Sword of Life

Author: Kyle Bernard <csktech[at]yahoo.com>

Copyrighted: May 19, 2002

Category: Crossover

Spoilers: None

Keywords: None

Disclaimer: All characters with their respective rights, properties, and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers, and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.
The small excerpt from Journey's is used with permission.

Summary: Based in Tenhawks Journeyverse this story in meant to compliment his visions. I am not the writer that Ten is and never will be but I count him a friend and thank him for letting me play in his universe

Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)
The Following TV Series or books have been included in the story.
* Buffy the Vampire Slayer
* Seven Days
* The Six Million Dollar Man
* Flight of the Old Dog
* Kung Fu: The Legend Continues

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

Author's Note: I am a B/Xer too and this will be a B/X fic though NOT FOR A WHILE. It will be X/Others in friendships and relationships for the first part of the story. Expect to see Buffy/Riley at one point as well... but I swear to God above that NO Buffy/Spike crap will be found within. (What kind of sicko thought that up anyway? Do not get me wrong, I liked Spike... until Buffy lost what little sanity she had.)

Aboard the B-17 "Leper Colony"
14 Oct 1943

"Initial point in 2 minutes" the bombardier announced over the intercom.

Below the bomber was the city of Schweinfurt, Germany, The ball bearing capital of the Nazi regime. Before the day ended, 60 of the 250 aircraft and the 600 men that flew them would never return, and the lives of all would change forever. However, none more then 1st Lt. Kevin Griffin.

The Group Commander of the 455th heavy bomber squadron had been candid with the crews in the morning briefing. "You can expect to see heavy fighter reaction both to and from the target." He paused with a sigh; "Schweinfurt produces 85 percent of all ball bearings used in military aircraft and 70 percent of the bearings for all other German war material. If we hit this target, and hit it hard, we could shorten the war by two years. Good luck gentleman, Good luck, and Godspeed to you all."

During the inbound flight, the group had been plagued with fighters. It was almost as if the Nazi's knew what today's target was. The Germans had thrown everything they had at the group. First off were the "Abbyville Boys." A FW-190 equipped squadron of the best and most experienced pilots that Germany had. You always knew that when you saw the yellow-nosed FW's, you were in for trouble.

They had struck just as they crossed the coast of France. The group had been hit hard with head on attacks. The FW-190s, wing cannons blazing away, with the Call of "Bandits 12 o'clock high" coming over the intercom. The fighters swept through the high formation trying to break group formation, thereby reducing the defensive fighting power of the group.

The 50 cal machine guns in the nose and top turrets rattled the airframe as the bombardier and the flight engineer filed the air with lead and steel.

"Radio to Pilot."

"Go ahead" the Pilot, Capt. Mark Duran replied.

"Sir, the lead plane reports one engine out and a major fuel leak. He is aborting at this time and heading home. You have the lead of the Squadron sir."

Paul looked over at his co-pilot, Kevin Griffin and then reached up to trigger his throat Mic. "Ok radio, we have the lead"

"Kevin, you have the aircraft. Let see if we can get "Pandora's Box" to cover our position while we will move up, that should keep the group tight." As the captain issued the orders over the radio, Kevin scanned the instrument panel. "Rpm's good, Oil pressures in the green, manifold pressures good."

As the captain reorganized the squadron, Kevin flew the aircraft through the heavily defended skies of Germany. Like hornets defending the nest, the enemy fighters continued to pound away at the bombers, never giving them more then a moment of peace. Hour after hour the attack's continued. Then as quickly as the attack had begun, the fighters were gone. The crew of the Leper Colony knew what that meant… Flack.

Flack… those peaceful looking puffs of black smoke, so deceptive in appearance, and yet so deadly. Hidden in the wispy black smoke was 88 mm of pure hell on earth. Just one of those shells, in the wrong place, and a bomber could blow-up like a roman candle in less time then it takes to draw a breath.

The bombardier's IP call caught Kevin by surprise. He was so busy doing everything he could to keep the aircraft in one piece and in formation that his world had become nothing more then the instrument panel and gauges. The fighter pilots had a name of this condition, loss of situational awareness, the bomber pilots were a little less formal, and they called it having your head up your ass in the up and locked position.

Every member of the crew aboard the Leper Colony hated this part. They all became passengers on a flying bomb. From the IP on The bombsight flew the plane no evasion was possible. You simple flew the plane straight and level and let everyone with a gun shoot at you like a duck on Christmas morning. Some of the members prayed, others fingered their lucky charms. All of them sweated.

The pinging of shell fragments against the skin was an almost constant addition to the normal noises they had become all too familiar with. The pounding of the guns, the drone of the four radial engines, even the praying of the crew over the intercom has become second nature to them. They never got used to the pinging noise for that could mean that life might soon be over for them.

"Doors are coming open" came through Kevin's headphones.

The whine of the electric motors opening the bomb bays doors was the first sign that they may make it, That left 1 minute, 60 seconds, 40 heart beats and still and eternity to go.

The sound of the bomb racks opening went unheard by the crew. However, the sudden upward thrust of the plane was felt through the airframe, as all 12 of the 500-pound bombs fell away. Now with duty done, Now was their time to fight for themselves. Fight to get home… fight to live…

The first shell that caught them exploded on the left side of the fuselage, just forward of the pilot's entrance. Penetrating the thin aluminum, It exploded in the nose compartment, ripping away segments of the nose from the navigator's table forward. The Bombardier and the Navigator died before the sound even registered on their brains. They never knew what hit them…

While the damage in the nose was extensive, it was survivable. It was the second shell that was the lethal blow. The armor plating of the flight decked confined the explosion to the lower flight deck, where the life support and aux. systems were located. The bright green oxygen tanks were punctured and only luck kept then from exploding. The junction boxes that provided power and communications for the crew were partially damaged or completely destroyed outright. Only the heavy spar of the main wing saved the fuel transfer valves from damage and an instant explosion. The fragments of the shell shot in all directions, some ending on the left side of the main flight deck finding the soft target of the captain's legs.

Captain Duran was luckier then his fellow crewmembers in the nose. The thing that saved his life was the armor plating on his seat. His heavy flight suit ripped open below the knee and his legs peppered with shell fragments. Blood gushing out of the wounds soaked his boots and caused him to black out.

"Oh shit" the copilot swore into his oxygen mask. Trying to draw a breath, he realized that either the mask had failed or the main oxygen bottle has been hit. "I have to get this thing down, and down fast." Pushing the yolk forward with his right hand and pulling the throttles back to the idle with his left. Slowing the plane as much as he could and retain control Kevin hoped that could save the Leper Colony and her crew.

"Copilot to crew, check in." Kevin made the same call several times with no response from any of the crew.

The shrieking of the wind through the holes in the nose and side made it almost impossible to hear himself think. He really didn't believe that the intercom would be working either since the main junction box was located next to the oxygen bottles on the lower deck, but he had to try to warn his crew.

The hammering of the top turret told Kevin that he wasn't the only survivor aboard the flying fortress. Once he had the plane below 10,000 feet, he ripped his oxygen mask off and draws in a much-needed breath.

Trying to level the plane had become a loosing battle. The hole in the nose, combined with the still open bomb bay doors had become a combination that would in the end, win. The Leper Colony was doomed.

The tug at his shoulder surprised Kevin; He was so busy flying the plane he never noticed the top turret guns had been silenced. He looks over his left shoulder and there is the flight engineer.

"Lieutenant, the navigator and the bombardier are dead and the skippers badly hurt, He out cold and heavy bleeding coming from his legs."

"Well sergeant I have some even worse news. The captain isn't the only thing that's hurt bad, so is the Colony." He hesitates for just a second and continues,

"Have the crew bail out. A POW camp is a lot better then what I'm gonna do." The look of concern of the sergeant's face tightens.

"Look, Mark can't jump! I sure as hell am not going to leave him in a plane that is going to crash. Dave, You and the crew all have families and I'm the only one that even has half a chance of landing this thing." The tone of his voice hardened, " Get em out and keep them together as best as you can." The sergeant from the look on his face didn't like the order he had been given. He squeezed the co-pilots shoulder and headed aft.

Walking across the bomb bay catwalk that connects the flight deck to the radio room was, even in the best of times, tricky. The six-inch catwalk supported fore and aft by the cockpit and the radio room, and on each side and by the inner bomb racks in the middle. The only safety measure was a rope handrail that ran the length of the bomb bay that with gloves on was difficult to hang onto. Too try and cross it with the bomb bay doors open, carrying a portable oxygen tank and a screaming wind driving in from the damaged nose was almost impossible.

As he entered the radio room, the sergeant ordered the radioman to send a SOS, while he helped the ball turret gunner out of the turret and don his parachute. He walked back to the waist gunners, slipping on the empty shell casings that had accumulated on the deck during the running fight with the enemy fighters.

He yelled to them over the screaming wind. "The Lt. has ordered us out." They look at each other and the right waist gunner pulls the red handled escape pin and the crew door falls into the slipstream away from the plane. The six enlisted men soon follow the door, out into the uncertain future of capture and Luft-Stalag 13.

The flying fortress fell toward earth in manner somewhere between flight and falling. Now alone in the aircraft except for the unconscious pilot, Kevin started to look for some place that he might be able to land the stricken plane.

The terrain of northern Europe is not noted for it's long flat spaces and that's exactly what Kevin needed just now, Long, flat, and treeless and if there's a god in heaven above, without German soldiers. "Hell" He thinks to himself, "If I'm going to dream I might as well ask for a hospital and a nice Jazz bar too."

The remains of the Leper Colony strewn all over the field, the once proud bomber, now scrap metal. Almost as if the skies had opened, and a rain of aluminum had fallen like a violent hurricane of death had been visited on the small patch of green.

The mangled wreck of the B-17 settled between two rocks, the props of two of the Wright Cyclones sheared off completely, the two remaining engines retrained the props, but the were badly damaged. Only good luck and a merciful god had kept the aircraft from exploding on impact. The fact that the magnetos had been shut off, with one of the major causes of sparks removed, the highly flammable plane had not exploded as had happened all too often in a crash landing in a plane of this type.

The pain of reviving from the crash was almost overwhelming. Sore from every part of his body Kevin knew he has to get out of the plane before it could blow up. He flipped the release of the harness and the parachute and tried to stand. A shooting pain coursed up his left leg. "Oh lord," he moaned as he fell back into the seat speaking to no one at all. "Ok. Broken leg I guess that the least I would have expected from that lousy landing, I wonder what else doesn't work." Bracing himself with one hand on the armrest and the other on the throttle quadrant, he raises himself on the one good leg. Sliding his right leg past the control column, guarding the injured leg, he crept past the throttle quadrant.

Working his way back through the fuselage on one leg, Kevin had to stop every few minutes to combat the pain and to catch his breath. He was amazed to find the rest of the plane in fair condition. The majority of damage had been restricted to the initial flack burst and damage to the wings from the landing.

Hopping through the empty hole that had once been the crew entrance, Kevin fell and blacked out again.

Kevin's shade left his body. Looking downwards, he thought to himself, "I don't look bad enough to be dead."

"You aren't my young friend, at least not yet."

Kevin now realizing that his shade didn't suffer the injuries that his physical body did, spun around, searching for the source of the voice that interrupted him. HE began to search the crash site.

Words floated to him on the wind. "You won't find me unless I want you to find me."

"Who are you and what do you want?"

"Who I am, you will shortly learn. What I want is simple; I want to save your life. Unless something intervenes soon, you Kevin Griffin will soon be a fellow spirit haunting these hills."


"Now that is the first sensible thing you have asked." From wisps of smoke a tall, platinum blond man emerged. "For the last quarter of a century I have lain here, lost to my own time and place, hoping someone worthy would find me.

Why not just walk away?

"All is not as it seems young Kevin." The tall man looked upwards and concentration covered his face. "We have the time."

"In my world I was one of the most powerful mages that existed. I thought myself unmatched in power and purpose, however like all things in nature, there had to be a balance, so the forces of evil created a champion of equal power." A look of pride and regret etched itself to the stranger's face. "To defeat that ungodly power I had to sacrifice myself."

"So you're dead and I'm having a bad dream."

"If only it were that simple. The stranger moved forward and joined Kevin on the rock where he sat. "I live, at least in some manner I live. To save my world I was bonded to my sword and, in the final battle, I and my foe were expelled from my world."

"Now I'm confused, your world?"

A kindly look came over the man's face. "Kevin, I was not human."

"Wait a god dammed minute. If you weren't human what were, or are you?" Anger covered Kevin's face, "and while you're at it, what the hell are you doing here?"

The blond stranger waved his hand across the glade. "This place once hosted a portal of sorts. My passage through that portal closed it and I have remained here since your last Great War. What I was, was a warrior mage, what your books of fiction refer to as an elf. What I am now, well," he paused for a moment, "my people gave me a name: The Sword of Life."

A look of disbelief and defiance claimed Kevin's face. "You have to be kidding. Elves don't exist, they are imaginary creatures made up to entertain the foolish." As Kevin spoke his body, lying on the ground next to the wreckage began to shake and its breathing became irregular.

"You have little time left Kevin. If you wish to live, follow me. However, know that this gift does not come without a price. The rest of your life you will be compelled to fight the same evils that I fought on my own world."

A combat pilot is often forced to make decisions, often without enough information, so they go with their gut feelings. Kevin, knowing he was dying, made such a choice. "What do I do?"

"Take my hand."

A surge of energy flushed through Kevin's body. Waking up from the surreal dream, Kevin found a sword, unlike any sword he had ever seen before, laying on his chest.

Phoenix Arizona
1 Aug 2000

<Leaving home at 7:00 am was shame,> thought Kevin. <Leaving the 19-year-old coed there naked and all alone, well that was more than a shame, it was a crime.> The driver of the Chevy Blazer grinned as the memory of last night replayed in his head.

Getting laid hadn't been in the plans last night. Kevin simply wanted to have a few beers and watch the Diamondbacks on the big screen TV with a few fellow fans. Randy Johnson had been pitching that night and he was on fire. The excitement of the game, and a few beers in his system caused Kevin to revert to what he thought of as the old ways. Revert he did, all night long, if he hadn't had an airshow to fly that weekend, he would be there when she woke up.

Ah the old ways, he mused; wine women and song, all were things he enjoyed in his pre-hero days. How many of us can place an exact date and time when our old life dies and a new one began, Kevin could; October 14, 1943, the day he crashed his Flying Fortress into the empty field in northern Germany, and nearly died.

Since that day much had changed, curiously some things had remained the same. Kevin looked exactly the same as he did that day. His 81-year-old body looked and felt as if he were still 25 years old. His 5'11 frame hadn't shrunk with age as all of his old friends had. Even his jet-black hair failed to show a single strand of gray; in essence, Kevin was still 25-years old.

The intervening years had been good to Kevin. At first it was a struggle, getting out of the service with millions of other men had forced Kevin to look for a flying job that simply wasn't there. So he made his own. Selling the land his family owned in Payson, He used the money to buy up 15 surplus B17's. Converting them to drop borate instead of 500lb bombs, Kevin was in the forefront of aerial fire fighting technology. Griffin Air was the first to see the possibility that surplus bombers could now fight for life, instead of dropping death they could save lives in the forests of his home.

It had been hard at first, hiring pilots on a season to season basis only, sleeping in the rented hanger on Falcon Field to save money. Doing all the maintenance on the aircraft himself, with a few friends helping when he couldn't handle a major repair all by himself, in the end it had been worth it. Kevin sold Griffin Air in 1974, and the millions he made had left him the time and the money to follow his own desires.

A loud honking horn blasted Kevin from his memories. Shaking his head to clear it Kevin thought, <I had better keep myself in the present rather then the past.> Turning on the radio, he listened to Dave Pratt's morning show on KDKB. Kevin enjoyed the loud and boisterous rock and roll the station played as he continued to drive.

Time changed everything. As Kevin turned left onto Falcon Field, he recalled his first experience there. It had been 1942; he and 60 other flight cadets had been assigned to the civilian flight program on the field. Back then orange fields had surrounded the field; Kevin could almost see the scar on the West Side of the field where the first of them had died. Now there were homes surrounding the airport and the only remaining orange grove was up for sale to the highest bidder. Not everything changes for the better he thought.

Falcon Field Auxiliary
23 Dec 1942

A cold and tired Kevin Griffin paced back and forth, dressed in his flight gear, including his parachute, his rifle shouldered. Forty paces, turn, forty more paces, turn. For the past 6 hours, Kevin walked off demerits. Demerits were punishment for breaches of military discipline or even worse, safety violations while in flight. Kevin held the record, not for just his class, but for the entire history of the program. Since day two, he had been one demerit shy from expulsion from training. The only thing that saved him was the fact that he could fly. Even the instructors were amazed at his abilities.

As Kevin turned, the aroma of hot coffee wafted under his nose. The thoughts of the hot liquid on a freezing cold morning cause his mouth to water. Turning around he spotted the senior flight instructor with a cup of coffee and a grin on his face. "Cadet Griffin, follow me. The Colonel would like to see you in his office immediately."

Kevin answered with one of the three permissible answers, "Sir, yes sir." Following the instructor, three paces behind Kevin listened as they walked. "You know, Kevin, you are the best natural pilot I have ever seen. It a damned shame you don't have the self-discipline to follow the rules. Turning to his student, he confided in him, "Colonel Sand is going to try and scare you. Don't let his bluster fool you; you will graduate tomorrow with the rest of the class."

The duo walked along the flight line headed towards the operations office, weaving around the bright yellow T-6, 'Texan' trainers that were the backbone of the advanced flying school fleet. They reached the hastily constructed office that served as the hub of the school's activities and the instructor pointed Kevin in, and then with a casual wave left him to his fate.

The now over-dressed, and starting to sweat pilot-to-be stated, "Cadet Griffin, reporting as ordered, Sir,"

The grizzled veteran of world war one, and the reduced forces that were the Army Air Corps that was the "peace time" army, who was seated at the desk ignored the cadets reporting in and continued to read from a thick folder.

In a gentle tone the belied his rough-hewn look, the old man spoke to Kevin. "I have been reading your file son. I can't say that I'm impressed. You have broken every rule, yet you are still here only because we need the talents that you posses. Son, the Army isn't here for your personal pleasure. We have a tremendous fight ahead."

"Sir, I didn't think…"

The colonel looked upward and met Kevin's eye, "Your damn right you didn't think. At ease cadet." Paul Sand continued to read the personal file on his desk. "It says here that you have marched off more demerits then the rest of the class combined. It also says that you have been the first in everything when it comes to the flight syllabus; first to solo, first in instrument navigation, first in cross-country. Damn it Son, how can you waste the talents god has given you. I have half a mind to flunk you and let the infantry have you."

Breaking the tradition of 'Yes Sir', 'No Sir', 'No excuse Sir', Kevin replied, "That would be a loss to the Air Corps, Sir."

"Yes it would be. So… I have a solution that will curb your independent tendencies. When you graduate tomorrow, the assignment you requested will not be available, instead… you are heading to heavy bomber school. Perhaps a thousand hours as a copilot will teach you the lesson I wasn't able to. Dismissed cadet."

Present time

Parking the Blazer, Kevin unlocked the hanger, one of the few remnants of Griffin Air that he couldn't let go. Originally the hanger had housed maintenance crews in the world war two era, and it had served the same purpose after the war for Griffin Air. Now it housed the one thing that Kevin loved best.

Inside of the hanger was the plane that Kevin should have flown in combat during the war. The North American P-51D Mustang was the fighter that had changed the outcome of the war. To this day, Kevin still regretted not being able to fly that beautiful creation in combat.

The hanger doors opened, exposing the classic fighter painted in the colors of the 332nd Fighter group, the distinctive red tail and nose honoring the black fighter pilots that served their country so well. Kevin had had other reason for painting his mount that way. Mission after mission he had seen these planes flying all around, never leaving their charge to the mercies of the Luftwaffe, never losing one of the heavy bomber to an enemy aircraft.

The Mustang was a source of pride for Kevin. It had been his one luxury over the years and he had enjoyed it to the maximum. He had found the classic fighter on one of his trips to the bone yards in Goodyear and Marana Arizona in 1946, while he was acquiring the bombers that would become the heart or Griffin Air.

Sitting on the old dusty strips had been thousands of the aircraft that had claimed victory from the war. P-38's Lightings, P-47, Thunderbolts, B-24 Liberators, of course the B-17's that he had come searching for. At the end of a long hot day, he had found miles of P-51's. Most, still in the factory paint scheme and with less then a 100 hours total flight time on the airframes.

Kevin had debated with himself for days, and finally he chose. Rather then buy two more fortresses; he spent the last thousand dollars on a toy for himself. In the early years, it had been a battle to keep the Mustang. She drank gas like an alcoholic drank beer, and while parts were readably available; the time to work on her disappeared after the fire season started.

When he sold Griffin Air in 1974, Kevin decided to enjoy the rest of his life doing the one thing he loved best, flying his Mustang. So tearing it down to nuts and bolts, he restored the Mustang to its wartime configuration. The Packard built Rolls Royce V-1650-7's, that had come with the airplane was pulled and stored; one of the nine still-in-the-crate engines he had found was installed. The propellers were overhauled and spares were acquired. Every inch of paint was stripped and all of the aluminum was inspected for any signs of corrosion. The only concession Kevin made, was the gun and ammunition bays were converted to storage space.

When the airplane was finished, Kevin faced a problem, How to paint her. Fate intervened. It had been an article in Air Classics that had profiled the Tuskegee Airmen and the red-nosed fighters that they flew. Kevin knew immediately how to finish the project. The last touch was the beautiful blond painted on each side of the nose, with the name, 'Oh Sherry', in beautiful script below.

Sherry Evans had been the love of his life. The combination of his long hours, keeping Griffin Air in business, and his need to always be ready to fight the war on evil, had taken a toll. As much as he loved her and she loved him, the pair split, each regretted the parting. Kevin still, after 40 years, thought about her every day.

Calling the fuel tanker and then paying him for the 489 gallons of 110/130 avgas, Kevin cranked the canopy back and prepared to fly. On the edge of the instrument panel, he found an envelope. Tearing the letter open he read it and was shocked, for in that anonymous envelope was a name no one knew.


Mr. Griffin,
The events of the next few days will be a turning point for you. When you are ready for the answers, go to the Magic Box in Sunnydale and ask for Rupert Giles. He will have the answers you seek.

Frank Parker
PS: Daa'naal sends his regards.

Kevin was the only person in this universe that knew that Daa'naal was the Sword of Life's true name.

The passage of the Sword of Life had not been a singular passage. During the final conflict between the Dark Elf and the Sword, The Magic's of Toril ejected both of them through the portal to save the entire realm form total annihilation, Sealing them physically in the new world.

London, England
1 June 1944.

Hiding in this strange land had driven the Dark Elf into madness. Known to this world as William Drake, the elven Vampire has slowly learned to tap into the different magic of this world. Created from an amalgamation of the magic of the forgotten realms, Drake could never be severed from those powers, he still could watch, but he was denied the power to interfere in the realm.

Slowly at first and then, with increasing confidence, he learned the ways of the rituals and incantations necessary to work the power of this world to his will. Drake retained some the powers of his kind; he could still transform to a few chosen forms. And the mind control over the weak-minded remained; he also retained the needs of his rare species.

The burning desire for souls had become an all-consuming passion. Taking three or four a night from the crowed subways that had become the refuge for the population had become his practice. Old and young alike made no difference to Drake; the young provided sweetness, like an after dinner mint. The older souls were heartier, with a rich beef like flavor.

The young girls were the best; their fear teased Drake into an uncontrollable frenzy. It was a heady aroma, a young woman, in the prime of her life, yet to be plucked. The risk was that they were equally sought out by the prowling soldiers for other pleasures in life.

It took but a moment for the Dark Elf to feed, but that would never do, it was unsatisfying, no sense of control over the chosen prey. No… the instant gratification was a necessity at times, but Drake much preferred to have his victim to beg to be taken.

Drake had come to realize that the magic in this world was just as powerful as the magic of his own. He also learned that the ways of controlling it were different, so he searched out the old knowledge. The bombed out buildings had provided the perfect cover for his search. Digging in the rubble of an old shop, he found one of the keys to his future.

That Drake had learned to read the odd languages was not surprising. In Drake's own land, there were more then 10,000 written and spoken languages, and he spoke them all. Collecting the few remaining books had become an obsession for the Dark Elf. Over the last few years he had stolen some of the most valuable books on the occult possessed by the great museums of England and the continent.

When the armies of the Nazis had overrun Poland, and the middle countries, Spike had enjoyed the chaos. Feeding had become less of a hunt and more like shopping at the local mart. When France had surrendered, the pressure had grown. It was unlikely that Spike could have hidden from the army of occupation.

The German troops were likely to shoot him, which hurt like hell even to the undead, so returning to England had been the best option. Disguised as a Tommy, he had bluffed his way onto one of the rescue boats at Dunkirk, and in 1940, returned, once again, to the city of his death.

Picking up where Angelus left off, Spike came to rule the underworld of London with an iron fist. Lesser Vampires knew of his reputation as a vampire that had killed a Slayer and bowed down to his presence.

Searching for his own dinner, he came across the stranger digging in the rubble. <Wars provide a good feed,> thought Spike. An evil grin crossed his face. "What have we got here? Looks to be your bleeding bad luck tonight, mate." As he spoke out, Spike's face transformed into his true self.

A sarcastic grin crossed Drake's face and he spoke in a tone that matched, "Well now 'mate' as you're sure about that, I would not want to disappoint you." As the tall elven vampire spoke, he strode towards the unsuspecting vampire.

"I'm bloody well sure." With that said the fight began. Spike threw a right cross that would have broken normal human's neck, while leaving it alive for Spike to feed. The paralyzing blow should have rendered the man unconscious instead; it glanced off the elf's face like a coin skipping off a pond.

The counter blow that followed sent Spike flying forty feet in the air and he crashed into the rubble of a burned out building. Dusting himself off as he stood, Spike challenged the stranger, "I like it, C'mon mate lets see what you got."

With the air raid sirens screaming in the background, blow after blow the duo fought back and forth each landing hits, but little damage was done to either villain. Neither vampire gained the upper hand either; Spike's martial art training balanced the overwhelming power that Drake possessed.

Only once did Drake get a hand on Spike long enough to drain his life force. He was more then surprised to find nothing there for him to draw forth. Hesitating for a second, Drake held his hand up to stop the conflict for a second, "My friend, there is no need for us to fight, we are the same.

"Like hell we are. Look you ponce, there isn't enough room in the town for two master vampires." The rest of Spike retort was lost when a German bomb exploded behind Drake. The building he was standing in front of collapsed, entombing Drake in the fallen Rubble. Spike, knowing that he couldn't win this fight, but sure as hell could lose it, did as he always did, he erred on the side of his own safety and left. Under the destroyed brick and mortar of the old building, Drake lay unconscious.

Even from under the rubble, Drake could sense the coming daylight. He hated to abandon the books he had found, but to make use of the information he had to stay alive. Transforming to a gaseous cloud, he seeped out between the cracks of the now charred and fallen building, and coalesced on top of the wreckage. "Time is short," he thought. Marking the spot in his memory so he could return to this place and recover the books he had already liberated, Drake again transformed, this time into a Raven, and flew off into the diminishing night.


In the abandoned cobblestone sewers of London, Spike was mad; but not as mad as his companion, girlfriend, and lover, Drusilla. Drusilla had once been a novice. She had been on the verge of accepting of her vows as a nun, when Angelus had taken a shine to her. Rather than just convert her, as most would have done, he had slowly driven her into madness. Instead of using the god given gift of a seer for mankind, now she was an insane Vampire.

"He's like a doorway that has slammed shut, with the knob all twisted and it won't work now." The glassy-eyed beauty stared off into nothingness as she spoke. "He can peek through the keyhole, but he can't unlock the door."

"Dru… I told you, you're supposed to tell me when you see things like this." The blonde vampire face was stuck in the look of frustration as it always was when trying to talk to the brunette. "Can you sense him, C'mon baby… tell daddy where the bad man is."

"It's a pretty cottage, with roses out front. Miss Edith likes it. Can we have a pretty cottage Spike?"

"Where is he Dru?"

The angry tone of Spike's voice sent Drusilla into one of her whimpering fits. "Ohhhhhhh… Waaaa, he will find us, when the time is right, far away."

Spike turned away in disgust. Dru's visions were sometimes more effort then they were worth; other times, she was a gold mine of what was to come. Gathering his minions around him, he gave his orders. "I want this cheeky bugger found. He is 6'4 and shoulder length, platinum blond hair. Can't be too many of those walking around after dark."

Emil, one of the few French vampires that had escaped the fall of his country, "What do we do when we find him?"

Spike turned towards the shorter vampire. "You come tell me where he is you Froggy bastard. I'll take care of this ponce myself."

In the background, Dru was playing with her dolls and she whispered to Miss Edith, "He only thinks he will." The visions of a Spike that couldn't hurt the prey had bothered Dru for weeks now.

Operation Back-Step
Area 51
Groom Lake NV

Alexander Harris lay in the infirmary bed dying. His final thoughts were not of himself, but of the loss of his friends and even a few enemies.

Spike had been the first to die. Frank Parker and Xander had found his crypt destroyed. The vegetation all round it had been burned to a cinder. Spike had left a clue written on the wall of the crypt in his own blood.

"So we meet again my young friend. You shouldn't have ignored me in London all those years ago. I would have made you the king of the underworld when I left. Now, I have a few questions, and I am sure that you realize that your answers will determine how you die."

The trapped vampire felt a shiver of fear run up his back, at the chilling tone of the Dark elf's voice. Keeping with his nature, Spike's answer was short and to the point. "Bugger off… I have faced and killed two Slayers in my time; you think you're up to it, give it your best shot."

In a false tone of respect, the Dark Elf replied, "Such bravado… I have read of the Slayer in my studies. She will be a simple victory. You on the other hand, Will tell me that which I wish to know, with very little effort I might add."

Spike sniffed once, and interrupted the Dark elf, "are you bloody well going to talk me to death or are we going to fight?"

"Very well… Tnal'dth'nanoree…"

A blue pulsed of light had jumped out from the dark elf and expanded in a circle, draining the life force of everything in a twenty foot diameter. The pulse returned to Drake, he then pointed the first two fingers on his right hand and aimed it at Spike, releasing the gathered magic.

Spike felt the demon, which had controlled his life for the past century and a half ripped from his body. The power and strength it had gifted him with faded, leaving an all too human, William the Bloody there to face the terror on his own. The weak-willed being known as Spike told the Elven Vampire everything. His last act of defiance was to write the word Dark elf on the walls of his crypt, in his own blood, seconds before he died.

Willow and Tara had been next.

The two witches, walking to the dorm after class, were taken by the power of Drake's mind. It had been a simple feeding. Draining the two young ladies left Drake flushed with their power and left him wishing he had more time to enjoy the meal.

The Magic Box was the next stop in Drakes plan.

Giles had spent the day filling out the tax returns for the last quarter. He estimated the quarterly tax payment and cursed the IRS for making him pay a tax for money that he hadn't yet earned. When the door to the shop had exploded into fragment of steel and wood, he reached for the only weapon within reach, a cross.

"Foolish man, said Drake, Your religious icons mean nothing to me." With a wave of his hand, Drake froze the meek librarian to his seat. Drake walked around the shop, admiring the collection of books Giles had accumulated, reaching the upper lever and seeing the rare texts he was actually impressed with the human before him. "Well… I should have found you earlier; you seem to have collected a library that rivals my own. It's of little consequence though. When I return to my own land, this world will be left to the creatures that have coveted it for thousands of years."

Anya, the ex-vengeance demon watched as Drake, still full from the souls of the witches, snapped Giles neck like a bunch of twigs. The grief stricken Anya attacked the Vampire and soon joined Giles in oblivion.

Drake stalked his next prey though town. Something interfered with his locator spell. He knew from the witches that Alexander Harris should be there, but he had searched all of the places their minds had shown him. Drake moved on to the next target.

He found Faith still asleep in her hotel room.

"Well, my dark-head beauty. At last I meet the slayer, I see the power you wield, but it shall avail you not." As Drake reached for the junior slayer, Faith's right hand shot out, smashing Drake in the face and breaking his nose.

Faith, dressed only in a skimpy T-shirt, taunted the over-confident elf, "You think it's gonna be that easy Bozo?" "Actually I do," replied Drake. With that, he swept his hand backward, and the knife in his hand slashed Faiths throat.

The house on Revello drive was darkened. Only the television light flickering in the window told Drake that someone was home. He hoped that the senior slayer was there, but that also mattered little. His true target was the younger sister. The destruction of the slayer was important, but the vision of the younger sister had awakened yearnings that could not be denied.

The girl was the reward for his existence in this wretched and bleak world; she was the key to hiss passage through the Hellmouth back to the world of Toril.

Frank Parker had come to town on one of the few leaves the NSA granted him. He had remembered Xander from their previous battle with a demon in San Francisco. Xander didn't know this but he had impressed the time warrior with his willingness to stand against the forces of wrong. With the clearances granted to him by the NSA, Frank had little trouble tracking Xander and his past though the computer systems of The Initiative and SG-1. He had come to town that morning to thank Xander for the help on his last mission.

The day of telling stories had changed into a night of bar crawling. The pair had ended up at Willy's and proceeded to clean the place out. Two things absolutely amazed Xander about Frank; the first was the amount of booze he could handle. Frank must have had five drinks to Xander's one. The second was that the more he was hurt the better Frank fought. < A truly odd combination for anyone to possess,> thought Xander, as he watched.

The bar fight had somehow evolved into a half-assed patrol. The two drunken warriors had found nothing, until they came across Spike's crypt. The perfectly formed circle of burned out foliage sobered Xander Harris in a heartbeat. Xander didn't need the special sight Elan had taught him to sense the magic. The stench of it hung in the air like a fog. Loosening the flap on Elan's pouch and drawing one of the Colts, Xander signaled Frank to follow him into the stone crypt.

The sights inside of the crypt would haunt Xander every moment left, in his short life. Spike was lying in a pool of blood, His chest cracked open, and his intestines pulled out. Xander had lived through nightmares before, this was too much for him to accept, and he emptied his stomach in the corner of the crypt.

Still bent over sick, the thought of his constant companion Elan crept into his mind. // Alexander, I understand, but there is a greater threat here. Look at the body. // Xander raised his head, and then realized that a vampire would be dust. The body of Spike was still there. It was only then; Xander knew the level of the threat that now faced them.

In a still, sick tone of voice, "Frank we have to find Buffy."

Frank, unfazed by the sights in the crypt, because he had seen worse and had worse done to him simply said, "Sure Kid."

As he left the crypt, Xander did two things. He tossed a thermite grenade into the crypt, commending Spikes body to the fire, and he prayed for the lost vampire's soul.

They found Buffy at home, shattered, crying over the body of her mother. Buffy had come home after a date with Riley. The front door was left ajar, that sent warning signals throughout her mind. Her mother knew better, then to leave anything unlocked.

"Mom, I'm home… Why did you leave the door open?" Buffy ran over to the still body of her mother, thinking that Joyce had fallen asleep on the couch; instead, she had found Joyce on the couch, her lifeless eyes staring off into infinity.

Buffy stared at the lifeless form of her mother when the rage of tears claimed her. That's how Xander and Frank found her, crying and lost.

Xander tried to comfort his friend, and once lover, but that mountain was unclimbable, the path of her grief was too steep. "Buffy, where is Dawn?"

"I don't know." Her tone, lost and sullen.

"Stay here, I'll find her." Xander cautiously climbed the stairs and went to Dawn's room. What he found there was even worse then the sight downstairs. Instead of the dead body of the girl, he considered a sister; all he found was an empty room. Xander was both relieved and terrified at the same time. Trotting down the stairs, he headed for Buffy and spoke, "Buff… Dawn is gone. I think we had better check in with Giles and see if he has any idea about what's going on."

The grief stricken slayer heard the words, but she could envision leaving her mother this way. "I can't leave her like this."

"I know Buff, I loved her too, but we don't have a choice. Whatever is out there is very powerful and in this town that means one thing, opening the Hellmouth." Then in a voice too soft to even be called a whisper, "Whoever it is, has Dawn."

Sunnydale Airport
Sunnydale, CA

Walking into the Eagle's Roost was like walking into the past for Kevin. The airport bar, slash, restaurant shared the same atmosphere of the 455th's officers' club back in England, and every other airport bar Kevin had visited over the years. The bitter smell of cigar smoke, the smooth aroma of well oiled leather, the greasy stench of burned steaks, each of these smells was as familiar to Kevin as his own face.

The low din of conversations, dozens going on at the same time, most about the one thing they all shared, a love of flying. 'There I was stories', relived over and over again, demonstrated by the quick moving of hands showing the movement of flight and how they had avoided disaster through the skin of their teeth.

"You know if you cut their hands off, this would be the quietest bar in the world?" Kevin smiled as he recognized the voice in his ear. Kevin had met Col. Steve Austin in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, several years back during the EAA's annual fly-in. The two had become great friends over the years.

"If you cut their hands off they wouldn't have anything to talk about, Good to see you Steve. I thought NASA had you assigned to Groom Lake, testing Alien spacecraft. It's about time you got out in the world and did some real flying." Kevin's jibe at the retired astronaut was the continuation of a verbal battle the two shared every time they met.

"That was last week. They sent me back to Edwards to help test the space station rescue vehicle. It seems my experience in lifting body style aircraft is a rare commodity these days. I saw the Mustang on the flight line and it just figured that I would find you in the bar."

"Notice, oh patron of space flight, that the only liquid you see is coffee in my cup. What did you bring to the show Steve, The Beech Stagerwing?"

"Nope, sold it last summer."

Kevin's face assumed a look of shock. "You sold the plane you saved from the junkyard and spent five thousand hours restoring, and Jamie didn't kill you?"

Steve smiled the crooked smile that he was well known for; "Well it was a close thing. I met a group from up Seattle way. They are reproducing the Me-262 from World War 2. Brand new historical aircraft, so my Mustang flying friend, we can now test the theory of which was a better fighter."

The two aviators spent the next hours drinking coffee and comparing their two respective aircraft. When the crowed started to thin out, Steve stood up; "I'm going to go give Jamie a call then call it a night. It was great seeing you Kevin."

The battle for the Hellmouth was won and lost before the combatants could even arrive. Backtracking Drake and his murderous crimes had simply taken too long.

The sight of Giles, sitting at the table, his head at an unnatural angle broke Buff's spirit. Grief, rage, and duty all battled for control. What returned was only the essence of the slayer. Her face locked with determination, even the death of her mother, and her missing sister discarded.

"Whoever, or whatever did this, dies tonight," she growled slapping Xander on the back. "Let's go."

"Buffy, wait a sec. If this is as bad as we think, we need to think this through before we go marching off to war. The first thing we need to do is to warn our other friends."

In a steely determined tone of voice, Buffy dismissed Xander's concerns with a simple, "You wait. I'm going to the library." Buffy marched through the wreckage of the Magic Box and disappeared into the night.

Frank who had watched the argument silently, stalked over to Xander, "She ain't the swiftest guppy in the tank is she?"

Xander's own barley-controlled grief flared as he turned and punched Frank. The single shot staggered the ex-seal. "Nice punch Kid, but that doesn't change the problem. That girl is gonna get herself killed with the way she is acting."

"Do you think I don't know that," yelled Xander. Then in a calmer voice, "What would you do if your mother and the man that has been your father for the last 4 years were murdered?"

"I'd be doing the same thing she is doing. That's all the more reason you and I have to hold it together. You mentioned friends; let's see if we can call in some reinforcements."

Xander spent the next fifteen minutes frustrated. Faith didn't answer the phone at the hotel, and her cell phone was out of service. Jarod and Miss Parker were in Hawaii, so Xander skipped calling them, there was no way they could get there in time.

Xander punched up the next number in the phone's memory. "Crow… this had better be good."

"Jack, its Xander. We have problems."

"Hey Xander, you act like that something new."

"Shut up and listen." Xander explained everything that had happened that night. "I need you to head over to the library and help Buffy. Jack… We may be on our own here."

"I'm on my way kid. Call Father Cranston."

Halliwell Manor
San Francisco, CA

The telephone rang once, then twice. The shrill ringing bounced off of the empty walls until the answering machine finally picked-up. "Phoebe, this is Xander. We have huge Hellmouthy problems here. I need you and the Charmed ones here as quick as Leo's fast little fingers can carry you."

The Magic Box
Sunnydale, CA

"Damn it, they're not there." Xander dialed one last number, this one from memory. When the phone answered on the other end, he muttered a single word, "Armageddon."

Sunnydale High School Library
Sunnydale, CA

Her kidnapper had dragged the young girl to the burnt out husk of the library. Strung up like a Christmas ham, hanging upside-down, her hair covering her reddened face, all she could do was fight for consciousness and listen to Drake gloat.

"All of the years I spent searching, it's no wonder I couldn't find you, my Key. Who would have thought that you would have been hidden in this weak, unprotected shell? I must admit whoever chose this form had taste." Drake leaned in toward the teenager, "If only you weren't the key, I would feast on you for years. I can feel your fears my dear, don't worry, soon it shall all be over, and I will be where I rightfully belong."

Tears streaming down her forehead, Dawn could only whisper, "Why… Why?"

"Because I don't belong on this wretched world. Even your puny life forces are barely enough to sustain me," screamed Drake. Drake drew out a bloodstained knife, "See this, my Key? Already it has tasted the blood of the Slayer, and soon, very soon, it shall taste yours."

Dawn Summer's last words were screamed in grief and anger… "BUFFY!!!" She died, decapitated by the same knife that had killed Faith.

Buffy and Jack Crow had met up in the parking lot of the high school. Words weren't necessary; they both knew what they were there to do. Jack was there to protect Buffy. Buffy was there to save her sister. The pair, less then fifteen feet from the door when they heard Dawn call out to her sister, knew they had failed.

Staggering from the earthquake that accompanied the opening of the Hellmouth, Buffy burst through the double doors of the library only to see the Dark Elf disappear into the portal. The onslaught of true demons flooding into the world doomed the pair. Jack died, as he had lived, with style. The claws of a dragon eviscerated him, but he didn't die cheaply, a pile of dead, lesser demons surrounding him.

Buffy Anne Summers chose another path. Killing demons as she went, Buffy dove into the Hellmouth, swearing that she would pursue the Dark Elf to the end of the universe.

A pulse of magical energy shot out as the Hellmouth opened. Xander, riding in Frank's car, was stunned. "Elan, what happened?"

The rune weapon's grief was too much, even for her, // We have fallen again. // Over and over, Xander heard that thought in his mind.

The sight of the column of light and the quickly gathering storm clouds shocked Frank Parker. Stomping on the brakes, he stopped the car in the middle of the street and demanded some answers. "Look, Xander," he paused to gather his thoughts. "I'm here on vacation. I only save the world when I'm ordered to."

The look Xander gave Frank would have turned the Pacific to ice in a second, "Well, that's not an option. He hung his head. If the Hellmouth opened that means Buffy and Jack failed. All that's left to do is die."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Prophecy man, you know, book of Genesis, Armageddon, End of days. With the Hellmouth open, all of the bad stuff you have even read, or had nightmares about is about to happen. A tear rolled down Xan's face. "The Slayer is the first line of defense. With Buffy gone, we don't stand a chance. Everything we have fought in the past were hybrids, a human-demon mix. What's coming through right now is the real deal, Frank. It took us seven tons of explosives to destroy the one real demon we have faced."

Elan broke from her horror and grief; //We will fight them…// she paused for a split second, //Xander my friend.//

Xander smiled. That was the first and perhaps the last time Elanthielle had ever said his chosen name. < Yes we will Elanthielle, YES we will.>

"Look Xander, It doesn't have to be that way. We have options. Remember the Demon in San Fran? Didn't you ever wonder just how I knew where to look?"

Xander replied in a puzzled tone of voice, "I thought the NSA knew everything."

"Oh we do. Just that sometimes it's after the fact. Let's head for the airport and I'll tell you a little story on the way."

Sunnydale Airport Hotel
Sunnydale, CA

Kevin's dreams had been a montage of the past. Scenes that should have comforted him left him feeling confused. He remembered everything as it happened, but in his dream, there was a foreshadowing sense of doom and destruction.

When the dream finally coalesced, he found himself back at the crash sight of the Leper Colony. "Ok Daa'naal, I know you're here," he announced to the silent glade. "You only bring me here when we have trouble. What's wrong this time?"

"I have been a fool." The Elf appeared as he always did, from nowhere. "I thought him destroyed in the final battle, that I was the only one cast out." The look of defeat on the elf's face was something Kevin had never seen in the years they had been paired together.

"Who Daa'naal?"

"We never knew his true name. We called him the Dark Elf. He was the one that I and my nephew fought. I thought the final battle won, then I found myself here in your world and I could find no sense of him."

"I think you had better fill me in on this guy, sounds like a baddie to me."

Kevin's choice of words amused Daa'naal. "I see that your gift for understatement remains."

"Many years ago in Toril, the land of my origin, there was a council of Mages. The council was made up of magic users of every race and species. We had formed in the dark times, to combat the forces of the black mages and their minions. Upon their defeat the members all agreed that a council was a good idea and the right forum to settle difference between its members without it starting a war."

"So we gathered regularly and generally it was peaceful and a useful forum, until the day, the representative from the Forest elves came to us with a warning. I can remember his words to this day."

"He stood before, and almost in a trance, he spoke, "We have become complacent. The evil of the world has gathered, there will come an adversary that will destroy us all. We must act now, or all we have worked for will be destroyed."

"Well you can imagine the reaction of the group, like any political body, they argued, point… counter point. Some accused the Forrest elf of falsifying the message; others simply refused to believe it. They split into two groups, those that believed, and those who didn't. This went back and forth for hours, neither side conceding that the other side may have a point. Kevin, never underestimate the power of stupidity, human or otherwise, bet on self-interest and you'll be right every time."

"In the end the decision was made for us. The goddess, Mystra came before us and laid down the law. 'You bickering Fools,' she said, contempt filling her voice, 'I sent this warning hoping that a champion would stand forth, instead you argue like a bunch of women at the market.

'You stand at the crossroads of oblivion and darkness. One of you will become the weapon that defeats the Dark Elf. Chose wisely, or that which becomes your world is doomed.'

"That was when the sword was presented to the council. Then and there, I knew that my life's path was chosen for me."

Kevin interrupted his partner, "You mean you had no choice?"

"Of course I had a choice."

"Then why did you do it?"

Daa'naal smiled, "After all these years you need to ask. I did it for the same reason you chose to crash in this glade rather then bail out with the rest of your crew. There was a life on the line and I could help.

"Kevin, you and I are much alike. I sensed that on the day you risked your life for one wounded friend. Do you think I could do any different when my whole world was at stake?"

"So what happened after that?"

"After Mystra declared that one of us would become bonded to the sword, the room got very quiet. I swear I could hear the rocks age. That's how quite that room became. Then I knew. Stepping forward felt like the right thing to do. A feeling of serenity overcame me as I walked towards the dais."

"When I got there the oddest thing happened, she waved her hand and time froze. Then the second oddest thing happened, Mystra smiled at me, and spoke to me almost as an equal."

"Daa'naal of Toril, I knew it would be you. I have watched you over the years; even lending a hand when you thought all was lost. Now you are ready for your destiny."

"You've got to be kidding me Daa'naal, no one talks like that."

The burst of laughter caught Kevin by surprise. "Well the Gods of my world do. Kevin, this world's Gods take a 'hands off' policy. That's not the way it is on Toril. We don't have to have faith in our gods. They are an every day, fact of life there. In my younger days, I always knew that someone was watching out for me, now I knew just who it was.

"Ok… Okay, so our Gods suffer from attention deficit disorder compared to yours. What happened next?"

"To be honest I'm not sure. She held the sword in her right hand and grasped my hand in her left. For some reason, the only thing I could do was stare into her eyes. For want of a better term, I was drawn into her eyes. I could feel the power she bore, it surged and flowed into me and I into it. For a moment I was one with a god."

"Holy shit… Talk about divine intervention," said the now enthralled Kevin.

"Do you want to hear the story, or make stupid comments?" asked the Sword of Life.

"I'm sorry, please go on."

A mischievous grin crossed the elf's face. "I'll forgive you… this time."

Kevin muttered under his breath, "Smart-assed sword."

Daa'naal politely ignored the comment and continued, "For that one moment Kevin, I was a god. It was then; I learned of the powers granted to me. The first and foremost was the dedication against evil. No creature of an evil nature can bear my touch. I supposed that that was a necessity given that my nemesis was pure evil incarnate. The Dark Elf I learned, wasn't a normal elf, he had been empowered by forces equal to my own creators.

"The second power has been the most useful to you. Remember the black mage in Seattle?"

"Bet your ass I do. That bastard almost had me down and out."

"If not for the negation of magic, he would have fried you to a cinder in less then a minute. That is the second power. It keeps the battle on a physical plane, rather then a magical one. I was dismayed to learn of that one. I spent many years perfecting my craft and to find it neutralized was a loss.

"Kevin I never told you how close to dying you were on that day, so long ago. The third power was the gift of healing. When I faced the Dark Elf, I found I could absorb the wounds that that he inflicted. My nephew lives because of this gift.

"It was only much later that I learned that the power was cumulative. Had I not been trapped in this empty field for so many years, not using any magic, I would have never been able to heal your body from wounds you suffered in the crash. It was a very close thing, even with this power."

"That would explain why I don't age. Your healing power cancels the damage." A worried look crossed Kevin's face. "What would happen if I didn't carry you all the time, would I begin to age again?"

"I had hoped this would never come up." A pensive look deepened in the elf's eyes, "I'm afraid it's worse then that Kevin. I told you many years ago that there was a price for my help. If you ever surrender me, your body will revert to the condition it was in when you first picked me up."

Daa'naal watched his friend and the smile on Kevin's face said it all, "If not for you, I would have died that day in Germany. The way I look at it, every day since has been a bonus."

Relief flooded the elf's body. "I'm glad you feel that way, because that day may be closer then you think, for both of us. Ever since we landed here, I have felt uneasy. There is a power in this place that should be familiar, yet it's elusive.

Daa'naal's shade vanished into the mist, leaving Kevin on his own. Kevin walked around the carcass of the Leper Colony, remembering old friends.

"As I said before, I have been a fool. The feeling I was concerned about, there is a portal here in this town. I should have felt it long ago; I only made the connection because you and I returned to this place. The Dark Elf is here, building power for some reason I can't fathom. I can only suspect that he is trying to return to Toril."

Kevin was ripped from his shared dreamtime with Daa'naal by the earthquake that had rocked the hotel. As the after shocks subsided, Kevin grabbed a flight suit and dressed quickly. Opening a rarely used case, Kevin got his Colt .45 and the seven magazines that he always carried with it. Donning the shoulder holster, Kevin prepared for War.

The airport hotel had become a battleground. Fire claimed fully half of the buildings, the charred wreckage still smoking. Hundreds of bodies covered the ground, some of the half-eaten. Kevin fought where he had too, and evaded when he could. His goal was to find his friend Steve, hopefully alive. Kevin knew some Steve's past and he suspected much more. First, he had to find where he was staying.

Working his way to the registration desk, Kevin noticed that some of the demons shied away from him, while others made a determined effort to kill him. < Must be the sword,> he thought.

//You're correct Kevin. The negation of magic has a powerful effect on creatures such as these. Others have evolved on a different plain, and therefore are resistant to my power.//

Kevin reached the desk, and while he was pawing his way through the guest book, hit from behind, Kevin slammed into the wall behind the desk. Kevin felt blood trickle down the back of his head. Turning, he saw the creature that attacked him. The monster that had attacked him was apelike in appearance, save the pure white coat of fur and the claws at the ends of its hands.

"Jesus Christ," he swore. "It's a freaking Yeti!" Kevin sprang upward toward the demon and at the same time thrust the sword into the creature's throat. Pulling his sword from its throat, the now dead monster slumped forward and fell over the desk. Drawing the sword back Kevin lopped the creature's head off with a grim smile, "If it's worth killing, its worth over killing."

//A worthy sentiment. What are your plans?//

Speaking out loud because secrecy was no longer a concern, "Well the cats out of the bag now, I figured that we are going to need some help. I don't have the contacts I once did, but Steve has some interesting friends. It doesn't hurt that he is still a Colonel in the Air Force."

A sense of despair flooded Kevin, // The war of shadows isn't for normals, and while I agree that we will need help, I hesitate to draw anyone else in.//

"Look around you Daa'naal, The have already been drawn in. We have always fought these things a few at a time. There must be hundreds or even thousands of these things. It doesn't matter how fast I am, or how strong you are. The numbers only add up to one thing; we lose. We die."

//But at what cost?//

"If the myths are correct, it will take the sacrifice of millions to win, but we have defeated things in the past. With the Army, and the weapons they have, we stand a much better chance now then we did back then. You should know my people by now Daa'naal, We hate to lose."

//Agreed. Fair warning though, only I can kill…// the sword's voice hesitated in Kevin's head. //or vanquish the Dark Elf. That has to be your primary goal Kevin.//

Col. Steve Austin was on the telephone when the knock on the door came. He was reporting the events of the day to his contact in the OSI. "Hang on a minute Oscar." Looking through the peephole in the door, Steve was surprised to find Kevin Griffin staring back at him. He opened the door and was even more surprised to find that Kevin had a sword in his hand and that there was blue blood on the blade.

"Look Steve, I don't have the time to explain," started Kevin.

"Make the time," Steve's steel gray eyes hinted at a threat if Kevin didn't explain, and Damn quick.

"You won't believe me."

<Kevin let me. Hand me over to your friend.>

"Are you sure about this?"

<It will save hours of explaining and your friend will believe. He won't simply hear the story he will live it.>

The now curious pilot looked around and grabbed a towel from the rack on the wall. He wiped the blade down, reversed it, and offered the sword to the stunned ex-astronaut. "Look Steve, Take this and everything will become clearer, even why you are seeing creatures that, from our point of view, shouldn't exist."

Steve Austin was stunned and working on shocked. He had relieved the past 57 years of Kevin's life in just a few seconds. Scene after unbelievable scene flooded his mind. He had no doubts that what he saw was happening before his eyes, there was the feel of history rather then something made up.

He handed the sword back to Kevin then in a stoic tone, "81-years old huh?"

"I wouldn't have bet on a day over 60." Steve then smiled at his friend.

"Well it's not the years but the mileage." From Steve's jibe, Kevin knew everything would be okay.

"What now, Kevin?"

"Well I hoped you would be able to help with that. I know you have contacts in the intelligence community. That has to be the place to start. I have to find the Dark Elf and then we have to deal with the demons."

"You know no one will believe us don't you," said Steve.

"If the press are their usual selves, there will be no doubts in anyone's mind."

Col., Austin picked up his cell phone, "Oscar you still there?"

For the next ten minutes, Kevin listened in, as Steve explained everything to his boss.

"Ok Oscar, Get Rudy moving and I'll meet him in Nevada." Punching the off button, Steve looked at Kevin, "My boss at the OSI will get the pieces in place, but it's at least 48 hours until any real help will arrive. He suggested that I head for Dreamland and meet up with the OSI's chief scientist; he may have some ideas that may help. Plus I know Rudy, if he doesn't bring some new toys to the game I'll eat my wings."

"What's Dreamland?"

"Secure testing facility for new aircraft in Nevada. Remember your joke about test flying alien spacecraft? A truly evil grin split Steve Austin's face, "Well as the kids say these days, been there, done that. Got the T-shirt and ate the happy meal tie-in."

"Look, you have to get to Nevada and I have to find the Black hat. Here's what we will do; you take the Mustang and head east. I'll keep searching and hopefully find the SOB before he causes too much trouble."

"That's the plan?" Steve was less then enthused with Kevin's idea. In a sarcastic tone of voice, "Wiley Coyote makes better plans then that. You're not thinking straight. You barely made it to my hotel room, how the hell are you going to search, when everything and its brother is out to kill you?"

Frustration and anger, all too evident on Kevin's face, "This is my job. I can't leave it up to someone else to do."

"You may be the only one that can kill this Dark Elf, but that doesn't mean that you have to kill everything yourself on the way there. We will get help and come back, I don't like running away any better then you do, sometimes, and the best attack is a good defense. We will steal a plane, since neither of ours will carry both of us to Nevada. We gather our forces and come back. Then you can do your thing with this Dark Elf."

Kevin hated it when people made sense. What Steve said made all the sense in the world and even agreed with he himself had already surmised. It still bothered him that he had let events get this far.

Xander stared at Frank, "No way… Dude."


"You can jump back in time and correct mistakes."

"That's what I was doing in San Fran, when I met you the first time. I'm the only one left that knows that the 'plague' we stopped, if left unchecked would have killed 94 percent of the California population.

"What if we had messed up, could you have tried again until you get the right result?"

"Sorry it doesn't work that way. I get 24 hours to fix whatever is broken. After that, the power cell takes another seven days to recharge, usually that's too long to make a second attempt to revise history." What Frank Parker wasn't telling Xander, was that the power cell for Backstep had originally been acquired from an alien spacecraft. The 1947 crash, at Roswell New Mexico, had been a gold mine for the project.

//Alexander believe him. What he says rings of the truth and it explains the aura that surrounded him when we first met him.//

<I don't know Elan; it's so far fetched.>

//More so then demons invading and destroying the world?//

<You have a point, But Time travel…?>

//Xander did your experiences over the summer teach you anything. You fought on alien worlds, traveled to them in a spacecraft piloted by an alien hunter, and fought creatures that bleed acid, and returned to this planet on systems built and abandoned millions of years ago.//

<I get your point Elan.>

"What's your plan Frank?"

"First rule of survival, survive. Right now, we are heading to the airport. When we get there, three things have to happen, find a plane, find a pilot, and get the fuel we need to reach Nevada and Never Never Land."

"You're kidding me! A top secret project involved in time travel and you call it Never Never Land."

"Its kind of fitting, Never happened, Never will." Frank smiled at the confused teenager, "Look Kid I know this is way beyond your experience, just go with the flow and you will be alright."

"If you say so."

Parker looked at Xander sitting there in the armor he wore, "Ramsey is gonna love you."

"Who or what is a Ramsey?"

"Nathan Ramsey, security chief for the project. Hard-nosed son of a bitch; wears his patriotism on his sleeve. Dressed in that, He is gonna suspect you from the get go, tread lightly around him Kid. He can be a stone cold killer when he needs to be. He didn't like me chosen to be the first chrononaut, and tried to kill me on my first mission.

"Oh great… just what I need… someone else that wants to kill me." Xander fingered the pouch that contained Elan. "If he tries to hurt either of us he is gonna have a bad headache and a concussion."

<Damn I like the way this kid thinks,> Frank thought to himself.

//Have him go left, Alexander. There is a power source in that direction, very powerful.//

"Head up the flight line, Frank."

The car wheeled among the planed on the flight line. The carcasses of airplanes strewn along the asphalt, There was no rhyme or reason too the destruction, some of them had been destroyed outright, and others were left intact.

At the end of the line was a huge steel hangar; in front of the hanger was a pile of dead bodies. Xander felt relief when the bodies turned out to be demons rather then humans. In front of the hanger, two men stood one dressed in a green flight suit and caring a sword and the other dressed in blue jeans, and he was trying to open the hanger doors.

As the car screeched to a halt the man trying to open the hangar door ripped the lock off with his right hand.

"Now that's not something you see every day," observed Frank Parker.

Xander got out of the car and looked at the accumulation of dead demons, "You guys would be the Orkin man we called for?"

The stocky would be burglar turned towards the pair, but before he could get a word out, Frank, jumped in, "Colonel Austin, What the hell are you doing here, and why have you turned to petty crime."

Before Steve could answer, Xander jumped in with his own surprise, "Colonel Austin… Colonel Steve Austin, I learned about you in history class. I loved you when I was a kid."

Steve continued to open the hangar door as he spoke, "Parker what are you doing here, I thought the NSA kept you on a pretty short leash. You aren't jumped are you?"

"Not yet, sir. We are trying to get back to Groom Lake. Hopefully we can stop all of this before it happens."

Years had passed since Steve had been briefed on the Back-Step project, so he hadn't even considered that possibility to solve the current problem. "That would solve the problem nicely now wouldn't it. Today's your lucky day Parker. We are heading to Groom Lake, and if you're real nice we will let you catch a ride with us."

The relief Frank couldn't be described in mere words. He knew the fate of the world rode on his shoulders, but this time he had to get, there to even try and Col. Austin just solved the biggest problem he was facing. "Pardon me, he said in very respectful tone of voice, "but ride in what… Sir?"

"In that of course."

In the now open hangar, was one of the last flyable B-17's left anywhere in the world. A wave of nostalgia overcame Kevin as he walked around the aircraft he knew so well. < Damn,> he thought. <The gods must have the strangest sense of humor to have this plane here, at this time.> Looking at the civil registration number, he was doubly surprised to find that the plane had once belonged to him.

Rejoining the others, "You guys won't believe this; I used to own this plane." Xander and Parker looked at him, dumbfounded. Steve stepped up to clear the mystery.

"Kevin used to own an aerial attack company in Arizona; they used to use Old World War 2 bombers to fight forest fires.

"Well I guess we found a pilot," Frank grinned.

"Well there may be a problem," answered Kevin. "Crew door is locked. I was about to check the nose hatch. If we can't get this thing open, we can't tow it out."

Steve disappeared for a few moments. Then a metal on metal grinding echoed off the walls of the all metal hanger. Steve worked his way toward the pilot's compartment and sat in the pilot's seat. He released the brakes with a quick tap to the top of the rudder pedals.

While Steve was liberating the plane, Kevin found a tug and hooked the tow bar up to it. With the brakes released, he dragged the plane out of the hanger. Opening the nose hatch, he motioned to Frank to join him. "Ok there's a trick to this. You have to lift your self with your arms, and then curl your body, so you can shoot your legs into the hatch. Don't worry if you don't get it right the first time. I heard Gregory Peck took over an hour to get it right when he was filming 12'Oclock High."

"Ok, got it in one" said Frank, and he did.

Fate had been too kind to the foursome. The last D'EST demon, barely still alive, looked at the remaining humans on the ground and fired its poisonous darts at the pair.

Xander's armor absorbed most of the damage. One dart however, glanced off of his cheek leaving a six-inch gash on his face. Kevin wasn't as lucky as Xander; he took four darts in the leg. The poison worked its way in the blood stream and the initial result was that both men were left blinded.

<Daa'naal, is there anything you can do,> he thought.

//I can slow the effects, but you have very little time left my friend. // The sadness in Daa'naal's voice left Kevin with the feeling that there was no hope left.

"Steve… I can't see a damned thing; you will have to fly. Look this thing was once certified for single pilot, you have Frank here to help you."

"I don't know Kevin. It's been years since I have flown something this big."

"Just do what I tell you and your will do fine. Lower left panel on the pilot's side, near the knee. There will be three switches, they're main battery power. All three to the up position. Shut the radios off for start up. Starter switches are on the center console; you have to be careful here, allow three rotations of the prop before you switch the mags on. Mixture controls are on the co-pilot's side of the throttle quadrant and the prop controls are on the back, under the throttles. Start Number three first. If I remember right there is only one generator on this bird and that's where it's located. They may have changed that, but replacement generators were hard to find even back then. Let's not take any chances.

For the next fifteen minutes, Kevin gave Steve the short course on the care, feeding and flying of a B-17. "That's it, the crash course." He turned to Frank. "Do everything Steve says and you will be ok. I'm heading to check on Xander in the nose."

"I wish you hadn't used the word crash," was Frank's parting shot to the wounded pilot.

One by one, the fifty-year-old Wright Cyclones burst to life in a cloud of black smoke. When Steve had all the engines running, he released the brakes once again and taxied to the open runway. As he taxied the big bomber, he checked the mags. Each of the engines had two magnetos and both were required for full power to be developed. Noting that there was only a 100 PRM drop on the checks, when he hit the runway, Steve grabbed the handful of throttles and walked them to the ends of the stops.

The old aircraft soared into the air, as if it had just come off the assembly line. Steve headed to the east and towards a destiny no one could have predicted.

B-17 In-flight

The calm of the take-off of the Flying Fortress was shattered within 5 minutes. Steve Austin noticed that the landing gear indicator was showing an unsafe gear on the left side of the craft. "Frank, go below and get Kevin up here."

Frank dropped through the hatch between the two pilot's seats, and crawled through the passage way under the flight deck into the nose compartment. There he found Xander in the small navigator seat, and Kevin lying down on the deck, resting.

Sticking his head though the small doorway, "Kevin, Col. Austin needs you, something about an unsafe gear indication."

The visibly weakened Kevin struggled to his knees to make room for the third man. "Look out the windows; do the wheels seem to be in the same relative position Frank?"

Peering through the small windows on each side of the nose compartment, "No, looks like the left side is hanging down. I can see the entire wheel on that side, but only half of the wheel on the other side."

"Does anything look broken or bent?"

"Not from what I can see."

Well that's a relief, congratulations Frank, now, not only are you the copilot, you just became the flight engineer as well."

As the pair crawled out of the nose, Elan's thoughts flooded Xander's mind. //Xander, I feel this plan to alter time is foolhardy. There are always consequences to our actions. The backlash of this could be fatal to all of us.//

<Its not like we have much choice now is it.> Resignation filled Xander's thoughts. <Giles is dead, Joyce is dead, Buffy, Jack, and Dawn are missing, the Hellmouth is open, what else do we have Elan?> A long silence from the rune weapon followed. < Elan, don't you abandon me too.>

//I shall never do that Alexander,// she whispered to his mind.

On the flight deck, Kevin was explaining the emergency gear-retraction system to Frank. "Look, it's real simple, there is a crank mounted to the bulkhead just below the door in the Bombay. Fit the crank to the notched ends of the shaft and turn in the direction indicated by the arrows. A child could do it."

Turning the crank wasn't as easy as Kevin said! Balancing on the thin framing of the bulkhead, and turning the handle was hard work. Twenty-four turns later and even with the 180-MPH wind leaking in through the cracks between the Bombay doors, he was sweating like a pig. Frank returned the tool to its place and finally he was finished.

Kevin crawled back to the nose of the airplane. Even blinded, he knew the B-17 as well as his tongue knew the roof of his mouth, so getting there was a simple task. Lying back down on the deck, dreamtime claimed him and once again. He returned to the glade in Germany.

The Sword of life stood before him dressed in the golden armor of his people. "What's with the fancy armor, Daa'naal?"

"It is the custom of my people to say good bye in a manner fitting how the friend has lived. You, Kevin have lived the life of a warrior. I honor you in that manner."

"Don't get all formal with me you hunk of refined iron," Kevin teased. "I take it that the news isn't good. How long Daa'naal?"

"The poison, no more than half a day."

"That bad, huh."

"I am afraid it's worst then that, my friend." A look of sadness crossed Daa'naal's face. "In order for me to defeat the Dark Elf, you will have to surrender me."

Kevin knew that to surrender Daa'naal would mean his own death. He spoke in a resigned tone, "I knew this was coming. Who is the next to carry you Daa'naal?"

"That choice, by necessity, is up to you Kevin. I would recommend Xander. He has the heart of a warrior, and is no stranger to the battle we fight."

"Ok, wake me up and let me do what needs to be done."

"One minute, my friend." Then, for the first time in their long acquaintance, Daa'naal touched his friend. "I shall always remember you. Always."

The drone of the engines brought Kevin back to reality. "Xander," he said. "We need to talk. I'm not going to make it. I need you too carry the Sword of life forward in this battle." Kevin called the sword forth and presented it to Xander with both hands.

Before Alexander Harris could grasp the sword, Elan yelled in his mind, //Alexander, do not touch that weapon. To do so would destroy both he and I, the magic's that created us are too different.//

Kevin, unaware of the warning, spoke the simple ritual that would transfer Daa'naal to a new bearer. "I surrender thee willingly, to another bearer to carry the burden of life forward."

"I can't accept it Kevin."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because if I did, it might be destroyed along with my own companion." Seeing the confusion his statement caused, Xander continued, "I carry one of the last of the rune weapons and She tells me that to carry both, could destroy them both. I'm sorry, I truly am, but I can't take that chance."

Dreamland flight control

Hal Briggs stood behind the air traffic controller with a worried look on his face. "How far out is the intruder?" he asked the Sergeant on duty as flight controller.

"He's low and slow, on the very edge of detection range sir."

"Who's in the air that can intercept if necessary"?

"Old Dog 01 is egressing the bombing range now sir. I also have two F-16 on strip alert at Nellis."

"Is the Old Dog armed?" asked Dream Land's security chief.

"Dreamland control to Old Dog 01, report remaining ordnance."

Old Dog 01

General Brad Elliot, sitting in the left-hand seat of the Megafortress, keyed the Mic, "Angelina, how many AIM-120's are left?"

The engineer who designed the defensive systems for the newly christened EB-52, Angelina Pereira, operating as defensive system operator for the flight test, did a quick inventory, "External stores have been exhausted General, we have 3 left in the rotary launcher in the Bombay."

"Dreamland control, be advised that we have 3 Alpha-120's remaining." Elliot turned towards the co-pilot, John Ormack, and wondered over the Mic, "Wonder what's going on down there."

You know Hal, general; he's always worried about something."

"Let's find out. Old Dog to Black Cat-Six."

"Go ahead Old Dog."

"Hal what's going on down there?"

"Sir, we have an intrusion over the boundary, on the Elko side. I was about to scramble the alert fighter's from Nellis."

"Warn them off first. If they don't turn away, then scramble the fighters. We are headed that way to take a gander at this bogey. Switching to intercom, the pilot called the bombardier, Patrick do you have this guy?"

"Roger Sir. Bogey is at 73 miles, speed 200 knots. You're intercept course would be 197 degrees, General."

Dreamland Flight Control

The flight controller continued to watch the radar screen as he triggered his microphone. "Attention unknown Aircraft, 135 miles from the Elko VOR, you are entering restricted airspace, execute a 180 degree turn or you will be intercepted."

Steve looked over to the right side of the cockpit, "Well, we knew that was coming, Do your stuff Frank."

"Here goes nothing. Dreamland control, Code word, Back-step. Pass word, Conundrum. Serial number, 923880305." Frank waited and hoped that would be enough.

Hal Briggs reaction was immediate, "Place all aircraft into a holding pattern. Any aircraft on the ground have them return to their hangars. Clear the control tower now!"

Stand in the control tower by himself, Hal donned a headset, and pressed the transmit button. "Conundrum, switch to secure frequencies and authenticate."

"Dreamland control, we are unable to comply. We have no secure comms aboard. Be advised we are declaring an emergency at this time."

Federal law required that Hal ask the next question. "State the nature of the emergency and type of craft." The need for security demanded that he add, "If you cant authenticate you would be better off crashing then trying to land here, I say again, authenticate, or risk being shot down."

The security goon attitude pissed off the already worried chrononaut, "Look you asshole, at this point, we may crash before we can make it that far. Quit messing around, Call Ramsey and he will confirm who, and what I am."

The door to the control tower crashed open at that exact second. Capt. Craig Donovan Back-Step's Military Liaison, Bradley Talmadge Back-Step's Project Director, and Nathan Ramsey entered the control room. Unsurprisingly, it was Ramsey that took control of the flight center. "Major Briggs, We have been monitoring the situation, the NSA assumes responsibility from here on."

Hal Briggs, never liked Ramsey, perhaps it was because the two of them had been cut from the same cloth. Ramsey left him no options, other then to hand over controls of his entire base, rather then just their little part of Dreamland, too them.

Craig Donovan took the head set off of the control panel, "Conundrum, this is Back-step four, Where is heart break hotel?"

The sound of his ex-seal team mate calmed down the excited chrononaut, "Nice to hear you too Craig, Hansen Island is heart break hotel."

Donovan turned to the team leader, "It's him sir."

Old Dog 01

"Two miles, General."

The sight of the Flying Fortress, the wing smoke-blackened, one engine trailing fire, inspired a sense of awe in the unflappable General Brad Elliot. "Jesus H. Christ, would you look at that. If I didn't know, better I would think we were over Europe back in 1944. Angelina, what frequency are they on?"

"154.50 sir."

"John, give me 40 percent flaps," Brad said, as he pulled the throttles back to flight idle. The whine of the flap motors was soon overcome when the pilot reached down and lowering the landing gear, getting the huge Megafortress into it's slowest, controllable flight, configuration.

"Conundrum, this is Old Dog 01 on your port side, Form with us and we will lead you in."

Steve Austin was surprised to see the same type of airplane that has once dropped the lifting body craft that had cost him his career as an astronaut and had nearly cost him his life.

"Nice to see a familiar face, Old Dog. Be advised we also have a landing gear problem, in addition to the fire in number 4 engine."

"Conundrum, Recommend that you perform a gear up landing. The B-17 is noted as having a very controllable in a gear up situation. The landing gear being mounted beneath the engine nacelles will give you some steering, once the props have bent."

"Acknowledged Old Dog, We have a very experienced B-17 pilot aboard. He has already shared that information.

A confused, Brad Elliot wondered why, if they had a B-17 rated pilot onboard, why wasn't he flying the plane.

The all black EB-52 Megafortress dwarfed its ancestor the B-17. The lines of the Megafortress mimicked on a larger scale the classic design of the Flying Fortress. In another place, in another time the Boeing Company would have paid millions for a picture of its two greatest creations flying in formation.

The ball turret, aft of the wing root, was the first thing to hit the ground. As the weight of airplane descended, the turret, now crumpled, dug a furrow in the hard packed soil of the Nevada desert. The shock of the deceleration broke the fire-weakened engine mount of the number four engine. The entire assembly went tumbling off to the right.

The seat belt that Xander wore broke. The force of the crash sent him through the Plexiglas nose. The only thing that saved his life was the alien armor that he still wore.

Col. Steve Austin was trapped between the seat and the control panel. His bionic legs absorbed the shock well, but it would take the rescue crews time to free him from the wrangled mess that had once been an airplane.

In the end, it wasn't the D'EST demon's poison that claimed Kevin's life; it was the airplane he loved so much. He had taken the seat in the top turret, hoping it would absorb the punishment of the crash, but when the plane struck the ground, Kevin's head collided with the Plexiglas of the turret, shattering the clear plastic and breaking Kevin's neck. Kevin Griffin died the way he had always fated to, on the flight deck of a B-17.

Never Never Land Infirmary

Xander struggled to remain conscious as he told Frank the one thing he really needed to know. "… Use the sword's real name Frank. That's the only thing he will believe." Xander Harris gave up hope, "Please save my friends Frank." Xander died in that hospital bed leaving the future up to a man he barely knew. His trust was not misplaced.

National News Network
New York, NY

The director and the anchorman previewed the videotape, delivered by special courier only minutes ago. Watching the tape they were both sickened at what they saw and excited by the possibilities, if only the world survived to award another Pulitzer Prize.

"Where the hell did this come from."

"We sent out a crew to cover the earthquake and one of our affiliates picked it up from a dead stringer's camera. Just found the camera lying there in the street."

"Anybody else even hint at knowing about this?"

"Not a word. It's all ours."

"We run with this. David, we need everything that you can find out about a small city is California," The director turned to the anchorman. "What was the name of that town again, Tom?"

"Sunnydale, California. We're going to need a catchy name too."

"With that tape, are you kidding, isn't it obvious? Armageddon 2000."

"That's perfect, Dave while you are getting the Sunnydale info, see if you can catch some bible reference too. We go live in 3 minutes."

The hurried intern rushed off to computer room. Opening the door with out looking he ran into the blonde weather girl. "Sorry about that Miss White."

The angry tone of her voice clearly showed the contempt she felt for the lower minions that inhabited the newsroom. "Be more careful you putz, this face is worth millions."

Dave took a perverse pleasure at getting back at the bitch that treated the employees, as if they were worthless and believed that her shit didn't stink. "Not for much longer it isn't."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Just the end of the world." Dave enjoyed the stunned look on her face and he left her standing there. As he walked away, he softly sang, "It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

Back at the anchor desk Tom Adkins sat there and prepared to deliver the biggest story of his life. The fill lights came on, and he hears the director begin his countdown.

"We go live in five. Four. Three. Two. And…" He pointed toward Tom rather take the chance that the last word might be heard on air.

"Good evening, I'm Tom Adkins. Earlier this morning, an earthquake struck the small town of Sunnydale California. Geologists calculate that the epicenter of the 4.7 earthquake to be centered in the middle of the town. I wish I could say that every thing was fine, but a videotape delivered only moments ago…" The normally stoic newsman face began to twitch, "I'm sorry folks, but I can't do this. Watch the fucking tape and believe for yourself."

Never Never Land
Conference room 1

"I'll put it to you the same way Xander gave it to me. With the Hellmouth open that means, the end of days is upon us."

"End of days, Frank?" asked the redheaded Russian woman.

"End of days, Armageddon, the apocalypse, what ever you want to call it. Xander said 'that the opening of the Hellmouth was the beginning', and, after what I saw there, I believe him. Now we have a chance to prevent it all from happening."

The reactions of the group were just as predictable as Frank believed they would be. Ramsey, never covert about his feelings about Frank, had been the first. "What a load of shit," he proclaimed. Turning towards Parker, "How long has this bender been going on," Not giving Frank a chance to answer, he turned back towards the head of the conference table and addressed the Back-Step director. "Dr. Talmadge, you were the one that insisted that we give Parker a few days off, now he comes back here, high on whatever, with this load of crap. I insist that he be tested for drugs, and reevaluated for mental stability."

Dr. Olga Vukavich sat there and listened. Her disbelief of Frank's story, balanced by the memories of stories her Nana used to tell her when she was a child. The Russian people always had a sense of belief that left a kernel of doubt remaining, that no scientific training would erase. She interrupted Ramsey's rant; "We have to consider the possibility."

Ramsey stared back at her. "You're buying into this? I expected better from your Dr. Vukavich."

"Let's say I'm willing to be convinced and leave it at that."

"Ditto," chimed in Craig Donovan. "Nate; you have always had a dislike of Frank, even though he has proven himself time after time. I don't know if I buy into the Demon and Hellmouth bit, but I don't think we can ignore the ramifications if he is correct."

Frank didn't do his friend's credibility any good when he tossed him a thumbs-up and a loud "Huyaaa." Craig smiled and thought, < That's Frank, SEAL to the end.>

The youngest member of the group, 'Hooter' Owsley, jumped in with his opinion, "Before you get you undies in a bunch Nate, why the hell not. We work with a time machine that powered by an alien power cell, so what's so unbelievable about other dimensions, where alternate forms of life developed."

The sphere's chief technician, Dr. John Ballard, closed the left-hand control panel. <Hopefully that will make the transitions easier on Frank,> he thought, as he put the tools away. Looking at his watch, he remembered that he was supposed to be at the conference with the rest of the team. Hurriedly he walked down the hallway, pulling another sucker from his pocket as he went. The television in the break room stopped him dead in his tracks, the ever present sucker dropped to the floor as he watched the news. Running to the conference room, he found his friends staring at the television.

The team sat there in a shocked silence as they watched the town of Sunnydale ravaged. The horrified silence, broken only by the underscored sobbing of Olga. Each of them lost in their own thoughts and fears, not one of them could find the words to describe what they were feeling. The dead lock was broken when the telephone rang. "Talmadge. Yes sir, we are watching. Yes sir. Yes sir. Right away sir" Hanging up the phone he looked back to his collages, "The debate is over. We have direct orders to take any and all measures to prevent this from happening. "Team," he paused, "We are Go."

After a short break the group reconvened to review the options available. Craig took the lead in the meeting. "How do you want to work this Frank?"

"I figured we would take a two-front approach, since I have seven days, I want to drop the sphere into Arizona and leave a warning for Mr. Griffin." Frank looked at the younger hacker, "Hooter, I need you to find me where Kevin keeps his Mustang, there can't be too many of them left in the states. Once I leave that warning I will drive to Sunnydale and warn Xander and His friends about the opening of the Hellmouth." He only mentioned Kevin as someone that could help, just not how he could help, after all there was just so much they could believe. Frank deliberately omitted the stuff about the Dark Elf and the magic sword needed to kill him.

Hooter immediately booted his laptop and worked, as the others continued talking. Logging into the NSA, he ran a search throughout the FAA databases. It didn't take long to find that there were only three Mustangs in Arizona. Two of the classic aircraft registered to museums and the third's listed as being owned by Griffin Air. Digging further, He found that Griffin Air had owned a hanger on Falcon Field since 1952. < This can't be right,> he thought, <This Griffin guy would have to be over 75 years old.>

Locker Room

Frank Parker was dressing in the dimly lit locker room when Hooter and Craig walked in. The looks on both of their faces made him suspect that something was up.

Craig took the lead in what promised to be an interesting conversation. "Frank, Hooter has found a few… Umm… Oddities about your Mr. Griffin."

"Oh yeah, which ones?"

"Well I did some checking. Griffin Air was owned by Kevin Griffin from just after World War 2 until 1974, when he sold the company for more money then I could even dream of, it seems, at the time of the sale, he retained ownership of the main hangar at Falcon Field. This doesn't make any sense unless your man is much older then you are telling us."

Reaching into his locker Frank pulled out a large box, "Well at least I know where to find him now. Anything else?"

Craig was willing to go only so far, "Isn't that enough. Look Frank I trust you, but there is no way I'm going to let you Back-Step until I know what the hell is going on."

"You're right. But, would have you believed me? Sure as hell if I had told the whole story, Ramsey would have me in a padded cell twiddling my thumbs for the next 25 years. There was no way I was going to mention near Immortals and magic swords." For the next ten minutes Frank explained all that he had been told and added a few guesses of his own. "If that's all gentlemen, I have a mission to get ready for."

Sphere Control

Frank entered the control room dressed in black fatigues and a shoulder holster carrying the .45 Grizzly and the spare magazines. Glancing at the sphere, it reminded him of a soccer ball. Frank smiled, remembering the old TV show, 'Land of the Giants', in his mind he could just picture them playing a game with this soccer ball. < I have way too much free time if I can remember that show,> he thought.

Dropping into the pilot's seat Frank strapped himself in tight. The ride promised to be rough, just as it had every other time he had ridden this machine before.

"Conundrum to NNL control, I'm in and beginning preflight. Scanning the left-hand console, "What's with the new environmental panel?"

"Just a small modification that Dr. Ballard came up with. Should make the flight a little easier on you," answered Hooter.

<Now where have I heard that one before?> "You sure about this, Hooter? You know what happened the last time he decided to play with the controls."

The amused tone of Hooter's voice came through the headset; "It's just an air-conditioning upgrade, Frank. I swear he didn't touch the time control circuitry this time."

"Roger that. Reactor online. Power coming up. 15 percent."

"Copy that. Telemetry is tracking. Estimating jump in 30 seconds."

Frank made his last call before jump, "Power levels at 93 percent. Ready for jump."

Hooter's, "Good luck Frank," was lost, as Frank slapped the center jump button, and the horrible past was lost into the twin realms of possibility and probability.

Superstition Mountains
27 July 2000

Exploring the Superstition mountains was one of Phil Farlin's passions, so much so, that every chance he got, he took a long weekend and camped by the mountains he loved so much. Camping in the openness let him indulge his other passion, stargazing. Packing the 4-wheel drive Ranger that morning with his camping gear and telescope, he felt such a relief to get out of the closed-in valley that was Phoenix.

Staring up into the velvet night he caught the shooting star just as it popped into view. He thought it odd that it never transverses the field of view, until he realized that it was heading towards him. A mixture of fear and excitement surged through his body, as he triggered the camera attached to the telescope. < Jesus this is going to be close.>

The sphere landed, or perhaps a controlled crash would be a better description. The friction of reentry back into the time stream left an aura of electricity bounding across the craft. Sitting there in the desert and smoking like a bale of hay. Phil walked up to the craft surprised that anything had survived.

He was even more surprised when it opened and a man stepped out. Frank took a look at the witness to his landing and in his quirky sense of humor; "Take me to your leader."

Phil reached for the old Series 80 Colt that he carried on his desert adventures, only to find that Frank had beaten him to the draw.

"As you can see, Mines bigger and I'm faster." Frank took pity on the surprised camper and against Back-Step policy; he introduced himself, I'm Frank Parker with the NSA. The look in the stranger's eyes didn't comfort Phil at all, "I'm Phil Farlin," he stammered a bit, "What are you."

"Sorry but that's classified, do you have a vehicle near by?"

"We are in the middle of the freaking mountains; of course I have a truck."

"Then under the National Security Act, I'm commandeering that Truck."

Phil looked at Frank, and then against any kind of common sense laughed at the chrononaut, "Mr. Parker, have you ever been in the Superstitions Before? Didn't think so. You can take my truck, but several things will happen. One, I'll be stuck here, and more then likely I will die. The second is that you will be just as lost. There are thousands of trails around here, and lots of unfriendly people that don't like government types.

What Phil said made a lot of sense to Frank. "Ok, looks like we will be hanging out for a while. Wait here." Frank walked back to the sphere and retrieved the package Olga had given him. Plugging back into the communications system, Frank made the Conundrum call, "NNL control, Latitude and longitude are as follows."

Phil led Frank back to his camp. The early morning of the Arizona desert reminded Frank of the lands of Somalia. He shut that thought down real fast, < better to let sleeping dogs lay.> Entering the campsite, Frank noticed the telescope with the camera body mounted to It. Glaring at Phil he strode over to the tripod then opened the camera body and ripped the film out. "That wasn't very nice Mr. Farlin. You should have said something. Pictures like that can get you disappeared real fast."

The two rode in silence. The gray 4X4 did its best, but the trails were rough, bouncing Frank all over the cab of the truck. Turning onto I-60, Phil accelerated the small pick up to 60 mph. Afraid that Frank would leave him stranded on the side of the road, He figured that the faster he went, the less likely he was to get shot and his truck stolen.

Sitting of the passenger side of the speeding vehicle, Frank could almost hear the driver's thoughts, and he approved. He would have done the same thing if the positions had been reversed. Turning to the driver he gave him their destination. "Head for Mesa," was all he said.

Twenty minutes later, Frank didn't have to be told that they were getting close. The sight of the big, sky blue water tower dominated the skyline. "Turn in at the airport," he ordered the driver. The driver let Frank out on the access road that led to the hangars. Frank walked over to the driver's side and motioned Phil to lower the window. "Look; none of this ever happened. I'm going to give you some advice, take it for what its worth. My recommendation to you would be for you to return to your campsite and stay there for the next week. After that, just forget everything that you heard, saw, or even thought. You'll live a happier life that way."

The sincerity in Frank's voice told Phil that taking this advice was the best thing he could do. The only thing that bothered him now was the film canister riding in the toolbox on the back of the truck.

Griffin Air Hangar
Falcon Field
Mesa, AZ

The old locks didn't present much of a challenge to Frank's training. It took him less then two minutes to pick the lock. Walking into the hangar was like stepping back into the past. On the walls were pictures of old airplanes and memorabilia from aviation history.

Aircraft engines were stored along the walls. Propellers hung from the ceiling and the smell of Avgas permeated the air. Frank headed towards the office to find something to write on. On the back of the chair was an old A-2 flying jacket. The painted scantly woman smiling at him tickled his funny bone, beneath the woman were the words Leper Colony.

Climbing up the landing gear wheel, Frank stood of the wing of the P- 51, trying to figure how to open the canopy. Finally, after 5 minutes he found the release and pulled the canopy back. Leaving the note on the instrument panel he began to close the canopy until he remembered Xander's words.

Reaching back in, he retrieved and scribbled a note at the bottom. Now it was time to get to work.

P.S. Daa'naal sends his regards.

Cactus Air Charter
Falcon Field

It had been a slow day; the receptionist was busy filing her nail when she noticed the skinny man walking through the door. "Good morning, can I help you sir?"

"I'd like to charter a jet please. How much for a flight to Sunnydale, California?"

I'll check." While she looked at the fare book, the sectary thought, <What a waste of time, If a trip around the world was a nickel, I don't think this guy couldn't get out of Arizona.> "Sir that would be 6,500 dollars, one way."

"Perfect said Frank, When can we leave?

"I can have a flight crew here in 20 minutes. How would you like to pay for this?"

"Do you accept American Express?"

"Of Course Mr.…"

"Ramsey… Nathan Ramsey," Frank said, as he passed over the stolen credit and the false ID he had made.

Sunnydale, CA
28 July 2000

Opening the door of his apartment, Rupert Giles found the paper lying in a pool of water, from the sprinklers in the courtyard. "Oh bloody hell. Can't the blasted paperboy at least get the damned thing off the sprinkler head?"

The past year had been hard on Rupert Giles. Loosing his assignment to the Slayer and the destruction of the library at Sunnydale high had left him out of sorts. Giles job as a librarian and as a museum curator before that fit his current persona. He liked things neat and orderly.

The events of the last 6 months were been anything but orderly. Buffy starting collage and getting involved with Riley had certainly reduced her dependence on his advice.

And Willow, Giles was both amazed and concerned with the changes that had come over the redheaded witch. He still cringed about her little spell, Giles had always thought of Willow as the dependable Scooby, But her casting, what was for all intensive purposes, a love spell had reeked havoc and the aftermath was still continuing. < Still,> he thought, <Jenny will straighten her out.>

Xander's adventures of late had left Giles even more in the background; however, Giles was secretly pleased that Xander had trusted him enough to come to him first. < Granted,> he thought himself, <Xander really didn't have much choice in coming to him; with a dislocated shoulder, and he truly needed help.>

Resetting the shoulder back into the socket hadn't been as easy or as painless as the movies would have you believe. Xander's face had turned white as a sheet as Giles twisted and pulled his arm. Finally there had been an audible plop as the shoulder reseated.

Giles was still somewhat confused as to why he hadn't gone to Willow. Perhaps it was because Willow had been in the forefront of not wanting Xander being involved with the slaying. She has said on many occasions, "We have to limit Xander's risks. He takes way too many, and he really doesn't fight all that well."

It was quite obvious, why he hadn't gone to Buffy; since she was the one that had dislocated the shoulder. Riley and the members of the initiative had mistaken Xander for a HST. In the process of trying to capture it, they got in a little over their heads. Buffy coming on the scene late, did what she always did, attack the Demon, to be honest, dressed in the alien armor with the helmet on, Xander did indeed look liked a demon.

Buffy as her training dictated, had done a fairly good job kicking his ass. Giles still snickered himself every time the thought of Xander hiding in the spare bedroom while Buffy and Riley sat outside trying to describe what happened to them.

Walking back into the kitchen, to take the now boiling teakettle off the fire he poured the hot water into the teapot and allowed his morning tea to steep. Adding milk and sugar to his morning cuppa, he mentally wondered to himself, when an amazing group these young people have become. However he couldn't help but feel left behind.

It was only just recently in with the purchase of the Magic Box that Giles had begun to feel he was once again serving his purpose. Although, if he was honest with himself, he thought he should be doing more. Part of the problem was that Buffy had become lackadaisical in her training. Perhaps he thought himself, the luxury and of having, the commandos around had distracted Buffy.

It wasn't that Giles blamed Buffy, well not much at least, for her first-year college, new friends, and of course her romantic connection with Riley Finn. Each of these was perfectly natural, and even expected in young girl as she grew both as a person and as the slayer. Buffy had grown as a person. Indeed, he was proud of the young woman she had become. However, in Giles opinion it had been at the expense of her training and her duty as the slayer. He hadn't yet worked up the courage to confront her about the situation; he kept hoping that she would discover that fact herself.

Converted frat house
Sunnydale, CA

Alexander Harris had planned to spend morning in bed. Planned that is, until the hurricane known as Ms. Parker changed all that with the glare. Lying in bed and simply enjoying the luxury of having nothing to do more then mind his own business until a battering ram of a fist pounding on his door shocked him back into reality. Groaning softly and then sitting up in bed come in he said, "Come in."

Miss. Parker stood there wearing nothing other then very thin nightie that left very little imagination, almost daring Xander to make a comment. "Get up alien boy, you're helping us with the luggage, and taking us to the airport." The tone of the ex-Centre agent left absolutely no possible way to argue.

Xander knew from previous experience that trying to tangle with Miss Parker was at best futile, and at its worst could lead to more embarrassing situations, "O K. O K. I'll be there in a few minutes." Watching her shapely behind as she walked away, Xander truly regretted Faith's decision to take a few days off to explore the state on her motorcycle.

Standing in the shower, the hot water beating relaxation back into his body gave Xander a chance to think about things. Sometimes important things, other times he just wondered, "Like if you have a cat, and it gets in trouble, do you still send it to the dog house?"

//Alexander, that is a ridiculous thought,// interrupted Elan.

"Well you know, it's the best I can do this morning."

//Alexander,// then Elan paused for an uncharacteristically long time for her, //did you feel something last night?//

Xander missing the concern in her voice, "Nope I slept alone last night," Remembering the sight of Miss Parker's shapely form, "Much to my regret this morning."

In a tone Xander had never heard before, //I do not care, nor was I speaking about your sex life. It was something else.//


//I do not know, It's… elusive. Almost as if I could touch it, yet when I reach, it fades away like smoke.//

Shutting the water off and reaching for towel, Xander headed back into the bedroom. Getting dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a nice chambray shirt he absentmindedly slipped Elan into his back pocket.

Trailing down the stairs slowly, when he reached the bottom he found a truly mountainous pile of luggage, "Holy shit," he said. "Is she planning on moving to Hawaii."

His roommate Jarod looked at his friend with a glint of humor in his eyes, "Don't ask. Miss Parker tells me this is just enough for two weeks. I may be a genius, but even I can't figure out why women pack things that they can't possibly wear."

The Magic Box
Sunnydale, CA

The Magic Box was a store filled with strange, exotic and sometimes dangerous things. Books, titles in obscure and ancient languages, some of them the only ones of their kind left in the world, stood on the upper shelves out of reach of the customers. Spices and condiments used in witchcraft, both mundane and exotic and filled bins along walls. Talismans collected from all over the world stood behind the counter, where Giles could keep his eyes on them.

The employees of the store were probably the least exotic things in there and even then; they weren't what you would call normal. Anya an ex-vengeance demon turned human by the loss of her power center a year earlier had ventured into the store one day looking for a job. Giles simply didn't have a heart to say no. There were days when Giles regretted hiring her at all. There were other days, when her enthusiasm for selling overcame the sometimes-strange way she approached customers, all in all, it had been worth it.

"Good morning, Giles. "

"Good morning Anya. Anya, I looked in the cash box but I couldn't find the deposit slip for last night what did you do with it?"

"Ahh, that. I was heading to the bank last night, and they were closed when I got there. I couldn't just leave the money could I? "

"Anya, he said in an exasperated voice, "that's what the night depositories for. "

"What? Leave the money in that steel box where just anyone can get to it?" The look on the young ex-demon's face showed Giles just how incredibly odd Anya found that particular thought to be.

"Anya, you are an employee of the shop, and as such, you'll do things as I tell you. Is that understood?"

The young, yet old at the same time, girl looked downhearted. She headed back to the counter to wait for the first customer of the day.

Giles undertook a task he had been avoiding for a week, the quarterly tax statements and prepayment would be due at the end the month. He couldn't understand why government could charge him a tax, on money he hadn't yet earned. "Still," he surmised, "one must play by the rules."

Motel 6
Sunnydale, CA

Frank Parker had slept the sleep of the exhausted. The past several days have left in dire need of some rest and relaxation. Granted a trip to Sunnydale wasn't at the top at his list of things to do, however, this time was business. As he got out of bed, still tired from the trip from Arizona he headed for the shower and with any luck something to eat.

The hotel restaurant had a nice family atmosphere to it. Frank sat down into his favorite meals, steak, and eggs. As he sat there, his odd formal dress, black fatigues, and combat boots seem to draw the attention of two of the local police. Every time he looked up from his cup of coffee, one of them was staring at them. Frank ate as quickly as he could because he knew what was coming. Sure as God little green apples, the police came over and asked to see his identification.

The first police officer, a huge and even burly man blocked Frank's exit from the table while his partner questioned him. "Sir… You seem to be dressed a little odd for this time of year, would you care to try and explain?"

Frank had met their type before, all over the world, and the attitude remained the same, full of themselves. "Officer, I'm here on official business."

The Fat police officer wasn't buying Frank's story. "Official business," he snorted, "and just what kind of business would that be, mister."

"The kind of business that, if you keep messing with me, you'll end up walking a beat somewhere in southern Antarctica." Frank smiled, almost daring the two officers to try do something about it, which neither of them truly had any intentions of. Frank almost got away with it. The two officers, reluctant to dealing with anyone with the type of attitude Frank displayed nearly walked away. Then Frank made a mistake. Standing up from the table the fly of his jacket flew back slightly, exposing the pistol in the shoulder holster.

Frank watch their eyes dilate in fear, as they reach for their own service pistols. "Look guys, I am a Federal Officer." Frank reached slowly into his back pocket and withdrew the wallet holding his shield. The smaller the two officers never taking his eyes off Frank reached over and opened the wallet. In the wallet, there were three things: 1, the gold shield identifying Frank is a federal officer; 2, an identification card showing that Frank worked for the National Security Agency; and 3, something that neither would ever see again, a note on White House stationery bearing the signature of the president of the United States.

The letter simply stated that the bearer was on official business and that he should not be interfered with in the least. It didn't matter that Frank knew that the President had never seen this note before; all that mattered was that who ever read the note believe it.

Frank never knew where Hooter had dug up White House stationary, but he wasn't reluctant to use it to his advantage. Enjoying the looks on the startled officer's faces, Frank just had to twist the knife in a little deeper, "If you gentlemen don't mind, Id like to finish my coffee."

Lowell dormitory
University of California-Sunnydale
Sunnydale, CA

Graham looked across the table at his roommates, "Can you believe that?"

The banging noises from the top of the stairs and had been going on for the last hour and a half. The all-male students who lived in the dorm smiled knowingly at each other, "I guess Riley is doing a little early morning PT." The other commandos of the squad lost what little composure they had remaining as they broke out in a gale of laughter that almost challenged the knocking against the wall going on upstairs.

Buffy Summers and Riley Finn, unaware of the crude comments below, continued to make love at a furious rate. Faster… Faster… Faster… "Oh God… Oh God… Buffy moaned. Moments later, they both rested the top of their heads up against the headboard, a look a pleasant satisfaction covering each of their faces. Riley leaned toward Buffy on one elbow. "You are fantastic."

"You weren't too bad yourself," Buffy replied breathlessly. "We need to make up more often." Unable to draw a breath, she stammered, "I… I… I… Just love the way you say I'm sorry."

Riley looked at his girlfriend, "I don't know about that. I think we need to fight more; that leads to the making up."

"Why Captain Finn, would that be a come on?"

"It would be if you think you can handle it," he answered.

"Let's see what you've got." She pulled his face toward her lips and the ancient dance began all over again. Imagine her surprise when she left an hour later and the members of Riley's commando squad gave her a standing ovation as she walked down the stairs.

The Magic Box

The chiming of the doorbell drew Anya the way honey draws bees. "Can I assist you in spending your money, Sir," she asked the man dressed all in black. Frank looked up at the beautiful girl offering to help him and smiled.

"Unless you are Rupert Giles, I don't think so."

"He's in back. Are you sure you don't need something? We have a sale on Chickens feet this week. They bring good luck; perhaps a present for a loved one."

An evil smile crossed Frank's face as he immediately thought of Nate Ramsey. <Christmas is just around the corner, Naa,> he thought to himself, <The credit card bit was good enough.> "I'll tell you what Miss… Miss…"

"Oh, I'm Anya, I work here, I collect the money," she said, stringing the words together in a single continuous sentence.

I'll tell you what Anya, if we survive the next 6 days, I'll buy a dozen."

"Survive!" she stammered. "Not another apocalypse," she said as she went to collect Giles from the back.

Patterson Hall
UC Sunnydale

Buffy and Riley weren't the only one's to take part of a little after slayage romp, as Buffy found out when she opened the door to her room. The half flash of red hair bobbing up and down was more then enough to convince her that perhaps it was time to go visit her mom and Dawn.

Converted Frat house

Xander worked the battle staff with a smooth precision. Beads of sweat formed on the back of his neck and saturated his hair, only to be thrust off when he spun about at the end of the Kata.

//Very good, Alexander. // The tone of approval in Elan's voice slowly changed to a chuckle and then outright laughter.

"What did I do wrong now?"

//Nothing. The last drill was a close to perfect as I have seen. Your work with Mr. Giles has truly improved your style.//

"If I didn't do anything wrong; why are you laughing at me?"

//Alexander, I am not laughing at you. Well, not the current version of you that is. I was remembering the fight with the demon in Montana.//

Xander thought back to last summer.

Xander was breathing hard, his face flushed as he took down another demon with a heavy swing of the staff.

//Alexander! // Elanthielle sounded annoyed. // I am NOT some 'tree branch' you just picked up!//

"Huh?" Xander managed to mutter between ragged breaths.

//If you are going to wield me, I would appreciate it if you did so properly.//

"What are you talking about?" Xander demanded under his breath as he moved in on another Demon, "I hit the other guy with the hard thing. What's wrong with that?"

//And if I were a sword, would you claim that 'the pointy part goes in the other guy' is a proper way to do battle?//

Xander didn't know a whole lot about women but he did recognize that tone, and it meant that he was in trouble. As usual, he didn't understand why. "Can we talk about this later? Maybe when I'm NOT fighting for my life."

There was no reply from the irate weapon, just an eerie echo of an angry sigh floating through his mind.

<Oh, great. Like I needed another woman with an axe to grind in my life.>

Xander couldn't help but join her in her laughter at the memory. "I guess your right Elan, I got lucky that night."

The ringing of the telephone cut off Elanthielle's reply.

1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA

Buffy and Dawn had just finished off a huge stack of their mother's delicious pancakes. They were both feeling so good that they had forgone the usual, 'it's not my turn to do the dishes' argument. They were almost done when Buffy's cell phone rang.

Drying her hands, she answered, "Hello."

"Hello Buffy, its Mr. Giles."

"What's up? New Demon in town, shouldn't we have till after dark before they become a problem? I mean isn't that like a rule or something?"

"Buffy would you please try and be serious. It's much worse then that I'm afraid. Can you please come to the Magic Box? I'll explain everything there."

"Sure, no problem. Anything else?"

"Well, if you see Willow and Tara, could you have them accompany you also? I have been calling them, but they don't seem answer the cell phone or at the dorm room."

Remembering how she has found the two witches earlier that morning, Buffy blushed the color of Willow's hair. "They're probably in the shower. I'll swing by the dorms and get them."

Magic Box
Sunnydale, CA

The owner of the shop, Rupert Giles, set the telephone back into its cradle. Looking upward he unconsciously removed his glasses and started to polish them. "Well… that's the last of them; they should be here within the hour. Are you quite sure that you can't give me anymore to go on."

Frank stood in from the counter nervously. "No, Mr. Giles, I think it would be best to tell the story in one fell swoop. It's going to be hard enough for you to believe as it is.

Returning his glasses to his face totally unaware and even removed them, Giles stared at the oddly dressed young man in front of him. "From what little you've already told me, I don't see it as all that much of a problem at all."

Staring at the shopkeeper, a look of total disbelief on his face, "You act as if the end of the world was an everyday event."

"In Sunnydale, you just might be surprised," said Giles. "Granted it's not an everyday event but we have handled a few in our times. Perhaps you would like some tea while we wait?"

"No thank you, I have to make a quick run back to my hotel room before we meet with your team of demon slayers."

Giles stared at the stranger suspiciously, "How is it that you know so much about us, when we know nothing of you?"

"I'm afraid that is one of the things that I will have to explain, and probably the hardest for you all to believe."

Buffy had picked Tara and Willow at the dorm room before the headed over to the Magic Box. "Do you have any idea what this is all about?" asked Willow.

"Nope," Buffy replied. "Giles was being Mr. Mysterious. Just said something about a problem and that he would explain it all when we got there."

The gang met up with Xander on the sidewalk in front of the store. He was parking the BMW and removing his helmet when Buffy came up behind him and covered his eyes with her hands. "Guess who?"

"Well, since the wicked witch of the east left for Hawaii this morning, packing everything that she owns I might add, it would have to be one Buffy Summers, Vampire slayer extraordinary. I take it you three got a call from G-man too."

The gang headed into the store only to find Giles sitting at the old table they used for research. His eyes closed head hung low.

"Giles, what's wrong?" asked the slayer.

Buffy's voice startled Giles out of his funk. He slid the chair back and stood up to face his charges. "Hello all. I'm afraid I don't have too much right now. What I can tell you is that we face the possibility of another Armageddon."

Xander took a step forward, "Hey we have faced them before and I'm sure we will again. What can you tell us?"

Giles heisted. "Xander, it would be best if we just waited for the person who can explain."

"Then who the hell are we waiting for?"

"That would be me," said Frank Parker.

As he explained just enough of the situation to Mr. Giles, he noted that the shop didn't have a computer or a DVD player, so, on the way back to his hotel, he stopped at a computer store and bought the best Apple Laptop that they had in stock. "Talmadge is gonna love me when he sees the bills for this mission," he said to himself as he got into the rented Taurus and drove away.

Arriving at the hotel, Frank unlocked the door and went in and retrieved the package Olga had handed him at the last second before launch. He hoped that the new packaging would protect the DVD disk she had made from the network broadcast.

In the past, every time they had tried to send some record of the future events the medium it was stored on was always damaged by the jump process. This time Frank hoped it would work. He would have a hard enough time explaining the time travel theory, let alone try and explain how, that in a few days, he himself would be showing up. "God," he swore, "time paradoxes give me a pain."

Magic Box

Xander turned and looked at the man entering the store. He was struck by a vertigo feeling accompanied by flashes of images just below the conscious level. The feelings lasted only a fraction of a second, but he was staggered by the intensity of the them. "Frank what are you doing here? Your last e-mail said you wouldn't be here for another week."

"Well kid, shit happens."

//"Alexander, He has the same aura that he had when we met him in the city by the ocean." // Xander unobtrusively drew Elan from his back pocket, just in case of trouble.

"Relax, I'm here for the same reason that I was in San Fran for. I couldn't explain everything then, because then you had no need to know; now I have to.

Giles jumped in between the two young men, hoping to avoid any trouble. From the little that Frank had already told him, Giles knew the Scooby gang would need his help extensively over the next few days. "Xander, perhaps it would be best if you introduce you friend to the rest of us."

The calm tone of the older man has its effect on Xander. "You're right G-man."

Xander's initial reaction to the stranger had put Buffy on full slayer alert, so she stood there, ready to jump in if Xander needed her help. When Giles had stepped between the two and had clamed Xander down she dropped from full alert to 'get ready to kick vamp ass mode'. Giles derailed her train of thought, "I have asked you not to call me that. Now please can we continue?"

"Sure why not," said Xander. "Frank Parker of the National Security Agency, I'd like you to meet Buffy, she's the blonde over by the table; Willow and Tara, our twin terrors; and I guess you have already met Giles and Anya. Now in fifty words or less why are you here?"

Frank looked into Xander's eyes and saw the implied threat. "Well, it gonna take a lot more then fifty words. Didn't you ever wonder how I came to be at that warehouse, on that pier, in that city, at the exact second that the demon attacked?"

"Well it crossed my mind," Xander admitted, "but we got so busy that I forgot about it."

"Well, kids, sit back and enjoy Frank's bedtime stories, 'cuz the reality train is about to leave the station." For the next 25 minutes he explained: He explained about the sphere and it alien power source. He explained how after he jumped he had seven days to affect what ever change he could to avert a disaster. He explained that a council of the senior members of the NSA controlled the sphere, and that so far he was the only chrononaut that had survived more then one mission.

Before Frank could cover all of the facts, including why he had jumped back to this time, Buffy stood up and exclaimed, 'I don't buy it', challenging every thing Frank had said.

//Alexander believe him. What he says rings of the truth and it explains the aura that surrounded him when we first met him.//

<I don't know Elan; it's so far fetched.>

//More so then demons invading and destroying the world?//

<You have a point, but Time travel?>

//Xander did your experiences over the summer teach you anything. You fought on alien worlds, traveled to them in a spacecraft piloted by an alien hunter, fought creatures that bleed acid, returned to this planet on systems built and abandoned millions of years ago.//

<I get your point Elan.>

When the last thought left his mind Xander was again over come by a wave of vertigo. "Buffy," he asked, "believe him. It's true."

"How can you know that," the disbelieving girl said.

"Elan," was the only answer Xander would give.

"Perhaps a break would be in order," suggested Giles.

Sensing that the kids needed a chance to speak among themselves, Frank headed out to the car to get the new laptop.

Inside of the Magic Box, a small debate was raging. Cleaning his glass for the hundredth time that day, "Xander are you sure about this?"

Indecisiveness gleamed in Xander Harris eyes, "To be honest, no, I'm not. Elan is convinced that what he is telling us is the truth. I have to admit it does answer a bunch of question about how he showed up that day in San Francisco. There's something else, every time I look at Frank, well. I get images."

"What kind of images Xand," asked Willow?

"Fight scenes mostly. Wait, that's not right, battle scenes; I can see Frank and I fighting all sorts of demons. I'm sorry I can't be clearer." The clanging of the doorbell stopped Xander from trying to recall more of the memory.

Frank walked through the door and down the steps and ended up in front of the battered table. Placing the cardboard box on the top of the table he asked, "Can one of you set this up for me?"

Willow tore into the box like a child at Christmas, which was funny considering that she was of the Jewish faith. Swiping the box aside, she tore the anti-static covering from the top of the line computer and plugged in the power supply. In just a few moments she had run the cumbersome set up and the computer was ready to go. "Ready to go."

"Willow before we do that," Giles turned to Frank, "You have told what you are, what you have avoided is explaining just why you are here."

Frank pulled the DVD disk from his pocket and brandished it like a drumstick, "That's what this is for," he handed Willow the disk and added, "Willow, when it asks you for a country code, you will have to manually enter country 217."

Willow made the necessary keystrokes to adjust the computer to the settings Frank had specified. The entire gang was watching when the desktop disappeared and the screen was filled with snow and static.

Xander summed up everyone's feelings in a single sentence. "I knew that late night TV was bad, but now it's threatening the whole world?"

Magic Box
Sunnydale, CA

The gang stared at the screen, and then Xander's comment sunk in. Almost as one, they broke into a maniacal laughter. Even the normally reserved Giles lost the stoic look on his face, as he laughed along with his charges, a smile, and a much younger Giles appeared. Still consumed by amusement they turned towards Frank with a look of anticipation on their faces.

Frank, for his part, was perplexed by the nonchalant attitude the Scooby gang adopted and it showed by the look on his face. "What's so freaking funny," he asked. "We are looking at the end of the world, and you all stand there and laugh like idiots, when the one fact we have turns out to be useless?"

Willow was the first to recover from the merriment, "It not that we don't take it seriously. It's just that we have faced the end of the world so often that we have to debate the plural of the word apocalypse." Before Frank could answer Tara looked at her girlfriend and then pulled her close, so that she could whisper in Willow's ear. "Tara thinks it should be apocali, while I favor apocalypses."

"Has anyone ever told you people you're nuts." He turned toward the shop owner, "Mr. Giles?"

Giles returned the ever-present handkerchief to his coat pocket. "Truly there is no need for concern Mr. Parker. I know you are aware of Xander's," Giles searched for an appropriate word, "activities, I assure you that not all is as it seems."

"Uh Oh. Here it comes."

Buffy looked at Xander and replied to his comment; "You know he loves this part."

"I know he loves this part. But I have heard it so many times; I can quote it line and verse. Hey maybe we can print flyers. That would save time. Just think, Move to Sunnydale and the Welcome Wagon leaves the whole 411. Where the schools are located, Nice restaurants, and oh yea, here is the history of the Hellmouth just to top everything off."

"Wow," said Buffy. "That would save time. Maybe we could issue stakes at the same time." To make her point Buffy slapped Xander in the back of the head.

"Hey, who do you think you are, Cordelia?" The huge grin planted on Xander's face disappeared when he thought of his lost love. < Nope, I've moved on now.>

//Don't be foolish Alexander. You never forget your first love, // chimed in Elanthielle.

Giles stared at the pair, "Are you two quite finished?

Frank watched the quarreling couple and stood there amazed that they could joke at a time like this.

Giles continued his explanation, "You see Mr. Parker, besides the rather unique talents Xander possesses. Buffy is the slayer."

"Ok, that much I knew already."

Buffy stared at the stranger suspiciously. Impulsively she asked, "How can you know that?"

Frank pointed at Xander, Cuz he told me!"

Xander stood defensively under the Slayer's glare. "Hey I only met him once and we both were a little busy fighting that Belgari Demon to exchange life stories."

"No you didn't kid, in about 5 days, you will."

The gang stared at Frank as if he had just grown a third head. Even though Frank had already explained the back-step project, the realities of what it entailed hadn't sunk in with the Scooby gang. Surprisingly it was Tara that put all the pieces together first. "It's a paradox," she said meekly.

"Of course," exclaimed Willow. "That's the only thing that makes any sense."

"Give the little ladies a cigar," said Frank. The withering stares of the two witches didn't bother Frank in the least. It was quiet clear that they didn't appreciate his overt sexist attitude. But Frank, being Frank, if the NSA couldn't change him what could these little girls do to him? "Would one of you like to explain or shall I?"

Willow gave her partner a wan smile and a nod, "Go ahead Tara, you figured it out first."

Tara brushed back the stray hairs from around her face and began. "If I understand the process correctly, when the sphere jumped then Mr. Parker was outside of the time continuum. That insulated him from the changes in probability and he retained whatever memories of the future." She turned toward Buffy, "So Xander hasn't yet explained what a slayer is yet, even though Mr. Parker remembers who and what you are."

"See, I didn't say a thing." Buffy's glare dissipated. "Hey wait," said Xander "You're supposed to come visit later on this week, how can you be here now and here then?"

"Well that isn't going to happen kid. The possible me of this time frame was rewritten by the factual me of here and now." The rest of the gang stared at Frank, only Tara and willow had the least understanding of what he was saying.

Xander groaned. "Now my head hurts."

Frank laughed at Xander's confusion, "Join the club kid."

"All of this is fascinating, I'm sure, but let's not go off on a tangent. Perhaps we might come to the reason as to why you are here. After all, I doubt the government would allow you to jump to jump back through time for a quick visit to Xander. You mentioned a coming apocalypse."

The annoyed tone of Giles set Frank's teeth on edge. "I'm here Mr. Giles because in 6 days," Frank pointed to the old table the gang used for research, "Xander and I will find you sitting in that chair over there with your neck broken.

Anya walked back into the main room. She only heard the last few words of Frank's statement, even as callused, as she had become to others pain in the years she had served the cause of vengeance, the prediction of Giles death shocked her and caused her to gasp.

Frank turned and looked at her, "You Miss will be found lying on the floor over by the counter, lifeless." Frank locked his eyes on Tara and Willow. We never found out what happened to the two of you. But from the sense I get from this group, I'm assuming that you also are dead."

Twisting his head quickly, "You, Miss Summers, will stalk off to the library when you find that your mother has been killed and that your sister is missing." The group sat there stunned by Frank's proclamation of their own mortality.

"Oh My God," said Giles

"Mom and Dawnie," whispered Buffy, in shock at the news.

"Now that I have your attention let me explain; I came to visit Xander on leave. I remembered Xander from the fight, and did some research, yesterday, in this time, I sent Xander an e-mail asking if I could visit him and discuss what had happened in San Francisco last summer."

Xander nodded in agreement. He has sent a reply yesterday evening, somewhat surprised that Frank had managed to track him down through Jarod's safeguards. "Ok, I remember that part," he said.

"We spent the day telling stories. He about the evils he had fought, and me about some of my adventures during my Black OPS days. Now I'm sorry I didn't tell you about back-step sooner. Oh well, yesterday's hindsight is today's prediction of the future. We ended up at some bar. You really should have told me that it was a demon bar. I wouldn't have believed you, but that doesn't matter now."

The feeling of vertigo that Xander had been feeling flashes of ever since He had seen Frank struck again. Xander had a brief glimpse of a memory of watching Frank fighting three vampires at once. As quickly as the vision came, it disappeared back into the mists of possibility.

//Alexander do not be concerned. Your association with me has sensitized you too changes in the time stream. The flashes you are seeing merely confirm the story you are hearing.//

<We are gonna have a long talk about some of this stuff one of these days, Elan.>

"Kid you still with us?" Frank's question caught Xander by surprise and drew him back to the story Frank was telling.

"We were patrolling one of the cemeteries when we came upon a crypt that had burned out foliage surrounding it. Xander never explained what was going on; he just drew one of his pistols and went inside. I followed a minute later and when my eyes adapted to the dark, I found Xander in the corner of the crypt puking his guts out. In the center of the floor, there was a body. It had its chest-split open and its guts spread out all over the floor. Xander was in shock and the only thing he could say was 'We have to find Buffy'. As we left, Xander tossed a grenade in the crypt. Later I asked him why he did that. His answer was that even Spike deserved better then that."

"Yes that sounds like something I would do. I can't say I like Spike, him being evil and all that, but he's helped us in the past. No one deserves what you are describing."

Frank continued his tale, "That's when Xander and I went to your house, Miss Summers. Miss Summers, are you listening?" Buffy sat there, lost grief at the idea that her mother would die. She missed Frank's question to her. He walked over to her and placed his hand gently on her shoulder. "Miss Summers. Buffy. It hasn't happened here yet, and I'm here to help prevent it from ever happening."

"What," she said quietly. "You can't guarantee that," Shaking his hand off, "You can't guarantee anything."

"You're right. I can't guarantee anything, but at least now you know that if you go to the library that night you won't be coming back." Frank backed away from Buffy and addressed the entire group. "Look, I took enormous risks getting here, the very least you can do is listen to what I have to say."

"Mr. Parker it's not that we disbelieve you, nor are we unappreciative of the risks you accepted to bring us this information, it just that that it will take some time to get used to the ideas." Giles looked at his charges and decided that they had had enough for one day. "Thankfully, because of your warning, time is a luxury that we do have for the moment. Perhaps we can continue this tomorrow morning."

"Wait there's more."

"I' sure there is, but it can wait."

The ghost of the solider that possessed Xander in the past and Elan were both clamoring for more information. "Hold on a second G-man, What do we need to be on the lookout for Frank?"

Frank sat down at the table and rubbed some of the tensions away from his face. "That's where I'm a little skimpy on info. The only name Kevin could give me was the 'Dark Elf'.

Xander stared at Frank like he was an idiot, "Elf?" he said in disbelief. "As in sword swinging, ring seeking, pointed ears and all, Tolkien Elf."

"Close enough for government work, Kid. Only this one has a hard on for the Hellmouth, not some magical ring."

"You're kidding me right?

"I wish I was," Kevin said.

"Wait a second, who's this Kevin you keep mentioning?"

"Frank wasn't ready to tell that part of the story, at least not yet. "Look guys, I have been on the go for a long time now. I think Mr. Giles suggestion that we take this up again tomorrow is a good one. Plus, I'm sure you would like to discuss everything I've already told you."

Archaeological Dig
New Mexico

The black crow had spotted the group camping around the cave on a few hours into the night's journey. Landing just out of the firelight range he switched to his gaseous form and began to hunt his prey. The first has been simple. The couple in the small tent was making love; they never noticed the tall elf enter. He left the tent with the bitter flavor of their affection on his lips. Leaving the bodies intertwined, he moved to the next victims.

The next tent was much more satisfying. The four students in that tent were drunk. Drake walked in and his appearance caused fear in the four women. One by one, they fell under his dominion. Drake left them their free will; he simply removed their ability to move. < Much better,> he thought.

The last one provided some entertainment. Drake emerged from the tent to find the team leader standing there with a gun. Emptying the old revolver in the Elf had no effect, other than to stagger the tall villain. The Professor did the smart thing, something he had a lot of practice at, he ran.

Through the desert night, following old trails, cutting through dried up gulches, he ran. In the end it wasn't the Dark Elf that got him, it was a rattlesnake.

"So here it ends." Drake had found the poisoned teacher only a few minutes after the fatal bite. Flushed with the feeding of the night, "I see I wasn't the only thing to feed tonight, he said, as he turned and left the teacher to his fate.

"I hate snakes," said Professor Jones.


Xander and Elan had been arguing. They had reached the point where words simply bounce off the anger no matter how valid the point was.

"We know so little about this new threat that extreme measures are called for. Using a demon to bait another demon gives us the best of both worlds. One dies. The other reveals himself to us. This is too good an opportunity to let pass Alexander."

"You haven't listened to a single word I have said Elan. Spike can't hurt anyone. The chip the initiative installed neutered him. We can't use him as bait just because you say so."

The Rune weapon was adamant, "He is still a demon. Do you doubt that if the chip were removed that he wouldn't hesitate to kill you and your friends?"

"Look, I don't like him any better then you do. In fact, I plan on dancing at his vacuuming, but there's one point you failed to notice. The body Frank described wasn't a vampire. It was Human!" Xander paused for a second, realizing what he had just said. "Spike was human," he whispered.

"Very well," Elan conceded the point, but the look in her eye's and the tone of her voice indicated that she wasn't happy about it in the least. Elan was hesitant to approach the next subject. The tone of her voice changed and a soft look of concern covered her face. "Alexander there is another matter."

The residual anger clung to Xander voice, "What now?"

"If this Dark Elf is to succeed in opening the Hellmouth, he will require an enormous power source."

"You're point being?"

"Now you're being obtuse. You and I both know that the only talisman in this town with that kind of power was at the Summers' house and he took her with him."

The realization of what Elan was saying struck Xander like a wreaking ball, "Oh shit, Dawn."

"Indeed, Dawn! At the very least, we need to get her and her mother out of town. In the worst case scenario, that we are defeated, then the key to opening the Hellmouth is gone."

"That presents some huge problems. I haven't even shared that little tidbit with Buffy and Giles yet. Anything else you would like to share with me or have I been shocked enough for one night."

Spike's Crypt

The debate with Elan over Spike, and the revelation that he would have to Tell Buffy about her nonexistent sister left Xander unable to sleep. So he had gone hunting. < The pickings are a little lean tonight,> he thought <I'll head over to Spike's place; he might know something that might help.> Opening the crypt door slowly, so as not to make noise, he found the Vampire watching television. < How the hell does he get power to a crypt,> he wondered.

"Spike," he began.

The spike-haired vampire looked up and didn't give Xander a chance to continue, "What's the matter, your little fluff left town for a few days and you're already looking to burn some frustration off?"

"Look asshole, the only reason you still live," Xander looked around the crypt, "if you can call this living, is the fact that Buffy thinks you can be useful. Well it's time to earn your keep again. I'm looking for anything you know about a guy called the Dark Elf."

The name from the Master vampire's past shocked Spike to the core, but He didn't let it show on his face. "I might know a little something, but it will cost you."

"Now why doesn't that surprise me? How much?"

"Well seeing as your lot in life has improved, the new house and motorcycle and all, I figure you can afford 10,000 dollars."

"WHAT? Are you out of your mind? I'll give you 500."

"Well now, it's a seller's market isn't it? Now the price is now 15,000"

Xander knew when he was between a rock and a hard place. He reluctantly agreed to the price Spike demanded. For the next 5 minutes, Spike told Xander about his encounter with the Dark elf in London during the war.

When Spike was done, Xander headed for the door. Before he got there he turned his head back and asked, "Oh, by the way, where do you want you body shipped?"

"What the bloody hell are you yammering about?"

"Oh, just that you are going to die." He looked the vampire in the eye and took a little pleasure in telling him the next part, "But before you die, you will be human again, so I was wondering where we should ship the body."

"How… When?"

Xander smiled, "That information will cost you 15,000 dollars. It's a seller's marker after all" Leaving the crypt and a dejected and broke Spike behind, Xander whistled a little tune. "I love being me."

Sunnydale, CA
29 July 2000

Xander twisted the throttle and punched the starter button. The big BMW 1500 roared to life with the snarl of the exhaust pipe filling the early afternoon with noise. Stomping the big bike into gear, Xander smoothly applied the clutch, only to be stopped at the end of the drive by a Van.

The two drivers dismounted their respective machines and the shorter one was the first to speak. "Hey," said Daniel Osborne.

"Hey, Oz. How was Seattle?"

OZ seemed lost in thought before he answered, "Wet and gloomy."

Xander smiles at his taciturn friend, "So in a word, Devon is loving the place. Any chance that the Dingos are gonna make a comeback?"

"We talked about it." Oz shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly as if he didn't care one way or another, Xander knew better. If not for the werewolf part of Oz, the music he played would have claimed him utterly.

It had been the wolf inside that had driven Oz from Sunnydale in the first place. The wolf and the need to control it had him searching all over the world for a cure. Xander and Oz had talked into the wee hours one night about their journeys and it had brought them closer, bridging that gap that had once existed.

"So dude, what's the big bad?" Oz asked out of the blue. "I can smell the fear and the concern."

"That's Oz for you. Straight and too the point."

"Only way to be," Oz said as he watched Xander push his motorcycle back into the garage.

Walking down the driveway, "Head for the Magic Box and I'll fill you in."

Magic Box

The chiming of the doorbell was lost among the sounds of fighting. Xander and Oz found Buffy Standing over Frank, who was lying on the floor with a very nice bruise starting around his left eye.

The pissed off slayer was making her point perfectly clear and she has already provided an exclamation point with a right cross that had knocked Frank to his ass. "Look I have had enough of your story telling bullshit. We need the who, the what, the when, the where, and the why. And we need it now."

Giles tried to intercede, "Buffy, I don't think that will help."

"I don't care if it helps or not," she pouted. "It makes me feel better."

"Buffy," Xander started, "Frank isn't the bad guy here. Haven't you ever heard the saying, 'don't shoot the messenger'? Frank came here to warn us. Without him we would all be dead within the next few days."

"But this is mom," she whined.

"I know." Xander could feel the caring and concern emanating off the worried young girl. In the early years, Joyce had been an obstacle that had to be over come. Now that she was aware of Buffy's calling as the slayer, she was her number one support system. He gathered her in his arms to offer some comfort, "I know…"

As he held the young, scared girl to his chest, Xander turned to his ex-classmate, "Oz, why don't you and Frank go get come doughnuts. Willow and Tara will be here soon and I'm sure they will be hungry." Xander stood there with Buffy in his arms, hating himself for what he was going to have to say.

<Just a few more minutes,> he thought. <Just a few more minutes for Buffy to enjoy believing in her world, I can do that. I can do that for her. What can it hurt?>

//The more warning she has the better chance she has to adapt to it. We discussed this last night, // said the ever-present voice in his head.

<I know that, he said resignedly.> Xander mentally sighed; <Sometimes I hate my life.>

Removing Buffy from his shoulder was one of the hardest things Xander ever had to do in his life. Saying what he had to say, Was the hardest thing in his life. Holding her at arms length, he looked into her eyes, "Buff, I don't know how to say this. So I'm going to blurt it right out. Dawn isn't your sister, she isn't even human." Xander spoke as softly as he could, hoping that it would avert the explosion from Buffy.

Buffy met his hopes; she stood there silently in shock. Giles was a different story. "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?"

Krispy Cream Doughnuts

Getting out of the van, Oz eyed Frank suspiciously. "Time traveler, huh."

"Yep, You?"

"Werewolf, I hope you like jelly doughnuts."

Magic Box

"Rupert, Give him a chance to explain. Giles turned around to find Jenny Calendar standing behind the counter wearing a delicate soft white robe.

Xander stood before Giles, "you know what a San'Quai is!"

"Of course." Giles walked around the counter, "Excuse me Jenny."

"Why? You not bothering me in the least."

'Miss Calendar, I need to reach a book behind you."

"Why Rupert, You never had a problem reaching around me in the past.

Giles reached around the newly christened Whitelighter, and the feeling of her unfettered breasts against his chest drove Giles right out of Ripper mode. "Isn't that much better now," she whispered in his ear.

//Do not tell them the entire truth Alexander, // said Elan.

<Relax I have it covered. They would never believe that I was pretending the whole time. Dawn made Joyce so happy; I couldn't rain on their parade unless I had a damned good reason. Now be quiet while I lie my ass off.>

"Look," Xander interrupted their little game. "I didn't even know about Dawn until a few days ago and even then, I didn't understand what she was until Frank mentioned the amount of energy that would be required to open the Hellmouth. When he mentioned that he took Dawn with him, rather then killing her at home, I got suspicious, and Elan confirmed it for me last night."

"We still need to discover what she is."

"Research later, Action now. We need to get Dawn and Mrs. Summers out of town, preferably today. Who do we know that can hide them, and keep them safe if necessary?"

Buffy broke out of her shock. She hadn't been deaf, just shocked, and now that answers were needed to keep her family safe she, returned to slayer mode. "I'm sure Lady Croft would be happy to help out, plus she owes us a favor or two."

"I'm afraid that transportation to England would take a rather long time to arrange."

"Excuse me Rupert, are you forgetting me? Jenny smiled at the ex-librarian, "Just call me Calendar Air," Then she whispered in Giles ear again, "Any place, any time, any where." The stodgy watcher couldn't help but blush at the double meaning of her words.

"I may have a better idea," came from the doorway, as Frank and Oz returned. "I have a couple of friends in Canada that I'm sure will be willing help," said Oz. "Plus Dawn might just learn something."

Buffy looked at the werewolf cum guitarist; "Can they be trusted?"

"With anything you can throw their way. They were the ones that helped me with my problem with the moon."


Toronto, Canada

Peter Caine was working overtime to catch up on the paperwork. <This stuff multiples like rabbits, leave it alone for an hour and you have ten times as much.> The phone ringing didn't even cause Peter to blink, as he picked it up without a conscious thought. "Detective Cain, Homicide," He answered as he continued working.

"Hey Peter, its Oz. I need a favor."

"Oz man, sure anything you need. I'm sure that my father would be happy to see you again."

"Please thank the master for me, but this time it's a few friends that need his help and protection." Even through the lousy international connection Peter could hear the respect in Oz's voice. "Hold on a second Peter. I'll get their flight information for you."

While Oz was speaking to Peter, he nodded to Xander who drew his cell phone and hit the speed dial for American Airlines. "I need two first class seats to Toronto, Canada. First possible departure and an open end return. Ok, I'll wait." Xander wrote furiously on a scrap piece of paper and the handed that to Oz. He then pulled out his Master Card and paid the 3000.00-dollar bill without a thought. Hanging up the phone, Xander turned toward the Whitelighter,

"Miss Calendar, since this isn't and emergency I think mundane methods are the best option. Thank you for offering."

"I quiet agree," said Giles. "I'm quiet sure you weren't sent here to become a taxi service. Surely, there will be a time when your help will be needed. I wouldn't want to abuse your superiors' tolerance before that."

Oz continued his call to Toronto, "Peter have you got something to write on? Flight 2418 arrives 12:15pm your time on Friday. Thanks, Peter. I owe you both another big favor."

Buffy hugged Xander again, this time in relief, "Thank you. I can't tell you how much this means to me."

"Hey, I did the easy part. You're the one that has to convince your Mom to leave town. I don't envy you that task at all. Look Buffy, they have to leave in a few hours. Do you want me to come with you and help convince them?"

"I don't think so. Don't you be thinking that this buy's you forgiveness for you know what." She smiled at the now confused Xander. "But it goes an awfully long way."

1630 Revello Drive

Buffy steeled herself at the back door. She walked into the kitchen to find Joyce finishing the lunch dishes. "Hi Mom.

"Hey Honey, what are you doing home so early? I thought you were training with Giles today."

Buffy stared off into space, vaguely looking at the sink.

A look of concern crossed Joyce's face. Honey, are you alright?"

"I'm fine. I was just remembering the time you spanked me for putting my arm down the garbage disposal."

"Well it was for your own good. You had the worst habit of reaching into places that could be dangerous."

"But Mom, I was eight years old and it wasn't even on, and you spanked me and sent me to my room for an hour."

"I was trying to teach you to avoid the danger in the first place."

<Bingo!> Thought Buffy.

Of course, it wasn't that easy, but in the end, Joyce's own words convinced her that the trip to Canada was in both her and Dawn's best interest. Dawn was ecstatic. She rambled on and on about the trip, all during the drive to the airport.

After leaving the airport, Buffy returned to the Magic Box to find all of the Scooby gang present. "Ok they are on their way." She turned to Frank, "Ok, now it's time to come clean. I want to know everything about this Dark Elf, and just how we can kill it."

Frank looked at the determined blonde. "I'm not sure that you can kill him," he confessed.

"I'm sorry about the way I was telling the story that's just the way I am. You already have most of the facts. In the early morning hour of 2 August, the Hellmouth will open. After you left the Magic Box, Xander tried calling in some reinforcements, someone named Faith didn't answer the phone, so he called a guy named Jack. Then he called some one else. Must have been pretty important, because he was pissed that they weren't home. He left them an odd message," concentration set in on Frank's face, "'Phoebe, This is Xander. We have huge Hellmouthy problems here. I need you and the Charmed ones here as quick as Leo's fast little fingers can carry you,' were his exact words."

"Wait a minute here… How can you remember my exact words?"

"The same way I can dial the last phone number that you called that night, photographic memory. Give me your cell phone." Xander tossed Frank the small phone. He pressed each of the buttons once, listening to the different tone that each numeric emitted. Then he punched a long series of numbers into the keypad, "Ok kid, Bottom of the ninth, tie game, two outs, and you're up to bat. Who does that number belong to and what does the keyword Armageddon set into motion?"

Xander stared at the liquid crystal display for the longest time. He looked around the room and watched each of his friends; afraid that their reaction to what he had done would change they worked together. Mentally he waffled back and forth, part of him wanted to keep it a secret and the other side was screaming for him to trust his friends. It was Willow that made up his mind for him. "Xan, all of us have kept secrets from the others at one time or another; Goddess knows I have made enough mistakes for all of us. Whatever it is, you know that we will forgive you. You know that don't you?"

Willow's softly spoken words of support comforted Xander about his decision. "The number is a direct line to Father Cranston in the Vatican, it's supposed to be monitored 24/7, If I had to leave a message, it means that they have huge problems somewhere else. The code word Armageddon pretty much sez it all. Hellmouth is opening, End of the world. Father Cranston promised me, that if I ever called and left that code word, He would have a squad of the best Vatican warriors here within 12 hours."

Willow looked at her best friend in the whole world and smiled. "That's a good thing. Right, Buffy? That's a really good thing?"

Buffy joined the senior witch of the team. Standing just in front of the worried Xander, she added her support. "I can't say I like the fact you have kept secrets from us, But Willow is right, this is a very good thing. Lord knows that if the Hellmouth opens, we will need all the help we can get.

Giles reaction was similar in vein; "If that is the worst secret you are hiding then I for one am reassured. Xander, do you realize how high you are held in Father Cranston's opinion. The council kept track of the Vatican teams for years and there is only a Company of them in the entire world."

Alexander Harris blushed with pride. He'd feared that his secrets would fracture the Scoobies even further then they had been in the past. Instead, it drew the team back together, almost as if the past year's trials and tribulations hadn't taken place.

<Jesus Christ,> thought Frank. <These kids could teach unit cohesion to a SEAL team.> It was only then that he realized why the last few hours had felt so familiar. These kids work the same way the teams do. They each have their own ego that's for sure. But when the chips are down, they meld together like a single person.

"Ok time boy, time for, as Paul Harvey says, 'The rest of the story'." Put another way, Frank would have interpreted that as a threat, but the smiling eyes and the relaxed stance of the slayer told him that he could relax and finish the story.

"After the Hellmouth opened and the aftershocks of the earthquake settled down, Xander and I headed to the airport. On the way I explained the Back-step process to Xander and told him we would save his friends and his world. That's where we found Kevin and Col. Austin."

"Wait a second. Did you say Col. Austin, Col. Steve Austin?" The overwhelming sense of d��vu didn't faze Xander this time.

"Kid I'll say this for you, you are consistent. Let me finish that statement for you. 'You learned about him in history class, you loved him as a kid'."

"Ok that's IT, I'm officially wigged." The rest of the gang just laughed at the silly look on Xander's face.

Giles let the group enjoy a few minutes of humor before getting back to business. "Perhaps you can finish your story and then we can forge a plan of action."

"There's not that much left to tell, Mr. Giles

"Please call me Giles," he looked at the kids and ignored the smirks on their faces, "I have grown accustomed to it."

"Ok Giles. We stole an aircraft and as Kevin and Xander boarded, some blue creep attacked them with dart throwers in its arms. The poison blinded both of them so Col. Austin and I had to fly the plane with Kevin talking us through the process."

"D'EST Demon," interjected Xander.

"Xander, how can you know that? D'EST Demons are very rare."

Xander patted the pouch containing Elan; "The Hellmouth was open Giles. I guess they won't be all that rare after Tuesday night."

"The flight to Never Never Land was pretty routine; if your routine includes landing gear that doesn't want to retract and an engine fire that is."

Frank looked at Xander expectantly, but it was Tara that asked the inevitable question. "You call your top secret base Never Never Land?"


"Anyway, the B-17 crashed on landed. Steve did an amazing job keeping as much of it together as he did. Kevin died in the crash and Xander was badly injured. My team argued about doing a back step until some news station got a hold of some footage that showed the devastation that the demons were wrecking. We received direct orders to take any and all measures to prevent the Hellmouth from opening. After that I jumped to Arizona, left a warning for Mr. Griffin, and flew directly here."

"I don't understand why you had to warn him first," said Willow, voicing the question that was on everyone's mind.

"I have to agree with Willow on this, wouldn't it have made more sense to come here first and then call him?"

Xander, you and Willow may be right, but I had to ensure that Kevin knew of the threat. Just in case I failed to convince you that this threat was real."

Buffy looked at him, and inquisitive look on her face. "What's so special about this guy?"

"What's so special, I'll tell you. He is the one that carries the one weapon that can kill the Dark Elf, the Sword of Life."

Magic Box
Sunnydale, CA
29 July 2000

It took Frank another hour to explain what the Sword of Life was, or at least what he knew it to be. Buffy summed it all up in twenty seconds. "It takes a magical sword to kill this guy huh? We can do that." She scraped her chair against the floor as she got up, and went back into the training room.

"It is just me, or is that the most annoying sound ever," kidded Xander. The group looked at Xander in silence. "Ok, not one of my better one's. Moving along." They were saved from another attempt at humor by Buffy's return. The clunk and rattle of a sword and its scabbard hitting the table rattled their teeth.

"One magic sword as ordered." The blonde slayer's smug look said it all. "And thank you for shopping at the Magic Box."

"What the hell is that?" gasped Frank Parker.

"I told you, a magic sword." Buffy looked at her watcher, when he nodded imperceptibly, she continued. "It's called a Sunsword; it's magically enhanced against creatures of the night. It cuts through Vampires like a hot knife through butter, plus it makes a really handy can opener."

Giles winced at Buffy's explanation. "If I may?" Buffy nodded back to him relieved that she didn't have to explain just how she cam into possession of the Sunsword. That was a tale best told when you have plenty of time, and a few beers to lubricate the voice box.

"There are several possibilities; I believe it to be the Sunsword. Legend has it that the Sunsword was once the greatest foe of a Master vampire named Strahd. In battle, Strahd managed to magically break the sword. However when the blade was shattered it disappeared, leaving only the hilt behind. For centuries Strahd guarded the hilt jealousy as he searched for the blade, for he knew that if the blade and hilt were ever reunited it would once again become a threat to him."

"Wait a second Giles, if the blade was shattered, How come it's sitting in one piece here on the table?" Frank's question was a perfectly natural one.

Giles looked around the table and met the eyes of the Scoobies, Frank didn't see the slayer shake her head no, but Giles did. "I'm afraid from that point on the story becomes hazy, Suffice to say, we have a sword that should eliminate the threat this Dark Elf poses."

Frank accepted the statement at face value until Jenny Calendar spoke up. "I'm afraid it's not that simple Rupert." Giles looked at his former lover, astonishment on his face. The look begged Jenny to continue. "The Magics of different dimensions vary. "Think of our world as an Apple computer, and Toril as a Windows PC. They both do the same basic job, yet in two different manners. The two can be made to work together because the underlying principles are the same."

The gang stared back at the Whitelighter with a collective blank stare on their faces. Only Oz and Willow seemed to pick up on the comparison. Oz spoke up, "Miss Calendar." Jenny nodded to the werewolf. "Think of it as traveling in Europe, You don't plug anything in unless you have the right converter."

"That's a much better comparison. Thank you Oz." She turned back to the group. "It's the same power, just operating on different frequencies."

"I don't understand, are you telling us that the Sunsword won't kill this guy?" Buffy shook her head as she spoke as if clearing her mind about something. "Lady Croft was pretty sure that this sword would kill just about anything that was undead."

"I'm not saying that. What I am saying; is that it may not have the same effect on the Dark Elf that it has on the local vampires." Jenny shook her head in frustration of not knowing. "It may be that the raw power of the sword will overcome the differences. I just don't know."

"Hey," said Willow, "I mean if they're so different, how can he exist here at all?

"Oh, he can live here," said Anya in a matter-of-fact manner.

The group stared at the ex-demon. Willow sighed. "I know I'm going to regret asking this." She turned to Anya. "How do you know they can live here?"

"Oh, there have been crossovers between the two worlds before. I remember this one couple; he totally ignored her so he could play Dungeons and Dragons. He was such a jerk leaving her all alone like that. He would stay out till all hours in the morning playing that stupid game. Well, her wish for vengeance was for him to be transported to the world he liked so well. It wasn't much of a wish; he loved being there, happier then a pig in a muddy sty."

Giles, his patience visibly tried, "Anya, what does that possibly have to do with an Elf surviving on our world."

"I was getting there," she huffed. "Before I could leave, one of their gods interrupted me. He told me that if I were going to leave him, I would have to take another to maintain balance. They are real big on balance there. I had to take this Drow with me when I left; nasty little creature. He was doing fine when I left him in Detroit."

Frank was amazed at the minutia these people caught up in. He cleared his throat, drawing attention away from the useless debate. "Folks, this is all well and good, but the fact remains that we know he can survive. We know that he will be in four places," he ticked each point off and he listed them, "one, the graveyard; two, Buffy's house; three, the Magic Box; and four, the high school. With the exception of the high school, we don't know what order he will show up where."

"You're quite right," said Giles. Giles face lost it normal serious look as he removed his glasses and pinched his nose between his fingers. "Logic suggests that either the Magic Box or the graveyard would have been the first target."

Xander nodded at the watcher's words. "You thinking trap G-man?"

"Shouldn't we warn Spike?" came from the least likely source, Oz.

"Oh man, I totally forgot," said Xander. "I already did." He explained his little foray to the crypt the previous night and Spike's crude attempt at blackmail. The gang listened intently as he recalled Spike's experiences in London during the war.

Before he could finish, Giles mumbled to himself. "Bloody hell. That's where all those books went."

"What was that Giles?"

"During the war, some eighty tomes went missing from the British museum. It was thought that they were destroyed in the Blitz on London, but no remains were ever found. The council of Watchers was quite vexed with the curators at the time for not protecting them better."

"Wouldn't they have burned up in the fire?"

"The paper, yes; but the bindings of these books were usually hardened leather and they wouldn't have been completely consumed. I'm afraid this makes things much worse."

"Rupert, I know the loss of any book is a loss in your world is a tragedy, I just don't see how eighty books can make things worse for us now."

Giles stared at the gypsy Whitelighter, "In your own words Jenny, the Dark Elf has found a converter. I fear that he has had more then enough time to learn how to work magic here on our world."

"We are going to need reinforcements." Buffy picked up the leather jacket that she usually wore when patrolling. "I'm going to make a quick sweep. Have everyone meet back at Xander's." She looked over to Xander for permission that she knew would already be given. The nod of his head confirmed it.

Angel Investigations
Los Angles, CA
30 July 2000

The ringing of the phone drove a nail right through Cordelia Chase's head. She had stayed at the apartment while Angel and Wesley, tracked down a reported nest of vampires in Hollywood. They had left hours ago and should have reported in by now. Eventually the long day had caught up with the brunette seer and she had fallen asleep at the desk.

"Angle Investments, we help the homeless," she murmured into the telephone.


"Angel Investigations, we help the helpless," she corrected herself, sobered by the recognition of the voice on the other end of the line.

"Cordy, it's Xander."

"I know who it is," her voice teeming with hostility at her former boyfriend. "Why are you calling," she looked at the clock on the computer, "at 2:15 am?"

"Look Cordy. I'm still sorry about what happened between us. This is business, we have a new Big Bad, and we need Angel's help."

The last year had matured Cordelia in ways that none of her high school friends would have ever expected. The fact that Xander would call in someone he hated to help told her just how serious the problem was. Setting her past with Xander aside, she listened as he explained what was happening. "Ok I got it. We will hit the road as soon as Angel gets back. Whenever that might be?"

Converted Frat House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Xander set the phone down on the table next to Frank's shoulder holster. Curiosity got the better of him and he drew the big Grizzly pistol from the holster. Dropping the magazine on the table, he pulled the slide back to clear the weapon. The oversized cartridge flew over his shoulder and landed on the floor next to the leg of the table. Xander laid the pistol down and bent over to find the round.

Frank entered the kitchen toweling his hair dry. He noted his pistol lying of the table with the slide locked back, "What's up kid?"

Xander stood up, suspicion in his eyes. Holding up the stray cartridge with the distinctive blue tip facing the surprised Frank, "Where did you get this ammo," he demanded.

The vehemence of the question caught Frank by surprise. "From a friend," he said defensively. "I got the pistol right after our little encounter with your friends in San Fran. Terry tossed the ammo in."

"Terry," Xander exclaimed.

"Said he had a friend that liked to play with ammo.


"What's the big deal?"

Xander calmed down. "For you, nothing. Look, this stuff is classified up the butt. Terry is our supplier for weapons and Andrezj is our gunsmith and designs the special ammo. I just wish that Terry had asked before he gave any of this stuff out."

"Look Xander, I'm sorry if I caused any problems, but I have known Terry for a long time. Could say I owe him as much as he owes me. I don't want him catching any flack over this. Terry and Lynn are good people."

Xander grinned at Frank's loyalty for his friend. He was beginning to think that Frank was going to fit in with the Scooby gang. "Don't worry about it. That doesn't mean that I won't bust his chops just for fun."

"Deal. One condition though."

"What's that?"

"I get to be there when you do it."

Hilo Hawaii
28 July 2000
(Remember the time zones, people)

Jarod hung the receiver up and began mentally to plan the return flight home. Writing down the information Xander had given him, he yelled across the hotel room, "Miss Parker."

"Yes, Jarod?" echoed faintly from the bathroom.

"That was Xander he's going to need our help."

"I'll be there in a minute." Miss Parker, being Miss Parker, took considerably longer then a minute. When she came out, she sulked over to Jarod who was still working on his planning. The pretender was surprised when he heard Miss Parker's voice whispering in his ear. "Jarod, why do you always call me Miss Parker, even in private?"

"Did you ever see the television show Dallas, Miss Parker? The respect that Jock showed for Miss Ellie, that's the same way I feel about you." The last vowel stretched to eternity when Jarod turned around, only to find a very naked Miss Parker standing there and, if her nipples were any indicators, she was quiet excited.

Jarod stared at her. His eyes locked onto her. "You were saying Xander needed our help," she whispered.

"Of course, but our plane doesn't leave for another five hours." Any further conversation was lost as the pair tumbled onto the bed.

Angel Investigations
Los Angles, CA
30 July 2000

The pair of demon hunters staggered back into the apartment reeking of booze. Even Phantom Dennis could smell the stench, and he had been dead for years. Staggered might have been a very generous description, given just how drunk, they were. In Wesley's case poured would have been even more accurate.

"Where the hell have you been," Yelled Cordelia.

"Sss… Sss… Slaying vampires," slurred Wesley.

"Yup. Sss… Sss… Slaying vampires" agreed Angel. "If you don't count the six hours we spent sucking down Margaritas at the bar.

"Hey every victr'y deservsss a celbrtion." Wesley swayed back and forth in time with his mispronunciations. Fearing that the 'Rogue Demon Hunter' was going to puke on the carpet, Dennis moved the trashcan in front of the wobbling ex-watcher.

"Well, while you two were drowning your sorrow's, I was here working my ass off." Cordy didn't think it would help if she mentioned her little nap. "Xander called and there's trouble in Sunnydale."

The words, trouble, and Sunnydale were about the only things that penetrated Angel's drunken stupor. "Buffy?"

"I don't know," admitted Cordy. "Xander just said there was a new Big Bad in town, and that he needed us in a hurry. So get your shit together; we are leaving in five minutes."

"Corr… Corrr…" Angel gave up trying to pronounce her name. "The sun will be up soon."

"That's ok," said Cordy. "Xander has a garage. I'm driving and you are riding in the trunk."

Converted Frat House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Xander left essentially the same message on all of the answering machines. "Everyone will be here by noon. We will meet here at two and plan out what we need to do. He added to Buffy's machine, "It'll be all right. We got your Mom and Dawn out of the hot spot."

With everything done, that he could do, and all of the pieces heading for the right place, Xander went to bed.

Converted Frat House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Cordelia Chase stood in front of the converted frat house and tapped her foot. The cell phone to her ear, that left tapping her foot as the only outlet for her annoyance at life in general, and Xander Harris in particular, with a certain brooding, drunken vampire running a close second.

With every cycle of the phone in her ear, she grew more and more impatient. Cordy began to pace. Then odd thing happened, she began to look around, really look around. The old brick building looked as if it were freshly washed and painted. The few, but tastefully planted shrubs, matched the building to a T. < Xander doesn't have this much taste,> she thought, <Must be his roommate. Even the colors match. Now I know, Xander didn't choose this palate.>

A bleary-eyed Xander, his hair going in several million directions all at once, no two in the same direction, opened the door to see Cordy standing there. "Cordy," He mumbled. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, Duh. You called begging for help." Cordy looked at Xander standing there in his white boxers, Big red ants printed all over them and the saying, 'Snack Time' across the front. "I see your taste in clothes hasn't changed all that much."

Xander looked down and realized he had forgotten to dress. Blushing he said, "I'll be right back." Pouncing up the stairs two at a time, Xander's only consolation was that he hadn't worn the G-string that Faith liked so much. < Oh My God, Faith. That's it, if those two meet, I am a dead man.>

//Alexander, I would not worry so much about Faith. She will not be a problem.//

<You think so Elan. Wow that's a relief.>

//I don't think Faith will be a problem at all. However, Willow, Buffy, and Phoebe may be a different story. // Elanthielle took a perverse pleasure at her bearer's groan. Xander grabbed the first shirt in the dresser and threw it on. He went back downstairs too find Cordy, looking around the room.

"Xander this stuff is really classy. I'm impressed, leather couch, and real art on the walls."

"Thank you. I…"

"Just goes to show that you didn't have anything to do with it," she added sarcastically.

"Cordy, can we please put the sarcasm and snide comments aside for now." He watched as the look of disgust on her face, faded to mere contempt. "I made mistakes, I know that, but that shouldn't mean that we couldn't work together when necessary. I think the end of the world overrides your right to a self-righteous attitude."

Cordelia saw Xander in a different light. This wasn't the insecure boy she had dated in high school. His stance, the look in his eyes, tone of voice, and even his choice of words defied her definition of Xander Harris, and she said so, "Ok who are you, and what have you done with Xander Harris?"

Xander smiled. "It is me. Just a new improved version of me, well mostly. Lots of things have happened over the last year, some good, some not so good, but I'm still that same lovable goof you used to like to Shanghai into the janitor's closet."

Cordelia's hostility returned in full force. "THAT Xander Harris died the second he kissed Willow."

"Fine. If that's the way you want it, that's the way it will be."

Cordy squelched the small part of her mind that still loved Xander. She squelched it, rolled it up in a tiny ball, and forced it to the smallest recess of her mind. "That's the way it has to be."

Xander quickly changed the subject, "Where Angel?"

"In the car."

Xander stared at the ex-cheerleader. "In the car? In full sunlight? Did the smog of L.A finally catch up with you? You left him in the freaking car? Are you crazy?"

"Even I'm not THAT insensitive! She hissed at Xander's attitude, "I left him in the trunk."

Giles Apartment
Sunnydale, CA

The teakettle whistled its mournful tune, unacknowledged and ignored by the occupants of the apartment. Giles never meant to bring Jenny home. But her overt sexuality, and his still deeply felt loss from her death, left him unable to say no when she suggested that they needed to talk.

Initially Giles felt strange, even distant, when he was alone with her. She was still the same person, wasn't she? The deep chocolate brown eyes still lured his soul into their depths. The quirky smile when she was teasing him still entranced him. And god forgive him, the touch of her breasts, still evoked the most primal response known to man.

All of these doubts were cast aside when Jenny dropped the white robe to the floor. Giles drank in the almost forgotten beauty. The dark brunette tresses adoring her head, typical of her Gypsy heritage and the matching thatch between her thighs. Beacons for his attention, the small brown nipples, erect, almost begging for his touch, waited.

Giles stood there in awe. A prudish man by choice, he had never seen Jenny like this. He had always insisted that the proper way to make love was with the lights off, now he was regretting that decision.

Like a dancer on a stage, Jenny glided forward, "What's the matter English, cat got your tongue?"

Rupert had to clear the collar of his shirt. It had suddenly become very warm in the apartment. He cleared his throat, to make sure it still worked, "No. I was just having a rather improper thought."

In a voice that would have put Cleopatra to shame she whispered, "Now what would cause a watcher to have an improper thought. Perhaps this," she teased his ear with the tip of her tongue, "or this," as she unbuckled his belt, "You can tell me."

"Actually it was… Umm… more of a question." He turned the Whitelighter around and faced her. "In all times we made love, I never figured out just where you wore that corkscrew."

"You're about to find out." She led him by the hand to the bedroom and before they crossed the threshold, she added one more word, "intimately."

Converted Frat House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Xander laughed. Then he laughed some more. He laughed so hard that tears were streaming down his face. Xander fell onto the couch and tried to control it, but the thought of Deadboy locked up in the trunk of his own car was just too much.

Finally, with his face twitching, but the gales of laughter out of the way, Xander could form a sentence without falling back into the mirth. "What possessed you to lock Angel in the trunk, Cordy?"

Cordelia wasn't stupid, she saw the twitches on his face, and she knew that Xander was barely under control. "He and Wesley came home very early this morning. They both were drunk as skunks. I was damned if I was going to let them be sick in the car."

The word drunk caught Xander's attention, "Drunk, as in three sheet to the wind and 'oh god kill me before the hangover does', that drunk?" Anyone that knew Xander would have known that something was up, and they would have been right. "This is going to be more fun than I thought." Xander marched out the door, headed for the garage. What Cordy didn't see was that Xander armed the alarm system as he left.

Xander tried, he tried to resist the urge. He just couldn't, so as he strode by the Lincoln he pounded the trunk four or five time and taunted the vampire trapped inside. "Don't worry Deadboy," he pronounced. "We will have you out of there and into a nice dark basement before you can sing all the verses to 99 bottles of beer on the wall."

Xander and Cordy quickly swapped the Mustang and the Lincoln and Xander pressed the remote that would close the garage door. When the door was down far enough to protect Angel from the sun's rays, Xander popped the trunk open and looked in. "Damn Angel, you look like death warmed over. Oh wait, you are death warmed over."

"Don't push it Xander." Angel's tone of voice was the most menacing Xander had heard him speak since he was Angelus. If he didn't know better, Xander would have called it a growl. Xander's observation wasn't far off of the mark. The normally pale complexion of the vampire had shifted to a grayish white usually reserved for the drunk or the dead. It Angel's case, it was both.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Rogue Demon Hunter at large was luckier than Angel, he was passed out cold. Xander pulled the diminutive man from the car and tossed him over his shoulder. On the way to the door, he handed Angel a greasy old blanket that Jarod used when he was working on the car. "There's a short walkway between the garage and the house, the blanket should protect you till you get inside."

Xander reached for the doorknob covertly watching Angel out of the corner of his eye. As he opened the door, the 600Db speakers over the doorway began to wail.

Angel looked like he'd been pole-axed. His vampire hearing, the alcohol and the hangover all acted as multipliers, and Angel dropped to the ground like a sack of concrete.

The sound cut through Xander's head like the lead guitar at a Megadeath concert so he almost felt sorry for Angel, then he remembered the things that Angelus had done, and his sympathy disappeared. He shut off the alarm with the remote and apologized in a blatantly false tone, "Sorry, forgot about the alarm."

Xander really should have known what was about to happen. Angel jumped up, game face on, looking for something to fight. "Angel, I'm sorry," This time his voice was truly apologetic. Angel looked at the young man and his face morphed back to his human form. "That's Ok. That's the quickest way to sober up."

"Cordy, go open the back door." He turned toward Angel. "It only about fifteen feet, so the exposure should be limited. Ready Cordy?"


"Go!" Xander flung the garage door open and Angel ran though at top speed, only to bounce off the barrier at the back door.

Anger flared in Angel's eyes. "Damn it Xander, you planned that."

"The alarm bit, yes. I'm sorry, I just forgot about the barrier. Please come into my home."

Sea World
San Diego, CA
30 July 2000

The wanderlust struck her in the middle of the night. She left Xander a note, got dressed, and hit the road. Driving around on the Beemer with Xan's credit card in her pocket made the trip less exciting, no more hopping freight trains in the middle of the night or hitch hiking across the empty desert, but the wind in her hair, and food in her belly, made up for the lack of excitement.

<Well this is a bust,> thought Faith. She had done all of the tourist things. Seen the zoo, and the motorcycle museum was better then she thought it would be. Now she was sitting in the Shamu Arena soaking wet. Wearing pair of old cutoff jeans and a red bikini top, Faith thought she had prepared for it. She failed to take into account just how much water a jumping whale could put in the air. Now she sat there soaked to the skin, water dripping down her long hair, her make up ruined.

"Miss, are you alright," asked one of the trainers as he tossed her a towel.

"Five by five," she said automatically, grabbing the towel out of the air. "But it's time to go home."

Converted Frat House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Cordelia slapped Angel, hard. Not that she could do any lasting damage to the 240 plus year old vampire, but she was making a point. "Why didn't you tell me," she demanded

"Tell you what," the confused vampire asked?

"You know what," she said as she reared back and slapped him again. "If you think you can keep secrets from me you are sadly mistaken buster."

"If I knew what you were talking about I wouldn't have asked. Can you please tell me what you are talking about?" Then Angel made a mistake. It was a common enough mistake and he really should have known better, still, this was Cordy, and his past experiences with her made him ask the next question, "Is it that time of the month?" Normally Angel wouldn't ask, but the combination of his hangover and Cordy's perfume left his sense of smell seriously wanting.

"Fine," she raved, "If you don't want to tell me why Xander Harris is all of the sudden living in a huge house, driving a nice car and, Oh by the way, buff as all hell. That's just fine by me." Cordelia stalked off in a huff. Not because she didn't have anything else to say, which was far from the truth, she could have added lots of stuff. She stalked off because Angel was right.

"I see you are still charming the ladies," Xander stood by the doorway, leaning on the jamb, and Angel was pretty sure he witnessed the whole gritty display. "No really, I haven't seen Cordy that mad since the Willow incident."

"Not now Xander," evaded Angel. "I'm not in the mood."

"You'd better get 'in the mood'." Xander made quotation marks in the air with his fingers to emphasize his point. "Cuz when Jack and Miss Parker get here, they won't put up with your secretive guy shit."

Fear flashed briefly across Angel's eyes. "You invited the lunatic here?"

"Hey, he's my friend, besides that, with what we're facing, were gonna need all the help we can get. I would take another dozen Jack Crows if I could get them. With his team out of town on some other assignment, it may be close as it is. We need him."

"You may need him. I don't. That son of a bitch is worse then Spike ever was, and then you went and gave him magnesium bullets on top of that." Angel rubbed his shoulder, a memento of his last encounter with Jack Crow.

"Why didn't you tell her about all of this?" Xander waved his hands around the room.

"Honestly," said Angel, "it never occurred to me. You guys are here, and we are in L.A., didn't seem to matter all that much."

"Well, till Cordy cools off, which should be in 2003, it's gonna matter a whole lot."

"Don't I know it."

"Angel, there's something else." Xander stood there, dumbfounded, searching for the words that would have the least emotional impact on the souled vampire, he failed. "Miss Calendar is back."

Giles Apartment
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

The Watcher and the Whitelighter sat at the table drinking tea and enjoying a moment of silence together. In fact Jenny Calendar hated tea. Like most computer geeks, she would have much preferred a Coke or a Mountain Dew, but she was willing to drink the bitter tea because Rupert enjoyed it so much.

As they sat there, he in an old faded bathrobe that should have been discarded long ago, and she in one of his Oxford shirts, they were both thinking the same thing. Jenny was the one with the courage to voice the thought. "Rupert?"

Giles looked up from the dregs of his tea and offered her a wan smile. "Yes Jenny?"

"Are you stupid or just blind?"

"Stupid is," he began.

"As stupid does," she completed the quote from one of their favorite movies. "I'm being serious here. I've tried getting your attention since the second week I came back. You have all but ignored me."

"That's a bit hard to explain," he started. "Since you have been gone, so much as happened. Buffy and Willow started college. Xander, well you already know that story. Ethan Rayne came back and turned me into a Demon. I had another girlfriend," he mumbled, hoping Jenny missed hearing that part. She didn't.

"I know that Rupert, I watched. Was that the reason, Olivia?" Jenny stood up and sat back down in the worried Watcher's lap. "I was happy for you, grateful that you had found someone else to share your life with."

"That's the problem," whispered Giles. "I didn't." His voice firmed up and he looked at the beautiful woman in his arms. "She was a mere copy. All the time I spent with her, I was always wishing it were you," he confessed.

Jenny was touched beyond words and tears formed in her eyes. She wished that she could take away his pain. Before she could tell him that the torch would burn again, the telephone rang.

Converted Frat House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Xander hung up the phone, a grim look on his face. "OK, she knows that you're here. The rest is up to the two of you." Angel stood there, deadly silent.

Xander's words echoed through Angel's head like and empty promise. <There's no way he can understand, and I can't explain it to him. I can't tell him, how her neck breaking sounded like a celery stalk being torn from the bunch. How Miss Calendar's limp, lifeless body fell to the floor and the sound of it hitting the ground was music to my ears. And most of all. The orgasmic pleasure he had taken from the act of murdering her.>

Angel turned away from Xander and stared off into the empty space of the hallway. "There's no way you can understand."

Xander tried to be understanding, "You're right there isn't, but this isn't about me. This is about you and Miss Calendar." Angel stood there as if Xander's words skipped off his armor of indifference. This brooding act was beginning to get under his skin. "Way I see it, you can do one of two things; Run, which you have become very good at; or two, face up to what you've done. You already tried number one. Last time you were here you pulled the disappearo act so many times it made my head spin. You ran after the harvest. You wanted to run when the master killed Buffy. You ran after graduation. Do you see a pattern developing here? Maybe it's time to try something else."

The accusation slammed into Angel one by one. The demon part of Angel laughed at each incident that Xander named, Angel's soul cringed at each one. The conflict between the two led Angel into a familiar pattern, anger. He turned and faced the younger man and his voice assumed a menacing tone. "Like you're the one to judge me," Angel thought of the harshest accusation he could. "You never told Buffy about Willow's spell that night. Now why was?"

Xander stood there is shock. One of his darkest secrets reveled. Angel didn't give him a second to defend himself, "I'll tell you why. Because with me gone, you thought you would finally get your chance with Buffy. Didn't quite work out the way you planned did it. Had it all figured out, Buffy kills Angelus, and then comes running to you for comfort. You never thought that if she knew; she could have fought a delaying action and she never would have had to kill her lover, Nope didn't work out at all, Buffy ended up with the Boy Scout and you ended up stroking the monkey all alone."

Xander defended his actions the best he could and even he knew that it was weak, "I'm not alone."

Xander's weak reply broke the anger that had seized Angel. "Look Xander, I'm sorry. In the past I have done things that make me sick to my stomach, I killed entire villages just for fun. I drove Dru insane because I liked the color of her eyes. I started wars just to hide my feeding off of the people. Killing Miss Calendar is still the one that haunts me at night. It wasn't the worst thing I ever did as Angelus, not by a long shot; but it replays over and over in my head, because it was the worst thing I could do to hurt Buffy."

The mention of killing entire villages struck entirely too close for Xander to be comfortable. He could still feel the recoil of the colts in his hands as he 'saved' the women and children from being used by the Xenomorphs as incubators. "Angel."

"Wait let me finish. It took an hour to arrange her body just right." Angel halted the confession for just a minute while he watched Xander reaction. What he saw surprised him, no longer was Xander filled with rage, instead Angel saw compassion in his eyes. "Then I was the one that called the police."

"You called the police? Why for gods' sake?"

"I needed Giles out of the way. If he got arrested or if he came after me in a rage, either way I deprived Buffy of her strongest support. The only reason I didn't turn Miss Calendar was that I knew that Buffy and Giles would put off looking for me and wait for her to rise. I couldn't allow that to happen."


Just hearing the hated name re-ignited the anger and loathing Angel felt. "I AM NOT ANGELUS," he screamed across the room.

"I know your aren't," said Jenny Calendar, "Do you?" Standing in the door was Jenny, Giles, and Cordelia. There wasn't anything Angel could say.

Jenny watched his eyes closely as she walked over to him, "There are some things you have to know. I tried to speak with you the last time you were in Sunnydale but you avoided me like the plague. I knew when you left you weren't ready to deal with what you'd done, but now, we don't have that luxury."

Jenny reached the vampire and touched him in reassuring manner. Without looking away from Angel she said, "Please everyone leave, I need to talk to him alone." No one liked hearing that request. Giles's look of disgust was particularly grim; Jenny preempted his protest with a wave of her hand. Giles didn't need to hear the words to know they would talk about it later.

"Xander, stay. This is something that you need to hear, too."

"Yes Ma'am."

"What I'm about to say, neither of you will ever be able to talk about. I don't mean that you shouldn't talk about it; I mean you will physically be unable to form the words. It will remain something that you just know to be a fact."

She turned to Angel, "Liam, what happened that night at the high school was something that had to happen. If you hadn't killed me that night, Buffy would never have been able to overcome her hesitation about killing you. You would have killed her in the garden and Accathla would have been freed. I'll say it again, you had no choice.

"Xander, not telling Buffy about Willow's spell was probably the most selfish thing you have or ever will do. Xander face flushed and he hung his head in shame. Jenny lifted his face with her fingers under his chin, "It was also something that had to happen."


It had to happen. If Buffy had known of the spell, she would have delayed long enough that Angel's soul would have returned."

Jenny turned back to Angel. "You would have died at sunrise, exposing yourself to the sunlight in penitence; both of you think about this."

Both men didn't want to believe the Whitelighter's words, yet both knew instinctively that what she told them was the gods' honest truth. "Angel, one last thing, I forgive you. Now please forgive yourself."

Converted Frat House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

The various groups had arrived in bits and pieces, and each had claimed their own little part of the house. Giles, Jenny, Tara, and Willow hung out in the kitchen. Angel, Cordy, and Wes hovered around the couch. Buffy, Xander, and Jarod floated between the groups while they all waited for the rest to arrive.

Miss Parker and Jarod had arrived a little after one. When Xander went to help with the luggage; he found the trunk of the taxi empty. "What happened to all the luggage," he asked Miss Parker.

She looked at the confused teenager, "You need our help, I needed new clothes." Xander moaned, he knew who was going to get stuck with mule duty when she went shopping again.

"Hey Kid, who's the brunette?" Jack Crow, the leader of the Vatican group had been the last to arrive at the late afternoon planning meeting. He pulled Xander aside and told him that the rest of the team had been called to another emergency in Utah. Then he explained that he had stayed because Xander usually found more interesting things to do then deal with some run of the mill demon.

"Jack, don't go there."

"Why. She isn't a slayer or a witch or a black belt cop is she?"

Xander looked at the pocked face vampire hunter and He knew what was gonna happen. "NO, she's not; she's my ex from high school."

"Kid you have to be the luckiest bastard on the face of the earth. What do you do, grow 'em out back in your spare time?"

"I'm warning you Jack leave her alone. She is one of Angel's gang."

That warning was enough to spark Jack Crow. He would classify the last encounter with the vampire as a draw, but the feel of Angel's shoulder popping out of the socket was on of Jack's favorite memories. Now he had another way to annoy the vampire that Xander wouldn't let him kill.

Jack sauntered over to the corner that Cordy had claimed for her self. "Hey honey, what say we get together after the meeting and have ourselves a little pre-battle fun."

Cordy took one look and the dirty old man propositioning her and muttered, "As if. I mean like Ewww."

"Hey, don't knock it till you have tried it."

The scorn in Cordy's voice would have cut through the worst smog in L.A, "Look, moron. I dumped Xander years ago. What makes you think I would step down further on the food chain?"

"Just cause." Jack never got the chance to finish, as a hand grabbed him from around the back of his neck, and he was sent flying through the air, crashing into the wall and passing into unconsciousness.

Jarod and Xander watched the whole thing; amazed that Jack still hadn't learned the lesson. Jarod turned to his roommate; "Xander is Mr. Crow mentally ill or damaged?"

"I think persistent and stubborn in more like it."

They watched as Jenny went over to the downed warrior and healed the concussion that was the result of the rock and the hard place meeting. "I think I see now," said Jarod. "Now I understand what that word means."

"What word is that Jarod?"


Xander found Buffy in the Kitchen. "What about Riley and his people?"

Buffy looked through the doorway at the L.A. Contingent; "With Angel here I thought it would be better if I briefed them later on.

Xander smiled at Buffy's attempt to keep her ex's apart, He wished he had done as well in the past. "Ok, I can buy that. They are strictly support troops this time. We can have them keep an eye on downtown in case something happens."

By mutual consent, and the reason that he was an outsider, Jarod assumed the mantle of leadership for this meeting. "Can I get every one together please?" It took everyone a few minutes to take his or her place. "We all know why we are here," Jarod started when they had all settled down. "We have four locations that will need to be covered tonight and tomorrow night. Xander and I have discussed it and we feel that the following teams make the most sense."

"Buffy, Frank, Miss Parker, and myself will cover the Magic Box. It's the most central location, and if the target shows up anywhere else, we can get there in a reasonable manner. Plus, Buffy carries the sword that we hope will eliminate the target."

"Wait a minute," Angel asked, "What sword?"

Buffy reached below the table to her equipment bag and withdrew the Sunsword. A soft blue light pulsed off the blade as she set in on the table.

Angels reaction was immediate, "Where the hell did you get a Sun Blade. Then he realized what Buffy had said. You called it a Sunsword, It's not."

The senior slayer looked over at her watcher in an accusing glare. "Everyone makes mistakes," was his reply to her unasked question. Giles turned back to Angel, "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely. The Sunsword would have a crystalline blade. Yours appears to be steel or maybe bronze, hard to tell with the glare."

"We can discuss weapons and tactics later. If I may? Xander, you Angel, Cordelia, and Jack will cover the cemetery. If Spike is willing to help, so much the better, but I wouldn't plan on it."

Angel displayed an evil grin as he looked at Buffy, "Loan Xander your sword and I guarantee that Spike will be willing."

Jarod smiled along with the rest of the group at the joke, "That leaves Giles, Miss Calendar, Tara, and Willow to cover the school. The look on Jenny's face caused Jarod some concern, "Miss Calendar, is there a problem?

"Not really, Willow and Tara have come up with a blocking spell that between them, and with my help, should be able to hold. I'm just afraid that it will leave Rupert on his own."

Buffy jumped in, "Guys," she looked over to Jarod, afraid that she had stepped on his toes. Jarod smiled and nodded his head. "We considered that," Buffy took a breath; "The School is the least likely place for him to show up at, at least not without one of the other teams finding him first. You three are our big magic guns and, if it goes bad, you are the best chance of keeping the Hellmouth closed."

"Giles, if he does show up you have to alert the rest of us. Riley and the Initiative guys will be patrolling around town and they will be monitoring the cell phone's we use."

The group spent the next few hours planning the night's patrol. They were all aware of the fact, that this night could be a bust. Or that it may just be the last night on earth.

The Magic Box
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Sunnydale at night is not a pretty sight, At least to the observer that knows what they are looking for. There are too many hidden corners and darkened alleyways, where creatures of the night lurk. Buffy, Jarod, Frank, and Miss Parker did a quick patrol on the way to the Magic Box. The way the group walked, you would have thought they were in the jungle. The pace of their stride, the shifting of their eyes and the constant tension of the muscles showed that these were predators on the hunt.

The local vamps had learned the lesson the hard way, learned by dying. Few had escaped the demon hell that Sunnydale had become after the new Scooby gang had formed. Still the draw of the Hellmouth always sucked in new threats. Anthony was new in town. The 150-year-old vampire waited in ambush by the Magic Box, waiting for his unsuspecting prey.

Halting in mid-stride Buffy held her hand up, the telltale twinges of her slayer sense rippling through her body. The soft blue glow of the Sun Blade, confirmed what her body was telling her, Vamps. "What?" asked Miss Parker, in a deceptively soft voice.

"My spidey sense is tingling and my fancy can opener seems to agree." Buffy scanned around the area, and she caught the telltale movement in the shadow from the alley. "There in the ally, looks like just one."

"Sucks to be him," said Miss Parker. As she drew the slide of her Smith & Wesson back, confirming that she had a round chambered. She took a quick glance at the magazine butt plate to make sure she had the right ammo in the weapon. The full moon gave her plenty of light to see the flash of red that confirmed what she already knew; she had Demon Killers loaded and ready to go.

Buffy saw the look of concentration of the ex-centre agent's face and wondered how, she was always so focused. "I worry about you. You really need to get out more."

"Don't worry," Miss Parker said, he Pepsodent white smile flashing in the moonlight, "That's Jarod's job."

If Miss Parker's smile hadn't been so feral, Buffy might have been disarmed, but the hunter's look in Miss Parker's eyes told the rest of the story. Buff turned to the Pretender, "You fell in love with that?"

Jarod's returned smile, matched Miss Parker's perfectly, "I guess you had to be there."

Frank meanwhile, had the Grizzly cocked and locked and was tracking the target. "Are you folks gonna debate love lives, or are we gonna do some work here tonight!" He sighted the big pistol of the target and dropped the safety with his thumb.

"No guns," Buffy hissed. "Stein and the cops already have way too much info as it is." As she spoke, she pushed Frank's gun down, out of the line of fire.

"Damn it I had a clean shot at that blood sucker."

"Yea right, the sound that hand cannon makes would have had us running for the rest of the night. We do this my way, quietly." Buffy tossed the Sun Blade to Jarod. "Follow my lead." Buffy assumed her patented; GEE I'm so helpless and totally edible face and walked away from the gang heading toward the alley.

Anthony wasn't stupid, you didn't live for as long as he had without picking up some survival skills, He knew something wasn't right, he just didn't have a clue what that might be. But the hunger was driving him and the blood lust caused him to abandon his common sense.

His game face on, he jumped the pretty blonde snack as she approached. It was Buffy's right cross that was his first clue that tonight might not be the best night of his life. The front snap kick that followed the punch confirmed that fact. "Who are?" you he yelled.

Buffy watched the stunned vampire and thought up an appropriate pun. "That's the wrong question. Try. I'll take Legends and Myths for 500 please."


"I'm sorry, but the correct answer is, what is a vampire slayer. We have a lovely parting gifts for you." She turned her head, "Jarod, Tell the gentleman what he has won."

Jarod had circled around Anthony. "Today Mr. Contestant, our consolation prize is this nice shiny Magic sword. Included with the prize is a custom made sheath." Jarod thrust the Sun Blade in Anthony's back, and the vampire dusted in less then a second. Jarod looked at the gang; "Looks like we need to talk to our supplier about the quality of the sheath, it seems to have turned to dust."

"Like I said," purred Miss Parker, "sucks to be him."

"And the CIA thought I was crazy," Frank mumbled, as he walked off toward the Magic Box.

Willy's Bar
Sunnydale, CA
31 July 2000

Just past midnight the three Initiative commandos, Riley Finn, Graham Miller, and Forrest Gates walked into Willy's bar, a disaster waiting to happen. Normally they left Willy's alone, but tonight they were bored and a drink at the demon bar seemed just the thing to cure that boredom. The unofficial, 'Leave Willy alone' grated on their nerves. They understood that Xander used the bar to keep track of what was going on with the 'night life' in Sunnydale, but that didn't mean they had to like it.

It had all started earlier that night.

Lowell House
Sunnydale, CA
30 July 2000

Riley went down stairs to find his best friends. He found Forrest and Graham studying at the table the house usually reserved for studying. "I need to see the two of you upstairs for a few minutes" The overly serious tone of his voice alerted the two soldiers that this wasn't a social request.

Forrest scanned the room; "I'll assemble the team, Riley."

The senior commando shook his head. "Just us for now."

"What's up RI?" the black commando asked as he closed the door behind him.

"What I'm about to tell you is classified. No one, Not Walsh Not Steele, hears what I'm about to say, Agreed?"

Riley's friends looked at each other and then back at their commanding officer, trying to decided if friendship or military training was more important. Long seconds passed as they considered what Riley was asking of them; finally, they both nodded their heads in agreement.

Riley sat down on his bed, finding the ever-present Nurfball. He started to shoot baskets as he explained. "Some time in the next few days a very bad-assed HST is gonna float into town."

Gates, the loud mouth of the bunch, didn't let Riley even finish his first sentence before he jumped in. "How do we know this?" The steady glare that Riley aimed his way answered his question without Riley saying a single word. "Let me guess, Buffy?"

"Got it in one buddy." The look of disapproval on Gates face pissed Riley off. "Look they have been straight with us so far."

"Yeah, real straight. They get our ass shipped off to Colorado to fight some HST trying to invade the place. I call that real straight."

"Shut up Forrest," said Graham. "That was on Walsh's orders, backed up by a presidential order. And if you remember the Harris kid and Buffy were right there in the thick of the fighting, just like we were."

"That's true," Forrest reluctantly agreed. "Still gives me the creeps."

"Tonight and tomorrow night we patrol the downtown area. If a call for help comes in," Riley had to smile the word 'IF' and Buffy just didn't seem to fit, "When the call for help comes in, we will respond and provide whatever support we can. Gentlemen, this is NOT, I repeat, not a capture mission.

"Were gonna have to draw weapons from the armory."

"I already have that covered. Finn reached under the bed and pulled out three pistol belts. Riley passed out the military issue weapons, and then headed for the closet. He reached up and pulled down an old ammo can. Riley handed the ammo can to his roommate, "Fill the magazines with these. Be damn care full when you pull the trigger, cuz there things will burn anything they come in contact with. Both soldiers opened the plain white boxes and were surprised to find red tipped 9MM rounds inside."

"Where the hell did these come from?"

Present time

"Uh guys, I really didn't want a drink anyway," said Miller in a low-pitched whisper. The sight of 30 vampires sitting at the bar and various tables scattered around the interior made all three of the commandos nervous.

"Too bad," came a voice from behind the trio. "We do, and Willie just ran out of O negative."

The next 30 seconds would have made the shoot out at the OK corral look like Sunday morning target practice. The fusillade of fire from the Beretta's was a constant roar in the soldier's ears. Nine vampires dusted in that mad minute, then the inevitable happened, someone missed a shot.

The errant bullet passed through a bottle of Vodka, spreading the liquid all over the counter. The bullet then passed through the drywall and buried itself into one the framing studs. The explosive primer in the tip of the hollow point exploded, shredding the phosphorus capsule and igniting the magnesium bullet began to burn.

Three hours later, and four alarm calls to the Sunnydale Fire Department, the fire was finally out. The only thing left standing was a melted chunk of metal and plastic that had once been the jukebox.

The hurried detective wasn't in the mood to play games. He'd been ordered to make a statement to the press concerning the fire. "Earlier this morning, at approximately 01:13 am The Sunnydale fire department received a call and responded to a fire at a bar." The bald detective wiped the sweat from his brow; "Apparently the bar was empty at the time, as no bodies have been found. The investigation will continue."

The television reporter yelled out her question, "Do you know the cause of the fire?"

"The fire investigators suspect faulty wiring," said Det. Stein, knowing fully well that that was a lie.

Spike's Crypt
31 July 2000

The moonlit landscape would have been pretty except three facts: A, it was a cemetery and B, it was Spike's crypt that the foursome was watching and C, Cordelia was making everyone's life miserable. Everyone, who knew Cordy for more then 30 days, knew that when she was on her cycle, you shut up and took the abuse. Everyone that is, but Jack Crow.

It began simple enough. They were walking to the cemetery and Cordy was berating Xander for not telling her about the changes in his life. "All you had to do was pick the freaking phone and call." The fact that they weren't on the best of terms, when she left Sunnydale after graduation didn't seem to make a difference to Cordy's logic.

Xander was about to say so when Jack dumped his two cents into the conversation. "You nailed three of the best looking women I have ever seen, all in one night, I might add. Damn kid, I can see why you dumped this one and moved on."

"What do you mean he dumped me, I'll have you know…" Then the rest of Jack's words sank in. "Three in one night," she yelled.

"Yep," replied the older vampire hunter, just to stir the shit. "Nailed both Slayers and that cute witch from Frisco. The little redheaded did a number on them. I would have paid good money just to watch."

The glow in Cordy's eyes didn't do her anger justice but if the artist was good enough, the rest of her face could have been memorialized on Mount Rushmore. Speechless for the first time in her entire life, Cordelia Chase glared at her ex-boyfriend.

From the look on Angel's chiseled face, he could have joined Cordy and the dead presidents on that frozen rock in North Dakota. Jack's words hit him like a ton of bricks. He didn't, he couldn't believe what he was hearing. Angel has always known that Buffy and Xander could hook up one day. The way she danced with him that night in the bronze proved that in his mind. Sure, she was trying to make him jealous, but the look in her eyes and the sultry moves she had displayed during that dance, planted a seed in Angel's mind that had never gone away.

Jack's news wasn't a seed; it was a full-blown forest. Angel had played the threesome game with Darla and Dru, but that had been in the Angelus days. He never suspected that Buffy would harbor such desires.

"Wait Angel, it's not what you're thinking," stuttered Xander.

"And just how do you know what I'm thinking," said Angel in a jealous tone that surprised even him.

"Does the word 'Duh' come to mind? What would any male with an IQ over 60, and a sex drive be thinking? But it wasn't like that." Xander's face fell as he explained, "Willow cast a spell and it backfired. It wasn't just us; it was the whole town! You wouldn't believe some of the pairings that worked out that night." Xander still shuddered when he thought of Riley and Harmony.

Just as Xander finished his explanation Cordy came out of her brain freeze. She started yelling so fast, and using words that Xander didn't even know she knew. The constant barrage of profanity, and her comments about his parentage simply didn't register. The sarcastic tone of voice and the increasing volume DID register.

Finally, Xander had enough, "Cordy, Shut the fuck up." The little used word tripped Cordy back into silence. "Let's get one thing straight," started Xander. "You left me. Yes, I screwed up, and I apologized about a million times. You chose to ignore that. Even when I bought you your prom dress, I didn't even get a word of thanks. You stuck your nose in the air and walked away. You are in no position to become all possessive. What happened, happened, and you have no idea the trouble it caused all of us."

Drake's journey to the Hellmouth began as a journey of discovery. He'd learned through years of study that there was only one portal left on this insignificant world that might get him back to Toril. His studies so far, had failed to explain how the portal could be opened, but he suspected that the Magics he had acquired over the last eighty years would help to find the answer.

The yelling below him drew him to them like bees to honey. It had been a long time since New Mexico and his last feeding. The stupidity of those below and the hunger triggered the attack. Changing forms as he landed, he attacked the largest threat first.

Hit from behind, Angel flew through the air and landed with a sickening crunch. The dazed vampire struggled back to his feet in time to watch Xander and Jack empty their automatics into the Dark Elf. The reports of the guns were a constant staccato. The two veteran warriors emptied their weapons in less then three seconds. The explosive tipped rounds had no effect on the Elven vampire. Shifting his form slightly, changing the density so the bullets passed through his body with out exploding.

Angel looked at his secretary, "Get Buffy." He dove back into the battle. Angel smashed Drake in the face with both fists, driving the elf backwards. Angel's move gave Xander time to draw Elan and activate her.

Magic Box

Buffy's cell phone rang once, she noted the number and shouted to the rest, "Cemetery," and she took off running. Leaving the rest of the Group to catch up as best, they could.

Sunnydale High School

Willow's Cell phone rang 3 minutes after Buffy's did. "Hello."

"Its Jarod, Xander's group ran into problems. Buffy is on her way and we are following. I suggest that you prepare whatever spell you think you will need."

Willow looked at her companions and nodded her head. "Ok Jarod, we'll be ready. Good Luck."

Spike's Crypt

The battle between Xander and the Dark Elf raged back and forth. Xander had the advantage of speed and a weapon that would kill almost anything. Drake's advantage was the ability to change form, negating most of the damage that Elan had inflicted.

Back and forth, the battle went. Xander tried every move that Giles had taught him, with a speed that would have surprised his teacher. But for every move he made, Drake had a counter move ready, and Xander was tiring. With the last of his energy, he tried one last desperate move. Over head smash that connected with Drake's head and a thrust that should have pierced the heart. Drake faded to smoke and the strike passed through harmlessly.

Drake reemerged only to find a sword thrust through his side. "Hi. New in town?" said the Slayer.

The Dark Elf faded into the gaseous form and retreated from the fight with the thought, <This is not over,> running in his head.

Pushing the BMW along the side of the road wasn't what Faith had in mind when she said she was heading for home. Less then two hours outside of San Diego, the big bike simply stopped running. To make matter worse, Faith chose to ride the back roads and see the sights along the way. And she hadn't seen another soul all day.

Sweat had soaked the old T-shirt and even the sun going down hadn't helped. Hiking 13 miles of empty road with the weight of the motorcycle growing every mile, her slayer strength had been taxed, not by the challenge, but through sheer endurance.

The traffic on the road was so sparse that the chance of getting help was a long shot at best. The old Dodge went roaring by Faith like its tail was on fire, leaving a dust cloud in its wake. She didn't even have a chance to flag it down.

In the distance, she could see the blood-red brake lights come on and the white glare of the backup lights flicker on. Her Slayer hearing pick up the clunk of the differential as the truck backed up with a high-pitched whine as it backed up to her. She dropped the kickstand, sat on the bike, and waited. < Beggars can't be choosers.>

The man driving the truck was unremarkable, with the exception of the smile on his face. "Pretty big bike for such a little girl."

The Boston slayer looked at the Good Samaritan, "That depends on the girl," she replied with suspicion filling her eyes.

"Yeah, I suppose it does." He slammed the door closed and offered Faith his hand. "I'm Bob; can I give you a hand?"

"That depends on what you plan on doing with that hand." Faith's faith in strangers matched her style of slaying; guilty until proven innocent, no matter how harmless they looked. The stranger looked harmless enough, Grey hair, slightly overweight and a ruddy complexion from too much time spent in the sun. < Hell,> she thought, <this guy looks like someone's grandfather.>

Bob laughed at Faith's comment. "You have to be kidding. I'm old enough to be your father."

"That's never stopped anyone before." Listening to Faith's voice, Bob could tell that this girl had lived a hard life. He couldn't help but feel sorry for her.

"Well it's stopping me." Bob looked at Faith. "Back to my original question, do you need some help?"

Faith stood there is judgment on the stranger. She made a snap decision. Smiling, she replied, "Sure, this thing's getting damn heavy."

The pair loaded the motorcycle into the back of the Dodge and Bob opened the passenger door for Faith. She settled onto the dusty seat and watched as he got in and started the truck. "So… is this like your full time job, Knight Errant to the motorcycle riders of the world?"

Still watching the road, he answered, "You could say that. I put 25 years in with the Air Force as a radar technician, just got used to fixing things.


"Look, the Air Force sends you all over the world. You never get paid enough to afford something really nice, so you learn to fix things. In England, it was Morris Minor cars. My wife had one of those little things and it was breaking down every week." Bob pointed back towards the bed of the truck. "I caught the BMW bug when I was stationed at Ramstein, in Germany. Bought an old military bike from one of the airmen that was leaving the week I arrived and I've been hooked ever since."

The two of them rode in silence for a few more minutes. The truck turned off onto a side road. As they turned around the bend, a huge sprawling ranch house appeared. "That's it; Home Sweet Home."

"I thought you said the Air Force didn't pay much?"

Bob grinned, "Well, don't tell anyone, but I did a tour with the skunkworks back when they were developing the F-117 stealth fighter and helped to solve one of the problems that stumped them. They couldn't pay me a cash incentive because of the rules, so they gave me a very nice stock option. Welcome to Casa Stevenson. You know you never did tell me your name."

"I'm Faith."

"Well Faith, the guest room is just off the kitchen and you are welcome to it." Bob led Faith through the door connected to the kitchen and turned the light on, "If you're hungry, there's pizza in the fridge."

Early the next morning Faith wandered into the kitchen to find Bob reading the paper on his laptop. "Coffee is in the butler," he motioned to a white thermos on the counter, "Cups are in the cabinet over the sink." Faith poured herself a cup of the hot coffee and sipped it as she watched Bob.

"Place is kinda big for one person isn't it?"

"You should be here when the Kid and the grand kids are here, then you'd wonder why there wasn't a peaceful spot on the whole place. Nope, it's just the right size. Now, can you tell me what happened to the bike?"

"It was running fine then it just stopped. I checked the tank and there was gas in it. Kept trying to restart it, but nada. I was afraid of running the battery down, so I started pushing."

"Ok, that gives me a place to start."

They both headed back outside; they paused and watched the sun break over the mountains. "Nice," muttered Faith. Unloading the bike was much simpler than loading it in the back of the truck the night before. Last night it had taken brute force to get the big bike into the bed of the truck. Getting it out was made easier with the ramp that Bob produced from the barn.

Bob rolled the bike down the ramp and pushed the bike into the darkness of the barn. "Watch your step, Faith," he warned. Faith entered the darkened barn and, as her eyes adapted to the light, the flickering of neon lights drew her attention to the roof.

Looking back down she saw a shop that would have been more at home at Daytona or Rockingham. "Wow," was the only word she could find. "Cool"

"I told you, I like to fix things." Bob mounted the bike on the stand, went to the bench, and got a test light. Faith watched as he poked and prodded the wiring harnesses of the motorcycle, cranking the starter every now and then.

"Well will it live, Doc?"

"Vell, I sisnk ve can saves it," in a very bad fake German. "Seriously, I don't think it's a huge problem, but I don't have the part here. Your bike is a rare breed. I can only remember selling three of them all year and that was around Christmas time, to a very persuasive young man."

Faith choked on her coffee. <So, that's where Jarod got them!>

"Help me load it on the trailer and we will head back into town and you will be on the road faster then you can say Jumping Jack Flash."

They pulled into the parking lot, full of new and used BMW motorcycles. "Wow, you work here I guess."

Bob grinned, "In a way." He moved off to one side and exposed the sign on the side of the building, STEVENSON BMW, painted in blue letters, covering the upper half of the building. "Mike! Get out here," he yelled in the direction of the service bays. "Get me a control module off of the all black job in back."

"Mr. Stevenson, you know that it will take a month to get another one from Germany, don't you?" The young mechanic looked at Faith, and then back at Bob. "Oh… Right away, sir." He walked away muttering about old men and their follies.

Faith stared after the man. "You know he's going to assume you and I slept together."

"If you don't tell him differently, I won't either," laughed Bob. "Keep 'em guessing about the old man."

Twenty minutes later, Faith's Beemer rolled out of the garage on it own power. <Time to pay the piper,> thought Faith. "How much do I owe you, Bob?"

"Nothing. I'll get the money back on the warranty claim." Knowing full well that the racing bikes didn't have any warranty coverage at all. Then, just to tweak the overly confident girl, "Just tell Jarod that we are even."

Falcon Field
Mesa Arizona
1 August 2000

In shock, Kevin stared at the note with the name that no one else knew. A name that no one else could know; yet, there it was in black and white. Kevin's shock transformed into curiosity, who had written the note, How had they known he was flying to Sunnydale, and how had they gotten into the hanger? Each of the questions begged for answers. Kevin didn't know the 'who' or the 'how', but he sure as hell knew the 'where' and it was time to fly.

Walking around the Mustang, Kevin performed the preflight inspection, searching the plane from tail to nose for anything that didn't look or feel right. Elevators, rudder, and ailerons were all checked for freedom of movement. The oil cooler and the under belly air scoop were searched for any sign of leakage. When Kevin was convinced that the craft was ready to fly, he went back to the hanger and retrieved his parachute and flight helmet.

Five minutes later Kevin sat and the end of the runway, the Merlin engine's unique popping sound at idle filling his ears, waiting for clearance to take off. As he waited, he cranked the canopy closed with his right hand and released the parking brake with his left. Thirty seconds later the tower's call crackled through the helmets speakers. "Fifty-One November Alpha, you are cleared for take off. Have a safe and happy flight."

"Roger Falcon tower, November Alpha rolling." The old fighter rolled down the runway, its awkward looks while on the ground disappeared like magic as soon as the tail wheel came off the runway. It had been transformed from a prisoner of gravity to the master of the sky.

Kevin held the plane on the ground as long and he could, then with the end of the runway in sight he yanked back on the stick sending the plane into a zoom climb. < More complaints from the idiots that bought houses too close to the airport,> he thought. Reaching down, he pulled the gear retraction lever upwards. When he felt the gear lock into the wheel wells, he raised the flaps and banked the craft westward toward Sunnydale.

Kevin spent the next few hours, flying the Mustang and worrying, which was odd, since he flew to get away from the worries of the world. But the mention of Daa'naal's name in the note scared the aviator. Even worse then that was the fact that he couldn't contact Daa'naal.

This wasn't the first time that had happened. Over the years Daa'naal explained that while he could return to Toril physically, he could visit on a metal plane and watch over his nephew and his companions. There had been months at a time when the Sword of Life ignored Kevin altogether, which suited Kevin perfectly, Now was not one of those times.

"God damnit Daa'naal, now is not the time for one of your, 'Don't call me, I'll call you' moods," swore Kevin into his oxygen mask.


The mists shrouded the forest floor. Shards of light penetrated like spears illuminating the subtle path the group walked on. Daa'naal watched as his nephew and his friends followed the stolen map, searching for the one thing that might open a gateway, and allow Daa'naal to return to Toril.

Kevin had watched his nephew for years, subtly directing him through dreams and portents. Less then a year ago, his message had finally been received and the quest for his scabbard had begun. The group looked travel-worn as they trudged the path; as well, they should have. From the bars of Waterdeep to the sacred caves of the Drow, where they had fought and stolen the map they now followed, and eight months on the road had taken its toll.

Just as the group started to settle down for the night and Kevin was going to attempt to warn them about what lay ahead, the feeling of fear and need flowed through him like a rain-swollen stream. Only one person could make that kind of contact, so Daa'naal regretfully abandoned his mission for the night and returned his attention to his chosen companion.

1 July 2000

Daa'naal was not happy about being called away at such a critical moment. // What's troubling you, Kevin? // asked the miffed sword in a tone of voice that left no doubts about his feelings.

"You tell me. I've been trying to contact you for the last two hours. Some one broke into my hanger Didn't bother to steal anything, just broke in." The tone of Kevin's voice became caustic, "And, Oh yeah, left me a note that the next few days would be a turning point in my life and when I was ready, to go to the Magic Box and ask for a Mr. Giles."

Daa'naal tried to interrupt, <I fail to see how a burglary would->

"Oh, I haven't gotten to the really good part. There was a little postscript at the end. It said, and I quote, Daa'naal sends his regards. Care to explain just who Mr. Giles is, how he knew your name, and how the hell he knew I was heading to Sunnydale?"

The elf turned weapon was speechless. There was no one on this world that knew that his name had been Daa'naal, he had only told Kevin because he got tired of being called the magic wonder stick. Daa'naal smiled at the memory of the hated nickname. Kevin hadn't called him that in decades. // I don't know, Kevin. Logically there is no way for that name to be known here. There have been incidents in the past of people crossing over between the worlds. Sadly, your people don't survive long on Toril. I fear such a crossover may have happened. // Daa'naal spoke the words with as much confidence as he could muster, but in the back of his mind doubts began to firm, black doubts.

"So we simply walk into a trap and wing it, is that what you are saying?"

//We don't know that it's a trap. I merely suggest that we must be cautious.//

"That's what you said about Denver and Seattle, and Atlanta. That what you always say."

A smile emerged in Daa'naal's voice, // Then it must be good council.//

Sunnydale Airport
Sunnydale, CA
1 July 2000

Taxing the big tail-dragger down the runway, Kevin searched for his assigned parking spot. He had hoped for a hanger, but the tower directed him to open parking on the ramp.

Kevin hated leaving the Mustang tied down on the ramp. Anything worth a million bucks would make a tempting target to anyone that knew what they were looking for. Kevin was still worried about the break in at the hanger that morning < Still,> he thought, <the air show people seem to have their stuff together.>

//Had you remembered to refresh the protection spell on the hanger that would not be a concern.//

"Are we going to have this argument again? You know I don't like that magic crap you keep trying to teach me."

//Had you listened to that 'crap', we wouldn't be worrying about your precious airplane.//

"Look we have been over and over this. If I had kept your spell in place and the hanger had caught fire, the damn place would have gone up like dry tinder and the firefighters wouldn't be able to do a damn thing." Kevin sighed, "I know you think I'm foolish, not using all of your powers, but it doesn't feel right to me."

//It is foolish to waste any resource. // Daa'naal simply couldn't understand Kevin's reluctance to use magic. He understood that it scared Kevin, but magic was and everyday thing on Toril. You used to fight, to find information; you used to survive a world that was constantly trying to kill you. It had taken years for Daa'naal to adapt to the magic of this world and, while he didn't have the power he had earned on Toril, he had regained most of the control he had once enjoyed.

Only from the most basic view could he comprehend this odd world where magic was so rare that few knew it existed. It pissed Daa'naal off that Kevin knew, and he refused to make use of it. This was an old argument that would never be settled and both of the men knew it.

Kevin would have normally headed to the bar to take care of the two most urgent needs; the first was to find a bathroom. Hours of flying an airplane that vibrated as the Mustang did, had the effect of rattling a man's kidneys. So a bathroom was first on the list of things to do. The second was a ritual, get a drink, and see who else was there.

Sunnydale wasn't normal, so Kevin headed to the hotel. After checking in and finding his room, Kevin decided to look around the town before he went to see the mysterious Mr. Giles.

The Magic Box
Sunnydale, CA
1 July 2000

Giles was puttering around the shop, it really couldn't be called anything else, and he wasn't accomplishing anything other then driving Anya crazy. After hearing about the battle from Buffy, he worried about his friends. The Sun Blade had proven ineffective against the Dark Elf and it shook the watcher down to his very soul, having to trust an outsider with the lives of his kids.

Giles would never admit that he loved the Scoobies as if they were his own children, especially Xander. He would never hear the end of that, if it came out. Still, he was proud of what they had become. That pride had become a double-edged sword. Like any parent that watches his children grow, there comes a time when you have to let them go out into the world and see what they do with what you have taught them. Giles had come to believe that perhaps that time had come.

Willow and Tara had become a formidable team, whether fighting the good fight with magic, or researching the demons and prophecies they faced. Xander was, well, Xander. Giles couldn't believe that Xander was the same person who he had explained vampires too all those years ago. Giles snorted at that thought, < All those years ago… you would think I was talking about decades instead of a few years.>

Walking the streets of Sunnydale left Kevin with a queasy feeling. Strangers stared at him with a suspicious look in their eyes. In New York or Los Angeles, he would expect the 'mind your own business' attitude, but why here in such a small town? The answers to that question, or the lack of answers were just one more clue that something wasn't right in Sunnydale. Even the waitresses at the coffee bar left him with the impression that nobody really wanted to be here, and worse, they really didn't want him here either.

Swallowing the last of his coffee, Kevin tossed the cup toward the trash and headed off down the street. It was time to get some answers. As he approached the Magic Box, Daa'naal stopped him with a warning. // There are Magics in that place Kevin, powerful ones. // the concern in Daa'naal's voice caused Kevin to pause.

"Are they dangerous to us?" he asked the sword.

//Unlike Toril, the magics of this world are neither good nor bad, it how it's wielded. Mostly it feels dormant. Something feels amiss, but it's elusive.//

The distaste from the lack of information clearly showed on the pilot's face. His face tightened and forehead wrinkled in suspicion. "Well, we aren't getting anywhere standing here."

//I agree with your assessment. Be careful, Kevin.//

Kevin entered the small shop filled with worry. While he had faced evil in the past, the unknown was his main concern. Sure, it was easy going into a fight knowing that you might be killed, he'd dealt with that possibility all of his adult life, but not knowing, was worse. Turning his head slowly, he scoped out the shop. Nothing seemed obviously out of place. The man at the counter was a bit overdressed a bit perhaps, but that could just be an affectation, rather then a danger.

As he walked to the counter, he noticed and blonde and a redhead who seemed to be studying at the old wooden table at the back of the shop. "Excuse me," he said. "Are you Mr. Giles?"

Giles studied the stranger and hoped that this was THE Mr. Griffin. "I am." His face scrunched in hope. "How may I help you?"

Willow raised her head and watched Giles talk to the young man. Her curiosity overcame her, she glanced at Tara, and their eyes met and Tara gave a nod. Willow casts a simple identify spell under her breath. She was shocked that the spell that she had perfected backfired at her.

"My Name is Kevin Griffin and maybe you can explain why…" The tingling at the base of his neck that he had been feeling since arriving here in Sunnydale tripled, leaving Kevin feeling like a lightening rod in a thunderstorm.

//Kevin, we are being attacked! // The sword of life misread the intention of the magical spell cast their way and over reacted

Kevin didn't hesitate for a millisecond. He raised his right arm above his head and in a flash of light the long sword appeared in his hand ready to do battle. He dropped to a defensive stance and pointed the gleaming sword at the shop owner's throat.

Willow and Tara, their heads hurting from the misfired spell, saw the attack on their friend and mentor and in a time honored tradition of the Scooby gang they screamed.

The back of the shop had been converted to a training area for the Slayer and she and Angel had been working on her sword techniques. Angel had lived in the era of the sword and Buffy had only carried the Sun Blade for a little while, working with Angel for the last few hours had tripled her confidence with the weapon.

Buffy heard Willow scream and took off like a bat out of hell. Coming out of the back room at full slayer speed, she saw the stranger threatening Giles with a sword and in true slayer fashion she reacted. She smashed the stranger over the head with the flat of the blade and watched as his body collapsed onto the floor like a rag doll.

Giles took off his glasses and pinched his nose between his fingers in frustration, "Oh Buffy, you really shouldn't have done that."

"He was gonna kill you," she looked down at the body on the floor and the realization hit her, "No, please don't tell me that this is the Kevin guy we have been waiting for." Giles nodded his head. "Ooops."

Magic Box

Xander walked in only to find everyone but Tara and Willow gathered around the unconscious form of a stranger. "What's the what, guys?"

Giles looked at Xander then too Buffy and then, back to Xander. "We seem to have a problem."

"Giles I didn't mean to do it," protested Buffy."

Xander shifted his eyes to the slayer and a questioning look came over his face, "Do what."

"I sorta knocked out the Kevin guy we were expecting." Buffy cringed at the confession expecting Xander to be upset. She wasn't disappointed.

"Ok, wait a second here, we are on end of the world watch, and you knocked out the only guy who knows how to prevent this, that's just great." He turned around to find Willow and Tara lying on the table moaning in pain. "What happened to them?"

"I'm afraid that that's part and parcel to the rest of the problem. The young man came in and identified himself as Mr. Griffin, unfortunately Willow cast a spell to discover his identity and the spell backfired. They've been moaning ever since."

"Ok I get that part. How did Buffy manage to put the world of slayer hurt on this guy?"

"Well that part is still a bit of a mystery. When the spell backfired, he drew this rather long sword, from someplace and was pointing it at me. Buffy heard the girls scream and when she and Angel entered the room, she thought was that he was trying to kill me." Giles was no where near as calm as his words would indicate; only the quiver in his voice and the uncontrolled shaking of his hands would have given him away.

Xander walked over to his best friend and whispered softly, "C'mon Will, call Miss Calendar; she can make the pain go away." Ever so slowly Willow raised her head, and recognized who was speaking to her and what he was saying. With a single unspoken command she laid her head back down and waited for the pain to go away.

Jenny Calendar orbed in and when she saw the state of her two charges she panicked, well as panicked as an angel can get. Jenny touched Willow's forehead and briefly closed her eyes, healing the redheaded witch, and then she did the same for Tara, and absorbed the damage the miscast spell had caused.

"Willow," she asked softly, "what happened here?"

Not far from her recent abuse of magic, Willow almost fell back into a defensive stance. She almost lied to the Whitelighter but thought better of it. Miss Calendar had helped her in more ways then she could count. "I cast a identify spell and for some reason it backfired." Willow couldn't help but look perplexed, she and Tara had both mastered this spell the first week with their new teacher, and she was at a loss to explain what happened.

"Mmm-Mmm-Miss Calendar," stuttered Tara. "It wa-wasn't us, forcing out the words, "It was him." She pointed to the body lying in front of the store counter. Jenny turned and was almost blinded from the aura of magic coming from the unconscious man.

Turning back to the girls at the table, "Did you do a 'detect magic' first?" She watched as Willow and Tara looked to each other, and the answer to her question was written all over their faces. "Look at him. Really look at him." The pair focused their attention away from the physical world and looked inward, where the power of magic lay. Once they centered themselves they looked at the body on the floor and they both gasped.

Kevin's body was surrounded by a metallic bluish green glow, the astral projection of the power he carried. Dejected, the both turned to their mentor with sad faces. "We messed up didn't we," said Willow.

Miss Calendar looked at the two, torn by concern and anger. <Yes,> she thought <these two are young and don't truly understand the consequences of the power they carried, but she was equally angry that they failed to consider their actions before they cast the spell.> Jenny was half tempted to let them have the headaches back as a lesson. "You two should have known better." Then in a lighter tone, "Perhaps I should share some of the blame, I'm as new to this as you are."

Giles stepped forward, "Perhaps we can better spend our time solving the mystery of out visitor rather then lay blame otherwise we will be arguing this in a much different location."

Jenny turned and smiled at her lover. "Of course."

While the watcher and the Whitelighter and the witches discussed the mistakes made, Xander watched the body on the floor. "Geeze Buffy, how hard did you hit this guy?"

The blonde slayer just shrugged, "Not that hard. He should have come to by now."

"Keep an eye on his for me will you?" Xander walked to the rear of the store where the others were still gathered. "I realized that your busy laying blame and all, but the guy that can answer the questions in over there on the floor."

"Of course," sighed Giles, returning to his normal stoic British demeanor. "Miss Calendar if you would?"

The Scoobies gathered around the unconscious form on the floor as Jenny put her hands on the body of Kevin Griffin. Bent over the body, she looked up, "There is nothing wrong with him that I can heal. Something is holding him in this," she searched for the right word, not finding one, "state," she conceded her failure to find a better word.

//Alexander, // Elan said, // wait. // Xander could feel the rune weapon concentrating harder then he had ever felt before. When the strain lifted, she continued, // He is in a forced dreaming.//

Xander knew how important Kevin was to keeping the Hellmouth closed and the survival of Sunnydale. "Is there anything we can do Elan?"

For the first time in their shared history, Xander heard Elan pause. // It would be very difficult, but yes, // she conceded, // It can be done.//

Alexander Harris looked around at his friends, "Elan says this guy being out of it isn't natural. She has an idea but-"

"But what?" demanded Buffy.

Xan could only smile internally. He knew that someone would object it was only a matter of who would speak up first. Buffy didn't even wait for him to get the words out. < How typical,> he thought. "But it could be dangerous," he added. "And I'm the one that has to face the danger."

"Why you," bellowed Willow, "We have lots of things we can try. There's research. I'm sure Giles's books can help. That's it, research, or Magic. Tara and I can find a spell that can help him. Or Miss Calendar can ask for help from Leo. There's lots of things we can try."

"Will calm down, you're babbling again."

"But. But. But."

"I'm the only one with any training."

Buffy stepped forward determined not to let Xander take the risk. "What about me," she said resolutely. "I'm the Slayer and I have the training."

Xander knew this was coming and was ready for it. "You're right, but what makes you think that Elan would work with you. Buff you are the greatest thing since the double pack of Twinkies, but it's taken this long for her to trust me. I doubt that she would be willing."

"Make Her!" Buffy stared her friend down. She had no intention of letting Xander do this. In her desire to protect her friend, she had failed to notice that this wasn't the Xander from high school, or even the Xander from 6 months ago, when they had faced the alien intruder.

Xander withstood the boring glare of the slayer and then he laughed. "Make Her?" he asked as he launched into a gale of laughter. "You don't make Elan do anything, she chooses."

"Xander," said Giles slowly, "we understand."

"No, you don't. I'm not going to argue this any further." Xander walked off towards the training room leaving everyone behind shocked at his vehemence.

//Alexander, your friends love your dearly and just want to protect you.//

"I know that. But that day is done; they have to accept me as I am. As we are."

Buffy looked at her watcher, when their eyes met, she nodded and softly said, "I'll talk to him."

Buffy found Xander at the back of the training room, sitting of the floor with his legs folded beneath him and his eyes closed. "You can't change my mind Buffy."

"That's not why I'm here." She watched as Xander's eyes opened and hoped he saw the look of regret and caring on her face. "I just want you to be careful; if you die, I will have this Xander-shaped hole in my life that can't be filled." Without saying another word, it was a young girl afraid of losing her friend, and not the Slayer that left the room.

Determined not to fail his friends Xander told Elan, "Lets get this done."


//Concentrate on my voice Alexander let it fill your ears. Listen to it as it fills your world. Now picture the sky as a black void. Paint is black, nothing showing an empty void waiting to be filled. Good. Good.//

Xander could feel his body relax as Elan spoke to him softly. Slowly he felt his breathing drop, as if falling onto a deep sleep, but he could still feel the hard wall on his back and the chill form the floor soaking in. Deeper and deeper he dropped into her voice. Suddenly, the sound was no longer in his mind, but coming from behind him and her breath was blowing on the back of his neck

"Very good, Alexander."

Xander turned around to find Elan, no wait, Elanthielle watching him. Her sea-green eyes were filled with pride that Alexander could accomplish the dreaming under such trying circumstances. "Look around. Now, find the source of His dreaming."

Xander pivoted on one foot slowly, watching the darkness for any signs. Round and round he spun, always moving, always searching, but the eternal blackness refused to release any light. "It's not working Elan."

"You're searching too hard. Let it flow through you, then and only then, can you see with eyes not in your head," Elan patted his chest, "but in your heart."

Xander filled his chest with air. Then as he released it slowly he let all expectation and anticipation leave with it. Opening his eyes he found the darkness now filled with more stars then he had ever seen before. Millions and millions of stars in all directions, Up, down, to every side, as if he were standing in the center of the galaxy and it was his to explore.

Without knowing how he knew, he pointed to a bright green star and said, "There, that's Him. It's gonna take forever to walk there." Xander took the first step with Elan at his side, when he looked at the target star they were now much closer, "Wow! Talk about warp drive."

"Distances mean nothing here, Alexander. I would have thought you would have learned that by now." Two more steps and the void around them now filled with a bluish green light so bright that it began to hurt Xander eyes. "I wish I had brought some sunglasses," he said off-handedly. Elan looked at him and raised her eyebrows in disappointment. "What…" The realization then struck him. "Oh… OH." Xander held out his hand and a pair of Ray-Bans appeared out of nowhere.

The pair walked for hours never seeming to get anywhere, just as Xander was about to say something to Elan about their lack of progress, grass appeared on the ground in front of him. "Now that's weird," he commented.

"What is weird Alexander?"

"I was just about to say we aren't getting anywhere and then there's grass in front of us."

"We did not advance because you weren't ready to advance. Let go your conventional thinking, this is the dreaming. What you need will be there. Remember Alexander, this is a shared dreaming so things won't be the same as before. You will have to be ready for anything."

"What the Hell. It worked before." Before Elan could question him, Xander closed his eyes and drew in a breath and released it. When he opened his eyes, the formerly barren ground had become a glade. Trees lined the glade and the scent of running water was in the air.

Xander scanned the glade and the one thing that caught his attention was bits of metal scattered around, as if tossed there violently. He picked up a small piece and was surprised to find that it was simple aluminum that had been charred and melted. "C'mon Elan, I know where we are going."

Xander crossed the small stream and headed toward the big boulder in the center of the glade. Instead of going around the boulder Xander climbed up on the big rock only to find the wreckage of a World War Two bomber and two men.


Kevin woke up in the glade with a goose egg on his head and a headache. Returning to dreamtime, the pilot was now dressed, as he had been years ago, with his leather flight jacket and olive drab uniform. He opened his eyes to find Daa'naal hovering over him like a mother hen. Moaning he stared at his partner, "What the hell happened?"

"I brought us to the glade. I thought we would need some time to straighten things out."

"I know that part; I meant what happened back at the shop. I introduce myself, and the next thing I know you are yelling we are under attack. Then some one cleans my clock. Now, what the hell happened?" Kevin's protest was a little too animated for his swollen head. "Ohhh, damn that hurts," he moaned. "Hey, if this is a dream, why does my head hurt?"

"Your dreams are a manifestation of the physical body. Give it some time; the pain will fade in a few minutes. Daa'naal watched as the pain visibly faded from his friends face but didn't disappear entirely.

"Kevin," he began, "I made a mistake. The attack on us was an informational spell. There was no malignant intent behind it."

"You couldn't figure that out before I got hit over the head with a two by four."

"Even I make mistakes, Kevin. I am not perfect." His friend's discomfort too much to watch, Daa'naal covered the bump on Kevin's head and the swelling immediately went down and the headache went away. "I have been a fool Kevin. The power I felt in that shop wasn't just magical items or the witches that cast the spell." He paused for a second as if to try and explain that what he was feeling was almost beyond belief. "Do you remember the explanation of how I can to this world?"

"Some sort of portal or gateway wasn't it? That, and the fight with the Dark Elf. What does that have to do with why you forced me back to this glade?"

"Because if I hadn't, the girl with the sword would have killed you. Is that a good enough reason? That shop, perhaps the whole town, is atop a portal just like the one I came through years ago."

On top of the boulder Xander and Elan remained unseen for the moment. Xander looked at Elan. "How do we do this," he asked. "These guys are going to freak if we just walk up and introduce ourselves."

"My recommendation would be carefully."

"Gee you're a lot of help." Alexander Harris was a lot of things, but careful wasn't one of them. Reaching a decision, Xander cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled down to the men below, "Hello." Turning to Elan, "Was that careful enough for you?" The pair started downward, careful to avoid presenting a threat of any kind. This was dreamtime, and anything was possible.

Xander went first and held his hand out to Kevin. "I know this is a little weird, but I'm Xander Harris, and I'm not a part of your dream." The youth stood stock still; his eyes watching for any reaction form the oddly dressed man in front of him.

For Kevin's part, he was intrigued, No one had ever shown up in the glade before, In fact, Xander telling him that this was all a dream was news to him. Kevin looked at Xander and liked what he saw. The young man was fit and obviously brave and Kevin trusted him, to a point. He took the offered hand and shook it firmly. "My name is Kevin Griffin, How did your get here, and more importantly, why?"

Xander hesitated, how the hell do you explain the Hellmouth, the slayer and the Scoobies, and the latest threat of the week in as little time as possible? "Here's the Reader's Digest version; we live on a portal, demons want to open the portal. Some of us fight the demons and save the world on a semi-regular basis. The baddie of the week is some freak called the Dark Elf and if you aren't there, the world ends. Every thing else is pretty much detail."

Kevin stood there dumbfounded. The brevity of the youngster's explanation wasn't what he was looking for. He turned towards Daa'naal. "Daa'naal, Do you…?" The rest of his words were lost as he watched Daa'naal standing there ridged as a board. The Sword of Life's eyes were locked onto Elanthielle's.

Elan wasn't moving either. Her sea-green eyes twitched back and forth as if a battle was going on inside of her. Elan hadn't seen an Elf, other then the current foe, since before she had become a battlestaff. Even in her time they had been more legend then fact.

The Elves had always kept to themselves and rarely did they interact with anyone else. Finally the human population of the planet had begun to encroach on their lands, with the low birth rate of Elves, any battle to retain the forests would have been too costly, they had two choices, leave or be wiped out.

An answer had been found. No one was please with it, but it allowed the elves and selected friends to be transported to another world. There were a few holdouts, ones that refused to see the future, thus spawning the legends of elves and leprechauns in modern culture.

Daa'naal was the first to break. He dropped to one knee and bowed his head. "My Lady Kine," he whispered. Even the darkest Drow would have done the same. Over the years the oldest dragons had told the stories of the bearers of the rune weapons, keeping the legacy and the legend intact. The rune weapons, and the men and women who had born them, were held out as the saviors of the elven people.

Elanthielle was stunned.

The Distant Past
Caves of the Dragon's

"Those beings take and take and take," roared the blue-scaled dragon, his eyes flaring with anger. "We have watched. They grow and expand and it's never enough. They take our lands and hunt our food, and still they want more. When will it end? Where will it end? I say it ends here," answering his own question.

As the dragon's echo died against the cavern walls, another sound began. Footsteps, slowly increasing in volume and in a cadence that extruded power. A tall man, his chainmail armor freshly oiled and a broadsword on his back, entered the sacred cavern.

Walking to the forefront, "Would you have war, Tagata?" The strong emphasis on the word war left no doubts as to who would be the eventual winner of that battle, if the dragons chose to pursue it.

The dragon leaned his long neck down and stared at the stranger with the tattoo on his face. "I would have justice," he bellowed. "If it takes battle to serve that, so be it."

The Sword bearer turned to the rest of the gathering, "It is said that the Dragons have been here since the dawn of time. Even the emergence of my people failed to dampen the spirit of the wyvern." The stranger reached over his shoulder and with a metal on metal scraping sound bouncing off the darkened walls, "You know who I am. And you also know what this represents," Holding his sword up. "I swear by my sword Excaliber that an answer will be found." He turned back to Tagata; "Do you doubt my word Tagata?"


Hour's later Tagata retired to his den. The debate had been long and arduous, but the end had been preordained. "I may be old, but I am not deaf," he announced, "Show yourself."

The warrior approached from the spot he had concealed himself. "I never could hide from you."

The large dragon moved his head toward the intruder. "Nor will you ever be able to Lord Knight." What passed for a grin for dragons split Tagata's face.

"I didn't know you could act, Do you think they bought it?" The council meeting had been a very cleverly staged act and the knight was worried.

Tagata considered his friend's words, "All of politics is acting, I'm just better at it then most of my people." He watched the look of relief grow on the knight's face. "Don't be too cocksure, there are some who won't go no matter what the reason. Fragnar and his clutch are the first to come to mind. They are too tied to that valley of theirs."

"We considered that, there are other measures that can be taken. Fragnar won't like them much, but he will agree to then, of that I am sure." The two friends spent the rest of the night planning on how to move the elven people and the dragons.


Elanthielle stared at the mage elf. "What do you know of the Kine'Iende?

"Only that which passes down through legend. The oldest dragons still remember the beginning, where our people faced the choice of death or being saved on another world. How the Kine'Iende chose to help rather than to wipe out the other races."

Elan considered what Daa'naal said, "It seems you will have the chance to repay that deed, Master Mage. One of your own is threatening Xander's world and it is your responsibility." She explained what was going on in Sunnydale and how the weapons of this world had proved ineffective against the Dark Elf.

Daa'naal stared at the rune weapon in shock. The tone of her voice combined with the look of sheer desperation deeply disturbed the elven mage. "Surely Lady Kine you do not lay the blame at my doorstep?"

"Blame and responsibility are two different sides of the same coin, master mage. But the fact remains that the current situation calls for a warrior of your abilities." Elan's eyes shifted to Kevin who was staring at his long time companion. A steely rift entered her voice, "All of your abilities."

"Lady Kine do you have any idea what you are asking and the price that would have to be paid?"

Elan looked at Xander and thoughts of their shared friendship flashed in her memory. Given what she was asking Daa'naal she wondered if she could make the same sacrifice, then the all too real threat posed by the Dark Elf imposed on her mind. "Know this, master mage, if called on to pay the same price, I would reluctantly pay in the same coin. You simply have no choice; I invoke the debt that your people owe mine."

"Ok Elan, what the hell is going on," asked a confused Xander.

Elan turned toward her friend and bearer. Never one to mince words she laid the truth on the line. "The master mage is the weapon that can defeat the Dark Elf. The problem is that his bearer is not fully prepared for this fight."

"What the hell do you mean I'm not prepared for this fight? Daa'naal and I have been fighting as a team longer then you've been alive."

"Know this human; I was here when Daa'naal and his people lived in the forests of this world. I personally stood before the Knights' council and helped to save them, and while I can see the connection between the two of you, I can also see that you can only channel the physical power of his gifts. She turned back to Daa'naal, "How could you not teach this one the magical side of your abilities?"

The true meaning of what the beautiful weapon had said sank into Kevin. He could only groan at his own stupidity. "Daa'naal, is she right? Has my refusal to learn magic led us to this point?" Even before his friend could answer, Kevin knew what was coming and what had to be. Strangely enough, a peace he'd not known for a long time came over him.

"Kevin," began the Sword of Life.

"It's ok. I should have died on this field all those years ago. Everything else has been a bonus." Addressing the group as a whole, a new tone of resolve apparent in his voice, "Who will be the new bearer of the Sword of Life?"

"There is only one that has the ability and the will."

Xan listened to the words, failing to understand the price. "Giles."

Spike's Crypt
1 July 2000

Spike wandered around the crypt, pacing back and forth in the confined area waiting for the sun to go down. He'd been out of blood and he was just dying for one. Searching his pocket he noticed that his supply of smokes was nearly exhausted. "Bloody chip, all those happy meals just walking around and none for Spike."

William the Bloody had been reduced from a predator to a scavenger and, while he survived he didn't like it, no, not one little bit. < The slayer and her little friends have seen to that.> Spike snorted at that thought. He gave a wry grin. < Not that I haven't got my little successes.> Spike checked the window and saw the fading light; judging that it would be safe to go out he grabbed his leather jacket and headed for the door.

Before Spike could get to the door, it exploded inwards, showering him with splinters. In the doorway stood a tall man that extruded power and a sense of malevolent intent filled the room.

In the poor light Spike didn't recognize the form. "Doesn't anyone in this bloody place ever knock?"

Drake stepped forward, "Being old friends I did not think you would mind. William the Bloody, we meet again."

The figure stand in the fading light wasn't familiar to him, but Spike remembered the voice and the attitude. Flashing back to London during the blitz, he remembered that voice all too well. Gathering bravado he didn't feel he answered the Dark Elf. "So is this old home week, stop by for a few pints and a story or two?"

"That which I seek is information. I've been watching you and there are no doubts that if anything goes on in this wretched town, you know about it."

The blond vampire starched up with pride. "Well that's true," striding forward till he stood toe to toe with the intruder, "What's in it for me?"

"I'm in a position to grant you much, if you have the answers I seek," answered Drake.

Spike dug into his pocket, pulling a crumpled pack of cigarettes, digging in for the last one he stuck it in his mouth and tossed the pack into the corner of the crypt. Lighting the smoke and taking a drag he blew smoke in the Elf's face. "It's sodden easy to make a promise like that, but what I want I don't think you can pull off." He pointed to his head with his left hand. I've got this little piece of hardware in my head, and what I want. I want the bloody thing OUT."

Drakes eyes tightened down in concentration, "I can sense what is there," Contempt filled his voice as he continued, "I can also sense what you've become, Eunuch."

"Hey now."

"This is of no consequence, answer my questions and I shall do as you ask."

"Sorry there mate, but I've ridden that roller coaster before. The deal is that you remove the chip then I answer your questions."

"You play a dangerous game. I could surrender to my first urge and relieve you of your pitiful existence."

Spike sniffed in indifference. "Then you would be right back where you started now wouldn't you." Knowing he had the upper hand Spike just stood there. "No, we do this my way or not at all."

The two vampires stood there glaring at each other, neither willing to give an inch, in the end, Drake's needs overrode his natural desire to be the alpha. "Very well, Eunuch."

Drake closed his eyes and began speaking in his native Elvish. Raising his hand he encapsulated Spike's head with his hands. He could visualize the chip and the longer he concentrated the better he understood how it had been implanted. When he knew as much as the surgeon that had implanted it, Drake changed the spell and atom by atom the chip dissolved into nothingness.

Spike opened his eyes and laughed; "Now that was interesting." Immediately thoughts of feeding crossed his mind and he had the perfect snack in mind, one blonde-headed slayer would make the perfect meal. Spike headed for the door, forgetting the price of his freedom.

"Do you think me stupid, Eunuch? You don't leave here alive without answering my question."

"Sod off. What are you going to do, put the chip back?"

"I can do much worse then that, Eunuch." The dark elf again gathered the energy he would need for the spell. Closing his eyes he mumbled the activation code. "Tnal'dth'nanoree."

Spike's vampiric face faded as the demon that keep him in thrall left and his soul was returned to him. It was a much different man that was thrown against the wall. Hitting the wall, the pain knocked William unconscious. When he was revived he was tied up with strips from the shirt he'd been wearing. When his eyes focused he found the elf standing over him.

"Now I have one question, and you will answer it or die painfully. Where is the Hellmouth located?"

William did the one thing that anyone that had known him before his conversion would never have expected he defied the elf. "Go fuck yourself."

Retribution was swift and painful. Drake grabbed one of the larger splinters and jammed the sharp end into William's stomach. "I'll ask one more time, then I shall decorate this crypt with your guts." He twisted the wooden splinter and William cried out in pain.

"The high school," he gasped. "It's at the bloody high school."

"That is all I desired." Drake reached over and snapped William's neck.


Xander looked at Elanthielle and laughed. "Giles? What do you mean, Giles? Half the time he gets knocked unconscious in the first 15 minutes. How do you expect him to fight the Dark Elf?"

"Alexander, I have taught you better then that. Who instructed you in the use of the staff? Who taught Buffy to use her sword, who introduced Willow to magic, put your expectations aside and truly consider what he has taught each of you."

It took Xan a second to remember the fight between Giles and Angelus, when Buffy told the story of Giles knocking the shit out of the most feared vampire in history with a baseball bat Xan had been shocked, then he remembered who the Ripper was. "Ok, maybe."

"Pardon me lady Kine, but who is this Giles you keep referring too. Surely not the shopkeeper we were sent to."

Elan didn't let Daa'naal get any further then that, "On top of Mr. Giles being a watcher, he is also a mage of some power, how else could he and the rest of the group have survived this long on top of the worst dimensional portal. Master Mage, with the power you possess and Giles' innate ability, our chances of success have affectivity doubled." Elan took a deep breath, "One problem for which I do not have an answer is how we convince Xander's friends to trust you enough for him to accept this responsibility."

Kevin jumped in, "That's my job," looking at Daa'naal, "and I don't think it will be as difficult a task as you think. Daa'naal can be quite convincing when he needs to be."

A pregnant pause echoed around the glade, as no one was willing to continue, with regret, Daa'naal finally said what needed to be said. "Lady Kine, please take your charge and return to the true world, I wish to bid my friend farewell in private."

Xander's head snapped back and forth between Daa'naal and Elan when suddenly he realized what the 'price' they had been discussing was. "Wait a god damned minute here. Are you saying that for Giles to pick up the sword, Kevin has to die?

Daa'naal stepped forward, "Alexander, in the war we fight, sacrifice is sometimes necessary and, as much as we hate to admit it, this is not a bloodless battle. You already know the outcome if the Dark Elf succeeds, would you place your world at risk to save a single life?"

Xander remembered the sickening feeling when he'd been forced to stake the body of his best friend. "Doesn't mean I have to like it," he grumbled.

The Magic Box

Xander woke with a start, the cold floor of the back room chilling him almost as much as the final conversation did. When he opened his eyes, he found both Buffy and Willow standing there watching over him. "Hey guy's, I'm back."

"Xander, are you ok?" asked Willow in her high squeaky voice. "You've been asleep for hours; we were beginning to get worried."

Xander stood and gathered his oldest friends in a hug. When he reluctantly let go, they stared at him with curiosity. "Sorry guys, but sometimes a guy just needs a hug."

Buffy smiled at Willow, "Well don't let it happen too often, Riley might get jealous."

"And don't forget Tara," Willow added.

"Right," replied Xander, his faith in friendship refreshed. "We got work to do. Willow, I need you to talk to Miss Calendar. Buffy you need to keep Giles busy." As they walked out of the back room Xander explained just what he wanted to do.


Staring off into the surrounding forest, the memories of the day that he should have died surfaced. "Well Daa'naal I guess this is goodbye." Kevin looked around the glade. "You know, it feels right for this to happen. There are a lot of old friends that will be waiting for me on the other side."

"Wait, Kevin." Kevin turned around to find Daa'naal dressed in the golden armor of his people. "It is the practice of my people to honor those who passed in the manner of which they have lived. You have lived your life as a warrior and I would honor you in that manner."

A single tear rolled down Kevin's face. "I'll miss you too you."

Undefined Dimensional Time and Space

"You saw?"

"Of course. I won't say I'm surprised."

"You know that if you do it, things will change don't you?"

"Granted that's a risk," the speaker paused, "but one I believe is warranted."

Toronto, Canada

Dawn Summers turned gracefully as she worked her way through the kata she had just learned. Step… Twist… Block… Block… then she should have twisted on one foot and kicked with the other; instead, she over extended and fell to the padded floor of the Kwoon.

Dawn hated to look foolish, especially in front of strangers. As she got up, a grim look of determination replaced the concentration that showed on her face. Even that concentration was replaced by a sense of peace, when her instructor placed his hand on her shoulder. "You move well, for one of your age."

Dawn beamed at the slowly paced praise of her teacher, Kwai Chang Caine.

"Gee, thanks." Dawn realized that she spoke much too quickly, and much too informally. Her mother would have her hide if she heard that Dawn had been rude to their hosts. "I mean, thank you very much, Master Caine."

"There is no need to thank, that which is obvious. From your balance, I gather that you have studied dance?"

The smile on her face, the result from being treated as an equal disappeared. If Dawn could have seen her face, she would have recognized it in a second. She called it her 'duh' face. It inhabited her face all too often. "How could you know that," she blurted out, without thinking.

A small smile broke on Caine's face. He could remember that look very well. Peter, his son, had worn that face on a constant basis the last year they were living at the Shaolin temple. "Dance can teach many things; balance, grace, timing, and inspiration. What form did you study, young one?"

Dawn brushed an errant hair from her face as she answered. "Mom made me study ballet for like, 5 years. I used to hate it. I mean it was just an excuse to get me out of the house for an hour every Saturday. But when we moved to Sunnydale, there wasn't a teacher, well there was, but she died the third week, so I had to quit. I guess I miss it."

"As you should. You could have been very good. Can you tell me what went wrong?"

"I don't know. Buffy came rushing home, and the next thing I knew we were packing and driving to the airport. I mean I was excited about the trip and everything, but they never tell me anything," Dawn babbled on without thinking.

Caine was already aware of the circumstance of why Dawn and her mother had been sent to Canada. He hid his shock at the idea that the girl was apparently unaware. Caine let the girl ramble on until she started to jump from one subject to another, with hardly a breath between topics.

"I was speaking of the kata, Dawn."

"Oh." Dawn blushed. She was so embarrassed that her cheeks and cleavage matched the color of her bright red leotard. "I got dizzy when I spun around on the last turn."

"Try it again. This time keep your eyes closed."

"But if I can't see, how can I fight?"

"Your eyes can deceive you, don't trust them. Please try again."

"Ok but if I fall…" Dawn left the rest of the useless threat unspoken. Dawn worked through the kata again. This time perfectly. Step… Twist… Block… Block… On the final twist, she thrust her foot out with all the concentration and Ki she could muster, just as Kwai Chang had taught her. Dawn never felt the resistance of the two-inch thick pine board, which Kwai Chang now held. She was even more surprised, when she opened her eyes that the board was broken perfectly in half.

"I DID IT. I DID IT." she screeched at the top of her lungs. "I can't wait to show Buffy." Dawn ran off to find her mother and celebrate her success.

Lo Si watched the entire training session with a neutral look, chiseled on his face. "Kwai Chang, you tread dangerous waters here. Beware, that girl is not what she seems."

Caine considered the Ancient's words for the longest time. His eyes unfocused, as if staring into the future. "You are right my friend. The monks chose their form well. She may not be what she seems to be." Caine paused again. "She is who she believes herself to be."

As Buffy went to talk to Giles and Xander went to check on Kevin, Willow approached Jenny. "Miss Calendar," she asked hesitantly, "we have a favor to ask."

The former gypsy and current Whitelighter looked at her charge, "Willow there no need to ask for favor. I'm your guide and guardian…"

"I'm afraid that this goes beyond teaching Tara and I spells."

As Xander approached the unconscious pilot, Kevin opened his eyes and looked up. "Is the crazy woman with the sword gone?"

Xander laughed, "It's cool. She knows what's going on now. Kevin, are you sure about this?"

Kevin stood up and looked Xander in the eyes. "We were a different generation faced with a human evil equal to any you and your friends have faced. You've seen the crash site. I could have jumped and saved my own life, but one of my friends was still alive and I couldn't leave him there helpless. He scanned the shop watching the extended Scoobie family preparing, "Nice to see that spirit hasn't been lost."

Xan tried to find the words but the only thing that would come out was "Thanks."

"C'mon kid, let's do this."

A panicked look furrowed Xander's forehead. "I'm afraid that it won't be that easy, Giles can be… umm… conservative and we have to convince him."

"I told you before, that won't be a problem."

The pair walked back into the workout room to find Buffy and Giles staring each other down. It was Giles that broke the stalemate. "No… that simply isn't acceptable… there has to be another way."

"We already tried the other way," Buffy replied, "and we failed."

Before Giles could get his next sentence out, Kevin stepped forward. "Mr. Giles, I'm Kevin Griffin." He extended his hand and the upset watcher shook it automatically rather than with any pleasure. "I have a feeling that Buffy has already told you what is going to happen and from the looks of it you not happy with the idea."

"Please don't misunderstand, Mr. Griffin. If I didn't have other responsibilities," he glanced at his slayer, "I would accept this challenge without thought or regret. However, to do so at the cost of a man's life…"

Kevin held up his hand and called the Sword of Life. The four feet of steel with the polished and sharpened hilt materialized in his hand, gleaming even in the muted light of the shop. "Before you say no… let me introduce you to your partner."

Giles stared at the Sword as Kevin continued, "I never knew where Mystra got the sword that she bonded Daa'naal to, and he has always refuse to discuss it. I can tell you this: the gods of Toril play an active part in that world." Kevin paused. "I don't know for sure but I suspect that the Sword of Life is the equivalent of Xander's battle staff. Daa'naal has told me about the dark times, where weapons were created that were so powerful that even the gods themselves were killed."

Giles retreated to his unconscious habit of cleaning his glasses obsessively. "I don't know what that has to do with anything."

"Then its time you found out." Kevin thrust the Sword of Life into Giles hands and Daa'naal' did the rest.

The forests of Toril

Giles was running for his life. Weaving around the tall trees trying to find a defendable place to make his stand. // What you are seeing in the final battle between my nephew and the Dark Elf.//

"Who are you?" Then Giles remembered what Buffy and Kevin had told him, "Daa'naal?"

//Of course. I see much in you Rupert Giles; most of it good, but not all of it.//

Realizing that the experience wasn't a one way connection Giles could only stand there embarrassed. He wasn't proud of some of the things that he'd done in life and to have them exposed like this was an invasion.

//Do not fear Rupert Giles. I have seen and done much worse in my time. For now, watch out for the final battle is upon you.>

Giles ducked as the black obsidian blade sliced through the air where his head had been. Ducking low he swung the long steel blade at his attackers mid-section. The Dark Elf blocked that thrust with a smaller blade carried in his other hand and the force of Giles blow forced him to the ground.

"So halfling, we finally meet," said the Dark Elf. "You know the inevitable outcome of this conflict, give in and I shall kill you quickly."

"Yea right," Giles could feel himself mumble under his breath. He was shocked at just how much the young half-elf sounded like his charges back on earth. "I am Ellendar and I bear the Sword of Life." Giles felt himself gathering his courage, "and today you die."

The two of them stood there toe to toe, each waiting for the other to commit themselves to an attack. Ellendar/Giles made the first move, swinging the Sword of Life low at the Dark Elf's legs, forcing him back. He gathered the magical power of the Sword of Life and swung the long sword at the evil one's head…

Giles felt himself disconnected from the young half-elf and watched the final strike from above the battlefield. The Dark Elf managed to get the black blade he carried up to parry the blow, but when the two blades met there was an explosion of magical power and the world was filled with light.

//That, Rupert Giles, is how I came to your world.//

The stunned watcher was speechless.

//Rupert Giles, you have the abilities of mage and warrior and you are the only one that can defeat the Dark Elf, so now I ask you to accept the burden of bearing me in the final battle on your world.//

Resignation to the fates, and the knowledge that he could fail, silenced Giles.

Magic Shop

Giles handed the Sword of life back to Kevin; he uttered a dejected agreement, "All right."

It was a somber group that emerged from the back room of the Magic box. Xander and Kevin led the way with Buffy and Giles trailing them. By the look in their eyes Kevin could tell that every one in the shop already knew what was going to happen and they looked as if they were just as unhappy with the choice as Giles was. The choice's were limited Kevin admitted so over all it didn't really matter.

With the sunlight already faded and the streetlights beginning to come on, Kevin knew that it was time. He looked around the shop. "Xander, can I speak to you for a minute?" The pair walked to the front of the shop. Kevin dug in the pocket of his flight jacket and handed Xander a set of Keys. "Look Xander, these are the keys to my plane. When this is all over I want you to find Steve Austin; he should be registered at the hotel. Give him they key and tell him to look in the left gunbay. There are some instructions about how I would like my Mustang taken care of." Kevin trailed off shaking his head, "Ok Let's do this."

With Giles standing before him Kevin held out his hand and called the Sword of Life. Laying the sword across his forearm he presented the sword to Giles.

Giles stood there disgusted that this path was the only one available to them. Daa'naal's warning that he hadn't lived a perfect life was all the more reason that he was hesitant to accept the burden, but circumstances had left no alternatives.

"Are you ready Mr. Giles?"

Giles looked down on the sword and nodded his head, "Yes."

Kevin invoked the ritual; "I surrender thee willingly, to another bearer to carry the burden of life forward."

As Giles took the sword a blue light enveloped his body and an electric shock shook him to the core. Power that he had only dreamed of during his day's as the Ripper flowed through his limbs and Knowledge long lost on the planet seared his brain. The third bearer of the Sword of Life, Rupert Giles, was called.

As the aura cleared three things happened. The first everyone expected. Kevin's body slumped to the floor with a thud.

The second was unpredictable, pure random chance; the door chime rang and Faith walked through the door. "Hey Guy's"

The third thing was the one that held hope. Willow screamed, "Now Jenny Now."

Halliwell Manor
San Francisco

Jenny stood before the three charmed ones, Pru, Piper, and Phoebe, waiting for their decision. Based as it was, a request from another Whitelighter, Leo, their Whitelighter had already grudgingly admitted that he would help anyway he could, but the plan rested on the abilities of the three sisters.

Pru's chubby face was contorted in disagreement. Predictably, Pru and Phoebe stood on the opposite sides of the question and it was Piper that would sway the debate. "It would be an abuse of our power to agree to do this," was Pru's opinion.

"No," countered Phoebe loudly. "It would be avoiding our whole purpose if we didn't agree."

Pru turned towards the youngest Halliwell sister. "Don't you think that our point of view is just a little slanted. After all we all know how you feel about Xander."

"That has nothing to do with it. Look, these guy's face the same hazards we do, plus they live on the Hellmouth. If we don't at least agree to try, where does that leave us?

Piper held up both hands silencing her sisters, acting as the peacemaker. She looked over to where Jenny and Leo were standing. "Can this even be done?

It was Leo that chimed in. "If it were just Jenny and I, I would say no. But with the power of the three I think it can work."

Jenny interrupted the argument; "We don't have much time."

Phoebe raised her hand. "I'm in, one way or the other, I'm going to try."

Piper slowly and reluctantly raised her hand, "Me too, Sorry Pru but if it wasn't for Xander, then the three of us would be dead. We owe him, at least enough to try."

Daa'naal watched through Giles eyes as the charmed one's orbed in and the group was frozen by Piper's power. Kevin's body rested on the floor and, just as Daa'naal predicted, the injuries that Kevin had suffered all those year ago returned. The broken leg, with the sickening sight of bone sticking though his pant leg returned first. With time frozen by Piper's power, the two Whitelighters placed their hands on Kevin's body and a warm glow enveloped the body.

<They can't do that,> Thought Daa'naal.

Phoebe looked over to her sister. "Move forward another 3 seconds." Piper nodded her head and waved her hand, three seconds later the world was frozen again.

Over and over they repeated the process until all of Kevin's injuries had been healed. Leo turned back to Piper, "That's the best we can do, now it's up to fate.

Piper waved her hand one last time and time resumed. The ones that knew, Xander, Willow and Buffy ran over to Kevin only to find him unconscious, but alive.

Interdimensional Time and Space

"It's begun."


Mystra had watched the final battle between the Dark Elf and her champion. When the clash ended her first thought was to retrieve her champion and bring him home. The transitory nature of Toril and the power she had accumulated over the eons would have made it an easy task but she had been forbidden to do so. The only thing that was granted her, was permission for her to watch over him on the strange New World that was his home.

Over the decades that she's watched she'd been dismayed that the pair seemed to take a minimal approach to defeating the evils of that world and with the restrictions place on her there was little she could do. In the mists of Toril, Mystra felt the transfer of her weapon to a new bearer. She thought long and hard about what action she should take and in the end she felt she had to take a more active role.

Gathering her forces, she orbed to the New World and froze time so should talk to Daa'naal and evaluate his new partner.

Magic Box

Giles stood amid his friends; worried that time had frozen for a second time that day. Turning to his left he spotted the strange woman in his shop. Calling the sword as he'd seen Kevin do, he faced her ready to do battle.

Speaking softly so as to not spook him, "Fear not Rupert Giles, I bear you no threat, I wish to speak with your companion."

Giles stood there, the sword at his side. "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage."

//It's all right Rupert she is a friend. // Giles could sense an almost humorous tone overlaid with respect in Daa'naal's voice.

"I'm told that you are a friend, but I'm afraid that I shall have to act as an interpreter."

"Nonsense," snorted Mystra. She waved her hand the tall elf appeared. He bowed to his god and turned to Giles.

"My physical body is gone, what you are seeing is a projection much like a hologram in TV's Star Trek." Turning to Mystra, "I don't mean to sound impudent my Lady, but why are you here after all these years."

The goddess Mystra stared at her tool. "My motivations are not for you to question Daa'naal; however it suits me to answer your question. Your recent change has set in motion certain events and opened up options that were before closed." She paused for a second and her gaze shifted towards Giles. "I can see in you great Good, Rupert Giles of Earth, but I also see the potential for great abuse."

Giles stood there wordless. The best he could manage was an 'ahhh'. Clearing his throat abruptly, "I can assure you that that won't happen.

"Do not mistake me for a fool. I see what you are, and what you were: Ripper."

Giles's back bristled at the suggestion and a touch of anger entered his voice, "That won't happen ever again."

"Look at yourself, even the mention of your earlier days brings him to the surface. With the power you now wield, how will you resist the temptation of abuse, are you so above all of that now?"

The memory of the Ripper days and the harm he caused settled Giles back down. <After all,> he thought, < power does corrupt even the most gentle of beings, could I be any different?> Giles looked the goddess straight in the eye, "I shall have Daa'naal to help keep me on the straight and narrow."

"That's true, but you have to understand the nature of the Sword of Life. Although he has free will, he also is bonded and must obey his bearer, Kevin's refusal to learn magic, no matter what Daa'naal told him, is a case in point. That's what brought us to this junction. So I ask you, how will you resist?"

"I'm not sure I know. I only know I will."

Her voice filled with sarcasm, "I feel so much better with your assurances." She walked over to Daa'naal, "To answer your question Daa'naal, I am here to offer you a choice, you can stay here or you can return to Toril with me." Mystra waited as silence filled the air. When no answer was forth coming she continued, "You nephew still seeks the scabbard and he and his friends approach the most dangerous chapter of their quest."

Daa'naal stood there and recalled Elanthielle's words, "Blame and responsibility are two sides of the same coin Master Mage," Her voice echoed in his head.

He sighed and answered; "I will go with you."

"Wait a bloody minute," shouted Giles his face turning red from contained rage.

The Sword of Life grasped Giles by the shoulder and gently reassured the worried watcher that everything would be all right. "I will go with you lady. If… my bearer agrees."

"Even though your absence may cost your nephew and his party their lives? Your own world needs you."

"As you so clearly stated, I have to obey my bearer, not that I would decide any differently." A sour lemon look crossed Daa'naal's face. "The Dark Elf is my responsibility and I have placed this world at risk. His interference has already been destroyed this world once, I can not allow that to happen again."

A new respect shined on Mystra's face. She reached down her toga and pulled out a plain gold chain with an amethyst crystal and handed it to him. "I chose better then even I knew. Very well Daa'naal, you may remain here, but henceforth you may at need, cross back and forth the two worlds." Turning to Giles she continued, "Fare well Giles of Earth. I wish you good fortune and success at your mission." Then under her breath in a low tone, "I look forward to seeing you on my world."

"Giles. GILES!" Buffy shook her watcher lightly.

"Oh. Yes Buffy."

Time to get back to the real world. You zoned out there for a second. Are you alright?"

"It was a bit disconcerting but yes, I think so."

"Well as long as you're ok. Time to go kick some bad guy booty."

"Wait a sec Buffy." Xander gathered the troops around him. "I think this calls for a little planning. Meet back at my place in five minutes."

Jenny was still watching over the still unconscious Kevin, she called out to the group as a whole. "What do we do about Kevin?" The group looked at each other embarrassed that they had forgotten about Him. It was Jarod that spoke up and then suggested a course of action. Gazing at Jenny, he asked, "Is he in any danger?"

"I don't think so she answered sheepishly, "The again I have never seen someone still unconscious after a Whitelighter has healed them."

"I c-c-can watch over h-h-him," stuttered Tara.

Willow was shocked by her girlfriend willingness to abandon her when she needed her the most.

"No Tara Baby, I need you with me."

Tara smiled grimly and faced the redhead. "Willow, you'll have the Charmed ones with you and if I'm needed you can always have Miss Calendar come and get me." Turning toward the rest of the gang, "The only question is from where?"

"Our place," added Jarod, finishing the thought he had already started.

Converted Frat house

The empty house was soon echoing with the voices as the pure white molecules of white light coalesced into the Scoobies. "Get Kevin upstairs and then everybody assemble in the armory," commanded Xander.

Just as he finished speaking a knock at the back door punctuated his comment. In walked a very odd collection of people, Jack Crow leading the way with a visibly nervous Angel following behind. Behind Angel was a still ticked off Cordelia and a now sober Wesley. Before anyone could welcome them, Jack started the meeting off in his usual style. "Did you get the fucking sword guy?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes, we did," Giles answered the pock-faced man.

"Look you fucking limey, either you got it or you…"

The ripper in Giles couldn't let the insult go unanswered; it was a very stunned Jack Crow that stood there with the razor sharp point of the sword at his throat. "As I said, in a manner of speaking."

"Right," gulped Jack Crow.

Five minutes later they all met up in the basement armory. Xander saw the shipping boxes and whispered a silent thank you to Andy. "Listen up everyone, Andy's contacts came though we have body armor for everybody." Then a typical Xander thought crossed his mind and he couldn't resist taking a shot at Angel. "At least we have enough for everyone that needs it."

Xander turned to Miss Parker. "I assume that you will be changing," he said, after noting that she was wearing her typical miniskirt and silk blouse."

"Dream on super geek. Ladies, I have something more appropriate for us to wear up stairs." Without a word Buffy and Willow followed by Phoebe, Pru and Piper Faith, and Cordelia left the room, leaving the guy's with Miss Parker. "Don't be late gentlemen," she sneered full of attitude back at them.

"Women," exclaimed Jack. "Can't live with them, can't stake them." He clapped Jarod on the shoulder, "I don't know how you manage to live with that, but you have my sympathies."

A silly grin plastered on his face, "It has its compensations," was all that Jarod would say.

When the girls returned all of them were now dressed in black combat utilities with the exception of faith who was wearing black jeans, combat boots and a crop top, "What," she exclaimed, "You wanted me dressed like them. I don't think so."

The men were already kitted up in the new body armor and they helped the ladies don the new gear. "Need a hand Phoebe," asked Xander as he reached around to find the Velcro strap that secured the vest.

"Watch it cowboy," she teased. "Your rights to those parts has been rescinded."

"What about mine," Faith whispered in her other ear. Phoebe blushed, but she didn't say no to either of them.

Buffy broke up the awkward moment with her question to Xander. "What about weapons?"

Xander considered her question with a serious look on his face. "Take everything you think you can use. We know where he will be and my hope is that we can keep him busy ducking stuff and Giles can get close enough to do his thing."

Xander walked over to the newly constructed vault and punched in his access code and pulled the heavy door open, reveling rack upon rack of weapons sorted by type and caliber. "As you can see Andy has been busy. You'll find basic ammo loads in the cabinets beneath each rack. Take whatever you think you might need."

Jack was the first to step forward. He grabbed a MP5 in .45 cal and the associated web gear that carried 10 magazines. He then wandered over to the pistol section and retrieved five more magazines for his Colt. Miss Parker got herself a dual shoulder holster and the twin to her Smith & Wesson. Disdaining the long guns she collected 10 sets of reloads for her pistols.

Xander grabbed his now familiar five-sevens and a brick of 12 reloads for them, but he was sorely missing the chrome-plated Colt 45's that he'd returned to Father Cranston. "I'll be back, I need to get dressed," he told the group as he headed for a different section of the basement.

Buffy grabbed her sword and a handful of stakes. As she walked out, she noticed that Giles, never the best shot, had grabbed one of the SPAS shotguns and a bandoleer of shells.

Buffy crept down the hallway hoping to catch Xander alone for a few minutes. As she approached him, she watched as he donned the armored sleeves of the alien armor. "Yes Buffy," he asked without turning around.

"How did you know it was me," she asked demurely.

"Well I could say that it was a guess, but the honest truth is that perfume has always been one of my favorites."

"Oh." Buffy looked down for a few seconds feeling a little remorseful that she had never seen Xander in this light before. Rather than admit her embarrassment, she asked the question that she wanted… no… needed to ask. Staring him straight in the eye, "Why all the firepower?"

Xander hemmed and hawed for a second, "It's more of a feeling then anything else, but when I get this feeling I know something is up." He smiled at his slayer-type friend. "Xander's Law: Better to have and not need, then to need and not have."

"Sounds like a good law to me." Without planning it or even a conscious thought she stood up and kissed Xander, her tongue slipping between his lips. When the kiss ended they stood there not saying a word, then Buffy walked away.


Drake wandered around burned out shell of the old Sunnydale High School library; the stench of scorched lumber and books still clung to the empty room. Closing his eyes he sensed the zenith of the Hell Mouth and strode over to the center of the library. Gathering the power he needed would be a struggle. On his own world the power would be floating around, waiting for him to call it too him, but here certain risks would have to be undertaken.

Drake sank to his knees, closed his eyes and began to chant silently. Gathering all of the magical energy he had accumulated left only just enough to sustain his unlife. Second by second and then minute by minute the strain of sustaining the power he was channeling overwhelmed Drake. Sweat flowed down his forehead like a river running down stream, Bulge's appeared under his skin and the crawled up and down his neck and cheeks, still he chanted the spell that would give him his freedom.

Thrusting his last remaining power into the maelstrom, Drake was rewarded by a pulse of magical energy that refilled his reservoirs and a pulsing red light accompanied by a minor earthquake. "Yes!" he screamed into the night.

The Scoobies rushed through the broken doors only to fine Drake rising to his feet. "You're too late," he yelled at them. "This world is finished and I am returning where I belong."

"Not if I have anything to say about it," Said Buffy and Faith in unison. Before they could get to the dark elf, Tiamat the guardian of the Hellmouth emerged from the hole in the floor of the library and knocked both slayers aside.

Buffy looked at Faith. "No matter what happens you watch Giles back, got it?"

"Got it B." Faith gave her sister slayer a smile that told Buffy that no matter where Giles went or how everything ended she would be by his side. Buffy smiles back in acknowledgment that her trust was not misplaced in the once dark slayer.

Giles stood in the doorway his loyalties confused,

//We have a duty Giles, // Daa'naal said through the telepathic link. // Your slayer and the others can look after themselves, Drake in the primary threat.//

With Tiamat already in the library, demons flowed out of the open Hellmouth like water from the faucet. Soon all of the Scoobies and their friends were fighting for their lives. The sounds of automatic weapon's fire echoed around the school, as the fight grew larger and larger.

Xander dove into the fight, his guns blazing as he mowed down minor demons that wandered across his path; the Silver bullets ripping into demonic flesh causing screams of pain and rage to echo through the library.

The Charmed ones fought as a team protected by Jack Crow of all people. A pile of dead and dying demons collected at their feet. With an utter lack of shown fear Jack guarded them with both his body and his gun calmly shooting demons down.

Willow, Miss Parker, and Jarod were driven back into the hallway when the break of having to reload gave a passing DEST demon a chance to dart them. Willow screamed in pain as three of the poisoned darts pinned her to the door. Jenny saw her charge fall and orbed next to her, shielding Willow's body as the healing glow of her power filled the doorway.

As Giles charged across the room he held out his hand and the Sword of Life appeared.

"YOU!" shouted Drake. "You can not be here." Drake's face was flushed with rage. "You can't stop me the Hellmouth is already open and I leave you to your own fate."

"I bloody well am here," said the Ripper.

"So am I," said Faith, as she stitched Drake from head to toe with the mini-Uzi she had lifted from the armory.

Drake laughed as he faded into smoke and then he solidified again. "Your silly mortal weapons can not harm me. Did you learn nothing from our first meeting?"

//Now Giles now, // Pleaded Daa'naal

"Actually I learned quite a lot," said Giles as he swung the Sword of Life.

The magically enhanced blade had kept razor sharp over the years, and sliced through Drake, severing his head from his body and sending it flying. Drake got what he wanted, with blood dripping his head flew straight into the Hellmouth, where it was eaten by a lower class demon.


Almost mindlessly Xander fought his way back to the library only to find Faith and Giles embroiled in fight of their own. Faith had used the last of her ammo and had changed to the Klingon knife that Buffy had returned to her. A Polgara demon thrust its arm spear at Faith. As graceful as a ballet dancer, she twisted around and sunk her knife in the demon's chest. "Giles duck," she shouted. Faith broke the pole off of the arm and then tossed it at the demon attacking Giles from behind.

Faith shook the hair out of her eyes, "Giles. We're losing here."

"We've got to close the Hellmouth." <Daa'naal any suggestion you have to offer would be helpful.>

//It can be done, but we need time to prepare.//

<How Much time?> Giles asked. He spotted Xander fighting his way over to them. A spark of an idea was born. "Xander, we need Willow and the Charmed Ones and anyone else that can work magic."

"Right." <Elan, can you boost my link to Phoebe?>

//I shall try Alexander. // There was a short pause. // Now, Xander, // she said. // Try now.//


//XANDER! How?//

//Never mind that. We need you and your sisters back in the library now.//

"Leo, Orb us all back to the library." The call for help came seconds too late for Jack Crow. He lived just long enough to watch the sisters dissolve into the pure white light.

The Charmed ones arrived just in time to watch Faith with her knife, Xander with Elan, and Giles with Daa'naal, clear the area by the doorway. Jenny, Willow, Tara, and Frank orbed in seconds later. Giles wasted no time explaining what he wanted, "Willow we need a shield spell now."

Tara and Willow joined hands and drew power from each other. Speaking the ancient spell, a surge of power erupted from the two Wiccans and an invisible shield was raised.

The shield provided a brief respite from the battle. Xander removed the helmet and sighed. He looked around and not who was there, and more importantly who wasn't. "This is it?" he asked. "Buffy?"

Faith looked at Xander. "Last I saw she was with Angel and his crew. I'm sorry Xand."

"What about Jarod and Miss Parker?"

Willow looked up, the strain of maintaining the shield and the realization of what she'd seen showed in her haunted eyes. "I'm sorry Xander, but… but… they're dead," she mumbled.

Shock set in and Alexander Harris stood there blankly.

//Xander, // whispered Elan. // I grieve with you over the loss of your friends but now is not the time. The Hellmouth need to be contained and closed now. Hurry, we have very little time before your world becomes a repeat of mine. // It was only in that few seconds that Xander realized just how important Elan had become and the wave of reassurance from the rune weapon showed him that the connection between friends was mutual in Elan's eyes.

Giles stepped up. "Daa'naal has a plan; however there are several things that remain doubtful. Since the Hellmouth is a connection between his world and ours it will require the magic's of both worlds to close it. First."

"Giles, how about the reader digest version, we're a little short on time here."

"Of course." The ex-Liberian walked over to Phoebe, Pru, and Piper, "With Willow and Tara maintaining the shield, I'm afraid that you ladies will have to be the power source."

"And that's different from when?" snarked Pru.

Giles continued, ignoring the sarcastic comment, "The power of the Three will be channeled through Daa'naal. There is however a downside."

"I just knew he was going to say that." Xander turned and stared at Giles. "Ok what's the whammy?"

"The 'whammy' as you put it is that I have to be within a few feet of the Hellmouth."

"I'm going with you," said Faith in a tone of voice that left Giles knowing that she wouldn't brook any argument.

"Faith I appreciate your offer."

"It's not an offer Sherlock. I promised B I would watch out for your ass. Now there's two ways we can do this, with or without you bleeding from your nose."

"I'm going too."

"As much as I like you watching my ass Xan, who is going to watch out for our magic gathering over there if the shit hits the fan? Nope, this is the way it would be if B were here and that's the way it gonna do down." The honesty of what Faith was saying showed on the faces of all the Scoobies. "All right lets get this done."

The three sisters began chanting the same spell over and over. With each recitation of the power words the air became charged with energy and a blue glow enveloped the Charmed ones.

//A Few more seconds Giles.//

"Now Willow, said Giles in a tone of voice that combined his and Daa'naal's

A doorway in the shield opened and Giles and Faith stepped out and headed towards the Hellmouth. Minor demons were instantly incinerated by the power now carried by the Sword of Life, major demons we felled with the most minor of wounds. Reaching the perimeter of the Hellmouth Giles/Daa'naal cast the final spell… and it failed.

Interdimensional Time and Space

"Father was right, these humans are entertaining."

Sunnydale High School

Xander watched as Faith and Giles became embroiled in an overmatched battle. With the accumulated power gone from the sword they fought on, neither gaining nor losing ground, but sheer numbers spelled their eventual doom.

Xander's emotions broke and the only thing he could think was that they had been too late. Guilt at taking the time to kiss Buffy instead of taking care of business ate at his soul. < If only we have arrived a few minutes earlier.> "Frank, Jenny get over here," he yelled.

The spell had consumed everything the Halliwell sisters had. They lay on the floor inches from death as Leo moved back and forth trying to stabilize all of them. One by one, he would touch each sister for one a second or two at time praying to god that wouldn't be forced to make the choice of which sister had to die.

"No I won't do it. I won't leave Giles to die. Tears streaked down Jenny Calendar's face.

"Fine," said Xander angrily as abandoned the grieving Whitelighter. He stalked over to Leo.

"Leo, I need you to orb Frank and I to Never Never Land. We can still stop this."

"Do you realize what you are asking? If I leave now one of the Charmed Ones may die."

"Leo," croaked Piper, "Please do as he asks." The last word was merely a whisper as Piper Halliwell faded back into the darkness.

Leo drew an image of the control room from Frank's mind and orbed the pair. He didn't even wait to see what happened before he went back to Sunnydale to save his witches.

Never Never Land

"Kid this cant work. There hasn't been enough time to recharge the sphere."

"I've got that covered, just get me in and I'll handle the rest."

Look Xander, you don't have any idea what you're getting yourself into. Traveling thought time makes getting burned alive seem like a summer vacation in the Bahamas."

"Can't be any worse then getting cooked in alien armor." Xander thought about what Frank said and decided that he would store the five sevens and the remaining ammo in the backpack.

It's your funeral Kid. I've locked out all the security codes so no one can get in here. Frank reached over and handed Xan a head set. "When you're ready, give me an all clear. The rest is very simple, when the power level reaches 100 percent, slap the big red button on the center console."

Frank closed the door and sealed Xander inside the sphere. <Ok Elan, do your thing.>


<We have no choice; do you want the world to suffer the same fate as your time?>

The power reading climbed from zero too 100 percent in a split second, "Clear." Yelled Xander into the headset as he slapped the activation button, and the sphere surged from a power over load, sending a chronotron wave shooting out across the land.


The Hellmouth suddenly surged as Giles struggled in vain to keep it shut, the power interacting with something he couldn't quantify. As the dark and light energies washed over him, Giles screamed, first in despair, then in agony.


The steel blue sphere flew up and away from the Earth, slowing as it reached the apex of its flight. It suddenly shuddered as a silver glow encompassed it. Moments, hours, years later the sphere exploded in a blinding light that would have attracted the attention of every living thing on the planet… if there were any living things left.

Through the emptiness of space, shards of the sphere drifted aimlessly.

:::Ending theme play's in the celestial background:::

It's the end of the world, as you know it.

The End


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