Day One

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. If their proper owners had the slightest concept of how valuable their characters really were... I wouldn't have to write this stuff.

Summary: It's the first day of the rest of his life, and Xander's in the middle of one wicked case of Deja Vu. Play it again, Xan.

Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating : PG-13. For mature themes and all the other fun stuff that rarely makes network TV.

Feedback, It's the coin of the realm.

Chapter 1

"We're here." Xander announced pointlessly as KARR slid to a stop in the school parking lot.

"I noticed." Faith said dryly.

Xander chuffed in amusement, unbuckling the seatbelt and opening the door. He got out smoothly, looking around the parking lot and checking out the school and quad in one quick sweep. "Home sweet hellmouth."

He turned back, smiling as he slid the seat forward and offered his hand to Tara. "Welcome to the source of evil."

Tara smiled hesitantly and took his hand, "I... I hope you're kidding."

"Nope." Faith grinned at them from over the roof of the car as he helped Tara out. She closed the door, and smirked at them, "Highschool really is the root of all evil."

The three of them chuckled lightly as they closed up the car and walked around to the front of it.

"Hey KARR," Xander glanced back. "Thanks for the ride. You good for the day?"

"Affirmative." The car rumbled, the forward sensor sweeping twice as it began careful scans of the school and surrounding area.

"Good. Upload your scans to merlin when you've got them." Xander said, "If any jocks drool on your paint job, all I ask is that you don't kill them. Anything else..."

Xander shrugged and chuckled as he and the girls walked off.

"Weird." Faith muttered under her breath. "It's strange to see this place from this angle. I was usually sneaking in after dark before."

"Just remember," Xander smiled as she joined him and Tara and they began to move together. "It's a perfect cover... so don't blow it."

"Gee Thanks," She smirked, slugging him lightly in the shoulder. "That's some vote of confidence you got there."

Xander laughed, cuffing the back of her head lightly in return. "You'll do fine. Just remember, act your age."

"Coming from you, that's real funny, X." Faith muttered fixing her hair with casual strokes of her fingers. "Oh great."


"Idiots." Faith muttered.

Xander glanced up, noting at least three football players making a beeline for them. He hoped they were after Faith, cause he didn't feel like starting the year with another suspension.

<Yep. Faith.> He thought as he caught the looks on their faces.

Faith glowered the first one away without even trying, the second was a little more persistent, but her eyes simply screamed 'keep moving or else' and he got the message.

The third one didn't catch on though, and Xander recognized him for a linebacker that had more points per game then IQ. <And he's not THAT good a player.>

"Interested?" He asked under his breath.

"Not on your life, X." Faith sounded mildly disgusted. "But I can deal."

Xander waited until the guy got within a few feet and then he cracked his knuckles. Loudly. The guy suddenly looked at Xander for the first time and paled. Xander flicked his eyes to one side, nodding his head, and the guy swallowed before nodding and beating a hasty retreat.

"Hey. I said I could deal, X."

"I know you could." Xander smiled, "But if we can handle things before they get close enough to be violent... all the better. We're just students. Remeber?"

Faith nodded, "Fine."

Then she snorted, "You just like playing the macho man."

"You know me too well." Xander said easily, grinning.

His grin slipped a little as he looked up on the stairs that led to the school and saw three familiar people watching him. He took a breath, "Show time."

They walked up and stopped in front of the three and Xander slipped his sunglasses off. As he closed them up and dropped them into a pocket, he suddenly smiled.

"Damn it's good to be home. I've missed you guys."

"Hey, Jess..."

"Yeah, Jon? What's up?" Jessie looked up curiously as his friend puffed up beside him.

"New kids today."

"Yeah?" Jessie asked, smiling. "What's the dirt on them?"

Jon shrugged, "New kids today."

"Well you're a font of nothing." Jessie laughed, waving Willow over.

"He's a font of nothing why?" Willow asked, joining them as the three made their way up the stairs.

"Just talking about the new transfers." Jessie replied. "There's like four of them or something?"

"Yeah. I heard." Willow nodded, "I heard that one of them is from..."


Jessie and Willow turned to their friend, "What?"

"Isn't that the Trans-am we followed, man?" Jonathan asked, excited.

Jessie turned, frowning, and his eyes widened as the black sports car slid silently into the parking lot, almost gliding as it moved through the mess of cars and slid to a smooth stop.

"You mean the one that definitely did NOT fly over top of us?" Jessie asked, eyes wide. "Yeah. Looks a lot like it, doesn't it."

Willow had heard the story and scoffed at the exaggerations of her friends, but remembered the key detail. "You don't think..."

"It could be." Jon replied. "He said he'd be back this year."

Jessie didn't say anything, he just stood there and watched. Finally the door opened and a figure got out, dressed all in black and wearing a dark pair of sunglasses against the california sun. He was broader at the shoulder the Jessie remembered, but it was certainly...

"It's Xander!" Willow yelped suddenly, her face beaming for a second. Then she lost the smile and stared in dumbfounded shock. "Who...?"

Xander had turned back to the car, flipping the seat forward and extending his hand. A blond took it, and he helped her out of the back.

"Cute." Was all that Jessie had to say on the matter.

"Check out the one getting out the other side."

"Whoa." Jessie's jaw dropped.

A raven haired girl appeared, looking at Xander and the blond over the roof of the car as she stepped back and closed the door. She smirked at Xander as he said something, then walked around the car and Jessie felt like he had just had a heart attack.

She wore black jeans that hugged every curve a girl was supposed to have, and few that Jessie would have sworn existed only in comic books. Her top was blazing red, knotted casually over some of the tightest abs that he's ever seen, and she walked like she owned the world.

"Stop my heart before it explodes." Jessie muttered.

"What?" Willow looked over at him suspiciously.

He shook himself, "Nothing."


The three of them watched as the trio stepped onto the curb and walked up the cement lane to the doors. The walked side by side, Jessie noted, then he corrected himself. Xander and the bombshell walked side by side. The blonde stayed a half step behind them, her books clutched to her chest as she seemed to sink within herself.

The other two made up for any lack of impression she made though, Jessie thought. Xander was dressed in classic black, his clothes practically molded to his body, and he'd filled out a lot since Christmas. Both he and the raven haired girl were cutting a swath through the crowds as they just melted out of the way.

Three times Jessie watched members of the football team move toward the group, obviously zeroing in on the brunette, and twice he watched her send them packing before they got within ten feet with glares that could melt steel. When one of them got closer then that, he was met by a warning look from Xander that sent him back on his heels, and Jessie wasn't surprised. He had been one of those sent to the hospital the year before.

The third time, Jessie's eyes accidently landed on the blond for a second and something in her eyes held him there. As the figure approached, her eyes focused on him and then flashed around as she fell back another step and...

<She...> Jessie shook his head, <Nah. Couldn't be... but it sure looked like she was watching their backs.>

He shook the odd fantasy from his mind, his eyes locking with Xander's as the other boy slid his sunglasses off with one hand and nodded to them.

The three of them came to a stop just in front of Willow, Jessie, and Jon, and Xander smiled suddenly.

"Damn it's good to be home. I've missed you guys."

Chapter 2

For a moment it was like the rest of the quad had suddenly emptied and there was only the six of them left in the entire school.

"Xander." Willow squeaked, her face a mix of shock and delight.

"Gee, X." Faith smirked, "I think you broke her."

Xander shot Faith a warning look, but then smiled at Willow and extended his hand. "Hey Wills. You look great."

Willow stuttered slightly, taking his hand, and yelping with Xander used it to pull her closer and hug her with his free hand. She felt the heat of his breath in her hair and heard him whisper to her. "I've missed Wills. A lot. It's really good to see you again."

She relaxed a little as he held her, then looked up. "You're the one who left."

He smiled, a little sadly. "Yeah. I did. I had my reasons, Will... but they didn't have a thing to do with you, or Jessie, or anyone here in Sunnydale. I just had to go."

"I don't understand."

"I know that." He smiled, letting her go.

He turned around a bit, grinning at Jonathan. "Heya Jon-o."

Jon grabbed his hand and shook it, grinning. "It was you we saw they other day."

Xander nodded, "Yeah. It was me."

"Why'd you run?" Jessie asked suddenly, his voice extremely calm.

Xander looked at his friend, smiling sadly as he recognized the coolness in his voice. "Because you chased me."

Jessie and he looked at each other for a long time before they both laughed and grabbed each other's arms, wrist to wrist. "I've missed that stupid joke thing you do, man."

Xander shrugged, "You always were the only guy who got them."

Jessie laughed and stepped back again, nodding. "Yeah... Yeah, I guess I am. It's good to see you, man."

Xander grinned, "Good to be seen."

Jessie frowned, looking Xander over. "Man. You let your mom dress you or something?"

Faith snickered, and was joined surprisingly by Tara and Willow.

"Don't ask." Xander said sourly. "Just... don't ask."

"X.. Xander?" Tara said softly, pulling on Xander's shirt.

Xander half turned, "Oh geeze. Guys, this is Tara. And the other lovely lady is Faith. Faith, Tara... these are Willow, Jessie, and Jonathan. Good friends."

"H... hi." Tara said, smiling hesitantly, "B... but shouldn't w... we r... report for class?"

Willow looked shocked, checking her watch. "Oh my god! We're late!"

She took off running, leaving them behind. Jessie looked between Tara and Willow with mock disgust. "Oh great. Two of them."

Xander just laughed, and slipped his arms around Faith and Tara. "Come on, all... let's find out what wonders they have to teach us this year."

Jessie shot him an odd look, but soon the group was moving down the hall to the registrar's office.

"Hey..." Faith complained, "What's this shit?"

Willow, Jessie, and Jonathan looked at her in shock but the others weren't fazed by her language.

"What?" Xander looked over her shoulder.

"Pre-Calc, advanced algebra, physics, and Spanish?" Faith bitched, "I didn't ask for any of these??"

Xander frowned, looking at his own. "What the hell? I've got the same, except for the Spanish... too bad, I'm fluent in spanish. What the... Faith?"

"Yeah?" She asked grumpily.

"Check the teachers notes section."

Faith flipped through to the notes section, quickly reading what was written there, and groaned. "Bastard."

Xander chuckled, "Here I thought this would be an easy year..."

The other looked confused, not understanding the reference notes that said, don't call me Merl, on each of their transcripts.

All of them jumped suddenly when Tara suddenly yelped.

"You too, Tare?" Faith asked sympathetically.

Tara was beaming with pleasure. "Look... art classes! Design, geometry... this is great!"

Xander and Faith exchanged looks, then laughed slightly. "Figures."

"Merlin's Pet." Faith muttered, not unpleasantly, causing Tara to blush.

"Huh?" Jonathan blurted, confused.

"Nothing, Jon-o," Xander grinned. "Just a bit of a joke. We'll explain it to yah later."

"Oh... K." Jonathan said, still confused.

The group was walking down the hall, heading for homeroom when Xander spotted someone and paused. "Hey, Wills?"

"Yeah, Xander?"

"Do me a favor?"


"Make sure Faith and Tara find their way to homeroom. K? I just remembered something. I'll be along in a minute."

Willow nodded, "O... ok..."

Xander fell back from the group, turning around. "Thanks."

The group watched as he headed back toward the registrar's office, turning a corner and vanishing.

They went on for a bit, then Jessie looked around. "I'll catch up... I've got to visit the little boys room."

Faith smirked at him, "Never announce that you're 'little' anything, Jes. It's such a turn off."

Willow and Jessie turned beet red, and Jessie just turned and practically ran away.

"T... that was mean." Tara scolded Faith.

The raven haired Slayer just shrugged, "He'll have to learn to handle worse if he want's to hang around me."

Willow suddenly scowled at her, but quickly hid the look and nodded down the hall. "Homeroom's this way."

Buffy Anne Summers emerged from the registrar's office, looking at her courseload and not watching where she was going.


"Oh!" She yelped, looking up in time to avoid running into a tall guy who was leaning against the wall. Even so, she managed to drop all her things and they went skittering across the floor. "Oh damn."

"Hey, no big." The guy smiled, kneeling down to retrieve her things and hand them back to her.

"Thanks." She smiled at him, looking up through her bangs.

He was hot, that was for certain. His clothes were expensive too, and Buffy knew that a short while ago she'd probably be hanging all over him already. But the past few months changed that, and she reluctantly pushed him aside as any kind of dating potential. <He looks like a spoiled rich kid... like I am... was. Am... whatever.>

Still, she smiled at him and took the last of her things from him.

"Hi, I'm Xander."

"Buffy..." She said softly. "Hi."

"Nice name." Xander said, a smile playing on his lips. "Can I help you?"

"I just need to go to the principals office..."

"Ah, I know it well." He grinned, "Down the hall, then up the stairs to your right. Can't miss it. I've got to move on, but I'll see you around."

"Yeah... uh... sure." She nodded, "Well... bye."

She walked away from him, blushing furiously as she tried to push him out of her mind. He looked nice and all, but guys like that weren't the most reliable type, she'd learned that the hard way. And it was really disheartening when your boyfriend ran screaming away from a threat, leaving you to deal with it.

As she vanished around the corner, Xander glanced down and smiled.

"Hey wait..." He whispered, rolling the words over in his mind as he rolled the thing on the ground with his toes.

"You forgot your..." He flicked his toes down, flipping the stake up into the air and easily catching it. "Stake."

Then Xander turned and walked away, not noticing Jessie watching him from around a corner with a thoughtful frown on his face.

Buffy got lost a bit, and had to backtrack, and by the time she arrived in the principals office she found that the boy, Xander, had beaten her there. "Oh... Hi."

"Hi again," Xander smiled at her, "Get lost?"

Buffy nodded, reddening slightly.

"Big school." Xander shrugged, "Don't worry about it. You'll be zipping around in no time."

The secretary came out before she could respond, "Xander Harris? Mr Flutey will see you now."

"Thanks, Estelle." Xander grinned at the secretary.

The secretary smiled at him, and motioned him into the office.

"Alexander..." Flutey smiled, standing Xander came in. "Have a seat."

"I got your summons, Sir." Xander said, smiling slightly. <As if I really need to guess why.>

"Yes, yes." Flutey waved him down to a seat. "I wanted to know if you had considered joining the team again this year. When the coach heard you were back he was very... excited."

Xander hesitated, mostly for show, then leaned forward. "I don't know, Mr Flutey... Last year, things didn't go so well... I'd like to just be left alone, Sir."

"I don't think you've considered the advantages that the team would bring to you, Alex..." Flutey said eagerly. "Athletes are well treated here, you know..."

Xander suppressed a scowl, not wanting to reveal his dislike of that practice, and merely nodded. He listened as Flutey went on and on about the advantages and such of the teams, especially for star athletes until finally the man slowed down. Xander took a breath and prepared to refuse, afterall it wasn't really a fair match no matter who he went up against, he was used to tangling with demons and vampires.

Then he hesitated as a thought struck him. Two thoughts actually, and he leaned back and looked Flutey in the eyes. "Alright."

"You won't regret it..." The principal paused as Xander held up a hand.

"One condition."

"What?" Flutey asked eagerly.

Xander nodded to a file on his desk, "Is that Buffy Summers file from Hemery?"

Fluety frowned, "How did...?"

"Doesn't matter. Tear it up." Xander said.

"I... I was going to anyway..."

"I know." Xander smiled, "But do it now. Don't read it. Don't mention it to her. She's just an ordinary student. That's my price. Deal?"

Flutey looked at the file, then at Xander. He hesitated, but finally nodded. "Deal."

Xander smiled, and the two shook hands.

Chapter 3

The home room class hushed when Xander stepped in, and he just glanced over the gathering briefly before stepping in. He was the last one present, even Buffy had beaten him there since he'd had to visit with the coach quickly before coming this way.

"Note?" The teacher asked crisply.

Xander shrugged and handed it off to her, then followed her motions as he headed down the aisle to the empty seat beside Jessie. He glanced across, noting that Buffy was sitting near Cordelia who was sharing her book with the newcomer. <I didn't notice that before... funny. I never thought Cordy shared anything at this point in her life.>

He slid into the seat and glanced across at Jessie and Willow. They nodded back, but didn't speak as the teacher started her class.

Buffy shivered, the room temperature seemed to have dropped a hundred degrees when Xander walked in. "Whoa... what was that all about?"

The girl next to her, Cordelia, just shrugged. "He's something of a psycho. Kicked the ass of half the football team last year, then just vanished until today."


"Yeah... wonder who dressed him? He used to look like a clown on acid." Cordy smirked lightly. "The black actually looks half decent on him."

Buffy thought he looked a lot better then half decent, but then she'd never had thought this guy was a psycho either. <Weird place.>

She shrugged it off and turned back to the book she was sharing with the girl, trying to focus on her grades. Her meeting with Principal Flutey had gone a lot better then she thought, he hadn't even mentioned her record, but she still wanted to put that disaster far behind her. Sunnydale was a new place, a place for new beginnings.

Willow looked up at the blond, eyes wide. "Umm... aren't you hanging with Cordelia?"

"Can't I do both?"

"Not legally." Willow shook her head.

Buffy sighed, "Look... This is a new school, and Cordelia's been nice... to me anyway. But I need to get my grades up, and from what I hear you're the one to do that."

"Ah... uh... ok." Willow nodded.

Buffy smiled, relieved. She really did need the help of the redhead, and Willow seemed a good sort anyway. The last thing Buffy wanted was to wind up the head of a bunch of backstabbers again. She'd learned really fast how few friends she really had in hemery, and she didn't want to repeat it here.

"So we can... meet in the library and...."

"No!" Buffy said quickly, Thinking about who she'd met there. "Not the library... let go somewhere... quiet. Ummm... I mean noisy. I work better with some noise."

Willow nodded slowly, looking confused but willing to put up with a few eccentricities. "Yeah, a lot of kids find the library weird... but it's got all sorts of cool old books, and the new librarian came in from England!"

"The... librarian is new?" Buffy asked with a sinking sensation.

Willow nodded and was about to speak, but was interrupted.


Buffy and Willow jumped as two guys joined them, one very tall and grinning and the other a little shorter and smiling shyly.

"Oh, hi guys." Willow beamed, causing Buffy to relax a bit. They weren't just here to hit on her at least, Willow knew these two really well. "Jessie, Jon, this is Buffy. Buffy, these are my friends, Jessie and Jonathan."

"Hi..." She smiled at them.

"Hey." Jessie grinned, "What's up? You hitting on Will here? Cause, you know, I'd be cool with that... especially if I could watch."

"Jessie!" Willow blushed a furious red, leaving Buffy's own pink well behind.

"He's really a nice guy," Came another voice from behind them, "But sometimes I think his sense of humor is so low someone should dig for it."

Willow turned around, beaming again. "Xander!"

"Hey Wills," Xander grinned, "Making friends?"

"Yeah!" Willow grinned, then hesitated, looking at Buffy almost fearfully. "I mean... I think... Uh... are we...?"

"Yeah. I think we are." Buffy couldn't help but grin.


Xander chuckled softly, "You guys seen Faith and Tara?"

Jessie shrugged, "Freshman have classes this period."

Xander nodded, "Yeah. Forgot. How are you guys holding up for the first day?"

"Pretty good." Jonathan ventured. "I had a couple interesting classes already."

"You too?" Willow grinned, "What did you think of computer science?"

Xander groaned good naturedly, winking at Buffy. "Hanging around with these two means tuning out the 'school is great' stuff or risking going mad."

Buffy smiled, "Well, from what I hear you didn't tune them out enough."

Xander's eyebrows went up, "Ooooo... someone's been talking about me. Let me guess, Cordelia?"

Buffy nodded.

Jessie surprised Xander by grimacing, "She's just out to get him. Let me guess, the Psycho crack?"

Buffy nodded.

Xander actually laughed, "Hey. In my defense, the football team attacked ME. I'm pretty dense, but even I don't go out picking a fight with ten guys who pound people on a semi-professional level."

"X... xander..." Willow ventured softly.

"Yeah, what is it Willow?" Xander asked, puzzled.

"After you left... we found out why they attacked you."

"Yeah, man." Jon leaned forward, half smiling. "You won't believe it..."

Buffy listened, confused but interested.

"Oh?" Xander looked around, confused.

Jessie spoke up, his voice dry. "Yeah. Harmony put them up to it after you blew her off."

Xander fell back into a bench, laughing bitterly. "Oh you have got to be shitting me."

Everyone sort of blinked at his language, but Jessie nodded.

"I put a half dozen guys in the hospital because that ditz thought I dissed her?" Xander shook his head, "God what a world."

"You put them in the hospital??" Buffy blurted.

Xander shrugged, "It was that or go myself."

"You should have." Willow glowered at him. "They beat you bad, Xander."

Xander smirked, "They don't know that."

"Got that right." Jonathan grinned, "Man I still can't believe that you walked away from that."

"He didn't as soon as he got out of sight." Jessie said seriously. "Don't do that to me again man, I thought you were gonna die."

Xander shrugged and was about to say something when Cordelia showed up on cue.

"Hey, I don't want to interrupt your downward mobility," She said to Buffy as she purposely ignored the rest, especially Xander. "But I wanted to let you know that gym has been canceled on account of the totally dead guy in the lockers."

"Dead guy!?" Willow and Jonathan blurted together.


Buffy paled, an interesting sight to Xander who had missed it the last time. "Dead... where there any, marks on him?"

"Morbid much?" Cordy muttered scornfully. "I didn't ask."

Cordelia turned on her heal and headed off, leaving the group to look at each other in confusion.

"I... I have to go." Buffy blurted, getting up and heading off.

Xander watched her go for a moment, then got up himself. He already knew what she was going to find, and it was time to situate himself properly. "I'll catch you guys later."

"Dead guy?" Jon said, looking between Willow and Jessie. "Man that's just freaky."

"Freaky... yeah." Jessie said, watching Xander walk away. "I've got to go. Cya's."

Willow and Jonathan looked at each other in confusion.

"Damn. Was it my breath?" Jon asked with a halfway grin.

The library was empty when Xander got there, no one in sight. He made his way through the stacks, knowing at least part of what was going to happen next.

Buffy burst in on cue, looking around wildly.

"Ok, I know you're in here! Now come out here and talk to be about the dead body in the gym lockers!"

"Dead?" The Librarian said hesitantly as he appeared from his office.

"Totally." Buffy said, imitating Cordy's speech. "With these stylish holes in his neck no less."

"W... will he rise?" Wesley Wyndham Price asked hesitantly.

"No." Buffy admitted after a moment, "To make a vampire they have to suck your blood, and you suck theres... it's a big sucking thing. He's just dead dead."

"Well good... But I fear that I've been expecting this."

"Well I wasn't!" Buffy snapped. "Nice small town, you know? No vampires!"

"Well I'm... afraid that things aren't quite that simple..." Wesley frowned, looking completely out of his depth. "You see this place is on a Hellmouth."

Chapter 4

Xander winced as he left the library, almost feeling sorry for Wesley. He didn't remember Buffy ripping into Giles quite that bad.

<Then again,> He grinned, <Yeah. I guess she did.>

Xander chuckled softly to himself and retrieved the wooden stake from his pocket, casually flipping it as he walked down the hall. He had practice on the mats next, then a quick shower and he'd meet the girls for lunch.

Life in Sunnydale was shaping up to be just as interesting the second time around.

Behind him he didn't notice Jessie appear from around a corner. The tall boy frowned, thinking to himself as he watched his friend walk off. <Slayer? What the hell is a Slayer?>

"Harris." The Coach glared at Xander, hiding any hope or excitement that he felt. The kid had shown promise the year before, but then he'd flaked out over a fight with some idiots on the football team. "You're up."

The Coach watched Harris step onto the mat, wearing the standard white Gi. The Kid had waved off a black belt that had been offered, opting to wear just the simple white belt of any beginner. The Coach knew that he was more advanced then that, so the choice was a statement. Coach Joseph Henley shrugged, <If he wants to make a statement, that's fine. Just as long as he knows how to fight.>

"Alright, Harris. I think you know Jake?"

Xander looked up, nodding. "Hey."

"Hey man." Jake nodded, "How's it been?"

"Productive." Xander grinned, "Got into shape."

"I can tell. You put on weight, and a few inches too." Jake smiled. "You ready for a bit of a spar?"

Xander nodded, stepping up and stretching a little. "New belt?"

Jake looked down, smiling at the black belt he wore, and nodded. "Yeah. I cleared the exams for it last year. I'm second level now."

"Congrats." Xander said, fitting the padded gloves, helmet, and mouth guard. "Let's have some fun."

Jake grinned, nodding as he fitted his own mouthpiece. "C'mon."

Xander grinned and stepped forward, toeing his line as Jake did the same. They bowed to each other on command, and then the coach called, "Fight!"

Jake surged forward instantly, his right fist coming forward in a lightning fast jab. Xander blocked, sweeping the hand aside with his left, and through his right in hard to Jake's chest.

"Point!" The coach called, lifting the flag on Xander's side. "Good move."

Xander nodded, and he and Jake stepped back and got ready to go again.


Jake came on again, this time kicking fast with a stright kick to Xander's midsection. Xander pivoted to the left, letting the foot slide past, and then was caught by surprise as the straight kick turned into a crescent that caught him across the jaw. He staggered back, rubbing his chin gingerly and nodded as the coach raised the flag.


Xander spit the mouth piece out and grinned at Jake, "Sneaky."

The senior grinned a shrugged, toeing his line.

Xander nodded, grinning as slid the mouthpiece back. "Ok. Come on then, bring it on."


Xander watched his opponent's eyes as Jake closed, ducking low under the roundhouse kick that came his way and dropping into a spinning crouch.

Jake saw the sweep coming and hopped clear over Xander's extended foot.

Xander came out of the spin, surging up, and caught Jake flat footed as he landed, with a left to the older boy's stomach. As Jake lost his breath and keeled over, Xander followed through with a right jab across his padded chin that set the black belt sprawling to the mats.


"You ok, man?" Xander asked, palming his mouth piece.

Jake nodded, stilling drawing in breath. Xander helped him up and he slapped Xander's shoulder. "Nice combo."

"Thanks." Xander grinned, "You ready for match point?"

"In your dreams." Jake grinned back as he slipped his mouthpiece back in and took his place.

The coach checked them both over, waiting for them to nod, then he called, "Fight!"

Xander moved first this time, sending two rapid front kicks into the place where Jack had been. But the black belt had pivoted to one side, avoiding the hits, and lashed out with a backhand to Xander's head.

"Point!" The coach called, raising Jake's flag.

Xander rubbed his helmet where the backhand had impacted, nodding to his opponent. "Good moves. Good moves."

"So glad you approve." Jake grinned back.

"Take your lines." The coach ordered, waiting for them to be ready before he called, "Match point! Fight!"

Xander had to move fast to avoid the crescent kick that Jake launched at him, bending back as the foot swept over his head and slapping it along it's path with his hand. The force of that move put Jake off balance, and Xander attacked in response.

He shifted his stance and threw a right jab from the shoulder, aiming for Jake's head.

The black belt dodged, but overcompensated his balance as he did, and sprawled to the floor. As Jake looked up he saw Xander's foot coming down for him and he rolled, evading the stomp by inches as he got his feet back under him.

Xander moved in, catching Jake as he was starting to get up from his knees. He launched a snap kick, aiming to end the match there, but was surprised when Jake managed to avoid the kick and got under his leg.

The older boy powered up, throwing Xander back and off his feet.

Xander tucked as his shoulder's hit the mat, then kicked out again in a powerful kip that wrenched his shoulder off the mat and flipped his entire body straight. As he landed, he had to block a double combo punch from Jake and backpedal for some fighting room.

Jake pushed the fight, launching a spinning kick at Xander's head and dropping to a sweep as Xander ducked.

Xander jumped over the kick, moving back to the fight, only to catch a hard left to his stomach as Jake imitated his earlier move. He keeled over from the surprise and loss of breath, his head looking up just in time to see the padded fist coming straight at him.

The blow rocked his head to one side and Xander spit the mouthpiece out as he rolled to the mats.

"Match point!" The coach lifted the flag.

Xander shook his head, looking up to see Jake grinning and extending a hand. He grabbed it and the older boy lifted him to his feet. "Nice match."

"Yeah." Xander grinned, "Thanks. You're better then the last time."

Jake smirked, "Can't let a little twerp show me up, you know."

Xander laughed, catching a towel the coach threw at him. "Nice to know I inspired you."

The two of them laughed as they joined the coach.

The coach looked them over, smiling. A junior almost took out his senior champ. Damn, but this was going to be a good year. Then he frowned, <I have to remember to tell Ray to keep his thugs away from my fighters. Niether of will win anything this year is those idiots try to kick Harris' ass again.>

"Alright," He said outloud. "Damned good show. Jake, what do you think?"

"You've got a winner here, Coach." Jake smirked, "He'd have taken me if I hadn't borrowed his combo."

"Imitation." Xander grinned, "Flaterrer."

The two kids laughed and the coach nodded, "Alright. Enough of that. Cool down, then shower down. You've got lunch and I don't want to hear complaints about you two knocking people out without throwing a punch. Got it?"

"Got it, Coach." Jake grinned, turning away.

Xander turned to follow him, but then was stopped by a familiar voice.

"Damn boytoy. You got your ass kicked."

Xander groaned, looking over at her. "What are you doing here, Faith?"

She shrugged, "Skipped. Don't tell the Tiger."

Xander rolled his eyes, "You don't think she'll notice that you're not in her class?"

Faith grinned and shrugged. Then she glanced around, "So how come you threw the match?"

Xander looked at her in surprise, "I did no such thing."

"Please." The dark Slayer looked at him archly, "You mean to tell me that you got your ass kicked by howdy doody over there."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Faith. You watched the match, right?"

"Yeah. Course."

"Didn't see anything strange?"

"Like what?"

Xander sighed, "Look, Faith... I was fighting him on a level field. His skill in Karate against mine. No tricks. No super strength. No speed, nothing special. Just him against me, in a style that he knows a lot better then me. Jake's a black belt, he won. It's that simple."

Faith stared after him as Xander turned away and headed for the showers.

"Damn." She said, shaking her head. "Boytoy needs to get his ass kicked, he should ask me."

She smirked and turned to leave the hall, "I'd have done it no questions asked."

Chapter 5

Xander had just stepped out of the shower when he heard the distinctive ring of his cell and headed to grab it. "Hello?"


"Hey Mik, what's up?"

There was a pause on the phone and Xander heard Jacks voice in the background goading the young were to go on. He smiled and shook his head as he toweled off his hair and pulled some underwear from his locker.

"Want know... You mind if I visit Dawn's after school?"

He grinned, "Hell no, Mik. No problem at all... I'm glad you guys are getting along. Uh... You are getting along, right?"

"Yeah. Guess."

Xander blinked, trying to decode that phrase. Mikki could be hard to understand if he couldn't see her body language as she spoke. Especially if he forgot to adjust his hearing to compensate for her tonal control. Finally he decided that she meant 'I guess so' and NOT that he should guess whether they were getting along. "That's great Mik. Ah... you guys clear this with Mrs Summers?"

"Yeah. She said we're good for supper."

"Ok. I'll pick you up afer supper then. Good?"

"Good. Thanks."

"No prob. Have fun, Mik. Tell Dawn and Jacks I said hi."

"K." She said, then hung up.

Xander smiled, glad for Mikki as he hung up the phone himself. She needed some kids her age to deal with, and Dawn was the closest. Which was sad, when he considered it, since Dawn was mentally four years older then Mikki.

Xander stepped into the lunchroom about fifteen minutes after the bell, eyeing the line to the cafeteria with distaste. <So not going to happen.>

Instead he walked up to the two microwaves stashed in the corner, intended for those who wanted to nuke the dry sub sandwiches on sale from the nearbye vending machines, and tossed a plastic container into it and punched in three minutes.

As his food was heating he turned around, eyeing the crowd until he spotted Tara and Faith sitting alone in one corner. The nuker pinged and Xander retrieved his food then headed in their direction.


He half turned, noticing Willow, Jessie, and Jonathan at another table and smirked slightly. <Nothing's ever easy.>

He headed over to their table first, flipping a chair around and straddling it comfortably. "Can't stay. I'm going to sit with Tare and Faith... New to the school and all that you know, don't know anyone here yet."

"Oh." Willow looked a little blank, like she didn't know how to react. "Ok."

"You guys want to come?" Xander asked, smiling. "Come on... they're friends of mine, I want them to feel welcome."

"Sure." Jonathan said, then looked around. "Uh... right?"

"Right." Willow nodded, grabbing her tray and getting up. "Jessie?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure. Let's go."

The four of them headed across the lunch room, spotting Buffy about halfway to their table.

"Hey, Buffster." Xander grinned, catching her attention as he nodded his head toward the mostly empty table. "Join us?"

Buffy nodded, smiling as she caught sight of the group, and headed over.

Faith grinned widely as she watched Xander maneuver all the key players to the same table while making it look like child's play. <Damn. Boytoy acts different in school...>

"Hey, Tara." Xander smiled, at the shy blond. "How was class?"


"Cool. Faith?"

Faith shrugged, "You know. Same oh. I almost miss my old cardboard box."

"Huh?" Buffy and Willow both looked up, confused.

Faith smirked and shrugged, "Nothin."

Xander shook his head, but smiled. "How about the rest of you? Good day so far?"

Three of them answered in the affirmative or, in Jessie's case, just shrugged. Only Buffy remained silent.

"Trouble B?"

Buffy looked up in surprise at Faith, "Huh?"

"Sorry, Buffy." Xander smiled, "This is Faith. You'll get used to her eventually... I think. I'm still working on it myself, but I assume that sooner or later it has to happen."

"Har de har, boytoy." Faith mock laughed. "And for the record, you ain't no prize yerself."

Xander shrugged, still talking to Buffy. "And the cute blond with the adorable stutter is Tara."

"Hi." Buffy said, shifting uncomfortably as she nodded at them.

"H...hi." Tara stuttered, turning beet red as she alternated between staring at the table and glaring at Xander.

"See?" Xander grinned, "Adorable."

Xander and Faith chuckled as Tara turned redder, then finally had pity on her and stopped.

"Ah buck up Tiger." Faith advised her, "You know that X is just yankin yer chain. Unless you laugh along, he'll just keep on getting a kick out of that. Get tough, it's not like he could stand up to ya if you pushed back. Xan's a wimp and you know it."

Willow snickered at that, causing Jessie to laugh out loud as well, and then the rest broke up, including Buffy. Xander sat there, sighing and nodding, until even Tara smiled slightly and braved a low chuckle.

Faith and Xander's eyes met across the table and he nodded to her. She smirked and winked back, then turned back to her food.

"So, what's everyone doing tonight?" Xander asked, shifting the conversation to a new track.

After eating, Xander paused in the quad on his way to his next class and pulled out his cell.

"G-man. It's me."

"Yeah. Looks like we were dead on, about Wes. Sorry."

"I don't know. I've got a date at the Bronze tonight with the gang plus four. If we haven't fucked things up too bad then maybe Darla will be there... maybe even Luke."

Xander paused frowning, "I know that, Giles... But I don't think it... We can't let them take anymore lives. You've seen the papers. Sunnydale's on it's way to the top of the charts again. I'm not letting them have anyone I can save."

Xander sighed, "Alright... I'll consider it."

Another pause. "Yeah. I've been thinking about him too."

Xander smiled after a moment, "Oh, I'm going to enjoy that part."

He started walking again, laughing out loud. "You want to watch? I thought you might. Tonight, I'll call with directions. Be ready to move."

"Alright. Later, Giles."

Xander hung up and strolled toward his next class, chortling to himself as he walked.

"Look at that prick. Walking around like he owns the school."

"Calm down, Larry. You know what the coach said."

Larry nodded, grimacing. The Coach had ripped the entire team open, warning them off fighting in general terms, but also mentioning that because of 'school spirit' they should make sure to support members of ALL school teams. It was a not so subtle order to leave Harris alone.

What was worse, in Larry's opinion, was the fact that it wasn't needed. The majority of the football team didn't want ANYTHING to do with Harris after last year. Sunnydale, normally a top ranked team, got it's ass kicked in practically every game of the season, culminating in a humiliating final game that sent them all home with no hope of making the championship playoffs.

No one, least of all Larry himself, wanted that to happen again.

But that bastard Harris didn't have to rub it in either.

He showed up out of the blue, dressed like some fucking movie star, with two girls on his arms and a sports car to boot! It was sickening.

"Come on, Larry." Percy muttered, pulling at his arm. "There's nothing you can do about it."

Larry grimaced, but nodded and let Percy drag him off. "Fine. Let's go. Fuck that loser anyway."

"Look at that dork."

Cordelia Chase rolled her eyes but ignored Harmony as she started on another rant about Xander Harris. The blond airhead had been on that track since first period and showed no signs of halting any time soon.

Cordy sighed, half turning, "So, Amber, what classes do you have this afternoon?"

Harmony bristled at being ignored, but didn't say anything out loud. There wasn't much she could say, she had yet to recover from last year's gaff. Cordelia 'Queen C' Chase had made certain that Harmony Kendall stayed in the doghouse. She ignored the chattering of the other two as they walked to class, brooding about the events of the day.

The Coach had called all of last years cheerleaders together and given a speech on supporting the school and all that rah rah crap that he did every year, but then had gone on to say that anyone caught trying to 'turn the athletes against one another' would be kicked off the team without recourse.

It hadn't helped that he'd been looking at her the entire time.


Harmony blinked, looking around. "Huh?"

"What is your damage, girl?" Cordelia asked snidely. "Class? Remember?"

"Right. Sorry, let's go."

Cordelia rolled her eyes, "Well duh."

Harmony sighed, holding her tongue. It just seemed that she couldn't win ever since last year.

Damn Xander Harris.

Damn him to hell.

School still sucked, Xander realized as he tried to keep from snoring his way through the math teacher's droning voice. Things really were just like he remembered. Too bad he couldn't have remembered things a little nicer.

Xander smiled involuntarily at the thought.

"Mr Harris. Do you find something about the square root of X to be comical?"

Xander looked up, almost quizzically. "Ummm... No?"

"Then what are you smiling at?"

<Not your sense of humor, that's for sure.> Xander though grumpily as he looked up, "Nothing sir."

"Then kindly stop it and pay attention." The teacher snapped, to the amusement of the class, and then went back to his lesson.

Once that would have bothered Xander a lot, not that he'd have shown it. But inside he would be twisting over those words, and the unwanted attention, to the point that he'd crack a bad joke and elicit even more laughs just to cover his discomfort.

Now, surprisingly, Xander found that he didn't much care.

Now he knew who he was, and didn't have to cover for himself with the people in his class. If they didn't know him, it wasn't his problem anymore.

Xander Harris smiled again, a half smirk, and picked up his pencil as he started working out the solution to the value of X.

Chapter 6

The last bell of the day had rung, and Xander was moving through the quad toward the parking lot. He came to a stop by KARR, nodding toward the sweeping red sensor on the Trans-am as he waited. It didn't take long for Faith to show up with Tara in tow and the three of them looked around.

"Good day?" Xander asked softly.

Tara nodded, Faith shrugged.

"Cool." He said, putting a smile on his face as Jessie, Willow, and Jonathan showed up with Buffy in tow. "Hey guys. Ready for a night at the bronze to drown the first day sorrows?"

"Yeah, sounds like fun." Buffy answered, glancing around. "Hey that's my mom, I've got to go."

"Cool. Cya." Jessie said, walking around the black trans-am as he scowled at Xander. "So you get to drive a sports car, while I get a volks, huh?"

Xander grinned, waving goodbye to Buffy as she headed off. "Beggars and choosers, Jessie ol pal. Beggars and choosers. Besides, I didn't choose the car. KARR chose me."

"Huh?" Jessie and Jonathan looked confused.

Xander just grinned it off, "Hey look, I've got to go. You know the girls... they've got to get home and spend the next six hours getting ready."

"Keep it up boytoy." Faith smacked his arm. "And I'll hang you out the window by your heels while we're doing two hundred miles per."

Jessie's expression changed from puzzled to shocked, "Two hundred miles... you've got to be kidding!"

Jonathan, on the other hand, had completely missed the speed reference. Instead, he locked onto something he found much more interesting. "Uh... Xander...?"

"Yeah, Jono?"

"Why does she call you boytoy?"

Xander groaned while Faith peeled with laughter.

"Don't ask. It's a long story, best told over lots and lots of beer. And we're not old enough for that yet." Xander said, shaking his head.

"Hey," Faith scowled, "You make it sound like I drive you to drinking. Last time I checked, I was chasing you the other way."

"Yeah. Suicide." Xander rolled his eyes, "Get in the car, we've got to go."

"Do I look like your dog?" Faith asked him over the roof of the trans-am.

"Well... maybe a little, just in the eyes you know." Xander grinned as she glared at him.

"Oh you're so gonna pay for that, X."

"Sit. Stay." Xander said back as he opened the drivers side and got in.

Faith dropped into the seat beside him, scowling at him. "Woof."

Xander started the car, more for show then anything else because KARR was already in standby mode, and glanced over to Jessie. "See you at the Bronze. Right?"

"Right-oh." Jessie said as he, Willow, and Jonathan piled into the Volkswagen.

Xander shifted the trans-am into reverse and pulled out of the space before peeling out of the school lot like he was running from the mouth of hell itself.

What a coincidence.

Giles was waiting for them when they arrived back at the manor.

"How was your first day?" Giles asked, smirking.

"Peachy." Faith muttered, slamming the door as she stomped in.

"What's with her?" Giles asked, watching the dark slayer move through.

"Xander c-called her a dog." Tara said, half smiling.

"What!?" Giles asked, almost spitting out the tea he was sipping at.

"I did not." Xander grinned, "She asked if she looked like a dog... I said maybe around the eyes."

"Good Lord, Xander." Giles choked, "Are you insane? Saying that to ANY girl is suicide... to a Slayer, it's just asking for real pain."

Xander laughed, "I know."

Giles shook his head as Xander walked past. "Sometimes I worry about that boy. He seems to enjoy living dangerously just a little too much for my taste."

Tara shrugged, "I don't t-think it's serious."

"Between Faith and Xander?" Giles asked.

Tara nodded.

"Oh, it's serious. Just not the way you think." Giles chuckled, "They should just act their age and be done with it."

"What d-do you mean?"

Giles shook his head, "Never mind, Tara... How was your first day?"

Tara smiled shyly and bowed her head. "I-it was f-fun."

"Don't be ashamed to enjoy school, my dear." Giles grinned at her, "But don't be afraid to enjoy other things too. Are you joining the group at the Bronze tonight?"

"You know about that?" Tara asked, eyes widening.

Giles nodded.

"I... I don't know. I t-think maybe I should study..."

Giles shook his head, "Normally I might concur... but you should get out some too, my dear. But if you do go out tonight, may I make a suggestion on accessories?"


Giles produced a small pouch and tossed it to her, "Xander is mixing business with pleasure tonight, Tara. If you go, be sure to bring this."

Tara looked down into the pouch and recognized the components necessary to work druidic magic. Poultices, healing herbs, and protection from evil. She swallowed, then looked up at Giles and nodded slowly.

Faith slammed the door to her room shut, growling in frustration.

Xander was trying to kill her. That was it. He was trying to get her to spontaneously combust. Explode. Implode. Something like that!

God, it was infuriating.

How DARE he flirt with her like old times.

It wasn't fair. Goddamn it, if he wasn't going to touch her, he shouldn't be allowed to play like that.

Faith stripped off the red silk shirt and threw it across the room.


Before, she'd have told him to fuck off and gone out looking for her own fun. Now? Shit. The only guys she could get to touch her would be old degenerates, jocks, or fourteen year old pimple faced... teenagers!

Faith bared her teeth. She hadn't liked fourteen year olds when she had BEEN a fourteen year old.

This sucked.

Faith checked herself out in the mirror, scowling at the slim figure that was scowling back. Her face was chubby, looking three years younger then it actually was because of it. Sure, in a few years, Faith knew that same 'chubby' look would be a killer, especially with the smokey eyes she'd practiced until they were part of her. But for now it was death on her 'social' world.

<I should just go out and find a Biker to ball.> She thought for the thousandth time. <It's not like it would be the first time.>

And for the thousandth time she growled at herself, remembering how dirty those other times had made her feel even as the glow of the event peaked.

"Damn it, Dana Tasker... You're putting a serious fuckin crimp in my lifestyle." She snapped at her reflection, sighing as she turned away. "Why didn't you just stay dead when I killed you the last time? Life could be a lot simpler."

Disgusted with herself on several levels, she walked back around the bed and threw herself onto the comfortable queen size mattress.


Xander checked his watch as he finished laying out his things for the night. <Almost time to pick up Mik.>

He smiled as he thought of what he and Giles had planned for the night, both before the Bronze and after. The Master may be proof against their efforts... <for now>... but his minions weren't. The death tolls in Sunnydale were on the rise again, already starting to peak past the most violent neighborhoods in the country, and Xander knew that the Mayor would be covering that data up as he prepared for his own little massacre.

For the moment, that coverup worked in Xander's favor as well, and Sunnydale's, he knew. While the Mayor and the Master worked at odds with each other, they would subvert each other's plans, allowing him and his group to take them both down.

Until the Master was down, however, The Mayor was an asset.

Xander smiled ferally.


He had a plan for that too.

Xander closed the door on the basement as he emerged into the main foyer. "Hey guys, I'm heading over to pick up, Mikki. I'll be back later!"

A few noncommital grunts was all he got from Jack, and Giles just nodded. The girls were upstairs, so Xander just shrugged philosophically and headed out the door.

Chapter 7

Joyce Summers responded to the bell at the front door and was slightly surprised to see a young teen smiling at her when she opened the door. "Yes? Are you looking for Buffy?"

"Maybe later." the boy grinned, "Hi, I'm Xander Harris. I'm here to pick up Mikki."

"Mik... Oh." Joyce said in surprise, "I'd expected someone..."

"Older?" Xander grinned, "I get that a lot. Anyway, Mik is staying with my family for the school year and my... Uncle Jack asked me to pick her up."

"Ok..." Joyce shook her head, suddenly remembering that's she'd left him out on the doorstep. "Come on in..."

Xander grimaced for an instant, but then stepped in lightly. He was going to have to do something about that, it was dangerous for Joyce to be asking people in. But that was for later, he had to deal with Buffy first. "Thanks."

"No problem... I'll go get Mikki... she's upstairs with Jacks and Dawn."

Xander smiled, "Thanks."

"Why don't you have a seat?"

"Thanks." He repeated, taking a seat on the couch.

Joyce vanished up the stairs while Xander waited. He didn't have to wait long before there was a group rumble as three young, or apparently young, girls came down the stairs in unison. Xander stood up, turning around to smile at the three of them, and noted with amusement and gratitude that Jacks had restrained Dawn from leaping at him.

<Thank God. I'd rather face Glory again then deal with Joyce in protective mother mode.> Xander shuddered through his smile as Mikki ran over to him. "Hey you."

"Hey." She said in return, tentatively clinging to his arm.

Xander smiled softly at her, scruffing the young girl's hair a little and looked up to see a mixture of confusion and maybe jealousy on Dawn's face. <I'll have to explain Mik to her soon.>

"I see she found you." Joyce said, smiling dryly as she came downstairs in the wake of the trio.

Xander grinned and nodded as Mikki pressed a little closer, unconsciously seeking more contact to assure herself that Xander was both real and alright. Xander caught an odd look from Joyce, but let it pass as a grumbling Slayer came down the stairs.

"Would you guys cut out the racket??" Buffy muttered, "I've got to finish some reading so I can go out ton... Xander? What are you doing here?"

"He's picking up Dawn's new friend." Joyce supplied the answer.

"The twerp made a friend?" Buffy said snidely, smirking at the dual expressions of annoyance on Dawn and Jacks' faces.

"Buffy." Joyce said sternly, "That's uncalled for."

Buffy shrugged, unrepentant.

"So you two know each other?" Joyce asked, looking between Xander and Buffy.

"We met in school today." Xander grinned, "And I believe that we're going out to the Bronze later?"

"A date?" Joyce asked pointedly.

"Mom!" Buffy looked outraged, "It's so not a date."

Xander grinned and shrugged, "When she's right, she's right. Just a group of friends... probably about seven of us or so."

"Oh, well that's nice." Joyce smiled.

"Hey, Jacks." Xander smiled, turning to the young Fey, "When's Vin dropping by?"

She shrugged, "Soon I guess, and hey yourself."

"You two know each other?" Buffy asked, frowning suddenly.

"Oh sure." Xander grinned, "Vin is an *old* friend... of the family."

Jacks smirked at the emphasis.

"Really? I'd wondered what brought him to Sunnydale." Joyce smiled, "I was entertaining the notion that he was stalking us."

Xander chuckled, "Vin's not exactly subtle, but you'd never see him if he were stalking you. He used to be quite the hunter, right Jacks?"

"Oh yes." Jacks replied, enjoying the game as she remembered to put a girlish sound to her voice. "Back before he 'reformed'."

Joyce and Buffy looked confused while Xander and Jacks laughed a bit.

"Sorry," Xander said, "It's kind of a... family joke."

"I see."

"I don't." Buffy muttered.

"You will." Dawn smirked.

Jacks glared at Dawn, who smirked back at the Fey.

"Anyway." Joyce stepped between the three of them before anything could erupt. "What's this 'Bronze' place?"

"It's sort of a nightclub for the highschool set." Xander replied, smiling easily. "Usually has a live band, lots of kids... the basics."

"Sounds nice." Joyce nodded.

"Well, it's definitely... Sunnydale in action." Xander said with a finality that the older Summers woman didn't understand.

A finality that the youngest understood too well.

And one that the middle child heard with a sudden sinking sensation in her gut that told her that Xander's words were going to come back and haunt her.

Xander and Mikki were halfway to the car when Jacks came running up behind them. "Hey guys!"

Xander and Mik paused and half turned to see the Fey come a stop beside them. "What's up, Jacks?"

"I think you blew it with Buffy." Jacks sighed.

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"You shouldn't have told her you knew me..." Jacks said, looking a little down.


"Cause uh... well... she sort of stormed in on me one day a while back, kinda ticked off cause she felt... me."

Xander groaned, "Oh hell. What did you do?"

"I uh... kinda showed myself and slammed her into a wall."

Xander rubbed his face, looking up at the house. As he'd feared, there were a pair of eyes watching suspiciously from the window. "Great. Just great."


"I'll deal." Xander sighed. "I'll deal. She was bound to find something out soon anyway. You'd better head back and play the nice twelve year old until Vin gets here. Unless you want to toss Joyce into a wall too?"

Jacks glared at him, "I'd NEVER..."

Xander stared at her for a moment.

"Well... Ok, I might. But I'd be gentle about it...?"

Xander laughed softly, involuntarily. "Go. Now. Before I remind you why Elan is considered a Greater Rune Weapon."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Probably not." Xander smirked, "But Elan definitely would."

Jacks stopped in mid word, considering. Xander she could handle, no doubts. Elanthielle, however, was better not trifled with. Women were always the more dangerous of the species. "I still owe you for this morning."

Xander shrugged, "I'll put it on your tab."

Jacks reddened, shaking as she glowered at him, words for a transmutation spell on her lips as she watched him walk away.

Xander lifted a single finger, "Ah ah ah, not in public."

Then he got into the car and *grinned* at her as he started it up and drove off.

"Ohhhh...." She growled, staring at the black car. "The day is coming, Commander. The day is coming."

"Not nice."

Xander glanced to one side, "What?"

"That wasn't nice." She repeated herself, glaring mildly at Xander.

"Jacks will cope." Xander grinned.

"No. Meant that she likes tricks... you could get lots of trouble."

Xander shrugged, "Probably will."

"Why do it?"

Again he shrugged, looking over at the young Were. "Because Jacks does like tricks."


Xander smirked, "I always liked being fast with the tongue... quick witted, saying sharp things..."


"So. It's more fun to match yourself against people who are at least as good as you are." Xander smirked, "And Jacks... she's not too shabby."

Mikki shook her head, "Bad. No like."

Xander chuckled softly. He knew that Mikki understood everything he said, probably better then any twelve year old he'd ever known. Cat's grew up fast, maturing in months rather then years, and some of that was evident in Mikki's intrinsic intelligence. It was funny, then, that she didn't sound nearly as intelligent as she was.

If he hadn't been around her for months, Xander would probably be lost trying to deal with her. But he knew her body language now, which added one facet to how she talked, and his ears could detect the tonal variations that made of the third facet. So he knew that when she said, 'bad. No like.' her body language was screaming amusement, and the tones of her voice indicated laughter and sarcasm.

In other words, she was playing him.

Xander was still laughing softly to himself over that when they reached their neighborhood and made their way up the drive to the white mansion.

<Slayers, Witches, Immortals, Elves, and Cats. And their all women.> Laugher laughed a little harder, <No wonder everyone I meet thinks I'm insane.>

Chapter 8

"Come on, Faith! What the hell is the holdup?"

Faith rolled her eyes at the plaintive call as she strode over to the door and threw it open. "You tell me!"

Xander fell back at her snarl, blinking in wonder at the bra and panty clad Slayer who grabbed his arm and hauled him into her room.

"Whoa! Faith, what the hell..." Xander trailed off as he stared where the Slayer was pointing.

"What the hell?"

"That's my question exactly." Faith snarled, grabbing a frilly pink dress from her closet. "Did you honestly think I'd be caught DEAD wearing this!?"

Xander stared, his jaw working dumbly as he flipped through all the clothes, which were equally sweet in nature. After a few moments his head caught up to her words and he blinked, "Whoa! Whoa! You're blaming ME for this shit!?"

"Who the hell else?? You think G would do this to me?" Faith snapped, "He knows better!"

For a moment Xander considered protesting, but then he figured that yeah, Giles probably did know better. Still, there was no way he'd ask Faith to wear something like that pink dress. <God, even Dawn would look ridiculous in that.>

He paused, pulling out what could only be described as a catholic schoolgirl outfit and stared at it for a long moment.

"Keep dreaming, X." Faith snapped, knocking it out of his hands. "If you didn't do this, then who the hell did!?"

"How should I know?!" Xander demanded. "Probably the same wacko that switched all my denim for silk!"

Faith growled, "Fine. Then you find out who did it, then come talk to me. I want to have a few moments alone with this person. I had four pairs of leather pants in here worth over three grand!!"

Xander flinched. He hadn't seen that credit card bill yet.

"Look, we'll replace it tomorrow. Ok?" Xander tried to placate her. "Just find something for tonight."

"Like what!?" Faith demanded. "The white cotton number with the frills, or the pink knee knocker with the candy stripes!?"

"I don't know. Grab one of my shirts like you did this morning!"

Faith scowled at him, waving around the room. "And show up in my underwear? Cause I don't see any pants in here, do you!?"

Xander looked around, "What about the ones you were wearing?"

"Down the laundry chute." Faith sighed, "I tossed em before I checked my closet."

"Ok, look, I'll go dig them out. Ok? They'll do for tonight, hell it's probably going to be a fight night anyway. No one will be worried about clothes." Xander said, heading for the door. He paused, shrugging, "Well... 'cept Buff and Cordelia."

Faith snorted, "Like I care what the cheerleader thinks. Just find my pants."

Xander headed out the door, frowning to himself. <What the hell is going on here??>

A half hour later, things were more or less sorted out, but Xander wasn't looking forward to the credit card bills he had coming in the near future.

<Thank God whatever is going on didn't fuck around with our armor.> Xander thought, then frowned as he was sidetracked. <Which reminds me. I better call Terry tomorrow and get him to come down for a visit... It's time to place a standing order.>

"Alright, everybody ready?"

Everyone nodded in assent, as the group gathered in the main hall.

Xander turned to Mikki, "You good, Mik?"

"Good." The girl nodded.

"Alright, you listen to Merlin. You hear?" Xander smirked, knowing that Mikki would probably spend most of her time well away from any of Merlin's pickups. Still she was twelve, and a Were, which meant that she was well able to look after herself.

So when she nodded to him, he just accepted that and looked her over. "You have it?"

"Here." She held up the small transceiver that he'd given her, and he smiled.

"Good. You know what to do if you have any trouble."

"Yeah." She said, her tones and body language screaming at him to get out and leave her alone with trivial details.

"Alright." Xander looked around, "Let's go."

The group headed out, most of them piling into the black Trans-Am. Faith was wearing her black hip huggers, same as the morning, but had opted to grab one of Xander's white silk shirts to replace the blood red one from earlier. Tara was dressed conservatively, as usual, in jeans and a sweater that Xander couldn't figure out. He'd boil in something like that without Elan's training.

He shrugged it off, nodding to where Jack Styles was sliding behind the wheel. "Alright. I'll meet you guys at the Bronze... and Jack? No driving. Let KARR do the work, ok?"

"Yeah yeah. How hard could it be anyway."

Xander shook his head and walked around to the front of the car. He knelt by the sensor and whispered, "When you drop them off, you know what to do. Right?"


The sensor swept a couple more times as Xander nodded, "Oh... and KARR?"

The AI silently waited for him to continue.

"I wasn't kidding. Don't let Jack drive."


Xander nodded, patting the cars hood slightly as she smiled and got up. He walked across the way to the Vette that was parked a short distance away. "You ready G-man?"

Giles smiled ferally, "I'm looking forward to this."

"Alright. Let's go." Xander smirked, hopping over the door and landing in the convertible's passenger seat.

The two cars roared out of the drive, staying together until they hit the town proper, then the Vette split away and went it's own direction.

Buffy walked along the route to the bronze, following directs she'd received earlier. The streets in the small town were actually rather dark and foreboding for a place with 'Sunny' in it's name. She sighed and kept moving, despite the certain knowledge that the night was NOT her friend.

A shiver ran up her back and she resisted the urge to turn, instead let her other senses take up the slack as she walked.

There it was again.

Not much, just an echo of a whisper. A foot on pavement. A brush of material against material. The whisper of the air being parted by a moving body. The smell of... something on the wind.

Buffy paused, reviewing her area and situation. Her stake was in her pocket, it would take only seconds to draw. The alley she was in had some possibilities for cover and ambush. Both in her favor, and against her.

Course chosen, Buffy moved swiftly and silently through the night.

It was her.

This was the first time he'd seen her since she'd been called.

Angel steadied himself as he followed her, not wanting to give himself away. The Slayer was a dangerous opponent, and her instincts could cost him his unlife before he had a chance to redeem his crimes.

As he was about to follow her downt he alley, though, a form melted out of the shadows and grabbed him from behind, a ridgehand pressing against his throat to muffle any sounds he might make as he felt his balance being twisted and shattered.

A second later, Angel the ensouled Vampire found himself slammed bodily against the brick of the nearest building as he stared into two dark eyes that were glaring back at him.

"Don't move or you're dust."

He felt the pressure of something against his chest and presumed that it was a stake, but didn't look down as he found himself staring in awe at the piercing eyes behind the dark material that covered the face that confronted him. "Urk..."

The hand relaxed off his throat, letting him get a word out. "W...who are you?"

Angel winced, his voice sounded hesitant and weak from the force on his throat. Not how he intended.

"Shut up." The figure said, keeping him pinned to the wall and not allowing the vampire any leverage to use his strength to fight back. "Just listen. I know why you're here, I know who sent you. If you want to help the Slayer, that's fine by me... But no mystery man bullshit."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Right." The man reached into his jacket, quickly palming the small box inside. He flipped it open and shoved the contents in Angel's face.

"Ahhh! Get that out of my face!"

"Shut up." The voice hissed. "Funny thing for a vampire to carry, Angelus."

"I'm Not..."

"Shut up. No gifts. No secrets." The voice said, "You want to help, that's fine. We can use the muscle... But don't fuck with me on this, or I'll leave out staked out in the sun. Got me?"

Angel pushed against the man again, but still found that he was pinned down and unable to move properly. "What the hell is your problem??"

The figure pulled something out of his pocket and glanced at it. "My problem is a fifteen year old Slayer ready for her first big crush, and a two hundred and forty year old Vampire who's getting ready to put the moves on her."

"What!? I am not!"

"Shut up. Even if I believed you, which I don't," The voice made that statement abundantly clear, "You play the dark mysterious savior and she'll fall for you. That's what teenagers do, moron. They fuck up. All the time. She's the Slayer, and I can't let you be her mistake. Not this time."

"What are you ta..."

"Shut up." The voice snapped again, pressure being applied to his throat again. "I'll be generous. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Just tell me one thing..."

As the pressure was lifted from his throat, Angel rasped out one word. "What?"

The figure held a picture up in his face, and he saw that it was the Slayer. Buffy. "If she told you she loved you... If she really meant it... Could you say no?"

The answer caught in his throat as Angel stared at the girl in the photo, remembering what he thought the first time he saw her. He swallowed, and slowly shook his head.

"Right." The voice sounded almost gentle this time. "Remember that. And remember this... She's fifteen, a Slayer, and has enough problems about to come crashing down in her. Don't add to her pain."

Angel felt the weight lift off him and he moved slowly, gingerly rubbing his throat. "Who are you?"

"A friend." The figure said as a black trans-am slid up behind him.

Angel's eyes widened as he realized that there was no driver in the car. He hesitated, then scowled at the figure. "Maybe I don't want a friend."

"I never said I was yours." The figure said as he slid behind the wheel of the car.

The black car slid up closer, coming to a stop beside him as the passenger door opened. The figure inside looked across the car at him, "You can get in the car and help. Or stay out and leave town. Those are the only options you have Angelus."

Angel swallowed, hesitating again. After a moment he took the figure at his word and got in the car. As the door shut of it's own accord, Angel looked over. "Don't call me that. I'm not him."

"I know that." The man behind the wheel said as the car slid away, "But he's still in you, never forget that Angel. Curses, were meant to be broken."

Buffy frowned to herself as her hair waved slightly in the breeze. She balanced herself carefully for several minutes, but nothing came up the alley. Finally she dropped down, landing lightly on the balls of her feet and frowning.

<Maybe I'm hearing things now.> She thought, sighing. <Something about this town really gives me the creeps.>

Chapter 9

The black car slid to a halt outside the club known as the Bronze and the vampire called Angel stared out the windshield at the brick of the wall silently.

"You're sure about this?"

"I'm sure." The masked man beside him said stonily. "Believe me, I know. Your curse is anchored by your guilt. It's how the Gypsy's made it stick for so long. Your soul stays in charge only so long as it suffers... You lose that guilt, even for an instant... and the curse is broken."

Angel stared at the dash of the car in shock, shaking his head. "What... How... I mean, what causes it?"

The man seemed to hesitate before answering, "You want the truth? I'm not sure I know all the answers to that one. I don't think that there is one single thing that would break the curse... anything that makes you forget, that makes you feel... human again."

"That'll never happen." Angel said bitterly.

"The right situation. The right... person... could do it. Miracles happen everyday." The man replied, "Even for the other side."

Angel looked over, staring at the dark eyes behind the black cloth that covered the man's face. Something in his voice, something in what he said...

"Buffy." Angel said after a moment. "She could do it."

The man hesitated again, and then nodded slowly. "Yeah. She could do it. But don't be fooled... She may not be the only one, and that may not be the only way."

"So... in order to stay... me, I have to be suffer forever." Angel snorted, his voice bitter as he thunked his head back on the head rest and stared out the windshield.

Beside them another car pulled in and shut off it's lights, but Angel didn't pay any attention.

"It sucks, but you've been cursed. It's not supposed to be a day in the park."

"What the hell do you know about it!?" Angel raged, his hand suddenly flashing over and grabbing the man's black jumpsuit. He pulled him halfway across the car, losing control of his emotions as he vamped out. "What in the name of all HELL do you know about it!?"

"Not a goddamned thing." The man said calmly, his eyes matching Angel's. "But then, I don't have the excuse of a demon to pardon my crimes. And trust me Angelus, I've committed my share."

"Stop calling me THAT!"

"Then stop acting like him." The man snapped with finality.

Angel stopped, looking down at how tightly his hands were clenched in the man's jumpsuit. He swallowed and let go, letting the man slip back into his seat.

They sat in silence for a long moment before the man spoke.

"You got in the car, so I'm giving you a chance. But I've seen what Angelus can do firsthand. I've faced him myself."

Angel looked up, eyes wide. "How... who are you?"

"You don't know me. Angelus doesn't know me anymore either." The man seemed to smile, a gleam coming into his eye. "But that's irrelevant. Here's the point... If you lose your soul, Angelus is dust. No questions, no curses, no third chance. Got it?"

Angel nodded, a little dumbly. "Yeah... I got it."

"Good. That's Angelus handled. Now for you." The man reached up and pulled off his balaclava, exposing his face.

Angel looked at him, puzzled. He knew he was human, he could hear the heartbeat, smell the blood. But... "You're... just a kid."

"The name is Xander. And I'm no more 'just' anything then you're 'just' a vampire." Xander said, a part of him chuckling humorously at the irony of him saying those words to the ensouled vamp.


"I want you to understand something," Xander said seriously. "You flake out on us in a fight, you run from a fight, you refuse to help an ally for any reason... I'll stake you. You don't stand this out, you don't pull some chicken shit shadow man routine on anyone. If you're here, you you're here to fight. Understand me?"

Angel hesitated, but then nodded. "I understand."

"Alright." Xander said, "Put this on."

Angel caught the balaclava as it was tossed to him and frowned as Xander started stripping out of his jumpsuit. "What the hell are you doing?"

Xander grinned, "I've got a date. So for the rest of the night, you're going to stand in for me."

"Rest of the? What the hell is going on?"

Xander shrugged, "Don't know. By the way... meet your new partner."

Angel frowned, about to ask another question, when his door flung open and two strong hands yanked him from the car. "What the!!"

"You tell him?" Angel heard a new voice, an older voice, snarl. The accent was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. A bit of a cockney snarl with a definite upper class lean. Unusual to say the least.

"I told him, G-man."

"Good." The man, G-man, snarled as he looked down at Angel. "Let's get something straight. Go near the Slayer to do ANYTHING other then help her in a fight and I'll..."

"Dust me." Angel choked out. "Yeah, yeah. I get it."

"No. You'll wish I'd dusted you." Giles snapped. "I'm familiar with gypsy magic myself... I could make you're remaining un-life very... Very unpleasant."

Angel nodded silently. "I got it. I got it."

Giles smiled at him, "Good. Then we won't have any trouble then, will we?"

"Not at all." Angel said, getting up from his awkward position and dusting himself off. "Now what the hell am I supposed to wear this for??"

Xander walked around the car, and tossed the jumpsuit to him as well. "And this also. A few weeks ago three of us invaded the Master's cavern... While I'm pretending to be snackfood, you two pretend to be those three people. That way, if any of them survive to report back, they'll think it's just the same three people. Got it?"

Angel swallowed, and would have paled if he had any blood to lose. "You invaded his lair?"

"And got out alive and unharmed, Git." Giles snapped, "Remember that."

Angel nodded slowly, then frowned. "Wait... Three of us? If you're going inside to be bait then who..."

"Me." A chiming voice came from behind him and Angel half turned to see Jacks in her true form, floating about three inches off the ground. She smiled sweetly at him and leaned very close, "I've been told about you. Mess with any of my friends and I'll devise a punishment that Oberon himself would fear."

"Ober..." Angel started, then gasped as Jacks suddenly shifted and blurred. In a moment, she was a little taller, and dressed in the same black garb as the other two. "This good?"

"Perfect. Faith would be jealous." Xander grinned. "Everyone ready?"

Giles and Jacks nodded together, and then Xander stared at Angel until he too nodded.

"Good. Weapons are in the trunk. Angel, do keep your fingers OFF the trigger. You're just here for show tonight." Xander said as he brushed out a wrinkle in the silk shirt he was wearing. "Now... I have to go in there and try to look appetizing. Wish me luck."

After Xander had left, Angel found himself boxed in by two people who were a hell of a lot more then they seemed. One was obviously a mage of some type, the power radiating from the man was enough that the demon inside him alternately wanted to run or drain the man dry in an instant.

The woman. She was something else.

Angel, Liam, knew what she was. But he could barely believe it. Even Angelus had never had contact with the Fey before, though the Master had intimated that they did, in fact, exist. Her true form had been what could charitably be called elfin in modern parlance, and her reference to Oberon was telling.

She also radiated power, but it came in fits and surges that Angel couldn't understand.

He didn't have time to puzzle it out when the man shoved a gun into his hands. He looked at it, startled, "Gun's don't kill vampires..."

"Where have you been?" The man smirked. "That belief is a year out of date now. And pretty soon, every vampire in the world is going to know it."

Angel swallowed and hefted the odd weapon gingerly. "I don't really know how to..."

"Then don't. Just put this on," The woman yanked the Balaclava down over his head, "And look menacing."

Angel just stood there.

Jacks sighed, "I guess that'll do. You know, you really don't act like the scourge of europe..."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you." Angel sounded exasperated. What did these people want from him? They threaten to dust him if he acts like Angelus, then sound disappointed when he doesn't. He stopped, wincing as he considered that maybe she WAS disappointed, disappointed that she didn't get to stake him. Yet.

She shrugged, "Come on, let's go."

"Where are we going?"

Giles grabbed his shoulder, "Fire escape. We're taking the roof."

Angel let himself be pulled along, then willingly clambered up the fire escape. On the roof they quickly made their way across to the trap door and let themselves down into the building.

Chapter 10

"Hi Buffy!" Willow said cheerily, her voice surprised when she saw Buffy sit down beside her.

"Hello, Willow." Buffy looked around, somewhat impressed with the Bronze despite her expectations. The place seemed fairly interesting, and attracted quite a crowd. "How's things?"

"Oh good... good."

"Where's Jessie, Xander and the rest?"

"Jessie's around somewhere, probably chasing Cordy."

"You're kidding." Buffy grinned.

Willow rolled her eyes, nodding off in a corner.

Buffy turned around in time to see Cordelia snub Jessie and strut off with her friends in tow. She smiled, shaking her head as she remembered his attempts from earlier in the day. "He's persistant. I'll give him that."

"He's an idiot." Willow shrugged, "Cordy will never give him the time of day."

Buffy half shrugged, "I guess. So, what about you? Any guys on the horizon?"

Willow shook her head, "Me and guys don't mix so well. I'm guy free."

Buffy raised an eyebrow at that, then smiled. "Come on, can't be that bad? There has to be someone..."

Willow shook her head, "Not really. I had a thing for Xander once..."

"Once? He seems like a nice guy..."

"I don't know him much anymore." Willow said, sighing as she turned back to her drink. "He kinda vanished for a year."

"Vanished?" Buffy asked, trying to sound un-suspicious.

"Yeah." Willow nodded, then frowned. "But he started acting really weird just before that."

"Weird like how?"

Willow laughed a little, "Like he was possessed or something."

Buffy frowned, looking around as she tried to think. As she looked around the Bronze, collecting her thoughts, her eyes alighted on a figure that was distinctly out of place. She hesitated, then turned to Willow. "I'll be right back ok? I just saw someone I want to talk to."

Willow nodded, "Sure. No problem."

Buffy departed.

Xander walked into the Bronze, a self satisfied smirk on his face and a little bit of a spring in his step. <Damn that was fun.>

He almost felt guilty for it really, it's not like Angel knew about the clause in his curse, or about any of the future events that Xander had hopefully derailed. Almost. But not quite.

His smirked was threatening to become a full fledged face splitting grin when he spotted Faith across the room. She was dancing with some Jock or another, an odd smirk on her face. Xander didn't think too much about it, he just lifted his eyebrows and let his eyes sweep the room once before returning to catch her gaze.

Faith pursed her lips, then shook her head and shrugged at the same time.

<No vamps, but she's not sure.> Xander nodded, his smirk gone. <Damn. Alright... let's start scouting.>

He moved through the ground slowly as he did his own search, almost blinded to the crowd as he watched the auras shift around him.

His own method of detecting vampires was more certain than the Slayers, especially on the Hellmouth, but he had to actually be looked for them, and it was also somewhat disconcerting to leave on for any length of time.

The constant shifting colors of peoples auras was influenced by their emotions as well as their souls, and the emotions in the Bronze were riding on caffeine powered highs and school driven lows. Xander had to fight off a wave of vertigo as he moved, until his eyes lit on a familiar aura high above the crowd.

<Slayer.> He smiled, recognizing the same power he saw in Faith. Since he knew that Faith was on the dance floor, that left... <Buffy.>

He shifted his vision back to normal spectrum and smiled up at her, pausing to frown as he caught site of the person she was moving to meet.


"Well, well... Look who's here."

Harmony Kendall looked up at the snide tone in Cordelia's voice, "Who?"

"Your lover boy." Cordy smirked at her, "Why don't you go over there and give him another chance to blow you off for the geek squad."

Harmony reddened, turning away from where she saw Xander Harris walking into the Bronze. "Puh-lease. That was a momentary abberation... I *thought* that he was looking to move up in the world."

"Right." Cordy smiled slightly.

"Look who's talking." Harmony sneered, "You've got that geek hanging around you like a lovesick puppy."

Cordelia just looked superior as she smugly smiled at the blonde, "I *can't* help it if *all* the guys want to move up to my level. Sometimes I feel sorry for them... it's just so far to climb."

Harmony glowered in the dim light, but didn't say anything.

"Here to party?"

Wesley Wyndam Price flinched, surprised as his Slayer snuck up on him. "Hardly. This isn't... quite... my scene."

"Duh." Buffy smirked, "I'd guess... long nights, dark rooms, lots of other guys sitting around a table... lots of books, and dice. Right?"

Wesley started for a moment, then looked puzzled. "You very nearly described my nights perfectly... but... Dice?"

Buffy rolled her eyes, "Role playing games. You know, geek squad?"

Wesley frowned, "I didn't have time for such pursuits."

"Even the geeks didn't want you??" Buffy asked, eyes wide with sarcastic shock. "Great god, what a loser."

"Now see here...!" Wesley started, but Buffy just shrugged and waved him off.

"Relax watcher boy. I'm just messing with you." She said, looking away. "What brings you here anyway?"

"I'm here to try to talk some sense into you, Miss Summers." Wesley began earnestly, "You really have to train... You're the Slayer, the one..."

"Girl in all the world... blah blah blah." Buffy cut him off. "Look. I see vamp, I stake vamp. Ok? I've got it. Don't worry about me, I can't handle myself."

"There are worse things out there then vampires..."

"Yeah. And pushy British nerds are one of them." Buffy snapped. Somehow she had to get it across to this guy that she didn't *want* another watcher. She didn't want anyone to get close to, just so they could die.

"I'm being serious, young lady." Wesley tried again.

Buffy couldn't help it. She laughed at him.

Practically guffawed right in his face, but the look of earnest desire to do... something, on his face was just too much. Wesley frowned and waited her out, suppressing an urge to look downcast. "Really now, show some decorum."

"Relax, Wes." She said finally, getting herself under control. "I'm the Slayer, remember? I can handle things."

"I really don't believe you truly understand what you're saying." Wesley tried yet again. "For example, can you tell if there are any vampires down below?"

Buffy glanced down at the milling crowd and shrugged. "I dunno. I'm sure I could pick them out."

"That's not enough." He said, exasperated. "You're the Slayer. You should be able to look down there and *know*."

Buffy sighed and turned back to the crowd. "Fine."

She looked over the group and finally pointed. "There."


"Right there." Buffy said, pointing.


Buffy rolled her eyes, "See that guy dancing with the redhead?"

Wesley frowned, then looked over at Buffy. "What makes you think he's a vampire?"

"His clothes, duh."

Wesley shook his head, "They're dated?"

"Carbon dated." Buffy rolled her eyes. "He's dressed right out of the seventies, and he's..."

Buffy paused in whatever she was going to say as she spotted a face she knew. "Dancing with Willow."

"What? Who?"

"Willow. The redhead..." Buffy swallowed as the two of them started heading for the door. "I have to go."

Wesley started to say something, but then reconsidered. At least she was doing her duty.

Buffy rushed down the stairs, fighting to keep an eye on the 'couple' as they moved to the door. About halfway down she caught sight of another face she knew. Xander was leaning against the wall right next to the door.

She smiled as she saw Xander say something to Willow as the two approached. <Yes! Slow them down just a little bit... Just a few... NO!>

She groaned as Xander just smiled at them and let them go past. She was still groaning when she saw Xander look up to the ceiling of the Bronze. He nodded, then held up two fingers and drew a design in the air.

Buffy frowned, looking over her shoulder and up. For a brief moment she thought she saw movement in the shadows, but then it was gone.

When she looked back, Xander smiled at her and winked.

Then the crowd swelled around him, and he was gone when it parted.

<How'd he do...> Buffy shook her head, <No time! I've got to move!>

Buffy Summers, the Slayer, began to push her way through the crowd as fast as she could manage, working her way toward the door with an urgency she hadn't felt in some time.

<Damn Vampires. Damn Watchers.> She growled mentally, <And DAMN Sunnydale.>

Chapter 11

"Xander. You with us?"

Xander's voice crackled back a moment later. "I'm online Jacks. Go ahead."

"The blond is getting a bit frisky with the boy."

"Stop her. But remember the plan."

"Right." Jacks sighed darkly. She didn't like this plan much.

She cut off the tactical radio and looked down from the rooftop she was perched on. The blond had just vamped out, but the boy wasn't watching and had missed the entire scene. She was leaning in close when Jacks launched herself off the rooftop.

He flight through the night air was a silent, curving arc, that brought her to a whispered landing just a few meters from her target. As her feet touched the ground she sneered under the balaclava and called out. "Hey. Vamp."

Darla jumped back from the boy like she'd been electrocuted, spinning around to see a familiar form in black military garb. "You."

"You bet." Jacks grinned. "You know, an old lady like you really shouldn't be robbing the cradle like this. You should find yourself a nice geriatric type to settle down with."

Darla hissed in anger. "Slayer. Only Slayers make such stupid jokes during a fight."

"No, really... You need to find someone closer to you own age." Jacks grinned, thinking about her plans for Vin. "I have, and it's doing wonders for *my* attitude."

Darla snarled and charged her, "That's a matter of opinion."

The two supernatural beings clashed, throwing blows that would shatter a cinder block, and blocking them in turn. Niether able to gain the upper hand as they fought. Behind them, forgotten, Jessie McNally watched the fight with interest as he tucked something back into his sleeve.

<Slayer? Buffy?>

Darla snarled, sweeping down and kicking out hard at her opponent. Her foot caught Jacks by the ankles and the half Fey hit the ground hard.

Darla spun back to her feet, snarling as the black garbed figure immediately started to roll to her own feet. She spun around, her game face gone, and grabbed Jessie. "Come on! Run!"

Jessie found himself pulled away from the black garbed figure, barely managing to keep up with her.

Behind them, Jacks got to one knee and triggered her tactical link. "Mission accomplished. We've got a wrinkle though... The boy's still with her. They're on their way to the crypt."

There was a pause, then the answer came back. "Confirmed. Slayer is almost there. Looks like we've got us a party."

"On my way. I'll bring some party favors." Jacks smiled under the cloth mask, her eyes sparkling with an unearthly light.

"A crypt?" Willow asked in a wavering voice. "This is the big secret?"

The guy shrugged and smiled, "You know... it's kinda... cool? Right?"

"N-no... it's kinda creepy."

The guy was about to answer when there was a motion at the door to the crypt and they both jumped. Darla appeared at the door and ran in, dragging Jessie behind her. His eyes instantly registered worry when he spotted Willow.

"Willow... what are you doing here?"

"Shut up." Darla snapped, looking over. "We have to move. Those three freaks that hit the lair are just behind me."

"Wrong." Came a dark voice with a british accent. "We're already here."

Buffy slowed her pace as she came up to the crypt that was the source of the noise, she could hear shouts of alarm from inside, and that caused her to increase speed again. <Hang on, Willow.. I'm coming... I'm coming..."

Behind her, completely under her sense RADAR, Xander was skimming the ground and carefully matching her pace with deliberate ease. He timed it so that they both hit the entrance to the crypt at the same time.

Buffy skidded to a stop, shocked as she saw two vampire's in game face facing down with three people garbed in black.

That on it's own wasn't so shocking, but the three were holding the vampire's off. That was surprising.

They were going hand to hand, mixing it up with a flurry of pummeling blows exchanged on both sides as the fight started to heat up. That was when her sharp eyes spotted something moving behind them. A figure in the dark.

<Vampire!> She thought as she recognized the way the thing moved. She started to surge forward, knowing at least that for the moment the people in black were more or less on the same side.

She was stopped by a strong hand on her arm and turned in shock, swinging at the person she hadn't known was there.

Xander easily blocked the wild swing and shook his head. "Shhh..."

"Xander! Let me go, I have to help..."

"Let them do their job, Buff. Trust me." he said, smiling ever so slightly as he turned his attention back to the fight. "Just get ready."

"Ready? Ready for what?" Buffy asked, but was cut off by a bellow from the huge vampire that had just entered the fray.

"Darla!" Luke bellowed, backhanding one of the figures aside with ease. "What are you doing!? The Master needs his sacrifices."

"Luke, you moron," Darla snapped, brushing her blonde bangs out of her face. "These are those damned gunmen from the cave!"

Luke double checked the figures and a slow smile appeared on his face, "Good. They'll go nicely. Take them."

"You take them!" Darla snapped. "We've been trying!"

"All of us then." Luke said, lumbering forward.

The three vampire's turned on the three figures in black, and the fight renewed itself. This time the vampire's had the edge, the numbers evened out and their superior strength tipping the scales slowly in the favor of the demons.

Darla found herself dealing with the girl, exchanging blows hard and fast, and she found herself almost matched in martial skill. Which was impressive enough, she supposed, but the Slayer seemed to have an above average intelligence too, and wasn't falling for any of the normal tricks.

As they fought she spotted an opening, and lunged forward to maximize on it. As the Slayer's defense fell, she grabbed her head and twisted with relish. The sickening crack echoed through the crypt and the first of the garbed figures fell.

As her body hit the ground, Darla stepped over it and moved to help her allies.

Xander winced as Jacks went down. <Ouch.>

He was watching the battle intently, but part of his attention was on the graveyard around them and also on the Slayer by his side who was still trying to get past him.

"They're dying!"

"Just be ready!" Xander snapped again. "Willow and Jessie have to be protected. When I give the word, you get them out of here. Got me? You run, and you don't stop until you're back to the library and Wesley."

"How do you know about...!?"

"Later." Xander snapped, his eyes picking up movement. "Go. Now. Jessie's about to play hero. You have to get them out of here."

Buffy swallowed, then nodded as she rushed past Xander and into the crypt.

Angel winced as Darla caught him from behind, smashing his head hard enough to knock a human unconscious. He supposed he should go down, but he just let the blow drive him to his knees. The pain was sharp, but he rode through it, and started to get up again until he caught a glare from the young boy in the doorway.

Angel sighed. <Alright>

He lifted a fist, then let the gaudily dressed minion catch him with a blow to the jaw and a kick to the chest. Even from a minor vampire like that the blow was impressive, and without bracing himself, it was enough to throw Angel across the crypt and into the cement wall. He heard a sickening crack, and then everything went black.

Giles quickly noted that he was the last one standing. <Bugger.>

As he thought that, Luke nailed him with a fast left that got threw his defenses, and threw him across the room. It wasn't enough to put him down, so he started to climb up again, only to be caught by Darla and held from behind.

"I'll bet this one is tasty." She snarled, her lips close to his neck.

Giles grunted as the vampire's teeth penetrated the cloth around his neck and he felt the blood start to run. After a moment he fell limp and she tossed him aside.

"Not so tough without their guns." Darla grinned, wiping her lips.

"Are any of them left alive?" Luke rumbled, looking around.

The three paused, frowning. No heartbeats, no breathing.

"No. Damn." Darla sighed. "And the brats got away."

"We must go. Their deaths are good news at least." Luke muttered. "Come."

The three vampires vanished from the crypt, fading into the shadows even as another figure faded out. "Good work."

The three 'dead' bodies groaned and moved.

Jacks pulled her mask off and scowled at Xander, "I don't like taking a fall for a bunch of corpses."

Angel was gingerly rubbing the back of his head as he removed his own mask. "That hurt."

"Sod off. At least they didn't drink from either of you." Giles grunted, checking his neck.

"How is it?" Xander asked.

"Not bad." Giles sighed, "She didn't get into the jugular... the Kevlar helped some."

Xander nodded. "Alright. Good jobs. You'd better split out while I go deal with the Slayer and her Watcher."

"Have fun." Giles got to his feet. "I need a drink."

"Just stay sober." Xander grinned as he melted back into the shadows. "Tomorrow we get to harvest what we've sown here tonight."

"He do that often?" Angel asked as he settled back against the stone sarcophagus.

"Too often." Giles muttered, "The brat is starting to become a real bloody pain."

"Let's go." Jacks muttered, kinking out her neck. "I've got plans."

"Don't we all?" Giles asked.

Angel didn't say anything as they two looked at him. "What??"

"Ok, so two out of three isn't bad." Giles smirked.

Chapter 12


Wesley Wyndham Price started, dropping an armful of books and tripped over them as he tried to turn around. When he opened his eyes from the floor he found three sets of eyes staring down at him. "Which book would you be needing?"

"Wesley!" Buffy snapped, "Snap out of it! We've got a problem."

"We do?" He asked, getting to his feet with a groan. "What would that be, other then the fact that it's well past dark and you're bothering me? Not that I don't applaud your desire to study..."

"Get serious." Jessie snapped, "We're talking about vampires."

Wesley stared at Jessie for a moment, then glared at Buffy. "Are you taking out a advertisement? It is supposed to be a secret war you realize."

"Hey, don't look at me. I didn't tell him anything."

"Like she had to." Jessie muttered. "Look. I want the story here. You guys know something, and I want to know what."

"What are you talking about? Vampire's don't exist... they can't... it would be..." Willow babbled as she searched for a word, "bad?"

Wesley rolled his eyes, "Oh yes. Of course. It would be bad, why, I'll just let them know that they're note allowed to exist because they would be bad... I'm sure they'll all leave forthwith."

Willow found herself staring at the floor.

"Hey! Cut that out, she's had a rough night." Jessie snapped defensively.

"Of course." Wesley threw up his hands as he got up to his feet. "Let's coddle her why don't we?"

"Listen pal, you lay one hand on her and I'll have the cops on you in thirty minutes!"

Wesley stopped and stared at Jessie for a moment, frowning until he understood the intent. "Coddle means to baby someone you idiot. Get your mind out of the gutter. Americans."

Buffy held up her hands, "Alright you two! Cut it out! Sheesh..."

"You," She pointed at Jessie, "Shut up. You're not helping."

"And you," She growled at Wesley as he smirked at Jessie, "Act your age!"

Buffy took a couple breaths, then looked between the two. "Alright... First thing is... Jessie, how did you know they were vampires?"

Jessie opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a voice from the stacks. "You know, I'd like to know that myself."

Everyone turned toward the voice and a brief silence descended.

"Xander!" Willow rushed across the room.

Xander caught her easily and hugged her close. "It's alright, Wills. You'll be fine. I promise."

"Hey Bro." Jessie said cooly, nodding as he watched with a twinge of jealousy as Willow hugged to his friend.

"Jes." Xander said in return.

"You." Buffy said flatly. "Who are you? You stopped me from saving those people."

"No. I stopped you from ruining my plan." Xander returned, "Nobody died tonight."

Wesley threw up his hands, "Does EVERYONE know your secret, Slayer??"

Buffy glared at him for a moment, but Xander beat her to the punch.

"Her NAME, is Buffy or Miss Summers, Mr Wyndham Price." He said coldly, "I highly suggest that you remember that. Because if she doesn't beat it in to you, I will."

Wesley clamped his mouth shut, taking a step back. "Now see here..."

"No. You see here." Xander said, flipping a chair around and straddling it after he set Willow down in the next one over. "We've got trouble coming out way. The Master, you know him?"

Wesley swallowed, immediately taking a seat. "What do you know?"

"The Harvest. It's tomorrow."

"Harvest?" Buffy looked around. "What Harvest?"

"Please, Sl... Miss Summers," Wesley said, "Go on Mr...?"

"Harris." Xander said, "And why don't you answer Buffy's question."

Wesley hesitated, frowning as he tried to remember something. "One moment."

He got up, moved quickly across the library, and returned in short order with a book.

Xander blinked. <Not bad. Faster then G-man managed.>

Wesley flipped it open and started reading.

"Mission accomplished."

Faith nodded once, smiling to the Jock she was dancing with as she kept an eye on Jonathon. She reminded herself to have another chat with Xander about leaving her out of the action, but for now it looked like the action was done until the next night.

"Hey, where are you going?" The Jock asked as she stopped dancing and headed for a table.

Faith shrugged, "Wherever I want."

The jock grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her back. "You're not going anywhere until I say so."

Faith looked up at his smirking face and shook her head.

"Ahhh!" The Jock screamed as she reversed his grip and twisted his wrist up and over until he was forced to his knees.

She leaned down until her lips her right beside his ear, "I don't care how big you think you are, tough guy, I make my own choices. Got that?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...." He said quickly, nodding in pain.

"Remember that." She said, letting him go and walking toward Jonathon's table.

Jonathan smiled at her as she sat down, "Nice move."

"Thanks." Faith grinned, sweeping her hair out of her face. "Felt good too."

"I can tell." Jonathan said, nursing his soda.

"How come yer here alone?"

Jonathan shrugged, "Jessie and Willow vanished. I guess I've been ditched."

Faith frowned, not sure whether she should defend the other two or not.

"I'm used to it." Jon smiled a bit. "They'll be around tomorrow."

Faith nodded. Yeah, they would be. Thanks to Xander and the others. It was funny, from the way this guy was talking he was used to abuse or something, but his tone didn't seem to have any of that in it. <Then again, neither did X. And he took a ton of shit himself.>

She was about to say something else when a voice interrupted them.


Jon looked up and smiled, "Joy. I hoped you'd be here tonight."

Joy Lee slid into one of the seats at the table and smiled around, "Who's this?"

"This is Faith, she's a friend of Xander's." Jonathon replied.

"Xander's back?"

Faith frowned, <Now who the hell is this chick? And how does Xander know her?>

"Yeah," Jonathon nodded, "He just showed up in school today. You must have heard about it... he and Jake went one on one... Xander almost took him."

Joy frowned, "I missed the rumor mill today. I had a lot of work to do. I'm surprised that Xander hasn't visited my father yet."

"He's been busy." Faith said, eyeing the beautiful Asian girl. "Long day."

Joy nodded, then turned back to Jonathan. "So where's Jessie and Willow?"

Jon shrugged, "Got picked up from the looks of it. Jessie landed a cute blonde."

Joy shook her head, smiling. "You should try dancing too. Maybe you could get picked up."

"I don't know," He said, mumbling. "I kinda prefer brunettes."

Faith tried to hold back a snort of laughter as she realized why Jonathon wasn't more bothered by being 'ditched'. "You and Xander both."

"Huh?" Jonathon looked confused.

"Nothing." Faith smirked, letting it pass.

Chapter 13

"Ok... Buffy said after a moment of silence, "So I just kill the guy with that mark and boom, no Harvest?"

"Bingo." Xander said.

"Errm... uh, well yes." Wesley frowned, looking around. "But it's more serious then that. First we have to find..."

"The Bronze."


Xander smiled, "Why do you think I went to the trouble of setting up the fight earlier today? I wanted the Master to think he'd killed the local opposition... including the Slayer. He'll move on the Bronze tomorrow night."

Jessie nodded, "Yeah. Makes sense, man. Lot's of necks to bleed."

"Right." Xander said, then frowned. "Jessie... When DID you learn about vampires?"

Jessie looked at the table.

"Don't bullshit me, Bro." Xander said. "I saw that cross you're packing."

Jessie hesitated, then withdrew the cross from his jacket. "A few months ago. I was walking Wills home and I took a shortcut..."

"Through the graveyard." Xander groaned, "Damn Jes."

"You didn't tell us, Xan. How were we supposed to protect ourselves?"

"You weren't." Xander said, "The Hellmouth was dormant. You should have been safe."

"Yeah well, we weren't."

Xander sighed, "I'm sorry Jes. I did what I thought was best."

"Excuse me," Wesley put a hand up, "Could the children in the group please leave this to the professionals?"

"Good idea, Wes. Why don't you?" Xander said with a smirk.

The Watcher stiffened, but Buffy growled and got between them. "Cut it out! Jesus, everybody in this town is so full of themselves."

"Miss Summers, may I remind you that you are the Slayer and it is your destiny..."

"Blah blah blah." Xander cut him off. "Can that crap and sell it somewhere else, Wes. I really hate to burst your bubbles, but the Slayer is one minor player on this planet and the Watchers are a bunch of jackasses hiding behind desks in England."

"What!?" Buffy's eyes widened.

"Come on, Buffy. You're smarter then that. Think about it, how much impact do you really think one Slayer can possibly have on the entire planet's population of Vampires?"

Buffy opened her mouth, then shut it. "I... well..."

"You never thought about it." Xander shrugged, glaring at Wesley, "But it's time to think. I've fought beside three Slayers in my life, but I've also fought beside a hundred heros or more. Men and women who lay their lives down willingly to stem the tide. There's a war going on out there, Buffy... Wesley... Don't let yourselves get blinded by the battles."

Willow unconsciously shifted away from Xander as he spoke, wondering at the new person that she was only just not starting to see. He'd changed so much, and so suddenly.

Jessie frowned at Xander, "You weren't kidding."


"You weren't kidding. When you came back and we asked you what you were doing... You weren't kidding."

"No, Jes." Xander smiled slightly. "I wasn't kidding. I really did do some contract work for the CIA. I hunted demons from one end of the country to the other... Even helped save the world a couple times."

"Now see here." Wesley blustered, "We don't have time to listen to this... this... fantasy."

Xander sighed, speaking coldly. "Wes, what we don't have time for is a power struggle. So I'm telling you now, you want to help? That's fine. You want to get in our way? You'll find out why the demons call me Seraphim."

Then he got up marched out.

Buffy looked over to Wesley, eyes widening as she saw him pale. "Wesley? Wesley? What did he mean?"

"Dear God. It can't be." Wesley muttered, getting up quickly and rushing to his office.

Buffy followed him, "Wesley! What is he talking about?? What's a Seraphim??"

Wesley scrambled through a stack of journal type books, pulling one out and flipped it open. He frowned, not looking up. "A Seraphim is an Angel, Miss Summers. One of the highest ranks in God's Army... They are among the most powerful entities in existence."

Buffy gulped, "You mean... Xander is..."

"I doubt it, Miss Summers." Wesley shook his head, "He didn't claim to be a Seraphim. He said that the demon's called him that."


"Here it is..." Wesley frowned, reading a journal entry carefully. "Boston... about eleven months ago. A young man worked with a vampire to prevent an Elemental disaster. The Vampire was heard to call the young man... Seraphim."

"You think it was Xander?"

Wesley looked up, frowning as he noticed that Jessie and Willow had entered his sanctuary. He sighed and shrugged, "I don't know. But there is someone called Seraphim, a very dangerous demon hunter by all accounts. The Watchers Council have been monitoring references to him over the past year..."

"Xander's been missing for the last year." Willow whispered softly.

Wesley thought hard, considering. "This is... this is most unusual. I'm going to call the Council... perhaps they have some idea of what we should do."

"We stop the Harvest." Buffy said simply. "After that we'll worry about Xander. Got it?"

Wesley looked up, startled in thinking about the upcoming danger. "Oh... Yes, of course. First we'll deal with the Harvest."

"Good." Buffy nodded, "So... What else is there in that book?"

Faith was still chatting with Joy and Jonathan, having been joined by Tara, when Xander slid into the club and looked around.

She caught his eyes and nodded him over, smirking as she watched the crowd part almost unconsciously for him as he came forward.

She'd seen it before, not only in Xander. Crowds tended to pull away from her too, as well as others like Angel and even Willow once upon a time. It was a measure of confidence, control, and power. She'd always had confidence and power. Angel had control and power, while Willow mostly just had power to burn.

Xander, he gave off an almost palpable aura of all three.

<Damn he's hot in that shirt.> She smirked as Xander slid into the seat next to hers.

"Hey all."

"H-hi." Tara nodded meekly, feeling uncomfortable around all the people in the Bronze.

"Hey Xan." Jon said, smiling

"Xander." Joy nodded.

"Nice to see you too, boytoy." Faith smirked all the more as Xander rolled his eyes. "How'd it go?"

"It went." Xander said and faith nodded.

That meant that everyone was ok, and probably even now planning what to do tomorrow and beyond. It also meant that Xander had planted the bug in the library as planned.

That was five by five with her, since she wanted warning if the Council was gonna be sending any wet works teams into the Dale.

"Coolio." She grinned.

"Everything good here?" Xander asked.

"Damn skippy." Faith grinned.

Xander opened his mouth to say something, probably to ask her where she picked that expression up, and then he faltered as he remembered who's expression it was. He looked down, his face changing in an instant. "Uh... right."

Faith was baffled, lost as she saw Xander's face suddenly dropped. <What did I say? I just... Oh my god.>

"Xander... I'm s..."

"Hey," He forced a smile, "I'm good, Faith. Just a memory."

Faith nodded soberly, accepting the fiction.

Around the table everyone else except Tara looked at the two in confusion.

Buffy walked Willow and Jessie home, thinking her own thoughts as the two old friends talked.

"Jessie... why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what?" Jessie asked, shrugging. "That I saw a real life vampire? You've have tried to lock me up. Hell, I almost tried to lock me up."

"I'd have..."

"You'd have been great." Jessie grinned, "But I didn't want to scare you either. After I talked to Master Lee about it..."

"He knows?"

Jessie snorted, "Yeah. You could say that. Anyway, I starting carrying a cross then... you remember?"

Willow smiled softly, "Yeah... I kidded you about finding God."

"It wasn't him I found." Jessie said, "just the opposite."

Willow shook her head, "I don't know how to handle this... I just..."

"Don't." Buffy said suddenly. "Don't handle it. It's my job. Just be safe."

"Hey. We're involved in this now." Jessie said sternly.

"No. You're not." Buffy countered. "Just be safe. You're not the Slayer... You... you can be normal..."

<I can't.> Buffy left that unsaid, but it rang in the ears of the other two as the three of them walked silently through the night.

"That's some first day." Xander said softly as he, Faith, and Tara watched Jonathan go into his home.

"Let's go home, X." Faith said, "We've got the real work to start come tomorrow.



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