Riding Shotgun 2

Author: Nodakskip <nodakskip[at]aol.com>

Disclaimer: I own nothing. That's all Joss. And Mutant Enemy, WB, UPN, Fox, Sandollar etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Pairing: Mention of X/M, W/K

Rating: PG-13

Feedback: I'd love to hear what you think!

Authors' notes: Don't really know why I wrote this, when I had my other ones to work on. But a few people said that they wanted a sequel, and who am I to say to no?

Chapter 1

Watchers Council Headquarters, London, England
December 18th 2005
6:35 pm local time

Senior Council member Buffy Anne Summers nodded hello to the various staff that greeted her, as she walked through the hallowed halls of the Council.

Not yet 25 years old for another month, in her short life Ms. Summers had made history several times, most notably being brought back to life twice. Then when the Council was reformed, she'd made history again.

Because she was the first Slayer *ever* to serve on the Council. Oh, over the millennia quite a few potentials that were never Called had gone on to become Watchers, and had taken seats on the Council. But she was the first *active* Slayer that had ever been in a position that was roughly equivalent to the one Quentin Travers had once held.

Buffy had just come from her video teleconference with her senior sister Slayer Faith, in Cleveland. The brunette and her group had reported no more than the normal vampire and demon activity for some weeks now. Because with over 200 Slayers on the active Hellmouth, no problems *stayed* problems for very long.

Besides, a few of the Slayers had been native to Cleveland. And they took protecting their home city very seriously.

Also, more than a few of the Slayers around the world didn't exactly want to *thank* Buffy, for giving the order that had turned them into Slayers in the first place. So it was agreed that to avoid conflict within the ranks, Buffy would assume her post here with Giles and Andrew. And later Willow and Kennedy, after they were done in the Himalayas and Sao Paulo.

Buffy waked the long way around through the marble building's vast hallways, to reach the main library. As she walked, the blonde was amazed again at how Caleb - the late, unlamented asshole minion of the First Evil - had gone to all that trouble to destroy all the main Council personnel, but leave practically all the buildings and resources gathered for over thousands of years relatively untouched...

Oh, and if only the Scooby gang had known the main records vault of the Council had been left in one piece after that explosion, while they were looking for information on the First.

Still, oddly, they had not found one scrap of info anywhere on the Slayer scythe. The red and silver axe-like weapon that had been used to magically create the new army of Slayers all over the world, and Buffy's own personal sidearm now.

"Willow? You in here?" Watcher Summers called out, as she came into the massive split-level library.

"Up here."

Buffy looked up to see fellow Slayer and Willow's girlfriend Kennedy, up on the third floor railing. "Where is everyone?" the young woman asked the dark-haired Slayer, as she started climbing the steps.

Kennedy indicated with her head to the main floor, where several long tables sat. Countless books of every shape and size were resting on them, as well as an equal amount of computer equipment. "I sent them home for the night," Kennedy told her companion. "Law of diminishing returns, and all that."

"What's the progress on the project?" Buffy then asked, as she finally reached the third floor landing.

The project Ms. Summers referred to was the scanning and cataloging of every book and artifact the Council had. When it was completed, the dream was that any field Watcher anywhere would be able to instantly enter any search words in over two dozen human and demon languages; and in a matter of moments, get the answer to their queries. And even a list of any and all reference material to the subject.

Sad to say, but all-night pizza research parties would soon be a thing of the past.

"It's coming along very slowly," Kennedy responded with a grimace. "As we said in our latest report, even with a full-time staff of 100 people - it's still damn slow going. Willow said it took months for her to scan all of Giles' old books from Sunnydale into the computer-"

The Slayer then groaned. "And don't even get me started on the can't scans!" she added with another grimace, referring to the stack of books that could cause an incident like Moloch the Corruptor demon back in Sunnydale, many years ago.

"Speaking of," Buffy said. "Where is our redheaded friend?"

Kennedy walked over to a very large oak desk, and gently moved a stack of books from it. From the newly-created opening, Buffy could see her old friend fast asleep in her plush leather office chair. "How long has she been out?"

"A couple of hours," Kennedy whispered, now that they were close to Willow's sleeping form. "She was up late last night, after she got a call from her super-hacker friend from China."

Buffy's face fell at that. "No good news, I take it?" And the question was purely rhetorical, since if there *had* been good news - then Willow would have beaten down her door last night, whatever time it had been.

"No," Kennedy answered anyway. "He was unable to find any trace of Xander - at all. I swear, that guy has just fallen off the face of the earth-"

"Don't say that!" Buffy demanded, as she sat down in the couch nearby. "'Cause with the stuff we do, that could literally happen."

Kennedy reluctantly agreed with that statement. She had grown fond of the former male Scooby, after they had gone through the Battle of Sunnydale together. Although some would be surprised to hear her say that.

Kennedy often thought of how she'd helped organize the potentials in Sunnydale to throw a welcome-home party for Harris, after he'd gotten his eye gouged out. (Saving my ass!) she then thought silently.

As Buffy started to flip through the documents on the table that Willow's friend had sent, Kennedy thought of the months leading up to Xander's disappearance - and all the strange stuff that had been going on, before that.

The rumors of him having developed a split personality, for one. There were Slayers who were willing to swear that they'd heard him talking -no, *arguing* - with himself, when Xander had thought no one else was around. She herself had heard him do it one time.

There were also other times when the former Zeppo literally hadn't seemed himself; he would suddenly carry himself differently, walk differently, even talk differently. But that would only last for a short period, then Xander would be himself again. Until next time...

Kennedy then remembered the report that Robin Wood had written about how when a demon had used a spell to knock a group of the white hats unconscious the previous year, somehow Xander had been able to get back up and kill the evil thing. Robin and another Watcher had had a camcorder going while they'd worked on translations of a tablet to send to Giles, and it had recorded the entire show.

But the images of what it had captured had only raised even more questions.

On the tape Xander had gotten knocked out like the rest of them, but then he'd just stood up. And he'd seemed very upset on the tape, as he'd attacked the demon from behind. Harris had told the demon, "You don't mess with my friend, bozo!"

And after he'd killed that creature, Xander had seemed to just play off the incident when Faith, Robin and the others awoke. Giles and the others had decided to recall Xander to England after that. Because of the other evidence, they'd also decided against showing him or letting him know of the videotape.

The odds that it would just *disappear* were too high for anyone's liking.

Buffy and Willow were by then very upset that they hadn't listened to Dawn sooner, when she'd said something was up with Harris. The former Key had noticed her former crush often wasn't himself ages previously, but ever since she and Buffy had left Italy...it was like no one listened to her anymore.

Xander also wouldn't explain how and why he'd suddenly started dressing like a guy on 'The O.C.' all the time. And Willow had been concerned that Xander might be possessed again. Back on the trip from Africa almost five full months before then, Harris had been violently ill for several days and then poof, all better; so Buffy just hoped she wouldn't have to hit him with a desk once more, if Hyena Boy made a surprise reappearance

But it hadn't worked out that way. And later, everyone had been very surprised when he'd decided not to go to Los Angeles, to visit Cordelia Chase's grave. Kennedy had been told that she was a very old girlfriend of his, and that they'd kept in contact for a few years -but then the contact had tapered off.

Xander had said simply he'd made his peace with her, and nothing more. Which was more than borderline suspicious, to the minds of the core female Scoobs.

Willow had tried to do a spell to detect if Xander was possessed. But it had backfired badly, when his aura had behaved...weird. Willow had said at first that it had looked like it was supercharged or something; then it had suddenly vanished, as if it wasn't there! Further surreptitious tests and spells had stopped, however, when the news from LA came through.

Angel and Spike, a.k.a. William the Bloody, a.k.a. Buffy's vampire boy-toy, were coming to England - and they were bringing along a being known as an Old One, who now occupied a friend's body. A dead friend named Fred Burkle, at that. And when it was learned that two others of Angel's team - Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Charles Gunn - had also been killed during a fight, where only by the direct intervention of the Powers That Be had the two souled vamps survived...

Well, it didn't inspire anyone with confidence to have this particular duo around.

When pressed for details, Angel had muttered something about how the Senior Partners had violated some sort of ancient rule, letting certain demons loose on Earth when they'd gone after the Fang gang for what he had done to the Circle of the Black Thorn. Spike had said nothing, just looking away whenever that final battle was mentioned.

Anyway, the news had not gone over well with Xander. To Kennedy he had looked almost shocked, no - *sick* at the news that Wesley, Fred, and Gunn had all been killed.

The morning before Angel and his two playmates were due to arrive, it was discovered that Xander had cleaned out his apartment and vanished.

And that had been nearly eight months ago. No trace of Xander after he'd left had been found, other than his car being discovered at a used car lot. Willow and the other spellcasters in the Council's employ had somehow failed in every way imaginable to find him.

The sudden ringing of the phone on the desk caused Willow to look up. "What? I'm awake! I promise, I'm not sleeping!"

Both Slayers looked at her in amusement, before Kennedy picked up the cordless phone. "Main library..." She listened to the person on the other end, while Willow rubbed the sleep from her eyes. After a minute, Kennedy hung up the phone. "Come on, you two. Giles wants us all in the main Council chambers."

"For what?" Buffy asked. "I just talked to him ten minutes ago. Nothing seemed to be up."

"Yeah, well," Kennedy shrugged, "That was before Dawn *demanded* that he call a meeting."

The elder Slayer groaned at that. "A Council meeting? Ugh. I really hate two in one day."

"Come on, Buffy," Willow said, just about all the way awake now. "The sooner we get it over with, the sooner I can..."

"Get some sleep?" Buffy asked her friend with a smirk.

"Hey! I never-" Willow started to protest, before she gave in. "Okay, fine, so I was sleeping."


"Angel?" Buffy said in surprise - as she, Kennedy and Willow rounded the corner into what was informally known as the 'Memorial Hall'. Both her old vampire boyfriends were there and trying not to stare, while Illyria just looked expressionlessly at Wesley's framed photo on the wall.

This area had once only held large, framed paintings of the current senior Council members, but no longer. That had been one of Xander's first changes, when they had arrived. Now, several eight by ten photos of the Watchers, and all the potentials killed by Caleb, before and during his time in Sunnydale, hung in places of honor.

Most of the dead girls' pictures were from high school yearbook photos. And not only was it the right thing to do, but everyone was glad that it had kept Andrew busy for weeks. The self-proclaimed reformed evil mastermind was also busy working on the Slayer line these days. A collection of the first and last Watchers' journal entries of every single Slayer that had ever lived; an ambitious project, to be sure.

"Do you guys know what's going on?" Willow asked the former LA group, as the women came up to them.

"No, ducks," Spike said, annoyed. "So this 'ad better be good. I'm missing a bloody Passions marathon 'ere!"

"Which your TiVo is no doubt recording," Kennedy replied, annoyed. "Admit it. The only reason you stick around, is because we have free satellite TV with the Soap Opera channel!"

"Can't forget 'American Idol', luv," Spike's smirk was unmistakable.

Willow looked at him in surprise. "You watch 'American Idol'? Why in God's name would you wanna do that?"

"The white-haired half-breed likes the mean man," Illyria spoke up for the first time, as she turned to face the group.

Spike nodded at that. "Oh yeah, the way he crushes their-"

"Hey, everyone? The sooner you guys come in, the sooner we can get this over with."

The group turned to see Vi standing in the chamber doorway. "What's up?" Kennedy asked her, as they filed in.

Vi shrugged. "All I know is Dawn had Giles get all of us Sunnydale people together. She said she found something."

"About what?" Angel asked, as he sat in one of the Council chairs. The reactions of the stuffy, hidebound members of the Old Guard if they'd known of this 'sacrilege' definitely filling him with amusement.

"About something really important!" Dawn said, as she came in with Giles right behind.

"Hullo there, Nibblet. Something need killing, then?" Spike asked her, hopeful. "Haven't 'ad a good brawl in months, ever since Big Blue and I called it quits..."

Dawn shook her head at him, as she hit the button that caused the large projection TV to come out of the ceiling. "Okay," she started off. "You know how we record stuff from all the major news networks every day?"

"Yeah. Smart move too," Angel answered her, somewhat interested.

"Some new 'gang on PCP' show up?" Buffy asked with a grin.

"No, but this does answer some questions we've had for a while...and give us a hell of a lot more questions to answer, as well," the one-time magic ball of energy said cryptically.

Dawn hit the Play button on the remote, and footage of a CNN anchor started talking about a U.S. senate hearing began. But the youngest Summers daughter then hit Pause, freezing the image. "Okay, look, I was bored - so I was skimming through the tape, when I noticed this. It aired about two-thirty last night. Just watch for a sec..." she told the as she hit Play again.

The CNN anchorwoman changed papers on her desk, before starting again. A graphic with the words 'Large Powerball Winner' suddenly appeared at the bottom of the screen.

"And now on more local news, a winner has been found for the latest Powerball lottery. A freshman student of Clemson University, in South Carolina, bought the winning ticket for the two hundred million dollar jackpot at a local gas station - mere hours before the drawing."

The new shot showed a 7-11 on a busy street for a moment, before Dawn paused it again. "I swear, you won't believe who the winner is," she told them honestly. "I know I didn't-"

"Dawn, is there a point to all this?" Buffy asked, more than a little impatient.

Dawn just un-paused the tape. (This should be good, especially Buffy and Willow's reactions...)

The anchorwoman's voice-over continued, "Newly minted multimillionaire Alexander Harris says that he was shocked that his ticket won-"

"Oh, you're bloody *kidding* me!" Spike called out as Xander's face appeared on the screen. With both eyes intact. "Come on, Droopy Boy's now a millionaire? There ain't no justice in this world!"

The others were too stunned to say anything just yet.

"I just picked it up on a whim - since I had a buck in change I wanted to get rid of, when I bought the gas," the former Slayerette gushed, as he looked at the giant cardboard check on the stand next to him. A reporter then stood up and asked him what he was going to do with all that money, and would he now stay in college?

"Heck, yeah!" Xander answered. "I'm still getting my degree, but the financial problems are now just a memory! And as for what I am going to do with the rest of it...man, I have no clue!" He thought for a moment. "Though I'm sure my girlfriend has plenty of ideas..."

"Girlfriend!? Xander has a *girlfriend* now!?!" Willow asked in shock. (Well, I guess it's not *that* unbelievable...and he wouldn't mourn Anya's loss forever...)

Dawn hit Stop on the tape, when the anchor went onto another story. "Well, there you go. And all I gotta say is, thank God he's still alive."

"I don't believe this!" Angel said shaking his head, almost whining. "Xander's now a multimillionaire?"

"Yeah," Vi said, as she turned to Kennedy. "At least now he can pay me back the twenty bucks he owed me, when he skipped out of here!"

"Two hundred million?" Buffy asked, dumbfounded. "Is that before or after taxes?"

Giles just had to chuckle. "I shouldn't have to remind you all, th-that Xander has had a-a-a string of bad luck for years, now. I, I'd say this makes up for it, in spades..."

"But why wouldn't he have let us known where he was?" Willow tried to understand. "And how did he get his eye back?"

"Who cares? I'm just happy he did!" Kennedy tossed in.

"We'll go talk to him," Buffy told her stunned redheaded friend. "Now that we know where he is..."

Rupert stared at her. (What makes you think he'll just let you back into his life like that, Buffy, if Xander obviously doesn't even want to be in contact with you nowadays?) "I'll have some transportation ready for you right away," Giles said though, as he went for a nearby phone.

Dawn's voice stopped them in their tracks. "Uh, wait, there's more."

"More?" Kennedy asked, turning around to her younger friend. "What, did he get elected President too?"

Dawn shook her head, as she sat on the edge of a small table. "They mentioned his college campus, so I had Andrew check it out. The thing is...Xander's been a student there, for months. It was all in the public records, too. No fake name or anything."

"No..." Willow said, disbelieving. "That, that's not possible. I've looked, Andrew's looked, every hacker in the world that I've asked to help me search for Xander has looked!" She looked confused at the others. "How could we *not* have found him!?"

With the remote, Dawn changed the image to a computer screen format. Xander's college file came up, along with a color photograph. (Maybe, just maybe, Xander has friends in high places now. Maybe the Powers That Be didn't *want* us to find him, for whatever reason...)

"Alexander Lavelle Harris," Dawn then read out loud. "High school graduate of Sunnydale High, Sunnydale, California - the class of 1999. Andrew and I looked it over," she told the witch. "It's Xander, there's no doubt about it. He was openly registered for all his classes. Even has an apartment near the campus."

"Does it say how he paid for all that?" Angel asked, slipping back into his long-dormant detective guise.

"The apartment, no, that's private stuff," Dawn responded. "But as for the college thing, he had a ton of student loans that paid for everything - up until now."

"Uh, if he's a full-time student?" Vi asked the group. "Then how can he have a job to pay for rent, cable, food and the rest of it?"

"Maybe he's working part-time in construction again," Giles suggested. "He-he-he was on the fast track to upper management with that company in Sunnydale, after all."

"*Him*?" Spike asked, not believing a word of it. "Come on, all that sod was good for was fixing the broken windows, for criminy's sake-!"

"Not true," Dawn interrupted him with a nasty glare, suddenly angry at his slur on Xander's character. "He fixed up our entire house when that ghost thing practically destroyed it, remember?"

"And the Magic Box would never have been able to remain open, if Xander had not always fixed the damage it invariably acquired over the years," Giles was proud to point out. "He was a foreman, after all."

Buffy ignored their conversation. "Did you find anything else, Dawn?"

Her brunette sister nodded, and hit the Forward button. A text article came up, "This is from the college campus newspaper. Today's edition. It says that Xander is still known by the name Xander Harris; and it seems him and his girlfriend are really popular with their peers. Apparently, she is a cheerleader for the football team."

"Ah...Xander hasn't had great luck with cheerleaders," Willow said, wincing at the memories. "What else do we have on this girl?"

"Her name, Mary-Jane Scoggins," Dawn responded from memory. "But I'm telling you, there is something *weird* going on with her!"

"Why do you say that?" Angel wanted to know.

"Well, let's see..." Dawn started. "Her birthday is the same as Xander's, even though she was born in Texas. She registered for her classes the same way he did, over the Internet. But...according to the server logs that we found...she registered within an hour's time, of when Xander did!"

"Coincidence?" Vi asked, already knowing it wasn't.

"Nope," Dawn replied. "She lives in the same apartment Xander does. Their names are the only two on the lease..."

Ms. Summers hit the button again, and more text came up. "This is an email from a friend of theirs, don't ask how we got it; the point is, she goes on and *on* about how Xander and Mary-Jane seem to be made for each other, and everyone knows it's just a matter of time until they get hitched. And the funny part is, both Xander and his girlfriend...they seem to know what the other one is thinking, like *all* the time! She writes how they complete each other's sentences so often, that it's like they share the same mind..."

"So, Mystery Girl is somehow involved in all this," Buffy commented. "Okay, let's saddle up and head over there right now..."

"Ah, Angel?" Dawn said slowly. She was *so* looking forward to this part. "I think you'll want to be on that plane, as well."

"Me?" the Irish-born vampire looked mildly surprised, before he shook his head. "Xander and I were never friends, not really. Buffy can handle this on her own."

Spike looked happy at that, as now that the being known as The Immortal was out of the picture - he had an open shot at his beloved all over again. (Hell, whelp, guess I do owe you some thanks after all!)

"Well," Dawn said to Angel with a knowing look on her face. "Unless this is the biggest coincidence in history...or she had a twin sister no one ever knew about..."

"Dawn?" Buffy asked. "What are you trying to say?"

Before she hit the Forward button Dawn told the group, "I present to you, Mary-Jane Scoggins."

Her school file came on the screen, complete with a student ID photo; and Angel instantly bolted out of his seat. "Cordelia?!"

"Sure looks like her, apart from the red hair," Dawn responded firmly.

"She's back? And she's Xander's *girlfriend*?" Angel shouted, apparently ignoring Buffy - who got a funny look on her face, at hearing his tone. Spike saw it and grimaced, (Oh, bugger, don't tell me she's falling for Captain Forehead all over again?!)

Rupert Giles observed all this calmly, as the arguments started within the group - as more than one person started to heatedly accuse another of being jealous. Then he closed the doors to the chamber behind him, as the insults started to be hurled around - and then the fists started flying in anger.

The End

AN: Ok, the way I see this is that Cordy and Xander shared the same living space for so long, that by the time they were un-joined by Cordelia getting her new body… They were so much a part of each other, it's almost literally like they were one mind in two bodies. Cordy and Xander over time knew what the other was thinking and feeling all the time. That has to make people grow on you. Also in case anyone was wondering the money was the big payout Cordy talked about in the last part. They knew when and where to buy the ticket.

I wrote this into the future because I don't have time to make yet another series and this could become too much like 'Partners'. (Which I am still working on.) But there is still the story of the Watchers visit to Xander and Mary-Jane that can be told.

The End