The Big Bleed Over

Author: Katar Hol (aka. Silveragent) <silveragent99[at]>

Summary: A visitor from the future finds the group not what was expected, Xander has a new career, and everything changes. A Seinfeld-Valiant Comics crossover. My own take on the "future challenge."

Rating: PG 13. Adult language. Action.

Type: Thriller/Action

Ships: Willow/Kennedy. Buffy/Angel. Faith/Wood.

Author's Notes (optional): This is my own response to the future challenge. With as much weirdness as possible. I'd been planning a Valiant cross over for some time.

Disclaimer: All characters herein belong to Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon. Except for Jerry Seinfeld and Kathy Griffin who belong to themselves, and Valiant/Akklaim characters who belong to Akklaim.

Chapter 1

Los Angeles June 2005

Xander stood alone, in the dark. He was breathing heavily, sick to his stomach. It never changed he thought. No matter how much evil he fought, how much he'd suffered, all the things he'd seen. He still was ... well afraid. Of what was to come. He felt like vomiting. The room, small, shabby and mercifully poorly lit, didn't help things any. The stains on the ripped carpet were disturbingly familiar, and it stank of fear and sweat. Most of which, Xander realized, came from him.

There was no getting around it. This night, like so many others, was the toughest battle he'd ever fought. He could die out there. If he wasn't careful. And no matter how hard he prepared, and trained, every night had new challenges. And here he thought Sunnydale was hard. He laughed, bitterly.

The knock on the door. It was time. For battle. Kill or be killed. And Xander planned on killing. He walked out the door, through the narrow hallway to where he would fight. Fight for his life, he thought. As he did night after night.

He waited for the announcer to finish.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Please put your hands together for the star of TV's own comedy hit 'Sunnydale USA,' Mr. Alexander Harris! "

The applause was deafening. A challenge, Xander thought. To keep that.

Xander strode out to the microphone, confident and in control. He took the microphone and faced the audience.

"So I get this phone call, the other day. It's from Buffy." He pauses as the audience twitters with laughter. "Buffy," he repeats slowly in a deep voice. "She tells me she has this commercial." He pauses. "For a vampire version of Viagra." The audience laughs harder now. "I tell her hold on, I have another call." He pauses. "Thank god for telemarketers." He paces around the stage, the audience laughing harder at the joke they've heard before. "And people ask me why I put myself on the DO CALL list?" More laughter. As a girl in the back looks on eagerly, furiously scribbling notes. Watching Xander's every move intently, fascinated but not laughing.


Milan, June 2005.

Buffy and Angel sat on the couch, comfortable and close, Buffy stroking Angel's arm gently as his bruises ached. Willow and Kennedy occupied the other corner nursing their own bruises, while Faith sat with Robin in adjoining chairs with the stiffness of a resounding defeat. Wood nursed his plaster cast covering his wrist, and Faith's eyes were filled with concern for him. Giles was pacing up and down, while Andrew was literally bouncing up and down in his chair with excitement. Fred was on Spike's lap tending to his bruises and caressing his cheekbones. So high school, Buffy thought. She'd never done something so immature. Though she did miss his cheekbones. And vampire abs of steel, she mused. Time to put Angel on a diet? Maybe.

"So how come we've never heard of this Master Darque?" Buffy asked petulantly. "I mean for a guy who's unknown he sure kicked our ass."

"Tell me about it," Willow groaned as she rubbed some bruises, and Angel and Spike winced. "I mean all my magic was turned away like I was some little kid. And he threw you and Spike and Angel and Kennedy around like ..." Willow ran out of steam. "Like you were puppets or something."

Angel gave Willow a dirty look, which Willow didn't understand at first. "Oh. Sorry."

Meanwhile the two vampires were appalled at how easily they had been tossed around. Like Caleb had done with them, they both thought. Except more. And Darque's sister? She had an air of even greater mystery and power. Each vampire couldn't get her image out of their mind. They wouldn't tell their respective girlfriends, but they would have traded each in for a night with HER in a moment.

"What I want to know is how come he never heard of us," Angel asked pointedly. "I mean, two vampires with a soul? And Buffy?"

"Even Dracula heard of me," Buffy pouted. "This guy acted like we shouldn't even exist. Like he was bored with us. And his talk about this Shadowman? Geomancer? Or Eternal Warrior? The guys he was EXPECTING to show up? What's up with that?" Buffy was seriously annoyed. Darque had treated her and the group like a petty annoyance. He'd brushed them away and told them to bring the real heroes. No one treated Buffy like that. Like she didn't matter!

"So one guy and his weird sister kick the asses of the most powerful witch ever, three slayers, and two vampires with a soul plus Robin and Giles?" Faith questions. "That's some serious mojo. You sure you haven't read anything about this guy, Giles?"

"Don't forget me," Andrew shrieked. "I was in the fight too."

"You were in the way, as usual, and had to be rescued," Robin growled at him. "I got a broken wrist out of it."

Spike smirked at that and then quickly maintained a neutral face as Robin glowered at him and Faith gave him a quiet measuring look. Spike knew he could still work Buffy but Faith just scared him. And Darque had given him a beating the likes of which he hadn't ever experienced. He was just so ... strong. It was unearthly. Time to play it smart. There was always later, when he could taunt Robin. When Faith wasn't around. Spike caressed his jacket. Buffy liked him in the jacket. So did Fred.

"If Darque is successful in obtaining the Spear of Destiny, disaster is at hand." Giles warned them. "With an object that powerful, he could literally reshape all reality to his liking. He's far too strong as it is."

"Does it really exist?" Wood wanted to know.

"The spear that some Roman Soldier used to pierce Christ's side? Perhaps not. But so many people believe that it exists that it has power all the same," Giles replied.

"You mean that even if it never happened, because people believe in it, it sorta did?" Buffy asks puzzled. "And it exists and has power, even if it doesn't?"

"Yes. That's often the way of things. Particularly when matters of belief are concerned. But that's not what has me worried." Giles confided. "Things are much worse."

Buffy and Willow looked at Giles with concern. Giles was scared. Scared like he'd never been before. Not with the Master. Or Angelus. Or the Mayor. Not even Adam or Glory had got him scared like this.

"Giles. What?" Buffy wanted to know. "Somethings got you spooked. What is it?"

"It's the books," Giles almost whispered. "The books. They're all ... wrong." His fear was open now, and Angel and Spike instantly paid attention. It took a lot to shake Giles.

"What do you mean, the books are all wrong?" Faith asked.

"It's the names. Shadowman. Geomancer. Eternal Warrior. They're in the books. So are Darque. And other names. Names that are disturbingly familar. But shouldn't be." Giles was nearly shaking. "Books, these kind of books, well they've been with me all my life. I've read nearly every single one of them. Over and over again. I can recite word for word what's in nearly all of them. I've read several of them, well just for pleasure, just last week."

"Well, yeah. That's your life Watcher. Reading when others are shagging." Spike offered a gibe at his expense. "No wonder you don't have a girlfriend." Fred giggled at that, and Giles looked seriously annoyed. There were times when he wondered what Burkle had done with her brain. For a supposedly bright girl she seemed as stupid as that singer, Jessica Simpson, that Willow and Kennedy both laughed at and drooled over when they visited him in Bath and watched TV. But then, he sighed, he never understood why Buffy fell for Spike either.

"That's just the point. None of the names were in the books last week. Yet now ..."

"They're in the books," Angel made the leap quickly. "Something changed and changed the books. Magic?"

"I'm connected. I would have felt it," Willow insisted.

"I agree. This is something more. Something bigger than just magic. It's as if the universe itself is changing around us. I swear I saw words added to the books, as I was reading." Giles was clearly shaken. "My books have always been a source of strength. Knowledge passed down through the centuries. And all of it's changed. Just now. Much of it makes no sense."

"Let's take it slow. Break it down. What doesn't make sense?" Wood wanted to know.

"There's a transcription. From ancient Sumerian. Dating around 5000 BC. That there was nothing worse than an angry Visigoth with a Man o' War exo-skeleton. Or notes about someone called 'Rai' and his 'future force' in Japan. Nonsense about something called Unity and someone called Mother God. Even more trash about someone called Magnus Robot Fighter."

"So what's the problem?" Buffy wanted to know.

"The Visigoths sacked Rome around the Fifth century AD," Faith said quickly. "And neither they nor Japan even existed back in 5000 BC." Noting Giles look of astonishment, she added by way of explanation, "I did a lot of reading in prison. It was interesting." She shrugged her shoulders.

"Was there anything about this Shadowman, Geomancer, or Eternal Warrior in the books?" Robin asked, as Angel nodded his agreement at the question.

"Yes." Giles sighed. "This Shadowman is supposed to have existed for millennia. He fights ... evil creatures. Like vampires. Or demons. Or evil sorcerers." Willow gives him a hurt look which Giles in his puzzlement over the changing books ignores. "He specifically fights this Master Darque, who himself has been around since the 1850's. Even though not a single Watcher's diary has ever mentioned either Darque or this Shadowman."

"So the Watcher Diaries remain unaffected?" Angel wanted to know.

"Yes. Which is in itself strange." Giles admitted. They all stared off into space for a while in puzzlement.

"Is this Shadowman some sort of vampire with a soul?" Buffy wanted to know.

"No. That's the odd thing. He's rather like a slayer. Except he's not always powerful. And there's only one at a time. Except when there's two. Sometimes he travels through time. And he fights this Master Darque. A great deal in fact." Giles admits it makes no sense.

"So we have a male slayer ... " Buffy begins.

"Who fights this new bad guy, only we never heard of him until just now, but he sorta existed like forever or maybe not depending on which book you check," Willow finishes.

"Yes." Giles says.

"What about the other two names Darque mentioned?" Robin asked. "Do they show up in the books or the diaries?"

"The books yes. The diaries no." Giles sighed. "The Geomancer is some sort of ... Watcher figure. Except he's powerful. He talks to the Earth, and the Earth talks back. The Earth will ... do things for him. Or her. There are different ones in each era."

"Just like the slayer," Buffy says excitedly.

"Yes," Giles confirms. "Or like this new Shadowman. At any rate, he, or sometimes she, always helps the Eternal Warrior. Who is apparently some immortal figure who can never die and is, quote, 'the fist and steel of the Earth,' end quote."

"Does he have any powers," Buffy asks quickly.

"The Geomancer, yes," Giles confirms. "He can talk to the Earth, and persuade it do things. Though he often doesn't act directly, and guides the Eternal Warrior. Who himself other than being rather strong and immortal seems to have no powers. The two of them fight evil threats to the earth, just like well the slayer and her watchers."

"How old is this guy?" Faith wants to know.

"Very old. Older than the ancient Sumerians. He would have been around," Giles starts to say when Robin interrupts him.

"For the creation of the Slayer." Robin finishes the thought.

"And yet he appears nowhere in the Watcher diaries. Or anything else from the Council. But he's all over every other book. And it's worse."

"Worse?" Angel dreads the answer.

"Yes." Came Giles' curt reply. "He is supposed to have two brothers. One travels through Time and is called Ivar the Timewalker. The other is called for some bizarre reason Armstrong. That one lives in Malibu with a Buddhist Monk and a dinosaur." Giles shakes his head.

"And these two brothers are immortal too?" Faith asks.

"Apparently. Though the other two brothers don't seem to do anything but get into trouble, as far as the books say." Giles says.

"That is just soooooo cool." Andrew is entranced. "A dinosaur. Cool." He looks off in the distance. "Do you think we could get his action figure?"

"You would find that as you put it cool." Giles is annoyed more than anything.

"Does this Eternal Warrior have a name?" Willow asks. "Maybe we can google him?"

"Yes. Though I doubt it will be of any use. He's called Gilad Anni-Padda. Sometimes Gilad Abrams." Giles sighs. "It's not as if we can find someone who knows him."

Angel turns pale. "Gilad? Abrams? Are you sure?" he stares intently at Giles.

"Yes. Why."

"I think I may have met him. My Father knew someone called that when I was a boy. He had a man with him called McHenry when he visited. They acted strange. I always just thought," Angel trailed off and gave a significant glance towards the oblivious Andrew.

"The McHenry's. The hereditary Geomancer family," Giles sighs. "Even though this Geomancer family shouldn't exist."

"Hey, I think I know who this Gilad guy might be," Andrew interjected.

"Not now Andrew," Giles was impatient.

"But I'm a watcher," Andrew complained.

"You're only a watcher in training, and at that only because ... " Giles snapped at him, while looking off into space.

"But," Andrew said again, and this time Buffy intervened, angrily.

"Andrew, will you just please SHUT UP!" she yelled at him. "Your stupid comic books aren't going to help us. So SHUT UP!"

"Fine." He sulked. And muttered to himself "the fist and steel of the earth. Of course."

"We're losing sight of the point here," Kennedy interjected, and everyone looked up. It was the first time she'd spoken. She winced as she moved in the chair. Why couldn't have Vi and Rona taken this one? No, she had to be the big hero.

"We have to stop this Master Darque. If he gets the Spear of Destiny and makes the world to his image, we're looking at literally hell on Earth. You saw what he did, to those people he sacrificed. Imagine a sorcerer that powerful with the Spear."

They all shuddered, except Angel and Spike. Who'd found the ritual sacrifices, well stimulating. All the blood made them hungry. Willow stared off into space. Thinking, that could have been her. It had been so close.

"So what do you expect us to do," Spike snarked. "Go round for another big serving of kick the Spike and Slayers?"

"Hey!" Willow interjected with some anger. "Witch who was helping right here? It's not always just about you, you know."

"Ah yeah. Right." Spike quickly responded. No sense in getting Willow angry. She wasn't very nice when she was angry. He was glad he was way out of town when she'd had her meltdown. She would have flayed him for sure. Painful way to go. He should know. He'd inflicted it enough times himself on his victims. He smiled at the memories.

Kennedy turned to Willow and then Buffy. "We have to do that joining spell. Make you powerful like when you fought Adam. Willow told me. You were unstoppable then. We could beat Darque."

Giles cleared his throat. "That's not possible."

"Why not?" Buffy wanted to know, while Willow looked abashed.

"Once the joining spell has been done, it can only be repeated." Giles concluded sadly.

"Repeated with ah ... the same people." Willow told Buffy with regret.

"Xander!" Buffy said exasperation. "You mean the key to defeating this Darque guy is Xander? Xander?"

"If you want to do the spell, yes." Giles was clear. "That is the only way the joining spell can be done."

"What exactly happened with him," Wood wanted to know. "I thought he was your friend?" he directed the question to Buffy.

"He'd been hurt a lot. And he really didn't fit in." Buffy was evasive.

"You mean you got mad at him for making one too many Spike jokes and hit him around Oxnard. So he and Dawn stormed off." Kennedy looked angrily at Buffy.

"He was out of line. Spike saved us all," Buffy said dreamily, while Angel looked distinctly uncomfortable and Wood's face grew flat and unreadable with deep, deep anger.

"OK, so look. You and Xan? Not on the best of terms? I'm sure we can make things OK. I mean, what else is he ever going to have going for him? What else is he gonna do but hang with the Slayer? He'll be mad, we'll be sorry, make things better, do the spell and kick ass. Just like we always do." Faith stepped in to defuse the tension with a plan for action.

"I mean, this is Xander. He's your sidekick. He'll come around just like always." Faith was confident.

"I don't know," Buffy was reluctant. "Isn't there any other way?" she appealed to Giles.

"Not if you want to do the joining spell. We could always use the other slayers. But many of the girls would get killed." Giles was firm.

"Not very big on that plan, Giles." Kennedy was clear. "You were out of line Buffy. Guy lost a lot. You should have cut him some slack. Not make him the bad guy."

Buffy sighed. "OK. I'll apologize. And he'll forgive me. I mean, he should. I've done a lot for him." She looked a bit abashed. "But how will we find him? Do you think he's still in Oxnard?"

Willow surprised everyone with her answer. "Oz knows where he is." She looked around. "We e-mail every year or so. He said he bumped into Xander in LA."

Kennedy asked, "Who's Oz?"

"Oh. Just someone I ... knew." Willow's evasive answer told Kennedy exactly what she didn't want to know.


"So that's the plan then? We all go to LA and find Oz. Find Xander? Bring him back, do the spell, kick evil sorcerer ass. Repeat as neccessary?" Faith was all for action.

"Pretty much." Buffy agreed.

As the impromptu meeting broke up, Willow made her way to Giles's side. She moved close to him.

"What?" She asked.

"I beg your pardon," Giles cleaned his glasses evasively.

"Come one, Giles. This is me. I know there's something you didn't want to tell the others. There's something." Willow was in resolve mode.

"Well, yes." Giles decided to confide in Willow. "It's about this Unity. There's references to it in every book but the Watcher's Diaries. It's as if the slayer and everything to do with her and the rest of the universe were separate. And there's a constant refrain about Unity not being absolute. With this Mother God being some sort of evil god who's defeated at this Unity by among other things a group called the Harbingers."

Willow sucked in her breath. "The First!"

"Except these Harbingers don't have their eyes sewn shut, seem to have nothing to do with the First, and save people with their strange powers. They have stupid, foolish code names such as Sting or Flamingo, whereas the Harbingers we know from the First had no names at all. There's even a drawing in one of the books. Copied from an Ancient Egyptian Scroll." Giles fumbled for the tome in question, thumbing through it rapidly.

"Here." He showed Willow  the drawing. It showed what appeared to be a crudely drawn picture of all things, a pink 1957 Cadillac Convertible. Flying. Above some city that looked strangely modern. Everyone in the car was smiling. As if for some snapshot. The man in the driver's seat looked familiar. He had an eye patch on. Willow looked at the other figures in the car, two women and a man. They too looked somewhat familiar to her but she couldn't place them. Then she recognized them. All of them. The blood left her face.

"That's ... " Willow started to say and then kept her voice down as Angel looked at her speculatively. "It just doesn't make sense." She shook her head vigorously.

"Which is precisely why I did NOT tell Buffy or the others. We need to find Xander and question him, not start something that could end up with him getting ... "Giles trailed off.

"Dead." Willow said it flatly.

"Just so."


Petra Stancheck was bitterly disappointed. All the books, all the histories. They all seemed to be full of lies. She thought she'd been clever, following Ivar the Timewalker back into the past. She'd meet her heroes, and impress President-of-Earth Magnus. Perhaps if she brought some of the heroes back with her he'd let her join the new Future Force. She'd always wanted to be a hero, just like the blessed Rai. He of heroic memory.

She'd get to meet them all, Sting, Flamingo, XO, Shadowman, Ninjak, Dr. Mirage, and even the mysterious Bloodshot, he of the blood of heroes. The ancestor of Rai, Japan's protector. She instinctively touched the medallion she wore hidden beneath her clothes, in tribute to Rai's heroism. Hadn't Rai fought Mother God? During Unity? She hoped she could be worthy of his sacrifice.

But they weren't here. Not a one. Not even the legendary Geomancer, Eternal Warrior, and Solar, Man of the Atom. They were supposed to be here! Frack!

Petra was beginning to suspect that none of it had actually happened. She didn't even see any evidence of some of the more obscure heroes, the HARD Corps or Armorines or even the Secret Weapons. Not even Quantum and Woody who were supposedly always getting into trouble and blowing things up.

Alexander Harris was the single most disappointing experience in her life, she reflected. Even though she was only a young 250 solar orbits old she'd lived through the Malev invasion. But Harris was as big a disappointment as she'd experienced. He actually existed, and she'd seen him. But he wasn't the stuff of legend, to put it mildly. She'd met and interviewed President-of-Earth Magnus, Robot Fighter. The hero who'd stopped the Malev invasion. Rescued the Freewill Robots. Beaten the Predator. HE was a hero. Strong, unstoppable, a complete and total living weapon and the undisputed leader by acclamation of Earth itself, by human and freewill robots alike.

Alexander Harris? A man with one eye, standing on stage telling jokes. About someone called a Slayer and a bunch of vampires. Vampires. She snorted. They were supposed to be some terrifying evil. She'd seen the Malevs. And the Spider Aliens. She couldn't imagine vampires being scary compared to them.

And Harris was supposed to be the one who changed everything. THE central hero along with the other Harbingers who helped defeat Mother God in Unity. She thought for a while, looking at him taking a bow in the dingy, bare stage. People were laughing at him. Though she didn't understand most of the jokes. This Buffy seemed to get people laughing just with her name being mentioned. Funny she'd never heard of her. Though there was something tantalizingly familiar with the name at the back of her mind. And some of the others. That bothered her.

President Magnus had said himself when she interviewed him that Harris had been an inspirational hero. And she believed in President Magnus. He'd never failed the planet. So maybe Harris was more than he seemed. She certainly hoped so. It would be a while before Ivar went back to her own time. And she could sneak back.

She hoped that maybe it was part of his secret identity. They all had them, back in these ancient times. Not like Magnus. Or Rai. Shadowman was supposed to be someone called Jack Boniface. A musician. Some place called New Orleans. She wondered if that was near, where were they? Oh yes. Los Angeles. Perhaps Alexander Harris was merely protecting his secret identity. And the Key would show up soon. As well as the rest of the Harbingers. She really wanted to meet Sting. Not a picture existed of her. And she was supposed to be a very powerful Harbinger. Omega class. The one who went toe to toe with Toyo Harada.

She would wait, she decided. For a while. And see what happened. As she walked out of the club, lost in thought, she didn't notice the man following her.

She turned down an alley. Still lost in thought.

The man leaped out at her. His face changing into something different. Feral. Animal. Powerful.

The vampire was taken aback. This human didn't fear him. She merely looked puzzled. Oh no. Please tell him this wasn't a slayer. There used to be only one but now there were well thousands. Maybe more. All over the world. Most humans knew about vampires now. After Jasmine. And ran away in panic. This girl started towards him. Bad news. A slayer for sure. He started to back away.

"You're a ... what do they call them? Vampire? Yes?" Petra said eagerly, with the enthusiasm, the vampire thought glumly, of a butterfly collector about to pin a new specimen to the board.

"Listen, slayer, help me out here," he pleaded. "I can give you information. Information about some real bad people. Much worse than me. Like say Master Darque. He's bad. Real bad. What do you say, hey?" He held up his hands, pleading.

"You know, I can't read your mind," the girl said, laughing with delight. "It's because you're ... dead. How wonderful. They DO exist." She laughed again. "That means it has to be true." She practically jumped up and down for joy. "I'm sorry I ever doubted it. I can't wait to meet all the heroes," she confided shyly to the vampire.

Who noticed that he was now floating above the ground. Caught in some invisible vise grip. What was going on, he wondered?

"Who are you? What are you?" he screamed.

"Why silly. I'm a Harbinger of course. How else could I survive the trip back to the past like this?" Petra was puzzled. How come people didn't know about Harbingers? They made up most of the heroes. Well, except for the weird ones. Like Gilad Anni-Padda. The Eternal Warrior. HE was seriously creepy.

"What are you going to do with me," the vampire screamed.

"Why, what heroes do, of course," the girl answered. And tore him apart with her mind. Which, she considered, as he turned into dust with a MOST satisifying whoomp wasn't that hard. This could be fun, she thought. As long as she avoided Toyo Harada. Or Master Darque or the Spider Aliens. THEY were something she couldn't handle on her own.

She spread her arms and flew out of the alley. And high in the night sky, made her way towards her temporary home, up in the hills.

Chapter 2

Los Angeles June 2005

Buffy, Angel, Willow, Kennedy, and Giles stood outside Oz's house, and knocked again and again. Oz didn't answer. That could be, Buffy thought, because it was nearly 3 am. But hey, he was a musician, right? That meant he had to keep late hours. There was a law. Or something. He was up all night back in High School.

"I know he's home," Angel pointed out the two vehicles in the driveway. One was a ubiquitous Ford Explorer, like thousands of others in the LA area. The other was a Toyota Camry. Not exactly what Buffy had pictured. Somehow she'd expected he'd still have the van. She sighed. Things just weren't the same any more. She never thought she would, but she missed High School. The certainty. She knew who she was. Who her friends were. Now? Not so much.

From his house and cars, you'd think Oz was some boring middle class guy. Not the cool musician she knew. How much else had changed?

The neighborhood was nice, though, she thought. No vampires or demons or anything else evil in sight. Not fancy like Marina Del Rey, but not bad like Palms either. Mom had nearly moved to Palms instead of Sunnydale, she remembered. And shuddered. She hated Palms. Even Sunnydale was better. Ewwwww. Palms was as bad as it got before the 909.

Culver City? Oz? She never would have believed it, if you'd told her that back in High School. Venice? Hollywood? Sure. But not Culver City.

"Maybe he's at some wild party with Devon," Buffy wondered aloud.

"No. Someone's inside. I can hear them," Angel stated flatly.

"Oz!" Buffy shouted while knocking on the door. "It's me, Buffy!"

"Hi Buffy," Oz said as he opened the door a bit, but not all the way. From his tone Buffy thought it was if she'd last talked to him well, a couple of days ago. That much hadn't changed.

"Will." Oz looked at Willow expressionless. Unreadable. As always.

"Oz," Willow said breathlessly and moved to the door, then stopped as Oz held only half open, blocking her efforts to hug him.

"Oz honey, who's at the door." A familiar voice came wafting through the open door, sleep filled and a bit annoyed. "It's not Xander or Dawn and ... ?"

"No." Oz replied.

"Well who the hell is it?" the voice continued, as Amy joined Oz at the door.

"Oh," she said as she saw Willow and the rest on the front porch.

"What are you doing here?" Amy and Willow demanded of each other in unison.

"Hello, I live here." Amy said flatly. "Why are you here? Oh." Amy looked at Willow, then Buffy. "It's about the show, isn't it?"

"What? Show?" Willow shook her head.

"We're here because of Xander," Buffy interjected. "We need to find him."

"So this isn't about the show?" Oz asked, finally curious, after a long pause.

"No, Oz, we need to find him. It's important, end of the world stuff." Willow smiled a half smile. "Do you know where he is?"

"Yes." Oz replied.

"Well, are you going to let us in and tell us?" Buffy demanded.

Oz looked at all of them, pausing at Angel. "No."

"Willow," Amy paused drawing out the word, "Buffy. I'm not part of your life any more. And neither is Daniel." She emphasized the word Daniel, and Buffy didn't fail to note Willow's unhappiness with that word, and Kennedy not being too happy about Willow's reaction. Thank god Faith isn't here, she thought. Things would just get worse if she added to the situation with some stupid comment or joke. Just like Xander when ... no. She put the thought out of her head. Time to focus, Buffy, she thought. Guilt later. Besides, he had it coming. Sort of.

"Amy, listen. It's important." Buffy said urgently.

"Important for Xander," said Willow, "real important."

"This is just about the show. You want to sue him, go ahead. Just leave us out of it. This isn't High School. And we have our own lives. Lives without ... that." Amy declared loudly while looking at Angel like he was  giant flaming bag of dog poop some kid from the neighborhood left on her front porch.

Buffy, Willow, Angel, Kennedy, and Giles all looked puzzled.

"What show would that be?" Giles asked.

"You really don't know?" Oz asked finally, after another long silence.

"No. That's why I'm asking." Giles replied with exasperation.

"You'll have to ask Xander," Oz replied, and closed the door.

Buffy just paused as the deadbolt clicked home. Loudly. She felt so ... stupid. Hanging out there in space.

"Goodbye Willow," Oz said faintly through the closed door. And the lights soon went out, as Amy and Oz went very notably back to bed.

Nobody said anything, and the sound of distant muted traffic sounded, well like crickets.

"Ferris? Bueller? Anyone?" Kennedy joked. "I think that went well, all things considered."

"Oz was our only hope," Buffy said softly. "LA is so big, Xander and Dawn, they could be anywhere. If they're even together, still."

"It was my fault," Willow began. "I should have been more in touch with him, not so much wrapped up in my own thing," she said with a sniffle. "I thought he'd ... well be happy to see me." Willow looked nervously at Kennedy. "Not just close the door."

"No, it was my fault," Angel said. "Amy didn't want a vampire around. Not that I blame her," he concluded, with Buffy groaned outwardly, more than a hint of self-pity and broodiness. She used to love his broodiness. Now it just pissed her off when he moped and things needed to be done. Like well, now. Angel stepped back a bit, noting Buffy's general displeasure with all things named Angel at the moment.

"Oh you got that right, Mister. It IS your fault," Cordy said, looming out of the darkness.

"Cordy!" Angel's face lit up, turning to face the former member  of Angel Investigations. "I thought you were ... "

"Yeah, I am," Cordy said sadly. "I'm not here for you Angel. I'm here for her," she pointed at Buffy."

Everyone except Angel looked extremely puzzled.

"Oh great," Cordy moaned. "You didn't even bother to tell them, did you?"

"Tell us what," Buffy asked defensively, arms crossed across her chest and tensing at Angel's reaction to Cordy's reappearance. She didn't understand what was going on between the two, but there was some obvious unfinished business between them. Business that didn't make Buffy too happy.

Angel shrugged and looked guilty.

"Come on then, lunkhead. You too Angel." Cordy snorted at Angel and Buffy. "Some things never change, huh?"


Everyone filed into the house, in the Silverlake area. Buffy paused as she looked first down the street, and then across the way. The house was perched like a bird on the top of the hill, and the street wound steeply down to the bottom. Across the street, another hill rose steeply out of the black night. For some reason Buffy couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. Watched by someone she knew. She stared into the darkness. Then, she shrugged her shoulders and followed the rest of the group inside.

The house was built in the Mission style. Lots of plaster, tile floors, and not much furniture. But there were pictures. Lots of pictures. Of Cordy. In various publicity shots, and a picture of her in a bikini from that commercial she did. Angel recognized it, and raised an eyebrow.

"Groo. He ... remembers. This is his house. He'll be home soon. Which is why we don't have a lot of time." Cordy smiled sadly. "It's good to be remembered at least by SOME people."

Angel shook his head. "How come I was able ... ?"

"Because she invited you in, Angel," Buffy was now fully annoyed. "Stop mooning over her and lets get to it. It's obvious she already has a boyfriend and is going to stay the hell away from mine!" Buffy delivered this last with emphasis, looking straight at Cordy.

Cordy just smiled. A soft, secret smile.

Buffy paused. "Are you going to tell us what the hell is going on here? And how you found us?"

"Sure. That's why I'm here." Cordy sighed.

Willow moved closer to Buffy. And as she did, she noticed a picture on the wall. It was a photo version of the drawing she'd seen in Giles's book. She didn't hide her reaction fast enough, and Buffy noticed it too. So did Angel and Giles, and even Kennedy.

Cordy laughed. "It's a real famous picture. It just hasn't been taken yet."

"What the hell?" Buffy was angry. She lifted the picture off the wall. It was a pink 1957 Cadillac. Somehow ... flying. In the driver's seat, Xander was looking into the camera, laughing. He had two eyes, but the one that had been ... lost was now blue. Instead of brown. Next to him was Dawn, looking older, and ... DANA. That crazy slayer. Both were gazing intently at Xander like a cat looking at bird. They both had that half-hidden smile Buffy was familar with. In the back seat was Oz, and Amy. And what the hell? APRIL. That damn robot. Everyone was laughing or smiling. Having a good time.

"Explain this!" Buffy held out the picture to Cordy.

"Nothing to explain. Like I said, it's a famous picture. Or it will be. Taken by a famous person" Cordy smiled, and then gazed at Angel intently. "It's what's coming, at least part of it."

"They were really great, you know. Some people think they may have been the greatest heroes ever. The Harbingers." A voice loomed behind Angel, and he jumped.

A man moved ... well THROUGH Angel. He was of average height, and appeared to be wearing a ski outfit and boots. He was of Asian origin..

"The First!" Buffy, Willow, and Kennedy all cried in unison, while Cordy laughed and Giles looked suspicious.

"Hardly. I'm Dr. Mirage. And I'm here to help," the man said with a raised eyebrow.

"That name ... it seems ..." Giles began.

"Familiar?" Cordy asked. "It should be."

"I've fought Master Darque before you did," the man said. "And now I'm well ... ."

"Dead." Cordy said looking at him with a raised eyebrow. They paused, then Cordy turned to Buffy.

"That plan of yours? Find Xander and do that combination spell? Dumb idea. You should forget it." Cordy said flatly.

Buffy and Kennedy were flailing around at the man, who ignored their hands and feet passing through him.

"Will you knock that off?" Cordy demanded of Buffy and put her hand on her shoulder. Buffy jumped under her touch, but both she and Kennedy stopped passing their hands through the man. "We don't have much time." She looked at Angel, then Giles, and back to Angel again. "You especially Angel. You're running out of time."

"Cordy, I'm sorry. I just ... " Angel began, and Cordy held up her hand.

"Angel, the time for us ran out a long time ago. And this isn't about us. It's about ... them." Cordy said sadly looking down at the photo in her hand. "But you need to get straight with yourself. And fast. I'm not kidding around, either."

"Great. First you bring this ... First Evil here, then you tell me my sister and Xander are working for the First, and now you try to steal my boyfriend," Buffy was angry.

"I'm not the First." The man laughed. "And they're the Harbingers. Not the First's Harbingers. They're not connected to ... that. They're connected to Toyo Harada."

"The Japanese Bill Gates?" Willow asked breathlessly.

"Yeah. He's a Harbinger." Cordy stated flatly. "Like Dawn. And some of the others."

"Not the First's Harbingers. The Harbingers of the new ... era." Dr. Mirage looked at Cordy.

"This is your fault, Angel," Cordy said. "And yours too, Buffy. But most of all it's Xander's."

Dr. Mirage nodded.

"Would you please tell us what's going on?" Giles asked. "It would be nice for us to know."

"It's real simple Giles," Cordy said with a touch of sadness in her voice. "You? The Slayer? The Watchers? Even the Vampire with a soul? They're being replaced. And it's all Xander's fault, mostly."


Across the hill, in a dark house that Buffy had looked at just minutes earlier, a room filled with monitors held two people. A man, in his mid-thirties, with dark hair, blue eyes, and average height. And a girl, in her mid teens, slight of build, short of stature. But lithely muscled. The man was in peak physical condition and moved with fluid grace, like a dancer, across the room to peer into the monitor showing the inside of the house and Buffy's group with Cordy and Mirage.

The girl stood there already, her posture suggesting a coiled spring, ready to explode. Strength and quickness sat on her for the least observant person to see. Both had on baggy dark clothing that wasn't very memorable, and held lots of nasty devices for immediate use when needed. The two were incredibly dangerous. Because of who they were. And what they knew.

"She knows." The girl said it with no visible emotion, but the man knew her well enough to read her excitement. "She knows."

"But she's constrained in what she can tell them. That much is obvious." The man said.

"Will they listen to her? Believe what she and Mirage have to tell them?"

"It's doubtful. It would require their ... " the man paused. "World view to change."

"And they're not capable of that. Not yet, anyway," the girl answered.

There was a long pause, then the girl asked.

"Colin? Are you sure Cordy or Mirage can't sense us? She nearly did," the girl was hesitant, and the man caught the slight pause on the word "she."

"It's true Buffy Summers did know she was being watched. But she dismissed her instincts. A lesson for us both. The others, well for all their power and abilities, even a vampire can't sense a surveillance device, properly placed and shielded. Despite their uncanny sense of smell and hearing." The man permitted himself a quick smile.

"And Cordy? Dr. Mirage? Do they know that Colin King, Ninjak, and his sidekick are watching them? Will they tell the others?" The girl was intent on the answer.

"Even Dr. Mirage and Cordy can't know everything. And you're not my sidekick. You were my student. Now you're as much Ninjak as I am."

The girl smiled at that, and Colin King felt a moment of pride. Teaching her the arts of spycraft and ninjitsu were the best things he'd ever done in his life. Of that he was certain.

"Thank you for saving my life, during Unity. In the Lost Land." She looked at him, face clear and innocent.

"No thanks were needed. That's part of being Ninjak." King smiled back at her.

"That's not what I meant. You showed me the most Excellent Way. The path, to enlightenment." Her voice was calm, yet underneath showed a hidden excitement. "The way to find release from the wheel. To suppress ... "

"Desire?" King finished for her. "But I merely showed you the path. It was you who decided on your own to take it. And found your own way to enlightenment."

"And that saved my life," she said. "Showing me the path. Without it ... I would have become like her," she nodded her head towards the image of Buffy on one of the monitors.

"Don't judge her too harshly."

"Was Giles that bad a teacher? That she ended up like ... this?" The girl asked.

"No. He was an excellent teacher. She merely chose the wrong path. Desire. Instead of enlightenment." King was pensive. "It's the flaw of many heroes in the end."


"Oh come on, Giles," Cordy said exasperated. "Haven't you figured it out yet? The books changing as you read them, all the prophecies ... gone? Or changed out of recognition?" Cordy looked at Angel. "You can kiss your shansu goodbye, bye the way. That's gone. So are a lot of others, too." Cordy snorted and looked at Willow. "I bet you can't even do divination any more," as Willow looked shocked at Cordy revealing her secret failures. She hadn't even told Giles that.

"So this Eternal Warrior, this Shadowman, even this Master Darque," Giles began, when the newcomer cut him off.

"They were supposed to be here all the time. If someone hadn't messed up." Mirage looked away for a while.

"I don't know why I should believe you," Buffy said. "You're the First. Or at least, you're dead. And that means ... "

"You should listen to him," Cordy put both her hands on Buffy's shoulders, looking her straight in the eyes. "I pulled a lot of strings, but in the end the powers ... they LIKE you Buffy. More than me. They wanted you to know. So they sent me." Cordy's eyes were filled with tears. "I wanted to do a lot of things. And now I won't. I wanted to be an actress. And I wanted to help people. You know what? I ended up being tricked by a higher being. Used like a puppet on a string," she looked over at Angel, "to massacre a whole bunch of people. Including a little five year old boy ... with his entire family, and a fifteen year old girl. Trapped in my body while someone else was driving. Then? Things got worse."

She looked cold and hard at Buffy. "So stop your pity party, and your whining. I need you to listen to what we have to say."

Angel tried to speak, but Cordy cut him off. "Angel, like I said. You had your chance. This is hers now." Angel shut up.

"So tell," Willow suprised everyone by speaking up. "Tell us Cordy. What's going on."

"Remember that prophecy? The Master shall rise and the Slayer shall die? Remember that one?" Cordy was angry.

"Brrr. How could I forget?" Buffy wanted to know. "Angel saved me."

Cordy laughed. "No. It wasn't Angel." She looked straight at Angel, who wouldn't face her. "It was Xander."

"Sure, he gave me CPR. But it was Angel who ..." Buffy interrupted.

"No. It wasn't." Mirage said firmly. "You were supposed to fall in love with Angel. That was part of the prophecy."

"Check." Cordy said.

"You were supposed to face the Master. Alone. And die. So he could rise."

"Again, check," Cordy continued.

"What wasn't supposed to happen was some lovesick teenage boy forcing your vampire boyfriend to go off and rescue you." Mirage said peevishly.

"And, here, big no check," Cordy made a face. "You were supposed to die Buffy. And the Master to rise. That's why you fell in love with Angel. He was supposed to sulk in his apartment, afraid of the Master."

"I was never afraid of the Master," Angel began, but Cordy wasn't having it.

"Hello? Seer? Ex Higher Being? Former passenger on the Jasmine Express? I KNOW this Angel. You were afraid. Until Xander made you more afraid of someone else. Him. And you went off to rescue the girl."

"So it's all his fault," Mirage concluded.

"Wait a minute," Kennedy said. "I don't understand. Xander rescued you," she pointed at Buffy, "gave you CPR? And you chose HIM?" She pointed at Angel.

"You weren't there. Angel was ... magnificent. He helped me fight all those vampires." Buffy said proudly.

"But not the Master," Cordy told her, "Angel's always been afraid of him." She paused and added,  "He was supposed to rise, Buffy."

"And what, kill everyone?" Buffy made a face as she asked Cordy the question.

"Well, a lot of people. And new heroes would have risen. And some old ones returned." Cordy admitted. "That was the plan. You were supposed to die."

"To free a great evil," Mirage continued. "That would in turn, cause a new era to .. dawn."

"What, you thought her name was just an accident?" Cordy said archly. "Why in the hell did you think those monks died to send her to you? Instead of just destroying the key?"

Angel was confused. Cordy told him "Never mind Angel. Something like Connor's deal. Except in reverse."

It was Buffy's turn now to look puzzled, as Angel understood some of what Cordy told him. "Dawn's not real, is she?"

"She is now," Mirage said. "Real like us."

"That's why Glory was sent after the key. Not to go home. But to stop Dawn. It's why the First tricked you into making all the slayers. So there'd already be the new heroes. Hell, it's why Jasmine moved when she did. She could have waited eons. And the other powers knew. They could have stopped her. They wanted her to succeed. To stop what was coming." Cordy ran down.

"Us." Mirage said calmly. "Dr. Mirage. Geomancer. Solar, Man of the Atom. Eternal Warrior. Rai and the Future Force. Magnus Robot Fighter. XO Man o War. Bloodshot. Shadowman. The Harbingers. The H.A.R.D Corps. Secret Weapons. The Armorines. Turok Dinosaur Hunter. Archer and Armstrong. Even Quantum and Woody."

"They have a goat. It has a mask and a cape." Cordy said with a smile.

"They're worse than they sound, too," Mirage groaned.

"But the books, " Giles moved back to his favorite subject. "They're changing."

"Because you're being replaced Giles." Cordy said sadly. "Even me." She gestured to Mirage, who nodded. "No matter how hard the powers, or Glory, or Adam, or Angelus, or even the First and Jasmine tried to hold back the sunrise ... "

"Here it is. The new dawn." Mirage said sadly. "Including ... well me. And not everything is nice in the brand new day."

The others just looked at him. He said, a bit defensively, "I was killed fighting Master Darque during a ski trip. That's why the clothes and the boots. You don't know how annoying it is to wear these things all the time."

"And you're a ... " Kennedy said apprehensively.

"A spirit. A ghost. Not the First. It's time is done. Darque replaced it already."

"Just like you could be replaced, Buffy. If you haven't been already," Cordy laughed.


Xander wandered out to his kitchen. He couldn't sleep, so it was time to pour himself into a cup of instant coffee. Again. And drive to the set. Hey. It paid the bills. And let him ... well keep Dawn out of jail. Which was something. She'd given up everything, really. To be his protector. Not that he needed it. Now. Though he did then, at first. When they came to LA. And slept on Oz's couches and floor a lot. He owed her that at least. Watching her back. And she was happy. With her boyfriend. She hadn't found the need to ... protect him, or someone else who looked like Buffy, in weeks. Which his accountant appreciated. It had gotten expensive bailing her out. Paying off guy after guy. After Dawn had whacked his skull bloody with some gadget or another. For fighting with his girlfriend. Or something. Still looking to protect Buffy. From Spike. No matter who got hurt.

He wondered who that strange girl was in the back of the club the other night. She had that look. The same one that Buffy had. Or Faith. Or Kendra. Or Willow too, come to think of it. Power. A slayer? Sent out to beat the crap out of him? Because of the show? Well, he could handle that, he figured. He was rich. He could always check into hotel after hotel and avoid the hell out of her. And let the studio handle it. They always had someone. Hey! Maybe Angel's old evil law firm. That was an idea. He smiled to himself.

"It would not be wise to involve Wolfram and Hart at this juncture," the boy behind him said.

Xander jumped, and spilled most of the instant coffee he'd made.

"Geez. Don't do that. It's creepy."


"I told you before. I don't want to become,"

"Geomancer. I know. But you have to. You have to become the listener. The one who listens to the Earth. And talks to her. You have to."

"Why don't you use that amazing set of listening skills YOU have and realize I'm not interested?" Xander asked peevishly. "You're Geomancer. Stick with it."

"I can't. I have to be elsewhere soon." Geoff looked sad.

"I don't want to hear it." Xander was firm, mind made up. "All that hero stuff is for other guys. The ones that save the girl. Not me."

"You did save the girl. A lot of them." Geoff offered blandly. It was hard to believe he wasn't even in High School, Xander thought. Too creepy. Include me out he he said to himself. Call Michael Jackson. He'll be interested.

"But I never got them. That's for the other guys. The moody broody sort who always get the girl. Angel. Or Wood. Or Spike even." He said the last name with venom. "That's not me."

"Xander?" A woman's voice called down from the second floor. "Who are you talking to?"

It was Veronica. She of the lovely face and figure. Who'd passed through Dawn's battery of questions. The Dawn inquisition to screen out the demons, ex or otherwise, witches, werewolves, and vampires. And had ended up somehow living with him. Sort of. For now.

Geoff raised his eyebrow. "She doesn't love me, you know. I'm just her bedwarmer. Until someone better comes along. Someone higher up the food chain. In movies, probably."

"Xander, if you don't stop talking to yourself and more importantly, waking me up, I'm going to leave you for Ben Affleck," Veronica's voice came lofting down the stairway, filled with sleep, annoyance, and half-hearted amusement.

"Two words honey. J-Lo."

"That's only one if you don't count the hyphen."


The laughter leaked out of Veronica's sleepy voice like steam from a kettle. "Don't wake me up dammit. I had a late shoot. I need my sleep."

Xander paused, and then said more softly, "It'll be a helluva ride. But it'll end. It always does. I'm not the guy girls fall in love with. That's those other guys."

"There's someone who loves you." Geoff told him.

"Not that way," Xander said hurriedly. "Dawn's ... "

"I wasn't talking about her. But about the Earth. She loves you. You make her laugh. She'll do things for you that she'd never do for me."

"Great. I'll keep that in mind while I'm performing tonight. Oh wait, I won't. Jerry Seinfeld's coming to see my show. Jerry Seinfeld! He thinks I'm funny. Kathy Griffin thinks I'm funny. She recommended me for Average Joe 5. I have a girlfriend. She's beautiful. She's in lingerie ads. The most she'll ever do is just leave me. For some other celebrity who's more important. I make a lot of money. I sign autographs. People LIKE me. I make them laugh. And get paid for it. A lot. I want to give all this up, and taking care of Dawn ... for what? Part of the insane life Buffy lives? No thanks."

Xander put down the coffee mug. He looked at Geoff.

"Thanks for the offer. Really. But no."

"You'll come around. Eventually. You have to."


"Because it's all your fault." Geoff looked at Xander calmly.

"So you keep telling me. So what? I was supposed to just let Buffy die? Even now, I say no thanks." Xander was angry.

"Yes. And because you saved her, now you have to ... "

"What? Be punished and become some lame superhero?" Xander snorted.

"Something like that. You can't hold back the daylight."

Watch me try, Xander thought, as he turned to look at Veronica's approaching shadow as she made her way down the stairs after all.

When he turned back, Geoff was gone. Damn. He hated it when Angel did that. It was extra super-sized creepy when a kid did it.

"I thought I heard voices," Veronica told him, as she hugged him close.

"Just rehearsing for my act tonight. Jerry will be there."

"So you've told me a million times. Got time for a quickie?" Veronica giggled as she tousled his hair. "You're my next favorite funnyman. Well, next to Jerry. And Kevin James."

"King of Queens? You gotta be kidding me."

"It was between him and Jim Belushi."


"I know. It's a curse being attracted to comedians." She laughed and ran her fingers through his hair.


"... so that's why the new heroes are popping up all over the place. And new villains," Cordy added looking at Mirage.

"As well as some old ones." Mirage said. "Eternal Warrior. Shadow Man. And the Spider Aliens."

"Yeesh. Don't remind me," Cordy shuddered. "I hate spiders."

"They would have already been here, if Xander hadn't saved you." Mirage said.

"What about the Spear of Destiny?" Giles asked. "Darque's plans? Our ability to fight him?"

"Supremely unimportant. Darque will never find the Spear. As long as you don't look for it," Mirage told him.

"And your big plan? Find Xander and cast that spell? Become Uber Buffy? Bad idea," Cordy added.

God, Buffy thought. This was just like High School. Cordy droning on and on about how cool she was, how important. How she had all the info and Buffy had to be one of her little followers. And don't think she missed that little exchange between Cordy and Angel, she thought to herself. Angel had some splaining to do, Lucy, she told herself.

Buffy glanced over at Willow. She had one of those cool new mobile phones. My god, she realized, she's text messaging Faith. Who'd have thought those two would get along? And now, they sorta do. Hell, she wanted to text message Faith. Even pain in the ass Robin would be welcome about now.

"I'm sorry, you were saying," Buffy interrupted Cordy.

"You mean you weren't paying attention," Cordy snapped. "Typical. I come all this way, and you ignore me. OK. Never mind." She turned her attention to Giles.

"Oz wouldn't leave here either. I wanted him to go to Pylea. But he wouldn't go. His band, Torque, is just now hitting it big. And Amy? She's got this hip magic act. She turns into some living flame."

"Flamingo," Mirage said with an ominous tone. Giles recognized the reference.

"It's really cool. All the celebrities go there." Cordy said. "So I get why Oz wouldn't leave."

"Pylea?" Buffy and Kennedy both asked.

"It's another dimension." Angel offered.

"Groo's from there. He's going back. Soon. This is his place. He ... remembers my career." Cordy laughed as she motioned to  the pictures of her on the wall. "Such as it was. Anyway. I tried to get him to make Oz and Amy go with him. I knew Xander wouldn't leave. Or Dawn. But you should go, Giles. Really. Groo could hook you up with someone nice. There's humans there. They'd be all over you. Some hot young honey? You could watch her. And stuff."

Willow giggled at that, and Buffy prayed, please god, don't let him polish the glasses, please. Giles put his hand up to his face, as if he read Buffy's mind. Then, noting her glare, dropped his hands down to his side. Thank you, Buffy mouthed.

"Are Dawn and Xander OK?" Buffy asked in a small voice. "Are they alright? They're ... "

"God no," Cordy said. "They sure as hell aren't sleeping together. I know this." She said firmly.

Willow raised her eyebrow. "Dawn's pretty hot. I mean, she's young and attractive and no way would I EVER think of her that way. Cause you know Buffy's little sister and I'm taken and ... "

Kennedy came to her rescue. "It's OK Will. You can look. Just don't touch. At least not unless I'm involved."

"Dear lord." Giles said, as he quickly snatched his glasses off his head and furiously polished them.

Buffy didn't know which ticked her off most. Willow lusting after Dawn, or making Giles polish his glasses. She finally figured it was the glasses. Some things are just unforgivable.

"I saw Xander at a nightclub once. He has a comedy act. It was pretty funny. He made me laugh. Which, says something," Cordy looked sad. "Besides, there's his show. He's funny on that too."

"What's this show everyone keeps talking about?" Buffy wanted to know.

"Hello? THE show. Xander's. What, you've been out of the country?" Cordy wisecracked.

Angel coughed. "Ah yeah."

"We've been in Europe." Buffy said importantly. "Finding new slayers, and fighting evil."

"And watching a lot of Italian Porn on TV," Willow said laughingly, then suddenly remembered herself, "I mean not that I ever watched it, only once, and then it was Andrew. It was all his fault."

"Relax Will. I watched it with you. It was hot." Kennedy offered her support.

"Well that's perfectly appalling. Now can we get back to Xander, and what this show has to do with a major non-garden variety apocalypse looming off in the distance?" Giles was by this time both embarrassed and annoyed. The embarrassment feeding the annoyance.

PLEASE Buffy hoped. Don't polish the glasses. Don't polish the glasses.

Giles hands moved up furtively, as if to take his glasses off and polish them. He caught Buffy's pleading look and stayed his hands.

"You know Xander has this TV show, right?" Cordy said to Buffy, struggling to keep from laughing.

"Wait a minute. XANDER has a TV show?" Willow asked.

"Yeah, based on his standup. Sunnydale USA. Like Everybody Loves Raymond. Only with vampires." Cordy laughed. "Oh not real vampires. Just actors."

"So?" Buffy asked defensively?

"Well, it's based on all of you. Well, not you Giles. But yeah, the rest of you. And Spike." Cordy laughed. "It's really funny."

"So what does this have to do with Xander not being ... " Buffy trailed off.

"Un-groiny with Dawn? Cause Xander writes it. And it's funny."

"So?" Buffy was skeptical.

"You don't know a lot about comedians, do you Buffy?" Cordy asked. "John Cleese? He was funny when he was angry. After a lot of therapy? Not so much any more. Xander's funny. And he's funny cause he's angry. Real angry." Cordy laughed. "And he's taking it out all on you. Jokes kinda on you. Literally."

"Oh, and Dawn's in the show too. She writes some of the jokes. But Xander's are funnier. She mostly just falls over furniture. A lot." Cordy added.

"So that's how you know Xander isn't screwing my little sister." Buffy said angrily. "Just wait till I get a hold of him."

"Dawn's nineteen, Buffy," Cordy added. "And that's not the only reason. I mean, she's living with Devon. She has for a couple of years."

"WHAT!" Buffy exploded, and turned beet red. And Cordy had a fleeting thought. Was she that petty that she enjoyed seeing Buffy nearly explode. She thought ... well maybe just a little. It was fun.

"Then there's Veronica," Dr. Mirage added.

"Waitress/Model/Actress/Whatever. She's been dating Xander for some time. Don't you read People?" Cordy asked in astonishment.

"Something to bear in mind Buffy? No one is the same. Not Xander, not Dawn, not Wes, not even you. Everyone's changed. You go in expecting Xander to be the same guy you dumped by the side of the road ..."

"He wouldn't shut up. Spike had just ... DIED. And he was making jokes about it. A lot. And Dawn was laughing. A lot. He wouldn't shut up even when I warned him. And she wouldn't stop laughing. So I stopped the bus, and we had a fight. Dawn and I said things. Awful things. Xander said things too. Worse things. And I ... " Buffy was angry, and crying.

"You hit Xander. While we stood around like a bunch of idiots," Willow concluded.

"You told Dawn if she wanted to be around Xander so much maybe she should take off after him. So she did." Kennedy added.

Cordy looked at Giles, astonished. "Yes, yes, it's all true," he assured her. "Now can we get on with it?"

"Just a minute Giles," Cordy said puzzled. "Why would you give a rat's ass about Spike dying. I mean, was he your boyfriend or something?" She snorted.

And the dead silence told her all she needed to know.

"Oh my god. Buffy." And Buffy saw in Cordy's eyes and face the purest expression of pity she'd ever seen. The impact was almost physical.

"So what? Like you didn't give Angel a happy so Faith had to rescue him from Angelus?" Buffy was defiant under Cordy's pitying gaze.

"That's not what happened," Angel quickly shot back. "And hello? Standing right here."

"Pfft. Like I believe that," Buffy snorted. "What, Wes the idiot took out your soul, or something?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Angel answered. While Cordy ... damn Buffy realized. Cordy was staring off into the distance. BROODING. What was going on here? Did they switch bodies?

The door burst open, shattering Buffy's thoughts. And through the door paraded Dana, that crazy slayer, followed by Faith (the less crazy slayer, Buffy thought). Trailed in turn by Robin Wood, Spike, Fred, Vi, Rona, Chao-Ahn, Denise, and a couple of other slayers from Sunnydale. Great, Buffy thought. Just what we need, a circus.

"Why are you here?" Buffy asked, and was shocked when Faith or Robin didn't answer, but Dana did.

"Cause I wanted to see this place. And I was bored." The others just looked at Buffy and shrugged. Great she thought. Now Crazy Dana is leading things in her absence. She failed to note Vi, Rona, and Chao-Anh looking at Dana, following her lead. Spreading out and keeping their backs to the wall. Close enough to help each other. Far away to not get in each other's way.

"You're just in time, Dana," Cordy looked at her, trying to keep from laughing. "We're all going to watch Xander's TV show." She pointed to the TV and old-style VCR by the wall. "Groo had a bit part in this episode. Watch. He's really cute."

Buffy noted, carefully, for later consideration (when they were alone) Angel's acute discomfort of Cordy gushing over Groo.

"You know my name," Dana asked askance.

"Of course. You're really important," Cordy said with a sigh. Then laughed. "I think you'll like this," as she popped the tape into the VCR.

"Xander. The one with one eye? That saved your life?" Dana pointed to Kennedy. "And yours?" She pointed to Willow. "And yours?" She pointed to Buffy.

"Yeah, that's the one," Cordy interjected before Buffy could puff herself up into an argument with Dana. The other girls relaxed just a bit as Buffy ignored Dana and looked at Angel. While Dana's eyes narrowed.

"You're sure you won't come with Groo to Pylea?" Cordy rounded on Giles, asking him again.

"I swore an oath," Giles sadly told her. "It was a number of years ago. But I haven't forgotten. What I owe." He looked, just for a moment, at Angel. Both Cordy and Mirage caught the gesture.


Watching from afar, so did the two Ninjaks. The girl's breath hissed. He's ... dangerous she realized. He's not forgotten. Even if everyone else has. Colin King nodded.

"We watch and wait," he said. "Wait. For just the right time. To strike. Like the lightning."

"From a clear blue sky." The girl finished.

"Just so."


"Giles," Cordy began. Then relented. "I'll see you then. You realize what I'm telling you?"

"Yes. I know." Giles said softly. "But an oath is an oath."

Angel looked over, having caught this exchange. How sad, he thought. Giles is willing to risk his life to fulfill his Watcher's oath. Even though Angel was more than capable of looking after Buffy. And the girls. Well, except he thought with a repressed shudder. Dana. She scared him. Still. She was strong. Stronger than him. Stronger than Buffy, come to think of it. He was resolved. To look after Giles. Protect him. Buffy would thank him. It's not something Spike would do. Speaking of which, he looked over at the blonde wonder.

He was staying well away from Dana. Had he really killed and tortured Dana's family? He denied it. But it sounded like Spike. He had a taste for young girls. Back then. Give him credit, Angel thought. He finally got it through his head. Dana was just damn dangerous. Even for him. But then, getting your hands cut off would do tend to reinforce that notion.

"So Dawn falls over furniture a lot? What, like Wes," Buffy cracked.

"Don't think Wes is the same guy, Buffy," Cordy warned. "Someone killed his girlfriend. And YOU," she pointed to Fred, "could have at least slept with him after all he did with you. Wes is just damn dangerous. Cause someone killed his girlfriend."

"Hello Cordy. And nice to see you too," Fred said puzzled. "But aren't you ... "

"Yes. And shut up Spike," Cordy told him before he could speak. "Or I'll tell Angel about the bathroom."

Spike sputtered, but wisely stayed silent. Cordy raised her hand when Angel started to ask her about the bathroom, when Fred interrupted.

"Wes was just so ... Wes. He's not Spike." Fred pouted. "You wouldn't understand, Cordy."

"No. I guess not. But gee, don't complain to me that it wasn't smart to fool around with Wes. Stringing him along? Not the brightest move. Especially after Lilah."

"She was an evil lawyer," Angel protested, but Cordy cleared her throat.

"He still loved her. And the person he wants payback on isn't ... around anymore."

"So?" Buffy asked.

"Wes wants revenge. And he's determined to have it. Even if," Cordy looked at Giles. Then Robin. Then Dana. "Even if, the revenge costs him. And the person he wants payback on doesn't exist anymore."

"Jasmine," Buffy breathed.

"Yeah. He can make people pay and pay, and it still won't bring Lilah back."

"He's trapped," Angel said. "Trapped in revenge."

"Yes. But he's still dangerous. You should know, Angel." Cordy told him.

There was an awkward pause. Then Cordy said cheerily, "Hey! Let's watch that tape!"


Considering everything, Buffy thought, it wasn't the worse thing she'd ever seen. But it was close. The cheesy music in the opening theme. The cheap, tacky sets. The laugh track. And oh my god, the characters and the lines. But the actors. It was the worst. She remembered Tori Spelling from before. This was ... even worse.

"So this ... it's broadcast everywhere?" Willow asked when the tape was stopped.

"Oh yeah. It's the number one new sitcom," Cordy said proudly. "And Groo was on it. Wasn't he great?" She gushed.

"Let's forget your boyfriends's pathetic acting career for a minute," Buffy snapped. "I want to know, why? Why?"

"Why Xander has a sitcom based on all of you, and Sunnydale? And you look like loser lunatics. But Funny Loser lunatics? Gee Buffy, I wouldn't know?" Cordy was sarcastic.

"I do not look like Ted McGinley," Angel said sourly. "I'm gonna kill him."

"At least you're not being played by David Spade," Spike said savagely. "I'm going to have think up a whole new torture just for him."

"I thought it was funny. And I'll cut off your hands again if you try to hurt him," Dana announced calmly. "Can I get a copy?" she asked Cordy.


"I do NOT look like Ted McGinley," Angel repeated.

"At least you're not being played by Tori Spelling," Buffy pouted. "Tori Spelling!"

"I'm being played by Traci Bingham. They couldn't even get Pamela Anderson?" Willow snapped. "I'm going to ... " she muttered to herself. But Buffy could make out the words "Anya" and "now I understand."

"Hey. I'm being played by Paris Hilton. The rest of you have no complaints." Kennedy groused.

"Cordy, what the hell is wrong with Xander?" Buffy asked.

But Cordy was nowhere to be found. "Where the hell did she go?" Buffy hit Angel. A bit too hard, he thought. "You were supposed to keep your vampire senses on top of things. Where the hell did Cordy go."

"She went home." Angel said sadly. "I don't think we'll see her again."

Willow looked thoughtful at this, as Giles had what appeared to be a tear in his eye, and looked over at Faith. Faith raised her eyebrow at Willow, then looked over at Robin and Dana. Uh Oh. Trouble, Willow thought. Dana just rubbed Faith the wrong way. And Robin had been stiff and uncomfortable around Faith since they'd joined them all in England. Cause well, Willow thought, Faith was big on the Angel worship? Robin, not so much. Cause of his Mom.

Willow would get Giles alone. And figure out what was going on with Cordy. Was Cordy a witch too now? Did she go back to Pylea?

Meanwhile, Dana was looking dreamily at the screen. "I think I'm in love," she told everyone. Great, Willow thought. Just what we need. ANOTHER crazy chick after Xander. Not that he didn't deserve it. This time. I mean yeah, she should have spoken up. But ... she was just surprised. Then it was too late. And it was ... Buffy.

OK! Here's the plan. We find out where Xander is doing his act. We find him. We ... beat the crap out of him. Or ... not," Buffy was explaining to the group, but never finished the sentence.

Dana walked calmly up to Buffy, and smiled at her as she was talking.

Without warning, she hit Buffy as hard as she could, sending her flying across the room, where Buffy landed with a limp "thump" that made Willow wince.

Dana looked knowingly at Vi, Rona, Chao-Ahn, Denise, and the other Sunnydale slayers.

"New plan. We go find this Xander. We check out his act. Have a few laughs. He's my new boyfriend. We have lots of sex."

"Uh Dana ... " Vi started to say.

"Oh did I say that last part out loud?" Dana asked. Then glared at Angel and Spike.

"Yeah. Gotta learn to edit Dana," Rona told her.

"Hey, you spend years in a schizophrenic state. See how well you do." Dana told her jauntily. Then glared back again at the two vampires. "Two vamps. Seven Slayers."

"Eight," Kennedy corrected her, and joined the others, to Willow's disgust. "Do the math, gents."

Angel went to revive the limply moving Buffy. Still muttering, "I do NOT look like Ted McGinley." Though, he thought, Spike DID look like David Spade.


Across the street, the two Ninjaks looked at each other.

"That was unexpected." The girl said.

"The human heart. Always a mystery." Colin King agreed.

"She just became dangerous."

"She was always dangerous, she just became more so," King corrected, as the girl nodded.

"We still wait, then?" She asked.


"One question. Why?" She looked at him with the blue-green eyes, asking the question he'd been waiting for.

"Why did I train you, you mean? Instead of the others?"

"Yes. I mean, I'm just a slayer. Not a very experienced one. Dana's rage drives her. Makes her strong. Maybe the strongest. Did you see what she did to ... her? Though she's not very smart in a fight. She fights with strength, instead of ... "

"Flowing, like water."

"Or the wind." The girl added.

"Like you do." He said, and the girl smiled under the compliment.

"But Faith? She's smart. Tough. Experienced. She wouldn't understand the Way though. She's bound to the wheel. With two men." She shrugged her shoulders.

"The others, though. Even the least of them has more experience as a slayer than I do."

"That's not why I chose to train you."

"So I could walk right past a vampire, and not even have them recognize me? Even with their sense of smell and hearing? Fight like a Ninja, use James Bond gadgets, and act like a spy out a John LeCarre novel?" She laughed. "I read. When I'm not training. It gives me ideas. New stuff. To test."

"Strength and skill are only part of what makes Ninjak. There was another before me, and you will be after me." He looked at her. "Even I won't cheat time. Eventually I will pass from the world. And so will you. And you'll be faced with the same choice. It was your spirit that drew me. You have the spirit to be Ninjak. And the others, for all their strengths, their skills, their abilities, they don't. And never will."

Colin King paused.

"I have known many heroes. And I once had hopes ..."

"You trained another? It was HER?" the girl said excitedly.

"Yes. But she left to ... "

"Protect Xander. She's obsessed with it. Dawn." The girl said flatly. "You trained Dawn Summers. To be Ninjak."

"She had your spirit. But her choice was her own. As is yours. But alone of the heroes I know, even counting Magnus, Eternal Warrior, and Rai, you understand what must be done. We become Ninjak to protect. Not for revenge. Not for power. Not to become champions," he spat out the word. "If we are Ninjak, we are only a whisper on the wind, putting fear into the hearts of those who would hurt the innocent."

"They don't understand? Not even Dawn?" She asked.

"Dawn knows. She just chose to protect Xander instead. A choice you cannot make ... as Ninjak." Colin told her.

"I know. It's just ... she's everything I hate." And Colin knew the girl was talking about Buffy, not Dawn.

"For years I used to pray for a little sister. And this girl? She gets one. Dawn should be the most important thing in her life. And Xander? He saved her life. Instead she's fawning over ... vampires. Even sleeping with them. I'm only sixteen. And even I know that's wrong."

She looked at Colin, clear eyes pleading. "Tell me I won't end up like her. Like ... BUFFY."

"Elizabeth Anne Summers. You are the finest person I know. Your doppelganger chose her own path, just as you have chosen to be Ninjak. If I did not trust you with the world, I would never have trained you in the first place."

Buffy smiled. For the first time since seeing ... the alternate her, she felt secure. Safe that no matter what, she'd stay who she was. Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers. Late of Hemery High School. Former High School Sophomore. A slayer, taught by her Watcher, Merrick. And now, Ninjak. Secret hero. And most important, follower of the most Excellent Way. Freeing herself from the Wheel. Achieving, step by step, enlightenment.


"You're welcome, Buffy." Colin told her. And she was happy. The man who'd become her second father trusted her with more than his life. He trusted her with Ninjak.


Xander groaned, as he struggled with his clothes. Why was it that a quickie was never quick? Now he was late. He'd be late all day.He looked in the corner, and saw it. Sitting in the umbrella stand. Veronica had complained. Wanted to throw it out. Said it stank. Which, it did. A rather ratty looking spear, not very well made, with dried blood on it. Sitting in his umbrella stand. In the corner of his hallway. Half hidden behind various umbrellas. As if it ever rained here.

He'd thrown a fit, when Geoff brought the damn thing. Just what he needed, the Spear of Destiny. A magical whatsit that would draw every mystically powered bad guy in the Western Hemisphere. But Geoff promised that it was masked. And that no one could locate it. Not even Willow. And that it was important that he keep it.

In return, he'd gotten invited to some party out in Malibu. Some Hollywood bigshot producer named Armstrong was throwing a big bash, and there was a chance to network. Xander so wanted a movie. TV was great, but movies made a lot more money. Mike Myers was going to be there. And so was Jim Carrey. Heck even Adam Sandler was invited.

And there was more. Veronica was leaving for New York later today. And the Armstrong guy was legendary for having hot and cold running honeys around. Not that he'd touch. But he'd sure as hell look. Besides, rumor had it that he had a real live freakin dinosaur at the place. Which meant, Xander thought, given Hollywood exaggeration, a Komodo dragon. But hey, anything that would take a bite out of Sharon Stone's ex was OK by him. I mean, a Komodo dragon. He just had to see it.

This was Hollywood, he told himself. Things were relatively sane here. Not like Sunnydale. OK, there was that guy he and Dawn and Devon met in New Orleans, that pal of Oz's. The Jazz musician. What was his name? Oh yeah. Jack Boniface. He was weird. He got Buffy vibes all over from him, but Oz swore up and down he was just a musician. Guy played sax, and was supposed to be pretty good too, according to Oz and Devon. He was supposed to show up tonight at the club. Hey, as long as he laughed, it was all good. Dawn would be there, Devon in tow. He didn't like Devon much in High School. But now? He made Dawn happy. That made him OK with Xander.

It wouldn't be a dinosaur. Just a big lizard. Hey, maybe Steve Irwin would show up. Boniface was just some guy. All musicians were weird. Look at Oz. Nothing would go wrong. He just wouldn't let it.

Oh, and Groo was coming. He and some pal of his, Aric Dacia. The big shot CEO of Orb industries. He got a ton of Buffy vibes off him, but chalked it up to the guy being both rich, and weird. He had that creepy, gloved aide around him all the time. Ken Clarkson. Reminded him of Andrew. Except he sorta liked this Ken. Sometimes. This Dacia guy and Clarkson talked sometimes about the "good skin." Whatever the heck that was ... he didn't want to know. Don't ask. Don't tell. He figured. It was always the big macho man types, he figured. And to top it off, guy talked funny. One time he went nuts, thinking he saw a "Roman General" named Glaad or Gilad or something. His boyfriend Ken had to plead with him to not make a scene. Whatever. Xander figured breakups were tough no matter who your new life partner was. Straight or gay.

Groo was alright though. They'd met at Cordy's grave. Guy carried a torch for her still. Had her pictures up all over the place. Said he talked to his "princess" sometimes. It was kinda sad. Xander knew the feeling, he supposed. Though truth be told he hadn't thought about Anya in a long while.

Vampires, he thought. They deserved what the got. Which was, he realized, the girl. More often than not. Guys like him and Groo got screwed. He was glad to get Groo parts on the show when he could. Guy was flat out funny. A natural's delivery. And he respected that. And he was a decent guy. Not too many of them around. Especially in this town.


Ken Clarkson looked up at the house. Lights were on. And people were there, moving around. He motioned Aric and Groo towards him.

"I can hear them. But I can't see them. Aric? Can you?" Ken asked.

"It's likely to be expensive. If they're human, and not Spider Aliens, " Groo's eyes twinkled at the thought.

"As your accountant then, I advise against it," Ken told Aric.

"They have invaded the home of my friend, Grusalug. What sort of Visigoth Chieftan would I be if I let that pass, and slunk away like a Roman?" Aric asked. Ken sighed. Aric ended up paying out a lot of money. After one of his rampages. He was just glad that he'd convinced Aric that guy they saw at the restaurant wasn't the "Roman General" he was always bitching about. Life could suck, he supposed, even for a time lost Visigoth with the most powerful alien armor in the universe.

Aric drew out his hand from beneath his jacket. Wearing the ring. THAT ring. Ken never got tired of this next part. It thrilled him. Even though he cringed at the thought of what it would cost.

"Good skin, to me!" Aric cried. And humming through the night, a multi colored ball of red and gold and silver approached Aric quickly, turning almost liquid as it did not slow down but sort of well, splashed all over him. Encasing him in the XO Armor.

There was nothing worse, Ken thought, than an angry Visigoth with an XO suit of war armor. Well, if you were a Spider Alien. If you were a good guy it would be pretty cool. Whoever pulled the home invasion on old Groo here was in for a rude surprise. An XO Man-o-War suprise.

Chapter 3

Los Angeles June 2005

Buffy was standing by the door when the figure in red and gold clad armor crashed through the door, smacking her full on and sending her flying through the air where she slammed into the wall with a thump, ending her role in the fight.

Angel didn't fare much better, as Aric hit him harder than even the Beast, Angel thought. Stunned, he sank to his knees as Spike launched himself at the strangers. The armor clad figure simply backhanded Spike and sent him tumbling through the air where he landed next to Buffy's inert form.

Faith moved to defend the stunned and kneeling Angel, when Robin, Dana, Vi, and Rona pulled her aside and screamed "No!" Kennedy heard this, and moved to protect Willow. There was no way she'd let Willow get hurt.

Shrugging free of the three slayers and her lover, like a man taking off a jacket, Faith moved quickly to the un-armored, tall, and dark haired stranger, slowly gaining the upper hand until Aric turned his attention to her and away from Angel.

Faith was soon flying through the air as well, thumping into the wall. Unlike Buffy and Spike, however, she was soon back on her feet, though wobbly. She grinned savagely and said with more confidence than her wobbling stance would indicate, "OK boys. Bring it on. I can take it, and dish it out too. Let's find out about you."

Angel glanced at Groo.

"Groo, what the hell is going on?"

"You entered my dwelling without my permission. How did you get in?" Groo asked Angel.

Groo held up his hands as the armored figure advanced towards Angel. "I know him. He shouldn't be here. But he is."

"Who is this?" the figure in Armor asked.

The voice coming from the armored figure sounded like stones grinding together in heavy surf, muffled. And definitely electronic, Angel thought. As did Robin, Giles, and Willow. Definitely not a magical beast, Angel felt relief. Anything well, human he could deal with. He always had.

Groo looked at the picture of Cordy on the wall. Glass shattered and the frame askew in the fight. "My princess invited you in, didn't she," he said with a voice close to tears as he moved to straighten the picture. It just seemed so ... pathetic, Angel thought. And felt himself a pang of guilt. He'd never mourned Cordy. Hell, with everything going on he'd simply forgotten her.

The armored figure looked at Groo with what Angel and the others could swear was a movement that indicated well, compassion. A mood shattered when a small, dark haired man came in. Wearing a glove on his right hand. Strange, thought Giles. It soon got stranger.

The little man soon started, well shouting at the much bigger figure in red and gold armor. Like a terrier, barking at a hound, Angel had the image in his mind.

"Jeezus, Aric! What the hell were you thinking? Oh wait, you weren't. When you go on one of your little rampages, who in the hell has to clean up everything? Go on, take a guess. Just guess?" The little man was turning beet red with rage, as everyone paused, taken aback by the unexpected turn to the end of the fight.

Buffy and Spike struggled to their knees, groggy and confused. Faith raised an eyebrow as she spit blood out from her mouth. And the other slayers huddled together wondered.

"I am sorry Ken Clarkson," the armor clad figure rumbled, sounding almost contrite. "But it seemed that our friend Groo needed our assistance."

The figure stared down at the ground, then looked at Angel, Spike and the others. And grew, well agitated, was the only word Angel could think of.

"They're ... " the figure began, addressing Groo.

"Yes, I know," Groo said sadly. "A vampire." He looked at Angel with hurt puppy dog eyes. "My princess invited them in."

Angel wouldn't look at Groo. Who in turn put his hand on the armored figure who looked as if he would resume the fight.

"Two of them are vampires. And one is a witch, a powerful one. The others are ... something else. Perhaps like the Harbingers of Toyo Harada. Though the Good Skin thinks they are something else. Regardless, the vampires should be destroyed. It should only take moments," the figure concluded confidently.

"No." Groo said flatly. "My princess does not desire it."

"But the witch," the figure in armor protested. "It could be allied with Master Darque. One can never trust a witch, one of them tried to kill Alaric in the service of the Romans."

"Oh god, not THAT again," the small man named Ken grew angry at the memory, after having his anger run down somewhat at Groo's calming effects on the armored figure. "Last time, when you 'thought' you saw a 'Roman General?' Remember that little fiasco? Do you know how much money Orb Industries had to pay? How many strings I had to pull just to keep you out of jail? Or the media? You trashed that entire hotel!"

"It was a Roman General. It was Gilad. I should know. I fought against him with Alaric when," the armored figure began when the man cut him off.

"That's what you always say. Fight the Spider aliens? OK no problem there, and hell the President even gave us medals and we got to meet Colin Powell. But hell, tearing up the Hilton cause you *thought* you saw some guy who reminded you of someone back in the day? Not fricking cool. And you sure as hell PROMISED me we wouldn't get involved in these stupid fights any more. We'd actually DO SOMETHING instead of fighting Master Darque, or the frickin H.A.R.D. Corps, or Malevs, or that asshole Dr. Silk. Like maybe make some money and sell cool stuff. We're sitting on ... " the man looked at everyone hanging on his word, Giles and Robin in particular looking like they were running mental tape recorders.

"Never fucking mind. Just remember you PROMISED."

"I am sorry, Ken Clarkson," the figure said abashed, like a tolerant hound badgered by a yapping little packmate. "But a Visigoth chieftan does not give up the way of the warrior when his friend is in need. I would not be Aric of Dacia if I did not come to the Grusalag's aid, nor would I be worthy of wearing the Good Skin."

"Nothing worse than an angry Visigoth in X-O Armor," the man muttered under his breath, as he moved to pick up the still groggy Buffy.

"I'm sorry. I'm Ken Clarkson, CFO of Orb Industries." The man smiled at Buffy. "Here's a check for ten thousand dollars. Send any medical bills to Orb. We'll pick up the tab. Full coverage. Again, my deepest apologies." He smiled at Buffy, trying to be calm and radiating cheerful efficiency, almost desperately.

"You had a check already prepared?" The armored figure asked incredulously, even under the electronic distortion of the voice.

"A whole bunch of them, actually," Clarkson answered. Do you know how long it took to pay everyone off the last time? Maybe we should just have an armored car follow us around, handing out cash the next time you feel like blowing off steam?" The man's angry sarcasm was evident as he was handing out checks to everyone in the room.

"You're giving the vampire a check?" the armored figure asked, annoyed at the action.

"Why not. At least this way he won't sue us. Of course, you could always have a big old rampage again, hell maybe THIS time you could take out a whole neighborhood. It's not as if we don't have expenses of our own."

"I said I was sorry."

"What? What did you say? The S word?"

"Don't push it," the figure in armor warned, growing annoyed.

"Fine. Just try not to break anything else today? OK?"

"What in the hell is going on here," Faith asked. "Would one of you bozos fill us in on ... what the HELL you are?" Faith pointed at the armored figure.

"He's X-O Man O'War, otherwise known as Aric of Dacia, Visigoth chieftan to Alaric, King of the Goths." Hwen Mirage answered her, appearing out of ... well nowhere.

Clarkson jumped several feet in the air. "Don't do that!"

"Dr. Mirage. Your appearance does not bode well," the figure in armor mused. "What is it this time?"

"What we've always feared. Unity. And Mother God." Hwen Mirage's ghostly figure answered.

"That was why MY princess let you in? To warn you?" Groo brightened a bit, hoping that Cordy was just there as a warning. Not to say goodbye to Angel.

"Actually, to warn Buffy here," Giles answered, as Buffy shook her head to clear her blurry vision.

There was an awkward silence, followed by Faith's raised eyebrow at Angel, to Robin's annoyance.

"I met Groo in Pylea. He and Cordy, well ... "

"She was my princess," Groo said sadly. "Mine. Not yours." Groo looked at Angel, and spat out the word, "Vampire."

"You mean Champion," Angel answered back. "I'm this world's champion."

"Not perhaps any more," Dr. Mirage told Angel as he passed through him, Groo, and even the armored figure. All of whom shuddered at his ghostly passage. "There's Aric here. And others."

"You are not a champion, Angel," Groo spoke gravely, deliberately. "A champion would not have let my princess die. You are just a vampire. Aric is a champion. Turok is a champion. Even, in his own way, Shadowman. But not you."

"Groo, I'm .. " Angel began, but Groo cut him off.

"No. You are not sorry. And you are not allowed to say her name. That is only for a champion. Which you are not." Groo was close to tears as he spoke, and became angry. Which seemed to agitate his friend in the red and gold armor.

Seeing this, Clarkson answered Giles unspoken question. "Spider Aliens. Abducted Visigoths from the Fifth Century. Time travel through Relativity. And alien X-O Armor. Answer your question?"

"Actually, no," Giles said with a peevish annoyance. This man was as bad as Andrew in his own way. Giles already hated him. "This sort of thing isn't familiar to me. Vampires and Demons are my specialty. Though ... Alaric? Of the Goths? You knew him?" Giles asked the figure.

In response, the Armor's helmet well changed. And a clear shield formed in front of the figure's face. Revealing a man in his thirties, with a pleasant though somewhat battered and handsome face. "Yes Wise Man. I knew him. He was my ... King. I miss him."

Giles could swear he could see a tear in the man's eyes.

"Sounds like something Andrew would dream up," Faith snorted.

"Who's Andrew?" Dr. Mirage asked.

"No one important," Buffy answered. And struggled over to where Angel, Groo, and the armored figure stood. "Your name is Aric, right?"


"I'm Buffy. The Slayer."

"I have heard of such. Heroes, all. Yet ... why?" The man in the armor gestured to Angel and Spike.

"Because they're needed just now," Dr. Mirage said with a hint of impatience.

"You're Groo?" Buffy asked.


"Where's Cordy?" Buffy asked innocently. "I heard you talking about her but couldn't make it out." She told X-O, "You hit me pretty hard. I still have this ringing in my ears."

Fred cut in with annoyance. "That's what we were trying to tell you Buffy. But you wouldn't listen. Cordy died."

"So did you," Buffy shot back. "Hell who hasn't died and come back?" She laughed.

"My princess," Groo answered her. And stood there, sobbing, breaking down completely. The armored man known as Aric embraced him.

"I too know of loss, my friend. There is no shame for a warrior to weep for his woman, or family," Aric told him gently, and stared off into space.

There was an awkward silence as everyone stood watching Groo simply sob in the arms of his armored friend. Eventually the tears stopped.

Clarkson handed Groo a hankerchief, and Groo wiped away his tears, and blew his nose.

"I'm sorry," Buffy said gently. "I didn't know."

"I want to leave now. Can I stay with you?" Groo asked the armored Aric.

"Of course my friend," the man in armor answered.

"About Cordy," Angel started, and the man in armor simply shoved him aside like a toy. And pointed at the couch behind Angel. A sword like extension of his armor appeared from his side, looking strangely ... well alive. With one swipe that was too fast for even Angel, he moved with the sword like object and cut the couch in half.

"You have bothered my friend enough. Now we shall now leave. You have five minutes to gather your people and leave also."

"Great. You killed the couch. Who knows what danger lurked there?" Clarkson tried a bad imitation of Aric.

"Do not mock me, Ken Clarkson. I will remind you loyalty is both given and received. A way of life you have not always embraced."

Clarkson fingered his right hand, in the glove, with his ungloved left hand.

"Point taken." He then started to have a horrified look on his face as Aric gathered him in his right arm, and the still red eyed Groo in his left arm.

"We have the limo. We have a frickin limo! There's no need! We don't have to do this. Hell I'LL pay for everything. Out of my own salary. Aric, let's not be hasty. Please don't."

"Stop whimpering like a child, Ken Clarkson. The Good Skin and I are in agreement. We wish to be quit of this place, and the open sky calls to us."

With that, a strange glowing field enveloped the three, the two men in the armored figure's arms. And without warning, all three suddenly shot straight up. Through the ceiling, punching a giant hole in the ceiling and roof above, and showering everyone with plaster dust.

They could hear Ken Clarkson's faint "Oh God No! I hate this. I'm gonna be sick!" wafting down from above. Then, there was silence except for the occasional falling chunk of plaster or wood framing. Then, about thirty seconds later, a rain of vomit. Evidently, Giles thought, Ken Clarkson had been sick. He noted with satisfaction Angel did not dodge all of it, and was fussing with his leather overcoat.

"Do you have any idea how much it'll take to get this dry cleaned?" Angel groused.

"Well, that went well," Buffy joked. She looked at Giles, "I'm starting to see your point about head trauma." She told Angel, "You could have said something about Cordy, you know."

"It never came up," Angel said defensively.

"And it did go well," the ghostly Dr. Mirage told Buffy. "He could have killed everyone you know. Without working up so much as a sweat. He took on an entire Roman Army, and defeated Spider Alien Warriors to win the Good Skin. And that was without the damn X-O Armor. With it? Only Solar Man of the Atom or Magnus Robot Fighter are in his class. Or maybe Shadowman, depending. I guess."

"What in the hell are you talking about?" Buffy demanded. She had a pounding headache. And an angry disposition that was getting worse by the second.

Dr. Mirage started to answer, but Buffy didn't hear his reply. Neither did any of the other slayers, as they all fell forward, slumped into unconsciousness at the same time. To Angel's, Willow's, Robin's and Giles's horror. While Fred looked on indifferently and Spike grinned. Until he caught Willow's angry glare. And warning look. A look that told him, "Don't try anything unless you want to lose your skin." He shuddered.


Buffy, Faith, Vi, Kennedy, Rona, Chao Ahn, Dana, and Denise all looked around. From the shattered remains of the living room to the ... desert? At night. The stars shone brightly, and the fire next to them burned hot against the chilled air. Where the hell were they?

"I think I know where we are," Buffy began, when she was interrupted. By a savage, primal figure, dressed in badly cured animal skins, and with tribal facepaint.

"You know nothing. Look at where you've been," the First Slayer told her, and pointed to the fire.

As much as they all wanted to, they couldn't look away. And what they saw in the fire, to their horror, amazement, wonder, and bafflement, they just couldn't understand.


Buffy was bored. Bored, bored, bored. This class was looking like a mistake. She idly doodled "Buffy N Angel 4eva!" on her notebook. Then thought a bit, and angrily crossed it out. Bastard had left her. Just like her Father. Had left. Buffy ... and Mom.

Psych was HARD. And this Professor Walsh looked like no push over. Maybe Willow could help. She was always up on the study stuff. Buffy sighed. Nope. She'd have to do it herself. She relied on Willow too much already. And god knows, with Oz attached to Willow's hip, it's not like Will had tons of time on her hands. Buffy brightened at the thought that maybe SHE'D be the one to help Will with HER homework. That would be cool. And maybe Oz had a friend. Or that cute assistant Dr. Walsh had. The TA. What was his name? Riley? He was cute. Major Cute. And it was time for a change from the broody dangerous guys.

Gods, would Dr. Walsh EVER shut up?

"... I'm known as the bitch goddess from hell," Dr. Walsh was winding up, when a laugh came from a couple of rows below Buffy. A slender, dark haired girl who looked vaguely familiar was laughing. At Dr. Walsh. This couldn't be good, Buffy thought. She'd get kicked out of the class.

"Something funny?" Dr. Walsh stopped dead in her tracks and fixed the girl with a glare that would freeze a vampire, Buffy thought. And the girl was still laughing.

"Sorry. Just that I met a REAL hell goddess. Name of Glory. Wanted to kill me, open up all dimensions. So she could go home. She was a real piece of work. You? You're nothing compared to the real thing. Really."

Dr. Walsh was angry. "I assume you want to drop this class, Miss?"

"Summers. Dawn Summers. And no, I'm not in your class, Dr. Walsh. I just came here to stop A.D.A.M." The girl looked at Dr. Walsh. "But you can call me the Key. Most everyone does. Now." She stood up and shrugged off her overcoat, revealing a bodysuit with armor built in, and a bandolier with ... Buffy saw to her horror, GUNS. Big guns. Strapped under each shoulder. There was a big ... well KEY on her chest. Willow was mesmerized by the girl's chest, Buffy saw. Probably some sort of magical beastie, and Will was already on the ball. Don't you mess with MY class, Buffy thought. I mean College was supposed to be DIFFERENT. Not like High School.

"I used to be famous you know. Now? Just another stupid superfreak." The girl sighed. "Cliff Notes version. You know, A.D.A.M.?" the girl continued, moving to the floor in front of the seats. "The stupid Frankenstein Monster you're building in secret for the Initiative? In Room 314? The one you won't let Agent Finn in?" Dr. Walsh was stunned. How did she know this? "Hello, A.D.A.M.? The thing that calls you mother? You know, it ended up killing you and tried to make new monsters out of demons and Initiative body parts? Before my sister the slayer stopped him?" She smiled at Riley. "Good to see you again Agen Riley Finn. For the very first time. I guess."

Riley looked at the girl, "That's a remarkable story you're telling, Miss Summers." He raised an eyebrow. "Maybe you'd like to discuss it in private?"

"What I'd like to do is go hang out with my cool Rock N Roll boyfriend, but no, I have to fight monsters." The girl sighed. "Did you know that Dr. Walsh is feeding you mind control drugs and super-steroids? Those 'vitamins?' And she's got some sort of fail-safe chip in you, sorta like the one she had on Hostile 17? You know, Spike? My sister's LATEST icky undead sex toy?"

Riley looked at Walsh, who went absolutely white with fear. This girl knew stuff even he didn't. How? Riley thought about the vitamins. And how they made him feel. But Walsh's face told him all he needed to know. It was true. But who was this girl and how did she know all this?

"You are NOT my sister," Buffy said angrily as she got up from her chair in horror. This girl even looked a bit like her, but she was obviously insane. "Spike? Are you crazy? Insane? What the hell are you?"

"Buffy, I love you. But hell, Angel wasn't just a one time deal. I mean, Mom was right to put you in the nuthouse in LA. I mean, you expected Giles to be OK with Angel when he killed Jenny? To EVER be OK with him? And  Xander told me you had sex with Spike when you were invisible right in front of him. Buffy? Kids SAW you. In the alley by the dumpster. At the Bronze. You know what they called you at school? Buffy the vampire layer. Everyone knew Buffy. You were a total joke. You're sick for vampires. Spike tried to rape you, and you STILL made excuses for him. Hell you even made Riley get the Initiative chip out, the one that kept him from maybe killing me, or Xander. You called it sick. Do you know how sick it is to love the guy who raped you more than you love your sister? And to do what you did? To make your own sister ... ashamed of you?" The girl was near tears.

Gathering herself, the girl told her, "I don't have time for this bullshit. Just get these people up there," the girl pointed. "A.D.A.M. is going to come busting up here in just a few moments. We're running out of time."

The door burst open, and Xander, Oz, Amy, and bunch of people Buffy didn't know marched through. Followed by Faith.

"I don't have a sister," Buffy shouted.

"That's what you always say, Buffy." Xander said calmly.

Looking at the girl, he said in an annoyed voice. "You couldn't just pull the fire alarm? You had to make the big scene? Can you stop fighting with Buffy for just one second and focus on A.D.A.M?"

"How many of these people do you want to lose Xander? I'm not letting innocents die on us anymore. No more Chloes. No More Taras. No more ... We have to protect them." She angrily gestured around the room, as Buffy noted the girls behind Xander and Faith were nodding. As was Faith herself.

"Right with you there, Dawnie." Faith agreed.

Buffy and Willow both gasped. Xander ... he was ... OLDER. And missing an eye. His left eye was covered with an eyepatch. And he looked, well, angry and bitter. Not their Xander.

"Good point." Xander conceded. "But I still don't like it."

"Hey B." Faith was ... what the hell? Awkward. "Will."

Xander turned to look behind him, as a giant man, dressed in well, gold body paint and with red eyes, covered in bandoleers and bristling with weapons including a sword entered the room.

"Project Rising Spirit," Dr. Walsh said aloud, stunned. "He exists."

"So you know Bloodshot, then," Xander said. "We're here to stop A.D.A.M. These are part of the Harbingers." He motioned behind him. "This isn't Smile Time. It's the real deal."

Buffy moved down the rows to face Faith. "I don't know what sick deal you have Faith, but you're going down." Buffy moved to strike Faith who was just ... standing there.

When she was hit before she could connect by an African American girl. Hit hard. SLAYER hard. She tumbled back.

"Hey Buffy," the girl told her, "we all took a vote."

A red haired girl wearing a hat moved off to one side, "All the other slayers that is. And we decided, you're the biggest slut in the universe."

The Asian girl moved up, and said very carefully, as if it were the only words in English she knew "Fuck You Buffy."

A smallish girl with hungry eyes looked over at Willow. "Hey Will." Her voice was suggestive. Why was she talking to Will like that, Buffy wondered. "Thanks for making us all Slayers Buffy. But what you did ... it's unforgiveable."

An Indian looking girl, kinda cute, came up and hugged Xander. "Don't worry Xander, I'm your body guard. I won't let that bitch hurt you." The girl called Dawn rolled her eyes, and the other girls giggled.

"Not now Dana. Please." Xander was ... what? Annoyed with her? Since when was Xander annoyed with a girl actually paying attention to him. Oh yeah. Anya. This girl was like ... well sorta like Anya.

The African American girl continued, "Faith is one of us. She actually cared about us. Knew our names."

"I got some of us hurt ... " Faith was apologetic but the red haired girl cut her off.

"You just made a mistake. But you're not a bitch, or a total skanky ho. Like Buffy."

"No one blames you, Faith," the African American girl said.

"And you mess with Faith, you mess with all of us," the Asian girl finished.

"Hey younger me," this ... older Oz nodded to ... Oz.

"Hey," Willow's Oz nodded. Some things never changed.

"In case you didn't figure it out, Buff, we're from the future," Xander told her.

Amy looked at Willow. "It's not like you want him. I mean, you go through your girlfriends like they're water, Will."

"Hey!" the small, dark haired and dark eyed girl with the hungry eyes protested. "Will's mine."

"Hello Will? Gay now?" the girl calling herself Dawn snickered. Buffy felt ill. She even laughed kinda like Mom. And kinda like herself.

"I think I'm gonna be sick," Willow muttered as she clung to Oz. "This is worse than that time with Anya, and that vampire me."

The girl continued, "We're cleaning up your mess. You and Will's. As usual."

"You broke time Buffy. You just wouldn't leave things alone, for once. I understand why. I really do. But you made everything worse. And now all this crap." Xander was bitter. "You know I had my own TV show? Now I have to deal with all this!" He motioned to the crowd who came in with him.

"When A.D.A.M. comes in, don't get too close to him. Hit him and then get out." Faith nodded, and Buffy noted how the other girls looked to her.

"I thought there was only one slayer," Riley asked. "At least, that was the legend."

"Things changed," Xander told him. "Good to see you again Riley. I always liked you."

He looked to the giant gold man. "You can shut him down with the  .... whatever it is you do?"

"Sure." It was the first words the giant had spoken.

"Well, thanks Ray." Xander was a bit exasperated. "It's a good thing we have you here."

The girl called Dawn got out her big pistols and stood off to one side of the room, "Ready Xander."

The other girls, moved off to various points in the room, while Riley and Xander moved to herd the class up to the top of the seats in the raised stadium seating. A low rumbling sound came from ... the ground. Deep underneath the ground.

Amy shouted some word, and turned into ... it looked like some sort of fire demon. She was definitely on fire. And FLOATING. In the middle of the room. The older Oz nodded to her, and started changing. Oh god, he was going into the Wolf mode. Except, he didn't. Not completely. He was half man. And half werewolf. He looked hungry, like that time Angel drank from her. But still in control. So far.

Willow shivered next to Oz. "What's going on Oz? Is that really you?"

"Looks like," was Oz's cryptic reply.

The ground began to buckle. And the light started to fade. Odd, it wasn't even noon yet. Suddenly, a huge demonic figure burst through the floor. Was this A.D.A.M?

The figure was huge, easily ten feet tall. He had horns on his head, and cloven feet. Definitely a demon then. Buffy moved forward in the now dark room, illuminated only by the lights overhead.

"FAITH." The demon's voice reverberated through the room. It sounded like rocks being ground together. Which fit, Buffy thought as she moved to face the thing, It looked like a giant demonic rock.

"Oh shit," Faith screamed. "It's the BEAST."

"This isn't A.D.A.M?" Xander yelled.

"I can still shoot it," Dawn yelled back. And proceeded to do just that. To absolutely no effect whatsover.

"FAITH." The demon laughed. "Where is Angelus?"

"This is the thing Angel fought in LA!" Faith screamed.

"The one that put out the sun?" Xander yelled back.

"Yeah," Faith answered as she moved in to hit the thing. Which backhanded her across the room.

Xander looked over the gold giant. And nodded. The giant gold man moved quickly to one side of the room. He jumped up, grasping hold of the window sill. And pulled himself up, crashed through the window.

Great, Buffy thought as she moved to face the ... whatever it was. Giant Rock Demon. Future Xander comes in looking all tough and mean, with a bunch of psychos, and his big gun ... runs away. Wow. Up to her again. She wished Angel was here. He'd actually help her.

"Where is Angel? Where is Connor?" The thing was bellowing, batting around the girls but taking some damage in return. Buffy moved in and hit the thing with a couple of quick combinations Angel had taught her. The thing countered her, and grasped her arm in a vise like grip.

"Where is Connor? Angel's son?" the thing asked her. "Where is my master?"

"Angel doesn't have a son, idiot." She kicked the Beast in the face, and he just laughed.

"Of course he does, little slayer. Connor. Angel and Darla's son. The Destroyer. Where is Connor?" The Beast laughed and gripped her arm harder. It felt like her arm would soon break under the pressure. "Faith hits harder, you know," the Beast added casually.

Buffy was surprised at what happened. Faith came streaking out of nowhere, and HIT the thing full in the face. As hard as she could. The Beast, or whatever Faith called it, used his free hand to bat Faith away as casually as one would swat a fly. Then the girl, Dawn, moved to the thing and put her guns right in the Beast's mouth, pulling the trigger as fast as she could.

It just laughed, and ... spit out the bullets. It spit out the bullets, Buffy screamed to herself. It let go of Buffy and grabbed the girl. It smiled. "The Key," it laughed.

"Leave her alone," Xander said, then bent over and ... whispered something to the ground. Which promptly ... moved in a series of waves. Toppling over the demon, who let go of Dawn. The next wave moved the girl Dawn across the room. Away from the demon.

"Geomancer." The demon sprang to his cloven feet facing Xander.

"My bad luck, yeah." Xander faced the thing.

Amy yelled something Buffy couldn't catch, and started throwing ... fireballs at the thing. It just stood there, grinning, then stooped to grab a piece of the broken floor. It threw it at Amy, connecting with a thump, and dropping her still flaming figure to the floor. Which started to bubble and melt with the heat. Buffy could feel it even across the room. Amy groaned slightly, and changed. From whatever fire demon she was ... back into well just Amy. Buffy thought she preferred Amy as a rat. At least that way she wouldn't threaten to burn down her classroom.

The older Oz man wolf or whatever the hell he was quickly attacked the demonic figure, with the regrouped slayers. He tossed them all aside, and the future Oz after slamming into the wall next to Amy, slumped. And turned back to Oz. Well, except he was older.

The slayers were scattered in turn, like leaves in the wind, and the girl called Dawn yelled a warning.


The demonic figure was moving across the room, facing Xander.

"Where is my master?" He picked up Xander by the throat.

"Jasmine's a bit busy right now," Xander gasped out, "How about we serve you up an extra helping of disgusting maggots and tentacles. A higher being special?"

"You have only one eye," the Beast observed.

"And they said you were stupid." Xander managed a croaking wisecrack.

"Angelus said that?"

"Yeah. But don't take it personally. Angelus is a smart ass."

"I hate him."

"Hey me too," Xander managed.

"I'm still going to put out your other eye," the Beast said. "Where is my master?"

The girl called Dawn screamed "No," and started shooting again, with the same useless effect. The girl called Dana struggled to her feet, and started to stagger to the Beast. Buffy moved her feet, which felt like lead. Underwater. This future Xander may be an asshole. But if anyone was going to kick his ass it would be her. Not some demon ... thingy.

"No you won't," Xander said. "He's coming."

"Angelus?" The Beast was puzzled.

"No. Bloodshot."

There was a honking horn of a big rig from outside. Then, all hell broke loose. A big truck came crashing through the wall. A very big truck. Some sort of tanker. With the gold giant at the wheel.

Xander yelled, "Get back," to Buffy, Dana, and Dawn, all who were advancing to the Beast.

The gold giant simply pointed at the truck. The words "Danger. Liquid Nitrogen" were printed prominently on the side of the tanker.

Buffy found new energy as she moved quickly across the floor, grabbing the girls called Dawn and Dana in each arm and throwing them up to the higher reaches where the rest of the class was huddled, shivering, Willow, her Oz, and Dr. Walsh along with Riley keeping order as much as they could. Buffy struggled up the rows, trying to desperately gain height. The other slayers moved quickly to drag the future Oz and Amy, as well as the staggering Faith to higher ground as well.

The gold giant moved to the top of the truck, hand poised on the valve to release the liquid nitrogen. There was a sudden "popping" sound, and a girl appeared ... floating in the middle of the room.

"Sting." The gold giant stated flatly.

"I got here as soon as I could," the girl floating in the middle of the room was defensive.

"Now?" Xander spit out. "Now for god's sake."

"Oh." The gold giant unleashed the liquid nitrogen.

"That will do nothing, little gold man," the Beast laughed. "I am born of the molten rocks of the earth. Fire, bullets, even a slayer. They will do nothing."

The liquid had now pooled around the Beast. Buffy could see the feet of the Beast now completely frozen.

"How about something really really cold?" Xander gasped. "What do you think that would do?"

The Beast moved forward. And his legs shattered, sending him tumbling to the floor. He let go of Xander, to use his arms to brace himself for impact. And bellowed. Xander fell toward the floor. When he suddenly zoomed upwards. And Buffy noticed a bit of a bead of sweat on the girl floating in the middle of the room.

The two moved over to the stepped seats, joining everyone else, as the gold giant leaped the gap easily and held out his hand to the newcomer.

"Good to see you again, Sting."

Xander looked at her with a ... well Buffy had to admit, "evil eye," was the best description.

"I said I was sorry I was late. You try move around when time is all screwed up. It's not like I'm Timewalker."

"Asshole," the girl named Dawn muttered, and shot the now completely frozen beast. Again. With her guns. This time, however, the frozen beast shattered into thousands of pieces.

"Ah Dr. Walsh," Buffy asked. "Can we cancel homework for next class?"

Dr. Walsh glared at her, and Buffy quickly added, "Just asking. You know, in case any more demons attack?"

"Who are you guys?" Willow demanded, rounding on the older Oz, with a somewhat stunned Amy in his arms.

"Will." The older Oz sure sounded like Oz.

The girl with the hungry eyes came up to Willow, and shoved Oz aside. Well, younger Oz, Buffy thought. Taking Willow in her arms, she kissed her passionately. Willow struggled and finally kicked the girl. Hard.

"Blech!" Willow said. "Are you crazy? What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm Kennedy," the girl said. "I'm your girlfriend. We're together. Remember?"

"No, she doesn't Kennedy, cause it hasn't happened yet. Future? Past? What part of this do you not understand?" Xander was ... exasperated.

"She makes you angry?" the girl named Sting said, still floating in the air. Buffy was unnerved by that. It was just creepy.

"Yeah she makes me angry." Xander admitted.

"Why?" the girl asked innocently. "You're supposed to be ... "

"Yeah. Some great hero. Except I'm not. Most of the heroes I know are total assholes. You included, Kennedy." Xander spat at Kennedy.

"What's your problem?" the girl was angry, and upset. Buffy couldn't figure if it was because of Xander, or Willow.

"Duh. You never said thank you," Dawn pointed at Xander's eye. "Neither did Willow. Not that I'm suprised. Thank you and sorry are words only for the important people. You know, the ones who can blow lightning out their ass, or have a body count." Dawn was angry.

"You never thanked him?" the dark Indian girl rounded on Kennedy.

"Forget it Dana. Too late now. Let's get back to business." Xander sighed. "It's all too late now." He looked, Buffy thought, like he was going to cry.

"I love you Buffy. But goddammit," the girl named Dawn was exasperated as she started to reload her guns. Buffy noticed Riley nodding approvingly of the way the girl handled her guns.

The girl named Dawn looked at Riley, and noted the approval. "I was in a movie with Angelina Jolie. Tomb Raider 5? I had to get special training. From SAS guys. It was really cool."

"That movie sucked, Dawn." Xander snorted. "I can't believe you actually did that movie."

"Hey! I got to kiss Stuart Townsend. Not all bad. And Angelina was nice. No Billy Bob. No blood in a vial, no brother. Well, he did show up once. And they were in her trailer for a long time ... " Dawn sorta petered out, thoughtfully. "But hey, I got to kiss Stuart Townsend."

Xander made a face. "And there was a reason he was dropped from Lord of the Rings."

"Wait. You're from the future?" Dr. Walsh asked breathlessly.

"Yes." Buffy noticed that both Xander and the girl Sting answered that one immediately. Interesting, she thought.

"And that's how you know all this stuff about ... me?" Dr. Walsh asked again.

"Yeah ... " Xander didn't like where this was going.

"So I have two questions. First," Dr. Walsh asked, "Where did A.D.A.M. go?"

"Ah ... " Xander looked embarrassed. The girl Sting answered, "We don't really know. Maybe he swapped places with ... " She pointed to the remains of the Beast.

"The Beast. This ... thing put out the sun. But only in LA. Angel fought it. Weird," Faith mused. "He kicked my ass. Then Angelus killed it. Don't know why he did that either."

"What was the second question?" Xander asked Walsh.

"They made a Lord of the Rings movie? Seriously?"

"Yeah. Three of them. Just like the books. Filmed it in New Zealand, too."

"Just like the books," Walsh had a dreamy, far away look in her eyes. "Just like the books."

Walsh came back to the moment. "Who played Aragorn? And Gandalf? Who was Gandalf?"

"Viggo Mortenson was Aragorn, and Gandalf was played by Ian McKellen," Dawn answered.

"What? Viggo Mortenson? Ian McKellen?" Walsh was livid. "They suck! Mortenson's always playing some stupid sexy drifter opposite Diane Lane, and Ian McKellen? He was in goddam Apt Pupil. That movie sucked. I asked for my money back. Really." Walsh was getting angry.

Xander and Dawn stepped back a bit.

"I always wanted to see Christopher Lee as Gandalf. He'd be perfect. Just perfect."

"Ah, he was Saruman." Dawn told Walsh.

"Saruman? Saruman? What brainless idiot cast Lee as Saruman, and McKellen as Gandalf? I mean didn't they ever watch ANY Hammer Horror movies? This is as bad as that stupid Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick." Walsh stamped her feet. "I refuse to believe that Godzilla was killed by Ferris Bueller."

"With you on that," Xander muttered.

"What is she on about?" the girl Sting asked the Indian girl.

"Lord of the Rings. And Godzilla."

"Do you understand any of it?"


There was a pause, and Sting asked, "Xander's very strange, isn't he?"

"Yes." The Indian girl admitted, but whispered to Sting "He's going to be my new boyfriend though. Just watch. He's funny." And she looked at Xander, well Buffy had to admit, just like Anya. That hungry sorta look. Like when she was at the Fridge, after some slaying. She shook the image out of her mind.

Dawn laughed. "Are you related to Andrew?" She asked Dr. Walsh.

"Who's Andrew?" Dr. Walsh replied.

"No one important."

Buffy noticed Willow staring at the girl's chest. Weird. What WAS that Key symbol, anyway.

The girl named Dana hugged Xander. "You shouldn't take those risks, you should let me protect you," she started.

Xander said in an exhausted tone, "Dana, now is not the time. I've told you before," he didn't finish his sentence as the girl named Dawn looked disgusted, as if she'd just eaten a bug.

There was a series of thumps and thuds that sounded like dinosaur moving across the campus. The whole building shook. And the air seemed to shimmer.

The newcomers all looked at each other with fear. Xander was especially pale, and even the girl Dana who'd been all over Xander just moments before looked worried. They spoke as one.



Angel looked at the figure in front of him. She didn't look like much, not up close. When Whistler had shown him the new slayer, well licking the lollipop, in front of her High School, she'd moved him. She seemed so innocent, yet something else in her called to him. Despite her only being fifteen. He suppressed his feelings. Time to focus. He was there to help her. Nothing more.

And if he didn't keep it together, it could all end up like that time in the diner. He hurried, as the girl was moving faster than he thought at first. She turned into an alley. This wasn't good. She'd be a target for any nasty out there. She definitely needed his help.

When Angel got to the alley, he was confused. The slayer was nowhere to be seen. He couldn't even smell her. Something was wrong.

He looked around the alley. And stiffened. Figures were appearing out of the brickwork of the alley. He hadn't noticed them before because the looked exactly like the bricks they'd been pressed against. The colors faded now, and their outfits started to turn a mixture of black and purple. They all appeared female, and started circling him. The one who appeared to be their leader approached him.

She remained perfectly still. And no one spoke a word. Definitely not the Sisters of Jhi then.

Her punch caught him unawares. It was ... FAST. And hit hard. If he had any breath he would have lost it. As it was he fell to the ground on his knees. The figure stood over him, and pulled the box out of his pocket. It was what he was going to give Buffy.

"You have the wrong idea. I don't bite," Angel managed to get out.

"Of course you bite, Angelus," the girl said. At least, Angel thought, it might have been a girl. Her voice was heavily electronically processed. He did notice that she was alive, as the others were. They were breathing. But, Angel thought with a bit of panic, they weren't breathing like normal people. It was too ... relaxed. Like that Buddhist monk he'd met once.

"I'm not," Angel began, but the girl cut him off.

"Angel and Angelus are merely lies you tell yourself at one time or another." The figure looked at the others, then hit Angel again. Very hard. Without any warning. Whatever she was, she wasn't human, Angel figured. Half demon?

"You will follow my instructions exactly, Angel," the girl told him. "You will enter the Bronze and prevent Darla from leaving with anyone. You will do the same with Thomas."

"Darla?" Angel asked innocently. "I don't know any Darla," he said as hopefully as possible.

"Of course you do, Angel. Darla? The one who created you? You had a son together, once. His name was Connor." The figure hit him again.

"Vampires are always unreliable. Soul or not. But you will do as you are told. You will also give Darla a message for the Master. He is to know that the Harvest will not happen. And if he or any other vampire wants to exist they will follow my instructions. No killing of human beings. They are needed, but I can use others. And I will if I have to."

"The Master," Angel protested, but the girl swept her leg out and kicked him off his feet again.

"If the Master does not do as instructed I will drag him and all his followers, including the Annointed One, into the noonday sun. Ask him how he likes his marshmallows," and the other figures laughed.

The figure looked at the others in a silent rebuke. Then turned back to Angel.

"As for you and Darla. If you do not obey my orders to the letter, I will leave you to Captain Holtz. And HIS followers."

Angel was silent. Then told the figure, "You're well informed. Well, not really. Too bad Holtz died centuries ago."

"He did not. He was moved forward in time by a demon named Sajahn who wishes both yourself and Darla dead. You both have powerful enemies. And know nothing of the stakes they play for. I will protect you. But only if you do exactly as you are told."

The figure moved back a little, allowing Angel to his feet.

"No humans are to be harmed. And stay away from the slayer."

"And if I don't? You and your pals will ... "

"Leave you entirely to Captain Holtz and Sajahn. You will not enjoy the experience. Neither will Darla." The girl moved to leave.

"Wait a minute," Angel grabbed a hold of her. And soon found himself flying through the air. Hitting the alley wall with a thud.

A voice came floating down from above as he shook his head to clear it.

"I am Ninjak. Obey me. Or perish. Go now."

Angel hurried to the Bronze. He had to speak to Darla. If Holtz was back, well it changed everything.


Buffy and the others, Dana, Faith, Vi, Rona, Chao-Anh, and Denise looked at the savage figure of the first slayer.

"All. Your. Fault." The first slayer pointed at Buffy. "All of it."

When she came to, struggling up from the darkness, the first thing Buffy saw was Giles's concerned face, sick with worry.

"Buffy are you all right?" Giles asked.

Buffy looked around the shattered remnants of Groo's living room.

"I'm not sure."

Faith, struggling up from the darkness with the others, knew that they'd all shared the same ... well whatever that slayer vision or dream was. But she didn't forget how Vi and the other slayers had held her. Along with Robin. When she went to Angel's aid. She was going to have it out with Robin. Just as soon as her head stopped spinning.