Too Late

Author: Danielle Frances Ducrest <sword_girl[at]>

Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, Twentieth Century Fox Productions, and Warner Brothers Studios. Highlander belongs to Rysher Entertainment, Gaumont Television, and Davis/Panzer Productions. No copyright infringement was intended. This story was written for entertainment and no money was exchanged.

There are spoilers for the Buffy Season Three episodes "Lover's Walk," "The Zeppo," "Dead Man's Party," and "Earshot." This story takes place after "Earshot."

Note: This is the first story in my Highlander/Buffy x-over series called An Immortal Life. The sequel to this story is "Need."

Summary: Xander reflects on his life and his Immortality while he fights in his second Immortal challenge.

I looked up from the ancient book when I felt it. It was a feeling I'd hoped that I'd never feel again. I'd already killed one person. I didn't want to kill anyone else. But that was a part of being who I was, wasn't it?

My name's Alexander LaVelle Harris, Xander for short. I never asked to be a killer. I never asked to live in a town that stood on the Hellmouth, either. If I had my way, I would live in a nice, beautifully furnished house somewhere other than here with parents that gave a damn about me. Instead, I'm stuck with a mother who sits in front of the television all day watching soap operas. She probably cares more about the characters of the Young and the Restless more than she'll ever care about me, her son. As for my father, he stays at work as long as possible and probably goes out to clubs to spend some time with the strippers before coming home. When he is at home, he's a hopeless drunk who can't even remember my name. The only thing he cares about is keeping his bottle of whiskey full.

When I found out I was Immortal, it was very hard to take in. I couldn't help thinking, no, not this, not now. I've always hoped that my life would get better. When Cordelia and I went out, I at least had something to look forward to everyday, which was usually kissing in Sunnydale High's broom closet. It was certainly better than dwelling on my family or the possibility of dying at the hands of some slime-covered demon with sharp horns and teeth. I don't have that relationship with her anymore, though. Instead, I'm stuck with a very uncomfortable but uncontrollable desire for my best friend, Willow, who feels the same way for me, even though she has a boyfriend. Not only that, but I know that my friends don't even want my help fighting demons. My only use is bringing them donuts or researching the latest demon for hours without end, but when it comes down to something remotely useful, like helping in the fighting, they don't need or want me. They try to protect me and complete ly forget that it was my choice to do this sort of thing in the first place.

When I first found out about my Immortality, I'd been lying in an alley after an attack of about ten vampires. My luck hadn't been on my side that night, and they drained me. When I woke up, I couldn't believe it. I knew I'd died. My first thought was that I was a vampire, but I didn't have any desire for blood. I went home and waited until daylight to be sure, but when I stuck my hand out into a beam of sunlight, it didn't burn, which left me relieved, but still very confused.

When I met up with Buffy, Willow, Oz, and Cordelia at school the next day, they hadn't noticed a thing. None of them had wondered where I had been last night. Instead, they talked about Faith, completely ignoring me. Why would they wonder about me, anyway? I'd left the Bronze the night before saying I wanted to go to bed early. As for the vampire attack, you'd think I'd have a few bruises left over, but I didn't, so they couldn't notice any physical evidence of a vampire attack. All my wounds had healed by the time I woke up in that alley.

I decided to say nothing. As much as I wanted their concern, they were stressed out enough over Faith and getting more information about the Ascension. Instead, I helped Giles with research and occasionally made a trip to the Deli to get donuts as usual.

A few days later, however, I felt the 'Buzz' for the first time. I was standing near the same alley where the vampire attack had taken place. When my head stopped feeling like the Pony Express was riding through it, I realized that the source of the 'buzz' felt like it was in that alley. I didn't really what to enter that alley again, but curiosity won in the end and I walked into it.

I found a man standing in the center of the alley. He held a sword. It looked like it had been used constantly, unlike any of Giles' swords, which had been used only once or twice. When he got in a fighting stance, I knew the man holding it was very experienced with using a weapon like that.

"I am Peter Lionhardt," the man announced.

He stood there looking at me, and I finally realized he was waiting for me to tell him my name. "Xander Harris," I replied. I was very confused. Who was this guy? I'd never met him before. He didn't act like a vampire. A vampire would have put his game face on and charged me by now.

Hoping I could get out of this without having to meet the business end of the weapon, I motioned to it and said, "What's that for? Haven't you heard of a gun? I mean, if you wanted me dead, wouldn't that have worked better?"

Lionhardt seemed confused. "You don't know who you are?"

"Who I am?" I asked. I was very nervous, and I was babbling. I usually tell jokes to cover my nervousness, but at the moment, I couldn't really think of anything hilarious to say, so I babbled. "I told you. I'm Xander Harris. Why would you ask me a question like that?"

Lionhardt lowered his weapon. After studying me for a long time, he put the sword into a hidden sheath in his trench coat. Then he began to tell me the most bizarre story I'd ever heard, and considering that I've fought vampire masters and zombies and crazy lunch ladies, that's saying a lot.

He told me I was Immortal, and that I would live for a long time if I was good at using a sword. He said that I would always come back to life from any fatal wound other than beheading, and that I wouldn't age a single day over eighteen for the rest of my life.

All of this was shocking, but not impossible to my mind. After all, I was and still am used to all sorts of supernatural things. To learn that I wasn't normal, however, was the shocking part. The only good part out of all of it was that my parents weren't really my parents.

The worst part of Immortality is, as far as I'm concerned, the killing. Why do I have to be a member of a race that kills each other for no reason? Sure, the Quickenings gave you power and certainly could be addictive if you let them. I've experienced only one Quickening before, but it was enough to make me both loathe and look forward to experiencing it again. I had all this power coursing through my veins. I saw all of my opponent's memories before his mind retired to a dark corner of my mind. It was so scary and so exhilarating at the same time. I'd love to experience it again, if the memories weren't included and if I didn't have to kill someone to get the Quickening.

I learned from that Quickening that my opponent had been a man who'd lost a wife. He'd loved her dearly. Then another Immortal had burned his house down with his wife in it, all for the sake of the Game. My opponent had chased after the Immortal and killed him to have his revenge, but he was already lost. My opponent had been so heartbroken he'd taken to gaining Quickenings to distract him from remembering how his wife had died.

I killed him. Maybe I was doing him a favor. I really don't know. Now I wish I'd been given the opportunity to talk to him, to help him get better.

Lionhardt, the first Immortal I ever met, became my teacher, and the Quickening had been at the end of his training. Now he lives in Chicago. I've stayed in touch with him, but he's the only one of my friends who knows I'm Immortal. My other friends, Buffy and Willow and the rest of them, have had enough problems this year without me adding something to the list. It's bad enough that I have to live with the fact that I'll be the last one to die. I'd always thought I'd be one of the first, but with abilities like mine, there are less chances of that ever happening. That's a good thing, I guess, but after I've lived a normal life span, well...Lionhardt told me what it was like to live a few centuries, and it hadn't sounded fun.

So, in short, my life sucks, and it'll probably suck for all eternity.

As for that night in the library, I was helping Giles research the Ascension when I felt the 'buzz.' Part of me hoped that it was Peter Lionhardt, but I knew I couldn't count on that hope. I knew that the secret I'd kept from my friends for so many months was about to be revealed.

I stood up, startling Willow, Buffy, Oz, and Giles, who were all sitting at the table researching the Ascension. My entire body was tense, ready for anything. My eyes were fixed on the double swinging doors in the front of the library. Somewhere beyond those two doors was the other Immortal.

"Xander?" Willow asked, concerned.

I looked at her and the others then back at the door. They had no idea what was happening, but I had to make sure they were safe. "Go. Now," I said. "What do you mean, go?" Buffy asked. She wasn't about to be bossed around, which was one thing I liked about her, but that was not the time.

I looked at her and said, "Buffy, please. Go." I jerked my head in the direction of the back exit.

She looked about ready to argue, but it was too late to try to get her to listen to me. The doors opened.

A woman I had never seen before - but that wasn't the point, was it? - stood there. She was African-American, or possibly just African. Her sword wasn't out, but her left hand was hidden in the folds of her coat, waiting.

Buffy stood up. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" she asked levelly. The mysterious woman kept her gaze level with my own and answered her, "I have no concern for you, Slayer. I have come to fight Harris."

"So you know me," I said, a little nervous. Sure, I'd won the last fight, but I was unsure I'd win this one. She knew me. She must have done a little research, which meant she probably knew how good I was at sword fighting, which were probably not as good as her skills.

I kept a calm expression on my face, refusing to let this woman see any of my weaknesses. "I, however, do not know you."

"Mary," was all she said. For all I knew, that was her full name, because I had no idea if she was an old or young Immortal. If she was old, she could have been alive when people in Europe only had first names.

"Alright, Mary," I said. "Why don't we step outside? This isn't the best place to fight." I was, of course, talking about protecting my friends and referring to the Hellmouth. The actual mouth was only a few feet away from where I was standing. It was closer to me than it was to Mary.

She pulled her sword out of her trench coat. "I know your friends are aware of the supernatural, so I don't care if they witness your death. As for the mouth of hell, well, it's not exactly holy, now is it?"

The others had been watching this quietly. Now Buffy asked, "Xander, what are you doing?"

I looked over at my friends. They were all confused, although Giles seemed to know a little about what was going on. I wouldn't be surprised if he'd known for the last twenty years about Immortals. He was, after all, an ex-member of the Watcher's Council, and had probably read pretty much every book there was about that kind of thing.

I wish I'd told them about all of this sooner. I wish they didn't have to find out about me this way. There was no way to change that now. I just hoped I'd be around after the fight to explain everything to them.

I looked over at Willow. She looked at me with a look of confusion and betrayal and love. We'd always told each other everything since we were old enough to speak. This was probably the only secret I've ever kept from her, and she knew it. And when you add a love affair that had been there for years but was only starting to blossom, well, it just made everything become a big mess.

I looked over at Giles next and knew I'd been right in assuming Giles knew what was going on. "You're one of them, aren't you?" he asked quietly. I nodded.

Willow, Buffy, and Oz were still very confused, although Oz didn't show it as much. "You're one of what?" Buffy asked.

"Xander, what's going on?" Willow asked.

I looked at all of them. "If I survive this, I'll tell you."

Willow and Buffy both sprang forward. "No," Willow said. "You can't fight her. You've never even held a sword in your life!" She paused, suddenly unsure. "You haven't held a sword before, right?"

"What's going on, Xander?" Buffy asked. "Who is that woman? Look, I'll take care of her, and then we can talk."

"Sorry," I said. "That's not the way it has to be."

I reached behind me and picked up my jacket from my chair. I pulled out a short sword from within the material before tossing the jacket back onto the chair. Everyone seemed surprised that I had managed to hide such a weapon in my jacket. Actually, I've been carrying it around in the jacket for two months now.

I took a step toward my adversary. Buffy took a step forward as well and looked ready to protest, but Giles stopped her. Looking hurt, she stood back and watched with the rest of them.

"Okay," I said once I was about four feet from my opponent. "Let's get this over with."

Mary smiled. "I like a man who gets to the point," she said. "Too bad I'll have to kill you. You would have been nice to get to know."

"You don't have to fight me," I said, trying to reason with her. I didn't want to die, and I didn't want her to die either. "You can still walk away."

Mary smiled and shook her head. "Sorry, boy. I want Bryan Costello's Quickening, and the only way to get it now is by killing you."

Bryan Costello had been the name of the Immortal I'd faced before and killed. Thinking of him made me feel guilt and shame, which would not help me in the coming fight. I took a few deep breaths and shut out any thoughts of that sort of thing and focused on the present situation, like Peter Lionhardt had taught me.

"Okay, if that's the way you want it," I said.

I held up my sword in a defensive position. Mary tossed away her trench coat, then began to circle me. I did the same thing.

We kept circling each other for what seemed like forever, but it was probably only a few minutes. Both of us watched each other, almost oblivious to the world around us, only conscious of each other, waiting for one or the other to make the first move.

Her patience turned out to be shorter than mine. She lunged and swung, and I blocked.

We kept going, and we alternated between defense and offense on several occasions. Giles had managed to herd everyone behind the library counter. Not wanting any of them to get hurt, I started pushing Mary back and up the right staircase to the second level.

At the top, she got the upper hand and started forcing me across the balcony. By then we were both tired. Sword fighting is much more draining than the movies make you believe.

Breathing heavily, she swung at my legs. I brought my sword down to block, but at the last minute, using a speed I haven't quite mastered yet, she swung at my head. I ducked just in time. She swung again, and I ducked a second time. This time, however, she miscalculated, and the sword imbedded itself three inches into the side of a bookshelf. When she tried to get it out, the movement made several books fall on my position. I skirted out of the way just in time and ended up near the railing.

Just as she got the sword out of the wood, the back door opened.

"Good evening, everyone," Wesley's pleasant voice called. "Has your research on the Ascension been successful?"

He appeared at the end of the middle isle of bookshelves. His eyes immediately turned to Mary and me. The Watcher took a step back, shocked. "Good Lord-" As much as I despised Wesley, I couldn't let him get hurt. I had to take the fight away from him.

"Mary," I said, getting the other Immortal's attention again. Then I hoisted myself over the railing and jumped.

I landed on the table and rolled forward to soften the impact. I stopped towards the middle of the table and rolled to my feet before spinning around. The good thing was that I still held my sword.

Mary jumped onto the table behind me. She really was out for my Quickening, no matter how hard it might be to get it. As soon as she landed, we started fighting again. Parry, thrust, block, it kept going on for what seemed to be a long time. She was better than I was, however, and both of us knew it. She forced me back toward the end of the table. Then she hit the wrist of my sword arm, sending pain throughout the limb.

My sword fell from nerveless fingers and hit the floor with a loud clang. I wasn't giving up yet, however. As much as my life sucked, as much as I didn't want to kill this woman, I didn't want to die. Not yet, anyway. Confident now, she swung at my head. I ducked then parried to the left when she jabbed her sword at my still useless right arm, then parried to right when she jabbed her blade toward my left side.

Next, she swung at my legs, but I jumped just in time and back-flipped. I swung my legs up into her face before completing the flip onto the library floor. Mary lost her balance and fell flat on her back on the library table. Her left hand, her sword hand, hit the chair I'd been sitting in less than thirty minutes ago. The crack as the hand impacted with the solid wood was probably loud enough for Wesley and the others behind the library counter to hear. It was followed by a much softer noise as Mary's head impacted with the table.

Not wanting to lose my opportunity by waiting until Mary recovered, I ran over to where my sword lay, which was only a few feet away from where Mary's sword had fallen from her lifeless left hand. I kicked her sword away and put my blade against Mary's neck.

She lay there, looking at me as best as she could without getting a cut from my blade. "What are you waiting for, Harris?" she asked.

I didn't want to kill her. That was why I hesitated. I was still sick from the last time. Who knew who this woman was or who she could be. I wondered what Bryan Costello had done to make her so angry, and I didn't want to find out by absorbing her Quickening.

"Last chance," I said. "You can walk away and never come back."

Mary looked at me, and for a moment I thought I saw pain in her eyes. Suddenly, she seemed weary of the world. Then it was gone, concealed by the angry expression that she used as a mask. She would die, but she didn't want me to know it was a mercy killing. Whatever had happened, it must have been devastating.

"Just get it over with, Harris," she said.

I nodded and raised my sword high, then brought it down in a deadly arch. The blade cut through the neck easily. I turned away and tossed my sword to the ground. I didn't want to look at her. The memories I'd get from the Quickening would be enough.

The Quickening was short but spectacular to all that witnessed it. I wasn't aware of the lightning that hit me constantly or the windows when they shattered. All I was aware of were Mary's memories.

She was over three hundred years old. She'd grown up in a tribe in Western Africa. One day a group of European colonists came, bringing along diseases her tribe was unfamiliar with.

Many of her friends and adopted family died, including her. When she came back to life, the surviving members of her tribe decided she had been brought back by the Earth God to avenge their dead warriors. Not knowing any other explanation, Mary had done just that. She went with a group of her tribe's warriors to the closest white man's camp and attacked.

Their weapons had been primitive compared to their enemies', however, and many of them had died, including Mary, who died for the second time of a gunshot wound.

When she came back to life, she found her tribe's lands in ruins, with their huts burned down with her people in them. She swore she'd avenge them and went back to the colonists' camp.

That was where she felt the 'buzz' for the first time. It had been in the form of one of the commanders. His name would later be Bryan Costello. They'd fought, but she had been no match for him. He'd stabbed her quickly and tossed her body into the Atlantic Ocean, proclaiming that she was a witch and they would be rid of her this way.

She'd come back to life and then drowned several times. Finally, after months at sea, she reached the shores of America.

When she woke up again, she couldn't believe she was on dry land. As soon as she was strong enough to move around, she looked for food and a place to stay, but the land was unfamiliar, and that made it difficult for her to find any game. She was captured by slaveholders and sold to a wealthy man. He took her to his plantation and named her Mary. When he realized she healed after being whipped, he said she was a witch. They shot her, but she recovered from that. Then he and several other neighboring plantation owners burned her at the stake.

When she woke up from that, she killed her master and his friends.

Convinced all white men were evil, it was over a century before she could trust any of them again. Then she learned Bryan Costello was still alive. Before she saw him again, she met a man that told her what she was, which only made her more determined to kill Costello. She knew she couldn't let a man like that live on any longer. It soon turned into an obsession that eventually made her seek me out and do a little research before confronting me.

When the Quickening ended, I sunk to me knees and cried. She'd been a victim, just like Bryan had been. She'd been through a life of agony, and I killed her. I recalled what Bryan's perspective had been. Four hundred years ago, he'd been a victim to the day's practices. He'd eventually learned from his mistakes and tried to help African-American slaves escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. If Mary had known, she might have forgiven him, but it was too late now.

Now, however, I had a dead body to take care of and my friends to deal with. I dried my tears and stood up. There'd be enough time for crying later. Giles helped me carry the body out one of the windows and together we dumped it into a sewer drain on the school grounds. Giles said he'd take care of the expense for a new table and windows and suggested we all go to his apartment before I answer any questions.

I was still processing everything from the Quickening. Mary had a hard life, and maybe it was a mercy killing, but I hadn't liked doing it. I didn't like being an Immortal, and probably never would.

I sighed and walked over to the parking lot where Oz's van and Giles' Citroen were waiting. I hoped my friends would understand and try to help me through this. If they did, maybe I'd have something to look forward to, but if they didn't, I'd be as alone as I've always been. I'd just have to wait and see.