Slay Hard

Author: M. McGregor <erstwhile_visionary[at]>

Disclaimer: I disclaim all responsibility for everything ever, except the good stuff. That's all me. (PS: I don't own any of this)

Rating: PG-13, maybe R for violence later

Summary: The Scooby Gang and Angel Investigations are incapacitated by evil villains of the evil kind. Only Xander is on the loose in a newly renovated Wolfram and Hart building, can he save his friends (and as a purely unintended side-effect, Spike and Angel) and stop the bad guys all alone?

Author's Note: Trying to get some more fic out there to cleanse the palate of gun debates. Thanks to everyone for your responses to my previous fic, and here is the first of my longer and unfinished fics. HOPEFULLY I'll add to it faster once it's posted, cause it's kind of slow going as it is now.

Chapter 1

He should have known this was a bad idea. A Scooby reunion in the Angel-run headquarters of Evilco Incorporated? Also known as Wolfram and Hart's Los Angeles office. He would have liked to have stayed in Africa, where his slayer-scoping duties had turned him into a trim and fit new version of Xander. But Willow had sent him a trans-Atlantic cell-phone photo of the Resolve Face, and he was powerless against it, even in digital form.

So here he was, sitting in some cubbyhole little meeting room, spinning slowly in a slightly squeaky office chair. Angel, Buffy and Spike were having their tortured Days of Our Un-Lives moment, and he had wisely decided to stay out of it. He was barely tolerant of Buffy/Angel melodrama, completely sickened by Buffy/Spike melodrama, and was worried that his good eye might actually explode in horror at the sight of Buffy/Angel/Spike melodrama.

Willow and Giles were off with Wesley and some blue-haired biker-chick, apparently. She gave off a certain Seven-of-Nine kind of vibe to Xander, and he had little doubt that he'd soon be adding to his list of tiny women who could kill him with their pinky toe.

Tiny women. Not-so-tiny list.

He blew out a bored breath, staring at a pencil someone had lodged into the ceiling. Briefly he amused himself with a fantasy of Angel and Spike having a fancy business meeting when suddenly the pencil comes loose and accidentally lodges itself in their hearts. Never mind that this pencil would have to be a magically enchanted pencil to get the both of them in one accidental fall, but in a place like this he wouldn't put it past them to have enchanted the pencils.

Sometimes the odd places that his mind went frightened him.

It was about this time, as he was contemplating the necessary magical ability it would take just to get a pencil lodged in the ceiling in the first place that he heard the small pops that indicated to a long dormant memory that small arms fire had just taken place.

He slowed his spinning to a halt and strained his ears. A few more small pops and a muffled scream. Other noises he couldn't identify. He slinked to the door, grateful that the inner blinds of the room were drawn shut, and peeked through to the lobby.

Buffy, Angel and Spike were all out cold, and huge demons with three yellows horns on their heads and pretty serious acne were busy fixing glowing red manacles to each of them, then securing the manacles to a heavy support beam. As he watched, mind racing, he saw the beam itself glow with that same eerie light.

More scuffling sounds, and he watched as Giles, Wesley and the blue haired girl were all led into the room, the blue-haired girl looking extremely pissed. She had a strange collar around her neck, the same eerie red light glowing around it. The man introduced to him as Gunn was being dragged in behind them, a strip of red glowing metal around his head. A growing bruise on his eye explained why he wasn't moving under his own power. He was out cold.

He had to do something. Maybe he could get to Willow, they apparently hadn't gotten to her yet. Surely she would be able to deal with this threat, but he wanted to be sure that she didn't have to go too far with her magic in order to do so.

Slowly and as quietly as he could, he opened the door to the small office. As he did, he could hear the voice of one of the demons.

"Romero just reported in, they've got the witch tagged, so that's all of them. They're bringing her in now. Grorgo said they had to use the third strongest setting on her. Highest he ever heard of," it's voice was gruff but slightly higher in tone than Xander would have imagined.

"Excellent. Have the Yarnaks do a search of the rest of the offices on the floor. Their orders are to kill any other beings alive or undead. There should not be any others, but perhaps they'll stumble upon a workaholic doing a little weekend work."

A moment later Xander saw several of the large tri-horned demons kick down the door into the office two doors down from where he was. They were huge and heavily muscled, and he knew without a doubt they could take him out without even a thought. He shut the door as quickly and quietly as he could and started looking frantically around the room.

"Oh man. Ok, ok think. Gotta think...gotta move." His eyes took in the room. A small table, several chairs. He doubted they would do much damage to the huge demons. Pencil in the ceiling and...

And an air duct. He just might be able to fit. He stood on the table, grimacing as it wobbled precariously. Luckily for him the vent was loose already, and with a minimum of prying it swung open. It would be a tight fit. Good thing he'd been on the "travel on foot through Africa for six months with little money and less food" diet. Thinking fast in a way that would later surprise him, he quickly unlaced one of his shoes. From the clanging outside he could hear the demons were searching the room right next door. Not much time left.

He tied one end of the lace to his shoe, and wrapped the other around the vent. He really hoped this would work. With a slight hop he pulled himself inside the vent, having just enough room to shimmy down the rectangular shaft. He could see a larger open area with a slowly rotating fan up ahead. He slowly made his way forward, grunting slightly with the exertion.

"I guess now would be a good time to be quoting Bruce Willis," he remarked to no one in particular. He looked back behind him, as he felt the slight tug. He was at the end of the slack. He slowly bent his leg, pulling on the shoelace. The vent it was tied to swung upwards, the lace itself coming undone slightly as he did so.

"Come on...easy does it," he whispered.

With a slight click the vent snapped back into place. He tugged a little more and was rewarded with the lace finally unwinding itself. Now he just had to get to the open area before the demon brigade decided to take a peek in the vent. Doing his best to keep his painful grunting as silent as possible, he shimmied forward at a pace that he was sure was going to get him killed. Behind him he could hear the demons kick the door in. He could picture it now...

"What's this Jer?"

"Looks like a one-eyed human doin' a sardine impression, Paulie."

"Hey human, what exactly did you think you were going to accomplish with this?"

It would be at that point that the pencil would decide to dramatically dislodge itself, spin amazingly in mid-air and sink a few centimeters into the head of the first demon.

With that oh-so-lucid daydream, Xander redoubled his efforts at both silence and speed, spurred on more by the potential embarrassment than the horrible painful death that would follow directly after. The crashing sounds behind him suddenly silenced, and he heard the high-pitched gravelly voices of the demons.

"What's this Mer-flok?"

"Looks like a pencil, Gornax."

"How you figger a human got a pencil stuck up there like that?"

Almost there, just another three feet. Shimmy like you never shimmied before, Xan-man!

"I dunno, maybe it wasn't a human. Coulda been a vamp or somethin'."

"Oh yeah, I didn't think of that."

"Well that's why I'm the brains of this partnership."

"You callin' me stupid? How about I put my spur upside your skull?"

"You ain't got the scales, slimey."

"Who you callin' slimey!?"

A sound that seemed suspiciously similar to that of a bone spur being driven through a demon skull reached his ears.

"Who's slimey now Gornax? Yeah! Who da man!? I da man! Oh yeah! Go Mer-flok! It's your birthday!"

Man, demons sure are scary when they have personalities.

Finally Xander was far enough to grasp the edge of the larger open area, and quickly pulled himself the rest of the way in. A quick glance around showed that he was in some kind of hub that had more vents leading in five other directions. The largest of these moved upwards into the general area of the lobby. Maybe a little observation could get him a better handle on this situation. He heard a muffled voice.

"Mer-flok! What the hell is this? We're not paying you blasted Yarnaks to kill each other! How are you supposed to kill humans if you're so busy killing each other?" The voice was the same one he'd heard earlier. Obviously he was in charge, or at least one of the people in charge. If he was technically a person. He really needed to upgrade his vocabulary. What do you call a being that may or may not be a demon? Person would have to do for now.

He knew he was nervous because he was babbling even in his head.

"Come now Jamie, you can hardly blame our friend Mer-flok here. You know how Yarnaks are. His loss was to be expected. Let us focus on our objective." A new voice. Calmer, silkier. Far more dangerous. This was the real man-thing-demon in charge. His voice was one of supreme confidence, and Xander had no doubt that the man was a killer.

"Of course my liege. Mer-flok, the room is secured?"

"Uh...yeah, I guess so."

"You guess?" Jamie was obviously not in the mood for anything less than perfection.

"I mean yeah. Yes. Yes, it's secured. No humans or nothin' in here. Just a pencil, is all."

There was a crackle of static and a garbled voice coming from a radio of some kind. Just what he needed, demons that used technology. This was turning into the kind of day only Xander Harris seemed to be able to live.

"Excellent, then all is going according to plan. We will begin the questioning. The serums are prepared, Jamie?"

"Ready to be used at your pleasure, sir."

"Then let us administer them. I am most interested to hear what they have to say."

Xander knew he had to hear this too. The key to victory was to know your opponent, and right now it was up to him to help the others. Here's hoping this vent is certified to carry up to 1 Xanderpound of weight, he thought. With a slight hop he pulled himself into the next vent, pleased to find it was slightly larger than the other, and he was able to move faster and quieter than he had in the previous one.


After a minute or so of crawling, he could hear more voices. He peeked out of the small slits and was rewarded with a bird's eye view of the entire scene.

Everyone was now shackled and secured to the beam in the middle of the room, the strange red glow casting everything in a suitably creepy light.

Buffy, Angel and Spike were slumped on the ground, while Giles and Wesley seemed to be staring blissfully at the wall, both of them affixed with a glowing red band around their heads. To their left was Gunn, wearing a similar band but still out cold from earlier. Willow was wearing the band as well, and seemed to have several more placed around her arms and neck. She was not staring in the same blissfully unaware way as Giles and Wesley, but instead seemed to have trouble focusing on anything, her head lolling back and forth occasionally.

There were at least ten of them that he could see now. Three were of the same yellow-horned demons he saw earlier. Yarnaks, according to Head Evilguy. The others were either human, vampire, or possibly demons with really good camouflage. Four were unassuming, obviously just there to do the heavy lifting, so to speak. Of the other three, one was a well-dressed man in a very expensive black suit, with slicked back onyx hair and shoes too shiny to be anything other than demonic in origin.

The other two were dressed similarly, both wearing something that looked like a cross between the Three Musketeer's and a biker. They were leather jackets over frilled white shirts, pants that could only be called pantaloons, and sturdy leather boots. It was an odd look, but the way they carried themselves told him they knew how to use the swords they had strapped to their hips.

The man in the black suit spoke in the same smooth voice Xander had heard earlier. Obviously he was the man in charge.

"I see you have done an admirable job of securing them," He said to the Biker-Musketeers. "Excellent job, boys."

"We live to serve," said one, bowing deeply.

"Always happy to be of...service," said the other, and Xander was a little wierded out to see the second one check out the backside of his bowing partner.

"Well then, I believe it's time we got the information we came here for," the leader said.

He pressed something on his wrist, causing Angel to jerk slightly. The vampire's eyes snapped open and he was almost instantly straining against the thick glowing chains that held him close to the pillar.

"Who the hell are you?"

"Ah an excellent question Mr. Angel," the leader drawled in a slow, calm voice. "It's always so pleasant to make proper introductions before getting down to any real business."

Oh great, thought Xander, he's one of those super-confident James Bond type supervillains. Xander hated that kind of villain, much preferring the cackling sadist type of...waitasecond, no! He preferred the "dead, staked and preferably sprinkled with holy water" type of supervillain. He wasn't sure whether he should be proud of his life or deeply depressed by the fact that he actually had a preference in what kind of evil killer he'd rather face off against.

"My name is Samuel Gender, and these are my associates, Jamie and Butch Le'Strange," he gestured to the Bikerteers behind him.

"Le'Strange?" Angel asked, clearly finding the name a bit on the amusing side.

Jamie was on him in a flash, pressing his forearm into Angel's neck.

"You have a problem with me and my brother's names, huh bloodsucker?" he snarled.

"Is this supposed to be intimidating me? Vampire, remember? I don't really need to breathe," Angel's voice was raspy, but he definitely didn't seem distressed.

Jamie snarled again, slamming his elbow into Angel's face before stepping back behind Samuel Gender.

"I do apologize for Jamie," Samuel said soothingly, as he patted Jamie on the head. "He's a bit hotheaded at times."

Jamie seemed to tolerate the patronizing gesture, although just barely.

"No need to introduce yourself of course, as I know all about you and your operation here, Angel. In fact, that's what I'm hear to discuss with you."

"Do whatever you want to me, just let the others go."

Samuel laughed. "Oh no, I'm afraid I can't do that. I've got things to discuss with them as well."

He walked around the small group of mostly unconscious demon-fighters, seeming to take in their collective appearances. Finally he squatted in front of Angel and held up a small vial.

"Do you know what this is?"

"Mouthwash?" Angel turned his face to one side, blinking rapidly.

"No," said Samuel, ignoring Angel's attempt to anger him. "This is the extract of Verita root. The most potent magical truth serum that has ever been discovered. I've had it administered to you and all of your friends here, and now I'm going to ask you some questions. You will answer me truthfully; of that, I have no doubt."

Xander shifted slightly in his uncomfortable perch above the lobby. Nobody ever told him that eavesdropping on evil plans could be such painful work.

"Where are you keeping the amulet used to defeat the army of the First Evil?" Samuel asked.

"What?" Xander almost shouted, remember just in time to slap a hand over his mouth. Luckily one of the Yarnaks had coughed at the same time, and no one seemed to have heard him.

"I-it's," Angel furrowed his brow, and then shook his head. "It' the White Room." His voice was strained, and he gasped out the last two words.

"I see, excellent. And where is this room?"

"I'm not sure," Angel replied, a little easier than last time.

"If you're not sure where it is, then how do you get there?" Samuel asked.

"The elevator. Press...eighteen, twenty two, eleven, six, thirty one, thirteen, thirteen again, and then press the big white button that appears."

Xander was thinking as fast as he could. Wishing he had brought that pencil from the ceiling with him. Maybe if he could get to the amulet before these whackos did, he could...what? Destroy it? Something anyway.

Eighteen, twenty two, eleven, six, thirty one, thirteen, thirteen, white button. Eighteen, twenty two, eleven, six, thirty one, thirteen, thirteen, white button.

He fumbled around in his pocket, trying to be as quiet as possible. Luckily he had a pen on him, but nothing to write on. His arm would have to do.

Eighteen, twenty two, eleven, six, thirty one, thirteen, thirteen, white button.

It was as he was writing the last bit on the inside of his arm that he banged against the vent wall, causing the metal to make an echoing roll of a thunder.

"What was that?" one of the demons exclaimed.

"The vent! There's someone in there!"

Oh man, time to shimmy! Xander scrambled down the vent, glad that this one was larger and easier to maneuver in than the previous one. He slid forward on his stomach, not caring about how much noise he made now.

Ahead of him was another hub, and he quickly slid out and into the larger area. Only instead of landing on a nice solid metal surface, he landed on a nice hinged and grated surface. His body weight overcame the clasp on the hinge, and the floor literally swung out from underneath him.

"Oh crap!" he remarked intelligently as he fell out of the vent.

Chapter 2

Xander landed badly, twisting his ankle on impact. He was in a still-under-construction portion of the Wolfram and Hart offices. According to Angel they were still rebuilding after the Beast, which he suspected was a different Beast than Glory. Damned demons need to get come up with a few more nicknames.

There was no time to gripe about old enemies though; he had plenty of new ones on his tail. He might have fallen to the floor below the main offices, but it was hard to tell, and he didn't want to wait around to find out. He had to get moving, preferably to the elevator. He glanced at the scribbled writing on his arm.

Eighteen, twenty two, eleven, six, thirty one, thirteen, thirteen, white button.

Should be simple enough. He struggled to his feet, hopping slightly to keep his weight off of his injured ankle. That was definitely not going to help matters.

He looked around quickly, spotting an emergency exit. He limped over, stopping to pick up a screwdriver and hammer he found along the way.

Xander opened the door cautiously, not sure if the demons would be coming down this way. Glancing up revealed no pursuers. So the question was, down or up?

They'd expect him to go down. So he'd go up. Struggling to move as quickly as possible despite his ankle, he traipsed up the stairs. He had made it two floors up when he heard a door from below open.

"Trenlazz here! I found where he came out! Thirty fourth floor, some construction area!" He peered down the stairwell, just barely spotting the yellow-horned demon before pulling his back and out of sight. A voice came back in reply, crackling over a walkie-talkie.

"I'm checkin' down here, you check the next coupla floors up. And don't forget ta say out when yer done talkin' Trenlazz. Gorfloff out!"

"Oh right, ok," said Trenlazz. He heard the door close and heavy footsteps begin to climb the stairs.

"Oh man!" He could hear the fumbling of plastic. "Trenlazz here. I meant to say oh right and Trenlazz out."

Xander took that opportunity to slowly open the door at his landing, slipping out quietly. He was in some kind of lab now. No time to look for anything that might help him though, as he could hear Trenlazz tromping up the stairs behind him.

Xander braced his back against the wall beside the door. He slid the screwdriver into his back pocket, and grasped the hammer with both hands. Just one shot at this.

"Man why do I always gotta be the one to forget this walkie talkie stuff? I'm never getting a bonus at this rate, and then how am I going to afford a baby to eat at Thanksgiving?" Trenlazz griped to himself as he opened the door to the thirty-sixth floor.

Xander held his breath, waiting until he had a clear shot. Trenlazz held a one-handed battleaxe in one hand, holding it casually as he peered around the room. Xander swallowed silently, concealed by the now open door.

Trenlazz stepped forward, letting the door close slowly. The door gave a quiet click, and Xander rushed forward.

"YAAARRGH!" He swung the hammer with all of his strength, smashing it into the horned skull of Trenlazz. The demon didn't make a sound as he fell to the ground, motionless. The hammer remained imbedded in his head, and the battleaxe clattered across the room.

"Well," Xander said. "That wasn't too tough."

Then Trenlazz roared, leaping to his feet. In an instant his hands were around Xander's throat, threatening to squeeze the life out of him. Xander struggled against his grip, but his strength was no match for the demon's.

As little stars of light began popping in front of his eyes, Xander shot his hand out, grabbing at the hammer still stuck in Trenlazz skull. He pulled, hard.

"GRAAAHH!" Trenlazz bellowed. He released Xander's throat and clutched at the hammer sticking out of his brain.

Xander fell to his knees, coughing as he did so. He looked up to see Trenlazz struggling to pull the hammer out of his head. He screamed in pain and yanked the hammer out, bits of skull and demon-brain coming with it.

"Uh...sorry?" Xander managed to croak. Trenlazz just stared at him in rage for a moment before he screamed again, charging Xander.

Xander shoulder blocked him in the gut, and the two of them tumbled across the lab, smashing into a desk, sending beakers and papers scattered. Trenlazz grabbed at his shirt and flung him halfway across the room where he slammed against a reinforced plexiglass viewing window.

"I'm really not cut out for this kind of thing," Xander coughed out.

"KILL YOU!" Trenlazz roared, charging again. Xander just barely had time to roll with the tackle, and the two of them barreled into another desk. The demon snarled and roared as they struggled, Xander doing his damndest to not pass out.

Trenlazz tossed him aside again, and he spit out a bit of blood when he slid down the wall this time. Buffy always made this look a lot easier.

The demon roared and charged again, and Xander knew he couldn't take another tussle with the crazed hell-creature. He pulled out the screwdriver from his back pocket.

Trenlazz leaped at him, and Xander plunged the screwdriver directly into his path, slamming it into the demon's eye. The momentum of the demon nearly wrenched his arm from his socket and they both careened into the wall.

For a long moment neither of them moved. Then slowly, Xander extracted himself from beneath the demon's weight.

This time he checked to be sure the thing was truly dead, and by all rights it appeared to be. Just to be sure though, Xander limped over to the fallen battleaxe, then with only two or three swings, he hacked the demon's head off.

Xander surveyed the carnage in the labs for a moment, and then began collecting what things might be of use to him. Trenlazz walkie-talkie was first, so he clipped that to his belt. He took the battleaxe too, and decided he might need the screwdriver at some point, so he spent a few minutes working it out of the demon's eye.

It was right around that time that he recognized the irony of killing this demon by taking out his eye. Xander's fingers lightly touched the patch he wore over his bad eye.

"When all else fails, go for the eyes. Everything's got eyes."

Chapter 3

Samuel Gender was not pleased. The body of the Yarnak had been found ten minutes ago, after the dumb beast had failed to report in for the scheduled status report. A gaping hold to the side of the head and a rather large wound in the demon's eyes seemed to be the cause of death. That his head was separated from his body seemed more of an after-the-fact event.

Samuel did not like uncontrollable variables, and a freed demon hunter was definitely an uncontrolled variable.

"I want to know who this person is, and why we were not aware of their presence before the operation began," Samuel said to Jamie Le'Strange, his right hand man.

"There were no reports of either the Slayer's group or the Vampire's as having another member. We had them under surveillance for six months." Jamie kept one hand on the sword at his hip. He was a cautious man, a fact that made him useful to Samuel.

"An employee then?" Samuel asked. It was possible they had simply missed a Wolfram and Hart employee. No doubt working for such a bastion of the demonic would force one to possess certain skills; namely the ability to kill a Yarnak demon in a one on one fight. Samuel had known Slayers that could not have accomplished such a feat, and he had watched them die for their failures.

"Could be, Butch's checking the roster now," Jamie said.

"And how is his search faring?" Jamie and Butch were brothers - twins, so be precise, and as such they had the uncanny ability to read the general feelings of the other. Jamie paused for a moment, closing his eyes.

"Not well."

"Well then, we will have to improvise. Waken the Slayer and have her and the Vampire prepared for questioning. We will find out whether this person is tied to them."


Buffy woke with a start. They were surrounded by demons, were chained to a pillar with some red glowing iron bands, and it seemed like both crews had been incapacitated.

"Of course," she sighed. "We could never have a Scooby reunion without getting involved in some demonic plot. Typical."

A man strode into the room, obviously the one in charge. He held himself with an air of dignity that had become cliché to her; he was a man who believed himself in control of everything. She couldn't count the number of big bads she had killed who thought the same way without wearing open-toed shoes.

The man wore a tailored black suit that looked very expensive. His shoes were a shined black that looked a little too perfect to be natural. She took in his entire form, and frowned slightly. She thought that she could see the slightest outline beneath his jacket. A sword?

"Hey!" she called to him as he walked by, speaking quietly with one of the weird guys that looked like Thomas Jefferson as a Hell's Angel.

"Ah, the Slayer. Recovering from your nap, I take it?" His voice was smooth and untroubled.

"Blah blah blah, banter banter banter. Can we cut the Dr. Evil routine and just skip to the part where you tell me your evil plot, then I break free and kill you?" At least, she hoped she could break free. Iron chains were nothing to her, assuming she had a minute or two to snap them apart, but this red glow around them troubled her.

"Yes I'm sure you've gotten quite tired of this sort of thing by now. My heart bleeds for you," he placed a hand over his chest, and his face turned into a mocking frown.

"Not yet, but it will be," she growled.

"Blah blah blah, empty threat, empty threat, empty threat, " he replied, mocking her earlier tone. She strained against the chains, trying to get her hands around his throat. The red glows intensified, and a faint humming sound seemed to reverberate through the iron. The man just smiled at her.

"How rude of me, I've forgotten to introduce myself. Samuel Gender, at your service," he nodded to her. "You of course require no introduction, Ms. Summers. The longest living Slayer the world has ever seen. Congratulations."

She glared at him.

"Now that we've gotten the pleasantries over with, I have a few questions for you and your former paramour," he gestured to her left, where she saw that Angel was similarly bound, remaining silent as he stared at Gender.

"You see, I have been keeping an eye on your little groups for some time now. The Slayer and her Watcher's Council, the inner circle of which consists of the eldest Slayer Buffy Summers, the Witch Willow Rosenberg, and the head of the Watcher's Council Rupert Giles. The Souled Vampire Angel and his employees, former Watcher and low level magician Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, former gang leader, demon hunter and 'fast-tracked' Attorney Charles Gunn, the *other* souled Vampire Spike, and the formerly human shell now used by the Old One Illyria.

"Now, it was my impression," Samuel said. "That these would be the only beings I would have to deal with here today. It seems however that a rogue agent is loose in the building, and has already killed one of my underlings. So I ask you, who have I missed?"

Angel was able to hold it back for a split second longer than Buffy, who wasn't even aware of the truth serum flowing through her veins. She seemed incredibly shocked when she answered.



"Xander, old buddy, old pal, you have gotten yourself into a fine mess," Xander said to himself. He was in a bathroom on the thirty-ninth floor, trying to clean some of the demon goo off of his clothes. He'd found that wherever it touched him, it tended to make his skin turn a bright pink. Definitely not something he was looking for.

"-ust turn the power back on to the elevators, why could Gimlax not do it?" came a voice. Xander froze for an instant before shutting off the water and grabbing for his stolen battleaxe.

He snuck over to the door, peeking out as silently as he could. Another one of those horned demons was there, muttering to himself as he flipped switches along the wall. Xander tried to think fast. Maybe he could just sit tight, and the demon would be on his way? Then again, it sounded as if they were restoring power to the elevator, which would mean that Head Evilguy might get his hands on the amulet soon, something Xander didn't figure would be such a good idea.

I got lucky on the last guy, and even then I almost got myself flattened, Xander thought.

The Yarnak demon stopped in his tracks, his head raised. A low guttural growl came from his throat.

Oh no. This was not good.

"I smell human!" the demon roared, suddenly turning and bearing down on Xander.

"Eep," said Xander as he flailed back, just in time for the demon to crash through the door. Splinters of wood clattered around the floor. The demon was up on his feet in no time.

"Hey, hold on there buddy!" Xander tried to sound authoritative.

"I will hold onto your entrails, human!" snarled the demon.

"You demons. So unoriginal. Entrails this and entrails that."

The demon growled and moved to attack Xander. Xander raised the battleaxe in a defensive position.

"Ah ah ah, I don't think that's a good idea," Xander said. "You recognize this goo turning my skin pink? That's the blood of your buddy. The one I stuck a screwdriver through before cutting his head off."

"No human can kill a Yarnak, it is inconceivable," growled the demon.

"You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means," Xander quoted automatically. He had long since conditioned himself to respond with the quotation from the Princess Bride whenever someone used that word. To his surprise, the demon snorted in what might have been laughter. Xander flared his nostrils and widened his eyes, trying to look menacing.

"Believe it or not, but your buddy's gone now, and I'll do the same to you, unless you back off." The Yarnak growled again, but seemed to think on the situation.

"Suppose I believe you killed him, that does not mean you can kill me. I am strong!" He thumped his chest.

"Maybe, maybe not. The question is, are you demon enough to risk it? Not that I really care, cause I'll just get even more famous after killing you. One human, two Yarnaks. I'll go down in history."

Truthfully, Xander had never heard of a Yarnak before today, but he didn't think that this was the best time to mention that.

The demon seemed to lose some of his conviction.

"Suppose...suppose I back away, how do I know you won't kill me when I turn my back?"

"Cause I'm a good guy, I promise I won't kill you, if you back off," Xander said.

The demon's face scrunched up in thought.

"I have heard this foolishness of 'the good,' to be unable to break an oath. I find it repulsive, but I find now that it works in my favor. Very well human, I will agree to your terms. I will back away, and you will allow me to live."

"You got it."

The demon stood in his ready stance for another minute, claws out and fangs bared. Finally he seemed to work up the resolve and cautiously exited the bathroom.

Xander swallowed hard, his heart thumping in his chest. He was starting to think he should get into poker so he wouldn't have to bluff as often.

After five minutes he poked his head out of the destroyed bathroom door. The demon seemed to be gone. Xander stepped out, battleaxe still held at the ready. He spotted the switches the demon had been flipping; with the diagrams around it indicating this was the secondary control system for the elevators for floors 30-39. Apparently each floor had it's own secondary control system that was tied into the main control system on the first floor. Xander wondered how long it would take them to restart the separate control systems and gain access to the elevators, and thus the amulet.

Unfortunately the controls on this floor were now covered in a thick blue goo that was rapidly hardening.

"Damn, maybe I should have tried to kill him after all," Xander said. He took a few swings at the goo with his axe, but couldn't even chip it. Well, if he couldn't disable the elevators from here, maybe he could from the next control system.

The stairwell was being patrolled at random intervals. He'd barely been able to make it to this floor without being spotted. He looked to his right. Two elevator shafts. Maybe he could get up that way? Ten flights? It was a long way to climb, but he didn't fancy going another round with one of those Yarnaks.

He pried open the elevator door with his screwdriver and stuck his head in, looking first up, and then down. A wave of vertigo assaulted him. Heights and Xander had not been getting along very well since the loss of his eye. He dropped to his hands and knees, lowering his head to ride it out.

Right as he dropped, he felt a whoosh of air over his head and heard a loud roar. Despite his dizziness, he looked up to see the Yarnak sail over his head and into the shaft. The demon's roar turned into a girlish scream of fright when it realized its intended target had somehow dodged out of the way.

The demon twisted in mid-air, barely getting a claw-hold of the edge of the shaft. It hung there by one arm, then looked up at Xander.

"Human! You promised to let me live!" he cried.

"Well I never promised to help you if you decided to go diving into an elevator shaft, especially when you were trying to tackle me into it," Xander scolded.

Deciding against giving the demon any time to save himself, Xander hefted his axe in one hand.

"Have a nice trip," he quipped, slamming the axe down on the demon's wrist, severing it from its owner's arm. The demon screamed in terror as it fell over thirty stories, slamming into an elevator car on the fourth floor.

"See ya next fall!" Xander called down. "Man, that one cracks me up every time."

"Status Report, come in. What was that scream? Over," came a voice over his stolen radio. A series of short replies all responded that they had no idea. Obviously someone didn't check in, on account of he was pretending to be a pancake somewhere on the fourth floor.

"Zolbabb? Zolbabb report!" came the voice.

Xander couldn't help himself. He picked up the radio and pushed the big red button he figured meant TALK.

"Two down," he said into the radio. He released the button, adding to himself, "Literally, for the last one." Then he grinned and began climbing the service ladder up the elevator shaft, his earlier vertigo forgotten in the thrill of a really bad joke.

Chapter 4

Samuel Gender sat in the large comfortable chair behind Angel's desk. His fingers were steepled in front of his pursed lips.

"Tell me Jamie, how you and Butch could have possibly overlooked this young man."

Jamie Le'Strange, as he preferred to be known, shifted uncomfortable under the gaze of his master, consciously trying to keep his hand from the pommel of his sword. It would not do to anger Samuel Gender by suggesting Jamie would raise arms against him.

"I don't know, my liege. I have no excuses for my failure, other than the hunter was out of the country during the time of our surveillance."

"Hardly an excuse at all," Samuel spat. "A founding member of the new Watcher's Council, the man who first split the Slayer Line, a demon hunter since the age of sixteen, and you simply overlooked him?"

"Well, we'd heard things of him, but he seemed hardly an important member of the Slayer's inner circle. You heard how she spoke of him," Jamie said, trying to keep this off of him. Next to him his twin brother twitched nervously. Butch was always the worrier, the poor boy.

"Yes, she did rather downplay the boy," Samuel mused. "However the Vampire felt slightly differently." His own mages were working on figuring out a way around the wards that Angel had revealed were placed on the White Room and the amulet, so there was no rush.

They had questioned the various members of both the Slayer's group and the Vampire's. The Slayer herself believes this Xander was going to make things worse for everyone, and would probably end up being killed in the process. The Witch was useless, the power bands keeping her mind so incapacitated that even the truth serum couldn't make her speak anything but nonsense. The Watcher believed Xander might attempt to contact outside assistance, possibly from a man named Riley, but it was unlikely that any assistance would reach them within the day.

The Vampire's group hardly knew the man. In fact, it seemed that only the two vampires knew him well at all, and neither of them seemed to like him very much.

"Whaddya wanna know about that soddin' prancer for, ya bleedin' wanker?" Spike asked when the question of Xander was brought before him. The truth serum compelled him to respond, but not to be polite about it.

"I simply wish to get a sense for who he is, and what he is capable of," Samuel said.

Spike snorted. "Capable of gettin' himself in a right state of trouble, he is. Couldn't find his arse with two hands and a torch 'less his precious Slayer was helpin' him."

"You find he is not a capable hunter?"

"Hunter! That's rich!" Spike laughed. "He's about as much a hunter as you're someone who's gettin' outta here without me ripping yer head clean off. That means he ain't a hunter," he added, his head lolling to one side as the truth serum caused a wave of dizziness to hit him.

"I see, and yet he has been with the Slayer for over eight years? "Samuel found this all very odd. Most of the ones he had questioned so far had similar things to say, albeit not quite as hurtful. By all accounts this Xander Harris was a hanger-on who contributed far less than the amount of trouble he caused.

"Aye she's got a soft spot fer ol' Droopy," Spike mumbled.

"They are in a romantic relationship then?"

Spike's eyes snapped to attention and his temper flared. "Ew no! She wouldn't never let him touch her, not Buffy. She's got a hard on fer the powerful types, not bleedin' nancy boy's that ain't never been with a girl what couldn't kill him inside of a minute."

"I see. And what do you think he will do next, isolated as he is from his support?"

"Probably trip over his own feet and into the clutches of some sexually frustrated hellbeast, if the past means anything," Spike laughed.

Samuel ended the questioning there, having gained no real new information from Spike. This Xander had seemed, by all accounts, to be more of a liability than anything else.

Then how did he kill two Yarnak demons? Samuel had briefly entertained the idea that the truth serum was not working properly, but dismissed the idea. It had never failed him, not in over two hundred years and over a dozen species of demon, including vampires.

He would have been utterly perplexed, had it not been for the other souled Vampire.

"Tell me Angel, what do you think of Xander Harris?"

"Xander? I don't like him." Angel said, almost petulantly.

"And why is that?"

"He just bugs me. He's like this hyperactive kid hopping around when you're trying to get real work done. Plus he..." Angel shut his mouth tightly, trying to fight the serum again, but it was no use.

"He loves Buffy, and that scares me. He'd so much better for her than I would. I always thought he would take her from me someday."

Samuel frowned.

"How could an annoying child steal Buffy? From what I have heard, he is a human with no special skills or abilities, surely the Slayer would be better off with someone who could help her fight."

"Xander is...he's determined. Like when Buffy was supposed to die at the hands of the Master, he voided the prophecy, bringing her back to life. That's a big deal. The prophecy was that Buffy would die, not that her heart would stop beating or he brain would stop functioning. Death in a prophecy means something bigger than that. Somehow he...he voided it, and he split the Slayer line in the process."

Samuel was shocked. This Xander was the one responsible for the split in the Slayer line? That was one of the most significant mystical events of the last three millennia. It marked the beginning of a new era for Slayers. Indeed it was only some half a dozen years later that the Slayer line exploded into hundreds, if not thousands of Slayers. While that seemed the bigger event at face value, it was the initial split that sent shockwaves through an untold number of dimensions.

"What do you believe he will do next, isolated as he is from his compatriots?" Samuel asked.

"He'll...he'll do everything he can to make sure you don't succeed, and that you don't hurt his friends. Whatever would be the most annoying thing he could do, he's bound to do it."

"What do you think that is?"

Angel gave him an exasperated look. "The day I can predict what Xander Harris does is the day I know I've finally lost it."


"Oh I've been working on the railroad," Xander sang. "All the live-long day! I've been working on the railroad, just to pass the time away! Can't you hear the whistle blowing, something something horn! Something, something something, something, something something horn!"

The trek up the elevator shaft had been harder than he thought, weighed down by his stolen axe and hammer, not to mention his still-slightly-aching ankle. The demon guts covering him were no help either, and he'd almost slipped to a very soap-opera-y death a few times.

He'd made it though, and was now happily pulling out wires on the secondary elevator controls for floors 40-49. He was feeling very proud of himself. He couldn't wait to see the look in Evilguy's face when he saw that he'd never be able to use the elevator for these floors.

Xander's grin fell from his face, drooping into a look of pure horror.

"You are such an idiot," he said. He pulled up his sleeve, reading the marred writing on his arm.

Eighteen, twenty two, eleven, six, thirty one, thirteen, thirteen, white button.

"He doesn't need these floors! Oh crap!" He spun around, wincing a little as he wrenched his ankle a bit too hard. This was no good, no good at all. The other floors were all gooed up, and of course he didn't need these floors, otherwise they would be gooed too! He should have realized it when he beat the demons to this floor despite trudging up an elevator shaft with a bum leg and a heavy battleaxe for ten minutes.

"Ok, we have established your eternal place in the halls of Dumb-halla," Xander said to himself. "What can you do? Evilguy wants the amulet, that's gotta be a bad thing. He's too cool and un-scared-out-of-his-mind to be using it against the First again. Operation Disable the Elevator has been a stirring failure. So what next?"

He stood there, face screwed up in thought for a good minute and a half. Finally he smacked himself in the side of the head.

"Dammit! Wake up in there!" he yelled at his brain. "Think think. ..he wants the amulet? Ok, maybe I can beat him to it!" He began replacing the wires he'd just pulled out.

"Why aren't these labeled?" he cried exasperatedly. He couldn't remember which wire went where. "No no no! C'mon! I gotta get in that elevator!" He shoved a wire into its lead, and was rewarded with the sting of an electric shock.

"Yeow! Stupid piece of..." it was then that the controls decided to burst into flames.

"No! No no no! Fire bad!" he began beating at the flames, but that served to just cause more smoke to billow.

"This could not be going worse!" he yelled. Then the sprinklers turned on. The whole control box sparked a few times under the downpour, and then fizzled out along with the flames.

"Wonderful. Guess I'm hiking it back down to the thirty-ninth floor," his slim chance of getting to the elevators before the bad guys did just became even slimmer. He suspected they had probably already made it to the White Room.

"Well, still gotta try," he said. He peered down the elevator shaft, dreading the climb back down. He leaned back and sighed. Then he noticed the sign.

Elevator Secondary Controls - Shaft 1.

He looked behind him.

Elevator Secondary Controls - Shaft 2.

"There's two shafts!" he shouted happily. "Oh yeah! I'm talkin' bout Shaft!"

He pressed the button, delighted to hear the little ding a minute later as the doors opened.


"Sir?" the mullet haired vampire said, sticking his head into Angel's, now Samuel's, office.

"What is it?"

"We've gotten word that the elevator is moving."

"The elevators are disabled," Samuel said. "Until the wards have been taken care of by the Mages."

"Uh yeah, well that's the thing. The Mages just radioed in that they took care of the wards, so they turned the elevators back on."

"Idiots! Shut them down!"


Eighteen, twenty two, eleven, six, thirty one...

He pushed each button carefully, a little nervous since there didn't seem to be a white button.

"Thirteen...thirteen," Xander said, pressing the last button. His eyes widened as a large white button coalesced above the other buttons.

"Here's goes nothing," he pushed the button, and the elevator dissolved into white.

Chapter 5

"They didn't call it the White Room for nothing," said Xander. He spun around in the nothingness, trying to discern some actual form beyond the glaring white light.

"You don't belong here."

"Employee's only, yeah, I know," Xander said to the *whatever*that just spoke. "Unfortunately your boss is kind of tied up at the moment, so just think of me as the new Gofer. Go 'fer this, Go 'fer that, Go 'fer-the-super-magical-amulet-so-you-can-keep-it-out-of-the-hands-of-evil-baddies, that sort of thing."

A form emerged from the pure blank space. Xander stared at it.

Then he laughed out loud.

"What is so amusing, human?" the thing said. Xander gestured at it.

"Are you serious?" he asked between laughs.

"You find the form of the Six-Tentacled Angare Demon to be humorous?"

Xander stared at the thing, puzzled.

"I hate to break it to you buddy, but you sure don't look like a six-tentacled demon."

The creature's nose twitched, causing Xander to snicker.

" are the one who sees?" its former confidence ebbing away. Xander paled.

"Where did you hear that?"

"The one who sees is known to all of the Upper Echelon. He who can pierce illusion with his gaze. You are not supposed to be here, human."

"Fine, then just give me the amulet and I'm getting the hell out of here."

"You think to order me human? I who am the scourge of a thousand planes of existence? I who have existed since before thought itself? My true form inspires terror in a thousand times a thousand worlds!" It's nose twitched again. Xander's brow furrowed, and his mood darkened.

"There's only one person I ever knew that would have been afraid of you, and she's dead. Now gimme the amulet or...or I'll step on you! "Xander raised his big workboot, waggling it back and forth menacingly.

The being who resided in the White Room was a true pillar of reality, and yet it's power lay purely in illusion. It's chosen forms were perfectly real to all beings, making it one of the most powerful forces in existence. There was no form it could not match.

Yet against this human it was powerless. With its power for illusion gone, it was nothing more than it's true form.

The creature relented, nodding slightly. The air shimmered and the amulet appeared in Xander's hand. Xander inspected it for a moment, trying to be sure this was the real amulet. He hadn't really gotten a good look at it back in May. It seemed real enough.

"OK then," Xander said as he lowered his foot.

The tiny pink bunny with a bow in its hair sighed in relief.


Samuel Gender was furious. You wouldn't know from looking at him, as he always made certain that he kept his emotions beneath the surface. Inwardly however, he was a raging inferno of anger.

The fools had virtually handed the amulet to the boy. He sighed and looked to Butch and Jamie, each standing before his desk. Jamie stood tall, face set in a scowl and his hand making a concerted effort to not rest on the pommel of his sword.

Butch on the other hand was somehow able to seem like he was lounging even while standing. His fingers tapped a nervous rhythm on his belt buckle, and occasionally he would preen and primp at his shirt or hair. The gaudy rings he wore on his right hand clicked and clanked whenever he did this.

Samuel almost smiled at the differences between the two twins. Jamie was all professionalism. He killed as a matter of duty, and only in the rarest of circumstances was it a pleasure for him.

Butch was best described as languid. He thought his name a delightful irony to his personality. He indulged himself of every pleasure he could, and causing pain and death were chief amongst his delights.

"It hardly seems possibly," Butch said, breaking the silence.

"What is that, my boy?" Samuel asked.

"That this hunter person would have tried the lift at just the right time. The wards were removed only a few seconds prior, and a few seconds later the lift would have been disabled until we were prepared to use it."

Samuel thought on that. In his questioning of the various demon fighters, there had been no mention of a preternatural "luck" that this Xander might possess. If anything it seemed the opposite were true. The young man apparently had a knack for getting himself into rough situations, and more often than not his friends were the ones to spend resources rescuing him.

Still, not all the accounts meshed. The weak-yet-determined boy of Angel's description did not match the bumbling jokester of the other's.

Samuel was a firm believer in the old adage: Know thy enemy. It occured to him that there was still one person he had not yet questioned.

"Prepare the drug," he ordered Jamie.


Angel struggled as they pressed the needle to his arm, and grunted as he felt the cool liquid flow into his undead veins. It worked fast, and despite his attempts, he couldn't hold back the false euphoria that it placed within him.

"Wow," he said. "I feel good!"

"How good?" Samuel asked.

"Good enough to drown you in a pool of your own blood," he snarled.

"Angelus, I presume?"

The vampire laughed, a cruel and mocking sound that grated even Samuel's tightly controlled psyche.

"I'm really going to enjoy draining the life out of you," Angelus whispered conspiratorially, as if he were telling Samuel a secret.

"I'm sure," replied Samuel. "Now then, are you aware of why you are here?"

"Well that's a real good question now, isn't it? Why am I here? Why would a just and loving God allow someTHING like me to exist? Maybe we should gather some clergymen and debate the issue. It's been a while since I snacked on a nice fat monk or two."

"You will answer my questions directly, vampire. Do you know why I have brought you forth?"

Angelus snarled, the demon clearly attempting to fight the truth serum.

"You want to know about Harris," he growled.

"Correct. What are your impressions of him?" Samuel leaned back, eager for the response.

"He," Angelus was breathing heavily, struggling not to answer. "He...he frightens me."

"I beg your pardon?" Samuel Gender had seen first hand some of the exploits of Angelus, the demon with the face of an angel. To think that he would be scared of a boy who couldn't have been over eighteen at the time was...disheartening.

"He's...,"the demon growled. "He's the first human to ever... scare me."

Angelus began laughing and screaming in rage at the same time as he struggled against his bonds. Samuel let him rage until he had calmed down.

"Why does he frighten you?"

Angelus giggled softly to himself. "Harris, he's got stones. He'd walk into hell just to save one of his friends. I've never met anyone with that kind of lack of caring about himself. When you hurt his friends, he'll do anything to save them, up to and including getting himself killed in the process." Angelus's head lolled to one side and he mumbled to himself.

"I should have had her...there in the hospital. He...standing there. Nothing to help him, no weapons, nothing. He kept me back. Always finds a way, the little bastard always finds a way."

"I see," Samuel said. This was definitely a different take on the lad. Well, it certainly cleared things up for him. A plan was already forming in his head.

"Big Daddy this is Nighthawk, come on back to me, over," came a voice over the radio Jamie wore at his hip. Jamie picked it up to answer it.

"No, give it here," said Samuel. Jamie handed him the radio.

"Xander Harris, I presume?" Samuel said into the microphone.

"Evil McEvilFace the Third?" the voice replied.

"Yes I've heard you're quite the jokester," Samuel said.

"Oh well in that case, I've got a good one for you," Xander said. "What's got a wonderfully handsome eyepatch and an amulet? Give up? Me! Ha ha! Get it?"

"Ah, my thanks to you Mr. Harris. If you would kindly deliver it to me, I shall release your friends and all will be well."

"Right, cause evil demon guys never lie. How about this instead? You let my friends go and get the hell out of here, or the amulet goes bye bye?"

Samuel's fingers clenched around the walkie-talkie.

"Suppose I simply begin shooting your friends until you decide to give it to me?"

"You touch them and the amulet is dust," the joking tone was gone now.

"Then it would seem we are at an impasse. You will not give me my amulet, and I will not give you your friends," Samuel thumbed off the radio for a moment. He surveyed the unconscious group of demon fighters. Only Angelus and Willow were awake. Angelus was giggling and mumbling to himself, and Willow was staring blankly at the ceiling. The bands around her head pulsed softly with every breath she took.

Samuel reached into his jacket and pulled out an almost ancient revolver. He aimed it carefully at the Witch, and then thumbed the radio back on.

"Listen well Harris," he fired the gun, and the bullet tore through Willow's upper shoulder. She jerked, whining wordlessly as her unfocused eyes moved wildly around. The bands pulsed stronger.

"Up the capacity, just to be sure," Samuel murmured to Jamie. He nodded, pulling out a small handheld device, tapping a few keys. The bands around Willow's body turned a darker shade of red, and her sluggish thrashing ceased.

"That my friend," Samuel said into the receiver. "Was the sound of me shooting your Witch through the shoulder. I imagine that if she's not treated soon, she might not recover." He thumbed off the receiver, smiling smugly at Jamie and Butch. He held the radio up slightly, awaiting the response.

Static answered him.

It rose slowly, growing louder with each passing second. Angelus's giggling had escalated into full-scale laughter. Inside of a minute he was laughing uproariously.

"What are you cackling about?" Samuel asked, his anger beginning to show.

"You're all dead," Angelus giggled. "He's going to kill all of you now. You idiots didn't understand anything I tried to tell you. You just signed your death warrants! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

Chapter 6

Davey Smalls had always belied his name. His college career as a six-foot-five linebacker had him well on his way to going pro. He'd even had a few "gifts" from particular teams looking to win his favor. So while he might have been "Smalls" in brainy stuff, he more than made up for it with his size and power. His life was laid out for him at the age of twenty-one, and he was looking forward to a life of fame and riches.

Then he died.

Davey had mixed feelings on his death. On the one hand, it meant he couldn't play football anymore. He'd tried to convince Coach to let him play in night games, but Coach was a deeply religious man, and he'd had problems with having an undead linebacker. Davey grinned slightly to himself as he thought about how satisfying it had been to drain his former Coach for his lack of vision.

So yeah, he'd given up a prime life and his football career, but he'd gained so much more. The power he thought he'd had as a mortal was nothing compared to his strength now. Sometimes he bent iron bars in half just for the fun of it, although he generally preferred bending bodies in half instead.

His unlife wasn't so bad in comparison to his life either. If you were strong in life, people would pay you to use your strength. And if you were strong in death, *things* would pay you even more.

Which was how Davey had begun working for Samuel Gender. He was paid two grand a week, not to mention his choice of some of the tastiest young morsels in any of the dozen or so orphanages that Samuel financed for just such a purpose.

Davey smiled at the memory of choosing who was going to be a "runaway." Oh yes, Samuel Gender paid his people very well, and for that Davey gave him all he could give.

So Davey wasn't the least bit upset to have the job of lugging huge pieces of machinery into position. Butch had given him explicit instructions on where exactly each of the oversized metal contraptions should be placed, warning him that a mistake might cost him more than just his pay.

Davey tried very hard to make sure he remembered everything Butch had told him, but it was hard for him to concentrate, since Butch had this habit of "accidentally" rubbing up against Davey whenever they were together. Normally Davey would have ripped the throat out of any guy to touch him "there," but he'd seen what happened to people who reacted poorly to Butch's advances.

He wasn't even sure what the machines were, except that they were crucial to Mister Gender's plans, and he was to be very careful with them. So when he dropped the corner of one on his toe, Davey had to struggle very hard to not send his fist through the metal chassis.

Instead he vamped out, and hopped around for a while as he cursed and screamed. It took him a good five minutes of cursing to calm down enough to lift the machine again.

Maybe if he hadn't been cursing so much, he would have heard the slight crunch of a loose bit of grit as a workboot moved across the floor behind him. Davey hardly had time to turn to face his attacked as the makeshift stake slammed into his chest. The last image he saw as he deteriorated into dust was a man in an eye patch, the remnants of a broken chair fashioned into a number of stakes that he'd duct-taped across his body. A battleaxe hung at his belt, and he had a large amulet hanging off his neck.

The large metal machine slammed into the floor, bouncing slightly. Xander wasn't sure what it was, but if the bad guys were moving them around, it was probably nothing good. Normally Xander might have been careful as he opened the machine, noting the wires within. For all he knew it could be an explosive, or some magical computer thing that would such half the building away if he messed with it the wrong way.

Xander was too pissed to be careful. He reached his hand into the mass of wires, and yanked out as many as he could. He shoved a few in his pocket so they would not be easily replaced, and headed for the stairwell.

He was working his way to the main offices, trying to scavenge whatever tools might help him along the way. So far all he'd managed was to smash up a chair in order to fashion a few stakes, and had plundered some duct tape from someone's desk. Checking the phones had proven that the building was cut off from the outside, so there was no help from outside.

Besides, Xander thought, whom would he call? Everyone who could help was already here. The Superfriends were all incapacitated upstairs, and he was the only one who could help them. Against at least half a dozen more Yarnak demons, three unknown super-baddies, and more than a handful of vamps. Yeah, thinks were sure looking up for him.

As of now he was just kind of hoping a plan would pop up in front of his face once he made his way to the main office. All he could think of was to somehow free Willow from those bands. If she was able to do that voodoo that she did so well, she could take care of these jokers in half a minute, and heal up that bullet wound of hers in the process.

He hoped.

He opened the door to the forty-fifth floor carefully, trying to remain silent. He'd spotted a few patrolling demons and vamps as he traveled down, and was trying to keep from using one particular stairwell too often. Luckily the building had at least five separate stairwell accesses, east, west, north, south, and a service well by the elevators. Oh the tirade of cursing and screaming when he'd spotted that one. Might have saved him from climbing a ladder up ten stories.

The floor was void of demonic entities, at least the visible kind (who knew what kind of invisible demon things were flying around the Wolfram and Hart building?), so he entered swiftly, taking stock of his surroundings.

Weapons testing lab was too much to hope for, although he was sure Angel had mentioned something like that in the oh-so-boring guided tour he'd given them earlier. Xander always had a hard time paying attention to Angel, on account of he kept fantasizing about the vampire tripping over his own shoelaces and onto an upturned toothpick that just happened to be sitting on the carpet at the perfect angle to pierce his heart.

He smiled wryly at the happy daydream, and then shook his head. The room was definitely a lab, with high-tech looking machine things all over. He hadn't a clue what any of them might actually do, although he suspected there were lasers involved. Unfortunately he couldn't figure out how to turn the things on, and he doubted he could lug a two-thousand pound stainless steel laser-welder down to the main offices to use against the baddies.

Plus, it could have also been a two-thousand pound stainless steel toothbrush, for all he could tell.

He sighed, and did a quick sweep of the surrounding suites. A few offices, a kitchenette and vending machine (he used his battleaxe to help himself to a few twinkies. After all, he had to keep up his energy.), and the main lab was all he found. There didn't seem to be anything useful on this floor, except...

Xander's one eye settled on a painting behind the large desk in the main office for the floor. Something was nagging at the back his mind.

He exited the room, and moved around the outer wall to the office. The came out too far. He stood in the lab and faced what should have been the back wall to the office. He was sure this wasn't a load-bearing wall, as he'd figured out the basic building plan from the under-construction areas he'd already been too. So why was this wall so far out?

Returning to the office, he inspected the painting. It was slightly farther out than it should have been, and he was sure if Anya were here she would have remarked that it was far too large for such a small office. He pulled at it, trying to see what was behind it, but it seemed nailed into the wall.

So he swung his axe at it. The frame splintered under the blow, and he could just make out something behind. Another room?

He ran his fingers along the outer frame, trying to slip into "carpenter mode," as he sometimes termed it. It should be right...

His fingers stopped on what was undoubtedly a hinge. That settled it; there was definitely something behind the painting. Well, he could either look for the secret switch to open it, or...

Pick up the office chair and swing it against the painting a half-dozen times.

It worked surprisingly well.

When the debris settled, his mouth opened in awe at what he found there.

"Sweet fancy Moses!"

It was an arsenal. Shotguns and shotgun shells, a half dozen automatic rifles and two very nice chrome plated handguns. He stepped inside, picking up the shotgun. He closed his eye, and let the sense memory inspect and load the weapon. Xander couldn't tell you the difference between a glock and an AK-47, but his fingers could disassemble, clean, re-assemble and load pretty much any gun he ever came in contact with. It was an odd skill to have.

In the cramped corner there was a chair with a notebook atop it. He picked it up, flipping open to a random page.

*They've all been looking at me again. I know they want to fire me. They can't do that. I worked too hard, killed too many people to get this job. They can't fire me. I'll fire them! just wait. Bob Pearson, thinks he's so big cause he figured out the Tri-Metra formula. I know what he did, he stole it from me while I was sleeping! He's got some sort of mind powers, I just know it. Mind powers are strictly against regulations in this department, but nobody ever makes Bob follow the rules. Well if they won't, I will. Someday soon Bob...someday...I've got your employee evaluation right here...*

"Wow. I don't think I've ever been this happy about crazy employees with guns," Xander said. He slipped on the holster for the two handguns, and picked up what he suspected was an M-16. He held the shotgun in one hand, and the M-16 in the other, and grinned.

"I sure wish I had something cool to say right about now," he said, posing dramatically.


"The converter is in place, but the techno-mage says it will take some time to replace the damaged parts," Jamie informed his master.

"This boy is becoming more than just a nuisance, Jamie. He has my amulet and he is disrupting my carefully laid plans. I want him dead!" Samuel Gender's normally calm exterior was rapidly giving way. He had planned this too carefully for it to be ruined by some lucky fool that was supposed to be unable to handle a single vampire on his own.

The champions were there, including the only two souled vampires on the planet. He had the witch that performed the Slayer spell, and the most powerful Slayer in history. Two men with knowledge of the arcane and demonic that far exceeded almost any mortal minds in existence, and one who had been touched by a being of the Upper Echelon. Even a former god-being that had existed since before this planet had been taken by the Humans.

He had done as much as he dared to use them against this Xander. For now he could not actually kill any of them, they would be needed for the ceremony. It was a testament to how badly he let his anger get the better of him that he'd shot the Witch. She was an important factor herself.

"Butch, my boy," Samuel drawled. "I want you to drop your preparations and find him. The amulet is your first priority, and killing him is the second."

"Yes master," Butch grinned wickedly. At last he was going to do something *fun.*

"As far you Jamie, I want you to call off the other patrols. You will concentrate on protecting the other converters until the wards are in place."

"Of course, sir." Jamie said.

Samuel leaned back in his chair, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. For some reason, he could not get that sound out of his head. They'd placed Angelus back under the unconsciousness enforced by the Dampening Bands, but he couldn't shake it nonetheless.

It echoed in his mind, the horrible hysterical laughter of Angelus proclaiming them all to be dead men.

"I who have survived for over seven hundred years? I will not be killed by some one-eyed carpenter!" It was ludicrous to even think of it. Butch would kill the boy. He had every confidence in that.

So why did he still hear the laughter?

Chapter 7

"C'mon Joey!" the vampire shouted at his companion. The seven foot tall Yarnak demon growled at him.

"For the last time vampire, my name is Chahohee, not Joey!"

"Whoever the hell you are, we're off patrol duty. The Big Boss wants us to help guard them big machines now." The vampire stood at the stairwell, waiting.

"I will not relent in this search until the one who killed two of my kin is begging for mercy beneath my claws!" Chahohee bellowed.

"Fine, suit yourself Joe. Me? The Big Boss says jump and I'm already two feet in the air. I don't want that guy mad at me, and if this ceremony of his don't go off smoothly, we're all dust. So good luck with your little blood vengeance trip." He shook his head sadly at the Yarnak demon, and then entered the stairwell, closing the door behind him.

Chahohee of the Yarnaks growled again, and resumed his search, throwing office furniture around haphazardly in a not-very-scientific-approach to finding the hiding human. Chahohee was not known amongst his brethren as a big thinker, which said something when you were talking about Yarnaks, not usually the Einstein's of the demon world. He was not so much searching as he was rampaging through the offices on this floor.

"HUMAN! Show yourself! Chahohee will destroy you!"

"I think you'll get more success out of 'Olly Olly Oxen-Free", but I'm a Hide-And-Seek purist," a voice said from somewhere in the room.

Chahohee roared, flinging a chair across the room to smash against the far wall. His beady yellow eyes searched the room. Where could the human be hiding?

Whirling, the demon batted a large clawed hand at a desk to his right. The desk was sent sailing across the room, revealing the human who was hiding underneath, a large metal stick in his hand.

"Found you!" the demon half-laughed, half-screamed in triumph. He leaped at his prey, fangs dripping in anticipation of ripping the human's flesh from his bones.

The boom echoed in his ears and he found himself slamming back against the wall. The demon heaved deep breaths through the pain. His chest was bleeding openly, the skin and muscle torn from a hundred tiny pellets that were lodged inside of him.

"What sorcery is this?" the demon gasped.

"Uh...this is my boomstick?" Xander tried.

The demon roared and rushed him again. Xander tried to raise the shotgun, but the demon was too fast. It slapped the weapon away, slamming Xander against the wall.

"You will pay for the deaths of my kin!" the demon screamed in his face.

"Hey Joey, I thought I heard something."

The demon turned his head automatically to glance at the vampire who stood in the stairwell.

"Holy shit, is that him?"

"Yes, and now he dies!" The demon made to rip Xander's head off.

"Hold on!" the vampire shouted, moving into the room. "Where's the amulet?"

"I do not care!"

"Idiot! We gotta find the amulet. If we kill him without finding it, Gender'll make us into hamburgers."

Chahohee snarled, his putrid breath hot in Xander's face.

"Where is the amulet, pathetic human?"

Xander tried not to pass out from the stench.

"I put it in the..." Xander didn't finish the sentence, instead slamming his forehead into the nose of the Yarnak demon.

"What are you doing?" Chahohee asked. Xander groaned in pain, his forehead felt like he'd gone ten rounds with Rocky. The demon's armored nose was none the worse for wear.

"That always works when Buffy does it," he said.

"You are a foolish creature, and I will enjoy ripping your arms off," the demon said. "But first you will tell me where the amulet is! " "Oh yeah, great incentive there. Real "carrot and the stick" kind of stuff. How about you tell me you'll let me go if I tell you where the amulet is?"

"How about I rip your arms off now if you don't tell me where it is?" Chahohee spat.

"You can't do that, cause then I wouldn't be able to tell you where it is. Humans can't think if they don't have arms," Xander lied. Chahohee frowned, making him look uglier than usual. He turned to his vampire cohort.

"Is this true?"

"No man, he's just trying to save his own skin."

"Don't listen to him Chahohee. He's not on your side," Xander tried, desperately.

"What are you babbling about, human?" asked Chahohee.

"Do you really think I could kill two Yarnaks by myself?" Xander said, thinking fast. "I'm just a weak little human and they were superior Yarnak demons. Obviously I had help. Why do you think your pal here wanted you to leave when he had to have smelled me here in the room?"

Chahohee's armored nostrils flared. This made sense. Humans could not kill Yarnaks. This was impossible, as all Yarnaks knew. And vampires did have superior senses of smell. Surely the vampire had smelled the human. That meant...

"You killed my brethren!" Chahohee screamed, his huge clawed hand snapping out to grab the vampire by the throat. He lifted him off the ground, snarling in the vampire's face.

"No...Joey, he's lyin'! I swear!"

"Who are you going to trust?" said Xander. "Me, a human guy who works for the side of good, or some lying vampire?"

Chahohee knew, as did all Yarnaks, that "good guys" were incapable of lying. The vampire had killed his brothers!

He slammed the vampire into the ground face first, causing the undead creature to actually bounce back up a foot or two before falling back down to the floor. Chahohee roared in triumph and tossed the vampire into a desk.

Chahohee stalked over to the downed vampire, placing a foot on its head. With one hand he grabbed the vampire's leg. In one swift motion he pulled the vampire's body, ripping it away from his head.

The vampire's body twitched, and dusted.

"Vengeance for the Yarnaks!" Chahohee roared happily.

"You," Xander said. "Are very stupid."

The shotgun blasted directly into Chahohee's brain at point-blank range. The demon stood stock still for a moment. Then he toppled like a domino, dead.

"Thank God for stupid demons," Xander sighed. His forehead still throbbed in pain, but at least he was still in one piece.

"Yes, they are rather foolish, aren't they?" the voice was smooth and silken, with a slight mad giddiness to it. Xander turned to face the newcomer.

He was a tall lanky man, his head shaved bald and a close-cropped goatee on his chin. He wore a puffy white shirt with a leather jacket over it, and...Pantaloons. He wore a scabbard at his hip, the sword that normally rested there in his left hand, the point placed delicately on the floor.

The man opened his mouth to speak. Xander drew the pistol at his right hip, and shot the man through the eye. He was one of the ones who had hurt Willow. The man crumpled, dead before he hit the floor.

Xander's eyes were cold as he stared at the dead body. He thought maybe he should feel bad, having killed what might have been a human. He didn't. They had proven themselves inhuman, and he would show them no mercy.

He searched the body, finding only another radio, this one set for the new encryption they had switched to after Xander had stolen the last one. He decided to take the sword as well, although he was beginning to think he was going a little overkill on the weapons.

He took one last look at the body, and then headed for the desk where he had stashed the amulet when he'd heard the patrol. Xander slipped the amulet over his neck, and then made for the door.

"That was naughty," a silken voice said. "I love naughty boys."

Xander whirled, and saw the man rise to his feet, his face completely healed, although still red and black with his blood.

"I'm going to so love training you properly," Butch Le'Strange said. He rolled his head around his shoulders, getting the kinks out, and the fight began.

Xander raised the pistol again, firing again and again as Butch dove for cover. The man was fast, and Xander didn't think he'd hit him.

A chair flew over the desk Butch hid behind, forcing Xander to duck for cover. When he glanced back up Butch was already there, his boot slamming Xander in the face.

Xander fell back, flashing white lights popping in front of his vision. He struggled to raise the pistol, but it was kicked away. Butch jumped on him, straddling Xander and pinning down his arms and legs.

Butch ground against Xander slightly, leaning in close to smell his neck.

"Mmm, I so wish I could keep you around."

"Hey, I'm flattered and all, but dead guys really aren't my thing," Xander muttered as he struggled to escape.

"Oh no matter, my boy. It will be just as delightful to hear you scream my name in death as it would be to hear you scream it in ecstasy." He licked Xander's cheek.

"Ew! Bad touch!"

Butch grinned lasciviously, and then pulled Xander's wrist together. He held them still with one hand as he drew his sword from the scabbard Xander now wore.

Xander groaned.

"Oh come now my boy, don't be sad. This will be glorious."

"No, I'm not sad about that. I just can't believe I'm going to do this again," Xander replied.

"Do what?" Butch asked, confused.

"This!" Xander slammed his forehead into Butch's nose. Le'Strange's nose exploded with blood and he doubled back. Xander fell back as well, clutching at his forehead.

"Ow ow ow ow ow...OW!" he yelled. He struggled to his feet as Butch clutched at his nose. Xander pulled the pistol on his left hip, and bore it down on Butch Le'Strange.

"I'm not gay," he said, and pulled the trigger. He thought of Willow, and added, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

The bullet slammed through Butch's head, and he fell to the ground. Dead. Again.

This time Xander took no chances. He retrieved his battleaxe from where it had fallen during the fight, and in one clean stroke, beheaded Butch Le'Strange. Then he slumped into a chair, exhausted.

Something was wrong.

The air grew thick, and a mist seemed for form from nowhere. An ominous feeling of power rose in the air, growing stronger with every moment. A bolt of electricity arced from light fixture to light fixture, casting the room in an eerie darkness.

"This," Xander said. "Is definitely not good."

The mist hovered over him, glowing with a pale blue light. It sparked with power, and a bolt of lightning shot down at Xander, striking him in the the amulet.

The amulet flared with power, glowing bright white with the strike. Over and over again the mist erupted with lightning, slamming Xander back against the wall with every hit. He gasped and groaned through the barrage of power, and the amulet glowed brighter with every strike.

Finally, mercifully, it was over. Xander slumped to the ground, gasping for breath. That was not something that normally happened when you beheaded a demon, and Xander was a little sad to realize he had more than enough prior experience in the matter to say that with authority.

All he wanted to do was sit there for a good year and a half, but he could not forget that Willow was still grievously wounded in the main office. He couldn't afford to wait until he was recovered. He forced himself to his feet and began gathering up his fallen weapons. Finally he staggered to the stairwell, and began heading down to the main offices. He was done with gathering supplies. It was time to end this.

Chapter 8

"NO!" cried Jamie Le'Strange. He swept his hand across a desk, sending its contents to the floor. He was in a rage, tears streaming down his eyes as he thundered across the room. He punched the huge machine before him; in his misery forgetting it's importance.

A vampire grabbed him from behind, wrapping his arms in a bear hug. Jamie roared senselessly, jamming his head back into the vampire's chin. The vampire released him, and Jamie spun, drawing his rapier as he did so. The sword bit through the vampire's neck cleanly, dusting him on the spot.

"Mr. Le'Strange, you can't hurt the machine!" the techno-mage cried, trying to place himself between the device and the raging man. Le'Strange shoved his sword in the man's gut and wrenched his blade upwards, slicing the man almost in two.

Two Yarnaks attempted to restrain him, one to either side. He lashed out a side-kick to one, causing it to double over in pain. The other received a slash across the face with his blade. Jamie screamed wordlessly, smashing the Yarnak over the head with the pommel of the sword. The first attempted to tackle him, and got a slash through his middle for the attempt. Jamie screamed again, and hacked the head off of the second, twirling the blade around for the counter-stroke, beheading the first as well.

A sound behind him caused him to whirl, bringing the blade around sharply.

"Jamie, what are you doing?" asked Samuel Gender. He stood calm, his eyes an icy gray.

The sword stopped at his master's neck. Samuel eyed it suspiciously, raising an eyebrow. The two men stared at each other for a moment, and Jamie's sword hand began to tremble. His eyes welled with tears, and he fell to his knees.

"He is dead! My brother is dead!" he wailed, pounding at the ground. Samuel's eyes widened. He did not doubt the words. Jamie always knew of the condition of his brother. The twins were close, closer than siblings ought to be. Their connection was not to be doubted.

Yet if Butch was dead, then it meant that Xander Harris had...

It was unthinkable.

"Jamie, you will have you revenge, I promise you that." Samuel gently caressed the cheek of his right-hand man, his servant, and his son.

"But you know you should never harm the machine Jamie. Not after all we've worked for." His hand snapped out and struck Jamie across the face.

"We have only just gotten it working again, and you have killed our techno-mage. You should pray we do not have further requirement of his services Jamie."

Jamie sobbed, but nodded nonetheless.

"I am sorry master. Please...forgive my grief."

Samuel gave him a pitying look.

"Oh my dear boy, you should never apologize for your grief," he said. "You must simply learn to channel it into more effective areas. I imagine the man who murdered your brother will arrive here shortly. He must not be made to interfere with the transfer. You will kill him, and you will bring the amulet to me."

Jamie looked up into his eyes.

James and Bernard had been raised by Samuel Gender. Plucked from a foul orphanage at the ages of six, the two had relied on only each other for most of their lives. Samuel gave them a home, schooling, wealth and discipline. He taught them to use the sword and dagger, and the way of finding and attaining power.

And in the year seventeen ninety-four, Samuel Gender had killed them.

The shock of it had profoundly changed James's life. At twenty-five he had believed Samuel Gender to be an unstoppable force of power, a father that would protect him and guide him for all of his life. So when Samuel Gender had come to the twin's twenty-fifth birthday party armed with two single-shot pistols, James had been more than a little surprised when the first was leveled at his head, and fired.

The man he had thought would love and protect him always was murdering him.

Then he had awakened, and it had become clear. Samuel Gender was not his father - Samuel Gender was his lord. He had given them the gift of immortality, and that above all other things made James his loyal servant, now and forever. He had renamed himself in his second life, and Jamie Le'Strange was born.

"Yes, my lord," Jamie said. His fingers tightened around his rapier, his favored weapon for over two hundred years. "As you command."


Xander had a problem.

He stood at the entrance to the Main Offices of Wolfram and Hart. Inside were his friends, incapacitated and unconscious. Inside was Willow, bleeding and dying. The demons, vampires, and "whatevers" that were in there wanted the amulet he currently wore around his neck.

The amulet that glowed a brilliant white. The amulet that he couldn't touch.

He needed to remove it before he went in, on the more-than-likely chance that he failed miserably; he needed to be sure that the amulet wouldn't fall into the wrong hands. He had to hide it somewhere, preferably where no one would ever find it.

Yet every time he tried to remove it, he found his hands repelled by the force of whatever was currently in the amulet. It seemed that the lightning had not only struck the amulet repeatedly, but it had stored some kind of power, or flipped some kind of switch within it.

The light was so bright he couldn't stand to do more than glance at it, as if the power of the sun was resting on a chain around his neck.

Come to think of it, the power of the sun just might be resting on a chain around his neck. Spike had worn the amulet in the hellmouth, using the power of his soul to channel pure sunlight into the army of Turok Hans.

His soul. What if that was the mist that Xander had seen coming from the body of Butch Le'Strange? Some form of mystical energy best described as a soul? He wasn't sure he liked the idea of a murdering psycho's soul hanging out near his chest, but there didn't seem to be anything he could do about it.

Maybe this amulet somehow harnessed soul power? Could that be what this was all about? Samuel Gender trying to...suck out people's souls and save them in a jar?

It didn't matter. Whatever he was up to, it was hurting his friends, and he didn't have the time to sit around debating with himself over what the bad guy's evil plan for world domination might be this week.

He checked his weapons, making sure each was reloaded. The shotgun hung over his shoulder in a sling, the assault rifle held in one hand, two pistols at his hip. A fine rapier in its scabbard hung at his right side, and the battleaxe was held in his other hand. A dozen stakes were taped across his chest.

Xander really wished he had a pair of sunglasses to complete the look.

"Idiot," he said to himself. "An eye patch is way cooler than a pair of sunglasses."

He tested his weight on his bad ankle, surprised to find it barely hurt at all anymore. His forehead even throbbed a little less. Adrenaline worked wonders for a banged up body.

He took a deep breath, and released it. Showtime.


The door burst open and bullets sprayed everywhere. The last of the Yarnaks were the first targets, each cut down in only a few seconds. There were three vampires, each shifting into game face as they charged at him. It was as if everything moved through molasses. His brain was functioning at battle-speed.

The first vampire took a bullet to the throat, and fell to the ground before Xander, clutching the wound tightly. The second took a burst to the chest, knocking him back. The third got in close.

Close enough to have his head cleaved off by the battleaxe held in Xander's right hand. The vampire dust was still swirling as the second vampire jumped at him. Xander dropped the emptied assault rifle, swinging up the shotgun to blast the vampire full in the face. Its head was shredded almost completely, and he dusted soon after.

The last vampire had recovered enough from his bullet wound though, and tackled Xander, claws tearing at his chest. Three burning streaks of blood ripped across Xander's front, and he screamed with the pain of it. The shotgun clattered across the room.

They rolled, with Xander only barely able to keep his throat from being ripped out. The wound to its throat weakened the vampire, but it wouldn't be so for long. Xander kicked out, propelling the bloodsucker away from him. It slammed into the large Wolfram and Hart logo in the middle of the lobby.

It rose quickly and rushed him again. Xander pulled the sword, and swung it wildly, slashing across the vampire's face. It screamed in fury, but it didn't stop the thing for long.

The vampire was too close for another swing, and soon they were grappling. Xander's muscles strained under the unholy might of the vampire. The vampire spun him around and slammed him against the wall. Xander coughed and groaned, trying to get up again. The vampire punched him hard in the gut, and he doubled over, unable to breathe. He fell to the ground, curled in the fetal position as he gasped for air.

" tough," the vampire managed to croak, its throat still badly damaged. It placed a foot on Xander's chest, causing Xander to lie flat on his back.

"That's...not yours," the vampire said, reaching for the amulet. Its hand wrapped around the glowing trinket. The light flared, and the vampire tried to yank its arm away. The amulet remained stuck to its hand, and Xander was jerked up slightly by the pull as the vampire began screaming.

The light grew, and the vampire screeched in terror as it began to eat away at its flesh. Another scream and the light flared again, blinding this time. Xander shut his eyes against the awesome brightness.

When he opened them, the vampire was gone, and a pile of dust lay at his feet.

Xander coughed, trying to stand up. He looked around. Nobody left, but his friends were still chained to the large pillar at the far end of the lobby. He struggled to his feet, swaying as he did so.

He knelt by Willow first. The witch's eyes were opened, but it was clear she had no idea where she was. Her glassy eyed stare scared Xander. He checked her shoulder, the clothing red with blood. There was a lot of blood.

"Oh no Wills, come on, this is no good, you gotta wake up," he said, smacking her gently and trying to shake her awake. It was no good. The bands around her head, arms, waist, and legs pulsed dark red in time with her heartbeat, slowly and faintly.

He began pulling at the bands, trying to break them off of her. It was no good, they were far too strong. He even tried to very carefully to shoot one off, but the bands just flashed a darker red with the impact, and the bullet...absorbed into the metal.

"I'm afraid Dampening Bands cannot be removed in such a manner," said a voice.

Xander looked up. Samuel Gender smiled at him, a knife held to Buffy's throat. The Slayer was still unconscious, and a small red bead of blood formed at the point of the knife.

"You son of a-" Xander began, and felt the cool steel of a blade placed against his chest. Jamie Le'Strange stood beside him, his sword held over Xander's heart.

"So," Samuel said happily. "Xander Harris. We meet face to face. I must say, I expected you to be taller."

"I'll look gigantic when you're just a disembodied head rolling around on the floor," Xander spat.

"Indeed? So you are aware of how to kill our kind?" he glanced at Jamie. "I should have guessed, after all, it was you who killed Butch. " "Your kind? Most demons react badly to having their heads removed."

Samuel laughed, a cool chuckling that irritated Xander tremendously.

"Demon? I see. I suppose I should have guessed. I naturally assumed that such an accomplished hunter of the supernatural would be aware of Immortals."

"I've known an immortal or two," Xander said defensively. "Buffy even got hit on by one."

"No no, not these paltry demons who have long lives. I mean Immortals. We who die and live again, over and over, never truly dead until we are separated from our heads. Those who are destined to fight in The Game until The Gathering."

"I'm sensing a lot of capital letters here," Xander sneered.

"Indeed, it's all very dramatic, and quite dangerous at that. My kind hunts each other, you know. Behead one of us, and his life force - his soul, if you will - is absorbed by his killer. So too are all the souls of those he has killed, and so forth and so on. This is the quickening."

Xander looked down to the amulet that hung on his neck, still glowing that brilliant white light.

"Ah, you begin to see. This amulet that your colleague Spike used to seal the Hellmouth, it channeled the very power of his soul to defeat an army of millions. That was one soul, and a young weak soul at that.

"I have lived for over a thousand years, Xander Harris. My soul contains the strength of hundreds of other immortals, many who lived even longer than I. Imagine the power I could harness with this amulet."

"So why are you telling me this? Haven't you ever seen James Bond? You never tell the hero your plan, it's a sure sign you're about to lose," Xander said.

Samuel rolled his eyes.

"Unfortunately I am not here merely to use the amulet to harness the power of my own Quickening. I have also gathered here some of the most influential and power beings on the planet. A Witch who created an entire army of Slayers. The longest lived Slayer to ever exist. Two vampires with souls. Two men with knowledge of the occult far beyond any currently living. A former God-Being, and a man touched by one of the Upper Echelon. Any of these beings alone would add to my power tenfold. Together, they will make me the most powerful being in existence.

"The ritual had to take place today, and only with the proper equipment in place. The devices I have placed around this building will allow even a mortal's soul to transfer to the amulet via a quickening. The only problem is that once the charging of the amulet has begun, it cannot be removed until the ritual is completed. So you will have to be kept alive, and wearing the amulet until I complete the ritual and can begin absorbing the souls of your friends. Then I shall take their souls into myself, and give you to Jamie. He's more than a little angry over the murder of his brother."

Jamie held the sword to his chest while Samuel began the ritual, forming a circle of chalk around the unconscious heroes. Samuel chanted words in some language Xander had never heard of, and formed odd designs around the perimeter of the chalk line.

Xander shifted his weight to his right foot, and frowned slightly. Then he frowned a little deeper. His head didn't hurt. Neither did his ankle.

"It is time to begin, Jamie," Samuel said. "I believe we'll start with the Witch first. Place him in the circle."

Jamie nudged the point of his blade into Xander's chest, indicating he should move. Xander's breathing quickened, and he stared at Jamie's eyes.

"Move it. Now." Jamie stared right back at him, eyes burning with fury.

Xander nodded, and pushed himself into Jamie's blade, piercing his own heart.

Chapter 9

Xander gasped with the feel of it, but he pulled himself forward anyway, the sword shoving between his ribs, past his heart, and out his back. He groaned and drove himself towards Jamie Le'Strange, who stood aghast at the actions of Xander.

The immortal tried to wrench his sword free, but Xander held on with his left hand, yanking Jamie closer.

Xander's right hand slid down, shakily pulling free the rapier at his hip. Xander could feel his life force slipping, and struggled to keep his eyes open. Think of Willow. Think of Buffy, of Giles, even of Angel. They were his friends, and they were the protectors of humanity. He grinned a little, and a hysterical bark of laughter escaped his lips as he stared into the eyes of Jamie Le'Strange.

They were humanity's protector, and Xander was their protector. To death.

Xander surged forward again, plunging Jamie's sword down to the hilt. He shuddered in the absolute pain of it, and put his face as close to Jamie's stunned expression as he could. The immortal was frozen in surprise at Xander's act and the intensity of his gaze.

"Wha-what?" Jamie stuttered.

"Watch where you point that thing," Xander gasped, twitching in pain. "You might hurt someone." He swung the sword at Jamie's neck.

Jamie registered the swing only a moment before the blade sliced into his neck, severing his head from his shoulders. His face was frozen in an expression of horror and shock as his head bounced across the floor. He was Jamie Le'Strange, one of the most feared immortals to ever live. He had killed over a hundred immortals in single combat, and now he was killed by this...boy?

It was his last thought.

Xander cried out in pain as he fell to his knees, dropping Butch's sword as used both hands to try and pull free the sword from his chest. Samuel Gender watched, fascinated.

The sword came free slowly, blood and muscle sluicing out of the wound as he pulled. Tears streamed out of Xander's good eye, and he screamed horribly as he finally pulled the sword out. He shuddered again, and collapsed, unmoving.

Samuel Gender walked over to him, staring at the boy.

"A foolish sacrifice, although brave to be sure. It has accomplished you nothing. I will complete the ritual as you die." He began dragging Xander's body into the circle, as Xander Harris slowly died.

Samuel chanted slowly, eyes closed, and an air of power seemed to fill the room. A mist formed above Jamie's body, swirling with power that grew with every moment. Samuel continued chanting.

The mist floated towards the body of Xander Harris. He stared upwards, the last vestiges of life draining away from him.

The lights exploded with the first hit of lightning. It slammed into the amulet on Xander's chest, lying just to the side of his self-inflicted wound. His body arched with the blast of power.

Samuel's eyes snapped open, eyes aghast at the sight of the Quickening. How had he forgotten?

Another blast struck the amulet. Again. Again. Each strike sizzled with power, each strike causing the amulet to glow with a stronger intensity.

Finally it was over, and Xander's body fell lifeless to the floor. The amulet on his chest almost hummed with the intensity of the power now contained within it.

Samuel sighed. Jamie was his most loyal servant, groomed to be his lieutenant by him personally. Still, it was only fitting that his quickening would soon reside in Samuel himself. The ritual was complete, and he could now begin absorbing the souls of his captives. It was a pity, he thought, that he could not have absorbed the soul of Xander Harris as well. That kind of strength of will did not come along very often.

He moved to the Witch, her eyes flicking wildly. The Dampening Bands still held, but Samuel wanted to be sure there was no problem. He retrieved the control from Jamie's corpse, and set it to its highest setting. The bands pulsed, and the Witch's eyes returned to their glassy state.

Samuel reached into his jacket and pulled his sword. An ancient longsword even older than he was, Samuel had taken many a head with the blade. He smiled. Soon such weapons would be meaningless to him, thanks to the power he would soon possess.

He raised the sword over the Witch's head.

And was shot through the stomach. The bullet passed clean through, piercing his spine, causing him to collapse to the floor.

Xander took a shaky breath, and slowly got to his feet. He groaned, clutching his chest as a spasm of pain hit him. He swallowed, and placed a hand over the amulet. The force was still there, keeping him from removing it, but he could feel the warmth of it.

His heart beat, slowly.

"I am never doing that again," Xander gasped. He inspected his chest, finding the wound was slowly sealing up. The amulet pulsed faintly with his repaired heartbeat.

"H-How?" Samuel Gender gasped from the floor. "You are not immortal...I would have felt it."

Xander staggered over to him, keeping his pistol trained on Gender's head.

"I noticed my ankle wasn't hurt anymore after-," he sucked in a breath as another spasm of pain went through his chest. "After I killed this one's brother."

"Y-you risked your life on the chance it would heal you?" Samuel could hardly believe it. For one to whom death was such a minute threat, he could not understand risking permanent death on such a slim chance.

"The hard part wasn't impaling myself through the chest," Xander said. "The hard part was killing Jamie before I died."

The Quickening was what did the healing. If he hadn't killed Jamie...well, it was a chance he had to have taken.

"You're insane," Gender laughed hysterically, coughing up blood. "I'm going-going to kill you."

"Right back at ya, pal." Xander said. He picked up Gender's fallen sword. "When you get to hell, tell 'em the Scoobies sent ya. I think you get a group rate discount at the cafeteria."

Xander raised the sword, and Samuel was certain he could hear the hideous laughter of Angelus. Xander brought the sword down, and killed Samuel Gender. Permanently.

Xander fell back, squeezing his eyes shut in anticipation for the Quickening.

It began a minute later, the power in the room growing as it had before. Wind whipped his hair around as the mist formed, and an arc of electricity jumped from wall to wall before slamming straight into the amulet. He struggled to flip over, and began crawling towards Willow.

The lightning slammed into his back, causing him to spasm as it used him as a conductor to reach the amulet. He gasped, and with his final ounce of strength, grabbed Willow's arm.

The lightning hit, again and again, causing the both of them to jerk and twitch with each strike.

When it ended, Xander lay still for a long while. Every so often he'd twitch in pain as some part of him healed faster than should be possible, or he'd cough up some bloody gunk that he didn't want to think about.

Finally he felt strong enough to move again. He sat up slowly, noting the increased brightness in the amulet. He crawled over to Gender's body, and pulled the control out of his hand.

It had three buttons. Red, Blue, and Green.

"Eeny, meeny," he pushed the blue one. The bands around Willow dimmed slightly. Blue meant lower?

He pressed green. Nothing seemed to happen. He pressed blue again, and the bands around Wesley and Giles dimmed down, and snapped off.

"I won't answer any more questions," Giles mumbled.

"Giles?" Xander asked.

"Xander? Oh dear, have they captured you?" He tried to focus his eyes, a hard task without his glasses. Wesley blinked as well, and looked at Xander.

The boy was covered in blood, no telling how much of it was his own. His shirt was torn in the center, with stakes hanging from a strip of duct tape on either side of him. He wore a holster with two large pistols on either side, and a scabbard at his hip.

"I don't think so," Wesley said softly. Giles glanced at his arms, and saw that the bands that had held him were now gone. He rubbed his wrists gently and looked around. The body of their captor lay at his side, the head missing.

"Good lord Xander..." Giles murmured.

"Later Giles, I think I've got this thing figured out." Green meant switch targets. He hit green again, then blue. Gunn's band dimmed, but remained on. He hit blue again, and two more times until the bands snapped off.

"Oh man, my head...," he groaned. Xander ignored him, hitting green again, then blue. Angel and Spike's bands dimmed. He hit blue four more times, and the bands snapped off.

"Bloody hell, what did I drink?" Spike mumbled. Angel groaned next to him, blinking as he looked around.

"Is everyone OK?" he asked Xander.

"So far so good," Xander muttered. He switched targets again, and then hit blue. Buffy's bands dimmed. He hit blue quite a few times until they snapped off. She groaned and looked around, Angel and Spike both looking at her with concern.

"Angel? Spike? You stopped them?" she asked.

"Not me, luv," Spike confessed. Angel just shook his head and nodded his head at Xander. Buffy stared at him, wide-eyed.

"Jeez Xander, you look terrible."

"Aw thanks Buff, I can always count on you for a kind word," he grinned at her. She rolled her eyes.

"Sorry, but you look like someone pulled a 'Carrie' on you."

"I should be so lucky," Xander said. He tapped green again, and then hit blue at least a dozen times before snapping the bands off of the blue-haired chick.

"You will not hold me in these petty magics forever, wormling. When I am freed you will tremble at the very thought of my vengeance. A thousand lifetimes will not prepare your insignificant mind for the horrors I will unleash upon you."

"Gotcha," Xander said. "Bondage is a big no-no with you."

Illyria raised an eyebrow at him.

"You are the scurrying rat that I was forced to relate information about," she said. "The one that hides in the darkness and avoids capture."

"That's me," Xander said, rolling his eyes. He hit green again, and then tapped blue.

And tapped it.

And tapped it some more.

Finally after what seemed like a good minute and a half of tapping, the bands around Willow's neck burst open and she screamed. Her body floated off the ground as crackles of energy surged around her.

"Whoa whoa, Willow! Stand down the alert!" Xander cried, rushing over to her. Willow's hair blazed firey red and she turned eyes of white-hot power on him.

"Willow...calm down," Xander said carefully. Slowly moving towards her.

"Xander? They...I saw...they..."

The magic stopped as if a switch had been thrown, and Willow floated back down to the floor, tears in her eyes.

"Hey, it's ok. Everything's fine now," Xander said soothingly, embracing her in a hug. She sobbed on his shoulder for a long while, babbling that she'd kept fading in and out, sometimes being able to see what was happening. The last thing she'd seen was Xander shoving a sword through his own heart.

"WHAT!?" Buffy cried.

"She must have hallucinated," Giles said. Although, there was that bloody hole in Xander's shirt.

"Something like that. Look, I'll tell you guys the whole story later if you want, OK? We'll have a nice early breakfast, we'll talk about dumb yellow horned demons, immortals, and soul amulets that really need to be kept in a SAFE DEPOSIT BOX!" Xander screamed this last bit in Angel's direction.

"They got it out of the White Room?" Angel asked, astonished.

"Uh...well no. I mean, they were going to, but I beat them to it. " "You got it out of the White Room?" Gunn was shocked, as he'd personally seen the power of the inhabitant of the White Room. "How'd you manage that?"

"I kinda threatened to step on him."

"What?" the room chorused.

"Hey look he was being difficult, and I was working against the clock, ok? I didn't have time for any bunny shenanigans."

"Bunny shenanigans?"

Xander sighed. This was going to take a long time to explain. The skin under his eye patch itched slightly, and he rubbed it.

There was also the problem of the Day-Glo Amulet still hanging around his neck. He sighed.

"I need a shower, some new clothes, and some food, in that order. After that, I'll tell you guys the whole story, deal?"

"Indeed," said Giles. "I think it would be best if we all recovered a bit ourselves before we delve into the consequences of the day. Perhaps we should reconvene here tomorrow?"

Everyone seemed to agree, and soon they were all breaking up into smaller groups. Wesley and Giles discussing the possible tomes they could search for information no the Amulet, Willow and Buffy trying to figure out exactly how Xander had managed to accomplish all of this. Gunn went off to the White Room to get some answers, and Illyria simply stared icily at Xander, questions forming in her head.

None of them noticed the almost feral grin on Angel's face as he entered his office, and began making calls.

THE END (For now?)

Author's Endnote: I had a fairly hard time figuring out how to end this story, especially considering the loose ends that are being kept around until the sequel I'll probably write. This whole story didn't really go in the direction I figured it would, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. My main goal was to try and keep Xander a no-frills human while still being an effective thorn in the side of the baddies. I was also trying to keep him as "Xander-Like" as I could. I didn't want him to get too far into a Rambo-Mode where he didn't really seem like Xander anymore. I'm not sure if I did as good a job as I would have liked with that, but a lot of that may be that old cliche of an author finding fault with his own work.

Either way, I had fun writing the story, the first one I've written in a long time in a serial style like this. I hope to continue the style with other stories. I expect I'll be sticking with this universe for a while longer.

Thanks to everyone for your feedback, it definitely helped encourage me to keep a steady stream of material. Hopefully I can keep it up for a while.