Stand For Something

Author: lucindas43302 <lucindasiverling[at]>

Rating: PG-13

Main character: Xander, also strong Willow presence

There are no pairings central to this fic, though there may be mentions of Willow/Kennedy and Xander/Anya

Based on the 'Slayer of Slayers' challenge on the XanderZone list

Disclaimer: I hold no legal rights to any characters or concepts from the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Distribution: XanderZone, INeedAParrot, Paula, anyone else please ask.

Note: Going AU during season 7 finale.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

"We need you to work this spell, Willow. Otherwise, we're all going to die, and the First will bring about hell on earth." Buffy's eyes were hard and worried as she passed the gleaming scythe to Willow.

His friend accepted it with nervous eyes, her gaze sliding along the gleaming sharp lines of the weapon. "Way to stick the pressure on, Buffy. But that much magic... What if it's too much? That sort of power, the temptation... I don't want to become scary, veiny Willow again."

Xander almost cursed Buffy for laying that sort of tension on Willow. They'd all been so worried about her using magic, so busy telling her how risky things would be, about the dangers of the return of 'scary, veiny Willow', and now Buffy was just basically telling her to do the spell. What if Willow had a reason to be afraid? What if this was dangerous? Well, yeah, there was the part where they had no better plan to defeat an army of super vampires being manipulated by the First, and the second major weapon was Spike, but... All things considered, he'd really rather count on Willow than Spike any day.

"Kennedy can stay with you, keep you anchored." Buffy seemed to be trying to push Willow's concern away, to dismiss it from her mind.

Willow opened her mouth, and then closed it and her eyes. When she opened her eyes again, there was something there, something that just blew away her usual Resolve Face. "Fine, I can do this spell. But Kennedy won't do as an anchor, the magic would definitely... she's more comfortable fighting evil nasties. Xander can anchor me. He's seen the big magic, and he didn't start acting all freaky. If it does get to be too much for me, I need someone who will stay calm."

"You want Xander as your anchor? Buffy's voice sounded so shocked, so incredulous.

Kennedy just gave Willow a hug, and whispered something in her ear. Her eyes were all teary as she moved to stand beside the others who would be going into the battle, risking life and limb and sanity.

Xander felt a blend of joy and fear and something that he could only call a sense of finality come over him. Willow would rather have him as her anchor than her new girlfriend. That gave him a sort of warm glow, the feeling that he hadn't been forgotten, wasn't considered useless or helpless.

He was left alone with Willow in the office. He could see the resolve in her, almost like a tension. "Wills, my best friend in the whole world, I'm touched by your confidence. How dangerous is this?"

"Well, I'm going to be trying to access incredibly powerful death and violence magic in an artifact from someone that I really don't know and using that to try to alter one of the laws of reality as we know it. If I mess this up, we're all dead. If I get this right, you and I could still be dead from the sheer amount of power. On the other hand, if I don't do this, the First will kick our asses, and we'll all be dead anyhow." Her voice held just a trace of her dry humor, and there was a tiny bit of sparkle in her eyes. It wasn't cheer, but it was... he couldn't describe it.

He sat down with his back against the door, smiling at her. "Oh, is that all? Sounds pretty much the same as high school. What do you need me to do?"

"Trust me. Remember good Willow, the one that helped you to study, and listened to you and Jesse talking about girls, and the Willow that helped restore Angel's soul, and the Willow that loved Oz, and tried to make forever after with Tara. Remember me with control and happiness and not all evil. I need you to be my connection to the physical world." She looked... well, a babble like that said that she was nervous.

"Good Willow. Best friend Willow, and the Willow that we all knew and loved. Got it." He leaned his head back, fairly certain that she half expected this to be the death of them. But he didn't want either of them to die. Maybe if he had enough faith that they could survive this, it would help?

She offered a shaky smile as she slowly and carefully settled herself on the floor, sitting cross legged with the scythe in her lap. Her eyes closed, and she started to murmur words. They could have been a prayer, or a few words to try to calm herself, he really wasn't sure. All he did know was that this was it. If they survived, everything would change. And things would happen tonight, he knew that down to his bones.

He could feel the power, gathering in the air. It was thick, and there was a sort of metallic flavor to it, like blood, or fear. He swallowed, trying to figure out if that was the power of the First, or if it was the power in that weapon. No wonder Willow was so nervous... And she was starting to glow now. Sort of golden, like sunlight, with little sparkles of red and white dancing over the blade, and over her hands where they touched it. She was still chanting, words that he didn't know, didn't understand. But she sounded as if she was pleading with someone, begging who ever or what ever for this to happen, for help. The light thickened, and then there was this sort of pulse, and they weren't in the office anymore.

There were what looked almost like pillars of light, wrapped in ice to hold them into a shape. He couldn't see any sort of ceiling or sky, just an expanse of white over and under them. Willow was there, a scythe of red light clutched in her hands.

The voice didn't really come from anywhere, it was just in his mind, and he was certain it was in Willow's as well. It was like... like the tide, deep and rolling and entirely not human. WHY DO YOU SEEK TO CHANGE THE ORDER?

He tried to lick his lips, unsure if he was even really here, if he really had lips. "Well, there's sort of the impending end of the world that we'd like to stop. This was the only plan that we had."


"Will it save the earth?" Willow's trembling voice didn't seem to belong in this place of light. Nothing human or fragile or mortal did.


How could they refuse something like that? How could they deny the future of the world just because it would cost them something? Xander frowned, knowing that he'd already been willing to do whatever was needed to save the world again. If it meant being Willow's anchor, fine, if it meant being burned by the magic to keep her stable, fine. Even dying was acceptable, as long as the world could continue. Not that it would be fun by any stretch, but he would be willing. "Of course."

Willow's hand sought his, and their fingers entwined, seeking comfort. They were the only solidness in this place, the only thing that hinted at the world. Her voice barely trembled, although her grip on his hand left his fingers feeling almost numb. "Yes."


That was when the pain hit. It felt like fire was pouring into him, flooding his body, burning from the inside out. He couldn't scream, couldn't even breath as he felt his body giving way. But there was no smoke, no crackling blistering flesh, or the horrible stench of burning flesh. Instead, it was as if each bit of his body, maybe down to the cells was collapsing, vanishing only to be replaced by fire and light and power. Somehow, he was aware of Willow, could see her although he wasn't certain if he actually still had eyes. It looked as if a bright white gold light came from the inside of her, and for a moment, she was luminous, as if she was lit from inside like one of those porcelain ornaments. Xander knew in that moment that the same power or something close enough to be indistinguishable by someone like himself was filling both of them. Too much power for mortal flesh.

Willow just... For a moment, the light was too bright to look at. Instead, he ended up with what he could only describe as afterimages of his best and dearest friend apparently disintegrating. The pain ebbed for him at that moment, and he found himself standing there, alone in the place of crystal and light. He looked at himself, seeing hands that were unmarred by flames or energy, his own familiar hands with their calluses and network of scars. But something seemed a bit different. It took him a few moments to figure to what it was.

Nothing hurt. Not the fading bruises that he'd picked up from trying to help train the potentials and helping battle demons. Not the dull ache of his ribs from landing wrong last week, not the throb from the socket where his eye had been.

Naturally, his comment was typically less that suave. "Err? What just happened?"


Xander felt himself blinking, his head ringing from the voice that wasn't a voice. He was supposed to be some sort of guardian type thing? Capable of taking down a rogue Slayer? "Umm, normal human here. How am I supposed to stop a Slayer that's gone bad?"

:We aren't anymore.: That sounded like Willow, except that it wasn't a voice that his ears could hear. It was Willow, right into his mind. :It looks like I'm some sort of spirit, maybe a guardian angel type of thing, and you're... well, I guess you're the Slayer law enforcement?:

"Wills, what happened? I mean, I still don't get it." He felt a bit odd, speaking to the empty air.

Sparkles of golden light swirled out of the air, coalescing into the shape of Willow. Yeah, a Willow made out of dancing specks of light, but that was better than no Willow. :It seems their price wasn't our deaths, but sort of... well, I guess we have something part way between a job and an afterlife? We still get to try to keep the world safe, only... now we don't focus on demons, or preventing a particular apocalypse. We get to try to keep a horde of Slayers from becoming problems for the world. I'm sort of ghosty, and you... The power burned away your body, and built you a new one. You're still Xander, but not just mortal Xander the ordinary guy. Now, you're... Xander, the new and rebuilt version.:

"So, I've been turned into some sort of superman? Do I look like a Greek God now?" He couldn't help trying to joke about it.

:You still look like Xander. But I think you should hang on to the eye patch when they send you back.: She looked at him, one hand reaching out, and there was a whisper along his arm, not quite a touch, but he felt something.

He shook his head, feeling his lips twist into what might have been a smile. "What, I get drafted and I don't even get a new eye with the new body?"

:Umm... sort of. But, do you remember the one guy from those old X-Men comics? With the metal arm and the glowy eye?: Willow smiled at him, looking far more relaxed than he could remember since... since before Glory. :You have one normal Xandery brown eye, and one pool of glowing gold light. People might look at you funny.:

Xander felt surprise and a little bit of pleasure go through him at her words. "I look like Cable? Only, no white hair, right? I don't think it would be me."

She giggled, and it was the best thing that he'd heard in a long time. :No, your hair is still brown. And I think... it's time to go back. At least, for you to go back. I have no idea what will happen to me.:

And then he was standing in the office again. There was the circle of salt, and the candles, which had just... melted into puddles of pale wax. The scythe was there, still faintly glowing red. But there was no Willow. Moving closer, he knelt down, lookign at the place where she had been. He could see his reflection in the blade, somewhat distorted but still Xander. Well, Xander with a glowing light instead of an empty socket.

Looking up, he made a discovery. Not only did he have the depth perception again, but if he looked sort of down, where the battle was going, he could sort of see them. It was as if the floor and rock and dirt weren't there, only a little bit blurry, like bad television reception. Each Slayer had a faint golden glow around them.

"Now that is just freaky." He picked the eye patch up from the desk, placing it on his head again. Somehow, he wasn't quite surprised that he could still see perfectly, as if the patch wasn't there, or not enough to stop the new eye from seeing. Which made a sort of sense, after all. If he could see through floor and stone and earth to check on the Slayers, what was a little bit of leather?

There was a rumbling noise, and Xander knew that it was time to get out of the school, to get out of Sunnydale. Now. He couldn't say quite how he knew, but it was there. Pushing open the door, he paused, grabbing the scythe before he darted down the hall. There were demons, large things that he didn't recognize, couldn't name. But the blade of the scythe passed through them, leaving them fallen to the floor in pieces, dead. He grabbed Dawn, towing her with him to the outside, towards the bus that they had gone to school in. Wasn't that just a bit overdone? Got to school in a bus?

The others were running out as well, and the rumbling had gotten louder, stronger. The ground seemed to be shaking, like a tiny earthquake. He began pushing them towards the bus, noting each face, each new Slayer. Somehow, he knew all their names now, even the ones that he could never remember before. But there were some missing, and everybody was sporting injuries, bruises, slashes, limping or holding arms protectively over their ribs.

"Where are the others?" The question suddenly seemed to be the most important thing in the world.

Faith reached out, half dragging him onto the bus as Robin started the engine. The bus roared into motion, and they began speeding away from the school. There was a rumble, and the building started to collapse from the inside.

"Everybody who's alive is out. What... where's red?" Faith looked at him, her eyes too tired for sympathy.

Looking over the bus, he noticed another absence. Anya was not with them. "Anya?"

Andrew looked up, tears streaming down his face as his body shook with hiccuping sobs. "She... There was this demon. It should have been me... God, it should have been me instead..."

"oh." The sound was very quiet, barely a word at all. Somehow, he knew that hadn't been part of their plan, whoever they were. Anya's death had just been a horrible Sunnydale tragedy. And while they hadn't been planning to get married at the moment, her death left him feeling... sort of numb and sort of pained, like something had been ripped out of him. And he knew exactly how that felt.

Kennedy looked at him, bruises mottling her skin, and one eye swollen nearly shut. "Where's Willow? Some oversized axe isn't worth Willow dying."

He didn't want to tell them. Didn't want to try to put into words what had happened, how he and Willow had bartered their lives and futures to give these girls and so many others the power of a Slayer. "It was... the spell was powerful. She just... there was this bright light, and she just sort of..." He shook his head, not having any idea how to try to put words to the fact that Willow wasn't there like she had been. "Willow is in us now."

The bus came to a halt, and there was a terrible roaring noise, almost like some great beast. But it wasn't something else rising up, it was a collapse. Sunnydale was collapsing, falling inwards, crumbling. In moments, the town was gone, leaving a vast crater that almost joined the ocean. Sunlight gleamed on the water, and a cloud of dust hung in the air.

"Well, that looks pretty damn final." Faith's words were low.

"Now what?"

"Well, there is supposed to be another Hellmouth in Cleveland." Giles spoke, his calm voice putting a slight dampener on the nearly joyful mood of the survivors.

He smiled just a little, knowing that these girls, no, these women would be just fine. They would be Slayers, they would battle the darkness in Cleveland... "Hey, you are talking about Cleveland. Isn't a Hellmouth sort of redundant?"

A couple groans came in response to his comment. But they definitely seemed more relaxed. He could hear a whispered arguement starting between Kennedy and Faith, something about a school, or training camp for the new Slayers.

"You know, there will be more. More Slayers than the ones here. And someone has to find them, to help them learn. Sort of like the Council was supposed to do before they got all power hungry. A new Council, without the whole nasty tests and uprooting of lives."

"Way to pick the easy jobs, Xander." Dawn's voice held no sting, only weariness.

"Yeah, but... we did this to them. We can't just leave God only knows how many women and girls out there, suddenly in danger from things they didn't even know were real, not having any clue why they're feeling restless after dark and breaking the dishes when they pick them up. We owe them that much." There was an intensity in his voice. He knew that this was what had been demanded of him, this was his new purpose.

:One thousand, four hundred and thirty two.: It was just a whisper of thought, but it was unmistakably Willow. And just as clearly, nobody else had heard it.

Again, the little whisper came into his mind. :I know how many they are. I can help you find them, the new Slayers. But I don't know how much I'd be able to help teach. I tried to say something to Kennedy, but I don't think she heard me. Maybe she's too busy grieving, or too tired.:

"Me, I'm going to go try to start finding some of these new Slayers. Trying to help them figure out what to do with their lives now." He tried to smile, to look like the Xander they all would recognize. "Anyone got a cell phone that I can use as a talk to these people reference?"

"I do." The voice came from Faith. "Hey, I'm not saying that I'm the best role model, but I do have a phone."

"That will help." Xander nodded, feeling none of the awkward uncertainty towards her that he once had. Was it because she'd changed, or because of his?

"I do agree that finding any other new Slayers is important, but..." Giles looked as if he was trying to find a way to explain their newly limited resources.

Xander shrugged, looking back at the crater. "I can do this. I can go looking for them. Not like there's anything left to keep me here."

What he didn't want to bring up was that it wasn't an option for him. He couldn't just stay with them, he had to go find them. To guide them, and maybe stop them.

Chapter 2

Looking at the city spread out below, Xander sighed. Calm is an illusion, and it seemed to be designed to keep things difficult for him. When he'd parted from the others a few days ago, he'd really had no idea where to go. He'd just got on a bus headed away, having the feeling that he would find a Slayer. Probably any direction he wet, he could find a Slayer. Except that he wasn't really certain how.

Yeah, there were some perks to this new thing. He'd been attacked by one demon, and he'd found that not only did he actually have the reflexes to pull of those combat moves from his soldier time, which seemed oddly fresh, considering that he'd nearly forgotten everything, but he had enough strength to take the demon down. Vampires had just sort of run away from him, hissing like scared kittens with looks of fear and confusion on their faces.

:You have the same energy as a Slayer now. They can feel it, and since there's no way that you could be mistaken for a woman, even in the dark, it confuses them.: Willow's voice was a whisper in his mind. She sounded almost sad.

That didn't quite make sense to him. Why would Willow be sad? "Something wrong, pal of mine?"

:Nothing that you can fix. There have been… tensions in the Sunnydale group. Apparently, some of them decided that the school collapsing disaster was Buffy's fault. That she should have had a better plan, done something different. That with a better plan, nobody would have been killed.: There were a few moments of silence before she continued. :Kennedy's blaming Buffy for my death. Something about if I hadn't been pressured to do the spell, if I'd had more power to draw on, maybe I would have survived.:

"Would it have made a difference?" Xander couldn't quite help asking. "And you know, I really do think there should have been a better plan than the one we had. Not that I had one, but… I mean, we had something more for the Mayor, for crying out loud. That… it was just… Willow do the spell, the rest of us will attack and try not to die, and Spike the Great can save the day."

:Little bit of bitterness there? I know, the whole thing with Spike and Anya hurt, but… well, yeah, I'd rather we hadn't been depending on Spike either.: Somehow, she sighed, which was fairly impressive for a disembodied spirit. :So many of us were too caught up in our own tragedies to help plan things like we used to. And we'd been drifting apart. Like we weren't quite as close anymore.:

"You've been thinking about this, huh? And how do you know what's happening with them? With Kennedy?" Xander glanced to the side, seeing a faint shimmer with his new eye. That would be… well, the place where Willow almost was.

:I can feel them. All the Slayers. I'm sort of trying to help them, to help prevent them from loosing it. Unfortunately, not only is there no instruction manual, I haven't been able to make solid contact. If I focus on a particular Slayer, I can sort of see and hear what's around her, and I can sort of do an empathic connection. It only seems to work on Slayers or you. I can influence their dreams, but… The only one I've been able to get any sort of contact with is Faith, and that's only been fuzzy.: There was a wistfulness to her voice.

"No luck with Kennedy then?" Xander was walking along the road, still trying to get an idea where to go. Stopping with the pretext of checking for traffic, he tried to look for a Slayer with his new eye. There was this sort of blurring, as if everything had gone out of focus, and there was a woman at a grocery store checkout. It was one of those little discount places, and there was an old woman and a teenager at the checkout. One of them was a Slayer, but he couldn't quite tell which, or maybe they both ere. But… the old woman had to be sixty if she was a day. Could old people even be Called? Wasn't that against the rules or something?

:I've been able to influence Kennedy's dreams, but not really for any meaningful conversations. I'm sure that you wouldn't… well, maybe you would like the details, but you aren't getting them.: There was an almost playful note mixed with the pain for that comment. :But as for the maybe old lady…Under the old rules, no, it wouldn't happen. But when we did that spell, it activated ALL of the possible Slayers, not just girls between the ages of fifteen and twenty. So, there could be Slayer grannies… or maybe Slayer toddlers.:

"Three year olds with the power of a Slayer? Dear merciful… please say it's not so!" Xander shuddered, letting the special sight drop so that he could cross the street. He was vaguely aware of people giving him odd looks. Okay, he was a guy in a beat up leather jacket and an eye patch, walking along the street talking to himself. Maybe there was a reason for the funny looks.

:Well, I haven't actually found all of the Slayers yet. I know how many, and I can get a sort of feel for where, but… I can't focus on more than maybe two or three people at a time. Everyone that I've found has been at least post pubescent, but that's maybe a hundred out of over a thousand.: Willow sounded almost frustrated. :I think it's something that I'll get better at with practice. And if you just focus your thoughts towards me, I'll know. I can hear them.:

For a moment, Xander felt blind panic. When she said his thoughts, did that include… Oh, please say that it wasn't so.

:Only the particularly intense ones, or the ones directed to or about me. And yeah, I feel… well, I haven't felt this balanced in years. This busy, yeah, but… I don't think we need to sleep now.: There was an odd note in her mental voice.

Xander sighed, knowing what it was. He'd felt it as well, especially after that demon, or when the vampires would run away. How human were they now? He was afraid the answer was 'not very'. It was sort of freaky, but he wasn't nearly as bothered by it as he would have been a few years ago. Maybe it was the fact that he'd known something could happen, or that he knew he was on the right side. Maybe he was just… tired of all the worry.

After a few moments, he decided to try to follow the old lady. If the teen was a maybe Slayer, she'd still be working at the store for a while. If it was the old lady… well, as wrong as it would be to deliberately leave some girl clueless as to her new destiny, wouldn't leaving an old woman to be attacked by monsters be worse?

It felt like it took forever to get to the place where the old lady had parked her car. It was a pleasant looking little group of mini apartment buildings, and from the looks of it, apparently they didn't rent to anyone under fifty. Senior apartments… well, he'd known they existed, just hadn't ever really had much call to go there. There she was, carrying a bag of groceries towards a little apartment with pots of brightly colored flowers lining the little patio. There was a wooden cane hooked over her wrist, dangling slightly as she walked.

"Hello, ma'am. Could I offer you a hand with those?" Xander tried to look helpful, and not dangerous. Or at least as non-threatening as someone with an eye patch could manage.

She looked at him, wrinkles over her face, and frowned a bit. "There are several more bags, I suppose… Well, you're back looks younger than mine."

Xander offered a smile, resisting the urge to sigh. Was he reduced to pack-animal again? Just… carry this, carry that? Lifting a pair of bags from the old gray car, he turned, following her into the house. "Where should I take these?"

She looked at him, a small smile now gracing her face. "Right through there will be good."

Xander helped the old woman, who's name turned out to be Rebecca, carry in the rest of her groceries. It was only then that he got the chance to look around her tiny apartment. The furniture had that worn slightly shabby sort of comfort, and there were shelves and shelves of books. Some of them looked like very familiar books, actually… "Isn't Murstad's Prophecies a bit of an odd choice for some light reading?"

"Oh, I never read the Murstad's. Charlie swore by it, but I prefer Rocherre's." She didn't even look up, and made this little gesture with one hand, as if flicking some dust from the tiny end table. Then, she straightened back up, one hand resting on the cane that she hadn't been using at all as she turned slowly to face him. "How do you recognize the Murstad?"

"I… well, my high school librarian had a copy of it. Should I ask how you have one?" Xander was starting to half hope and half suspect that maybe Rebecca wouldn't be quite as unprepared for a demonic nasty as he'd first expected.

"My husband, God rest his soul, was a Watcher. Some of his books stayed here, many of them went back to the Council in England." She sighed, letting herself slowly sit on a faded green chair. "Do you have any idea where the current Slayer is? They haven't told us… well, just me now, about any of them since we lost poor Michelle."

"Funny that you should ask…" Xander looked at her, letting his vision shift slightly, and discovering a golden haze around her. She was a Slayer… and most definitely way past twenty. "You see, there was sort of… a catastrophic series of bad things. The Main Council, back in England? They got reduced to a smoking crater, and a bunch of demons were hunting and killing the Potentials. The short version is that in a battle against the First Evil, a spell was cast that activated all the Potential Slayers. Every surviving one, not just the ones in Sunnydale. Even the ones who wouldn't normally become Slayers right now."

"Are you suggesting… But I'm much too old to be the Slayer!" She looked surprised, and astonished, and dismayed all at once.

"You aren't the Slayer, you're A Slayer. There's a lot of them now." Xander sighed, sitting on the edge of the couch, which had been covered over by a blanket of some sort, maybe a yellow and orange pattern originally. "Those of us that survived… There's an effort to make a new Council of Watchers, some sort of training center for the new Slayers. I can give you a number to contact them if you want."

"Good heavens. I'm much too old to go patrol for evil, or try to avert an apocalypse – it would do terrible things to my knees, I'm certain. But I should be able to help with some training, and certainly with research. That number would be welcome… or if there would be someone there to call now?" Rebecca looked thoughtful, and rubbed her fingers over her chin.

Xander didn't have much trouble locating the phone, although it took him a moment to remember the use of an actual rotary phone. He dialed the number of Faith's cell phone, hoping that it was turned on.

Finally, the phone picked up, with a slightly cranky sounding :What?:

"Hello to you, Faith. Can I talk to Giles?" Xander smiled a little, trying to guess what had her so irritable.

:Yeah, I suppose. He'll probably thank you for the time away from the feud. Buffy and Kennedy are shouting at each other again.: There was a pause, and what might have been Faith sighing. In the background, Xander thought that he could hear shouting, not quite close enough to make out the words. :Is there any good news?:

"Sort of. There's one, maybe two Slayers in this city that I know of so far." Xander smiled, glad that Faith was someone who would listen to him.

:Reassuring to hear. Here's Giles, and I expect to hear more later. Don't be afraid to call." Faith sounded like she was smiling.

:Ahh… hello, Xander. Is everything alright? Have you had much luck finding the new Slayers?: Giles sounded stressed. It was probably entirely natural, considering that he was one watcher for almost two dozen Slayers, with no Council to draw on for assistance or manpower.

"Luck enough. Price to pay for meddling and all that… I can explain later. But I'm sitting here… well, standing, actually, with Rebecca, and she's a Slayer now. Her husband was a Watcher before he died. Umm… I was thinking that she might be able to help with the Watchery end of things." Xander smiled, just absurdly glad to hear Giles' voice again.

:You think that she would be more helpful as a Watcher? Why?: Giles sounded a bit distracted, and then there was a muttered aside 'no, I do not know where your books have gone. Not the dice either. Ask Dawn.' Then with a sigh, Giles spoke into the phone again. :We could use a bit more responsible supervision around here.:

"Because, if I'm going to be blunt about it, she's old enough to have kids my age, maybe old enough to have grandkids bugging their parents about cars and piercings. She's pretty sure that she's a bit too old for patrolling, and I'm not going to argue the point." Xander sighed. "Why don't I let you talk to her?"

Rebecca was there, waiting for the phone, a thin smile on her face. "You do know that it's considered rude to call a woman old?"

Handing it over, Xander made a small shrug. "You brought it up, and honestly, you do seem a bit… farther from your teenage years than most of the Slayers that I've met. Here's Giles."

Leaving Rebecca to talk to Giles, Xander sat back down on the couch, this time leaning against the back of it, his eyes closed as he pondered things. Go out and find the Slayers. Make certain they don't abuse their powers. This was not easy. "Why am I doing this again?"

His memory allowed him a long moment of blank contemplation before dredging up the answer. He hadn't wanted the world to end. He'd figured anything the Powers That Be asked – demanded, really – of him would be worth it to allow the world to continue. As he considered the alternative – the absolute end of everything as he knew it, Xander came again to the conclusion that this really wasn't that bad. And he'd always wanted to travel, even if this wasn't quite how he'd imagined things would turn out.

"Well, Xander. It seems that you may end up helping me pack for Cleveland. Either that, or helping me move somewhere a bit larger if I do become a Watcher. I think I'd like a bit of a longer explanation of how this happened, if you don't mind." Rebecca was looking at him, her eyes bright with interest.

"Right. Well, might as well start at the very beginning. My part of it, at least. For me, it started when Buffy Summers moved to Sunnydale…" Xander began to tell Rebecca the story of his life, with some editing, naturally, but enough to give her an idea what sort of things they'd faced. Enough that she wouldn't accuse them of panicking about the First and changing the world on a poorly thought whim.

In the end, Rebecca sat there, looking rather disturbed. "I must say, I'm glad that Michelle didn't have to face the First. Or Glorificus, for that matter. I certainly agree that your group seemed a bit outmatched. But… well, never mind. What's done is done. Talking about how you could have tried other things is rather pointless now. I would certainly help teach younger Slayers if there are any more in the nearby area. Of course, I have no idea how many demons or vampires there might be here, considering how much Michele did to fix that problem…"

Xander felt a bit startled. "This is going to take a bit of getting used to. Every other Slayer I've bumped in to has been my age… or younger. You've gone out, lived your life, and now, you're being dragged in for round two of World saving. It gives you a whole different perspective."

Rebecca chuckled. "Well, there has to be some advantage to not being seventeen anymore. Wisdom might not be a wonderful trade for strong muscles and flexible knees when picking up groceries, but it might be helpful fighting evil. As long as someone else does the actual fighting."

"Hopefully. I think there's another Slayer in the city, but I need to find her. There might even be a possibility of getting some council funds to help with the expenses…" Xander was half thinking out loud.

"Young man, did you not say that the Council had been blown to kingdom come? How would they be able to dispense any funding?" Rebecca looked at him, her expression suggesting that she might be worried about his sanity.

Xander smiled at her. "The Council got bombed, but that shouldn't have touched their bank accounts. If someone were to make a few adjustments… hmmm… Wills?" Xander looked around the apartment. "Think you can walk me through that if we can get some internet access?"

Some of the shadows seemed to warp, bending into the shape of a young woman, with little golden glimmers of light helping to define her features. :Hello Rebecca. I'm Willow, you can get in touch with me any time just by focusing your thoughts on me.:

"Ahhh. I do believe the fact that you're now a spirit was one of the minor details that Xander didn't include in his story of Sunnydale. Most irregular… You think that you can gain access to the Council's funds?" Rebecca looked a bit startled, but showed no signs of panic.

:I need someone else to actually use the computer for it. I've been trying to figure out what I can and can't do now, and I can't actually use a computer. I'm non-corporeal, which means the demons can't hit me, but I can't actually type on a keyboard.: Willow shrugged.

"Well then, that should make things much easier. And once we figure out who the other Slayer in the area is, assuming we can in time, then things can move onwards. I'll have to stay in touch with Mister Giles. Possibly a secondary training center for this part of the country… It might be worth checking if you can find the children or surviving spouses of some of the other fallen Watchers, some of us pick up a considerable amount." Rebecca looked enthusiastic, as if life had been utterly boring, and now she had something to focus on, a purpose in life once more.

After a few moments of what might have been thought on the possible new training center, Rebecca looked over at Xander. "You most likely won't find anyone younger than twelve or so, and not much older than I am. Some of the oldest sources claimed that he power of a Slayer was tied inextricably to blood, and thus only a female who had ties to blood would serve as a conduit for the powers being called on."

:So, that means no Slayer toddlers? Wonderful… That had been a sort of scary idea.: Willow's mental voice seemed very relieved.

"Good heavens, the idea… yes, it would be frightening. But no, the power is tied to blood, and so only a female who has passed over the threshold of childhood into maidenhood, to quote one particular source, can be a Slayer. Presumably, the power would fade after menopause, but I don't think there's ever been a Slayer old enough to test that before… I suppose that will change soon enough.." She sighed, shaking her head a little. "I suppose this is what happens when I spend six years complaining that I feel like an abandoned old lady, with nothing to do with her life. Should teach me a bit about complaining… almost as bad as wishing. Not quite as bad as the foolish question of what could possibly go wrong, but definitely not a thing to encourage."

"Wonderful. I was pretty sure that while I might be able to find the Slayers, I'm definitely not going to be able to train all of them and still search for more." Xander felt relieved. It just wouldn't be practical to send over a thousand people to Cleveland to wok with Giles. And it would also be pretty arrogant to think that all of them would be in America, which raised the whole question of languages… urghh, best not worry about that just yet.

"So, we've got the plans going for Slayer training center number two. Let's not repeat some of the big problems from last time by trying to demand the Slayers have no more contact with their families, okay? And definitely no more of that Crucinumbering thingy that they did to Buffy." Xander was drumming his fingers on the little table, thinking about the chance to start the Council over, without some of the big nasty problems from before. "And the Slayers are not expendable, no matter what stupid ideas Quenton Travers had. He's dead, we aren't, he doesn't get a vote anymore."

Rebecca frowned just a little. "We won't demand that they stay in touch with their families if they don't want to. Sometimes, it's better to just walk away. But that doesn't mean that they have to, or that they won't be allowed to try to have friends. Michelle never had much luck with that, but we did let her try."

Looking at Rebecca, and her determined expression, Xander's mouth ran over, and the words came out before he could stop them. "Did you put your Slayer through that? The Cruci-whatever test?"

"No. It's only… Only done if they reach their eighteenth birthday, you see. Michelle… well, she didn't." A tear slid down her face, and Rebecca dabbed at her eye with a handkerchief before scrubbing over her face. More tears slid from her eyes, following the creases of her cheeks. "Charlie and I had been trying to figure out what to do about the test…. It would have been in just a few more months, but… There was a demon, with a prophecy behind him. No man could stop him, no demon defeat him. Michelle… she wasn't a man or a demon, but she didn't survive the injuries from the battle."

"I'm sorry." Xander knew the words weren't enough, but there wasn't anything else that he could do. He was pretty sure that his powers didn't include bringing back the dead, and having seen what it had done to Buffy, he wouldn't even be willing to try it unless the body was still warm, or the ghost was right there asking for it. He put an arm around Rebecca, offering what comfort he could.

For a while, he just stayed there, holding her as she cried for Michelle. After a while, she straightened a bit, the tears finally having stopped. "If there might be another Slayer in the area, you should probably try to find her. I can start planning what to do about a training center, looking for some other possible watchers. Possibly a fighting instructor or two would be good. I can organize that, you find people young enough to make use of it."

Chapter 3

Xander was feeling pretty good, actually. He was fairly close to finding a good time to approach the second Slayer, a girl that he figured to be about seventeen, with either mixed ancestry or a fascination with sunbathing and dark hair. She had a part time job at the same grocery store where Rebecca bought her groceries – how was that for irony? She lived in a tall apartment tower, although he wasn't certain which floor, and seemed to travel by bicycle. He'd managed to learn that her name was Cheryl Benton, and there was some sort of overly persistent ex-boyfriend with too big pants and tangled hair. Or maybe she'd never dated him but he'd wanted her? But whatever the past, the guy – Steve – kept showing up, lurking outside her house.

Except for the burning question of how to approach Cheryl without her thinking she had her very own crazed stalker… Wait, what was that? The apartment building door was opening up. A slender figure slipped out, heading towards the edge of town. Xander followed, unsurprised that Cheryl had slipped out. The surprise was when she hopped onto a motorcycle with Steve and they headed out to a cemetery.

Several possibilities flickered through his mind, from a secret meeting with a bad-boy boyfriend to a cult, to criminal activity. But when Steve parked the car and passed her a slender object about the length of a forearm that tapered to a sharp point…

"Holy cow, she's got a stake. In the cemetery… just like a Slayer should." Xander moved closer, trying to watch carefully, trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

"It just feels like there should be a bit more, you know?" Cheryl was speaking to Steve, nervously twirling the stake in her hand as if it was a rather thick baton.

"Yeah, well… I don't have the books for this. They went with Dad and the good kids, the ones who are on the fast track to college." Steve's voice was somber, and hinted at frustration.

"You mean they really make books for this stuff?" Cheryl looked astounded, and turned to face Steve. Unfortunately, that was the time when the hand emerged from the grave, seizing her ankle. Cheryl yelped, while at the same time trying to jump away, her motion actually helping pull the vampire out of the grave. What followed was a rather emotional, if clumsy fight, resulting in Steve being flung to the ground twice, the sleeve of Cheryl's shirt being torn, and the vampire staked.

"Well, you did stake the vampire, at least. Better than my first efforts at grave watching." Xander shook his head, feeling almost relieved.

"Who are you? What the fuck are you doing here? Were you following us?" Steve glared at Xander, his face filled with suspicion. His belated and feeble denial was rather ineffective. "And… uh…. Who believes in vampires?"

Xander grinned, watching as Steve murmured a question to Cheryl, relaxing a little as she brushed the grass from the seat of her pants. "I know a vampire when I see one rise. I've run into plenty of them, and never liked any of them. Does this mean I can skip the whole there is a Slayer, also known as she-who-lurks-in-cemeteries? Because, really, you seem to have the concept down."

"What, are you from that damn Watcher's Council?" Steve glared at him, sort of taking a little step forward, and a slight sideways motion that placed his own body between Xander and Cheryl.

"I'm going to guess that you've met some people from the late Council. They aren't running anything anymore… the Watcher's Council in London got utterly bombed. Blown right into the afterlife. I worked with a Slayer… well, I've worked with a couple, actually. There were some of us with her, and we decided to start a new Council, one that hasn't been killed in an explosion, doesn't treat the Slayer's like crap, and helps them stay alive." Xander moved a little closer, trying to look non-threatening.

"My dad. He left." Steve was watching Xander, looking rather distrustful. "Why should I trust you?"

"Let me guess – you want more than because I'm a decent guy who just wants to help keep the world intact?" Xander shook his head. "How about because I can put you in contact with some people who have the books and information, and aren't dead? There's someone here, a pretty sweet old lady, thinks the London Watchers were overly stuffy intellectuals with a shaky grasp of reality. People under thirty would translate that as they didn't have a clue about the real world, and were trying to use an out of date system."

"You know what's going on with me? Why I'm having these freaky dreams?" Cheryl was looking at him, hope and fear warring on her ace.

"Yeah. You're a Slayer now, and it means you can't just ignore the nasty things out in the night that probably people tried to tell you didn't really exist. As far as futures go, it's not that impressive, but things should be better now." Xander shrugged. "The dreams are probably either dreams about past Slayers, which is supposed to be a sort of back up teaching thing, in case it's a while before you get a Watcher, or they're prophetic, which means a vague, probably just freaks you out warning of some big evil trying to show up."

"And you're supposed to help find the new Slayer and tell her that her life is screwed before sending her very own uptight jerk to nag her every move?" Steve was still glaring.

"Close, but that only counts in horse-shoes and hand grenades. I'm supposed to find the new Slayers and help them figure out how to cope with this, and let them know who to call if they want help." Seeing the look of baffled shock and denial on Steve's face, Xander shrugged. "We changed the rules. No more of this Chosen One thing, and certainly none of that stands alone. There's a lot of Slayers now, and maybe a handful of Watchers who didn't get blasted. Seems that one of the new Slayers is Cheryl."

"Can I give it back? Because it doesn't sound good." Cheryl was frowning, and rubbed at her arm with one hand even as she glanced around the cemetery, looking nervous.

"Maybe, but it's a one time thing. If you say – take it, I quit, you can't change your mind." Xander sighed, not quite certain how that would work anyhow. "I'd suggest thinking about it a while before trying to back out."

"Who would you want her to talk to? If she stays?" Steve was looking cautious, as if he was hoping that Xander was on the level with him.

"Well, you could either call Giles – that's Rupert Giles, who mostly kept his Slayer alive for seven years and I think she's still alive. I think they were going to Cleveland. Or there's someone closer, the widow of a Watcher, still has all the books. Nice lady." Xander smiled. " I'd think about staying closer for now, last I knew, Giles was doing the travel thing on a bus with two guys and about twenty now Slayers, most of them between sixteen and twenty, and nobody else could ever get into any of the bathrooms."

"I think I like a bit more privacy than that. So… how do we get in touch with the widowed Watcher-lady?" Cheryl shivered again, still looking around.

"I can give you her number…" Xander felt it, a sort of tension in the air. That was when the vampires attacked. There were four of them, all big and ugly and stupid. Questions about who to talk to fell silent for a short while, as the minions were slain.

Xander grinned, feeling hopeful about the whole thing now. "Like I was saying, I can give you her phone number, although you might want to call before dropping in."

Things were looking up. He'd found a new Slayer who didn't have gray hair, and someone that either had the right sort of instincts to be a Watcher, or was one of the biggest risk taking thrill seekers that Xander had ever met. Maybe Rebecca could sort Steve out.

Xander looked at Cheryl, noting the way she kept looking around, kept rubbing her arms as if she was cold – or maybe something else was making her skin prickle. "Something wrong?"

"There's this weird feeling… I can't explain it. It's just…. Eeeesh. Makes my skin crawl." She looked at him, a frown firmly in place. "I just wish this whole thing made sense!"

"Rule one, Cheryl – learn it, repeat it every night. Life is weird and occasionally sucks beyond belief. But you can still try to understand, to learn more, find people who know about weird stuff. And be very careful with strange magical artifacts, and especially careful what you say around powerful demons." Xander looked at her, hoping that maybe, just maybe, she could learn from some of their mistakes without repeating them.

"Why?" She looked at him, clearly thinking about his words. "I mean, I get the idea of being careful about magical stuff, but what about demons? And demons… am I going to have to fight demons?!?"

"The whole demons thing… most of them aren't nearly bad enough to be the victorious nasty in a horror movie…" Xander paused, considering that statement. "Well, let's amend that. The typical demon isn't that hard for a Slayer to kill as long as you can figure out what it is and how to kill it. Normal humans should either run, hide, or get some serious weapons. Most demons are stronger than a normal human, a lot uglier, and a bunch of them think human IS the other white meat. But there's one type – they don't eat people, but they're even more dangerous. Vengeance Demons, sometimes – especially if you talk to one – called Justice Demons. They grant wishes."

Steve looked at him, eyes wide. "Wishes? Really? How's that a bad thing?"

Xander smiled a little. "Giles said it's like the wishes from some story called about a Monkey Paw, which didn't help me too much. I compared it to this joke about a foreign guy who found a magic lamp and wished to wake up with three white women. He woke up with Tonya Harding, Loreina Bobbit, and Hilary Clinton. You get what you ask for in the most horrible way possible. But you have to use that little word wish for it to happen."

"That sounds… bad. And it makes me want those books that Dad took. Maybe we will be looking up that lady… " Steve nodded, and then settled his jacket a little more on his shoulders. The pair of them turned to leave, and Xander wasn't certain if they were going home to think, or retreating from him.

He smiled as he made his way back to the little place where he was staying. It was a pretty cramped motel room, and it would drive him crazy if he actually spent a lot of time there, but it was really just a place to leave his stuff and shower. Maybe this finding Slayers thing wouldn't be too bad after all.

The next day, Xander just sort of rode the bus around the city, in an effort to figure out if there were any other Slayers nearby besides Cheryl and Rebecca. He could feel them, but it wasn't very precise. So, he figured he'd just cruise around, see if anything made him feel like a Slayer was near, or some sort of feeling of a nearby bad place that should be checked out.

It was three hours before he realized that he hadn't heard from Willow in a while. And that made him start to worry. 'Willow, what's going on? Are you just… resting, find the big book of answers… what's going on with you?'

:Xander. Good to hear about Cheryl, her and her boyfriend and almost a Watcher were over there this morning. We have a problem.: Willow's mental voice sounded frustrated, reminding him of any time in high school that the prophecies of doom had come up during an important paper.

"Define 'problem', pal of mine? Are we talking language barrier, far away, or Apollo thirteen?" Xander murmured the words, a cold feeling taking hold of him. Some instinct said the trouble was serious.

:Rogue Slayer. She's… she's very bad news. She was in prison when the spell went off, and used her new Slayer strength to escape.: Her voice was troubled.

"So, we have a repeat of early Faith? That's… well, we dealt with her once, we can do it again, right?" Xander asked, a small part already certain the answer was no.

:Sorry, but she's no Faith. She's a lot worse. Her name's Patricia Craig, she's eighteen, and she was in prison for multiple counts each of homicide, attempted murder, assault, theft, grand theft auto, arson. They caught her in Las Vegas.: Her mental voice went very quiet. :She's not just trouble, she's a big flashing danger sign, the whole worst case scenario of the old Council's ideas. They took her away from her parents, taught her how to fight, taught her that a Slayer was above normal people, had to be harder, stronger, to kill things. They taught her not to trust, or to get attached to people. And somehow or other, they turned her into a deranged killer. She does kill vampires, and demons, and anyone who gets in her way. Anyone that might slow her down.:

For a moment, Xander's mind was full of nothing more than horrified shock. Then, images of the possibilities began to form, people dead, homes burned because of something sheltering inside, victims dying because the Slayer didn't try to save them, only to 'avenge' them… "God… we can't… how could… oh God."

:Yeah. She's a big problem, and we're supposed to do something about her. Time to leave this place, got to go track down a deranged maniac.: Willow's mental voice was rather unhappy, almost grim sounding.

"I think I'd rather go see the Wizard of Oz. Just follow the yellow brick road… pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Xander sighed, a sinking feeling that this was their duty, part of the price for the Awakening, for the continued existence of the world. With just a little bit of reminiscence of the old days, he mock whined "I know we have to do this, but do we have to like it?"

It was worth it to hear her giggle, even if only in his head. :Well, we have to do this. But the bargain said nothing about enjoying our work, so I guess that means you don't have to like it at all.:

Xander sighed, slouching downwards in the bus seat. "Yay us. So… I guess it is time to go… but I'll stop and get my stuff again."


Chapter 4

The motel room really didnt look any better for the time away. The floor was still covered in ugly carpet with stains, the bed was still lumpy with a faded comforter, and the walls were still a sort of dirty looking off white. He started gathering up his things, putting them into a duffel bag. After hed found them, he picked up the phone, calling Rebeccas number.

:Hello?: She sounded almost tired, but it was unmistakably Rebeccas voice.

Xander sat on the bed, smiling just a little bit. Hey Rebecca. This is Xander, calling with a change in plans. Theres apparently someone causing big trouble, and I need to go deal with that. Ill try to stay in touch, and you can call Giles if you need anyone I was never good with the books anyhow. If I run into any more newbies on the road, Ill try to send them your way, alright? At least, try to pass on your number.

:That should be fine. Willows been helping me straighten out some of the finances, and I think Ive found a place that will work for a training center.: Now it sounded like Rebecca was smiling. :Everythings shaping up nicely.:

Sounds pretty good, actually. But umm I dont know how things are going to unfold with this problem. Just I have to go deal with her, with this... Patricia. Xander sighed, feeling a complicated mix of unhappy about the whole situation. But on the bright side, I think things here are in pretty good hands.

: Ah, well you deal with your duties, and Ill deal with mine. Dont worry, Ill make certain that Cheryl and any other new Slayers behave themselves.: Rebecca sounded amused. :And Ive found a couple more new Watchers. Children and the spouses of some Watchers who died Steves shaping up fairly decent as well.:

So there wont be any problems caused by me leaving. Xander smiled, feeling slightly better, but not entirely.

Chuckling, she offered her opinion. :Things here will be fine. Now, you go deal with this problem, and dont forget to stay in touch. And be careful.:

Yes, mom. Xander smiled, teasing just a little as he hung up the phone. At least things here were in good hands.

Shaking his head, Xadner lifted the duffel that had his spare clothing, and looked around the room. So, Willow, any idea where this psycho Slayer is heading? Maybe a why?

:Shes headed for Las Vegas. That is where she was finally arrested and taken into custody.: Willows mental voice sounded unhappy. :Its sort of complicated, and ugly, and I think Im pretty sure that shes planning specific revenge on the officers who did it.:

Las Vegas, huh? I always wanted to go there. Xander grinned as he left the room, flipping off the lights as the door shut. I wonder if I get to go gambling, or to catch a couple shows

:Xander: Willows mental giggles bubbled in his head like fizzing soda. :I dont think youll need to gamble, but there might be a chance for a couple shows. What well need to do is keep track of a couple officers and make sure that Patricia doesnt find them while we try to find her first.:

Maybe thats enough of a gamble. The whole situation seemed a bit less amusing now, less like a vacation. This isnt about me having an excuse to enjoy Las Vegas, is it? If we mess this up, if Im not fast enough, people will die. Thats quite enough of a gamble for me.

:Well, yeah. In some ways, thats been the story of the last seven years. If we arent fast enough, if we cant defeat the danger in time It doesnt end.: Willows mental voice had become more serious, loosing the bubbling giggles. :For us, I dont think it will ever end as long as theres a Slayer on this world.:

Damn, and to think I used to worry about job security. Xander shook his head and made his way to the bus station. That really puts a new spin on things. Does this mean I eventually will have the white hair like Cable?

:Still not a comics expert, that was always you and Jesse.: Willows voice didnt sound quite as serious, but there was still a moody quality to it. :But if I had to guess, which I sort of do, seeing as this didnt come with a manual, Id assume that when your body was remade by that energy, this is the new you, forever. You probably wont get sick, you dont seem to need the sleep so much as a bit of time to think over stuff, and you dont appear to need to eat.:

What? But Ive ummm Xander felt as if things were getting stranger as he tried to remember the last time hed eaten anything. Ive eaten something since this happened, havent I?

:Celebration pizza just outside of Sunnydale, and coffee a couple times with Rebecca. It looks like you can eat, but you just dont need to.:

Hey, at least I can still eat Twinkies then. He smiled as he walked towards the window. Um, can I get a ticket to Las Vegas?

:Celebration pizza just outside of Sunnydale, and coffee a couple times with Rebecca. It looks like you can eat, but you just dont need to.:

Hey, at least I can still eat Twinkies then. He smiled as he walked towards the window. Um, can I get a ticket to Las Vegas?

Xander made his way to the single hard bench, sitting down with a sigh. As long as there was a Slayer that would be a very long time. And it was up to him, well, him and Willow, to make certain that the Slayers behaved. Granted, once Giles had a new Watchers Council up, there should be a bit of help, but hey, look how well theyd done before. He definitely wouldnt count on random Watchers to keep things going right.

Glancing at his ticket, Xander sighed. There was still forty minutes until the scheduled departure time, so the bus wouldnt even be here for probably another half hour. Okay, Ive got time now. Why dont you tell me a bit more about Patricia?

:I suppose that I can start on that. Just keep in mind that what I know about her is from an encounter in Vegas and a little bit of record scanning.: Willows voice was solemn, and she sounded almost regretful. :Were pretty sure that it was the Watchers who got her so messed up.:

Yay. Lets hear it. Xander sighed as he leaned back on the bench.

:They apparently got to her a bit late, and sent someone to start teaching her when she was about eleven or twelve. Whoever they sent started in on the whole sacred destiny and divine calling thing, and had her convinced that she was going to be the Slayer, that she wasnt answerable to the same laws and behavioral guidelines as the rest of the world. When she was fourteen, she ran away from her parents home, which was burned down a year later. They were both killed.: Willow paused, and it sounded like she was on the verge of tears. :Shes got a long list of police charges. Assault, theft, grand theft auto, concealed weapons, illegal weapons, assault with the weapons, murder:

Whoa, what d you mean, murder? Xander sat up, his stomach cold. Dont tell me theres someone out there whos all protect the vampires, please? I mean, they arent our friends.

:It wasnt for killing vampires. Shes her strategy is more the scorched earth shoot the hostage and then everyone else sort of method. Shes killed humans. Just for being in her way. Were almost certain that she was the one who torched her parents house.: Willows voice was very soft.

Whos we in this? Xander couldnt help but wonder.

:Me and Faith.: There was a tiny giggle. :Dont tell me that you seriously thought that I could go somewhere, pick up a Slayer and come back with nothing interesting happening at all? You should know better than that. She talked me into detouring through Vegas, and then we caught a bit of gambling, a couple shows, and a demented rampaging potential Slayer:

Willows voice continued, softly, filled with dismay. :Thats probably what happened. They sent her to prison, and when the spell hit and all the potentials became Slayers it was her get out of jail free card. Damn.:

So, this isnt going to be an after school special sort of thing, is it? Xander knew that it wouldnt, but he had to ask. He had to see if there was some alternative to what he feared hed have to do. Are we going to have to?

:Im not sure. I do know this falls under your end, part of protecting the Way. I think well, youll be able to stand up to her, but beyond that I dont really know.:

Xander leaned back, trying to wrap his mind around this. He had to deal with a killer, a killer who had perverted and corrupted her Calling. Patricia would most likely have to die for this, and something whispered that he might have to do it. It wasnt a welcome idea.

He boarded the bus stiffly, barely noticing the stale smell of plastic and something grungy and moldering that came from somewhere near the back. Numbly, he dropped into a seat, staring out the window as he wrestled with his thoughts. Could he do it? Could he could he actually kill someone? Not a vampire, but a living, breathing person? Part of him wanted to scream no, that he wasnt a killer, that he couldnt do such a thing. But another part didnt quite agree. He couldnt just walk up to someone and kill them. But if it was a matter of defending someone else? Something inside was certain that he would have killed to keep Anya safe, or a handful of other people. Hed certainly been willing to kill vampires and demons to protect strangers. Maybe he could kill in defense.

The thought seemed to fit, making him fairly confident that it was the truth, but it still wasnt comforting. His mind kept turning back to it, like rubbing over a healing bruise to see if it still hurt, or pushing your tongue at the empty socket left by a tooth being pulled. It wasnt even something that he could blame on this mystical transformation, but rather a purely Xander protective instinct.

Why didnt I ever realize this about myself? He whispered into the bus, not really expecting an answer.

:You didnt want to, didnt really have to. Any time that you fought someone, there was always the whole theyre a demon thing to make you feel okay about everything. Or you were possessed by something, which didnt exactly leave you thinking the clearest.: It felt like a bit of sunlight shining on him for a moment. :I cant even give you a hug to try to make everything better.:

Xander smiled weakly, nodding towards the direction that the warmth had come from. I know. Sooner or later Ill get used to this, but I guess that time isnt here yet. I was just hoping that all the big nasty tests of responsibility would wait a while.

:Being a grown up can be hard sometimes.: Willows voice was soft, as if she was getting farther away. :Why dont you do a bit of thinking Ive got the feeling that Giles has some major trouble just about now:

Xander snickered as he wondered what the trouble might be. Fights over the shower? Too much estrogen? Or was Kennedy still blaming Buffy for Willows death? Had they accepted that Faith was a Slayer, and no longer evil? Did they run out of hair spray? Some of the thoughts were quite unlikely, but it was far better than thinking about the chance that hed have to kill someone.