Matters of Necessity and Duty.

Xander looked up from his seat in the back of Willie's bar, glaring at the person who dared to interrupt his sulk. "Go away, Spike. I'm not into knowing anyone tonight." He sipped his beer delicately, not sure what he was doing there.

"I'm just a messenger this time," Spike said as he sat, earning a continuation of the glare. "The bint's out looking for you and so's an old friend."

"I don't have any old friends," Xander told him, shifting the half-full glass aside. "Who is it?"

"Chap named Ethan. Pouf just like Angel." Spike stole the beer to drink. "Didn't know you did this."

"I can get served here and not worry about sorcerers tainting the beer." Xander took his beer back, drinking the last few swallows. "Why does he want me? I'm still on Giles' side."

"Don't know, didn't ask once I got the money." Spike shrugged. "He wants you to go to Restview tomorrow night at ten. I'm to escort you if you'd need it and you're supposed to not tell them."

"Yeah, that'll happen," Xander sighed, leaning back in his chair. "What does he want, Spike? Lying means that I don't help fill a few of those bags that you drink."

"Okay," Spike said, leaning closer, "you've got to go talk to the man. He's most charming and he wants you."

"He can want me all he wants, I'm not going." Xander stood up, pushing the legs of his jeans down so they weren't bunched up. He tossed a few bills on the table and waved at the bartender, walking out. "No, Spike."

Spike sighed, getting up to follow the young man, stopping him to pull him into an alley. "I'm supposed to convince you to go to him. No matter what."

"Or he'll what? Make the chip bigger?" Spike winced. "That man hasn't kept a promise since the day he was born, Spike, I'd get over it." Xander pulled his arm free from the vampire's hand. "I'm not going, you can tell him I said I'd rather fuck Giles." He looked around. "I'm going home. Deal with it." He walked out of the alley, heading for his house.

Spike shook his head. "It's not good to say no to that man, whelp." He looked around, smiling as he saw a vampire feeding farther down the way, heading to go feed off the freshly fed one. "'Ello," he said, going to game face and attacking the vampire. "Thanks, chum," he said, as he let the other vampire drop. "Go home, kid." He turned, intending to follow Xander.


Xander turned on the light in his basement, checking the door at the top of the stairs to make sure it was still locked, then sat on his sleeper sofa, idly looking around the room.

"You're exasperating, you do realize that, don't you?" a male voice said from the shadows.

Xander jumped, looking at the man. "I'm not helping you, Rayne, get over it already."

"Ah, but that isn't what this is about. I'm here to help you." He gave the boy his most winning smile. "I have a message for you. I'm supposed to take you to a certain place and leave you there until someone comes for you."

"And you get what in exchange?" Xander asked snidely.

"I don't get a thing, boy, but you will." He tried to grab Xander but he had danced out of the way. "Ooh, fun," he sighed, raising his hands. "I'm only supposed to bring you, no one said a word about how I was supposed to bring you."

Xander looked in the older man's eyes, shaking his head. "You've been spelled," he muttered to himself. "Who wants me that badly?"

"I do," Giles said as he walked in. "I'm afraid you have to come with us."

Xander shook his head. "Nope, you've got the same blank look he does. I'm not going anywhere with anyone." He backed himself into a corner, looking from one to the other. "And I thought Spike was bad."

"Who me?" Spike said as he walked in. He looked at the two sorcerers and shook his head. "Whammied each other." He held out a hand. "Come on, let's get you safely to bed."

Xander considered his options, then took Spike's hand. He found himself surrounded in bright light, staring at a dark spot. "What's this?" he asked, reaching out to touch the dark spot.

"You are being chosen," the spot said. "Pick your teachers."


"Pick your teachers. You have three available."

"Depends on what I'm being chosen for. Give me a clue and I'll tell you who it'll be."

The light dissipated, leaving him alone in his basement. He shook his head, staring around the room. He checked his watch, groaning when he saw it was the same time he had gotten home. "None of it happened," he told himself. Then he fell to the floor, grabbing his head as pictures formed in it. "No," he moaned, trying to cradle the hurting body part. "Got to tell Giles." He crawled to the phone, dialing the former Watcher's number. "Giles, me, help?" he got out before passing out.


Giles looked down at the unconscious body, then around the room. Something felt strange but he didn't know what it was. He let Buffy worry about getting the boy awake while he checked the room out.

Xander groaned, bringing both Buffy and Giles next to him, but out of reach. "Hey," he said, pushing himself up. "Why did I get a bunch of pictures about Angel going bad?"

Giles' mouth fell open as he tried to say something, but no noise came out. "He won't!" Buffy said emphatically, filling the silence. "This is bad, Xander, you shouldn't pull us away from important things for stupid stunts." She stood up.

"I'm not," he told her. "I saw Angel going bad." He looked at Giles. "Tell her it's possible."

"I think you should start from the beginning this time, Xander. I have no idea what's going on."

Xander looked up from his place on the couch. "Still think I'm making it up?" he asked Buffy.

She shrugged. "Doesn't matter, Angel won't go bad. He's not happy."

Xander looked at Giles, who gave him a brief smile. "It seems the Powers That Be have chosen you to do something, but I'm not sure what." He touched Xander's shoulder gently. "I'll have a talk with Angel tonight, see if he doesn't know anything about that. He's had someone with him who has the same sort of visions."

Spike wandered in, giving Giles a nod and Xander a slap to the shoulder. "Good, you made it home. Wondered about that." He looked him over. "You look rotten, what happened this time?"

"He's begun having visions," Giles told him, looking the neutered vampire over. "I want you to stay with him tonight, just in case. He saw Angel losing his soul again."

"Hey, cable," Spike said, giving Xander a cruel smile. "I'm sure we could find somethin' to do."

"I'm sure," Giles said dryly. "Just remember, he has to be able to receive the visions."

"Ah, the pain, the fun of watching him roll around." Spike licked his lips. "Even more fun than cable."

"Only for you," Xander grunted, relaxing. "So, now what?"

"Now I talk with Angel and you relax. Write down all that you can remember about this one and any others you might have." Giles stood up, giving Xander a warm smile. "I'm sure I can find something to help with the pain of the post-vision time."

"Please. Tylenol isn't doing it for me this time." Xander stopped him. "Do you have Willow's number? If he did slip his soul, we'll need her."

"I do, it's safely stored in my head. I thought you had it also?"

"I do," Buffy said, turning to look at them. "I'll call her once we get back to your place." She nodded at Xander. "Behave."

"I was before," he protested. "It's not like I asked for this."

"Whatever," she sighed, leaving the house.

Giles shook his head. "This will take some getting used to for all of us, Xander, don't worry about it too much." He walked out, following his charge.

"So, the pouf finally lost it again, eh?" Spike said, grinning at the dark TV. "Want to watch somethin' or can I just do what I want?"

"No, you do what you want, I need a nap," Xander sighed, pushing himself up. "Get off the couch so I can pull out the bed, you can sit on the floor."


"Shut up, Spike," Xander growled, holding his forehead. "I don't need this right now."

"Sorry," he said, sounding very put out. He watched as the young man pulled out his bed and climbed into it, waiting until he was asleep to turn on the television, thinking hard as he stared at the infomercial.


Giles opened his door to find Angel there, giving him a smile. "How are you?" he asked, not inviting him in.

"This isn't nice," Angel sighed, giving Giles a winning smile. "Can't I come in?"

Spike looked up from his position on the couch, spitting his blood across the room at Buffy.

"Eww! Spike!"

"No, don't invite him in," Spike said, standing up to glare at him. "Angelus," he growled, "go home. We don't want you here."

"What?" Giles asked, looking from Spike to Angel and back. "He's not changed back."

"Yes he has," Spike said, pointing at him. "The pouf never wears those clothes unless he's changed. Ask him."

Angel shrugged. "Whatever. Where's the kid? I'm going to take him back to talk with my vision person."

"I doubt it," Spike said shortly, walking forward. "You're not touchin' him."

"What is going on?" Buffy asked, looking at Giles. "That's Angel, I'd know if it wasn't him."

"It may well be him," Giles said, giving her a small look. "I can't be sure though."

Buffy snorted, walking out to give him a hug. "Hi, Angel."

"Ah, Slayer," he said, hugging her back, winking at Spike as he sank his fangs into her neck.

"Buffy!" Giles said, trying to pull her back inside.

"Ah-ah-ah, mine," Angel said, biting his tongue and kissing her. "Mine," he said, staring into Giles' eyes. "All of you."

Spike shook his head. "Not a chance." He backed away from the door. "Shut it," he told Giles, who was standing there. "Shut the door you git!" He slammed the door and locked it. "It's too late for her, call your buddies and tell them before he gets in here." He leaned against the door as the knocking started. "Now, you stupid dog."

Giles shook himself, reaching for the phone, dialing it. "Hello, it's me, no Angelus just came back and got Buffy." He hung up as the door shuddered, dialing another number, having to hang up and try to get it right a few times. "Come on," he said as he listened to it ring. "Willow? Is Willow there? Yes, it's an emergency. No, tell her this is about Buffy. NO, this is an emergency!" He looked at the phone in frustration. "They hung up."

"Big shock, that," Spike muttered. He looked around, noticing the knocking had stopped. "He's going after Xander." He headed for the back of the apartment and the window he used to sneak in when he felt like it, heading out into the night, leaving the former Watcher behind. He ran all the way to Xander's house, just missing Angelus, whom he had to go around because he had stopped for a snack on the way across the park. He ran into the boy's basement, looking around at the packed bags. "Xander?" he called.

Xander walked out of the bathroom carrying a little travel bag. "Help me load this into my car and we'll go now." He packed that last bag and grabbed one of the four bags he had ready. "I have enough stuff for you."

Spike stopped him, looking into his eyes, seeing the tears. "You know?"

"I saw Buffy be turned, Spike. I'll cry later." He headed out to his car, loading the trunk, meeting Spike at the driver's side door.

"No, let me. I don't want to wreck if you have another one."

"We need to go pick up Giles," Xander said softly. "I think we'll need him."

"We might, but he's safe and Angelus is coming for you, not him." Spike started the engine, closing his door, reaching over to close Xander's too. "Buckle up. You won't live through a crash."

"Yeah I will," Xander said listlessly, closing his eyes.

Spike pulled away from the boy's house as he started to cry, trying hard to ignore the raw sobbing from the seat next to him. As they neared the edge of town, he slowed, pulling off to the shoulder of the road, giving the boy a hug. "It'll get better."

"No, it won't. I saw her die!" Xander wiped off his face, staring at the vampire. "Why are you helping me?"

"I'm helpin' myself. I'll never get this chip out if I let you die. I know that." He started driving again. "Besides, I don't like my sire much. He's worse'n the pouf like this. All grand plans and things."

"Yeah, he is," Xander said, starting to relax. "He's going to turn Giles soon too. He wants what he can do and what he knows." He rolled his head to look at Spike. "Think it's too late for Cordy?"

"Not sure, but I'm not stopping on his home ground. There's no way he won't know and figure it out."

"Okay. Can we call and warn her?"

"Yeah, once we're on the road tonight. He won't be able to move today either."

"What are we going to do?"

"Find a place and hole up." He glanced over at Xander, seeing him for the scared young man he was. "Don't fret, just relax and sleep. You're gonna need it."

After Xander was asleep and they were well on their way, Spike told himself, "We all will."


Xander woke up as he was placed on a pile of blankets, looking up at the person bending over him. "We have to call Willow," he reminded.

"The Watcher tried, they hung up on him." Spike sat next to him, looking over the frail-seeming body. "What now?"

"When I was given these . . . pains in my ass, I was given a choice of teachers." Xander pushed himself up so he was sitting. "It was Ethan, Giles, and you that were standing there. I'm not sure if you're a teacher or not 'cause you were trying to take me away from them and they were spelled; they looked all funny and out of it."

"So we need to get the Watcher or his mortal enemy?" Spike asked.

"Or you can somehow teach me."

"I don't know about that, pet," Spike sighed, pulling out his pack of cigarettes to light one. "I don't know a thing about those visions."

"Oh, we have to call Cordy, she has them now. After Doyle died, she got them."

"While you were snoring, I called her. She was wide awake and sounded bad. She knows."

"Okay, now what?" Xander asked, pulling his knees up to wrap his arms around them. "What do we do now?"

"I don't know!"

"Well, gee, neither do I!" Xander shouted back. "It's not like I have any idea what the hell is going on." He put his head down. "I'm sorry, this is hard."

"I know it is, pet," Spike said, finishing his cigarette. "We've got to find the Watcher's mortal enemy seems to me."

"Do you know where he is?"

"No, but I might know someone who'd know." Spike looked out the window. "It's almost dawn. My sire's holed up for the day too. He's going to play with his new toys for a bit, then he's going to plan something insane."

"I don't want to know," Xander said, lying back down. "Where are you sleeping?"

"Right here."

"Just don't cuddle," Xander sighed as he closed his eyes. "I don't like men that much."

"Of course not," Spike said, almost sneering at him. "Why would you?" He lay down, after making sure that the sun wouldn't be able to get him and the doors were blocked off as best he could. "Night, whelp."

"Go to sleep, Spike. If I have any more visions, I'll write them down."

"Good, it can only help."


Spike grabbed the garçon by his jacket, lifting him up off the floor by a few inches. "I will see him," he snarled, "or you will go flying." He dropped the man as his chip started to send a few light tendrils of pain through his head. "Now," he growled, sending the man running.

Xander bounced nervously from foot to foot, looking around to make sure no one was trying to sneak up on him. Two weeks with Spike had given him an acute case of paranoia. He grabbed Ethan Rayne as he walked out, spinning him into the wall. "Come on, you've got to come help us."

"I doubt that," he said, plucking the boy's hands from his shirt. "Why should I?"

"Because the Powers That Be sent me to you for training and Angelus has Giles."

Ethan cleared his throat and shook his head. "I'm done for, I've been conscripted by the wrong side." He looked Spike over. "Don't I know you?"

"Barely. Let's take this outside, huh?" He pulled Xander with him, and Xander had a firm hold in Ethan's shirt. Spike stopped beside their car, turning to look at the sorcerer. "Tell him everything, whelp. He needs to know just what you've dragged us into."

"Bugger yourself," Xander muttered, glaring at him. "I was going to escape without you."

"Oh, and you would have done it so well too."

"While this is interesting, what exactly is going on?"

"I got visions one night," Xander said, looking at one of his usual teacher's mortal enemies, and the only hope they had of freeing everyone he cared about. "They started off by telling me I was chosen and then to pick a teacher, and it was you or Giles."

"Ah, and how is Ripper?"

"Trapped in Sunnydale with Angelus," Xander said darkly. "Right after Buffy was turned in front of him." Ethan got serious and nodded. "My visions seem to be 'as they're happening' instead of 'sometime down the road'. I haven't seen Giles for a while but my initial thing with the glowy light and dark spot had you there, so you have to help."

"Let me get this straight. The Scourge of Europe is back, again, and he's bitten the Slayer and trapped Ripper in town?" Xander nodded. "Why should I help you free it?"

"Because my sire likes to do things like open portals to Hell," Spike said dryly. "Or to call up things like the Judge for a birthday present."

"Oh, well, in that case, let me know where you're at and I'll be up there in a bit. Just have to go tell the people inside what's going on." Xander looked confused. "My contact with the Watchers Council. If he knows anything I'll know in a few moments."

"We'll wait," Spike said, putting a hand on Xander's shoulder so he couldn't move. "Not that I don't trust you, but I don't." He pulled out a cigarette and lit it. "Hurry up."

Ethan walked back inside, running his hands through his dark hair. He smiled at the man behind the small desk. "Is my party still upstairs?"

"Yes, and they were most anxious when you left."

Ethan shrugged, heading up to pump for information.


Ethan walked into the warehouse Spike had confiscated for their use, trying hard not to flinch away from the dust that coated everything. "Boy, sit down."

"I have a name," Xander commented as he sat on an old crate, pulling his feet up so he could rest his chin on his knees. "What did you find out?"

"Two things really." Ethan started to pace. "They have Giles, the Watchers saved him. He's back in England with them right now." He glanced at Xander, who was frowning but nodding. "And Angelus has killed the next three girls. The Watchers have gotten Faith freed somehow and have teamed her with the next girl, who's very young for a Slayer. Only thirteen if I remember right."

"How'd they get Faith out of prison?" Xander asked. "She's in there for murder."

"I haven't a clue, but to do the job, they promised she could have Ripper when she was done with Angelus. Seems she wanted to be the one to kill him and Buffy."

Xander shrugged. "That's a later topic." He grabbed his head as another vision started. "Oh, playtime again."

Ethan looked at Spike, who growled. "What does that mean?"

"It means that Deadboy's playing death games with Buffy again," Xander groaned, forcing his eyes open. "He's taunting her with a stake as she begs to be allowed to die. Just a millimeter or so each new push in, after she's healed of course."

Ethan looked impressed. "My, I had no idea your Sire was into torture on such a rigid scale."

"You should see Dru." Xander snapped his head up. "Don't tell me," Spike sighed, "you saw his dark princess?"

"No, this time I was looking through someone's eyes. It wasn't like a hole that I was looking through it was like I was seeing through someone else. And whoever it was was wearing crushed velvet all the way to the ground in a sick blue color."

"Dru," Spike agreed, turning to throw a vase he picked up off another crate. "Why'd he have to complicate it that way!"

"Because he likes his old pets to play with his new ones, it gives him the warm fuzzies," Xander told him. "It shows how good of a teacher he was."

"Yeah, well, he's sick," Spike growled. "Just get on with it, whatever you need to do. I will stake him this time."

"Whatever," Xander sighed, closing his eyes again. "Oh, hey, I'm stuck I think."

Ethan jumped over to him, slapping him hard, making Xander hit the floor. "Are you out now?" he asked calmly. Xander glared and nodded. "You needed a physical shock. I know some who have used electrical stimulus to bring them back." He looked around. "I'll help, but only because I really don't want to meet up with the demons I owe my soul to yet." He stared at Xander, who shrugged. "There will be rules."

"Strange coming from a chaos sorcerer," Xander said snidely.

"I could leave," Ethan offered.

"Tell him now," Spike said, wandering off into the dark.

"I refuse to be questioned about anything I do," Ethan told him, taking the relatively clean spot on the crate for himself. "I refuse to have you interrupt me if I go out with someone, and I refuse to put up with whining."

"Okay, but why would I care if you date? And I don't whine." Xander stood up, following Spike. "Bedroom's back here."

Ethan sighed and followed the sound through the dark, running into the edges of a few crates on the narrow path. He walked out into the glow of a single candle, looking at the piled blankets. "My, how very cozy."

"Yeah, well, some of us don't have ready cash to go rent motel rooms with." Xander lay down on his pile of blankets, rolling them around him. "Night. Spike, can we get some more of those painkillers by the morning?"

"I'll see what I can't do," Spike told him, rolling his eyes for Ethan. "It's the only thing that'll help his head."

"Narcotics?" Ethan suggested snidely. Spike nodded and his sneer fell away. "Oh, dear, this isn't going to be easy is it?"

"Not at all," Spike grumbled, "but it has to be this way or I keep the chip."

"Chip?" Ethan snapped his fingers. "You're the one that got away from those soldiers." Spike nodded. "They let me go when I was no longer useful to them."

"Yeah, well, I'm still stuck like this." He glared down at the lump of human. "I really hate this."

"It's called a truce for a reason," Xander mumbled, "you're not supposed to like it." He wrapped himself a little tighter. "Take the candle and go talk. The rats won't bother me for a few minutes."

Spike picked up the candle and nodded at Ethan to follow him, heading back toward the front of the warehouse. "What'd you think?"

"I think the boy's been gifted with a very cruel gift and someone will have to be there for him soon. If Ripper were here, I'm sure he'd be ready to bundle the boy up and rock him for a bit, but I'm not like that."

"Me either," Spike said, spitting at a moving form. "Stupid rats. Don't even taste good." He looked at the sorcerer again. "Can you get it out? I can't help if I can't fight."

"If I remember right, you're only not able to harm humans this way," Ethan said, giving him a knowing smirk. "I do happen to like my existence at the moment."

"I won't attack *you*," Spike said, glaring in the direction they had come. "I got roped into this too."

Xander walked out of the shadows. "Listen, it's not like I *asked* for this thing. I didn't ask to watch my friends die or be turned. I didn't ask to have to worry about what I'm going to do, I'm the normal guy in the group, not the special one. I'm still wondering why this didn't hit Willow or even you, Spike. Okay, so let's get this straight. I don't need coddling. I don't need or want to be held, and I don't need or want to be treated like a kid. I've seen more fighting than either of you think and I've had enough with being the dinner time discussion topic. Now, if you want, there's the door, Ethan, I'll figure it out on my own. Same goes for you, Spike. I'll deal with it." He glared at both of them when they didn't move. "Got it?" He got stereo nods. "Good. Now I need a rest. And no, Giles isn't back in England, he's in New York. I just saw him." He turned, heading back to the blankets, swearing at the flying squeak that happened after he had disappeared. "Stupid rats," floated toward them.

Spike looked at Ethan. "I don't know."

"Me either. This could just be a brave front."

"The boy's lived on the Hellmouth his whole life."

"Hmm, he may be tough enough for this, but I doubt he'll be able to stake his friends if it comes down to it." Ethan looked toward the bed area, shaking his head. "I'll see what I can do. Keep him safe and here. I'm going to try and get in touch with the Watchers Council."

"They'll want him."

"And they can have him, maybe Ripper would be best for this job anyway. I have no intention of working for the Powers That Be."

Spike snorted. "Not like I wanted to." He looked around. "What about him?"

"He'll do what he must," Ethan said simply, heading for the door. "I'll be back tomorrow night."

"I'm sure you will," Xander said softly, walking out of the shadows. He glared at Spike. "I can steal my own drugs if I have to. You really can go."

"No way I'm leaving you. The Watcher made me your guardian and I'd best do it. I'd rather face a dozen like that one than I would one wanker like Giles."

"Yeah, me too," Xander sighed. "I need to go for a walk. You coming?"

"No. I need to feed and I can't."

"Why don't you just have someone rip the damn thing out?" he asked, heading for the door. "I'll be back by dawn."

Spike waited until the door had closed to smile. "At least he's getting it now." He blew out the candle, listening to the scurrying. "Gonna get ya," he sang, tracking the nearest rat.

Xander walked down the street, snarling at anyone who got in his way, even the one man who actually stopped him. "What?"

"What you doin' in my section of town, little boy?" the big man said, looking him over. "You can't work here."

"If I was working, it'd be different," Xander said, pushing past him. "I'm just out getting some air before I kill someone." He looked at the hand that grabbed his arm then back at its owner. "I've been fighting my way through life for the last six years. Do you want to keep that arm?"

The hand was removed and its owner backed up. "Sorry, took you for someone trying to get into my territory."

"I don't do that," Xander spat. "I don't need sex and I don't need to work my ass off for pennies." He started walking again, mentally berating himself for challenging someone *much* bigger than he was that looked like a bulldozer, and for saying that he didn't need sex. He did need sex. And if he hadn't been so broke, he might have made an offer for one of the bulldozer's women. "I want my life back," he muttered, head down to keep the wind out of his eyes. That's why he didn't see the cop car. "What?" he yelled, looking at them. "I'm out for a walk and everyone has to ask me questions?"

The officers looked at him and nodded. "It's not normal to see people wandering in this part of town."

"Yeah, well, I'm just out for a walk. No drugs, no prostitutes, none of that stuff. Just leave me alone, I need to think." He started to walk past them but found himself face down against the car. "What?" he asked tiredly. "Can't a guy have a bad day?"

"Yeah, but I think you're having more of one than you think," the officer said, patting him down. "No drugs," he told his partner. "No weapon." He turned Xander around. "You're really just out for a walk?"

"Yeah, and?"

"Boy, listen to me, this isn't the safest place to walk."

"No, you listen to me. I am *not* a *kid*. I live somewhere *much* more dangerous than here. I'm handling myself really well and I don't need the lecture." He got free, glaring at the officers. "Needed anything else?"

"Yeah, just a word of caution," the other officer said, giving him a faint smile, "you're about to wander onto gang territory; you might want to turn that way," he pointed right, "go back half a block and take that street to the left. There's a park down there. It's disputed territory, but you shouldn't die for walking on the grass." He slid into his seat.

"Thanks," Xander said, waving at him. He simply looked at the other officer. "See, nice him. That's the way to treat strange people that are harmless." He followed the directions, heading down to the park. As he sat on a bench, an old man walked up to him, giving him a bright smile. "I'm not selling it, man, I'm out here to blow off stress."

"That would be an excellent way," he offered. "Boy like you could make fifty if you're good."

Xander glared at him. "I am not a boy. And I am not for sale." The man shrugged and walked away. He put his head back, stretching his neck, and found a hand around it. "Hey, Faith," he said, looking up at the psychotic slayer. "What's up?"

"Came to find you, kid," she said, sitting next to him. "Watchers want you." She looked him over. "Ready to go?"

"Nope. Don't want to go with them." He looked her over. "What did they offer you?"

"Just Giles." She smiled. "I figure I owe him some."

Xander shook his head. "We're talking about trusting people who have just promised to let you kill a former member, Faith. Are you really trusting that?" He stood up. "Give me an address. I'll meet them for breakfast."

"Wiltshire hotel. Small, low-class place downtown. Right off the 'M' subway station." She stood up. "What do you want in return for him?"

"All I want is Giles, he's not like them any more." He shrugged. "Your call though."

"Hey, you can have him, I just want a few good blows."

"Deal." He walked away. "I'll be there after dawn. Spike's been waking me up when he goes to sleep."

"What's up with you and him anyway? You guys gettin' freaky?" she called.

He turned to glare at her. "I'm not like that, Faith, and right now, I don't even see the need or excuse for sex." He turned around again, heading back to the warehouse.

Ethan met him at the door. "Interesting walk?" he asked.

"Yeah, Watchers are in town, met up with Faith in the park." He pushed past the sorcerer. "I'm going to have breakfast with them." He headed for the sleeping area, glaring when he saw Spike on his bed. "Get off, you sick fuck." He kicked the vampire away, laying down himself, after making a show of brushing off the bed. "Go sleep next to Ethan."

"Cheeky sort tonight, aren't we?" Spike asked, leaning closer to him. "What makes you think you'd be the one making that decision." He looked down as he felt something hit his chest. "Oh, that." He shrugged, backing away from the stake. "Whatever, as the blonde used to say."

"Oh, she still does." Xander closed his eyes, getting a slow smile across his face. "Oh, yeah, Dru, sock it to him, babe." He turned his head to find Spike glaring at him. "Dru's adopted Buffy as hers. Angelus just walked in and found Buffy unchained and dressed just like Mommy." He laughed at the sour look. "Angelus is ready to stake her anyway because all the girls can talk about is you, Spikey. The stars are talking to Miss Edith again and they're not happy that you're not there."

Spike growled and got up, leaving the human alone. He found Ethan sitting by the door. "You hear that?" he asked, pacing a few steps.

"Yes, it's a wonderful ploy to get you pissed enough to leave him." He watched as Spike stopped. "Are we going to humor him?"

"Hell no, bloody wanker." Spike punched a crate, putting his fist through it, pulling out something. "What have we here?"

"Oh, dear," Ethan said, sliding off his crate to look at the thing Spike was holding. "We have drugs I believe."

"If it was, there'd be guards," Spike pointed out. "Must be some sort of cleaning stuff." He brought the handful up to smell, tossing it down. "Clorox."

Ethan gave it a dirty look. "Pity." He looked back toward the bedroom area. "What are we going to do with him?"

"Hell if I know," Spike muttered, scuffing the bleach into the concrete floor. "I want to tell him to sod off but the Powers aren't that nice to chaps who do that."

"Good point. I've thought of letting him go on this quest by himself also, especially since the Watchers appear to be interested in it now." He looked the vampire over. "Why do you still have the chip?"

"Because no one'll take it out for me."

"Ah, yes, you're an ally this way, albeit an unwilling one. I see Ripper did learn something from me after all."

"Yes, he did," Giles said as he walked through the door, followed by Faith. "Where's Xander?"

"Back there," Spike said, pointing. "Does this mean you have it?"

"No, this means that we're all working together," Giles corrected. "I do know how to take out the chip, Spike, but I'm not doing it until we get back to Sunnydale." He smiled at Faith. "You can have Ethan to play with dear."

"I doubt it," Ethan said, pulling something out of his pocket and tossing the contents on her. After she had fallen down, he looked at his old friend and enemy. "What's all this about, Ripper? The boy comes to me in a panic and now he's going off on some plan to get us to leave him."

"It's called grief," Giles told him gently, patting him on the shoulder. "He hasn't let it out yet." He looked the way Spike had pointed. "As for what's going on? Xander has good instincts in this case. He approached Faith to save me from the Watchers handing me over as a toy for her to play with." He looked down at the slayer. "I doubt she'll live through this one either. They're very interested in seeing if her powers will pass on."

"They will," Ethan said, giving him a smile. "I guess you can handle this now, without me, so I'll be going."

"Freeze," Spike said. "If I have to stay, so do you."

"Actually, I do have a part for you to play," Giles said, giving Ethan a cruel smile. "You'll have to cast for me since I'm being watched so closely." Ethan groaned. "Oh, do grow up, you're going to get to take over a whole town for a few days while we clean this mess up."

"That may be the carrot, but where's the stick?" Ethan asked sharply.

"The stick is that you're going to have to handle Xander a bit more carefully. Someone on the Council has a link to the Powers and they said that he's not toeing the line they want. He's got some plan of his own and it does involve getting you to leave him alone long enough to leave." He looked directly at Spike. "You're to take over Angel's place with them, but not with a soul. Your atonement starts with the boy."

"The boy doesn't need it," Xander said, walking out to hug Giles. "You okay?"

"Perfectly healthy, for now," Giles said, hugging him back. "But I can't take you with me. You were very perceptive about the Watchers' plans for me. I need you to stay with them for a bit longer. Ethan will be helping out some."

"Oh, goody," Ethan said dryly. "Does that mean we get to have a music fest too?"

"Only if I get new music," Xander said darkly, making Giles stare at him in shock. "I need angry music. I don't have any of that."

"I'm sure we can find you some," Giles soothed. "Let Ethan take you music shopping in the morning. He always knew what I needed to hear when I was upset."

"Those were the good days," Ethan said, rolling his eyes.

Giles pulled Xander away, looking him over. "Are you all right?"

"Little bit pissed still but otherwise yeah," he lied, and he knew Giles knew it was a lie. "I'm dealing," he admitted. "I will stop him though."

"I'm sure you will, but there is a plan being set in motion. Watch for Faith to show back up, Xander. I know what I'm doing."

"Including letting the Watchers try to kill you?" he asked coldly.

"Including letting them think that they're going to get a chance to try," Giles corrected gently. "I do realize what's going on and I do have it well in hand. Don't fret about me, worry about training for the upcoming fight. You're not going to have much help. The Watchers want to lock you up to have a direct link to the Powers while this goes on."

"Then I'm going to become expendable too," he said, getting a nod. "Okay. I'm doing it my way then."

"Xander, do let me plan this part. I'm rather a good tactician and I've got plenty of help that I trust. Trust me on this, my dear boy, I will not lead you wrong."

"If you want me to, I will," Xander agreed. "Faith?"

"Is helping for her own reasons. Just trust in me and train. You may be the deciding influence of this whole matter."

"In other words, I'm going to have stake Buffy."

"It may come down to that, yes," Giles said, giving his shoulder a squeeze. "Just consider all your options before doing anything rash. I will lead this charge."

"If not, it's all on me," Xander sighed, sinking into the welcoming arms again. "I'm glad you're okay. Did you ever get hold of Willow?"

"Yes, I left a message on Tara's pager. I heard from them in New York, they were already back in town."

"I'll keep watch for them." Xander looked up. "Dru's adopted Buffy and Angel's playing head games with her."

"It's as I expected then, but I hadn't known that Druscilla was there. Is she important?"

"I keep seeing things through her so I guess." Xander stepped back, letting his cold, indifferent mask slip back into place. "We'll be here."

"Good, I'll send Faith around with the information soon." He gave Xander one last smile and headed back to where Ethan was. "Do you remember what we had planned for London that Solstice?" Ethan frowned then nodded, his expression changing to a smile. "You're doing that to Sunnydale. Without the demons if possible please." He patted Ethan on the shoulder and left, meeting Faith at the door. "Come, let's go back to our jailers, my dear."

Xander walked out, giving Ethan a quizzical look. "You're really good at picking music for people?"

"I seem to have a talent in that direction. We'll go shopping in the morning."

"Cool, I have some money left."

"If you buy music, you can't eat," Spike reminded him.

"Music is necessary right now," Xander told him firmly. "Eating isn't. We have food. I can get a day job or something. We're fine." He headed back to the sleeping area. "Spike, go eat the rats. We need less of them."

"Let's spread the Clorox around the sleeping area," Ethan suggested. "They shouldn't want to eat or pass that."

"Allergic," Xander called back.

"Hell," Spike muttered. "I hate the taste of rat." He headed off into the shadow, whistling for one of them to come to him. "Here, rats, come be a nice snack for Spike."

Ethan headed off into the sleeping area, leaving Spike to his hunting.


Xander looked around the music store and walked up behind Ethan, who was paying for his new music. He took the bag and walked out, heading to the subway station not that far away.

"Stop," Ethan called, running after him. "Giles said you had to stay!" he said once he caught Xander.

Xander nodded. "My visions don't," he said calmly, getting free and disappearing into the crowd going into the station. He got on and rode to the farthest point out of town, getting out and looking around the suburbs. He saw a sign for the police station and walked to it, going inside to get some help. "Hi, I'm a runaway," he told the desk Sargent. "I'm stupid, and I'm admitting it now."

The Sargent smiled and pressed a button, bringing another cop down to talk to him.


Ethan ran into Faith in the park where he had trailed Xander to that one night, pulling her up to look at her. "The Powers sent him back," he said quietly. Then he let her go and backed away. "You need to tell him."

Faith shook her head. "Giles is locked in a room and I can't get to him anymore," she said, glancing around. "He went back?"

"Yes, his visions told him he had to go."

She nodded. "I'll pass on the information. What about your part in the plan?"

"I'm not sure. Nor is Spike, whom I woke up and told. He's not very pleased with the boy either."

"Yay, team," she cheered sullenly, walking away.

Ethan shook his head and sat down on the bench. He had no idea what he was supposed to do now.


Xander stepped off the bus and looked around the station. It didn't look different, if you weren't used to the town and how it operated. He headed off into the afternoon, going to Willie's. He saw the burned out building and stopped to consider his plans. A remembered bit from a vision came back to him and he looked around before walking over there. He went through the shell to the back room and scuffed through the rubble until he found the trap door. He walked downstairs, using the lighter he had bummed off some guy three towns ago to show him what was down there. "Yeah," he sighed. "Good stuff." He found a few bags and packed them as full as he could. He probably wouldn't be able to come back here again, so he needed all these weapons. He found a backdoor and walked out it, straight into a cave. "Oh, yeah," he said, nodding as he looked around. He dropped his bags and went to get the rest of the weapons. He had a new home base.


Xander scrounged for what he needed, coming back to his cave with appropriate clothing, food, and the accessories for his weapons. He knew the store owners wouldn't mind, much, when they found out they had been broken into. He had checked out the rest of the cave earlier in the day and had found an old jeep mildewing in one of the offshoots. Apparently this had been a backup point for the Initiative when they had been in town. He had taken it out and gassed it up, making sure it ran well enough to be used as a getaway vehicle if necessary. He had even gotten the oil changed, it had needed it, and gotten an old friend from high school to listen to it to make sure it ran okay.

Now, it was time for him to go out and learn what was going on. He emerged from the wreckage of Willie's, looking around to see no houses with lights on. Earlier, there had been people, but apparently they had figured out something was wrong and were now hiding. Which told him all he needed to know. Except where the vamps were hiding. Xander got up onto some rooftops and slowly worked his way across the business district, having to stake two vamps in his way before he got found. He looked down at what had been the Bronze and shuddered. "Many bad guys, Batman," he told himself, backing away from the edge so he could go back and plan this out.

It'd have to be during the daytime. He couldn't fight all of them at once, so it had to be during the daytime. An idea came to him and he hurried back into his cave by the second exit, he didn't want anyone to know where or who he was. Yet.


Xander lifted the gun over his shoulder and walked to the entrance of the caves, looking up at the sunlight. He remembered to grab a bag to put over the gun, didn't want to attract notice in Sunnydale from the wrong people, and walked out into the light. He smiled at a man he used to know, giving him a wave and getting one in return. Everyone seemed so cheery. Apparently the denial was only for the daytimes. He strolled down the street, stopping to watch the police go through the hardware store he had broken into last night. Then he kept on going. Even when the police tried to stop him from going down the alley to the Bronze, he had managed to get around him by going through the sewers. He came up behind the bar and looked at all the vampires standing around. "Gee, a party," he said, pulling his gun down and shooting the new wooden bullets randomly at the crowd. Before they could gather their wits and charge him, he disappeared, heading back into the sewers.

He took a few turns and came up next to the old high school, getting out to look at the people looking up at the school. And at the blue flame rising from it. "Oh, hell," he muttered. "Won't that thing stay closed?" A few people looked at him. "There was a portal in the school. It had to be shut six times in five years." He shouldered his gun and walked away, heading back to his safety. He couldn't do a thing about the Hellmouth, not yet. He'd worry about that after he got the majority of the vamps.


Xander grabbed his head as another vision came to him, rocking back and forth on the cold stone floor. He saw Angelus looking down on his troops from behind, heard him giving a lecture about finding whomever had shot at the minions that morning. Then Angelus pulled out his new 'queen'. The one Dru had helped him create. His stomach turned when he heard the applause for Buffy, and when he saw her face, his heart broke. She was fully one of them now. She had the same bloodthirsty look Angelus had on his face, and she might have been able to tell him who it was if anyone had been listening to her.

He shrugged off the vision, using the knife on his belt to stab himself on the back of the hand so he could come out of the vision loop. He shook it off, and got up to fix himself some ramen noodles. He needed strength if he was going to fight the main crew. He knew where the patrols would be, all he needed was to beat them there.

Xander sat up in the tree, watching the vampire version of the Mod Squad search for him in the empty playground and almost snickered when one decided he wanted to swing. Of course, the others beat him up until he decided he was going to behave like an adult again, but that was how vampires worked he guessed. No fun at all.

He lowered his crossbow and took aim at the group walking under his tree, shooting them in the back as they walked past him. His first shot was a little off to the right, but he nailed the other two. He stayed where he was, he knew that vampire had help coming. Within minutes, another group of three vamps had come to his rescue, pulling out the bolt and tossing it aside, helping him back to their lair. Xander followed them, needing to know where they were going. He got free of the one that almost got him, staking him, but the vampire had gotten off a scream so he disappeared into the night. He could find them again tomorrow. Angelus wouldn't stay somewhere obvious, but he wouldn't stay in a hole either. It wouldn't be that hard to find him and Buffy. He slid between buildings and headed for his home. The only time he stopped was when he saw an unusual patrol group. Six vampires protecting two girls. His heart broke just a little more, but he pushed it aside. He had a job to do, even if it was his friends that he'd be fighting. He went back into hiding, making sure that no one would find him. No matter what magical source they used.

Of course, that didn't say anything about Oz's tracking abilities. He found the werewolf sitting on his pile of stolen blankets. "Hey, I got called to help," he said, holding out a hand.

Xander almost cried when he felt the cold skin but then he saw the cross Oz was wearing. "Why are you cold?"

"Because I hid in a freezer compartment on a train," Oz said with a shrug. "What's going on? Why am I needed?"

"Angelus came back," Xander said simply.

Oz nodded. "Okay, which gun's mine and do you have anymore of the wooden bullets?"


Xander grabbed his head and rolled over on top of Oz trying to make the pain stop. He felt cool hands rubbing his back as he came out of it, then turned his wet eyes to Oz. "I was wrong," he whispered.

"Huh. When did you start getting those?"

"When this all started," Xander said, silently begging for a hug, which he got. "I saw Willow and...and Tara the other night, but I thought they had been changed." He swallowed.

"That's what you were wrong about?" Oz asked. He felt the nod. "Well, it happens. We'll have to take care of them now too."

Xander pulled back. "How..."

"Easy. The wolf said they left the pack." He shrugged. "It helps, for a while. Then you go insane." He curled up to look at his former friend. "Is this something we can stop?"

Xander shook his head. "I get it as it's happening." He looked around the cave. "Something's wrong," he said quietly. He crawled over to the door up to Willie's and threw the bolts as quietly as he could. He heard footsteps come running and backed away from the door, looking over at Oz, who was packing. "We've got a jeep," he whispered, pointing down the hallway.

Oz nodded and carried the packed bags down to it, coming back for more and more as Xander gathered all their stuff. Finally, he sniffed at the door. "They're gone," he said in a normal voice. He looked his friend over. "Xander, you should know something."

"That you were turned?" Xander asked, giving him a sad smile as he pulled out a crossbow. "Are you one of them?"

"No, like I said, I got called. I've only been turned for a few months." He held out his arms. "I want to beat Angelus. If you want me."

"I want," Xander said, tossing him the crossbow. "Who was it?"

"Police officers. They smelled like gun powder." He pointed at the jeep. "We'd better go. Do we have an alternate place?"

"Not yet," Xander admitted. "Um, it's daylight."

"I'll meet you in the park," Oz said, sitting down and getting comfortable with his crossbow. "Just after dark?"

"Coolness." Xander took the last two bags with him and headed for the jeep, pulling out just in time. There were police cars flying down the road. "Damn," he muttered, pulling off to the side so they wouldn't run him over. "Please don't get me or Oz," he prayed. He felt some power wash over him and looked behind him at the new lump under the tarp covering the guns. "Oz?"

"Drive," Oz murmured. "I'll explain later."

"'Kay." Xander drove off, heading into town. They needed a safe place. Somewhere the vamps wouldn't go and somewhere they could plan without being picked up. Xander slowly smiled and headed for the college. He knew for a fact that the Initiative's lair wasn't fully filled in. His construction company had handled the work. And the labs were still clear. There was always the back passage. He pulled onto the main road. "Oz, Initiative base?"

"Good idea. How're we getting in?"

"Easily. The same way we did the last time." He sped up a little, checking his mirrors every few seconds to make sure the cops weren't following him.


Angelus slammed his fist on the desk. "I don't care!" he yelled, scaring the top three officers left in the police department. "Find whoever this is and kill them!"

"We almost got him," the cop on the left said. "We got there just after his lair was found. He was using the cave under Willie's." He ducked the paperweight flying at his head. "Mr. Mayor, sir, I'm really sorry, but we just missed him."

"Did you meet him on the road?" Angelus said quietly.

"No, sir, just someone out camping. We weren't sure if it was someone you wanted to see, so we only took down his license plate number."

"Good," Angelus purred, waving a hand. His newest dark princess walked in and snapped two of their necks then ate the third. "Were they good?" he asked his love.

Buffy wiped her mouth off. "Yup. Why aren't you turning Willow?"

"Because I want to know what she knows first and I want to have *fun* with her," he said, crowing it to the ceiling. "She put the soul back, I want her to feel the pain I did. We'll do her today."

Buffy shrugged. "Okay. Whatever." She waved and walked back out, heading to the former mayor's private rooms. They had been vampire proofed a few decades ago and after some redecorating, they were pretty comfortable.

Angelus leaned back and put his feet up on the desk, showing off his human skin boots. Complete with human hair ties.


Oz looked around the lab and nodded. "Good choice. How did you know?"

"My construction company, the one I used to work for, had the contract to start filling this place in but we were shut down by government order before it could be finished. Add to that a little back passageway we found because of Buffy and viola," he said, waving a hand around. "Instant lair."

"Cool." Oz sat down in one of the rolling desk chairs. "And it's got furniture."

"Which is always a plus," Xander agreed with a grin. "So, you got turned?"

"By an asshole up in Canada. Doesn't really want to be one himself but he was trying to save me from an attack. He tried to just give me a little, but it ended up being too much. But my wolf's happy." He looked Xander over. "Where's Giles?"

"Not real sure," Xander admitted. "Last time I knew, the Watchers had him and Faith both. She was going to team with the new girl to come smite the baddies in exchange for her getting to beat up Giles."

"Hmm. Not a good. Who else knows?"

"Spike and Ethan both know. They were helping me before the Powers called on me to come back." He tapped the side of his head. "That's who gave me these."

"Ah." Oz shook his head. "What now, fearless leader?"

"Now, we figure out why the cops are listening to Angelus," Xander said, hopping up to sit on a table. "Got any ideas?"

"Just that he's probably got some of them hostage or turned."

"Could be," Xander said, nodding. "What about that funky curfew thing?"

Oz coughed. "Xander, Angelus probably has a lot more control than you think."

Xander sighed. "I was hoping he hadn't taken over the town completely but I guess I've underestimated him. Did you see the thing over the high school?"

"Yeah, but it's not Hellmouthy. I could feel that."

"Then what is it?"

"That I'm not sure of." Oz stood up and walked over to where Xander was all but bouncing. "Calm down," he said quietly, giving him a hug. "We'll do what we have to and then we'll leave."

Xander nodded. "Yeah, I can do that," he told Oz. "I'll have to." He wrapped his arms around his friend and sat there like that for a few minutes, enough time to readjust himself to having friends after having shut all those feelings away. "Thanks," he said, pulling back.

"Welcome. Any time," Oz told him, going back to his chair. "No offense, but I need a nap."

"Bunks are through the black door," Xander said, pointing at it. "You might want to check for parts though. We used to find a few a day."

"I can do that," Oz told him, getting up to go take his daily nap.

Xander pulled out a map of the town he had found in another section of the compound, looking it over for the best strike targets.


Xander snuck up behind the watch group and staked the first one before she could protest, but the last one was going to be the hardest. He kicked the second one down and threw the stake down at it's chest, stepping on it to make sure it went in as he pulled out a second one and went after Tara. Apparently, someone had given the shy girl lessons in kicking butt. She kicked him backwards, trying to pin him against a tree, but he ducked under her arms and kicked her in the back, hoping the tree would do the dirty work for him. No such luck. She spun around and growled at him, baring her teeth. He sighed internally and let her rush him, staking her underhanded as he ducked under her bite-and-grab move. He brushed the dust off and looked around to make sure all the vamps were gone, then he hurried on to meet Oz for more patrolling.

From the woods, a still form watched. "He's good," he noted, looking at the vampire beside him.

"He's been trained to be good," the vampire said. She looked at her childe. "Spike, how did you get messed up in this?"

"The Powers called him and he took me so Angelus couldn't get me," Spike said as he lit a cigarette. "I got ordered to help him by them. Or I stay chipped."

She kissed him on the cheek. "I know you did. That's what I saw when he saw through me." She wandered away, going to do something.

Spike's eyes closed as a crossbow bolt came flying through the brush, hitting her in just the right spot. "I can't let you go back to him," he told his Sire, bending down to touch her ashes. "I'll miss you, Princess." He stood up and tugged his coat tighter around him, heading off after Oz.


Xander calmly walked into the dorm room Willow had been living in and picked up a picture of her, Tara, and Buffy together. He put it in his pocket as he walked over to the bed and the vamipress lying on it. "I'm sorry," he said, pulling out a stake.

"Don't be sorry, join us," Willow said, opening her eyes to give him a smile. "You could be one of the best yet."

He shook his head. "Willow, you wouldn't let me." He grabbed her by the throat and leaned over her body, getting the placement just right. "I love you," he whispered, shoving the stake in as hard as he could. He stood up as she went to dust, looking at his hands. Then he felt his mind start to slip. Just a little bit at first, but it was definitely starting to go now. Like Oz said, sometimes the animal has to do the work and make the decisions. He turned and fled the room, going back to his safe spot under the college. He fell to his knees in the tunnel, gasping for breath as he cried.


Oz found Xander a few hours later, balled up in a corner of the hallway, and sat down beside him. "She wouldn't have wanted it to happen this way," he told his friend.

"I know, but she woke up," Xander said, leaning his head against Oz's cool body. "Can I not have to do that again?"

"Just two more major ones," Oz reminded him. "Buffy and Angelus."

"Yeah," Xander sighed, sitting up. "I'm going to have to do them, aren't I?" He looked at Oz, who nodded. "What's going to happen once Angelus is gone?"

"Someone will start to fight about who's going to take control of the town. Someone will win and a new Slayer will be called here." He shrugged. "It's what always has happened, Xander."

"I know but I needed to hear it. I need to know that my job will be done."

"It will," Oz said, rubbing down his arm. "Come eat. You'll need your strength to deal with later." He got up and walked back down to their lair.

Xander followed after a few minutes, trying to find a reason for this happening. Why was it him that was called? Why hadn't he been the one who had been turned and Buffy or Willow spared? He walked into their room and sat down at the table, looking at his plans. "Oz, where are you going after this is through?"

"Not sure yet," Oz admitted. "Probably back where I belong."

"Okay." Xander picked up the fork and ate the rice in silence, planning for later. He didn't want to have to burden Oz with the blowing up of this building too.


Xander pressed the buttons and looked out across the city as the three buildings went up in glorious light shows. He knew he was starting to enjoy this too much, but it was for the best this way. Hopefully, he wouldn't have to stake Buffy. He could only hope that she was with Angelus in the Mayor's office.

"Xander, that was mean," a female voice said from behind him.

And Xander's stomach sank. He stood up and looked at his former best friend. "Hey, Buffy." He looked her over. "You look kinda insane in that."

"Could say the same," she said, waving a hand at his outfit. "What's going on, Xander? Why the war?"

"Buffy, he was *bad*!" Xander reminded her. "You used to fight the bads."

"Used to," she pointed out, holding up a perfectly manicured finger. "This way, I can choose which bads I think are the worst. Like the one who just destroyed a bunch of innocent people." She laughed as he went pale. "Yeah, well, no humans, but we didn't deserve that, Xander." She purred his name as she moved closer. "What we deserve is respect and admiration." She took another step and frowned as he pulled out a stake. "Xander, you can't beat me."

"I'm gonna have to," he told her. He dodged her kick, sliding under her dress and behind her. She turned quickly and caught him on the cheek with one of her heels, but he was fast enough to block her foot somewhat. He tipped her over and followed with a flurry of kicks and punches, not aware of what he was doing anymore. He wasn't Xander, the former Slayerette, but in a way he was. He was Xander, the only slayer in town. He screamed as she ripped her claws down the side of his neck and down onto his chest, ripping his shirt, but he got her back. He backhanded her, watching as she fell. "No more," he panted, pulling her up into his arms, hugging her for the last time as he shoved the stake into her hard enough to have it break the skin on his chest. He turned to look around on the roof but he didn't find anyone. He tossed the stake away and walked toward the fire escape, but someone was coming over the top. "Oz," he said quietly. "Please, don't make me...."

"I won't if you won't go for a stake," Oz said quietly, looking at the destruction. "Yeah, I'm here to stay, but I'm not going to be bad to the town. I'll cherish and guard it, Xander. You don't have to hurt me too."

Xander grabbed his head and screamed as one last vision hit him. He looked up at Oz through the tears and shook his head. "I can't let it happen," he whispered, pulling a stake out from behind his belt and throwing it. Oz was fast, but Xander had known which way he would move. Oz was predictable. He watched as the stake found it's mark and Oz stared at him for the last time, and felt his mind totally wrench itself apart. He stood up and looked down at the dust, blowing a kiss to it. "Goodbye, friends." He climbed down and got into his packed jeep, going to view the school. Maybe there was something he could do now. He stopped when he saw the beam had turned from blue to green. He shivered as he felt the wind around him start, and he got into his jeep, driving away as fast as he could. He knew he didn't want to be there. His animal didn't want to be there. He drove until he ran out of gas, then roads to hitchhike across. By the time he was done, he wasn't sure where it was, but he was safe from the green flame.


Ethan and Giles looked at each other across the dying flame of retribution and shook their heads. Spike lay curled up in a corner, his head ripped open on one side by the flames, but he was still living. Giles ran a hand through his silver hair and pushed some of it back. What they had cast had brought divine retribution to the town for what had happened. If anyone survived, it would be the very young, but it was the only way to make sure that the vampires were gone.

Spike stood up and looked around wildly. "Where's everyone else?" he asked, staring at Giles. "And what happened to you?"

"We brought down the Hand of God," Ethan said, sitting down beside the flame. He had sustained damage from it, but not as bad as he had guessed he would. He thought he wouldn't have been there to take the flame back, but no, he had been scratched, whipped, and beaten by it and he still lived. He looked over at Giles, who was almost perfectly still. "Where'd the boy go?"

"He's insane," Spike said, staring at them. "Oz told me he was headin' there."

Ethan nodded. "I have no doubt of it." He jumped up as he heard footsteps, getting out of the young brunette woman's way.

"Giles, what happened? Where's Xander?"

"He ran," Spike said. "He did his duty and it did him in."

She glared at him. "You can be eliminated now," she reminded him coldly. "You have to find him, before he's gone for good," she said, turning her attention back to Giles and Ethan. "He's gone, totally gone, but you can fix him."

Giles shook his head. "It's best that I don't. He wouldn't want to remember having to stake all his friends."

She growled and grabbed him, shaking him. "He deserves better!"

"I know," Giles said sadly. "But I can't give it to him, Cordelia. I'm not the one."

"Then I guess I'd better go find him," she said, glaring at the other men. "You two, do something constructive, go find living people." She walked out, leaving them alone.

Ethan looked at Giles. "She's right. He did the job you couldn't and wouldn't do, Ripper. He deserves better. Spike?"

"North. That's the only safe way for him to run."

"Then I'll go find him." Ethan walked out, heading for his car. Or any car that might run since his was in a wreckage because of the blasts. He got in and hotwired it, leaving the town for good.


Ethan walked up to the tent carefully, not knowing what state of mind Xander would be in. He saw him sleeping so sat down beside his head, patting it as gently as he could. "Xander, it's time for you to wake up and heal," he said, ignoring the knife that appeared next to his groin. "I'm not here to harm you, I'm here to bring you back to yourself."

Xander looked up at him, his eyes clear of everything except death. "Kill me," he ordered, handing over the knife.

"No, I won't," Ethan said, taking it. "It's not time for that yet. It's time for you to come with me. I'll make sure that you're well taken care of." He started as he heard branches breaking nearby. "Who's there?" he called, standing up, knife at the ready.

"Just me," Spike said, grinning at him. "I've been sent to help you." He pulled Xander up and before Ethan could stop him, bit him and forced his torn hand into Xander's mouth. He smirked as he let the temporarily dead body drop. "Want some of this?"

"Why, yes, I might," Ethan said, moving closer. He pulled down the collar of his shirt and Spike walked over, biting him too.

Xander woke a few hours later and screamed. He tried to get free of his bonds, but there wasn't any use. He wasn't in the woods anymore and the room he was in was bare. He looked at the door as it opened and growled at Spike. "Kill me!"

"Nope, not gonna happen," Spike sang. "You deserve this, don't you?" He smacked Xander hard across the face. "You're gonna remember it all," he purred.

The End.