Without Mercy Or Remorse

Author: Anime Ronin <anime_ronin[at]hotmail.com>

Okay, I swear that this is my last one for a while - after this I will finish my Setting Things Right series and then some of my other ones before I get to this.

Rating: R (for swearing, violence and gore)

Summary: What if Xander dressed as the Soldier, but said Soldier's old mission and skills came back to the forefront of Xander's mind?

Disclaimer: I own nothing but a copy of Queen's 'It's A Kind Of Magic' – Don't sue.

Crossover: Yes, with Tom Clancy (the title should give the Soldier's name away)

Feedback: Yes please.

AN: One-shot story (for now – may evolve later, but ONLY after I finish up my other WIP files)

AN2: Anyone who has a problem with the killing of people with souls, go ahead and hit the 'BACK' button right now – people that the law can't touch will be fair game in this story, much as they were in the book (though in the book, he was a man on a mission).

Chapter 1

It had been two weeks, fourteen days and nights, since the Hell-o-ween incident of 1997, and Xander Harris had not slept a restful wink since forty-eight hours after the incident; memories assaulted him from whomever the Soldier had been, but more importantly memories of what had happened after it all and that he was still alive … and working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Hellish memories of missions gone wrong, missions gone partly right and missions that never went at all flooded his field of vision in his mind's eye ever time he shut his physical eyes, but so did the teachings and discipline of the man known in the field as 'Snake'. Those teachings had been what had led him to do what he was currently doing - building a screw-on suppressor for a .45 Government Issue converted to a .22 with a hand-sewn, screwed-into-place brass-catcher / bag. Snake had been adamant against drug dealers back in the day, and people whom harmed others were always at the top of his shit list, just as they were always at the top of Xander's shit list as well.

The suppressor was actually a set of metal cans, each progressively smaller in diameter than the previous one, with holes drilled in the sides to create baffles to trap the air displaced by the super-sonic projectile leaving the firearm in baffles, and the last one was just taken out of the machining metal lathe that was in the local metal-working shop, a shop that he had broken into several times already – first to tap the slide of the gun to accept screws to attach the brass-catcher, then to thread the barrel of the gun to accept the suppressor, but by far it was the suppressor that had taken the most amount of time (machining the internal 'baffles' had taken just over an hour, then he had to cut and thread a screw-on cover). Finally, though, it was over and with a quick test, he was satisfied that his new toy didn't rattle, wouldn't be too obtrusive or, thanks to the darkness of the finish he had put on the outer 'can', could not be readily seen if hidden properly.

It vaguely disturbed him, though, with how calmly he had come up with his plan of action – Soldier knew all too well about human evil, but had only recently (to him it was recently – 1988) found out about demons and such, but had also come up with some interesting things to kill them with … and had found people who made such types of things out on the west coast. But to buy those things, one needed money, and money was made when brains and ingenuity were merged into a good idea and a solid plan to fulfill that idea; with some blessed .22 rounds, along with the suppressor to keep nosey people away, he could remove Vampires in their lairs without too much hassle and then clean out the lair and sell off what he wanted to sell for maximum profit.

Shaking off the disturbed feeling, he shut down the lathe and cleaned the surrounding area of the metal shavings; the people who owned the metal shop probably didn't know that he was doing this, but he felt obligated to try and leave it as he found it every time he did use it and leave money for the material used. That done, he fit the suppressor onto the gun and, after making sure that there was a full mag in and a round chambered, he walked out of the machine shop, locking the door as he did, heading for home in hopes that both of his parents were too far into their nightly drunken stupor to realize that he was back … another something that he would have to take care of and very soon.


"Another one?" Kate Lockley looked down at the murder scene, another double homicide involving local drug runners as the victims.

"Same MO, ma'am, except for several key differences – he wrapped their hands in electrical wire, left their bling, even went to so far as to take their ID's, but the cash is gone, ma'am." The officer who had made the discovery flipped through his notes, "Nobody saw anything, of course, and nobody heard anything."

Kate looked at the bullet holes in the first vic's forehead, "Is this a .22?"

"Yes, that's what it looks like, but something like a .22 can be heard for nearly a block, especially with the echoes of an alley, so why didn't anyone hear anything?"

"Because these two were as bad as they get on the streets, Officer." Both looked over to see a Gang Squad Detective, Detective Rivas, walking forwards with two folders, "I recognize them both, one Martino Nevaro and Miguel Sanchez; I had cases on both of them but no evidence that couldn't be argued as suspect. Whoever did this did us all a favor, but it is a shame that murder is still a crime is situations like this."

"Third killing in as many shifts and all you can say is that it's a shame that murder is still a crime?" Kate looked at him oddly, "I'm going to find this guy and put him behind bars, Rivas."

"Not before about half of the people around here call him a Saint and the other half offer to pin a medal on him, Lockley," Rivas snapped at her. "These two pieces of trash are like Gotti was out in NYC – made of Teflon because nobody will speak against them out of fear of reprisal from these two or their bosses, the 187's." He sighed, mopping his face with his free hand, "Look, do yourselves and favor and just write this one up and drop it into that same file you have for all those runaways from Sunnydale – it's better that this one never see the light of day." That said, Rivas walked, but Kate just stood there fuming.

"Get me a ballistics off of those slugs, Officer, because I am not letting this one go."

"It's gonna be tough, Detective Lockley, because .22's are a soft head and deform easily." He wrote it down in his notebook, though, as the ME's came in with a pair of stretchers and body bags.


From his perch on the railing from the roof of the adjacent building, Alex smiled and began to walk away, secure in the knowledge that he had left no evidence behind in the murder of two murdering, drug-selling, child-killing pieces of human trash. Regardless of what Buffy always said, just because someone had a soul didn't mean that they were a good person, and those two were proof of it.

Over the past day and a half he had been in LA, he'd hit three such small groups of people with a different MO each time – first was made to look like a robbery gone bad, then the second was a pure hit with everything taken, and this one was supposed to be the same, but he heard several sets of footsteps coming so he settled for cash and ID. With cash and pawned jewelry alone he had just north of thirty grand in cold hard cash, six wallets to hand over to Willy, who would buy them for a set price to sell on the open market, several pieces that he could convert or dump and a new Game Boy that he'd picked up off of one of the perps (he'd keep it to blow off classes that he really didn't need to pay attention in anymore).

It had been a full month since he had finished his suppressor and had started hunting in Sunnydale for mostly testing purposes on said suppressor and his blessed ammo, finding that it worked very well as far as sound suppression went, but after a while he needed a caliber with a little more power to get the job done, so he'd upgraded his demon hunting weaponry to a Government Issue chambered for .38, which worked much better than a .45, which ended up blowing through demons nine times out of ten. For human scum, however, he kept the .22 around. In that month, though, there had been some other changes on the front of the Scoobies – Giles' past had come out, Ms. Calendar had been outed as a spy on 'Angelus' to make him suffer, Dawn's 'secret' crush on him had been exposed when her diary had shown 'Mrs. Dawn Harris' written over and over again, but one of the funnier ones had been the class of the Summers over Mr. Gordo.

"That reminds me." Sliding down the fire escape quickly, he hit the pavement of the alley with only a slight 'thump' and began walking away, wondering just what he would get Dawn as far as a stuffed animal went while in LA. He walked down several blocks, into a pre-determined store and after a few minutes of searching found the appropriate animal, buying it with a smile – Willow and Buffy would probably pissed as all hell at him for buying the animal, but Dawn would probably find it too funny as it was one of her favorite characters from The Lion King.

After his little stop, he went to the closest affiliated bank and deposited the money he had obtained with no questions asked, as they were probably used to dealing with drug dealers – this disturbed him to no end as he left the bank with his deposit slip with his current balance of $75,000, which was enough for the down payment on his new abode. Tony and Jessica Harris had been taken out of the equation by two separate sources – Tony by the police after a few 'unconfirmed' sources had come forwards with allegations and proof of spousal and drug abuse and Jessica had been taken into counseling for years of physical, drug and alcohol abuse; when the Sunnydale Police, of all people, drug him out of the house kicking and screaming, Alexander had been waiting for him with a cocky smile and a video camera to immortalize the moment even as Detective Frank Stein read him his rights. The others had been floored about the truth of what had gone on within the Harris Household for years, but most of the SDPD knew who the 'unnamed' source was and knew that he had changed into one very dangerous player, especially after one little incident where Alexander saved a rookie from a 'gang member of PCP' with his bare hands.

Making quick time back to his low-rent motel room, he quickly packed and went to the bus station to catch his bus to Sunnydale – he needed to get his license, a set of wheels and his own place now that he had put the old home up for sale (he'd been legally emancipated by the courts) while he stayed with the Summers women for the next week – Dawn and Joyce seemed to enjoy his presence, but his now-habitual morning workouts / 'the daily dozen' seemed to rub Buffy the wrong way, especially when he kicked her out of her rack at 0630 every morning she got back early from her patrol.

With a grin on his face, he grabbed the sack containing Dawn's new stuffed toy and left the room with a slight chuckle.


"This is sick, Xander," Buffy stated flatly as Dawn pranced around holding her new stuffed animal. "Couldn't you get a lion or that pig?"

"Why Buffy, do you have something against Hyenas?" He gave her the most shit-eating grin on the planet as Dawn erupted into a very Hyena-esque cackle, the stuffed 'Ed' doll doing so a half of a second later when she pushed his paw. He had slipped back from Alexander to Xander once around his Dawn Patrol and Joyce, knowing that they would be more at ease around him like that.

"Seek help, Harris," she growled even as Joyce took a picture of Dawn and her Hyena cackling in time with one another.

"Maybe we can get a group discount, Buff," he grinned even more as she snagged her slice of plain yellow cake with her fingers and bit into it savagely. It was odd that Dawn didn't like chocolate cake that much, which had set Buffy on edge as she was starting to go through chocolate withdrawal.

"So, how was Los Angeles, Xander?" Joyce sat down next to him while Dawn went off to terrorize both Willow and Giles with her new Ed The Hyena doll.

"Very informative, Joyce, and somewhat profitable." He had told them that with his new emancipation and some asset from his portion of the selling of the family house, he'd gone out and made a little money. In truth, he'd been able to pull down over ten grand on the ID's alone that Willy had bought and then sold to several people who needed new ones.

"Well, that's good to know, Xander," Joyce said with a warm smile, pulling him into a quick hug that made Buffy squawk as Xander gave her a playful and sloppy kiss on the cheek. "Be careful, Xander, I may take that as an invitation of some kind."

He waggled his eyebrows theatrically, "Really? What would happen if you did?"

She gave him a smile that was heavily laced with more than a little bit of flirting, "Would you like to find out?"

"MOM!" Buffy and Dawn both screeched in unison while Willow did her best not to laugh, Giles coughed politely in amusement and even Jenny, who had apparently just shown up, had a slightly amused look to her face, "GET AWAY FROM XANDER / MY XANDER!"

Buffy then looked over at Dawn, "YOUR Xander? He's w-a-a-a-a-ay too old for you."

Dawn pressed the paw of her Hyena and glared at her sister, "Is the name 'Angel' ringing any bells, bottle blonde?"

The two went back and forth for several minutes even as Xander motioned Jenny off to one side, Xander slipping into the background and Alexander coming to the forefront, "Ms. Calendar, a word, if you please."

"Yes, Xander?"

"First, I need to know about Angel, I mean, what kind of threat is he if he loses his soul? Second, how would he lose said soul? Lastly, if that soul is lost, can it be replaced?"

She looked vaguely worried at the directness of the questions and seemed to fumble for a moment but then regained her mental footing, "Well, I am not sure about the second or third, but as to the first, he is a Master Vampire that many seek to emulate, so I would say that he would be very dangerous."

"Find out on the second and third, Jenny – I've got a bad feeling that we'll need every scrap of information in the near future about him and others."

She looked alarmed, "Are you sure about this?"

He shrugged, "Like I said, it's only a bad feeling, but in a situation like that, information could be key to keeping us alive." Nodding to her, he left a worried gypsy woman and went back to where the two younger Summers women were still arguing.

"Please, I could have him in a heartbeat if I wanted to, Dawn," Buffy said snidely.

"Yet you haven't taken him up yet, so he's fair game."

"What about Willow? Maybe she wants him for herself?"

Dawn snorted even as Willow blushed for being brought into the conversation / argument, "She's had over three years to get him, Buffy, and she hasn't so he's still fair game."

Feeling froggy, he hopped into the debate, "Don't I get a say in whom I go to?"

They both turned and said, in stereo, "NO!"

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he felt the Soldier begin to chuckle.


Next Day: After School – Computer Lab

"I am still not sure whether or not to trust your 'gut', Xander, but it appears that it was correct about Angelus and his soul curse." Jenny slid a few papers over to him, "It appears that there is an 'out', as it were, in the curse – a moment of pure happiness."

"I an guess what would cause that and I'm not liking what that would be saying about our Slayer." He flipped through the pages and then sighed, "What in the hell am I going to do about this?"

"Why would you need to do anything? Surely Buffy has enough sense not to get involved with a vampire."

"This is Buffy we're talking about, Ms. Calendar, and don't call me Shirley." He grinned weakly at her as she scowled at the joke, "That point aside, it appears that I might have to inform Angel about this clause … and the consequences of losing his soul."

"She would defend him, you know. To the death if necessary."

He got out of his chair and pulled on his jacket, "Well, then that would be something that I'd have to learn to sleep with at night."

Jenny paled, "You would kill her?"

He looked at her, thinking his answer through as he did, "I'd do whatever I had to do to keep my friends safe, even if that means killing one of them to get to a threat; I won't like it, but sometimes we don't choose our missions, they choose us."

"Speaking of missions," she went on, as if to change to subject, "how are your sojourns into the darkness armed with firearms coming? Any luck?"

He grinned at her, "I'm still breathing, aren't I?" She gave him a look with her dark eyes and he relented, "Yes, some, but mostly I am relearning old skills from 'Snake'."

"Ah, so your soldier DOES have a name, albeit that of an animal."

"Codename, actually, and he was UDT, or what would later become the US Navy SEALs."

She arched an eyebrow, as if tucking that piece of information away for later, "Before we get too much further, I must ask you why you have opted to tell me your secret about what you remember rather than to tell the others? Are you afraid of what they might think?"

"Quite the opposite; I could care less what they think of me, with the exception of you, Dawn and Joyce, but it's what they might DO is what scares me – Buffy would somehow get Willow, Giles or you to perform a spell that would erase those memories from my mind and that would, most likely, either kill me or drive me insane." He shuddered at the thought of what that would possibly cause to happen and then looked up at her with haunted eyes, "Add to the fact that there are certain aspects of just who this guy was that scares the living hell out of me, so I needed someone to outlet some of that with."

"I thank you for your trust and candor, Xander," she admitted with a smile, then went back to gathering her papers from her desk.

"I thank you for your trust and candor, Jenny. Need anything before I go?"

She looked up at him with a hopeful look, "Another shoulder rub?"

He smiled and walked behind her, his hands finding her shoulders, "Just keep it down, okay? I'd hate to have to explain my actions to others attracted by your vocal nature to shoulder massages – they'd make some fairly inaccurate jumps of conclusions, you know."

"True," she purred as he began to work out several knots in her upper back, "but then again, we wouldn't necessarily be forced to dissuade them from their assumptions, would we?"

"Dissuade them from the idea that we're in here, alone, going at it like rabbits? Oh, perish the thought." They both shared a chuckle at the memory of their last little get together like this, which had led to him and her having to explain / blow off several rumors and open accusations about them being an item. After that fiasco, they had not said a word about it to anyone, which seemed to only fuel the rumors and assumptions … for good and ill. Buffy and Willow had been on his case 24/7 from the word 'go' after the rumors had hit the fan, Giles had gone off his crumpet and swore furiously in the British English for nearly an entire hour at their 'hedonistic trysts on campus' and even Principal Snyder had given him an ultimatum … one that neither Xander nor Alexander would stand for so they left a little message taped to his chair 'Flutie Was EATEN Here!' as a reprisal.

He concluded his massage of her back after a few minutes and bade her farewell, leaving for the Summers Residence to pick up the last of this things before moving into his new condo – that night he'd have Jenny tell Buffy about Angel's curse and how keep it from being broken … not to mention keep him from having to break her heart and dust the son of a bitch.

Chapter 2

He couldn't believe it – it had been less than a month since he had gotten Jenny to warn Buffy, albeit privately, about the soul curse and it's restrictions / limitations, and she had still somehow found a way to break the curse and release Angelus. HOW she had done it, though, sickened him in ways that Snake hadn't been since Plastic Flower and what those NVA bastards did to those little girls nearly thirty years before. He had reserved his verbally ass reaming her until later, after she recovered from Giles' and Jenny's, and more importantly, after he had dealt with the undead son of a bitch, but to do that, alone, he'd need a few more party favors than his converted pistols and suppressors … which brought him to the Sunnydale Armory. With Giles, Buffy, et al back in the Library researching a threat called 'The Judge', he was at the Armory collecting not only a few toys to play around with on his solo raids, but also a few things that might come in useful against larger demons or crowds of demons, which meant explosives.

He'd managed to get by the guard without any real problems, but as he'd gone by the guard had muttered something about 'spec ops assholes' and that had gotten a minor chuckle out of him as he went into the weapons depot without being seen – he'd brought in more than a few bags to load up with, but all of them had to fit within a gym bat that he had brought along with him (he'd had the mojo done to it by Jenny to expand it's carrying space by triple, but it still had it's limits).

Going strictly for economy, yet wanting a sense of variety, he picked up several Claymore mines, a few flashbang grenades, a CAR-15 with a bandoleer of 15 magazines, even a sidearm and holster, but that was the point that he saw it – an AT-4 rocket that just seemed to scream 'steal me'! It took several minutes and more than a few swear words, but it eventually fit into the bag and even tossed in some black BDUs to cover the other things if a nosey MP decided to look into the bag after not believing his cover story of picking up some things out of his locker for the house.

Making his way out of the depot, he kept the calm, cool mask of Alexander over his face as he walked by one MP and then another at a deliberate pace that, while not slow, wasn't running, merely deliberate.

"Hold it, soldier." A voice from the darkened confines of an office barked, bringing him up short, but at attention. Out of said office walked an older man with three up and three down in peanut butters, not to mention a scowl, "Where do you think you are going with that bag, son?"

"Sir, home, sir. I forgot to grab my wash before I left and figured I could do it now, sir." His voice was calm, cool and level, but internally he was praying to everyone above and below him to let his ruse work.

"Any why not let the laundry service get them, son?"

"Sir, they put too much starch in my pants, not enough in the shirts, and don't get me started on the creases and pleats, sir."

The First Sergeant nodded, "True enough, son. I swear that they can't get mine right at all, so I have my wife do them."

"Permission to leave, First Sergeant?"

"Granted." He saluted, which was immediately returned by Alexander and they went separate ways, albeit the latter with more relief than the former.

The trip back to his car was, thankfully, uneventful and quick, as was the trip back to his condo, where he unpacked and set things out for cleaning, but in the back of his mind he was making a list of other things that he needed to round out what he already had, things that he knew that Willy the Snitch could get him.

He jumped, as deep in thought as he was, when the phone rang, nearly three feet from a sitting position on the floor and then answered, "Yeah?"

"Xander? Buffy. Get to the Library now." The phone clicked dead and he sighed, hating that they had not given him any intel to work off of, so he decided he'd go armed for bear.


"'No weapon forged by man'. Well, that pretty much discounts most of the weapons now used on this planet." Killing The Judge would be harder than anyone thought apparently. "What about explosives? C4, TNT and the like?"

"And who'd we get to set them up and off, Xander? YOU?"

"If needs be, Buffy. Soldier boy isn't exactly gone from up here," he tapped his skull, downplaying just how much was really there. "He was an expert in demolitions and munitions, so I COULD rig up something to blow the Judge to hell, but why not think bigger?"

"Bigger?" Giles took off his glasses and polished them while everyone looked at him, "How much bigger are we talking about, Xander?"

"LAAW rocket launchers, AT-4's, Claymore mines, hell, even a fifty caliber Ma Deuce if we could find one, but anything to keep him and Angelus from getting close." LAAW rockets wouldn't pack the punch, of course, and even if they could grab a Ma Deuce, transporting it would be a bitch.

"I don't like guns, Xander."

"Well, Buff, you don't exactly have a whole lot of options left, now, do you." He snapped at her, his patience wearing thin, "We're in a situation that you are at least partially to blame for, against a time restraint that is getting to be a pain in the ass and low on resources, so tell me what your great and powerful plan is and we'll get to it rather than you sitting there and bitching about what you do and don't like." Everyone stared at him in shock as Buffy worked her mouth once, and then twice, but nothing came out, "I'm waiting for your plan, bottle blonde – what is it?"

"Can you get us anything like that, Xander?" Jenny leaned forwards, "Do you know of a way to get any of those items you listed?"

"Some, yeah, I already have them, but in all reality this is going to get very messy before it gets better, so we'll need some help." He looked over at Giles, who was still polishing his lenses, "Any chance of getting Kendra over here?" He rather liked the café au late Slayer, and her potential to be a good friend if she ever opened up.

"Yes, I suppose there is," Giles mumbled absently. "How did you manage to come by these weapons, Xander?"

"I stole them from the Sunnydale Armory, and before any of you start to get on my case, the place isn't exactly Fort Knox, and I was stashing the stuff away for a rainy day … and apparently the storm clouds are drawing near." He got up from the table and began to pace within the stacks, much like a caged animal would, furiously trying to work through his mind about what to do about The Judge.

"You were rather harsh on her, Xander," Jenny told him when she joined him in the stacks about five minutes after leaving the group. "She's emotionally stressed."

"It comes with the territory, Jenny, and I said nothing that was incorrect – she is to blame, to some extent, for the current situation, we're low on time and resources, and nobody else seems to be thinking up plans that have a possibility of working without having an all-out war stated in the streets."

"Tearing Buffy's head off isn't going to change that, Xander."

He laughed humorlessly, "Trust me, Jenny, if I wanted her dead, she'd be a corpse right now and there's nobody in this library that could stop me. She needs to get her head into the situation, NOW, and off of trying to get her favorite undead fuck toy back."

"That was unkind, Alexander," Jenny said somewhat frostily.

"But true none the less – the SECOND you told her about that soul spell, that you could perform it, she wanted you to do it without hesitation. That alone isn't what is chapping my ass, Jenny – she isn't even the slightest bit SORRY for what she's done, or what her actions and inactions have lead to."

"Be that as it may, Xander, she IS your friend, so at least try and act in a civil manner."

He sighed somewhat petulantly, "Alright, but I'm gone. I have some things to pick up and more than a few plans to plan just in case that we do run across the Judge." He gave her a tired smile and left out of the back door of the Library, his mind going in circles on how to possibly take down the Judge.

That same through went in circles through his mind for the next two days; even with Kendra's presence in the fight, as she had shown up the day after their initial meeting about the Judge, it would be a tight go-round with Angelus and the Judge. He'd made a run back to the Armory and snagged a few boxes of SS-109 rounds, not to mention as many boxes of Tracer rounds as he could find, but had also snagged a M-203 40mm grenade launcher, several boxes of grenades for said launcher and Rail Interface System to mate it to the CAR-15 on the way out. It did, however, vaguely disturb him how easily he'd pulled off the heist, but opted to not question the good fortune that the Fates had bestowed upon him.

When the call came for him to get together with the others, though, all feelings outside of resolve vanished as he grabbed the kit he had prepared, knowing in his gut that the next few hours would be bad ones.


"NO WEAPON FORGED BY MAN CAN DEFEAT ME, MORTALS." The Judge had to raise his voice over the chatter of his CAR-15 and occasional 40mm grenade explosions that echoed throughout the entire Sunnydale Mall and Food Court – add to that the screams of the fleeing populace, Jenny's chanting, Buffy's yelling at the vampires that Angelus had brought with him, Drusilla's ravings about how her 'Kitten', whoever the hell that was, had grown sharp claws, and the echoes of it all, it was deemed necessary that the demon raise his voice to be heard.

"FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOUR RODE IN ON," came from one of the fleeing Sunnydalians, whom was then struck down by a bolt of lightning that the Judge had called down from empty air, killing the man who looked oddly enough like Ash Williams from the Evil Dead series.

Emptying the last of his prepared magazines into the chest of the Judge, having, he saw, little effect, if any, Xander dropped back in time to see both Kendra and Buffy dust the last of the miscellaneous vampires, leaving Spike, Drusilla, Angelus and the Judge alone on the podium, "Well, Shit."

"Such pitiful resistance, yet such a noble stand," the Judge mused even as he raised his hand. "It's a shame, really." That said, he fired off a lightning bolt that struck Kendra dead center in her chest, flinging her back into a pillar until gravity took over and allowed her to slump motionless to the floor.

"BUFFY!" He hurled the duffle bag he'd stored the AT-4 rocket in at her and rushed to Kendra's side, "It's idiot-proof … just follow the directions and shoot the son of a bitch!"

Even as he slid to a stop in front of the café au late Slayer, he could tell that she wasn't breathing, but it didn't matter – he considered her a friend and refused to lose another friend to the darkness, so he began by laying her down and performing some simple mouth-to-mouth before starting chest compressions. He was, however, aware enough of the situation going on behind him to hear Buffy state 'That was then, this is now' and shoot the AT-4 at the Judge, but mostly kept his mind on Kendra and her resuscitation.

Even as the explosion rung within the deepest portions of his mind, he carried on, keenly aware that Jenny had shown up and had taken over the breathing portion (which would oddly disappoint him when he had time to think about it) of the resuscitation; they went through the cycle of compressions, breathing and checking for a pulse for nearly ten minutes before he found said pulse – it was weak and thready, but it was there and growing stronger with each pulse, "We've got a pulse."

"Thank the Goddess," Jenny murmured even as Buffy came back, stake in hand, from where she had followed Angelus and both his Childe and Grandchilde. "Where is Angelus?"

"Gone – left."

"You mean you let him go." Giles' voice was like ice even as he approached Kendra. "I saw the entire altercation, Buffy – why did you not stake him when he gave you the chance?"

"I … I couldn't, Giles. He's Angel."

"Angelus," Alexander heard himself correcting / snapping at her even as he checked Kendra's vitals again. Once satisfied with them, he stood and pulled the suppressed .22 from behind his back, leveling it at Buffy, "Give me a reason not to shoot you, Buffy."

"I … I'm your friend?"

"Who just got another Slayer seriously injured and brought back to life, who just let a Master Vampire and his children go because she can't get her head out of her ass about who he really is, and who is about ten seconds away from getting a double tap through the skull to avoid giving me any more FUCKING migraines." He no longer cared about who his friends were – he wanted it all to be over so they could all get a breather, so he cocked the hammer, "If anyone else here dies because of you, you die by MY hand before their bodies are cold."

Side Story 1

"Clark." He'd already had a bad day, hell a bad week, and the recently ringing phone in his hand was probably gong to make it worse. He'd been taken off of full-time field ops a month before to recover from a nasty gut shot on his last op, so, albeit temporarily, John Clark, a legend within the CIA, was a 'Suit'.

"This is First Sergeant Bill Day out at Sunnydale Munitions Depot – I'd like to report a theft of ordinance by some young punk who reminds me of another young punk of a SEAL I met over in the shit in 'Nam nearly thirty years ago."

John first smiled at the name and then winced as the memory of just who the guy was hit him, "And you're calling me why? Isn't Army CID and JAG supposed to take care of this stuff, First Sergeant?"

"I'm sending you his picture from the surveillance tapes, Mr. Clark – tell me if you recognize him." As if on cue, his printer stirred to life and spat out a picture of a relatively young man, no … a teenager, who's face struck a cord in John's mind, "Look familiar, sir?"

"Yeah, that's the guy who's been seen firing off that CAR-15 at night in Sunnydale over the past few nights, and yes, he DOES look familiar for some reason. Name?"

"According to the computers, he is Harris, Alexander L., Junior at Sunnydale High School and active in the hunting of all things demonic, according to the locals hostile populace. I thought you might want to be apprised of the situation, sir, and that the theft is being cooked to look like a bad count."

"Thanks, Bill. Oh, and you still owe me thirty bucks for that last round in Seoul on R&R." John heard a chuckle at the other end of the line as he hung up the phone, thinking back to that night not too long ago when he'd lost several hours of time while … resting … with his wife, whom had not been to appreciative of his few hours of inattention. Vampires, Demons and the like were all real, and it had all be revealed to him by a kid, Alexander Harris, who'd been unlucky enough to snag his old BDUs from BOXWOOD GREEN at a surplus store.

Sighing, he hit the intercom button to his secretary, yet another sign that he was becoming a 'Suit', "Janice, get me Mary Pat over at The Farm … she and I need to meet." He needed to have a sit-down with the kid, at least, and figure out just what he was going to do with the kid … and see just how much he knew.

Chapter 3

It had been a month since the Judge had been taken apart by Buffy and her use of the rocket launcher – Kendra's temporary death seemed to be enough to call the next Slayer, a girl in Boston somewhere, but it also was enough to make the Jamaican-born Slayer seemingly regress into a fearfully withdrawn state. She rarely spoke for the first week and rarely seemed to be anywhere near at ease, save when he himself, Jenny or Dawn were around, but had started to come out of her shell a little more as the days went by – she was still her normal self, but little by little she seemed to come to terms with the fact that she had died, been brought back, and would have to deal with a life that she was really not ready to live due to her isolated upbringing.

He tried to help Kendra with as much as he could, but with his own vampire hunting methods and somewhat limited resources, so he generally took a two-hour bus drive to LA to hunt vampires a few nights a week, where he'd come across several windfalls of cash and even a vehicle, which would complicate things slightly, all said and done. What he needed, though, was some really specialized equipment … and in Sunnydale, there was only one man to go to for that.

"Willy, do I REALLY need to tell you what'd happen if you tried to cheat me?" He'd been forced to go to Willy the Snitch to get some of the equipment he needed, as his own contacts within the underworld were non-existent. As such, he'd been forced to make certain … assurances … to the snitch that if Willy tried to short-change him or sell him out, that the reprisals would be very unpleasant.

"No, kid, you don't," Willy said somewhat fearfully, though that fear wasn't unexpected as he was looking down the barrel of a suppressed .45.

"Good." He picked up the rifle case that held the equipment he had ordered – a true M4A1 with SOPMOD attachments (OD sound suppressor, Rail Interface System, ACOG 4x scope and an IRUV pointerillumination), an ANPVS-14 night vision monocular scope attachment, and three more Claymores while he shouldered his large duffle that held another AT-4 and several dozen 1.25 pound blocks of block demolition charges, along with the detonators and linking detonation cords. It had not been cheap, but when one needed choice equipment, one had to be able to fork over the green, so it had taken a good deal of his liquid assets to pay for all of it.

He walked out of the bar unmolested and stashed both the duffle and the rifle case in the back of his new vehicle, an '89 Chevy Blazer, painted two-tone black and gray, that he had taken off of it's former owner, a vampire who liked to run both drugs and illegal electronics (pirated DVD's, software, etc.) nearly a week before back in Los Angeles. It was now his, free and clear … after he had paid a forger to make the deceased's John Hancock magically appear after said deceased had blown away in the wind, and while that too had set him back, Xander still had enough to live comfortably off of with a little careful budgeting.

Even as he closed the back hatch to his vehicle, though, he caught their reflections in the glass and was forced to suppress both a grin and a grimace; someone had paid a pair of local PI's to keep an eye on him and while they weren't obvious, the two guys looked about as out of place as Queen Elizabeth at a Metallica concert in the part of town that Willy's was located. Deciding that they needed to earn their pay a little, he hopped into the Blazer and took off to tool around town a little, not really caring where he was or who was around him, and that's when the call came.


"Xander? I can't reach anyone! Oh, God, they're trying to get in." Joyce's voice was scared, no, terrified and that caused a ball of ice to form where his heart was and a pool of acid to form in his stomach.

"Who, Joyce." He jerked the wheel around, performing a very illegal U-turn in the middle of a deserted street (it was getting close to sundown) before gunning the engine and racing off towards Rovello Drive.

"Um, I think it's Buffy's boyfriend, Angel, and a few of his friends. Xander, what's going on?"

"I promise to tell you later, Joyce, but right now you need to get yourself and Dawnie into the basement and stay put. I'll be there in under five minutes, ignore the gunshots you might here and for God's sakes don't scream when I get down into the basement … or ask too many questions when Buffy isn't present."

"Hurry, Xander." The call terminated even as Xander skidded onto Rovello Drive, reaching into the console of the Blazer for a pair of tracer-loaded magazines he always kept there just in case. Once he was at the house, though, he rushed to the back of the vehicle, grabbed the rifle case and removed the M4, pausing only briefly to attach the suppressor and load the thing, before he goes charging into the house that seemed to have been invaded by vampires somehow.

Reflex is what made him snap the weapon up to fire off a trio of quick rounds into a small group of vampires, one of whom seemed to worship Billy Idol enough to try and emulate him in physical appearances. This, though, brought about a screech from the same vampires that had been mumbling something about a 'Kitten' when they took down the Judge – he swung around and popped her too, her flaming dust falling around him even as his main quarry stepped into view, "Deadboy."

"Ah, Xander. I wish I could say it was go-" Angelus got no further as he was forced to throw himself off to one side in order to avoid being shot with the tracer rounds, and then took off through the back of the house, being followed by shot after shot from the flare-spitting weapon until he was out of the house. Alexander, though, kept on his ass and kept firing even as his first mag went dry, reloaded and resumed firing until he reached the edge of the neighborhood – he'd been forced to hop fence after fence to follow the bloodsucker, but the need to breath and screaming muscles made it impossible to keep up.

Humping it back to the Casa Del Summers, he kept an eye out for any vampires that might have slipped out of the house, which brought up a good question of how the vampires had actually gotten into the house in the first place. Soon, though, he was back at the house and was somewhat relieved to see that Buffy and the others had come back, "I can't find him, Joyce."

She rushed over and threw her arms around him, performing a nearly-perfect frontal sleeper hold even with the gun present, and babbled her thanks for responding, how good of a friend he was and may God bless him for helping her. Dawn soon attached herself to his other side and Buffy looked not at the scene, but at the weapon in his hand.

"Give me that gun, Xander. You shouldn't use them, let alone HAVE one."

"Back off, Buffy – now is NOT the time to bring up this issue." He untangled himself from Joyce and Dawn, slinging the gun around his shoulders and then tucking it behind his back, out of Buffy's reach, "What I want to know is how Angelus was able to get into the house without an invite, where you were that your mother couldn't find you and what we're going to do about Angelus."

"We're going to get his soul back to him, that's what."

"Yet oddly enough you don't seem too upset that VAMPIRES somehow got into your house, WITHOUT INVITATION, to attack your mother and sister. Funny, I thought you were more family-oriented than this."

She glared at him, "Don't go there, Harris. You are walking on this ice enough as it with the gun that I told you not to use."

"I'll use a sodding ICBM if I have to, Buffy – the name of this job is to stay alive and not everybody has Slayer-enhanced healing to where they can go hand-to-hand and not look like a red-headed step child the day after ass-beating day." Even though it didn't really register at the time, he heard Willow mutter, "Right here, you know," before going on. "And as I've stated before, Slayer, I will use whatever I have to use to stay alive, end of discussion. Now, how did Angelus and his cronies get into your house?"

"How should I know? It's not like…" Buffy's voice trailed off and her face began to pale, "Oh God no."

"What, Buffy?" Giles moved closer, "What did you do?"

"Um, I might have told Angel that he's, well, welcomed into the house at any … time?" She looked pale and sheepish, a very bad combination, but he could have cared less at that point – she'd made her last mistake.

"Alright, that's it." Alexander whipped the M4 around from behind him and leveled it between her eyes, knowing that it was loaded with Tracer rounds and that both Joyce and Dawn were watching and listening, "Maybe your death will call a Slayer with a brain." Before he could pull the trigger, though, the front door exploded open and someone dressed in a military-style black suit came in, holding up a pair of suppressed pistols … a very familiar someone.

"Don't do it, Squid! SEALs don't kill non-combatants – we're not like Charlie or those assholes that killed Pam and Doris." The man was slightly older than he remembered, maybe in his late forties or early fifties, but his eyes were still as hard as they had been back in Vietnam.

"Hello, John. How's Sandy?"

"Pissed at you, as always, but why don't you point that somewhere else rather than her forehead and we'll talk." At those words, Alexander slowly lowered the carbine, but didn't put it away, "Alright, now I heard why you wanted to plug her, but tell me what it is that you really want."

"For her to do her job and stake the son of a bitch, as per her standing orders – he's soulless, therefore he is fair game."

"You seem to know what is going on here, sir," Giles broke in, "but who are you and what are you doing here?"

"John Clark, Central Intelligence Agency, and I'm keeping one of our future operatives from killing that girl there, so if you don't mind…" John let the question hang and Alexander tried his best to not smirk at the collective looks of shock as John shrugged, "What can I say, the Company likes to recruit early."

"And you KNOW what we're talking about?"

"Vampires, demons, things that go bump in the night, you know, the usual – some of the US government knows of their existence and while we can not legally do anything about it, we, at the CIA, like to find ways around that … and Alexander is one of those ways." It was a completely bullshit story – Alexander was sure that only Clark knew about the vamps and demons, and the rest was made up for the masses to hear.

"And how do you know Xander?"

"Alexander and I know each other by way of dual possession – those were my old fatigues that he got ahold of a few months back, so he was temporarily switched with my brain while I was, ahem, on leave with my wife." John looked over and grinned, "And Sandy knows who you are, kid, so I'd be careful about opening any packages from her."

"She's a nurse, John – First I shall do no harm, remember?"

The Scoobies goggled at this, Dawn looking slightly upset for some odd reason, but John went on, "So, back on topic – where is this Angelus so we can eliminate him and I can get back to the house?"

"NO! You can't kill him … I love him." Buffy's plea fell flat even as the Alexander pulled the carbine back up and settled it between her eyes, "You're going to have to kill me to stop me, Xander. I won't let him die."

"He's already dead, Buffy – kind of a prerequisite for being a vampire."

"Then I won't let you dust Angel."

"Angel is already dead, Buffy – he's Angelus … or is he?" A thought cross Alexander's mind and a grin spread across his face, "Decision time, Buffy – is Angelus separate from Angel or are they the same person? Choose, or I choose for you."

"You'll let him live, then?"

"No, he's dust either way – Angelus is guilt of being a soulless vampire and of murder, Angel is also Angelus and guilt of his darker side's crimes. Make your choice – does he die easy or does he suffer first?"

Buffy looked scandalized, "That's Not Fair!"

He got into her face, "Neither is life, bottle blonde. CHOOSE!"

She got back into his face, sort of, seeing as she was much shorter than he was, "I WON"T CHOOSE!"

Alexander stepped back, his face a stoic mask, "Yet you still choose not to save him." That said, he turned on heel and walked out of the home, Clark following him, and the pair disappeared like wraiths in the night, leaving a shocked Slayer to think of her choices, non-choices and the Scoobies to ponder the revelations that had been made.

Chapter 4

In the proceeding twenty four hours from their meeting Mister Clark, the Scooby Gang learned just how far that their possibly former friend, Alexander Harris, was willing to go to get information from the demon population of Sunnydale – he and Mr. Clark had left a pile of broken bodies at Willy's bar, several lairs had been rousted and even a particularly cowardly demon had come running TO the Slayer for protection from 'two lunatic humans with guns and no sense of humor'. All of the information gathered, though, led to only one piece of information that explained the copious and often inventive swearing heard from Xander the next day – Angelus had skipped town to parts unknown.

For a week afterwards, even after Clark had left town, Xander turned Sunnydale upside down and shook it vigorously until something was shaken loose, even a small tidbit about the whereabouts of Angelus, and it effected him both at school and 'in the field'. At school, he had little time for anyone save Kendra, Jenny and Giles, and wasn't afraid to step on toes when people began to push him – he'd dropped Larry and three of his cronies for harassing Kendra about her accent, putting two of them in the hospital, glared down Snyder when the troll had tried to expel him for said 'fight' (it wasn't really a fight because fights are two-sided), and even the local school psycho Jack O'Toole steered very clear of Xander when, after O'Toole tried to push him around in wood shop, Xander buried a chisel into the wall next to Jack's head, missing it only by several scant millimeters. All of these and more should have gotten him expelled, but he merely smiled and told Snyder to 'bring it' when the troll timidly threatened it, but nothing ever came of it at all for some odd reason.

It was one day at lunch, though, that Willow had decided that the whole thing had gone on long enough and physically drug Xander, via his ear in the 'female ear lock', to the Library, "Alright, Xander, what's going on?"

"Aside from you trying to rip my ear off?" He rubbed the offended part of his anatomy briskly before looking at them, "What are you talking about?"

"She wants to know about your sudden … turn … of attitude, Xander." Giles took off his glasses and polished them, "One could say that said attitude could be attributed to puberty, but due to recent events, I think that such an easy explanation is folly."

"You want to know why I've turned Sunnydale upside down for info on where Angelus is, right?" They all nodded their heads and he went on, "If I can't find him, I can't dust him."

Like clockwork, Buffy shouted, "But we're going to give him his soul back! You can't!" Buffy's attitude and opinion about the subject was, admittedly, getting somewhat tired.

Xander merely crossed his arms, "What I do or do not do is none of your business to begin with, nor does your opinion of those ideas mean jack shit to me, Buffy. He's going to dust, and I'm going to be there when it happens." That said, he turned on heel and walked out of the Library with a deliberate sort of set about his posture and for several minutes nobody said a word. Finally, though, it came down to Oz, whom had shown up several minutes before Xander's arrival, who spoke.



"Xander, are you sure you want to do this?" Jenny asked him for the third time in the past two hours as he loaded the last magazine for his M4 and stashed it away into his equipment bag, "He knows that you're coming after him, and he will be waiting."

"I hope so, Jenny, because that means that he's going to be overconfident in his forces and their abilities to take me out, and they will get sloppy." He picked up the M4, now with the Rail Interface System on the forward mount and the IRUV designatorillumination unit underslung while the ACOG scope was affixed to the top rail and the suppressor was firmly attached to the barrel, and began to check it out for readiness, "Sloppy is good in this case."

"Buffy is trying to find out where he is and will do so, eventually. If you do somehow manage to kill Angelus, she may never forgive you."

He stashed the carbine into the rifle case and looked up at the dark-haired gypsy woman, "Jenny, believe me, I've run every possible scenario through my mind and there is nothing that you can argue that I haven't already thought of. Yes, there is a good possibility that she may never speak to me again or may even try to kill me, but I'm doing this because it needs to be done and not for any other reason." Lowering his gaze, he stashed away the AN/PVS-14 night vision monocular into his bag and followed it up with a medical pack for those 'just in case everything goes to hell in a hand basket' scenarios that kept cropping up in his mind.

"Would you kill her?" The bluntness of the question startled him, but not as much as the person it came from; Joyce Summers, flanked by both of her daughters, stood in the doorway of his condo and looked somewhat perturbed, "If Buffy tried to stop you, would you kill her?"

"I'd avoid it if possible, Joyce, but if she tried to kill me … I'd make it quick, that's all I could tell you." Forcibly closing the bag, the turned and looked at the trio of women, grimacing at the looks he was getting – Joyce looked ashen, Buffy looked outraged and Dawn looked sorrowful, "Why are you here?"

"To stop you from making a huge mistake," Buffy snapped out. "Angel is a good person!"

"Angel, possibly, but in case it hasn't seeped into your brain yet, ANGELUS ISN'T ANGEL!" All three Summers women hopped back and he went on, "You fucked Angel, he lost his soul and now we have Angelus to deal with – cut and dried, he is dust and there is nothing you or anyone short of the Powers That Be can do to stop it." That said, he walked back to his bags and began to finish packing.

There was silence for a moment before Dawn broke it, "You slept with Angel? And now he's the one killing all those people? Sick!"

"Buffy, is that true?" The shock and horror in Joyce's voice was comparable to Dawn's but on a greater scale as Buffy blushed, looked down at her feet and hemmed and hawed for several minutes.

"Xan?" He looked over and saw Dawn, his little Dawn Patrol, standing next to him even as he packed away a Kevlar vest and some BDUs, "You're really going to do this, aren't you." He only nodded yes, and she went on, "Come back, alive, that's all I ask. I … I won't judge you over this, namely because I never liked the putz to begin with, but I want to know that you're coming back."

"Dawnie," he stated, sitting on the bed and patting a place next to him for her to sit, which she did, "I can't promise you that I am going to be coming back. I'm going to go and try to kill a Master Vampire who is the worst of the worst, who is waiting on me and has forces between him and myself – I know that I am good, but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that I'm so good that I'll breeze through this. All I can tell you is that I'll try to come back alive, in one piece, and that's all." He reached out and stroked her hair back from her forehead to her neck even as Joyce and Buffy began to argue very loudly, "Just keep those two from killing each other, munchkin."

"MUNCHKIN?" She looked more than a little affronted at his term for her, but in the back of his head, Xander knew that the term is something that John had used for Patsy when she was little and he had to go off on a mission of some kind.

"Only until you outgrow Buffy vertically, Dawn." He pulled her close and hugged her even as Buffy pleaded with her mother to understand why she had done what she had done … and not done, then let her go and got off the bed, "Stay out of trouble, Dawn."

She nodded, then looked at the dozen or so blocks of OD green Mylar he had stacked on the sheet, "What're those, Xan?"

"C-4, Dawnie, Block Demolition Charges, technically," he answered, loaded them into a shoe box before stuffing the box into the bag with the Kevlar and then going for the next times, "and these are M18A1 mines, often called Claymores – please not the 'This Side Towards Enemy' motif on the front in hopes to make them a little more idiot-proof."

"Very nice," she said with a slight tremor in her voice as he stashed the last one away. "And that one?"

He smiled, "A last resort weapon against humans, Dawnie." He picked up the trio of syringes of pale yellow liquid and stashed them into a shock-proof case before tucking them into the bag with the rest of the ordinance, "Well, that's it." He hugged her one last time and then moved over and hugged Jenny, who had gotten out of the way of the War Of The Summers Women, "Take care, you two."


One Week Later

He had been in LA for a little over a week and had begun to squeeze several human gangs, not to mention several demons, for information about any odd disappearances of people at night – while many of the demons had been more than willing to pass along the information, the human gangs were less than cooperative and ended up being very dead afterwards. As such, the 'Gangland Killer' was accredited their deaths, raising his total number of bodies to nearly two dozen and was also under close scrutiny of the LAPD.

One shred of information from the demons, though, had led him to the quaint building he currently stood in front of – even from the street he could hear someone inside butchering Cher's 'If I Could Turn Back Time' and seriously debated whether or not to go inside … a debate that was short-lived when he decided to finally end his trip to LA. Steeling his resolve, he walked inside.

It wasn't all that bad once he got past some of the singing, actually, and he wasn't the oddest-looking individual in the obviously demon-oriented bar; he noticed several vampires, the odd Polgara demon and even a Brachen (spelling?) demon, but the winner was a green-skinned, red-eyed and horned demon in a bright red suit with a yellow shirt and matching cravat, sipping on what appeared to be a Sea Breeze, "I think I could like this place."

Walking to the bar, he ordered a beer and looked around the bar even as a Fungus demon got up and started trying to croon 'Fly Me To The Moon'. It took a great deal of resolve, but Alexander was able to keep himself from shooting the Fungus demon even as the brightly colored demon with the Sea Breeze came over, "Hello, my good man, and welcome to Caritas. I am The Host, but please, call me Lorne."

"Lorne?" He looked the demon up and down, "Let me guess, Lorne Greene?"

Lorne laughed, "You guess it."

Alexander shrugged, "Hey, fifteen years on television needs to account for something, even these days. Nice place."

"Thanks; this little gin joint isn't much, but I like to think it's cozy enough to read auras and determine destinies." Alexander threw him an inquiring look and Lorne went on, "They sing, I read their auras and point them in the right direction as far as their destiny is concerned. I don't suppose that you'd get up there for a quick reading, would you, kiddo?"

Alexander winced as the Fungus demon hit a particularly sour note towards the end of the song and shrugged, "If you want, but I need to warn you that my voice has been classified by the Department of Defense as a weapon of mass torture and terror."

Lorne winced, "That bad, huh? Well, if you want, you could hum a little and I'd get a general reading on you."

Looking around a little, Alexander took a breath and began to hum the Jeopardy Theme, which was actually on-key for once, but it was enough for Lorne to get a read, apparently, as the green demon's eyes went wide and he looked over his shoulder, "Ramon? Give me the strongest thing you have under there and make it a double … I'm going to need it."

Alexander sighed and slipped into his Xander self, "Well, this can't be good."

Lorne slugged back the drink that Ramon gave him and then shuddered, "It's not that – you're destiny has been put through the Cuisenart on high speed, sweets. Think of it like this – you're on one road, driving along like you're supposed to, then the edges and shoulders vanish, the road splits into an infinite number of possibilities, your accelerator is stuck to the floor, your breaks are out, no reverse and you have to make a decision … fast. Best thing I can tell you is that you're in uncharted waters, kid, because you've not only obliterated your own original destiny, but also those of several others."

"Abso-fucking-lutely perfect." That pretty much summed up his entire way of feeling at that point, but apparently Lorne wasn't done.

"What I can tell you, though, is that what you seek is in an abandoned hotel called the Hyperion. When and how, I can't say, but it's not going to end in a way that you are going to like."

Alexander came back to the forefront, "Never an easy op." He took a slug off of the beer that had been placed in front of him and then put down a five, "Well, let's get this over with. See you around, Lorne."

"Via con Dios, kid," The Host called out even as he went to tell the Fungus Demon the good/bad news and another creature, a vampire, took the stage to the opening strains of Barry Manilow's 'Mandy'.

The trip back to his room was quick and uneventful, as was his disrobing and preparation for his work, but just as he began to reach for his black BDU suit, there was a knock on his door, so he grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist, walked to the door and opened it with the safety chain, "Yes?"

There was a woman on the other side of the door, a blonde, wearing a denim coat, jeans, a nice shirt and a badge, "Are you Alexander Harris?"

"Possibly, ma'am."

She held up the badge, "Detective Kate Lockley, LAPD, and I have a few questions for you about some recent homicides in the area." She didn't seem to mind as he shut the door, nor when he released the safety chair, nor even when he opened the door again, but she did seem to be caught off-guard when it was made apparent that he was in very little other than a towel, "Oh, sorry."

"No problem, Detective; it's note very day that I get questioned in a towel by a blonde woman with a gun and handcuffs. The questions?"

She shook her head as if to clear it and then looked down at some notes in a booklet she had on her person, "Um, ahem, the registry says that you're not from here."

"Sunnydale, California."

"That you're only 17?"

"Emancipated Minor."

"Business or pleasure?"

He arched an eyebrow, "A bit of both, but mostly business."

"And that would be?"

"Private, but relatively legal … unless you're an extreme Right-Wing Government type."

"Anybody else in your life … I mean, your room?"

He chuckled even as she blushed lightly, "No … on both counts, unless you count the eleven year old who has chosen me to be her first crush. Detective, can this wait for two seconds while I pull on some pants? People may get the wrong impression if they walked by to see us conversing as such." At her nod, he walked back into the room and quickly pulled on the black fatigue bottoms, then walked back to the door with a shirt in hand, "Anything else?"

She seemed to pause for a second, taking in his clothing, and then went on, "Have you seen or heard anything odd within the past twenty four hours?"

He arched an eyebrow, "Detective, my first night here I saw a man dressed in a pink tafetta and leotard prancing up and down the halls of this establishment and quoting Shakespeare ver batem from Hamlet … and that's been the mildest of what I've seen since. Care to whittle down that question a little more?"

She snapped her book shut, "Have you witnessed anything illegal, like the murders of no less than twelve gang members within ten blocks any direction of this location?"

He felt his humor, not to mention his smile, vanish, "No, ma'am, I have not, but if you wish to make an accusation, then make it. I have some business to get to shortly."

"Why are you really in town, Mr. Harris? Those are military issue fatigue bottoms and I am sure that if I got a search warrant, I'd find more in your room."

He opened the door, "No need for a warrant, Detective. Look to your heart's content – these were the first things I could get to cover my ass that didn't involve the name 'Speedo', so I put them on."

"That won't be necessary," she blurted out, putting away her notebook. "Mister Harris, stay out of trouble." That said, she walked off, but Xander fancied that she had a little extra sway in her his even as she did, grinning as he shut the door.

As soon as the door was shut, though, he lost the grin, "That was too close."


From the relative safety of his Blazer, Alexander takes one last picture of the Hyperion Hotel, taking special care to photograph the numerous blacked-out windows, ways of entrance and egress, not to mention the sheer size of the building, before sighing, "Never an easy op." Putting the camera away, he dropped the Blazer into gear and drove off to have the pictures developed – his plan was to strike before sundown, but not too soon to it, and make sure that as many ways in and our were taken care of … even in the sewers.

Within two hours he was looking at the pictures and then correlating them to a set of blue prints that he had gotten for the old hotel, noting only minor changes and several other ways in and out that he had not seen before. Thanking his lucky stars that he'd brought the demolition charges, he knew that if he wanted to get the op done that night, he'd have to start PDQ. That in mind, he set off to a sewer entrance and began to work on several traps that would seal off any way of getting in or out of th Hyperion via the sewers – the one way in or out via the sewers were covered with the three Claymore mines he had brought with him, set to blow off a person's legs, face and chest. Coming into the Hyperion via the sewers, though, was more challenging, so he set up several of the block demolition charges to blow out the incoming electricity, water, gas and other utilities; it was risky, especially with the gas lines, but with the fewer numbers of vampires that got away, that was fewer he had to worry about later.

It was two hours later, after all the charges were set and he had returned to his room to get ready, that the full implications of what he was about to attempt to do hit him; he was about to raid a hostile-held semi-fortress to hunt and kill a 250+ year-old master vampire and that there was a good chance that he wasn't going to come back alive, so why even do it?

"Because it needs to be done." He took a breath and finished putting on his weaponry, stashing his ammunition for the M4 and his suppressed Government Issue within easy reach and going over his supplies one last time before he slipped on a large overcoat to hide everything, stepping out of his rented room for possibly the last time even as he muttered, "I'm getting too old for this shit."

In five minutes he was in his Blazer and outside of the target, waiting for the sun to drop just a little more when the passenger-side door opened and Buffy slipped in, "Hey, Xand."


"What're you doing?"

"Waiting for the right time to kill Angelus."

She sighed, "I won't let you do that, Xander. We're going to restore his soul and he'll be Angel again."

He snorted, "I bet that'll be a real comfort to all the families of the loved ones that he killed after you let him out." He looked her in the eyes even as his hand drifted into the pocket of his overcoat, having planned for such an intervention, "If you're going to stop me, you'll have to kill me to do it, Slayer."

Her face paled slightly even as he worked the protective cap off of the needle that held in the yellow liquid in the syringe, "I don't want to kill you, Xander, but to get Angel back I will."

He laughed humorlessly, "No, you won't kill me for two reason, Buff. First off, you can't kill humans, you're just not wired in the brain to do it – you see the world in black and white, no ifs ands or buts about it, and that will keep you from seeing the truth."

"And the second reason?"

Before she finished speaking, he was already in motion and stuck the syringe full of Ketemin (horse tranquilizer) into her corroded artery, "You'll be too busy being unconscious." She floundered for a second before the drugs took effect and she slumped forwards in her seat. He felt like a real rat bastard doing that to her, but she was an obstacle in the execution of his op that needed to be removed.

He left her in the Blazer even as the sun sank lower in the sky, dialing a number from memory; the call was picked up immediately, "Mr. Ryan's office."

"Tell Ryan to get ahold of John Clark and pass along the message that Junior's last dance just started." He terminated the call and continued his walk towards the Hyperion Hotel even as he triggered a single remote detonator in his pocket; in an instant h felt the street beneath his feet shudder as the buildings around him went dark from a lack of electricity, the phones went out, the water shut off and the gas was shut off via emergency shut off valves in case of pressure loss. That done, he shrugged out of the overcoat to reveal his black BDUs, tactical vest, weapons and brought the suppressed M4 to bear, working the action mechanism to chamber a round as he did.

The Mission was on, and there was no turning back.


After the preliminary explosion that disabled the utilities that fed the hotel, within two minutes there were three other explosion from the Claymore mines that lined the one way into the hotel from underground, along with several other minor explosions that led away from the hotel as well as several somethings made quick escapes out of the hotel … several somethings that did not include Angels, of that Alexander was sure of because from the second he came into the lobby, he caught sight of the Master Vampire and opened fire into the small crowd around him, dusting three with four shots of tracer rounds. The whole afraid deteriorated quickly from there as several vampires opened fire from lofted positions with pistols and the odd bow / crossbow, which caused Alexander to find cover behind a column and go from place to place, taking shots where he could and not pausing when he was eventually grazed by a pistol round in the left upper arm.

By the five minute mark from the opening shots fired, he had gone through nearly two magazines of tracer ammunition on semi-automatic and had confirmed no less than three dozen vampire kills by sight, but there were more than enough to go around even as Angelus began to taunt him from one of the lofted positions.

"Hello, Xander, welcome to my humble abode."

Of course, Alexander didn't answer as he reached into a pocket for something to staunch or even seal the blood that was still trickling down his left arm.

"Tell me, boy, does Buffy know you are here with that pea shooter of yours? It would be a real shame for you to actually dust me and her to have to kill you for that."

Pulling out a bottle of clear superglue, he opened the top and poured it on the jagged flesh wound, the searing pain from the chemical drying process hitting him immediately and protracting his first word, "FUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKK you, Angelus! I'll kill her before she kills me."

"Big words from such a little coward."

Grabbing the M4 again, Alexander popped around the column he was using for cover and popped off four more rounds, tagging three vampire minions that were approaching his position and got to his feet, ready to move again even as the pain began to dull to a throbbing ache in his arm, "You'd know about cowardice, wouldn't you, Deadboy." That said, he dashed to a more defensible position, a small office area that had a better view of the upper floors that were being used to fire on him … and visa versa as they had a better shot at him, "Oh yeah, you would, especially with how you're sacrificing all of these peons to take care of one little, insignificant human who you know can kill you without losing any sleep whatsoever." Reaching into his fanny pouch, he grabbed a smoke grenade that he had modified and pulled the pin before hurling it through the air to the second story landing, where it landed and began to spew forth a cloud of white smoke.

"Tear gas won't hurt us, Xander. Gods, even BUFFY knows that."

"Who said it was tear gas, Angelus. Don't you ever watch Monty Python?" Even as he finished speaking, the first vampire minions began to scream in agony as the aerosolized holy water began to come in contact with the vampire's skin, which gave him a general direction to fire in, lighting three of them up in five shots before ducking back under to change out for a fresh magazine.

"You clever son of a bitch," he heard Angelus mutter even as he chambered a round and pulled out the ANPVS-14 monocular, clipping it to the ACOG scope where the rail was supposed to be on the M4 and used it to scan the darkened, mist-filled second floor for readable targets, but found that while it was JUST dark enough in the building to see with the nightvision monocular scope combination, it was still a little too bright to make out anything solid, so he spent a few rounds and only got one bloodsucker even as Angelus spoke up again, "This mist must be throwing off your aim, boy."

"Maybe it is, but I bet you are running a little thin on help up there, Deadboy." He felt himself grin even as several more shots from a pistol and a stream of rounds from a micro-UZI chewed up the desk/counter he was hiding behind, "How about we make a deal, Angelus? You come down here and we fight it out, man to vampire."

"HA! I have reinforcements on their way, boy. You'd never last a second even if you somehow managed to stake me."

"Hope you have a way of making your vampires fire proof, Angelus, because your sewer access was cut off by those loud explosions you heard and felt earlier." That got several snarled comments in Gaelic tossed back at him, to which he threw back, "Hey, that's my mother you're talking about," and even sent a prolonged volley of nearly a magazine of tracer rounds to boot that tagged two more vampires.

"Well, Harris, I have to hand it to you," Angelus said after a few minutes of silence, the smoke grenade no longer putting out it's lethal-to-vampires-only smoke as the sound of a door opening was heard, "that you really know how to plan out a raid. Tell me, is there any way that I can convince you to let me turn you?"

"Sure, just come on down here and I'll let ya bite me, Deadboy … right after I put a few stakes into your sorry, undead ass." He popped back over the counter and managed to get off two rounds before a lone pair of pistols sounded off and chewed up the top of the desk, driving a few splinters into his cheek and forehead before he had the chance to duck back down, "How does it feel to be alone up there, Angelus? I can't hear any more of you minions and I know that al of those rooms over there are facing west and are without window shades."

"You know nothing, boy." The voice of Angelus was no longer from a lofted position, but rather from ground level, which caused Alexander to come up, carbine ready, to see the form of Angelus walking down the last few steps of the stairs, locked-open pistols in hand, "You are alone, injured, in my lair and obviously low on ammunition. You can't win."

Pushing his luck, Alexander pulled the trigger of carbine and heard a sound that he hoped not to hear – CLICK, "You're right, but then again, you're also out of ammo." Putting down the carbine, "So, let's see who the better man is here."

Angelus chuckled and tossed aside the empty pistols while moving forwards, "It must kill you that I got to her first."

Alexander snorted, "You can have her, bloodsucker." He too also started forwards, but his hand never strayed too far from his concealed Government Issue, "I'm not really into sloppy seconds."

Angelus chuckled again, "So I see. As I said before, she will kill you if you destroy me."

Alexander smiled and pulled the Government Issue, sans suppressor, "She's not bullet proof, Deadboy, and neither are you."

"Don't do it, Harris." Out of the shadows stepped a fedora-wearing pimp circa 1975 even as the hotel doors burst open to admit the Scooby Gang, along with Kendra, who was dragging a half-drugged Buffy, "You said that nobody short of the Powers themselves could keep Angel-boy over there dust-free, well, this is coming straight from them that you can't kill him, kid. He's important."

There were eight explosions that set everyone's ears on fire as the Government Issue bucked eight times, flinging out hollow point manglers and said manglers impacting into the body of Angelus, who shrieked in agony as the hollow points splintered into his shoulders, hips, torso and legs. When the echoes stopped, Alexander spoke again, glaring at Whistler, "He steps out of line by half of a hair, do yourself a favor and dust him and then make sure I never find you because you're next on the list, Powers That Be or no Powers That Be." Holstering the pistol, he grabbed up the carbine and stormed out of the door even as the cell phone in his pocket began to buzz.

It was once he was in his Blazer that he answered his phone, "Yes?"

Kid, it's John. Mission status?

"Objective partially complete – he's getting his soul back on orders from the 2IC's around here."

Get to LAX and you'll find a ticket under Harrison Alexander, and show them that piece of paper I gave you last time. You're coming East to meet the family.


The Hotel

Whistler looked at Slayer Buffy Summers as she shrugged off the last of the tranquilizer the kid hit her with and helped her newly-re-souled vampire sit up, "You're lucky, Summers, and yet you've screwed the pooch something fierce this time. You two've made a dangerous enemy in Harris, and I won't be saving your asses again if you cross him, kids."

She looked up at him, her eyes still slightly dull, "There won't be a next time, Whistler – we know about the curse and what it takes to break it. Besides, Angelus is gone, right?"

"No, Buffy," Rupert Giles said as Kendra toyed nervously with the stake in her hands, "Angelus isn't gone. He is still within Angel."

"But he'll never get out – Angel's free of him."

"Not quite." Whistler moved his hand and Buffy was tossed to one side, "You see, Angelus has tipped the balance a little too much this time, so now Angel has to make up for it with a little stay over in a warmer climate." A portal opened up and began to suck Angel towards it, "To hell with you, Angel, literally, for a century."

Buffy's screams echoed through out the entire lobby even as Detective Kate Lockley came through the door, having seen the entire past few minutes, "What the hell?"

Chapter 5

"Hello, Alexander." Before him, standing like a wraith that had stepped out of the darkness of the shadows, stood Alexander Harris, dressed in a navy blue suit, a white collared shirt, a matching tie and Oxfords, looking decidedly smart and ready for any business venture that he may be present for, but also holding a satchel at his side that was loaded for school.

"Giles." His voice was clear, concise, even a little on the distant side, but also holding a note of confidence that had been lacking when he had first met the boy, "I am here to pick up my books for the year."

"Of course. For the record, though, I do not blame you for what happened at the end of last year, though I fear that Buffy and Willow may see it differently."

"Giles, I hate to break it to you, and even more so to them, but I could care less about what they think about my assault on Angelus in May. He was an obstacle that needed to be removed, so I went about doing so in a manner that could not be construed as ambiguous – he was evil, a vampire to boot, and needed to be destroyed, but instead of that happening, I had rank pulled on me by The Powers That Be on the decision and he was re-souled, a decision that I still question the validity of to this very second. If Willow or Buffy feel the need to be sore about it, they can, but it will not affect me at all in my way or thinking or acting." The words were somewhat clipped, but also academic in nature, as if he had been schooled to speak as informatively and inoffensively as possible over the past few months. "Also, for the record, if Buffy attacks me or has Willow or Jenny attempt any magics on me, I will eliminate her as painlessly as possible – what's done is done and cannot be undone."

Even as he gathered the books and tried to keep his grip on his temper, Giles could see the reasoning behind Alexander's decisions and actions, not to mention his final declaration, "Kill her and you answer to me, child. Understood?"

"Of course. Now that the hostilities are out of the way, how was the summer vacation here on the Hellmouth?"

"Calm, as is usual in the summer lull, but both Kendra and Willow have been training diligently in their vocations as Slayer and Wicca, respectively. Buffy and her mother, along with Dawn, have been on vacation for most of these past few months and returned to Sunnydale two days ago, Jenny has returned from a visit to her family in Europe, I myself was able to go back to England for a week and aside from that, nothing major has happened. How about yourself?"

"Most of it is still classified, Giles, but aside from that I had a very … informative … summer vacation."

"Classified?" He knew what the word meant, obviously, but wondered what the boy would have done to warrant such secrecy … that is until he remembered just with whom he was probably with, "Alexander … Xander, I must ask you if this in any way concerns Buffy or The Council so that I may prepare for it."

"No, it does not."

"Then can you tell me how it is that you learned from to speak so professionally from?"

"It was always there, Giles, it's just that I've had time to practice without having to wear my mask of The Fool." Anything else that might have been said was stopped when Principal Snyder stormed into the Library, apparently on the warpath.

"Harris! You have some gall showing up here after having been missing all summer. Where have you been?"

Giles was about to come to Xander's defense when he saw the young man give the troll-like principal a glare that could freeze magma, "Where I have or have not been is none of your concern, Principal Snyder, but sufficed to say, I am well, on time and awaiting my books so I can go to class."

"Don't think that you can take that tone with me, you miscreant. I'll have you expelled."

Xander walked up to the troll, taller by a good six inches barefooted, and spoke too softly for Giles to hear, but from the ungodly shade of pale that Principal Snyder turned, it was probably for the best, "Now, leave and go torture some other poor soul that I do not know … or I shall become decidedly unpleasant." That said, Principal Snyder practically ran out of the Library without looking back.

"My God, Xander, what did you tell him?"

The boy looked at him, his brown eyes masked, "Are you sure you want that answer, Giles?" With the look on his face, Giles had to agree with that, "Now, my books?"

"Yes, this way."


All in all, the initial meeting between himself and Giles went better than expected, especially with the way that Snyder had tried to get his licks in but, instead, got sent away like a scalded dog. He never deluded himself into thinking that his actions last May could be without consequences, it was a given that Buffy tended to act and react more with her head rather than her brain, but that was not something that, at the time, he could fault her for that as he often did the same things himself, but the past few months had taught him that what one would like to happen and what does happen as a result of one's actions are two different critters all together.

Be that as it was, he was still rather surprised that, with books in hand, that when he entered his first class, he was not shot on sight by both Buffy and Willow, both of whom were speaking to Jenny and Kendra, the latter of whom he had conversed with extensively over the past three months via the Internet. Buffy herself shot him murderous glares while Willow only looked more than a little betrayed while both Jenny and Kendra looked at him with an air that could be described as open, yet guardedly optimistic, "Ladies."

"Murderer." "Alexander." "Xander." "CJ." All four spoke at once, the latter of the four, Kendra, using a name that he had inadvertently told her in one of their correspondences and she had yet to let go of.

He looked at Buffy, "He was already dead, Buffy, and so I could not have murdered him."

"Alright, then how about I call you mmph," she got not nothing more as Willow slammed her hand over Buffy's mouth to prevent something truly vile from being said.

"I've been called worse this past summer by people who scare me a hell of a lot more than you do, Buffy." This caused her to blink, not to mention cause the others to blink, which allowed him to go on, "First off I do not regret what happened to that son of a bitch, nor do I regret what I had to do to complete my objective, such as the completion was."

Buffy took Willow's hand away, "You DRUGGED me."

"No, I tranquilized you, Buffy, there is a difference."


"Moderate your tone of voice, Buffy," he snarled at her, his temper finally getting the best of him. "I did what I had to do because you fucking refused to do your job. You left me with no choice but to resort to what I did, so deal with it."

Buffy surged forwards but he slipped to the side, grabbing her arm and twisting it into a hold that, if more pressure were applied, he would undoubtedly snap her arm like a dry twig, and held her there, "Be advised, Summers, I do not play by your rules, nor do I answer to you. If you want answers, fine, I'll tell you all that you are cleared to know, but if you want to resort to violence, then I will deal with you accordingly." The threat in his voice was clear even to Buffy, as her eyes went wide with shock, and he then released her, pushing her away, "Now, are we going to at least try and be civil, or do I make sure that your death is as painless as possible."

"Xander," Jenny broke in, eyeing the students in the class, all of whom were looking at him as if he were a cross between a rock star and a convicted felon. "Keep such threats quite until we are alone. Now, the lot of you, take your seats and let's get class over with."

Class went fairly smoothly, save for the scoff of indignation from Buffy when Kendra took her seat next to him as her assigned seat. What Jenny was teaching them was fairly easy stuff, simplistic, really, but since the past summer, he had learned a lot of stuff that was much more advanced than what was being taught.


"Shit fire and save the matches – it worked!" He looked at the computer screen that he had been working in front of for the past hour and saw the two words that he had been hoping to see 'Password Accepted'.

"Not bad, kid," John said to him, obviously ill at ease with the desk full of cutting edge equipment. "Now, get in and find the file."

"Sure, but shouldn't you be the one doing this, John? I mean, this is your computer and you lost the file in the first place." As an impromptu test, John had made him figure out the password to his new computer instead of just giving it to him.

"Smart ass," John Clark, legend in the CIA, growled – he wasn't the biggest fan of computer technology, but when it served his purpose, it was good. He'd misplaced a file on his computer system at home nearly a week before and the meeting that said file was necessary for was the next morning at 0800.

"Always." He started going through the 'My Computer' files and absently picked a file folder to begin with, "So, how're Sandy and Patsy?"

"Good – Patsy just entered her graduate school work and Patsy is working late tonight, so you don't have to worry about coming across her again." Xander could hear the laughter in John's voice even as he found the file in question.

"Go ahead and yuk it up, John, but as I recall, YOU weren't the one who had to explain to your wife why her husband was suddenly a sixteen year old kid for a few hours when he was supposed to be a genetic jackhammer."

"True," John said as the printer began to whir to life and spit out page after page, "but then again, YOU were the one who didn't do what was expected of me."

"She wasn't MY WIFE, John. Hell, me even being in that … position, was probably as close to Adultery as I ever hope to get!" He absently relocated the file to where it was supposed to be and glared at John, "Next time, make sure that you know which file folder you put your stuff under, or I'm going to make you find it yourself."

"Don't sass me, boy, or I'll make sure that Mary Pat has you picking up casings and targets at the range for the next month at The Farm." The Farm was the name of the place that the CIA trained its agents at in the basics of being an agent, and it was a place that Xander had been for the past two weeks. It turned out that not only had he gotten John Kelly's military training and mental discipline, but he had also gotten more than a little of his covert operative training at The Farm, training that he was going through again and updating as a refresher.

Xander snorted, "She'd do that anyway – I can't prove it, but I think she has it out for me." In his first go-round with the lie detector, he had come out smelling like a rose even when he lied affirmative to the question of 'Did you assassinate JFK' and the computer showed that he was telling the truth – this had gotten him more than a few chuckles from the rest of the recruits that had been in the room, but it had also helped him cement that name that had been tagged on him when he'd been introduced to the testing room by John, who had said, 'He reminds me of me at that age' … Clark Junior, or CJ. Since then, Mary Pat had been on his case to know just how he had beaten the test and tossed him head-first into every test she and the teachers sent their way.

"Maybe, but then again, maybe not. You never know with her."

//End Flashback//

Class ended quickly and he went along with this day, going form class to class and finding that Kendra was in all of them, yet Buffy and Willow only shared his Computer Science course, and for that, both of them, he was happy – Kendra had begun to open up and be more like a regular teenage girl her age over the past few months, apparently, and they held a good rapport between each other. Of course, the fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous and the accent didn't hurt matters at all, but he was also not looking forwards to the poor schmuck who tried to ask her out – he was still more than a little protective of the café-au-late Slayer and would probably introduce the guy to his boot anally if said guy ever hurt her.

That aside, classes went normally until it was time for lunch – he was in line to get one of the school favorites, pizza and French fry basket, when Willow came over and dragged him out of line, across the cafeteria and into the Library by his tie, stopping only long enough to grab his book bag along the way. Once in the library, she turned and glared at him, "Alright, mister, just where in the heck have you been all summer? Why did you leave without telling any of us where you were going? Who dressed you like that? Why are you ANSWERING ME?"

"Virginia, because I was more than a little pissed off that I couldn't dust the son of a bitch, Sandy Clark picked out this suit for me and because I can't get in a word edge-wise?" Even though he had meant the answer to be serious, both Jenny and Kendra both suppressed a bout of giggles while Giles coughed in amusement and Buffy sat stone-faced in her chair, but a hint of humor was in her eyes even as he loosed his tie a little and rubbed his neck, "Anything else, Mein Fuhrer?"

Willow's eyes went dangerously flat at that, "Don't even joke about that, Xander."

"Then stop acting like that, Willow. I did what I did and there isn't a damned thing anyone in this room can do about it, so drop it and let's move on." She was giving him her best glare so he set his features into a stone mask that he had perfected over the past three months and it stayed there even as hers began to falter as the minutes passed.

"Fine, you win, for now." She went to a seat and sat down, crossing her arms and huffing petulantly, "So, how about some answers?"

"How about some real questions, then."

Buffy was the first to speak up, her voice cold, "Were you jealous of what Angel and I had?"

"No. I had no intention of breaking you two up as long as he kept his soul, but once that went away, he was fair game. Next question?"

"Where were you all summer?"

"Just outside of Langely, Virginia at The Farm for the most part, Giles."

"What is the farm?"

"Jenny, that is The Farm, capital letters, and what it is, is classified."

"Did you bring us back any gifts?" Everyone, himself included, looked at Kendra, who blushed, "What? Isn't dis de part where de gifts are presented?"

"Later, Kendra." He could only smile at her well-placed interruption, knowing that she had more than a few one-liners in her mind, ready to go (he should, he taught her most of them).

"What did you do at this Farm you were at?"

"Train, Willow – everything that Clark knew, I know and I updated all of that and more." He had to keep what they knew about what he knew simple.

"And what, precisely, did you learn?"

"That's classified, Giles."

"We want an answer, Xander."

"I don't care if you want an answer, Buffy, but what I know and have learned is classified and protected by the Official Secrets Act.". He stood up against a chair and smiled, "Face it, I have secrets that I can't tell you – deal with it and move on." He could see the scowls on Buffy and Willow's faces, yet it didn't faze him too much – rules were rules.

"Can we have de presents now?" Kendra had, apparently, been learning the puppy dog eyes from Dawn, his favored student, and turned them full-force on him while Jenny and Giles chuckled.

"I don't know - have you been a good Slayer?" She nodded emphatically and he reached down into his bag and grabbed at wrapped book, "You told me that you wanted a copy of this, so I got you one, Kendra."

She took the gift, tore into it and beamed at the title of the book – Green Eggs And Ham, "Thank you, Alexander. I wanted dis for a while, now, but my Watcher didn't tink dat it would be good for me to read."

"No problem, Kendra – I have a half-dozen others for you back at my condo." At that, she positively beamed. "Any other questions that I might be able to answer something other than 'Classified'?"

"What do you plan to do now that you're back, Xander?" Buffy sounded oddly distant as she spoke, as if she was dreading the answer, "Are you going to start patrolling again?"

"Maybe, but I haven't patrolled since before last Halloween, Buff. You patrol, I reconhuntraid – two different mindsets there." With the equipment that he had already, not to mention some contacts that he now had because of John, he could do more than before. "You have your job and I willingly do mine."

Buffy was quiet for a moment before speaking, her voice defeated and somewhat petulant, "I can't stop you, can I?"

"Do I need to dignify that question with a response?"

"Do you HAVE to use guns? I don't like them!"

He sighed, "We've been through this before, Buffy – I don't have Slayer strength, speed or healing, so I do not like the idea of giving up an advantage of actually surviving a night of hunting vampires just so you can feel better." She flinched back, obviously hurt by his words, but not so much by the tone, but rather by the truth in the statement.

"Fine, for now." Giles stepped in at that point, apparently not wanting anything else to be said that might leave injured feelings and broken bodies, "Now, what of your schooling and your living conditions?"

Xander shrugged, "I still have my condo and I am here, aren't I? John and Jack both want me to finish high school at least before I start working for them or go into the military."

"Military? Why the military?"

Again he shrugged, "You ever heard of the term 'black ops', Jenny? Most of the guys in The Agency start off there and then get a lateral transfer over or get hired on after they are discharged." The lateral transfer part was true enough, but the second rarely happened due to the fact that the possible operatives just want to become civilians again.

"Very well," Giles went on, cleaning his glasses. "If you do feel the need to help, Xander, please limit yourself to non-fully-automatic weapons, for I do not feel like trying to explain the damage that would occur if Buffy got her hands on them." At that, Xander also had to shudder even as Buffy made an affronted noise, Willow snorted politely, Kendra, Slayer of evil lamps, openly laughed and Jenny wasn't far behind her.

Even as he grinned at Giles he could hear Buffy grumbling about there being no justice in the world.


Three weeks later

With the better part of a month of school out of the way, Xander was surprised how well things were going – sure, there had been one or two bozos that had tried to end the world, one of whom even tried to kill Jenny for being a witch, but aside from that, nothing major. There was, however, some tension about as Giles had been keeping to himself something that was starting to worry Xander – while he and the Briton were not exactly best guy friends, there was a certain level of respect there that dictated that there be no bullshit between them, and it was that level of respect that made Xander act, "Alright, Giles, what's wrong?"

"Wrong?" The librarian tried to pass it off as if it were nothing, but finally he failed and sighed, "I just got a call from the Council that the Watcher of the new Slayer, Faith Williams, had been killed by a Master Vampire by the name of Kakistos. As if that were not enough, Faith is now missing and the Council cannot find her."

Xander frowned, his mind going ninety to nothing about how to find her and what she might do, "Does she know about you and Buffy being here in Sunnydale?"

Giles nodded, "I believe so and I also believe that she may be on her way right here now, but what if she is in danger?"

"She's a Slayer, Giles … of course she's in danger." It was a known fact that Slayers could purposefully find trouble almost as quickly as he could accidentally, which was rather depressing when he thought about it, "Look, where was the last place she was known to be?"

"Boston, leaving by bus." Giles looked at him even as he went to the phone and pulled out his wallet, "What are you doing?"

Xander didn't answer even as he punched in a series of digits and waited until the line connected, "Generations Incorporated."

"John Devon, please."

"I'm sorry, he's not in right now."

"Delta, Omicron, Lambda, Echo 2, 2, 3, 9, Alpha, Green."

There was a slightly pregnant pause before the voice came back, deadly serious, "One moment, Mister Alexander." There was a slightly elongated pause before a man's voice came onto the line, "Yes, Mister Alexander?"

"Missing young woman, fifteen or sixteen years old out of Boston, Mass, on a bus and heading towards my HQ." With Giles' help he gave John Devon a fairly accurate description of her, "Answers to Faith Williams – find her and get her here to me, please."

"Of course, Mister Alexander." The line went dead and he hung up the phone.

"Who was that, Xander?" He turned to see that Jenny, Kendra, Buffy and Willow had shown up, not to mention Dawn, who was being forcibly restrained by Buffy and Kendra from getting to him, and all of them looked worried.

"Business associate I've got looking for the new Slayer." He let Giles fill them in on the details and caught the hyper-velocity projectile named Dawn that came his way when Kendra's grasp failed slightly, hugging the young girl to his chest while she did her best to hug him in half again.

Buffy and Kendra both looked pale at the thought of being alone, having watched their Watcher die, but the former recovered half of a second before the latter, "What's going to happen to her?"

Giles cleaned his glasses before answering, "At my best guess, she will be given to me as a charge until another Watcher is assigned to her."

"Where will she live?" Jenny came to rest beside him and affectionately stroked Dawn's hair, who for her part seemed to purr at the attention she was getting.

"I am unsure, Jenny. Normally I would offer her a spare bedroom, but as it stands I no longer have one. Either the Council will give her a supply of money to get a motel room or perhaps one of you could put her up?"

"No free rooms at my place," Buffy said somewhat too quickly and with a shrug.

"I too am out of room with the recent shipment of books and spell components that my family has sent me." Jenny sounded slightly sheepish at the admission, but also somewhat depressed.

"What about you, Xand?" Dawn looked up into his eyes and he knew that he'd probably cave to whatever she asked for, "Can she stay at your place?"

While it was true that he had a spare room, not nearly as opulent as his own bedroom, it was worth a shot, "If she agrees to it, then yeah, she ca –AN!" He felt her death grip on him tighten by a factor of ten at his words, forcing more than a little air out of his lungs, "Dawnie? I need to breathe." Somewhat reluctantly, she let go and the phone rang at that point, "Hello?"

"She's in St. Louis and won't be leaving until tomorrow." The phone went dead and he felt his resolve steel.

"I'm going after her." He ruffled Dawn's hair and was nearly to the door when Buffy and Kendra both caught an arm.

"Where is she?"

"St. Louis and not leaving until tomorrow. If I can get there, she'll be here by then with me and it'll save a lot of trouble for all parties involved."

"My word," Giles muttered, "that was fast."

Xander shrugged, "The CIA doesn't employ anyone who isn't the best in their field." When Buffy and Kendra let go, he was out of the library in a shot and racing to his place. Once there, he packed a bag and was off to the local airport, thinking of the last time he had been in this kind of rush to get anywhere.


He'd been out of The Farm for less than a day and was already on the hop – John had gotten him roped into some kind of detail that he wasn't too sure about, but regardless it was an assignment and he had to be at a hotel in less than ten minutes with more than fifteen minutes of driving time ahead of him.

"Fuck it." Hauling the wheel to the right, he slammed the accelerator down on the 1990 Honda he'd gotten for a song as a way to get back and forth to work and shot out of the nearly stopped traffic down the emergency lane. What he was doing was highly illegal, but he had a deadline to meet and he'd be damned if he would be late on his first day, so he took a risk that actually paid off in dividends as he got to a parking lot and found a relatively nice place quickly, getting to the hotel with a whole minute to spare even as an elevator dinged open and out walked John, "Made it."

"That you did," the older spy said with a grin on his face the told Xander that it had a) been a test and b) been something that he might end up regretting. "Harrison, meet Mr. Jacob Delgobwi, ambassador from Africa, and this is his daughter, Jessica." Jacob Delgobwi was an older man, maybe in his late fifties, but also fairly slender, of European descent, with thinning gray hair, bright blue eyes, a finely tailored suit and a huge smile while his daughter was in her mid teens, also fairly slender, but more athletic than anything, with a tinge of African descent, dark brown hair, light brown eyes, wearing jeans, a halter top, sunglasses and carrying a large handbag that probably held every cosmetic she would need for a small excursion into the Amazon Basin, and a petulant pout.

"Mr. Drlgobwi, ma'am." He shook the Ambassador's hand but found that Jessica was less inviting as she just snarled at him, "My assignment, Mr. Clark?"

John smiled hugely and Xander knew that he'd been had, "You, Harry, get to chaperone Jessica around until noon, when you and she will need to be back here so that she and her father can catch a flight back to South Africa."

"Daddy, he looks boring!" Jessica may have been fifteen, or so, but she sounded so much like Dawn in a petulant mood that it wasn't even funny, "I'll bet he only looks young, so that's why he's stuck with me."

"He's seventeen, Jessica," Ambassador Delgobwi said with some steel in his voice, "and from what Mr. Clark says, he is a very nice young man."

"That's what the mother of my supposedly future wife thinks." This got him three looks of curiosity and he elaborated, "Dawn, the little sister of a good friend, is eleven and things that she and I will get married when she's legal." This got a look of shock out of John, a slight smile out of the Ambassador and a giggle out of Jessica, whom he looked at, "Any parameters, Mr. Clark?"

"No, not really, but we will have teams tailing you, so try to stay out of trouble."

He shot a winning smile at John, "Come on, Mr. Clark, this is me we're talking about."

John chuckled, "That's why I'm telling you to be careful – you get into more trouble by accident than I can on purpose."

Even as the Ambassador looked worried and Jessica looked him over once again, as if re-appraising what he was worth, Xander chuckled, "Why Mr. Clark, if I didn't know any better, I would take that statement to mean that I can't stay out of trouble."

"Exactly who was it that caught that purse snatcher when we got here with 'The Clothesline From Hell' followed up by an ankle lock?"

"It worked, didn't it?"

"Two hours later in the testing you buried two pencils into hidden cameras in the room, cameras that hadn't been detected in nearly ten years?"

He yawned, "Please, that was child's play."

"Perhaps, but you still avoid my wife."

He cringed, "Alright, you've got me on that one." In the background, he could hear Jennifer's laughing while Ambassador Delgobwi sounded as if he were seriously attempting to cough up a lung.

//End Flashback//

He looked out of the airliner as it approached St. Louis, thinking with a smile of the 'quick' trip down memory lane, and settled himself in for landing, which went off without a hitch. When he got down, he'd contact Devon and get a tighter fix on Faith, hoping that she was alright, and then he and she would be off to Sunnydale on a red-eye because he had a test in Chemistry in third class the next day and wasn't looking forwards to it.


The dust settled from the last vampire meeting it's end as he looked across the alleyway at her, eyes raking her figure even as she did the same – she was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen (Slayers not included – being hot was a prerequisite), taking second place behind Jenny Calendar, clad in leather pants, a red halter top and a loose biker's jacket, a stake in one hand and the other curled into a fist, "Faith Williams?"

"Maybe – you are?"

"A friend."

"Maybe I don't want a friend."

He grinned easily, "Well, I never said I was your friend, but if you would like, I could rectify that easily. Alexander Harris."

She nodded and took several small steps forwards, "Wicked piece you have there."

He tucked the suppressed .22 away under his own jacket and shrugged, "Hey, if it keeps me from looking like a bruised melon, I'll fight with whatever I have – we all can't be Slayers like you."

She froze, "What are you talking about?"

"Rupert Giles sent me to pick you up and bring you to Sunnydale." He was sure that G-man wouldn't mind the slight fib, "I've got us booked on a red-eye to Sunnydale in two hours, if you're willing. If not, I also have you a straight shot to the Dale by bus."

Her dark eyes narrowed slightly, "How do I know that I can trust you? What if you're with the Council?"

He laughed and then looked down at his clothes, consisting of jeans, a t-shirt, a jacket and boots, "I don't think a Watcher would be caught dead in jeans, Faith, and even if they were, do I sound like a Watcher?"

She smiled a little at that, "Well, you don't sound like you have a rod up your ass, that's for sure." Her voice then took a snooty tone, "I say, get me a scone you colonial, you."

"Hmm, Faith, I think you and I will get along well, especially if you are half as annoying to the British population as I am." He offered her his hand and she took it tentatively, shaking it with a firm grim that he initiated, "Now, do you have clothes that we need to pick up?"

She nodded and went over to the side of a dumpster, "Those vamps caught me on the way to a motel." She didn't have much more than a backpack and a duffle bag, but both appeared to be only about three quarters full apiece.

"We'll stop on the way back ad get you some clothes, if you'd like." He saw her look and he went on, "Have you graduated school yet?"

She shrugged, "Nah, I figured that as the Slayer I wouldn't last that long."

"We'll see about that, Faith. I won't let Slayers die on my watch, and I'll do whatever I have to, to keep you, Kendra and Buffy alive."

She looked at him oddly, "They're alive? How's that possible, 'cause I thought that they had to die to call the next one of us."

He smiled, "They did die, but Buffy was drowned and brought back from CPR while Kendra was electrocuted and also brought back via CPR." He then looked over at her, "Please don't make me go for the hat trick as far as CPR goes – I didn't sleep well at all after either event."

She nudged him with an elbow, "Well, I'll do my best, but no promises. I like to live on my terms, and I'll die on my terms too."

He arched an eyebrow at her even as they left the alley that they had been fighting in, "Adrenalin junkie, huh? Cool."

She shrugged as they went towards a small hub of activity, but then blushed as her stomach made itself known to the world with a monstrous growl, "Um, can we get something to grub on first?"

He grinned at her, "I think I could force myself to eat something."


"So let me get this straight – she screwed a vamp and then wouldn't stake him?" At Faith's insistence, he had started to give her the lo-down on what had gone down in Sunnydale, and apparently Buffy's escapades with Angelus were a major sticking point. Faith then shook her head, "Man, she must have been hard up to sleep with one of them. I mean, why not choose you?"

He blushed lightly at that, then chuckled, "Nah, I was the original geek when she met me, and I am her, quote, 'Xander-shaped friend'. Besides," he went on while munching on a few fries, "I might have once, but those days are long gone, Faith."

She chewed a mouthful of hamburger and spoke, "She missed the boat, huh?" She swallowed the food and went on after sucking down half of her Coke and nabbing a few fries, obviously enjoying the meal that he had paid for, "Her loss, our gain."

He chuckled again, sitting back in the booth and swirling some ketchup with a fry, "Maybe, Faith. So, when we get to Sunny D, I'm going to drop you off at my place so you can get some z's, but then I gotta get to school – tests suck. After school, I'll pick you up and we'll see G-man at the Library and hammer out all the details of where you're going to stay, who trains you, stuff like that."

She smirked, "Why can't you train me, X? I mean, he's already got two Slayers on his plate and I'll already be at your place … unless you don't want me there." Her eyes carefully hid the fact, but he could see the scared feelings she was having about being put out on a street that she didn't know, especially in Vamp Central.

"You're welcomed there as long as you have a pulse, Faith," he assured her as he nibbled at the fry he had been doodling in the ketchup with. "All you have to do is go to school and slay the vamps – aside from that, your free time is your own. So Faith, tell me about yourself and what you like to do?"

She shrugged, "Not much I'm really good at aside from Slaying, really. Mom's dead, Lynda's dead, dad can roast in hell for all I care, and aside from people thinking I'm a whore from the word go because of the way I dress, I don't have too many friends."

He winced at her somewhat defeated tone and reached out his hand, covering her hand impulsively and squeezing it slightly. She smiled at him a little and squeezed it back before speaking again, "What about you, stud? What do you like to do?"

He shrugged, "Off the clock I like to watch Saturday morning cartoons with a large bowl of Coco Puffs to munch on, I prefer Twinkies as my food of choice, I slay vampires through unconventional means and I do my best to corrupt the younger sister of Buffy Summers with my quick wit, lame jokes and odd sense of humor." She chuckled at that and he then went on, "On the clock I can't tell you what I do – it's classified and that pisses Buffy off to no end."


"Central Intelligence Agency – I figure that seeing we'll be working together, there will be times that I'll do things out of the norm and you should have an answer to some of those things." He shrugged at her slightly awed look, "I work for them on an as-needed basis until I graduate, and then we're going to get into serious negotiating about what I am going to do."

"So let me get this straight, you're James freaking Bond, 007, martini, shaken, not stirred?"

"No, I'm not him – there is only one Bond and he was played by Sean Connery.". "Also, Bond was MI: 6 and part of Her Majesty's SAS – I work for the CIA and was trained by a SEAL."

"So you can kill people with spoons and stuff, right?" She was practically bouncing in place, which provided a nice image all together, and grinning as she picked up the salt shaker, "Or this?" Frankly, she was acting like Dawn and he couldn't help but laugh at her a little.

"I prefer not to kill people, Faith – too many questions to answer and the paperwork involved is murder in and of itself." With a wince, he remembered that particular mountain he had to climb.


He sighed, "It was either me or him, John, and I chose to live." He and Jessica Delgobwi had been on their way to the hotel to meet her father, as they were supposed to, when a van had pulled up and a man jumped out, grabbing Jessica. All in all it was a very bad 'snatch-and-go' job gone horribly wrong as Jessica was on the wrong side (away from the van) for it to work, she was not a shirking violet to begin with and the kidnapper obviously didn't know what he was doing. Long story short, the kidnapper and driver pulled guns, Xander had pulled his and the shootout left the kidnapper dead, the driver wounded and Jessica shaking like a leaf while he had a bullet hole in his new suit that Sandy was going to kill him for.

"That's not the point, kid – I don't care if you used deadly force, but company policy says that when you are on domestic soil and use your weapon in non-sanctioned manners, you fill out this small mountain of paperwork in triplicate. Now start writing." John dropped the small ream of paper on his desk and grinned, "If you hurry up, I'll see if Sandy can save you some of her lasagna for when you get back."

Xander mentally weighed the options – do paperwork quickly and get dinner, but also have to explain bullet hole to the woman who picked out the suit, or set new snail pace for paperwork, get dinner out of the vending machine (again – he held the title for 'King Heat 'n Eat') and not have to explain to Sandy about how the hole had gotten into his suit jacket, "Sorry, boss, but stick it in the fridge – I'm going to be here a while. The Ambassador wants to have a sit down with me for drinks and I told him I'd call him when I got done here."

"So, you're choosing to avoid Sandy." The voice belonged to another Agent that had gone through training with him and was seated in the cubical next to him – her name was Joy Suarez, born and raised in New Mexico, just out of University of Santa Fe when The Company came calling, and she was quite possibly the best friend that Xander had in the world that was near his age at that point in time. Her most striking feature was her hair and her ability to tie cherry stems in knots with her toung, a trick she proved one night at a local bar when they had a test there and got seven marriage proposals on the spot, and somehow they had ended up being very good friends.

"Wouldn't you?" It was also a running joke among the new trainees that Sandy Clark was the mother hen to end all mother hens; she mothered him a great deal, but had seemed to take Joy under her wing, as it were.

Even as John left, snickering, Joy stuck her head over the cubical top and grinned, her dark brown eyes sparkling with mirth as she smiled at him, using her arms as a pad for her head, "You have issues, Xander. It's not a wonder that all of the other trainees thought that we were sleeping together."

He grinned at her and began to fill out the paperwork, "You also showing up in my bed, dressed in naught but a smile and refusing to leave, might have had something to do with that."

She sniffed, "I was also drunk as a Lord, Xander." Then she grinned, "Besides, you didn't seem to mind."

He looked up at her as if he was crazy, "Joy, you are a beautiful woman who was, at the time, naked and wanted to sleep in the same bed with me, not to mention my friend, and did I mention that you were hot?" He chuckled as she giggled, a sound that she had told him that she hated due to the fact that she sounded like Minnie Mouse, "Now, beautiful, let me get to work." He looked at the paperwork and sighed, "Or I'll never get to the machine before those yahoos in R & D get all of the good stuff."

//End Flashback//

"Yo, X!" Faith snapped her fingers in front of his face and he started back, eyes focusing on her own worried eyes, "You alright, man?"

"Yeah, sorry, Faith." She shook her head and he went on, "Just remembering the amount of work I had to do when I capped a guy a month and a half ago."

Faith sobered at this, her face somewhat pale, "Oh, so you weren't joking?"

"No, I shot and killed one man, wounded another, stopping them from kidnapping a visiting Ambassador's daughter." He ate another fry and sat back again, "All said and done it took a little over four seconds from when they pulled up to when I fired my first shot, killing the first guy, and the second guy was shot out of reflex when he went for a gun." He looked up into her eyes, "Doing things like that isn't easy, and no, the others don't know about it, so I'd appreciate it if you don't tell them."

She worked her mouth a few times before speaking again, this time in a softer tone, "Do you regret it? Having to shoot, I mean?"

"No. Tango One was trying to kidnap the daughter of an Ambassador that I was charged to protect by any and all means necessary and available – he had a gun and it was a righteous shoot. Tango Two, however, I am sorry I shot. I should have hit him higher in the chest and he would have dropped like a rock, just like in training." He ran a finger through the ketchup and then stuck it in his mouth, sucking the condiment off of his finger, "'Rule Four: NEVER shoot to wound – shoot to KILL,' is what was drilled into us when we were in training. If we ever had to take a shot, it was to be a kill shot and nothing more."

"Sounds like you've got serious baggage, X." Faith took his hand this time and squeezed it lightly, "You ever need to talk, let me know."

He grinned, "Sure thing, F. Now, let's get to the stores before our flight leaves. Tomorrow is going to be a long day."


"So you're Faith."

"And you're Buffy."

"And I am Kendra."

He looked over at Giles and slowly began to inch away from the impending explosion, doing his best to stop the snicker that was threatening from Kendra's well-timed quip from between Buffy and Faith.

Buffy looked Faith up and down and then smirked, "What were the Powers thinking when they chose you as The Slayer?"

"Maybe they were thinking 'Anybody has to be better than that Summers girl,'" Faith shot back with a truly nasty smile. Giles took that moment to join him in the inching away, both of them avoiding eye contact as much as possible and hoping for the explosion to not catch them.

"Don't t'ink dat I miss you two." Kendra turned and smiled at them, halting their progress with a feral smile. "You de Watcher here, Giles, an' you started dis by introducin' them to one another, Xander."

Giles glared at him, "While I appreciate you trying to help Kendra with her sense of humor, Xander, I must ask that you also help her with knowing when to leave us out of Slayer problems."

"Next thing on the list, Giles." He knew that letting the two Slayers get into a territorial pissing match, which is what Faith and Buffy were basically doing, would be a bad idea, but he didn't want to lose another lamp to a new Slayer trying to kill the old Slayer. "Um, ladies, can we please dispense with the hostilities?"

"As soon as she figures out that I am Alpha around here, Xan," Buffy said off-handedly, which raised the hackles on the back of his neck. HE, of everyone, was ALPHA of this pack, but he chose to only growl internally.

"Buffy, face the fact and accept that you are not the only Slayer on the block anymore." Jenny tossing in her two cents helped things immediately when Buffy turned and growled at her, which caused Jenny to sneer, "Oh, please, Xander has a much more impressive growl, so don't try and go Cave-Slayer on me."

"Go, X-man, scoring with the dark-haired teacher!" Faith, it seemed to him, did like to stir up trouble a little with the looks he got from both Willow and Giles, but also from the look of pure venom he got from Buffy.

"What're you doing with Miss Calendar, Xander? Do I have to get you neutered or something?"

THAT was WAY-Y-Y out of line, so he growled audibly and proved Jenny right – his growl was MUCH more impressive than Buffy's, "What I do and whom I do it with is none of your concern, bottle blonde, and if you even think about getting near my boys like that, you'd better PRAY you are bulletproof."

"Everybody step back and take a breath here," Oz stepped in, keeping his cool, it seemed, though one could never tell with him. He then looked over at Faith and nodded, "Oz."

She nodded and returned in his same monosyllabically tone of voice, "Faith." She then smiled, "So, Oz, how long have you known X over here?"

Ox shrugged, "Almost a year."

"Any dirt you can dish on him?"

"Buffy's sister Dawn wants to marry him and have his kids." It did his ego somewhat good to hear somebody other than Dawn saying that, but he wasn't too sure if Oz saying that was going to keep him alive any longer than the already short amount of time he had left.

Faith looked over at him and smiled, "What would she do if I decided to steal you away from her?"

He couldn't help it, he grinned right back at her and waggled his eyebrows, "Should we find out?"

Faith smiled a bit more at that and then looked at Buffy, who looked shocked, and then at Kendra, who was smiling hugely, before looking back at him, "A girl likes a date first, then marriage, unless you knock her up first."

"Let's avoid the knocking up for now – we are both in high school, aren't we?"

Her grin grew even more, "Let's talk more later, Xan, 'cause we have patrol now." She linked her arm into his and together they were out of the door on the hop, ready to deal death and dust to all vampires they came across.


Normally being in the same room with Rupert Giles was a fairly standard thing, but this time it was all that Xander could do to keep his hand from going for the suppressed .22 under his left shoulder, "Alright, I want to know right the fuck now what you did to Buffy. No stalling, no bullshit, NOW!"

Giles took a seat in his chair and sighed, "It is a test, long since forgotten but recently reinstated by Quinton Travers, my boss, as it were. A Slayer is stripped of her powers on her eighteenth birthday and made to fight a vampire – if she survives, then she is truly a Slayer."

He said nothing for a second and then removed his .22 and walked to the door of Giles' office, opened it and handed the gun to Faith, who looked worried, "Keep this out of my hands until this is over." That said, he shut the door and looked at Giles, "Where is she?"

"I cannot tell you, Xander."

Something flipped in his mind and Xander took a back seat – Alexander was now in charge, "WHERE. IS. SHE!"

"Even if I do tell you, there is nothing you can do – they are English nationals and they have diplomatic immunity. Short of killing them you can do nothing and I know for a fact that you will not stoop to such things."

In a flash he was hauling Giles up by the tie he wore and had the Watcher within an inch of his own face, snarling, "You know nothing about me, Watcher. You and everyone else in there haven't got the first fucking CLUE what I am capable of." He dropped Giles into his seat, the man looking decidedly pale, and went on, "And trust me, neither does the Council – they have never met a man like me, not even in their worst nightmares." That said, he walked out of the office and went to the desk, grabbing the phone and dialing a number from memory.


"Hey, Boss. I need to get some Diplomatically Immune British assholes off of our soil before they kill a friend of mine – whom do I call?"

"Whoa, kid. Tell me what's going on." Alexander told him in broad strokes and he could literally hear John's blood pressure going through the roof, "Alright, I'm going to make a few calls – don't do anything that I wouldn't do."

Alexander gave a death's head grin to the phone receiver, "Then hurry up if you want anything more than corpses to find, John." He hung up the phone and turned, looking at Joyce and Dawn's scared faces, "Are you two going to be okay?"

Dawn nodded but Joyce looked at him, "What are you going to do, Xander?"

His face grew grim as he took his gun back from Faith and Giles walked out of his office, very pale, "What I always do, Joyce – what nobody else can." That said, he walked out of the Library and double-timed it to his condo, where he pulled out his M-4, suppressor and several other odds and ends when his phone rang, "Go."

"This is against my better judgment, Xander," Giles went on for a second, and then told him where the Curcitacium (spelling?) was happening. "Do whatever is in your best judgment." That done, he hung up.

Alexander sat there for a moment and contemplated what was about to happen – he was about to go on what amounted to a HRS (hostage rescue situation), a SAD (search and destroy) for a vampire, and possibly terminate several Diplomatically Immune members of a sovereign nation with extreme prejudice, and for the first time in a long time, he didn't feel anything at all in regards to the value of human life. That fact scared the hell out of him.


"Who are you?" Quinton Travers lay on the ground, bleeding from several deep wounds in his arms and legs from where the homicidally insane vampire had gotten ahold of him, but just appeared to be too damned stubborn to die.

"Snake." He had the two remaining Watchers under the gun, literally, with his carbine covering them as Buffy did her best to use his body and haul herself up to a standing position.

"We have diplomatic immunity, child. You cannot do this."

Alexander could only grin as Buffy got to a vertical base, "Actually, I can – my boss knows what I am doing and told me to, quote, not do anything that he wouldn't do, end quote."

"And your boss' name is what, precisely?"

"John Clark." It was almost comical to see Travers' face to go as ashen as it did, but he also figured that the blood loss had something to do with it, "Fortunately for you, Travers, I also have standing orders to not terminate anyone without a direct order from my superiors, and as he did not order me to kill you …" Alexander slung his carbine out of the way and held up Buffy's sagging body. "You have twenty-four hours to leave the United States of America in its entirety. If you fail to do so in the allotted time or ever come back within our borders without authorization, you will be arrested on sight by the FBI and put on trial immediately for violating our borders. Personally, I wouldn't expect too much help from home and Sir Basil Covington, myself – as I understand he is MOST upset at what has been found out about your Watcher's Council, you in particular, Travers, and will be speaking to you at some length about it … if you ever make it home, that is."

"You would kill us?" One of the other Watchers, whom had identified himself as Wesley Wyndam-Price, spoke somewhat hesitantly and looked as if he were going to piss himself.

"Personally, yes, but as I said, I have orders not to." He picked Buffy's weight up and walked towards the door, through the ashes of the formerly homicidal vampire that he had killed before it could snack on Buffy, "Take my advice and get the hell out of Dodge now." That said, he walked out of the old warehouse that the 'test' had been performed with Buffy in his arms and went back to the Library, confident in the fact that either way, he had won.

Over the next two days he still felt confident even as the Scooby Gang showed signs of implosion – Joyce had torn Giles a new one after he told her what he had done / been forced to do to Buffy, Buffy wouldn't stop crying on Willow's shoulder, Dawn wouldn't leave his side for anything, Kendra and Faith were sniping at each other and even Oz seemed to be showing signs of stress. In fact, the only two who weren't doing much of anything were himself and Jenny – he was too busy trying to keep Dawn from crying and she was having a bit of a crisis as far as her family went (apparently something was going on that she didn't want to tell anyone about).

Finally, on the third day, a Monday of all days, things came to a head when John Clark and an immaculately dressed gentleman of older years walked into the Library in the middle of the day; Kendra and Faith were both hoeing into their lunches, Buffy wasn't more than a few inches away from Willow, who looked miserable and water logged, he was doing some homework and Giles was cataloguing some books, "Hiya, kid."

"John, what brings you here?"

John stood a little straighter, "I would like to present to you Sir Basil Covington, of England, and he has something that he would like to tell you, Agent Harrison Alexander."

Even as he hopped to his feet, the others were looking at each other oddly as the older man, Sir Covington, walk forwards, "Agent Alexander, I would like to inform you that due to your swift actions and dogged efforts, we have arrested Quinton Travers and his ilk for crimes against the Crown, Child Endangerment, Child Exploitation and several other crimes that I shall not mention in the presence of ladies. Moreover, I would like to offer you the heartfelt thanks of Her Majesty for bringing to light these atrocities that have gone on for far too long." They shook hands and he then went on, "Personally I would have shot the git myself."

He felt a grin grow on his face, "Have you not read the papers as of late, Sir Covington?" He reached into his backpack and removed a day-old edition of the London Times, showing the face of Quinton Travers under the caption 'TRAVERS ARRESTED AT HEATHROW WITH CONTROLED SUBSTANCES', "He had nearly twenty kilos of crystal meth, some China White and even a few hits of acid, according to what the papers released." He grinned at the shocked Sir Covington even as John began to laugh a full belly laugh, "I think that surely Her Majesty and Scotland Yard can work with this information together so that he never sees the outside of a prison cell … EVER."

"Good Lord, Xander," Giles said from behind him, reading the paper. "What did you do this time?"

He looked over at Giles, "Haven't you ever heard the old saying, Giles – 'Karma is a bitch and she knows it, too'? I merely made sure that she, Karma, had a little help this time."

"This wasn't in your report, kid." John looked at him reprovingly and he looked down at his boots.

"Um, well, it was kind of a backup plan, boss." He looked up and sighed, "I wasn't sure if I would shoot him on the spot, so I packed some confiscated drugs into the carry all he had in his trunk and hoped for the best."

It was Sir Covington who laughed this time, just not as boisterously as John had, "So, I see where he has gotten his moniker, Mr. Clark – you and he are so much alike that he might as well be your son. 'Clark Junior', indeed." He put his hand on Xander's shoulder and squeezed it, "When you graduate, young man, give me a call – I am sure that I can find employment for you in Her Majesty's government somewhere."

"Now hold on a second, Basil," John interrupted, only partially amused, "he's one of us – Farm and all."

"He's also seventeen, John. Even the KGB has better morals than that." The two went back and forth over the fact of his age for several minutes while he himself sat down, trying to think about what was going to happen – Travers would go to trial, say he was set up, finger him and the courts would start searching until they found out whatever it is that they found out. He could only sigh at what was to come.

"Damn, Boytoy," Faith said after killing her soda. "When you play, you do it with the big boys."


One week later

If there was such a thing as Hell freezing over, he was sure that there was also a thing as the Hellmouth freezing over because the icy nature of his condo was an indicator of just that – he had been talked into watching Dawn that night, there was nothing much to slay of late and both Faith and Dawn were glaring daggers at each other from across the table that they were playing Monopoly with him at. Quite frankly, he was surprised that the oxygen around him wasn't liquefied at all, "Um, Faith? It's your turn."

"Screw the game, Xand – girlfriend and I here need to set down some ground rules." Faith stood and he scooted back, not wanting to get caught in the backlash, "Rule One: you are four years younger than him, kiddo – HE IS NOT YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND. Rule Two: Slayers get to call dibs." Oddly, he felt somewhat insulted that the pair of them were treating him like he was a possession of some kind.

"Rule Three," Dawn shot back, trying to look menacing, but the fact that she was dressed in pajamas that were covered in sheep was seriously hurting that menacing look. "Thou shalt keepeth thine hands off of the body of Alexander Harris. Rule Four: Thou shalt sleepeth in the bed of Alexander Harris only if his ass is parkethed on or asleep on the coucheth."

"Alright, damn it," he said, having had it, "that's enough. Both of you stand the fuck down NOW!" Both females looked at him and complied, albeit reluctantly, "Look, Dawnie, I appreciate you are looking out for me, but Faith is right – you have a few more years before you and I could ever look good together as anything past friends. Faith, not that I didn't appreciate the full grope that I got last night, but Dawn is right in the respect that we sleep in separate beds until we're both older than eighteen." This seemed to defuse both of their tempers for the time being and he grumbled, "Sheesh, not even Sandy was this bad."

"And whom, precisely, is this 'Sandy', Xand?" Dawn's eyes were narrowed slightly and Faith's were nearly slits.

"Sandy Clark, John Clark's wife."

"And you know her how?"

He stopped himself from telling them 'nearly Biblically' after seeing her al natural, hell, being ready to do the deed when the spell hit, and shrugged, "I stayed with the Clarks for a day before entering The Farm and another day after graduation from The Farm before I got myself a flat."


"Nervous, kid?"

He looked over at John with a look that could not be read in any other manner of 'what the fuck do you think?' before sighing, "If she kills me, give all my stuff to the Goodwill Store and spread my ashes over the nearest Hostess factory."

John chuckled, "Kid, it's been nearly twenty years for her – I'm sure she had gotten over it." He opened the door to the house and smiled, "Sandy! We have a visitor."

A woman with a blonde bob of hair, dressed in nurses scrubs and holding her jacket came out of the kitchen, "Who is it, John?"

Xander felt his stomach tighten up into a ball of pure .00001 pH acid and then turn into a ball of ice as John grinned and spoke, "Alexander Harris, from Sunnydale."

To her credit, she didn't immediately come over and strangle him, or shove a kitchen knife into his throat, or castrate him on the spot – she merely walked over and looked him up and down as John got out of the way, walking around him before coming to rest in front of him with a slight frown on her face, "Are you nervous, young man?"

He tried to keep his voice calm as he spoke, but there was still a light quaver there as he did, "Very."

She smiled somewhat slyly, "Why? Surely I haven't changed that much, have I?"

"Um, ma'am, the last time I saw you was through your husbands eyes, you and he, well, I, were in the buff and ready to…" he stopped himself, feeling heat rushing to his cheeks as John left the room, his hand stuffed in his mouth, and Sandy frowned a little more.

"I had not seen my husband in nearly six months, young man, and you chose that moment to invade his body? Should my anger at the time have surprised you at all? I mean, all you had to do was lay there." Had he been in a better frame of mind, he would have seen that she was playing him like a violin, but his mind was on other things at the time.

"Hold on, ma'am, my entering you husband's body wasn't my idea – you want someone to blame, I'll give you his name, but don't lay that one on me at all. Second, as I've told him, that was as close to adultery as I ever want to get."

She smiled then, pulling on her jacket, "Good. Now, be good and study hard – I have to go to work tonight, but don't expect to get off of the hook this easily; I want answers that my DEAREST HUSBAND," she called back to the kitchen, "won't tell me." She patted him on the cheek and went out of the door, leaving him to slump against the wall and thank God that all of his parts and pieces were still in place.

"She's right, you know," John said from the kitchen. "You're not getting out of that particular conversation that easily."

//End Flashback//

Dawn looked over at Faith and asked, "Do you get the idea that there's more to that story than he's telling us?"

Faith nodded, "That, and aside from one incident that happened with an Ambassador's daughter, he hasn't told me squat about anybody he met." They both looked at him and asked, en tandem, "Tell us more about your summer. Please!" They gave him a dual shot of the puppy dog eyes and he felt his resolve beginning to crumble.

Doing what he could to save his ass, not to mention some of his secrets, he stood and walked to the kitchen, "You guys want anything to drink?"

"No, we want answers!" Dawn came charging into the kitchen and vaulted up on to the sideboard, pouting at him, "You don't want a pouty Dawn Patrol, do you?"

"And you don't want a petulant roommate, do you, Xand?" Faith purred her question from where she had slid up next to him, which brought a scowl to Dawn's face, "'Sides, I just want the dirt – nothing secret, but just some juicy gossip."

He grinned a little and bit the bullet, "Like how half of the people at The Farm thought Joy Suarez and I were sleeping together from day one?" The two girls gaped at him as he began to spin his tale, "She and I were friends only, but that theory got tested when she got plastered one night and ended up in my room, naked, and didn't want to leave."

"Go X-MAN!" Faith was smiling from ear to ear while Dawn looked like she wanted to cry, "You gave it to her good, didn't ya?"

"Faith, Joy likes girls, not guys." This time it looked like Faith wanted to cry while Dawn was doing her best to smile her face in half, "Granted, if she ever did decide to go for guys, she'd probably call me by her own admission, age difference be damned."

"What does she do there?"

"Joy is a linguist with a background in European languages." He reached into the fridge and pulled out a cola, which he popped the top on and took a sip of, "She's very good at what she does, and for some reason she always seemed to be hanging around me when we had time off, so we became friends."

Dawn worked her jaw a few times before being able to speak, "So, you leave town, go do something classified, and somehow end up with not only the boss' wife, but a hot lesbian who is good with her toung and languages?" Before he could defend himself at all Dawn looked over at Faith, who looked somewhat disturbed, "Truce – we never let him out of our sight ever again and never let him NEAR another beautiful woman."

Faith looked over at Dawn and smiled, "Deal."

"Hold on a second," he interrupted, "you can't keep me away from your mother or Jenny, Dawn."

She growled at him and he wisely shut up and decided that, yes, he should have gotten her another animal for her birthday – she was acting way too much like a Hyena protecting her mate / pack.

Fortunately for him, though, there was a knock on his door, saving his ass from the wrath of Dawn Summers, and as he jumped up and answered the door, he felt as if everything would work out for the better … until he saw the person on the other side.

"Alexander Harris, give me one good reason not to drag your ass back to LA so that you can be arraigned for numerous charges of discharging a firearm, having banned weapons, destruction of public and private property and also attempted murder?" Detective Kate Lockley didn't look to be in a good mood and the gun she had pointed to his head didn't help things much either.

"Hello, Detective Lockley, why should I be arraigned at all?"

She cocked the hammer on her pistol, a Glock 9mm, "Don't give me that, Harris – I watched you shoot a man eight times with a Colt .45 while you had a silenced M16 on your person."

"Correction on two parts - that was a M4A1 and it was suppressed, not silenced. More over, did that guy die from the shots I put into him?" Before she could answer he reached up and triggered the magazine release on the pistol and it dropped to the ground, "Anyway, if you can, come inside and we'll talk about this."

"I still have one in the chamber."

"Glocks don't fire without a magazine in the receiver – safety measure built into it by the producers." He gave her a cheeky grin and she growled at him even as she stepped into the doorway and retrieved her mag, "Now, can we at least be civil about this?"


"Shall I take this as a 'no' to the question of civility, then?"

All in all, it was a fair question as Kate walked back and forth in front of the fireplace, swearing despite the fact that Dawn was in the room; Faith, for her part, was doing her best not to laugh her ass off, Dawn was glaring daggers at Detective Lockley and he wasn't sure what to do next after telling her the truth about vampires and demons.

Kate stopped then and glared at him, "You're crazy – Vampires and demons don't exist!"

Dawn giggled a little while Faith outright laughed as he sighed, knowing that without proof, she would never believe, "And if I could prove it?"

Before Kate could answer, though, the phone rang and for once in his life, Xander was actually convinced that God existed, "Hello?"

(Kid, it's John. Job opportunity in your neck of the woods – interested?)

"Where and how long?"

(LA and within the next day and a half, but not more than two days. You get to baby sit again, but this time it's a thing, not a person.)

He sighed, knowing he was going to regret asking his next question, "Threat assessment?"

(Minimal to moderate – are you in or out?)

"What the hell – I'm in."

John's grin could be hear over the phone line and Xander knew that it was going to be bad, (Great – I'm going to overnight you the info, expect it tomorrow morning at sunrise.) The phone went dead and Xander could only sigh.

"And that was?"

He looked over at Kate and wondered how well she would take the truth, "My boss – he has a job for me to do within the next few days and is sending me the specs tomorrow morning, so let's go prove that vamps exist and be done with it." He got off of the couch and went to his closet, pulling down the locked box that he kept his suppressed .22 in and strapped on it and a shoulder harness before grabbing his ID and permit.

Kate's eyes were narrowed when he turned back around, "A silenced .22? I thought that guns couldn't kill vampires?"

"Guns can't," Faith chipped in with a smirk.

"But the right kind of ammunition can." Dawn finished with a wide smile. That smile turned into a frown then, "Xand, just what are you going to show her?"

He shrugged and pocketed a few stakes before slipping on his duster, "Standard vampire patrol, but a brief one. Faith, watch Dawnie and don't let anyone into the house."

"This isn't a house, Xand," Dawn reminded him pointedly, to which he grinned and ruffled her hair. "I swear one time you're going to do that and pull back a bloody stump for a hand."

Kate looked at him even as Faith laughed, "Did she pick that up from you or is that a natural thing?"

He shrugged, "Not sure, actually."


Kate, he could see, looked more than a little shaken as the vampire on the ground screamed in agony from the blessed .22 rounds that had been put into it's knees, shoulders and pelvis, it's game face very apparent and the wounds were sizzling, "So, now that the vampire has been disabled, we can get close enough to stake him." He flipped her a stake, which she caught out of pure reflex, "You want the honors?"

She looked at him and then down at the stake, "Into the heart?" Her tone was slightly sick, yet oddly fascinated.

He nodded, "Yes, into the heart." He watched as she somewhat hesitantly slammed the stake into the heart of the vampire and then jumped back, watching as the body exploded into dust, with a squeak. He slipped an arm around her shoulders as she began to shake slightly, which caused her to lean into his side a little, "You need a drink?"

She shook her head, "No, I'm dine now, it's just that it's kind of hard to accept that things that you were told to scare you as a kid are actually true."

He smiled, "There are more things between heaven and hell than are thought of in your law or philosophy, Kate. Unfortunately, Sunnydale and LA house most of them." He spent the next hour answering questions that he knew were coming – why doesn't everyone fight, the government's know, etc – as well as he could and ended with a statement of fact as much as it was a warning, "Kate, don't go hunting these things on your own. Nobody who does comes back alive."

She looked at him as if she were going to argue, but apparently she saw something in his eyes that made her close her mouth and nod, "Alright, kid, I'll leave you alone for now, and I will not hunt these … things, but what I do want to know is why you were able to vanish for three months and not show up on anyone's radar."

Even though he had killed men, demons and vampires, betrayed his best friends and stolen from his own government, Xander Harris was still a smart ass at heart, "Because you weren't looking in the right place, or the right circles of Government, Katie." Patting her cheek, he started to walk off and heard her come up quickly behind him, "Any other questions?"




"Strike Two."

Kate stopped then and worked her jaw several times, as if trying to get the words to form yet they would not, "No, I refuse to believe that you're CIA."

He looked back at her, "Then you can't accept most of the truth, then."


Dawn opened her eye from where she was 'sleeping' on the couch while Faith was softly snoring in an over-stuffed chair that he himself liked to sleep in, "Hey, you."

He smiled at her and softly padded over, kneeling, "You should be asleep – you have school tomorrow."


"Back to LA and not hunting on her own." He stroked her hair and for a second he thought she was part cat with the way she moved into the strokes until she stopped and sighed slightly, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing – just accepting that you and I can't be together for a while. No big." Her voice was down and he could see a tear beginning to collect in the corner of her eye, so he sat down next to the couch and took her hand in his own.

"Dawnie, if I'm not married when you graduate and hit 18, we'll find the first JP that will do the ceremony and we'll get married."

She perked up at this, raising her head off of the couch even as half of her hair was plastered into place, "Promise?" Before he could answer, though, her eyes narrowed, "Or are you doing this to make me feel better?"

He grinned, "Hey, what guy wouldn't want a young wife in his dotage?"

She grinned at him slyly, "And if I wanted to get married to you earlier?"

"I'd have to have boytoy arrested, squirt." Faith's sleepy voice drifted over from her chair, making them both look up to see her dark eyes glittering with mirth, "Of course you'd have to hit 18 before I get him first."

Dawn craned her neck and stuck out her toung before snuggling back into the couch, Xander finding himself draping a light blanket over her form as she dropped into sleep.

He looked over at Faith and then walked over, picking up her athletic body and walking her into his former room, now her room, and depositing her into the bed there, "Good night, Faith."

She smiled and flipped the blankets open, "Join me?" He cocked an eyebrow at her and she laughed, "Yeah, let's not piss off pip even more." She sank down into her favorite pillow and sighed, "Night, stud."

He left the room and went into the smaller second bedroom, which measured actually about eight feet by eight feet, just big enough for a small bed and a chest of drawers, but instead it was filled with a desk, a small gun locker and several pre-packed bags that were arranged into three categories – business trip, play trip, profit trip. The 'play' category was just that, clothes and things that one took for a vacation, while the 'business trip' was a smattering of suits, upper-crust clothing and some personal items that he took everywhere, and both were packed into nice suit cases that were easily explained. The 'profit' category consisted of a duffle bag that held BDUs, first aid supplies, ammunition, and sundry other things that could be classified as 'highly illegal' in the possession of a non-military individual, but it also had a large rucksack that held down-time/recon clothing, had the odd wad of cash tucked away and also had an untraceable cell phone in easy reach in case he had to reach out and touch someone.

He grabbed the 'business' suitcase and also tucked away several items pulled from the 'profit' rucksack for a 'just-in-case-oh-shit-we're-screwed' instance that seemed to follow him around wherever he decided to go.


13, July 1998

It had been a hellish week at work and had culminated in the capture of a Top Ten fugitive on the FBI/Interpol list; John had given him and Joy a few days off to compensate for the nearly one week of all-nighters they had been forced to pull as A) they were at the bottom of the ladder and B) they had the best chance of finding the perp as he was a hacker their age, who had used a worm of some kind to raid financial assets of a large British conglomerate that funded Company operations.

Joy, for her part, seemed ready to go as he packed the last of his things into the rucksack that he would be brining along, and looked dressed to kill in her Capri pants, sandals, t-shirt, sunglasses and large hat, "Come on, Xander! Bust hump or all the good spots will be gone."

He closed the top of the sack and hefted it to his shoulder, "Tell me again how you talked be into going to the beach with you at the ungodly hour of 0600 when my bed is looking mighty good right now?"

"Three words – me, thong, and bikini." Even while he admitted that it was a good reason, she grabbed him by the arm and ushered him out of his flat, locking the door, "I swear, a week of all-nighters and you look like you're about to drop."

"Not all of us have a caffeine count instead of a hemoglobin count, Joy," he grumbled as they got down to the car and he tossed his bag into the boot of a classic Mustang, finding that she had packed away several bags and a picnic lunch. "It's not fair – I drive a POS and you drive this beauty."

"Get used to it, babe." She turned the engine over and it purred like a kitten as she slipped the machine into gear and gunned it, the tires squealing before the bit into the surface of the road and launched them towards the beach.

The drive actually wasn't that bad, as it was a Tuesday and a work week, and they reached the beach just before sunrise; Joy whooped and worked quickly to stake out her spot on the empty sands while he trudged along, carrying the bulk of the food, her stuff and some of his own things before collapsing into the sands next to her.

"God, Xander, I miss this." She looked at the rising sun, "Me and my friend watching sunrise, but instead of the deserts and mountains, watching it over the Atlantic." She looked over and then bumped him, "What do you think?"

He smiled, remembering how many times he had watched the sun rise after a hard night of hunting, as if it were a reminder to him what it was that he was fighting for, "I'm not sure what's more beautiful – the sunrise or the companion." He boldly looked her up and down even as she blushed, "Tough call, really."

She elbowed him in the ribs none-too-gently, "Come on, Xand, that wouldn't be right – you're 17, I'm 23 and a lesbian."

He shrugged, "So? Maybe I could get you to switch hit."

She smirked, "Pretty confident in your abilities, aren't ya?" They shared a look together for several seconds before bursting into a fit of laughter that had her clutching her sides, back to the sand, and him rolling on his back – she knew he was a virgin and he knew that she was firmly committed to her girlfriend back in her apartment in town. When she had told him initially, he had been weirded out slightly, but had gotten over it as it had not changed who she was, so he didn't let it bother him too much. What had bothered him, though, was how she had found out who he really was – even that one had John scratching his head slightly.

Even as they finished laughing, though, they heard a scream from the other side of a dune and were running at it as soon as he had grabbed his sidearm, from his rucksack – he may have been off-duty, but he wasn't stupid. On the other side of the dune he saw Joy, who had gotten here first, doing her best to calm down a young woman while shielding said woman from the grisly sight of a body that appeared to have been there for a few days. He could only sigh, "never an easy op."

90 Minutes Later

"Agent Jethro Gibbs, NCIS. You are?"

"Agent Harrison Alexander, this is Agent Joy Suarez." He handed over his ID, as did she, and Agent Gibbs, a man who looked to be in his early forties, maybe mid forties, arched his eyebrow before handing the badges back.

"Aren't you kind of young to be CIA?"

"Appearances can be deceiving, Agent Gibbs." Joy smiled and wrapped an arm around his waist, "Can we finish this up? My friend and I are on vacation and we intend to spend what is left of it together."

"You heard the scream and found the body, right?"

Xander smiled, "Absolutely."

"Didn't hear any shots?"

Joy smiled, "Nope."

"Are you two going to help me out at all?"

They looked at one another and then back at him, shrugging, "Not sure – we know about as much as you do." He wasn't sure about Joy, but John had told him about how much of a pain NCIS could be to them and hoped it wouldn't come to it.

Gibbs looked over his shoulder, "DINOZZO! SKETCHES AND PICTURES NOW!" He looked back at Joy and then over at Xander, who looked bored with it all, "Am I boring you, Agent Alexander?"

Xander glared at Agent Gibbs, "I've just finished a solid week of all-nighters, Agent Gibbs. I'm tired, cranky, and can swear better than any Marine, not to mention my friend here promised me the sight of her in a thong bikini, and your little questioning session here is impeding that sight, so yes, you are." {GOD,} the thought, {THESE NCIS GUYS ARE REAL ASSHOLES.}

Gibbs gave him a hard glare, "I will keep you here as long as I see fit, Agent Alexander, so sit your ass down on the sand and I'll be back in a little while." With that said Agent Gibbs stormed off.

Joy sat down next to him as he dropped where he was standing, and sighed, "Don't worry, Xand, I'll give you a private viewing of my thong bikini when we get back to you place. This day is pretty much shot as is."

//End Flashback//

Even as he packed the bags with a few more odds and ends, he sighed petulantly, "Still didn't get the see the bikini." Joy had been called away on their way back to his flat – her grandfather had died and the funeral was in a few days. He'd done his best to console her, but it really wasn't his thing so he'd told her to call him, night or day, if she needed to talk. She'd kissed him on the cheek and asked where he had been before she had found she liked girls (he'd answered that he was probably in junior high and got a giggle out of her as a response) before she left and he had been left to deal with Gibbs and the NCIS investigation.


"XAND!" He turned in the terminal just in time to see a charcoal business suit and skirt with a white silk blouse housing a nice frame about two meters in front of his face before he was buried in an embrace that he awkwardly returned. The embrace broke and he saw that it was Joy, wearing a smile on her face the could have lit up the darkest caves in Carlsbad, "How the hell are you, man?"

He grinned lopsidedly, "After that hug? How do you think?" He'd been in LA for a little more than two hours, doing his best to reach the rendezvous point to receive the package, but traffic in LA was murder.

She swatted his arm, "You're just saying that because you face was between my breasts."

"And the problem with that was?"

She rolled her eyes at him. "Goof."

He grinned. "Nag."




"NCIS Agent."

She gave him a horrified look and then spun on her heel, crossing her arms and 'harumph'-ing, "Meanie."

He hugged her from behind, his hands traveling the expanse of her rock-hard abs, "Sexy."

She spun in his embrace and grinned, "Damned right." They hugged for a minute before she let go and reached down for her bag, "Ready to do this right?"

He nodded and slipped into his business mode, "Agent Suarez."

"Agent Alexander." She handed him a manila envelope and then handed him a USPS document envelope, sealed, stamped and ready for delivery, "Instructions are in the manila envelope, and you have 12 hours to complete delivery."

He accepted both packages and then signed the piece of paper she handed him, as a way of confirming delivery, "Breakfast?"

She shook her head, "No, I've got a return flight in ten minutes." She hugged him again and kissed him on the cheek, "Good seeing you, Xand."

He squeezed her and then patted her butt as she let go, making her hop a little, "As firm as I remember." She stuck her toung out at him and he grinned, "Stick that out again and you lose it."

She arched an eyebrow, "Do you hate Jessie that much that you'd deprive her of all entertainment?"

He sighed, "Can you ever stop playing with my mind?"

She looked contemplative for a second, "No, as a matter of fact, it's in my contract to be an eternal cock tease when you are involved." She patted his cheek and sighed as the PA announced a departing flight from the next terminal gate over, "Gotta go, Xand."

He hugged her, "Be careful, Joy."

She chuckled, "You know me, Xand."

He gave her another look, "That's what I'm talking about."


"Welcome to Wolfram and Hart, how may I help you?"

He looked down at the name on the package, "Lilah Morgan, please. Tell her it's a delivery from Mr. Alexander." He had been told to be there at a certain time and to meet Miss Morgan, but outside of that, nothing more than to get the hell out PDQ ASAP after delivery.

"One moment, please." The woman smiled and dialed a number on the phone that his mind tagged as a contact and memorized, and spoke to whoever picked up on the other end for a moment before looking back up at him, "She will be down shortly."

He nodded and sat down at a nearby leather couch with package in hand – the entire building gave him the creeps and his Sunnydale supernatural 'radar' was going off in spades as people passed him without so much as an off look.

The sound of heels clicking against the marble floor alerted him to her presence, but also the fact that she was a woman of power and great intelligence with just the sound of her stride – no nonsense or sense of humor, "Yes?"

"Lilah Morgan?"

Her eyes narrowed dangerously, "Yes?"

He handed over a slip of paper, "Sign this."

She scrawled her name on the paper after reading it over in one glance, "And you are?"

"Unimportant." He passed her the package and nodded, "Good day."

She looked down at the USPS package and frowned even as he turned, "Why are you giving this to me?"

"Orders." That said, he walked away at a deliberate pace and exited the building, or tried to, as a surprisingly strong female hand grabbed his shoulder after a short number of clicks of heels.

"Who in the HELL are you?"

"A delivery person, Miss Morgan." He turned and looked at her, "I was ordered by my bosses to transport that package into your hands PDQ – I don't know what is in there, nor do I care. My job is done."

"And if it's a bomb?"

He gave her a look that said, 'duh', "Do you think I'd be anywhere near that if it were a bomb? Besides, it's been scanned and X-rayed already – otherwise it never would have made it through airport security." He jerked his shoulder out of her grip and gave her a cold stare, which made her step back, "Good Day, Miss Morgan." He turned around and walked out of the lobby of Wolfram and Hart, fuming, when his cell phone went off, "Yes?"

(Package delivered?)

"Delivered and secured."

(Confirmed identity?)

"Face, clothes and codeword. Boss, what the hell is going on here?"

There was a sigh on the other end of the line, (Trust me, kid, this came from the top of the heap and it concerns you for some reason. That's all I know.)

"John, this is me – no bullshit, what the hell is going on?"

(Wish I knew, kid. Jack won't tell me anything about this, but I think it has to do with your future with us.)

Xander sighed, "John, no shit, that place scared the living shit out of me. Something there isn't kosher and I don't mean it because it's a law firm. It's … Hellmouthy."


A week later, post arrival of Mr. Trick's arrival by 2 days

"Angel's back."

At first he wasn't sure if the stress of the job was finally getting to him, but with the way that she had said it, he knew that Deadboy was back, "Well, whoop-de-fucking-do."

Buffy glared at him, "He has his soul!"

He yawned, as did Kendra, Faith and Jenny, "And that makes a difference, how? Look, Buffy, I don't like the son of a bitch, let alone trust him. As a matter of fact, I don't trust him around you or visa versa. Get his ass out of Sunnydale before I feel the need to shoot it out from under him."

Buffy looked ready to bite rock and spit sand, but Giles interrupted, looking most distressed, "Be that as it may, are we sure that he is sane and in possession of his soul?"

"Of course he is," Buffy said in an exasperated voice. "Why wouldn't he be?"

"Because you slept wid him?" Kendra, for her part, kept most of the venom out of her voice, but the shot was dead-on "I don' trust him, Buffy."

"Why not?"

She shrugged her shoulders, "He be a vampire, an' I am a Slayer – natural enemies, regardless of souls." She also yawned, but then frowned, "But we have o'ter business – Kakistos and Mister Trick."

He felt Faith flinch next to him and he covered her hand and squeezed, which she returned, "Giles?"

"Stakes do not harm him, and he is sadistic as they come." He looked over at Faith, who looked ready to flee, "Can you handle this, Faith?"

"If she can't I will." Buffy looked at Faith in a superior way, "He's just one vampire."

Faith snarled, "And what about your fucktoy Angelus? He was just ONE VAMPIRE!" Xander found that he had to restrain Faith physically but was sorely tempted to let her go, "Look, B, don't throw stones if you don't want them thrown back at ya, cool? 'Cause my aim is wicked good."

"Any reason we can't take him out like we did The Judge? Sniper round from a ways out should disable him long enough to pour down fire on him, real or literally."

Jenny 'hmm'-ed for a second, "Possible, but you'd need a source of fire on top of a way to get rid of Kakistos' minions."

They were quiet for a moment before Kendra began to giggle, "I t'ink dat we should get de priest to bless de fire sprinkler system. Den we trip it an'…" she left it in the air as Faith began to smile and Jenny did as well, but Giles frowned.

"Instant wide-spread holy water sprinklers." Xander looked over at Kendra, who was beaming, "Monty Python?"

She shook her head, "Read it in a story on de Internet."

Faith looked at Giles, who wore an amazed expression on his face, "See, G? The 'infernal machine' does have some redeeming qualities after all."

Giles chose not to dignify that with a response.


Preparations for Kakistos were fairly brief – Giles found a priest who was willing to bless the water pipes leading into the warehouse that the vampire and his minions has holed up in, while Jenny, Willow, Kendra and Buffy all manned … er … person-ed several crates of Molotov cocktails that had proven to be effective, while he set up shop across the street with his M4-A1 that was armed with the ACOG scope and suppressor, but also with something that he had been working on for a while. Tracer rounds were great for general vamp killing, but when he needed to take out something more substantial that ran with vampires, he'd gone to blessed 5.56mm, but those tended to blow right through the target, so he was summarily screwed … until John came through in the clutch. Through tax-payer's money, he had come up with a bullet that would enter the subject from up to 300 meters away, but as soon as it happened, splinter like a hollow point bullet did and lose most of it's velocity – combine that with being blessed, and it might work. Unfortunately, though, with time constraints, he hadn't had time to test the bullets yet, and this would be their virgin trial.

"First time for everything," he muttered, settling down into place while the rest of the team got ready to storm the warehouse at sunset, which he had thought was a very stupid idea himself, but Buffy had somehow gotten Giles to go along with it while ignoring everybody else. He worked the action mechanism and chambered a round before putting the telescoping buttstock into his shoulder and leaning down to peer into the scope, searching left and right in the darkened confines of the warehouse. What he saw worried him.

Kakistos was an ugly motherfucker – goat legs, horns, with skin like leather, the whole package; at his side was a black vampire dressed in a hideous red suit that oozed money and vampire 'cool', but also seemed to hide a yellow streak as said vampire jumped nearly a foot when the Slayers entered the warehouse.

(Hey, Kakistos. Remember me?) He had planted listening devices of Faith and Giles so he could get the general idea of what was going down in the warehouse, but was worried what would happen if they got wet.

(Yes, I remember you, Faith. I remember your tears as I killed your Watcher, Lynda, was is?) The being laughed harshly while both Kendra and Buffy fought to keep her in place, (Tell me, Slayer, who are your friends? And more importantly, who is the young meal across the street who is watching us?)

Before Faith could say anything, he squeezed the trigger and sent one of the new bullets down range through an open window; with the suppressor attached, it sounded like a regular .22 round had been fired, but in actuality the round only lost a little power and hit the black vampire like a linebacker hitting the second-string quarterback. The vampire clutched his right shoulder and began to scream as wisps of smoke curled out of his expensive suit and he fell to the ground, writhing in pain.

(Call him what you want – how about Death On A Pale Horse?) Anything else she said was drowned out by a second shot sent at the writhing vampire, hitting him high in the forehead, but it was enough to get him to stop moving, (He's a good shot, too.)

(Impressive.) Kakistos looked down at the motionless vampire, (Pity.) He raised a cloven foot and slammed it down into the chest of the motionless vampire, who promptly turned into dust, (He was my lieutenant, but also fairly weak.)

(NOW!) Without a second thought, he zeroed in on the Master Vampire and opened up with shot after shot, as all hell broke loose inside.


(Inside the warehouse)

"NOW!" Giles' shout brought down Molotov cocktail after cocktail from the upper rafters of the warehouse, which hit the pavement and ignited into a wall of flame that consumed some of the minions, but mostly kept them in place, which was their job, while bullet after bullet slammed into Kakistos' hide, having pitifully little effect other than being a rather annoying nuisance as he burned his fingers to get them out of his skin and clothing.

Buffy brought up her crossbow and fired a heavy bolt at Kakistos, but the vampire caught it and tossed it aside as another round from Xander's position took off one of his horns, "Not so horny now, are ya?"

Kendra grumbled as she fired off her own crossbow, "Leave de jokes to de professionals, Summers." Once again, the bolt was caught, but doing so caused a bullet to strike Kakistos in the throat, which brought up a scream of pure rage, as while it didn't penetrate, it must have hurt.

Faith, for her part, was getting into the fight and forwent the crossbow she held, instead going for hand to hand against Kakistos, but found that she didn't fly very well as she was thrown back into both Kendra and Buffy, an action which allowed another shot to land, this time in the abdomen area and it seemed to have real effect as it staggered the Master Vampire.

"COWARD! CEASE THIS INFERNAL TOYING AND FIGHT ME LIKE A MAN!" Apparently Xander's ability to annoy people didn't just include the British – he also was able to annoy legendary Master Vampires as well.

"Fall back!" Giles grabbed both Buffy and Kendra as Faith scrambled to her feet, the quartet of them getting out of the way as the final phase of the plan started, as the Molotov cocktails petered out, "JENNY! NOW!"

It started with a 'clank' and then a hiss, but soon a shower of water rained down upon Kakistos and his minion army, which had been reduced to only a handful in actuality, and for a split second, nothing happened … and then the screams started. Minion vampires fell to the ground in agony while smoking and screaming, the impromptu holy water eating away at their flesh, while Kakistos himself was smoking and grunting in pain, but still on his cloven feet.

It then came with a loud 'CRACK' and Kakistos stumbled back as something hit his chest, and a second later there was another 'CRACK' that took out one leg from under him, putting him on to the ground and under a heavy stream of holy water as he began to scream with gusto, "FIGHT ME LIKE A MAN, YOU DOG! I SHALL HAVE YOUR INTESTINES FOR GARTER BELTS!" Whatever else he was going to say was shut up by a final 'CRACK' and an impact in his throat.

"Faith, now!" The raven-haired Slayer dashed into the torrent of water and skidded to a stop in front of Kakistos.

"For Lynda," he heard her say as she slammed her stake into the Master Vampire's chest. Just as quickly as she was in, she rolled out of the way from his flailing claws and the Master Vampire known as Kakistos began to slowly crumble into dust.

The falling water slowly petered out and both Buffy and Kendra took care of the few surviving minions, but Faith sit in a puddle of water, holding her knees to her chest and was sobbing even as the door was kicked open and Xander came running in, weapon at the ready almost a minute later. He ran directly at her, allowing the carbine to fall to the sling that he had on it, and skid to a stop on his knees at Faith's sobbing form – with the greatest of care, Giles saw Xander gather the crying Slayer into his arms and hold her even as Jenny came over to join him in the embracing of Faith, her sobs redoubling as they rocked her and helped her through her pain. All in all, it brought a lump to his throat and he could only mutter, "Well done, Faith. Well done."

Of course he was not allowed to have the parting shot as Kendra walked up and looked at him oddly, "As opposed to medium rare, Mister Giles?"


The figure was huddled into the darkest corner of the room that it could find, shivering and dong it's best not to show it, but the chattering of the teeth gave him away; Angel, also known as Angelus, Master Vampire, Scourge of Europe, was shaking like a leaf while Buffy did her best to coax him out of his hiding hole to speak.

"Buff," he interrupted her, his voice flat and cold, "do yourself a favor and leave the room. Deadboy and I need to have a talk."

"Don't hurt him."

He gave her a chilly smile, "No promises, Buff. I need to make sure he understands how close to getting staked he is right now, and what he needs to do to keep that from happening." She didn't look happy at that, but apparently believed him and left the room.

There was no speaking for several minutes before he finally had enough of it, "Get on your fucking feet, vampire. Don't make me go over there and get you."

"W-why should I believe you?" The voice was weak, barely able to be heard, but it was there.

"Because you know I will do it, now get out here NOW!" He could hear the vampire jump a little but then slowly begin to inch his way out, "Hurry the fuck up, Angelus – I don't have all fucking day."

"Don't call me that." The figure walked out of the shadows more quickly now, but it was obvious that he still lacked that edge to get back into the game.

"I don't care what you want to be called, Angelus. If I want to call you that, I will until you grow a fucking spine and make me stop." He walked over and grabbed the vampire by the hair and then proceeded to drag him into the center of the bulb-lit room, throwing him to the ground as he did, "GET ON YOUR FEET, ANGELUS! THIS ISN'T SUNDAY SCHOOL, SO HURRY UP!"

"Don't call me that!" The vampire stood up a little quicker, a bit of a fire lit into his eyes, "He and I aren't the same."

"Not from where I am standing, bloodsucker. But then again, at least he had class and a big pair of brass ones that drug the ground. You? Pfbbt, You lack class, brains and balls all together." He got into the vampire's face, "At least he did what he wanted and got the job done – you pulled that chicken shit routine of 'cryptic guy' and helped only when destiny had you by the short hairs."

"I did what I thought was right!"

"By not keeping it in your pants around Buffy?" He slugged the vampire in the stomach suddenly, sending him to the ground, "The whole necrophilia thing aside, you are nearly 235 years OLDER than she is, shit for brains!" He gave the vampire a kick in the teeth, "GET ON YOUR FEET, ANGELUS!"

"DO NOT CALL ME THAT, BOY!" The vampire surged to his feet, looking very angry and in game face.

"Well, well, well, you DO have a pair. Imagine that." The temperature of the room dropped at his words, the icy tone caking the entire place in ice, "Listen, Deadboy, I don't like you and I know for a fucking fact you don't like me – deal with it and move on. Now, I'm letting you exist because I've had rank pulled on me and while I don't like the fact, I do accept it." He got into the vampire's face, "Don't make me regret it – you slip and I will dust your sorry ass with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart and there isn't a fucking person in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory that will be able to stop me. Understand?"

"Why did you shoot me? I was defenseless."

Alexander grinned, "I know – I wanted you to remember that as dangerous as you think you are and the others are, I am more so and MUCH more ruthless. You slip and you'll never see me, hear me or know I am there. You'll open a door, sit on a chair, even turn on a light and that'll be all she wrote for you, shit for brains, and you KNOW I am capable of it, whether you want to admit it or not."

Angel then took that chance to grin, "I should have turned you when I had the chance as Angelus – you would have made one hell of a vampire."

"I would have dusted you and you know it." He started to walk away but stopped as he got to the door, "Be advised, Angelus – Buffy may stand up for you, but you'll have to earn the trust of everyone else again. Also, you check out the necks of Faith, Kendra, Jenny, Joyce, Dawn, Willow or Giles and it will be the last thing you ever do." He walked out of the room and was greeted by the sight of both Kendra and Faith sitting on a struggling Buffy, who glared at him murderously, "Hey, I said he'd not be dust – I never said I wouldn't kick the shit out of him." Her struggles increased as he walked towards the exit of the Crawford Street Mansion, "Tell Giles I had to go talk to my boss."

It was a quick trip back to his condo and it took several minutes for the call to go through, but then he heard John's voice come through, (Kid?)

"You rang, Boss?"

(Word through the grapevine is that something big is headed your way – Jack wants you here tomorrow morning for a sit-down.)

"Boss, normally I would jump at the chance to get over there, but school comes first and you said so yourself."

(Consider yourself off of the Inactive list, kid – the lines are saying that something huge is waiting in the wings in your neck of the woods and we need you on the ball.) There was a tone in John's voice that was rarely there when they spoke, the tone of command, the tone of 'that wasn't a request, that was an order', (Standard drill – 1900 tonight at LAX.) The phone went dead and he hung up his end.

"Well, shit."


0700 Next Day Washington D.C., The Pentagon

"You're … younger than I thought you would be." Sir John Patrick Ryan, Jack Ryan, Director of the CIA, stood before him with a look of surprise while John looked to be doing his best to not start laughing.

"I get that a great deal, Sir."

Jack grimaced, "What has Mr. Clark told you?"

"Not much – grapevine says that shit's about to hit the fan, sir. Pardon my language, ma'am." He nodded to the secretary who was taking notes about the meeting, knowing that she probably had higher clearance than everyone else in the room combined.

Jack nodded, "Good, then you might want to know that we suspect that your Mayor Richard Wilkins the Third is planning something big that will get a lot of people killed."

Alexander shrugged, "He's let a lot of people get killed already, sir. Why is this any different?"

Jack reached into a file folder and slid over a sheaf of papers, "Because we were contacted by The Watcher's Council in order to give these to you, Mr. Alexander." He grimaced at the name, "Please tell me you're over eighteen."

"No can do, sir." It looked to be a copy of a prophecy and a rough translation, "Shit."

"You know what that means?"

He looked over at John, "Yeah, that I need to get this to Giles, PDFQ, so that we can start working on this."

Jack grimaced, "Is it really that bad?"

"Four words, sir – END OF THE WORLD." At Jack's incredulous look he sighed, "Do you know the score about what really happens in Sunnydale after dark, sir?" Jack nodded, "Then know that we don't use those four words unless we have to, sir. This could be big and it will probably be very messy unless we get to work on it right now."

Jack nodded slowly at this, "I have two meetings set up to discuss this – you're not cleared for the first, but I want you in the second one at 3 this afternoon at The Pentagon. Be there." Jack got up and left the room, the secretary leaving but not before looking at Alexander and giving him a wink, which got a snicker out of John.

"Joy is going to be pissed." Xander looked at John and he elaborated, "Bet was made that you'd get out of this first meet with nothing more than a smile, and she bet on it."

"Boss, does the CIA have nothing else better to do than to bet on whether or not I get a phone number?"

"Apparently not. Come on, we've got a few places to be before that meeting."

The first place they stopped was a Starbucks for a coffee and a muffin for breakfast (neither had been able to get breakfast before the meeting) and they were then on to the DOD for some odd reason. John would only tell him that he had some people to meet and they wanted to meet 'the kid', as he was apparently called.

"Alexander Harris," John started, which was odd, seeing as he wasn't supposed to be called that on the job, "I would like you to meet Brigadier Generals Maxwell Davis, USMC, Donivan McQueen, US Army, and Admiral A.J. Chedwiggen, JAG. Gentlemen, I would like you to meet Mr. Harris." General Davis was a short, fireplug of a man, but he held an air of power around him and was particularly unremarkable, which made him stick out even more, while General Donivan McQueen had a Special Forces badge, Rangers badge and a chest full of medals, and Admiral Chedwiggen had a SEALs emblem over his own medals, his bald head unmarked.

Xander stood at attention and almost had to physically force himself not to salute the men, "General, General, Admiral."

They all nodded at him, the first, General Maxwell Davis, speaking first, "So, you're the kid that The Agency has working for them."

"Sir, I have no idea what you speak of, sir." The response had been drilled into him at The Farm on Day One.

General Davis smiled, "Of course you don't, son." He looked Xander up and down and frowned, "A little thin, but Force Recon should put some meat on him."

General McQueen snorted, "Force Recon my ass, Max. I've seen the kid work on tape and he has Ranger and Operator stamped all over him."

Admiral Chedwiggen frowned, "SEAL training would bulk him up just as much, but then again, he's more of a loaner and SEALs work in teams."

Xander held his face in a stoic mask, "Admiral, all due respect, sir, but there are no SEALs for me to work with in Sunnydale – add to the fact that it would take too long to train the others properly and I do well enough."

Chedwiggen nodded, "True enough, Mr. Harris. Tell me, what is your plan for after your graduation from high school?"

"Depending on if I get accepted into any colleges, sir? If so, I will seriously consider college, and if not, the military."

Admiral Chedwiggen nodded, "Fair enough, but where would you go? The Air Force is out – your scores and abilities are not exactly what they would be looking for. So, Marines, Army or Navy?"

"Sir, don't you mean Force Recon, Green Berets or SEALs, sir?" This got a laugh out of the brass and a chuckle out of John, "Honestly, sir, I am not sure."

The Admiral nodded and looked at the Generals, who were also nodding, "I say we let him choose on his own – if he goes to college, we enroll him in ROTC and let the chips fall where they may."

"No persuading, AJ, Don. Let him make his own decisions," General Davis growled. The two nodded in agreement and he looked over at Xander, "Son, do not die."

"Not exactly high on my priority list, sir." The three senior officers nodded and left to do whatever it was that they did, which allowed Xander to look over at John, "What the hell was that, boss?"

"Remember that package I had you deliver to Wolfram and Hart? It was basically a warning to leave you alone, that you were ours after you graduated." This got a raised eyebrow and John went on, "Apparently your gut feeling about the place was dead on target – something isn't kosher there, even for a law firm."

From the DOD offices, they went by the Vietnam War Memorial, where John visited a few friends' names and Xander just stood and let it all hit him as it came – men who had served their country and never returned were remembered here, even as people died and forgot about them. He recognized more than a few names from John's memories, but had none of the emotional attachment to them, so he went on looking until a voice stopped him.

"Impressive, isn't it." It was Joy, dressed in her normal attire, but wearing a sad smile on her face, "Hey, Xand."

He hugged her, "What are you doing here, Joy?"

"Dad came by to see his brother," she pointed to a Hispanic man who was openly crying in front of a name that had been recently added to the wall. "The DOD finally confirmed that he wasn't AWOL and a deserter and gave him the respect he deserved, so I brought them out here to pay respects."

"There's always justice, Joy, even if it is a little late." He watched the man get hugged by his wife even as Joy grabbed his hand and squeezed, "How's Jessie?"

"We broke up." He looked at her, shocked, and was surprised to see her with tears in her eyes, "She told me that she couldn't compete with someone else in my life, so she broke up with me."

He frowned, trying to think of just who she might have been with that made Jessie think that, but was brought up short when Joy looked in his eyes and confirmed his worst fears, "Me?"

She nodded, "Yeah, she didn't buy that we were just friends, especially after when Agent Gibbs showed up and wanted answers that he felt I could give him about that murder."

He sighed, "And people wonder why the CIA and NCIS don't get along very well."

"Joy?" The woman who had been hugging Joy's father walked over, and it was like looking at an aged version of Joy herself, "Who is this?"

"This is Xander, mama," Joy said with love in her voice.

He decided to turn on the charm a little, "Joy, I thought that you were an only child?"

She smiled at him, "She's my mother, Xand. Donatella Suarez, meet Alexander Harris, my friend and partner in crime at work."

He shot her a look, "I'll have you know that they don't know that I was involved in that heist of the vending machine, just you."

Joy stuck out her toung at him, "You were still in on it, even if they don't know."

Donatella merely smiled at the friendly banter being tossed back and forth, "Such a handsome young man." She ran her hands up and down his arms, holding him by the shoulders to get a good look, "And so young-looking too. Tell me, Alejandro, what do you do at Joy's … place of employment?"

"Until recently I was on the Inactive list, ma'am, which means a whole lot of nothing, but I was reactivated this morning."

"And you do what, precisely?"

John walked up on the group, "I am sorry, ma'am, but that is classified information." He looked at Joy and nodded, "Agent Suarez."

She nodded back, "Mr. Clark."

"Come on, kid, more places to go and people to see and annoy."

He hugged Joy farewell and kissed the top of Donatella's hand even as her husband showed up, "Ladies, I bid you farewell."

Even as he and John walked off he could hear Donatella begin to ask Joy how long she had known him and why there wasn't a ring on her finger from him, to which Joy could be plaintively heard whining, "MOM! He's my friend! Besides, I was kind of hitting for the other team at the time?"


It ended up that by the time that John had finished taking him around DC, he had been to the FBI building to speak with several 'experts' in human psychology about people who thought they were vampires, saw where they were filming an episode of The X-Files, and even met with 'Scully' and 'Mulder' for a few minutes, but eventually they had to get to the Pentagon for their meeting – he was beat from a day full of walking and climbing stairs but John looked to be in his element and not slowing down.

Security there was tight, as he had expected it, and he even got a badge that had his picture on it with 'H. ALEXANDER' typed in for his name, probably to make it all nice and legal, but regardless it was a bad picture (they had gotten ahold of his DMV shot and it wasn't pretty). They went through a series of halls and elevators until they came to a room that was lined with wood panels, plush carpeting, furnished with a projector and a large table surrounded by filled chairs – there were numerous Generals and Admirals there, Jack Ryan as well, but it was the man at the end of the table that caught his attention, The President Of The United States.

"Good for you to join us on time, Mr. Clark … for once." Jack teased John as they came into the room and John gave him a scowl while some of the brass chuckled at the jab, "Welcome, Mr. Alexander."

"Sir, Sirs." He nodded briefly at the assembled brass and then looked at the CIC, "Mr. President."

The President smiled, "Mr. Alexander, it's good to meet you. I have been told that you have first-hand knowledge of these … things … and are going to brief us on them."

"Yes sir, I do, and I am only going to go over them in broad strokes because my own knowledge is incomplete, at best. I can, however, put you in contact with people who know more than I, and I am going to leave with a warning that Mr. Clark knows about." At the President's nod, he took a breath and launched into a speech that he never figured he would ever give, "Mr. President, Generals, Admirals, the world is older than you know it to be; in contrast to popular belief, it did not start off as a paradise of humanity, but rather a den of evil and demonic entities …" He went through his speech as well as he could remember from Giles, amending some things about demons and completely omitting parts about The Slayer, but rather telling them that there were people who knew the truth and fought so that others did not need to. For the most part, the assembled brass accepted what he had to say and didn't question too much until he got to the end of the speech, when he delivered his warning, "No disrespect intended to anyone here, but don't do anything stupid like trying to capture these beasts and use them for some convoluted experiment to make shock troops or super soldiers. It is a bad idea, perhaps the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas, and if I ever find out that someone is doing it, be they foreign or domestic, I will find them and we will have a chat … and trust me, I will not be in a good mood when I get there, sirs."

It was quiet for a moment and then General Davis snorted and reached for a cigar that he had lain down at the beginning of the meeting, "Trust me, kid, if anyone here hears of that happening, you'd better get to them first or there will be nothing left." There was a general ascent to the remark and General Davis went on, "Methods of termination?"

"Variable depending on the species of demon, sir, but most of the stuff in the movies works – wood, fire, holy water, sunlight and religious artifacts for vampires, silver for werewolves and various other demons, gold for several more, but I have come across several types that must be hit in specific places and also have come across equipment and ammunition that is readily available or easily modified to work." He gave them rough descriptions of the ammunition he used, also the weaponry he used, but also simple tactics that had worked in the past and many present nodded at the novelty of it all, but also at the simplicity, "Sirs, a lot of this may seem like common sense, but there are other ways to do things and like in many wars, information is key – recon any situation before you jump in and remember that variety is key."

One general near the President, a four-star Army man, leaned back in his seat, "Okay, for a second let's say that we do this – why in the hell are we going at this alone? I mean, civilians aside, who else fights these things?"

Xander could only shrug, "'What can more valuable than that which is freely given?' General, I think you need to realize that if you do this all on your own, you will fail – the civilians who live and fight these things know what they are doing for the most part, and if you need intel, go to them first, but quietly. If they tell you to sod off, do so but keep an eye out in case they ever do need help." He let that sink in and went on, "And besides normal people, there are other groups out there at present that fight these things, most of them, however, are not in the US, and many of them do not like each other – allying them will be difficult, so if you use them, don't mix them for fear of friction and possible in-cohesion within the troops."

"Duly noted, Mr. Alexander," The President said with a slightly tired sigh. "Now, I want the truth and no CIA bullshit – how long have you been fighting these things and how old are you?"

He looked over at Jack and John, both of whom nodded, and he answered, "I was fifteen when I found out about the real world, sir, and I'll celebrate my 18th birthday in a few weeks."

There was a general murmur among the brass, one of which was, "Christ on a crutch – a KID is telling us how to fight these things." Several more murmurs were heard and The President cleared his throat.

"Is 'Harrison Alexander' your real name, son?"

Another look passed to his bosses and he answered, "No, sir, it is not – for legal purposes, I do not believe my real name should be revealed." This got a few growls from some generals sent in the direction of his bosses and he went on, "And even if it were, sir, even if I wasn't an employee of Mr. Ryan's, I would still be doing what I am doing with the equipment that I am using."

"Equipment that you stole from my base, you mean," a General growled from near him. "I recognize you now, kid – you're that nutcase that let that little girl fire off the AT-4 in the Sunnydale Mall a while back."

"One of my friends were down, sir, and I had the choice of terminating the tango or saving her life – aside from that, the AT-4 is fairly idiot-proof in it's use." There was a general nod in his direction about the reasoning and he went on, "That point aside, your base isn't exactly Fort Knox, sir – for shits and grins I've broken in half a dozen times in as many different ways just to see how bad your security is." This got a laugh out of many of the brass and a look of chagrin from the General in charge.

One of the Admirals, who wore the emblem of a SEAL, looked at John, "Any chance we can get him into the Navy after his hits 18, Clark? He'd make on hell of a SEAL."

"AJ over at JAG said the same thing, but we have to let him graduate high school first." This shut up anything that was going to be said in inter-military arguing, which allowed Clark to continue, "Now, is there anything else that anyone want to ask? We have a flight to catch."


1600 One Week Later, Sunnydale

"So, G-man, how bad is it?"

From the look on Giles' face, he knew that whatever he had been provided from Jack and John, it was apparently very bad, "It appears that someone is going to use the upcoming daylight eclipse of the sun to ascend into a demon of great power."

Buffy was the first to speak up, "Can we stop it?"

Giles shook his head, "Apparently whoever this is has been at this for a very long time, for over a century at least, and has placed several key elements into place for the occasion, such as this school."

"The Hellmouth." Jenny rubbed her temples, "When a person ascends into the form of a demon, he or she must feed immediately, and the eclipse coincides with graduation day, so …" She left the obvious hanging – whoever it was intended to use the graduating class as demon chow after doing his or her voodoo to ascend.

"SNAFU." It summed up the entire idea perfectly.

"Huh?" Buffy looked over at him, "What's that mean?"

"S.N.A.F.U. – Situation Normal, All Fucked Up." Faith to his right and Kendra to his left both began to snicker at the acronym's meaning and even Giles cracked a smile, but he did not, "Do we know who, Giles?"

He shook his head, "No, only that the person in question is a wizard of some power and has been in Sunnydale for over a century." He frowned then and looked over some papers that he had in front of him, "Willow, Xander, this may sound like an odd question, but who was the mayor before our current one, Richard Wilkins the Third?"

He looked over at Willow, "Wasn't that his dad, Richard Wilkins the Second?"

She nodded, "And then his grandfather … Richard Wilkins the First." Her face blanched, "He had the school set up, and most of the sewer systems designed, too!"

"Hmm, dis give credence to de thought dat all politicians are evil, right?" Kendra was quickly becoming his star pupil as far as quips and one-liners went, with Dawn and Faith in a dead heat right behind her, and he gave her a grin to tell her so while Buffy grumbled and Jenny shot the café au late Slayer a bright smile as well.

Giles coughed, "Be that as it may, we may have our culprit, but now we need proof."

"So we shake down a few vamps when we patrol tonight, right?" Faith had not let him out of her sight since he had returned to Sunnydale the previous night, going so far as to sleep on the couch with him with her arms around his torso and him on the bottom, as if to make sure he was not going anywhere. She had told him that morning that she had a bad feeling about what was coming and didn't want anything to happen, to which he had told her that whatever would happen, would happen and aside from trying there was little that anyone could do until the threat was identified.

"That is right, Faith – you, Buffy and Xander will patrol tonight while Jenny, myself, Willow, Oz research and Kendra watches Dawn tonight." The dark-skinned Slayer beamed at this, as she and Dawn were most alike as far as temperament and likes went.


The attack came suddenly and in the chaos, he almost missed the nearly-fatal mistake – Buffy and Faith had been tearing into the vampires left, right and center when the man in a bad suit came rushing into the fight, calling for the Slayers. Buffy herself knocked him out of the way, calling for Faith to field the 'vamp', but even as he flew at her, Xander had his suppressed .22 already in motion.

The 'vampire' went down to a single shot through the meat of his left thigh just before he got to Faith, who had her stake at the ready, which, if he had gone on with his then-current trajectory, would have been impaled in his chest. Faith looked sickened as what would have happened had the supposed vampire not been shot in the leg, but then snapped back into business mode as a vampire tried to sneak up on her, staking him as she went.

Xander scurried forwards to the screaming man, smacking him on the back of the head to distract him form the pain, "Shut up, asshole, it's just a flesh wound, through and through." He did, however, wrap a pressure bandage around the wound and drag him off to the side of the fight while the Slayers finished off the last of the vampires, "Who the hell are you?"

The man was somewhat dumpy-looking in his disheveled suit, but had at least stopped screaming, "You shot me! Why did you shoot me?"

"You shot him?" Buffy looked enraged, "Why did you shoot him?"

"Why'd you toss him over to Faith? She was about to stake him, so I shot him instead … or didn't you realize that he was a human and not a vampire?" Buffy, much to his morbid satisfaction, looked sick at what would have happened, but he needed to get back on track, "Who the hell are you, mister?" Absently, though, he wrapped an arm around a shaking Faith, who turned into him and hugged him for most of what she was worth.

"Alan Finch, Deputy Mayor of Sunnydale. They are the Slayers, aren't they? I have information that they may want." Buffy helped the man to his feet, well, foot, as he wasn't working on both of them, "You didn't have to shoot me, you know."

Xander sighed and put his pistol away, "Back to the Giles Cave, people – Mister Finch has a story to tell us."

Once back at the Library, though, it became apparent that Finch had more than a story to tell, he had the answers they were looking for, only they were answers to questions that had not been thought of yet. Richard Wilkins IIIIII happened to be all the same person and was going to ascend into demon-hood, but Finch had been preparing for such an eventuality and had compiled a bunch of papers that proved some of the crimes and things that the Mayor's office had looked past and forced/advised the police department to look past. It was with a grin that Xander found himself dialing his boss, damning the time differences, "Boss? How'd you like to help the FBI get a murdering asshole and keep the world spinning at the same time?"

John Clark, legend in the CIA, former SEAL, made the extremely intelligent reply of, (Huh? Kid, is that you?)


2 Days Later

The day had started out so well – the Box of Gavrok would be flown in that night, the Books of Ascension were on their way to Sunnydale and all was in place for his promotion to near-godhood. Everything could not have been better.

"Sirs, you can't go in there." The doors to his office swung open to admit several men in suits, each of them wearing a badge of some type and all of them looking deadly serious, "Richard Wilkins the Third?"

"Why, yes, I am. How may I help you?" While he looked happy on the outside, inside he was starting to rage – who were these people?

"Special Agent Michael Wells, Federal Bureau of Investigations, and you are being served with this search warrant for your private files and the files of the entirety of Sunnydale's City Government." He placed a folded sheaf of papers into his hand and men began to open filing cabinets in various ways, regardless of how they had been locked, and were sacking all of the files within.

After reading the search warrant, Richard Wilkins lost the smile from his face and scowled, "You have no right to do this, Special Agent Wells – I will have your head for this."

"Threatening a Federal employee isn't the smartest thing to do, Mr. Mayor," another voice, a younger voice, said as another person entered the room. He instantly recognized the young man as Alexander 'Xander' Harris, a student at Sunnydale High School and a local vampire hunter, but he too wore a badge of an Agency, but it was another Agency, "By order of the President of the United States of America, Richard Wilkins IIIIII, you are under arrest, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Treason, Unlawful Use of Government Funds and Facilities, Tax Fraud and Evasion, and Conspiracy to Commit Genocide." Harris got close enough for him to read the bad and he paled at the words 'Central Intelligence Agency'.

Special Agent Wells then took that point to handcuff his hand behind his back, "You have the right to remain silent, Mr. Wilkins. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of Law." Anything else that might have been said was drowned out by the sound of crashing – the sound was coming from the accumulated dreams and hopes of destiny and greatness that he had been building over the past century, and he knew that the dreams were lost as the handcuffs were tightened around his wrists, "Do understand these rights as I have read them to you, Mr. Wilkins?"

"What? Oh, yes, I do."

"Good, now know that we know who and what you are, so if you even wiggle your fingers, we will put bullets into your back, head and crotch – silver bullets, at that." Agent Wells grinned, "Our friends at the CIA have known about your 'infestation' problem within Sunnydale for a while now and are most inventive when it comes to ways to exterminate said infestations." That said, Richard Wilkins found himself being lead out of the City Hall in handcuffs and into a van under heavy guard and with weapons drawn.


That Evening

"I find this to be the most anti-climactic thing we have ever done concerning a possible apocalypse," Giles told them as they shared a few pizzas that evening, watching the news in Buffy's living room while the reporters in the news room went on and on about the 'vast conspiracy of the Wilkins Legacy' that had been 'leaked' to the press via the Agency. Frankly, he was surprised that the Feebies weren't taking all of the credit for it, but then again, there was more than enough evidence to say that they couldn't do so.

"And you're complaining why?" Buffy mumbled around a mouthful of pizza, much to her mother's look of shock and horror.

"Because I will not be getting hazard pay from the Council on this matter." They all looked at him and he began to grin, "Gotcha."

Buffy looked over at Jenny and then at Xander, "Is he possessed? Do we slay him?"

Jenny only smiled, though, "No, he's not possessed. You see, we colonials have finally begun to rub off on you, Rupert." She hugged Dawn, who had taken up residency between her and his own body, Faith on his right, and grinned a little more, "In a few more months we shall have him wearing jersey shirts, baseball caps and using slang in his natural vernacular."

Giles merely sniffed in distain, "Hell shall freeze over before that happens, I assure you."

There was a general chuckle at that and then all became silent as the news droned on, a silence that he broke, "So, what else happened while I was in D.C.? Those Sisterhood of Jhe things, Jack O'Toole and his zombie gang, and what else?"

Willow, from her spot next to Oz, giggled, "Principal Snyder got fired! He got a LITTLE too friendly with a bottle one day and the School Superintendent canned him – apparently they were waiting for him to make a mistake like drinking on school premises and, plop, into the unemployment line he went."

Oz summed it up in a few words and his stoic expression, "It was a good day."

"Sorry I missed it." Xander chuckled to himself even as the news switched over to a commercial, "Almost makes me wish that I hadn't been taking those tests."

"Tests?" Buffy looked at him oddly, "You went to Washington DC to take tests?"

He shrugged, "Hey, I wasn't here for the SAT's, so they gave me some in the Department of Education Building and a few others while I was there." He reached around and pulled the letter he had gotten earlier that day out of his back pocket, "Kind of scared to look, actually."

Faith, however, wasn't too scared to look as she plucked the letter out of his hands and tore it open, "Chicken." Dawn, Jenny, Kendra and Willow all clucked at him and Giles, who sat next to Joyce, who was still kind of shocked about the entire thing, chuckled at him. "Let's see – 698 Verbal, 557 Mathematics, Total of … 1255." She looked at him, her face pale (all of their faces were pale, actually) and then she grinned hugely, "A 1255? How in the hell did you pull that off?"

"He probably cheated." Buffy got glared at and she backed up her claims, "Hey, he's got the brain of a 50-something year old guy in his head, so that has to account for something."

He took the joke as it was meant, "You're just mad because I did better than you did."

Buffy stuck her toung out at him, "Willow did better than you."

"Willow has always done better than everybody, Buff – it's a fact of life." He stuck his toung out at her and she sniffed.

"Where are you going to apply for college, Xander?" Joyce looked at him oddly even as he folded up his SAT mail, "Have you given it any consideration?"

"Yes, I have, but I also have something else to think about – my boss wants me to join up and then after a few years I'd be sent to OCS and from there, well, you do the math. If I don't enlist, then I go to a college that the Company picks for me for a degree that is basically a cover so that I can work in the government legitimately." He sat back into the couch and Dawn snuggled into his side, "So, to enlist, or not to enlist – that, my dear ladies and sir, is the question."

Giles grinned, "Does Sir Covington's offer still hold any sway to you, Xander?"

"Nah, he and John worked it out that I work for the US for a while and then I get transferred TDY to England and work for them for a while, and if I enlist I'd end up as either a Royal Marine or Sport And Social." He had been grinning the entire time, but then that grin disappeared, "I'm really not sure what I'm going to do, guys."

"Well, you can sleep on it, Xander." Joyce yawned, "It's getting late and you all need your sleep – you have final exams in a few weeks and I expect all of you to pass with flying colors." She shooed them all out of her house and they went their respective ways, Faith never leaving his side until they were inside their shared condo.

"Alright, Faith, spill. What's up?" He sat her on the couch and looked at her, "What's wrong?"

Faith sighed and tucked her hair back behind an ear, "Just thinking what it's gonna be like without ya here, Xand. I mean, you work for Clark and all, so that means that after you graduate you either enlist or you go to college – either way, you're not here." A single tear began to work it's way down her cheek, "You're the closest thing I've got to a friend, here, Xand. Don't go!"

He held her close as she began to dissolve into tears, rocking her back and forth until she was in a better frame of mind to actually listen to what he had to say, "Faith, you have lots of friends here – Dawnie loves ya like another sister, Kendra sees you as her equal, Jenny sees you like at least another part of the group and Giles thinks you're an okay person."

"What about B and Red? Neither of them exactly go out of their way to be friendly, ya know?"

He shrugged, "I can't explain their stupidity, Faith – you are a very likeable person and trust me, I know that."

"Then why are you really leaving?"

He was silent for a moment, then spoke, "What I am about to say never leaves the room – you never so much as think of this conversation again." She nods her head quickly and he sighs, "One of the meetings that I was privy to was about forming Demon Hunting Teams from members of the US military, teams that I would one day either be Top Kick in or the CO of. I gave them the limitations of the weapons we use the some ideas that have been floating around up here," he tapped his skull. "There was an almost-brawl between several generals and an Admiral about which branch of the military I'd be going into and I still haven't decided on that one yet, and then there's the whole working with other governments who know about demons and all."

"The Council, you mean."

"Among others – Japan knows, so does Russia, Italy, Greece, even Germany and France; each have teams that deal with the supernatural and now I'm going to be in the thick of it again."

She gave him a weak smile, "Never an easy op, right?"

He snorted, "Damned right. Now, is there anything else you want to tell me?"

She shook her head, "Nah, except that if you fall for some chick in a uniform when you have all of this right here," she ran her hands up and down her torso, "I'll find ya and kick your ass so hard your grandkids'll feel it." She squeezed him again into a hug and then let go, "'Night, Xand – see ya tomorrow morning." She sauntered into he room / his room and left the door open while he sat back into the couch and sighed.

"Screw the 'op', never an easy choice."


Finals came and went – there wasn't much in the way of activity in Sunnydale with The Mayor out of the way, save the miscellaneous vampires and demons and even they seemed to be in an early summer lull. About the only action that was seen before graduation was the small war that erupted between Kendra and Faith as to whom would be escorting him to the prom – he'd had several offers already from the 'cool' crowd, and even one from some girl named Anya who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, but being the magnificently lucky bastard that he was, he was able to propose that they all three go together and not get torn apart in the process. Willow went with Oz, Buffy with a somewhat reluctant Angel, who had been skulking around again, and while Jenny went stag, Giles had shown up with Joyce, much to everyone's shock, and Buffy had been given the 'Class Protector' Award, and life, as it often did, went on.

It was two days before graduation, though, when the bomb was dropped – Angel was leaving Sunnydale; Buffy did her best to persuade him to stay, but nothing she said could make him change his mind. He left not with a bang, but rather with a whimper, and for the life of him, Xander couldn't figure out why he almost felt sad that Deadboy was leaving.

Finally, though, it was Graduation day and everything went off without a hitch – no storms, no vamps, only the eclipse, but nothing could have surprised him more than what Jenny had waiting for him after he had gotten his diploma.

"Xander?" The Gypsy woman smiled and stepped away from the bank of shadows she had been blocking, "Someone wants to have a word with you."

The person who stepped out had been responsible than more than a few of the beatings that he had taken as a child, but had also been as much of a victim as he had been of his father, "Mom?"

"Hello, honey," Jessica Caprichine-Harris stood there before him, dressed in a simple dress of blue and her dark hair done up rather elaborately. She was sober, he could tell from her eyes, but also wasn't the shell of a woman that she had been nearly 18 months before – her dark brown eyes were sparkling with love, her skin was no longer pallid, and she was smiling, something he couldn't remember her doing without a bottle of alcohol in her hand.

He slowly approached her, as if he were to move too fast, the person in front of him would disappear as if it had been a cruel hoax, but when his hand came in contact with her cheek, he rushed forwards and caught her into a hug that she heartily returned, doing his best not to turn into a blubbering idiot. Jessica, however, had no such compunction and cried her eyes out, telling him how sorry she was and that she would never hurt him ever again.

They stayed like that for almost twenty minutes, Jenny and the others just watching, but it was Jessica who eventually pulled away, "I am so proud of you, my son. I know I've never really said it, but now I can." Her voice was tinged with her natural Sicilian accent, an accent that had him named Alessandro instead of Alexander before his father had changed it, but it was still full of love, "My baby isn't a baby anymore."

He gaped for a few minutes before he looked over at Jenny, "How? What?"

She smiled at his loss of words, "The rehab center she was in was one run by a cousin of mine over in Italy – I had some detoxifying herbs and brews given to her to speed up the process so she'd be here in time."

"Jenny … I …" he walked over to her and pulled her into a hug that she returned, "How can I thank you?"

She whispered into his ear, "Be yourself and that will be thanks enough." She pecked him on the cheek, which got a growl out of Dawn, but then pulled away, "We've also told her what happens in Sunnydale after dark and while she had a little trouble believing us at first, I think she's come around to our way of thinking."

He nodded and pulled away from Jenny, only to be grabbed by his mother again and hugged nearly in half, something that he actually enjoyed until it was time for him to make a decision.

"Guys, I think that it's time I told you what I'm going to do – John and Jack have gotten me into Georgetown on a Company scholarship for International Relations, or I'm going to be going into the Army. I guess the only way to tell you what's going to happen is to tell you that I'm…."

The End