Losing Battles

Author: M. McGregor <erstwhile_visionary[at]yahoo.com>

Rating: PG-13 at the most

Disclaimer: [Random humorous disclaimer regarding how I own none of these characters and may be making an ass out of myself by trying to use them.]

Author's Note: My first foray into fan fiction (though obviously not alliteration). I'm hoping that by posting this two things will happen.

1. The ridiculous assault weapon discussion may actually give way to the posting of a fic or two.

2. Some positive feedback will inspire me to post some of my longer unfinished stuff.

I'm also hoping that I don't mess this up, as I've never submitted a fic here before. So my apologies if things go wonky.

Summary: After "Not Fade Away," Xander feels compelled to inspect the aftermath.

Chapter 1

Most of what he knew what second or third hand, and Andrew was one of those hands in more cases than he'd like. He thought he had the basics worked out though. Impossible odds. Painful sacrifices.

He stood in an alleyway in Los Angeles. It was dark and shadowed, thanks to heavy tarps and scaffolding surrounding three city blocks. The new council was really getting its act together if it could pull off a cover-up like this in only thirty-six hours. Maybe he should have been more impressed at how they got him out of some unnamed town in Africa, about ten miles to the south of "Where the hell am I?" and back to L.A. in only thirty hours.

Xander Harris's one eye took in the carnage around him. Rapidly decaying demon bodies were strewn all about. From the vaguely human to the grotesquely horrible, with the occasional ridiculously goofy ones thrown in. He'd never seen so many demons in one place.

Well, not unless you counted Turok Hans. This was a slight second to that, he decided. Still, this was the largest non-amulet related demon slaying he'd ever seen.

What the hell was he doing here? What did he care about Angel's last stand?

Four beings against an army of demons. Two vampires (with souls, no less), an underpowered demon, and a wounded human. And look at this carnage.

According to Giles the battle had raged for three hours before the pure destructive forces being unleashed were sufficient to get the attention of the Council's L.A. cell. By the time they'd mobilized a squad of Slayers, Angel and the demon were the only ones left. Supposedly the human (Gunn, he later learned), had dropped sometime in the first hour, and Spike had been forced into a particularly nasty portal. Giles had a research team on trying to find the destination of the portal, but there weren't high hopes.

By the time the Slayers arrived, the horde of demons had been whittled significantly. Still, the Slayers were just barely able to win the battle without any casualties on their side. But they did win. They defeated a vast army of demons, and they did it the old fashioned way: Swords and stakes, not fancy trinkets.

Angel and the Slayers decimated the remaining demons, but one Slayer was having more trouble than the others. Katey was just recently recruited, and fighting more on instinct than anything else. So when she threw her sword into the chest of one demon, she was shocked to find herself defenseless as a huge Ger'blykz demon attempted to impale her on his bone quills. She should have died, painfully and slowly, to the poison in those quills.

But Angel barreled into the side of the demon, knocking the huge gray thing into a dozen other demons. Angel was on his feet almost in a blink, a sword in each hand and fighting like...a champion? Hmph.

And when Angel burst into flames at the light of the dawning sun, he did so with a sword in each hand, and saving the lives of a dozen Slayers.

He hadn't come back when Cordelia died. He'd barely processed Anya's death. So why was he back here? Because Angel died fighting a battle he thought he'd never win?

Because he did it for Cordy?

That was a little closer to the truth.

Xander walked up to a man he hadn't seen in over a year.

"Robin," he said solemnly.

"Xander," replied the bigger man. "Giles told me you were flying in. I'm not really sure why you bothered."

Xander said nothing for a moment as he looked all around the alley, taking in the scorch marks, the gouges in solid brick walls, the decaying corpse of what looked to be a dragon.

"Not really sure myself. Just felt like it was important."

"Yeah?" Robin was obviously suspicious. If there was anyone that had a better shot at rising through the ranks of the council than he did, it was Xander. For the last year however, Xander seemed perfectly happy with field work finding Slayers in inaccessible locations. If he was back for this, maybe he had changed his mind and decided he'd rather be a ruling member of the council. This massacre had opportunity written all over it.

"Yeah. Just one of those feelings, I guess." Xander knelt by a pile of dust, small and scattered, but it certainly looked like vampire dust. "Is this where he died?"

"Looks like it, based on the reports I got from Katey and Annabelle."

Xander squatted down and took a pinch of the dust between his fingers. He rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, letting the dust rub away. He felt...more than he'd felt in a while.

Since Anya's death, he'd felt like he was running on fumes. He'd asked Giles to give him a job where he could be active and mobile, since constantly traveling to new places meant he wouldn't have to think about how empty his life was now. Jobless, homeless, eye-less, and Anya-less.

So what the hell was he doing here? He hated Angel. Angel the coward, Angel the vampire. Angel who left him lying in unconscious on the streets of Sunnydale. Angel who he'd had more than a little influence in sending to hell.

Robin let out a sharp exhale through his nose that sounded like a scoff.

"Hey don't look so down. That's fifty thousand less demons and one less vampire to worry about."

He didn't even realize he was throwing the punch. Almost a year hiking in Africa and working directly with Slayers had him in the best shape of his life. Robin, once the far-better fighter, had spent most of the year doing administrative tasks for the council, and had never been quite up to his old self after his injury in the battle for Sunnydale.

Still, Xander was surprised that Robin went down with the blow. He wasn't used to ever being able to hit anyone, let alone knock them down. He wasn't sure he liked the feeling.

"What the fuck?" Robin cried in a muffled voice, a hand covering his jaw.

"He wasn't a vampire. Not anymore."

Losing battles meant a lot to Xander. His life had been a losing battle since he was fifteen. Fighting even when you couldn't win? That was the definition of his life. No skills, no smarts, no strength and no powers. He stuck in it only because he couldn't bear to stop fighting, because not fighting meant being just another kind of monster, and Xander Harris refused to ever be a monster.

A memory came to him. It was about eight years ago, and he was clutching a cross with sweaty palms, trying to keep his voice steady as Angel glowered at him.

"I don't like you. At the end of the day, I pretty much think you're a vampire. But Buffy's got this big ol' yen for you. She thinks you're a real person. And right now, I need you to prove her right."

Well, it only took him eight years, but he finally did it.

"He wasn't a vampire," Xander said. "He was a man."

He smiled then, and realized if there was hope for Deadboy, there must be hope for him as well.

The End