Harvest Redux

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]gmail.com>

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: Harvest time in Sunnydale. 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

Six hours sleep later, Xander was awakened by the sound of someone creeping into his room.

Not being the paranoid type, Xander had to reach about three inches to get a grip on his gun. After that it was a short move to bring it to bear on the source of the noise.

"Shit! Chill, X!"

"Faith." Xander groaned, falling back in bed.

"Yeah. It's me, X."

"Jesus, Faith... it's," Xander moaned, and peered to the clock radio by his bed. "Six thirty, what the hell are you doing here? If this is a sex thing..."

"Get over yourself, X." Faith said with a sneer. "You ain't irresistible. You're just the only game on the block right now. This is about clothes."

"Huh?" Xander opened his eyes, and peered at Faith again. "What the hell?"

She was in her underwear as usual, which basically consisted of a thong and a pushup bra and not even a smile to distract from either. Xander shivered and shifted his blankets to hide his reaction.

"I am NOT doing school in a dress, X. You got any pants in my size?" Faith asked as she pulled a shirt from his closet and held it up in the mirrored door.

"Oh sure. I always keep a couple pairs around in case some girl wanders into my room in her underwear." Xander snapped back as he got out of the bed on the other side and made a beeline for the bathroom, keeping his back to Faith.

Faith didn't look back at him as she flipped through the pants on the rack and pulled down a pair of dockers. "You don't have to hide that from me, Boytoy. I've seen it plenty of times."


Xander frowned, hearing the call as he came down the stairs. <Jack made breakfast?? Oh shit.>

The kitchen was a pleasant surprise he found as eggs and bacon were all done more or less to perfection, and thick slices of bread were toasted in stacks on the large table.

"Whoa. Jack... You cook?"

Styles shrugged, "Just the basics. Some bread, eggs, bacon... meat and potatoes. Why? Don't you?"

Xander shrugged, "I do a pretty mean mac and cheese."

Jack frowned, "Huh?"

"He's joshing ya, Style." Faith said as she slid into a chair. "X is a better cook then any guy I know... of course, most guys I know aren't exactly Martha Stewart. Hey did you....."

Whatever else she was saying was lost in the mumbles as she stuffed her face with a large hunk of bread.

"What was that?" Jack asked, looking around. "Did anyone catch that?"

Xander snorted, "She asked if you made the bread yourself."

Styles blinked, "Of course I did. I still don't know where the bakery is in this town."

Xander closed his eyes, "Jack... me and you are hitting the supermarket tonight. Then maybe a starbucks for a capo."

"Clothes." Faith snapped. "We're going to the shops downtown as soon as school is out and don't you forget it. They should have some stuff that's wearable."

"Fine, fine." Xander said, sighing. "After that, Got it Jack?"

"Sure sure." Jack shrugged, "Hey, anybody want some pancakes?"

Jonathon walked up the road to his daily meeting with Jessie and Willow, coming around the corner as they were talking.

"I can't believe it, you know?" Willow was saying. "I just can't get my mind to wrap around it."

"I know, Will." Jessie sighed, patting her back comfortingly. "It took me a few days before I could really get it. I mean, I got it, but I didn't GET IT."

Willow nodded as she caught sight of Jonathon and closed her mouth.

"Hey guys," He smiled a little oddly at them. "What's up? Get what?"

Jessie opened his mouth, then hesitated and shook his head. "Nothing man. Nothing."

"Oh." Jonathan said, frowning. "Ah... Ok. Well... I guess we should be going to school then?"

"Yeah." Willow nodded, "School's good."

Jessie nodded and the three friends made their way down the road toward Sunnydale Highschool.

Xander had dropped Mikki off at school and was just arriving at school himself as Jessie, Willow, and Jonathon made their way toward the quad. He watched them from a distance as KARR slid to a halt in a parking space.

He got out of the sports car, pushing the seat forward for Tara, and looked around.

The place was exactly the same as it had been yesterday, but Xander knew that it was tangibly more dangerous today.

"Faith, Tara... walk softly today." Xander said, "Especially you, Faith. Wesley and the Council are going to be getting involved."

"Bummer for me." Faith said, nodding. "I'll stay away from Wes the Wuss. You watch your back too, X. They can be nasty."

Xander nodded, "You watch my back, Faith. I've got yours."

"You know it." She smiled at him as the three of them joined up to walk toward the school.

As they passed the football team a few of the players shot glares at Faith, making Xander take notice. "Faith..."

"Yeah, X?"

"What did you do last night?"

She smirked, "Nothin."


"Hey, one of them linebackers got a little fresh." She said defensively. "I didn't break nothin."

Xander rolled his eyes as he noticed three of the players who had glared notice what she said and redouble their glares. As one of them came forward Xander spoke loud enough for them to hear, "Too bad. I would have."

The player quickly found something of interest in another place.

Faith and Tara snickered softly as they continued into the school. Once they were out of earshot, Xander half turned to Faith, "We can't keep building up animosity in the school, Faith."

"You telling me to put out for them?" Faith asked, getting a little pissed.

"No. I'm telling you not to tease them on purpose." Xander shook his head. "If they're stupid enough to come on anyway, I'll help you put them in the nurses office."

"Like I need the help." Faith shrugged.

"Faith." Xander was starting to get a little exasperated.

"Fine. No more flirting with the Jocks." Faith said, then amended. "Unless one of them is real cute."

Xander rolled his eyes but didn't respond. Instead he shook his head. "Alright. I've got homeroom, you guys get going and I'll see you for lunch."

"O-ok." Tara said.

"You bet, X. Catch ya later." Faith smirked, steering Tara away down one hall while Xander took the stairs.

Wesley Wyndham Price found himself at a loss for words as the young man who'd identified himself the night before as the one called Seraphim casually tossed a book at him. A book that the boy had somehow gotten out of HIS personal collection of books without Wesley knowing.

"Oh now, I Say!" Wesley blurted, "I protest! These are my..."

"These are council books." Xander finished for him. "And this one contains a demon called Moloch the Corrupter. He's safely sealed and all, but if someone reads it aloud or scans it into a computer..."

Wesley paled, opening the book and flipping through the pages. "Oh my. How did THIS get out of the vaults!?"

Xander shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Just keep it safe until you can ship it back to the Council. We don't need him complicating out lives."

"I should say not." Wesley rubbed his face. "How on Earth did you...?"

Xander shrugged, "Don't worry about that. Maybe some day I'll even tell you, but it won't be today. Did you call the council yet?"

"Now see here!" Wesley reddened, "That's none of your business!"

"It is if they decide to stick their noses into Sunnydale." Xander said, "This is my home. My territory. You want to play here, that's fine. But you play nice or you'll be taking your books and going home. *Without* the Slayer."

"You can't threaten me, young man."

"I can arrange to have you *deported*." Xander said, producing a copy of Wesley's immigration documents and throwing them to the desk. "Don't fuck with me."

Wesley stared at the stamped approval on his files and wondered how the boy had gotten a copy. And whether he could make good on the threat. "I... I..."

"Relax." Xander said, taking a seat in front of the librarian's desk. "Sit down."

Wesley did so, falling in a distracted way into his chair.

"I don't mind sharing Sunnydale." Xander said, "The fact is, I don't mind any help I can lay my hands on. That's why I'm still alive. It's why I've managed to do whatever good I've done. But even you have to admit that you're a little inexperienced..."

Xander waited, gambling on Wesley to be honest enough to admit that. At least to himself.

Chapter 2

"Tonight... Tonight," The Master announced grandly. "Is the HARVEST!"

The assembled vampires, most of them recent minions, cheered appropriately even though it was obvious that few of them understood the moment.

The Master turned to Luke, grasping the huge vampire by the shoulder. "Luke, my boy. You did well. All three of you have," He said, turning to Darla and the other vampire. "With those three dead we a clear line on our next move."

"We are ready." Darla nodded solemnly. "The club they call the Bronze will be full of sacrifices tonight. It's perfect."

"I agree." The Master smiled. "Tonight, Luke, you will go forward and feed for me."

"It will be my honor, my Master." Luke bowed his head.

Wesley just stared at him, stricken for a moment, while Xander waited. This had to be Wesley's move.

"I... I don't know what you're talking about." Wesley sputtered out after a moment, eyes darting around defensively.

"Yes you do." Xander said confidently. "You didn't apprentice with a field Watcher did you?"

"How did..." Wesley shut up, staring almost fearfully at Xander.

"Why do you think you were sent here?" Xander asked, "There are several field watchers waiting for Slayers... why you?"

Wesley couldn't answer because it was a question he'd asked himself many times without answer.

"Let me guess," Xander said after a moment. "Quentin Travers came to you... you were his assistant, after all."

Wesley goggled, still in shock. Everytime the boy opened up his mouth it seemed that he was dropping more and more privileged information on the table.

"So. He told you that there was a Slayer in California... One who was headstrong..." Xander smiled as Wesley's eyes widened more. "Stubborn, willfull... difficult to control."

Wesley found himself nodding unconsciously as Xander spoke.

"Then he probably told you that he needed someone that HE could trust. A confidant maybe... someone that he knew could handle such a charge." Xander smirked at the looked of apocalyptic shock on Wesley's face. He was spinning his tale carefully in conjunction with his knowledge of Wesley from the future and Giles's knowledge of Quentin Travers himself. "And he asked you to be his right hand in Sunnydale."

Wesley slumped. It was all too accurate, right down to the words that Travers had used. "How did you...?"

"I know Travers too well." Xander said, "He doesn't care about Buffy. Or you."

"Quentin Travers is my superior." Wesley said, straightening up. "He's my Boss. I'll thank you to not speak of him like that."

Xander sighed, knowing that he'd stepped over the line suddenly by attacking Travers directly. Wesley was loyal, that was obvious. So he just nodded, "Alright. I'm sorry. I don't like the man, but I'll respect your loyalty to him at least."

Wesley nodded, sitting back.

<Travers you god damned fool.> Xander suppressed a smile. <You could have had one hell of a man here. Instead you threw him to his death. When he figures it out... You're going to lose more then you ever knew.?

"What is it you want of me?" Wesley asked stiffly.

Xander nodded slowly, accepting the question. "Just give me and my people a chance. Work with us, see how we operate... Judge for yourself."

Wesley hesitated, looking around the office as if for help. Finally he nodded, "Alright. I'll tell Miss Summers that we're working with you."

Xander smiled, "That's something you're soon going to have to learn."

"What's that?"

"Buffy makes up her own mind." Xander said, "She'll decide for herself. I'm only asking you to decide for *yourself*."

"Miss Summers is a Slayer. She'll do as I say." Wesley blustered.

"Has she so far?" Xander asked with a smirk as he got up. "Think about it."

Wesley scowled at the wall as Xander vanished out the door of his office. "Mr Travers is going to kill me."

Before lunch Xander had another practice session in the Gym. The first fifteen minutes were pretty standard, no sparring or anything interesting. Just some basic drills after some stretching.

The coach had left him to his own devices pretty much, having seen his skills demonstrated on two occasions already. Instead he focused on a group of the freshmen trying for the team while most of those who'd already made the team were left on their own.

Xander finished up his Kata work quickly, having done his regular Kata which used elements of Shotokan Karate, Kani'Maro, Shaolin style Kung Fu, and the occasional element borrowed from other styles through his Spec Ops memories.

All this made his Kata energetic and quite spectacular.

"Whoa." Xander heard after a moment as he came back to himself. He looked around to see three of his teammates looking at him in wonder.

"What's up guys?" He asked, shifting into a cool down to let his muscles relax slowly.

"What was that stuff??" Jake stepped forward. "I only recognized a few of your moves..."

"It's a mix." Xander shrugged, "Most of it isn't Karate."

"No kidding." One of the other seniors, a brown belt, said. "What the hell was that reverse grab??"

"Old style." Xander smiled softly, "Very old style. I learned it from one of the only people left on the planet who knows it. She was a grandmaster in her time."

"Cool." The brown belt, Brett Xander belatedly remembered, said. "Hey... do you think she could take on another student?"

Others agreed but Xander shook his head. "I'm afraid she's dead... Has been for a while now."

"Shit... I'm sorry, man." Brett said, wincing as he blurt the profanity.

"It's mostly a meditation style," Xander explained. "You know, breathing, breathing, and more breathing. It takes a long time to get started in it."

The others nodded, shrugging their shoulders.

"Hey, I'd still be interested." Jake said.

Xander hesitated, "I don't know if I'm up to that. Besides, it wouldn't do you any good in the matches you know... It's not legal Karate moves."

Jake nodded, backing off.

Xander hesitated, then turned back to his training. He started in on the heavy bag that was hanging from the ceiling, but quickly noticed that he still had something of an audience.

The Coach had apparently told the young guys to watch the team members practicing, and a fair portion of them had come to see Xander. Probably because of his reputation from the previous year he supposed, still it wouldn't hurt to help them out.

As he circled the heavy bag, throwing deliberate kicks and punches he spoke to the group without looking at any of them.

"Karate is a power form." He said, sidestepping the sweep of the bag and blocking it with his forearm. "It's about explosive power, delivered to precise points with careful intent. In most Karate forms power is at the apex of the triangle of control, accuracy, and power."

He dropped, sweeping his foot under the swaying bag, then came back to his feet and delivered a roundhouse kick that sent it rocking more.

"Don't be fooled though. That's a fallacy a lot of people get lost in. Muscle power is only one part of it. Like most of the eastern arts, Karate masters are those who understand that power isn't just a physical force." Xander sidestepped the bag, delivering a backhand to the bag that helped it along. "Control is just as important to anyone who aspires to be better then just a 'decent' fighter. Karate, like all martial styles is about force and counter force."

Xander jumped up, kicking his leg down as the bag swung toward him. His weight applied to the force of the kick sent the bag flying away. He landed easily, ducking under the swing of the bag as it came back around at him.

"In Karate the idea is to focus all the energy in your body to a single point," Xander said, following his own advice as he mustered his own soul energy guiding it with his mind and will. "And combining that energy with the physical power of your muscles..."

Xander lashed out, all his power focused at the locked flat of his bent fingers. He hit the bag with enough force to almost bend it in half and caused the other side to suddenly split wide open with a rending rip.

"Deliver that energy to your target." Xander finished as the bag just stopped dead as it hung there.

There was a moment of silence until the Coach looked over and yelped in shock.

"Who did that to the heavy bag!?"

"Sorry Coach." Xander grinned, "I'll have it replaced."

The coach stared in shock at the heavy canvas bag, then shook his head. "Uh no... no, that's alright... Hey, Doug! Bring me the duct tape!"

The coach walked over, looking at the rent in the bag. "How'd you do this? Kick?"

"He punched the other side of the bag, Coach." One of the guys trying out for the team said, his voice whispered in awe.

The coach looked over, he'd seen people do stuff like that, it wasn't like it was magic or anything, but he'd never thought he'd know anyone who could do it. "That true?"

Xander nodded, "Again, I'm sorry Coach. I was just talking about how Karate is more then just muscles and got carried away..."

Abruptly the coach got interested, "You've studied the philosophy behind Karate?"

"Yeah, well... with my teacher I didn't have a lot of choice." Xander said, smiling almost sheepishly.

That caused the coach to pause, considering. The best fighters he'd ever seen were the ones who understood the ideas behind the moves, but they were also the ones who rarely fought in tournaments. Finally he just nodded, "Ok... well, back to your training."

Xander nodded, stretching out a couple kinks as he walked away from the heavy bag. He could feel eyes on him the rest of the session, even though he spent most of it on the floor, crosslegged, with his eyes closed.

"Hey Wesley." Buffy said, taking a seat at the big table in the library. She'd run into Willow and Jessie on her way here and they'd tagged along, so she'd grinned when Wesley stifled a groan at the sight of the three kids. "Have anything new on that Harvest dealy?"

"That Harvest 'dealy'" is very serious, Miss Summers." Wesley said sternly. "And no, we don't have any more information. Mr Harris said that he'll meet with us during sixth period to work out a plan."

"We're going to work with Xander?" Buffy asked, frowning.

"I believe that we should at least consider his plan." Wesley said in return.

"If you say so."

Chapter 3

Xander was drying off from the shower when he was approached by Jake in the locker room.


"Hey man," Xander said without looking up. "What's up?"

Jake looked around, "About that punch you did..."

Xander paused looking up, "What about it?"

Jack hesitated, looking uncomfortable, "I wanted to know... How come you didn't use that in the match we had? You could have knocked me cold... won the match."

Xander shook his head, opening his locker and grabbing his shirt from the locker and tossing it over his shoulders. "Nah. Look, the match wasn't about trying to kill each other. If it had been, we'd both have used different moves. Right?"

Jake hesitated, "Yeah... I guess."

"Damn right." Xander said, pulling his underwear on and grabbing for his pants. "You'd have gone for the kidneys, the throat... used blows that could splinter two by fours. Right?"

Jake stopped, considering. Finally he nodded, "Yeah. Yeah I would have."

"Right. So would I." Xander said, "But the match wasn't about force. It was about skill. You won because you're better then me in Karate. Match fights aren't about going all out, they're about testing yourself within a set boundary of rules."

Xander tucked his shirt in haphazardly, buttoned up his pants, and grinned as he slapped Jake on the shoulder. "You're a hell of a fighter, Jake. Don't worry so much... Anyway, I've got to go. Have a lunch date with some friends."

Jake nodded as Xander left, but didn't say anything as he thought about what had been said.

"Hey Tiger." Xander grinned, nudging Tara as he slid down beside her and winked at Faith across the table. "Faith being much of a pest today?"

Tara risked a bit of a smile at the comment, but didn't say anything as Faith glared at Xander in mock outrage.

"Watch what you say, X. I know where you sleep."

"Why do you think I keep a gun under my pillow?" Xander shot back with a smirk.

"Gun?" Jonathon yelped, eyes darting around a bit.

"Oh, hey Jono." Xander grinned, "Didn't see you there. Don't hide behind people man, it's not polite."


Xander rolled his eyes. "You and me need to have a chat about humor and it's uses in society."


"He's just being an Ass." Jessie said as he said down beside Jonathon. "As usual."

Xander smiled. Jessie's words were from rote, something that harkened back to old times in his memory, even if his tone was a little cool. They had some problems right now, but Xander knew that they'd get passed them. "Hey Bro."

"Hey Xan." Jessie returned.

Xander winced a little but nodded and then smiled at Willow as she sat down. "Wills."

"Xander." She looked down at the table for a moment before raising her eyes to meet his. "Hi."

"Hi." He said cheerily back to her as he started to dig into his packed lunch.

The group was about halfway through their lunch when Buffy came into the cafeteria and made a straightline charge on Xander's position. "You. Me. Talk. Now."

Xander paused, his fork halfway to his mouth. He stared at the food in the fork, then at buffy, then at the food again.

"Nah." He said, then continued eating. "Eat now. Yell later."

Buffy clenched and unclenched her fists, "Listen, I don't know who you think you are, but we need to get something straight."

"Sure. Later. Sit. Eat." Xander said in between fork fulls, "Food good."

Buffy stared in shock, mouth hanging open.

Strong hands grabbed her from behind and guided her down to the seat beside him and Buffy looked over her shoulder to see Faith standing behind her. "Eat girl. We'll get down to the rest later."

Xander wordlessly slid a slice of pie over to her, "Try some. It's good."

Jonathon, Jessie, and Willow stared at the confrontation, wide eyed. Jon raised a hand, "What was that about?"

Xander winked, "Later Jono. Cafeteria is a little too public."

"Oh." Jonathon nodded, "Ok."

Buffy kept staring at them for a moment until Xander looked at her evenly, "Eat. Tonight's a big night, no matter how you cut it."

So Buffy ate.

Later, in the library during their free period, Wesley found himself the reluctant referee in a match that he didn't know the rules of.

"Who do you think you are!?" Buffy was yelling. "You're trying to control me the same as *him*!"

Wesley stiffened as she looked at him, "Now see here..."

Xander shrugged, "Learn to control yourself, then no one will control you."

"I don't have to listen to this." She fumed.

"Yes." Xander said, his voice suddenly cold. "You do."

Around them was the rest of the gang, watching with a wide spectrum of emotions that ranged from utter confusion on Jonathon's part to a shocked silence from Willow to an almost gleeful amusement on Faith's face.

"You want to know who I think I am?" Xander challenged Buffy. "My name is Alexander Harris. I'm sixteen years old, and I've known three Slayer's in my life. That should give you an idea of the average Slayer's life expectancy."

Buffy paled in shock and Xander felt like shit for hitting her with that, but he kept his face clear and continued.

"You're a Slayer. And I'll lay money that you'll be damned good, because no newly called Slayer should have been able to take on Lothos and survive." Xander mentally thanked Giles for that information, "But that doesn't make you better then me."

"I don't think..." Buffy started.

"This is my town." Xander said, "I was born here. Raised here. I've got as much right as anyone to fight to keep it safe."

"Xander, I'm the Slayer." Buffy tried again, "This is my job."

"There are six BILLION people on this planet, Buffy. And only one Slayer." Xander said, "If the rest of us don't step up and take responsibility, then the world is screwed... No matter how good you are."

Buffy fell silent.

"Tonight is the Harvest," Xander said, "You can't control the Bronze on your own anyway. You need people to protect the civilians, guard the doors, watch your back and cover the flanks. For one person, it would be suicide... even if you're a Slayer."

Buffy hesitated, still wanting to protest. She'd seen too many people die at the hands of these things to want to risk anyone else. She couldn't take any more deaths on her head, she just couldn't. But what he said *sounded* reasonable. It sounded right.

Wesley decided to enter the conversation at that point. "What are you proposing?"

Xander glanced over at Tara who produced a sheaf of papers. He took them and spread them over the table. "This is the overview of the Bronze."

He tapped out a pattern with his fingers, "Potential entrances are here, here and here. We've already covered the roof entrance and sealed it against unauthorized use. The attack *should* come well after dark, while the Bronze is in full swing."

"We catch them inside?" Wesley asked, "Contain them in the building while we take out the Vessel?"

"Negative." Xander responded curtly. "We hit them outside, on the streets. That will minimize civilian interference... with luck, only a small handful of people will ever know something even happened."

"I see." Wesley frowned, "That would take considerable force. I don't see how we have the people for that."

"I have them." Xander said, "but it won't take as many as you think... Two here, here and here. That'll give us converging fire zones when the vamps reach this point..."

"Fire? You mean firearms?" Wesley asked.

Xander nodded.

"I presume you have access to blessed silver then?" Wesley asked with interest.

Xander smiled, "I'm the guy who introduced them. We have enough to fight a small war if we need to."

"I see." Wesley nodded, "Very well. This could work."

"What do I do?" Buffy looked confused.

Xander looked up at her, "You'll be here."

Buffy looked to where Xander was pointing.

"If any of them break free of the firezone they'll run down here." Xander explained, "three of us will cut them off here."

Buffy frowned, then finally nodded. "Alright."

Some of the tension slipped out of the room as she said that, and Jonathon tentatively raised his hand. "Uh... You guys are just messing with me right? Vampires don't exist do they? Guys?"

Jessie and Willow looked at him sympathetically, but didn't say anything.


Faith looked up as the bell rang, "That's it! Class is out, come on, X!"

Buffy looked up, startled, as Faith started dragging Xander out. "Wait! Where are you going??"

Faith looked back, "Shopping. I need some new outfits."

Xander mouthed the words, "Help me!" as he was drug out of the room.

"Come on guys... jokes over... Guys?"

Chapter 4

"What do you think, Xan?"

Xander groaned, "Just buy it. We've got work to do tonight, Faith."

Jack Styles nudged him, "Don't bother. Shopping turns of women's hearing. Just follow my lead."

"Huh?" Xander looked up at Styles.

Jack smiled and started inching for the door, after a few seconds Xander did the same. They were both at the door before Faith and Tara noticed their absence.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going!?" Faith yelled. "You've got the credit card!"

Xander pulled his VISA from his pocket and tossed it at her, "Here. We'll be down the street in the Radio Shack!"

Then they both cut and run.

"Damn that was close." Xander sighed in relief.

"Yeah. We could have been stuck their for hours." Jack agreed.

"No. I mean that Faith was about to hit the lingerie department." Xander sighed, "You have no idea how stupid it feels to be hanging out in the lingerie department while the girls are in the changing room. People look at you like you're a pervert."

Jack cocked an eye, "Oddly enough, I'm familiar with that feeling."

"I bet." Xander smirked. "Come on. Let's see what we can find in the way of electronics. Unless I miss my guess we might be able to find a decent video game system..."

Jack and Xander were still browsing through the local radio shack when Xander got a call over his cell.



"Hey Merlin," Xander said, keeping an eye on Jack as the man cut his way through a bevy of pirates on the Nintendo display model. "What's up?"

"I've completed the status report of Avalon's facilities as you requested." Merlin stated, "As you know our armory is severely depleted, and except for the internal security weapons and the special operations armory, the island is quite bereft of weapons."

"Yeah, I know. What about the fabrication centers?" Xander asked.

"Offline. All of them." Merlin said, "We'll require work crews to bring them online."

"How is that coming then?"

"Slowly." Merlin said, and Xander would have sworn he heard frustration in the AI's voice if he thought that the AI could actually get frustrated. "I've drawn up a list of four thousand people with the necessary skills, but processing them for security clearance is rather difficult without agents on site."

"I know." Xander said, "Shoot the top picks to my computer at home. I'll look through them after tonight and we'll start a little recruiting drive. What's the priority one we get fabrication online?"

"Internal repairs." Merlin said, again with a hint of frustration. "I'm afraid that many of the storage preservation systems lasted only slightly longer then the sensors watching them."

"Alright." Xander sighed, "Other recruits?"

"Coming along somewhat better." Merlin replied, "Trustworthy soldiers are somewhat easier to pick out. I've begun with the list of names that you gave me, and have managed to expand it significantly."

"Alright. So we can probably recruit a sizable force..." Xander said, "But not equip them."

"That is correct."

Xander sighed again, "Alright. What's the status on the Spec Ops equipment?"

"Fully stocked." Merlin replied, "Avalon maintained sufficient equipment to outfit eight five man assault teams and their technical support. Unfortunately we only have weapons for sixteen men in the armory because all standard weapons were kept in the regular armory. Only the Smart Guns were isolated in the Special Operations armory."

Xander closed his eyes, leaning against a wall. "Alright. Well, we'll work it out. We can buy some stuff from Terry to flesh out the initial teams... Standard gear probably, but it'll do."

"Yes Sir."

"Flight operation?"

"Nearing one third capacity." Merlin responded. "Unfortunately without fabrication facilities we can't replace what was lost in the recent operations."

"Alright." Xander said, deciding. "Focus on getting the support personnel we need. Draw them from anywhere you can, I'll check the lists and maybe we can con the government into doing some of the background checks and interviews for us."

"Agreed. One last thing, Commander..."

"What is it?"

"I've linked into the suppressed video and audio feeds of the President's hearing."

"And?" Xander winced.

"It doesn't go well. Whitmore is refusing to make any public announcements concerning the events, and the opposition is using that refusal to bring more pressure to bear on the hearing."

Xander sighed, "Alright. Keep me apprized."

"As you will, Commander."

Xander shut off the link and headed over to Jack Style, forcing a smile. "What do you think?"

"Pretty fun." Jack grinned, then shook his head, "But I could buy fifty acres of land for how much it costs."

"Not anymore." Xander smirked, "We'll pick one up and a few games... With Jessie and Jono hanging around we'll need them."

Jack watched as Xander picked up about eight hundred dollars worth of games and the Nintendo 64 machine, then also got another television to connect it all too.

"Can you guys deliver?"

"Sure, no problem." The clerk said, smiling as cheerfully as one possibly could.

"Thanks," Xander said as he payed for it all.

"Now," Xander turned, "let's go find the girls..."

"Got everything?" Xander asked as Faith kept piling things into his arms.

"You bet." She grinned, hooking another bag over his wrist and went back into the store to grab another load.

Xander groaned as he managed to flip on his Comm. "KARR? Do me a favor, buddy... please, come meet us."

Down the street the black trans-am came to life, shifting into drive as it squealed out into traffic, cutting off a mazda as it headed down the street. The car rumbled through traffic, then skidded to a halt less then two inches from Xander's legs.

"Nice." Xander said as he started picking up all the bags he'd dropped when he jumped from shock. "Real nice. You want to give me a heart attack? Or just have Faith kill me for dropping all her bags?"

KARR just scanned him twice with the forward sensor and seemed to shift to one side.

"Right." Xander said dryly, "Pop the back."

The glass of the back of the trans-am slid smoothly up and Xander started packing the bags in. "It's a good thing I asked for home delivery. I don't know where we're going to pack ourselves in here when we're done."

"Oh stop whining, X." Faith smirked as he turned around and got a face full of more bags to load. "This is just to hold me over until we can get to LA."

Xander groaned rather piteously as she laughed at him.

After they'd gotten KARR unloaded, and Xander had spent fifteen minutes assuring KARR that he didn't consider the AI to be a pack mule, Xander and Jack had retreated to the living room while they waited for Giles, Jacks, and Vin to show up.

"That was fun." Jack grinned.

"For you maybe." Xander muttered as he collapsed into a chair. "You know, I never get nearly this exhausted when fighting a battle..."

"Adrenaline." Jacks replied from where he was casually slumping in another seat. "You're brain doesn't think that shopping is fight or flight... so it doesn't kick in."

"My brain needs a wakeup call." Xander smirked.

Jack laughed until something caught his eye and he got up, "Hey, kid..."

"What is it, Jack?"

"I've been wondering..." Styles said as he walked over to the fireplace that had come with the house. "Out of all the weapons you have kicking around here... all of them are locked up..."

"Yeah, so?"

"Except this one," Jack said, referring to the sword on the mantle. "How come?"

Xander looked up to see where Jack was standing next to Maro, where he had placed the ancient Katana. "Because that one would get lonely in the armory."

Jack laughed, "Yeah, right. Seriously."

"I am serious." Xander smiled, "Besides.. Try to draw it."

Jake looked back at Xander, who nodded, and he shrugged and reached up to take the blade. Xander watched with interest as he tried to pull the blade to no avail.

"It's stuck." Jack muttered.

"Yep. And of no danger to anyone because of it." Xander said, hiding a sigh of disappointment. He'd tried a lot of people over the past year, and the sword didn't want any of them. Rangers, cops, soldiers, even Hercules himself. If Maro didn't want a bearer like Hercules, then Xander didn't know what to do.

<He may well want to rest, Alexander.> Elanthielle said softly into his mind. <He spent many years under the thrall of corrupt bearer. Trusting does not come easy to us.>

Xander nodded, watching as Jack replaced the weapon on the mantle. He hoped that the sword drew some comfort from the people who gathered in the room, from feeling the ebb and flow of their emotions.

He sighed, pushing himself up. "I'm going to get some stuff ready for tonight."

"Huh?" Jack looked up from admiring the carving on the hilt of the blade. "Oh, yeah... sure."

In the basement, Xander laid out the armor for himself and Tara. Unfortunately he didn't have any for the others yet, so he knew that the time was coming to deal with Terry again.

Xander smirked, <He's gonna want more info this time.>

He shrugged to himself as he pulled out the first of the P90's and started to check the weapon.

<Five hours to go.>

Chapter 5

Giles arrived at the house just before Jacks and Vin pulled in themselves. The three of them made their way into the house to find the place deserted.

"Where is everyone?" Vin asked, looking around.

"Downstairs I would imagine." Giles said, leading them to the stairs. " Xander setup his armory down there."

Giles led the two down and they found themselves in the center of what was becoming a rather crowded room.

"Hey guys," Xander smiled. "Vin, you bring your rifle?"

"Always." Vin nodded.

"Good. Jacks?"

"My weapons are in the truck." Jacks said calmly.

"Alright, Giles? You've got your pistols, but take one of the P90's." Xander motioned Giles to one side where the weapons were waiting on racks. "We're going to take out the Vessel and as many minions as we can tonight. No survivors would be best."

Everyone nodded as they picked up their weapon.

"Hey Jack, I want you to use one of these." Xander said, coming over and handing Styles an MP-5. "It's a little more traditional then a P90 and I've got it set on semi-auto."

Jack nodded as he smirked dryly at Xander and took the weapon from him. Xander watched in surprise as the colonial stripped the machine weapon with quick motions and then fitted it back together and loaded the clip with a slap. "I'll get by."

Xander laughed, "Giles!"

"He asked." Giles shrugged, grinning himself. "Serves you right for not paying attention."

Xander shook his head, "Alright. We don't have enough armor to go around, but since I don't expect to see any guns in the oppositions hands, we should be ok. Just in case though, make sure you setup behind cover. Everyone clear on that?"

A murmur of accent sounded in the group as Xander tossed a coat across the room to Faith.

The Slayer caught the long coat and grunted slightly in surprise, "Damn, X. This thing must weigh twenty pounds."

"Thirty." Xander said automatically as he cinched his own armor up. "Wear it in good health. It'll stop bullets if the vamps are packing, and you can use the weight training anyway."

Faith scowled at him, "Are you telling me you think I'm out of shape?"

Xander just flashed her a crooked smile and dropped a clip into his P90. "Saddle up!"

"And move em out." Vin smirked in response. "I hate those stupid hollywood cliches."

Buffy Summers moved through her room quietly as she carefully opened the chest in her room and removed the top cover to reveal the weapons beneath.

Softly, solemnly, she took the cross from the chest and slid it into her jacket, then followed that with four stakes and a half dozen vials of holy water.

When she was done she stood up and replaced the top cover as she made her way out of her room. The jacket clutched around her was black leather, a gift from a boy named Pike just a few months ago. A boy that could be dead now for all she knew. The cross had come from her watcher, a man that she knew for a fact was dead. Killed by his own hand when Lothos threatened to turn him to get to her.

The stakes were hers, the water was the churches.

But all of it had weight for Buffy, and she felt it with every step as she moved.

"Hello dear," Joyce smiled at her. "Going out?"

Buffy forced a smile, nodding. "Yeah, the gang is going to meet at the Bronze."

"That's nice. Do you have your homework done?"

Buffy nodded, answering in the affirmative as her mind simply whirled with the non sequiter, surreal aspect of the conversation.

"Good. Have a fun time... don't be out too late though." Joyce warned.

"I wont." Buffy said dutifully as she let herself out.

She was halfway to the road when she heard a voice from the shadows.

"Hey." Dawn stepped out from behind a bush.

"Dawn!?" Buffy glared, "What are you doing out here??"

"Just waitin." Dawn said softly, seriously.

"For what?"

"For you."

Buffy blinked, not understanding. "Dawn, you shouldn't be out this late. The sun is going down soon. It's not..."

"Safe. I know." Dawn said, walking up to her sister. "I wish I was going with you tonight."

"It's just a party, Dawn."

Dawn smirked, "Right. With fireworks."

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

"Yeah, you do. But that's ok... Here, I want you to take this." Dawn slipped something from her pocket and let it dangle between them.

Buffy saw the light glint off it and recognized it as a silver cross, an expensive one with a lot of ornamentation. She drew in a breath, surprised by the cost and the beauty of the ornament. "Dawn... where did you get this?"

"From a really good friend." Was all Dawn said as she opened up the chain and stood on tiptoes to slip it over her sisters head. "Good luck."

Buffy stared in shock, her hand coming up to gently finger the cross. After a moment she nodded, "Thanks Dawn..."

Dawn smiled slightly, "I'm not giving it to you. Just lending. I expect you to bring it back... you hear me?"

Buffy smiled, "I hear you. I... I think we need to talk."

Dawn nodded, "Yeah. We do. Later."

Buffy nodded as Dawn turned and headed back to the house. Her little sister could surprise her sometimes.

Buffy shook her head and headed out the gate and down the road. She had work to do.

Wesley Wyndham Price looked up as the clock rung, then sat back in his chair and closed the book he'd been reading.

It was really happening.

The Harvest.

The Master could conceivably rise on this night if they failed in their task. A vampire over eight hundred years old. The sire of some of the worst monsters in recent history. A practically unstoppable killing machine. A...

Wesley shook himself. <Stop that. Keep your mind on the job.>

He went over to the caged in area that was supposed to contain various books that for one reason or another required that sort of security.

It didn't.

Wesley kept very few books inside indeed, and most of them weren't on the lists at the school or the insurance company. They were rather dangerous, or priceless, and not for the hands of students.

The other things in here was Wesley's private armory. Mostly things that had been shipped from the council for the purpose of training the Slayer.

Wesley picked up a crossbow, carefully checking the weapon before setting it down on a table. Next he packed a cross, then a few stakes and some holy water.

Finally he pulled out an old Webley revolver and carefully loaded it with six silver bullets. He'd paid a great deal through a rather unsavory source for the bullets, but they'd worked the one time he'd tested them so he felt it was worth the price.

The revolver slipped into the pocket of his jacket as he slung the crossbow over one shoulder and grabbed the small pack with the rest of his things.

Wesley stiffened his back as he marched to the door.

<Onward and upward and all that.> He thought to himself as he headed for his car.

"Get ready. When the sut is finished setting, we're hitting the club."

Luke nodded, otherwise ignoring Darla as she stood beside him.

"Everyone, pay attention. We're going to have to contain the humans," She was telling the minions. "NO feeding. You just keep them in the club. Got that? I see blood on anyone's lips I'll stake you myself."

The minions nodded, shifting uncomfortable as they did. They knew that she wasn't kidding.

"Alright. We've got about fifteen minutes to go... everyone settle down."

Chapter 6

Buffy was standing outside the Bronze, shifting uncomfortably as the sun went down. Inside she could hear the sounds of music and the hubub of the club goers as they partied.

Outside the streets were largely empty, only few people moving along the quiet sidewalks, and most of those coming to or leaving the Bronze.

She took a breath, and felt it catch in her throat as three vehicles came around the corner in a small convoy. The lead she recognized as the sports car that belonged to Xander, behind it was an expensive looking four by four, and the rear was brought up by a cherry red corvette.

The three came parked right along the Bronze, ignoring the no parking signs plastered around it and people started getting out. At first, Buffy had an urge to laugh, when she saw the weapons and clothes on the people it looked like something out of a bad movie.

The looks on their faces killed the urge before it got anywhere though.

None of them were smiling. None of them looked relaxed.

"Buffy." Xander said, nodding once as he stepped around the car.

She nodded back, taking in how he was dressed.

Gone were the silk shirts and the loose slacks. Now he was wearing some kind of military armor that had things clipped all over it, two pistols hung under his arms, and a big one sat o his hip. He had a silver cross hung over one shoulder and strapped to his upper arm, and around his neck he wore a pendant that glowed with an unearthly blue light.

"What?" Buffy asked, shaking her head.

"Nice cross." Xander repeated what he'd just said, nodding to the familiar cross that hung around her neck.

"Oh. Ummm... My sister loaned it to me." She confessed, suddenly ashamed that all she had was a borrowed cross and some crude weapons.

He just smiled and nodded, like it wasn't a surprise. "You know pretty much everyone here I think, except Jack over here..."

Buffy turned to see a tall man that looked like he was related to Xander and nodded.

"Hi." He said, giving a slight wave.

"And Giles." Xander nodded to another man.

This one was dressed in an ankle length brown duster that concealed whatever weapons he had brought. "Hello Buffy." He said, smiling warmly at her.

"Do I know you?" Buffy responded, feeling uneasy.

"Not in this life." He responded before looking away.

"Ok." Buffy shivered.

Xander split a glance between her and Giles, but didn't say anything. It wasn't the time. Instead he turned around, "Alright. You know your places. G-man you stick with us, everyone else take up your places."

Everyone nodded and faded away, Tara, Faith and Jack Styles moving to one end of the block while Jacks and Vin took the other side.

"Wait." Buffy looked alarmed, "You're letting Faith and Tara fight?? They're younger then us."

"Tara's a Witch." Xander said calmly. "Skilled, fairly powerful. Faith's got an edge of her own, but this isn't the time."

"Fine." Buffy scowled, not really knowing what she could do about it. "But we need to talk."

Xander nodded, but his attention was split when he spotted three familiar figures approach from where Jacks and Vin had just vanished. He nodded and smiled cooly as they arrived, "Jessie. Jono. Wills."

"H... hi." Willow stammered.

"Hey." Jonathon nodded.

Jessie just locked eyes with Xander and nodded.

"Guys." Xander nodded his head toward the black Trans-am. "Take a seat."

Jessie frowned, "What?"

"You guys are spectators on this one." Xander said. "I'm sorry but you're not trained."

"Like hell!" Jessie muttered, "I'm not sitting down while you risk your life!"

Xander stepped up to him, pulling the heavy Desert Eagle from his hip. "This isn't a game, Jes. And we're not up against the wall here. We have trained people ready to handle the situation, which you aren't. If you want in on this, you'll do everything I tell you. I'm not joking here, Jessie. This is life and death, and that means that until you're trained, you sit this one *out*."

Willow shivered slightly, interposing herself between the two angry boys. "J-jessie... I think that he may have a p-point."

Jessie cooled a bit, but wasn't ready to back down.

Xander let himself calm a lot before he spoke again, "Look. I'm not trying to cut you out here. You'll get to see what I do, close up and personal. If you really want in, I'll even train you myself. But until you're ready... You don't fight unless there's no other option. That's just the way it is."

Jessie hesitated again.

Xander smirked, "Or I could just call your mom and tell her where your playboy stash is. You'll be grounded for a year and I won't have to worry about it."

Jessie couldn't help it, he snorted and then grinned as he tried to keep glaring. Finally he gave it up and shook his head ruefully. "You know, that threat isn't going to get you much in another year or so."

Xander nodded, talking a long breath. "I look forward to the day."

Jessie nodded, pursing his lips. "Fine. We'll sit this out."

Willow and Jonathon looked relieved as Xander led the three of them to the car.

"What the?" Jessie blinked as the door popped open before he could reach it.

Xander didn't say anything, he just guided the three of them into the car. As they got their limbs inside, the doors popped closed and locked. Xander could see them yelp in surprise, but couldn't hear anything through the sound proofed car. He walked around to the front, then leaned against the car as he spoke to the forward sensor. "You know what to do, pal. Keep 'em safe... and don't let Jessie drive."

Then he laughed and walked back over to Buffy, just in time to see that Wesley had arrived. He paused, checking his watch as he noted that the sun was behind the buildings now and the time was closing rapidly.

"Wesley." He said as he joined the group.

Wesley swallowed as he eyed the weapons hanging off the boy. Obviously this child was better equipped then he'd believed. "Hello." Was all he could think to say.

"This is Rupert Giles." Xander said, nodding to Giles. "And with that our little group is almost complete."

Giles snorted.

"Almost?" Buffy asked curiously.

"You don't really expect him to show up, do you?" Giles asked humorously.

Xander shrugged. "We'll see."

"What are you talking about?" Buffy asked.

"Wait." Wesley was frowning, "Rupert Giles? The Rupert Giles? You were supposed to be a Watcher before... well... uh..."

Giles walked closer to Wesley, half snarling at the younger man. "Go on. Say it. *Say* it."

"Well... before... uh... you went..."

"Bonkers?" Giles asked, half growling. "Completely bloomin insane?"

Wesley just nodded silently.

"Seeing the world end will do that to you." Giles said darkly as he took a step back, "And yes. I *was* a Watcher, and still am in a way, Price. But that episode lost me my chance to serve a Slayer. Miss Summers would have been my charge, actually."

Buffy stared, wide eyed between the two men, unable to really believe what she was hearing.

"I fail to see how you could be certain of..." Wesley tried to bluster.

"I am certain." Giles smiled, a smile with no hint of humor.

Xander shivered slightly, noting once more that Giles was a far cry from the same man he used to know. They'd both undergone dramatic changes over the years, some for the better, ones that made them stronger, wiser, and maybe a little smarter. Others, not so much.

"Miss Summers is my charge." Wesley stated as flatly as he could when faced with a man whom he suspected of being slightly less then stable.

Giles nodded slowly, turning his gaze to look at Buffy. "Yes. She is. Serve her well, Wyndham Price. If you don't..."

Wesley bristled slightly at the implied threat, but Xander stepped in. "Enough."

The two turned to look at him and he glared at them both, "We don't have time for a British pissing contest. The sun is down, the bad guys are marching. It's time we got ready."

The two had the decency to look abashed as Xander turned to Buffy and slipped two daggers from his thigh sheaths. "Here."

Buffy accepted one, playing it around in the dim light. "What's this for?"

"Staking vamps. It's blessed silver, it'll do the job." Xander said calmly, waiting for her to take the second blade. "The pommel and guard is also formed into a cross... and they'll serve as such."

Buffy raised an eyebrow, "They work as crosses?"

Xander smirked, "Sure they do. Need proof?"

Buffy nodded challengingly to him.

"Hey, Deadboy. Catch!" Xander tossed his dagger into the shadows.

Buffy heard a slight hiss a moment later and a sudden string of muffled curses. Suddenly a form appeared from the shadows, preceded by the dagger that came clattering back to the ground by their feet. Buffy shifted to a fighting stance as she recognized the vampire's game face.

"Relax." Xander laid a hand on her shoulder. "His name is Angel. His with us."

"He's a vampire." Buffy snapped angrily, turning on Xander.

Xander nodded, "Yeah. He used to be one of the worst too. Let's just say... he found God."


"Or God found him." Xander finished with a half smirk. "Nice of you to join us, Deadboy."

"Don't call me that." Angel growled, holding his burnt hands, "And did you have to use me as an example??"

"I don't know. Did you have to skulk around in the shadows?" Xander asked pointedly. "Besides, you're late. You were supposed to be here as soon as the sun dropped behind the buildings."

"The sewers are crawling with the Master's minions." Angel said, "I had to duck them in order to get here."

Xander nodded, "Fine. You're with me. Giles, Wes... Get along, you're backing Buffy. Take the alley, we'll try to funnel any survivors that way."

"Now see here..." Wesley tried, but Giles grabbed him by the arm and pulled him along. "Unhand me!"

Buffy watched them go with trepidation. "I don't know about this."

Xander bent down and picked up the dagger, then handed it to her. "Go on. G-man can be trusted... And Wes, well... he's got potential."

Buffy rolled her eyes, "That makes me feel so much better."

"Not my department." Xander shrugged as he smirked.

Buffy rolled her eyes, "Right."

He and Angel stood out in the open as she walked away.

When she was out of site, Angel turned to Xander. "Did you have to do that? I didn't want my first introduction to everyone to be like... that."

Xander sighed, feeling for the vampire. "Angel, you're a vampire. It sucks, but there's nothing we can do about it... She had to see that, before anything else. She had to know..."

Angel growled low in his throat as he turned away.

"Angel..." Xander said as he turned, bringing the vampire back.


"I'm sorry it had to be this way. I really am." Xander said truthfully. "But I wasn't joking earlier. I won't let Angelus survive another comeback."

Angelus nodded, and was about to speak when he cocked his head. "They're coming."

Xander nodded once.

"I know."

Xander activated his com, "Look sharp. It's party time."

Chapter 7

Darla and Luke led their cadre of vampires to the surface less then two blocks from their target and took a moment to look around.

"I hate this town." Darla sighed. "Even humans can feel the darkness here... I like places where they come out at night."

Darla smiled in reminiscence, "hmmmm.... I remember this small town in Germany where..."

"Enough." Luke snapped, shoving past her. "You waste time. Let's move."

Darla rolled her eyes as Luke barreled down the road. She nodded to the others, "Come on. Let's go."

The group of nearly sixty vampires moved through the empty streets, heading to where they could hear music playing in the distance. A police car came around the block, slowing for only a few seconds as the cops on board saw the group.

Darla grinned at the cops as they passed, her eyes daring them to stop, but they just sped up and went around the corner.

"Sheep." She muttered, almost disappointed.

"Humans." Luke corrected her, "At least sheep don't have delusions of power."

Darla shrugged and the group continued down the block.

"Holy." Angel breathed softly, almost lower then Xander could hear. "There's a lot of them."

Xander frowned, nodding. "More then I expected. A lot more. We fucked up when we confronted the Master."

The two of them watched the approach from the doorway of the Bronze, waiting until the vampire's were less then half a block away before moving.

"Let's go." Xander said, kicking a wedge under the door of the Bronze so it couldn't be opened.

Angel shook his head, "This is suicide."

"Could be." Xander said as they walked down to the sidewalk and came to the back of the Trans-am. "But so be it. KARR, open sesame."

The armored glass of the back of the car slid open smoothly and the felt lined back split and opened to reveal a small armory in the trunk. Xander reached down and pulled out a P90 as he kept an eye on the approaching vampires. They had halved the distance to the Bronze and Xander could almost smell the lead elements of the group.

"What are you packing, Angel?"


"Weapons. What have you got?" Xander asked, a little irritated.

"A couple stakes."

Xander muffled a groan, not certain why he felt so annoyed since he had expected anything more. "Here."

Angel looked at the weapon Xander thrust at him. "I don't know how to..."

"Point at the center of their chest and pull the trigger." Xander snapped as he pulled out a second P90. Hold it steady, look to see if your target is down, if he is then aim and repeat. If not, keep firing until he is. KARR, seal up."

The two backed away as Xander pulled a black balaclava up from his neck to cover the bottom half of his face. He wouldn't normally give anyone a gun if they didn't know how to use it properly, but there were no civilians to worry about and the other teams positions had been carefully selected to ensure no friendly fire casualties.

Besides, Xander reflected, there *were* a lot more vampires then he'd expected.

<Where the hell did they come from??>

Darla held up her hand as she recognized one of the figures that had just stepped out into the street to meet them.

"Angel." She said scornfully.

"Darla." He returned.

"Who's your 'friend', Angel?" She asked, smirking despite the slight tremor of worry as she recognized the weapons the two carried. "And does he know you like I do?"

Angel glanced involuntarily toward Xander, wondering how much the young man DID know, but said nothing.

Darla smiled, "Oooo... Haven't told him, have we? How you murdered all those helpless people. Fed on women and children as their fathers and brothers and husbands watched? You loved that, remember? You loved making them feel helpless... Come on, Angelus... You know you want to be that again. You know you want... me."

Angel growled, face tightening, but was startled from relying when Xander spoke beside him.

"Calm down. She's just trying to make you slip up." Xander said calmly, coldly.

Angel swallowed, then nodded as he brought up the gun and aimed it loosely at the group.

Darla snarled at them, still looking at Angel. "You'll never BE one of them, Angelus! You belong with us. Remember? You belong with me."

Angel's face was a tight rictus of tension, anger, and fear, but he didn't respond.

"Time's up." Xander said beside him, loud enough for everyone to hear, and hefted his P90 into position.

Darla smirked at him, "Oh? And is this where you tell us to leave town, or else...?"

"No." Xander said as he squeezed the trigger.

The rending chatter of machine gun fire roared through the streets as seven full automatic weapons opened up and cut down the grouped vampires like a scythe through wheat. Some vanished into dust, others merely hit the ground in crippled agony as the silver bullets tore and rent their internal organs, burning with a white hot flame.

Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty went down in the first four seconds. A third of those vanishing into dust and blowing on the cordite tainted wind. The first P90 stuttered to a halt in Angel's hand as his full automatic rage died with the ammo in his clip, and others quickly followed suit.

The last weapons to go dry were in the hands of Vin and Xander as they continued with precise bursts that dropped their targets, but before seven seconds was over both of their weapons were dry as well.

And silence reined in the streets of sunnydale once more.

For a brief moment, time stood almost still as the deep quiet grew deeper. Those vampire's still intact and on their feet, all twenty one of them, stared around themselves in incoherent shock as they saw the carnage that was still in evidence by their crippled brethren.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Bullets didn't kill. They merely stung. They didn't KILL.

Darla, survivor by merit of foreknowledge and quick reactions, climbed to her feet even as the deadly chatter died down. She knew that there were guns all around them, and she knew that there was only one direction she could go.

"Get THEM!!" She screamed in blinding fury, charging straight at the two people that barred their way.

Exactly eight survivors followed her orders.

The rest turned and ran toward the only place that weapons fire hadn't come from. Led by Luke, they ran toward the alley that would take them behind the Bronze and away from the killing grounds.

"Get ready." Giles ordered, "Here they come."

Even as he spoke Giles drew his twin detonics, flipping the weapons casually into his hands with a practiced move and leveled them on the charging behemoth that was leading the way.

The two pistols hammered out a steady staccato rhythm as he fired, spitting silver with each fiery belch.

Beside him, Buffy tensed as she flipped the two daggers in her hands until the rested in a comfortable grip. She could hear the fast rhythm of the fire from one side of her and the steady popping of fire from the other as Wesley joined the fight, but the Slayer knew that in the end it wasn't going to be that simple.

Some of them would get through.

It would be a fight hand to hand.

It always was.

Xander tossed the empty P90 to one side, trusting to a four second draw time on his Five Sevens rather then the nine second reload time.

Four seconds gave him time to fire almost a full clip before any of the vampires could reach him.

Nine seconds left him two seconds too late.

The twin FN's came level as he opened fire, watching the charge over their fixed sights. The puffs of flame and smoke obscured his vision for brief slices of time, leaving him with a detached impression of reality, like seeing the world through a strobe light.

"Holy shit." Jonathan breathed in shock, his jaw dropping as he watched the carnage outside.

Willow and Jessie said nothing, both of them white as proverbial sheets as they watched the calm, killing manner of their best friend. Xander was just in sight of them and they could see his face, lit up bu the flashes of light from his weapons, and the lack of emotion in his eyes was more frightening then the murderous expression on the disfigured faces of his opponents.

Darla twisted to one side as the shots came her way. She was old, and had been shot at many times in the past, and while these bullets were different... the guns weren't.

Three shots flashed past.

Behind her she could hear a brief scream as one of them found their target in the body of another, but all the Vampiress was concerned about was reaching her targets. When she had bled both Angel and the other one dry of every last drop of blood in their bodies, assuming Angel had any, then she would stop to think about the bullets.

Only then.

Then she felt a pressure in her chest, followed by another, and then a whole strong of them as if someone was hammering on her with a hundred ball peen hammers.

And mere feet from her target, Darla felt herself falling back, her feet outracing her body as she fell to the ground.

Gile's pistols snapped empty, only seconds had past, and his eye's widened as he realized that he'd missed.

Not every target, no. Not even most. But he had missed the biggest son of a bitch there was.

And by the time he knew he had missed... it was too late.

Luke slammed into him hard enough to send the British Mage into the brick wall, cracking ribs and staggering him in the process. The world exploded into an array of light and dark as he slipped to the ground in shock.

But even as he was struggling to pull himself back to the reality of the situation, he could see Luke turn on Buffy and the Slayer slipped easily into a fighting stance.

He hoped she was up to it this time. It was far too early in the night to count on the sun to save her.

Chapter 8

Xander's guns still hadn't emptied when the first vampire reached him. He sidestepped it, looping his arm in under the creature's, and used a simple hip throw to fling the demon through the air.

He kept spinning, coming back around as the next reached him, and buried the muzzle of his right pistol in the creature's sternum. Pain and shock echoed on it's face as he pulled the trigger, emptying the remainder of the clip into it's body, but Xander didn't see it as he focused over it's shoulder and put the final three rounds into the next vampire's head.

Xander straightened up, glancing over his shoulder just briefly to see where the first vamp had gone. When he saw that it had, almost literally, splattered itself on KARR's windscreen he winced but nodded and turned back.

If it did get up, he knew that KARR would put it right back down.

Beside him, Angel was fighting halfheartedly against two lesser minions, and Xander snapped at him, "Hey! Wake up, Deadboy! These guys are trying to KILL us!"

Angel snapped out of whatever place he'd been and started fighting more effectively, quickly dusting one of the vampire's and turning his attention to the next.

Xander nodded briefly, smiling with a feral gleam in his eyes as he considered the options. <Three left. Elan?>

<You handle them.> She said, almost amused, <You need the workout.>

He smirked and nodded, stepping away from Angel and motioning to the three vamps that were left. "Come on. Three on one... I need to try out some new moves..."

Buffy cried out in shock and pain as she hit the brick of the wall, his head and face stinging from the powerful blow that the vampire had sent her. The hulking form sneered at her, looking on her as if she were nothing and it galled here. Not even Lothos had considered her nothing, and he had been a Master by all accounts.

She shook her head as she got back up, her teeth bared as she glared at the vampire. "Oh, you're so going to get it, ugly."

Luke merely sneered at her, the two combatants ignoring the melee that was happening around them as Wesley fought desperately to defend himself from two vampires and Giles struggled on the ground with another that had blindsided him as he tried to get up.

"So. You're the Slayer." Luke said as he turned with the girl's movement. "You don't look so scary."

"I've heard that before." Buffy smiled, "never twice from the same guy though."

"Impudent." Luke grinned, baring his extended teeth. "Good. It will sweeten the blood, and the Master will absorb your power and escape all the quicker."

Buffy snarled, as she attacked. "Not going to happen."

"Let's move, Tiger." Faith snapped as she jumped from cover. The vast majority of the vampire's were gone already, the battle not three minutes old, but there were strays to eliminate and to do that they had to be tracked down. "Hey Style... Try to keep up."

Jack Styles didn't bother to respond, mostly because he was trying to keep up. The feisty brunette was moving fast enough to leave most people behind, including the young witch. "Faith!"

"What!?" She snapped, turning her head to glare mildly at Styles.

"Tone it down, we stay together, remember??" Jack said, nodding his head to where Tara was catching up.

Faith scowled, but slowed her rush to let Tara catch up. "Come on."

Xander centered himself as the three vampires circled around him, when he looked back up his mind was clear and his senses had hyper-extended into the very highest level he could manage.

Behind him the crumble of a small piece of gravel on the pavement told him that the vampire was three feet behind him and preparing to charge. In front he could see the two others tensing, their muscles rippling where their clothes were pulled tight, the slight fading of their aura's as they unconsciously tightened their grip on their internal energy, and the sudden narrowing of the yellow pupils of their eyes all signaled the attack.

When the moved, they moved almost as one, with good technique despite the their obvious youth.

Xander bent slightly, sliding to one side as he extended his leg, causing the vampire from the rear to trip over his leg and crash into one of those in the front. As it passed, Xander shifted balance again and pushed his attention down and into the ground.

Flexing his leg he used it as additional pressure, kicking off as he delivered a hard palm strike to his opponents chest. The shocked Vampire's eyes widened in pain as he was lifted off his feet and thrown back from the powerful blow.

Xander drew back a step, re-centering himself as he watched the other two regroup and move to attack.

Blood run from a cut over her eye, but Buffy refused to go down as the staggeringly huge vampire lunged at her again.

He was big.

He was brutal.

But he was slow, and as Buffy was just beginning to learn, he was predictable.

Luke lunged again, and this time she was ready for him. She flexed back, letting the clumsy fist rip the air over her head as she planted her hands on the ground and continued the motion with a powerful kick that caught the vampire under the chin and knocked him back several paces.

As she flipped gracefully over and landed on her feet a few paces further away he growled. He was the Master's favorite, by all the hells below, and he wasn't going to be taken down by some pitiful Slayer.

"Growl?" Buffy asked in mock annoyance. "Is that all I get? Come on, how about a little speech about..."

Luke roared and charged her.

Faith blinked as the vampire was blown back away from Xander, landing in a painful skid near her.

"Damn. X has been working out." She said, flashing a crooked grin.

The vampire in question started to move to get up, but Faith calmly staked it with a casual throw as she moved past, her eyes on Xander as he faced off against two more of them.

When Jack Styles started to move past her, Faith stopped him. "Nah. Let him. He needs the workout, and it's not like they're likely to really do him any damage."

Xander moved slowly, his foot work meticulous as he watched the two vamps.

The one on the left was coming first, he decided just a second before it charged him. He sidestepped just enough to be out of the direct path of it's charge, then intercepted the vampire's claw strike in mid air.

He reversed the motion of the arm, twisting it around in a painful jointlock, then applied the full force of his legs, hips, and torso to throwing the vampire back.

The pain caused the creature to go with the motion, and it lost it's footing as it's arm was being guided through a very specific path through space. In mid air, it's arm came free and the vamp was free floating for a slice of time.

In Xander's current state of consciousness that slice of time was almost an eternity. He saw the vampire frozen in mid air, a look of shock and pain on it's face as it prepared to fall to the ground. Xander shifted again, widening his stance as he drew power up from the very earth beneath his feet and added it to his chi.

He guided the energy up through his legs, through muscles and bone, and into his organs. From his legs it followed the linkage of his body, through the groin and into the liver and then on to the heart.

As it combined with his Soul Energy, the power became an almost tangible presence of power in him, until he sent it on it's way.

Through his shoulder and into the muscles of his arm it powered the vertical palm strike Xander sent against the vampire, but it didn't stop there. As his palm made contact with the vampire's chest it continued out through his wrist and hand and *in* to the vampire's flesh, bone, and finally... organs.

Faith whistled as Xander threw the vampire and then suddenly became a blur of motion, his arm coming around and flashing down into the hapless vampire's chest.

The sheer energy of the blow she saw should have driven the vampire down into the asphalt, but instead the creature just hung there for another second before it vanished into dust.

"Whoa." Faith said, blinking is pleased surprise. "I've GOT to get boytoy to teach me that one."

"H?he drew power up from the Earth." Tara whispered, shocked herself. "From Gaia herself."

"Huh?" Faith glanced back, confused. "No wait. Don't tell me. I wouldn't get it anyway."


"Yeah, Jack?" Faith asked, looking back from Tara.

"You mind if I dust the other one?"

"What other one?" Faith asked, turning back to the fight, just in time to see the third vampire that had been facing off against Xander come running straight at them.

And straight into the short burst that Jack Styles pumped from his reloaded MP-5. "That one."

Faith cursed herself for being distracted as the aggravating man smirked at her.

Buffy had been fighting on the defensive since the struggle with Luke began, their battle taking them through the entirety of the alley as Luke tried again and again to kill her.

A short distance away she could sense both Wesley and Giles moving around, presumably looking for a way to enter the fight without endangering her. Unless, of course, she was giving them both way too much credit.

And Buffy knew that it would be easy to step aside. Both of them had guns, Giles had managed to find a sword somewhere in the last few minutes, and Wesley still had a crossbow. They could kill the vampire easily if she only stepped aside.

But pride wouldn't let her.

She was the Slayer. She was the chosen one. And this damned Vampire was going to find out what that meant, by god!

When his next blow came in, Buffy ducked under it and came up with a right cross that packed as much power as her enhanced muscles could muster. It rocked his head to one side with a sickening crack that would have signified the end of a fight with any lesser opponent, but Luke came back with left hook that rocked her head back and raised an ugly welt on her cheek.

Buffy growled, sending a snap kick into the vampire's gut and then smashing another right cross into his head. Before he could recover she nailed him with a left cross, then again with the right. One, two, three, four more times she repeated the strikes as she drove the stunned vampire back against the brick of the Bronze.


She glanced to one side and caught the stake as it flipped through the air to her, nodding briefly to Wesley in thanks. When she turned back, Luke was getting back to his feet, so she caught him with a spinning kick to the temple and then planted the stake heavily in his chest.

And, just like that, the fight was over.

Chapter 9

As Xander came back to himself, his sense of time and his five senses equalizing he looked around himself briefly before speaking out clearly. "Clear."

Vin Tanner appeared from the shadows a short distance down the block and nodded up toward them as Jacks walked calmly beside him. "Clear."

Giles stepped out of the alley with Wesley and a rather bedraggled Buffy Summers. "Clear here as well."

Faith smirked, "Real clear over here."

Xander nodded, then turned back to KARR. "Alright, pal... let' em out."

The doors popped, opening up as Xander picked up his dropped weapons, replacing his FiveSevens in the holsters and plucking a clip from a thigh sheath and calmly reloading the P90.

"G," He looked up to Giles, "You want to catch the door to the Bronze when I'm done here? I stuffed a wedge under it."

Giles nodded and headed for the door to the Bronze after dropping his weapons into the Vette. As he did, Xander walked up to the injured vampire's and started firing off short bursts of silver into them as they writhed on the ground.

Vin and Faith nodded and retrieved their own pistols from holsters and joined him as he finished off the last of the vamps. Behind them, Willow looked like she was going to be ill as they worked, while the others, even Buffy herself seemed a little sickened by the callousness of the action.

"Now?" Giles asked as they finished and headed back.

"One sec." Xander said, walking up to KARR. "Open up, buddy."

The truck opened and the weapons section slowly unfolded.

"Guns!" Xander called out, dropping his P90 into place.

"Yo." Faith tossed her SMG with an under hand flip as she slipped her Berreta 92F into it's holster and buttoned her coat up.

Xander caught it casually and dropped it into the waiting groove, then quickly retrieved the weapons from Jack and Tara while Jacks and Vin fit their own into Vin's four by four.

When that was done, Xander stripped off his armor and dropped it into the compartment. "Ok, KARR... button up. We're done here."

The compartment closed as Xander smoothed out the black silk of his shirt and rolled his shoulders and worked the kinks out of his neck. "Ok, G."

Giles nodded and kicked the wedge clear of the door before walking back down towards them. "Did we get them all?"

Xander frowned, shrugging. "I think so. Anyone see any escapees?"

No one spoke for a while until Angel looked around, "Did anyone see Darla dust?"

"Huh?" Xander looked over, his face suddenly tensing. "I shot her."

Angel nodded, "I know... but I didn't see her dust. She hit the ground and lay still... then I was busy and..."

"Fuck!" Xander suddenly cursed, his face livid. "God dammit!"

"Who's this Darla woman?" Buffy asked, stepping back from Xander as he cursed.

"His Sire." Xander snapped, pointing at Angel. "God damn is that bitch a slippery eel!"

"O... o... one vampire isn't bad..." Tara said timidly.

"Darla's not just any vampire." Xander said coldly, angrily, as his fists clenched and unclenched.

Tara swallowed and fell back, bumping into Faith.

"Calm down, X." Faith said, looking worried. "We'll get her in the end..."

Xander nodded, his face still a mask of anger. "Right. Sure."

Xander walked away from them all, over to a corner of a building.

"Fuck, G." Faith said, puzzled, "What's with X?"

"It's personal between him and Darla, Faith." Giles said, thinking back to the first night he'd met Xander. "Very personal."

Faith frowned, but didn't get a chance to speak as Xander suddenly cursed again and slammed his fist into the brick corner of the building. The brick shattered in a cloud of pulverized dust. "I'd better go talk him down before he hurts himself."

Giles nodded as the rest of the group watched Xander with varying degrees of trepidation.

"What just happened?" Willow asked, looking almost afraid of the answer.

Giles started to clear his throat to respond, but Wesley beat him to the punch.

"The world as you know it, is merely a mask for a much older and darker one." Wes said, taking on a vaguely superior look. "It did not, in fact, begin as a paradise... but rather as a hellish place, occupied by various forms of demons and other monsters. A long time ago, the demons were driven out... before they left, the last demon mixed his blood with a human and thus was born the first vampire..."

Giles watched a listened in annoyance as Wesley gave the standard speech with some personal twists, and he wondered. <Did I sound as patronizing when I did that?>

"Hey, X." Faith said softly as she walked up. "You ok?"

"I'm fine." Xander said calmly.

<Too calm.> Faith thought to herself. "Bullshit. This is me, remember? Not that I have to know you all that well to know that you're full of it this time. What the hell is this Darla person to you?"

Xander looked up at her, turning to face the young girl. Faith gasped slightly, not expecting to see tears in his eyes. Tears of sorrow, rage, whatever. They didn't belong on Xander's face.

"You see Jessie over there?" Xander said softly.

Faith nodded.

"You ever see him in the last timeline?"

Faith swallowed, shaking her head.

"She turned him." Xander said coldly. "She killed him... and then left his demon animated corpse for me to clean up."

Faith froze for a moment, hearing hate in Xander's voice for what was probably the first time she'd ever known. He could be angry, he could be sad. Happy, pissed, even scared to death. But Xander never hated anyone.


Faith thought back and remembered one other time there had been hate in his voice.

When she first met him. When he told her about... Angel.

She looked over at him, wondering what was going on in his mind. Xander was far from the most open person she'd ever known, he made her father look like a bad actor by times. And THAT was saying something.

"I've tried twice to kill her now, since I got back." He continued. "Twice I've failed."

Faith looked for something to say, but Xander turned back to the group and headed there way.

"There won't be a third time." She heard him say angrily.

Faith shivered. This was bad, she thought. X was getting emotionally involved, something that he never did. Even when things were trying to kill everyone he knew, Xander was always the one that kept separated from it. The one who joked to keep others thinking clearly.

<Real Bad.> She shook her head, exhaled, and went to join him.

The Master was still waiting for the Harvest to begin when Darla stumbled into his lair, blood ruining her catholic schoolgirl outfit as she collapsed against a boulder.

"What happened??"

"They're all dead." She answered. "It was an ambush."

"By what!?" The Master roared.

"It must have been the commandoes." She responded tiredly, clutching at her shoulder in pain. "They had guns and they cut us apart like we were nothing."

"Impossible! Luke was the best of my...!"

"Dead children." Darla spat, blood coming from her mouth. "He's dead. They all are."

"And how came you to be so... animated, if all my minions and my best childe were killed?" The Master asked, advancing menacingly on her as his face turned into a rictus of anger.

"How?? HOW!?" Darla screamed in a fury of her own, as she forced herself to her feet. "This is How!!"

The Master flinched back in shock as Darla ripped off her blouse and then pulled a dark blue object from under it and threw it to the ground at his feet. She stood there, the bare skin of her torse marred by the bloody wounds in her shoulder and arm, defiantly daring him to say more.

The Master ignored her nudity, instead he looked down at the bulletproof vest on the ground at his feet and sank into a contemplative manner as he eyed the dozen flattened pieces of silver around the center of the vest.

"This changes things."

"No fucking shit." Darla spat again and turned her back on him as she tore the remaining shreds of her blouse off and threw it to the ground.

"No fucking shit." She repeated as she again faltered and stumbled into a boulder.

Her slight cry of pain brought the Master from his reverie and he walked over to here, grabbing her jaw and twisting her head roughly away from the wound that was high in her shoulder.

"Hold still." He said, reaching for her shoulder with his taloned hands.

A moment later the caverns under Sunnydale echoed with tortured screams of pain.



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