Only the Mortal Ones

Author: Danii <debrabantknight[at]>

Note: AU - Takes place DURING and AFTER "Chosen"

Summary: The final battle in Sunnydale…the way it SHOULD have happened if logic prevailed in the Buffyverse.

Disclaimer: I own no one and nothing…except for my opinions, and they aren't worth enough to sue over. So don't…please…I'm a student/otaku, the one of the po'est of the po'…really, they're yours. I'm just playing with them (and trying to fix the broken bits).

Distribution: XanderZone obviously…and anywhere else that wants it. Just send me the URL so I can look at it and smile that people like me.

Dedication: To Leigh Ann, Tori, Liz, Kate, my sister, Jason, Natas, and all those who have heard my many embittered rants about BTVS over the years. Thank you for listening…and not committing me. Your job has been thankless too long.

Rating: PG-13

Latest addition



"Tragic heroes always moan when the gods take an interest in them, but it's the people the gods ignore who get the really tough deals…"

--Mort, by Terry Pratchett


"Only the crazy ones…" Xander said with a smile as he affectionately tousled Anya's hair. He didn't get to touch her as much since…well, aside from the random sex they'd had a couple times, since the wedding fiasco, and he relished the feel of her hair through his fingers as she slept; it was something he'd missed a great deal.

"Makes me wonder why Buffy isn't asleep…" muttered Andrew from beneath his red dungeon-master hood. When he didn't get any startled or angry looks, he sighed. "I was kinda hoping I was alone on that thought, but I guess not…"

"Well…" Amanda attempted to qualify, "It's not that her plan for tomorrow is crazy…I mean, it's great! The whole empowerment thing… it's just…"

"Incomplete." finished Xander with a tired nod. The nod made its way down to the tabletop and all assembled heard the thump of the young man's head impacting rather roughly with the wood. This woke up Anya with a start.

"Xander?!" she squeaked upon waking, her head whipping back and forth, and finally coming to rest on Xander's lowered head. Then millennia-old eyes moved to Giles. "Did he pass out from his medication?"

"No, Ahn…just me expressing my frustration in a self-destructive manner as per usual…" came Xander's voice from the tabletop. "We were discussing Buffy's plan."

"Which stinks." she said succinctly. The others looked around, then tiredly nodded.

"I mean," went on the former vengeance demon, "It's not a bad plan as plans go for the supernatural side of things, but Buffy is no tactician. She kinda goes for the throat, and plays by ear the rest of the way."

"Indeed she does," Giles interjected, massaging his nose with two fingers, "I must say, the idea is brilliant, but it lacks a certain amount of-"

"'Logic', Giles…" Xander told him as his head rose, "the word you're searching for is 'logic'. Or if you want to go for the long version, it's "vague concern for our lives, not to mention total reliance upon a shiny dohicky that even Anya wouldn't wear.'"


"Two humans at each entryway to fight untold numbers of uber-vamps and Bringers. Does she remember how many times just ONE of those suckers kicked her ass? It's one hell of an idea she has, but it ISN'T a plan."

"Right…" Amanda said nervously, looking between the assembled critics, "Okay, I'm leaving…cause as much as I can see your points…I don't wanna see your points. Buffy's the leader, and-"

"And she's been wrong before." Anya pointed out.

"Again, d-don't wanna know." Amanda stammered as she scooted out of her seat and backed away from the table. "I'm…gonna go sleep now. Later."

Xander, Anya, Giles, and Andrew watched her go, then gave a collective shrug of indifference. Silence reigned around the table for a minute as each thought over what they had said moments before. Were they just complaining about it because they had valid points, or were they complaining because they were afraid? Was Buffy right?

"Well, so much for the 'Chosen'…" came a familiar voice from the kitchen. All four turned to see Dawn, her arms crossed as she leaned against the frame of the opening, "So…about Buffy's plan?"

"What about it?"

"What are you going to do about it, guys?" the younger Summers challenged, "I mean, if her plan is so bad, and I agree that it has holes big enough to drive a bus through, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to complain…or are you going to do something?"

"Well…" Xander started. He looked around the table to check the faces of those assembled, "I've kinda got an addendum to it that might be a whole hell of a lot more effective…if we can pull it off."

Dawn nodded. She wasn't surprised.

"So what's the plan?" Andrew asked, excited. He hoped he had something that he could add to things, as useless as he'd been so far in the grand scheme of the war, that would in some way maybe partially make up for some of who he'd been just a year ago. Dying was all well and good, but what Anya had said at the hospital yesterday had made him think that maybe, just maybe, he could do more with his life then with his death.

Xander sighed, and then hunched down on himself. He was so uncertain. Was his idea good? Was it right to do what he was planning to do? Was it fair? So many questions rumbled around in his brain. It was one thing to have the idea, it was quite another to follow through with it. The help he'd need, the possible cost…

"Indeed, Xander, do tell…" Giles prodded. He could see it, could see that old self-esteem problem popping up again in the young man he'd come to call "friend" through so much. Back when he'd left, Giles had thought the young man had had the problem for the most part whipped, but it was moments like this which reminded him that Xander Harris was only just 22 years old, with far heavier issues to deal with then most his age. But the one thing that Giles also knew was that behind all the smiles, there lay a good mind for tactics, as well as a survival instinct unsurpassed. Because Xander didn't have any supernatural abilities to speak of, he tended to be more cunning then the others were, and sometimes surprisingly effective. Whatever Xander had up his sleeve would probably save more lives then not, and Giles liked that idea.


Finally, Xander straightened his back, looked around with a wise smile twisting his lips and pleased crinkles around his visible eye, and began. He might doubt himself, but he could never doubt where Giles placed his trust. Leaving them behind aside (and Xander knew that there was a great deal of thought put to that decision that could never be truly understood by anyone but Giles), the older man had never led them astray. Xander hoped the Watcher's luck held even for him.

"Well, it goes like this.

"We'll all have some work to do tonight…a lot of work in fact, but I think that in the end, it'll be worth it. So I was thinking…"

Chapter 1




"A vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a half-brick in the path of the bicycle of history."

--Terry Pritchett (Equal Rites)


It had taken a half hour of cautious, one-eyed driving to get there, but finally he arrived at the town which held what he needed, what he'd come out that night to get.

"Oxnard, California. Population: 348..." Xander read as he drove past, a small smile finding it's way to his face.

It had taken a few calls to some of his friends from the various jobs he'd worked, not to mention more then a few bribes, but finally, he'd found out where the majority of the emigrant Sunnydale-ians had taken up while waiting to see what happened.

Oxnard. Of all places, it was Oxnard. Then again, it made sense: Oxnard was just close enough to be within easy reach of the other town, but it was far enough away that the evil taint which had overtaken Sunnydale in the last few weeks couldn't reach them.

To Xander, this was a godsend. Not only had the people of Sunnydale stayed in the area, obviously not quite ready to truly give up their homes and jobs and lives in the 'Dale, but they were in a town which he was still semi-familiar with, as well as having a couple of contacts he continued to keep up with. This would make his job SO much easier.

With a sigh of relief, the young man pulled carefully into the parking lot of "Monica and Vinny's", the strip bar where he had worked as a dishwasher (and unfortunately, a dancer for one night) for the majority of his post-high school summer. He parked near the back entrance, then knocked in the familiar code known only to the staff which he remembered only because he'd been rapped on the head more then a few times by Jamal the bouncer with the code for forgetting it. Immediately, the door opened.

Luckily for Xander, it was Monica herself, whose eyes widened with surprise, then with horror as she took in his new addition. She was a larger woman in her late forties with long dark hair that had started to gray near the temples and pale blue eyes that showed every emotion plainly. She wasn't the nicest of people (she was far too good of a business woman for that) but she did protect those she considered her own, and anyone who worked (or had worked) for her fell into that category. Since Xander had in fact pulled her out of a rough spot when Emanuel had canceled and he'd taken the stage, she had always had a sweet spot for him.

"Xander? Is that you? What the hell happened?" she asked in a startled gasp, "And what are you doing here?"

Xander smiled tiredly, then answered. "In that order, yes, it is me, a psycho with one nasty thumb, and I'm here looking for the Sunnydale refugees."

Monica raised an eyebrow, then pulled him close.

"Why?" she hissed, "I mean, they've been great for business and all, though I've had to practically beat this one guy off of the bar with a blackjack to get him to go home-"

"Tony?" Xander asked with a grimace. Please don't say it's hi-

Monica snorted. "Yeah. You know him?"

Xander rolled his eye. Dammit. "Too well…"

Monica seemed to muse on that a second, but then gave him a light whack on the chest. "Hey! No off topic! Explain things."

Xander looked left and right, then bent toward her.

"I need to get- OUCH!"

The young man instantly spun, only to come face to face with a woman he'd thought he'd never have to see for the rest of his life.

Graying blonde hair done up in what was probably permanent glue, perfect makeup that only slightly hinted that its applier suffered minor arthritis, eyes old yet playful as she looked him up and down, she was the same as ever.

"Mrs. Pendleton," the co-owner of the club said with obviously practiced patience, "how many times do I have to ask you NOT to do that to him!? He might not be a dancer anymore, wasn't at all other then that one night, but-"

Mrs. Pendleton…simultaneously one of the most frightening and beneficial figures from his teenage years, and somehow she'd turned up here, in the back of the club, pinching his ass. Of all the crack headed things to happen the night before the end of the world…

"My DEAR woman…I was merely admiring the view of one of my favorite young men…" she drawled with quite the pompous air, "And outside your club at that, where it has nothing to do with you, thank you. Besides, my young Alexander has grown up a bit, now, hasn't he? Perhaps he might enjoy the attentions of an older woman now?"

"You don't know HOW old…" Xander mumbled with a smirk. The older woman gave him a sideways look, so he covered. "So how are you, Mrs. Pendleton? Fancy meeting you here…"

Mrs. Pendleton was probably the richest person in Sunnydale. The heiress to the "McDougals" chain of fast food restaurants which spanned all around the world, the old bat had for some reason picked Sunnydale as her town of residence. Xander had come under her attentions back when he was a freshmen in high school in need of lawns to do to earn money for the varied and sundry items young people at that age need (and those that most had provided for them which Xander's parents usually forgot) . She'd never crossed the line to where he'd felt violated or where anything was inappropriate, but she had often requested that he work without a shirt.

She'd also given him some AMAZING tips on top of the already- enhanced fee she said was "only proper for all the grass around this place". His Babylon 5 collector plates, the rings he had worn, most of his clothes, most of his stuff, Cordelia's necklace and dress, as well as his road trip had mostly been financed by Mrs. Pendleton's generosity.

"Not all that bizarre" Monica pointed out in the middle of Xander's mental reverie, "It's Tuesday, Girl's Night, so of course she'd here to ogle the flesh…"

Xander nodded. "Monica and Vinny's" was a very interesting strip club in that it catered to both males and females…on alternating days. Monica took care of the female dancers for Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; Vinny dealt with the male performers for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and everybody was happy. Sundays was the off day for the couple, as both were surprisingly religious. He supposed Monica had been called in on her off day to deal with all the additional business. Not that he supposed she'd minded…the middle aged woman was controlled, but not dead.

"So what are YOU here for, Xander?" Mrs. Pendleton asked, her tone curious. "I don't suppose YOU'RE interested in watching the pretty young men strut their stuff? Or have I become very lucky and you've decided to return to dancing? You've filled out QUITE nicely…"

Xander blushed.

"No, Mrs. Pendleton…" he replied with a bashful sigh, "I'm not going on stage…well, not that stage. I'm actually looking for the rest of the Sunnydale refugees here in town. I need to talk to all of them, and I need to do it now."

The eyes of both women widened.

"Xander, what on Earth do you need that for?"

He sighed. Might as well be honest…he didn't have the time for lies.

"Well, you see…it's like this.

"Sunnydale…is on top of a H-Hellmouth."

Monica made to stop him, but Mrs. Pendleton gestured for her to keep her mouth closed. He obviously was having trouble speaking, and stopping him was a sure way never to get the information they wanted.

"As in a mystical gateway to the big burny place in the ground. So, recently, it's been pretty active as the First Evil that ever was ever has decided that now is the time to strike the heart of the Slayer line, my friend Buffy being in charge of that kinda, and destroy it forever because, apparently, it's weak at the moment. We're not quite sure why, but that's what it said.

"Anyway, that's why everyone's left. Cause it's just gotten too evil in the town to live there anymore if you aren't there fighting it. Hell, I'd have left too if I didn't know I was needed there for moral support at the very least. So…yeah…evil's going down.

"But tomorrow, we're launching a counteroffensive which is going to blow the First Evil's evil socks off…but we need a little help. That thing has said it's got an army, a whole army of super-strong vampires…and the best we've got is a very small, if amazing, platoon. So…I figured I'd get an army. And what better army could you ask for then the people who's lives, memories, possessions, and livelihoods have been taken away from them by this thing? People who, consciously or unconsciously, have been living through this evil all their lives?

"The kids in my high school showed that they had what it took to fight back. If it wasn't for them taking part in the fight, my Graduation would have been one big funeral. Now my only problem is finding them and getting them to listen to me."

Monica and Mrs. Pendleton both stared slack-jawed at the young man. But slowly, very slowly, their brains began to run again, and with their brains came their mouths.

"Xander, this is-"

"No…" the older woman said with a thoughtful expression, "it actually explains a lot."

"But, this is insane." the strip club owner gasped out, "Mouths of hell, vampires, the First Evil…how could this all be happening in SUNNYDALE of all places?"

Xander shrugged. "Well, actually, we're more on the preventing-of- those-things end of the scale, but it happens easily enough."

At her look, he held up his hands defensively.

"Don't look at me…I don't know either. I just live it." the young man told her, "And it was an agent of the First, this crazy preacher named Caleb, who took out my eye…so I can vouch for the reality of all this crap, thank you VERY much."

Mrs. Pendleton, with more gentleness then he ever thought possible from the often vulgar old woman, reached up and softly touched his eye patch.

"I was wondering about that, Alexander." she said with soft reverence, "I'm very sorry, my boy."

Touched at her concern, Xander lifted his hand to his face, barely brushing the eye patch, then took her hand with his and lowered it.

"That's all right, Mrs. Pendleton." he told her with a small smile, "I made my own decisions to enter the fight, and I got off easy considering the events of that night."

The older woman sighed, drew back, and then assumed her familiar mask of indifferent delight. But in the place of carnal mischief, her eyes shimmered with red hot cunning. The boy had always been a sweet one, even to an old bat like herself who was often more annoying then was worth any amount of money, and she didn't like it one bit that he'd been permanently damaged by anyone.

"I'll do what I can to help." announced the older woman immediately. "Money, supplies, anything…"

Monica swallowed a couple of times, her eyes scanning from the older woman's resolute expression to the patch over her old employee's eye.

"So…so will I." she finally told him, "Though I don't have much to offer…"

Xander looked between the two women, his one eye opened in surprise and both eyebrows raised in confused delight. Then his brain went to work.

"How bout this…"

Chapter 2




"I think, if you want thousands, you've got to fight for one."

--Terry Pritchett (Small Gods)


She didn't exactly know how he'd gotten her into it, but he'd gotten her into it.

True, it had been her idea to involve them, but if he hadn't given her the puppy dog eye (which had become almost doubly effective with the lose of the other) she wouldn't be out where she was, trudging along through the trees toward the camp they'd spotted on the outskirts of town. She felt some how manipulated, but she couldn't deny the fact that she'd insisted.

He'd announced his plans to go round up the citizens of Sunnydale to fight for their town and for the world, and immediately, she'd realized something he'd forgotten…

The demons.

Every town and city had them, just like every town and city had cars and streets. And despite what had been shown to the Scooby Gang through the years, the majority of these demons just wanted to live their lives without trouble, hassle, or bloodshed of any kind, just like a normal human being.

It was then that she'd volunteered to go and talk to the demons who, like their human neighbors, had fled the town because of all the evil floating around.

"You sure they're trustworthy?" he'd asked.

"Yes…" Anya had answered, a nod punctuating her response, "They're just as trustworthy as a human, and I mean that. Just because you're a demon doesn't make you evil…"

"I know, but-"

"No buts!" she'd argued, "They've been forced from their homes the same as the humans were, and its just as much their fight as ours. If Hell on earth happens or not, Willow's spell is going to bring our world and the real world together, and if those kinds of demons don't have some kind of proof that they're just trying to live the same as humans…if they don't fight, they'll never make it in the real world. People will hunt them down, scared of what they don't understand. It'll be like that movie you showed me with the mutants, Xander…nobody will remember that beneath those scales and horns, there's something with feelings."

It had taken a few minutes of breathing for her to calm down after her little speech, but Xander had agreed afterwards to let her visit the camp outside of Oxnard to rouse some demonic assistance.

It took her about twenty minutes more to reach the edges of the camp, and about another five to reach the center, where the giant bonfire burned and illuminated the various demons as they read, played games, or simply thought of all they'd left behind as well as what was to come.

"Hey!" she shouted as she stepped into the circle of light, "All of you!"

Every head and head-like thing turned towards her. A few growls came out.

"Oh please!" Anya breathed out with a tired sigh, "No threatening, okay? I'm here looking for help."

"Help?" asked one young demon who had been busy reading near the edge of the fire. He was roughly human and Anya guessed that he was half-demon, though obviously not passing from the glimmer of scales she could see on his forehead and cheekbones.

"Help for what?" asked an older larger demon who had been playing tic-tack-toe with what looked like his daughter.

"Help for the battle tomorrow."

At this, all the demons gave her a glare, and then huffily returned to whatever they were doing.

"Okay, that is SO not what I need right now." Anya said, glowering, "I'm looking for help in the battle to end all battles… the one that'll get rid of this First Evil thing so that you can all go home."

The larger demon who was still playing the game with his daughter snorted at her. "Home? What care we for home…if the Mouth of Hell opens-"

"If the mouth of hell opens, you'll like it just about as much as the humans will!" Anya informed him with a bite to her words. "All that crap about the rule of demons…you KNOW it won't be you ruling, and you KNOW those bastards in the pit are NOT who you want running things."

"How would you know?" asked the young one. Immediately, an older demon who looked rather like him (Anya assumed it was his mother) clapped her hand over his mouth.

"Don't you know who that is, Ryt?" she hissed at him with a startled glare at her child, then Anya, then back at the kid, "That's Anyanka, Saint of Scorned Women, and one of the nastiest vengeance demons EVER."

Anya gave a smile that her name was still remembered with fear, the shook her head.

"No, actually, I'm human at this point…but it doesn't mean that I forget the thousand plus years I spent as a demon…which is why I'm here tonight."

She turned to the group in general, all of whom were watching her attentively. She also felt the eyes of even more of them through the darkness in the trees and bushes.

"Right now, we're planning an assault on the First Evil for tomorrow where hopefully, we'll be able to destroy the army that it has so that all this stupid evilness will go away. Xander went to go get the humans to help fight this battle, and I came to get you, because I know you have to fight too…

"Our plan involves activating every Slayer in the world…every one. And with that, the world is going to get one hell of a wake up call when it comes to you and me. We need something to show that we' re like them…that we're just as against this whole 'killing and raping and pain and torture' thing the same as them.

"But aside from that, I came because this is your fight as much as it's the human's fight, because you're both fighting for your home. Sunnydale, as annoying as it can be sometimes, is where all or your lives, and where all of your memories, are. Are you going to give those up without a FIGHT?!"

Immediately, some of the more hot-blooded demons cheered "NO!" but the majority stayed quiet and still.

Anya looked a little sad at that, but continued.

"I can't force you to do anything…" she said with a sigh, "But… as much as the Slayer probably won't think so, we need you."

The larger demon pulled his hand from the game board, much to his daughter's chagrin, then nodded at her.

"Perhaps…" he told her with an odd twist to his I-suppose-you- could-call-them lips. "Let us talk as a group, and then we will see what we can and will do, Anyanka…"

Chapter 3




"Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower then curse the darkness"

--Terry Pratchett (Men At Arms)


Sometimes, he wished Riley were still there.

No, Giles had never liked the soldier all that much. The boy was too naïve in some ways and too knowledgeable in others, not to mention the entire likes-being-bitten-by-vampires on top of the Initiative fiasco…but he'd give his left foot for Riley's know-how of the workings in a military base at the moment.

Xander, in his INFINITE wisdom, had decided that Giles would be the best person to go raid the local abandoned military base to get some weapons for the "army" he was raising out of Sunnydale's citizens. Never mind that Giles' knowledge of weapons with more complexity (or less history) then a crossbow was infinitesimal. Never mind that Giles' knowledge of the standard military installation was even more outdated and unhelpful then even Xander's tiny traces of possessed memory. No, no…they'd still sent him to go bring back the guns.

The boy's proposal was rather good, he had to admit. Buffy's had been…well, a very interesting idea at best, but a very bad battle plan at the worst. His Slayer had never been one for guile or tactics. Yes, all those Slayers would be great to defeat all those vampires, but even they wouldn't be enough for the numbers which the First had dared them with. And her reliance on that blonde little bastard's new crackerjack toy was almost painful to think on.

Sometimes, in his more sinister moments, he wondered if his charge should have received some sort of counseling for her obvious necrophilia slant.

"Let's see," he muttered darkly, "Dead, Cardboard, Dead…if she needed new batteries, I'm sure the Council could have been bothered for the expense…"

But that wasn't entirely fair, was it? Buffy had always been… special. From her undisciplined upbringing to the ragtag team who'd come to surround her through the years, Buffy had always done things her way, despite the heavy cost.

Death…twice. So many friends…gone. No, he wasn't being entirely fair.

And yet a part in the back of his brain couldn't help but nag, wondering if he'd been entirely too fair for a while. If maybe a few more rules and a bit more discipline might have saved her, and all the rest of them, some grief. If accepting her back so easily, just because her lucky guess had born fruit (though, and he suspected the others thought so too, that if her counterpart hadn't been busy being caught in a trap, the blonde Slayer would have met her demise trying to claim the great weapon) had been the right decision. But it was now, and that was then, and he knew that he couldn't take back anything. Right now, he was on a mission that very well might save the world if he ever stopped the mental yammering and went along his bloody way.

He was putting his trust into Xander Harris. The fate of the world was in the hands of a boy, and yet that seemed okay somehow…and oddly fitting. Well, he supposed, maybe it was because Xander wasn't really a boy. He was someone who had been a boy until very recently. Giles wasn't quite sure when Xander had stopped being a boy and had started being a man. He was pretty sure it was sometime after the Toth incident, but he was almost ashamed to admit that he couldn't quite place it any more exactly then that. But nonetheless, the Watcher was proud of him. He was proud of the younger man who had fought so long, so hard, with very little appreciation who had somehow become more then anyone had ever thought, even if Xander himself thought no one had noticed.

And yet…yet the thing that really amazed him was that Xander wasn't the only person in whose hands the whole thing rested. It was in his as well. And those of a former demon. And those of a demon- summoning little twit whom Giles could in many ways almost remember being…though only in some ways. And those of a girl who managed all at once to be 17, 3, and eternal. And he was okay with that.

Giles sighed. It was a very fitting sigh, considering. Back to work...

But at last, perhaps, his patience was going to pay off. He'd checked every single building, all of them thankfully empty of anything, human or demon, and finally he was before a large building, no different then the others, which just had to be the armory because, bloody fricking hell, it hadn't been all the other ones.

Carefully, because losing his head now would be an absolute disaster, he knocked, ducked, then opened the door and rolled in, prepared for anything with a knife ready in his hand.

Anything but an entire platoon of soldiers holding guns to his head. Or what seemed like it, anyway. The room was bathed in shadows for Giles, with many of the human figures being seen only by the shine of the residual light on the black metal of their weapons and the glimmer in each very serious eye.

"Wait, I think this one's human, boys!" shouted a voice from the back of the room. Bodies were pushed aside, and guns were put down as a tall figure made his way into the singularly piercing light which Giles realized he was right in the middle of. Finally, though, the shadows twisted to reveal a handsome young man in fatigues who was obviously the leader.

"Um, well…yes, that is, I am human…" Giles announced in a bit of a stutter as he rose from the ground, his head whipping back and forth as his eyes adjusted. Now he could see the faces: most of them rather young, all of them staring at him in suspicion. "My name is Rupert Giles…"

The officer, who was confident enough in the many weapons aimed at the lone figure to be friendly, stuck out his hand.

"Lieutenant Smith Williams, sir." the young man replied, "I'm the one leading the group in here for the moment. Sorry about the trigger-happy welcome and all, but we've had far less friendly visitors recently, if you get my meaning…"

He was tall, somewhat lanky, and handsome in a very rugged sort of way, with brown eyes, dark wavy hair which had been slicked back somewhat, and a wider chin then was really appealing that he somehow made work. He reminded Giles of Xander, when the boy had been in high school.


The majority of the arm which he held out was covered in bandages, and more then a little of his uniform (and those of the others, now that the Watcher noticed) was savagely ripped in places.

"Dear God…" Giles let out.

The young man looked down at the arm he was offering, then hissed out a breath of embarrassment before offering the other one.


Giles shook his head. "No, no…how long have you been in here? Why haven't you gone for some sort of real medical attention…for all of you…"

The young man cocked his head. "Have you LOOKED at outside?"

"Well, I had to have to get here, didn't I?" the older man pointed out crossly.

This earned him a bitter chuckle.

"Yeah, I suppose so." Williams admitted, "But what are you doing here? We thought everyone else had hightailed it out of Sunnydale."

He looked around.

"Even the other officers left."

Giles raised an eyebrow. This had some interesting potential.

"My question, in answer, would be to ask what you are doing here, exactly? Why did you stay?"

Williams grinned, then looked to his men, all of which held a glimmer of pride despite the pain which held most of them.

"Well, we didn't like the idea of those bastards using our supplies to start trouble. 'S why we're staying in the armory in the first place…didn't want the weapons to fall to whatever the hell those things are that are prowling around now. And for that matter, we didn't like the idea of running. Sure, we might not run the place, but this is our base, and it's been our home, and we decided, as a group, that nobody had the right to take it from us."

Now the eyebrows raised in surprise. Forget potential, this was bloody perfect.

"Then, and I mean this very seriously, I believe you, I, and the rest of the young men assembled here have something in common…" Giles said, a smile finally lighting his eyes as he realized many things (one of them being that he now wouldn't have to haul all those weapons all by himself).

"In fact…I think you're just the sort my associates and I have been looking for…"

Chapter 4




"Sometimes the only thing you could do for people was to be there." --Terry Pritchett (Soul Music)


He couldn't do this.

He was going to let Xander down. Let them all down. Let world down.

He knew it.

After Anya had made her way to the car, after Giles had left in his own vehicle, Xander had taken him aside and given him the mission which was his for the night. In that little niche between the dining room and the front door, Andrew had been handed his assignment on Endor, his mission from God, his little envelope that would explode in 5 seconds…and he just KNEW he was going to screw it up.

If Xander had pulled him over and told him to draw up a summoning sigil on the floor of the living room to start calling demons to help in the battle, he would have sighed in relief and immediately given his "right-on-it" smile to the tired-looking yet still amazing man he looked up to.

If Xander had asked him to translate some bizarre and ancient text bound in human flesh and inked in blood, he would have nodded solemnly and started on his task in the sure knowledge that he would do it for the -team-.

But no…no, Xander hadn't asked him for any of those things. Xander had in fact asked him especially NOT to summon any demons or try any magic, and had pointedly packed all the books away into the cabinet in the dinning room. There wasn't a lock, but the point was made.

No, Xander had given him a much harder job…one he wasn't sure he could do.

"G i l e s!" came the prolonged bellow from the basement. Rhythmic -familiar- thumping up the steps.

Oh great, green, lightsaber-leaping Yoda, it was starting.

Andrew, his mind firing rapidly and erratically, immediately slammed the oven shut, spun like Topman on speed, and gave his best smile to the blonde Slayer who was looking at him suspiciously.

"What are you doing?" Buffy asked, looking around him at the oven. She stopped when she realized nothing green or tentace-ly was peeking out from anywhere, "And where's-"

"Baking!" he announced with a widening of his unnatural and rather painful smile. Immediately, like overdone toast, his hands popped up to his sides so that she could see the oven mitts he had on. Oh God. "I mean, I can't sleep, so I figured I'd bake something for everyone to nosh on before the big battle scene and everything."

The blonde gave him a scathing look of disgust, then opened her mouth to speak again.

"You know, muffins…" he further explained, knowing that she had no interest in what he was doing. Sure, they had all become somewhat tolerant of him in the recent days as he'd shown his usefulness as both a gofer and as a verbal punching bag on which to relieve stress, but he had no illusions about how much concern he warranted. Right.

Do your job, Andrew. He heard Xander in his head. *I know you can do this for me, buddy. We need this as much as anything. I know it'll be tough, but…*

"Can't beat carbs for days when you know you're going to have to prevent the end of the world, you know. Well, unless your on the Adkins diet, which I hope none of the girls are because I've heard it can do horrors on your kidneys, though that's not been proven. But even then, it's not really a good thing to risk when you're going to be saving the world and all, but seriously, there's-"

He was cut off by a burning glare from the Slayer, as well as a hand slicing across the air in front of his face. Oh yeah, he couldn't do this. That might have been a babble worthy of Xander himself, but it hadn't worked. She was going to-

"Where's Giles?" Buffy asked finally, her teeth grinding slightly on the "g" as she settled down into one of her huffier stances. Andrew always thought of the Heathers when he saw her like that… well, the lead Heather: the one who had toppled into the glass table after drinking the poisonous concoction Christian Slater had made of her drink. But he couldn't poison Buffy like that.

For one, there was no cup to mix for her. For two, they needed her. And for three, it would be very Bad. Oh, he wasn't supposed to think like this anymore.

There was of course the fact that he sort of liked and admired Buffy, though he abhorred what she thought of as entertainment. Her and Spike…always watching Passions and other nonsense like that when perfectly good Start Trek reruns were playing on the SciFi Channel…

Oh God, he wasn't talking. He had to talk. That was part of the plan.

"Giles?" he asked in what he had hoped would be a suave and controlled voice of masculine savoir-faire.

It came out in an almost inhuman squeak.

"Yes, Giles…" the Slayer asked angrily. Her eyes were slanting in annoyance, and her forehead had bunched just slightly, and her stance got even huffier, if that was possible. Had he not been on the receiving end of it, he would have thought it was cute. At the moment, though…

"Giles?" he asked again, this time at least in his normal vocal range. His own fantasies ran through his mind. *In my plan, we are beltless.* Oh yes, those were fantasies. Those were SO fantasies. He couldn't do this.

"You know…that guy with the British accent who stole all the cookies?" she prompted, "Giles?"

"Oh…Giles…" Andrew replied, finally relaxing. He could do this. He could. "Oh, he went out to get some more medical supplies to stock the bus with just in case…considering."

Now that anger changed into confusion, leaving the beginnings of a pout on her face. "Oh. Okay…"

She turned, and he let out a breath of relief, but then she turned again. Dammit. Buffy looked back and forth, then poked her head into the living room. She looked back at him.

"What about Xander and Anya?"

Oh, this was easy.

"They decided to go back to Xander's apartment for a little while together…you know…how they do."

Buffy looked mildly icked out, but then nodded. That made sense. Of COURSE Xander would want to spend the last few hours in peace and quiet…well, at least away from the girls. And Anya of course would be a nympho as per usual and want to have sex before possibly dying.

Yes, Buffy, believe me. Believe those ideas you have of your friends that are at least two years past their sell date. Dismiss them. Please, for once in your life, do the RIGHT thing and dismiss your friends. They need this…

She nodded again, then turned slowly and made her way in much quieter pads back down the stairs.

He breathed a sigh of relief, then slumped down on the counter next to the oven.

"Cover for us, he said…make sure she doesn't go looking for us, he said…"

Another sigh. Jeez, he was doing that a lot.

It kinda hurt that it was as easy as it was. Sure, he'd been sweating bullets the entire time, but for the most part, it hadn't taken much effort for her to back off and simply accept whatever he told her.

He had only been there a few months, but he'd spent most of his time watching because it was all he was allowed to do. Watching and listening. Through the cracks in doors, to conversations that people for some reason thought he wasn't listening to because he was him, a prisoner. And through all this, he'd learned about the Scooby gang in a way that surveillance cameras couldn't scratch.

That was how he'd learned about Faith. It was how he'd stopped avoiding Willow, how he'd found an amazing compatriot in Anya, and how he'd come to completely idolize Xander. It was how he'd learned that Buffy, while being an amazing, funny, strong, beautiful person, had a tendency to shut people out at just the wrong times to make her life harder. It was also how he knew that what he was doing WAS important.

They needed to give her this. She might not realize it, but her friends, Xander especially, needed to push this onto her, even though he knew she wouldn't like it, -because- they were her friends. They needed this; she needed this. The world needed this. And this was what he could give, right now. This was how he could make a difference.

He gave them time.

Chapter 5




"One of the things sometimes forgotten about the human spirit is that while it is, in the right conditions, noble and brave and wonderful, it is also, when you get right down to it, only human."

--Terry Pratchett (Guards!Guards!)


Dawn's hand was starting to hurt.

This had to be the fifteenth house she'd visited since she'd decided to go out and do this, but the paranoia was starting to get on her nerves. More then five minutes of knocking should convince a person that you didn't mean any harm. I mean, if something really had wanted to get in, it wouldn't have waited to knock; it would be in, door smashed, no two ways about it.

There was always the possibility that there was no one in the house, but Dawn thought this very unlikely as the family car was still in the garage and she hadn't seen the Hendersons leave at any point.

"Mr. Henderson! Mr. Henderson! It's me, Dawn Summers? Are you in there? Please, let me in…"

Dawn had gone out to look for people in the neighborhood about fifteen minutes after Xander, Anya, and Giles had left. The idea that there were still people waiting in their houses for the "storm" to be over was something which had niggled at her brain the last few days, and while Xander hadn't told her to go out and check around as such, he had known about her anxieties concerning those still in Sunnydale and had specifically NOT told her to stay put, like he had with Andrew.

Sometimes, the young girl reflected, Xander tries to be cleverer then needed.

So she'd gone out, hunting around the neighborhood for various squatters who had refused to leave their homes like the rest of Sunnydale's population.

Some, she'd gotten to join Xander's "army". Those who were staying because they believed that this was their home, those who had decided that going out in their house with a shotgun taking as many as the bastards with them as they could…those she had hunting around the houses on Revello Drive gathering various items that could be used for weapons (Giles might be getting stuff, better they have more supplies then not enough).

The others, the ones who had remained out of ignorance or simply out of inability to leave…those she'd informed of what Buffy was planning and directed them to the lot where the town school buses were kept so that they could get themselves out before the fireworks started. Most had taken her advice, but a few had stayed, and while it had hurt knowing that they would probably die holed up in their home, Dawn knew there was little she could do for them and had simply moved onto the next house. It was another one of those things she was learning about being human.

Yes, she had memories which spanned back as far as they were supposed to, and yes, she knew that those previous to three years ago were actually fake…but she knew now that she was as human as human could be, and that, while not as badly as Anya, she had a lot to learn.

It wasn't the big things, like Death and pain and heartache. She understood those. But all those memories, all that knowledge that she'd accumulated by being the Slayer's little sister for 17 years, real or fake, had left a huge chunk in her knowledge that had nothing to do with being the Key.

Dawn had "grown up" being surrounded by stuffy socialite friends of her stuffy social parents, with a Queen B sister on the side, and her own stuffy one-day-socialite friends trailing behind her.

Then, following Buffy's calling, she'd been surrounded by the supernatural, by monsters and demons and gods. And heroes. She'd been surrounded by people who could call themselves heroes (especially because they never would).

But what she'd had of short supply were everyday, normal human people.

Dawn had seen the best. She'd seen the worst. She'd seen the richest of the rich, and even she hadn't been able to miss the poorest of the poor on L.A.'s streets. She'd seen vampires, ones with souls and ones without. She'd seen heroes. But it had really only been after her mother's death that she'd seen people.

It had started with Xander, she had to admit. Xander was normal and sweet and wonderful and sometimes just a little bit sad, and she'd never really understood him all the way. He'd worked during high school on weekends to earn money, an idea that was surprisingly foreign to Dawn, and after high school, he'd gone on to work at a variety of minimum wage jobs that always seemed to leave him just a bit sadder then before.

Sure, there was the Initiative. There were demons and vampires and college and frat boys and the army and secrets and all of that…but even in her fake memories, he'd been the window into something that she didn't entirely understand…something that intrigued her.

The following year, the intrigue had grown into a crush, one she knew was hopeless every time she saw Anya flouncing around telling everyone how wonderful Xander was in bed (not that she hadn't listened). She had become obsessive for a little while about it, finding things as silly as how he combed his hair and how he watched TV and how he came over sweaty from work to be the most electrifying show on the Hellmouth. But halfway through that year, she'd started to discover what was behind that crush, that fascination, and she'd grown out of it (to some extent…lessons be damned, Xander was still pretty wonderful, and more then a good friend).

It had been this that had started her odd friendship with Spike. Within him, she'd seen something different from her world (though just familiar enough to be comfortable, what with him being a vampire and all). He was from all over and nowhere and England and everywhere at once, and he was so old and so young and had stories of life from all over. He'd seemed perfect.

Truth be told, it had been a detour on her path (and more then a little bit of a wrong turn), but it had been an instructional one at that.

Then her mother had died, and the word "human" had come crashing down around her with a vengeance. She'd hated it…the ordinary world. She hated that it didn't have any special rules or weak spots, that you couldn't fight it off or cast a spell and make it all better. She hated that people would die, and that there was nothing you could do, no last dive into the fire, that could save them. And Dawn had lost faith in the normal, everyday lives of people, in mortals, because she realized how fragile they were.

Glory had blasted her away from any exploration, but after the whole dimensional debacle, she'd turned to Xander and Spike more then anyone mostly because of what they were. Xander, her dependable normal human guy who'd understand, and Spike, that something else which she knew deep in her heart was just enough right to be wrong. Dawn had turned to them, despite the anger and the fear she still held, but they'd both been hurting so badly from losing Buffy, they'd been useless. And she'd lost faith in that other world, that outside world and turned to Willow and Tara, the closest to her familiar world of magic and monsters and heroes.

But that world had gotten scary fast when Buffy had been brought back. She'd felt a little betrayed that Xander had gotten involved in the whole thing (though she had a feeling it had probably been a little difficult to convince him). And as it had gotten scarier, with Willow getting worse and worse, and Buffy turning in all the wrong directions, she'd found Xander again, her normal, and it was at about that point when she'd started to see just what Spike was.

The past year had been all about the normal for her. Yes, it had started with Xander, but it had branched out from him after all that time to include the rest of the world. She'd made more friends in her school: genuine friends who she actually cared about as opposed to people to fill in the gaps between Scooby issues, and she'd started exploring the world that was purely high school, purely Dawn.

She'd started learning what it meant to be normal, human, and not just "unspecial". But, like Xander had said, just being normal was...being what you were and not seeing it as a LACK of anything. He'd not only told her, but he'd shown her. Seeing everything as special, seeing everything as being a little bit extraordinary so that nothing really was normal.

And other then the Hellmouthy bits which kept interrupting…she was very happy with that.

She knocked again.

Chapter 6




"There's a limit to the power of a spring, no matter how tightly one winds it…you hope that if you wind a spring one way, all its energies will unwind the other way. And sometimes, you have to wind the spring as tight as it will go and pray it doesn't break."

--Terry Pritchett (Men At Arms)


This was definitely a prime example of the Xander Harris method to saving the world.

No one else, he decided, would be here, in the middle of nowhere, on the stage of a strip club with the entire population of the Hellmouth stuffing themselves full of McDougal's hamburgers, trying to raise an army to combat the First Evil.

Nope…this was definitely his brand of "special".

Surprisingly, it had only taken a half an hour for things to become as they were, which was a bit of a miracle. Getting the food, clearing the room, spreading the word (though "free grub" was something he'd noticed tended to spread fast)…Mrs. Pendleton and Monica had both run themselves ragged setting everything up so that he would have an audience to recruit from, and their work had paid off splendidly. From the looks of things, the entirety of Sunnydale's population had managed to stuff its way into the strip club, though most were standing as they chewed their free meals, and every single eye was trained on him.

Now, it was up to him.

Him, up on this stage all alone. He was supposed to convince these people to return to the mouth of Hell and fight for the good of the world when even he could admit to himself that there was more then a little bit of his mind which told him that staying in this town till the whole thing was over wasn't so bad…that being out to pasture could have it's advantages…that he had no place being here, standing on this stage, about to ask what he was going to ask.

But despite all this, there was a larger part of him that screamed and railed at that bit. The larger part said that they were just like him, and that he was just like them, and that both of them had a place in this fight because it was their goddamned world as much as any Slayer's, and he'd be damned before he'd see the battle fought without him.

Fuck pasture. Even the most broken animal will defend what's his.

"Hi," he started, his voice slightly gruff from lack of speaking… not to mention nerves, "My name is Alexander Harris."

A few nods scattered around the room as people acknowledged that yes, he was Alexander Harris. The "and your point is?" hung in the air unsaid.

"Most of you have employed me at some point or another. When I was younger, I probably did your lawn. And if any of you deal in any sort of minimum wage food labor, I was there."

He laughed to himself.

"And then there are all the guys who work for Southwest Construction Co that'd be happy if they never heard my ball-busting another day in their lives…"

A small cheer came up from an area near the bathrooms, and Xander could see the shine off splashes of beer and the edges of raised glasses.

"My point is…I'm a Sunnydale boy, born and bred. Second generation Razorback fan. You all know me. This town is small enough that everyone knows everyone. It's small enough that we're all standing here, all of us in this club, and it's small enough that we all know why, even if we don't to admit it."

There was some grumbling among the mass of people, and he saw more then a few of those eyes lower from him in an odd sort of shame.

"We're here because the Hellmouth under our town, the center of mystical energy that makes it so that no one can get delivery Chinese after dark, is opening up like never before, and you know it in that odd sort of instinctual way that we all have inside when it comes to evil. We're here because right now, Good and Evil are planning to duke it out Grand Royale style where we live and work and be and love.

"And that's bullshit."

Now the grumbling was DEFINITELY there, and it was more then a little angry. That was good, Xander though. At least, he hoped it was good. He wanted anger…but he didn't want to be pulled from the stage and pummeled to death before tempers were cooled. That wouldn't help things much, and, to put it very simplistically, it would hurt a great deal.

"Who the fuck do you think you are, asshole!?" came a shout from near the bar.

Okay, he could do angry too.

"I'm the asshole who's helped fight this battle for 7 years so that you could all live in relative safety." Xander said, his voice just loud enough to reach the mic. Somehow, the quiet worked better then any shouting would have in shutting the guy up. "I'm the asshole who's lost more loved ones than you can probably count, and the asshole who's lost his eye because the Evil to top all evils decided to get punny.

"I'm the asshole who's here to ask you if you give a shit about your lives."

Now he could feel it. They were listening, really listening.

"Now, my friend the Slayer, as in the girl who's job it is to fight all this stuff, would say that this fight isn't yours. That since she's the Slayer, the one chosen by some omnipotent guys we've never seen, this is her fight alone. Her and the other 'Slayers in training' who kick almost as much ass as she does: in short, warriors only. Hell, she didn't even really think it was my fight, and she knows what I've lost to the darkness that's part of Sunnydale.

"She doesn't know I'm here, and I don't care, because I KNOW this is my fight, and your fight, as much as it's hers."

He breathed. Oh God. Oh God. He couldn't do this. It was, but it wasn't, and she didn't know that he was here, and what was she going to do when she found out, and what were these people going to say and did he even have the right to ask what he was going to ask? Could he deal with the answer if it was no? Could he deal…if it was yes?

Xander stood a little taller, a little straighter. His breathing evened out, and the frantic worry emptied from his eye. He looked out at the assembled people, their hamburgers partially forgotten. Men, women…kids. Teenagers, middle-schoolers. A few of babies scattered around in the arms of their mothers.

He could deal with asking.

He could deal with the answer, yes or no. And despite praying that he wouldn't have to, he knew he would be able to deal with the cost… because as much as he'd let himself get slammed into walls, tossed into gravestones, and beaten to a pulp during various times in his life trying to protect the people of his hometown from the horrors that lurked within it, Xander knew that, whatever the cost to him, he couldn't deny them the choice. It was their home. It was their memories, their jobs, their possessions…their lives.

"The First Evil, as in the First one EVER…it's trying to raise an army to take over the world. Right now, the army is small, and it's contained. So, tomorrow, we're going to try and take it out before it gets any bigger.

"We're going to take on the Hellmouth. We're going to take on the thing that's caused all the death, all the pain, all the disappearances. We're going to take it on, and we're going to kick it's ass. And the reason I'm here is to ask you to help us do that. Help us kick it's ass so that the damn thing never shows it's face again."

"And just how are we going to do that, eh? Words?"

Xander felt a smile curl on his face. Dear Lord, an honest to God smile.

"No. We're going to do it with swords and axes and guns and explosives and lots and lots of pent up frustration.

"We're going to do it together, the smartest way we can so that the least amount of people lose their lives (and I want you all to remember that that is a possibility). We're gonna do it together, and we're going to kicks its ass. We're going to get our homes back, our lives back, and this time there won't be any more evil…no more fearing the dark, no more three page obituary section. The way I figure it, all this Good and Evil crap is nice to hear about, but I'm a simple guy who just wants his hometown back.

"We're going to hit 'em where it hurts, because I think they messed with the wrong group of people when they picked their battleground. "

There was silence in the room for a moment, and then Xander saw one hand shoot up. Immediately, Xander tracked the hand down to the familiar face of Zach, one of the guys Xander had talked music with and now sort-of kept up with from high school. They hadn't been close by far, but Zach was one of the four people aside from the Scooby Gang that he'd had any contact with during high school. The other boy had even helped in the Graduation assault…but Xander still felt a little guilty for the way Kyle had eaten Zach's hotdog on command so many years ago. Ack! Bad memories…bad memories…

"I'm in."

He wanted to widen the grin to a smile, but he wasn't sure if he could yet. This was the moment. Then a chorus came up from near the bathroom. One voice rang out within the cacophony of voices. It was his boss, Mr. Richardson.

"You've got us too, Harris."

He looked to the crowd, and one by one, the eyes watching him turned. People began filtering out of the club, leaving even their much-beloved free food behind them. He watched them, and his heart dropped.

He'd failed. As much as Zach and the guys might mean well, their help was not going to have the kind of impact he knew this assault needed.

He'd failed Buffy, even if she didn't know it.

He'd failed the others, who he knew were probably accomplishing their tasks for a main force that wasn't going to be there.

He'd failed the world.

He'd failed himself.

He watched the last of the people make their way out, a young couple that he remembered from work. They'd recently gotten a new wing added to their house for the twins they had gotten only a few months ago. They were nice, the kids were sweet even at that stage of baby- ness, and he'd really liked the shade of blue the couple had chosen for the trimming.

Everyone was gone.

Monica and Mrs. Pendleton looked at him from the sides of the stage like they were going to try and comfort him a bit, but he waved them off. He didn't want that right now. Thankfully, the two women gave him his space and wandered off to somewhere or another backstage.

More tired then he'd ever felt before, Xander dropped to his bottom and slid off the stage. He didn't even try to stop himself from going all the way down til his tailbone painfully hit floor. But even that didn't hurt as much as…as…

Xander looked up suddenly as his eye caught movement, only to see Zach standing in the entryway, obviously excited, breathing in great heaves.

"Xander?" the young man asked, "What are you doing here?"

He laughed in an unhealthy sort of way and got up slowly, his movements more fluid then he'd expected. Apparently, he was getting used to the odd sense of gravity and the lack of depth perception faster then he thought. Great.

He used that balance to carefully walk his way over to the bar and reach behind to grab himself a beer. Then he sat on one of the bar stools before opening the bottle.

"What do you think I'm doing, Zach?"

Immediately, the other young man ran forward and knocked the beer bottle out of Xander's hand. It flew through the air for a moment before smashing noisily wall behind the bar.

"Dude! Get up!"

Xander looked up to the standing man.

"Why? What's the point?"

Zach's eyes rolled, and then he did something Xander didn't expect. Zach smacked him, hard, the young man's hand impacting sharply with the back of his head.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

Zach's eyes rolled again and Xander tensed for another "attack", but then the other boy pointed to the door.

"Dude, like…everyone's waiting for you...everyone but the babysitters and the real little kids. They're all in their cars, raring to go. Now all they need is their leader…"

Xander stared for a second.

"Holy shit…"

Chapter 7




"It's vital to remember who you really are. It's very important. It isn't a good idea to rely on other people or things to do it for you, you see. They always get it wrong."

--Terry Pratchett (Sourcery)


Anya was worried.

They were taking an awfully long time deciding, and she had absolutely no idea what they were discussing: how close, or how far away the group was from agreeing.

She was also worried that she might not be able to make her way out of the camp if the answer was "no", especially since she hadn't brought any weapons with her in an attempt to appear more friendly. At least, that's what Xander had told her. She assumed that since he'd rallied a group before, he'd have a pretty good idea on how to do it, but that was for humans, and she was dealing with demons.

These peaceful demons…they were like humans, but not in many ways. They had the same motivations that humans did in ways, yet unlike humans, they'd chosen to take the path of nonviolence. They'd CHOSEN not to cause trouble, not to follow that imperative voice within that called for blood and death, and they'd made normal, picket-fence-full lives for themselves.

And what did they get for it?

No thanks, certainly. She doubted it would go well if she suggested that Buffy go door to door and thank all the demons for NOT causing trouble. In fact, it was quite possibly the most insane mental picture that had crossed her brain for some time, with the exception of the threesome between her, Xander, and Spike, which entertained her on the more lonely nights.

But knowing this also meant that Anya knew that the voice was still there. The potential was still there. She could remember it from when she had been a demon. That little voice that said it was okay to rip and maim and slaughter…that blood was beautiful and glorious… that these humans deserved all the pain and the suffering, that this world shouldn't belong to them and that killing a few of them would just be evening things out a little.

It was that memory which had made her come out here, which had demanded she go and at least ask: give them the choice. Because they'd chosen not to fight, Anya had felt that they should have a chance to defend that choice, that peace.

So here she was, in the camp, waiting to see if these demons would come fight for her or rip her to shreds. And she was totally NOT expecting the sword which flew out of the darkness and into the ground right before her feet.

Anya, startled, fell onto her bottom and scooted away from the sword as quickly as possible…before realizing that it was a weapon, which she could use, and then she scooted forwards even quicker to grab it. Her hands around the weapon made her feel better.

"Anyanka," came the voice of the larger demon from the darkness the group had retreated to.

She looked up and into that darkness, then raised her sword.

A chuckle escaped the dark, followed by the larger demon himself. Beside him were his daughter, and young Ryt who had not known her by name.

"Don't raise it to us, Anyanka. Raise it to our enemies, as it was meant to be raised." The demon told her, "As our leader shall you use it to command us."

Anya shook her head for a moment, then looked down at the blade. "Leader?"

The larger demon nodded. "Yes, Anyanka. Since you are the one who came here to pull us out of our foolishness, you are our leader. Thus do I give you my blade to enter battle with so that Morrigan will keep you safe. I, Ffydd, know you will honor it."

Anya looked down at the blade, then to the faces of the demons who were quickly coming out of the darkness to join them. So many of them, all of them looking to her.

"I…I don't know." She finally admitted, "I'm not…I'm no longer a demon, you know. I'm not Anyanka, Saint of Scorned Women…I'm just me…Anya."

At this, Ffydd shook his head.

"No, Anyanka, you are not just 'Anya'" he assured her with a smile, "I looked into your heart as you spoke earlier, and you are not Anya. You are Anya and Anyanka. You are both, and both are you, each giving you their strengths. Don't deny one or the other. Merely hold each one for when they are needed. And now, Anyanka must be called."

Anya shook her head. They didn't get it.

"No, you don't understand!" she said, stressing the last word with pain, "I can't just become Anyanka. I can't call up D'Hoffryn and demand to be a demon again. I can't be Anyanka. He took that from me."

The larger demon looked at his daughter, and then at Anya.

"No," he said at last, "No, he didn't. You never stopped being Anyanka when you were Anya, just as you never stopped being…Aud, was it, when you were Anyanka. They are all within you, and not even that old windbag can take them from you.

"I do not know who you are, because I am not you. But within you, you have more then you think. And I know you have enough to lead us."

Anya stared at the blade in her hands, and then at the demon who had given it to her. Her gaze wandered around the area illuminated by the campfire to look at all the demons. The passing ones with non- passing siblings or parents or children…the ones who'd never pass because they weren't even vaguely humanoid, the teeth, the claws, the tails, the scales…the eyes.

All of them looked to her. Anya wondered what they saw. She assumed they saw a twenty-something blonde girl scared out of her wits holding a sword that she had little to no idea how to use.

But was that what she really was?

She'd told Andrew that she loved human beings, and when she'd said it, she'd said it as an outsider. She hadn't said it as one human being to another, but that was only part of it, and it was only holding this sword and being faced with this burden that made her realize it.

She wasn't human. She wasn't a demon. She was something in- between. Anyanka had the power to lead them, but she wouldn't even be involved in this fight. Anya didn't have that strength, but her love for the people she'd come to feel were her family (and that damned stubborn man who she still couldn't shake her caring for) demanded she'd fight. Aud simply wanted to live her life, but realized that they couldn't do that before this was dealt with and thus sided with Anya. But they weren't really separate. They were all her…

Slowly, the sword point rose from the ground and pointed out to the trail from which she'd come.

"Fine then. Let's go kick some ass."

Chapter 8




"He could lead armies, [she] thought. Not because he dreams about marching hordes, or world domination, or an empire of a thousand years. Just because he thinks that everyone's really decent underneath and would get along just fine if only they made the effort, and he believes that so strongly it burns like a flame which is bigger than he is…"

--Terry Pratchett (Men At Arms)


Even someone who could read seventeen languages, as Giles could, would not be able to find a better phrase for what the aforementioned Watcher was happily observing then "poetry in motion".

His young friend's plan had seemed like somewhat of a long shot, even though Giles had seen the logic of the whole of it, yet there it was, working perfectly. Even the wild card presence of the army officers he'd found at the base had done nothing to disturb things. In fact, they had smoothed the way even further.

From his vantage point in one of the Humvees they'd "borrowed" from the base (there was a lot of "borrowing" going on) to transport some of the bigger weaponry, he could see the military men, lead by young Williams, issuing arms to the various citizens in a very neat and orderly fashion. The most amazing thing, though, was that the line for weapons (and there had to be a line because Williams insisted that each person receive a five minute course on "how not to shoot yourself" from one of his men, and despite the number of those who had stayed, each still had a long queue) was composed of both demons and humans.

And nobody had been killed.

Oh, there had been a few skirmishes up and down the line at the beginning as some of the townspeople of Sunnydale had been a little zealous and over-excited, but that had quickly been cleared up by Xander and Anya. Then there had been the little announcement shouted forcefully from the former that any more such fighting would result in immediate expulsion from the fight. Instant peace.

These beings were angry, not stupid. There were, the crowd had finally figured out, bigger fish to fry. And Giles…Giles was completely amazed at his two young friends and all they had accomplished.

Anya had been named General and Lady of the Demon Army. This meant that she'd be leading the demonic forces into the fray with at gigantic sword she'd been given by the former head demon. Having seen the former head demon, as well as many other of the creatures which Anya had brought to the battle, Giles was awed. Nothing had truly brought home just how amazing the girl was, even though it should have, like this had. Now, where there had been a teetering and unsure ex-demon, there was a young woman with a fire which was ready to burn and spread. Honestly, he'd never been so proud of her in his life.

Xander, though…Xander had accomplished what in Giles' eyes had seemed impossible. Not only had he managed to finally pull blinders of the population off of their collective noses, but he'd gotten them to return. He'd gotten them to believe in themselves, in their home, and in the threat which had taken so much from them. They, the normal, everyday people of Sunnydale had come back to fight for what was theirs, and they had come back because one young man had shown them they could.

At first, Xander had tried to step down as soon as he and the "troops" reached the base. The young man had seen his place in the spotlight as being over, and was ready to take second fiddle in favor of those better equipped. Apparently, though it was a surprise to Giles himself, Xander had intended to hand over the reigns to him. It had been an honor, yet seeing his young friend so easily step behind the scenes had saddened him to some degree. But before he'd even been able to decline the offer, a cry had risen from the crowd.

They would follow no one but him. He had found them. He had pulled them from their ignorance, from their apathy. He had been the one to lead them here, and they were determined that he'd be the one to lead them in battle. He was, as one young man shouted above the roar, the Commander of the Sunnydale Militia…whether he liked it or not.

Giles had never been prouder of the boy then at that moment, unless you counted the moment afterward in which Xander had accepted the title.

He'd missed so much. How stupid he'd been to leave.

There had been many reasons for giles' return to England. The first and foremost was that he felt Buffy shouldn't rely on him any more. For many months prior to his leaving, he'd observed the growing distance between Buffy and her "support team". She'd come to rely on -him- to pull them together, to be a rallying point, to grab them like naughty school children and make them work together to save the world, and while it had hurt to do it, he'd left in the hopes that, realizing how important they were, his Slayer would take the initiative herself to rebond with her friends. How well that had worked…

His other reasons had painfully gone up in smoke as well…literally. Friends left behind, family members who had finally started speaking to him once more since the Council had taken him back in…he'd never mentioned it to anyone, but he'd missed them. He'd missed home, and he'd missed the people he'd left there. While in Sunnydale, Giles had tried so hard to become something other then what everyone expected him to be (Ripper had found his outlet in a more subtle fashion, he sometimes thought) that he'd forgotten his past…so busy rebelling, he'd forgotten just what was worth rebelling against. So he'd gone back to find it. And now…now they were all gone.

The Council. Despite its overall heavy handedness, it had served its purpose and saved many more lives then it had destroyed. There had been goodness there at least. Goodness buried under far too much paperwork, true, but goodness none the less. And good people, even if he wasn't friends or even civil with all of them.

He'd lost friends as well. All those who had stuck by him despite his troubles with the Council. They'd all died in the classified sections of library, doing research to help him as being on the bad side of the Council kept him out of such a privileged area. All but one gone…because they were helping him.

The last and worst blow had been the loss of his family. They'd all been Watchers (what he'd told Buffy that first year was true; Watchers ran in families)…and they'd all been lost in the explosion. Even the young ones, as the Bringers had scheduled their attack well, waiting till the younger members had been called in to help in the frantic search for information before striking. His father. His favorite aunt. His little cousin Becca who'd so idolized him for his bravery in accompanying his Slayer…she was gone. They were all gone. Those who were left were either too old and set in their ways to ever accept him back, or too young to even know him.

He'd returned for as many selfish reasons as world-saving ones because as he lost everything, the only place that had anything he cared for anymore was Sunnydale, California. It had hurt him to admit it, but he had nothing left now but these children. Buffy, Willow, Xander, Anya, Dawn…hell, even Andrew and Faith had been semi- adopted by the Watcher simply out of need, though the caring was no less potent for that need.

And now…now he'd be watching them march into battle, ready to die to preserve the world as it was. Buffy at the head of her potential and soon-to-be Slayers. Faith by her side, once more where she belonged; not ahead or behind Buffy, but next to her. Xander at the head of the people of Sunnydale. Anya at the head of the demons. Andrew making sure he did everything in his power to correct his own horrible mistake. Dawn helping wherever was needed, even if it was behind the scenes. Willow doing that infernal spell which might very well help save them all.

His heart twisted in his chest as he imagined it all, half in horror and half in pride.

His children, even the most recent of additions…they'd grown up. They'd grown up, and he'd missed some of the most important parts of that growth by leaving for whatever reasons, and he'd never get it back. He'd never get that time with them back, and after today, hell, he might never get any time with them at all to be surprised by with how amazing they could be.

He might die. They might die. They all might die.

But, he decided as he turned the key on the Humvee, there was work to be done, and such conjecture was better saved for after the battle, when there was time for it. For now, like all of them, Giles had work to do. And he was there to do it.

Not for the world, but for his family.


Chapter 10




"Real magic is the hand around the bandsaw, the thrown spark in the powder keg, the dimension-warp linking you straight to the heart of a star, the flaming sword that burns all the way to the pommel…"

--Moving Pictures (Terry Pratchett)


They were coming back…and they weren't coming back alone.

Andrew had held onto the phone like a lifeline, his body scrunched up into the corner of the kitchen in a nonsensical attempt to be less conspicuous and somehow further quiet the already quiet voice telling him what was going on in the greater Hellmouth area.

He was almost crying.

Anya would be leading the demons. Xander would be leading the humans. Giles had managed to not only get the weapons from the base, but a good sized group of commandos. And they were coming back to fight in less then an hour. Just before sunrise.

He could imagine how it would be…

Anya, proving just how perfect she was in the morning's light, leading all sorts of creatures spurred on by her courage and her fire into the battle against the First and greatest Evil ever to attack them.

Xander, showing just how amazing he was as he lead the assembled citizens of Sunnydale in the battle for their home and for the world, his bravery and faith in the face of his personal tragedy making these normal people more then the sum of their parts as they each realized how much a difference one person can make in the fight against evil.

Giles, who had been thrown aside by the Slayer in so many ways, would come back and prove just how great his worth was, and how greatly he cared for those in his charge despite his former actions in leaving them.

Dawn…well, he didn't know where she was. She'd given him a quick shout that she was leaving and that was all, but he figured she was doing something equally important. Dawn was that type of girl.

But in his heart, he knew it wouldn't be like that. He knew Anya would be just as scared as she was brave, and that Xander would probably feel every Sunnydalian's death upon his conscience to the point where it might even break those last few strands of…of… SOMETHING that kept him going everyday. That was if Buffy even accepted their help, which he wasn't sure she would.

Giles…he knew that the older man would probably still be tossed aside by his Slayer and told that his contribution was very nice and well, but was unnecessary. And Dawn? Whatever she did would be given a patronizing "pat on the head" followed by what would probably be dismissal.

He was almost crying.

He so wanted this to work out. He wanted his "friends" (well, that might be a stretch, but still…) and his heroes to come back to the house on Revello Drive with their army and their weapons and their support and be accepted with open arms by the Slayer and Potentials who understood just how much the help was truly needed. He wanted the forces of good to storm the high school in one community effort: human, demon, Slayer, all fighting together for the common good. He wanted Buffy to see how much her friends cared for her.

He had a feeling it wouldn't though.

If Xander was the one who saw everything, then Andrew was the one who heard things. Not as good, but it did give him some understand of the group. And from what he had heard for the last 6 months, what he wanted wasn't going to happen.

He also knew that he would be pushed aside, his use all used up. Even Anya, Giles, Dawn, and Xander might do it, and that would hurt the worst, but there wasn't one thing he could see himself doing to help.

HE couldn't lead the demons.

HE couldn't lead the people of Sunnydale.

HE couldn't lead the soldiers.

HE couldn't do…whatever Dawn was doing.

And the only thing he could think of that really needed doing, getting Buffy to accept the help, was light-years away from what he could do. Hell, she barely tolerated him normally. Something like this-

The very graphic image of Andrew-goo underneath a gigantic hammer wielded by the blonde slayer made him almost regret that he had a very graphic imagination.

So he was left with nothing, his grand plans for redemption dashed upon the rock of reality.

"Just like what Warren said…" he muttered to himself darkly, hating himself for even thinking it, let alone letting it out of his mouth, "Just like-"

*Andrew, shut up!* he heard clearly within his head in a voice that sounded disturbingly like Jonathon. Oh damn…Jonathon! The First!

*I'm not the First, you twit!* the voice shouted, now sounding a bit more like Xander then Jonathon. Regardless, it was an odd mix which continued to freak him out even as it explained, *I'm your conscience… sorely underused till late, but still here.*

Andrew wondered why his conscience had a weird voice of it's own.

*It's a geek thing…you should know that. Or if you really must, call it a side effect of being a villain…the whole inner monologue thing.*

This was getting kinda cool.

*Oh don't start with that…please?* the voice asked

"What?" Andrew asked out loud. Then he immediately slapped his hand over his mouth realizing how conspicuous he must look…as well as stupid.

*I'm not the only one who noticed that then?* his conscience replied in a definite Xander-drawl, *But this is not the point. The point is… stop being stupid about this upcoming battle thing.*

"Whadda mean!?" Andrew let out indignantly before realizing how loud he was being. Then he repeated it in a whisper.

*What I mean is that a: you're angsting, which is not helpful nor your job and b: you're being way too hard on yourself.*

"Get to the point…" the geek hissed impatiently. God, he felt like a moron talking to himself. Well, arguing. And it seemed like he wasn't winning…

*What I'm saying is that you've got to have a little more faith in your friends…ALL of them. That includes Buffy. She's not as stupid as she looks.*

"I didn't say she was stupid."

*Please.* yup…Xander again. It seemed that the voice was more Jonathon when explaining things, and more Xander when trying to stress something or make a point. Kinda creepy.

*Fine…but the second parts a little more important. The former will take care of itself.*


*What I…well, you, mean is that you've gotta stop thinking like Andrew and start thinking like Andrew, part of the team. Just because you're not leading, and just because you're not the one who's the most obvious, doesn't mean that you're not DOING something.

*Look at Xander. The guy hasn't got any sort of abilities at ANYTHING other then carpentry and wisecracking and he's done some amazing stuff just being the support team. Giles. Anya. Dawn. Robin, even. Just because the spotlight isn't on you, it doesn't mean you're not doing anything. The show wouldn't go on without the backstage, Andrew.*

"So what you're saying is…that I can help?"

*Sure. Do what you're best at.*



Andrew scowled.

*Just kidding.* and Andrew could swear he heard a chuckle, *Seriously, though, just be there for them. Show them how much you've changed…hell, show yourself. Do what's needed and take satisfaction from knowing that you helped save the world. Doesn't matter how much or how little you did as long as it gets saved, right? *

"I suppose so."

*So think you'll start listening to me again and stop burying me under Star Wars trivia and your opinions on the latest American Idol?*



"Thank you…"

*No problem…just my job.*

"I guess."

*Yup. Now you better go get the door now. I think they're here.*


*Yeah…all of them.*

An odd squealing exited Andrew's mouth as he immediately launched himself towards the front door.

*Still say baking might not be a bad idea…that whole carb thing you mentioned earlier?*

"Shut up…"

*Duly noted.*

Andrew opened the door.