selmak nodded and opened the door. Atri stepped through, followed shortly by Selmak. The door closed and Atri fired at it, melting the lock. Selmak nodded and motioned to the right.

"Come... we must hurry."

Atri nodded and followed Selmak as he ran down the hall...


Jack placed his cards on the table and laughed.

"Full House! Beat that Carter!"

Sam smiled and was about to show her own cards when the alarms went off in the Gate Room. They looked at each other then got up and ran. When they got to the room, there were armed men at the base of the ramp at attention. General Hammond was behind them, but walked toward them when they entered the room.

"What's going on?"

Hammond looked at the gate and frowned.

"Incoming transmission from the Tok'ra. We don't know who it is. All we got was the identification signal."

They looked up at the gate opened and a lone figure ran through.

"Close the iris and lock it in place!"

They looked up in awe when Xander/Atri came running down toward them. Jack frowned and looked at the agitated man before him.

"What's going on?"

Xander took control of the body and took a breath.

"Small problem with the Tok'ra. We had a difference of opinion about my belongings and me in general. Safe to say that they don't like me anymore and I'm not welcome among them anymore."

He smiled at their stunned faces and grinned.

"So... that job offer still open?"

Chapter 15

They crested the hill as blasts rained down around them from above. Death gliders were chasing after them as they ran from the large complex of pyramid ships in the valley below. They had only minutes before the ships would launch and then all hope for their reaching the gate would be gone.

"Move it people!"

Jack glanced back at Daniel and Sam as they half-carried each other back to the gate. They had been hit, Daniel in the side and Sam in the leg, when the alarms had gone off earlier and were now trying to help each other move better. Behind them was Xander with Teal'c right behind. They were running for their lives... but for some reason, a part of Jack held no fear.

*We're going to make it. We're going to be ok and we're going to come back with force and get all three of them...*

He didn't know why he felt the way he did, but he just knew it deep inside him somewhere.


He looked ahead and smiled as the gate came into view. They ran up to the gate and turned to stare back and upward at those following them.

"Daniel... get the gate open. Teal'c... Xander... help me keep them off us. Sam.. help Daniel."

Daniel and Sam moved to enter in their coordinates while Jack, Teal'c and Xander moved to cover them. A blast of energy exploded upward at the glider from Teal'c direction as Jack opened fire on the one following it. Xander watched and waited. He was wearing one of his hand devices and needed to build power in order to us it. With it, he'd be able to create a temporary shield around them that would give them enough time to get away... that is if he could get it up in time.

*Come on... come on...*

As he waited and watched, Xander thought back to how he got here...


"You want to what?"

Xander smiled at General Hammond and nodded.

"I want to join the SGC. I can help you out with intel and weaponry and such... and you could always use another person on your team here."

Xander leaned forward and placed a duffle bad on the table.

"Also... I'm offering the use of these."

He opened the bag and slowly brought out, one by one, all of the hand devices he owned. He placed them before him and smiled as he explained their purpose.

"Blue gem in gold - creates a rope, or ropes, of condensed light. Very good for grabbing someone and holding them in place."

He tapped the blue gem and then moved to its right.

"Pink gem in gold - creates fireballs the size of grapefruits to basketballs. There is a three second pause between blasts, though, which can be annoying at times."

His hand moved on again...

"Teal gem in silver - molecular disruptor. Very dangerous if used by someone inexperienced in its use. So far it seems to be effective against everything except Naqueda."

The silver disk device was next.

"Silver disc - medical device. Very good one this, it helped me out a few times when i was injured a great deal. It takes a bit out of you though."

The next in line held a yellow gem and was in silver as well.

"Amber in silver - Not quite sure what this one does. I don't think I could ever get it to work properly. Every time I used it, different things happened... so I'm not sure just what its purpose might be. The only thing I do know it can do is make a temporary shield that can keep out most anything."

Last, he came to one with a black gem. He paused and ran a finger along its surface.

"Black in gold - this one is probably the most strange. It is the only one of its kind as far as I know."

He paused and swallowed hard.

"It seems to be able to kill instantly..."

Xander looked up into their shocked eyes and nodded to himself.

"All of these, save the teal, are for you to keep... if you will let me join you."

General Hammond stared at the man before him, then down at the devices, then back again and nodded.

"Xander... I, we, thank you for these devices... but it isn't necessary to give us gifts in exchange for joining us."

He paused and smiled.

"We were going to offer you a position on SG1 anyway."

He climbed to his feet and extended a hand toward Xander.

"Welcome aboard."

Xander took the extended hand and smiled.

"Thank you, sir. I won't let you down."


Xander smiled and took a deep breath.

*I'm not going to let you down sir...*

With that decided, he looked to the sky and opened fire at the glider that had just come into view. Blast after blast of green light flew from his outstretched fingers, ripping the glider to shreds, until fiery debris was raining down all around them.

*Not much longer now... just a bit longer.*

Xander glanced down at the amber gem glittering in his left hand and felt it reach full power. He raised his hand and triggered the shield. Within seconds, a glowing amber shield of energy surrounded them.

"You've got less than a minute... get it open now!"

More gliders arrived and began to fire upon the shield. Xander winced with each blast and listened for the chevrons to lock in place. He could hear them triggering and smiled... then felt his face fall as the large shadow fell over them. There time was up. A pyramid ship was directly over them.

"Oh shit..."

An unearthly glow filled the bottom of the ship as it prepared to fire. Xander winced and began to tremble as the last chevron locked in place and the gate opened.

"Got it!"

Xander glanced back over his shoulder just as the ship fired. The blast hit his shield and seconds later, Xander could feel it getting ready to break. He ran toward the gate and watched as Daniel and Sam, then Teal'c, then Jack went through. As he reached the gate itself, the shield shattered and the force of the blast ran through his body, throwing him into the open gate.


Alarms sounded as the gate activated itself. General Hammond looked up as a technician smiled.

"It's SG1, sir."

Hammond nodded and watched as the gate formed and SG1 emerged... first Dr. Jackson and Dr. Carter, then Teal'c, then O'Neil. When there was no sign of Xander, he began to worry... until a form fell through the gate and rolled down the ramp... followed by a burst of fire that extended halfway into the room... before the gate closed.

"Oh my god!"

The form came to a halt and Sam dropped to its side. It was smoldering and blackened in places. She rolled it onto its back and gasped in fear. It was Xander.

"Oh my god! Janet! Get Janet!"

As a guard ran to get the doctor, SG1 just stared down in awed terror at the blackened form that was their teammate... and wondered if he would survive.


Chapter 16

Janet ran into the Gate Room and gasped in shocked terror. She rushed to Xander's side and cried out in fear.

"Oh my God!"

She turned to two of the guards around her and got to her feet.

"Take him to the Infirmary... now!"

The men nodded and gingerly picked Xander up off of the ramp. They turned and ran out of the room, Janet hot on their heels. As Janet reached the doors, she looked back and paused.

"Sam, bring the healing disk!"

Sam nodded and ran to the storage vault a few rooms over. She opened the safe and looked in at the array of hand devices that Xander had given them. She took the silver healing disc and closed the vault... then ran to the Infirmary.


Janet motioned for the men to lower Xander onto one of the tables. She moved in close and checked his pulse.

"We've got a pulse... thank God."

Sam entered the room and moved to Janet's side.

"Here is it, Janet."

Janet nodded and motioned to Xander.

"Can you use it?"

Sam winced.

"I can try."

Janet nodded.

"Do it."

As Janet moved to install an IV in Xander's arm, Sam slid on the silver disc and willed it to work. At first nothing happened, but then a silver glow surrounded the disc then radiated down at Xander. It bathed his body for a few seconds then flickered and failed. Sam gasped, out of breath, and fell back into a nearby chair.

"I'm sorry... I can't... I don't have the strength. Oh God, I'm so sorry..."

Janet nodded and examined Xander's body. The healing light, though only on him for a short time, did have an effect. Half of the outer damage done to Xander was well on its way to healing. As for the internal damage, she didn't know. All she did know was that things were less dire now. He wasn't on the brink of death... but he wasn't out of the woods either. He still might die. It was time to contact the family.

"He's better than he was, Sam, but not enough. He may not make it. You need to contact his family."

Sam nodded.

"He doesn't have any... that I know of."

Janet shook her head. She knew the contact sheets of everyone on the base.

"Check his contact sheet. You should find at least one name."

Sam nodded and got to her feet.

"I'll go do that."

She looked at Xander then turned away and ran to her office.


Sam stared at the file on her computer and entered her clearance code. As the file opened, she nodded to herself.

*There is a name... Liam Angel... and it has a Los Angeles phone number.*

Sam dialed the number for General Hammond and waited for an answer.

"General, sir, it's Major Carter. I need permission to notify Xander's next of kin. There is a Liam Angel on his contact list. Can I contact him and notify him of Xander's condition? Janet says he might not have much time."

Sam nodded and smiled.

"Thank you sir."

She hung up the phone then dialed the number on the screen and waited as it rang...


Fred jumped up at the sound of the phone and ran over to Cordy's desk. She answered the phone and hopped up on the edge of the desk.

"Angel Investigations... we help the hopeless."

There was a momentary pause then a woman's voice.

"This is Samantha Carter. Can I speak to a Mr. Angel, please? This is very important."

Fred nodded.

"Certainly. He's in his office. I'll transfer the call."

Fred hit the hold button and then the intercom.

"Angel... you have a call on line one for you, a Samantha Carter."

In his office, Angel frowned. He didn't recognize the name.

"Thank you, Fred. I have it."

He picked up the phone and opened line one.

"Angel here, go ahead."

He could hear breathing from the other end before a woman spoke.

"This is Major Samantha Carter. I work with a Xander Harris and you are the only person on his contact sheet. Do you know who I am speaking of?"

Angel frowned.

*What would Xander be doing with a major?*

"Yes, I know Xander. What's he done this time?"

Angel heard the woman swallow then sigh softly.

"He's dying."

Angel's eyes widened in shock and the phone slipped from his fingers. It bounced on the desk twice before Angel caught it.

"I'm sorry.. you startled me. What did you say?"

Angel listened at the woman explained what had happened and nodded.

"I understand. I'm on my way. Where are you?"

Sam hesitated and then nodded. They would have time to move him before they arrived.

"Colorado Springs Mercy General in Colorado Springs, Colorado."

Angel nodded.

"Thank you. I'm on my way."

He hung up the phone and stared at it.

*She was lying. I could hear it in her voice. Something very bad happened to Xander... and they can't fix him... but I think I know who can.*

Angel stared at the numbers on the phone and slowly dialed a number he hadn't used in a long time.


Angel closed his eyes and shivered. He had heard the news recently, but hearing her voice was still odd. It sounded too frail now.

"Hello Buffy."

A soft sigh crossed the line and Angel smiled.

"Angel... hi. Are you ok?"

Angel nodded.

"I'm fine Buffy... but Xander isn't."

He could hear Buffy's heartbeat increase then.

"Xander? Where is he? No one will tell me what happened to him. What's going on?"

Angel frowned. He was sure that Willow or Dawn would have told her what had happened... but it appears that they didn't. He growled under his breath and shook his head.

"Too much happened to Xander to tell you now. All I can tell you is that he's been hurt and is in a hospital in Colorado. I'm calling to see if Willow or Tara knows any healing magic?

He could hear Buffy talking to someone in the room and heard an angry hiss in response.

"Willow's not any help. I just mentioned Xander's name again and she all but growled at me and stormed out of the room... but Tara said she'd help if she could."

Angel smiled.

"Good. Get her ready and be outside waiting... if you want to come with her, that is. I'll pick her up in about an hour."

There was silence for a moment then Buffy's voice, softer now.

"We'll be waiting."

Chapter 17

Buffy sat on the front steps with Tara and glanced back at the door. They had gathered together some things - her some candy and a couple of comic books Xander had given her once while Tara had a small brown bag full of different herbs, a few crystals, and a bottle of bubbling green liquid - and now they just had to wait for Angel to arrived. Buffy figured this was as good a time as any to find out what happened.

"Tara... what happened when I was gone? Why is Xander not here and why do Willow and Dawn act like they hate him?"

Tara sighed and took a deep breath.

"When you... died... it was hard on all of us, especially Xander. He didn't want to believe you were dead. He was sure that you're just wake up. It was sweet, actually, but it just made Willow and Dawn mad."

Tara paused.

"Well.. Dawn was always with Spike back then so she wasn't as mad as Willow, but Willow was just furious. She saw it all as being her fault. She went on and on about how if she had done everything faster that she could have made it do you didn't have to die. Xander talking about it all the time made her feel more and more like a failure."

Tara sighed.

"It finally got to the point where she started reading more and more magical texts and some of them weren't that nice. I tried getting her to stop, but she wouldn't listen to me. Xander found her one day and called her on it. She threw a fit and attacked him. Xander didn't let on what she had done, but I saw him in the bathroom taping up some nasty cuts on his chest and arms later."

As Buffy listened, her eyes widened in fear.

"Willow did all that?"

Tara nodded.

"Yes. She finally got so mad at Xander that she told him to leave and if he ever showed up here again she would kill him. Dawn, by that time, was so awed by the power Willow now had that she agreed instantly. She ever walked over to Xander and slapped him, smirking. I tried to stop them, but everything gets fuzzy after that. Next thing I remember it's a few days later and I'm waking up with a bandage on my head. Willow said I got his by a book from one of the high shelves... but I'm not so sure I believe her."

Buffy nodded.

"That's why you're willing to help me, because you don't hate Xander like they do?"

Tara nodded.

"I adore Xander, he's a sweetie. I wish they hadn't forced him away."

Tara looked down at the bag in her lap and frowned.

"In Wicca... we can't really heal, but I have been talking with this Shaman in Oklahoma and he's been teaching me some of his healing skills. I think I can do enough to meld the two together to get something that might help Xander... if he's not too far gone."

She looked up into Buffy's eyes and swallowed.

"I can at least try."

Buffy nodded, understanding. It was hard to not want to do anything to help Xander. He's... he's Xander. The world just isn't the same without a Xander in it.

"I know. I don't know what I'd do if he died. He's the first friend I made here, did you know that?"

Tara shook her head.

"Willow said she was your first friend, your best friend. She said Xander came along later, tagged along is what she said actually."

Buffy shook her head.

"No.. it was Xander. He was the first. He came after me when I went to get Willow and Jesse. He came with Angel to save me from the Master. He protected me from so many of the evil that exists in this world... and I never thanked him for it."

Tara frowned.

"Xander came with Angel?"

Buffy nodded.

"Yes, Angel brought Xander with him when they came into the Master's Lair to get me."

Tara shook her head.

"That's not what happened, Buffy."

Buffy frowned, confused.

"What do you mean?"

Tara chewed on her lower lip.

"Xander went to get Angel in his apartment. He forced him, at cross-point, to take him to go get you. Angel wasn't the one who chose to go down there."

Buffy frowned.

"How do you know?"

Tara looked down at her lap.

"I overheard Xander and Angel talking about it once, on the phone, about a week before he left."

Buffy was about to comment on this new fact for her when a car turned the corner of the street and pulled to a stop in front of them. It was Angel and a young man she didn't recognize..

"You ready?"

Buffy nodded and got to her feet. As she moved to the car, the young man moved to get into the backseat, but Buffy climbed in the back first, leaving the young man stunned and confused. Tara climbed in next to Buffy and glanced over at Buffy before she looked at the young man in front of her. He looked familiar... but she couldn't think where she had seen him before. The young man sat back down ext to Angel and shut the door. Angel took a look at Buffy, confusion clear on his face, then shook his head and pulled away from the curb.

*I'll worry about it later. Right now I have to get to Xander...*

As they drove down the road, the young man turned around in his seat and extended a hand.

"Sorry to meet you under these circumstances. I'm Connor."

Tara took his offered hand and shook it.

"Tara... and this is Buffy."

Buffy took the hand and shook it and her eyes widened at the strength the young man possessed.

"Who are you?"

Connor smiled, a very Xanderish grin and sat back down. Angel caught the grin and shook his head.

"Ladies... my son, the comedian. Poor sod spent too many years alone with Xander. His mind's warped."

As Connor laughed at the inside joke, Buffy stared in shock at the men before her.


Chapter 18


Angel winced at the screeching tone to Buffy's voice and cringed inside.

*Oh God, she used the tone.*

He looked in the rear-view mirror and locked his eyes on hers.

"Connor is my son."

Buffy glared at Angel then let her eyes travel over to Connor. As she stared at him, she could see parts of Angel in his features, Angel and...

*What the... no, no way! That's impossible!*

Buffy frowned and looked Angel back in the eyes again.

"Who is your mother, Connor?"

Connor turned around and looked at Buffy. A smirk crossed his face and he grinned.


As Buffy and Tara jerked in surprise and stared at Connor, Angel threw on the brakes and glared at his son.


Buffy paled as she stared at the young man, only a few years younger than herself, who claimed to be her son.

"What did you say?"

Connor stared at Buffy, his face dead calm, and just nodded.

"You, you're my mother."

Buffy's eyes widened and she looked like she was about to faint when Connor let it all slip and started laughing.

"Huh? What?"

Connor began to laugh so hard that tears fell from his eyes.

"Oh you are so easy. Xander was right. That was more fun than I ever imagined."

Angel growled at his son and was surprised by the growl he got in return.

"Don't growl at me, Deadboy, I can bite back."

While all of this was going on, Tara stared at Connor, then Angel, then Buffy, then back to Connor and felt her eyes widen.

"Angel didn't raise you, did he?"

Connor spun his head around to Tara and smiled.

"Got that right, gorgeous."

Tara blushed and smiled.

"Xander raised you. Am I right?"

Buffy shook her head.

"That's impossible, Tara. Connor look like he's 16 or 17 and Xander's only been gone... what, a year or so?"

Connor smirked.

"Nope, Gorgeous is right. Xander did raise me; for over 16 years he was my Dad."

Buffy blinked her eyes in confusion and stared at the scenery as it zoomed past them then looked back at Connor, once her mind had caught up with her.

"How is that possible?"

Angel cleared his throat and his expression went so somber and if it was even possible, he looked even paler that he had before.

"Xander hasn't been in L.A. with me all this time. He's been... gone."

Connor stared at his Dad and nodded. It was a sad story, but he loved the expressions on the faces of the new people who hear it. You could learn a lot by how they react.

"Xander vanished one night. The Powers That Be took him away because of one reason or another."

Angel paused as he remembered that night then continued.

"We had no clue where he was. I looked for him for months. I used every favor I had to find out where he was and how to get to him..."

Buffy glared at her ex-boyfriend.

"Why didn't you?"

Angel frowned... but the question was answered by Connor.

"He didn't get Xander because where he was... where we were... there is no way in or out unless you have the right key. Only a few people have the key and Deadboy isn't one of them."

Tara leaned forward, interested and curious about the conversation.

"Who has the key?"

Connor looked over at her and smiled.

"The Powers, a time-shifting nasty guy named St. John..."

Angel glared at Connor.

"His name isn't St. John, Connor, its Sa.."

Connor smiled at his father and nodded.

"I know, but I like pissing him off."

He turned back to Tara and winked.

"As I was saying... the PTB, old Johnny, and a very evil breed creature that exists, mainly, in the same place Xander and I were."

Buffy shook her head.

"Wait a minute. You were there?"

Connor nodded.

"Damn Skippy."

Buffy glowered at Connor while Tara giggled.

"How did you get there?"

Connor grinned.

"You want to tell her? You've told it often enough."

Angel sighed and nodded. He turned onto the interstate and set the cruise control then looked at Buffy in the mirror.

"Connor was a baby and there was this prophecy about him. A man from my past had been trying to kill me all this time because..."

He glanced at Connor and grinned.

"... because old Johnny, as Connor put it, helped keep him alive in order to kill me. He managed to get this man, Holtz, to get Connor and then he opened a portal to Quartoth..."

Buffy frowned.

"What's Quartoth?"

Connor and Angel looked at each other then said in unison...


As Buffy and Tara both gasped in surprise, Angel continued.

"Anyway, Holtz took baby Connor into the portal and he closed... but before it closed, I saw the strangest thing. I saw Xander. He looked older, but I knew it was him. He ran toward Holtz and attacked him just as the portal closed. It wasn't until much later that we found out what happened next."

Connor smirked.

"My turn."

Angel nodded as Connor giggled.

"As Xander told me, he kicked Holtz's ass then decided to keep me cause I was so cute."

Angel snickered but refrained from speaking. Connor glared at him then continued.

"He raised me, kept me alive and trained me to fight. Being in Hell, you learn how to fight fast, and you learn well... or you die. Xander was one of the best. He had most of the Demons there scared of him."

Buffy snorted in disbelief and was face to face with an angry Connor in under a second. The look of power in his eyes was startling and made her lean back away from him.

"Don't doubt Xander's ability to survive. He kept himself alive for more than 10 years before he found me and then kept us both alive another 17 more. We had a nice home. We had food when most everyone else there was hungry. We had security when most people died within a week of arriving there. We had more weapons that you've ever seen in one place... and he could use them all. We had a trophy room where Xander kept something from ever Demon he killed. He said it was his way of keeping track of what did what and how to kill it."

Connor paused.

"He had something from every type of Demon there."

Buffy swallowed, awed by what she heard, and nodded.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know."

Connor nodded and sat back in his seat.

"It's ok. He was the only one I could count on. It just makes me mad when people think badly of him."

Tara, sensing the tension needed to be broken, cleared her throat.

"How did you get out of there?"

Connor smirked, a very Xander-like smirk, and nodded.

"There is a type of Demon there that travels through dimensions. It was the only species that we didn't have something from... because they don't stay put when they get hurt. They shift to another dimension to heal. We found one and started to attack it. We hurt it real bad and everything was going great. I had a rope tied from me to Xander and just when things were going good, Xander suddenly told me that it was time. I jumped on the Demon's back... this thing was huge... and I jumped onto it just as it jumped dimensions. It pulled us with it... and out of Hell."

Angel nodded.

"It was a surprise, to come home one night and find out from Cordy that this new type of Demon was going to appear in the middle of our home with a teenage boy and an old man. It was even more amazing when said teenage boy kills the Demon in under five seconds and then pins me down by a stake launcher and calls me 'Deadboy'."

Buffy smirked.

"I can see Xander rubbed off on him."

Connor snickered at Angel's groan and nodded.

"Yup, Pops taught me all the good names, Buffster."

Buffy grinned and nodded as Angel continued.

"When we found out this young man was my son and that the older man was Xander, well... to put it mildly, we were floored. So much had happened. I was never in my life more grateful to Xander than in that moment of seeing my son alive. I will owe him for eternity for keeping Connor safe."

Connor grinned and nodded.

"Yeah. Pops explained what had happened and made a joke with Cordy and then sorta got all quiet when he heard you were alive again, Buffy."

Buffy jerked.

"He knew I was alive?!"

Connor nodded.


Buffy frowned.

"Then why didn't he come see me?"

Angel sighed.

"Willow and Dawn made him too angry, even after so many years, to even think about returning to Sunnydale. He had moved on and felt returning would be backsliding. He didn't want to reopen his old wounds."

Buffy didn't like the explanation, but she could respect it. After hearing what Willow and Dawn had done, she could see why he wouldn't want to ever return.

"What happened to him then?"

Angel smiled.

"He dropped off Connor then left. Told me later he had a job with this company in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He's been there ever since. Hearing he was dying was the first we had heard from him. That's why we're going there now..."

Buffy nodded and sat back in her seat... then remembered something.

"Hey! You never said who your mother is, Connor."

Connor smiled and giggled.

"Oh, that, right... she's Darla."

Buffy's eyes widened in shock and anger and she almost exploded.


Chapter 19

Janet adjusted the IV and wires running from Xander's arm to the bank of monitors and nodded to herself. They had taken control of a wing of the seventh floor of the hospital and only her personnel were on duty. Everything was ready for the arrival of Xander's family.

*I just hope that they make it here in time. He seems to be semi-stable right now, but it doesn't look good.*

She let her eyes travel down his body. His skin was still very dark and blistered, in some places even charred, but he was still alive. He was wrapped in bandages everywhere he was still burned and it gave him the appearance of a mummy from those old horror movies. All in all, it was hard to believe it was real. After everything that had happened to him, it was as if his body refused to give up.

"You hang in there, Xander. Your family is on their way."

Janet wiped her eyes and stepped out into the hallway. As she left, the air shimmered and a man stepped out of the shadows.

"You've done good, kid, real good. The big guys are happy with you."

The man stepped into the light and smiled down at Xander's still form. It was Whistler.

"They wondered which way you'd go... good or evil... and what you did sealed it for them."

Whistler reached out a hand and a glittering ball of silver light the size of a marble formed on his palm.

"You impressed them."

He grabbed the ball with his other hand and placed it on Xander's forehead.

"Impressing them is a hard thing to do."

The ball began to vibrate then dissolved into liquid.

"They reviewed your case and came to a decision..."

The silver liquid dribbled down Xander's face, sliding down along the sides of his eyes... down his cheeks then up to his nose... and inside it. Xander's body convulsed once, twice, then stilled.

"... you passed."


He emerged into the throng of people exiting the bus and looked left then right. He was a little over six feet tall with pale brown hair and green eyes that had a look of confusion to them. He looked like he was looking for something, but he didn't know what. He tapped a man near him on the arm and the man turned to look at him.


He took a breath.

"Where am I? What's near here?"

The man looked him up and down and sighed. The young man before him was dressed in shabby clothing and appeared lost.

"There is a theater three blocks to the left and one block over. There is a shopping center another five blocks on from there. If you go right from here, about six blocks up is the hospital."

As the word entered his mind, the young man felt this... compulsion... pass through him.

"Hospital... thank you."

The man nodded and continued on his way. The young man turned to his right and stared ahead into the darkness before him. He could make out a large complex of lights ahead and started off in its direction.

*Where am I?*


Angel turned to the left and headed toward the hospital. It was quiet, finally, in the car they had picked up at the airport. They had decided to fly instead of drive once Buffy heard the news. It turned out to be a good thing too, seeing as there was less chance of her making a scene on a crowded plane.

"Should be up ahead about 10 to 15 blocks... on the right."

Angel nodded to his son and focused on the road before him. He glanced in the rear-view mirror and caught Buffy's eyes for a moment. She glared at him, an almost disgusted look in her eyes, then looked away.

*Never realized it would upset her that much. I know she didn't like Darla, but this is taking things a bit far.*

He shook his head and pulled into the hospital parking lot. Finding an empty parking space fairly quickly for this time of the night, he parked and turned off the engine.

"We're looking for a Major Samantha Carter. She said she'd be waiting for us inside."

Buffy nodded and climbed out of the backseat. Tara followed and moved to Buffy's side as Connor opened the trunk and pulled out their things. Angel got out of the car, locked it, then headed toward the main doors.

"She's pretty mad."

Angel looked at Connor as they walked and nodded.

"Yeah. She never liked your mom."

Connor shrugged.

"Never knew her, myself, so I can't judge... thought that drawing of her in your old books made her look pretty."

Angel nodded.

"She was."

Connor glanced over his shoulder at Buffy and Tara. They were walking slower, trailing behind them a ways.

"Prettier than Buffy?"

Angel shook his head.

"Pretty in a different way. I spent a very long time with Darla. It was... different... my feelings for her... but all of that is in the past, and I got you out of it. What more could I want?"

Connor smirked and laughed.

"Ownership of the Twinkie franchise?"

Angel laughed and nodded.

"Yeah... that would be good too. We could give it to Xander. It would make his eternity."

Connor nodded.

"True... but he'd eat himself out of business in under a month."

Angel snorted and nodded.

"Yeah, he would at that."

They neared the main doors and he sobered himself. The automatic doors opened and they stepped inside. Waiting in the room beyond the doors was a pacing blond woman in military green. She turned as they entered and examined them. Angel smiled at her and stepped forward.

"Major Carter?"

Sam nodded.

"Mr. Angel?"

Angel nodded and saw the woman sigh with relief. She moved toward the elevators and motioned for them to follow.

"Thank you for coming so quickly. I'm sorry for having to meet under these circumstances. It's never easy..."

Angel nodded as they stepped into the elevator.

"Xander has always had a tendency to get into trouble. I just never imagined he would get hurt this bad, though."

He glanced at the others and swallowed.

"Major Carter, this is my son, Connor. Xander is his godfather."

Connor nodded.


Sam smiled.


Angel motioned toward Buffy and Tara and paused... then smiled.

"This is Buffy... and Tara... Xander's sisters."

The girls looked at Angel for a moment, then played along. Buffy nodded gruffly but Tara smiled warmly and nodded.

"Thank you for letting us know about our brother."

Sam nodded and smiled.

*Xander never mentioned having sisters.... this is strange.*

The elevator stopped and the doors opened to reveal two armed guards on duty just outside the doors. Sam showed them her identification and they stepped aside. She then led them down the hall to the room they had set up for Xander. As they arrived, Janet emerged from a side room and moved to join them.

"Sam, there you are..."

As the people approached, she saw the young man who had been with Xander the first time she had met him and smiled.


Connor smiled at the woman and nodded.

"It's Connor, actually. Hi."

Janet nodded and motioned toward Xander's room.

"He's inside here. I must warn you, it's not pretty in there."

They nodded and stepped into the room. Xander lay on the bed, covered head to toe in bandages, with clear spots of darkened skin showing here and there.

"Xander... oh God Xander... "

Buffy rushed to his bedside and stared down at him. She had never seen him this hurt before... and it was terrifying. She couldn't believe that it was really him.

*You're not going to die on me, Xander. No way.*

Tara moved to Buffy's side and looked down at Xander. She could see the energies of his body flowing in a tangled web of what she remembered to be Xander and something... else.

*This doesn't make sense. What is going on here?*

She stared at him intensely and frowned.

*Maybe its due to the injuries... but I really don't think so.*

"Buffy... I'll get started now."

Buffy looked up at Tara and nodded.

"You do that. I'm going to find out what's going on here."

Tara nodded and stared down at Xander as Buffy turned and walked out of the room. She pulled out the things she had brought with her and placed them on the edge of the bed. She had a small granite bowl, a bag of ash with tiny fleck of what looked like bone in it, a small red glass vial, and a bag of dirt.

*Ok... what did he say to do again?*

She poured a little of the ash and dirt into the bowl and mixed the two together. She then opened the vial and poured its thick contents into the bowl and mixed the mixture into a nice paste.

*Now I place the paste at the main points and focus on aligning his energies back to how they should be...*

Tara took a fingerful of the dark paste and began marking here and there on Xander's body. As she worked, she failed to see the shimmer form behind her.

"That's nice of you, but it's not really needed. Xander's just as he is because he has to be like that until he arrives."

Tara jumped and screamed in shock. She spun around and backed away from the strange man in front of her. He radiated energy, more energy than she had ever seen before.


She looked to the door of the room as Buffy, Angel, Connor, and the military people entered. She saw a look of recognition cross the faces of Buffy and Angel as they saw the man.


The man, Whistler, nodded and winked at them... then walked around Xander's bed.

"Long time no see. How's it going?"

Angel growled at Whistler and moved toward him.

"What have you done?!"

Whistler smiled and just locked his eyes on Angel.

"Remember what we talked about before?"

Memory flooded Angel's mind as he remembered that night...

*... because your boy Xander is a Champion...*

He looked at Xander and his eyes widened.

"Has he done it?"

A smile crossed Whistler's face and he nodded.

"Always were a quick one, weren't ya, Angel. Yeah, he's done it. He's way, way on the light side of life."

Angel listened and nodded.

"What happens now?"

Whistler smiled.

"Like I said, we wait until he arrives."

There was a cough behind them and they all turned to see a young man standing before them. The guards jumped to action and pointed their guns at him. He looked past them at Xander and a look of understanding crossed his face.

"I think I might have something to do with what comes next..."

Chapter 20

They stared at the young man in shock and watched as his eyes locked on Xander's still form. There was an almost light in his shining green eyes as he seemed to drink in the very sight of Xander.

"Who are you?"

The young man looked away from Xander and onto a blond woman, a short blond woman.

"Don't have the foggiest idea. Can't help you there."

Buffy blinked in shock and felt her jaw drop.


The young man shrugged and looked around her to stare at Xander again, that look in his eyes once more.

"Um.. can you cut that out, it's really freaky."

He blinked and looked at the young man who had spoken and smiled.

"Sorry, just got this feeling tugging at me... and it comes from him. Every time I look at him, I get this warm, happy feeling in my head and there's this whispering voice off in the distance."

Angel looked at Connor and they shared a look that said 'Uh oh.'

"A whispering voice? Coming from Xander?"

The young man nodded and smiled.

"Two of em, actually. One's kind of soft and quiet and the other is loud and kind of funny."

Tara looked at the young man then glanced at Xander and noticed a thin trail of gray energy traveling between them.

"Where are you from?"

The young man shrugged.

"No clue."

Tara nodded.

"Do you know where you are?"

He nodded.

"In a hospital."

Tara nodded.

"Do you know the city or state?"

The young man shook his head.


Tara smiled to herself as the others looked on in confusion.

"What's the last thing you remember?"

The young man grinned.

"I don't...."

He paused as his eyes lost focus for a moment and he frowned.

"Two people... all glowing with paint on their skin... a man and a woman.... real snooty... talking to me about taking care of some trees or something... told me to go... to follow the light... said the light would give me what I needed and I would give the light what the light needed in return.... said they'd have to change me to make me ready... then there was this light and I woke up on a bus. It was stopping and everyone was getting off, so I got off too and ended up here."

Angel listened and recognized the people. He knew who the young man had seen and could guess what was going on. He moved closer to him and caught a whiff of his scent... and backed away in shock.

*I recognize that smell... but that's impossible.*

Angel stared intently at the young man and tried to picture him as he should be in his mind. He overlaid one image over the other and nodded to himself as they matched.

"I know who you're talking about. I also think I know, now, who you are... or were."

The young man blinked and looked at the one who spoke.

"You do? Who am I?"

Angel nodded.

"Your name is Skip."

As the young man heard his name, his eyes flashed and he gasped in a breath of air. At that same moment, Xander gasped as well and his eyes flashed open... and glowed silver.


Sam blinked in shock and realized that it wasn't Xander who was speaking... it was Atri... and if he was asking for what he was asking for, then there wasn't any hope for Xander surviving for much longer.

*Skip is supposed to take care of some trees. Could he have misunderstood it? Could they have wanted him to be Atri's host?*

Buffy, Tara, Angel and Connor all gasped in shock and moved to Xander's side.


Xander stared straight ahead, his breath gasping and harsh.


Buffy glared at the doctors and military and frowned.

"What did you do to him?! Why is he saying that?!"

Janet stepped forward and examined Xander's readings. His life-signs were all similar to the state that they had been when they had the last time they had dealt with a Tok'ra that needed to transfer to a new body.


Whistler grinned.

"What's going on, toots, is this. Xander here is a Champion. He's carrying around inside him this really smart guy who used to be a Champion as well. There's a problem, though. Xander's body isn't healing as it should. The guy inside needs to leave before they both die. He's wanting to be transferred to someone else. That's where old Skip here comes in."

Buffy stared at Whistler in shock.

"Die? You're saying Xander's going to die?!"

Whistler nodded.

"Yup... but it's ok, cause its all a part of the big plan. You see, he needs to die so he can change into who he's supposed to be... "

Buffy shook her head.

"I don't care about this big plan. Any plan that needs Xander to die in order to fulfill it is a stupid one and one that won't happen!"

Whistler smiled at her.

"How do you think you're going to stop it?"

Buffy moved toward Whistler... then stopped... and fell to the floor. Angel caught her before she hit the floor and found that she was asleep. He glanced up at Whistler and frowned. Whistler smiled and nodded.

"Sleep only. She's lucky; she was pissing me off."

He motioned toward the military members and froze them in place. They could see and hear what was going on, but they couldn't move. He turned to Skip and smiled.

"Time for the big event, kid. You know what to do now."

Skip nodded and walked to Xander's side. As he neared the bed, Xander's mouth opened and they could see something wigging inside. Skip leaned forward and moved his mouth toward Xander's. When they were only a few inches apart, something snake-like shot up out of Xander's mouth and into Skip's. Skip fell backward and was caught by Connor, then placed gently on the floor.

"Whoa... that was gross."

As they stared on in shock, Xander began to convulse. His body writhed on the bed a few times then grew still. The monitors and machines keeping an eye on him suddenly began to alarm. The screen showing Xander's heartbeat was a flat line.

Tara gasped in fear and fell to the ground, tears falling from her eyes.

"Oh Goddess..."

Angel looked up at Whistler and growled at him.

"What did you do?!"

Whistler stared at Xander and just smiled.

"Wait for it..."

Angel frowned then noticed the room was getting brighter. He looked over at the bed and saw light shining out of Xander's open mouth and eyes. The light grew brighter and brighter until everyone in the room was squinting, trying to see what was going on. Angel watched as Xander's body began to tremble then vibrate then, with a flash of light, it was gone. In its place was a glowing... thing... floating in mid-air.

"He's ascended..."

Angel turned to look at Skip and saw that his eyes were glowing.

"He what?!"

Skip/Atri looked at Angel and smiled.

"Xander ascended. It is something that is rarely seen. It is an honor beyond anything in our history. You should all be proud."

Angel looked back at the glowing thing and saw what looked like a cross between a human, a squid, and a few things best not imagined... all in one thing.

"That's Xander?"

Skip and Whistler nodded.

"Yup... and it's time to go, kid. Say goodbye to Xander, everyone, and then head on back to where you come from. Oh.. and Skip... you are going to be taking Xander's place on the SGC team he was on. That cool with you?"

Skip nodded.

"That's fine. It's a change, at least. Who knows, might be fun."

He moved over to the others and as one they vanished. Angel looked up at Xander and swallowed.

"Um... well... bye Xander."

The thing that was once Xander flashed once. Tara moved forward slightly and stared.


There was another flash of light. Tara shivered and nodded.

"You be careful... ok?"

As yet another flash of light occurred, Connor moved to her side and smiled at Xander.

"Damn, Pops, you sure look ugly. You take care of yourself."

He reached out and took Tara's hand as Angel stood up, with Buffy in his arms. Whistler smiled and nodded... and they were gone. He then turned to Xander and smirked.

"That's enough with the sci-fi crap, kid. Make the change. Say your goodbye to her and then head on. You know what comes next."

A flash of light filled the room and as it faded there was a human shaped Xander once more.

"Yeah... I know.... I know."

He sighed and vanished in a flash of light. Whistler watched him leave then shook his head.

"A great evil is on the horizon for those who defend the light in the darkness... and its hope is that idiot. The world is doomed."

With a sigh, he vanished away in a shimmer of energy...


Far away in a small bedroom filled with pictures of people and places that had been left behind, a beautiful woman slept... her mind troubled by things that didn't belong there. As she slept, a glow seemed to fill the room... then faded as a man walked slowly to her side. He sat down on the edge of her bed and ran his glowing fingers through her hair; a trail of soft light in their wake.

"Sleep well, Cordy, for when you awaken...well, I wouldn't want to be you... but in a sense..."

He chuckled softly and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek.

"I love you, Cordy...."

He then stood and walked away, fading with each step, until he was gone... a glowing kiss-mark the only reminder that he had been there... yet that too soon faded as morning's light began to creep into the room. A new day was dawning... and with it came new troubles and new heroes... in the making.