When the Hunted becomes the Hunter

Author: eckles71 <eckles71[at]bigpond.com>

Disclaimer - Character's belong to Mutant Enemy & White Wolf Productions

Cross & Based on BtVS & the Popular X-Box game 'Hunter - The Reckoning'

Our Tale starts at the beginning --- the very beginning of S7 of BtVS, but the ground work is laid before that ;-)

B/X Friendship

Dedicated to Asbjoern Grandt for his impressive dedication to XanderZone.

FEEDBACK - Coin of the Realm

It was written -

'For centuries, supernatural powers have reigned, warring among themselves, culling the human herds and lashing out from the shadows. The creatures of the night have held court since before the dawn of history.

But nothing lasts forever --- or is supposed to.

From the throng of Humanity, individuals emerge who know the truth. They know monsters exist. Ordinary men and women chosen to challenge the nightmares that have stalked mankind from its very birth. The Avenger; the Protector; the Judge and the Martyr.

But these four were an after thought to the original planned saviour. In the beginning there was but one chosen.

The 'Chosen One', a female child to be born to every generation blessed and cursed to be in possession of a perfect Warrior's Essence. A lone girl who on the cusp of adulthood would be obligated to pick up the blade and hold back the Darkness that threaten to consume the World whole with its evil intent. She was known as The Slayer.

Mages - the ancient messengers and deliverers of the Will of a Higher Power offered such a Slayer, a visitor to a forgotten age, the power needed to defeat the origin of all Evil, and preserve her world and time. But in her arrogance and distrust she rejected the precious gift offered and it became lost to the sands of history.

From this disastrous encounter the 'Mages' realized their error in placing so much responsibility and faith into a single vessel. These Ancients feared the coming of the Age of Darkness. An Age they were confident would originate from the flawed decision made by the future and selfish Slayer that had visited them. So a Boon was sought to their nameless God that during the period of the foolish Slayer's reign for additional Agents of the Light to rise up and take a place upon the battlefield of Good and Evil. This wish was granted. Four Champions would be chosen by circumstance. These four would be Mankind's Hunter's of evil. They would be Mankind's Reckoning.

Enough was enough.

It was time for the Forces of Darkness to pay their due.'


12th of May 2002;

Kassandra Cheyung dragged herself into a darken alleyway. Struggling with her breath and doing her best to ignore the numerous wounds upon her body as well as the pain they were inflicting upon her. She did her best to collect her thoughts and gain her bearings as she observed the haunting beauty of the chilled pre-dawn air laying a blanket of fog upon the silent streets of the mountain town. Her pulse was racing, her vision beginning to blur.

She wanted to call out to her friends and team-mates for assistance; she knew they would be close by. She was close to Deuce's allocated territory; she knew that for a fact. She had recognized the boundary of the boarded up derelict Pool Hall across the street. But this desire to yell for help created a dangerous 'Catch 22' for her. Any call for aid would also draw those who were at that moment hunting her down, and there was no guarantee that her friends would make it to her before they did. <The Hunter has now become the Hunted - God, I hate that when it happens.>

Death was upon her, she knew this as a stone cold fact unless she got some immediate aid. She had to make it to a glyph, and she was fairly certain there was one at the end of this Alley.

In the night shadow of the small bricked canyon she could just make out through the bloody haze that was now her sight the precious arcane symbol ahead.

She could make it to the glyph.

She knew she could.

It was right in front of her.

All she had to do was get there, stand before it and allow its pure and majestic radiance to replenish and heal her. 'The Martyr' leaned against cold brick wall and took several deep and resting breaths. She had never been hurt this bad before - Pain, who needs it? In the distance the lite glow of her target beckoned to her. It couldn't be more then 15-meters away now. 15-meters, she could do that. The nineteen year old pushed herself away from her support and staggered forward a couple of steps before her legs gave out on her.

<Easier said then done I guess. NO! No Loser speak. 'Deuce' would do his nut if he knew I was talking like this. Half-full Girlfriend, remember always Half-full, not Half-Empty.> The Asian Cyberpunk-beauty looked over her shoulder taking care that she had not been followed or that her fall had been heard. To her relief she saw nothing stirring in the darkness or the lamped areas offered by the flicking street lights.

They always tend to attack in groups, just once she would like to meet a Vampire, Zombie or Ghoul horde who was stupid enough to attack an opponent one-on-one instead of do the whole 'Gang Bashing' thing. They were out there; she had heard rumours of some in California that did that whole 'fair-fight' deal. She just wished that kinda civility could make it here. <Man do they have it easy in California. No wonder the Slayer's lived so long there, bet she's never had to contend with what we have to. I'd like to see her take on a dozen mindless zombies at once instead of getting them all to stand in line. California hmmmm. Sun, I miss the sun, I miss the Warm.> She shock these bitter and unproductive thoughts from her, it did not help with her situation. <Think Survival first Girlfriend, Sun and Warm weather later>

She gave up on trying to lift herself off the ground; she knew her injured legs would no longer support her weight. Desperately she started to claw her way along the damp paved ground ignoring the racing pain consuming her slowly chilling body. Neither noticing the blood stain upon the wall she had leaned against earlier or the trail of red following her efforts.

Blood - a red rag to a Bull, if that Bull happened to be a Vampire. Thou they may not have heard her fall a Vampire could smell the scent of Blood a mile off. The Martyr already knew she was in trouble, she just didn't know how much trouble until eight pale faced, fang smiling teens entered the same alleyway silently behind her crawling figure.

Ignorant of the approaching predators the Warrior of the light continued forward towards her goal. <You can do this Girlfriend. Just another 10-meter. I can do this!>

Her mind began to drift once more; but this time it was a welcome distraction from her hurt as one hand followed the other along the ground. As always her memories drifted back to the beginning of her nightmare and her destiny.

There were only two places to work in Ashcroft. The Railroad and the Penitentiary. Since the 1920's the town centred on, and was primarily dependent to the large prison. The population of the then thriving mountain town however were unaware that for over fifty years the Prison was under the control of Vampires and other obscenities. Through some mystical means they had been successful in camouflaging their appearance to present themselves like ordinary men and woman. The Warden himself had been turned into a creature of the night in the 1960's, and with that 'turning' their centre of power within the concrete high walls of the Prison was secure.

Since then, the prison had become a feeding ground, and the inmate's no more then cattle. Those who were deemed unfit to be fed on were subject to horrific acts of torture and experimentation. Anyone in the community who raised a voice to the suspected wrongdoings taking place behind the barred walls would quickly and suspiciously disappear along with their families. Such disappearances encouraged future 'concerned citizens' to hold their tongue and turn their interests else where then to speak out against the authority held by the town's Penitentiary.

Yet these disturbing actions could not be forgotten, and the vengeful spirits of the inmates and town's innocent citizens soon rose from the dead and lashed out at the neglectful and ignorant living. These vengeful spirits were eventually subdued by greater powers and hushed as the vampire's quickly regained control of Ashcroft Prison.

Decades followed without no-one being the wiser to the travesty's that continued within the Prison Walls. Until one day a serial killer by the name of Nathaniel Arkady entered the grounds, a murderer who was blessed with the unique ability to channel and communicate with the dead was bought to the Penitentiary and had been scheduled for a State execution.

In an effort to escape Capital Punishment the mass killer successfully stirred the renegade ghosts from their forced slumber. They were again free from their bonds and once more wreaked havoc on the prison as Arkady tried to make his escape.

Four people, one of which was herself, had been bought to the penitentiary by circumstance, to play witness to Arkady's demise. On this day their normal lives ended and they became part of something bigger then themselves. Through some miraculous act they had all been gifted with the 'Vision' - the ability to see through the false guises presented by allies of the Darkness. That day she saw things that could only have come from the imagination of Stephen King. She saw the Prison Staff as they truly were - Monsters to the core.

During the horrific hours that followed, herself and her three other companions fought for their survival. 'Ending' any creature and threat that presented itself to them as they made their way through the dangerous corridors to the Fortresses Exit.

They successfully pushed back the onslaught of monsters and angry spirits, as well as dispatching the sentenced killer to a Hell he richly deserved. Locking and then sealing the doors of the prison with a blessing spoken by one of their number - Cortez - a Chaplin, who was to give Arkady last rites.

The following day the Penitentiary was officially shut down, and the town of Ashcroft became but a shadow of its former self. Two day's after the closure of the Prison they all met up again to come to terms with what they had all seen and done together 48hours earlier. It was then that Esteban revealed to them that he was blessed with another of his vision's the day before. And that they four were to fulfil an ancient promise to Humanity.

That they were in chosen order - The Avenger of Mankind, The Protector of Mankind, The Judge of Mankind and the Martyr of Mankind. Despite the weirdness they had all seen together, it was hard for any of them to accept that they were Mankind's chosen defenders. So with a laugh and a promise that they would all stay in touch they each went their separate way

For a year she lived apart from the three, but once you had been gifted with Vision it was hard not to see the various evils that plagued the world. She still fought her fight against the night, but she did it alone. Then one evening on Patrol she felt drawn to return to the Town that gave her a new destiny. It wasn't until her arrival in the 'Ghost Town' that she discovered from the only one who remained, Cortez, that an illegal 'Rave' held on the Prison grounds the night before had awoken the evil within the stone walls. She was the first to arrive, but she wasn't the last. As two other year-lost survivors arrived, each telling them that they also had felt the irresistible 'pull' to be here.

Ashcroft now stands at the brink between the World of the living and light, and the dead and darkness. It was not the Mouth of Hell; it was that destinations other orifice. And it needed its Guardians to ensure that the evil that spewed forth did not touch the rest of the Planet. She and the other three assumed those Guardian roles.

The First - Spenser 'Deuce' Wyatt - The Avenger, a loner and Biker. Gruff, blunt, fearless. A heart of gold wrapped in barbed wire. There was nothing the seven foot Road-Rebel would not do, or face down for a friend.

The second is Officer Samantha Alexander - The Protector. A beauty that could have made an equally successful living on the Catwalks of Paris yet had chose 'To Protect & Serve' route instead. She handed in her badge directly after the 'Ashcroft Experience' spending her free time trying to come to terms with the supernatural world she had been flung into. Sam Alexander could comfortably fit into either a Sport's Bar or a Formal Function with ease. Sharp as a tac and just as painful if some one tried to step on her.

And finally Father Esteban Cortez - The Judge. Esteban rarely spoke but when he did it was wisest to shut the Hell up and listen to his words. A man who's conviction knew no limits and the driving force and leader of the four.

As for her? She was just a 'Nobody Special'. Just the classic rich kid trying to find her place in the world without relying on Mommy and Daddy's Millions. The only thing she knew was that she liked helping people and that she felt a responsibility for those in need. But apparently, as dictated by Esteban, she was The Martyr of the four.

This always made her laugh; it had to be a mistake. She was 'The Martyr of Mandkind?' From what she remembered a martyr was someone who was prepared to suffer punishment, or was prepared to sacrifice their life for their principles, beliefs or cause. She was soooooo not a Martyr; she doubted anybody really was these days.

And there her memories ended as she was startled back to reality by two cool hands grasping her ankles and then being flipped over.

"Well, well, well. We were looking for you meat."

Kassandra stared up at her death. <Three meters, just three more meters.>. To go out like this, so close to her goal yet so far away at the same time. And to be killed by a bunch of Clearasil Vamps - Total humiliation. "Yeah, well you found me. Now why don't you go hide and I'll come and find you."

Her defiance only served to make a few of the eight chuckle.

"You look and smell <*sniff*sniff*> --- tasty." One of the leed vampire's licked his lips and followed the contours of her body with his eyes. "Jim, I don't know. I'm not exactly stavin' here yet; can't we have some fun with her first?" The Vampire youth's suggestion earnt him grins and agreement's all round by his gang.

The Asian nineteen year old tried to hide her panic as best she could, but she knew that if they wanted to force themselves upon her she was not at that time physically able to hold or fight any of them off. They had her pinned - she was totally at their mercy.

The Vampire 'Jim' smiled at his undead companions words. "Even better idea - We 'do' her, Turn her, and then we have something to fuck during the daylight hours. Granted not original, but why mess with a classic?" Jim's smile dropped into a colder visage as murmurs of concord were heard. With one side of his mouth rising higher then the other he looked down upon the bleeding 'Martyr'. "We're gonna do you 'Dim-Sim'. We can do it rough and hard, or you can give it all up to us and make it easier on yourself. Either way it *is* gonna happen. How much it hurts is entirely up to you. And when we turn you, you'll become our bitch to do with as we please. Understand."

Jim removed his belt and lashed her legs together, he then lowered his pants whilst pinning her arms in place with his own using his superior Vampire strength to hold her down. With both acts accomplished he lifted his pelvis off the struggling hero, whilst still holding her down successfully. The teen Vampire leader called out to his followers. "Pull down her skirt and rip off her panties."

Kassandra was too lost in panic at what was about to happen to her to think of any conceivable plan of escape. She was unable to reach for her weapons before the Acne-squad grabbed her, so shooting and slashing her way out wasn't an option. Besides their grip on her arms and legs were to strong for her to break. No escape except the one and only desperate escape. She refused to be touched but these 'things', and she refused to be made one of them also. While there was still breath in her body she would never allow herself to become something that would stand against her team, her friends, her family.

As her mini-skirt was torn off her by unwelcome hands, a peaceful calm came over her and she once more claimed her voice again. "I won't allow you to rape me, and I won't allow you to turn me."

The night became still as the Vampires, Jim included, looked at each other in confusion. From their perspective there was very little this 'Slayer-wannabe' could do to stop them?

Kassandra's eyes locked with Jim's and she spoke directly to him. "I guess I am a Martyr. I guess there are something's I am prepared to die for, and stop. I will *die* for my friends, and I will *stop* this!" She then raised her head as high as it could go off the ground and with her final physical act she drove it back down upon the paving full force. Cracking her own skull.

Jim pushed himself off the now dead nineteen year old completely stunned at what he had witnessed. "Crazy Bitch." The other seven followers of the Vampire silently nodded their agreement to the act and displayed an equally stunned expression upon their Game-faces. Thou startled and slightly unnerved by what he had seen, Jim was quick to take control of the situation. "We can't do anything with her now, let's see if we can score another feed somewhere?"

One by one the Vampire pack filed out of the alleyway, unaware that a seven foot Biker with a razor sharp Battle Axe, sporting a lever Action Rifle was coming down the street in the opposite direction, and had just seen them all emerge from one of their 'Safety Zones'.

Three minutes later Spenser Wyatt discovered Kassandra Cheyung's body. Her legs were still lashed together, with her skirt and underwear torn off. It did not take a genius to figure out what was happening, or was going to happen.

If 'Deuce' Wyatt had known what they had just done to one of his people before he dusted them all - To a girl he thought of as both a daughter and sister, he would have made them all scream for death and then he would have denied it to them and made them scream some more.

A new hatred boiled inside of him as hot tears rolled from his eyes. Tears he had not shed in twenty years. The Street smart Goliath was hapless to his emotion as his screams of loss and anguish echoed the still streets and lured his colleagues to him and an unwelcomed sight of their sister-in-arms.


They buried her privately the morning after, notifying her parents of their loss. The following day and night were spent in respectful contemplation of the child of the group who had been forced to leave the world far too soon.

After the day of respect they all picked up their chosen weapons and continued the War with renewed vigour. Placing aside Kass's beloved twin Daggers and Dual Auto-Loading Pistols for her replacement Esteban had assured them all would be coming with his comment - 'There must always be four Hunter's'.

So they then patiently waited, carrying on their fight night after night, for someone else to be selected by the Power's, to rise up and assume the role of Martyr for Mankind.


Seven Day's Later
On another Plain of Existence.

The Chamber was full.

The Chamber was in session and had been for a whole week. It could remain in session for years before a decision could be made, this was not because they were indecisive it was because the people within had an eternity to waste. But time was now becoming a factor. And a pronouncement of an appropriate successor had to be made and made quickly.

At the front of the infinite Hall a white hooded figure stood tall and addressed the other white hooded figures present, calling out with the authority entitled to him by age to his fellow spirits. "ENOUGH! We need a replacement. We need a Martyr."

Everyone had a voice in this room; its members were all victims of the Darkness. As such none were placed higher then the other. Each had lost their lives to the eternal evil, and each had a single vote, and those votes measured in the multi-billions.

Meekly one figure raised his hand again, a teenage boy who had ascended over six years earlier. "Can I suggest again*"

With as gentle a tone as the designated leader could muster he singularly addressed the 16 year old boy that never had an opportunity to grow to manhood. "*I'm sorry. We have heard your petition, and have denied it as a possibility. Your candidate is more a Protector then a Martyr."

From further back in the crowd a once thirty five year old woman who had remained silent for the past seven days raised her voice to address the assembled. "I'm sorry, I've listened to your argument and I disagree. I had the benefit of knowing this young man before I passed, and yes your right he is a Protector but he is also unafraid to throw himself into danger and I believe is prepared to sacrifice himself willingly to his cause if he believes that cause to be just and right."

With tender ancient eyes the hooded figure turned to the direction of the new voice. "Please do not misunderstand our reluctance. He *is* a noble and gallant individual. And yes he has a serving nature, and he shall achieve great things because of this. But I fear he has also demonstrated a baser survival instinct within him that counters a spirit of a Martyr." The hooded figure then turned to address his audience anew. "Please, are there any other nominations?"

As the final sentence was spoken there was a sudden weakness throughout everybody.

As one, the immense collection of souls looked about them with concern. They had thought death had ended such painful frailties. It was one of the younger arrivals who voiced what everyone was thinking. "What was that?"

The hooded figure straightened himself and offered a rasping and knowledgeable reply "The Earth is currently under a dark threat, something is draining it of its essence. We are all still bonded to the earth that embraces our dead bodies; any disruption it receives can be felt through us also." With this explanation the wizened hand of the leader cast a semi-circle above his head allowing a vision to materialize upon the ceiling for all to see.

What they saw was one of Earth's darkest hours.

What they saw was light of emerald green flying from the hands on one of the Planet's Protectors to a representation of a long forgotten Hellgod. The ground about her darkening and dying as she did so.

With no-one to stop her the Mortal Realm was doomed.

The assembled stood transfixed to the vision, each praying for someone to stand up and cease her evil.

They're prayers were answered in the form of the very man they had been discussing moments earlier. With determination he placed himself between the Hellish Monument and his longest living friend. Gritting his teeth and absorbing the Gia energies assaulting his body from his best bud in the world. Despite the pain he did not falter, he refused to move. He stood proud and firm accepting the slashings of a weakened yet powerful witch. Overcoming and stopping what other's who were infinitely more powerful then he had failed to accomplish.

Achieving his end with simple and sincere words of love and understanding.

As the dark hair returned to its fiery red of the woman who had stood at the breach of evil with the Slayer many times, the image on the ceiling also faded to a silent room. But this silence did not hold for long as one lone voice yelled out in triumph. "YEAH! That's what I'm talking about - there's your Martyr. You didn't think he would stand up and sacrifice himself for humanity - well in your face." The young man who originally presented Xander Harris name beamed uncontrollably as everyone who had been silent a second before started to now nod their heads in agreement.

A decision was made. A Martyr was found. The Session was over, only the formality of forwarding his name to the Power's was needed.

As the Chamber disbursed the thirty-five year old female sought out the sixteen year old. He was easy to find as he was receiving congratulations form a large number of fellow souls for his excellent judgement on the nominee. When the crowd had thinned she extended her hand for a formal introduction. "I thought we should meet, my name is Jenny Calender."

Shyly the youth took her hand. "I know. I was actually in one of your classes when we were still breathing."

"I'm --- sorry, I don't remember you."

"Don't worry about it, it's not like we got a chance to know each other. I snuffed it a couple of day's after you started. Besides, I kinda stayed at the back of the classroom, not bothering anyone. I remember you because you were by far one of the hottest teachers at Sunnydale High."

Jenny smiled at the compliment, she had of course heard it before but not since she had died. Souls and Spirits were above that kinda pointless flattery of the physical. "I'm sure we would have gotten on famously. Do you mind if I ask - Why Xander? I mean I agree with everything you said earlier, but why him out of everyone else on the Planet?"

The two exited the Hall. "Because I owe him. I owe him big time, and I really think he has it in him to be a Martyr." The young man stopped walking and looked over the pristine white landscape leaning sideways to ask his companion a question. "Did you know there are different levels to Heaven? If you didn't I guess you do now. We're on like level four or something, which is nice. Way better then level 3, not as good as level 5. Anyway, you get the idea. It helps break us all up into heavenly plains so we spend eternity with those we have most in common with. Now I've heard there is a level right at the top reserved especially for Mankind's Heroes. A place of pure bliss, love and contentment. I want Xan to make it there, he deserves to."

"But he's already a Hero; he'll get there on his own."

The covered dark haired soul shook his head. "Nope, at best he'll only make it as far as a 'White lighter'. This place is for recognized Heroes only. Designated Champions and Slayers. If he became a Martyr, and didn't go bad, then he would automatically have a slot there waiting for him."

Jenny shook her head in disbelief, remembering the youth's rigid declaration to the positives of his 21 year old selection. "What did Xander do for you to make you feel the need to nominate him so forcibly?"

"I guess I could ask you the same question about your support, no-one else was buying except you, why was that?"

The two began to walk forward. "That's simple - I believe in him. I always have. He possesses a quiet strength and a selfless nature that I find attractive in a Champion. He doesn't carry on with the 'woe-is-me' or brooding attitude I have seen in other designated Guardian's of late."

The wise young man nodded and laughed knowing exactly who she was referring to.

"Besides, I also think he deserves to break away from the safety zone he created for himself with the other 'Scooby's'. Just so he can finally realize how impressive and special he truly is."

The youth again nodded, he to had often looked down and seen Xander's courage and sacrificing nature, and had been angered beyond words that it had never been noticed or recognized by the others. Especially Willow, to whom he had disowned as a friend along time ago. Roughly around the same time she, Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles began to distance themselves from the 'Heart' of the group in their Senior Year.

The young man was not at all surprised that Willow had gone bad moments earlier; he had been half expecting it for years. She had always carried an arrogance with magic. That she was always right, sure she may have been smart and talented as hell, but that didn't make her automatically right all the time.

This was truly one of Xander's finest hours, and he had shined for all with eyes to see. The Carpenter had defeated a threat the great Buffy Summer's could not, and he achieved it with what he always thought that particular Slayer lacked - a Heart.

The young man smiled and drew back his hood and turned to the former teacher, revealing to her his whole face. "I agree with you, he deserves this opportunity. I know it won't be easy but Xan's tough, he can see it through. As for me? Like I said, I owe him big time, not only because we were best friends for years, but because it was Xander who killed me dead." The young man continued to smile at the confused face forming on his fellow spirit. "I'm sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Jesse McNally."


One Month later
Outside Apartment 12
138 Whedon Avenue

"Are you sure you're alright Xander?" The Slayer was supporting her best friend as best she could as her younger sister unlocked Xander's Apartment door. It had been a trail in itself to get Xander from the Cemetery to his new car, and from his new car up the flight of steps at his complex, to his door. "That Vamp clocked you pretty good; sure you don't want us to take you to the hospital?"

Meekly the male Scooby replied. "I'm sure."

"Y'know it's kinda funny; I thought you could take a punch way better then that. You must have seen it coming, it was impossible to miss - What happened with you out there? You going soft in your old age or something?"

Bitterly Dawn looked down upon her sister; over the summer break she had a growth spurt and was now a couple of inches taller then her 'big' sister. "Leave him alone. God, where's your compassion? Under the bed at home somewhere? Ignore her Xander."

Buffy looked from her sister to the wincing form she was holding. "Sorry Xan, just joking you know."

The wince lightened to a warm smile. "I know Buff. I know."

The door opened under the guidance of the seventeen year old who led the way, turning on the lights as she did so.

As Buffy directed her Xander-shaped-friend over the threshold she paused for a moment. This had been the first time in a month she had been here. She had infact made pains to avoid it with a passion, and if she had a choice she wouldn't be here now. But Xan needed her strength to get him to the door and Dawn would not have been able to measure up to the task.

The last time she was here was when Xander and her had their discussion about the 'Spike Affair'. Her eyes automatically travelled to the lounge room and the seat she had sat in during that awkward conversation. It was by far the closest she ever got to losing his precious friendship. She remembered skulking out through the front door afterwards under his heated eyes with Xander's closing comment rattling in her head.

She had said seconds before that her and Spike were not together anymore, Xander counted with 'Yeah, there's a lot of that going around.' Looking back she still wondered whether he was referring to Anya or herself. Who knows what would have happened if he had decided to cut all ties off with her. Warren, mightying himself up for the robbery would have been an unwelcome and possibly deadly surprise on her part if Xander hadn't felt obligated to come and warn her as soon as he was able. She could only image the amount of pride he had to swallow to walk through her door to break this news to her. And only then to discover that he had missed out on Spikes attempt to 'attack' her by mere minutes. To his credit, he did not once say an I-told-you-so.

As if reading her thoughts Xander removed his arm from around her shoulders and staggered unassisted into his Home. "If anyone is interested, I've got Snapple in the Fridge."

Dawn's eyes beamed, it may have been two a clock in the morning, but the teenager that was the Slayer's sister was still a reservoir of energy when the right subject came up. Food and drink being one of them.

Buffy smiled at this, she was becoming more like Xander with every day they spent together. The smile continued as she thought as role models went her Xander was probably one of the best ones out there to have. As this thought entered her mind she blinked back in surprise, that was twice in as many minutes. When did she start thinking of Xander as 'her's'? Nervously she answered the male-Scooby's invitation. "I'll have a glass."

"Dawn Patrol, would you be so kind as to do the honours." Xander waved the bouncing ball of energy into his kitchen as he began his troubled journey to the Bathroom.

There was something by the way Xander moved that concerned the seven year veteran of Slaying. He walked not as someone who had been hit in the jaw. His body movements were stiff and awkward. "Xander are you sure you don't need a hand?"

"Nope, been toilet trained since 12. I've even started to work out what that roll of paper on the wall by the bowl is for."

From the kitchen Dawn smiled and looked affectionately upon the man who had made the Xander-ish comment. Watching him until he entered his bathroom and closed the door behind him. With his distraction no longer present the teen returned to the task before her and attempted to provide an equal proportion of juice all round for the three.

Buffy couldn't help it; she loved this. She loved everything about this, even the concerning glances her hormonal teenage sister would give Xander from time to time. When her mother died, she thought she would never earn the sense of family back into her life. But when Willow left for England with Giles, Xander started to spend more of his free time with both of them, and it just naturally happened. It wasn't being looked for, or sought after, it just happened. And she was over joyed that it had.

Without meaning to her eyes strayed into full Slayer Ident mode. It wasn't something she did often in the company of friends, but being back in Xander's apartment was unnerving for her. Slowly she started to take in her environment in the event a Vamp or some other nasty busted down a door and charged the room. She had to know where everything was in case she had to defend herself at a moment's notice.

Her gaze glanced over everything, and she was internally relieved to discover that the apartment was more orderly then it was four weeks before. She did notice that there was a pillow and a blanket on Xan's favourite recliner and that it looked as if it had been used a lot lately. Out of curiosity she peered through the half open door leading to Xander's bedroom and noticed a flawlessly made bed that looked as if it hadn't been slept in for the same amount of time. {Oh Xander.}

She opened the door further to see that nothing had changed within. There was even a photograph of the renter of the Apartment and Anya in a loving embrace, obviously taken in happier times before the Wedding incident. Infront of the framed photo laid a lone golden ring. She picked it up carefully and observed the ring indentation upon the dark wooden surface caused by dust that had fallen around it. If she needed evidence on how long it had been since this room had been disturbed, this was it.


Buffy jumped with a start, she hadn't heard Xander approach her from behind. She turned and quickly removed the glass from the 21-year olds grasp, placing the ring back to where she had picked it up. "Sorry Xander, I was just*"


With a half-laugh she nodded as she took her first sip of the juice. "I never snoop, I survey."

"Ahh, survey. And what has your surveillance revealed to you?"

Buffy put down her glass, peered out the bedroom door to see Dawn looking over Xander's DVD collection in the hopes of finding something she hadn't seen before, she then closed the wooden hinged barricade that was the bedroom door. "Xander I don't mean to get personal, but how long has it been since you've slept in your bed?"

Dejectively he sat upon the mattress. "Not since --- you know. I've tried, but I can't. No matter how many times I've washed the sheets or gotten new ones, the room still smells of her. Her perfume, her presence, her --- her everything. And being reminded of her in this bed, reminded me of what we did together here, and *that* leads me to being reminded of her and him." Xander paused for a moment and took another sip of his juice before he continued. "So I compromise, I use the wardrobe and try to stay out as much as possible."

Buffy nodded sadly, she did indeed understand. She could not use her bathroom anymore without getting the odd flashback of everything that nearly happened in there, and from that of all the other times with her and Spike. She felt like such a fool for ever getting involved with the Vampire, it did more harm then good. To her esteem as well as everything else. And it nearly poisoned one of the few true friendships she had been lucky enough to have maintained over the years. But this wasn't about her at the moment, her concern was for Xander. "So why not just end your lease, and find a new place?"

With a laugh he answered. "Because I'm an idiot and I never do things the easy way."

"Why do I doubt that?" The Slayer then sat beside her best friend.

"You should always trust your doubts Buff." Gingerly Xander picked up the ring from the table once more and looked into its golden lustre. "I haven't moved because if I did it would have beaten me. And I can't let something like this beat me."

Buffy took Xander's hands in hers and gave them a squeeze. "What she did --- she still cares for you Xander. Spike and her was just a drunken thing and---." The Slayer stopped herself, if she continued after she mentioned the 'S' word she knew Xander would retaliate with his own question of 'how drunk was she?' And that was not something she wanted to get into again, not in this Apartment, not twice. "Why keep the Ring Xander?"

"It reminds me of the good times we had. The time I proposed, the time I announced it to you guys. And some of the times after that. I love her, I do and you just can't stop loving people because of incredibly, stupid mistakes."

Buffy smiled and embraced him to her. "Oh Xander. Have you talked to her about this?"

"I've tried, I've seen her a couple of times at the Bronze trying to work her Mojo on the unsuspecting female population. But she just insults me. Nothing personal or vulgar, just enough to make me being there uncomfortable. Just enough that I take the hint and leave her alone. I tell you nothing say's 'I love and am thinking of you' better then having an Ex question you from across a crowded room whether the boils on your penis haven't inflamed again. Damn Sui-mush Indian Curse."

Buffy couldn't help but chuckle to the expression on her Xander's face - there was the 'her' again. "That's not personal or vulgar Xander?"

"Not with Anya. She could probably do a lot worse to me if she wanted too. Not that she hadn't already succeeded in doing that already."

The Slayer continued to hold her friend and was prepared to hold him for as long as he needed her to. Barring of coarse the arrival of a psychopath with a gun and a bad aim. "She might not appreciate what you're going through Xander, but I do. And you'll see, given time everything will work itself out. She might not love you, but I do, and so does Dawn. We Summer's girls can pick up the slack.

"I know I never tell you this enough. Geez, I can count on the fingers of my hands the number of times I've told you that I love you and still have five left over." Buffy drew back from the hug and looked Xander straight in the eye. "I don't reaffirm it with you because I don't think I have to. Out of everyone, Dawn included, I look and depend on you the most of all."

Calmly Xander spoke. "You always say that Buffy. Usually to the people you need help from the most at the time. And after that you forget you said it and move on to saying it to someone else."

This statement caught her by surprise and the Slayer did a quick recap of every remembered time she had said to someone that she depended on them the most. Willow, Angel, Giles, Xander, and even Spike. She gently closed her eyes and agreed. "I---I know." Buffy let go of Xander and shameably turned her head to look down upon her lap. "But with you Xander, I mean it. You've always been there form me, even when your upset with me. You're always there. If you weren't in my life or at my side, I doubt I'd be able to go on night after night."

Xander wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly to him. After several seconds he whispered in her ear. "God I hope you don't mean that."

In an equal whisper the Slayer replied in surprise. "Of course I mean it, I wouldn't have told you if I didn't mean it you Dope. You think I'm the kind of person who say's something like I 'Love' someone if I don't mean it? I couldn't say it to Spike because it wasn't true. Even though he would beg me to. I love you Xander, don't doubt that. Don't ever doubt that."

"No, not that Buff. I meant about you depending on me the most."

"Xan, you're my Rock. I wouldn't have made it this far in my life or career as a Slayer if not for you."

Xander sighed and let go of Buffy. Removing himself from the mattress, approaching his door and listening carefully in case a teenager on the other side was eavesdropping. Assured that this was not happening, he twisted the lock on the door and turned to face the only female in the room. "There's something I have to tell you Buffy, and it's something I've wanted to tell you for a while now. But the --- opportunity never presented itself." Under a curious and concerned look Xander slid open his wardrobe door to reveal a small safe. As he proceeded to open it he spoke. "It's 12 right, 32 left, 18 right, and 56 left if your interested?"

"I---I'm not. Xander what's wrong?"

The Construction Worker opened the small door, and drew out an envelope. "I need you to sign a couple of things, nothing major, just some paperwork. I promise you it's not a fourth mortgage on the Cassa Del Summer's."

Hesitantly Buffy took the pen offered and signed her scrawl on the legal document. Normally she would have read anything before she signed it, but after her declaration of trust moments earlier to do so would defeat the purpose of her words.

"Thanks Buff, I'll fax this off later and that will be that."

"So happy to hear this, now what did I just sign? It's not that I don't trust you Xander, I just want to know what it is you've just got me to do?"

As he folded the parchment back into the envelope he surrendered an involuntary smile. "I just signed over my Life Insurance Policy from Anya being my Prime Beneficiary to You, that's all. Congrates Buff, in little less than three months you'll be a millionaire."

Buffy's expression froze for a moment. "This --- this is a joke right?"

"Not laughing Buffy."

"No, I mean it. This is a joke right!?!" The stress that carried the words of the final sentence could not be ignored.

Xander shook his head sadly. "No, I'm dieing Buffy."

Stunned Buffy shook her own head. "No, this is some sick joke. You don't say things like that unless it's true Xander." Buffy got up angrily to make her way out the door, but Xander blocked her exit.

"It *is* true Buffy."

"No, it's not. You're --- you're a sicko Xander. Your playing one of your childish pranks on me. Well, Ha-bloody-Ha. Very funny."

The 'Glorified Bricklayer's' expression didn't waver. "I've got something Buff. Something tumorous. And very, very, VERY Terminal. I noticed it three weeks ago when I was working on the Project to Rebuild 'Hellmouth High'. I took off my shirt during a break to cool down and I noticed a couple of veins protruding and a pale discoloration at the centre of my chest. It wasn't major or terribly noticeable at first but I decided to make an appointment with my HMO and they did a couple of tests. It has them stumped - not surprising considering that it's probably magical in origin or something. Whatever it is, it's spreading and --- and it's slowly killing me. Archer, a Doc I was referred to, thinks that given its growth and the other ill effects on my health. I could probably be dead in a few months unless of coarse they find out what it is and whats caused it."

Buffy refused to move as Xander told her his condition, waiting for the eventual 'Gottcha' to come from his mouth. But none did. When she spoke it was barely above a whisper. "Do you know what caused it? *You* of all people must know."

"I don't Buff; not for certain. It could be anything I've stepped in front of over the last couple of years. Maybe Toft, maybe being blasted by Amy's Mom all those years ago. Maybe something else."

"*Willow. It's was Willow wasn't it?"

Xander sat back down upon the mattress and was joined by Buffy. "I don't know Buffy, maybe, I just don't know. The timing works, so she's is definitely at the top of the list with a bullet."

"Well? Call her, speak to Giles, and get that Coven thing at it."

"I've already spoken to Giles Buff, and he's already consulted with the Witches Coven over there. Unfortunately what I did was unprecedented. Dark-Willow was an original. No-one in the History of the World has ever tried to drain the Earth of its energies and then have those energies re-absorbed by a living human. It's just not done."

Breathing raggedly Buffy sat back and took in Xander as a whole, doing her best to notice inconsistencies to his presentation. "But---but you look fine."

"Buffy, I just finished coughing up blood in my bathroom. I'm not fine - far from it, and I'm not getting any better either. Regardless of the Medication Doc Archer has put me on." Xander then began to remove his Black T-Shirt, what was revealed underneath the cotton made the Slayers bones chill. She had seen more gruesome sights in her years but nothing that had her heart do double time. The Construction Workers chest, abdomen and a portion of his back appeared as a dark charcoal bruise, with light blue lines symbolizing his veins. "At the rate it's growing and spreading I doubt I could have kept it a secret from you guys much longer."

Buffy carefully reached out her hand to touch the man's flesh, but Xander caught it before contact can be made. "Don't touch it; it kinda hurts when people touch it. Hell, it hurts when people don't touch it."

Without moving, and mesmerized by the sight before her, Buffy released a question. "What are you doing Patrolling with me? You should be staying at home."

"It doesn't matter where I am Buff, it's still gonna spread and I want to spend as much time with you and Dawnie as possible. Not in a bed somewhere. There's no choice. I want to be with you two for as long as time lets me."

Buffy stood up and stepped back from him, taking this picture in as a whole. Trying to imprint this memory in her mind as best she could. "I don't want to watch you die Xander. I watched Mom go through the motions. I don't want to watch you do the same. I don't think I could go through that again, I don't think *Dawn* could go through that again."

"What exactly are you asking of me Buffy?"

"Go to Hospital. Go to the best one available and live as long as you can."

"Buffy there is nothing they can do, they don't even know*"

"*Then tell them Xander. Tell them the truth."

Xander reached out his arm and placed it on the Slayer's shoulder. "So I guess it doesn't matter what kind of Hospital they send me to, as long as it's a Hospital right?"

"I don't want you to die Xander."

"And I don't want to die Buffy, but it's gonna happen whether you want it to or not." Xander stood up and looked down at the growing panic forming on the Slayer's face. "You don't think I've been preparing for something like this for years? Every night I go out with you on Patrol, or we face down some Apocalyptic Evil, that I don't think about the possibly of me not walking away?

"Look, I've had the Policy and my Will checked by experts, it's rock-solid and air-tight. You and Dawn will be well provided for. They'll be enough money to pay off Joyce's Mortgage and any other debts outstanding. And *definitely* enough to put aside for you and Dawn if you both want to return back, or go to College. There is even $25,000 in an Account at the First on Main Street, in both your names. For emergencies - clear. It's not 'mad' money."

Buffy watched as Xander replaced his T-shirt, feeling compelled to speak. "Sounds like you've thought this all through."

"Like I said Buff, I've been preparing for something like this for a while."

"I've never thought of you as a quitter Xander, I thought you out of everybody would not go down without a fight."

"Buffy you're taking this hard because it's all new to you. I've had three weeks to come to terms with what is happening to me. Does it stink, sure. Do I wish I could grow old with a family, of coarse I do. But it's not like I hadn't been warned. Remember the Vision's we had after we called on the First Slayer. I was told that the line would end with me. I always thought it might mean that I'd be the last Scooby standing, but I guess it means the last Harris." Xander stood and looked down at the woman who was infinitely stronger then himself yet was at that moment doing her best not to tremble. "The longer I stay out of Hospital the less of a drain my expenses will be, and the more money you'll have to claim on."

Buffy pushed herself away from him in surprise. "You think I care about the money. I'm not Anya, Xander - I care about you not the dollars."

"I didn't mean it the way it came out Buff. I mean your Mom left you and Dawn well provided for, but the Hospital expenses ate up most of your entitlements. I won't let that happen to you again."

"To bad, cause your gonna. I'm going to take Dawn home then I'm coming back here and then I'm going to drag you to the 'Memorial'. And you are going to stay there until you get better."


"Don't Buffy me. Your to important to us Xander to let me sit back and watch you waste away in pain without anything being done to slow or stop this. You may have given up, but I'm not going to. When I get back I want to see an overnight bag packed. We'll think of how we'll break this to Dawn later." With determination Buffy Anne Summer's strides pass Xander and exited his room grabbing her sister as she passed.

"Whoa, arm attached to body here Buffy." Without saying a word about the pain she was inflicting upon her sister the Slayer started to physically dragged her sibling across the room to the front door.

"We're leaving Dawn. Xander, I will be seeing you later." Buffy then closed the front door as the protests of an embarrassed teen could be heard in the Hallway.

Xander stepped out upon his balcony to view the unusual spectacle of Dawn still being manhandled by her elder sister as the two exited his apartment complex.

{Maybe I shouldn't have told her tonight, I should have left if for the morning}.

With his attention diverted to the females on the road out front, the blonder of the two doing an Olympic style power walk and the younger doing her best to keep up, the former Zeppo failed to notice an ascending blue spark from the night sky.

It entered his body and for a split second everything within him stopped, his heart, his breathing, his pain - Everything.

When he blinked back to reality he felt different. In the distance he could still see Buffy and Dawn walking away from him, with the younger the two voicing questions to her as to why they had left his place without saying good-bye to him first.

Normally he would feel bad about being the cause of disharmony, but right there and then that thought wasn't occurring to him. The only thought occurring to him was that he had somewhere to be. He didn't know where, he just knew he had to get there as soon as possible. Without stopping to pack a bag he picked up his car keys from the kitchen counter where Dawn had put them on.

{I should probably leave a note or something.}

He went to the pad beside his phone and placed pen to paper. It was a short message but he knew Buff would understand why he was doing what he was about to do. He then went back to his safe and removed the envelope he had put in no more then four-minutes earlier and place both items on the kitchen counter to be discovered by the Slayer later.

With still no idea as to where he was to go he left his Apartment.

With only two understandings. One - he had to get to mysterious destination fast, and two - that he was now part of something bigger and more important then himself.

As he drove off into the night alone, the single loose leaf page waited to be discovered.

It read: 'Bye - Xander.'