The Dark Gift

Author: eckles71 <eckles71[at]>

X-Over with BtVS/Interview with a Vampire.

Set between season V & VI

Chapter 1


I never thought of it too much, except that we are born and then we die. What we do between these two points of time is known as life. If this is truly the case, then I died three months ago. What I've been doing since that dark day is only exist. I died the moment she jumped from Glory's Tower. The part in me that cherished living died a bloody and gasping death that day.

I loved Anya, still do, always will. But I was not 'in love' with her, and I think she knew that, deep down anyway. She was skittish about relationships, being a Vengeance Demon for 'Scorned Women' for eleven hundred years would definitely warp your perspective. We cared for each other, the sex was great, and we knew exactly where we both stood. I think that's why she agreed to my proposal; she knew she could trust me. But I wasn't in love with her. That honor belonged to my first real life crush, and Anya knew *that* romance would never happen. She had made it quite clear to Buffy a year earlier when she was hiding out in my parents Basement that she wasn't going to LET that happen. Anya thought I didn't know about that, but I did. Willow told me she had marked her territory before the Slayer. I was her property; I was kind of flattered by that, no-one had ever tried to claim me as theirs before.

I could barely stand during our private funeral service for her. It was a small gathering consisting of the Scooby's and Spike. We held it at night so Chip-Boy could attend, and in a private corner of the largest Graveyard in town. Away from prying eyes. It was difficult, but I didn't break. I had to be strong for the girls and for Giles.

Later at Giles home, we had an old fashion Wake. We gathered, we drank - except for Dawn of course, and we shared amusing antidotal stories of the Slayer. Forcing ourselves to remember the good times and not the bad. I smiled and laughed, but I wasn't happy.

Dawn had lost her mother, discovered she wasn't even really human, and had her own 'sister' sacrifice herself for her and the world all within a span of a month. Dawn looked how I felt. But when I tried to approach her - comfort her, I was stopped. Spike stopped me. I asked him 'Why?', actually I was more creative in my query then that, but for the sake of this recap that was the gist of it.

His answer surprised me - 'Because Buffy had asked HIM to look out for her.' Him! A Vampire with a chip as his only restraint from becoming the Big Bad again. A Demon with a little piece silicon that gave off electrical pulses to the brain when he thought of harming a human was given the task to protect and look after Dawn. I dealt with this news in my typical level headed way - I hit him. The Vampire accepted my blow easily. So I hit him again, and again, and again. All of my anger and frustration erupted forth through my fists with the sole focus on wiping the sneer off his face. A sneer that's origins could only have been birthed from knowing that Buffy trusted him more then me to protect and care for the one thing she loved more then anything else left in her life.

It all lasted seconds, but it seemed somehow longer to me. Giles pulled me off him before I tore his wooden Coffee Table apart and use one of its legs as a Stake. Willow and Anya attempted to calm me down while Tara tended to a shocked Dawn. I didn't want her to see me like that, but she did, I scared her. I frightened her more then Spike ever did. I would rather be dead then to see that look on her face.

But I wasn't, not yet anyway. This fourteen year old girl, who I knew fantasized about me as a potential boyfriend, looked at me like I was insane - maybe I was a little. Insane by grief, but that was still no excuse in her eyes for what I did to Spike - her Protector. Of coarse the Vampire just got up off the carpeted ground and sneered at me again. The only evidence that he had been hit - a busted lip. I had thrown blows that should have turned his head into hamburger, yet he shook it all off with ease. Then I realized - This was why. Buffy asked him because he was stronger then me, tougher. He didn't say the words, but I saw it in his eyes. I was weaker.

Buffy could never trust Dawn's care to someone who was inferior; she would want Dawn protected by someone who could face the dangers the Hellmouth offered, and for this role she thought of Spike first. She by-passed me altogether. I would happily die if it saved Dawn from a moment of fear and pain; I cherished her like my own sister. But despite this willing sacrifice Buffy selected someone with a reputation for Backstabbing and Running-for- the-Hills over me. Spike was her choice, and in my mind it was the wrong one.

I departed Sunnydale that night. The others I'm sure thought I left because of the Spike incident, and they were right - I did. But not for the reasons they thought. I left to get stronger. I couldn't trust Dawn in the prolonged company of the Billy Idol look-alike. Aside from the risk if his chip ever cut out, I didn't trust him as an appropriate Role Model. Dawn was fourteen and impressionable, I didn't want her values warped by 'The Chipped Wonder'. He was 'safe' for now, so I left, confident that I would be well on my way to being an appropriate guardian when I returned.

My first port of call was Angel's Hotel. I decided to swallow my pride and ask him to train me. Of coarse the old 'Xander Harris Luck' held true - he wasn't there. No-one was. So I spent the day's training myself in the Hotel's Basement. A place that looked as thou it had been converted into a training room similar to Buffy's in the back section of the Magic Box.

I physically pushed myself to my limits and beyond, but I was deficient in my understanding of the Demon world. The 'What's' and how to kill them part. So I began to finger my way through Wesley's and Angel's private - English reading Collection. I discovered, in a nutshell, there a very few things that 'go-bump-in-the-night' that cannot be dispatched with a good beheading. So I started to teach myself the sword, drawing from memory scenes from old Samurai Movies, and what I had witnessed Buff and Angel do in practice.

Then one day, it must have been a week since I arrived in LA, and 9 day's post to Buffy's death, I discovered a journal, an old one in Angel's room. Written by him years and years earlier, before he had come to Sunnydale. It was a collection of Vampire rumors that he had gathered and put together.

It touched on everything, The Gem of Amara, Acathla, the Gauntlet. Angelus was always a fan of history, and writing this journal probably helped Angel make sense of his dark time as Angelus for those two centuries. So I read and I absorbed. I finally came across a section in the ancient pages, of Vampires. I never knew there was more then one breed - Giles never mentioned that to us. There were apparently several. The most popular were the Vamp's I already knew and loathed - the ones Angel and Spike belonged to. But there was also Vampyrs; Kindred and something called 'Living-Vampires'. Vampires and Vampyrs were very similar to each other, in that basically they were both plain evil. But the Kindred and 'Living Vampires' were different.

These latter two were very private 'breeds', and unlike the others, they kept their souls upon being 'embraced' as Angel termed it. They also did not experience the same hindrances the former possessed, except that decapitation and direct sunlight was still not a good mix for them.

The Kindred seemed to be allied to various 'clans', whereas the 'Living Vampires' were only answerable to themselves. I turned each page hungrily. This was my answer. It could take years to physically get to the point were I might be able to protect Dawn and Sunnydale from the Hellmouth. But with one bite and surrender to an appropriate Sire I could accomplish all that I wished a lot sooner. I read more on the 'Living Vampires' as they seemed to encourage more independence within their ranks then the Kindred. I would still hold on to my humanity - my soul, and I would be ageless and strong. Stronger, if Angel's accounts of these Beings were accurate, then Spike.

Once upon a time the thought of ever becoming a Vampire sickened me, but I didn't care any more, with Buffy gone life held no attraction to me. Dawn was now my priority.

I sold my car and bought a Red Mustang, I then copied Angel's Journal and left to find myself a 'Living Vampire'. My years of researching for Giles held me in good stead; I ended up in San Fran. Using the excess money from the car sale to live off. I knew that Willow would have used her hacking skills to monitor my Bank Transactions and keep a bead on me so I used only cash.

I was living in San Francisco for two and a half months, working part-time for a community Radio station to aid me in paying my bills when I discovered my first. He was in an alley way, watching me watching him. The years of patrolling with Buffy must have fostered in me my own Slayer sense, because I knew exactly what he was - a Vampire. And my research in the area identified that he was a possible candidate for a 'Living Vampire'.

He approached me, and invited me to his apartment. Typically I don't take invitations like that lightly, not since Larry and the whole 'aren't you gay?' misunderstanding. But I went; I followed him up the stairs, knowing that I might not ever be coming down them again.

The room was Spartan; the Vampire placed himself by the window to observe the traffic of people enjoying the night as I set up my recording equipment and played dum to what he was. The Vampire appeared as thou he was in his mid twenties; his words were direct and precise and held an emotion of weariness to life. He reminded me a lot of Angel, there was sadness in the way he spoke. After a quick demonstration, one in which I applauded to myself on my startled reaction, the Vampire began to tell me his story. I was held captive in this room by his words.

He was my first 'Living Vampire' and he was a decent Being before, and after death. I considered myself fortunate to find him. When his tale ended, I propositioned him. I asked him to make me like him; I flattered him trying to sell him on my enthusiasm to be immortal. He was not swayed.

My persistence has led me to where I am now, staring Death in the face as I am pinned to the ceiling of the Apartment with a single hand belonging to a man I would have happily have called my Sire a moment before.

"Do you like this? Do you like being food for the Immortals? Do you like Dying?" With this last question he released me; I hit the floor with a dull thud. A thud I quickly shock off as I searched the room for my attacker. He was no longer there. Realization struck me. This was not a normal night for him - he wanted to warn me about the path I was treading. He mentioned in his story that they - his breed, could read minds. My deception must have been obvious to him, and he was merely humoring me. Hoping I would learn something from his sad tale, when that failed he tried to frighten me off.

And he was successful, I was frightened. I picked up my gear from the table and bolted down the stairs as thou the Devil himself was after me. I fished the keys from my pocket and jumped into my Mustang, leaving the Apartment building in my wake. I was driving for three minutes before I began to calm down, searching my rear view mirror for any teeth marks.

I had just passed the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge, when I began to feel the need to hear his story once more. I place the cassette into my cars tape player and let the words of the Vampire's interview wash over me, chuckling to myself over nearly having to change my shorts as a result of his last tactic to knock some sense into me. Marveling over the story once more, repeating that it was good stuff.

Suddenly a bone like grip was sprung around my throat, and with an inhuman display of strength my seat was forced back. I looked to the owner of the of the grip and witnessed a ghostly white figure with limp white hair and sunken cheeks.

The ghost spoke to me in a voice of charm and refinement "I assume I need no introduction." With this statement he thrust his head forward like a striking Cobra to my neck, and commenced to drain me. With no-one at the wheel, the Mustang steered wildly, grazing the edge of the bridge barricade and then redirecting into the line of opposite traffic, as the car struck another I was quickly cast onto the passenger side of the front seat.

Suddenly weakened through blood loss, I looked upon the 'ghost' who attacked me. With my blood staining his lips the Vampire held an almost euphoric gaze to the night, swaying slightly to the bliss of the moment as he announced "I feel better already." The 'ghost' repositioned himself behind the wheel, as his sunken features began to inflate and his hair acquired more body and definition. Grasping the steering wheel with the grace of a concert pianist, the pale gentleman played with his worn sleeve cuff, as my interview played on. The Ghost shook his head in disgust and disappointment at the words exiting from the Speakers. "Oh Louie, Louie. Still *whining* Louie."

It was then that I pieced together who this was. The Vampire looked down at me, still bleeding from the neck, and continued. "Have you heard enough? I've had to listen to that - for centuries!" The second 'Living Vampire' angrily pressed the eject button of the tape deck. Before the preprogrammed rock stationed aired its music the 'Living Vampire' lightly motioned towards my face, with the last amount of strength in me, I inched back quickly.

To my surprise the Vampire spoke again and sounded gentle and sincere. "Don't be afraid. I'm going to give you the choice I never had." With these words the Rolling Stones 'Sympathy for the Devil' began to play, and the Being behind the steering wheel began to politely laugh into the night air as the moon reflected off his pearly white teeth.

Chapter 2

In an Apartment somewhere in LA - 2001

Xander Harris lay in the King-Sized Bed, cocooned in satin sheets. Yet despite this luxury he felt as thou he was on Death's doorstep, and that he was only waiting for the invitation to come in. In this sense he was, he had been longing for this summons for months. Ever since Buffy leaped into the Hell Portal, he just lacked the courage to do it himself.

The fever that enveloped him had weakened him to a state between delirium and reason. Through clouded memory he recalled an attack --- then nothing.

As he stirred he felt a hand seductively stroking his cheek, it wasn't light or feminine, its fingers held a cold coarseness of a male. Realizing this the eyes of the Sunnydalian opened wide to the offense. Laying beside him - next to him, in the Sunlight free room was a man whose features he didn't know, but who's name he easily found on his tongue "Lestat?"

Leaning himself up on his elbows the Living-Vampire replied. "See, I told you I would need no introduction."

Xander quickly cast his eyes downwards, and was relieved to witness that both himself and the Vampire were still clothed. Lestat noticed this relief and chuckled politely. "My dear curiosity, despite what you may believe, I am not so 'inclined'. I still prefer the company of Women"

A mucous cough raised itself in the throat of the 21year old. "What did you do to me?"

"Nothing --- yet, what you are experiencing is normal to someone almost drained, but not quite. You my beauty interest me. I have never known anyone to seek us out before who was not a Hunter, but you are - aren't you. You've killed many who have claimed our name as their own. They have been made dust at your passing, yet now you wish to be born into the bosom of the Night. As I said my friend - you are a curiosity. And I so enjoy puzzles." Lestat slid off the bed and began to prowl around the bedroom, only when he had stalked pass the mirror did Xander notice a reflection. More evidence that Living Vampires were truly apart from the normal ilk. The first was when Lestat easily removed himself from his throat the night before (?); he guessed it was the night before. Angel had once confessed to the Scoob's at the beginning of his association that his 'Breed' fell onto a Blood-lust and that it would take superhuman effort to restrain themselves from sucking a victim dry.

Xander felt compelled to engage the Vampire in conversation, suspicious why he felt no animosity towards this Being. Especially after the memory of Louie's tale, Lestat's evil was second only to Satan himself. He was a Brat, a child spoilt with too much power. A creature that enjoyed playing the game of cat and mouse. What a pair he and Angelus would have made if they had ever met. "Where are we?"

"Los Angeles, in the Apartment of a Drug Dealer who shall not need it any longer." Lestat paused and carefully peered out behind the curtain into daylight, then drew it across the room. Cautious to avoid the beams of light that flooded in. The View was spectacular. Lestat nodded appreciably at the horizon, as he stood in a shadowed corner. "Do you like it?"

The former Construction Worker was startled at the gesture; Lestat had made an overture that threatened his existence just for the simple pleasure of pleasing him. But despite the shock, a new question formed in his mind. "Why didn't you kill me?"

A theatrical sigh hung in the air as the Vampire answered the honest question. "Because I saw in you opportunities to right a long ago wrong my friend. Louie was much like you when I first gazed upon him. He had lost people close to him, he wished to die - to join them, but alas he too lacked the nerve. It is those, I've discovered over the centuries, who find no love in life - the most interesting in death. I proposed to him the opportunity to become as ageless as the Stars, and he accepted. But I handled the responsibility of friendship --- poorly. In forcing him to stay in my presence, I only drew him further and further away. You want Power; I can give it to you. And I can property instruct you on how to use it well. Power to protect, Power to kill, Power to impress. Your Buffy will think herself a fool for ever trusting an 'Inferior' to care for*"

"GET-OUT-OF-MY-HEAD!" Xander's eyes burned into the cultured Host. "Don't, ever - EVER, go into my mind without my permission, and I can promise you this - that is something you will never have."

Lestat laughed at the outburst "As you wish my friend. By all that it Holy and un, you have a fire in you. Louie never had that --- that passion. What a pair we could be."

Xander's throat was roar from the shout but he still growled out his next statement "You're evil." To the bed-bound Californian the Vampire did not react to this claim, other then to shrug his shoulders.

"That is Louie's assessment. I prefer to think of my self as 'complex'. I survive. You are a survivor as well Alexander; I've seen your thoughts. You will do anything to win the day if it ensured your survival as well as your friends; even 'Lie' to someone who has claimed your heart."

"That was different; the fate of the world was at stake."

"Yes. I know. Yet you never owned up to the deception when she returned, or her 'Heart' came back. Why was that? They surely couldn't have faulted your reason, the World at risk as it was, only your motives. You were willing to condemn an innocent Being to Hell for eternity. I've never done that. So I ask you, which of us is truly evil."

Xander shifted uncomfortably in the bed under the smug gaze of the Vampire Lestat as the feeder of men continued. "And when he did return, despite the assurances from your Buffy that he was good once more, you plotted with another - Faith, to slay him. You have of coarse redeemed yourself over the years that followed, but make no mistake; you have the potential to be as evil as I."

Defensively Xander announced "At least I don't feed off of people."

"Tell me Alexander, do you think Louie is a good and decent person?"

Without thinking Xander answered the question "Yes."

"Well he lives off of people - evil people of course, but people just the same. Or have you forgotten that he was planning on feasting on you yesterday evening?" The Vampire pause and allowed his human friend to make the connection between his 'childe' feeding off of evil people, and then to Xander himself. Seconds lapsed, and then the Living Vampire took another sigh. "Alexander, I do not mind how you survive, live off the stray's in the street for all I care. But I see greatness in you my friend.

"I sensed it the moment I tasted you. You're different. Your blood is rich with --- I don't know what, but it is unlike any I have ever supped before. Within a brief moment, it had completely revitalized me back to my golden days. You my dark haired Adonis have it in you to be magnificent."

Xander Harris was deaf to Lestat's words, his mind churning at his comments of the Lie and his betrayal with Faith. His life was over - he knew that, only Dawn and the safety of the Scooby's mattered to him now. If Buffy soul was cursed to endure a Hell Dimension for the sake of the Planet, then how could he call himself her friend if he wasn't prepared to Damn himself as well for the same outcome? "I want you to know Lestat, if you turn me, I will become your Death."

The Vampire slowly reproached the thick curtains, and with care slowly redrew them once more across the room. With this feat achieved he sat again upon the bed beside Xander and spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. "Not my kind, to kill my kind is a fate worse then Death itself. But you can kill the 'Inferiors'. You may kill as many of their breed as you wish. They are an abomination - We are the true children of the night. I place the choice before you Alexander, one I never had. Live and Die weak and vulnerable; or become strong and beautiful for eternity?"

Again Xander answered the Vampires question without pausing to consider. "Do it."

"Not yet my friend. This decision is too great to be made on the spur. Contemplate your choice, say goodbye to the light. And tonight, if you still will it, you shall be reborn into a world beyond your imagination. Statues will dance, Paintings move, and each creature that embraces the evening as its natural home will be yours to command. You will become like a God."


Later in the Street's of LA

Xander walked the streets of LA, basking in the sun for the last time. He was still weakened from blood loss, and the warmth that poured down upon him made him dizzy. But he didn't care. His goal was insight, in a few more hours he will be capable of defending Sunnydale against the Hellmouth. In a few short hours Dawn would be offered a more suitable Guardian and Protector then Spike.

Xander sat down on a park bench before he collapsed. Was it Ego? Was the base of this decision because Buffy cast his candidacy for Dawn aside, infavor of the Peroxide Pest? Again he said to himself he didn't care; only Dawn mattered. It had become his mantra over the months, only she mattered.

Xander was surprised how close Lestat's 'acquired' Apartment was to The Hyperion Hotel, it was just several blocks. Would he dare go in? He dared dying tonight; this place shouldn't make him afraid. But it did. Inside these walls were perhaps the only people who could talk him out of doing what he was planning to do. Cordelia, Wesley and Angel. "To Hell with it - I just won't tell them!"

With as much strength as he could muster he pushed open the heavy front doors of the Hotel, and strode in.


The Hyperion Hotel.

From behind the Reception Desk the former Watcher looked up from a pile of papers he was staring intently at as he heard the door open. The reaction was priceless, a true Kodak moment. The Englishman's voice raised a pitch below a squeak. "Cordelia!"

From the back office the former High School Girlfriend and PTB Seer ran through the doorway that separated the locales. She too then shared in the 'Kodak Moment' with Wesley. "Xander?"

"Hey Guy's - Miss me?"

Nothing could separate the beauty from the Construction Worker. She rapped her arms around him, and only then did she feel his weakness. "My God, what happened to you?"

He chuckled at the question "Cor, God has nothing to do with this."

It was then that she noticed the teeth marks on his neck, a present from Lestat the night before, that hadn't as yet healed over. "Xander, are you Okay?"

"Nope, not Okay, never Okay. She's gone Cordy." Xander didn't want to cry, he hadn't cried period, not since that night, but seeing Cordelia's caring face had stirred dead emotions once more in him. And he lost the battle. Cordelia held him, as Wesley discreetly entered the back office and made a phone call.


1630 Revello Drive, SUNNYDALE

Willow picked up the phone and was surprised to hear the out of breath and low hushed voice of Wesley Wyndm-Pryce. "Willow, Dawn?"

"No, Willow. What's up Wes?"

"Xander, he's here."

Willow stood frozen for a moment, it had been month's since Xander had done his disappearing act. She suspected that he had gone to LA, especially when she had tracked down his car in a Sale Lot, but from there - nothing. It was if he had dropped off the face of the Earth.

The aftermath of his departure was surprising, after Buffy's suicide leap and his disappearance she would have predicted that it would have torn the group apart. But it had the opposite effect; it just made everybody more desperate to be together. They still missed him terribly, except Spike of course. But there was a darkness that came when they now spoke his name, as everyone recalled the 'incident' before he left. He had taken Buffy's death worse then anyone would have guessed. If only he had stayed for one more day, he would have found the note written to them all by Buffy the night of the fight.

Spike had guessed she had written it when they had come home that evening - just before the battle, to collect back-up weaponry. It was there she asked him to look out for Dawn, then she excused herself and went upstairs alone while he gathered the swords, mace and crossbow from the Weapons Trunk. The letter was short, but direct. It had asked for everyone to assume a role in Dawn's upbringing. Buffy couldn't ask this favor herself as she had feared to do so would uncover her intentions if the worst-came-to- the-worst. She had asked Willow and Tara to move in and act as Dawn's new 'Big Sisters'. Giles to be the overprotective Grandfather. And Xander, to be --- well Xander. To be an example to her little sister of what kind of guy she had hoped she would find one day. Willow knew that if Xander had known of the existence of the letter, he would never have left.

Everyone had fulfilled their obligations to Buffy's wish but Xander. A fact Spike emphasized whenever and wherever possible.

"Willow? Are you still there?"

"Yes, is he Okay?"

"Cordelia is talking to him now, but he looks alittle peeked. Do you want to talk to him?"

"NO! Errrrr, no Wes. He's been avoiding contacting me and the others all this time, if he thinks we're coming in from all sides he might head to ground again."

"I understand. Do you want to come and see him, I think Cordelia and I can keep him entertained until you all arrive."

Willow bit her bottom lip - Why tonight of all night's. "No can do, Me, Tara, Anya and Dawn have something we have to do tonight."

"More important then this? Willow, you have been on our tail for weeks to try and track him down, he up's and waltz's in and now you don't want to see him?"

"It's not that I don't want to see him Wesley, we all want to see him. It's just that tonight is a special night. One that I can't get into with you. But it's important that I perform a certain ritual this evening when the stars are all in alignment, and the Moon is in this precise phase."

"Night --- night?" The Watcher pondered the significance of this evening, and then he looked to the astrological calendar on Angel's desk. "Of Coarse the 'Night of Transition' - where the living become dead, and the dead become living. What on Earth are you trying to do Willow?"

"I can't say."

"Willow --- I would be remiss if I did not warn you of the dire circumstances of rituals or 'sacrifices' preformed on night's such as these. The power that comes from the death of a willing subject is tenfold - that's true, but such power is too uncontrollable."

"We're not sacrificing anything Wesley; the sacrifice has already been made. It was made three months ago. Keep Xander there as long as you can."

With these ominous words Willow hung-up the phone. Concerned that she may have inadvertently passed on too much information. Wesley was a sharp Watcher after all.

Dawn came pouncing down the steps with Tara in tow "Who was that?"

"Wesley, they've got Xander."

The teenager's eyes brightened at the news. "This is great! You've got the Blood, Anya has the Urn, and we've got the Spell. This is perfect. Soon Buffy will be back and so will Xander. This is shaping up to be the best night ever."


The Hyperion Hotel

Wesley placed the receiver down, unsure what the intentions of his young Red Headed friend were, but she had charged him with the duty of keeping Xander there, so baring 'Hog-tying' him he would. He eased himself out of the office to spy that nothing much had changed since he went in.

Cordelia was desperately holding one of her dearest friends as he wept stored tears. "I can't keep doing this Cor. I feel dead inside. I just want the pain to end."

"We all do from time to time, but we go on. You know that saying 'What doesn't kills us can only make us stronger'."

A dry chuckle escaped Xander. "What doesn't kill's us --- stronger. Gotcha. Cordy?"


"I'm a good person right - I would have been a good father, right?"

"What kind of question is that, and what's with the 'would', you have an operation you didn't tell anyone about? You're a GOOD person Xander, and you WILL be an excellent father. You're on my top five list of best men I know."

"Thanks Cordy."

"No problem, now I've got a question - why did you ask your question?"

"Dawn. I love her so much Cordelia. I would die to protect her - that's what Dad's are supposed to do - right?"

"The really Good ones, so I've been told."

"Then why did Buffy think I would be a bad choice for Dawn, why did she pick Spike over me?"

"I --- I don't know Xander. But your not proving yourself from being away from Dawn. That girl misses you like crazy, you want to be her surrogate 'Daddy' then you got to get your ass back to Sunnydale."

Xander stepped out of the embrace. "I will Cordy, but I'll go back when I can protect her properly."

Xander then turned to leave the Hotel when he heard Wesley's voice. "Xander, stay. It's getting late."

"Thanks for the offer Wes, but I've got places to go and things to do."

"Like what, maybe we can help?"

Xander looked at the sincerity in both friend's faces and caves to their wish "Okay, I could use your help - could you tell me where the best place for Sunsets are in this town?"


The Apartment

Xander returned to the Apartment 2hours after sundown to find Lestat stroking a cat in the lounge room. It was an odd sight, not the lounge room - that was plush with all the modern conveniences <Who knew Drug Dealers had good taste>, or Lestat dressed in fresh attire from a successful raid of the 'Missing Owners' Wardrobe. But the Cat, the feline has dirty and smelly. Yet Lestat fondling it with the care of a new born infant.

"I'm here."

"I knew you would return to me my Curiosity. You said goodbye to the light?"

"It's light, I won't miss it."

A smile passed over the Vampire's pearl white teeth. "You say that now, but you will in time my friend. So are you ready?"

"I'm rea*" Before the natural California had finished his surrender Lestat was upon him. The Vampire's teeth sunk deeper and deeper into his throat, as Xander forced his hands into a ball to stop himself from automatically pushing the creature off of him. Within moment's he was too weakened by the act performed on him to move a finger, as he heard his own heart slowly stop beating.

Lestat raised himself above the figure on the floor. "You are drained to point of death my Beautiful one, you may continue on your journey, or you can linger longer in this world."

Xander didn't have the strength to voice his affirmative, so he offered a single nod of his head.

Smiling at the willingness of his subject, Lestat bought his left wrist to his own mouth and bit into it. The Vampires blood trickled down his ivory skin from the fresh wound past the lips of AleXANDER Levalle Harris. At the first taste of the Vampire's blood Xander was consumed by the strength of a hundred men. He automatically leapt up and suckled further from the gash, sucking and draining Lestat as he laughed proudly upon his new childe.

Suddenly the venom of the vampire blood struck his system, and Xander keeled over in immense agony. Color slowly left his face, as the veins near his temples became more prominent. Xander then closed his brown eyes and died.

Moment's lagged to minutes, and after several, Xander Harris's eyes once more opened, but they were no longer brown, they now held a distinct amber color. He looked out upon the room with his new eyes and everything was now vibrant with life. He felt he was blind all his life and now could finally see.

Inwardly he searched his mind, and it was true - he was him. He was still Xander.

The new born eagerly wished to test his new Vampire abilities; it must have been obvious for Lestat chose this time to speak. "If you wish to return Home, I will not stop you. But you still do not know your potential or how to utilize the gift's I've offered you. That will take time --- patience."

"How much time?"

"That is dependent upon you my friend. But like I told you earlier Alexander, I sense that there is Greatness in you, so it would be surprising if it would take more then a couple of years."


"Patience's Young One. The days will pass quickly, and your friends will be safe in that short a time surely?"

Xander refused to answer.

"I will take your silence as compliance. So let us begin. Lesson One - Food.*"

"I told you, I will not drink human blood."

"Of coarse you did." With a fluid motion Lestat picked the Cat up by the scruff of the neck and flung the agile creature into Xanders hands "Bon Appetite."

The disgust that consumed the new Vampire was unlike any he had felt before in his life. It wasn't disgust that he was now forced to live like this from this day on. It was disgust that he enjoyed the taste of the blood which flowed down his throat from the feline that now limply struggled under his jaws.

All awhile Lestat laughed and clapped amusingly at his childe's first feed.


In Sunnydale, Buffy Anne Summers then began to frantically beat upon the lid of her buried coffin.

Chapter 3

The fledgling Vampire sat down at the Dining Room Table of the 'acquired' Penthouse Apartment and broke the Tan Leather spine of a Journal. With hesitant care he raised his pen and proceeded to mar the virgin pages within.

Day 3 - Post Death (PD) Hey there - I know, it's not that original. But I've never had a Journal before so I don't exactly know where to start. I think that this is a waste of time, but Lestat told me that it was important to keep track of my thoughts and experiences if I am ever to grow. Personally I think he's trying to make me a carbon copy of himself as he mentioned in passing that he kept a Journal when he was first turned.

I guess I'll begin by trying to express the wonders of the last couple of days. To put it simply - I've been on a High! The depths I have sunk to acquire the new abilities I now possess are unfathomable. But despite this I soar the moment I taste the red juice of life in my mouth - God, I disgust myself.

I crave the feed nearly all the time, I wish I could do what Angel does and pay a visit to my nearest butcher, but 'we' are different. 'We' are blessed from purer stock, and as such require LIVING Blood. What is Living Blood? That's blood that is still being beat through a preys system. The moment the heart stops to beat the blood grows cold and it then becomes DEAD Blood. Dead blood is to me what arsenic is to everybody else - it is poison to 'my' kind. Notice how I used 'we', and 'my' in there? You did. Good, cause that's what I am now. A Vampire. A Living Vampire. I am one of the Damned.

Since my 'Birth' Lestat has been refining me - didn't I tell you he was trying to make me like him! He's been teaching me about presence, and I hate to admit it but the guy is good - he's got it down pat. He could stand in the middle of the room and you would not notice him. He's invisible to you one second, and the next it's as if he consumes your attention - all without saying a word. It's the look I think. He said that 'our' kind exist anonymously, as such we must never reveal ourselves until we are ready to be seen. It is our greatest weapon to survival.

Strength and speed were my first noticed abilities. I need to work on my speed thou. I'm slightly uncoordinated. The first time I ran full bore I ended up tripping over my own feet.

I'll leave it there for now Journal. If anything different or special happens I'll let you know.

Day 9 - PD
Lestat is trying to 'culture' me up. Can you imagine a 300year old Vampire doing a Mr. Henry Higgins from 'My Fair Lady' - well, that's Lestat. I'm proving to be quite the bad student - damn I hate myself :).

We found the Dealers safe the other day; get this - I ripped its front hatch off with just one hand (God, I love this strength thing), anyway the guy obviously did not trust Banks to much. Probably because they would ask too many questions, like 'Where did you get all this money?' Geez Journal I've never seen so much green in my life in one place. It took 20-minutes to tally it all. Lestat and I now have $236,000 to burn. But knowing Lestat's exuberant tastes that is barely going to see us through the month.

Lestat and I have reached an agreement, one that suit's him - not me, but what can I do. The Guy has to eat, and he's not all that partial to cat's. So he's promised me he would only prey upon those who deserve death. Not ideal I know, but I can't do anything about it - Yet. And he said he'd keep his binges to one a night. Christ! With each setting sun I slowly watch my humanity slip further and further away.

Day 25 - PD
'Tingles' is dead! I know, I killed him. It was a pet to someone, but to me it was another midnight snack. I didn't notice the collar and medallion until after. Somewhere in LA there is a person, maybe a girl like Dawn waiting for 'Tingles' to come home, but he never will.

I think of 'Miss Kitty-Fantastico' - Tara and Willow's cat, and my stomach starts to growl. Not Good. Not good for Miss Kitty and not good for cat's city wide. Why Cat's I hear you ask yourself Journal, Why not Dog's? True, most dogs have more blood in them then the average cat, but cats are night creatures. As such when I get peckish all I have to do is send out a mental summons, and the nearest one comes running. Delivery in an instant - no muss, no fuss. Man I'm getting to blasé about this; I've probably drained a 100 cat's dry in the last three weeks. I'm trying to care about the killing, but it's getting harder to see the felines as nothing else but food. Just the same, I think I'll fast on Rat's for a while. Revolting I know, but I think it'll be good for me - a constant reminder of the humanity I'm struggling to keep. Besides, I don't think there is any chance that a Sewer Rat has a little girl for an owner.

Day 41 - PD
Went and did a Patrol tonight. First one since I became what I became. Lestat came with - just to observe thou. He wasn't prepared to get his hands dirty on creatures below his notice. I never knew LA had so many Demons and Vamp's.

I didn't admit it to Lestat, but I kind of enjoyed it. The Slaying was exhilarating, and the application of the strength and speed I now possess, I could now understand why Faith went bad. You become indifferent to those you fight and those you protect. You see yourself as something better and greater; and as such you run the risk of crossing that line that separates the good guy's from the bad.

I'm determined not to let that happen to me, all I have to do is see Lestat's face and hear his 'encouraging' words - and do the exact opposite to what he say's, and I know my soul is safe.

Day 52 - PD
Did a stupid thing today - it worked, but it was stupid. Whilst on Patrol, I came across a posse of Demon's. On a whim I drank one of them dry. It was risky as I didn't know, even Lestat was curious, what would happen to me as a result.

Journal - it tasted like drinking vomit, not your own vomit - but somebody else's. The good news is thou it looks like I may be able to break away from my All-Rat Diet. If I can get past the revolting taste I could easily survive off those things I hunt. Vamps - Angel and Spike Vampires - the 'inferiors' as Lestat calls them, however I cannot feed off. As their hearts don't beat, all they have in their system is Dead Blood.

Day 67 - PD
Lestat attempted to teach me telepathy today. The ability to read thoughts. The trick is, according to Lestat, is to not think about it, and to let your mind go blank. Not as easy as it sounds, but I got the gist of it. Soon I was able to hear a few thought 'echoes', which I suppose isn't a bad start, thou I still need a lot of practice.

Lestat was overjoyed at my effort. He claimed that Louis - Louie, could not accomplish this feat until he had turned a hundred. Strange how his praise means so much to me. I should hate the guy - I do, but he makes it so damn hard. I mean he's so charming and witty that it's next to impossible to separate this monster from the story Louie told me two months back.

Day92 - PD
We now only have $158,000 of the Drug Dealers money left. I recommended to Lestat that we put a portion of the money - $100,000, in a trust for safe keeping. And budget the rest out as an allowance. He asked around, and found a Law firm that specialized in dealing with people in our 'unique' situation. We have an appointment lined up for tomorrow with members of their 'Special Projects' Section.

Day 94 - PD
'Wolfram & Hart' I've heard that name before, but I can't place it. The appointment was yesterday at 9:00pm with some Asian Guy, and a Woman. Maybe it's just me, but they seemed more interested and excited in meeting myself then they did Lestat. I mean, Lestat is over three hundred years old, has mastered abilities that I have yet to touch on, and these two Lawyers - the woman especially, I think her name was Lilah Morgan, were practically falling over themselves to make me happy. What was that about?

Lestat took offense at being ignored, and if there is one thing I've learnt it's that Lestat enjoys being the center of attention. You should have seen their faces Journal when he mentioned to them that he had once met one of their 'Senior Partners' - Mr. Hart, a couple of centuries ago in Paris, and that they had parted as 'Friends'. Of coarse Lestat's version of friendship is not wanting the other dead. But the Lawyers didn't know that. The looks on their faces when he said that Mr. Hart and him were old friends was priceless.

I asked him about 'Mr. Hart' when we left, apparently Mr. Hart has been around for a long, looonnnggg time. And not the kind of person you don't want to get on the wrong side of.

I also asked Lestat as we were leaving if he 'sensed' anything - meaning what he was able to scan from their minds. But he got nothing; the Law Firm must have Telepathic Blockers in place.

Day 127 - PD
Saw Angel in the Sewer's today - he didn't see me however. We were hunting the same Demon. What 'Deadboy' - I guess I'm going to have to stop calling him that now, what he didn't know was that the Demon - a Kartrath I think their called, also had a brood of 14.

Sloppy Angie, very, very sloppy. I let him take care of the patriarch while I took out its young around the corner. Even with 14 to one, I still managed to finish all them off before Angel did his one.

Day 189 - PD
I think I know what my primary power is. Every living vampire excels at one thing naturally, with some its telepathy - like Lestat, or flight, or whatever. Today, I called on that power almost by accident, it swept over me when I was patrolling. I was three blocks away when I felt the overwhelming fear of a victim as she was about to get attacked by a gang of Vampires. Its called empathy - the ability to feel and transmit the emotions of others. Sounds like a useless power right Journal?

Well yeah it is, but if I'm able to control it, I will be able to sense evil. It will be my very own Slayer Sense, and it could come in very handy on the Hellmouth.

Day 196 - PD
Yep, it's Empathy.

I went with Lestat on one of his 'snack runs'. Before I had to take his word for it that his 'morsels' deserved it. Now I can sense their Hearts, and read their minds - a little (I'm still not as good at that last part as Lestat, I absorb images more then History).

I'm relieved to say that his victim tonight did deserve it; well he did as far as I was concerned. It was a 42year old pedophile. Trust me I could have lived without seeing his thoughts, believe you me.

Day 211 - PD
On Patrol I came across a Civilian Unit hunting Vampires. Their leader, I couldn't make out. I tried to read his mind from a safe distance but it made no sense to me. The images I got from him were of another time period. The people in the Unit called him 'Captain Holtz'. I'll try keeping an eye on them; see if they are open to the idea of me joining their ranks - temporarily of course. Like what Angel did with the Scooby's. But I don't like my chances - they seem to be very gung-ho with the death to all demon's and undead, kind of what I was like when I first got involved with the Scooby's. But I'll still keep an eye open for them, even if it's just for my and Lestat's eventual safety.

Day 226 - PD
Flew today. Actually, it's more like gliding. You get high enough, and you are able guide your direction by mentally manipulating the currents. I was shaky at first, but man it was fun. Out of all my abilities (notice how I didn't use 'new'), this is the coolest.

Lestat congratulated me again - I was exceeding all his expectations.

Ironic, as a human I was a Zero - a Big Failure. But as a vampire, I'm shaping up to be pretty decent one - minus drinking all the human blood, and everything.

Day 254 - PD
'Wolfram & Hart' contacted Lestat and me today. They had some good news. They were able to appropriate a place for us in Sunnydale from one of their long standing clients. Apparently this guy owned a piece of Real Estate in SunnyHell with enchantments making it invisible to detection. I was surprised at first, until I learnt the Guy's identity. Apparently the good Count is in debt with their European Branch, and to avoid being contacted by their Financial Department he signed it over in full to them. 'Wolfram & Hart' are in turn disposing it to us - when we eventually go back there (I'm hoping real soon.), on the condition of a favor. They won't tell me what the favor is; Lestat thinks that there is no favor - yet. And that the Firm probably just wants us in their back pocket for a while. Regardless, I stressed to them that this favor was only a once time deal, and was void when we de-habituated the Castle - and it could not go against either of our moral sensibilities, that was the Deal Breaker. To my surprise, they agreed. I don't like owing people, Lawyers especially.

It might be just me, by that woman Lawyer - Lilah, was putting out some very sexual vibes in my direction - God I love empathy. She is hot, in a cold and calculating way. Sure she's a lot older, about early thirties, but Hell I've done it with a 1,100 year old nympho-manic. I'm ashamed to say, I am tempted. It's been along time since I've - y'know. But that's just wrong and perverse. I'm a walking, breathing, thinking corpse. Necrophilia - is there anything more disdainful? Buffy and Angel - they were in love, but I still think that it was wrong. The kind of person who would have sex with a Vampire is in desperate need of psychological counseling.

I've been speaking to people; Demon's actually, Hell if you want to get specific its one particular Demon who seems to be in the know. A green guy with red horns, he owns a Karaoke Bar downtown. He's an alright guy, knows Angel and Crew. I asked him not to tell them about me and he's agreed to keep his lips sealed and I trust him. When I first met him a couple of Months back he asked me to sing for him - I'm not much of a singer, so I hummed something. Anyway he can see possible futures of people when they put out a melody. He warned me never to take a human life or drink human blood (Which I was never planning to do anyway), to trust no-one who offers me their friendship (For some reason I don't think he was referring to Lestat.), and when I return to Sunnydale not to walk away from it, no matter how much I want to - I asked him to explain that a bit more, but he refused. Apparently the guy's who give him the visions want me left in the dark. He only added that I would be seeing an old friend again - didn't know what he meant by that (Probably Willow). Anyway Lorne said never to sign anything that 'Wolfram & Hart' put in front of you, and that their business - aside from Law, is having powerful people owe them.

Day 310 - PD
I received a gift from Lesat today. A Hunting Knife. It is beautiful, menacingly beautiful. It kind if reminds me of Faith's Knife, only with a longer curved blade. It wasn't until later in the evening that Lestat told me that it had come by courier and was another gift from 'Wolfram & Hart'. I wanted to return it. I don't like owing these people.

But the knife could not be returned; it had been specially treated and enchanted specifically for me. What is it with them? Why are they so interested in giving me things?

Day 371 - PD
I'm getting better. Lestat said that I have nearly exhausted his teachings. I can do everything he can - not as well, but that kind of Mastery comes with time and application. He's actually very proud of me. I still don't trust him, even thou he has done nothing deserving of that distrust. He's honest with me, he is what he is. And he makes no excuses for that. He's dealt with me fairly from the beginning.

I played the Interview tape again of Louie's story. In it Louie said that Lestat once said that life would be too unbearable if he was not around. And you know what - he's right. Maybe I've gotten use to his ways, maybe there is a bond between Sire and Childe, but I don't think I would have coped as well as I did if it hadn't been for his 'Grey' area philosophy of things. He kept me sane. And I will always owe him for that.

Day 392 - PD
Okay Journal, it's time. We're going; it's been close to one and a half years since I left Sunnydale. Now I'm coming home. I've been debating for close to a year whether I should have phoned Willow and Tara - to find out about Dawn and how she's going. I didn't. The only reason was I was afraid if I heard any of their voices - or heard what a great job Spike was doing, that I would have abandoned Lestat and his teaching and go back against his will before I was ready.

Yesterday when he said it was time I returned I was of mixed feelings. LA had become my security blanket, whilst I was here - I was not there. I'm afraid of how Will, Tara, Giles, Anya and Dawn are going to react to my 'change'.

I look back since Lestat 'kissed' me, and the funny thing is - despite the drinking of the Demon Blood, I don't regret a second of it. I've even moved beyond my resentment of Spike, hell I almost pity the guy now. In comparison of him to me and Lestat and the other Living Vampires around the world, it's like comparing a chimpanzee to Man. He's below my consideration now. Ha, it may have taken over a year but I'm finally starting to see the World as Lestat sees it - still don't know whether that's a good thing or not? Anyway, we have the counter enchantment to Drac's Castle so that we can see it and enter. We sent all the personal effects ahead - y'know the TV, the furniture and Coffins etc. 'Wolfram & Hart' organized that for us, as well as connected the electricity, gas and water up using their account.

It's time for the prodigal son to return.


With a heavy hand the former Zeppo closed his Journal and placed it atop of his luggage. He then turned to admire himself in the mirror, repositioning the collar of his midnight-blue silk shirt. If he was to step out onto the street he could have easily have been mistaken for someone going to a Night Club or Party - this was Lestat's influence. Always look your best - where ever you go.

Xander brushed his hair back out of his eyes and fingered his locks behind his ears; the length annoyed the hell out of him. But every time he cut it, it automatically grew back to the original length it was when he was 'born to darkness'. A dry chuckle exited his mouth. If Willow could see him now, preening in front of the mirror, he would never live it down. He then picked up his Rayban Sunglasses off the table beside him and put them on. One of the things most disconcerting, and the one thing that quickly singled him out as not human were his eyes. Their distinct vibrant amber color was something he concealed as much as possible from the public but in truth he loved the color against his dark thick hair and pale skin.

Lestat had marked him well. He recalled the youth he was prior to the 'dark kiss', he lacked control, pride, and culture. Lestat had shown him the world all without leaving the City. He could probably now walk into any High State Function or Party and not be out of place. Christ - Lestat had even taught him French. He chuckled again at the efforts Lestat went to at the beginning of their association to make him worthy, not only in name but character to his kind. He smiled at the early memories, the frustration he bought his companion. But he had to admit, throughout the day's that followed Lestat attention in bettering him never wavered. He was who he was because of Lestat. Lestat had become his 'Giles'.

He recommenced tucking his expensive shirt into even more expensive black slacks and straightened his belt buckle. God he loved his reflection - he wasn't vain, far from it. It just made him feel more 'real', to see what everybody else saw made him feel once more that he belonged with the human species. Again he pitied the 'Inferiors' - to go through their existence never knowing what they looked like to others, it would be maddening.

He took the expensive knife and placed it in its sheaf, to which he then fastened to the belt at the back of his pants - angling it slightly so that the handle favored his right side. Just in the event that he had to quickly withdraw the blade. He then put on a dark overcoat to conceal the weapon and patted it down to ensure that no bulge was present.

The young Vampire once more turned to admire his wardrobe and reflection. His enlarged Canine teeth presenting themselves as he smiled, combing his fingers through his hair once more. "Oh Yeah! Me Bad!"

This statement finished with a sharp intake of air - he was ready, for what he didn't know. But Lestat had prepared him well, and he knew that with his Sire, 'Father', confidant, and - yes even friend, that there would be no surprise waiting for him on the Hellmouth that he - they, could not face together.

The eternal 21-year old exited his room with his bag, and handed it to the Limo Driver who was standing at the door of their Apartment - another complementary service of 'Wolfram & Hart'. As the driver left. Xander turned to face his fellow Living Vampire.

"I don't like this Lestat. Why don't we just leave tonight?"

From the cover laid couch the vampire answered his prodigy "My Beautiful One, when Style is offered - accept it with good grace." The Vampire placed down's Xander's traveling food, and stroked its coat as it purred contently. "The Lawyers see in you what I did Alex. They see your potential, they see it and they fear it. They Fear you - so they spoil you in the hopes that you and they remain on good terms. All these beneficial overtures are to sway you - not me. They already know I'm corruptible." A polite and theatrical chuckle left Lestat, Xander smirked as the statement. After a decent pause Lestat continued. "They wish to cultivate your dependence upon them for their own gain."

The young Vampire nodded, Lestat's council was always well taken. No-one knew the workings of diabolical minds better then another diabolical mind. How often had Lestat's unique wisdom been accurate in identifying the intentions of a Cult or Murderous Demon over the last year? Lestat's guarded words had often saved him from peril, and he knew that his Sire's fondness for him would never put him, or those he held dear in jeopardy.

"Rest assured Dear One, they offered this service, I did not ask. We will not owe them servitude because of this convenience. I just thought this mode of Sun-free transport would be more fitting for people of our 'stature'. Besides, it will ensure that we are in town the moment the Sun goes to sleep, and you will be able to imminently re-introduce yourself to your friends --- <sigh> and the Pipsqueak.*"

"*Don't call her that. I swear Lestat, as much as I care for you and your company, if you as much as hurt Dawn's feelings - I will forget myself."

Tension strangled the air as both Vampires considered the ramifications of Xander's threat. Lestat knew - had known, for some time the devotion his childe had towards the teen. And he saw that devotion as his only obstacle in ensuring 'Alex's' eternal companionship. He would find some why to corrupt it, and then the World would be their playground.

Moment's passed until there was heard a polite cough by the returned Limo Driver.

Lestat spied the hulkerian man at the door and smiled lightly. "Very well my friend, no name calling. But we should away, daylight is burning." The senior Vampire then picked up the comfortable cat and handed it to 'Alex'.

Xander cradled the feline and stroked its coat until it purred once more, accepting Lestat's words as they were both led out by the Driver. When they reached the garage the young immortal queried "I've got mine Lestat" Xander said gesturing to the cat in his arms. "But where's yours?"

A pearly smile was returned, and in whispered French the vampire answered. ["Apparently our good Driver killed several children and their parents a few years back, and got off on a legal technicality. He is still working off his legal expenses to the Firm even thou he assured them when they took his case that he could pay. Our good 'Friends' have now tired of his services, and have offered me the pleasure of 'firing' him. But do not worry my friend; I shall restrain myself until we get to Sunnydale. What good is arriving in a Limo if there is no Limousine Driver to open the door and remove the luggage?]

Driver opened the Door to the vehicle for both his clients and smiled. Xander refused to meet the driver's eyes as he got in, as Lestat asked his future victim to remind him in giving him a deserving 'Tip' when they had reached their destination.

As Lestat positioned himself opposite his childe, making himself comfortable, Xander lent forward and commented in French ["Must you always play with your food?"]

A mocked surprised look passed over the elder Living-Vampire and then he smiled charmingly. "Always my friend. Always."

The darkly tinted vehicle started, and then began to slowly move forward. Forward into the Sun, and forward towards Sunnydale.

Chapter 4


The crisp evening air cooled Sunnydale, California. Forcing those who chose to do their constitutional under moonlight to thicken their wears to ward off the chill.

Two figures walked the streets unaffected by the harsh temperature, passing and politely nodding recognition to those who were either incredibly brave or unimaginably foolish to confront the night. Their unwavering and steady footsteps echoed throughout the alleyways of the Hellmouth. Each step announcing to those within earshot who claimed the darkness and fed off the citizens of Sunnydale that the closest thing they would ever get to 'Dark' Royalty were near.

AleXander Harris had returned home.

It had been a long journey, one that had claimed his life and taken nearly one and a half years to accomplish. But he was home. The onetime graduate of Sunnydale High was again walking upon familiar ground, streets that he had known his entire life. Yet it was all unfamiliar to him now. He was seeing Sunnydale - to him, for what seemed like the first time in his entire life. His Vampire senses drank in the surroundings of his youth and presented everything to him with a new vitality.

As he and his companion passed the aged old haunts and ambush locales for the 'Inferiors', he inwardly laughed. His Prime Power - Empathy, could feel the fear emanating from those that had taken his 'Kinds' name from within their Den's. A part of him wanted to confront these imposters and dispatch them imminently back to the Hell that had spawned them. But now was not the time for such pleasures, now was the time to honor another. Those animals could all wait until the following evening to meet their fate.

In silent step too his own was his creator, the Vampire Lestat. Lestat had accepted the importance of this occasion to his childe, and as such remained silent. A respect he rarely showed anyone.

With remembered tread from a lifetime ago, Xander led the two man expedition to where his Hero lay. Both men entered one of the several cemeteries that infested Sunnydale and made their way to a plot of land that hid the body of someone who gave up their life for the world.

As they got closer to their destination a dramatic mist began to raise itself from the earth and smother the landscape. Once, along time ago, such a scene - Graveyard; Nighttime; Full Moon and Fog would have inspired a most basic fear in the pre-'turned' Vampire. And if not fear, at least caution. That was now no longer the case, he feared nothing anymore. The things that bought terror to man and corrupted their nightmares would now be wise to fear him.

After 5-minutes of walking the various pathways present Xander veered off and made his way across the manicured lawn, past numerous tomestones, and a few ancient and unvisited Mausoleums of Sunnydale's founding families. With each step their destination got closer. With each step the young Vampire struggled to maintain his composure.

Buffy was buried in a private and concealed corner of the consecrated ground. She had no Death Certificate. Her demise was not of public record. This was for Dawn's sake and benefit. If John Summers, Dawn's 'father' knew of the loss of his other daughter, the man would have claimed for guardianship of the teen. It was decided by all that Buffy's sacrifice not be recognized, and that her passing not be made official. Everything they did proceeding that night to the moment he left was done in secret of the authorities. Willow selected the Slayer's burial clothes, Tara identified an appropriate location and 'Wicca' blessed the ground, Spike found a fitting coffin for the Planet's Savior, Anya, reluctantly, arranged Buffy's hair and applied her makeup, Giles wrote the service. And he paid for a blank Tombstone, and carved out the relevant details. The epitaph 'She Saved the World . Alot.' - That was him. He thought it fitting that at least some recognition be made. The deep chiseling of the headstone without the benefit of the correct equipment caused his hand to slip numerous times and cause gashes and biting pain. The physical sensation of the momentary agony faded, only the emotional loss remained in his heart.

The young Vampire looked down at the site as he recalled with fresh clarity of arriving several hours before the burial to dig the 6- foot deep plot. He bought no weapons, just a shovel. Daring any of the night time visitors that frequented the area to challenge him. None did of course. He recalled the tears that flowed from him that night as he dug and how dried his eyes out were when the Gang and Spike arrived.

The Vampire Alexander knelt and laid his offering of Roses at the head of the humble but cherished grave. As he did so the fog that enveloped the scene parted. What he saw with his nocturnal eyes angered him. It was the sight of unattended ground. Weeds had grown, the Granite face of his effort was dirty, the once leveled earth was now imbalanced and grown over.

The Zeppo's face contorted as he struggled to find words to express his feelings. After brief seconds the young Vampire surrendered that option, and instead acted. With inhuman speed and the rational action of a drowning man the youthful immortal began to attack the earth before him. Tearing up weeds, churning the ground and leveling it. After a minute of effort the state of the grave site was greatly improved. Xander stood up; his pale face emphasized by the glow of the full moon, staring at the evidence of his toil, the damp earth upon his chalk-white hands, and soil under his finger nails.

"How could they? How could they allow her Resting Place come to this state - Have they no respect?"

The questions hung in the air; Lestat was unsure whether he should contribute to the dialogue. He had long recognized the depths of his companion's feelings for the fallen champion, and knew any words he could speak would not ease his friend's troubled mind. But something about the mound - before his childe set himself upon it, struck him as odd. The earth looked as thou it had been pushed aside - disrupted outwards. Curious.

The senior Vampire was not certain how to broach this discovery to his eternal companion, it was obvious that his 'Young One' had not noticed this fact, and had only recognized the poor aesthetic appearance of the grave without the consideration of why it was so. What ever event caused the disturbance, it had taken place long enough ago for the grass to reseed, and weeds to grow over, at least - at his mental calculation, a year. This puzzled him. And Lestat, being who and what he was made the decision to hold his tongue and his suspicions, until he had been presented with more fact's to support his findings.

Xander looked at his mentor longingly, hoping for some wisdom to be parted to him. Something that would still the anger that was growing beneath his breast for the people he loved like family. "How could they Lestat?"

The 300+ year-old vampire considered the question, his childe was hurting, and viewing this sight hurt him as well. He loved Xander, he loved Louie, he loved all his childe's. Even Claudia who had attempted to end his existence over a hundred years earlier. They all had a home in his heart, and he would happily wrench any Being limb from limb for causing a single one of them a moment of pain. "I wish I could answer you Alexander, but I can not. It is true that this seems uncharacteristic of the people you described. The only answer I can offer is, and it is one I know you do not wish to consider, but mayhap they are all dead."

Xander froze at these words, the emotional heat that cursed through his body stilled - it was true. Lestat's words did present a possibility for this disgrace. The young man clenched his fists and fought back a growl to an unknown opponent. If this were true, then this invisible foe had made a powerful enemy of him this night. And he would not stop until there was vengeance. But suddenly something else stirred in his heart - a faint hope. Maybe it was the optimist that had existed in him prior to Buffy's fall, but the dark haired eternal shock his head and stared up to the universe. "No, I---I can't believe that they are all gone. One must have survived; otherwise the Hellmouth would have been overrun."

Lestat nodded to his student's conclusion and approached him. "What do you intend to do now?"

"I --- I don't know."

Placing a comforting arm around Xander's shoulder, and stroking the stray hair's from his childe's eyes that had fallen forward as a result of his frenzied action moment's earlier, the Vampire looked upon his Beauty "Why don't you exercise caution my friend, it may be prudent to observe this town and it's inhabitants for a while, get your bearings."

Xander accepted Lestat's 'familiar' gestures. He knew that his Sire at times demonstrated a certain fondness of the male form even thou he flatly denied these leanings to him. And he knew that Lestat was aware that nothing could, or would EVER eventuate from him regarding these very personal attentions. Yes, it was uncomfortable at times, and yes he had to fight recoiling at moments, but in others --- now for example, he found such intimate contact reassuring. He was not a Homophobe, the ease in which he had accepted Willow's 'changing teams' and Tara into the Scooby's was evidence to him of this. Lestat was Lestat, and this was simply Lestat being Lestat.

Xander nodded once more, his Master's council again appreciated beyond measure. "Yes, your right. You head back to the Castle if you wish Lestat. Or survey the Town." The young Vampire then began to move away from his Sire. "I think I'd prefer to be alone for now, if that's alright?"

"Of course my Curiosity." Xander smiled at the pet-name, Lestat now used it rarely these days, but it was 'special' to him, and Lestat knew that. This is probably why he only used it on special occasions. The Vampire Lestat looked at his childe with concern in his Vampire eyes. "I'll see you later?"

Without turning, Xander continued his track across the cemetery lawn. Voicing his answer. "Count on it."


Xander mulled over the revelation of the night as his feet blindly continued to pace forward upon the streets of Sunnydale. The Grave troubled him deeply; he could not conceive a single Scooby allowing it to reach such a point of poor maintenance. Not Willow, not Tara, not Anya, not Giles and certainly not Dawn. It was true, the only explanation that made sense was Lestat's simple one - they were all dead. Despite the confident claim he made that at least one of the Scooby's were still alive, he now no longer felt it as he walked the dirty streets. Despair consuming him with its bitter poison. With a deep sigh he raised his head to get his bearings; it was then that he noticed that he was only a block away from the 'Magic Box'. A thought entered his mind, if any of the Gang were still alive then the old base of operations would still be in use. Giles 'Magic Box' was Scooby Central after all.

With quicken Vampire steps Xander was before the familiar shop front in less time it would take to think the thought. The onetime Scooby imminently saw movement within and peered through the window. Behind the Register counting the receipts of the day was Anya; the stolic face that would have made Oz proud cracked a whisper to allow a smile to creep over his features, and relief to flush throughout his system. He wanted so much to hold her again, even though he was resigned to not allow anything to proceed further then that, he still just wanted to feel the loving warmth of her touch once more. The young Vampire's hand clasped the handle of the door and was about announce his return to his former lover when he noticed further activity in the background. His Predator like vision sharpened upon the motion, what he spied stumped him - Spike? Lightly he removed his hand from the front door entrance and continued to observe the two.

What he saw he did not like. The two were - to him, acting like skittish teenagers, each stealing glances at the other when the other was not looking their way. Xander's hands clenched for the second time that night, his soil-dirty fingernails digging into his flesh and then his flesh healing over the nails. The Living- Vampire did not need to use empathy to tell what was transpiring within; it had been around since Man lived in Caves - Flirting. And it disgusted him.

With this realization he could no longer bare witness to the spectacle. Bile began to rise up and an almost inhuman growl started to form in his throat. The Vampire turned and walked angrily away, tearing his fingers from his palms one by one. The pain was a welcome distraction towards his homicidal thoughts for the chipped Inferior as he continued on his Grand Tour of Sunnydale.


His next stop was the 'The Bronze', it had always been a favorite place for snacking by the 'Inferiors', and given what he had seen at the 'Magic Box' he was in the right frame of mind to execute some mindless violence upon the Imposter Race.

He entered the Club unchallenged and without paying the cover charge, utilizing the skill's Lestat had taught him when he was first 'Born to the Night' to mesmerize the prey. The stupider the subject - the easier it was. The Bouncer employed that night was barely an effort to him. With deliberate care he negotiated the young patrons scooping out his former after school hang-out.

Placing himself upon the top floor, he used the gangway to peer down upon the adolescents below. He was scanning the crowd for little more then two-minutes before he spotted his first victim in town. It would be an easy 'Dusting'. The Inferior made his way to the back exit, leading a young girl to her death. When the female prize of the Vamp turned, Xander saw her face and his Fangs involuntarily bared themselves. It was Dawn.

The Living Vampire, ran along the gangway to the Fire Exit. Pushing the door open with such force it ripped off its hinges. Xander was then faced with a momentary dilemma, the Fire Exit opened on the opposite side of the exit Dawn and the Inferior had left through. Looking upwards the Prodigy of Lestat began to ascend the wall facing him until he had reached the roof. He then made his way across the top of the Bronze until he was above the doorway Dawn had left through.

The door had opened out into the back alley of the Club, a favorite preying spot for newbies - Dawn should have known better! With eyesight sharper then any Eagle Xander spied down upon the alley way in question.


Dawn closed the door shut and breathed her relief. Her heart was racing, only viewing the reassuring vision of her home did it begin to slow itself.

The slamming of the front door was enough to get the attention of the other occupants of 'Casa Del Summers'. Willow and Tara were the first to make their appearance, the two Wicca's were in the lounge room watching an evening Movie. Buffy was the third and last as she bolted from the kitchen in where she had been making Popcorn for the three.

The ghostly complexion upon her younger sister's face drew the siblings into a fierce embrace. One that was not easily extinguished. "What happened?"

Dawn was shivering in her sisters arms. Buffy did not want to let go, but she knew she had to release Dawn to get her answer. Slowly the Slayer lessened the pressure her arms presented. Willow and Tara then led the shocked teen to the couch and turned off the TV.

Once as all four were seated, Buffy repeated the question.

In a meek whisper Dawn answered. "I was at the Bronze. Dancing, laughing, hanging. I noticed a Vamp scooping out Tanya, so I --- approached him. Did my 'Are you new in Town?' routine. Y'know - the old 'Bait n Stake', and it was working."

Buffy shot up from the sofa. "Dammit Dawn, I don't know how many times I've told you - Your not the Slayer, you don't do those things without backup!"

This had been an old argument between the two as Dawn began to display more independence in her life. And as always, the counter argument was already to be returned by the Teen. "I can handle one Vamp Buffy. You guy's did this at my age."

"Never without appropriate backup Dawn."

"Xander use to stake Vamp's on his lonesome, and you never gave him any grief!"

The Slayers face scowled at the Dimensional Key, it was unfair for her to bring Xander into this argument, which was probably why the young woman did it. "I gave Xander grief like you've never known - 'Dawnie'." The introduction of the childish name stung at the younger sister's resolve face, causing it to break. With this success, Buffy once more sat down besides her sibling and took her hands in hers and softly continued. "I gave Xander more grief then he deserved, because I worried about him. And I worry about you too, and that's not going to change. I want you to promise me, you'll never do that again without support."

When Willow, Tara, Anya and Dawn had resurrected her over a year ago, the four made the journey to LA the following day to Angel's Hotel. The Slayer was still distracted by being wrenched from Heaven, a secret she kept to herself for several weeks upon her return. So she wasn't the most social, but she was still looking forward to seeing Xander again, he was the only one of the Scooby Gang, apart from Giles who did not participate in the violation, as such she was more inclined to be with him then the others. When they all arrived at the Hyperion they were all met by the full compliment of the 'Fang Gang'. But the news they received regarding Xander was not good.

Wesley and Cordelia told them all that Xander had refused to stay with them the night before, stating that he had an important appointment later on, one he felt he needed to keep. Everyone was disheartened by the revelation that he was not around, this revelation changed to concern when Cordelia told them all about his physical state when he had walked through the doors - Pale, Sickly and with a Vampire bite on his neck.

Out of this concern Willow and Tara did a location spell to track down the missing Scooby, but the spell did not activate. The only explanation for its failure was one no-one wished to utter, so the two frantically performed an additional spell in the Hotel. One that would reveal Xander's Life-force energies and reassure both groups that the man in question was still alive. That spell also fizzled, revealing to all that Xander was quite likely Dead. It was a difficult truth to accept, especially considering less then 24-hours earlier he was alive. Wesley and Cordelia felt beyond awful for allowing the young man to depart their care, Cordelia still hadn't forgiven herself.

The former girlfriend felt that she should have been able to sense the Danger that threatened her ex-boyfriend via her visions offered to her by the PTB's. The Brunette parted Xander's last words to the Sunnydale group, how he felt that Buffy had selected Spike because of the physical power he possessed over the other Scoobies, and how he thought that her discounting him was because she thought the Vampire would have been a better Role-model/Protector/Father- figure then himself. Buffy wished she could have cried that day with everyone else, but her return from absolute Love and Bliss still numbed her to the pain this news caused.

Everyone cried for different reasons, Willow because of the loss of her best male friend and because she had chosen to miss the opportunity to speak to him the day before. Tara because of her fondness for the Construction Worker, and because how it would effect Willow. Dawn cried because she cared deeply for the Zeppo and always would, and that she now knew that he returned those feelings, not in the way she would have liked, but just a portion of Xander's love was enough love for her. Anya cried the most - as expected, she had such hopes for this reunion. It was there in the Lobby that she revealed that she and Xander were in fact engaged to be married. The addition of this news hit everyone hard.

But Buffy did not cry.

No good came from that day as far as Buffy was concerned, she was returned to Life as a Scooby, as another member experienced death. The Universe had its balance restored. And this realization threw her into a deeper depression. A depression in which only being with Spike seemed to provide her with any solace, only when she was in his cold arms did she cry. But this affair was short lived and couldn't be allowed to continue, it was unknowingly hurting to many people she loved. She also imagined what Xander would say if he was still around to the Spike encounters and that sold her in breaking up with the muzzled Vampire. Spike did try to force himself upon her shortly after she went her separate ways, but she fought him off. He had revealed his true nature to her that night, and since that day the chipped Vampire kept his distance, only daring to be in the same room with her when another was present.

No one knew what the depths her depression had caused her to act on, and no one knew about Spike and the attempted rape. That was her and the Vampire's secret, and if he ever wished to see moonlight he would keep it so.

Buffy looked upon her sister and drew her body into hers, silently waiting for her to finish her tale. It did not take long.

"I was in the alley, about dust him when he let out a whistle. Out of no where there were like six to seven other Vamp's, maybe more - I don't know exactly. He said that they knew who I was, and who I was related to, and that I should be extra tasty as a result." The teen's eyes closed tightly and she buried herself further into her sister. "I've never been that scared in my life Buffy."

The Slayer stroked her sister's hair in a motherly fashion as she processed what she had just been told. She looked too Willow and Tara, but they were equally shocked at the words that sprang from Dawn's mouth.

Tara gently posed the question after a few moments of Buffy rocking her sister back and forth. "How did you escape Dawn?"

Dawn's face removed it self from Buffy's chest and looked at the honey-haired Wicca. "This --- Thing saved me. It descended from the sky. It was dressed like Angel, but he fought like nothing I had ever seen Angel do. He was fast - I mean he was REAL fast, faster then you Buffy, faster then anything I had ever seen. You blink, and zoom he was somewhere else. He was like a blur of motion. He also had this big, BIG knife, scary looking, that chopped their heads off like never you mind. He was through them all in matter of seconds, I mean it - Seconds, four to five at the most. And when he was done he told me to run home and not to stop until I was, the weird thing is he said it, and I heard it too."

This statement caused puzzlement upon the three women, one noticed by Dawn, so she corrected herself. "I mean I heard it in my head also. I then ran, I ran for all I was worth until I got here."

"He saved you?"

Dawn nodded.

Buffy then looked Dawn dead-set in the eyes, her tone suddenly taking on an 'Offical-Slayer-Buisness' pitch. "Okay Dawn, what did he look like, I mean was he a Humanoid-Demon, Demon, Vampire - What?"

"I don't know Buffy - I wish I did, I really do. But the alley wasn't exactly lit up, and for the most part all I saw were dark figures and blurs. The only thing I can say is that he came out of no-where in front of me and*" A thought just entered the teen's mind - two actually. "Buffy, when he landed he didn't make a sound, in fact he landed to slowly for him to have jumped, or fallen. And the only place he could have done that was the roof of the Bronze - and that's like three to four stories up. Not even Angel or Spike could jump from that distance without causing some damage to themselves - and this guy hit the ground running."

Willow appeared to be in thought to this addition. "Anything else?"

Dawn looked pensive for a moment; she then faced the Red-headed Wicca. "Yeah, when he told me to Run Home - he---he used my name!"


The Living Vampire Alexander glided above the street's of Sunnydale, keeping watch over Dawn as she ran towards her home. He wished that he could reveal himself to her, but Lestat was right - get the facts then make yourself known. It would have served no positive purpose for him to expose himself to the gang all Fangy. Their first reaction would probably be a Stake through his heart, it wouldn't have killed him, but that wasn't the point. He needed Intel. To accomplish this he had to keep to the shadows.

Dawn had just slammed the door shut - She was home, and therefore safe. Xander landed outside and then began to scale the side wall of the house, finding access through a bedroom window. Another benefit to not being an Inferior was that he could enter any lodgings he liked without the need of invitation.

He carefully allowed the window to slide open and then proceeded to make his way through the manmade portal. He was in Buffy's room. The shock to being here, in this room chilled his bones. For some reason he could still feel her presence within; he sniffed the air and detected her subtle perfume still lingering, even after 16-months that sweet vanilla-strawberry scent still remained. The young eternal then began to memorize what was before him - everything was as it was, everything had a sense of pure Buffy about it. He was grateful that the respect they showed her room was superior to the respect they showed her grave - that was at least something. The only thing that seemed out of place was a couple of photographs upon her Mirror-Dresser. One was of Joyce Summers; the other was of him, taken in days when he smiled more readily. Surprising that Buff had kept a photo of him when there wasn't one of Willow, Giles, Dawn or Tara?

The youthful Undead-man then carefully edged the bedroom door open to hear what was being said by the young girl who had rushed indoors a minute or so earlier. The voices that flowed up the stair case to the second floor he easily recognized - Dawn's, Willow's, Tara's and --- Buffy's?!?

It WAS Buffy.

His Vampire's mind reeled, and he staggered back through the door he had opened - Was it all a horrible dream? No. There was a grave, and everything. Then HOW? The answers he knew would not come from him hiding in her bedroom - that was certain; they could only come from one floor below. Righteousness overwhelmed him as he resolved himself to walk down the stairs. But something caught his attention before he did so. It was his photograph. Living, Breathing, HAPPY Xander was staring up at him with a mocking smile on his face. With his right hand he reached over for the picture and squeezed the frame in his hand. The metal bent, and the glass splintered digging into his pale flesh. Rich redness began to flow from his palm as he watched with a face of one in a trance as the cut's healed before his eyes. Raising his head he saw another image, it was himself in the Mirror, his pale, blue veined self.

That afternoon he remembered admiring his appearance and considering how fortunate he was in being able to cast a reflection, now he could not bear to see his Vampire form. A frustration and anger that dwarfed what he had felt outside of the 'Magic Box' consumed him whole. He released this fury in a blow that buried his fist into his reflection. The 'Crack' that voiced itself as the glass shattered onto the carpeted floor could be heard throughout the neighborhood. The eternal youth's arm had penetrated the backboard and passed through impregnating the plastered wall behind it. The plastered wall cracked from floor to ceiling. Calmly Xander removed his hand - it felt good to release the momentary resentment of his predicament. He then blindly grabbed another object, his mind focused on more release. The padded noise of stomping footsteps of the women below hastily making their way up the stairs awoke him back to his reality. With an eased ripping action he flung the object upon Buffy's bed and dived out the still opened window, ascending into the night sky. With a lone thought on his mind - Maybe the animals won't have to wait until tomorrow?


Buffy pushed her door open and stabbed at the light switch, the chaos that met her eyes staggered her. The first thing she noticed, aside from her Dresser being destroyed was her window wide open. She ran to it, and searched the lawn for any guilty party. By this time the other three young women had joined her, each taking in the damage.

"Willow do another incantation to ward off uninvited guests."

"You think a Vampire did this?"

"I don't know; but it's better to be safe then sorry. Anybody invite a stranger in recently?"

The small group all shock their heads in the negative.

The Slayer growled her response "Great." She then began to straighten out her room as Willow and Tara went to grab the ingredients for the 'Vampire-be-gone' Spell. On the floor she noticed Xander's photograph all crumpled and crushed. Delicately she picked it up and attempted to pad out the creases, it was as she did so that she noticed the droplets of blood on Xander's smiling face. Dawn who was still slightly shaken from her earlier experience lay down on her elder sister's bed watching Buffy try and recover from the intrusion.

Buffy was carefully putting the mirrored fragments in the Wastepaper basket when she noticed Dawn squirming. The Teenager dug her hands under her back and removed the objects that were assaulting her spine and causing her discomfort. When she bought her hands out to spy the culprits she gasped. The Slayer once more turned to her sister, what she saw in her hands, caused her mouth tremble and her lips to edge downwards.

"B---b---buffy, what does this mean?"

The Slayer answered her sister with a darkness she never carried in her voice before. "It means that this just got a lot more personal!"

With reverent care the teenage Key handed both pieces of the stuffed animal to her sister. Buffy accepted the head and the body and put them beside each other on her desk. The Pig's days were done.

"Nobody does that to Mr. Gordo and gets away with it."

Chapter 5

Count Dracula's Castle (later that night - after Chapter 4)

The heavy set door was pushed aside with childish ease as Xander strode into the mystically protected Castle. The 21-year old eternal followed the eerily, yet beautiful Violin music into the main chamber of the Medieval Keep. Lestat was positioned before the room's hearth, allowing the fire to dance to his playing and gaining inspiration to their flickering amber-orange light.

Xander stood and admired the noise coming though the actions of his Sire, despite the anguish that assaulted his being from the night's discoveries, he could still admire beauty in all its forms, and Lestat was in fine form this evening. The Vampire's bow was speeding across the tensile lines of the wooden instrument, presenting a melody that would haunt the soul. Xander had known from brief experience that this could only mean that something welcoming had taken place for his Maker. Lestat rarely played with this gusto on normal days.

The Living Vampire Alexander positioned himself upon the grand banquet table and lay down on its wooden surface. Entwining his fingers with each other, and placing the knotted digits on his chest. The laying figure of the onetime Scooby now resembled the standard pose of a funeral home dead-man. Xander then closed his eyes and lost himself in the musical misery of his creator. He would not dare interfere with Lestat's muse. The junior of the two Vampires allowed the fluid sounds to take him away from his eternal existence for the briefest of moments. For these minutes emotions stirred within him and he could see himself no longer as a Cosmic Joke. The Universes Punch line. Buffy was alive, he knew this in his immortally preserved soul.

Lestat reached the apex of his performance and ceased, awaiting the stirring of the newly arrived co-habitant. He did not have to wait long. From a dozen feet away he heard the rhythmic clapping of his childe's appreciation to his performance. Placing the bow across his left breast, Lestat bowed to his audience of one. When he returned to his height once more he noticed the troubled look upon his companion. No words needed to be spoken between the two as Xander surrendered the answer to the unsaid question.

"She's alive." Simple, direct and accurate.

Lestat place the Violin in its case with care, and met Xander as the younger swung his legs off the table and once more planted them upon stone tiled floor. "You mean the Slayer?"

"Yes, she's alive. Not only does she live, but Anya --- my." Xander could not complete the phrase girlfriend, or fiancée. He had abandoned those titles, and her, when he left Sunnydale the night of Buffy's funeral. The young Vampire buried his head into his hands. "God! I don't know what's going on?" Xander looked at his mentor for some reaction to the news; Lestat's face remained featureless as he responded to the claim.

"I already know my Precious One."

Lestat may have been immune to surprise, but Xander Harris was not. "What do you mean - you know? How could you know?"

Lestat met his childe's betrayal burning eyes with an icy coolness. The Master Vampire was unflinching to the visible emotions of his student. "The burial site my friend was disturbed, not ignored. The soil you vigorously corrected had been pushed aside, not from above but below. As if someone had pushed themselves through the earth. The --- suspects for this were limited to only one - the late Buffy Summer's. As for the former demon Anyanka, I know what I know through --- different sources."

Xander stood firm and faced his Master and Teacher. "How could you not have told me? You knew Buffy might be alive and, and --- and*"

"*I didn't tell you my 'Son' because I didn't know the full facts at the time Alexander; I would never set your hopes alive if I was not 100% certain that what I said was not accurate." The senior Vampire leaned against the table as Xander was, mimicking his pose; the imitation bought an impossible smile to the face of the student as he viewed what he must look like to the more powerful of the two. Lestat's achievement in breaking down Alexander's 'Resolve Face' - as he called it, encouraged him to continue, adopting a softer and less confrontational tone. "I left you this evening without the news of the Slayer's return in the hopes of being proved wrong." The Vampire Lestat paused for a moment, collecting his words and observing his youngest body language - deciphering his childe's state of mind. "You are angry my friend, that is understandable. But your fury is not directed at me, you're once intended, or the arisen Summer's woman, it is at yourself and upon your circumstances. You feel as thou you had been cheated of an opportunity to live a 'Normal' existence."

Without meeting his partners eyes Xander silently nodded, cursing himself that Lestat knew him so well.

"You ask yourself, what justice is there in the Universe to allow this fate to befall you? I tell you this Alexander, and it is what I've imparted to you for well over a year. There is no justice in this Universe other then the ones we chose to met out. We are the perfected image of God himself. We are the givers of lives and the takers of it. Our whims and fancies are the dictator of who we allow to live and exist." Lestat looked deeper into his prodigy's amber eyes hoping to stir the patriotism of his sired. "Alex, if we are not God's own instruments, how is it we exist unaffected by things that challenge and destroy those lesser then ourselves?

"The Gift's bestode upon us are divine ones Alexander. We have been created - allowed - permitted, the opportunity of seeing great things come to pass. You are one of these Great things, I knew this when I 'adopted' you, and my opinion of this has yet to change. You-will-be -great, and your day - when it comes, shall never pass. When the youngest of those you claim to love are but dust in the ground, you will still be young, beautiful and magnificent. Your misery, thou it is great in you at present, it will be forgotten in time my friend, and regret will no longer exist within you."

The senior Vampire then took his opportunity to hide his face from his eternal companion and approach the place he had laid his Violin Case. His voice then took a solemn tone. "I understand your desire to be with your friends once more Alex, I did to when I was 'Changed'. It is natural to want to share the wonders that the Dark Kiss had bought you with those you love; it is the Human thing to do - even thou we are not.

"Your friends are as important to you, as you are to me. But would they truly understand you? I don't think so. You have now grown beyond what you were to them. They would see you as nothing less then the monster they typically face on a nightly basis. And you are so much more then they could ever possibly conceive. Do you truly wish to be in their company, when they will forever be suspicious of it?"

Xander could not answer, he wished he could find a flaw in Lestat's argument, but he could not. Not where his friends were concerned. They had accepted Angel because he was already an 'Inferior' when they met him - there was no adjustment, this was true for Spike as well. But himself? His fear was that they would FEAR him. They would identify him as a Vampire and place him in the same offensive category as all the others. And if by chance they did once more take him into their trusted circle, he would always be remembered and treated by the group as what he was - the Jester, the Zeppo, the Nobody, not what he had become.

The dark haired figure turned to the blonde haired one beside him. "I can't leave them Lestat, I --- I just can't."

"Why not?"

"What do you mean - Why not?"

"Why not. Alexander, there is no need for you to be here any longer. The Slayer has returned to fulfill her obligations. We are free, *YOU* are free. The world has opened itself up to you my Cherished One, let me show it to you."

"Buffy may be back, but Dawn still needs to be protected. Tonight she would have died if I hadn't been there. Granted Buff's --- return threw me, but Dawn - my oath to Dawn hasn't changed. If I wasn't what I was, where I was, when I was - she would be dead." Xander silenced himself, knowing that he had made his argument, and knowing that Lestat would not challenge him further on this topic. The Living Vampire Alexander looked to the pavings in contemplation, allowing the words of a question to drop from his mouth. "Now - how did you know about Anya?"

The Vampire Lestat looked upon his child, the defiance in his eyes reminiscent of the fire he had once seen in Louie's. Lestat would not be able to evade this question with wit. Again Lestat's thought's strayed to Louie when he thought of his most recent childe. Xander's character to do beneficial things with his Dark Gift's however surpassed his earlier companions desire to do the same. Louis was always ashamed of what he was - what he had become, and he loathed his kind. Lestat knew from the first night of Alexander's embrace to the darkness, that dispensing Pride of what they were within the fledgling was necessary in curbing the baser and rebellious nature Xander possessed, a nature shared with Louie. So he began to instill that Pride to an almost fanatical degree, a degree that prejudiced all other night creatures, and elevating arrogance in his recent childe, that he had never before attempted to foster with any of those he had turned.

Lestat inwardly smiled, the similarities between the two childe's were startling, how life with Louie could have been oh so much more pleasant if he had instilled the same in him, but you live - you learn.

This aside, Louis and Alexander also shared many other commonalities. As Louie, Xander too did lose someone he loved more then his own life. Like Louie, Xander also lacked to inner courage to end his misery and sought out dangerous circumstances to claim him. And like Louie, Xander loved a young girl, one he would cherish like his own daughter if given the opportunity. Yes, Lestat would make up for past failings - this pipsqueak of Alexander would not become another Claudia to him. There could be only one Claudia.

The only subtle difference between the two 'sired', was that Alexander sought out the Dark Kiss.


Lestat shock himself from his ponderings as he addressed the question. "I had left you, and I found myself in an abysmal part of this Town. I recognized a scent coming from a Tavern*"

"*'Willy's Place'?"

The Vampire Lestat sighed "Yes, the stench was an assault to my senses. Everywhere within were either Inferiors, or Demons that were more a mockery then terrifying. I approached the Barkeep*"


"Yes, a Weasel of a Human isn't he. We started conversing, and he began to warn me of the 'Slayer'. I asked the right questions - he provided me with the right answers. The information he parted came from the Inferior - 'Spike', who had used his knowledge to acquire free blood from the 'Weasel-Man'. The Slayer was resurrected last year by her Wicca friends, her sister and your former bride-to-be*"

"*Get to Anya Lestat - What do you know?"

"Willard informed me that the ex-demon had taken the Inferior's eye, and that he was debating upon pursuing her. Apparently, an earlier relationship of this Lesser-One ended --- badly, and he wished not to corrupt his intent by behaving as per character, so he has been seeking advice from the Bartender."

"Willy is giving Spike romantic advice on my Girlfriend!" The young eternal left the company of his Master and made strides to the front door of Count Dracula's former property, stopping himself before opening it. "Dammit! The Sun will be up in half an hour. I'm stuck here."

Lestat had followed Xander to the Entrance Hall of the Medieval Castle. "Why does it bother you so? Let the Inferior claim the Demon."

"Anya's not a Demon anymore; she's a person - a Human Being. And you know how I feel about that kind of thing between the Living and the Dead."

"Are you saying you will never - EVER engage in those kinds of relations? Eternity is a long time my friend to be so alone."

"It's Repulsive, Sick and Demented. And I'll be damned - Again, if I'd let Anya do such a thing. If Spike so much as breathes heavily on her I will rip his Head off with my bare hands."

"Alex, Stop This Now!" The words that ushered from Lestat were phased as a command, not a request. "I have humored this venture because it means so much to you. But understand, you are now no longer part of their lives. If you wish Spike disposed of, do so and move on. But *WE* can never exist in their world. We watch from the shadows my friend, we possess the night and they claim the day. As much as you may wish to share in the lives of humans - WE-ARE-NOT-HUMAN! We are better."

"I can't abandon them Lestat - I won't! You stand there and say we must live apart from them, but I know you don't believe this. You appreciate the Human Race as much as I; you envy them like I do, because we can never be part of it again. WE ARE DAMNED! When we perish there is a toasty space reserved in Hell just for us. Despite your claims of us being divinely created - I don't believe it. My God - MY GOD would never create things like us as his instruments. Only something pure Evil would. And everyday that I fight the Hunger and refuse to drain a human - and yes Lestat, I have thought about it. This afternoon for example, when you 'Tipped' the Limo Driver, the smell of his --- it was almost more then I could bare. But with everyday that I refuse the craving, I spit in the face of the Great Creator of us all. I am still Human for as long as I believe I am, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise."

Lestat looked upon his prized pupil and admired him. "You will always surprise me, won't you my 'Curiosity'. If you truly wish to be with your friends I will not stand in your way. But I hope you exercise caution. I would suggest ---." Lestat did not finish, a plan was forming in his mind.


The pearl teeth of the Vampire exposed themselves to his 'Son'. The heat of the rising Sun could be felt through the sealed tight doors. Moment's passed, tension strangling the air as Xander looked upon his Mentor expectantly. Finally Lestat, the 'Brat Prince', and the 'Master of Lies' spoke. "Do not expose yourself to them yet my friend. Allow a reputation to grow of your Dark Justice. When you hunt, let one being go. They will spread their fear of you, and your greatness to others they chose to associate with. Within time, the Slayer and others you call friends, will learn of your existence and exploits. Once you are known to them as an Agent of good, then introduce to them the possibility of your 'altered' state. Once this has settled, come forth with who you truly are."

"That --- sounds almost too simple."

"The best plans usually are my friend."


One Month Later in the 'Sunnydale Memorial Park' 9:12pm

Buffy kicked herself back using the momentum to power her swing. Back and forth, back and forth. This is what her Patrols now amounted to these days's - Nothing!

Over the past three weeks activity upon the Hellmouth had been in the decline, not a bad thing overall. But when things got quiet on the last Pit-stop to Hell you always knew something was in the works.

Of late she and the rest of the gang had been hearing third hand rumors of a kind of Super-Vamp in the area. But accounts had been scattered. On one had he was said to be Blonde, on the other Dark haired? On one hand it was said that he fed off of Human's like most Vamp's do, but on the other he had been spotted preying on Cat's, Rat's and assorted Demons. On one hand he had been described as Dirty Harry on a bad day, and on the other he was very --- gentile. There were a lot of hands, and none of it made any sense.

The Slayer continued to cast herself back and forth upon the Playground swing, allowing her mind to drift. Probably not the best thing to do when she was 'On-The-Job'. Especially when she was playing the 'hapless, stupid, female victim - come bite me' Routine.

Her eyes passed over her watch. Give it another hour and she'd call the night an official bust and go home to her 'Surprise' Birthday Party. The 'Surprise' being it was not going to be her birthday for another week. But given her Hellmouth history of Birthday bashes Dawn decided to pre-empt the disaster that usually plagued her on the special day and hold the Party sooner rather then later. That way if the fates were destined to disrupt her special day - Again! It would not cause havoc with her B-Day celebration. It all made sense in a very Dawnish kind of way.

The younger sister had taken on this project with an eagerness the elder wished that she would display in her schoolwork. The Slayer did not want her sibling flipping Burgers and riding a Register at the 'Double Meat' like her.

The Slayer stilled the swing; Dawn was still terrified to go out alone since the Vampire Gang incident a Month earlier. The Chosen One was happy with this; it meant Dawn was home and safe. But it was also turning the youngest member of her family into a shut-in, and this Buffy did not like. But given the options of Night equaling Danger, and Home equaling Safety, there was no conflict in her mind. The Slayer was just grateful Dawn survived the experience.

The mystery man who had rescued Dawn that night still hadn't made himself known to her. Stakeouts of the Town's Cemeteries, the Bronze and the new High School revealed no fellow Night Stalker of the Undead, thou there were times when her Slayer senses told her she was being watched. Whether it was by the Angel-wannabe, or another Vamp considering taking her on, she didn't know - whatever, nothing ever came of it. She had been batting Zero for over a fortnight. There was a time when she wouldn't even have to patrol to come across a Vampire, now?

The Blonde sighed deeply and twirled 'Mr. Pointy' in her hand. 55 more minutes until Home time. Dawn had invited everyone, even Spike and Clem. She didn't mind Clem visiting, in fact she loved it. Clem was like a Big Cuddly Teddy Bear with droopy skin. He was sweet and sincere and everyone in the group adored him, Clem was proof positive that not all Demons' were naturally evil. Spike however --- she would have to get Willow and Tara to do another Ward Spell when the Chipped Vampire left. After what happened in the Bathroom six months ago, she would never want him to have open access to her home again.

This Party Planning had been good for her Sister. It had certainly taken her mind off her missing Journal. The Teenagers Diary had disappeared four day's earlier, and no-one in the house was above suspicion as far as Dawn was concerned. It had made things very tense as Dawn played 'Harriet - the Teenage Spy' with herself, Willow and Tara trying to discover the culprit. Who would want to take a Teenagers Diary? True, Dawn's Teenage Diary was probably not filled with the typical stuff you would find in an adolescent's book on their private thoughts, wishes, feelings, dreams and fears. But still there was no-one in the Summer's residence who would want to steal such a thing from her.

The Slayer glanced at her watch once more, 50-minutes till her 22nd 'Birthday'. None of them ever worked out for her. One day - just one simple day where nothing traumatizing happened, was that too much to ask?

Last year was one of the worst. Whether it was because they were all prisoners in the house with a Demon who could become intangible? Whether it was the discovery of Dawn's kleptomania and her failings as a Big Sister and 'Mother' figure for ignoring her? Whether it was avoiding Spikes leers and suggestive comments? Yeah, that was a bad year. But what made it the worst was it was the first year without Xander. No matter how crazy things got, he always got her something special, intimate - not in the sexy way, but the personal kind. She loved his gifts to her.

She still missed him, she always would. He was her Rock. If she had one wish - just one. If all her wishes could be made into one since she was old enough to speak them, she would wish him with her - with them once more, even if it was just one night. One Celebration.


From the tree line that surrounded the Park, upon a limb that would not support a five year old child, let alone a 21year old eternal. Alexander Harris perched himself. Spying the landscape. Ever since Buffy sat down 30-minutes earlier he had dispatched two 'Inferiors' and some kind of horned Demon. None were a challenge to him, the only challenge was to face and dispose of them without making a sound to arouse the Slayer from her 'bait- role'.

That was the challenge, and the fun. Some night's when she was patrolling on her own, he would shadow her, mimicking her movements from directly behind her - no more then 2 feet at times, occasionally he would play with her tied back hair with a delicacy that would fool the Slayer into thinking his stroking fingers were a playful wind. Creepy? Sure, but he got bored easily on Patrol's, there was nothing in SunnyHELL that was a danger to him. He could detect evil approaching a mile off, he could move with the speed of thought, possessed a strength three times that of an Inferior - and they possessed a strength several times that of an average man, and he healed a hundred times faster then Buffy. The Hellmouth presented him with no challenge. So he would do these --- creepy things to add excitement to his nights.

Another 30-minute passed and Buffy removed herself from the child's swing and began to make her journey home, never realizing that in the past hour seven Inferiors and two demons had attempted to make her their evening snack. These things never got within 50-feet of her.


The Summer's Residence 10:30pm.

The Party was just in the early stages, the music was playing joyfully. Willow and Tara were boogying on down with a lack of coordination that would have embarrassed Xander himself. Spike was opting to stay on the opposite side of the room from the Slayer, spending most of his time chatting with Anya. Dawn was following everyone around with Chips and Dip's, doing her best to make her Party the best anyone had ever experienced. Buffy and Clem sat upon the couch debating over their shared favorite series on TV - '24'.

Buffy momentarily pulled her vision from the lovable Demon - Clem, to smile appreciatively at her younger sister. It was perfect, even with Spike around, Dawn had broken the Buffy Summer's curse. What could go wrong?

With this thought there was a gentle knock upon the front door. Dawn was about to place down the Dip to attend to her duties as a Host. When the Slayer took pity upon her sibling's efforts and volunteered to answer the knock.

Buffy opened the door, and to her surprise there was no one present, just a lone package at the foot of the entrance. Spying around the corners of her front door to ensure that an ambush wasn't in place she squatted down to collect the parcel. Upon its wrapping was a simple card elegantly written. It said 'Happy Non- Birthday'.

Dawn called out from the Lounge Room to her sister. "Who is it?"

Walking back into the party area the Slayer replied as she opened the gift. "No one." The wrapping paper came off easily, what it hid under its festive assorted colors was a beautifully designed antique Silver Jewelry Box. Buffy face fell to awe as she sat down on the couch, marveling at its splendor. Someone had spent a lot of money - A Lot of Money, for this gift. The Slayer beamed as the others gathered around. "Okay, whose is this?" The collection of Scooby's all shock their heads denying responsibility.

Anya leaned over Buffy to admire it further. She then collected the gift from the 'Non-Birthday' Girl's grasp. "It's --- it's beautiful, at least 150 years old - *And* expensive. Errrr, there's something's inside."

With her superior Slayer strength Buffy hadn't noticed the addition of the weight within the Box. It was as Anya was turning Jewelry Box over in her hands when the Slayer noticed a small silver key taped to the under panel. Removing the gift from the Magic Box Co-Owner, Buffy placed the key in the lock and turned.

The hatch of the 30x20cm box opened noiselessly. Within lay two items. The first was a cassette with a 'Post-it' note on top saying Play me. The second was a surprise. It was Dawn's missing Journal.

The Teenager snatched her precious book from her sister. Her face red with rage as she considered how many had read her private thoughts. The younger sister then demanded the person who bought her sister the gift to identify themselves and accept their punishment from her like a Man. Again no-one owned up.

Tara then voiced "Ma-maybe the person left a clue who they were upon the cassette. Telling you their name?"

Dawn hurriedly removed the blank cassette from the Jewelry Box's interior, and began to fumble with the Music coming from the stereo. As the younger sister did so, Willow who had picked up the card questioned the youth "Dawn, did you invite anyone else to the Party?"

Dawn turned and looked upon those assembled. "No, everyone I invited is here."

"Then how did they know we were having one, let alone that it was going to be Buffy's 'Non' Birthday Party."

Dawn turned to face the Red-headed Wicca. "I---I don't know, maybe one of you guy's told someone?" The Party member's all looked at each other. Some voiced 'No', the rest shock their heads. By this stage, Dawn had successfully turned off the CD component of the Stereo, and had placed the tape into the Cassette holder. "Well unless this guy can read minds, no one else knew about tonight. All right crowd gather around and let's hear what they wanted to say." With this sentence the small posse of friends congregated around the Speakers as Dawn pressed the Play Button.


Xander: "What do you say we get started?"

"That's XANDER!"


X: "So, what do you do?"

Unknown Voice: "I'm a Vampire."

X: <Chuckle> "Hmmmm, that's something I've never heard before. You mean this literally I take it?"

Unknown: "Absolutely. I was waiting for you in that Alleyway. Watching you watching me. And then you began to speak."

X: "Sounds like a lucky break for me."

Unknown: "Perhaps it was lucky for both of us."


X: "You, errrr, said you were waiting for me. What were you going to do, kill me? Drink my blood, all that stuff?"

Unknown: "Yes. But you needn't be concerned with all that now."

X: "You really believe this don't you? That you're a Vampire."

Unknown: "We can't begin this way. Let me turn on the light."

X: "I thought Vampires didn't like the light?"

Unknown: "We love it. I only wanted to prepare you."

<Click of a light switch>

<The sound of someone staggering back in surprise> X: "Christ!"

Unknown: "Don't be frightened, I want this opportunity."

X: "How the Hell did you do that?"

Unknown: "Same as you. A series of simple gestures, only I move to fast for you to see. I'm flesh and blood - but not human. I haven't been human for over two hundred years. Please. <Pause> How can I put you at ease? Shall we begin like 'David Copperfield'? I was born, I grew up? Or shall we begin when I was 'Born to Darkness' as I call it? That's really where we should start don't you think?"

X: "Your really not lying to me are you?"

Unknown: "Why should I lie? 1791 was year that it happened."


Everyone sat transfixed as the words of the Vampire - Louie, flowed from the speakers. All were mesmerized by his sorrowful tale, even Spike. Intermittently Xander would interrupt with questions towards the Vampire's dark history. And they were all precious words.

Memories churned with each syllable he spoke. Encouraging smiles between Willow, Tara, Dawn and Anya. For these moments's Xander was still alive for them all, but all too briefly the story began to conclude.


Louie: "Whatever happened to Lestat I do not know? I go on, night after night, feeding on those that cross my path. But all my passion went with the golden hair. <The sound of foot steps could be heard> I'm the spirit of pre-natural flesh. Detached. Unchangeable. Empty."

Xander: "Empty? That's it? It can't end like that."

L: "But it has, there's no more to tell."

X: "There has to be more to tell. You don't understand yourself, you're not empty. What people wouldn't give to be like you - What *I* wouldn't give to be like you. To have your Power, to have been able to have seen the things that you have seen in you life."

L: "You haven't been listening."

X: "I have been listening. The story you've told me is---is Incredible, it's Amazing!"

L: "Do what you want with it, give the story to others, learn what you can."

X: "There is only one way I'll ever truly learn, and you know it. Now you bought me up here for a reason didn't you? Didn't you!"

L: "And what reason would that be?"

X: "You want a companion. You want a link to the outside world. Well that's me. Take me! I want what you have. I refuse to let it all end like this!"

L: "Dear God, I've failed again haven't I?"

X: "No, you haven't failed. God has nothing to do with it."

<A sound and a brief struggle was then heard>


X: "n-n-no"


X: "stop."

The tape recording then ended with a dull thud.


Each listener sat in silence. Fearing what they had just heard. The last seconds of Xander Harris's life. With shaking leg's Dawn stood up and pressed the rewind button for a couple of seconds, and then Play. This action did not nullify the words that were spoken, it only repeated the last moment again. Xander's final words and the attack. The Teen was about to press the rewind button once more when her hand was stilled by Spikes cool grasp.

"That's enough Niblet."

Her eyes then turned upon the bleached Vampire, burning through him with a mixture of fear and anger. "He's not dead."

"Yes he is luv."

Dawn couldn't find the strength in her to argue with him. She couldn't find the strength to stay in the room all composed. She could only find the strength to run away to her bed.

Buffy sat her mind a frenzy. Fortunately Tara recognized what should be done before she did. The honey haired Wicca followed Dawn up the stairs, seconds behind her younger sister. As much as the Slayer wished she could deny it, but she was still awkward with the 'Mummy' thing. When ever she tried to show Dawn her maternal side, it always seemed to come out forced. Tara was a natural at soothing and calming Dawn. With her sister gone, Buffy did the only thing she felt needed to be done.

Spike sailed through the air, landing with a force that would have rendered another unconscious. When the chipped one stood up, he was nursing a busted lip. "What the Hell did you do that for, ya crazy Bint?"

"Get out Spike! Leave now!"

"What, I was being honest with her? The guy's worm food, you've known that for awhile now."

Clem stood in front of the Slayer as she approached the Vampire with death in her eyes. "Buffy, you can't stake the guy for being honest. Okay, granted it was tactless and insensitive, but that's Spike. Your going to kill him because of who he is."

"How about what he is - A Vampire. A Vampire, just like the one on the Tape. Is that good enough?"

"Listen Bint - the pounce played with fire, and he got burnt."


"Not yet." The Vampire then aggressively removed his leather duster from the back of the chair he had laid it upon. And just as aggressively put it on. "This is what I got to say - Accept it. The guy isn't coming back, move on with your lives and stop pretending. Mourn him; grieve for him - then live again." The Vampire's gaze continued around the room until they settled upon the strawberry-blonde Shop Manager. "Stop it with the flamin' Midnight Vigil and the old candle in the Window. He's dead. If he cared for you - any of you, he would never have left in the first place. But he did. All your lives are to short, I'm not telling you to forget him - that ain't going to happen. And I'm not going to tell you that I wish he wasn't pushin' up pansies somewhere - cause you'd never believe me. But he's gone now - so ACCEPT IT!"

The Vampire then turned and made his way through the kitchen to the back entrance. As the room he had left stood still and silent.


On the front porch the Living Vampire watched the reactions of the ones within the house. Every gesture told a story. From Dawn's denial and escape from the room. To the Vampire Slayer's reluctance to stake the Inferior for desecrating the memory of their friend. It was the Slayer's reaction that troubled him the most. That is until he decided to see further. A Slayer's mind was abnormally self-protected against mental intrusion, but unless regular effort is applied to strengthen these barriers - given time, and a more powerful mind, and any natural defense will crumble. The images he saw caused him to reexamine her memories, to ensure these were not her imagination.

These events between herself and the Vampire took place.

For close to two hours the Living Vampire had watched the Scooby's in silence, concealed by the night. Now he knew. He knew the despicable secret. A secret that was never destined, or allowed to see the light of day.

The Vampire began to leave his vantage point, with the intent for returning home to his Castle as the Inferior left through the back. As the Living Vampire's foot met the path outside the Summer's residence. He found voice to whistle a jaunty tune.

As he did so Lestat's mouth creased upwards. This news would destroy Alexander, and then he would be there to rebuild him anew - him Lestat, Alex's most trusted friend would be there to council him. Away from the influences of the Slayer who would have broken his heart.


Dracula's Castle 1:52am

The smile had never left Lestat's face throughout his journey.

He was not evil - just complicated.

That's what he had claimed to Xander the day before he was made. This was true. He would take no pleasure in hurting Alexander - so he would not. He would let the Buffy woman do that. He just had to trick his loved student into reading her mind, and having her reflect upon her affair with the Inferior.

Lestat approached one of the Chambers they had converted into a TV Room. As expected, there was his Alexander watching a late night repeat of 'Titus'.

As the door opened, Xander did not have to turn to face his Mentor. The young Vampire could feel the joy and happiness coming off his Creator. "Have a good night?"

"As a matter of fact -Yes. It revealed many --- interesting revelations my friend. Alexander, it's time. It's time you came out of the shadows; your friends are ready for you now."

The remote in Xander's hand had the mute button pushed. The Young One still could not face his Sire, afraid that the news he had heard was wishful thinking. "You--- you mean it? Their ready?"

"Yes my friend, they are ready. I have prepared them for you. But chose your time carefully, make your return a joyous statement to them. Capture them in happiness. An event that they would dare not turn you away from."

The Living Vampire Alexander's brow crunched, it then became smooth as he snapped his fingers. "Next week is Buff's Birthday - it's perfect."

Lestat nodded as he backed away from his student smiling his agreement, as the heavy door closed Lestat heard the TV once more blare out its dialogue. The Senior Vampire then whispered to nobody "Yes, her Birthday --- why didn't *I* think of that." Given time Alexander would be his, Body, Soul, and away from his 'Friends'. And all he would have to do is expose his childe to the truth.

Chapter 6

An exhale of air blew stray pieces of loose paper across the Magic Box research table as Buffy Anne Summers violently closed the stale pages of another useless and ancient Tome from her Watcher's private collection. Her face a mixture of frustration, loss and resentment. It had been one week since her 'Birthday Party', and since that dark night her life has taken on a single devoted cause. Tracking down the Vampire called 'Louie'.

A name, it was a slim thread for vengeance but it was all she had.

Xander's last moment's upon the recording still echoed in her ears. The mystery of her Xander-shaped-friends death had been answered in a most brutal fashion.

When she 'Returned' it had been made clear through Willow's and Tara's administrations that the Scooby's Jester and 'Big Brother' was dead. Yet even with over a year past, and no contact from her closest male friend her heart would still not allow her to accept his loss. A piece of her that cherished hope still held out that he may still be alive and that the Wicca's had got it all wrong. Willow was not infallible, she made mistakes, wrenching her from Heaven was one of them and proof enough to her of this fact. Up until a few day's earlier it *was* possible that Xander still lived. But this faith she concealed crumbled as she heard his final recorded plea seven day's prior.

Her eyes carried unflattering dark circles, yet whenever she tired and her body cried out for rest, she would close her eyes and see him being attacked by this faceless vampire called 'Louie', and her heart and mind would provide her with a fresh vitality and energy. The countless hours had melted together as she read, and re-read, copies of old Watcher Diaries trying to track the monster responsible for Alexander Harris death. But her efforts were welcomed with nothing.

It was a rare accomplishment to have lived as long as Louie had claimed he had without any reference within a single page of the Journals written by the anally trained Watchers. She did however, in her labors, come across a two page encounter by a Slayer and a Vampire that identified himself as 'Lestat' in Paris a few centuries earlier.

The Slayer - Monique; had confronted him outside an Embassy function. Monique did not report much to her guardian Watcher about what took place, except to say that if he had so wished it, then this 'Lestat' could have easily ushered in the calling of a new Chosen One that night. And that he had only let her live because he had thought her too beautiful to be lost to the world.

"I'd be more worried about the guy who left the Pressie luv, then about doing a history lesson." The cockney soaked accent of the platinum blonde vampire filled the quiet air as he bought up a fresh supply of dried serpent tongues from the basement. It was an unnoticed effort Spike would perform about the store in the evenings for Anya - to restock the dwindling supply's in the counter jars.

The Slayer's response to the Vampire chilled the air. "No- one asked you about your opinion Spike."

Willow and Tara, who had by this time gotten used to the grown friction between the two, remained silent. Anya, however, who was in the process of counting her receipts for the day could not remain so. The former 'William the Bloody' and the former Demon Wish-Granter had become very close over the chasm of the last several days - ever since his speech about 'letting go' of hope that the Construction Worker would return. She had even allowed him to move into the Basement of the store to help provide additional security for the shop during the night. "He's only pointing out the obvious Buffy."

Joyce Summer's eldest child turned in her seat to face the counter. "I don't believe you. How could you not be on board with this?"

Anya put down her collection of 20's and 50's and met Buffy's eyes. "I am on board. But that's a quest for another time. Whoever left the Jewelry Box knew too much about us. That's our priority. They knew you had a birthday coming up and that Dawn was throwing you a pre-emptive party to celebrate. They also knew about Xander, and how to get hold of that --- that tape." The Magic Box co-owner bowed her head in an effort to compose herself before the small group and attempt to advert the tears that where beginning to break free. Spike quickly ushered himself around the counter and offered the strawberry-blonde his leather coated shoulder to cry into, staring mental daggers into the direction of the seated Slayer.

Buffy remained quiet, allowing Anya the opportunity to vent her sorrow, feeling guilty and dirty for permitting the former Vengeance Demon to hurt so much without consideration for how her pursuit for the Xander's murderer would affect his fiancée.

Buffy also fought a disgusted battle within herself as she witnessed the same enthusiastic empathy Spike displayed to the betrothed of her dearest friend. The same transparent sensitivity that he had once shown her when she was also in a very dark place. Her stomach churned at this realization. It wasn't jealousy, it was knowing that Spike was subtly making his move on someone to vulnerable by recent events to realize what a big ---BIG mistake it was to get involved with him.

The Slayer could warn the Magic Box Manager, but in doing so she would also expose her dark shame to the group, and of the attempted attack by the Vampire on herself. The leading Summer's woman released a bitter breath from her lungs. She could wait till later to have a private word to 'William the Bloody' regarding his conduct. "Okay. Surely it must have occurred to you all that the only person who would have that Tape would be the person who killed him?" Buffy's strangle voice was met with silence. "Right then, that means Louie is in Sunnydale playing the same Sicko Head Games Angelus once did. Only this time, I'm not going to be worn down. The only advantage he has over us is that we don't know anything about him and he apparently knows everything there is to know about us. We have to change the rules of this game people and the only way we can do this, and I can't believe I'm the one suggesting it, is thru Research."

"Buffy, the Vampire on Xander's Tape is like no other Vampires we've faced before. It doesn't seem to have the same vulnerabilities, aside from the basic ones - beheadings, sunlight and such. It's like some kind of new breed or something. But--- but that's impossible, because Louie said he had been around for over two centuries. How can a new breed like that come into existence without it being recorded somewhere?"

"Maybe --- maybe it's not a new breed. But an old one, a really old one." Tara interjected her Life-Partner.

A fresh enthusiasm overwhelmed the Slayer to Tara's unusual comment. "You find something?"

"No --- no, I just remember Glorificus and our difficulties in finding anything written about her. I mean maybe these Vampires are like, you know the very first, created before --- I---I don't know, I'm just grasping. It's just that if the Tape can be counted on, then these kinds of vampires are more powerful then the ones we're use to."

"Rubbish!" Spike who had been carefully listening to the conversation take place could no longer keep quiet and became enraged at the reference that there were more powerful vampires about. "They're just like that welcher Dracula; just know a few simple but impressive tricks is all." The chipped vampire removed himself from Anya's presence and came back from around counter, joining the three at the wooden Scooby Table. "I would have heard something if there were different Vamps around. I've been a Big Bad for one-fifty years people, ya'don't live as long as that, nor have traveled as far as I have without hearing a few things."

"Bu---but the 'Louie' Vampire said that they concealed themselves away, blending in with society. Keeping their identity secret."

"If they were that bloody good at it, then how did that Poof find one then, huh?" Spike waited for an answer from the honey haired Wicca, The reply was silence. "Exactly. Trust me girls, if they were as powerful and as ancient as you claimed, then we would have been bred out ages ago."

Willow reached out to her lovers hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. There was a time when Spike didn't frighten her girlfriend as much, but just like Buffy of late, she too now kept her distance from the Vampire, and avoided his company as much as possible. Something happened several months back, something that involved the Slayer, the Vampire and her Soul-Mate. But despite her prompting Tara was unwilling to share the burden of this secret with her. Only stating that 'It was not something she could tell.' Willow turned to face the chipped bloodsucker. "Maybe their just more selective in their recruitment then Drucilla, and the rest of your Demon kind Spike. Maybe they are more discreet, and as such, more likely to exist throughout the ages unnoticed."

"Oh yeah, then what about that Lestat pounce, if they were sooooo bleeding discreet then he sure as Hell dropped the ball didn't he? The Slayer here found a reference to him, no sweat."

Buffy then spoke up, involving herself in the debate. "Yeah, but it was one reference three hundred years ago and was only two pages in length. Besides, it strikes me that this Lestat guy seems to place himself as the-exception-to-every-rule kind of Vampire. That's just my opinion based on Xander's recorded interview, as well as the Journal.

"If Monique's account of her run-in is accurate, then he could have easily have killed the Slayer of that time no troubles. Now I can't speak for all 'Chosen Ones' throughout history, but if they are anything like me. They find it hard to admit they had their butt's handed to them. And I'm guessing that Lestat both impressed and frightened her so much that night she felt honor bound to report it to her 'Giles'-like-person. Just in the advent that her successor came across him. Y'know, forewarned equals forearmed."

Tara suddenly sat straight up in her seat, surprising everybody in the room with her fresh alertness. "Wait, isn't there suppose to be a 'Super Vampire' in Sunnydale now?"

Buffy nodded, she too had considered the relationship of 'Louie' and the Super Vamp rumored to have been killing off the Demon and Vampire population in town. "I don't know, the reports are too conflicting. I don't know whether we can seriously rely on any of that stuff as accurate."

"What about Willy? He'd know for certain if people ---err things are blowing smoke."

"Already asked him Willow, he said he hadn't heard anything."

Willow perked up at this statement. "What do you mean 'he hadn't heard anything'? Nothing? Everybody is talking about it - even the 'Real-Deal' Wicca Community. Strange that he said he hadn't heard of anything. Hmmmm, did he at least offer to try and find out for certain?"

"Err--- Now that you mention it, he didn't"

"Now that's got to be a first."

Biting her bottom lip in contemplation Buffy absentmindedly answered. "Yeah, a very suspicious first." She then got up from her seat, removing her jacket hung over the back and put it on. "You Guy's keep up the research, I'm going to pay Willy another visit, this time I'm not leaving until I get a definite answer." The Slayer then made her way to the back entrance via the Training Room.


Dracula's Sunnydale Keep (20-minutes earlier)

The Living Vampire Alexander stared deeply into the image before him. He used to gain comfort from seeing himself. Now it only highlighted to him what he had become. The clothing that draped over his body was of the finest material imaginable; Lestat would allow nothing less to adorn his body.

Like a fretting mother, his Sire stood back and constantly critiqued and admired his creation of cloth and the body it was laid upon. Tonight was a solemn occasion for them both, and his Mentor wished him to look perfect for the encounter.

"There, you are ready."

Xander once more and reluctantly gazed into his reflection. The dressed twin before him resembled, pretty much, exactly what he looked like that fateful Valentines Day Dance with Cordelia six years earlier. The only difference was that instead of a deep dark red shirt, he now sported a silk midnight-purple one. The darkness of the slacks and Jacket emphasizing the bleached bone appearance of his complexion. Xander paused to consider whether this was an intentional effort on his Sire's behalf or not.

Lestat bought both his hands up in a prayer like motion to his face and stood back once more and drunk in his 'childes' appeal. "They do not deserve to look upon you my friend."

"But they will. In little more then fifteen minutes time. They will."

It was hard for nervousness not to escape form the younger eternals mouth. "You have nothing to fear, or be ashamed of Alexander. This is an occasion of note; I just wish you would allow me to accompany you this evening, instead of facing them alone."

"No. I thought about it, I really have. But I don't think I could comfortably slide you into the conversation with 'Oh by the way this is my Sire.' They'd try and stake you before I finished the sentence."

Lestat raised his eyebrows in amusement. "And if they did, what would you do?"

Xander returned and faced the mirror again before answering. "I would stop them of course." Over his shoulder, the Living Vampire Alexander observed his creator nod gratefully to the statement. Xander then secured his bladed weapon, a gift from 'Wolfram & Hart', into it's now traditional position and continued to speak. "After all, I wouldn't want you to hurt them."

He heard a chuckle rise in his Master's throat. "They are your friends Alexander, and *I* would never hurt your friends." Lestat paused for a moment, and gently turned his childe to face him once more. "Alexander, before you leave I have something I wish to offer you." From his top vest pocket, the three hundred year old Living Vampire removed an oval pendent that resembled a medallion. "I'll understand if you refuse, it is slightly ostentatious. But there was a time in cultured Society when, upon important occasions and functions, members of various Houses would present themselves. These Families would be recognized by the Crests of these Houses. This was a time when communication between people was not as instant as today, and rivalries existed. Months and years could pass before a familiar face would be seen, and in that time great physical changes could have taken place. To ensure that no --- problems arose during these occasions; people could identify who belonged to who without the fear of offending another through careless gossip."

Like a mother hen Lestat took over Xander's efforts to straighten his collar right as he continued with the history lesson. "As you know Alexander, I was born into a proud household, not a powerful household, or a very rich one. But a proud one none the less. Of that aristocratic line I am the last surviving member. Until now. I wish you to accept my families Crest as your own, for you are my child. Not of body, but most definitely in blood." Lestat then extended the offering to his 'Son'.

Xander's hands began to tremble as he accepted one of the most ugliest necklaces he had ever seen. It was hideous beyond words, but he would never voice his embarrassment to his Teacher, and would, surprisingly, treated it with respect. As he clasped the chain around his neck and position the emblem outwards to display Lestat's Family Crest proudly he looked to his 'Father' and was lost.

"You needn't speak Alex. The honor you bring to yourself, you bring to me and to my Family name. It is *I* who am grateful. Now my Beautiful One, it is time you leave and rediscover your friends. The 'Weasel' said that they had been spending many hours and evenings in that Curiouoso Shop of theirs. I believe that it is there where you will find them." The senior Vampire then followed his junior to the foyer of the Keep, just as Xander opened the heavy doors leading outside; Lestat grabbed his arm and offered him two more pieces of advice. "One moment more my Curiosity, when you see them once again, remember to be unashamed of what you are. And if their pet 'Inferior' decides to become a burden to your patience tell him this ----"

Xander left Lestat with a strange look upon his face. His Sire always had a unique perspective to certain things, and when he passed information on, he was always justified in doing so. But the reference he had made to Spike made no sense to him - at least for the moment. It WAS significant, or Lestat would not have mentioned it to him at all.

Xander pondered the words as walked down the hill that supported Dracula's former Keep, placing on his Ray ban Sunglasses as he did so. When he got to the bottom of the mound he looked skyward and effortlessly ascended into the air with his Black Leather full length coat flapping about his legs much as a cape of one of his childhood Super Heroes would.

Oh yeah, flying was the coolest.


Fate, Destiny, Fortune, Providence - all good words that Xander didn't believe in. Not a single one did he ever take seriously until this moment. When you put the kibosh on a couple of ancient unstoppable Prophecies that would do it for you. But as the Living Vampires feet gently and quietly touched the paving at the rear of the 'Magic Box' he became a 100% Believer. It was too much for him to accept mere coincidences, as at the moment that he landed so did the Slayer emerge from the rear door he was about to enter.

His enhanced nocturnal Vampire vision allowed him to see her clearly, as if it was during the day. Buffy was only blessed with sharper then normal human vision; she was 30/30 - if there was such a rating, at best. She could see clearer and better then most, but in comparison to his own, she might as well have been wearing a blindfold. Yet her inability to see clearly down the night filled alleyway did not prevent her 'Slayer Sense' from kicking in.

Meekly the blonde called out. "Is-is anyone there?"

{Oh God! She's playing the vulnerable, scared little girl angle. I can't believe they still fall for that line of crap. But hey - they're morons. Okay Buff, you want to play let's play.}

Willing his voice to become deeper, and keeping close to the walls and hugging the shadows they cast. The Living Vampire Alexander responded to the Slayer's timid question with a laugh barking in his mind at the jest he was about to perform. "Just me. Don't worry little lady; I won't bite --- unless you really want me to?"

Discreetly Buffy removed a Stake from her coat pocket, and concealed it up her jacket cuff as she proceeded forward to the figure in shadows. "Oh, that's okay 'Me'. Hickey's from strangers not exactly my thing, y'know." Once she positioned herself square with the Vampire that her senses were screaming he was, she allowed the wooden weapon to slip from her sleeve and threw it full force and aim true to her new shadowed enemy's chest - in the precise region of the heart.

The stake accurately flew toward Xander, he could have easily dodged the instrument, but he thought it would be more theatric to pluck it from its killing course. As he easily grabbed the weapon in mid flight mere inches before it met its target he mused over how much this would have been a Lestat tactic. He then corrupted this tactic by introducing something very Xanderish, he began to juggle the carved wood piece between both his hands.

Upon witnessing the ease her opponent was able to claim 'Mr. Pointy' as his own, Buffy blinked a couple of times in stun silence. "Wow, that's --- that's never happened to me before. I mean usually I'm alot better at this."

The Vampire figure returned the Stake to her in a gentle underhand throw from its passing arc. "Hey, it happens to the best of us. Your probably under a lot of stress at work, you should do what I always do when that happens - think about golf or politics."

Buffy blinked again a couple times as she processed the Vampire's reply {is he taking about ---? Naah!}. Suddenly something new struck her, his voice had changed. It had changed to one she recognized, one she would always remember. Carefully she stepped forward, with 'Mr. Pointy' once more in hand. "Xander?"

"Happy Birthday Buffy."

"XANDER!" Buffy practically leapt the 10 meter distance that separated the two Scooby's, foolishly flinging her Stake to the ground as she did so. "We --- I thought you were dead."


It was not until she was in his embrace that she realized that her 'cramps' were still present and that this was the same person who had caught her Stake seconds before. Something Xander, or a normal person could not do on their best day. When her mind recognized these facts, it overcame her heart's wish and she pushed herself away from him. Only when she was a respectful distance from her best friend did she acknowledge his ghostly pale complexion under the Magic Box's rear security light. "Oh God, No. Not you."

The Living Vampire took a single step forward; in response the Slayer took one back. "Buffy are we going to dance like this all night? I'm not here to hurt you. If I was you'd be dead ten times over by now."

"Xander - you're a Vampire."

"Yeah, I know. Cool huh."

"What?!? No - no Cool - not coolness. Xander your - your*"

"I kept my soul Buffy. I'm one of the good guys."

The Slayer looked upon her friend and desperately wished to believe him. But if he was infected with Demon like Spike, then this is exactly the kind of thing he would say to gain acceptance with everyone again, with the intent to kill them all. She then carefully picked up the Stake she had thrown to the ground seconds before and held it ready for use.

"Buff, you're not going to need that."

"Humor me. Inside - Now! We're going to check out this Soul story of yours."

Xander calmly proceed to the rear door with his hands raised high in mock surrender, fearless in the knowledge that he had a Slayer responsible for over a 1,000 deaths of 'Inferiors' poking his back with her wooden tool of trade. Again, he could have easily disarmed her and remove its laughable threat to him. But instead he chose to tolerate its jabs. A wooden stake through the heart of an 'Inferior' would cause instant 'dusting', for himself - no dusting. Yes it would cause his death, but it would only be momentary, once the stake was removed from his chest he would then be able to once more cease what little life he still claimed. This is of coarse what Lestat had told and assured him of, up until now it had yet to be proven in his mind. And God willing it never would be.

The Living Vampire politely opened the back entrance and gestured for the Slayer to enter. "Lady's first."

Buffy gritted her teeth as she answered. "Oh no Kind *Sir*, you by all means."

"As you will." Was his amused reply.

Still with his hands raised in view the Vampire strolled across the length of the Training Room with a gate of a Gentleman born. Buffy who was following at a close, yet safe distance felt her heart sink at this spectacle. Xander - walked, he occasionally would 'jive', and sometime slouched his way into a room. But he never carried himself with the same air of dignity as he did so now. With a superiority and graceful motion that dirt or dust would not dare touch him. This was not Xander - it couldn't be.

When Alexander reached the second door separating the Training Room from the Shop beyond, he paused. "Now Buff, do we go in as companions, or are you planning on keeping me hostage with that thing all night?" Xander then nodded towards 'Mr. Pointy' in the Slayer's grasp.

Buffy steeled herself for her answer. "You make a single move towards any of my friends and I promise you, you will not be its hostage but its victim."

Through his sunglasses Xander met the Slayer's eyes and carefully placed his left index finger to the rimed branch that separated the dark lenses, he then slid the Ray ban's down the ridge of his nose. His now visible amber eyes penetrating Buffy's bluish/green ones. The Slayer released a startled gasp at the unexpected sight. She had been expecting his natural brown eyes to welcome hers, not these unnaturally colored ones. She then stood transfixed - he mind momentarily clouded, which was the reaction he had expected.

In speed that defied imagination the Chosen One was then relieved of her advantage over the Vampire. Before she could process what had just happened the Slayer viewed Alexander standing before her and in front of the door that separated them from the other Scooby's with her Stake firmly gasped in his hands. When she focused on the tool of Vampire death Xander casually snapped the instrument in two. A cocky smile formed upon his passionateless face. "I never work well under threats Buff. I think it best we went in as friends, don't you?" He then made a grandiose motion towards the door. "Shall we?"


The door opened so slowly the hinges creaked under the motion. Buffy Anne Summers then awkwardly reentered the main shop she had exited just two minutes earlier. And stood defiant at the door frame.

From behind the Cash Register, still counting 'The Money' of the day, Anya looked up in the direction. "That was quick, you forget something?"

In a flat reply, conscious of the figure that stood behind her still concealed from the room, the Slayer answered. "No, I---I ran into an old friend outside." This comment bought the attention of everybody else in the room. She then took two steps forward, in a haphazard motion, as if she had been physically pushed to do so.

Standing revealed to all stood the 'Old Friend'. The emotions the wrapped itself throughout the room and its occupants in that second could not be easily quantified. Everybody had a different one. The fiancée disregarded the precious paper in her hands and sped towards her lost lover.

Buffy's prime concern was protection, not of herself or of the man that stood at her back - but of her friends. Who were all, with the obvious exception of Spike, beginning to make their own journey to him.

"STOP! He's --- he's" The Slayer looked once more upon the smartly dressed man behind her, and her voice saddened itself with the words that parted her mouth and froze her fellow Slayettes in place. "He's a Vampire."

"A *SOULED* Vampire!" Was added by the former Scooby. "I'm still of the good people, you don't have to be afraid of me." Yet regardless of the claim there was more backing away then there was people coming forward.

Turning to face Xander once more Buffy commented. "Yeah, that's what he says. Is there anything in your magical bag of tricks guys that would either help prove or disprove this?"

Willow and Tara looked at each other. But it was the Red-head that answered the question. "There is the Sphere of Kaltrin. It's glass ball that lights up when a soul is holding it. But you need an accompanying enchantment to make it do so, and I don't know what it is off hand."

"Fine Glass Ball it is. You don't mind waiting till we find this spell do you 'Xander'?"

Walking towards the old and familiar table, the Living Vampire Alexander spoke out his reply as his oldest living friend, and her girl-friend fearfully parted before him. "Take all the time you need. I have eternity." And then sat down and extended his legs up upon the table in a very relaxing fashion.

Buffy imminently took control of the startled group and the situation. "Spike you keep watch while we look for a Cal- somethin' Ball and the Soul Spell."

With a smirk on his face the chipped Vampire approached his former tormentor.

When Xander's attention was distracted by Spike as he sat upon the table before him. Buffy whispered into her best friend's ear. "Will, also see if you can find am 'Orb of Thesula' just in case he doesn't have a --- you know." Willow's eyes grew as she knew its implication and what she would have to do to her childhood friend if he was discovered to be soulless. She would have to deliver Angel's Curse to him.


It was an impossible battle for the Chipped Vampire to conceal his glee. Not only upon the fate that had befallen the male Scooby, but upon the circumstances that now allowed him to take out his pound of flesh on the now UN-Human Zeppo. With a challenge dripping in every syllable he directed a question to the Vampire sitting in front of him. "Whatcha looking at pup?"

Leaning forward the Living Vampire Alexander addressed his undead guard. "I'm looking at nothing Spike. I-am-looking-at- absolutely-nothing."

"Cute, you get teeth and you automatically think you can bark with the Big Dog's now."

Xander laughed quietly so that it did not distract the girls from their efforts. It was a sinister laugh, one that echoed a warning to the being in front of him. "Unlike some others in this room *Spike*. My Bite is way worse then my Bark. And you'll find out how deeply I do bite if you don't back away from her."

William the Bloody's eyebrows raised in curiosity. "Who?"

"Anya. She's not for you Spike. So I'm giving you this chance bow out before I have to either embarrass you, or kill you. I haven't decided yet."

"Don't you think that's her choice to make Mate? Who she sees, and who she don't." Now it was Spike's turn to lean in closer in a conspiracy like fashion. "You feeling a little threaten by me, is that it? Don't think you got what it takes anymore to get her motor humin?"

Alexander offered another polite laugh to the Inferiors claim. "Spike, when we were both Human - I was better then you. Now that we are both members of the twilight squad, guess what - I'm still better then you. But this isn't about you, or me. It's about her; neither of us can offer her the happiness she deserves. So do the honorable thing and back down before you get hurt."

"Before I get hurt?"

"Yeah, because I'll be the one to hurt you if you don't."

"Your just terrified of a little competition."

"Pul-ease, your soooo out of your league here Bleach-Boy. The only reason why I'm even addressing you is you've surprised me, you stuck around. That and the fact I pity you. Otherwise I'd either be killing you, or ignoring you, and believe me Spikey - you're an easy one to ignore. You are below my notice, you could even go as far and say - You're Beneath Me." The Living Vampire was uncertain why those three little insignificant words 'Your Beneath Me' were so important to Spike. But Lestat was, as always, on the money. They prompted the platinum blonde's face to dissolve into his demons visage and a series of curses to be spat out. This of coarse then earnt the attention of all the females as they looked up from their joint research.

Spike then attempted to strike at Xander, yet the Living Vampire ducked the telegraphed blow with choreographed ease, and fluidly side stepping and evading the ferocity of strikes that followed.

With each unsuccessful contact of his fist to his intended target the chipped Vampire became more enraged. By this stage Buffy, Willow and Anya had placed down their individual books and approached the melee, each demanding a cease of the fighting. Unfortunately their requests fell on deaf ears as Spike's fury grew.

After the twelfth unsuccessful strike the Chipped-One left his defenses wide open and himself revealed and vulnerable. The Living Vampire stood into the exposed Inferior and then struck both his hands into the Bleached Vampire's mouth. Xander's face, for those who could see it, passive and placid at the action.

Spike for a moment appeared to be gagging at the unusual assault, and then Xander flicked both wrists' upwards. What followed was a muffled scream from the chipped Vampire as Xander calmly removed his hands from the teethed opening. Blood then leaked from Spike's mouth as he raised his own hands to cup and feel the permanent damage just inflicted upon him.

With his 'Game-Face' still present, the English Vampire looked up in fear and humiliation at what he had discovered. He then began a hasty retreat from his 'Better's' presence, and exited the Magic Box by its front entrance, all without word said under the instructions being issued from his fellow Vampire. "Remember what I told you Spike - Off Limit's. I don't repeat myself, next time your gritting someone's Driveway."

A surprised Buffy Summer's stepped forward as Xander picked up the knocked over chair and began to wipe Spikes blood off his hands with a linen handkerchief. "What did I do to him?"

Casually he answered. "I introduced him to the new Pecking Order in Town." He then met the Slayer's eyes once more and slid his sunglasses on. "I also got you a Birthday Present."


Xander then dropped something upon the research table. The sound they made was similar to ones that would have been ushered forth if they had been two dry pebbles. It was a pair of canine teeth. Spike's Vampire Fangs. "With the Chip in he won't be needing these will he? And if it ever cut's out --- well he'll be at a definite disadvantage won't he? Happy Birthday Buffy."

The women of the Magic Box now stood in silence and fear.

Chapter 7

The moon held high and proud in the evening, it's natural lamination casting itself over the quiet street amid artificial ones. Near one of these marvels of 20th Century science stood a man hidden in shadow, borne in a time when all this about him would have been considered the exaggerated ramblings of a madman.

From the dark nook, the figure's eyes focused upon the shop across the street from him as he smiled proudly. Chaos amused him so, not a destructive chaos - anyone could orchestrate that. No, he enjoyed an orderly chaos. 'Orderly Chaos' - What a contradictive term. But then again, some would call him a very contradictive person.

To take something perfect and predictable and add an uncertain quality into its ranks. To him that's when life truly lived. Some Vampires could only feel vibrant when they were in the process of measuring out death or carnage. *He* could only live when mischief was made. And he *so* excelled at Living. Death and killing was trivial, this was a skill he had mastered many years after his 'birth', thanks to the attentive tutelage of his creator - Marius. Any Vampire worth their teeth could dispense death, it is the most primitive and simplest of acts - even the 'Inferiors' could deliver this with competence.

What Lestat found a challenge was to find something perfect and incorruptible, and bend it to his will. Louie was his first grand experiment. The Living Vampire's smile thickened, ahhh noble Louie. Louie, whose respect for life lingered into all things. 'Noble Louie' who arose each evening from his coffin with contempt for himself in his heart. From the beginning of their association the Plantation Owner was a burden. Always questioning their 'Ways', and denying his then, unnatural urges. Yet despite the years that flowed from their abrasive union, Lestat would replace his time with no other. He truly 'lived' during these days.

Every dismissal from the Louisianan only interested and fueled him further. But the man Louie was in life was a good and fair one - He was a God Fearing Man, and his 'Rebirthed' Life countered against everything he believed he had to aspire too. In order to maintain his hold on Louie's companionship, he had to do something that went against his own beliefs. He 'kissed' a child. The ploy did indeed work; Louie continued to stay in his corrupted company. For a time at least, in the end however, --- if you hold on to something too tight you risk losing it all. And that's what happened. He lost it all. Louie, Claudia, nearly his own eternal life - everything.

Alex was not like that, yet in many ways he and Louie were indeed the same. But unlike Louie - Alexander had already been immersed in the darkness. He knew what things truly haunted the Night prior to his 'Dark Kiss'; there was no surprise for him. And he would not resist becoming a Vampire; in fact Alex accepted it as a suitable punishment for letting 'her' die. His emotional pain, guilt and longing for death were almost tangible during these days. He desired punishment, and a fate forever sealed.

Lestat looked to the stars overhead, and once more pondered his childe. Oh how he loved Alexander; there was no doubt in his mind of this fact. Everything that was him was noble, just like Louie. When he first tasted his blood and touched his thoughts as they drove over the Golden Gate Bridge. Lestat knew what was in store for him if he made Xander Harris like him. He saw his 'future childe's' defiance, despair and loyalty. And he knew then that Alex would present the desired challenge, and make his life interesting once more.

The Blonde Living Vampire continued to attentively gaze forward, amused by what his enhanced hearing was relaying to him. His imagination running riot to creation, as his mind conceived pictures to accompany the sounds within the humble Magic Shop.

The front door then swung open and a hunched leather coated individual staggered out with both hands covering his mouth. The bleached haired man's eyes darted back and forth up the street, desperately searching out any movement or activity. Lestat sunk deeper into the alcove - concealing him further. The tang of blood met the air as the Vampire called Spike lowered his hands with care, his tongue playing with the gummed gaps between his teeth. It took less then a second for Lestat to piece together what he had heard within, and link it to this abomination's current plight.

If it was at all possible, his smile grew further under the protection of darkness. If the Living Vampire was not attempting to keep a low profile he would have openly applauded. {With each passing day he just makes me prouder and prouder of him.}

Spitting blood that was collecting in his mouth the English Vampire sought out his voice and spoke to an 'empty' street. "Ruddy Wanker, think he can do this to me? I'm the BigBad, the Down Right Nasty - he thinks he can get away with this?" Spike then made his way down the street in a bent jog. "He'll live to regret that. Naah, skip it - he won't live long enough to regret it!"

Lestat's eyes followed the humbled Vampire and sighed deeply. He would have enjoyed remaining; things were just starting to get interesting. But he knew he could never forgive himself if any harm befell his adored student when he could have done something to prevent it. True, the 'Inferiors' chances of killing or defeating someone he considered worthy to embrace and educate were laughable, a billion to one chance. But that one chance was a single chance to many in his mind.

With this thought, the Living Vampire ascended into the night sky, and landed upon the roof of the shop he had been concealing himself with. Then with light feet he followed the fangless Spike from above upon the rooftops of Sunnydale.


Even if Xander was not empathic, he could have easily deduced the feelings from the women in his company. Their faces were etched with shock and the purest fear. He shouldn't have been surprised; this was a great adjustment for them all. They had all thought him dead, and now he stood before them. Not only 'alive' but a Vampire.

He half sat, half leaned upon the research table. Doing his best to appear casual as he played with the teeth in his hand. A full minute had passed since someone had last spoke, and that someone was him. Desperately he tried to rationalize why they were all inhibited; it couldn't have been because of Spike. That poor excuse for an Inferior wasn't worth their consideration. The only thing he could construe was the way that he looked.

Before the still stunned audience, the Living Vampire crossed the room to a panel of light switches. Lifting his finger he turned two of the lights off, the area around the conference corner suddenly became dimmer to his effort. With a casualness that belied the tension that saturated the room Xander once more returned to the research table. The light shadow now cast itself over him, offering a semi balance of a normal 'Human' appearance. The pale marble that was his complexion hidden by the fresh darkness of his made environment. "Is that better?"

To the question he received tentative nods, yet his friends still stood motionless, this wasn't working and he didn't have all night to coddle them into adjusting to his new circumstance. In exasperation the Living Vampire yelled out to the four females. "WHAT!?!?"

Xander's raised voice was enough to shock them all from their stupor. It was Anya who gained her faculties first, and as the first to come to her senses she appointed herself the primary inquisitor. "Xander, your*" Anya broke off the question; she didn't need to ask him what was plainly obvious for everyone to see, and something he had proudly admitted to moments before. Instead her voice found a new demand. "Spike, how could you do that to him?"

Alexander smiled triumphantly to himself - a reaction, a dialogue - at last. "Simple Ahn, I dug my fingernails between his gums and teeth then *"

"*Ewww, no. Not that, I mean how could you do that to Spike?"

To this question Xander stood tall and rigid, his features assuming a quizzical formation. It never occurred to him that what he had done would be considered wrong by them, especially as he was the one being attacked. "What do you mean?"

"Spike, he's a friend remember. A good friend."

The lone Vampires typical emotionless face then momentarily flushed with anger as he noticed the concern for the other in his once 'Intendeds' voice. "Hey, if you failed to notice - I didn't start that. That was all him, I was just defending myself. He's just lucky I didn't think him worth the effort of breaking out the Vacuum Cleaner."

The three other women in the room observed the discussion between the former Lovebirds with interest. "But --- poor Spike, did you have to take his teeth. Rip his arm off, anything, but not his teeth. Do you know how important they are in the Vampire community?"

Xander smiled broadly, revealing his own fangs as his lips stretched. "Oh, I have some idea important it is."

"You as much as castrated him for the entire World to see." Anya's voice began to break under the emotional circumstances of the night.

Xander answered his one time Bride-to-be, yet was addressing everyone in the room. His voice flat and unyielding. "So? Have you forgotten, have *ALL* of you forgotten how he earnt that name he uses? The guy used to impale people with railroad spikes for Christ sakes. People - Men and Women alike. Where's your compassion for them, where's their sympathy --- Their Justice?"

Xander's voice then softened as he directed his words to his one time fiancée. "And for the record Ahn, I don't like him - I *never* liked him. In my opinion he should have been dust the second we found out about the chip. But we all decided to keep him around because he was thought to be 'harmless' and useful, despite the A.D.A.M. incident teaching us otherwise. Well, I'm back now - and his usefulness is at an end. I promise you, he will pay for everything he's done - I will make him suffer. That's a guarantee. His victims will have their vengeance. And every time I see him he will lose a piece of himself to me."

"B-but he's helped us. A.D.A.M. was years ago - he's changed. Why would you do that?"

Xander stepped out of the shadow that embraced him and removed his glasses once more, revealing his amber penetrating gaze to the Strawberry Blonde Magic Box Co-Owner. "Because I can and because I wanted to."

The room suddenly became colder at these words, only Buffy was able to find the fortitude to look her former best Man-friend in the eyes and question him. "What's happened to you?"

She then took several steps forward, placing herself in front of him - acting as an organic barricade to the rest of the group, separating the Vampire from her fellow Scoobettes. "This isn't the Xander we remember. The Xander we remember could never be that calais. 'I can, I want to?' That's the reasoning of a Bully, and our Xander was never a Bully." Without drawing her hurt blue eyes away from his yellow Buffy shock her head in sadness. "I don't know whether I should be hoping you kept your soul or not, cause I don't think I could accept that this is truly you."

Xander once more removed himself back to the shadow and put on his Ray bans once more. "Why? Because I can now go toe-to- toe with everything this damned Town can throw at the World and come off the Winner?"

Buffy raised her voice to an almost scream in an effort wake up from this horrible reality. "No, because your not like this Xander. Your not!"

"Who are you to say what me is any more. You didn't know me; you didn't care enough to know me."

"That's not true, and you know it." For some unexplainable reason Buffy's feet traveled the short distance that separated her form the Vampire. She looked up at him and damned herself, for her heart was telling her to believe his claim. That this was 'her' Xander-shaped-friend, in all his Vampire souled glory. Her voice became stressed as she battled the topsy-turvy sensation her Slayer Sense was giving her. Never had it been this potent. Not in Spikes company, nor in Angel's. Even the Master didn't give off this kind of intensity, this kind of nausea.

As she fought hard to maintain her physical composure in his presence her voice broke into a strained whisper. "I've never shared as much of myself with anyone as much as I shared with you. You knew my heart, mind and soul better then anyone alive. You knew me, and I knew you. We kept no secrets from each other; I don't think there has ever been another man in my life that I was completely 100% honest with, as I was with you. And I believe that door swung both ways. Xander; you're one of my bestest friends, someone I love and would trust with my life."

"Trust, funny word coming from you to describe me. Yet when the chips were down you went to him - that soulless animal. You trusted that 'Thing' more then me."

"You don't know the whole story, I wrote a Letter*"

The Living Vampire cut her words off with a question that had plagued him since he had left Sunnydale. "*I don't care! Buff, please tell me it didn't happen - that he was lying to us just to get under my skin. That you didn't specifically go to him and ask that Creature if he could look after Dawn for you, before you thought of me or anybody else."

"I---I can't."

Xander's expression broke momentarily; it was a foolish wish - one he had nurtured since the beginning of all this, the hope that the now Fangless Vampire had lied to him. This flicker of recognition to the Slayers confirmation washed over him like ice cold water, his expression then reformed to a more passionless visage before the 22-year old petite blonde. "If you knew me as much as you claim you did, you would have known I would die before I let anything happen to her - too any of you. But still you *trusted* him, above me - above us. Anyone with a thread of common sense would have been able to tell what you were planning to do that night if things went south. And yet he did nothing to stop you. Nothing! And this is someone you decided to trust with Dawn?"

Buffy took a careful step forward and carefully bought her hand up; her fingers then lightly graced themselves across his cheek in an effort to calm him down before she had to admit what she had to say next. The Living Vampires flesh was not cold to touch like her former chipped lover; it was cool, smooth and hard. Much like a marble or granite Tombstone at midnight. The tactile sensation caused her forehead crinkled in sympathy and regret. "I didn't --- Xander, I asked him because he did care for her, and because he could protect her." The Slayer's voice then became strained, hoarseness assaulting her words as she emotionally swam in the guilt over having hurt her best friend with her tragic request to the 'Chipped One' a year and a half ago.

Cordelia had told her on that day of their 'discovery' of his death how hard Xander had taken her dismissal of him as a suitable Guardian for her sister. And it pained her greatly - she never wanted to cause him any grief and anguish, and if she knew how badly he would have taken her decision she never would have asked Spike at all. But the damage was done, she unhappily moved on accepting her bitter role in his distress, yet to see him once more with nothing but the raw betrayal in his now unnatural eyes was too much for her to bear. "Yes, I trusted him once. But I don't anymore."

Removing her hand from his person, Xander grasped it and gave it a gentle squeeze as he spoke directly to her. "Let me guess, he showed you his true colors?"

"If you must know, yes he did."

The Vampire looked down on the Slayer, his voice displaying no emotion or sympathy for her discovery. "That's to bad Buff; in an imperfect World you'd still be dead and oblivious to the risks you put your sister in. You may not have thought enough of Dawn's safety with respects to that tethered monster, considering you were contemplating taking her place and all - but I did. I did work it out why thou, you wanted someone strong and powerful enough to look out for her. And Spike was the only one you knew at the time who could measure up to this task."

Buffy's eyes grew in realization as Xander's words formed. Wishing to blank out their meaning and significance. But still they came, and with each sentence she got closer to its dreaded destination. Fearing what her absent minded request had driven her best friend to do.

"When he told me that night we buri*" Xander averted his eyes from the blonde Slayer for a moment. "When we said 'Goodbye' to you, he told me you had asked him to be responsible for Dawn's care. I lost it. I tore into him, if not for Giles I probably would have staked him there and then - I'm not ashamed to admit that either."

Xander then picked up Spikes fangs once more from the table behind him and admired their dull white luster for a few seconds. "Him and that sneer of his - I guess he won't be sneering at anyone anytime soon." A cruel smile formed as his words sunk into the group. "He was better then me back then. A better fighter, a better protector - A better choice. A dangerous choice granted, but given your limited options - a better one then me. I left that very night with the silent promise to you that when I returned, Dawn would have someone who could be her Protector and yet not be in fear of hurting her if a certain little chip inside their head decided to malfunction."

Buffy stepped away from the Vampire; she wanted to flee, to run, to hide. She wanted to be anywhere but here as his motives began to reveal themselves. Fearing that she played a significant part for his current condition. "Xander, stop I don't want to hear any more - Please!"

Xander innocently smiled, it was innocent but the canines presented a sinister look to it. "Why Buff; there's a happy ending - I promise. Anyway, I found out, through a secondary source, that the World is populated with these different types of Vampires. Giles never got around to telling us that one, huh? Anyway I researched my ass off and targeted one breed in particular. You see Buff I realized early on that I would never get to play in the same League as Spikey by remaining as I was. And there was this Class of Vamp that kept their souls. So I sold up all my things, stuff I had on me and wouldn't be needing again and then went hunting. It took three months, and a lot of false alarms. Combing through obituaries and old Crime Reports, but I eventually tracked one down in San Francisco. It was there that I found one who was willing to do me this solid and embrace me and make me one of their own."

Xander lifted the medallion that hung around his neck and displayed it proudly to the group. "Not only did he 'embrace' me, he taught me everything I needed to know about my Kind, what we can and what we can't do. That's where I've been for the last sixteen months - perfecting my abilities so that I could come back here, rescue Dawn from that 'Joke' and fight the good fight."

Xander then sat himself upon the table, his feet dangling over the edge. "But when I got back, I got me a major surprise. Buff here was once more up an' about, and once more in the land of the living. I didn't want Dawn to lose her sister a second time --- or is it a third? I've lost count; anyway I then went about taking out the 'undesirables' in Town. Making the street's safe to walk at night." Xander looked up from his feet as he finished his tale, and he could not escape the concerned look in everybody's eyes, he didn't like that look, it made him feel pitied. "Relax everybody. Sure there are some disadvantages, never being able to get a deep Tan again being one, and the blood drinking of course. But other then that, everything's gravy."

There was a light shimmer to the Slayer's eyes, one imparted by all the women. It was silent misery shared by all.

Willow broke forward and embraced her dearest friend in a hug that would have possibly crushed a normal man. "I'm sorry Xan, I'm so, so sorry."

Patting her red hair the Living Vampire laughed. "What are you talking about Will? I told you - I'm good. No, I'm better then good. Once I've had a decent feed and the craving is gone, this Vamp thing is like one big orgasmic high."

Willow stepped back, inching herself closer to the Slayer as she did so. "You really believe that being a Vampire is --- good?"

"Will, I'm not crazy, and this is not some grandiose posturing. But yeah, it is! I'm a Vampire. A *real* honest to God Vampire, not one of those imposters like Spike, Angel and the rest. At best - at their very best, when they're 110% on top of their game, they are still little more then a shadow I would cast."

"Rriigghhtt." Willow then awkwardly looked to Buffy. "I---I think I should find that spell now."

The Chosen One nodded slowly. "Yeah, I think you better. I'll keep watch on him." Never taking her eyes off her new assignment Buffy removed herself to around the Counter and extracted a Katana hidden under the Cash Register. With a fresh confidence she approached her one time friend with care.

"Buff, don't you remember what I told you outside about being 'threatened'? Do you really think that if I wanted to go 'medieval' on you, that 'Pig-Sticker' could stop me?"

Directing the Vampire to take a seat with the shafted blade she replied. "What say we don't try and find out?"

The eternal shrugged his shoulders, and sat down unconcerned as Buffy Anne Summers positioned the blade opposite to his neck for a swift swing if the need arose. "For what it's worth Xander, I am sorry. I didn't want this for you. I wanted you to be untouched by my life."

"Why? Whats wrong, do you think I can't handle being a Vampire?"

Inwardly the Slayer cringed as he spoke those words. The Zeppo she cared for and loved so much would have rather welcome death then become one of these things. She then slowly arched her blade back as she focused on his ashen face. "Xander don't. Please don't try and make an argument, you're now a card carrying member of the Undead Union of America - you can't be happy about that? No-one could. And the power you claim to possess it's too much for you."

"Oh, I get it. Angel and Spike can thou, but poor wee little Xander can't. He's not of the same caliber."

Buffy strained her voice in a whisper to emphasis that this was a conversation she did not wish the others in the room to overhear. "Xander, power corrupts. Absolute*"

"Power corrupts absolutely. Lord Aton's written words that threw the Archbishop of Canterbury into a rage."

Buffy blinked in surprise, she had heard the saying. Giles had drummed it into her head repeatedly. But not once did she find out where it had originated from. "Look I know the saying's Buffy, and more asides, I've had a very well rounded education of late. With a certain emphasis by my teacher on history." Xander then raised his index finger to the tip of the blade and redirected downwards from his neck. Buffy complied with the motion, easily remembering the Vampire's effortless success in disarming her of 'Mr. Pointy' earlier. As he did so, he added to the clichés. "How about this one - 'With great Power comes Great Responsibility."

"This isn't funny Xander."

"No it's not, and I never said it was. You got quite the double standard going Buff. Angel and Spike, against me. Not exactly fair is it?"

The Slayer silently placed her weapon upon the table, and looked over the Living Vampire's shoulder to the three women beyond who were still in the process of searching for the accompanying spell for the Kaltrin Sphere. If she was going to trip this 'Xander' up, she had to use another tactic to reveal himself. Only one came to mind, the old 'bait n switch'. "Xander I know it's you. I didn't before, but I do now. I don't know how I know, but I believe you when you say you kept your soul."

Meeting her whisper Xander responded. "Then why are we going through all this?"

"Confirmation." Buffy then bit her lower lip hard enough for her to draw a little blood from the act. "Xander, I'm not saying you can't handle it. It's just that Spike has the Chip, and Angel has two centuries of guilt keeping him in check." Buffy stared deep into the Living Vampire's amber eyes. "What do you have to assure us you won't go on a blood sucking spree? In case you haven't been listening to the words coming out of your mouth Xander, you've become arrogant. And that's a dangerous place to be - believe me, I know."

Xander shifted in his seat and leaned further into the Slayer. "I'm not arrogant Buffy, I just know my limitations. And I can freely state that in the last year and a half I have yet to taste a single drop of human blood. And I have yet to come across something I can't handle, face, or kill on my lonesome. And trust me, these are generally things that would give you and 'Dead boy' pause." He then nuzzled himself closer and whispered into Buffy's ear. "Oh and nice by the way, very subtle."

"Wh---what do you mean?"

Leaning back in the chair with an expression upon his face of the proverbial Cat Xander once more offered her an 'innocent' smile. "The lip thing, the drawing of blood. You were trying to coax me into taking a taste. I have to admit Buff; your lips are a tempting target at the best of times. But mix that with a splash of red ---" Xander's smile never left his face as he let his statement drift into nothing ness.

The Slayer gritted her teeth in frustration, either this Vampire before her was a lot more smarter and cunning then the Xander she remembered, or he was telling her the truth. She then closed her eyes and decided to go on faith, following the direction her heart and soul was telling her earlier. "Xander --- I'm sorry, I just had to know for certain, it's just that I can't believe you willingly did this to yourself. I always pitied the people who became Vampires. I may have joked about them, but I also felt sorry for them as well. They never asked to become monsters. But you did."

Xander shot straight out of his seat, and stood poised over a startled Summers, as she realized that if he was to strike out at her she would have no time to reach for her Katana. All eyes in the room quickly narrowed to the display. "Get this straight Buff, I'm not a Monster. I can distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad, evil and niceness. I kept my Soul. "

Buffy's eyes once more began to mist as she answered his claim. "You didn't keep your soul Xander, can't you see that. You *Sold* it. You sold it for a little Power."

From out of nowhere her stored tears began to flow, and her voice became ragged as she too stood up to face him. "Do you have any idea how many times last year I thought how much better things would have been if Xander were still here? How many times I cried myself asleep remembering your smile, and your presence? Too many! But you know what - I survived, *WE* survived. We survived without your Vampire strength and Vampire abilities. We didn't want a 'Vampire Xander'; we just wanted you - OUR Xander. But you weren't there; you were 'Dead' to us.

"You weren't there for me when I needed you desperately; you weren't there for Dawn when she would crawl into my bed with me and share my tears over your absence. And you weren't there for Willow when she was facing her own crossroads and trials. You say you're not a monster, I'm sorry, but how can you be anything else but for allowing us to go through all that alone. You deserted us when we all needed you the most."

The Living Vampire extended his arms outwards in a theatrical gesture as to invite the whole world to observe. "That's pretty ironic, you condemning me over my choices of leaving everybody."

Buffy's face flushed at the reference. "I died to save my sister and protect the World. What's your excuse?"

"Hey, if it's escaped your notice, I *also* died to save your sister and protect the World!" The two froze, each unwilling to contribute more to the heated conversation. Twin tears cascaded down the Slayer's cheeks curving into her mouth.

After a moment and amid the still silence of the Magic Box the Slayer spoke aloud. "I'm sorry Xander; I don't know where all that came from. I don't know what came over me?"

Dully he replied to her attempted apology. "How about honesty? You wanted to find someone to blame for everything that went wrong whilst I was away. And I'm too convenient an excuse. But that's all it is Buffy - an Excuse. What you guys went through last year has nothing to do with me. I was out of the picture, going through my own 'adjustments'."


"Let's not talk about it anymore Buff." The Living Vampire turned to address the gaped Redhead as she stood besides the counter with a very ancient book in her hands. "Willow, have you found the Spell thing yet?"

Struggling to find voice after witnessing the dialogue between the Slayer and the Vampire, she squeaked out a "Yes, I think so." As she nodded enthusiastically.

"Good, then let's get this thing done."

As the trio of the more magically inclined women went about the chanting, Xander stood motionless, like a statue, overseeing the proceedings and incantations. Forcefully ignoring the penetrating and damaged look of Buffy was giving him.

Once the spell had been caste, Tara bought over the glass globe upon a tray.

"So what do I do? Just pick it up?"

"Y-yes, if you kept your soul it should flare up to physical touch."

Without hesitation the Living Vampire reached out and picked the sphere up. There was not a set of eyes in the room that was not now focused on tennis ball sized object in the Vampire's hand. Slowly, as if struggling, the globe began to glow; the light it projected was not the white magnificence everyone expected, but a dim light - an off color light. But there was light, and no one could deny what this meant.

Calmly, yet with a hint of anger in his voice Xander addressed Willow once more. "Is this proof enough for you all, do you believe me now?"

The Red-haired Wicca looked to her Life-partner, and then to Anya. Neither presented any doubts to the original Scooby. "Yeah, I--- we --- we believe you now."

"Good." Xander then closed his fingers around the ball in his hand and squeezed. The pressure applied by the Living Vampire caused the globe to explosively shatter. Fragments sailed across the room with no regard for what stood in its path. It was only fortunate that no human being stood exposed to the lethal journey.

When the women removed themselves from their make- shift 'cover' positions they spied Xander making his way towards the front door. Again, it was Anya who found her voice first. "Xander - Stop we believe you now. Don't go. Stay -- - please."

The Vampire faced the female group and spoke. "No, not now. I'll let everything that has happened this night sink in for you, I'll check up on you guy's tomorrow night. There's someone else I have to see, maybe she'll be a lot more trusting of me." The bell above the front door then twinkled as it opened and closed.

Buffy watched his back as it disappeared from the view of the doorway. She then raised her hands to her mouth and gasped out "Oh my God!" The Slayer once more picked up her coat from her chair and began to dash towards the exit Xander had just left from.

"Buffy, what's wrong?"

Turning to face Willow, yet not losing her momentum forward the Chosen One answered. "Dawn! He's going to see Dawn. I can't let that happen, it'll be too much for her to take. You know how she's been since that 'Bronze thing'. Xander being a Vampire will just send her more over the edge." The Slayer then pushed the door open. With one intent, to stop Xander any way she could.