Souls, Slayers... and a Scythe???

Author: Mkcrl120 <mike_curl120[at]>

Disclaimer: All the characters mentioned in this story belong to Joss Whedon or Mutant Enemy or some other people. I own nothing and wrote this just to get it out of my system.

Summary: Set two weeks after the events in Explaining Africa 3

Authors Notes: I have no clue about Africa. Which is probably always a good place to start writing a story. So if details I've used for place names, and tribal names and whatever are wrong then just (correctly) assume I have no idea what I'm doing.

Thanks to Grossclout for giving me a quick beta-ing of this.

The 3 preludes of the Africa series can be found at The XanderZone Archive

Latest addition

Chapter 1

(Two weeks after the events in Explaining Africa 3)

Douala, Cameroon

Xander strode into the dining room that they were using as a makeshift office. He looked at the petit blonde that was sitting at the table that was covered in books; she'd somehow made a small section of clear table to rest her notepad on. If there was any further organisation to the random piles Xander would hard pressed to find it. "Tell Giles that we need more to go on regarding the Slayer situation."

Amy looked up from the book she was making notes from. "Nothing came of the Bakongo then?"

"Nothing useful anyway." Xander tossed the keys for the rented jeep into the dish by the refrigerator and then sat down opposite Amy. "Basically the same as the Mandinka that we found four days ago, they are aware of the chosen one and her calling and do look for signs in all females born to the tribe. As far as they're aware though, the legends of the chosen one have always been around."

Amy barely raised her head and sighed before asking, "What specifically am I supposed to be asking for? We've got the guys working closely with the others so that we get information as soon as it becomes known."

"Do they have access to all the senior watcher files?"

Amy's eyes lit up. Putting her pen down, she moved to get the laptop. "Senior watcher files?"

Xander held up his hands in mock surrender, "No conspiracy here Aim. Giles mentioned that he had a group looking into all the earliest watcher files, I just want to make sure that Robert and Steven have access to that info."

Amy slumped her shoulders and generally looked disappointed, "Oh. You had me excited then. Bob's on that team himself, he was very excited by some of the lives of the earlier slayers. Nothing he's passed onto me has been that relevant to our mission."

Xander smiled as he remembered when she'd first been assigned to his group; according to Robert, she'd been arguing with her assignment to any council duties, especially in light of all that had happened. That all changed once she'd discovered that Xander was based in Africa. It seems little Miss Davies had always had her heart set on being a field watcher but her parents had used their influence to ensure she remained in the research department, so she'd rebelled. 'Not that I'd call studying Classical Civilisations and Their Affects on Modern Society or whatever that degree title had been, at university could really be called Rebelling.' He chuckled as he remembered getting a call from her demanding that she be allowed to come to Africa to work there alongside him rather than be stuck back in Oxford with the others, and her parents. 'What is it with me and pushy women? Especially little blonde ones?'

Xander moved into the kitchen area and opened the fridge to get a bottle of water for each of them. Handing Amy her bottle as he asked, "So where's Roger then?"

Amy gestured around the small room, "He was out when I got back. No notes on the fridge. So, if I had to guess, I'd say probably in the pub?"

"Right... anyway pass me the pc." He turned the laptop around, and waited for it to load up.

"Wotcha doing?" Amy enquired as she continued making her endless notes from yet another book.

"I'm gonna email Giles anyway, see if he can come up with any ideas on giving us a new starting point."

While Xander was typing at the keyboard the door burst open. A middle aged man with greying hair came stumbling in, "Hello peeps. How are we? I've just met this fantastic woman," he slurred.

Xander looked up to se Roger supporting himself using the doorhandle. "Roger that's erm... great... you're not bringing her here are you?"

Amy immediately got to her feet, moving Roger out of the way so that she could peer through the door, she said "There doesn't appear to be anyone there."

Roger, realising he now had nothing to aid his balance, managed to get to the table to help steady himself. "Not that sort of woman, though that's not to say I wou..." He paused as he realised that Amy was just outside the room, he put his fingers to his lips and made a shushing sound to Xander.

Xander returned his attention to the laptop in front of him. 'Just ignore him, just ignore him, just ignore her too if it turns out there is one.'

Amy continued to look around, "Are you certain that there isn't a woman loose somewhere in the villa?"

"Hey I take offence at that, no self respecting man attempting to woo a woman would then leave her alone. That would be despicable. That would be unforgiveable. That would be..."

"Last Tuesday." Xander dead-panned.

Roger turned to glare at Xander, "Do you want to hear about this woman or not?"

Xander could feel his shoulders slumping automatically in what he was sure to be yet another mind-numbing tale of drunken antics, but he managed to hide it well and get out an almost cheerful "Sure, why not?"

"So what made her so fantastic?" Amy said as she returned into the dining room.

Roger continued his story, "Anyway this woman, well she heard from some tourists in a bar, that he had heard the most outrageous story between these two 'mystics'." Xander watched as Roger lifted both hands up, in an attempt to emphasise the word 'mystic' with the classic quotation mark gesture, but gave in as he had to return one hand to the table, as he suddenly began to fall sideways.

Amy rolled her eyes, "I can see how you'd be enthralled with this."

"Is there a point to this, or can I concentrate on my email?"

"Wait. Patience is a virtue. Well these tourists had been to see this 'ancient' mystic right?" Roger repeated the quotation mark gesture for 'ancient', but this time using only one hand. "Normal standard touristy stuff. Well later that same day they saw him again in a restaurant, and overheard him talking to an older man who he referred to as master."

Xander sighed and continued to type his email, "You're right this is the best story I've ever heard. Tolkien, eat your heart out," he added sarcastically.

"Well if you don't want to hear about what they discussed, that's fine with me."

Amy smiled at Roger and glared at Xander, "What were they discussing?"

"A crazy English vampire that was enquiring about getting passage back to America."

Xander froze in place, hands hovering over the keyboard. "You certain it was Spike?"

"No description of the vampire was given BUT the elder mystic confirmed that it was a vampire AND that he attempted to buy passage on a ship."


"He never threatened anyone, and seemed to be debating whether he was a man or a monster. The tourists thought it was very Anne Rice." Roger sat down heavily on the chair in front of him.

"Do we have the name of this mystic?"

"No, she didn't know it."

"Do we have the name of the younger one?"

"No. She didn't know that either."

"So what did she know?"

"The names of the tourists."

"Amy, make some coffee for Roger; I'll finish this for Giles, and then you're going to tell us everything about the mystics and what the tourists told your friend."


The following morning

As Roger strolled into the kitchen area he was greeted with Amy's yell. "I can't believe you can't remember their surname!"

'Oh no not now' "Shhhh.... Hangover."


"Can you even remember the name of the woman you were talking to?"

"Jenny... I think." 'I came in here for a reason, one that didn't involve nagging, what was it? Come on brain, I know using you hurts, but once we've achieved whatever it was we came here for then we can go back to bed. Think brain think.'

"Her name was Jenny too?"

"Too? Have we got any Anadin?"

"You said the tourists were Mark and Jenny."

"That doesn't sound right."

"So it wasn't Mark and Jenny?"

"Possibly..." Roger held his head as he looked blankly around the room, 'If I was a box of headache pills then where would I live?' "Anadin?"

"Top left cupboard. Was it Jenny or not?"

Roger began to search the top right cupboard. "One of them was definitely Jenny..."

"So we have a Mark and a possible Jenny?" Amy asked in disbelief. "That's it, that's the grand total of your recollection. No place name, no mystic names, you're guessing the name of the tourists and you don't even know who you were speaking to?"

"Shhhh...." Roger started lifting random jars and boxes placing them on the counter. 'Not here. Not here either. That's jam.'

Amy moved Roger out of the way, opened the cupboard next to the one Roger had been searching in and handed him the box of tablets, "Did you ever consider not getting that drunk when you're talking to someone with potential information?" she asked slamming the door shut.

Roger was filling a half-pint glass with water, "If I hadn't been that drunk I'd never have met her."

Amy was putting all the jars back into the correct cupboard, once she'd done that she slammed that door shut too.

"No more noise." Roger downed the glass in one large go. 'You know, I'm sure she's always nicer when I'm actually drunk, she must get some sick kick out of picking on me when I'm in immense brain pain.'

Xander came into the room carrying a few bags; he kicked the door shut behind him. "I see the vague storyteller's woke up then."

'Loud, too loud. This place has too many things which have potential loud shutting capability, maybe I could borrow some tools and dismantle all the doors... now if I were some tools where would I be hiding?'

"Oh yes, and the details keep getting vaguer."

"She's getting excitable again," Roger countered.

"How could it get vaguer?" Xander started unloading the shopping.

Amy moved to help Xander with the shopping, "Well now he's not even certain of the woman's name?"


'That was a shout. First the door and now with the shouting, oh hell, the evil cow's recruited Xander into the 'picking on me in the morning' plan. You know, I prefer his 'disinterest in anything beyond whether I'm alive or not' one.'

"The story consists of three people but he only knows two names. The two women may have the same name but he doesn't think so."

"What three people?"

"There's the two tourists and the woman he was speaking to. You do the math."

"Two first names weren't that useful anyway."

"I was thinking that we could see if Willow or one of your other technical friends could try to find a couple with that first name from airplane flights or something."

"It's too big a task, we don't know when they arrived or even how they arrived, we don't know their nationality, or if they were even married."

"So it was a stupid idea then?"

'That's it, talk amongst yourselves I'll just rest my head here on the nice tabletop.'

"No, it's just not right at the moment with the info we've got. Anyway, tracking down the tourists isn't the key, the key is finding out if the mystics know anything specific about Spike."

Roger lifted his head off the table, "Can you two take the touchy-feely crap outside I really can't cope with it this morning."

Xander went to his room as Amy glared at Roger, "Stop being so grumpy."

"It's not necessarily a good lead. It's all a bit vague isn't it? English vampire, dodgy fortune tellers, maybe it wasn't Spike and the vamp simply wasn't hungry."

"It was your information that gave us the lead."

"And I'm willing to concede that in my drunken state I might have gotten over-confident in how much use that particular piece was."

"I think I preferred you drunk. Least you were helpful."

'And I think excitable women are only good in theory.' "I am helpful, have I or have I not led you to some very real demons?"

"They weren't wish demons."

"One of them granted wishes!" 'Noooo Don't shout yourself.... owwww.... seriously considering more Anadin.'

"It didn't live in a cave."

"I found that too personal a question to ask it."

"You didn't go anywhere near it, you stayed in the jeep!"

"You're shouting again!" 'Owwwwww! Dammit, so am I...' Roger rose from the table, "I'm going to take a shower, we've gotta head to Libreville today, it's a three hour drive." With that Roger left Amy alone in the dining room.


Amy was staring out of the window. 'I really hate the sun, is it ever cold in this country? I can't believe I'm starting to miss rain and huddling in a bus shelter trying to keep the biting wind off you. Oh God, I'm getting home-sick... I refuse to get homesick, here I am in Africa no less, trying to find the origins of the slayer line. Life does not get more exciting than this. I'm not homesick I am merely aware that I am blonde and very fair-skinned and not generally suited for sunnier climates. It's not homesickness, it's not.' Amy was interrupted in her thoughts by the arrival of Xander.

Xander walked over to her, hands in his pockets. "Hey Aim, heard you and Roger arguing again this morning, everything okay?"

"Yeah, it's just that... we could have found Spike you know... well not found him obviously as he's in LA... but we could have found where he was when he was here. If you see what I mean."

"That doesn't really explain the argument though."

"It's just that... well... ermm... Roger has a tendency to drink excessively, doesn't he?"

Amy could swear she could hear Xander's mind carefully considering his answer.

"Roger does like a drink. But he's what I like to think of as a comedy-drunk."

Amy looked confused, 'Will he open up to me? I've only known him two weeks should I even try to get him to?' "I don't see what you mean."

"Well it's like this," Xander paused seemingly trying to work out where to take this. "There are a lot of nasty-drunks in the world. They can be violent and risk both their lives and the lives of others. Now Roger isn't like that, see?"

Amy nodded at him to continue.

"All Roger gets is blinding drunk, now I'm not exactly promoting drinking here, but he doesn't really harm anyone besides himself. Annoys yes, harms no."

Amy looked annoyed at the way he sometimes considered her a child, "I have drank alcohol before Xander."

"You're only nineteen."

"Which is a year over the legal limit for England."

"Ahhhh.... that could have caused a few problems during my high school days."

"You mean college?"

"You were in college by the time you were eighteen?

"I started at sixteen, turned seventeen in my first year there."

"What are you some sort of genius?"

Amy was amused at the look of disbelief on his face, "No. That was pretty standard."

"Standard, you mean for academic researcher type watchers?" From the look in her face he changed his mind, "You don't mean for specific watcher type behaviour, do you? God, Willow didn't even get in 'til the regular age."

Amy shook her head, "That was the regular age."

"Stop saying that. Anyway where was I?"

"Roger only hurts himself."

"Yeah the resident genius would remember that. Well I have life experience..." shaking his head, "Back to the topic in question, he only annoys people. He occasionally sleeps with women and doesn't remember anything about it; but I don't think he's done anything worse than that. Though thinking about it, that is pretty bad."

"Not always, there was that woman who stole his belongings, remember, when he came home dressed only in a pair of trousers."

Xander smiled at the thought, "Yeah, but anyway I don't think he's ever done anything worse than that."

"Did you ever think about replacing him as a guide?"

Xander smiled at her, "No. Sometimes he gets a bit too much, but generally he's okay."

Amy looked around conspiratorially, and making sure that the coast was clear, linked arms with Xander and walked him outside.

She began whispering to him "You know, he was the first that Steven found didn't you? And he wasn't ever a real guide."

Xander reached back inside and picked up one of the hats and placed it on Amy's head. "Yeah, but I got a feel for the guy when I spoke to him on the phone."

Amy smiled as she remembered her first conversation with Xander on the phone. She'd recieved a call from her parents insisting that, with the recent activities, she be called back to active duty. Apparently, they'd already found her a 'safe' assignment at Oxford simply doing research for some guy out in Africa and mainly being his link back into the Watchers Council. She'd refused at first, forcing the official channels to enquire as to why she didn't want to return to active service. Apparently, given the situation, a lot of people were trying to disassociate themselves from the council. When she gave her reasons of wanting to be a field watcher, either assigned to a slayer (of which there were now hundreds so surely they could find someone that she could help with) or even as a lookout, living on one of the many hotspots around the planet. Soon after that she'd recieved a call from Rupert Giles; I mean the Rupert Giles, the only watcher ever in the history of the council to look after TWO active slayers. He'd been pleased with her request to be formally trained as a field watcher, but had conceded that her parents weren't taking it well. He'd informed her that he had no intention of taking her parents on directly; however, the call for where the 'researchers' worked would ultimately be Xander's as team leader. He informed her that both Robert and Steven already had multiple ways to contact Xander and that she should speak to them. She'd quickly obtained the details she'd required and spent half an hour convincing him on the phone. When the request came in 'from' Xander that he would need at least one aide over there with him, she'd volunteered and neither of the others had (due to her working on the boys before the request ever came in), so the decision was practically made by the time her parents had heard about it. Once it was established that she would be the one to go to Africa she'd recieved numerous phone calls from Willow and even a visit from Dawn; who, in turn, she'd found very supportive when having to deal with her parents. Apparently Dawn had experience dealing with pushy older relatives. Although at the time Amy had thought that Dawn was Xander's younger sister and not Buffy's.

"Aim? Amy?" When she returned to meet his gaze he informed her that "You seemed to doze over for a while there? Everything okay?"

"Yeah fine. Just thinking about some stuff."

"When he told me he'd been one of the Queen's official ambassadors for Africa but upon discovery of real life demons had been ridiculed by his peers who at first thought it was another drunken tale of his. I couldn't help but think this was the type of guide that'd fit in well with me."

Amy tried to hold back a laugh, "That was what persuaded you to take him on?" At Xander's wink she continued, "I've known about demons since I was ten, but I'd never met one 'til I came here."

"Lucky you. Though from our lack of adventures so far..." Xander paused as he looked around for some wood. Finally noticing the door, he rapped his knuckles on it saying, "Touch Wood." At Amy's look, he explained, "Never tempt fate. Anyway, as I was saying, so far I wouldn't say you've met anything that I'd consider a demon."

Amy looked at him to see if it was a wind-up, "There was one last week that was nine feet tall, and mainly blue."

"But..." Xander paused in what he'd hoped was dramatic affect "it didn't chase us, there was no screaming and no one got thrown around a room, we didn't even kill it. There's obviously a better class of demon around here," then the last phrase under his breath, "Typical Hellmouth."

Quickly returning to the previous topic Xander said, "But all that's in the past now. Let's see what our guide has in store for us today." Xander returned into the villa yelling, "ROGERRRR!!!! Come on, get a move on. Got a long drive ahead of us today."

Roger popped his head out of his room, picked up the map and cleared his throat, seemingly recovered from the earlier hangover. He headed toward them as Xander picked up the supplies for the trip and Amy picked up the laptop and some books she thought may be useful. All three of them headed toward the jeep as Roger referred to the map, "Okay Libreville, firstly we've got to head south towards...."


Somewhere on the road to Libreville

Xander was amused, the whinging behind him had begun again.

"It's too hot!!! Are you sure the air-conditioning is on?"

'Amy's really not designed for this heat.' Xander took a quick half-second to glance behind him to see if she was okay, "It doesn't have air-conditioning. It's a jeep. You take the canvas off and the wind provides the air-conditioning."

The response came from the passenger side. "Leave the top on. In this heat we'd be heavily sunburnt within an hour," Roger stopped looking at the map and turned to face the other passenger in the back, "Well, we'd be badly sunburnt within the hour, personally I'd give you five minutes. What do you reckon, five minutes be enough to turn her toasty."

Xander joined in with the gentle teasing, "Nah, ten to fifteen I reckon. Possibly twenty if she wears her hat and creates as much shade as she can."

"I'm so glad you two find this funny." Amy sighed in mock-indignation.

Roger was the first to counter, "You insisted on coming along. You hardly ever come along!"

"I don't go along on all the little fact-finding missions you two go on," Amy explained, "I'm no good at that sort of thing, I'm far more useful being allowed to remain home and study the local legends to see if anything applies. Was I not the one that pointed you in the direction of Garabuni three days ago? So it didn't turn out to be as old as we thought, which meant it didn't know what we wanted it to, but still a four hundred year old creature that's something else right?"

Xander thought about the number of people he'd known whose age was counted in centuries, it depressed him a little when he thought about one specific one.

Roger continued to tease her, "You only say you're no good at it... most people seem to find you quite friendly once they get to know you." He paused to wink at Xander, "It's just in order to get to know you they have to be willing to live in the shade." At her outraged look, "Maybe YOU need some company of the vampiric persuasion. Were either Spike or Angel big on reading?"

"If you didn't want to come on this mission you didn't have to join us."

"I wouldn't have missed this mission. We're going to see a demon."

Roger was leaning into the back seat now, "What's your fascination with demons?"

"What's with your irrational fear of them?"

"They're demons!! It's a self-preserving fear based on centuries of superstition. If your instincts say 'run', I say agree with them. Sounds bloody rational to me."

Xander just let them continue to bicker, 'What is it with women and demons? Mind you, you could say the same thing about me.' He thought back to Willow's demon-magnet mishap, and smiled.

Amy interrupted his thoughts, "Wotcha smiling at?"

"Old times." Xander replied, not offering to explain further.

Amy left it there. "Right.... Anyway, ROGER, weren't we supposed to be in Libreville about an hour ago. Maybe I wouldn't be complaining about the heat so much if we'd got here when we expected to. I was mentally prepared for a three hour drive, did you hear me complain for those first three hours? But now we've hit the four hours and..." she paused to look at her wristwatch, "twenty-ish minutes stage I think I have the right to complain. That's getting on for a fifty percent increase in expected journey time."

"We got a little lost, that's all kiddie."

"Don't call me.."

"Aim," Xander interrupted, "now that I think it about it, you have only been on missions where we've expected to see a demon."


"Okay, right just thought I'd mention it." Xander mused to himself, "Does that mean we shouldn't bother asking you on any missions where we're not expecting to see a demon?"

"A girl still likes to be asked."

"See, Alex my boy, women are impossible to understand. Accept that and your life becomes easier."

Amy shot daggers at Roger. Roger simply smirked in response.

"You still missed that demon down in Cocobeach, we didn't know we were going to run into that."

Xander looked on in disbelief, "You almost missed that yourself, and you were the one talking to her!"

"How was I supposed to know she was a demon?"

"The tail wasn't a give away?"

"I couldn't see that from where I was standing..."

"She had TWO tongues!!!"

"I thought there had been something amiss, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it."

Amy giggled, "He didn't notice she had two tongues? Had he been drinking?"

"I hope not, he was the one that drove back."

"I hadn't been drinking then, thank you very much. Now that I think about it, a woman with two tongues..." Roger stared out of the window as he thought about the implications of that.

Amy gave him a dark look and had been about to reply when suddenly Roger ordered Xander to "Turn right now!"

Xander quickly did so and looked at him questioningly, "Bit of warning would be nice nex.."

Roger simply point ahead to the sign.

Libreville 3 Miles



When they arrived in town, the first thing Amy wanted was a cold refreshing drink. Obviously, they had bottles in the jeep with them but even with a Cool-Bag the liquids had been quite warm. 'Damn that stupid jeep. Wonder if I can persuade them to get another one.' Amy's complaint had come from the fact that only a few days ago she'd discovered one of those mini-fridges, what had impressed her was that this particular model was able to be run from both a regular power supply and a car's cigarette lighter. She'd promptly bought the piece of equipment only to find that the cigarette lighter in the jeep didn't work. The shop had refused to take the item back and it was now located next to her bed. The only use she'd so far found for the thing was to keep her night time bottle of water cool, in fact she had about 3 stored in there at all times - it saved her having to walk to the dining area in the middle of the night should she require another drink. 'Stupid stupid vehicle' she thought, giving one of the tyres a kick as she walked off.

As she left she heard Roger ask Xander if it had been PMT. 'Stupid men, and stupid non air-conditioned cars!!!'

Xander called after her, "Amy, where you off to?"

Amy stopped walking and turned around to face them, "I need a drink."

"Good idea, I'll come with you."

"Not that kind."

"Oh... well in that case I'll have a Coke."

"Yeah, me too." Xander added.

Amy returned a few minutes later with three ice-cold cokes. Handing one to each of the guys, she asked, "So where do we find this demon then?"

"Probably seem friendlier if you don't call them 'That Demon', least not to their face anywyay." Xander replied but nodded his head, indicating Roger knew.

"Well?" She tried not to sound annoyed; but standing in the sun for no apparent reason, didn't sound like a good plan to her.

"There's a guy in town that knows where they live."

Amy looked on incredulously. "They? As in more than one? And they live here?"

"Seems unlike your good self it seems that the Conv.. Confer... Con.... the demons actually require this level of sunlight to be at peak effiecency. Least that's what our contact told me."

"And they're friendly with the locals?" Xander queried.

"Yep nothing to worry about. Apart from how they look... their skins a bit rough or so I'm told."

"I''ve been told that they have proved very helpful in the past."

"Sounds like it could be our guy..." Xander paused and reconsidered as he remembered it was 'demons' plural, "well one of them might be anyway."

Amy, for the most part, just looked overjoyed. "Friendly demons.... at last!!!"

"The last one was friendly." Xander corrected her.

"He told us to get out."

"Asking us to leave is not considered unfriendly behaviour for a demon. Unsocialable I'll give you, but not unfriendly."

Roger looked interested, "What would you consider unfriendly?"

Xander smiled a really evil smile. "Drinking you dry, stealing organs or limbs, beating you with your own weapon, anything that results in bodily harm. My own personal favourite is of course, gauging your eye out."

Roger looked horrified, "You lost that in a fight with a demon? You told me, you lost it in an accident!"

"I did, I was concentrating on other things and accidently let him get hold of me. Oh, and it wasn't a demon as such."

Amy had heard some of the story from Dawn, but wasn't aware if Xander knew that or not.

Meanwhile, Roger was coming up with other options. "Then what was it? Werewolf..? Witch..? Robot..?" Finding himself quickly running out of demon alternatives he quietly finished with, "Errmmm... Leprachaun..?"

Amy decided to intervene, "According to the official Watcher reports that Giles submitted; it was some kind of super-powered emissary for the First."

"His name was Caleb. He was some sort of ex-preacher that had been recruited by The First."

Further explanations of his story would have to wait as an overweight black man in his late fifties approached them. "Mr. Craddle, these must be your colleagues. I wasn't sure if you were coming, I'd expected you over an hour ago."

"Mr. Adonale, this is Mr. Harris and Miss. Davies." Amy watched as Mr. Adonale made his way over to them, 'Seems friendly enough, least he's not leering at me like most of Roger's friends.'

Xander was quick to shake his hand, "Please call me Xander, or Alex if you prefer."

Amy was next to be introduced, "And I'm Amy."

"You must all call me Shote." Then looking back at Roger, "Except you, you still have to call me Mr. Adonale."

Roger grinned then mock bowed, "At your service sir."

Shote smiled back, and once Roger had stood back up, shook his hand vigourously.

"Shote, you old miser, how long has it been?"

"About six years. I thought you would have come to see me before now."

"Once I got removed from her majesty's service I found myself at a loose end. England shipped me back old boy. Tried to get me some councilling, but they couldn't get me to deny what I'd seen."

Amy had to stifle a laugh as she realised Roger tried to phrase 'her majesty's service' so that it sounded like a spy-type role, instead of simply the ambassador post he'd actually been doing. 'The only thing Roger has in common with double-o-seven is the fact he's English, his age and the probable liver damage. Which, admittedly, is more than most people.'

"You seriously trying to tell me that the British Government does not believe in demons?" Shote queried in disbelief.

"Not the department I was with anyay. Seems I got flagged by some other department though. Call themselves Watchers; very into the 'alternative' society, so I'm led to be informed."

Amy was beginning to perspire in the heat, "Roger, the Watchers Council is in no way affilia..."

"Your young lady friend is right," Shote interrupted, "the Watchers are not connected to your government in any way. They've been around far longer than that."

At the last sentence Amy felt her head prick up to show greater signs of attention. Across from her, she could see Xander doing the same. Roger seemingly was oblivious.

"How come you seem to know more about everything I'm into, than I do?" Roger asked.

Shote just grinned, "It's too hot for that type of discussion out here. Let's go inside for a drink."

"Now you're talking my language."

They entered a small pub, as they approached the bar, Shote informed them, "If you'd arrived on time you would have been meeting the Converslacts in here."

Amy butted in with, "Converslacts? Is that their name or breed?"

"I don't know dear, that's just what we call them as a couple."

Xander felt he had to ask, "They're a couple? As in regular, living-here-together style human-type of couple?"

"Yes. But anyway they've gone home now."

Amy just glared daggers at the back of Roger's neck, while Roger asked. "Home, where's that some alternative dimension?"

"A cave by the shore?" Xander asked hopefully.

"Ermmm, no... they live two blocks that way. The green house with the exceptionally large doors."

Shote had attracted the barmans attention and was ordering drinks for everyone. Xander had refused the offer an alcoholic beverage and requested some juice instead. "Driving." He explained as he mimicked the steering motion with his hands.

Amy requested a fruit juice as well, though she was hardly paying attention as she was deep in thought what Shote had said. 'Converslacts - close enough to be considered a check... Lives in towns, alongside humans - check... Not a threat - check... Likes heat and hot climates - check... One last thing need to confirm....' "So how exactly do they 'help' the locals? Do they grant wishes or do they...?"

"No my dear, they make it rain..."

'Of course,' Amy thought, 'occasionally needs to get wet; if they are unable to live close enough to an ocean to do so, they are able to manipulate weather patterns to guarantee rain - check... would be very useful to the locals.' She turned to Xander, "Not our demon, they're Converslacts as the man said, their more common name is Confslack though. Can pass for human unless you take a real close look. Definitely not the demon that Spike went to see, no wishing powers."

Xander looked disappointed. "Ahh well." Amy looked incredibly disappointed, "We can go speak to them if you want?"

Amy perked up, but then reasoned. "I don't think we should bother them. Neither are the one we're looking for."

Xander smiled at her, "But as you said earlier, you've seen a demon on almost every trip you've been on. Who am I to disappoint now?" he said winking.


Xander turned to face Shote, "If you would be so kind, we would still like to meet the Confslacks."

Amy hissed from his side. "Converslacts!"

"That's what I said."

With that they all moved over to the table to finish their drinks, while Shote called the Converslacts to check if they were still available if he brought some guests over.


An hour later Roger found himself following the other as they walked over to the Converslacts house.

He'd offered to stay in the bar, while Xander took Amy to see the shiny demons, but had been outvoted or overruled. He had a feeling Shote was forcing him to come along.

'I don't like demons. They're scary, they don't look right and some of them eat people. I know I got this job based on the fact that I'd had run-ins with African demons in the past, but the main word in that sentence was 'run'. It accurately described my reaction to meeting nearly every demon so far.' "Take Amy she wants to go." had been his counter, but still he'd been told that they were all going.

This definitely smelt like something Shote would have cooked up for him. 'I know I didn't take the existence of demons very well when I first found out, but nearly everyone I'd told had flat out called me a drunken liar. So I tried to keep it quiet and get on with my job, like any self-respecting Englishman, but there was always that nagging doubt that what I'd seen that night was real, and wasn't a figment of my imbibed imagination. Of course, a few days later, when I'm struggling to write it off as a bad experience, I accidently mention it to Shote. True, I had gotten exceptionally drunk and then mentioned it in a rant about piranhas, but still, that was no excuse for what he did.'

Roger continued to glare at the back of Shote's head as they walked the remaining distance to the Converslacts. 'What sort of name is Converslact anyway? I don't want to go... I'm far too sober for this. Not that being 'very' drunk had helped last time.' He admitted to himself. 'I'd still have my job if it wasn't for Shote. I mean come on, a man tells you about demons; you laugh at him... or you listen intently and make fun of him to your friends later. If you want to help, you take him to a psychiatrist.' Very similar to what his superiors had forced him to do. 'If a man comes to you and talks to him about demons; a man admitting that he feels like an outsider in his job, a man pouring his heart out to you over a shared bottle of whiskey. What you absolutely do not do, under any circumstances, is what Shote did. I mean humouring him is one thing; and if you do humour him, you don't mean it, you just go along with it as if your taking him to a crazy person, which in fact you are. You may nod your head, you may verbally agree with him, you may tell or, if find yourself short, indeed make up similar stories to show you're on their wavelength. What you absolutely do not do is tell them you're on their wavelength, and then fucking PROVE it by taking them to a demon bar.'

He took a deep breath as he forced himself to see the other side of the story.

'Okay, so Shote was in his own way trying to help me come to terms with what I'd discovered. That's fine in theory. In fact that IS the measure of a true friend. But you build up to it. You help them conquer their fears and insecurities regarding their own sanity. You build them up to it slowly, and give them adequate warning. Let me just state for the record that, "Let's go in here it's open 'til dawn." is not considered adequate warning.'

Roger shook his head from his depressing thoughts and caught up with the others. "So... what sort of demon you got for this time?" he asked as joyfully as he could.

Shote turned to him. "Can you stop referring to them as demons. They're the Converslacts. They also go by Greg and Marsha."

Roger noticed Amy's head whip round. "Greg and Marsha?"

Never one to pass up on some potential Amy-teasing, he couldn't resist. "See, not that exiting when the demons are just regular people, eh?"

Xander stepped into the middle before the latest bout began. "Look what I've learnt over my years, is that demons come with as many different intentions as they do shapes and sizes."

"I've read a lot from Watcher reference material, that's quite a broad range. So, what you're basically saying, is that there is no standard behavioural pattern for people to expect when meeting demons. And if that is true, then so must be the opposite; people can't really show a standard behavioural pattern either when they first meet them."

Roger watched as Xander fumbled, "I guess."

"Therefore, logically, my willinglness to meet them is as equally valid as your cynical outlook, and Roger's overwhelming fear."

Roger spluttered. "I wouldn't say 'afraid'." He coughed and cleared his throat, "I wouldn't say I was afraid of them. I was just being careful."

Xander interrupted. "You need to ask yourself one thing. Can you ensure your safety to the best of your ability with the situation you find yourself in?" He paused before continuing, "That is the only thing that matters. And that goes for people as well as demons. A soul does not guarantee good behaviour, certainly not any more than not having a soul guarantees bad."

Roger looked to Shote again. "You sure these ones are safe?"

Shote turned to grin at him. "As safe as I can guarantee you three are."

Xander nodded in response.

But Shote continued, "Though I am concerned as to where you got the notion that demons don't have souls."

Roger watched as Xander began formulating his response. Just as it looked like Xander had a comeback, Shote interrupted.

"Here we are."

Roger watched in anticipation as Shote knocked on the door. He looked across at Xander who still seemed like he wanted to continue the argument, and then looked to Amy who looked as excited as he felt tense. They could hear the sound of footsteps approaching the front door, from the sounds made the person sounded heavy. He felt both himself and Amy move subconsciously closer to one another.

The door opened suddenly, and a man stepped outside. Roger blinked, the man didn't look like a demon, he looked like a large powerfully built man. Possibly just outsizing Xander in height by a few inches, he definitely didn't look like he could have been responsible for the large footsteps they'd heard. He heard Shote speaking to the man in the local dialect, he wasn't fluent in it himself but understood enough to know that Shote was seemingly explaining who they all were, he turned to Amy and asked. "Where's the demon?"

She hissed back, "That is the demon, looks human but the skin is made of completely different materials, you only really notice it if you touch it."

"He couldn't have made that much noise."

"Confslacks can weigh up to a metric ton and a half." Amy rattled off next to him, seemingly from memory. "But look how friendly he is. You're not still scared?"

"Not at the moment." He couldn't stop himself from flinching slightly when the guy lifted his arm up. He felt really stupid when it turned out he was just calling them all over.

As they approached the two 'men', Roger found himself close enough to hear some of the conversation. He heard the demon-man say "comes the wife." Just as another 'person' arrived at the door, Roger found himself pausing in his stride.

Roger watched as the demon-man explained to the demon-woman who they all were, or at least that's what he thought they were doing, they weren't speaking in a language he understood. He saw the demon-woman turn to face himself and Amy, and wave them over, Amy quickly waved back and left his side to head over to them, Roger reluctantly followed.

However, the look on the demon-woman's face changed as she noticed Xander. She blinked for a few moments, seemingly confused, before letting out an almighty roar as she charged straight at him.

Chapter 2

Mid-afternoon The next day.

The first thing Roger heard when he awoke was a heated debate. Not recognising any of the voices he decided to chance opening his eyes. All he could see was Xander sprawled out across a sofa in the living room.

'Why is Xander alseep in on the sofa?'

Stretching out to free the kinks in his neck, he also realised. 'Why was I alseep on the other sofa?'

Turning to try and locate the source of the noise, he noticed the television was still on. Risking movement he crawled across to where the off button was. Pressing it, the noise stopped. 'Thank you.'

Xander started to fidget.

"I guess at least one of you is up then." he heard from somewhere.


Roger sat up, resting his back against the sofa he had been sleeping on. He took a quick look around, but can find no sign of her.

"In the kitchen."

Roger stood up and walked into the other room.

Amy was making some sandwiches. "Want one?"

"No thanks."

"How's the hangover today?"

"Think I slept through the worst of it. What's up with Xander?"

Amy paused. "You don't remember?"

Roger looked around blankly. "Let's assume not."

"You two went on a serious session once you got back."

"I take it you didn't join us."

"I had a few but really wasn't in the mood."

"It's not like Xander to be in the mood."

"I think he was drinking to forget something."

"Ohhh..." Roger tried to recollect, "Okay, I give in what did I do this time?"

Amy patted his arm reassuringly. "Trust me. It wasn't you, okay."

There was a cough from behind them, "Eugh... my tongue tastes horrible."

Roger turned to the new voice. "Hey Xander."

Xander grunted in reply. He sat down at the table as Amy handed him a fruit juice. He looked up gratefully.

"Sooo....." Amy began.

Roger watched as Xander tried to muster up some enthusiasm. "So?" was the best he could manage.

"I've been narrowing my search to the more southern countries. Specifically those with beaches and major ports."

Roger shared a look with Xander. Neither seemed to have the first idea what she was talking about.

"Okay," Roger ventured. "That's great."

Amy suddenly turned to him "You."


"From you, I need Shote's phone number."

Xander interrupted. "We've been to see those demons. They weren't the one we're looking for, remember?"

"They told us that major wish demons generally live at the south of the continent."

"They did?" Roger queried. At Amy's look. "Fine. I'll get Shote's number now." He quickly popped into his room to fetch his mobile.

Scrolling through the numbers he quickly found Shote's.

He handed it to Amy, who pressed dial and went into the living room to make the call.

Turning to Xander, who was quietly leaning on a pile of books. "Do you know what she's on about?"


"Wanna Aspirin?"



Amy finished her call, and went back to see the others.

Xander was drinking Aspirin, and Roger was starting on her sandwich.

"I asked you if you wan... forget it. I've spoken to Shote. He's come up with the twelve most likely options."

Amy watched as Xander looked at her. "So why did Shote... why didn't he come up with a list before?"

"Cos someone," she paused to shoot Roger a look, "didn't actually describe what we were looking for properly."

Amy watched him fidget under both her's and Xander's glare. "I told him we were looking for a helpful demon."

Xander held his head in his hands. "Wish Demon. Use the phrase Wish-Demon. It may help narrow it down some."

"So... any idea which order we see these things." Roger began planning a road trip.

"I think research may be in order." At Xander's look she continued, "Shote's going to email a list of contacts for each area once he's contacted them. If we can narrow it down before we start going all over the continent, it might save us some time."

Xander smiled, "Okay. So what questions do we want to ask these guys?"

Amy chipped in with, "Firstly, does the demon live in a cave?" This was definitely her sort of thing.

Xander followed suit. "Have they been visited by a vampire? Or if they don't know, would they grant wishes to other demons?"

Amy continued. "How does it grant the wishes? Make sure the wisher is going to take some challenges and not just turn up with a gift or sacrifice or something."

To Amy's surprise, Roger amended one of the previous comments. "The demon doesn't actually have to live in a cave. They just need to grant wishes from one. Or more specifically, have been in Africa granting wishes from one sometime last year. Can't we be more specific than a year?"

Xander replied with, "Summertime. He was back by the time the school year started."

"Okay... what else?"

Roger countered with, "We need to be sure that they are powerful enough to give a vampire a soul."

Amy explained, "These are the most powerful ones Shote knows of. If they're not on this list then we'll go to the next level down and start again."

Xander thought about it. "I'm not even sure how powerful they have to be to ensoul a vampire. The fact that a vampire once had a soul probably makes it easier than say ensouling another type of demon."

"I'd have still thought ensouling a vampire took power."

"My friend Willow was able to do it as one of her first spells. She had the actual spell translated for her by her computer teacher."

Roger thought about it, "So not much power needed then?" Then he thought about it some more. "Hang on, her COMPUTER teacher taught her the spell?"

Amy thought back to the watcher files she'd read. "The same Willow who later..."

"Yes that one. And Ms Calendar was a techno-pagan."

"And they employ one of those in all American high-schools?"

"I doubt it, it's probably only in schools which reside on a hellmouth."

Amy thought about it. "There are lots of mystical hotspots around the planet. Some have definitely had hellmouth level potential over the years. So you reckon, schools in these areas could all be at risk?"

"I don't know. The only other hellmouth I was aware of was in Cleveland. The only students I know that went there, were the slayers we sent."

"Probably had a headmaster that was a zombie or something." Roger joked.

"Wouldn't be surprised." Xander retorted. "our biology teacher was a giant bug."

Roger laughed 'til he saw Xander's face.

Amy had to ask, "But the headmaster was normal right?"

"I think so, least 'til he got eaten by some bullies. Snyder was a bit weird though."

"Snyder? That the headmaster?"


Amy felt she had to clarify, "And this principal got eaten by some bullies?"

"What sort of bullies were at your school? Were these zombie bullies or something?"

"No Flutie got eaten by the bullies. Snyder got eaten by a snake."

"Well," Amy began. "Giles's journals certainly differ in perspective from your versions."

"So he's exagerrating?" Roger asked hopefully.

"No. It's just Giles goes into the ritual of an Ascension and all it entailed. Xander just summarises it as "Principal gets eaten by giant snake'."

"It was a giant snake?"

"Yes." both Xander and Amy shouted at him.

Roger held up his hands. "Chill. I don't know all that stuff. Amy have you got access to these journals, especially ones where zombie bullies eat teachers."

"They weren't zombie bullies. They were hyenas."

"I can get you electronic copies if you want?"

"Don't really like using computers, you couldn't print the.... you had hyenas in your school? What is this some twisted version of the Lion King?"

"They weren't real hyenas. They were in the zoo."

"You're talking about the possession incident, aren't you?"

"Read about that, did you?"

"Well it was one of Giles's first entries that mentioned you in detail. And you were the person I was being sent to work for."

"So... this entry... reported how you stopped the possessed students from eating any more teachers?"

"I was possessed as well."

"You ate your headmaster?"


"So you didn't eat anybody?"

"Just the mascot."

"You ate a fellow student?"

"Not that type of mascot. Ours was a pig."

"Okay... Your school sounds very scary."

"If I'm being honest, it's probably no worse than the one in Cleveland."

"Where you sent these... slayers? Aren't you worried for them?"

Xander thought about it, "Not really no. They can handle themselves and they've got good backup."

"So these slayers... some sort of american football team eh?" Roger did a very fake macho pose, "The Slayers... wuh..." at Xander's look, "No..? Martial arts team perhaps?"

Amy decided to explain. "They're a bunch of teenage girls who ca.."

Xander interrupted her, "...they look like the sexiest cheerleading squad you can imagine."

Amy turned to face him, and his smile told her he was enjoying this far too much.

"You sent *girls* into the school from hell?"

"'School On Hell' I think is a more accurate description. Though from what Giles said, I don't think their school is actually on the hellmouth."

This was news to Amy, "You don't think?"

"The opening of the hellmouth isn't actually directly underneath the school. I remember hearing that when we first moved out there. They hadn't located it by the time I left, and I can't say I've asked since." At Amy's look, "They're doing their tasks, I'm doing mine."

"But still they're just girls."

Amy was quick to snap at him. "Don't you give me that *just girls* crap! These are slayers, they could kick your arse without breaking a sweat."

"Look, I'm didn't mean no offence. But you can't send children into areas like that without adult supervision. No matter how many self defence classes they've been to."

Suddenly, realisation dawned on Amy. "You don't even know what a slayer is..."

"I'm sure they can handle themselves, but..."

She looked over to where Xander was trying not to burst out laughing. "They're a bunch of mystically empowered young girls who have been given the ability to fight demons." She began to recite from memory, "In each generation a slayer is born, one who is chosen to..."

"You said slay-ers. As in plural."

"See, he is paying attention."

"Well," Amy stammered. "Previously, for centuries there has only been one. She fights alone sort of thing." She saw the looks the others were giving her. "Recently a spell was performed that allowed this power to be shared out amongst lots of other girls."

"So why haven't you got it?"

"Cos I was a watcher, not a potential."

"Okay... what's a potential?"

"Never mind." Roger patiently listened, "There aren't any, not any more. They're all Slayers now."

"Right, let's assume I understood that. So where there was one, there is now many?"



Amy and Roger both turned to Xander, "What?"

Xander waggled his eyebrows. "Where there were Two, there is now many." he corrected.

Amy chastised herself for forgetting. "Of course."

"So." Roger paused to get his thoughts in order. "There always used to be one right? In each generation?" At their nods he continued. "But then there were two?"

Again they nodded.

"So what's the deal? I take it it's a family thing. Oldest daughter gets the power, so last generation there were twins right and it split the power and now the twi..." seeing the looks on their faces caused him to drop off that line of reasoning.

"It's more of a 'one dies, another is called' sort of thing. And it doesn't really travel in families."

It was Xander's turn to ask a question. "It kinda travelled in families?"

Amy explained, "If your mother was a potential and not called, then you had a good chance of being one too." At their looks, she amended, "Least if you were a girl."

"So..." Roger began again. "At one point each slayer died, and another was called. I'm right so far?" Another set of nods. "Then one died and two were called?" Frantic shaking of heads. "Explain it to me."

Amy waited to see if Xander was going to do it, 'It was his finest hour after all.' When no response came she explained it herself, "One died and another was called. Same as always. But the first was able to be brought back." Amy watched Xander's face through all that and was amazed when nothing shone through. Least not until she was able to establish contact with his remaining eye. It was when she was looking at him, that he figured she must have read about that incident too.

Roger missed this byplay completely. "Okay, so now we have two where there should only be one. So it's already screwed, so next time one of them died the power went to lots of girls instead of one." Seeing their disapproving looks.

"One died, and another was called."

"So nothing's changed?"

"Apart from there still being two." Xander explained.

"I give up. Unless... they both died at the same time in a major battle and that's what caused it to screw up."

"No. I mean one of them died in a major battle, but the other was still alive."

"So another was called and we're back to two again."

"No, this time we were back to one."

"You're changing the rules."

Amy continued as Xander suddenly went deep in thought. "But the remaining one was in jail. So they had to bring the other one back using magic."

"Hang on, you just can't throw a jail-sentence in at this point."

"And before you suggest that magically bringing someone back caused the mass empowerment it didn't."

"So she died again and this time it was ma.."

"No. They both stayed alive. They found this scythe, and they used magic to power the scythe to empower all the potentials."

"You cannot throw in jail-sentences, magical scythes and first there was one, then two, then back to one again and hello here's lots of them... how was I supposed to guess all that?"

"You weren't supposed to guess any of it, we were explaining it to you."

Amy noted Xander had moved to sit back down. 'Hangover must be kicking in,' she reasoned 'there has been a lot of shouting going on.'

"Not very well..." Roger muttered under his breath.

"You didn't even know about slayers!"

"I wasn't employed to know about slayers. I was employed to know about demons in Africa. Seems you had demons in America completely covered with Xander and his school exploits."

Xander looked up at the latest comment, but still didn't say anything.

Amy looked decisive. "Right, we need to get you up to speed. I'll get Giles' journals online and try to explain as much as I can."

As she was leaving the room, she heard Roger speak to Xander. "You know after all that, I'm still not fully aware what a Slayer is."


Roger was still reading Giles' journals, when Amy walked in requesting he check the email.

'Third time this hour. Chill girl. Shote will send the info when he has it.' Roger reluctantly handed the laptop over.

Amy smiled, as she logged into their shared email account, she asked him. "Thought you hated these things?"

Roger admitted. "I've been catching up on his adventures. That is not a normal school. How the hell did he not realise it 'til he was fifteen?"

"So enjoying yourself then?"

"Stories are vaguer than I'd like but I'm starting to see where Xander comes from."

Amy looked shocked, "Vaguer than you'd like? These are the collected journals of Rupert Giles prior to his dismissal from the council."

"I've read most of them. They're quite short. Like this one referring to the Angel character. It says here he lost his soul, and returned to the Angelus character. Now that might explain why Xander's so worried about the Spike scenario but it doesn't mention anything about how he lost his soul or why Angelus is *soo* scary that they had to highlight him in blue. I've noticed they do that for a few vampires and some other specific demons. The Master, blue. Spike, blue. Drusilla, blue."

Amy paused. "Sorry... it's just... show me how you use this thing."

Roger took the laptop back. He opened a random entry.

Amy watched over his shoulder.


Watcher chronicle: #25523455-187723

Watcher: Rupert Giles

Slayer: Buffy Summers

From the Journals of Rupert Giles:

Kendra arrived in town last night. Briefly facing off against Buffy, a fight in which neither of them were seriously hurt, she informed us as to her identity. During the discussion as we came to the conclusion what had caused Kendra to be activated, we discovered that in her haste, Kendra had had a run in with Angel.

They promptly left to discover what had happened to Angel since Kendra's departure.


"And?" Amy prompted.

"I'm not stupid you know." Roger countered. "You then use the page-down button to read the rest. Simple."

"And you've read all of them?"

"Well it doesn't take long."

"Okay... Right, see this bit here, where both the watcher chronicle number and the 'From the Journals of' bit are highlighted in blue and underlined."


"That's a hyperlink."


"Do you even know what a hyperlink is?"

"Let's assume I don't."

"well instead of hitting page down if you move the cursor over the blue writing then notice it changes."

"Can you stop talking to me like I'm a child?"

"Sorry, couldn't help myself." She teased. "Click that and the following happens."

Roger watched as a new document started up.


Watcher chronicle: #25523455-187723

Watcher: Rupert Giles

Slayer: Buffy Summers

Buffy greeted me first thing this morning with a strange new girl in tow. Not sure as to the reason for their visit, I portrayed the librarian role that I was assigned to do in such situations.

Buffy told me to relax. She then informed me that Kendra already knew about slayers. Obviously, I reminded her that although I had allowed some leniency regarding some of the others who were aware of her identity; that she should not be taking that as a general invite into the group.

Buffy seemed quick to correct me that she didn't tell Kendra anything. Uncertain as to who to blame for this slip as none of the other students had had the decency to accompany Buffy when she came to inform me, I was deep in thought of appropriate reprimands when I misheard what she told me. She repeated it. I hadn't misheard.

Kendra was a vampire slayer.

Buffy even offered to fight her one-on-one to prove they weren't lying. A few more subtle tests regarding strength were appropriate. Her accuracy with weapons was equal to Buffy's.

I managed to contact Kendra's watcher, a Mr S. Zabuto, and establish the reason for Kendra's appearance in Sunnydale. He informed me that they'd realised the warning concerned the hellmouth, and as such dispatched Kendra immediately. Mr Zabuto informed me that he'd been raising Kendra as one of the many identified potentials when she'd come to him believing she'd been called. He hadn't been aware that this hellmouth was currently guarded, or in fact that Buffy was still alive. After reporting the activation of his potential as per procedure, they'd simply been assigned to a local hot spot, and been working from there for the previous few months.

Shortly afterward Willow arrived, and between us we all managed to decipher the reason behind Kendra's calling.


'It's massive.' Roger thought, as he stared at the scroll bar at the right hand side.

"Watcher's are requested to send both a detailed report and summary sheet of all incidents they find worthy of mention."

'So, I've got to read it all?'

Amy returned to the previous page. "Now see these names at the top, which are also highlighted?" Roger nodded, "These provide a link to the following. Here you can find out just about everything you'd require; for Giles you'd be given various reports throughout the years on both academic achievement, pysche profiles, assignments given, etc. For Buffy, similar again; when called, when died, where assigned, known achievements. And for both a complete list of all chronicle entries they appear in. In the case of Kendra, she would have any of Giles's chronicle entries she would have appeared in, even though she wasn't assigned to him."


"Okay, well all major people who've done something worthy of notice have similar links. See Angel/Angelus comes up a few times. Basically it links to all killings we've known Angelus was involved in. It also, after discovery of the curse by Rupert Giles, links to Angel and informs of what he's done. Notice its a bit blank for Angel. The watchers, on the whole, weren't too impressed with the idea of a vampire with a soul. Demons get categorised into species. Some are known to be friendly or at least human tolerant, others not so. Having anomalies within a species is not favoured upon."

He gave her a blank look.

"You don't actually have to be online to read Giles' chronicles because I downloaded both versions of each chronicle for you to the desktop. I just figured you could read the summaries and then look into the full version of any that interested you. You will, however, need to be online in order to get access to a lot of the links not directly related to the Giles/Buffy chronicles, consisting of Xander's further adventures."

"Okay." 'My head is starting to hurt.' "So... Xander had chronicles just about himself? Can I just read those instead?"

"Sorry, I mustn't have explained that properly. Xander is neither a watcher nor a slayer, as such the only chronicles he would be mentioned in belong to either Rupert Giles or those of Wesley Wyndham-Price. I have not included either Mr Wyndham-Price's chronicles, or the chronicles that were provided once Giles returned to active service as a field watcher. To get to those you would also have to be online, which isn't a problem at the moment as we are awaiting an email from..." Amy became distracted, Roger looked over her shoulder. Even he recognised the flashing email sign in the bottom right corner.

'Thank god. She might leave me alone now.'

Amy opened the email and began to read.


Xander got out of the shower. Walking back to his room, he turned to see Amy staring at him.

"She got an email." He heard from the kitchen. Roger came back into the living room and handed them all a coke.

"Shote?" Xander asked.

"Giles." was Amy's response.

"Giles?" Xander thought back to why Giles would be contacting them.

"He's come up with a way to start afresh."


"You asked about..."

"Oh yeah." Xander remembered. "What did he come up with?"

"It turns out that they no longer need the box."

"What box?" both Roger and Xander asked at the same time.

"I was hoping you could tell me."

'Eh?' "Did Giles say any more?"

"Yes, erm, it's the box that Buffy used for her vision quest. Well, not the normal vision quest they go on, but the one that Robin W..."

"Ahhh, Robin's mom's box." Xander winced. 'Really should have worded that better.'

"Erm," Roger began. "For those of us not in the know, you know the ones that only figured out what a slayer is and how to properly read a watcher's report earlier today. What exactly is this box, and how is it supposed to help us?"

"Good question," Xander thought, "for which I have no idea."

"It's hand crafted. Giles thought it might be possible to see if anyone recognises any of the symbols on it."

"Possible, and the best we've got in a bad situation really. Anything else?"

"Giles mentions that he's having problems with a lot of the earliest watcher chronicles."

"What sort of problems?"

"The assignments of slayers can sometimes miss many years, a couple of times only one or two were found in a century."

"Okay.... What does that mean?"

"The speech, you know the speech, right?"

Xander tried to think of a specific one. "Care to narrow it down a little." he said with a confused look on his face.

"The 'one girl in all the world' speech."

"Yeah, you both told it me this morning."

"Well, THAT speech, in that, it specifically mentions there only being one girl in each generation."

"I didn't mention it to them, but what if what Roger was mentioning this morning was true?"

"Which bit?"

"About it being a family thing."

Xander just looked confused, "You've lost me." Roger's nodding indicated she'd lost him too.

"What if it was originally just a family thing? But eventually there were no more members of that family."

"Wouldn't it die off?"

"Not if what Roger said had been true, eldest girl and all that. What if, in one generation, the girl died before she could have children, and what if she'd had no sisters."

"What are you suggesting?"

"That the line had always been continuing via all the other siblings of each slayer. And that when it reached a dead point it simply had to find others who shared the genes. If you went back along the line and checked out the descendants of each other branch of the family tree, you'd get a fairly diverse amount of people who could be potentials."

"It's worth considering. Reply to Giles, tell him the theory. Get Roger and Steven in on it too. Tell them to help. We can't use them much until we get something back from Shote anyway."


A few hours later.

Amy had re-read Giles email.

Xander returned from the kitchen with the night's food. "Anything?" he asked, handing it out to both Amy and Roger as they sat on sofas.

"Another from Giles."

"And?" he said returning with his own meal.

"He commented that they hadn't thought of that. But the theory doesn't seem to match other chronicles."

"In what way?" Roger asked, through a mouthful of food.

Amy had organised herself so that the food was on her lap, and the laptop was on the arm of the sofa. "A lot of chronicles, written prior to the missing century, showed girls that were called being discovered within a few months of one another."

"Maybe it happened before that."

"What's the earliest chronicle dated as?" Roger asked.

"That's where it gets weirder."

"It gets weirder?" Xander asked, 'Of course it gets weirder, you've been doing this for how many years now.'

"Some of them have been carbon-dated to prove they weren't fakes."


"They seem to have been written as early as the eighth century BC."

"And that's weird how?"

"Reports don't get constant 'til about the third century AD."

"So we have a gap spanning over a millenia with only a few entries, but no one worries about that. But the fact that we have a century with the same is quite worrying?"

Roger looked lost, "Are you sure it isn't the watchers that are weird?"

"With you there."

Xander laughed as Amy glared at both of them.

"Giles had different teams trying to cover an overall history of the watchers council. It was supposed to help with us covering an overall idea of the slayer line."


"There are council entries for the sixth to seventh century AD, which is when we seemed to have no slayers."


"They don't mention the lack of slayers at all. It's like they either expected it or they weren't worried."


"Giles is getting people to look into it in detail. He figures the earlier ones may have been destroyed due to age. But the fact that is that these other chronicles survived that same era, whereas all slayer documentation is lost."

"This is just getting weirder."

"That's what Giles said."


Xander was watching television. He hadn't understood a thing so far, but Roger seemed to like it.

Amy came bursting in, "They emailed us."


"Shote and Giles."

Thankful of the distraction, Xander moved away from the television set.

"What's Giles thinking now?"

"Oh, this isn't Slayer-related this is Spike-related."

"Spike? We've been okay with our Spike search so far."

"He's got something that might help us."

"What is it?"

"He didn't say. He just said it would arrive at the same time as the box should."

"And when does that arrive?"

"In two days."

"Okay..." Xander reasoned, 'It's not like Giles to hide something from us.' "Then I'll guess we'll find out in two days. What was Shote's news?"

"He's called around for us."

"I thought we were going to do that?"

"I gave him the list of questions." At his look, "I was bored."

"Just how long have you been watching that laptop for?"

"Shhhh. Anyway, he's come up with two likely sites."

"Two? Well that's certainly narrowed it down a bit."

Xander could here the television suddenly get turned off in the other room. Roger walked in and joined them. "Told you that was funny."

'Didn't seem that funny. Would have been funnier if I'd got to goof around and make up my own words to it.' He smiled at the memory.

"Ahh, work stuff."

"Yes Roger, work stuff."

"Chill Amy. Just cos I wasn't as worried as you, doesn't mean I'm not interested. So what's going on?"

"Tomorrow we're going to meet Shote in Namibe. It's the first place he suggests going."

"Excellent... another random road trip." At glares from both the others Roger queried, "What?"

"It's the first stop in a list."

He kept looking between Xander and Amy, "You're both looking far too excited."

Amy's excited shriek, "A list of two."

"That's a short list."

"I know... we meet him in Namibe tomorrow, and we'll have to head out to Maputo on our own in a few days."

"Why not do both in a round trip?"

"The first one may be correct. Anyways, we've got to pick up a delivery the day after."


"Some mystical box that enabled Buffy to see the origin of the Slayer."

"What??" This was from Amy.

"Erm... what?"

Amy couldn't believe this hadn't been mentioned before, "Buffy's seen the origin of the Slayer? If she's seen that, then what are we looking for?"

"We're trying to establish if its true."

Roger looked between them, "Is this just me, or do you lot just continue to change the story each time I get up in the morning?"


"You heard."

"we're not making this up." Amy turned to meet Xander's gaze. "Tell him."

"I never thought we were."

"So why don't you trust the box?"

"We don't trust the box?"

"I don't trust it, because, prior to that point, Giles had never mentioned knowing of the Slayer origins."

"Did he ever hint at a missing box?"

Xander thought about it, "No."

"So you think Giles is lying to us?"

This one was certain, "No!!"

Roger tried to calm everyone down. "So what do you think?"

"I think they lied to Giles. I think the people directly responsible for lying to Giles, were those that got destroyed in the attack by the First. Because they didn't trust Giles with information, it is now lost to us. Possibly forever."

Roger dared himself, "Okay, just playing devil's advocate here; Why are you sure that Giles isn't lying to us, but are more willing to believe that others are?"

"Cos I know Giles, and I also knew enough about Travers."

Amy squeaked, "Quentin Travers?"

"You've heard of him then?"

"Yes, but what makes him less trustworthy than Giles?"

Xander decided to provide the truth. "He fired Giles for becoming too close to Buffy."

"Giles wouldn't perform the Cruciamentum."

"Giles performed the Cruciamentum!" then in a more calm voice, "It almost cost him everything. Buffy's trust. Joyce's life. Everything."

"Joyce?" Roger quickly glanced at Amy for advice, but didn't see any sign of recognition in her eyes.

"Buffy's mom."

Amy looked appalled. "He risked Buffy's mum's life?"

"You didn't know?" At her look he continued, "She ended up being part of the trap. The vamp, whatever he was called, tracked Buffy down to her house, but she wasn't home. We think Joyce was."

"That didn't make it into the Watchers chronicle."

Xander looked shocked, "It didn't?"

"I don't think so."

"It resulted in the firing of a senior field officer. Basically, access to chronicles of that type wouldn't be granted easily. I read the summary though, they are always made available, and no mention of a civilian was made. I read it as part of the hellmouth years, it's Giles's last entry prior to rejoining almost two years later."

"So Travers doctored the report?"

"I'd doubt that. They'd both have to send in their own reports on such a situation, both summaries would be made available, but the full documents wouldn't. But the summary could be worded specifically so that no mention was made, that wouldn't be breaching the rules."

"What does the summary actually say?"

This one a surprise from Roger, "Travers went to Sunnydale. Giles started the Cruciam thing, two watchers died while freeing the vampire. The vampire was destroyed by the slayer, but the test had been declared ineligible due to actions by Giles. Giles had been fired from the council." At Xander's look, "I've read all the summaries, I'm starting to try and figure out this world you've introduced me to."

"Right. Would the full documents be accessible now? Would Giles have the authority to release them so th..."

Roger was staring at him. "Travers is dead right? And Giles is in charge? So what difference would it make?"

Xander deflated. "You're right."

Amy waited until everyone around had calmed down. "Getting back to the box. What exactly is it?"

"I don't know. What has Giles found out about it?"

"Erm, I didn't ask."

"So why is he sending it to us?"

Amy went to her laptop to read the summary of the box they were about to receive. "They've done all the tests they could. Box seems to be of indeterminable age, unknown markings across all six faces of it. Contents were... is this a joke?"

"No. There were definitely puppets in there."

"Okay. There's a book that accompanies it, the book is written in Sumerian and carbon-dating puts it at the same time."

Roger had to ask. "So if the book's Sumerian, is the box?"

"We don't know. The book is mainly a user manual. It could have been written at the time or afterward."

Amy countered, "So the box is at least as old as the book. Unless the book was written in advance like in some prophecies."

"Instruction manual." Roger scoffed, "That's a pretty precise prophecy."

Xander muttered to himself, "I hate prophecies."


The next day

"Everybody up. We've got to see Shote again today."

Xander and Amy walked out of their rooms to look at him in disbelief.

"What? Come on... we've got miles to go today. We're looking at a seven hour journey at least."

Amy looked scared, Xander decided to take pity on her and ask "Can't we fly?"

"That is with flying."


"It's an hour and a half to the airport, then we fly down to Lubango, where we drive for another two hours."

Amy still looked horrified. "So the seven hour journey is the least possible amount of time it can take? Not counting plane delays, car trouble or getting lost."

"I don't think you have a real concept of how big this continent is." He turned to Xander, "You should though."

Xander whispered to Amy, "I've never seen him like this before three pm, is it scaring you too?"

Amy nodded.

"Come on, I'm driving to the airport and Shote's picking us up at the other side."


Several hours later.
The Road to Namibe

This time Xander started, "So this is definitely a wishing demon?"

Shote smiled, while Amy just looked at Xander in disbelief. "This time," she glared at Roger, "we've given Shote all the information and these are his recommendations."

Roger refused to meet her eyes. "I didn't know Shote was *that* into the whole mystical demon thing."

Shote grinned at him, "You never asked."

"Hey, last time I was here, you were having far too much fun shocking me with this world you were introducing me too."

"And that didn't give you the impression that I might know more."

"Xander here," he said indicating Xander, "lived on a hellmouth for most of his life, and was heavily involved for the past half-decade or so. Do I expect him to know where most demons in America may choose to live? No! I just figured you were like that, you knew enough to know how to live amongst them."

Xander disagreed with that assessment, "I did not live amongst them."

Roger turned around, "According to your own tales, you lived with them for a while."

Xander paused and could feel his teeth grinding together. Amy swatted the back of Roger's head with her hand.

"Shit. Sorry. I forgot!! I was referring to the fact that you'd had a vampire rooming with you on several occasions, I forgot about..." Roger left it there.

Xander sighed and felt his entire face un-tense. "No harm no foul."

Amy tactfully changed subject, "So this is Namibe?" She asked as they drove into town.

"Yeah. Quite a small town."

Xander took a quick double take. "Wouldn't the rest of the town be that way?"

Amy looked worried. "Where are we going?"

Roger looked lost.

Shote smiled at the three people giving him questioning looks. "The demon lives in a cave this way. I figured you'd prefer to get there while it's still light."

"Ahhh," Roger conceded. "Good thinking."

"He's guarded by some local villagers."

"Friendly?" Roger thought about some of the political situations he'd been in in Africa before.

"They'll deem if you are worthy of meeting the wishgranter."

"Wishgranter?" Amy asked.

"It's the nearest translation I can provide."

"So nothing more specific, such as species name, other powers, hell even a description?"


Xander found himself falling into the role of supporter, "Don't worry about it Aim."

"It's just that after the last meeting..." she began.

"Again, may I clarify that they were friendly demons."

"But I should have warned everyone about the possible risk."

Roger aided in providing support, "Hey, you learned your lesson; and did so without anyone getting hurt. Seems like a good outcome if you ask me."

Xander smiled, "Me too."

"But what if I fail ne.."

"Amy." Xander said in a serious voice. "We don't expect you to know every single sort of demon there is out there. Nor do we seriously expect you to remember everything you've read about each one." He added in a more comcial tone, " God knows, I've put a mental block on most of the research I had to do during my school years. Think at one point I was putting more hours into demon research than I was into my studies."

He stopped and looked deep in thought.

"Scratch that. I know I was putting more hours into demon research than I was my studies; failing Chemistry didn't normally equate to death." He corrected. "Biology possibly... but not Chem." he said with a wink of his good eye.

The jeep pulled up and parked on the beach.

Shote wordlessly pointed to a group of villagers in huts who were camped out near a rockface. "We're here." was all he said.

Chapter 3

They departed the jeep and the four of them made their way across the sand.

As they approached the group, Shote stopped when they were about twenty feet away, and knelt in the sand. The others shared a look that just screamed 'Are we supposed to be doing that too?'

Roger whispered gently, "Shote, Shote."

Recieving no response he turned to face the others, shrugging his shoulders to indicate he didn't know.

Xander looked around and then came to a decision, he made a 'get down' gesture with both of his hands, and then knelt directly behind Shote.

Unsure of what else to do Roger and Amy knelt on either side of Xander, all three of them a few feet behind Shote.

They remained like this until they heard a noise. Seeing Shote rise to his feet, the others quickly followed suit. Shote raised one hand in the air, one of the men in the group mimicked his action. Another sound was made, this time Xander could tell it was made by the man holding his hand high.

Shote raised his other hand. Suddenly the rest of the group facing them all began to make noises too.

Xander thought to himself 'What the hell is going on?', he was about to ask when Shote spoke first.

"We've been invited to join them. They'll decide if we get to see the elders, let me do the talking."

Roger commented, "This is definitely your party. This, I got no clue about."

Amy asked "Will they let us visit the demon?"

"I don't know. We got invited to join them, now we have to speak to the elders, only they can talk about the demon and not be cursed."

Roger was in disbelief, "Cursed?" Turning to Xander, "You never mentioned we might get cursed."

Xander stopped in his tracks, "I didn't know about the curse." The other two paused near him.

"Erm," Amy stuttered, "We've been talking about this demon for weeks, I think if a curse *is* due we've pretty much earned it by now."

Roger was getting irritable, "Great, that's just fan-fucking-tastic. What does this curse do to people? You know, specifically people who didn't even *know* about the curse." He turned to face Xander angrily.

Xander tried to ease theor minds, "We're aren't sure this is the demon we've been talking about."

"But," Amy began, "we definitely have been talking about this one since Shote found it for us. So that's almost a day."

Roger began to pace worriedly. "Maybe, a day isn't enough... maybe it's like radiation..."

Xander found his thought processes stumped in their tracks. "What?"

"You know."

"Obviously I don't."

"It's okay for you to get an X-Ray, but the doctor stands behind the lead shield."

Amy figured it out first, "You're saying maybe they can't speak about the demon cos they're either too close or they may be tempted to speak about it too often."


Xander found himself speaking before he could stop himself, "What about the elders? They're just as close and they speak about it just as often."

"Dammit... I was making myself feel better. Great... I'm cursed."

Shote returned to them, "Please continue following me. These are a proud people and we have been invited to join them, do not offend them by making them wait."

They began walking again, "Okay, so what can *you* tell us about the curse?" Roger asked.

"I was not aware of it. Now please be quiet; I must apologise for your behaviour."

"For our be..." Roger was cut off as he found Xander's hand clamped around his mouth.

As they arrived at the group, Shote spoke a few short words. Both Xander and Amy immediately glanced towards Roger looking for any confirmation that he recognised the language, he quietly shook his head to indicate he didn't.

The conversation went on for several minutes, and Xander was struggling to keep his attention on the two men talking. 'We've already offended them once. Don't need to do it again by looking bored. Hope the others are doing the same.'

Shortly the conversation was over and they were led to a large tent. Shote went in first, Xander went to follow but was stopped by a large warrior. "Follow my friend." He tried to indicate walking after someone by getting two fingers from each hand to imitate the walking motion, the warrior didn't respond. "Ermm... Roger do you know any words that this guy might understand?"

"Does he look like he's the talkative type?" Roger muttered cynically.

The man in question was dressed in animal furs and stood at the entrance brandishing his spear. 'His arms are thicker than my legs.' Xander realised. 'Definitely not the guy to tangle with.'

Shote shortly reappeared dressed in a similar outfit. As he came out Xander was ushered into the tent.

Xander looked around the tent. There were three sets of animal furs. On the far left where there would have been a fourth set were Shote's clothes. Xander quickly inspected them and realised it was all of his clothing, a further check confirmed it was *all* of them. 'So... commando then.'

Xander quickly changed into the pile next to Shote's, and left his clothes there. As he walked out he saw Roger's questioning look, he mouthed the word 'Strip'.

Roger silently mouthed back, 'All the way?'

Xander nodded.

Roger walked in, Xander heard him mutter about not only being cursed but now having to go bloody starkers once he got in there.

Roger quickly stripped and returned dressed in furs. Amy seemed reluctant to go in.

"What?" Xander whispered in her ear.


"You're not afraid of stripping all the way are you?"

"I've got to take everything off?" She asked a little louder than she intended, they both quickly looked into the eyes of the warrior who hadn't moved at all.

"Look, just do it."

"I'm against fur."

"Amy, get changed or wait by the jeep. Your choice..." Xander commanded.

Amy went in and returned after a few mintues. "Sorry about that," Xandered offered "but we can't offend these people any further."

Satisfied that all were changed the warrior began to walk away. Shote quickly followed. He tried asking questions, but still got no response.

The others followed behind Shote, all walking in single file as they navigated the camp. Amy was playing with the fur draped over her torso, she was trying to make sure it covered everything she wanted to keep covered.

The warrior led them to a larger tent and held it open for them to enter, they did so.

The first thing Xander realised as he entered the tent was it was extremely smokey.


Amy followed the others into the smokey tent. She could feel her eyes getting irritated by the smoke, 'Can't see a thing... and this smoke is definitely affecting me... don't know whether to cough, sneeze or anything really.'

She continued to rub her eyes, 'God it's itchy.' She was having to concentrate far too much on her breathing.

She looked across at Xander, his remaining eye was streaming with water. 'This must be really bad for him, my eye hurts, and I'm taking it in turns as to which one I use.'

Roger sneezed violently next to her. She was trying to resist doing so herself. Shote looked uncomfortable but he was definitely dealing with it better than they were.

As they all tried to regain control of their reactions, she finally noticed the old men sitting opposite watching them without expression.

One of the men, passed a bowl to Shote, and gestured the drinking motion. Shote was the first to drink from it. He passed the bowl to Xander, who also drank, then passed it onto Roger. They all made some strange expression after drinking it.

When the bowl was passed to her, she looked at it, unsure as to whether she wanted to drink the unidentified liquid. She took a sniff but was unable to recognise anything, it smelled vaguely soup-like, she assumed they were asking them to partake in a meal. Remembering Xander's comments about going along or going back, she lifted the bowl to her mouth and took a large gulp.

Her mouth felt on fire, as the liquid poured down she could feel her throat heating up. It was like the strongest shot of whisky she could have imagined. There had been nothing in the smell to warn of such an event. Eventually it seemed to be working its way back out in the form of a burp. 'There is no way I'm burping in front of these people.' as it reached her throat she tried to close it down and stop it being released, as she did that she realised that it was overpowering enough that she might actually vomit. Deciding she could take it no longer she opened up her throat and relaxed.

She felt the gas hit her mouth and nose at the same time. It also seemed to hit her in the sinuses, the pressure between her eyes was painful, she could actually feel her brain aching in her frontal lobes. It shortly became too much to bear, she opened her mouth to release the painful gas out into the open.

The pain was instantly gone, her nose felt like it'd been running for a few hours but beyond that there was no sign that anything had happened to her. Reluctantly she opened her eyes to look around the tent.

The others all seemed to be in varying degrees of the same realisation. That by fighting it, they'd been the one to cause themselves pain. The men across from them smiled and gestured for the return of the bowl. She passed it back along the line, she watched as it went around the circle until it reached a thinner man who placed it behind him. It was then that she realised that the smoke no longer hurt her eyes.


One of the men opposite her began to speak. "So children, what have you come here for?"

Amy watched as Xander was the first to react. "You speak English?"

"No child, and nor do you speak Inafey."

"Inafey?" Shote asked.

"You will not recognise it, it is the language that came before all others."

"The first human language?" Roger asked in awe.

"No my child. It is not a human language at all."

"A demon language then?"

The old man smiled, and a different one answered "No."

Amy looked confused, "I don't underst..."

"It is merely the language which enables us to communicate with one another."

Xander ventured, "So this isn't your langauge either?"

The second to speak looked pleased, "Correct."

The first smiled, "The Inafey may be in the Muutla, or maybe the Muutla is in the Inafey."

Roger worked it out first. "The Muutla, that's what we drank."

They smiled.

"So what have you come here for?"

Xander spoke for the group, "We came to speak to the demon."


Amy was pleading, "We've come a long way. We need to speak to the demon."


Roger tried a different tactic, "Okay, so we're cursed but we get nothing out of it."

The old man smiled, "Cursed child? Why do you think you are cursed?"

"They told us that by speaking about the demon we would be cursed."

"That is only if you use the demon's name."

"Cool. That's cool, really happy about that here." When the old man went to open his mouth, Roger quickly clamped his hands over his ears and interrupted. "No, unh-unh, don't need to hear the demon's name... quite happy not knowing it."

"You are wise. Amusing but wise."

Xander couldn't leave it there. "We need to speak to the demon." At their looks, "We need to know if a vampire came through here."

"'No' is the answer you seek child."

"A vampire didn't come through here?" Staring between Shote and Amy, Xander asked. "I thought I definitely wanted it confirmed that a vampire had been to see the demon."

"I gave Shote the list of questions."

"I was unable to speak to them directly until I drive down here. I haven't spoken to the elders til you did." Shote turned to face the elders, "The people outside told *my* contact that a vampire came here to make a wish."

Roger watched neither react, "Great, we risked being cursed and it's not even the correct demon."

The second that had spoken clarified, "The vampire didn't see the demon, it came and requested aid, but we did not allow it through."

"So you didn't let Spike through."

"No... what it requested could not be given. A prophecy must be fulfilled, and *that* vampire must help to ensure the prophecy occurs."

Roger looked lost, "Prophecy, what prophecy?"

Xander looked pissed, "Angel's prophecy? The one Cordelia talked about? No fucking way Spike gets to earn that."

Amy looked confused. "There's nothing in the watcher files that mention a prophecy regarding Angel."

"Angel isn't mentioned by name, it mentions a vampire with a soul. Fuck!!! I can't believe Spike gets to be human."

Roger looked confused, "Spike gets to be human. I thought you said humans could be turned into a vampire, you never mentioned them being turned back."

Amy answered for him, "There's no mention of any turning back, this must be why it's worthy of a prophecy."

Xander stood up and kicked various pots and bowls around. At their look, "Sorry, I'm just pissed. I think I really need to leave."

The man pointed to the entrance they came in. "You are free to go. You have provided some information that we weren't aware of. For that we are most grateful."

Shote bowed to the older men and left the tent, Roger did the same. Xander couldn't stop his fists from clenching, Amy put her hand on his arm to try and calm him down, he stormed out to the others. Amy turned and bowed and left the tent herself.

After they had left, the first speaker turned to the group and said. "So her name was Spike."


Roger watched as Xander continued to pace in front of the entrance to the tent. "I don't fucking believe this!! Spike??? Spike??? Fucking Spike???"

Roger carefully eyed the guards surrounding them. There were more of them now. When Roger had first exited the tent there had only been one. But Xander's state had caused him to signal for some others. They now had six extremely scary looking warriors all focusing on Xander.

Shote had quickly gone to the first guard and tried to explain the situation.

'They probably think he wants access to the demon.' Unfortunately before he could stop himself, he found himself glancing over towards the cave entrance to the demon. Immediately a large man was standing practically on his toes. "Jesus." Roger said, 'Where the hell did he come from?'

He looked over at where Amy was trying to interrupt Roger. "Tell him we don't want to see the demon."

"I have."

"So what's the problem?"

"They don't believe me."

'And that,' Roger thought to himself 'is quite a major problem.'

Amy left Roger's side and moved closer to Xander. Holding her hands up, she approached him slowly. "Xander. You need to calm down. They're getting restless." She quickly glanced over at Roger, seeing his 'bodyguard' she added. "And I'm not even sure what you managed to do, but stop it."

Xander finally looked up. Roger watched as Xander took in Amy's pose. Suddenly he looked really guilty. "Aim... Aim... It's okay... I'm calm." Turning to face the others, he held his hands up. "I'm calm." Seeing no recognition on their faces and no movement to stand down, he added "Shote, tell them I'm calm."

Shote turned to xander, "They would be grateful if we could get dressed and leave now."

Xander sighed, Roger thought looked defeated. "Sure."

They made the way to the changing tent as Roger had come to think of it. Amy went in first, once she was done all three of the men went in together. 'No ceremonial order now we're being kicked off their beach, I see.'


As they weren't sure how long they'd have been staying for, Shote had booked them all rooms above a local pub. Amy was very glad he had, 'There's no way I could have coped with travelling back today.' she reasoned.

Shote parked the jeep in the street outside. As they all entered, they each went their seperate ways; Xander went towards the restroom, Shote and Roger headed for the bar, and Amy began to climb the stairs with her back pack.

Finding her room, she quickly washed herself in the basin and got changed. She had rested on the bed for barely five minutes when there was a knock on the door.

Without any intention of getting up, she lifted the pillow of her face and responded. "Yes?"

"Aim... it's me. Can I come in?"

'Xander.' "Sure."

Amy watched as Xander entered the room looking a little sheepish. "What's up?"

"Just wanted to check you're alright."

'Now I'm confused.' "Me? I'm fine... why wouldn't I be?"

He sat down in a chair next to her bed. "It's just... I didn't... I'm sorry about earlier."


"Short tempers come in the Harris family gene pool. I shouldn't have let it get to me."

"Xander..." she paused, "It's fine."

At this look, she realised he might need something more. Sitting up she took his hand in both of hers. "I wasn't worried about you." Maintaining eye contact she continued, "I never for one moment thought you were going to hurt me."

He still looked doubtful. "Honestly I didn't..." adopting a slight teasing tone, "I thought you could have timed it better so that it didn't happen in front of twenty people willing to kill us but..." she grinned at him.

He smiled back. Matching his tone to hers, "There were never twenty of them... ten tops... we could have taken them if we wanted to."

She laughed genuinely for the first time that day. "Sure we could."

He changed tone again. More pleading this time. "So we're good?"


Now he looked scared, but forced himself to ask, "On what?"

She grinned at him, "On whether or not you gave the others the same apology." At his look, "Chivalry's all well and good Mr Harris, but I'll take no sexist behaviour on this excursion." Seeing he had relaxed now, "I'd have to inform Mr Giles, if I thought that was going on."

"I think I'm free and clear..."

"You apologised to them?"



Amy watched as he grinned that lopsided smirk of his, refusing to be baited she continued to stare at him, forcing him to answer the question.

"I asked them if they thought you were upset."

"That is so far away from an apology..."

"It's a man's apology..." at her look, "no really, it is. If I gave an apology to a man, one that I'd neither physically injured or stolen the girlfriend from, then it's against the rules."

Amy tried to keep a straight face but failed. At the first sign that she was close to cracking Xander continued in his rant.

"Don't laugh... I said don't laugh... It's against the man code." The first giggle escaped her lips, "That's a serious crime. Break the man code too many times and they kick you out..." He paused for dramatic affect. "They do!!! They refuse to let you be called a man any more. Never again can you drink out of the can. Belching in public is then considered wrong. You have to sit down to use the toilet even if you don't need to."

Amy found herself giggling uncontrollably now. "Sounds like an improvement."

"See... See... That's what all women say... But then they all think you're less than a man. You're not a woman, but you're also not a man. It's a massive de-initiation ceremony."

"They give you a pint of beer and you wear the ceremonial animal fur hat... like made from skin of a deer or a racoon or something."

"Very manly..."

"But then they water the beer down with lemonade, and pour it into a little half-pint glass. The glass isn't even pint shaped. They trade the manly animal fur hat for a little nuns hat with frilly bits and make you sip... *Sip* the shandy drink."

Amy couldn't cope with the outraged look of offense that Xander was giving.

"And women only treat you as a friend or one of the girls from that point on. Cos you're just not manly enough for them. You see, *women* say they want this and that... but what they really want is a big, strong, extremely masculine, animal-killing, beer-drinking, smelling of man-sweat, erm man."

"Keep telling yourself that." She managed to get out between giggles, as Xander continued his rant.


Downstairs, at the bar.

"Xander was very worried about Amy." Shote commented.

"They'll be okay. I think she has a little crush on him." Roger confided to him.

"On Xander?"


"You sure? It didn't look like either of them were interested in each other." 'I definitely haven't seen any signs of it.'

"Xander's still grieving for his almost-wife."

Shote was shocked, "Xander was almost married?"

"Yeah, doesn't talk about it much though."

"Damn, how did she die?"

"Died in the battle which closed the hellmouth according to Amy."

Shote almost choked on his drink. "They closed a hellmouth?"



"Not sure, Amy hasn't gotten me those chronicles yet."

"I didn't know you could close a hellmouth."

"Well... somehow they managed it."

"Them and all the other slayers."

'Maybe I misheard him', "All the other slayers?"

"Yeah, there are loads of them now."

"There can be only one slayer. It's a law as old as mankind."

Shote saw Roger's look of astonishment. "You know the origins of the slayer?"

Shote was quick to clarify, "I don't think anyone knows the origins of the slayer. It's said that they were around before written history."

"Well, we've been given the assignment of finding out about them."

"You're trying to find out about the first slayer?"


"And that's what all this running around Africa is about?"

"Some of it."

"Does this vampire know about the origins or something then? That'd make him extremely old... I wasn't sure they lived... erm... un-lived that long. He'd be an important person to find then."

"Oh no, that's something completely different. We know where he is..."

"So why are we chasing around Africa after him if you know where he is?"

"It's not where he is that's important; it's where he was."

Shote looked confused. "Then why not just ask him? You've got several vampire slayers available to you, surely you could force him to talk."

"We don't trust him."

"Understandable... Then why not just stake him?"

"I think that they don't think it's right. He's got a soul."

"I don't buy that for a second. The man *died* when he was attacked by a vampire. A harsh, but accurate, truth they need to accept. A demon lived on in his place. Even if they managed to return his soul; he *died*. He's not their friend any more, he doesn't get to grow old with them. He doesn't get to grow old. He doesn't get to live. He's still not *human*."

Roger looked thoughtful for a second, "You don't think he has his soul?"

"It doesn't matter if he has his soul or not. The man's life ended. He became another vampire statistic; drained or turned, he *died*."

"It's complicated."

"It always is..." Shote was about to continue with the discussion when Xander and Amy appeared.

"Hey guys, not drinking too much are you?"

Roger pretended to be offended, "Us?"

Shote smiled. "Just had the one while we waited for you two." Remembering the previous discussion he examined Xander and Amy carefully. 'He's definitely oblivious to anything. She's... harder to work out. She's definitely observant of him, but it's not lust, wonder what it is?'

This one from Amy, "So... where we gonna eat?"

Roger was first to respond, "We checked the menu while we were at the bar, Shote thinks it looks okay. It's got this great little local dish called..."


The next day
Flight back to Douala Airport.

Xander was sitting in the aisle seat, Amy next to him and Roger in the window, "So where did Shote go in such a rush this morning?"

Roger reluctantly responded "Right... about that."

Both Amy and Xander turned to face him, "What did you do?"

"He's gone to tell some... people... that there are no many Slayers active in the world."

Amy looked confused, "And?"

'Maybe Shote knows something we don't.' "Is it bad? Did Shote give any indication that this was something we shouldn't have done?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"So... why the hesitant answer?"

"Well, I let it slip to him."

"You let what slip to him?"

"About there being more Slayers. He's going to take it up with his government."

Both Xander and Amy looked at one another to see if this was making any sense, neither looked hopeful. "Why?"

"Because the African nations do not believe that a resource such as the Slayers should be allowed to remain fully under the control of the Americans." Roger blurted out quickly.

Xander thought about it, "They're not..."

Amy helped in along. "In fact, the largest number of Slayers are currently residing in England."

"That's not going to be any better."

Xander eased his mind. "Giles isn't intending to have control of all the Slayers you know..."

"He isn't?"

"No. He's intending to control all the Watchers, but they can be of any nationality. The Slayers will be."


"For the first time in... well ever, the Slayers don't need to be moved to the most dangerous areas."

"So what's Giles intending to do with them?"

"Give them adequate training so they understand what they are; provide Watchers in every *possible* instance so that at the very least we *will* be aware of their actions; hopefully there should be a Slayer school available at least on every continent."

"What's the bit about being aware of their actions?"

"There is a possibility that Slayers might not choose to fight for the good guys. If they've refused our aid or to be assigned a watcher, then they still need to be watched."

Roger had to clarify, "Good guys?"

"This isn't political. We're talking about Slayers who go over to the Dark Side and could potentially hurt innocents. They would need to be dealt with."

"I don't like the sound of 'dealt with'."

"Hopefully it won't come to that these days; we don't need to have every Slayer fighting all the time, they are free to pursue a career. For the first time ever, they actually have the chance to build their own futures."

Amy commented, "They're a pretty tight knit group too. The ones I met were definitely of the 'we look after our own' mentality."

"And the fact that it is now possible to outnumber them, makes dealing with trouble-makers easier."

"That's all well and good, but Shote is going to recommend to his goverment what we are doing, they are going to want to be involved in this."



"There are plans to set up a Slayer school somewhere in Kenya."

Amy filled in the blank, "Nairobi to be precise."


"Shote might not be in the know, but there are currently plans to set up a school in Nairobi."

"How can Shote not know about this?"

Amy answered for him, "Because no-one knows about this so far. It's pretty unofficial."

"How unofficial?"

"So far there are two Slayers and three Watchers in Nairobi. They've agreed to meet the local Slayers there."


"Local slayers?"

"You remember me telling you about all the potentials being called?" At Roger's nod, Xander continued. "Some of those obviously would be called in Africa. The problem is that a lot of people do not know what to do when their teenage daughter suddenly develops the ability to play tug of war with a jeep. So we have to be on the look out for reports of weird acts of strength and other things. This is quite difficult to do when you're talking about a global scale. So we've already assigned some Watchers to various areas, their task is to try and find out as much as they can about the likelihood of any reports actually refering to Slayers."

"Another problem is that while we have the perfect people to do all the checking; they aren't field Watchers and generally don't want to be the ones to approach a possibly powerful adolescent."

"So what do you do?"

"We've already said; once they've passed a certain level of training, we assign two Slayers to accompany any Watchers who are approaching potential Slayers."

Amy continued, "The two that have been assigned to Africa have been to a few places where Watchers are based, and have confirmed that they like Nairobi best. They've requested that if they're expected to live here for any serious amount of time, then they're going to live there."

"Have they found any Slayers that are local to Africa?"

"Quite a few. But the problem with Africa, is that a lot of the people here know about demons and the one chosen to battle them; and as such have their own opinions on where she should be stationed."

Xander leapt in, "We have confirmed seven so far; two of which refused our aid and explained that they were helping their people. The other five we did manage to persuade to return to England to visit the only active Slayer school."

"That's good though right? Nine Slayers in total. That's quite a team!"

Amy shook her head, "The two in Nairobi are Spanish; we're not sure how long they'd want to stay here once we get others up and running. So that leaves seven that we've found, based on population size we'd expect at least another eight here. Possibly up to twenty in total."


"And that estimate is based on the Slayers that we have currently identified. Confirming how many should be active is turning into an impossible task. We don't know if we're even guessing in the right area when it comes to global numbers, the percentage of potentials called in the last few centuries show that we can't identify even potential Slayers that accurately. And most of the active slayers we do know about now were potentials, which of course they would be cos if *every* potential is called then they *all* get called. But mixing that with the popula..."

Xander had to interupt her, "Let's just say it's some crazy maths thing I'm never gonna get." At her look, "I didn't know most of that; so most slayers called in the past few centuries weren't from the potentials?"

"Probably less than twenty five percent."


"Which shows how when over sixty percent of those we know about, were from previously identified potentials. Then we're definitely missing some."

"Okay, you're losing me with the numbers again." Xander looked across to see Roger's nod of agreement, "Explain it to me... us clearly."

"Each set of numbers we're giving you... they're lower limit. We could realistically be looking for several times each case."

"That's a hell of a lot of Slayers. Talking of which, we definitely never had sixty percent of current slayers with us in Sunnydale."

"They've been tracing family trees of those we discover. Sixty percent are either potentials themselves or have had family members that we have identified previously."

Roger held his head in his hand, "This is getting too confusing."

"And this is why Africa's such a problem."

"What is why Africa's such a problem?"

"With so many people in the know, Slayers are not coming forward. In just about everywhere else we've come very close to the estimated targets; in fact most of the time we surpassed them, and had to start recalculating the other numbers."

Xander held up his hand, "Don't start that again."

"Africa should have at least fifteen to twenty Slayers, the fact that we've identified seven... not good."

Roger grinned.

Xander found himself curious. "What?"

"I get to be the one that tells Shote he has over ten missing Slayers in his country."


An hour later

Amy was watching the in-flight movie on the overhead television screen. It was some comedy starring Steve Martin, she knew from previous trips that she'd be bored after five minutes, but watching in silence was starting to get to her.

She was about to raise her arm, so that she could purchase some headphones off the stewardess, when Xander asked her a question.

"This kinda family potential thing?"

"This what what?"

He turned to her, "This thing you were on about earlier. About potentials running in families."


"It's been bugging me since you mentioned it. If the Watchers have lists of potentials from previous years, then why aren't they following those families to see if any have been called?"

"What are you trying to say?"

"Say there's this girl right, can be from anywhere, and she was an identified potential that didn't get called way back in, say, the late nineteenth century or something."


"Now fast forward to today and the families grown, so that she's got, like, twenty great grandchildren or great great grandchildren or whatever they are."


"Shouldn't we be checking them?"

"That may take a while."

"You've said there's a group that's checking the family histories of all slayers that turn up. Giving us a better understanding of the Slayer lineage if there is one, or whatever it was. Wouldn't it be worth checking in the opposite direction?"

"I can see your point. But you're looking at a massive job."

Roger chipped in from the window seat, "Not really, all you're looking for are girls who were between the ages of twelve and nineteen on the day you closed the Sunnydale hellmouth. You could probably get a computer program to dig that out where possible."

"Hmmm... I can't see any fault with it, we'll pass it onto Giles when we get back."

She turned to Xander, he seemed like he was going to go to sleep again. She turned to Roger, who had continued to read his book. She was about to order the headphones when it was Roger's turn to interrupt.

"I also don't get that potential thing."


"The potential thing. I don't understand it."

She turned to him, "What's not to understand? Some girls get identified as potentials, others don't. These are basically the pool of people that the next Slayer gets called from. It's that simple."

"It was that simple."

Amy began to think of the possible implications, "What exactly are you saying?"

Xander began to snore next to her. She nudged him in the ribs. "What?"

"You might need to be awake for this."

"For what?"

"Roger doesn't understand the potential situation."

"Didn't you give him all the relevant Slayer info two days ago?"


"So... what do you need me for? If he doesn't get it, explain it to him, you're the official Watcher."

"He gets how it worked. He isn't sure how it works now."

"What's the difference?"

"I don't know yet. But thinking about it, there will be a difference."


Roger felt the need to explain further, "Because no-one remains a potential anymore."

"What???" Xander practically leapt out of his seat.

Amy almost followed. "Says who?"

"No-one... but what *everyone* said previously might not apply."

"What are you getting at?"

"Your friend's spell."


"Yeah, her spell activated every potential there was."


"How long is it going to go on for?"

"She cast it. It's done. Complete."

"But to cast it she had to change every rule of the slayer line there was. She changed it so that instead of one death causing another calling, no deaths caused all to be called."

"Still not sure I'm following you."

Amy leapt in, "We've essentially changed the very nature of how the Slayer line works, how it gets passed on, everything..."

"Yes, how do we know it didn't change the rules forever?"

"What to?"

"The only rule we know about it; was that all potentials that come of age get called. What if that's the rule from now on?"

"You're saying that all potentials will get called for the rest of time?"

"It's a possibility."

"We're having enough problems locating them now, we cannot go through this every day forever!"

"My thoughts exactly."

"How do we know what the rules are?"

"Any of the Slayers have any younger sisters that are about to become the right age?"

Amy quickly interrupted, "Doesn't work that way."

"You said it ran in family lines."

"It does, but it also kinda doesn't."


"I never said 'definitely', I distinctly remember not saying 'definitely'."

"You *might* be a potential if your mother was one. You *might* be a potential if your sister or cousin is one. It's not definite."

Roger thought about it some more, "So who's the next definite?"


"Who is the next youngest potential after that twelve year old that got called?"

"She wasn't a potential."

"Amy we don't care if she was or not... who's next?"

"Lisa... I think... she's a nine year old in Australia."

"Nine?? That's a big gap..."

"It's very difficult to identify them too early, that's why even in areas where we can test every baby born to a hospital quite a few slip through the system. They get easier to pick out, as they get nearer to the age of calling." Amy explained.

"So nine is the next eh?" Roger mused, "Well in three years we'll be able to tell if they're going to be getting called or not."

"Possibly not," Xander argued. "They don't normally get called 'til they're fifteen-sixteen. So we could be talking seven years."

"Seven years!!!"

"Actually some have been called that were older. To be sure it's definitely not going to be happening, you've got to be going for making sure she's too old to be called, twenty would probably be safe, but I'm with Xander on you'll be looking more doubtful once she passes primetime."

Roger looked even more doubtful, "Eleven years, you want us to be looking out for this for eleven years?"

Xander argued. "It's your theory. As you said, we need to know if this was a one-off one-time you-either-qualify -or-you-don't dealy, or if it's a open-invitation-for-as-long-as-the-spell-lasts dealy."

Amy thought to herself 'Eleven years is too long. We need to start narrowing it down sooner' "Instead of checking random potential family lines... what if we simply got every slayer that's just been called and asked them if they had any sisters or younger cousins. Most of their families have an idea of what's happened to those girls, asking if we can check others in the same family to see if we have potentials might not be that bad."

"Yeah..." Xander looked thoughtful. "Unfortunately even if we find one that is a potential, and is older than the nine year old, hell even if she's only a few days younger than the twelve year old... then we've still got an eight year wait on our hands." At Amy's look of disappoint he added, "It's a good plan, one we will suggest to Giles once we get back, but it's still going to take a long time."

Roger came up with a different idea, "We need to get Willow, and other magical types, confirming if it is still running. And if it is can we stop it?"

Amy asked aloud, "Do we want to stop it?"


"Think about everything that happened with the others. If we have that spell running forever or for some set time, then no-one has to get given a practical death sentence at fifteen." Amy countered.

"Or we empower thousands and hope they don't cause too much trouble."

Roger joined in, "And with those two possibilities; it hardly seems fair to simply write it off with a better-the-devil-you-know situation either."

"So..." Xander reasoned. "Not only are we unsure about what might occur in the future, we are also unsure of what we might want to occur in the future."

Roger smiled sheepishly at them, "And I've just thought of a third option."

"This wasn't complicated enough?"

"What if it's a mixture of the two?"

Amy couldn't believe this, "What?"

"What if no more get called initially... but at some point in the future one of the Slayers currently active today is gonna die. What if that causes lots to be called again?"

"Or it might only cause one to be called?" Amy tried to sound hopeful, "So that however many are alive today will be the number that there are forever."

"That would be the best solution." Roger agreed.

"Except that to arrange anything like that, we're talking about making a serious change to a set of rules and replacing them with our own."

"I think you did that already."

"We were in a crisis situation."

Roger let that one go and changed idea, "What if a Slayer dying doesn't cause another Slayer to be called?"

"Why wouldn't it?"

"The second time, Buffy's didn't."

Xander joined in, "I've had some thoughts on that."


"What if the Slayer essence can only be passed on when the active Slayer dies?"

"So Buffy wasn't the active Slayer?"

"No, it would appear to have been Faith."

"So who's the active Slayer now?"

"That I don't know."

"Wouldn't it still be Faith? She didn't die."

"That depends on how the essence was passed to all the others."

"So everything comes down to the fact no-one has a real idea what Willow's spell did?"

Sighing Xander replied, "Definitely looking that way."


After they had departed the plane and travelled through customs, Xander had taken them all home.

They had been inside for just over an hour and had started eating their evening meal, when there was a knock at the door.

Amy screamed "The box!"

Roger looked lost, "What box?"

Xander glared at him, "Don't start that again!"

"The box gets delivered today."

Amy got up and ran through the dining room towards the doorway.

Xander could hear her voice from the front door. "Hello."

She was definitely talking to someone but he wasn't sure who. 'Probably the delivery guy or something.'

Two sets of footsteps returned from the other room. Xander had his back to them both, but could see Roger had stopped chewing his food to look past him. 'Close your mouth. That is disgusting.' Xander thought, 'What the hell's up with...'

"Erm, Xander?" Amy began, "She says she knows you."

"Yo Cyke!" a familiar voice from behind said, "Got a room for a girl to crash in?"

Xander turned to confirm he'd correctly identified the voice.

'Yep. Got it in one. Same dangerous curves. Same smirk. Same old' "Faith."

Chapter 4

Faith grinned and strided into the room. "Hey Cyke, what's the what?"

Roger stood up, walked over to the newcomer and graciously bowed in front of her. "Lord Roger Craddle at your service madam."

"'nother Brit... right. So X why you surroundin' yerself with the..."

Roger quickly interrupted, "So I take it you've know our mysterious leader Faith, it was Faith wasn't it? Would you care to join me for a drink?"

"Jeez X, it's the middle of the afternoon, this is what you've been up to this whole time? Figured you might need to let loose bu.."

Xander butted in before she got started, "Do you see a drink in my hand? And for you information it's past seven pm."

Faith collapsed onto a chair, "Whatever... feels like mid-afternoon. My body clock is completely fucked."

Amy sat down next to Faith and returned to her meal, "Hi. Erm... we met at the door. I'm Amy."

"Yeah, yer said."

"Very sorry, if we'd have known you were coming we'd have ordered you some. There might be some left if yo..."

"Don't worry none." Faith interrupted. "Not gonna be hungry for a few hours yet. Point me in the right direction come the time, and we'll be set."

"Would you like a drink..?" Amy offered, glaring at Roger she added. "We do have non-alcoholic ones here."

"Coke'd be nice. So fucking hot here."

Amy went into the kitchen to fetch a bottle.

Xander commented, "Most people don't wear jeans here, Faith."

"Hey, I've never been here before, ya know? They said it was hot so I figured Sunnydale-ish right. They told me it was hotter so I lost the leather. Man, this place is boiling."

"Leather?" Roger coughed, trying not to choke on his food.

Faith ignored him. "So oh wise one... what sort of clothing would you recommend? I've only got jeans and tees in my bag, figure I'm gonna have to restock."

Amy returned from the kitchen.

"Well I'd suggest.."

As Amy was passing Faith her drink, she heard Faith interrupt Xander. "Actually, hold it. Changed my mind, remembered what you used to wear in the dale. So chickette, Amy right? What's the fashionable female wear in these parts?"


A few hours later
Local pub

"What is this stuff?"

Amy sighed. This was getting to be a normal question for the Slayer. 'I don't know why she doesn't just eat it anyway. She looks at it, she smells it, she tastes it carefully and then she wolfs it down. She's done that for every single thing on the plate she didn't recognise. I mean, who orders a meal by the house speciality, especially when they aren't even sure what sort of food that place *serves*.'

If she was being honest though, it was because Faith intimidates her. 'She isn't trying to.' Amy reasoned to herself. 'It's just that... she's a far cry from the other Slayers I met for a few days back in England. They were.. well... how to put this... they were just teenaged girls. They had interests and hobbies and formed little sub-groups based on those things. I could see them gossiping about boys, and talking about one another behind each others backs. Hell, most of the time I felt like their older sister. But Faith...'

She stared across at where Faith had decided the latest 'unsure' thing was edible and was stripping the meat off it with her teeth.

'Faith is different.' She thought about it some more. 'Whereas with the others. the fact that they were extremely powerful was like an afterthought, the Slayer part of them only seemed to come out when it was necessary. Same for fighting. In the field they were warriors through and through, but back at the school... it was all scratching and hairpulling and destroying each other's stuff.' When she'd first heard that two Slayers were going to face off in the yard, Amy had nearly gone running to Giles, but as she'd passed it and seen it in action... there were no stakes or other weapons, no fancy martial art moves performed with speed and agility that no normal human could match, it was just two girls fighting, like you'd see in any high school. 'But Faith. Faith seems *all* Slayer *all* the time. She's something primal. It's not like she's sizing you up to see how and if she could beat you. It's more like she just *knows* she will if she has to. I wonder if this is why Xander thinks that *she's* the active Slayer. Hell, it's enough to persuade me, and I haven't known her a day yet.'

"Yo chickette." Faith waved her hand in front of Amy's face. "I said I'm done. You wanna hit the bars see what's going on?"

"Xander and Roger normally go to the one down the street." Amy stated, "That is, if you want to join them." 'Please want to join them, I'm not sure if I could cope with it just being me and her for one night.'

"Sure, whatevers... that way the guys can buy the drinks eh? Not that a couple a hotties like us would have had probs anywhere."

Amy self-consciously blushed. Wrapping herself up in her shirt more. Faith had borrowed some clothes of Amy's earlier. She was still in the t-shirt she'd arrived in, but had swopped the jeans for a pair of shorts. They didn't match in any way but somehow Faith managed to get them to work. Probably the way that just enough mid-riff was on show that they didn't seem connected to each other in any way. And Amy had noticed how men's eyes tended to focus on that patch of flesh.

"Jeez girl, I'm only teasing. Let's see Cyke and Brit."

Amy quickly got up. Faith followed her.

As they arrived in the other pub, Amy was looking for the others while Faith headed straight to the bar.

"Come on. I'll get the first round in."

"I thought you said that the gu..."

"Nah, I'll leave it til Brit gets to know me. Don't want him to expect me to put out, ya know?"

"I don't think Roger would expect you to..."

"Is he a man? Does he bring women home?"

Amy refused to answer.

"See I can tell." When Amy still refused to comment, Faith added. "I'm not calling him a perv or anything. It's just some men look for it. That's fair game and all, goose and gander and all that shit, sometimes I go looking myself. But at the moment I'm not offering."

Amy let herself smile.

"So what's everyone drinking?"

Amy began "Normally I'd have a vodka and orange juice, I'm not sure about Xander as it depends on if he's drinking or not, Roger would probab..."

Faith's attention was taken by the barman who arrived to take her order. She turned to give Amy the 'decide now' look. Amy just stared back. "Fuckit," Faith turned around and made her decision, "Four lagers cheers."

He returned with the drinks, Faith paid him, gave two of the pints to Amy, picked up the other two and was about to walk away. Amy quickly stopped her. "Your change."

"What?" Faith turned around, "Oh... ta." Putting one pint down, she quickly deposited the rest in one of her pockets.

"You gave him over three times too much."

Faith picked the other drink back up, and gestured Amy to move away from the bar. "No idea how much this shit is tell the truth. Where the guys at?"

Amy pointed to a table near the entrance. They quickly walked over.


Xander and Roger were sitting down, Roger had a whiskey and Xander had the remains of his pint.

Faith sat down next to Xander and Amy did the same next to Roger, handing out drinks Faith said, "Missed you on the way in. Would've checked what you were having if I'd seen ya."

"So Faith," Roger began. "What brings you here?"

"Was in England with some more newbies. Got talking to Giles and he reckoned I could help you."

"Well it's a pleasure anyway. You're the first Slayer I've met. I must say I wasn't quite sure what to expect."

'I was Xander's first Slayer too. No, Faith, play nice, don't tease if you ain't gonna deliver.' "What were you expecting? Some sort of butch shot putter or something? What's Xander been saying about me?"

"I didn't say anything about you, we didn't even know you were coming."

"G didn't say?" Faith was shocked, "He was quite talkative when I saw him."

"Xander *has* talked about you." Roger confided.

Faith turned to stare at Xander, "He has?"

Xander continued to stare at Roger, "I have?"

Amy turned to stare at Roger, "When?"

"Earlier today." Roger turned to Amy, "When we were on a plane."

"If this is some mile-high thing, let me say right now, for the record, that I have never done it on a plane... with Xander."

Amy looked shocked while Roger asked, "Commercial or private?"

Faith grinned. 'This one could be some fun.' "Girl doesn't fuck and tell."

Xander smirked and turned to face her. "You don't?"

Faith took the challenge, "Kept it quiet about us back in the day, didn't I?"

"And yet in the here and now, you've mentioned it already."

"Everyone knows now."

"These didn't!"

Faith faked being hurt, "Ashamed of me Xan?" 'Okay, Brit's looking at me again. Need to change the topic off of sex.'

"You tw..." Roger began.

"So," Faith ventured onto a topic she hoped wouldn't backfire on her. "What was Xander telling you guys about me?"

"Xander was debating on whether you're the Slayer now."

"What?" Faith looked confused. "Of course I'm the Slayer... it's not a gig you retire from Xan. It's with you 'til you die remember. You of all people should know that!"

Amy tried to explain, "We know you have Slayer powers, but we weren't sure if you still had the Slayer essence."

"Slayer essence? What's that? You talking about the wicked healing power or freaky dreams or some shit?"

"The Slayer essence is what makes you the Slayer. It's what you pass on when you die that calls the next one."

'What the fuck are they talking about?' "Well... I ain't dead if that's what you're getting at. Been in a coma once, but..."

"Maybe 'the Slayer' is the wrong term to use, Amy." Roger offered. "Maybe you should start thinking in terms of *active* Slayer."

"Active Slayer? Xan, what the fuck are these people on about? We're all active Slayers, least those that survived Sunnydale anyway. There's fucking loads of us. I'm now one of many, yeah, they all look at me as one of the senior Slayers, which is kinda okay. But that's me in a nutshell; senior Slayer to the masses, former member of the Chosen Two."

"Faith," Xander tried to make himself sound calm. "Faith..."

"You've said that."

"We were trying to work out if you're still the active Slayer."

Faith found herself immediately going on the defensive. 'Typical, I'm never fucking good enough, am I? Wasn't good enough back in the day to be anything better than Buffy's second, not good enough now. Trying to tell me I'm not good enough to be an active Slayer. Fuck them.' "Typical. It's always me, isn't it? Bet you're not accusing Buffy of not being good enough to be the active Slayer."

"No. We aren't accusing Buff..."

Faith was beginnign to shout now, and attract attention from other people in the bar. "Why not eh? She fucking made mistakes you know. She wasn't the little Miss Perfect everyone seems to think she was. She was fucking human, her shit still stank!"

"Faith," Xander tried calming her down. "We're not accusing Buffy because we *know* she's not the active Slayer, but you were."

Faith's anger had momentarily been replaced with confusion, "What?"

"Back in Sunnydale, when you were part of the 'Chosen Two' as you put it."


"Well you weren't."

"What?" she asked, genuinely curious now.

"Remember we told you that Buffy died the first time?"

"And you brought her back. Yeah, I know that shit."

"You brought Buffy back?" Roger asked incredulously.

"I thought you read Giles' chronicles?" Amy asked.

"I did... well the summaries anyway. I haven't had time to read the full journal entires... they're massive and we were in..."

"Can you two shut up? Xan..?"

"Remember how that called Kendra?"

"My predecessor. Yeah I got the four one one."

"What have the American police got to do wi..." Roger stopped under the other's glare.

"Well at that point, for the first point in written history there were two Slayers."

"That we know of." Amy clarified.

Xander conceded the point with a nod. "When Kendra died, I asked Giles whether or not another Slayer had been called. He told me he didn't know. As he wasn't informed of Kendra's calling, he doubted whether the council would have told him anyway. It seems he did some checking of his own through back channels, and no-one was certain. None of the potentials had been called this time, but that alone didn't prove anything."

"I wasn't a potential. I guess someone saw me doing stuff..." at their look she decided to elaborate. "Typical teenage kid stuff you know. Trying to get beer, daring to run across rooftops, that sort of shit. One day I felt weird, and by the next day I was starting to display powers. It wasn't like with the others in Sunnydale... they just got them," she clicked her fingers, "like that. Mine sort of developed I think, I started to notice subtle changes; like balancing on walls and high ledges was easier, and running from the cops and other people, well I just didn't get tired. It was probably about four days before I resembled anything like a Slayer in skill or ability."

"Yeah, so they picked you up. Anyway, the problem as Giles explained it to me, was at the time of Buffy's death there were no Slayers in the world. For that brief minute or so, something changed in Kendra. Probably much like it happened to yourself, she received the essence and even though Buffy got brought back it started to turn her into a Slayer."

Faith nodded her head, "Following you so far."

"But when Kendra died, there was already a Slayer in the world; Buffy. So no-one was sure if that meant another, you, would be called or not. No-one was sure quite how a Slayer's death equated to another being called. As it turned out, the Slayer line was being passed from Kendra onto yourself as it should be."

"Which is why me and B were the Chosen Two." Faith explained. "But you said we weren't; if not, why not and why wasn't I told."

"Well, at the time we didn't know. It took several further years before we found out."

'Several years?' "When B died."

"Bingo. When Buffy died, again no-one knew if there would be another called or not. If one had been it would have meant that from that point on there would always be the Chosen Two." Xander looked around wondering whether to confess the next statement or not, deciding there would be no harm he went with it. "Actually, we were quite scared at that point." At their looks he continued, "Willow wondered if it meant from that point on there was always going to be two slayers. Well if that was true. Then the council had a known method of obtaining more slayers. A controlled death."

Faith couldn't help herself, "Very Flatliners."

"Yeah well, probably shouldn't have let Willow watch that at the time... she was worried about people who'd had near death experiences for months afterward..." He paused. 'Bizarre how that scared little girl changed into a woman that forcibly dragged one of our friends out of the afterlife.' Shaking his inner thoughts off, "Anyway, if more could be called by that method; then the council would have reasoned that they could build their army of Slayers simply by a controlled killing and reviving of each Slayer; even if they failed to revive each Slayer they would shortly be replaced anyay. So each attempt either gave them an extra Slayer or at worse just a replacement, its a win-win situation from the Watchers point of view. And an army of Slayers was something we didn't trust the council with."

"Unlike the new council that has one now." Roger chipped in.

"Shhh... anyway, that didn't happen and we were so relieved that our nightmare scenario hadn't come true," Xander silenced Roger's next comment with a glare. "And we were also so worried that with Buffy in prison and you in jail that we were Slayer-less..."

"Hang on," Roger interrupted, "you were the Slayer in jail."

Amy nudged him. "Of course she was." Faith stared at her in disbelief, and was about to make a comment of her own when Amy added. "You know there were two of them, you know Buffy was around and the other went to jail. You know Faith was the other one... how did you not put two and two together?"

"Firstly no-one said that Buffy wasn't the one in jail, secondly Giles' chronicles only cover up to the Crucialiam thingie."

"We told you Xander fought alongside Buffy for seven years."

"Oh yeah. Okay scratch firstly and I'll stick with secondly."

Their mini-argument got silenced by the looks of the other two.

Faith had worked it out, "Buffy dying and no-one being called, proved she didn't have this Slayer essence. So she was just this... girl with Slayer powers?" At Xander's nod. 'But...' "I didn't die. Why wouldn't I have the Slayer essence?"

"Cos there are lots of people who also have Slayer powers."

"So they're like Buffy..?"

"We don't know. They could be like Buffy. Or the spell could have taken it from you and passed it to all of them."

"Or..." Roger joined in. "It could have been passed down the line from you to Kennedy, onwards until it stopped at that twelve year old."

Amy added her own, "Or possibly passed from the scythe outwards in an ever increasing sphere until it reached them all."

Xander finished it for them, "The point is we don't know."

"But..." Faith was afraid to ask.

"But we need to. And to do that we need to find out who the *active* Slayer is. So the best place to start would be with you, as *you* are the last active one we know of."

Roger asked, "How are we going to find out who is the active Slayer?"

Xander said, "I don't know."

Faith stood up. "I can't... I'm not... I..."

"Faith relax, what is it?"

"Why did... what...?"


"I gotta go." and with that Faith ran out into the night.

Running as hard as she could, she kept running until she reached a place where she could see no lights no houses no nothing. 'It's not true. All the time I was with B... I thought I was some second string slayer. The spare for when B wants to go see Fang and get her not quite groove on.' "IT'S NOT FUCKING FAIR!!!" she shouted into the empty night.


The next morning

Amy was worried. Faith hadn't returned back to the apartment the previous night, and they were supposed to be heading towards Maputo today. The others had gone out looking for Faith, leaving Amy alone in the apartment in case she turned up there. 'Nothing to do... I want to be out there doing something... anything...' She'd been voted as the one to remain due to her inability to remain out in the sun for too long. It was times like this that she'd wished she'd attempted to adapt to this climate. 'Was just an excuse so the *men* can go out and do the rescuing, and the *woman* can stay at home' she thought bitterly.

'We should have eased her in. Got her used to... well, us, before springing any of that on her.'

She jumped when the door opened.

"Any sign of her?" she shouted before the person was even in sight.

"Nah." Xander replied. "Been everywhere I can think of. Heard from Roger yet?"

"Came back an hour ago. Managed to borrow a car from some friend of his."


"Didn't say and I didn't ask."

"Right. Have you contacted Giles yet?"

"And tell him we lost the first Slayer he sent us? No way, that's your job... boss."

"Har har..."

There was the sound of the door opening again.

"Roger!!!" Xander shouted, "Did you fin..." he stopped as he turned around. "Faith."

Faith stood in the doorway, her face showed no emotion. "Xan. Amy."

Xander matched her gaze.

Amy found herself the first to break. "Faith... are you okay?"

Faith turned to face her. "Not much around here that can take down a Slayer." Letting a smile pass her lips, "Especially someone who may be *the* Slayer, right?"

Xander was quick to apologise. "We shouldn't have dropped that bombshell on you so quickly. We definitely should have let you settle in first."

"No worries." Faith said impassively. "Shouldn't have let it get to me."

"Faith, it's okay to be shocked."

"I should be able to control my reactions. I mean... it wasn't even like it was bad news."

Amy asked. "What made you react the way you di..?"

"Just don't."

Amy looked confused and began to ask, "Don't wh..?" A look from Xander cut her off though.

"Don't pyschoanalyse me or any of that other bullshit okay... I got enough of that in prison. Look, you wanna know if I'm the Slayer or just one of many, that's fine... that's normal watcher-slayer crap that we all gotta cope with. But my reactions are mine okay..." Faith quickly glanced at Xander then bowed her head. "If I'm not hurting anyone, then it's cool capiche?"

"Faith," Xander attempted. "No one here wants you to do anything you're not comfortable with... no one here thinks you're going to hurt them... you've changed, we can see that." He paused to think about it. "Well I can. The others, you're in first impression terroritory with them, see. The past is behind you, no one here knows about any of it except me and you. And I'm not telling anyone anything you're not comfrotable with, okay?"

"Stop talking to me like a fucking child... and put your hands down." She sighed, "I need a bed to crash in."

"You can crash in any of the rooms for today. We'll sort something more permanent out for you by tonight."

"Don't get my own room then?"

"Well there is a spare room going, just it's the box room. And we're storing most of the unused stuff in there." At her look he added. "Just get some kip today and we'll have something sorted by tonight."

"Kay..." Faith walked over and opened a random door. "This'll do." she said as she disappeared inside.

"Well, Amy, I hope you don't mind losing your room for the day."

"I think we ought to pass on some of our findings to Giles anyway."

"Find out if Robert and Steven have come up with anything else about the history of the watchers council."


Faith awoke a few hours later. The clock by the side of the bed told her it was almost three pm. 'Jet lag's a bitch.' she thought, as she got out of bed. Wondering who's room she'd slept in, she opened one of the cupboards. 'Amy's, right!' she figured as she tried to find something to wear. She found another pair of shorts and tossed them on the bed; pulling a new t-shirt and some fresh underwear out of her bag, she put them before walking into the main room.

"Hey." Making a show of rubbing the sleep from her eyes she continued, "I'm awake... what's today's plan?"

The group were sitting around the table in the dining room, they all looked up as she entered. Xander indicated a seat that she should sit at. 'Great more philosphical discussion about me... I so don't need this, this early in the afternoon.'

"Okay, what?" She asked, when the silence had finally gotten to her.

"Faith." Roger began from beside her. "We're sorry about yesterday."

"Yep. Gotcha... apologies all round, fair?"

She watched as they nodded their agreement, all except Xander who simply smiled at her. "But... you gotta stop pussy-footing around me like you did today..." At their glances, she added "I know I didn't cope well last night. But... I'm just asking that you give me prior warning to get my head in the right place, before dropping any more shit like last night on me..."

"Faith," Xander said, attracting her attention from the opposite side of the table. "I don't think anything else we've got directly relates to you... well least not anything you wouldn't be expecting."

"So... what was last night's relevation all about?"

Amy took up the gap in conversation. "Basically... what do you know about what we're trying to do here?"

"G said you were on some mission to find out where we come from."

"Okay, right... well, did he explain how you were supposed to help us do that?"

"That..?" She looked around the group. "He said that the box might be useful for helping with *that*."

"How exactly?" Roger asked.

"According to G, when B went in the swirling thing she saw where these guys stuck a demon inside this girl."


"Well, G figured that if *that* was where the Slayers originated from... maybe you could somehow... enter the box yourselves, with someone who knew something about Africa and maybe recognise the location or the language the guys were using or something."

"The language?"

"B didn't recognise any of it... she figured it was African... dunno how accurate her opinion would be though, can't see B knowing anything about African shit myself."

"Joyc... Buffy's mom collected lots of foreign artifacts for her gallery. Maybe Buff remembered some of the things she brought home and recognised something." Faith could see Xander was forcibly hiding any emotion when he spoke of Joyce.

'Shit, Joyce... another person I'll never get to make it up to. Never knew she did anything like that though.' Faith refused to make any comments aloud though, scared of what Xander might say regarding her actions at the time.

"So..." She said, changing topics. "Rog, you gonna be the guide for all this?"

"I don't have anywhere near the necessary skills for that."

"Who then?" Faith asked, looking between Amy and Xander to see if they were going to be the ones to do it.

"Shote." Roger answered.

'Who the fuck is' "Shote?"

"You haven't met him yet." Xander explained, "He's talking to his government about the Slayer situation, he won't be back for a few days."

"His government know about the Slayer situation?"

"I think somewhere in *every* government, they might have an idea of the supernatural world that lives alongside ours."

"What makes you reckon that? Angel had this cop chick he knew, and she was like the only person in the precinct in the know." 'Wonder what happened to her anyway? She was the one to bust me, but Angel never mentioned her again after that.'

Amy answered, "Shote confirmed that the various African governments admit it with varying degrees of knowledge. I know at least some members of the British government are aware, due to how much external power the Watchers Council are able to obtain when necessary. I'm not sure about the Americans though..."

"I'd guess they know at some levels too." At their looks, Xander added. "The Initiative was a military op, and it was aware of the Slayer myth when they worked there. And I think Riley dating Buffy may have sort of confirmed that myth to most of them." He said with a wink.

"So Shote's off talking to his people right? Anyone else we can call on in the meantime?"

Amy informed her, "We trust Shote; if Shote has further suggestions on people who might know more about ancient languages then we'll take that under consideration. But for now, Shote has the vote."

Faith watched as Xander seemed to go deep in thought, she waited for him to offer his opinions but nothing came.

"So we're just gonna hang out here for a few days and do nothing... can't believe I agreed to this assignment."

Roger looked confused. "I can't believe Mr Giles would send one of his most experienced Slayers down here on delivery errand."

Faith watched as Amy seemed to think about that. "He could have just got it delivered regularly, or if he wanted it kept under Slayer protection surely there are others he could have used?"

'Shit. Shit. Shit. Think, girl, excuses needed now.' "Well," she stalled, "I was visiting Giles anyway and had been asking about the rest of the gang. Got a bit lonely in Cleveland, with just Wood and some kids for company," giving a quick glance towards Amy she added, "and no offence Amy, but the Watchers that got sent over... they made the original Wesley look brave."

"Original Wesley?" Xander asked.

"You know, how he was when he first turned up. All book-y and 'the slayer shall fight-eth alone' and all that crap."

"And he's not like that now? I mean Willow mentioned something about him changing, but I just reckoned it was..."

"Wes was the one who got me to bust out of prison."

"Wes busted you out? No way!!"

Amy looked shocked, whereas Roger blurted out. "You broke out of prison..? You mean you weren't parolled or anything... you actually broke out?"

"Wes didn't bust me out!!" Faith chuckled at the thought, "He persuaded me that it was necessary to leave. I did all the actual breaking."

Roger said again, "You actually broke out of prison?"

"It was an apocalypse." Faith said, in a tone that indicated that *that* explained everything. "Apocalypses wait for no girl, ya know."

Roger couldn't believe it, "Are the police after you now?"

"Don't think so. Fang was gonna sort some shit out for me. Stick Gunn on the case or summat."

Amy looked confused, "Fang? Is this some member of a gang. And he's going to help you out using a gun..?"

"Fang owns a law firm now."

Roger looked from Faith to Xander, who appeared to be following all this.

"Yeah we heard about Deadboy."

"Deadboy?" Roger asked, "Is that another member of Fang's gang?"

"Fang is Deadboy." Faith explained.

Amy suddenly looked a little worried, "And why do you call them... him that?"

"He's a vampire." Faith explained.

"Another one?"

"Nahh..." Xander stated, "Fang and Deadboy are the same person... you've heard of him as Angel."

"Ahh... Angel, right." Amy said, obviously relieved.

Roger thought about it some more. "But he hasn't sorted it out yet though? So they don't know you're over here... how did you get over here by the way?"

"Giles got me some fake passports." She straightened her back and added in a posh voice, "I'm British, don't you know. Faith Masterson at your service..."


"Some Watcher Giles knows. Got a daughter 'bout my age; simply sent the real passport across and got Fang to put us in contact with some guys he knows. Made a few changes, voila."

Amy looked confused. "Angel knows people who can..?"

"He's over two hundred years old. He ain't got a valid identity in any country."

"Faith, about Angel..." Xander started.

'Sounds serious.' "Yeah?"

"What do you know about that prophecy of his?"

"The Shanshu thing? Yeah, he used to be really into it. When he first started visiting me, it was something we shared you know?"

Xander seemed a little lost.

"My parole, his Shanshu. It was like the path to redemption had a destination, ya see. I could get out; and he could be human. I figured if a vampire had a chance at redemption, then maybe the there was one for a Slayer who'd strayed too..." She drifted off, deep in thought. "Eventually he stopped talking about it as much... I just figured that he saw how much of a long-term plan that was gonna have to be... I mean, I was looking at probably at least a decade inside cos of what I'd done, and I wasn't practically immortal."

Xander swallowed hard, "We may have evidence that he isn't going to like regarding his..."

Amy interrupted him. "We don't know anything Xander."

"The old men told us that it was Spike."

"They never said it was Spike." she corrected.

"A vampire came looking for a wish wasn't able to have it granted cos of a prophecy."



"If they'd allowed the demon to give him a soul in order to fulfill the prophecy, then I'd agree with you."

"But you don't?"

"No. I thought about this some. They didn't let him make a wish. That means Spike didn't ask for a soul there."

Faith had watched this conversation like a tennis match, she'd had no idea what they were talking about but suddenly something stuck in her head. "Hold the fuck up! Spike's got a soul?"

"According to Andrew."

"Spike; that little puppy-dog that followed Buffy around like she was in heat or summat?"

"Not how I would have worded it, but yeah."

"He's got a soul... does Angel know?"

"Yeah. He's up at W&H with Deadboy."

"So you think he's trying to steal Fang's Shanshu... no fucking way that's happening... I'll stake the bastard first!"

"That's what I sa..."

They were interrupted by Amy shouting, "Will you two stop it. I'm trying to explain why Spike isn't the one to get the prophecy."

Faith eyed her suspiciously; "This better be good."

"Firstly, they didn't let him enter the cave. So they weren't the ones to ensoul him. Secondly, if they were talking about the prophecy then they were refusing it on some grounds. Possibly that they were already aware of the existence of another vampire with a soul and didn't want to upset the balance by introducing another."

Faith watched as Xander maintained eye contact with Amy, "*They* said that the vampire makes sure the prophecy occurs. That sounds like it's Spike to me."

"They didn't say that, they said, that the vampire helps to ensure the prophecy occurs."

'To-may-to, to-mah-to.' Faith thought. But Xander looked deep in thought, "Okay, I'll concede that we've almost been caught out by wordings within prophecies before bu..."

"But nothing. We can't view the original prophecy... cos we don't even know what prophecy they were talking about. I'm working on it being the Shanshu prophecy; but that might be an incorrect assumption."

"And if it isn't?"

"Then maybe they couldn't kill or ensoul Spike because of something he does in the future. Maybe stopping one of Spike's plans is what earns Angel his Shanshu. That would be Spike helping to ensure the prophecy happens, wouldn't it?"

"Okay, I'll give you that..."

"Actually." Roger added, "It could have been Spike wanting to get rid of his soul."

Faith turned to face him, "What?"

"He could have wanted to get rid of it for some reason."

Xander conceded, "When Spike first arrived he was being driven mental by the First."

Faith shivered, as she remembered her encounter with the First. For a split second she could see something in Xander's eye as he obviously remembered something himself.

He shook it off and continued, "He could have thought it was the soul that was causing him to go crazy and wanted rid of it."

Faith didn't like the way that was going. "But that means his request wasn't to be ensouled it was to be de-souled."

"And they didn't let him do it because of a prophecy." Xander finished for her, clenching his fists at his side.

Faith could feel the anger burning inside her, 'Keep control girl. This is not the time, and I'm definitely not losing it twice in twenty four hours.' "If he wanted rid of the soul, why didn't he just get laid like any normal ensouled vampire?"

Amy was the one to keep the peace. "Spike's not the issue, face it." she said glaring at Roger. "We don't have enough information to decide on this."

"Can we go see these Wisher people tomorrow?" Faith asked. "Get some more info on the prophecy."

"Xander upset them a little bit." Roger admitted.

"You were hardly innocent." Amy argued.

"I told you that wasn't my fault! I did nothing to provoke him."

"They were still gu..."

"Guys!!" Xander shouted, using a time-out motion. "Let's get the drinks in, and move conversation onto easier topics." Xander moved towards the bar.

"So we just gonna wait for this Shote guy to turn up?" Faith asked.

Amy answered, "Nah, gotta see a man about a demon tomorrow."


Roger explained, "We're going to Maputo... you coming?"

"All of you?" At their nods, Faith added, "then sure. I mean what else am I gonna do?" 'Though, I really need to speak to Xander about the soul scenario. Preferably alone. Probably best to do that tomorrow,' and with that thought Faith got up to help Xander carry the drinks.


The next morning.

Xander awoke to the sound of his alarm. Turning his head so he could read the digital display, he noted it wasn't quite seven am yet. 'Too early,' he reasoned and hit the snooze button.

Approximately five minutes later, the alarm went off again.

This time Xander hit his alarm with more force, effectively silencing it for the time being.

Four and a half minutes after that, there was a knock on his door. "Go 'way." He shouted, the sound being muffled due to him being face down in a pillow.

He heard the sound of the door opening, lifting his head for the first time, he turned to face his visitor. "I said Go Away."

Amy's face beamed back at him, "I couldn't tell. It sounded like Ga yay. Which doesn't mean much, as far as I am aware."

"What do you want at this unearthly hour?"

"We all agreed that we were gonna catch the ten am flight."


"Roger's been up for over an hour; he's made breakfast for everyone." Amy's comments were interrupted by the sound of Xander's alarm going off. "And see, your alarm's going now, so you would have been getting up anyway."

Xander moved to switch it off. 'You don't get up at the first alarm, you crazy woman. You have a set number of snoozes to half sleep through, before you actually need to leave the bed. The warm, lovely, snug, comfortable bed,' Xander thought, repositioning himself to get further comfort from his pillow.

Amy turned to leave the room, "Anyway, we don't think Faith has an alarm with her... so as her friend, we decided you get to be the one that checks she's up." she said cheerfully as she closed his bedroom door.

Now he was awake. 'Dammit... That breakfast had better be exceptional.' he thought as he tried to locate some clothing.


Ten minutes later.

Roger waved at Xander as he finally left his bedroom. "Toast, egg, bacon and sausages." He called out, "A classic English fry up. Well... it should have tomatoes as well; but they didn't look that nice, so we..." He drifted off as he could see Xander heading for the box room.

'He's going to wake her up.' Roger could only stare as Xander approached the door.

"Faith. Food." Xander called, as he knocked one the door twice.

Roger watched as Xander started heading towards him, 'He didn't even confirm she's up.'

Xander walked right past, and onwards into the dining room. "Any of these two mine?", Roger heard him call from the other room.

"They're the same just pick one." He answered back.

Xander returned into the living room, just as Faith's door opened.

Roger turned around to see Faith walk out in a pair of knickers and a tee shirt. "Where?" was all she said.

"Kitchen table." was Xander's answer.

"Cheers." Roger watched as Faith walked into the opposite room. Suddenly, he felt something touch his face. Shocked he looked down to see Amy slowly closing his jaw with her hand.

"Don't gawp!" She told him.

Faith walked back in with a plate full of food and a fork. Digging in, she said, "Good food Xan."

"I didn't cook it, it was Rog."

She turned to face him, "Cheers." She managed to get out between mouthfuls.

"Thanks." He responded. Looking down at his own attire, he realised he was fully dressed. Quickly glancing at the others, he noticed Amy was also ready for the day; where as Xander was similarly dressed to Faith, just boxers and a t-shirt. 'Must be an American thing he reasoned.'

Once everyone had finished their food, and two of the party had finished getting dressed they left the villa and headed towards the airport.


During the flight.

Faith was seated next to Xander. Luckily the flight had been only half full, so when she'd ask Xander to talk to him privately they'd been able to move freely into a set of empty seats.

"So," Xander began. "What did you want to talk about?"

"The others." She whispered. "We discussed the Shanshu earlier."


"Do they know about the soul mission that you're on?"

"Yeah..." she watched as confusion slipped across his face. "How do *you* know about it?"

"Giles told me." She said in more normal tones now.

"Giles told you about my search for Spike's wish demon?"


"Well," he joked. "At least that lets me off the hook."

Now she was confused, "Huh?"

"That's the reason we're going to see this demon. We have information that leads us to believe this is a *good* suspect."


"But why did Giles tell you?"

"Okay," she began, 'Need to work out how to tell him this.' "Remember how when you started this case, you were discussing with Giles how much leeway to give Spike?"

"Ermmm.... no."

"Giles told me, that you both wanted to know about Angel's earliest history."

"We know about Angel's earliest history; ran with Darla, parted from the Master, part of the Scourge of Europe... you're talking about when he first had a soul aren't you? He told you about those times?"

"Not exactly."

"So... who told you? And how accurate do you think they were?"

"Oh... very accurate. It was Angelus that took me on the tour."


"You heard I had to bust out of jail to take Angelus down?"


"Well, it ended up with me taking a very freaky trip into Angel's mind. I saw lots of events from his life, and had Angelus along to give me the running commentary."


Half an hour later.

Xander was resisting the urge to pace up and down the plane. He turned to face Faith again.

"So basically what you've said is that Angel... Angel, had his good days and his bad, like anyone?"


"Apart from the brooding and moping, which he really took to a new level, he basically just *existed* from one day to the next until Whistler gave him a mission?"

"Xan, he wasn't a vampire... and he wasn't human... think about it. Even if you take away all the guilt of what his demon had done with his body; then you're still left with something that doesn't fit into either world."

"He was something *new*, I get that okay..." He was refusing to lose his temper. "I got that way back when Buffy explained about him having a soul... I get that... I do..."

"So what's the problem?"

"What I don't get is why people keep giving them second chances... I mean, most vampires we see, we just stake... we don't debate over whether they would be useful if we gave them a soul."

"Not that many of our friends have become vampires, Xan."

"Harmony did!"

"You didn't even like her. I didn't even go to your school, and I could tell the attitude she always gave you, when you saw each other at the bronze."

"That was something different. She blamed me for Cordy."

"Cordy..? Cordy was doing fine until that coma thing. She seemed the same when I saw her."

"But I cost Cordy her popularity. And although *she* accepted it, least until we broke up anyway, the others didn't."

"So this is about *Harmony*? I seriously doubt it Xan."

He thought back to his friend Jesse, 'He'd have loved to hear tales of how I lost *it* to Faith.' He mused, 'Though Jesse didn't ever get to find out what a Slayer was, never mind meet Faith.' "What I want to know is why everyone is *so* willing to give them a second chance. When they lose their souls, or their chips or whatever, why do we go out of our way to give them yet *another* chance?"

"I don't know about B... well, okay I kinda get that she's been involved with both of them, and that's a major part of her deal but... well I owe Angel big time. That's why he gets the special treatment from me. He was the *only* one who came to visit me in jail. He was the *only* one who believ..."

"Faith. We should have... *I* should have..."

"Xan, no sweat, seriously. Me and you had *major* issues between us. I don't know if I would have even agreed to see you if you'd turned up."


"Xan... although I'm still not big on the talking about it... prison did teach me how to deal with a lot of the shit I went through."


"I used to play the 'what-if' game you know? What if I'd done some things differently. What if I'd never been jealous of B, of course you dropping that 'she should have been jealous of me, as I was the real-deal' bombshell on me sent *that* 'what-if' up the spout."

Xander sat in silence as Faith appeared to be opening up to him.

"Others weren't so good... what-if I'd simply ran when I came out of the coma, instead of staying to get payback on B? Would I still be fucking up other peoples lives even now?"

"What-if I'd done my job at the very beginning? You remember? When you told me Angel was back? What if I'd staked him like I was trained to, fuck, like I was designed to? Would anyone have helped me? Or would I have succeeded in killing one of you, so that B would have had no response but to take me down."

Xander felt himself gulp when she referred to killing one of them, a trace of a memory of powerful hands gripping his throat jumped unwelcome into his brain. 'Even now, it's one of my scariest memories.' He tried his very best to not let any of it show.

He was taken out of his thoughts by Faith giving a small chuckle. "Hell. If I'd killed Angel back then, she'd have probably killed me anyway... before I had a chance to stray from the path, ya know... then it'd probably have been B rotting in jail."

Sighing Faith continued. "There were a hell of a lot of what-if's Xander. What I realised is that as many of them were my fault as there were not."

"What I'm trying to say.. is that prison... scary though this thought may be... I needed prison. Prison *made* me face up to what I'd done... what I was on the way to becoming. And a Slayer with that mindset... not a good combination... well, not back *then* anyway. I reckon today we might be able to handle it."

"Ya think?" He joked.

She smiled, the first genuine smile she had since she got there. "I think prison made me face reality. Especially when Angel came and told me B had died. There I was, the only chosen one in the world, and who exactly was I helping? Luckily it turned out that I was helping someone, myself. You see prison, especially maximum security ones, they exist to show the people in them that they are not immortal, they don't have the right to decide whether people live or die, that the guards have all the power and you're just a little individual."

"Sounds scary... I've never thought I could handle prison." He confessed. "Being locked away, all your freedom removed... surrounded by really dangerous men..."

"Exactly. It didn't work that way for me. Wouldn't work that way for any Slayer. You see an armed guard standing ten feet away from you and you know they couldn't miss... I saw people coming close enough, that I could disarm them and have their weapon pointed at another guard, before they could blink. You see a cell that's there to stop your freedom; I saw a door that would make some noise if I had to rip it off it's hinges. You see a ten foot wall with barbed wire; I saw something that would require a running jump. You see the worst gang in the yard, I saw some bitches who'd be wise to keep out of my face."

Xander just looked confused... it must have shown in his face because she suddenly revealed.

"Prison wasn't designed for people like me. I realised that unless they're gonna keep me drugged up on that slayer serum thing that they gave Buffy on her eighteenth... which they wouldn't do as they didn't know about it, didn't know about me. In fact unless someone from the council had been assigned to the prison and managed to drug my food, then prison just didn't apply to me. That scared me Xan, prison didn't apply to me. The thing that was the major worry when I was a kid... If prison didn't apply, that people couldn't keep me in control, well to me that meant there were two options; either I had to accept the control and the responsibility, or sooner or later I'd have to be killed. Not much of a choice eh?"

Xander watched as she smiled at him. "Enough depressing talk for now; I'm gonna see what Amy knows about this demon, see what I'll need if we have to kick its ass." With that she got up and started to walk towards the others.

Knowing her Slayer hearing would pick it up, he remained seated and said. "Faith... I think you were right about needing to take responsibility for your life. But... I think you were wrong..." He watched as she paused in her step just a few rows away from the others. "You've definitely learning to do the talking about it thing. Regardless of what you might think."

She turned and smiled before entering into a conversation with the others. Xander got up and joined them.

Chapter 5


"So," Xander began, turning to look at Amy. "Where do we find this demon then?"

Amy quickly responded, "Shote didn't say. He gave us the name of his contact in town."

"How do we find him?" Roger added.

"This place got a Willy's or something Xan?" Faith added.

Both Amy and Roger looked at her, then at each other. "Willies?" Roger tried to make the question sound casual.

"Yeah, you know, a bar where the demons hang out."

Roger looked relieved.

Amy looked confused. "I know there was a demon bar in Sunnydale; but that was due to it residing on a Hellmouth."

"Nah... all major towns ought to have demon bar... Hellmouths aren't the only ones with 'em."

"Great." Roger muttered, thinking back to where Shote had taken him.

"The one in Cleveland was shit..." Faith continued, "None of the major bads ever went there. Or maybe there just weren't any major bads. Trust me Xan, you didn't miss out on anything when you skipped town."

"A demon bar without any demons?" Amy asked confused.

"There *were* demons in it... just the crap kind; vamps were like the worst thing in there."

"There are demons less pathetic than vampires?" Xander asked in disbelief.

"The ones in there were... well, to be honest... not anything we were interested in."

"Let me get this straight... you were in Cleveland, with lots of Slayers, and you *didn't* find the local demon bar interesting?"

"The demons in there... they didn't hunt... the only reason most of them were in there was due to being too conspicuous to go in regular bars... you know, Brachen and other human-tolerant species; or whatever Giles said about them."

Amy returned to the previous topic, "Shote didn't mention a demon bar. He said, we've got to find a guy called Samson Dabuen."

"Samson Dabuen..." Xander said, he looked thoughtful. "I've heard that name before."

"He should be at the local marketplace."

"So... let's go and haggle." Roger said cheerfully. He began striding off towards the local market.

Faith glanced at Amy and Xander, who both shrugged and followed him. "Shopping... great." She added sarcastically.


An hour later.

Amy turned to look at the others, "This is the guy."

Faith responded, "You sure?"


"So where's Cyke?"

"We didn't arrange to meet here... we've got to meet them by the north wall."

"Right... when?"

"Half an hour."

Faith looked bored, "So what we gonna do til then?"

'I hope she doesn't want to go in by ourselves.' "You wanna get a cold drink and wait for them?"


They began to walk out of the marketplace and headed towards a local cafe. Amy kept giving Faith casual glances. Unable to cope with the silence any further, Amy ventured, "So why do you call him Cyke?"

Faith gave her a quick look over, Amy felt more nervous than she had when she'd been told that she'd be partnered with Faith while they tried to locate Mr Dabuen. "You ever read comics as a kid?"

Amy was too shocked to control her reactions, "What?"

"Comics? Back when you were a kid, you ever read them?"

"Some yeah... I was a bit of a bookworm in my early teens... I'd read anything." Amy confessed.

Smiling Faith replied. "I was more of a tomboy. It was the only way I could hang out with the cool guys I liked, and it was the only way that they'd notice me. Least til I developed curves any way."

Amy returned the smile.

"So, anyways, you ever read the X-Men as a kid?"

"No... I was more into the dark avenger stuff. Read all the Batman comics... I think I was a sucker for the tortured soul."

"Very Buffy... Me, I was more of a 'related to the outcasts' sort of kid. X-Men was definitely my thing." Faith responded. "Anyways the X-Men had this character in it called Cyclops."

Amy chose two drinks from the fridge and joined the queue at the counter, Faith followed her.

"This is all about his eye?"

"Not all, no... but some of it."

"Excuse me?"

"Cyclops had, like all the X-Men, a mutant power. His was the ability to create powerful blasts from his eyes."

"I've seen something like that before."

Amy paid the assistant as she reached the front of the queue; and they both made their way to an empty set of seats.

"Some demon or some shit?"

"It was in a film I think..."

"Ahhh... Cyclops actually had two eyes, not one. He looked like he had one cos of the mask but..."

Amy interrupted, "I think the film was called the X-Men."

"Right. And you hadn't heard of the comic?"

"I wasn't watching it properly. Xander got bored and was watching the DVD on the laptop."

"Xander owns the film? Its back at the villa?" Amy nodded in response to both questions. "I know what I'm doing when we get back."

"You haven't really explained why you call him Cyclops."

"Did you see another character in it called Wolverine?"

"Maybe... was that the hunky looking one?"

"I doubt it... Wolvie's a midget... but it *is* Hollywood so..." Shaking her own head, "I'll tell you after I watch the film."

"The X-Men *comic* had these two characters in it, Cyclops and Wolverine. With me so far..?"


"Now I don't know about the film, but in the comic both of these characters were in love with the same woman; Jean Grey. She was a red head, with some freaky powers telekinesis, mind reading and similar shit."

Amy wouldn't where Faith was going with this, it must have shown on her face as Faith suddenly changed topic.

"Now when I first went to Sunnydale; there was this girl, Willow."

"Yeah, I've read some of the watcher reports on her."

"Now at the time I arrived; Willow was beginning to learn magic, she had some levitation spells and other things going for her. Basically, mix the red hair with the levitation and she reminded me of Jean Grey. I even started calling her Red, like Jean was sometimes called in the comics."

"Now I didn't know this at the time. But later in the year we found out that both Xander and Oz both had feelings for Willow."

"Matching the comic book storyline." Amy noted.


"So until then, Xander could really have been either Cyclops or Wolverine. But throw in the incident with his eye and you get a definite answer."

"Not really. He was always Cyclops before that. He... ermm... well in the comic, Wolverine and Cyclops were two very different people. Cyclops was tall and controlled, acting like a professional soldier. Wolverine was shorter and more animal-like, reacting on instincts more than anything else. Well that also matched the little love triangle that was going on. Oz had been bitten by a werewolf and suffered from that... Xan had been possessed by a soldier on one Halloween."

"Of course, the Ethan Rayne incident."

"Yeah... didn't get all the details. But throw in their general builds, and their own hellmouth experiences; and the distinction as to 'who was who' was always there."

"So you used to call him Cyke then?"

"Oh no... that would have let them know I had been a closet comic book geek... I couldn't tell Xander that he woul..."

"I don't think Xander would have made fun of you for that."

"Xan..? No Xan wouldn't have taken the piss... he would have try to *bond* with me over it."

Amy laughed.

"Not funny. At that age, having a *girl* to talk about his interests with, scary thought." Faith said, performing a mock shudder with her shoulders.

"So now he lost his eye it's okay? You know he probably only thinks you're calling him that because of his eye?"

"It wasn't just his eye..." At Amy's look she added, "Well the eye does give me a good alibi. But I figure that both the eye and the earlier comic book love triangle guarantee the connection... Not quite sure how Cordy fit into that though..." she muttered quietly to herself.

"Anyway, this *isn't* baseball. Two strikes for the cause is good enough to me. Definitely enough to earn the nickname. If it was three strikes, then it's a certainty... tell you what if any further part of Xander's life turns out to resemble Cyclops's, then I'll tell Xander everything."

Amy finished her drink. Faith downed the rest of hers, and they made their way to meet the others.


"We found him." That was the first thing that Amy said to him, when they all met up.

"Where?" was Xander's immediate reply.

"What did he say?" was Roger's.

"We decided not to see him without everyone there." This from Faith. 'Shouldn't be that surprised... prison did mature her as she said.' he thought to himself.

"Okay, so where is he?"

"He's over this way." Amy said, as she began leading them through the crowds.

'That was a bit abrupt. Hope she's not annoyed with me over pairing her with Faith. If she is, I'll need to explain it to her, as she's probably going to be paired that way in future. I needed to know she was safe and Faith *is* the best person to be paired with in any possible battle scenario.'

Xander hurried up to catch up with her.

"Hey Aims, you okay?"


"You sure? You seem kind of distant."

"I'm fine... really it's okay."

"You're not upset with me for pairing you with Faith, are you?"

"What? No... she's okay. Admittedly, she can be intimidating, but I think she's cool."

"That's good... that's great... I was jus..."

"Cyke, shhh... Here's the place."

'Cyke? Oh god, she's channelling Faith.' "*This* is the place?"


The others had managed to catch up with them.

Roger was the first to speak, "You didn't need to wait for us, Faith knew where you were going."

"This is where they were taking us."



Faith interrupted before one of the patented Xander-rants began in full flow. "Will you two chill! So it's a little tacky. This is the contact Shote gave us."

Xander quickly turned to Amy, 'Maybe this is a wind-up they concocted. Maybe this is Amy's payback for giving her Faith as a babysitter.' Not seeing any trace of humour in Amy's eyes, he turned to see if there was any sign of games in Faith's.

Amy quickly stopped that delusion. "Nope. This is it."

They all maintained eye contact with one another. Roger with Amy. Xander with Faith.

Roger was the first to break. "It's a fortune teller's tent."

"It's a Ragbar!" Amy countered.

"That's just a local word for scam."

"It's not."

"It may as well be."

"Let's just go inside and see, shall we?" Amy said leading the way.

Faith immediately followed.

Roger and Xander reluctantly brought up the rear.

Xander couldn't see much bu could hear as Amy introduced herself to Samson Dabuen. "Mr Dabuen. I am Amy Davis. These are my colleagues; Miss Faith Masterson, Mr Roger Craddle, and Mr Xander Harris."

A deep voice from the front replied "The pleasure is all mine my dear. Want your fortune read? I can also do palm readings, love matches and contacting the dead."

"Nothing like that today." Xander heard Amy reply, "Shote Adonale said you could help us."

"Ahhhh... so you are the three young people Shote mentioned." Turning to Faith, he quickly added. "Though I must say Mr Harris, Shote's description of you did you no justice."

Xander moved past Roger, "Har har, that's Faith. I'm Xander Ha... You!!!"


Roger was shocked. He'd known Xander for almost three weeks now. But this is the first time that Xander had reacted violently to anything. 'He grabbed that poor man and physically lifted him up against the wall.' Roger thought to himself.

Unsure what to do next, Roger was visibly relieved when Faith moved past him, and placed one of her hands on Xander's shoulder. "Xan..." he heard her say.

Xander continued to hold the man against the wall. "Stay out of it." Xander replied coldly.

"Xan..." she continued.

Roger found himself staring directly at Faith's hand as it rested lightly on Xander's shoulder. He'd heard from Amy and Xander, the sort of strength that a Slayer was capable of. He was disgusted with himself and the fact that he was intrigued as to whether Faith would have to use it to stop Xander. 'He's your friend.' he reasoned. 'And the only person who was willing to employ you.' "Xander..?" he found himself saying.

Amy was quick to join in. "Xander, what exactly did this man do to you?"

The question shocked Roger. He'd been too busy thinking about Xander's reaction, and how Faith might have to deal with him, to even consider the person who'd caused it.

"Yeah Xan," Faith added, trying to calm proceedings down, "what did he do?"

Roger watched curious as Xander started to turn slightly, seemingly being dragged by his shoulder by Faith's hand. 'But there's no tension in Faith's arm!' Roger realised. 'She can't be moving him. He *must* be moving cause he doesn't want to hurt her.'

Xander let the man go and turned around to face Faith. "I'm okay." he said simply.

She refused to break eye contact now she'd established it. "Xan... you know me, right? I'm all up for a spot of fighting... but only if it's necessary." She said, emphasising the final word.

"It's just..."

Roger noted both Amy and Faith were surroundig Xander with stares demanding he continue. Roger decided to move across to check on the 'psychic'.

The man for the most part didn't seem overly concerned with the events. He was straightening his clothing and returning several items to their place on his desk, where they'd been knocked from in the initial struggle.

He turned to face Roger, and gesturing to the other three said, "They managed to calm him down far quicker than I thought they would. Very impressive."

"Don't try to peddle your crap off on me." Roger replied quickly. "What exactly did you do to my friend?" He asked angrily.

The man smiled back. "I told him his future. What else?"

Roger looked confused and turned around just as the others were coming back over to them. He turned round again to notice that the clothes the man was wearing were different. The man was smiling at him again, disappointed in the fact that he'd let that register in his eyes, his only comment was "Bloody magicians."

"Okay," Amy started. "Xander's calmed down. Mr Dabuen..."

"Call me Sam, please."

"Sam..." Amy continued. "Firstly I apologise for my friend. Apparently the shock of seeing your good self was too much for him. I hope that doesn't dissuade you from helping us. Shote said you would be abl..."

Faith interrupted, "You know where a demon is. One we wanna see."

"Ahhh... your quest... I understand it's progressing adequately?" Samson replied smoothly.

Roger could feel himself wanting to grab the magician himself, even though he'd only just met him. 'Bloody smug psychics.'

"You know about our quest?" Amy asked shocked.

"Your friend Xander mentioned some of it the last time we met."

Xander looked like he was fuming again. "I was here six fucking weeks ago."

"And I put you on your correct path."

"You gave me the typical destiny bullshit!"

"You are mistaken." Samson replied, smiling. "Has it not started to come true?"

"You had a possible answer to my quest six weeks ago. You knew where the demon was."

"Xander," Roger explained. "We don't know for certain that this *is* the demon we're looking for."

"Oh, it'll be the correct demon alright. Typical fucking Harris luck..." he muttered under his breath.

"At the time I can honestly say I was not aware of which demon you were referring to."

Roger found this dubious. 'Typical pyschic bullshit... didn't know then, doesn't know now. Keep guessing and playing the odds as more and more information becomes apparent to them. Worse than people who cheat at cards.'

"And you can feel free to believe what you like." Samson said, indicating Roger.

'No way you can read my mind.' Roger thought, he was about to respond when Amy, who'd been standing next to him, beat him to it.

"I don't think for one second, you actually did what you want us to believe you did... but just in case, can you stop it, it's an invasion of privacy."

Roger stared at the smirk on Samson's face. 'See... he can't do anything, he probably saw something in both our faces which gave away our thoughts... masters of body language, that's all they are.'

"Believe what you like. Xander's the only one here who's been given a reading... let him judge how accurate I am."

"He's full of shit Aims, don't worry about it. I don't care about his readings... if it's money he wants we'll pay him well for taking us to the demon."

"I can't take money from you. Friends of Shote and all that. I'll be glad to take you to the demon." He paused to look at Xander, "So... none of the readings coming true then? Your quest hasn't expanded beyond your wildest imaginings. You haven't met someone who never existed. And I suppose the dark haired beauty I foretold hasn't turned up to play a major part in you..."

"Shut. Up." Xander said coldly.

"Ahhh..." Samson nodded understandingly. "It's complicated." He said, indicating Faith.

Roger watched this. 'Xander's gonna want to hit him again if this keeps up.' Turning to look into Faith's eyes. 'And this time she won't be there to hold him back... doesn't like people making silent suggestions about her, I see.'

Roger turned to watch Xander regaining control of his emotions, "Look." Xander said. "Can you tell us about the demon or not?"



There was no doubt about it, Faith was bored stupid. 'An hour...' she figured. 'An hour we've been here... and we still know jack.'

She watched where Amy and Samson were still in a heated debate about the demon. 'How the fuck is he so sure it's the right one when he's never actually seen it? I'm with Brit on this one, psychics are fucking annoying!'

Deciding that the argument was still far from over, she went back to what she'd been doing for the last ten minutes. Throwing tarot cards into a mug on the tabletop seven feet from her. 'Started doing it to shock Brit with my uncanny aim, seems he needs a bit of a reminder of what a Slayer can do. But even he's bored now. Samson ruined it anyway,' she thought bitterly, remembering how for the first seven cards he'd correctly identified what she was going to throw regardless of where she pulled it out of the pack.

'I'm so bored I'm considering taking him up on his offer of a free reading. Can't believe Xander won't tell me what Samson told him... Samson had practically told *everyone* that I'd been mentioned in it. Wonder if it was good or bad news..? Probably bad,' she figured. Life had gone in her favour for a few weeks now. 'Beat the big bad. Helped close a hellmouth. Didn't die. Had a boyfriend for a brief time. Haven't been recaptured and had to face the death penalty.' Faith thought about that fully. 'The fact that I'm amazed I'm still alive can't be a good sign.'

'Finally!' she thought, noticing that the discussion had come to an end.

"It's approximately two miles away." Xander said as he returned to sit on the table.

"So what are we waiting for?" Roger asked, his thoughts apparently mirroring Faith's own.

"Dusk." Amy replied.

"What the fuck for?" Faith caught herself. She tried reasoning with Xander. "Going to see a demon, Cyke. May not be a vamp but sunlight normally gives us a bit of an advantage."

"It's nocturnal."

"Then it gives us a lot of an advantage!"

"The cave it lives in," Amy explained. "The cave cannot be entered when sunlight shines in it."

"That is the stupidest thing I've eve..."

"The cave doesn't really exist in daylight, Faith." Xander said, quickly cutting her off. "From our understanding, it's kind of a shadow that somehow becomes a cave."

Roger was the first to ask, "So in the day time?"

"It's basically a rock face." Amy stated. "It has some of the same features as the cave but doesn't. If you see what we mean."

"No." both Faith and Roger said simultaneously.

"We don't fully understand it either." Xander conceded.

"But there's only one way to find out."

"We wait." Roger guessed.

"So what do we do in the meantime?" Faith asked.

"We won't get home tonight, regardless of what we find out from the demon. So I'm guessing booking a few rooms might be a good start."

"Great... could do with a few hours kip. Are we taking Sammie tonight?" Faith reluctantly asked.

"Might be best... you willing?" Xander decided.

"Sure. Consider me there."

"Know any good hotels in the area?" Roger asked.


A few hours later

Amy was listening to Xander ranting about the psychic. This had been going on for over five minutes.

"The no-good lying dirty piece of shit. He said he'd be here. He said he'd be *here*!"

"Coward." Roger chipped in from beside her, inside the jeep.

Amy looked up, at the roof, knowing Faith was laying on top of the jeep. "Too fucking hot." she heard from somewhere above. All she could see of Faith, was one leg lying over the edge of the roof, occasionally tapping her boot on the window.

"Then get in the shade." Amy advised.

"Suns practically packed up fo the day. Anyway there's no draft in the car. Got a nice breeze across my forehead here."

Amy realised her and Faith were in some ways still so different even when they're coming from the same place. Sighing she shrugged off her thoughts and turned to look outside. Xander was yanking at the locked door to Samson's place for the fifth time.

"This guy is seriously pissing me off." He said, as he kicked the door.

"You want in?" came a voice from above the jeep. "Cos I can get you in if you want in."

"You can pick locks?" Roger asked, "Did you learn that inside?"

"It's a fucking wooden door... I'm a Slayer. No contest." Faith responded. "And will you leave it with trying to check out my criminal background."

"Nahh Faith... it's okay. If I wanted in, I'd break it down myself."

"Just say the word."

"It's okay. We'll pass on letting your fingerprints be found at the scene of any crime."

"Har fucking har."

"Let's go..." Xander said climbing into the back of the jeep.

Faith climbed down off the roof and got in the other side.

"I thought you called shotgun?" asked Amy. "I can get out if you want me to?"

"No worries. I got shotgun this far didn't I? I was the one to get out so I lost my seat. Fair's fair." Faith smiled at her, "But I get it on way back..."

The drive was over fairly quickly. As they approached the coast they saw another car parked on the beach.

Amy was staring at the car as Roger drove alongside the cliff face.

"Aim..." Xander said from the back. "We're looking for a cave that isn't a cave, remember. So maybe it would be easier if you *faced* the rock?"

"There's someone next to the car. And they're waving at us."

They all turned to look. Roger asked, "What do we do?"

"Drive towards them." Faith answered decisively.

Roger did as he was instructed. As they approached, Amy was able to recognise Samson. 'Slayers have better eyesight.' she remembered.

Samson was leaning on the car and waving madly. "What took you guys?"

"We were looking for you." Roger responded through the open window.

"We arranged to meet here."

Amy managed to cut Xander off before he replied. "It's okay now, everyone's here."

"So where the non-cave then?" Faith asked.

"Over here." Samson climbed into his car and drove over to the cliff face. Roger followed them in the car.

They parked up and everyone climbed out. "There." Samson pointed at part of the wall.

"It looks like a rock to me." Xander said snidely.

Amy thought the same and walked over to the rock face. 'Some strange markings. A lot of cracks in a circular pattern,' she traced their edges with her fingers. "Nothing here."

She looked up to find Faith and Xander doing the same with different sections of rock. "Is this some joke?" She heard Faith ask.

"Wait a few moments." Samson replied.

"Whoa..." Roger called from his position next to Samson.

Amy quickly turned around to recheck the wall. Putting her hands out hesistantly she touched the wall again. 'Still there.' she thought.

Across from her Xander was banging his hand on the rock. "No difference."

Roger lifted one arm to point, "You're standing at the entrance."

Amy glanced across at Faith and Xander, eye contact quickly reassured each other that they weren't going mental.

"No, we're not." Faith responded.

"It's right there." Roger said as he walked towards the space between Faith and Amy. Amy tapped on the wall with her fingers. Faith did the same. Roger walked roght between them and suddenly disappeared into the wall.

'How?' Amy thought.

"What the fuck?" Faith shouted.

Xander came quickly across. "Where'd he go?"

Amy turned to face Samson who was grinning inanely. "They can't hear you." She heard him shout, "Come back out of the wall."

Roger mysteriously appeared next to Xander.

"What the fuck?" Xander shouted as Roger walked out of the wall. "How did you do that?"

"Do what?" Roger asked waving his hand around, it was passing through the wall.

Xander reached out to touch the wall where Roger's hand kept passing through. Xander then reached out to touch Roger. Both seemed real.

"This is fucked up." was his conclusion.

"Okay funny-guy," Faith said, striding over to Samson. "What the fuck did you do to Rog while we weren't looking?"

"Turn around."

Faith did so. Amy then heard her say, "What the fuck? Where did that come from?"

Xander and Amy quickly walked over to her, "What?"

She physically turned them around, Amy thought the wall looked kind of blurry from where she was standing now. The circular patterns in it seemed to move as her head did. "What the hell?"

"Okay... maybe it just that I'm missing an eye but that's just weird."

"It's like a magic eye painting." Amy stated. "You've got to concentrate to see the real picture." But now she had it she was unable to let it go.

"It's so people can't accidently walk in." Samson explained. "Here you have the entrance to the demon you seek."

The others looked at one another and started to walk towards the cave.

He called after them, "Remember. Do not think about a wish as you enter the cave, even thinking about making a wish takes you to face the challenges. Least that's what I was told."

The four others entered the cave.


From the second they'd walked into the cave, Faith's Slayer Sense went on edge, 'There's something there,' she figured, 'not enough to set it off properly but just something keeping it at a warning level.' She recognised this as a familiar feeling. 'I definitely felt like this in Sunnydale. Didn't really notice until after I'd left, then it was there in force when I'd returned with Willow. It's like the humming that you don't notice until it stops.' That reminded her of when she'd had to work in the laundry room in prison, the sound of the machines going all day, 'Made your cell seem especially quite in the evenings' she figured. 'God I really hope this isn't a warning for a hellmouth.' She thought to herself. 'Not that I'd got the vibe when in Cleveland, the more I think about it the less I believe Cleveland is a hellmouth.'

Shaking the thoughts off, she continued to lead the way, Roger and Amy behind her, Xander taking the rear. She found herself clenching her fists involuntarily as she walked further into the darkness. "How big is this cave meant to be?"

Amy replied from somewhere behind her. "I don't know. Samson never said. Why?"

"Cos even my eyes can't see an end to this tunnel."

"Your eyes?" Roger questioned, "I realise that I haven't got the perfect vision, that I had in my younger years, but the cave is virtually pitch black."

Amy quickly corrected him, "The Slayer has eyes designed to take in all possible light. She doesn't just *fight* vampires, Roger; she was *designed* to fight them."

"And yet we still don't know by who." Roger grumbled from just in front of her.

"That's what we want to find out." Came Xander's voice from the back.

"How you doing Xan?" Faith asked, the talk about vision made her realise exactly how Xander must be dealing with their situation.

"Vampires are nocturnal." Amy continued the lesson, ignoring the other conversations.

"Being sunlight un-friendly, you'd expect that." Roger lightly teased.

"I can see Amy's coat. Good job she was wearing something light. As long as I've got something to focus on I think I'll be okay." Came Xander's voice from the rear.

"Cool." Faith replied as she listened to Amy continue her lecture.

"Which means that whoever designed the Slayer made sure that she wouldn't suffer any obvious weaknesses when compared to vampires. They made sure she could compete physically in all aspects of a challenge. The Slayer is stronger, faster and more skilled than any vampire. A Slayer that was as blind at night-time as the rest of us, would be easy pickings for any vampire. Well, not easy so much... easier would probably be the best term."

'Dunno about that.' Faith thought to herself. 'Still reckon vampires have some better senses than us. Reckon on hearing we're pretty much matched. Fang may have had better night vision than me, but whether that's due to a mix of age, power and experience rather than just the standard vamping gifts, I couldn't say. And whether it's just me, but I personally don't think my sense of smell got any better once I was chosen. As for the rest of the skills...' She was interrupted by a question from Roger.

"So why the *vampire* slayer? You said yourself that their were lots of creatures stronger than vampires? Why not design someone able to kill all of them too? Or do they get *demon-name* slayers of their own?"

"That's what we hope to discover when we find out the origin."

"We might find that vampire slayer was a name given later." Xander shouted from the rear.

"Huh?" Faith found herself saying.

"Well think about it. I dunno if it was the hellmouth, but as for other demons, we probably ran into two or three a week. Whereas with vampires we'd be staking from five upwards a night. Maybe they just got the name cos that's what they dealt with most often. I mean most of Faith's skills would come handy in a physical fight against almost any demon."

'Damn straight.' Faith thought.

"Sure there may be a few that could take her out, using superior strength, skill or speed. But on the whole, they in turn, then suffer from being weaker in other areas."

'Actually even vampires could outdo us in stamina,' Faith thought bitterly. 'Guess not having to breathe makes things a lot easier in the long run.'

"It might be that the Slayer is simply the best combination of attributes, that they can actually put inside a human being without requiring them to become a demon." Amy offered as a plausible explanation, "I've heard of human/demon crosses being especially powerful in certain aspects. In fact, when I was studying my ancient civilisations, I considered the hypothesis that some of the legendary stories from more famous historical figures could have been the result of such pairings."

"What?" Both Faith and Xander said simultaneously.

"Think how many characters, according to stories, were part God. Their mother had been impregnated by Odin or Zeus or some other mythological being, and the child grew up to have the strength of a god, or the head of a bull and so on. What if it wasn't the work of gods playing with mankind, but instead simply the offspring of a demon-human union? I was considering how I could work that into a thesis to submit for my course when I got the recall to the Watchers."

"Can't say I'm up on the history of gods and so on. But couldn't they have just been the offspring of Gods like the stories said?" Xander offered.

"Who'd ever believe in stories about Gods?" Amy chuckled to herself. "Far more likely to be a demon."

"It does seem the more likely explanation," Roger offered. "But I'm not writing off the possibility of gods yet. I mean a few weeks ago I probably would have, but then again a few years ago I'd have laughed at the possibility of demons. I think I'll keep an open mind."

As Roger and Amy continued to discuss it, both Xander and Faith were strangely quiet.

'He's gotta be thinking the same thing I am.' Faith thought. 'I mean he was *there*. We've only come across one being said to be a god and that did not end well.' Faith continued with her own thoughts as she led them down the tunnel. 'Unless he mentions it first, I will not bring it up."

"So... what if the Slayer is simply one of these people that are descended from gods or demons or whatever else there could be?" Roger asked.

Faith tried to get her head around that possibility. It seemed Amy was too, as she soon offered a counter argument "That would only work for the first one. She'd display the powers. But wouldn't explain the others."

"They could all be descended from the first one." Roger offered. "Remember the running in families thing?"

"I thought we discounted that?" Xander called from the back.

"Hang on." Faith slowed her pace, as she turned to ask the question. "What running in families thing?"

"Oh yeah." Amy remembered, "That reminds me, was any of your family a potential?"

"Was any of my family a what?"

"Potential." Amy patiently explained. "It's technically what you were before yo..."

"I know what a potential is. Had to share a house with enough of them." Then muttering under her breath. "Got more privacy in prison." 'Though,' she reasoned to herself 'that's probably cos the in-mates got scared of you after a while. Whereas the wannabe slayers all looked up to you in awe.' "I don't get the family thing."

"Basically," Amy began.

"Forget basically." Xander called from the back. "There is no real *basic* to any of it. I take it you wouldn't know if your mother or any of your aunts or anything were potentials?"

'Making a few assumptions about my family there Xan?' "I haven't seen any of them since I was called." She answered.

"Have any siblings or cousins who'd have been teenagers on the day of Willow's spell?" Amy asked.

"Not that I know of." She answered truthfully. 'My family was never the closest thing. God knows I wouldn't have put it past my dad to cheat on my mother when I was a kid. My mother's sister used to hang around, but I couldn't even tell you if I *had* any more aunts and uncles; never mind cousins.' Her inner thoughts almost distracted her from what was in front of her, in fact it was her Slayer sense slipping into a more 'active' mode that caught her attention. "Shit." she said, stopping suddenly.

Roger walked directly into her back.

"What?" Amy asked excitedly. "Remembered a cousin that falls into the right age range?"

"No. Look."

As they all grouped around they began to notice what Faith was point out.

The tunnel had opened up into a giant underground cavern. It seemed to span out in lots of directions.


Roger hated this, this was probably the worst situation he could imagine being in.

They'd had no torches with them, so returning to the jeep was a waste of time. Instead they'd decided to rely entirely on Faith's eyesight to guide them to the demon. If that hadn't been bad enough, Xander had decided to inform them that the cavern was giving him a 'definite wiggins'. Faith had commented that her Slayer sense, had been 'wiggining her' since they entered. 'Whatever the hell a slayer sense is.' Roger thought to himself.

The pairings weren't giving him too much comfort either. Amy had been ushered in front of him by Xander, so that she could rely on the Slayer to protect her. He'd been paired with Xander. Faith had quickly drawn stakes out of her shirt. Xander pulled a knife out of his back pocket.

'Armed..? No-one told me I had to be armed.' Roger thought to himself, remembering his shotgun back at the villa he suddenly thought. 'Wish ole Bessie was with me now.'

Realising what he'd done he suddenly froze to the spot. He closed his eyes. He opened them again. Luckily nothing had changed, there was no weapon in his hand. Xander was looking at him questioningly. He offered a sheepish smile and gestured him to keep moving.

'That was fucking dumb. That was so fucking dumb.' He thought to himself. 'I wouldn't have just gotten the weapon either. In fact, having a weapon materialise in your hands and then getting chewed out by the others would have been the best that could happen to me. It was more likely I would have had to face the Wish-demon. Alone.' he added, shivering a little at the thought.

"Xan?" He asked quietly. Xander turned to face him. "Got any other weapons?"

"You've had training?" Xander said, sizing him up.

Roger decided to be honest. "Did some boxing in my school days. Nothing much physical since then. Used to go shooting..." At that last comment Amy turned around. 'Glad I can't see her face well in this light.' He thought, imagining the look of disgust she would be wearing. "A lot of the ruling clas..." He decided it wasn't worth it.

"All I've got are a few spare stakes. You can have one if it'll make you feel safer."

"Sure," Roger replied taking the stake. 'Where the hell is he storing these things? Why hasn't he got anything better?' he thought looking at the piece of wood in his hand and imagining exactly how ineffective it would have been if Sannus had wanted to kill them.

"You want one too?" Xander offered to Amy.

"Sure." Roger watched as Amy took one, it looked far more natural in her hand than it did in his.

"Chill. No one's expecting nuffin. Chickette probably just lots of Watcher tips drummed into her over the years." Faith said.

'How?' Roger thought, then remembering the discussion on a Slayer's night vision. 'She probably saw my face clear as if we were back at the hotel.'

Thoughts on Faith's superior eyesight reminded him that Xander's lacked depth perception. And that meant that of their two, he was the one who should be relied upon to watch their backs. 'Great,' he thought to himself. 'If something comes I have to inform Xander where it is and hope I can attract Faith's attention. Would have been far better with Bessie.' he thought.

'As long as I didn't accidently kill the creature we came here to see.'

"Is it me or is it getting colder?" Amy asked from in front.

'She normally complains about the heat. Thought she'd be happy with a little chill factor.' He reasoned. "Can't tell myself." he answered.

Xander stopped on the spot. Then Roger watched as Xander started making small steps in each direction. "Colder this way?" he queried.

"Follows the vibe I'm getting... definitely stronger that way." Faith added.

"So what do we think?" He heard Amy ask.

"Follow it." Xander replied.

"Agreed. Power's probably where the demon is."

"So do we really want to go that way?" Amy asked exactly what Roger had been thinking. Roger nodded to show his agreement to the others.

Xander and Faith looked at one another, "We don't have time to lead you both back out and then find this place again."

"We haven't been in here that long." Amy asked.

"What Xan's trying to say... is that we're not sure of the way back"

"What?" Roger blurted out, a bit too loudly for his own liking. Looking around suspiciously to see if anything was there that could have heard him.

"We were always coming to see the demon. I thought you'd be interested in that, Aims?" Xander tried.

"That was before it started getting cold. And both of you started to *sense* our surroundings. It just seems rather scary now."

"We're lost?" Roger asked again.

"I think I could lead us out."

"You think?"

"I just gotta head away from the vibe. And keep my eyes peeled for anything I might recognise."

"I've got a good sense of direction." Xander offered, "The entrance should be over that way-ish. That's the way we came, mainly straight if you ignore a few diversions."

"And if we know where the path is I should be able to recognise most of it."

This wasn't helping Roger's state of mind. "This is turning out to be one of those films, where they all get trapped with a killer."

"It's a wish demon."

"It might *wish* us dead."

"Then we won't be facing it." Xander argued.

"And can I say for the record, me and Cyke have a record of going against the killing demons and surviving."

Roger couldn't stand any more and was beginning to get more and more hysterical. "Great so we die, and you two are the scared survivors who find comfort in each others arms."

Xander and Faith gave each other a look. Roger tried to identify it but couldn't, "That wasn't supposed to be giving you ideas you know." he shouted.

"Well they know where we are now." Amy reasoned.

"Look," Faith tried, "if you want we'll go see the demon and you two can remain here."

"No." Xander said decisively.

"Now it knows we're here. No way." Amy argued.

"So what do you want to do?" Xander said. "In or out?"

Roger stared at Amy, 'Wis... not falling for that again... would be easier if I could see her face to have an idea of what she's thinking.'

They both responded at the exact same time.

"Lets get it over with."

"Go back, get torches and come back."

"Where would be we get torches at this time of night?" Amy questioned him.

"So we wait for tomorrow night."

"To find a demon that we aren't completely sure is the right one? You're actually suggesting wasting another day?"

"What's another day, its been six weeks." 'Shit, insensitive or what.' Roger thought to himself, glad he couldn't see Xander's face. "Maybe Samson has a torch we can borrow."

"Even if we get out, get a torch and, for those that want to, get back in again tonight." Xander said evenly, "That's wasted a lot of the night. And we know you can only enter at *night-time*. What if we get trapped here?"

"And with three votes to one, I say we continue." this from Faith.

"Okay," Roger conceded reluctantly. "Let's do it."

"The vibe seems to be coming from that way." Faith stated, taking the lead.


Amy was relieved when they finally reached a wall. Faith was staring at it. Roger was leaning on it regaining his breath. "Rest time?" she asked.

"Nah." Faith said, "The power demon whatever is setting my Slayer sense off, is coming from behind this wall."

"And it's noticeably colder," Xander said.

Amy hadn't noticed. The fact that they might be on a time limit had made everyone pick up the pace a little. Xander looked okay. She was exhausted and could see Roger felt the same. 'So we didn't grow up chasing vampires, or get magically empowered.' she reasoned.

"Stay." Faith shot off.

"Want company?" Xander called after her.

"You look after them. I'll be faster on my own. I promise not to do anything too stupid." And with that Faith darted round a corner.

Amy walked over to the wall and collapsed against it. "Cold." She said, as he arm touched it.

"Yeah... feels good." This came from Roger who was spreading as much of his back across it as he could.

"Just..." Xander looked lost. "Catch your breaths. But keep your eyes peeled. Tell me, if you see *anything*, even if you think it's only likely to be Faith." He said, readjusting his grip so he had a stake in one hand and a knife in the other.

Amy looked at her watch. 'About five hours til sunrise. Hope Faith finds something.' With that she settled in and tried to regain her breath, in case Faith came back and they had to move fast.

Chapter 6

Xander was worried. Faith had been gone for over half an hour now. The others had recovered enough to be ready to move, should it be necessary. 'Can't see a fucking thing!' He thought to himself. 'Don't know if it would have been much clearer when I had two eyes, I mean, I lost an eye, the other one wasn't damaged in anyway. Surely it *should* be just as good as it was.'

His mind kept flashing back to the number of nightly patrols he'd done without any problems during his high school years. 'But they were mainly outside,' he figured. 'Going into tunnels and caves wasn't an experience I'd actually had that often.' He thought about the first few times he'd gone into a the tunnels. Both times were when the Master was around. 'Once to save Jessie and once to save Buffy,' he thought. 'Pity we failed the first time. And both times I was actually been led, by someone with better vision than me.'

Thinking of Jessie sent him into a more depressing train of thought. Of all the people that they'd failed to save over the years. 'It's quite a list. Sure. I can say I wasn't best friends with most of them, but I often wondered if the others even recognised them.' He thought about the number of vampires he'd recognised over the years, people he'd been friends with in his childhood, others he simply recognised as sharing a few classes with, even some that had made his life hell as he'd gotten older. 'So why didn't any of them get a chance to be ensouled. Sure when Jessie was turned we didn't even know that Angel *was* a vampire, but the others over the years, especially those that came after Willow had successfully given Angel a soul. Why hadn't any of them deserved a second chance? God, the only vampire we ever considered ensouling was that alternate Willow, and that was only cos we figured it was the real Willow. The only reason we didn't try it was that it *was* Willow who'd performed the spell, and no-one knew where she'd kept it.'

Kicking the ground in annoyance, 'Why couldn't Jessie have survived for a little bit longer?'

Movement from Amy caught his attention. Turning so he could what she was staring at, he looked deep into the gloom. 'Nothing.' he thought. 'So what got her so spooked?' Then he heard it, the occasional thud. 'Something's out there. And just as we're slayerless.'

"Get ready." He ordered.

Amy stood several feet to his rightt, brandishing a stake as well as any non-slayer he'd known. Roger was to his left, a quick glance showed him being more nervous. The stake was still firmly grasped in his hand though. 'Don't lose that.'

Xander regretted Roger been out of his line of vision for the time being. 'Dammit,' he thought, 'having a blind side when you've got two non-combatants with you is a really bad plan.' Unable to decide if it would be better to have them in sight, with him risking being blindsided or relying on them both to cover his blind spot, he decided to keep with the current situation. 'Just gotta keep moving my head between the two of them; rely on them to spot anything in the distance, I'll be there to cover whichever one spots something first.' More noise in the distance, now Amy seemed to be getting restless.

'Damn Watcher training, if she was never going to be a field watcher then she didn't even get the crappy level that Wesley had. Probably learnt everything in a well lit gym.' Turning to check on Roger, he wasn't pleasantly surprised to see Roger scanning the dark properly. Being aware of, but not being distracted by any of the noises they heard. Deciding Roger was the safer person, he turned back to capture Amy in his field of vision. More noises from the dark. 'Wonder if Faith's ran into any trouble? Maybe all the noises we're hearing are just the results of Faith facing off against some creature. Dammit, Dawn mentioned that Spike had to face physical battles down here, while I don't believe Faith would be stupid enough to accept the challenges directly, it could be possible that whatever Spike and other wishers have had to face simply live down here.'


'That was definitely nearer.' Xander thought to himself. Re-adjusting his own grip on the knife, quickly checking on the others he figured there was nothing he could do for them til whatever it was was actually visible.

"Yarrghhh." He heard Roger say to his left. Turning quickly he noticed Roger had now left the spot he was on. Reaching behind him, he quickly grabbed Amy's arm and dragged her along in the direction Roger was last seen. 'Not losing two of them.'

Moving about twelve feet further past where Roger had been standing, he saw Roger standing there holding his left fore-arm. There was no stake in either hand. 'What the fu?' Xander thought to himself.

"You okay?" Xander asked.

"Yeah... saw some movement in the dark and went to attack." At Xander's glare he added, "Should have called first I know, but thought if I was quiet I could get the drop in it."

"On what?" Amy asked. "What was it?"

Roger pointed to the figure behind him.

"Hey, don't blame me Cyke. I was walking up to you guys, when Britboy here leaps at me."

"Faith?" Xander asked, sounds like her, but can't make her out from this distance.

"Yeah." She said, moving close enough to be made out in the gloom. Xander sighed, he could feel Amy physically relax next to him. 'Yep, adrenalin's been pumping all right.'

Amy moved over to Roger, "What happened?" She said, examining his arm.

"It's okay, just bruised a little." He replied.

"Faith?" Xander asked.

"He leapt at me, using his stake in a stabbing motion. Wrong height to get a heart stab, by the way. So I caught his hand before he hurt anyone, most likely himself."

"You didn't need to squeeze that hard."

"I didn't, I just used changed my grip to make him lose the stake, when he lashed out with his free hand. Good one by the way, nearly caught me by surprise. I raised my arm to block the blow and he's been holding his since."

"I caught her across the fore-arm instead of with my fist... it's like hitting an iron bar."

"Stop whinging, it's not like I hit you back."

"Anyway," Xander said changing the subject, "Find anything?"

"This place is like a fucking maze. But I can't find anyway past the wall."

"It's in the middle of all this? Somewhere inside the rock."

"I don't know... kept getting disorientated. I swear sometimes the vibe changed direction. Between it and the various tunnels and so on I swore I was completely lost."

"You came from the opposite direction you went. You sure you haven't just circled this thing."

"That's the thing... I was against a wall over there." Faith pointed to the direction she'd just arrived from, "but I was getting the vibe from the wall over there." She indicated the wall facing opposite the one he'd expected.

'Huh?' Xander thought. Although he couldn't actually see the wall, he understood what she was trying to say. 'But that makes no sense.'

"It was only cos I noticed you guys that I came back. The vibe I've been following. It's as confusing as the rest of the cavern. I say we leave it for tonight and come back tomorrow, preferably with torches and some sort of map system."

"A map system?"

"Anything... hell writing on each wall that we walk down would be useful."

"Well, Roger's injured anyway. So let's regroup and do this tomorrow. That way those that don't want to come don't have to."


About an hour later.

'Finally, fresh oxygen.' Faith thought, as they could see the end of the tunnel led to the beach.

Walking out of the entrance, they all began to stretch and look around them. Faith turned around to take another look at the cave that wasn't a cave. Walking to her right, but keeping the cave entrance in sight at all times she was amazed to see that it remained a cave entrance. She was now about thirty feet from where they'd originally spotted it.

Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and counted to ten. Opening them the cave entrance had been replaced by a rock face. 'That's just so fucking cool.'

Turning to face the others she discovered that they had found their jeep. But Samson's car was still parked nearby. "He waited for us?" She shouted out.

"No-one here." Roger called back.

Jogging over to them, she took a look in the car for herself. 'Not asleep on the back seat either.'

Xander had been checking out their jeep. "Nothing missing. So it doesn't look like anyone was here. No other tyre tracks either."

After checking for Samson's car keys and finding none, Faith glanced around at the ground herself. "So what the fuck happened?"

"He could have got bored waiting and gone to a bar or something?" Roger suggested.

Amy checked her watch, "It's quarter to four. I don't think any are still open."

"We didn't turn up for several hours, and he left his car because he was drunk?" Roger added.

"Not everyone lives like you." Amy responded.

Roger held his heart, and faked a mock wound.

"So what do we do?" Faith voiced what everyone was thinking.

"We drive along the beach and see if we can spot any sign of him." Xander responded.

'He looks a little guilty.' Faith thought. 'But Xander was with us the whole time. Well the others anyway. What the hell is up with him?' "Shotgun" she called.

Xander drove them down the beach, they'd left Samson's car where it was to remind themselves where both the cave entrance was and where they got onto the beach.

Faith was hanging out the window looking for any signs of life. After about ten minutes they turned around and drove the opposite way. Having arrived back at the car, they did the same in the other direction. 'We must have covered maybe fifteen miles of coast in all,' Faith figured. 'And still no sign.'

"Dawn'll be in a few hours," Amy said. "Maybe it'll be easier to sleep for a bit and check for him in daylight."

"Agreed," Roger said. "I need a few hours sleep."

"Okay, we'll head back to the hotel." Xander said, and turned the car to return to the town.

They arrived back at the hotel about twenty minutes later. Once they entered they soon seperated off. Only being able to book two twin rooms, which unfortunately had been on two different floors, Faith and Amy got off the elevator before the others did. Saying goodbye, they walked over to their room.

Amy unlocked the door and moved over to the bed she'd selected earlier. Opening the window again, "Why didn't they leave it when I opened it before?" she grumbled to herself.

"No idea," Faith responded, throwing herself onto the other bed.

'Forgot about Slayer hearing.' Amy thought as she returned to her own bed. The room was considered an ensuite, but Amy doubted the presence of a toilet and a sink really justified that. 'How can it have no shower or bath?' Amy thought to herself.

She opened her bag and selected a large t-shirt and shorts to sleep in. Pulling her shirt off she was shocked when suddenly Faith whistled behind her.

"Where the fuck have you been hiding them beauties?" Faith called from the other bed.

Amy quickly slid the other t-shirt on. Carefully removing her bra while still wearing the t-shirt, she then climbed into bed. Choosing to remove her shorts and underwear under the covers. Putting the fresh shorts on, she slipped the worn items back into her bag.

Amy watched as Faith simply kicked off her shorts and removed her t-shirt. Wearing only knickers underneath, Faith then collapsed on the bed. "So... where have you been hiding them then?"

"What?" Amy asked reluctantly. Faith still hadn't bothered to get under the covers, seemingly prefering to sleep face down on top of it.

"Your tits girl. What do you think I was talking about?" Faith asked, raising her head to look at her.

"I'm just not... I'm..."

"If you want Xander to notice you then you should reveal a little skin."

"Want Xander to notice me?" Amy wondered where Faith had gotten that idea.

"Yeah... you know. You watch him like a hawk girl. If you don't want a piece of cyclops, then what do you want?"

"It's not like that. It's not."

Faith raised her eyebrows.

"Xander's... Xander's well... how can I put this?"

"Just spit it out. Unless of course you're a swallower."

Amy gulped and decided to confess, "Xander's what I want to be."

"Eh? I take it you don't mean one-eyed and male?"

"No... it's just... When I was growing up among the Watchers. The ones who did field duty always seemed to exciting. They got to go out in the field and they got to look after a Slayer. You understand me?"

"Not really, first time I heard about a Slayer, they were telling me I was one."

"Well, with my parents being against the idea of me going into field work. I studied the existence of demons in the hope that they'd notice how useful I could be. Maybe I couldn't be a field watcher, but maybe I could work alongside one. Let them be the ones to look after and train the Slayer, I could fill them both in on what they faced. It wasn't uncommon for Slayers to be assigned more than one watcher in the past."

"So you wanted to be a watcher? What's this got to do with Xan?"

"As I got older I noticed that the active Watchers really weren't that better than I was. I mean training wise. They obviously had different skill sets to myself. I'd learnt fencing as a kid, and I could beat some of the people being considered for getting assigned to a Slayer. It seems they were learning how to teach these subjects rather than actually being taught to use them in battle. 'The Slayer is the weapon, the Watcher guides and teaches her' and all that."

"Yeah, Wes was like that when he first arrived. Giles was different. Saying that, Wes turned out well once he'd got out from under the Council's control."

"Well, I never wanted to do that. I couldn't send someone in to somewhere I wasn't willing to go myself. I wanted to be better than that, that was the main reason I first left the Council. I just couldn't see a future in it for myself."

"You could have worked to be better. You didn't have to follow in their footsteps you know."

"Rupert Giles got fired for doing exactly the sort of thing I would have hoped I'd done. That practically guaranteed their was no place for me... but when I was called back, and learnt that *Giles* was the most senior field watcher. Well to be honest it gave me hope."

"There's a but coming isn't there."

"But he didn't have all the control he needed to make a difference. He's only in charge of the field watchers, he has no real influence on those that don't work for him."

"I thought Giles was in control of everything."

"It only seems that way, cos of where you fit into it. You're a Slayer. He's in charge of all Slayers, that seems a little weird when you say it out loud. He also has the responsibility of all major hotspots. He's only getting a free rein on things as there's no one to contradict him. But should they manage to find a replacement I wouldn't think for one second they'd try."

"I'd like to see them. All the Slayers think he's the big boss. I don't think they'd listen to anyone else. They all defer to me, Buffy or any of the Sunnydale lot really. And we definitely wouldn't listen to some bookworm on a powertrip."

"But even with Giles trying to rebuild the field watchers, he's still relying on others to train them. And these others are the same ones that were doing the training before. I'm not even sure he's realised that."

"I think G'll surprise you. He'll be aware of their game, guess he's building his side and moving them into position before he makes a challenge though."

Amy stared at her in disbelief.

"Chess. Wes taught me some of the basic concepts, not on a chessboard or anything geeky like that, but how to actually run an army. And that's what G has this time, an army. It's not him, a Slayer and some kids versus the council anymore. And I don't think they've quite realised that."

"Yeah, but anyway, as I read about the exploits in Giles's journals. I realised they were the people I wanted to be. Brave; like Xander and always willing to help a friend. Smart; like Willow and using information to aid the group. Calm; like Daniel and being in control at all times. I know I didn't seem it, when we almost attacked you earlier, but at one point I was actually glad of a chance to prove myself."

"Don't worry none. For your first time you did pretty good. You kept your position and were willing to follow the more experienced person. Anything else is just details. One thing you gotta realise is though, regardless of whatever the tales from the hellmouth led you to believe about the group there. That doesn't exist anymore. If we can help it, we don't need to risk Watchers lives or our friends. We got a lot of Slayers for that, and we're better designed to take the punishment. Say you're right and the Scoobs were the best of the old ways. What you gotta ask yourself is how you can be best for this new world we're in."

"We don't know how long this new world will last. It could be that once all the newly called Slayers are dead then we go back to the old world."

"That's all well and good and honestly too deep for this time in the morning, but you gotta think differently. There *will* be hundreds of Slayers during your lifetime. Whether it continues with loads forever then you need to find where and how the field watchers best fit in with the new world. Or maybe that'll change as you hit middle age and so do most of us and we're back to one or two slayers fighting the fight again. In that case you need to find out how to improve on the scoobs so that when that happens those slayers will be given the best help that they can. And that's how you can help G. Let others concentrate on the big picture and the future of the slayer line, you concentrate on the future of the watcher line and how it best helps, cos I reckon no-one's looking into that."

Faith climbed under the covers and tried to get comfy. Pretty soon she'd dropped off to sleep.

Amy lay there and thought about it what had been said.


Same time as last section

Xander and Roger stepped out of the lift on their floor. There was a man with his back to them leaning against their door. Roger felt himself tense up.

Xander stepped out in front of him looking relaxed but aware. Roger watched as Xander monitored the corridor. 'He seems to be staring at each door,' he thought. 'Of course, if the guy has a partner it would be better to know about it now.'

Roger was trying to see past Xander to see the man standing there. Nothing out of the ordinary he figured. In an attempt to look inconspicuous, he did a quick three-sixty while following Xander down the corridor. It failed. It probably wouldn't have worked anyway, but the fact that Xander had stopped walking while he was in midspin, and he failed to notice hadn't made it better.

Xander quickly glanced behind to see what had collided with him, Roger offered a smile. Roger noticed Xander looked over his shoulder to scan the corridor behind him before turning to speak to the man on the door.

"Excuse me," Roger heard Xander say. "That would be our room."

"Mr Harris." Came a familiar voice. Roger moved to the side, so he could see who it was. 'Samson..?' he thought.

"And Mr Craddle. How are you two fine gentlemen this evening?"

"It's practically dawn." Xander answered shortly.

"We went looking for you. We thought something could have happened."

"I thought I'd check in with you before you returned to your hotel."

"So where were you?" Xander asked.

"Ahhhh... now *that* is an interesting tale."

"Care to come in and share?" Roger said, opening the door to their room.

"It's a tale best told over breakfast... or maybe lunch. It depends what time you get up." And with that Samson handed them a card, and then departed towards the lift. "If I'm not at my place. I'll probably be out working... speaking of which, how is that coming along for you Xander."

Samson entered the lift after his parting shot, and waved as the doors closed.

Roger unclenched his fists, "I'm really starting to hate that guy."

"Tell me about it. To think, at one point I was afraid I'd wished him dead or gone or something."


"Okay, fine I admit it... wishes seem harmless if you only *think* them while in the cave... okay, I admit it, I thought about making a wish, while we were in the cave. God, you'd think with my past I'd have definitely learnt *that* lesson."

"I made one too."

"You made one?"

"It was when everyone else had a weapon."

"Mine was when Faith had gone, and I had the distinct feeling this was another wild goose chase."

"Don't worry about it. I blame Samson entirely."

"I agree."

"I don't think we should tell the girls though."



It was past noon when Faith woke up. Crawling out from the covers she somehow entangled around her legs, she raised her head to face the day.

Shaking the remains of the covers off, she looked at where Amy was still sleeping. 'Guess I'd be dead to the world too, if it wasn't for my Slayer recuperative powers.' Shrugging her knickers off, she looked in her bag trying to find some clean ones. Having found some, she slipped them back on, followed by yesterday's shorts and a fresh t-shirt.

Deciding to leave Amy to her sleep, she quietly slipped out of the room.

Using the lift to go downstairs, she left the hotel and went in search of some food.

Walking around the market in Maputo, she noticed just how different it was to America. Here everyone expected you to haggle. She couldn't get the Monty Python sketch out of her head. Considering she had no idea what the money in her pocket was actually worth, she decided she wouldn't risk it.

Walking around she found herself outside Samson's... what had Amy called it... a Ragbar.

Noticing it was open she looked inside. Samson was in the back dealing with a customer. 'He's fucking alive!' She thought to herself. 'I'm going to kill him.'

Waiting for the session to end, she stood outside and had a cigarette. She couldn't help but overhear some of Samson's advice to the young woman inside.

"You need to change your outlook on life. Stop looking for incentives in every decision you make. Taking a chance could lead to a life-changing outcome."

'Blah blah... same old crap every gypsy peddler sells.' She figured.

After about ten minutes, the young woman left. Faith strolled in.

"And what the fuck happened to you last night?"

Shocked Samson turned around. "Ahhh... the lovely Miss Harrison."


"Sorry my mistake."

"I asked what happened to you?" Faith repeated, practically snarling in his face.

"As I told your colleagues last night. It's a story I only want to repeat once. So I'll tell you when you're all present."

"You saw the others last night?"


"Why didn't they just come down to get us?"

"I don't know."

"You should have come see us first. I'd have woken them up, they'd have wanted to see you last night."

"Me... waiting outside the room of two beautiful young women... what would people have thought?"

Faith conceded the point. She wasn't worried for herself of course, but who knows how Amy would have taken it.

"So..." Samson offered. "What do you want to do now? Thought any more about that reading I offered you?"

"Don't need no crystal ball to see how shitty my life can get."

Samson smiled.

"I know that if I want to change it, then I have to work for it."

"Then with that knowledge you should be aware that the worst is over. And it *is* over Faith."

"Collect your friends come back in a few hours. I'll tell you all later, after I've closed up shop..."

Faith reluctantly left the shop. 'Stupid fucking fortune teller... always telling you what you want to here. Maybe the truth could be useful... hell if I'd known about the jail time I'd end up doing, don't you think that I might have changed my attitude earlier...'

Faith lit up another cigarette, taking a long drag she reasoned, 'But back then, would I have, *really*? Or would I more likely have seen it as a challenge... to live the life and avoid jail?'

"Fucking psychics." She muttered before heading back to the hotel. 'And I didn't get any food either.'

Heading up to her room, she discovered Amy had awoken.

"Where we you?"

"Out... Slayers don't need as much sleep. Comes with having to fit some nocturnal activities in with a normal life I guess."


Falling backwards onto the bed, Faith continued. "Guess what?"


"Samson's alive. Saw him fucking working, if you believe that."

"So where was he?"

"Wouldn't tell me. Says he'll tell everyone at the same time. We gotta go see him later tonight."


"The others up? Need food and suppose I should update them."

"Go check, I haven't left the room yet. Going to try and have a wash in the basin, don't feel much like risking the communal shower..."

Faith smiled at her, "You want me to watch the door if you do risk it?"

"I'll see. And thanks Faith."

"No probs."

Faith left the hotel room and headed upstairs.

Knocking on the boys room, the door was greeted by Xander. Dressed only in a pair of boxers.

"MMmmm MMMmmm boytoy."

"Faith?" Xander murmured through still sleepy eyes. Opening the door to invite her in he collapsed back onto his bed.

Faith couldn't help it. 'He's definitely slimmed down. Not the chiselled six pack of regular gym go-ers, but hey they look fake anyway. Wow, mix the manly construction build with the sort of weight loss you could only get by sweating in Africa for a few months, and mamma I'm home.'

"Been working out Xan?" Was all she offered.

Amused at her reaction, "Faith, I finished puberty since you last saw me topless."

"So did I... wanna compare?" She teased, perching herself on the other bed. She figured the lump under the covers behind where she was sitting must have been Roger.

"What did you want?"

'Well that was an abrupt change of subject.' Faith thought. Slightly annoyed at his diversionary topic. "Why didn't you wake us up last night when Samson was here?"

"He came see you too?"

"Nah... *I* went to see him when I woke up today."

"What did he say?"

"That he'd tell us everything later."


"You two getting up any time today? Me and Amy are hungry."

"We'll be down in a sec." Xander turned over to sleep on his back.

"Kay..." Faith got off the bed with a hop. The movement caused the bed to rock slightly.

Roger's head peeked from under the covers. "Was that Faith or was I dreaming?"

Checking out Xander's body one final time. She left the room, "Whichever it was Brit, at least *you* have good taste."



Samson was in his element. 'A captive audience is always the best kind.' Though looking around he figured most of them probably wouldn't be too impressed. 'Xander looks bored. Roger looks like he wants to kill me regeardless. Faith is getting impatient and Amy, well at least Amy looks interested.'

"So... I was standing by my jeep..." he began.

******* Flashback *******

Samson watched them enter the cave. Smiling to himself, he wondered how the 'pink elephant' he'd given them at the end would go down. 'Wonder how long it takes before they *think* it.'

Laughing at the thought, he began to walk in the opposite direction to where he'd sent them.

Walking to his car, he quickly retrieved the keys from the ignition, and then continued on his path. Arriving at the opposite cliff face he patiently waited. Sitting on a rock, he waited for dusk to pass. For all remnants of the sun to be removed from the sky and for the world to be lit by the lights of the stars and the moon alone.

The tribe shimmered into place, as they had done every night before and would do every night 'til the demon's wish was stopped.

Some of them were the cousins of his ancestors he reasoned. Remembering the tales his grandfather told him, that *his* grandfather had told him. These were the cursed. Upon discovering the wish-demon they had avoided him for a long time. They were a proud tribe. They prided themselves upon their hunting ability beneath the full moon. But their world was a primitive one. Animals also hunted at that time, as did the blood-drinkers and other tribes. They tried to survive in that harsh wilderness, but as with a lot of primitive people their lack of knowledge was against them. They prayed to the gods who lived on the moon. Names long dead now, forgotten even by our own people, his grandfather had told him.

Each night they return and they await those who could end their curse, or the demon's death whichever came first.

The curse had been the result of a misworded wish. As happened to so many that had visited the demon.

Samson was certain that those he had sent into the demon's cave would be okay. He had forseen parts of their lives. It had been a gift that one of the wise men from the ancient peoples had given him, or taught him... he had been a child, and he had been shown how to use the gift over time... maybe he always had it, and his grandfather simply took him to the only ones who knew how to develop it. He'd probably never know, he figured. 'Maybe that's my curse... I learn lots about complete strangers yet nothing about myself.' The more he thought about it the more it seemed true... 'I was never able to use it with my own family, nor close friends. The longer I knew someone for, the less I could see.' Maybe it had been a gift given a timelimit, only showing him a certain amount of time from when he first met each person, maybe it had been a restriction the elders had put on him, so that he could not be tempted to abuse the power. 'I guess I'll never know.'

The legends told that the tribe had requested their battle prowess under the moon they worshipped to be unsurpassed. Not wishing to be greedy, they asked to be undefeated under the moon's light. 'Well they got that in spades.'

He went out to meet the warrior who had left the camp once they realised they were back. "I have some new friends inside the cave."

"Can they help us?"

"I don't think they're here for that."

"They walk with Her Who Fights."

"You know...?"

"Are they aware of the curse?"

"A friend of theirs made a wish. They want to know details."

"A friend, are you sure?"

"They are trying to help a bloodsucker, if you believe that."

"We are aware of the beast. We tried to block his passage, who knows what a bloodsucker might wish for. As you were all still here the following night, we assumed his wish had not been granted."

"A bloodsucker got past you?"

"Strangely he was not interested in feeding. We were going to lure him in with the possibility of drinking us dry."

"I'd hoped you'd stop doing that."

"We must take every advantage that we can. It's easier to stake them while they feed. And it's not like it hurts for long."

"They could leave at any time. You must be careful."

"Those that travel with Her shall not be harmed."

"I was thinking more of yourselves."

"They cannot do us harm. But if it will ease your mind."

The warrior waved his arm and the camp was covered in a light mist.

*** End of flashback ***

Samson smiled at the others.

"So let me get this right?" Xander began. "You were waiting for us to come out of the cave, when a *camp* of primitive warriors materialised around you?"

Samson nodded his agreement.

"And they then went on to tell you about the demon?"

"And you didn't know this was going to happen?" Amy added suspiciously.

"Tales of the demon, keep many away from the beach at night. The tales of the ghostly tribe have been around since before my grandfathers time. But I've never seen them before."

Faith couldn't believe this turn of events, "Fucking wonderful."

"So how did you get back?" Roger wanted to know.

"I drove back."

"Your car was still on the beach when we looked for you."

"I was in one of the tents, talking to the wise men."

"Been there, done that." Xander muttered under his breath.

"We didn't see any tents."

"And I didn't see outside the tent... so I didn't see you looking for me. Your car was gone when I returned to mine."

Roger began hesistantly, "When you were in the tent, did you drink anything... suspicious?"

"No. They smoked a pipe, but I refused."

"And all they could tell you about the demon is that the wishes will be removed when it dies?"

"Yes... that is the only certain way they know of. They have heard rumours from a variety of the people they've met over years that there are other ways but... they've never found another."

"All of the wishes?" Amy asked, curious. "All the ones, it's ever done ever?"

"I assume so."

"Wouldn't that involve a lot of rewriting of history?" Amy called.

"You'd think so... I got all this from the tribe members, who've been talking to anyone they meet over the years."

Faith asked, "How long is the demon likely to live for?"

"No one knows, *they* don't even know how long they've been there. Countless nights, they reckoned. And the demon was a legend in their time."

"Wonderful... the major part that's pissing me off," Xander said. "Is that in all their years, they've never found anyway to communicate with the demon other than by wishing."

Amy took it up, "Which when their wish to remove their previous wish was denied. They've been reluctant to try again, should another *twist* occur."

"Correct." Samson said, thinking he'd covered all he wanted to.

"So we're fucked." Faith summarised.

"Seems that way." Xander added.

Samson smiled. "You can go talk to them yourself, if you wish. They said those that walked with the Slayer would be welcome."

"You told them about us?" Amy asked.

Samson shrugged, "They knew. They may have foresaw your arrival."

"Unlike you managed to do..." Faith teased.

Samson smiled. "I knew *you* were coming," he said, nodding towards Xander. "I just didn't know you were a Slayer."

Faith looked at him. "Fucking answer for everything."

Samson smiled and left.


Two years later.

Xander was sweating. He couldn't get the image out of his brain.

They'd been sitting down having a meal, celebrating Dawn getting into Oxford. Willow and Giles had been very impressed. Him and Faith, there was a him and Faith now, and actual item, nine months on and going strong; hadn't really had a clue, but it sounded important, and Dawn was happy and *that* was important. And anyway, these days any excuse for a get together. This time it was Willow's place they'd invaded.

They'd been having a good time, it wasn't even so bad as when Spike had turned up; Buffy had brought him like usual. He'd been souled, she'd said, and the reasons why Angel and her couldn't work out weren't standing in the way. They seemed to have an on-off relationship; it only counted when they were in the same city together, 'elsewhere was elsewhere' Buffy had said.

'Open relationship,' Faith had called it, adding further comments on 'how open exactly were they?'. Goading him, into seeing if he wanted one. He'd replied about how it wouldn't be fair as she get attention far more often than he would. Some goodnatured teasing had been gone around the table.

There was no risk she'd said. Spike'd joined in, entertaining the girls, with the latest antics from W&H.

Buffy was informing everyone about as how no more Slayers had been called that they felt really at ease with the spell. He'd argued that no Slayer had died recently so it still hadn't discounted anything. A normal regular argument between the two of them. There wasn't even any shouting this time.

Giles seemed extremely happy with all the new information being provided. It seems that inaccessible books of knowledge weren't really that inaccessible when twelve slayers turned up on the doorsteps asking for them. And where Slayer strength couldn't help, well there was always Willow.

Spike had wanted Willow's help with something he'd found at W&H. Some trinket, Angel had picked up, their magic users hadn't provided any help, so they wanted Willow to take a look. Spike led her out to the car to show her.

Buffy had gone out to see what had been taking them so long.

The first thing that Xander noticed was the person he didn't recognise in the kitchen. They were threatening Giles, he'd only had to say one word 'Faith.' She was up and heading to Gile's rescue in seconds. Normal run of the mill vamp... why would they attack us in the home of one of the most powerful witches in the world. And why the hell do it, when two slayers were in the house.

That's when it occured to him. The vampire was in the house. Giles's couldn't have invited him in. He ran to the window. Willow's body was slumped on the floor by the car, it was surrounded by blood. He could see Buffy trying to hold her own against five vampires, but every time she staked one another took it's place.

He turned quickly to see Faith was facing similar numbers in the kitchen. The lack of room, was enabling her to fight them one on one. A noise attracted his attention, Dawn had been grabbed by Spike and pulled into a room on the opposite sides of the table.

Xander stamped down breaking the chair next to him. Picking up the remains of two chair legs to use as makeshift stakes, he'd kicked the door seperating him from Dawn. She was lying lifeless of the floor. Spike had a blood ring around his mouth. Two vampires approached from behind him to continue to feed once Spike was done.

He'd frozen for a fraction of a second. Seeing Dawn lying there, it had taken the wind out of him. Spike looked in his direction. Grinning he'd said something about only him getting to drink from the Slayers, but anyone could have the whelp and the watcher.

Grabbing the door handle, he closed the door attempting to halt Spike in his progress. Glass burst from his left. Three vampires had leapt through the window. He'd realised there was nowhere left to run, holding his two chair legs, he ran at the vampires. His last thought; if he was going down, he was going down fighting.

Xander sat there in his bed... Roger across from him sleeping on. Sweat was pouring off him. He couldn't shake the casual way Spike had passed Dawn on to the others, the way you might offer someone a few fries.

He got out of the bed, moved into the 'bathroom' and rinsed his face in the basin.

It didn't help.

He looked back into the room, where Roger was sleeping.

Remembering something from an earlier conversation. He walked determinedly over to his shorts he pulled them on. Fastening his sandles, he quickly grabbed a shirt.

'You need to make a wish... I've got a wish.'


Amy was woken by the frantic knocking on the door.

Deciding to risk opening an eye, she was pleasantly surprised to discover it wasn't yet morning. 'Least I'm not wandering around the room praying for shade,' she thought to herself.

Lifting her head off the pillow; she looked around the room in the gloom, and was able to distinguish Faith still sleeping face down on top of the covers. The knocking still hadn't stopped.

'How the hell can she sleep through this racket with Slayer hearing?' She thought, as she sat up.

Deciding she wasn't happy with her current state of dress, she quickly wrapped her coat around herself. She stood over Faith and tried to wake her without letting the person on the door know she was there. "Faith..." She whispered, "Faith..." Getting no response, she tried prodding her gently. 'Don't want an enraged Slayer on my hands...' Faith was still breathing heavily, 'Though a conscious Slayer might be useful when people are attacking your door in the middle of the night.'

Moving closer to the door, Amy tried to identify the person through the keyhole. Unable to see anything more than a pair of grey trousers, she put her ear against the door and tried listening.

The voices she heard didn't belong to anyone she recognised.

"They're not fucking in."

"It's four am, go to bed."

"We have kids sleeping in here, you know."

"Look I apologise for disutrbance at the late hour, but can you all please Fuck Off?"

Recognising the final shout, Amy faced the door and asked. "Roger?"

"Amy... It's me, let me in."

"Hang on a moment." Amy moved to allow Faith some level of decency. Attempting to pull the covers over Faith, she was obstructed by the fact that Faith was lying on them. The amount of free covers left did not succeed in providing Faith with any modesty.

Looking around for something else, she could hear the voices start up outside again.

"Are they in or not?"

"Leave it, speak to them in the morning."

"It was definitely a female voice, can't believe we got woken up by some pervert looking for a booty call."

Amy grabbed one of her own pillows, and balanced it across Faith's back. Amy decided that wasn't enough so quickly draped another coat over that. Noticing some flesh was still visible she quickly gather some remaining clothes and placed them at Faith' side, completely removing any of Faith's upper body from view.

Amy opened the door to find Roger engaged in an argument with a younger man, who'd rented the room opposite. "I am not sleepi..."

She grabbed his collar and physically dragged him inside her room, giving an apologetic smile to the man facing her.

"It's early... what is it?"

"I thought I heard noises in the night and I wo..." Roger paused as he noticed how Faith was sleeping. "Does sh...?"

"She says it makes her comfortable." Amy shrugged his questioning look off. "You woke us up because you're scared of noises..? There are no demons under the bed, if that's what you're worrried about. Why didn't you wake Xander?"

"That's what I was trying to say. And I'm not scared of demons under the bed..." Roger suddenly looked deep in thought. "Well, I wasn't... Remember you said that a lot of the *old* fairytales and folk lore, normally had some basis in tru..."

"Roger..." Amy interrupted. "Why are you here?"

"Like I said, Xander's gone missing."

"You didn... Xander's gone missing?"

Roger began again, "I thought I heard noises in the night, but at the time I ignored them. A bit later on I needed the toilet..."

"Too much detail."

"When I returned to the bedroom, I noticed Xander's bed looked empty. I tried calling his name a few times but there was no answer."

"And you confirmed he wasn't there."

"Yes... So I got dressed and checked things out and discovered the jeep was gone too."

Amy moved back to sit on her own bed, taking the remaining pillow she propped it against the wall and used it as a backrest. "You sure he hasn't gone for a late night drive..? Today was pretty disappointing to him. The end of his quest, the *one* he actually came here for, and he still doesn't have the answers he wanted."

"You ever known Xander go driving at this time of night?" Roger moved to sit on the other end of Faith's bed.

"Only when we're out working."

"And in his state of mind, as you said, all the disappointment and so on. Would he be likely to do anything stupid?"

Amy thought back to what she'd learnt off Dawn. 'He could be everyone's rock. He was there to cheer you up when you really need it. There are times when he'd done the unexpected; Xander's not one you can fit into any category. Dawn had a bit of a crush growing up, so don't know how unbiased her thoughts were.' Trying to force herself to think of the more negative aspects, she continued her mental list. 'He can hold a grudge like no-one else. Don't hurt his friends, if you cross him in *that* way, well, not sure if he'd actually kill you, but he wouldn't shed a tear if you did die.' And the last one, 'If he's pissed at something or someone, then he won't be thinking straight... eventually he'll calm it down so it just becomes another grudge, or something to work through if it involves his *actual* friends; but initially he'll just be pissed and want to distance himself from people. It's his way of dealing.' "I don't think so... nothing we've seen or heard about him says he's the over-reacting type."

But the second she said it out loud, she realised she *could* think of one tale of Xander over-reacting. "The wedding."

"The what?"

"Xander's wedding."

"What about it?"

"Some demon gave Xander false memories of the future."

"Memories of the future?"


"He walked away from his own wedding."

"Soooo... you think he's gone to clear his head?"

"No. I think he's pissed off and he'll jump to the first solution he comes up with."

"Which would be?"

"I don't know... See if you can get us a car, I'll wake Faith." Amy ordered, quickly ushering Roger out the room.

"Where the hell am I supposed to get a car at this time of nig..?" Roger asked as the door closed behind him.

Amy grabbed Faith by the leg half-hanging off the bed. Shaking it a little, she said. "Faith, get up. Xan's missing and we need to go looking for him."

Amy moved to her own bed and begun getting dressed properly.

She saw the pillow and coat slowly lift in the air. The coat was shortly pulled back enough to warrant Faith's hed to stick out. Moving her neck slightly, Faith checked out the weight on her back and the piles of used clothes surrounding her head.

"What the fuck?"


Roger was certain they'd walked over ten miles. Having been unable to find a car, they'd been forced to walk everywhere.

Finding anything open at that time of night had been impossible. They had met a few people strolling around though. His first impression had been that they must all be vampires. Having a vampire slayer walking alongside him wasn't coming as much benefit. Although most of the people hadn't been in groups bigger than two or three, he'd been counting them. If they all joined together then they were outnumbered at least five to one. And that was if they all fought.

Amy seemed to have no fear either. She'd been walking up to people, describing Xander to them. Stating that he may be travelling in a jeep.

Most of the people thought the idea of recognising a jeep was amusing. They themselves had seen at least four since they'd been out.

Faith for the most part wasn't doing anything. Just walking alongside them, giving off a bored tone. 'Some vampire slayer.' Roger thought to himself. 'She's not scary at all... how the hell are demons supposed to be scared of her?'

She'd gotten rather sharp with him earlier.

He'd asked if she was sure her vampire radar was working. She'd looked at him like *he* was insane. Further questions about other people they'd seen, had met with the same response. When he asked how much of a wiggins she was feeling, she'd told him to fuck off. She hadn't spoken to anyone since.

It had turned Samson wasn't at his shop. 'Dammit, why didn't we find out where he'd lived.' He'd been thinking that for over twenty minutes before he finally bothered asking. None of the others knew either. He briefly wondered if Xander knew, then realised how stupid that was.

They'd reached the beach again. However this time they'd arrived by a footpath and Roger didn't recognise where they'd gone. Asking the others, he realised none of them recognised anything... mainly cos last time they were driving up and down it, it was pitch black and they were looking for a car.

Amy stopped and looked both ways along the beach. Shrugging she picked out a coin, "Heads that way, tails the other?" she offered.

Faith stared in either direction; then, speaking for the first time since her threats, chose one. "This way..."

"You can sense the cave?" Amy asked.

"Nah... but there's definitely something coming from that direction."

Roger stared at both women. "You think he went to the cave?"

"Unless him and Samson have both gone to get wrecked at Samson's place, I've run out of ideas."

"He could be..." Roger trailed off. There was simply nowhere for Xander to go. They'd been together since they arrived and they'd checked out everywhere they'd been previously *apart* from the cave. 'He can't know any more about this town than we do. But wait, he does know more about this town than we do... at least one thing more anyway.'

"So we're agreed? We enter the cave again?"

"Dunno about *we*, chickette. But I'm going in."

"Xander's as much our resp..."

"No offence, but in the cave you two slow me down." Roger noticed Faith was starting to look around for something as she replied.

"We don't know where Xander might have gone." he quickly interrupted.

"What?" Both girls chorused.

"He may have been here before."

"What makes you think that?"

"Since when?"

"He obviously knows Samson from somewhere."


"Hadn't thought of that. If he knows the area better than us, then he could be anywhere, depending on what he did last time we were here. That actually hinders us, rather than helps."

"Yeah, what she said."

"So... what do we do?" Roger asked.

Amy shrugged, "Guess best plan is to stick with the cave idea. If the jeep *is* parked outside it, then we go in. Else we go back to the hotel. No sense risking our lives on a possible goose chase."

"I'm with that. Apart from the *we* going in part."

Roger looked horrified. "If you go in, and Xander is in there. Then we have no fighters to defend us."

Faith quickly turned to look behind her, her sudden movement forced Roger to do the same. Not seeing anything, he glanced at Faith, who was acting like she hadn't done anything. "Not much defending been going on... but I see your point."

"So we all go in." Amy stated confidently.

"No... still just me. But if I'm not out by daylight, you leave the jeep outside the cave entrance. You contact Samson, and you contact Giles and get him to send some witches and some slayers down to you."

"So what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Just hang around the jeep til daylight?"

"Walk around the beach... try and find those invisible men that Samson mentioned."

"Talking of which." Came a voice from behind them.

Roger turned quickly and stumbled, tripping over his own feet.

"Hi." Came the smiling voice of Samson, offering Roger a hand back to his feet.

Faith was surveying the area. "One tent? Hardly a tribe, dude."

"That was the tent I was in. Came as a bit of a surprise when you three walked through the middle of it."

Amy looked at him suspiciously, "Thought you couldn't see us, when you're in the other dimensional plane."

"I said I didn't see you... Guess you didn't wander through the tent last time."

"Drove." Roger corrected.

"Well in that case, I'm definitely glad you didn't drive through the tent. If I hadn't known you couldn't touch us, I would have probably had a heart attack."

"We couldn't touch you?" This from Faith.

"You walked straight through the tent. I tried to attract your attention but Amy here, walked right through me."

"So that's it eh? You and some guys in a tent."

"No..." Samson replied easily. Gesturing to the tribesman, "There are more."

Slowly around them an entire village materialised. Warriors standing proud with weapons, women carrying babies, kids running around underfoot.

As Roger watched the scene, many of the tents began to fade again. Some of the people did too, others remained in view but seemed to be interacting with invisible objects. Sometimes the people faded and the objects remained; weapons and furs seemingly floating of their own accord.

Eventually all had faded, save the tribesman and the tent that Samson had indicated he was in.

The tribesman made some gestures with his hand.

"They were asking about the wishes you made, and the trials you faced."

"We told you we did not find the demon." Amy replied, facing the tribesman knowing he couldn't understand her.

"Not yesterday... he's talking about tonight."

"What?" Faith asked, forcibly restraining herself from going over and grabbing the tribesman.

"Your jeep... it is parked near the cave. You were aware of this, were you not?"

"We were not." Roger replied. "We think Xander went in himself."

Amy was still over by the tribesman, "What language does he speak?"

"Pardon?" Samson said, shocked by the question.

"You said they told you about the demon... what language were they speaking?"

"Ermmmm..." Samson began, "It is an ancient dialect belonging to the Maasai."

Roger was confused, "The Maasai don't come this far down."

"Not anymore." Samson said, looking sadly at the tribesman.

"Look... can you just take us to Xander? Where the fucking hell is this cave again anyway."

Samson was staring directly at the tribesman, "There is no point."

"Just take us!!!" All three shouted together.

Samson led the way to the cave entrance. All four walked in silence, being followed by the tribesman.

Roger turned to confirm he was still there, as he did so the tent in the background faded from sight. 'Why doesn't he follow while invisible?' he pondered to himself.

As they approached the cave, they all seperated trying to get the cave to become three dimensional as quickly as possible. "Sunrise is in about half an hour," he warned everyone.

"Here it is." Amy called from somewhere to his right.

Heading in that direction, both him and Faith arrived at the same time. A lot of concentrating was done until it came into focus.

Faith was off like a shot.

"Wait!!" Amy called out.

"You two stay outside." She called back.

Amy looked at Roger, he could see the determination on her face. "Well we *do* have the torches..."

She beemed back at him, and they started towards the entrance.

Just before the entrance he grabbed her by the arm, "Remember if anything goes wrong, it was *your* idea."

"Sure." Amy said before strolling in.

Entering the cave, they'd decided not to turn the torches on until they'd gotten where it opened out. That way whatever effect light caused on the tunnel couldn't be blamed on them.

They'd gone barely fifty feet when they could hear breathing ahead of them.

'It's going to be a fucking bear or something.' Roger thought to himself. 'Dammit, forgot the gun *again*.'

He could feel Amy start to slow down, the sound of breathing getting to her as well, it seemed scarily close now.

They paused and looked at each other. There was still enough light to barely make each other out.

"Let's just do it." Amy whispered.

As one they turned their torches on.

To see Faith standing there, resting her hand on the end of the tunnel. A tunnel which shouldn't have stopped yet. Roger moved his torch around to get a better look. The tunnel had an end that looked entirely natural. It didn't look like a cave in, or that it'd been blocked.

It simply looked like the tunnel had never gone any further.

Chapter 7

Back on the beach.

"So where the fuck is he?" Samson was being lifted into the air by the Slayer. 'No wonder Shote wants to make sure the African Slayers stay in Africa.'

Making sure his answer didn't sound sarcastic, unhelpful, or anything that could possibly piss Faith off, "He went inside the cave."

"How?" Amy asked, from somewhere below him.

"The same way you did last time?"

"He walked in... but it's closed off?" Roger came closer to inform him.

"Did it close off when we went in?" Amy asked.

Faith still hadn't let go of him. "Not that I know of, but I didn't go down the tunnel."

Beginning to panic, he spoke in an ancient forgotten tongue that the tribe had taught him. "<A hand, cousin?>"

The warrior responded. "<You seem to be having so much fun.>"

Faith shook him a little. "Stop that! Talk fucking English!"

Amy turned to Roger, "You recognise it?"

"No... but Shote is our expert."

Samson was still being shook by the Slayer, 'It's like she's trying to shake me into speaking English,' however he had realised that she was trying to avoid hurting him. 'More embarassing, then painful really'

The tribesman interrupted the events, "<Why do they think I can't speak their language?>"

Attempting to reply, "<I.. er... may have led them... to believe that... you were an ancient... and knowing race... tricked into... making a wish which may have doomed you...>"

"<We are.>"

"<But you... know how... many people have... communicated with you over the years... and you've learnt the languages... gradually.>"


"<I skipped that bit.>"

The tribesman burst out laughing.

Samson watched as Faith's attention got drawn away from him. 'Good, hopefully she'll put me do..'

"You think our missing friend is funny? Let's see just how 'undefeatable under the moon' you all are."

Samson pulled himself up from where Faith had thrown him to the sand; watching as she marched over to the tribesman, he decided to intervene.


"What?" She called back, less than five feet from the tribesman now, who was backing away.

"He isn't your enemy Faith... he wasn't laughing at Xander's predicament. He was lacking at your lack of knowledge."

That stumped Faith in her tracks, "So... he's calling me thick?" She regained her previous momentum.

"No... he doesn't understand why you'd be wanting to see the demon, when you obviously don't know everything."

"<Keep the Slayer away from me, or I might have to disappear.>"

"<You find a Slayer to be a threat?>"

"<Hardly. But disarming one, when you have no intention of hurting them *is* difficult.>"

"Faith... he says that all are free to enter the cave, *until* an audience with the demon is requested."

"What's that mean?"

"He made a wish, Faith. Xander made a wish."

"So he's what..? In there facing challenges that almost killed a vampire... let me in to help him."

"He won't face the same challenges."

Amy looked on curious. "He won't."

"No. The challenges ares designed for each individual. The demon assesses your capabilities and creates an appropriate challenge." At their sighs of relief, "It won't be easy though." he warned.

"Xander should be able to face most normal challenges easy enough... guy's hung around with Slayers for almost eight years."

"I said individual. Not race. Not species. Individual. The demon will assess *Xander* and make the challenges on a level with his capabilities. And it's right on the edge of what he should be able to survive or defeat. It makes the fight fair. He wins, he gets the wish..."

"And if he loses?" Roger asked.

"Then you've seen the last of your friend." He answered truthfully.

The arrival of dawn, put them all on edge. The entrance to even the small amount of tunnel available was gone. And it would be hours before they could even try get to him again.

Faith was trying to hide her worry, "So he's trapped for another day?"

"Xander? <You have to tell me about what happens during the day.>"

"<You know what happens.>"

"<Just talk some more.>"

"<What about? This is begining to annoy me. Can't I...>"

"No." Samson told him.

"No..? No what..?" Roger asked. Glancing round he noticed the tribesman had gone.

"Where'd he go? Did he tell you what would happen?" Faith asked.

"Is it bad news?" Amy was reluctant to ask.

"No... as in Xander's not trapped. We can't get to him. But he can get out."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then we wait til nightfall to check the cave again."

"What for?"

"If it's still blocked then Xander's still facing his battles."

"And if it's not..?" Amy asked, looked very upset.

"Then he's either dead or..."

"Or..?" Faith asked challengingly.

"Or he succeeded, his wish was granted and *that* caused him not to be here..."

"You're just trying to give us hope." Faith spat out.

"True." Samson replied. 'But I've seen his future. The cave doesn't get a mention, so whatever he makes of his life isn't due to a wish.'

"If Xander dies. I'm going in there and I'm gonna kill the demon." Faith stated.

"No one knows if it can die." Samson admitted

"Then I'll wish it dead. And believe me when I say I'll definitely kill anything it sends after me."

'That might be a little paradoxical for a wish.' Samson thought, but decided not to say anything.

"Make that guy come back." Faith ordered, "There must be some other way into the cave... I can't stand around here doing nothing."

Samson sighed, "Faith... look around."

Faith performed a quick three-sixty. "He's not there."

"No, I meant... it's daylight Faith. Both the cave and the people are gone... we can't talk to either til nightfall."

"It'll be too late by then."

"I don't know if I can help you any further. I'm going to get some sleep, I would suggest you all do the same. You could return here once rested and see if he's been returned." With that Samson left. The others trailed behind, making their slow walk back to the hotel.


Later that afternoon.

Faith was the first to awaken. Deciding to let Amy sleep she got dressed and headed out.

Arriving at Samson's Ragbar, she noticed it was open for business, 'Does this guy even need sleep?' she thought as she quickly hurried inside.

Samson was facing away from her, "Would you like your fortune told?" He asked before he turned around.

"It's me." 'Notice you didn't realise that, you phoney.'

"Still... would you like your fortune told..? It may ease your mind." Samson offered again.

"Look..." she began.

Samson smiled and gestured Faith to sit at the table. "No charge. Consider it a freebie for a worried friend."

Faith remained where she was. "Look you don't know me. And you definitely do not know my future. If you did, you'd realise that I don't take handouts."

"If you want to pay for it, I'm hardly going to stop you."

"Shut up about the damn reading."

"You're worried about Xander. That's very understandable considering..." Samson drifted off mysteriously.

'Considering?' "What *are* you talking about?"

Samson stood back up and moved to pour himself a drink. "Want one? I thought you weren't interested in getting a reading?"

"No. And I'm not." Pausing, she realised she wasn't exactly sure what to do next. 'Beating the guy up doesn't help.' So she did the last thing she'd thought she would ever hear herself do again. She found herself pleading. "Just tell me about Xander... will he be okay?"

Samson shrugged, "He's gonna have some ups and downs in his life, like everyone does... but I can't tell you another person's future. Especially not the details."

"Why not..? Some fucking fortune tellers code?"

"Nothing like that... it simply *wouldn't* be right."

"*Right*? Right? My friend's could be dead and you're playing fucking mind games with me?"

Samson leaned forward to make his physical prescence known, it wouldn't scare Faith however, but the question did. "But is he?"

"Dead..?" She asked, clamping down on the wobble she could feel in her throat.

"No. Your friend."


"Are you sure your friends? I mean, you hardly treat each other as such. Colleagues, more than anything else, I'd say."

Now she was pissed, "So what are you saying..? That just cos we're not close, I should just leave him to die..? I fucking won't do that."

"At one point, you were willing to do worse."

Faith looked like she'd been hit. "Xan... Xan told you that?" She couldn't believe it, she wouldn't believe it. 'He didn't even fucking tell the others we'd been together. How could he tell this stranger something like that?'

"No." Silencing her protests with a hand gesture, he continued. "Whether you believe I *am* pyschic or whether you prefer to believe I'm just good at reading people and their reactions. Either way I can tell you two have had some pretty intense history together, especially considering the relatively short time you knew each other."

Faith was still stunned.

"But..." Samson continued. "Maybe you'll get a chance to change that." He smiled and poured himself another drink. "Want one?"

Faith nodded. Knocking it back in one, she let the pleasant burning sensation numb her throat. "What is that stuff..?"

Samson shook his head and grinned at her.

Faith paused unsure of what to do next. Deciding to give it one last try, she asked. "Please... please tell me whether Xander survives or not."

"I already have." Samson grinned at her.

She was trying to replay the conversation in her mind, when he started talking again.

"You know Faith. You and Xander have been the most fun I've had in ages."

She gave him a look to show her disbelief.

"Believers... believers, you see... well to be honest they're boring. You give them your reading, and they go away *waiting* for it to happen. What's the point in that? But sceptics such as yourself. Or people like Xander, who were not only extremely sceptical but rather cynical in their attitude towards it. They're the best kind. They're more fun. You tell them their future and not only don't they believe it, but they seem extremely prepared to do anything to stop it happening; simply to prove you wrong. And ones where you meet them again, such as I did Xander, and with a single look between you, you both know at that instant that somethings are starting to head that way."

Faith just watched in fascination.

"And it's at that point instead of turning into a believer, they instead turn into someone who denies it. Xander himself has run into a few prophecies in his time, as had many in your gang. He seems to think they don't come true, or they can be stopped. He hasn't realised that, they *did* come true. It's just the explanation, or the translation was a little vague on details. 'The devil's in the details' people say. But no one knows what the devil's plan is. And they say God moves in mysterious ways."

Faith watched Samson chuckling to himself. "Am I being mystical or am I simply doing my impression of the Oracle from the Matrix..?" Faith couldn't help her smile. "I know... but the question isn't what do I know... it's more what do you think?"

Faith noticed he started to glance at his watch. "I think it's time for you to leave." he said ushering her out.

As she left some other customers entered, he gave her a parting comment. "Try not to think too hard about whether it was time to leave; or whether I'd just noticed some business. It'll hurt your brain... and it'll hurt more in about ten minutes." The last comment said so quietly she wasn't sure if he'd intended her to hear it with her Slayer hearing or not.

Faith found herself wondering aimlessly, through the market, past the hotel, along the beach. She was trying to avoid thinking about all that Samson had said. She wanted the answer to one question and one question only. Samson had told her, he'd informed her whether Xander survived or not. She kept replaying it in her head, but couldn't find one definite answer.

She stopped at a cliff face. Turning around she noticed the car they'd purposely left there, and that she had walked directly to the cave entrance. 'Odd, it normally takes us a while to find it. Guess that's the subconscious playing up... I was thinking about Xander so I brought myself here. Makes sense, it was the last place we know he went.' she thought to herself. Wondering how long she'd been daydreaming she checked her watch. It was ten minutes since she'd left Samson's. 'He's playing fucking games with me.' she thought.

Placing her hand on the rock directly where the cave entrance would be, she whispered, "Be safe Xan. Stay alive."

Stepping back away from the rock, she turned and started to walk away.

Her progress was stopped by the fact something heavy had suddenly collided with her back. Landing face down in that sand, the object still pressing on her back.

Digging her hands into the sand she pushed herself up as fast as he could. The object being flung off her. Moving her legs under her to take her weight, she twisted her body instinctively catching the object as it fell next to her. She recognised what she'd grabbed hold of.

'An arm... a fucking arm... some bastard's attacked me. I don't care if you're the scariest demon around you are going down.' She used her muscle to forcibly move the individual by the arm and throw it over her shoulder. As it landed on its back, she quickly straddled it and raised her fist to ensure defeat.

"Arghh..." the creature in front of her said, it's free arm had risen to protect it's head. Unclenching her fist she grabbed that arm and moved it away from it's face. Using the hand holding the other arm, she quickly released her grip and drew that fist back, relying on her speed to get the first real punch in. She looked up to face the target.

The eye staring back at her was one she recognised. "Xander..?" she asked incredulously.

"Faith...?" the man below her responded.

That's when the look in his eye became apparent. It wasn't quite fear, she realised grateful for the fact, but it was the look directly before fear hits home. 'Uncertainty,' she thought to herself, 'He doesn't know if I'm going to continue the attack or not.'

She looked at the position she was in; the fact that she was still holding his arm in a tight grip, that she still hadn't relaxed the other fist. That she was straddling him.

Thoughts involuntarily went back to the only two times she'd been in this position, the latter time one of her darkest moments. The look in his eyes showed he was starting to come to the same realisation. She needed to stop him from completing that thought, she couldn't bare to see that look in his eye ever again. So she did the first thing that came to her mind, the first thing that changed the memory from the latter one to the first one. Releasing her grip and unclenching her fist were the first parts of the action. Maintaining eye contact the whole time, she noticed those simple two acts had calmed him down, but still he seemed wary of her. So she finished the movement.

Reaching down she grabbed the bottom of her t-shirt in both hands.

And flashed him.


To say he was shocked was an understatement. That had possibly been the strangest couple of seconds of his life, 'And considering the life I've had, that's saying something.' he figured.

He'd gone from being forcibly removed from the cave, which had been a scary event in itself, to flying through the air, to landing heavily on the ground, to being attacked by said ground, to reliving a very scary memory with Faith, to staring at two of the most perfect things he'd ever seen.

The whole event had probably taken less than three seconds.

He was still laying there on the ground. Faith had only just placed her t-shirt back down. 'Thank god...' he thought to himself, 'I know it's been a while; but I was very tempted to sit up and just... if this is what Samson's been hinting at I'm going to kill him.'

He focused on Faith's eyes. They were searching his. Unsure what she was looking for, he continued to lay there. Neither breaking eye-contact with the other.

Then it occured to him, 'Jeez, you fool, if you had the flash of memory when she sat on you then what the hell did you think she'd be going through.' Now he realised what he could see in Faith's eyes, regret. And with that came the realisation that she was obviously looking for forgiveness in his.

He wasn't sure if he'd provided it, he was pretty sure his mental processes had gone directly from shocked to possible lust. Maybe a slight diversion towards fear, but he wasn't sure if he actually reached that point.

Still, they were in the same position just staring at each other. Something a few days ago, he'd never thought was even possible. Faith was sitting on his groin and he wasn't scared; a quick mental check confirmed he wasn't aroused either, 'God knows how I fluked that one'. Eventually he released a smile. She smiled back, but didn't move.

Maybe forgiveness hadn't reached his eyes. But understanding definitely had, and it looked like trust could be re-established. After what felt like an eternity, she nodded and stood up. Offering a hand out to help him up. Xander took it.

After standing up he was shocked to realise it was daylight out. 'Was I really in there that long?'

He turned to face the cave entrance, examining it for the first time in the light. There was nothing there. "Then how did I get out?" he thought aloud.

Faith must have thought it was a question as she answered. "Samson explained that you can leave during the day, but cannot enter. You didn't provide further info than that, cos we were on the side that was stuck."

And that was it, he realised. The first sentence from each of them in about five minutes. Nothing about what had happened, nothing about their pasts, just plain old back to business. 'Maybe Samson's been wrong,' he thought. 'Maybe they had just grown too far apart... maybe too much had gone on between them.' But for the first time since she'd arrived, he felt a little regret at the thought. When Samson had hinted at Faith being one of the people from his reading, he'd initially latched onto those thoughts... they were what had given him the strength to go on. Now he just felt guilty for ever having them.

'Willow tried to destroy the entire fucking world. And I forgave her easily enough...' But with Faith it had been different, too personal for his tastes. 'The world's too big, it's too broad a concept. Hell we get people... things.. trying to destroy the world or the whole of reality every year. I've never really hated them, just hoped they failed and we kicked their ass is all.' But Faith concentrated on people. 'Poisoning Angel, trying to frame Buffy, almost strangling me. That's the difference,' he realised. 'For Willow, personal worked in her favour... I saved the world by knowing her... for being with her since the start of school. Maybe it was because there was never a negative *personal* part to Willow's deal... well apart from Warren anyway, but that bastard had it coming.'

Over the bridge of his nose, seemingly in the corner of his eye, he could see Faith looking at him. He hadn't realised it, but he'd been staring at the cliff face the whole time, and she'd remained in just in his line of vision, but over to the left. Most people tried to stand on his right if they remembered. She'd stood to his left. Slightly foward so she was in sight, but there to cover his blindspot should it be necessary. 'When the hell did she realise to do that?' He thought, turning his head slightly towards her.

She must have taken his movement to be the end of the silence. "So... did you get your wish?" she asked. 'Was that regret in her voice? At having the perfect opportunity to get some skeletons out into the open, but missing the chance to do so.' He knew those thoughts had been on his mind.

Smiling at her in an attempt to ease her suffering he added, "Didn't make a wish..." She smiled, one of the first genuine smiles he'd seen since she'd arrived in Africa. He couldn't fathom the reason behind that one, but he returned it none-the-less.

They headed towards the car and he started it. Noticing some discomfort still in her, he found himself asking, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing..." she responded.

'And that was it,' he figured. 'Missed chances...' he promised himself he would try to talk to her about this at some point, but honestly couldn't see how it would ever come up again.

Deciding he had nothing to lose he tried to palm it off as a joke, "You know Faith... I think you should adopt that diversionary tactic anytime you think I might react badly to something you'll do... or say. You *could* also use it on special occasions; like birthdays, public holidays, ermm... Tuesdays... breakfast... any special occasions like those."

Faith couldn't stop the grin. "They're just tits, Xan... you've seen them before." But she didn't remove the smile all the way to the hotel.


Back at the hotel, Xander was facing a grilling.

"I can't believe you went off on your own." Amy shouted at him.

"It was something I felt I had to do."

"Soo... what was the wish?" Roger asked.

"There was no wish."

"How can there be no wish?" Amy was confused, "Samson and that other guy reckoned that in order for you to close the cave off, you had to make a wish."

"I closed the cave off?"

"Never mind that." Faith told him, "Tell us what happened."

"Well..." Xander began, "I'd just woken up from a nightmare..."

******* Flashback *******

Xander parked his jeep on the beach. 'I know it's around here somewhere.' He thought to himself, using the torchlight to illuminate the various cliff faces. 'No. No. No.'

In the distance, some tents materialised into view. Xander noticed them, and the people heading over. 'You're not gonna stop me going in.'

He quickened his search. Beginning to run now, parallel to the cliff face, away from the approaching tribe. Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of it. Part of the rock face had been illuminated by the torch, and suddenly just for a split second it'd gone dark... like the torchlight wasn't able to reach the rear wall of the cave.

He stopped still, backing up a few paces to where he thought he'd been. He began scanning the wall again. He knew it was all about the angle. Scan... wall, wall, wall... nothing, step left. Scan... wall, wall, wall... nothing, step left. And so on... until suddenly. Scan... wall, wall, darkness. 'Success.'

Xander ran towards it, glancing behind, the tribe members were still only walking towards him. Entering the tunnel, feeling his way along the side, the torch light aimed solely at the floor in front of his feet. He stopped and turned around. The tribesmen had stopped at the entrance to the tunnel. But none entered.

They were staring at each other from a distance of maybe forty feet. All Xander could see were some silhouettes against the entrance. He doubted they'd be able to see anything more than the lit patch of ground beneath him.

Confident they weren't going to follow he continued to walk further into the tunnel. When he could no longer see the entrance, he stopped. It was still quite a way to the cavern. 'Do I even need to go that far?' he thought to himself.

Deciding to risk it, he took a final look around. "I wish that..." he said out loud.

*** End of flashback ***

"So you did make a wish..." Amy interrupted the story.

"I'm coming to that." Xander replied. Getting himself a drink, he continued on. "As soon as I said the words aloud, there was a flash of light, and..."

******* Flashback *******

The flash of light had blinded him slightly, once his eyes cleared and he got used to the gloom he realised he was no longer in the tunnel. Or any part of the cavern he recognised.

Moving for his torch to get a better view he realised it was no longer with him. 'Dammit... would have made a half decent weapon too...'

He also realised he was barefoot and was no longer wearing his shirt. 'Let battle commence then?' Trying to make anything out in the darkness, he becomes aware of a figure standing in the corner, it seems huge.

"Okay... you're a big boy." Xander raises his fists to a fighting position, circling the shadowy figure carefully. The creature continues to stand there. Xander got a little closer. Trying to focus on the creature's limbs, he made a few tentative moves towards it. 'Come on you bastard...'

He lashed out with a kick to the creature's own leg. It moved slightly, but seemed to ignore it. Backing up, he almost tripped on a loose rock. Moving it into position with his feet. He kept his full attention on the creature in front of him. Bending down, in one fluid motion, he picked up the wrong and tossed it baseball style directly at the creatures head. It made a solid sound as it bounced off, forcing the creatures head to be knocked back.

"Shit.." he muttered to himself, "this is one sturdy mother fucker."

The creatures eyes lit up. Xander moved himself out of the line of sight. 'I fucking knew it... I knew one day we'd run into something that can shoot lasers and shit.'

"Human..." The deep voice echoed in the cave.

"Ermmm... yep, I guess that's me then." Xander replied.

"HuuuMannn!!!" It repeated louder.

'Nice on Xan... you pissed it off.'

"Your wish..."

"My wish..?" Xander asked, "Oh yeah, my *wish*... right... I realise it might not be the most regular of wishes... in fact, I admit it, it's kinda lame... so maybe it's not worth a challenge from this level of demon... get me a regular demon... a vampire... tell you what... one vamp and a me with a stake... that's fair, right?"

"I will not grant that wish."

Now Xander was pissed, "Hey, you can't put me in here, fighting to death against this thing, if you're not going to grant me a wish."

"Your opponent has been decided."

"Yeah and he's a big bastard too."

"Your opponent has not yet entered the arena."

"Ahhhh.... so that's you?"


"And you're not my opponent."


"Can I have my rock back?"

*** End of flashback ***

Xander paused and waited patiently.

Faith was still laughing. "You..." more laughing, "You..." Now she was holding her sides. "Only *you* could attack the wrong demon." She fell off her chair.

'This is going to go on for hours...' Xander thought to himself.

"Well... if everyone's recovered from the apparent hilarity," he stared directly at Faith, who was now giggling silently to herself. "Shall I continue?"

Faith nodded, wiping tears from her eyes.

******* Flashback *******

Some flaming torches seem to appear from nowhere. Xander noticed he himself was well illuminated, but the creature was still in darkness. All that could be seen was the glowing of it's eyes.

"What about your eye?" The demon suggested.

"That wasn't what I wished for." Xander argued. 'And I'm getting used to it now. Willow told me that to replace anything like that using magic would be very dangerous. If I didn't trust her to do it safely, then I'm definitely not letting something I don't know play with my anatomy.'

"The woman could be returned."

"Which wo...." Xander realised, 'Anya, my Anya... I couldn't do that to her. Definitely if I don't know the rules behind her return.' "Nope... not buying... last time we brought someone back from the dead, there was a lot of badness... we're trying to cut down... really."

"There is..."

Xander cut the demon off. "Look all I wish to know is, what are the rules behind Spike retaining his soul."

"That I cannot tell you."

"Come on... I already know, it gets revoked when you die... and about that... the 'all wishes will be cancelled' thing... do they simply stop all still active wishes; such as Spike's soul and the tribes nighttime curse thing... or does it go back so that none of the wishes were ever made? We were kinda curious about that."

The demon simply stared back.

"Okay... you don't have to answer that one. But the Spike's soul thing..? That one's important to me... a lot of my friends could be hurt."

"I will not tell you."

"So you said... but we *heard* that sometimes you play tricks on people... twisting their words as so on... all I nee..."

"No!!!" The demon bellowed.

"Okay... firstly... loud. Secondly, was that 'No' an answer or a refusal to answer."

"You must make another wish."

"I don't have to *must* anything. You're refusing my wish... what if I don't want to make another wish? I didn't date an ex-vengeance demon for three years without learning something you know."

"Make a wish..."


"Make a wish."

"I already did."

"Make a wish."

Xander grabbed one of the flaming torches and waved it right under the demon's nose. It's features finally becoming visible. "So what happens if I just kill you know? Does Spike lose his soul or does it get re-written that he never had it? Let's see... Option 1: Spike loses his soul now, he's over at W&H. Angel takes care of it. ... Option 2: Spike never got his soul; bit more complicated, seems to be two major likelihoods; either he doesn't come back to Sunnydale ever, or he does but he's still just a demon *and* he'd still have a working chip... even if Buffy did trust him, for some completely stupid reason, the second his chip starts to play up and he hasn't got a soul... then he's just like any other vamp... dust."

The demon stared back.

"You see all of those options kinda appeal to me... so my only real worry is the other wishes you have going." Xander stepped back down.

"You cannot kill me."

"Maybe not, but I'm gonna have fun trying... and once I'm done, one of us will be dead. But even if it's me... the people coming to avenge my death... seriously powerful witch and like an army of slayers. So sure they can't kill you?"

"Either leave or make another wish."

"Ohhh... giving me options now, eh? Must be getting to you. Don't worry about it, I used to annoy everyone, was kinda an achievement of mine during high school. Like a gift I had, or something. Tell you what... since I'm feeling generous and I only know of two wishes you've made. How about you let those people go?"

"Which people?"

"The one's on the beach... the nighttime ones. Let them go and I'll let you live."

"You cannot kill me... and you're willing to risk killing me, after I release them from the wish. As if they're not affected by my death the only other thing you know will change is the vampire."

"So you see through my plan... how about you let them go and never let me in here again. That good enough for you?"

"You will send others."

"No I won't promise."

"I cannot let them go... their release has been foretold."

"Dammit!!! Why is it so much of my life involves fucking prophecies."

*** End of flashback ***

"And..?" Roger asked?

"And what?"

"What happened next?"

"We continued arguing, the demon refused to grant either wish... that basically was it, til he kicked me out."

"So we're back to square one?" Roger muttered unhappily.

"Not really... I was thinking of asking Faith to go in... she knows what to wish for now... she's probably got the best bet of killing it..."

"Too right." Faith responded.

"You sure that's the best plan?" Amy mused.

"Got any others?" Xander asked.

"As you said, Willow could try and control it... force it into telling us Spike's rules and releasing the people." Faith thought aloud.

"You're resisting going for a spot of demon killing?" Xander asked incredulously.

"Like you said, if it was just Spike... hell, if it was just Spike and the tribe I'd risk it... I'd ask them their opinions as it would be their lives at risk, but if they agreed I'd be prepared to do it... but... what about all the other wishes... what sort of world could we create..? I can't risk doing that sort of damage."

Amy had been silent through all this. "You said you saw the demon..?"

"Ermm... yes..."

"No one's seen the demon up close."

"That's not my fault."

"No... they challenged their opponents to get their wish. Your wish wasn't being considered, so you were challenging the demon directly."

"And..?" Roger asked.

"Draw it."

"I'm no goo..."

"Describe it to me..."


"If we know what sort of demon it is, we'll know how best to deal with it, if we choose to go in again."

"If *we* choose to go in..." Faith corrected. "I don't think Xander's gonna be invited again."

"Har har har..."

"Banned from a demon lair Xan... surely that's a new low." Faith teased.

"Faith drop it."

"Hang on..." Roger joined in, "If he can't get back in without an invitation... doesn't that make him like a *vampire*?"

"Huumph." Xander said, biting his tongue from providing any retaliation. "So Amy... let's go work on identifying the demon."

As he left the room, Faith and Roger high-fived one another.


Two days later
Back in Douala

Xander was bored. After their unsuccessful attempt to discover the details behind Spike's ensoulment, the group had reluctantly returned to their villa. Not only was he bored, but he also felt kind of empty. 'That was it...' he thought to himself. 'That was *the*reason. The reason I left my friends.'

Since returning to the villa earlier that morning, Amy had spent much of her time on the laptop, discussing with Robert the latest findings from the council's oldest journals. She was currently sitting opposite him providing the latest update.

'Well... it wasn't the only reason I left... but it *was* the reason I left America.' He stared blankly ahead, a few nods and mmmm's had been enough to placate Amy so far, he hoped it would last. 'Just can't concentrate at the moment... and not feeling much incentive to do anything really.'

It was this loose end, that was driving Xander mad. They couldn't begin to work on the box til Shote returned and they'd taken the Soul quest as far as they could; Amy had seemed quite pleased when she'd managed to work with Steven in identifying the demon. The question and answer session, Steven had given him over the phone had been quite scary. 'Who thinks like that?' Xander pondered, 'He had a follow-up question to everything I said. Did he like have list of all possible demons that can grant wishes? I hate playing 'Guess Who?' with demons...' Once they'd got what they wanted, Amy and Steven had been quick to identify it. 'Fucking great too. The demon's vary in personality as much as humans do... apart from a streak that inclines them to twist most things, and *that* seemed to be almost genetic according to Steven. Nothing more could really be gathered.'

Hypothesises had been thrown around by everyone. Seems everyone had an opinion on what the twist could be: Spike would lose his soul, once he acheived the one thing he went to get his soul for; Spike didn't get his soul... he got someone else's; Spike's soul was anchored to his physical body, as long as that existed then it would be okay.

That last one had made him smile. 'I'm really not that worried about soul-less dust' had been his only comment. Roger had thrown in that maybe if Spike *was* the one that got to Shanshu, then maybe having a human body would disrupt the ensoulment. Amy had argued that they couldn't return a vampire essence to a creature that wasn't a vampire. Roger had argued about possession. Whereas Faith had leapt on the Spike Shanshu-ing part and hadn't let up about that for over an hour. All in all, it had been a strange return trip.

"Well..?" Amy asked.

Xander shrugged off his inner thoughts, and stared blankly back at her.

"So what do you think..?" She repeated.

'Okay... should have been paying attention.' he chastised himself. "Sorry Aims, I've had a lot on my mind recently. What were you talking about?"

Sighing, she began again. "Robert may have found evidence about the Scythe in the watcher chronicles."

"I thought it didn't get mentioned anywhere."

"It doesn't."

"Okay... was it just me or did that not make sense..?" He asked aloud.

However turning around, he found the others engrossed in a film they were watching on the laptop. Faith had to constantly shush Roger as he asked yet another question. 'Wish I could sit back and chill.'

Turning back to face Amy, he tilted his head. Breaking under his look, she explained further.

"It's not named or described or anything... but there are vague mentions of a slayer's weapon."

"That could be a stake for all you know."

"Not really... it's..." she paused to find open her notebook. Turning to a page, she began to recite the quote. "'And there was a new instruction. In order to correct those who should not have been chosed, a plant was provided. The sap of which could be used to remove the...' well Robert thinks the nearest translation is 'essence'." She continued her reading. "'And from that moment on, no longer would the slayer be required to die from her own weapon.' It continues to discuss the plant in great detail, the latest gift from on high, it would have seemed."

Xander tried to get his head around that, "The Slayer *could* be killed by a stake... it'd take a braver man than me to try do it but that's the only way to pass on the powers. Well it was til Willow cheated the system." he added.

Thinking about it further he continued, "So this plant..? It would allow the Slayer essence to be passed on without killing the Slayer? Why haven't we got access to it..? That would have come in handy if they were dealing with girls not fit to be the Slayer."

"We do have access to it."

"We do..?" Xander couldn't fathom that one out. "If they hated Buffy so much... and couldn't use Faith... then why didn't the council just give one of them the plant sap, and wait til they got a more Watcher-friendly Slayer they could boss around?"

"Buffy *was* given it."

"They did get another Slayer..? How come we never heard abo..? Or was this after she'd died the first time, and it wouldn't be any use?"

"No, you misunderstand... Buffy was given it after she'd died. But that wasn't what it did."


"The plant described... matches perfectly with the one currently used when performing the Cruciamentum."

Xander could feel the light bulb go off in his head, "Which removes a Slayer's powers... of course... so what... the serum is a watered down version of that used to permanently remove it?"

"No... the instructions mentioned, are identical to the way Watcher's currently prepare the Slayer serum."

Confusuion had returned, he held the front of his head with his left hand. "So it never did what was d..?"

"Correct... least that's the current theory... it didn't pass it on or anything like that. It made dealing with unwanted Slayers far easier."

"So they drugged them and then killed them? That's barbaric."

"This occurred in one of the earliest chronicles. It's written in Sumerian. We believe from some events mentioned that it was somewhere between two thousand and twenty five hundred BC. The chronicle Robert accessed seems to be a copy of an original, the copy was made in the fourth century. It seemed that at that time, there had been a lot of Slayers who hadn't taken up their calling."

"And they just kept killing them, until they got ones that did?"

"That isn't what's weird."

"The fact that some mysterious higher being, comes down and makes killing Slayers easier, isn't weird?"

"No... it's just prior to that... the Watcher's were debating whether they had the right to kill the Slayer or not, using her weapon."

"So... something came down and *gave* them permission."

"It's not that that's important. Robert has a hunch that the weapon mentioned is the Scythe..."


"Cos it's never mentioned by name or by description anywhere. How can it possibly be so important that it allows Willow to empower all the Potentials in the world, yet be completely unknown?"

"That's been the problem all along."

"But other weapons are mentioned in the various Watcher chronicles. The stake for one is described in detail."

Xander raised both his eyebrows. "It's pointy wood."

"But it deserves a mention. That's mentioned along with bones and other ex-living items as being powerful weapons against certain demons. All the others; the quarterstaff, the longbow, daggers, swords, crossbows. All of them are mentioned in detail for Watcher training purposes. *Every* weapon get's mentioned. Except one that doesn't... and that one get's referred to as the Slayer's weapon..? Think about it."

"So it set Robert's hackles off. He may have good instincts or he may be going on a wild goose chase. Either way it's a bit early to be assuming we've found something about the Scythe."

Xander sighed and joined the others.


Amy cornered him again a few hours later.

She watched him try to get out of it. Amused she waited til he reluctantly sat down. "What is it this time?"

"That mysterious present?"

"From someone that could have been a demon conning the Slayer's own people into taking her out?" He asked cynically.

"Another is given some time later."

"So..? What is it that time..? Some ancient long range anti-Slayer device..?"

"From it's description we assume it's the box." She responded.

Watching his eye as he slowly turned to face the item. "*That* box?"

She nodded her agreement. "Seems that those two chronicles had been copied from the originals."


"Like they were important." She expanded.

"So... lots of other chronicles had probably been copied over the years. I'm sure a lot of the originals were falling apart."

She sighed, she had known convincing him was going to be an effort. "Others from that time had been mainly translated... but not these. These were kept in their original format."

"So... we have the invention of the serum that eventually led to the Cruciamentum and we have this box."

She began to say something but he was quick to cut her off. "And a possible weapon that may or may not be the Scythe..." he added sarcastically. "So what does it say about the box?"

Now she knew she had his attention, "The box was brought in as the latest attempt to control Slayers."


"It seemed that originally they'd never had many problems with Slayers not following their callings. Least none seemed mentioned in the surviving documents prior to that."

"And this box was designed to fix that?"

Amy nodded.

"This box here..?"


"You sure?"

Now it was Amy's turn to be confused. "That's what the text says... why don't you believe me?"

"Cos this box... this box pissed Buffy off when she came out of it."

"That's impossible."

"But it did happen. How was it supposed to control her?"

"No reports of what it did have ever been journalled. There have been reports about the carnage the demon's managed in the Slayer's abscence. And lots more reports about Slayer's being easier to deal with after they'd been inside. The watcher's decided the risk was worth it."

Amy watched as Xander pondered that new information. "So... whatever it was supposed to do to the girls, it did the opposite for Buffy..?"

She couldn't really add much.

"What was Sumer like..? For women I mean... would it be something about forcing them to see their place... something that *would* definitely piss Buffy off."

'And every other woman,' Amy thought. 'But it is a good theory... hadn't really taken into account the differences in culture.' She thought back to her lectures on ancient civilisations, 'Women in Sumer, were allowed some freedom... they could own property and manage a business... in fact back then it was more about status than gender... If you had high status then you were allowed to do most things, but a large percentage of the population were slaves and had no...' she cut her own thoughts off, when she remembered something else.

"The last person to use that box was Nikki Wood. She already *had* a newborn baby when she'd discovered she'd been called, and the father had ran out on her. Her family reacted badly to her pregnancy, and I don't know if she ever got to speak to them again. She was extremely reluctant to be involved in anything. She went inside the box and when she emerged she was willng to take on the fight. She *made* her Watcher help her with both raising him, and made him promise to continue to do so once her time was over. If the box persuaded *her* to join, then how the hell could it have annoyed Buffy so much. Nikki had far more to lose by accepting her calling, and she didn't complain."

Xander didn't have an answer for her.


Roger had finally finished on the phone. Faith was watching intently. She'd got through a few of Xander's DVDs, but was saving others for another time.

"He'll be here tomorrow." Roger informed the group.

Faith looked around the room, Amy and Xander still seemed to be deep in thought. They'd told her about the entries in the journals regarding the serum and the box. 'Can't see how the box would make me do anything I don't want to.' She figured to herself. As for the Watcher's being *handed* the instrument that probably had caused so many of kind's death; well that hadn't sat well with her. 'Luckily, I kept my temper in check though.' she thought to herself. Any violent outburst may have frightened the others; and she didn't want friends of hers to be scared of her. 'And... it'd probably work in the old ways' favour, if I were to show exactly why they need to be able to keep a Slayer in check.' she reasoned. "So I finally get to meet the famous Shote..." she said aloud.

"Famous..?" Roger had asked.

"Well... you have mentioned him... and he *is* going to be the one to explain our origins to us. Thought I'd give him some slack."

"No!!!!!" Roger said. "You've got to give him lots of shit... it's more fun that way. I'd say start with not telling him you're the Slayer." Faith smiled. "And move onto letting it drop that he's got loads missing from his continent."

"Don't encourage him." Xander said from his seat.

"You're just moody cos we can't do anything til tomorrow." Amy informed the group.

"I must admit I'm pretty bored myself. What's the nightlife like in these places?"

"There's a few bars, but nothi..." Roger began.

"Not that kind of nightlife." Faith corrected him.

"Nothing major... not much minor either." Xander explained, "Only seen a few vamps since I've been here. Never much to worry about."

"Still may be worth a patrol, eh?" Faith asked.

"You're going to actually slay a vampire?" Roger asked incredulously.

"If I find one... why?"

"I've never seen it." Roger admitted.

"You've never seen a vampire get staked?"

"I don't know if I've ever seen a vampire."

Faith was confused, "You don't know?"

"Shote took me to a demon bar once... he wasn't exactly identifying them to me."

Xander asked, "Amy? You ever seen a vampire get staked?"

'He sounded shocked,' Faith thought to herself. 'Guess he didn't know they hadn't seen one either.'

"Not as such."

"That's a 'No' too, then." Roger added.

Faith decided for them, "In that case we're all going for a trip tonight."

"I'm not so sure that's a good idea." Xander argued.

"And what were you going to do with them once Shote went inside the twirly thing?" Faith challenged.


"Hadn't thought of that, had you?"

"Why..?" Roger asked, curious.

"Okay... tonight we go on patrol as Faith suggested."

Amy looked confused. "What's going on?"

"You're not field ready." Xander explained. "And that means you either have to be ready, or be gone."

"We've been in this from the beginning." Roger argued, "We've got a right to be here."

"So you're choosing to be ready. Amy... it's your choice."

"I'm in."

"I thought so, and that's why we're going on patrol."

"Translation: Tonight, we get your cherries." Faith added with a wink.

Chapter 8

Night time

Roger was nervous. They'd been walking around at night for a while now. His request to bring Bessie along, had been met with a lot of negativity. "Guns don't kill vampires." they'd all said. 'Pretty sure, they'd find biting me more difficilt, once I'd blown their fucking knees off though.'

He took a look at the rest of the group. Amy was in front of him, she was holding a stake in each hand, and seemed fairly confident in doing so. A closer look revealed that she was nervous though, the anticipation of the night's possible events getting to her. Everyone so often she'd grasp her stake tighter, getting some form of reassurance from it's prescence.

Roger looked down at the stake he carried. It wasn't giving him any reassurances at all. He held it loosely it his left hand. Partially, in disbelief that this would work, whereas a good knife he'd been informed, would only do damage, no kill. Still, he had a trusty knife in his coat pocket, he'd snuck that on his person, not sure how the others would react to him bringing it along. He was also carrying a crossbow, Faith had handed him that, when she'd got tired of him complaining about not being able to take his shotgun along. He'd been told, not to actually carry that and just keep it attached to his coat's inner pocket. But it made his coat hang strange, and didn't feel like he would get chance to use it should they be attacked. Whenever they passed anyone who could witness it, he'd take the crossbow out of his coat and just carry it for a while. That made him feel reassured.

He thought how ridiculous they must all look. It was still warm at night, and here they were with three of them wearing coats or jackets. "Useful for hiding weapons," Xander had said. 'Sure that works fine in America. But most people out here are still in shorts and tee-shirts.

He looked over his shoulder to see Xander bringing up the rear. Xander gave him a quick nod, then continued to monitor the surroundings. Xander seemed apprehensive about tonight, but Roger reckoned that was probably more to do, with himself and Amy being along while they go *looking* for trouble, than anything trouble might send his own way.

Xander was also wearing a coat. 'God knows what he's got under there though.' he thought to himself. Xander didn't have any weapons visible in his own hands, but Roger knew they'd be within easy reach should he require them. Xander had become the pack-horse for weapons, when they'd been getting ready. He'd been putting everything into his coat that he could. The coat seemed specifically designed to conceal weapons to. All in easy reach, and all getting assigned to certain pockets where they'd fit perfectly. Roger had only seen Xander putting stakes into his coat. But he knew other stuff would be there too. He was pretty certain at one point, there'd been a small hand axe on the table, but shortly afterward it'd gone. There would be no prizes for guessing, who was carrying that.

One of the reasons, Xander was carrying everything, was that Faith seemed to be carrying nothing.

He looked forward to where she was leading the way. Dressed in a pair of khaki mid-length shorts and a tee-shirt, she was the only one who looked like they actually belonged in Africa. Faith carried two stakes, neatly tucked into her belt. She seemed to be ignoring them too.

Wondering why Faith didn't have to carry anything, when she was supposedly the strongest of the group, he'd asked Xander. "Being overly armed would just slow Faith down." had been the reply. Misunderstanding that to mean that if Faith had been wearing what Xander had, she would have struggled under the weight, Xander had quickly corrected him. "Faith is a Slayer. She needs freedom of movement to fight effectively. Wearing an outfit like this, would be too restrictive for her."

Faith seemed practically cheery, she was leading the way, only a few steps in front of Amy. She was chattering away with Amy, trying to persuade her to put the stakes away.

"Look, you don't have to actually let go of them." Faith explained. "Just fold your arms slightly, so that you can hide them from view a little."

Roger noticed that Amy was looking more than a little doubtful. Confused he slowed down to talk to Xander.

"Why's she trying to get Amy to be unarmed?"

Xander responded without really looking at him. "It's a Slayer technique. As all Slayers are teenage girls, they normally lure vampires into attacking them, by acting all innocent and unaware of the supernatural. You'd be surprised at how often it works out."

"But...." Roger began.

"Walking as a group, with two of the members actually holding stakes out... That's not what we'd call inconspicuous, is it..? Vampires are going to know what we're up to."

"But wouldn't the vampires know anyway? I mean, can't they sense the Slayer, the way the Slayer senses them."

"I don't think it works that way. Can't say I've ever asked... wouldn't be a very good design of Slayer, if she stuck out in a crowd though, would it."

Roger looked forward, trying to imagine exactly what sort of crowd Faith could blend into. He decided the thought scared him a little.

"The other thing is... we don't know how vampires are responding to this 'multiple Slayer' situation. I mean, previously... *one* on the whole planet, they were unlucky if a night's meal turned out to be her. But now... if they'd heard about what happened, and they *will* have heard about it, then they may be more careful."

"How could they be more careful... I mean what could they do..?"

"Offhand... dunno... but... if *I* was in their shoes... I'd definitely try my best to avoid snacking on teenage girls... regardless of how tempting a target they seem to be." His eye wandered towards Faith on the word 'tempting'. "That'd definitely reduce the odds of accidently bumping into one."

"So tonight could be unfruitful..?" Roger asked.

"Yeah... but we still might get lucky." Xander said.

"Play your cards right." Faith responded, as she and Amy walked back to them. "'Kay, not getting anything that way... any places where vamps might attack?"

"Dunno..." Xander admitted, "told you, I've only seen a few since I got here. Rog, any clues?"

"You said the ones in America, they hung out in bars and so on... you know for easy pickings."

"If this is some excuse..." Amy began.

"I don't mean we have to go in... well... Faith does... but she's the only one who can sense them right..? We can hang out in wait outside."

"Sounds like a good plan." Xander said.

"I'm game." Faith agreed.


A Few Hours Later

Amy was tired. They'd gone to the more rowdier parts of the the city. Faith was running off into every bar and she'd been waiting outside with the others. 'Eleven bars now...' she thought, as Faith disappeared inside the latest one. 'Beginning to wish, I hadn't called Roger on the drinking, as I sure could use one myself.'

Amy wasn't really certain that was the best plan though. 'No... definitely need to stay sober if we're going vamp-hunting.' Having not been trained as a Field Watcher, Amy had never actually seen a vampire up close. Of course, she'd the ones brought in to the academy. But they were normally bound, tired and gagged. Some to be used in training exercises, others to used as proof to newcomers. That'd been her first vision of a vampire. A man tied up on a desk struggling with his bounds, still a safety cage had been installed, so that they'd have time to run if it did get free. To prove that no trickery was involved, the cage had been placed in the centre of a large warehouse and no Watchers were near it. Once everyone had gotten a good look, one of the Watchers had removed the cover from the Skylight. The vampire had combusted before their very eyes.

She was interrupted in her musings when Faith came out of the bar. "Nope... nothing in that one either." she informed them.

They headed towards the next likely location. It was far emptier than the others. Faith quickly popped her head in. "Can't feel anything." She responded after a few seconds.

Xander was apparently in the same frame of mind as Amy was. "Let's go in here for a drink... non-alcoholic of course." He quickly corrected himself. Everyone shared mutters of agreement.

Amy was so pleased to get to sit down, she went over to get the first round in. "Four cokes please." She ordered, and patiently waited for the drinks.

The others all came over and collected their drinks, while Amy paid.

Moving to a free table, they all sat down. Sighs of relief could be heard. Weapons were quietly concealed about their person, and coats were carefully removed so as not to display their contents.

From her viewpoint, Amy saw Xander's coat open for a brief second. It reminded her of one of those sellers on a beach, with rows of fake watches on their inside lining. But Xander's coat held possible death, instead of cheap knock-offs.

"So..." Rog began, from beside her. "What am I really expecting to see here? For my first vampire staking that is."

"Yes." Amy agreed, "I'm intrigued as to what to expect as well."

"You!" Roger responded. "I thought, you'd have staked a few already."

"Not me... desk trained, remember? Got a few basics in self defense but nothing like what a field watcher, would have had."

"Thought you weren't impressed with the field watcher handbook?" Faith smirked at her.

"Would have been better than nothing." Amy responded taking a sip from her drink.

"So neither of you have seen a vampire, let alone staked one?" Xander asked, trying to get a better feel for how they might react if they managed to find one.

Amy watched his body language, as he asked his question, with interest. 'He's gonna be observing us... Not the vampie, he'll rely on Faith to deal with the vampire and he'll be making sure we're okay.'

"I told everyone... I don't *think* I've seen one." Roger responded.

"Seen, but not interacted." Amy admitted. "It was one of those, 'This is a vampire.' lectures at the council."

"So..." Roger continued. "What was it like then... when you two seasoned vets saw your first vampire?"

Faith and Xander shared a look. Xander shrugged, and gestured for Faith to go first. Nodding, she took a mouthful and began her tale. "Firstly, you have to remember I was no Potential... no-one gave me prior warning for this shit. The first I'd even heard about vampires being real, was when this woman turned up and told me she was assigned to be my watcher." Amy watched, as Faith paused, as if deciding what to say next. "After getting the four-one-one on the whole deal, I was a little dubious as you could imagine. Needless to say, she took me out into the cemetary. Waiting around freshly dug graves for most of the night, before we even found a new-born. As you can imagine. That came as quite the shock... I mean I thought this poor woman was deluded, but here she was knowing shit about my dreams and stuff."

"Dreams..?" Roger queried.

"Just your regular prohetic dreams... well actually, not... it's difficult to explain. Anyway, here I was sitting talking to this woman, when an honest-to-God fucking *corpse* climbs out of the ground. Lesser people would have shit themselves. Me... I was fighting the urge to just run. Instincts, ya know... like when you here the cop sirens."

She took another drink.

"Right... So, I'm standing there... Get me, watching a corpse climb out of the ground, and all I'm thinking is that the woman might not be as crazy as I'd thought." Amy thought, she saw Faith swallow hard before continuing. "Turns out she was one of the best people, I'd ever get to know. But at that point, oo oooh crazy bitch alert." Faith mimed, the actions of a crazy person.

"This woman... fucking walks up to this corpse... *casually*, like this was an every-day event." At their looks, she quickly covered her tracks, "Well I didn't know it *was* gonna be a typical everyday event, did I..? And kicks it in the face... well tough bitch like that, I can respect, you know. She gets this bottle of some shit, and tosses it in the face. From it's reaction, I figured it must be acid or some toxic shit, turns out to be water. Proves it to me by later drinking some... But anyway, this corpse is just lying there on the ground, holding its face... saying it's gonna fuck her up and all that kinda shit, when she kicks it over so it's lying on it's front and plunges something into it's back."

Pausing for dramatic effect. "The fucking thing explodes, and I'm wondering what the fuck was in the bottle and what the fuck she has in her hand. I figure we're talking serious goverment issue, James Bond style weapons you know... but as the dust clears, I can finally make out the thing she stabbed it with... it's a sharpened tree branch... as tools go, it hasn't fucking reached the Bronze Age... she just strides over to me. Takes a swig of the water, and then pours some on my hand... to show it ain't no trick. And just says. 'And that Faith, is a vampire.' Fuck me, as first impressions go... that's pretty hard to beat. Gets me more used to what my body is capable of... I mean she was impressed with how I'd started to use it anyway... first time an adult been impressed by me in a long time." She added sadly. "Starts giving me proper training, shouting at me when I fuck up, complimenting me when I've done well, giving me advice on how to improve, treating me as a kind of equal... two nights later, she lets me face one alone... not one of these freshly risen motherfuckers either, those we'd used mainly for training purposes... one that was actually *hunting*... and she stands there. We interrupt it's meal and she stands to the side letting me deal with it. She has that much *confidence* in me. I stake the fucker and she treats me to some decent food. And that's it really..." she drifts off.

"Best thing that ever happened to me too." She mumbled extremely quietly.

Everyone stood around, not really knowing what to say. Amy looked at Xander, seemed he was the most shocked, unsure what to do next they just sat around in silence.

Seemingly uncomfortable, Faith was the first to break it. "So Xan... what was your first time, like?" She asked, returning to her more normal persona.

"We'll save that for another time, eh..?" Xander responded. 'Break's over.... lets just stake a vamp and be done with it." Xander said, putting his coat back on.

"I really don't like the casual way they say that." Roger whispered in Amy's ear.

"I know... it wasn't like this, the first time I worked for the council." She said, as they both got up to join them.

Faith was already outside and Xander was holding the door open for them. Once outside they all continued onwards until they reached the next pub.

Amy was watching as Faith suddenly tensed.

"Getting a nagging feeling." She'd muttered, as they approached the entrance.

"What kind..?" Xander asked, tensing himself.

'Unlucky for some.' Amy thought to herself.

"Vamp." Faith informed everyone.

Amy watched as Roger started to fidget, trying to get a better grip on his stake. Amy wondered if she looked like that.

Xander kept watch though the window. "Go inside," he instructed Faith, "see if you can locate. We'll decide how to play this once we have got a better idea of the situation."

"Play this..?" Amy asked.

"Who'd be the bait." Faith explained, just before she darted into the bar.

She'd been gone for a few minutes, Xander was staring into the bar trying to locate her, Amy and Roger were standing in the middle of the street.

Roger had been there before, so he walked over to Xander to tell him what he knew. "It's a big bar, two floors... could take her a while to successfully locate."

"I guess." Xander said, eyes never stopped scanning the area visible to him.

That's when Amy heard it, the growl. And it was coming from somewhere behind her.


Roger automatically turned at the sound of Amy's scream. Amy was been held by her throat by someone he didn't recognise. The attacker had her in a hold which exposed her neck. Not exactly where he'd have thought any attacker would have gone. He brought up the crossbow and hoped the person would find it scary enough to release her. "Let her go!" he commanded, trying to make his voice sound as forcible as he could.

The man turned to face Roger, at that same point becoming more visible in the light provided by the window behind him. That's when he saw it. The face of the man attacking her. It was deformed, deep brow ridges crossed over the forehead, giving the impression of a re-inforced skull. The eyes were yellow and looked very feline. But it was the teeth that shocked him most. It wasn't just the elongated canines that he'd been imagining, truthfully they'd been provided by all the cheesy vampire films he'd been exposed to over the years. The whole front set of teeth looked animal-like; all looked razor sharp; and all looked like they could quite easily tear lumps of flesh out of Amy's neck which currently resided a few inches from this monster's mouth.

That's what he was dealing with here, he realised. A monster, for some reason this was more frightening than the other demons he'd seen since his discovery of this world. The one's Shote had shown him were, in hindsight, reasonably friendly. The Converslacts had looked entirely human. He hadn't even seen the last one Xander had had trouble with.

But this... *this* was monster in the guise of a man. And it was attacking his friend. Not the mugging or possible rape attempt that he'd assumed it was at first. This was a creature who's only thought was to *eat* his colleague. And she was being held between his crossbow and it. Unable to get a clear shot he simply stood there, facing the creature down, seemingly both wondering what was gonna happen next. It was a standoff he realised. 'The creature kills Amy and I pull the trigger ending it's life. I pull the trigger and it uses Amy as a human shield.' So he stood there unable to think of anyway out of this predicament. Wondering just how accurate with a crossbow he would be anyway.

Luckily Xander had reacted faster. Taking advantage of the fact that the vampire was focused entirely on Roger and the weapon, he quickly darted to the side. Praying that the vampire didn't notice him yet he'd made eye contact with Amy was trying to send re-assuring thoughts.

Roger noticed Amy's eyes flicker as she looked at Xander. Roger forced his own eyes to stay on either the vampire or the hostage. All of the vampire's attention was on him, he realised Xander's attempt at a rescue relied entirely on surprise.

Lifting the crossbow he tried to aim it at the demon's head. The demon seemed to smile, as if realising that wasn't a kill shot and that the man in front of him might not be fully aware of what he was dealing with.

Roger thought about it, if there was the slightest opportunity he was considering taking it. A head shot wouldn't be fatal, but if he could decapitate the head by breaking the neck then it would be. Shrugging the thought off he realised it was too dangerous, there wasn't much of the vampire's neck visible. That seemed to be behind Amy's torso. The vampire maintaining as much cover as possible. He figured a head shot would do, 'Even if it's non-fatal, it's still gonna fucking hurt. And that would give both Amy and Xander the chance to stake him."

Smiling Roger attempted to take aim directly at the demon's eye.

The demon not realising the whole plan continued to smile.

Roger stepped away from the window he'd been standing near, walking two steps forward. He knew he had to make this shot count or something, and he'd also been told that vampires had reactions far faster than a human, which meant he'd have to get as close as he could. As he walked nearer, he slowly drew back his trigger finger, preparing to fire.

Suddenly there was a loud noise and the world around him seemed to be made completely of flying glass. As he hunched his shoulders, using the coat he'd earlier been criticising to protect himself. As he approached the hunched position, he managed to see both Amy and the vampire also react to the event. Seeing the barest of opportunities he pulled the trigger fully.


Same Time as previous part.

As soon as Amy's scream began, Xander was turning towards it's direction. He chastised himself for allowing her to get so far away, she was practically on the wall at the opposite side of the street, where it wasn't as well lit. 'Least it's not cave-level dark.' He figured. Luckily he found himself able to keep track of all of the people. Roger was a few feet to his right and was bringing the crossbow up, 'No!!! Don't fire it... ' His mind silently screamed, knowing that the demon would at that range be quite able to put Amy into the way.

Amy was being held slightly in front of and to the right of the demon. From their positions of facing them, that made her also between himself and the demon, though he didn't think the vampire had done that intentionally.

Moving as stealthily as he could he managed to get across the street while the demon's attention was solely on Roger and the crossbow.

'Please don't notice me. Please don't notice me.' He silently chanted with each step across the street. Now he was across the street with them.

He manouvered himself so that they were all in view again. This time the demon behind Amy, them both on his side of the road and Roger across the road to his right.

Utilising the fact that the demon's head was staying close to Amy's he was able to approach without being seen. However at this point he wasn't sure that Roger had noticed him either. And if Roger's eyes flicked in his direction then it might be all over. 'Or it might give us the chance to react as one.' he thought, trying to figure out if there was anyway to communicate without the demon noticing.

Checking the ground, he could only see one loose stake. 'Amy may still have one.' He figured. 'That could come in very useful.'

He returned his eye to Amy's and kept gesturing his own towards the stake on the ground. Recognition didn't seem apparent in her eyes. 'Dammit...' he realised, 'She can't see it from there.'

Reaching into his own pocket he obtained one of the stakes. This time he showed it to her, and gave her a questioning look. She nodded back.

'Yes.' He thought. Giving a quick look to the skies as a silent thank you. He continued to move forward, palming another stake in his other hand he approached them as quietly as he could.

He couldn't believe his luck, there was no way that the vampire couldn't be able to smell him from here. But if the vampire wasn't paying attention, hell if the vampire was a particularly young and cocky one, then maybe all his concentration is on the threat in front of him.

At this distance he could almost reach Amy and possibly drag her away. Well it would be possible if she reached out to him, but that might alert the vampire to his prescence.

'I need to time this perfectly' he thought. Trying to judge the best time to do this and the exact method to take. He figured the best plan would be to grab Amy and pull her away, and at that exact same time push a stake into where the demon's heart should be. If he pulled them out of Roger's line of fire, there would be two targets aiming for the demon's heart, hopefully it'd only be paying attention to one of them. He quickly placed the spare stake from his left hand back into his pocket.

He was building himself up to doing everything in one fluid motion. He had just begun to move when he heard a window smash. He was distracted from the source of the noise by the feeling of something colliding with him.


A few minutes earlier.

Amy had instinctively turned as she'd heard the growl, thrusting a stake towards the creature's heart all in the same movement.

The vampire had casually caught her wrist, and then proceeded to shake the stake out of her grasp. She was sure the other was still in her pocket. 'The inside pocket.' She realised, hating herself for such an amateur mistake. Looking up she got a good look at the creature's visage, her first look from anything resembling this kind of distance. She did what came naturally, she screamed.

The vampire smiled and started to move towards a feeding position, she was still screaming when she heard the ruffle of a coat and Roger's voice. "Let her go." He'd told the creature in front of her.

'Please.' Her mind silently screamed, as her voice finally stopped.

Suddenly the creature moved with inhuman speed. He'd somehow gotten behind her, using her as a shield to defend against Roger's crossbow. 'Please god don't shoot it.' She started repeating in her mind over and over again.

Then her mind picked something out, 'Where was Xander?' Her brain automatically clamped down on that thought. Deciding solving that mystery was better than thinking about her imminent death.

Her eyes flicked to the left, seeing nothing between Roger and the entrance to the pub. 'The pub,' she thought quickly. Praying that Faith should choose that moment to leave the pub looking for them. Unfortunately no matter how hard she stared at the doorway, Faith still didn't walk out.

Resigning herself to the fact they weren't going to get Slayer help, she began scanning to her right. Quickly spotting Xander from her position, and tracking him til he went out of sight, she realised he was trying to circle them. Her thoughts on that were soon distracted when some drops of saliva landed on the left side of her neck.

'I don't wanna die. I don't wanna die.' She kept thinking to herself, struggling slightly to get free. This had allowed her to move slightly before the demon had tightened it's grasp. Now she was just about able to see Xander without moving her head noticeably. He was staring directly at her waiting for her eyes to make contact with his solitary one. Once this contact was established, he started glancing towards the floor. 'The floor?' she thought confused. 'What about the floor? Does he want me to duck?'

She saw him dig into one of his pockets and bring out a stake. Gesturing towards it. He maintained eye contact and looked at her questioningly again. 'So he wants me to duck while he stakes the creature? I can do that.' She thought as she nodded back.

She saw Xander take another stake out of his pocket as he quietly approached. She quickly turned her attention back towards Roger and saw him beginning to take aim at the creature's head. '*I* start this..?' She thought to herself. *I* start this... when I duck Xander goes for the staking and Roger shoots it's head...' Realising it was a good plan, she took a few deep breaths, well as deep as she could while in the creatures grasp anyway.

She'd been about to make her move when suddenly Xander had moved first. 'What the hell?' Had been her first reaction, but as soon as he'd moved she'd instinctively gone into her part. Moving her arms as fast as she could she attempted to knock the demons' grasp slightly looser. It seemed she'd been successful as it gave her enough freedom to slightly drop lower. As she'd dropped however a noise had attracted her attention and her line of vision had briefly glimpsed skyward towards it's source, what she'd seen in that fraction of a second she thought she'd remember forever.


Five minutes earlier.

Faith had entered the pub, it was a bit more lively than the others had been. There were even people dancing on the small section dance floor.

She promised herself she'd make a mental note of this place for when they were up for a decent night out. Walking over to the crowded bar, she quickly walked parallel to it, behind all the waiting customers. 'Not a place to actually get any drinking done though,' she admitted to herself.

Satisfied that the vampire wasn't at the bar, she walked towards the dancefloor eyes scanning all the custs sitting watching as she took the most awkward route between the tables. Arriving at the dancefloor she strolled across it forcefully, catching a lot of men's eyes as she did so. Two guys had followed her from their sitting positions and were trying to persuade her to dance or something. Her eyes continued to scan for the prescence of a demon, ignoring the two talking to her.

She stared at them until they went away, calling her a bitch and other similar names. 'Not important right now Faith.' She told herself. 'You're on seek and destroy. Some lameass wanna romeos ain't your problem.' She did smile however as her scanning caught a glimpse of Xander peering in at the window. 'Wonder if he saw that?' She wondered turning her attentions towards the toilets.

'Where the hell could the vampire be?' She thought debating whether to go inside or not. Checking past the bar however she noticed some other patrons walking down the stairs. 'Upstairs is open to the public?' She wondered, she knew the place was lively but it didn't seem that lively. Alternating between staring at the toilets and the stairs she decided to play the odds. 'Soon find out if it's a free-for-all or members only deal.' she figured striding towards the steps. No one stopped her so she guessed that it was there for public access.

Halfway up she turned to see Xander at the window. She waited patiently for him to spot her so she could indicate that she was going upstairs, but it never came. He never looked up. 'Dammit.' she thought as Roger joined Xander at the window, 'Never mind X. You'll just have to wait for me.'

She finished her journey up the rest of the stairs. It was a smaller room, there was another dancefloor here and a smaller bar. Fewer people were up here.

'So where's the fucking vamp?' she wondered. 'Bet I'm gonna have to check the shitters. I hate checking the men's, all the guys think you're a whore if you go in there... or that you're actually interesting in seeing their cocks.'

She was distracted from her thoughts when her Slayer hearing picked up a high pitched scream. 'That came from outside,' she realised.

Running over towards the upstairs window, she casually knocked aside the arms of two guys making a grab for her. "Not now." she told them.

Once she reached the window she realised that the person who'd screamed was Amy. Looking down she could see that Amy, was being held by a vampire. At that point she couldn't see either of the others. 'How the fuck did you get seperated Amy?' she thought preparing to run down the stairs, when suddenly Xander came into her line of vision to her left below her.

"Sneaking up him eh Xan. Good call." She muttered aloud, smiling even more as she saw a crossbow slowly enter her eyeline from beneath and to the right. 'Roger too, eh? Still I'd better head down to help them out.'

"What?" Came a voice from behind her.

Turning she saw one of the guys she'd pushed. "Sorry not interested. Not now and not ever." She expanded on her previous point, returning her attention to the scene below her.

That's when she saw it. The narrowest of alleyways, with a figure hiding in it. Concentrating her vision she could see that the face was definitely not human. "Two vamps eh?" She muttered pulling a stake out of her pocket, realising instantly that the alley was on Xander's blindside, and he may not have noticed it or the vampire.

"Whoa... I didn't mean nothing..." The guy behind her began, raising his hands to indicate he was no threat to her.

"Relax... it's not for you." She said as she walked backwards towards him, eyes never leaving the vampire in the alley. Deciding she couldn't risk the chance of Xander knowing it was there, she'd already made her decision to act. Only one decision left to make, and Xander definitely had the highest likelihood of holding his own against a vampire. Turning briefly she gave him a quick smile. "See ya."

Then she proceeded to dive headfirst through the window, the force of the jump taking her up and out into the street. Eyes quickly taking in the scene below her. The vampire charging out of it's hiding place, aiming directly at Xander. Amy's face looking up with a shocked expression. Roger pulling the trigger, not really focused on his target. Faith smiled as she clenched the stake tightly in her grasp; the leap beginning it's descent, aiming directly towards the vampire which had been holding Amy.


It was all happening at the same time, and for a moment the world seemed frozen. Amy was attempting her bid for freedom, holding the vampire's forearm in both her hands and trying to push it far enough away to get her head free. Roger had pressed the trigger releasing the crossbow bolt, his other hand holding his coat up, forming a shield against flying glass. Xander had been tackled by a vampire; he wrapped his left arm around it's head, restricting it's attempts to bite into his side, his other hand still firmly clenched around the stake. Faith was about fifteen feet in the air beginning her descent, left hand straight out palm open seemingly guiding her path, her right hand readjusting its grip on her stake, right leg bent at the knee, left leg trailing behind.

Then time caught up with everyone simultaneously.

Xander swore as the force of the vampires attack lifted him bodily off his feet, and was taking both of them on a trajectory that led directly at the window, he'd been peering through only minutes earlier.

Roger's sharp wince of pain was audible, as part of his hand got cut as it brought his coat to its final protective position. His eyes never leaving the crossbow bolt as it sliced through the air towards the vampire, cutting through it's left shoulder. Its feral eyes suddenly turning on him, realising he'd been the source of it's pain.

Amy felt the vampire holding her, suddenly leap backwards as though it'd been shoved. The momentary distraction giving her the time to free her head from it's grasp, and attempt to get out of range.

Faith was still grinning as she saw Amy wiggle out of the vampire's clutches. She noticed it's attention had left Amy now, but it was still looking forward and not up. 'Probably staring at Roger' she figured, spotting the wound in it's left shoulder. Bracing herself for impact, she aimed her hand for the creature's right shoulder, preparing to announce her presence to the fight.

Faith's leap was inch perfect. Her left hand caught the vampire's right shoulder as she'd intended. This allowed her to aim both her knees into it's face as she attempted to control the fall. Her left knee made contact with the demon's face, while her right collided with it's injured shoulder. Her intention was to create enough force that it'd take both her and the vampire away from Amy who could then re-arm herself. She wasn't sure where Amy was, but herself and the demon ended up rolling down the street in a mess of limbs.

Amy had almost gotten free. She'd got her head loose, and was in the process of ducking and rolling away, when a firm hand grasped her wrist. Looking up she realised it was the vampire, suddenly the vampire got yanked backwards dragging Amy with it. Landing on it's legs, she was dragged by the momentum of the vampire and the slayer. Once they came to a stop though, the vampire realised her wrist realising that it'd need both hands free to stand any chance of survival, Amy rolled away to the side to check on the others.

Xander had gone through the window, taking the vampire with him. He had a firm grasp of it's neck and was refusing to let go. The vampire was bleeding from several places on it's face, from where Xander had made sure at least part of the demon had struck the window first. It was attempting to stand up, trying to force Xander off of it, powerful blows were raining down on his ribcage but he refused to let go, knowing if he did so then the fight would be a hell of a lot harder. The people in the bar had started diving for cover as soon as they'd come through the window. This did allow him access to a lot of broken furniture. But none of that was as designed for this type of combat as the stake he still firmly held in his hand. Discovering that at this angle it was practically impossible to get a heart shot he did the next best thing. He began plunging the stake into the creature's side repeatedly.

Roger had seen Faith, Amy and the vampire roll off in one direction; and Xander and his opponent roll off in another. Unsure who to help first he automatically began reloading his crossbow. When he looked back up, Amy was fiddling with her coat, seemingly trying to free her other stake. Faith was beneath the vampire, but seemed to have her legs locked round it's waist, refusing to let it escape while she punched it in the face. Turning he quickly ran towards the window that Xander had disappeared through, and aimed his crossbow inside. What he saw amazed him.

Xander was standing now, the vampire still in a headlock and Xander was attempting to stab him repeatedly in the side. This was being made more difficult by the fact that the demon was holding his wrist tightly. Refusing to let the wood get close enough to cause injury. 'How the hell is he doing that?' Roger thought to himself. 'He's not a Slayer yet he seems to be fairing okay in a wrestling match.'

Amy had picked up her other stake and was running back to aid Faith. Just before she got there however, she saw Faith grab the vampire by its neck and unhook her legs from around it.

Faith manoeuvred herself so that the demon was exactly where she wanted it. Holding it by its collar she lifted it up to full arm's stretch while she bent her knees inwards towards her body. Suddenly it's eyes opened, showing Faith it was beginning to recover from the beating she'd given it. As it focused on her she smiled, and glanced down at where her feet were located. It eyes followed hers, to see her feet placed firmly on it's chest. She winked and blew it a kiss, before straightening her legs and throwing it ten feet through the air, towards the wall it'd first been holding Amy against. The creature slammed into it, grazing it's skin as it fell to the floor.

Amy just watched as the creature soared towards the wall. Turning back to Faith, she saw the Slayer flick herself to her feet, seemingly effortlessly. Faith strolled over, eyes squinting as if concentrating on something else for a brief moment; suddenly she relaxed and put her left hand on Amy's back, guiding her towards the vampire. She put her hand down and brought Amy's right hand back up, which was still clenching a stake. Faith winked at her and went lifted the vampire to it's feet. It hissed at her, so Faith hit it in the face again.

Gesturing for Amy to come closer, Faith readjusted her own grip so that both the vampire's hands were held behind its head against the wall by her own right hand. Faith's left hand was holding it by the throat, not allowing it to move even slightly.

Amy walked over, getting close enough to smell the creature's breath.

"Go on." Faith told her, nodding towards it's heart.

Amy closed her eyes, praying silently to herself. Scared, she plunged the stake in rather nervously, watching as Faith released the creature as it turned to dust. Gulping hard she realised that she'd just staked her first vampire, 'The Watcher's really didn't prepare me for that.' she thought.

"So how'd it feel?" Faith asked starting to walk away from her.

Turning to face the other direction, she began to follow Faith when the sight of the broken window reminded her about the other two. She wondered about how the guys were fairing, when she was distracted by a shout from above them.


Meanwhile, inside the pub.

Roger had climbed in through the broken window, carefully trying to avoid glass and remains of furniture. He saw where Xander was struggling with the demon. He walked behind it unsure whether to fire or not. Xander looked up and shook his head, indicating that Roger shouldn't fire. Roger rummaged in his coat looking for a stake, to help aid, his friend, the first thing his fingers discovered was the knife he'd concealed earlier. He was debating internally about whether that would help, and was just putting the crossbow onto one of the remaining unbroken tables, when Xander took a sudden look behind over his own shoulder.

Xander checked behind and noticed the corner of the wall, where the entrance came inwards slightly. Making sure the creature's head was fully locked in place he ran backwards towards the wall, the demon's head impacting with a sickening crack. Satisfied Xander let go, letting it drop to the ground.

Roger looked around at the bar's patrons. Several looked like they were going to be sick. All looked disgusted with the event. Roger was fighting the urge to inform them that it wasn't a human. But decided that killing someone, and then denying their right to live as your defence, probably wouldn't go down very well. He also figured that the vampire is essentially a corpse, if the cops come and its still there, all it has to do is lie still while we get arrested. These and more worries were continually going through his mind, checking on Xander to see what he was thinking he was quite shocked.

Xander was over by the bar, talking to the bartender. Who in the circumstances was doing his best to not look scared of him. 'Figures,' Xander thought to himself, 'I guess that was quite an impression.'

The bartender kept glancing under the counter a few feet to his left. 'Probably where he kept the phone, or a shotgun.' Xander reasoned. Digging into his pocket, he tried his best to ignore the bartenders flinch when he did so.

Xander took all but one note out of his wallet, "Here's some cash for the damages, should be enough to at least cover the two windows."

"Two windows?" The bartender repeated nervously.

Xander pointed over to where he'd entered the building. "That one... and there's another upstairs." The bartender took the money carefully and stood facing him, still not entirely sure what to do.

Xander leaned over the bar, the bartender stepping back instinctively. Xander pointed at one of the fridges, "And four of those small bottles of coke please." The bartender took them out and handed them over wordlessly. Xander was about to speak when they both turned at the sound of the audience gasping.

Roger was watching Xander the whole time, trying to ignore the nervous glances that came from the other pub-goers. 'He's paying for this shit..?' he thought incredulously. 'We're just saved some lives, I can't believe we have to pay for doing that.' He also turned when the gasps started.

Looking at where one woman was pointing, he saw the vampire starting to move. He quickly walked over to her, putting her behind him for safety. The vampire had raised one arm now, trying to move it to a place where it could be used to get to it's feet. The neck making sickly cracking noises whenever the shoulders moved too much. 'This is making me nauseous.' Roger thought, 'And I know it's not human.'

Turning quickly to attract Xander's attention he found he was no longer at the bar. 'Crap if he's gone the toilet we're all dead.' Roger figured, ushering the people away from the moving corpse. It was on one elbow now. He was wondering if he could shout to Faith when suddenly Xander appeared on the other side of him, casually taking a swig from the bottle of coke.

"Thank fuck." Roger said automatically.

Xander smiled, and pulled Roger away from the woman he'd been protecting. Handing Roger his crossbow, he waved a hand in the direction of the corpse. Roger gave him a look that asked if he was insane.

Sighing Xander walked over to the corpse and kicked it in the back; causing it to fall back over.

Roger walked up, behind Xander. Taking aim at the creature's back he pulled the trigger when it was pointing towards where he thought the heart was. The bolt went directly down, sticking into the demon's torso. Then it standing to crumble, until nothing but dust remained. Then the bolt fell over, the body having slowed it down so that it barely chipped the tiled floor. Xander smiled at him, and passed him one of the Coke bottles.

A shout from outside drew Xander's attention he went to the window to see Faith and Amy looking up.

Roger remained where he was, bending down to pick up the bolt, he paused letting his fingers run through the dust, as if to confirm it was real. "So that was a vampire, eh?" he mumbled aloud.

Hearing the people repeating his vampire comments, he quickly picked up the bolt, and made his way to the entrance, only giving a brief look back to confirm they hadn't left anything behind.


Outside, Faith and Amy were looking at the window above. The guy that had tried to speak to Faith, was standing at the window just muttering the same phrase over and over. "Holy Fuck. Holy Fuck. Holy Fuck."

Xander walked up to them, glancing upwards at the window. "Admirer of yours, Faith?"

"I think he might have been once." Faith responded, taking the bottle Xander was offering her. Amy took a long gulp of the one she'd been passed.

Xander smiled at Amy, then turned back to Faith. "You leave this impression on every one you meet?"

"It's a gift." She muttered, as Roger joined up with them drinking from his own bottle.

Xander took a last look around them, the broken windows on each floor of the pub, the trashed furniture, the people staring open mouthed muttering about vampires and other monsters, the pile of dust in the alley. "Guess our work here is done." He said loudly so that the crowd could hear.

"Poser." Faith hissed back.

"I'm not the one who dived through a first floor window to impress a guy." Xander teased.

"If little things like that are gonna shock him, then he's not worth my time. He couldn't have handled me anyway." She responded back.


"So any hotties impressed by your window-smashing entrance?" Faith asked.

Xander paused as if giving it some thought, "I didn't check. Roger seemed to be doing okay... until he forgot to finish the vampire off anyway."

"You *did* kill it right?"

"Course we did, what did you take us for, amateurs?" Xander smirked.

"No... you were the old timer group."

"Har har." Xander deadpanned.

Faith looked back regretful, "I liked that place too... was lively, could have gone there again... if we hadn't trashed it."

"The people seemed a bit jumpy to me."

"Really... a guy with an eyepatch gets into a fight and his friend dusts him... what did they have to be nervous about?" She asked sarcastically.

Amy and Roger followed them down the street. Hearts still racing, trying to ignore the bickering in front of them. Both thinking the same thing. 'At what stage of your life, does this become a *normal* night?'


Chapter 9

Back at the apartment.

They were all sitting around the table, beers in hand. Roger smiled, 'Now this is mind kind of after work relaxation.'

They'd gotten back and not much had been said. Xander had gone directly to the fridge and pulled out the first round of beers for everyone. The weapons had been tossed onto one of the chairs in the living area. This was chill time and everyone deserved it. "I've never been that scared in my life." Amy confessed, the first to break the silence in over ten minutes. "That wasn't nothing special." Faith nonchalantly replied, taking a deep swig of her drink. "I thought I was a gonner then." "I thought you were too." Roger replied. "Ya get used to that feeling, don't ya Xan?" Faith answered.

'Still shrugging it off as a fairly calm event.' Roger realised. "So..." She finished off her drink. "Who wants another...?"

Roger quickly agreed. Amy declined and Xander examined the remains of his first before deciding to go along with it.

Faith quickly pulled three bottles out of the fridge and passed two of them out. "Yeah... you get used to being scared shitless." Xander commented. "You learn to trust those instincts and trust me... that adrenalin rush... you'll come to be very grateful of it in time. " "So... what's the scariest thing you two have seen?" Roger found himself asking. "First vampire is always memorable... but actually scariest..?" Faith answered, pausing to think it over.

"Yeah... you're first vampire, normally hits a lot home about what you thought was true... the first friend you've seen turned is bad too. " "I hadn't even thought of that." Amy said shocked, holding her hand over her mouth.

Roger watched as Xander moved Amy into her line of vision. Both eyebrows raising in a silent question. Roger stared at Amy's reaction and realised that she didn't seem to know what he was after. Faith was also watching this with interest.

"There are lots of things that have been extremely scary over the years... many of them not necessarily the monsters you were thinking of." Xander said, pausing as he made eye contact with each and every one of them. He noted surprised that Faith cracked first when Xander's eye rested on her.

'Never thought I'd see that. Thought she was indestructible.' He considered, watching Faith first bow and then raise her head. Once the eye contact between them was resumed, they seemed to hold it for a few more seconds before both relaxing at the same time. 'What sort of things have these two seen together that they can say so much without saying anything... it's like with married couples, is it something these two have together or would they be able to do it with every member of their group. A level of trust and understanding that only fighting side by side and relying on each other could provide.'

Xander seemed to compose himself and then continued on regardless. "Scariest things right... in no particular order."

"After the revelation that is seeing your first monster and having your whole understanding of the world turned on it's head... then there is the sight of someone you know... be it friend, family or casual acquaintence... the sight of them but not them is always bad. Whether it be turned by a vampire or some sort of temporary possession, your thoughts immediately go to the fact that you either won't or probably won't ever get that person back. It's like they're dead... but instead of grieving or trying to move on; you've got a walking, talking reminder of everything they used to do that made you smile, pissed you off or was just something personal to them that you never really understood, but let them get on with anyway. That's always a shock... no matter how many times you see it, cos it's different each time..."

He paused to let that sink in. Roger tried to imagine anyone he knew not being the person he thought he knew. He wasn't sure if his imagination did it justice.

"Being possessed isn't much more fun... watching someone taking a trip in your body. You're along as a passenger unable to do anything while it follows it's own instincts... similar to above... but you're wondering what it's going to do... wondering if you get to spend the rest of your life purely as a spectator... " "You've been possessed..?" Faith asked. Roger noted that even she was getting some revelations in this confession. "More than once." Xander replied, calmly moving onto another topic. "On a purely selfish note... self preservation plays a strong point too." He added, pausing to look at Amy. "When the demon caught you... what exactly did you think..?" "I was frightened... erm... I'm not sure what you want me to say." Amy answered truthfully.

"Imagine that... then imagine it if we hadn't been there... if you hadn't even been sure we could locate you in time."

Amy let out a whimper of fear, Roger noted the same look in her eyes that had be present when she was being used as a hostage. He couldn't imagine it... he'd been on the outside the whole time. He'd been worried for Amy, and then he'd been amazed by how both Faith and Xander looked after themselves. He'd never really been afraid for his own life, he realised.

"On a less selfish topic, finding a friend of yours, someone you care about, dead or on death's door isn't easy either... I've seen far too many of them... and others, "Roger noted he quietly added, "others that I never really got chance to say goodbye to. " "But still in time you start to think you're being selfish about that too... in this job, well it's not really a job unless you're either a Watcher or get called." He clarified nodding at Amy and Faith in turn. "You see a lot of victims... remember, probably ninety nine percent of the vampires you see are victims. And the other one percent are people who didn't have a real understanding of what they were signing up for or dealing with. You see all these victims...

and you start to look at them differently... vampires aren't victims they're potential threats... "Amy interrupted him. "But by destroying their bodies, you're actually freeing their souls. ""That what the Watcher's teach you..? " He continued at Amy's nod. "Might be true, I dunno... might be easier to think of it that way. Makes what you're doing seem justified... can't say I'm friends with a vampire... may have reluctantly worked with a few... Buffy believed she went to heaven and she really took coming back hard, I can't say I saw the same in either Deadboy or Deadboy Junior. Faith, your opinion."

Shocked out of never hearing him speak so seriously, Faith almost stammered her initial response. "Fang... Angel never mentioned it... he said that it took a few minutes for his mind to catch up on Angelus's adventures whenver he came back... but he had no memory of being anywhere in the meantime... least if he did, he never mentioned it. " "So argument's still out on that one... could be in limbo... could be one of any hundred other explanations. " "Such as..?" Faith argued, coming to Angel's defence with a little more anger than she'd intended.

"His soul *did* get to heaven but couldn't have any memory of it brought back... holy objects burn vampires remember? Maybe all the actions he took as a vampire were weighed on his soul... so he didn't deserve heaven... "at her look he hastily added. "It's called redemption for a reason remember..? Anyway, none of us really know what sort of person he was before he got turned the first time."

Faith sat back, not happy but seemingly placated for the time being. Roger wondered what made Xander so willing to face someone who could hurt him so easily.

"Anyway, back to the topic... even the first few victims you see when you discover a new type of demon is in town... they're not seen as people... more as clues... clues to help you stop whatever it is from reaching people you do care about. Maybe its some sort of human defence mechanism... enables you to concentrate on the problem at hand and not be overwhelmed by grief and unable to do anything. Towards the end when Sunnydale was being evacuated, I was hoping that people had the common sense to leave town. But that was about my only thought on the subject - we didn't waste any time trying to persuade them to leave in their best interests. " "To be fair, we were in crisis mode from the second I arrived... from the second I left prison actually." Faith commented. "And that's what happens..." Xander explained. "That's why I'm telling you this... you want to get involved with the Watcher's in a more hands-on capacity... you're going to become more cynical about certain things, and you start justifying things you probably wouldn't have seen yourself jus..."

Roger watched as he drifted off. First turning to face Faith again, understanding seeming to dawn in his facial expressions. Then turning to face the rest of them, he quickly continued. "We had a lot of problems with the Watcher's Council," he said shrugging in Amy's direction. "I think I found out their problem... I've started to notice now after almost seven and a half years how I behave differently... imagine that for over a millenium. They did some things that we thought were inhuman... Shit! That's something else we need to make sure we don't do... we cannot follow in their footsteps. " "That's another thing that scares me... probably most of all... that we are going to do the same mistakes that people made before... and eventually become what we hate."

Roger nodded. Having lived inside the complicated situations within Africa for so long, that was something he could understand. "Ermmmm... wow..." Amy responded, stumbling over her own words. "And Faith... as the resident Slayer, anything you could add?"

Roger watched as Faith seemed more than willing to simply stare at Xander. Shaking herself out of whatever inner thoughts she had, he watched her turn to face them.

"I don't think I'm going to compete with that sort of thing... but yeah, Xander's right... it's not the monsters you ought to be scared of... yeah, I bet I know what you're thinking, you wouldn't be scared of monsters if you were a super-powered babe too, eh?"

She paused, Roger noted she waited for the smiles to leave both his and Amy's faces. Even Xander managed to let a small smirk come through.

"But the bad guy is just that... some guy... or at worst, some thing... there *will* be a way to stop it, to protect yourself until you have an oppurtunity to finish it once and for all... the things to be scared of are way deeper than that. "Roger watched as she seemed to retreat into yourself. "Watching someone you care about dying in front of you... and being unable to do anything about it. That's an image that will *never* leave you. " "Losing control. " Faith breathed out, keeping her eyes down. "Being scared of ever losing control again... and being worried when temptation hits."

With that she tossed the empty bottle over her shoulder getting a direct hit into the bin. Standing up she went to the fridge to grab another beer.

Roger paused as the table remained silent. Amy got up after a few more minutes and wordlessly handed out the next round.

It was a further ten minutes before anyone said anything, and then the conversation went onto lighter topics.

This continued for a further hour or so til Amy excused herself. Roger followed her out, deciding it would probably be safer to get any information on what had just happened from Amy.


Once they'd gone, Xander turned to face Faith where she was sitting at the table. He reached into the fridge and brought two bottles of beer out. Handing her one, he sat down next to her. "Losing control, huh?" He said trying to make it sound as casual as he could. "Friend turning into a monster, eh?" She said in the same tone. "That wasn't you." He responded dryly.

"Sure... cos the only other person it applies to it Fang... and you weren't friends."

'Dammit,' he thought to himself. 'Why is this always going to difficult between us.'

"My first vampire... the first one I staked... also happened to be my oldest friend." He confessed. "Before Willow..?" She asked, he could see the idea of him having friends prior to Buffy and Willow shocked her. "Before Willow." He agreed. "I only met Willow cos Jesse was ill one day and I saw Cordelia picking on her. Me and Jesse were always arguing with Cordelia and her friends prior to that... they were from the posh side of Sunnydale and we weren't... I can't say I ever noticed Willow before that day. " "I guess she took blending into the background to a new level." She commented. "You don't know the half of it." He smiled back.

"You'd never guess it from the Jewish-Wiccan Gay-Now Lesbian Mega-Witch that the new Slayers get to meet. " "Guess you don't... it'll have to be our secret." He teased. "*Ours*..?" She asked.

"I mean all the original Scoobs... the Sunnydale lot before becoming a Slayer became the new cool thing to do. " "You honestly say you include me in that group?" She asked, he watched her looking into his eye. Desperate to know the truth.

"Not always no... but at first I did. Then later when you returned with Willow... I saw you as a potential helper." At her look, he added. "If it makes you feel any better, even on your return to help with the newbies I saw your status the same as I saw Deadboy's back in school. " "I guess it does a bit... except that Fang was a fully fledged member of your gang." She corrected him. "Not to me... and after he lost his soul... not to Giles either." He answered honestly. "Never felt as bad about him as I did Spike but... you know. " "Yeah I guess I can live with that." She smiled at him.

"That's just your starting point. If you continue the way you have been recently I guess you'll make it into the group completely the way I think about the other girls. " "The other girls? " "Buffy, Willow, Tara for a while, Dawn and Anya," he had to stop himself choking on the name. Even now it still hurt, but he could see himself moving on making a life without her. He wasn't ready yet... but one day. The possibility lived in the never ending concept of one day. "Dawn never joined in with the Scoobs." Faith told him. "Only cos she was too young... and Buffy would have flipped." Xander shrugged. "Dawn was a Scooby in all but life-riskage... though if you count all her kidnappings I'm pretty sure she's a fully paid up member. " "Giles not get a mention?" Faith countered. "He was more the leader than one of the actual gang..." He trailed off.

"So, you could consider me as a potential to be one of your girls, eh Xan?" She beamed at him. "Keep it up." He commented. "So.... about this losing control and being tempted to again... I take it you were talking about the Mayor... I mean when the First visited you as him. " "You knew about that?" She asked. He could see the shock visible on her face.

"I was outside when I heard you talking to someone. We only heard your side of the conversation. " "We..? " "Wood was with me. " "Ahh... " She nodded understanding. "And you didn't come in... " "You seemed to be fairing fine on your own. You never let him get to you... I don't what he said but you never gave in, not once... I was... proud, Faith. You argued your corner and never backed down. " "You could have come in and helped me you know." She stated angrily, turning her back to him. "No I couldn't." He paused unsure how to continue, waiting for her to face him. Once she did he quickly resumed speaking. "What were you going to do? Have someone with you at all times? The First would have seen you as a weak link and concentrated on you. Knowing you were the most susceptible to manipulation. " "So what... you were going to leave me to it..? " "Not if you'd gone the other way." He answered in a matter-of-fact tone. "If you'd hadn't stood up to him, I'd have came in, dragging Buffy and everyone else... " "And dealt with me? " "And told you what we'd all experienced... well what they'd all experienced... Dawn got a visit in the form of her mother... if she could cope with that, then I doubt your stubborness would have let you get beaten the Mayor." He said tightly. "You didn't get a visit from the First...?" She asked shocked, Wood had told her that it came to the major players, sure he might have been saying it to get a piece of ass... but. "I did. Jesse." Xander commented, and sat down heavily. The previous anger that had been fuelling their argument gone like it had been simply passing through. "Your friend... the one you staked...? What did he say?" Faith asked. "God, if it'd been Lynda."

Xander put the information at the back of his mind. 'I don't know a Lynda... must be someone she cared about though from her tone. Probably her first Watcher.' he decided. "I don't know." He answered, taking a long drink. 'God it's been a while since I wanted to get properly drunk.' "You don't know..?" She asked. "The Mayor tried to rip me apart made me feel like I didn't belong. How could you forget something like that? " "I didn't... " Xander confessed, "It was over before I paid attention. " "What do you mean..?" She asked concerned. Crouching before his place on the chair she placed one hand on his, which rested on her knee. "Xan tell me."

"The First appeared, you know... in the form of Jesse. Except it was Jesse... identical in every way." Noting her confusion, he continued. "Jesse was turned when Buffy first came to town... we were young. We grew up together, the standard stuff, climbing trees, talking about girls, skipping school to go swimming that sort of thing. He was interested in Cordelia way before I was. But the guy I was facing... it wasn't him, you know... wasn't my brother in all but blood. It was some sixteen year old kid. And as it began talking that's all I kept thinking. He's sixteen... we fought occasionally you know... fairly evenly matched and everything... just using a bit of extra testosterone and all that... man, I'm trying to explain letting off steam through a bit of playful violence to a Slayer." He saw the smile on her face. It made him feel more comfortable. "The First thing I thought while he taunted me, was straight back tolike when he was alive. I thought about challenging him to come over and say that... childish I know. But the second thought was how skinny he was, how I could snap him in half without thinking about it. He made some comment about me betraying him, how I got Cordelia when it was his girl... I stopped paying attention at that point. Jesse never lived long enough to see me date Cordelia, hell if he had maybe I wouldn't have, he didn't know about me losing my virginity to you, I would have loved to have seen his face once I'd told him you were my first... he didn't know about what I'd been through, didn't about how scared I was about marrying Anya... didn't know me anymore. Cos the last time he knew me, I was just like him... this stupid little kid who worried about all this irrelevant crap. And that's all I kept thinking when he was with me. Whenever my attention returned to him, I'd catch maybe two or three words. Just enough to give me something else to concentrate on. Something else that I did, that Jesse never lived to see. By the time it finished, he'd changed into his vampire face. A last reminder of my final memories... I guess I pissed the First off though. He... It taunted me... telling me I was the first not to be sucked in by it's little trick... then it told me I'd seen right through it... and at that exact same moment, the vampire version of Jesse staked itself. And dusted in front of me... I found myself leaping forward... trying to grasp any remainders of my friend. But the dust wasn't there... just like Jesse was never there."

He examined Faith's eyes, it seemed she didn't know what to say or how to react to that. "Fuck."

'Or maybe I was wrong.' He thought.

"Fuck... Cyke... you ignored the fucking First... it came to you in a form that was meant to fucking destroy you and you stood there and ignored it... no wonder it was pissed. " She said. "Fuck... man, how cool are you..? You are completely the shit, ya know... don't fuck with the XanMan... he is untouchable. " "Faith..." He said calmly, trying to bring her back down to earth. He waited until she'd stopped enough for him to continue. "You don't understand." He started, unsure whether or not he wanted to admit this. Deciding it might help her in the long run with her own doubts and insecurities he continued. "I wis... no, we don't say that word. I wanted to go back in time... not much, just enough to get to hear that conversation... even though I knew it wasn't Jesse... I would have liked to have heard him again, listened to his opinions on some of the things that happened even though they wouldn't be his... they'd be those of someone pretending to be him... doing it to attempt to manipulate me in some way... but still... I would have liked to have heard his voice again... you know?" He drifted off. "Yeah..." She responded, something unreadable in her own eyes. "I think I can understand that."

They sat there quietly finishing the rest of their drinks, neither saying another word.