Title: One For All (11/?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at http://fanfiction.net/profile.php?userid=62966

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG-13.

Spoilers: Up to Graduation, then AU version of events after that.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Thanks to Xander's sacrifice, the Slayer and Slayerettes can live normal lives... until now.

Author's Note: Read the previous parts -- including the prologue -- or this is not going to make any sense whatsoever.

* * *

"What makes you think I'm Angelus?" the vampire asked calmly.

"You want to take this, Giles, or should I?" Xander asked.

The ex-Watcher's voice came from behind the former Scourge of Europe, "Go ahead, Xander. You were the one who figured it out, after all."

"Okay," Xander said, "so here's what gave you away, Evil Deadboy. First off, you'd pretended to have your soul before, so I was a little careful. Second, you were the last person to see Faith before she was turned, and she kidnapped Buffy. Sounds just like your style."

"Whoa, Faith was turned? She kidnapped Buffy?"

"Quit playing dumb, Deadboy," Xander snorted. "She showed up with a patch on her neck -- right where, say, a vampire would bite her -- and wouldn't even enter her own apartment. Plus, we never actually got around to checking to see if your soul really went back to you after we killed Valkorr."

"That's all circumstantial."

"Maybe, but if you really do have your soul, you wouldn't mind if we lock you up and recast the curse, now would you?"

* * *

Janet Saunders kicked her assailant between the legs and brought her knee up in his face. As he staggered back up, she hissed, "What the hell does it take to put you _down_?!"

She whirled into a spin kick and caught him across the face, but she failed to retract her leg fast enough. Faster than should have been humanly possible, her opponent caught hold of her ankle and yanked with preternatural strength, pulling her off-balance.

Just as she tumbled to the ground, tucking in and rolling into his legs, she felt dust scatter over her. Shaking dust from her hair, she stood up and looked around. "What the hell?"

"You okay?"

She turned, "Yeah... thanks. What hap- SHIT!" She backed away and dropped into a martial arts stance when she saw her dark-clad "rescuer."

But her martial arts would not save her this night.

* * *

"Asa sa fie! Asa sa fie!" Xander's voice rose. "Acum! Acum!"

A thunderous roar filled the room, and the Orb of Thesulah glowed briefly... and exploded.

"That... that didn't happen before," Willow said, a worried look on her face as she lowered her arm -- held protectively in front of her face -- and peeked at the shattered remnants of the Orb. "At least... I don't think it did."

Xander shook his head clear and looked at her quizzically, "You don't know?"

She shrugged, "There was the whole 'possessed by another spirit' thing, and the spell took a lot out of me. I kinda passed out pretty quick." She frowned, "Lots of things about that night after the whole coma thing are pretty fuzzy, actually."

Xander bit his lip and nodded, "Oh." He turned and waved everyone into position. Leading the way, he cautiously opened the cell that had once been a closet. They had modified it in the early days, when he still lacked control over the wolf, and they had never bothered to convert it back.

The vampire within looked up and said quietly, "I was telling the truth."

Xander nodded, "I know."

He stepped back, and Angel stepped past him into the main room and said, "But you know? Funny thing happened. I guess the spell has a side effect when I already have a soul."

Xander tensed, "What sort of side effect?"

Angel shook his head and walked over near where Tara stood, clutching a tranquilizer rifle and eyeing him uncertainly.

"Oh, don't worry. Soul's still here. But the thing is..."

Suddenly, the vampire moved, thrusting an elbow into Tara's gut and catching the tranquilizer rifle as she dropped to the floor.

He grinned ferally at Xander and fired, "...it's not in charge anymore." Xander felt the dart prick his arm, and his vision went blurry even as he tried unsuccessfully to grab his shotgun.

Giles fired his crossbow, but Angelus easily caught the quarrel in mid-air and hurled it back, impaling the Brit in the shoulder. The vampire turned to Willow, who held up her cross fearfully.

He grinned and simply batted it aside. "A good Jewish girl like you shouldn't be carrying things like that," he said, waving a reprimanding finger at her. He grabbed her and ran a tongue up her throat, "Mmm... you taste sweet." He stiffened, then threw her to the ground and winked at her, "I'll be back for you later."

Angelus flashed a glare at Tara as she recovered and began gathering power. He turned and fled, diving out onto the balcony and over the railing.

"Incendere!"

A stream of flames erupted from Tara's hand and leaped out over the balcony, but the fire spell missed the plummeting vampire completely.

* * *

Buffy groaned as she blinked her eyes sleepily.

"You're awake," a relieved voice said.

Her eyes snapped open, and she looked around, "Oz? What... what happened? How long was I out?"

"Not sure," he replied. "Can't really tell time in here. He brought you in... maybe a day ago."

"'He'?" He who?" she asked, sitting up.

"Him," Oz nodded to the front of the prison cell. On the other side of the bars stood a rather short and vaguely familiar young man with dark hair and a patch on his throat.

Buffy searched her memory, and it finally clicked. The high school clock tower. "Jonathan? What are you doing?"

The once-suicidal nerd-among-nerds didn't stir. Oz shook his head, "He doesn't talk much."

"Yeah," Buffy murmured, "he makes you look positively chatty."

* * *

"Hey, Warren," Andrew Wells called, peering at the monitor. "Look like she's awake now."

"Is she?" the robot-maker asked, looking up. He ducked back down and shook his head, "Doesn't matter to us. Now... let's see..." He studied the patch on the unconscious Faith's neck and nodded, muttering to himself, "Accelerated degradation, but the mind control chip looks like it's still working just fine."

"Don't worry so much," Andrew whined. "Why do you always worry so much? Mind control chips worked for Jervis Tetch when he became the Mad Hatter, and we're _much_ smarter than that wannabe."

Warren simply shook his head in resignation. Andrew was helpful sometimes, but his inability to separate reality from comic books was grating.

* * *

"Here," Xander said.

Tara blinked and took the double-barreled shotgun. "Why give me this, Alexander?"

He shrugged, "With variable loads and the extra punch, shotguns are the best guns a demon hunter can have. Magic won't always help, and I want to make sure you're prepared."

He handed her two boxes of ammunition, "Blessed slugs and silver flechette... and _these,_," he pulled out two odd-looking rounds, "are really special. Gunpowder-propelled stakes. Too long to work in a pump, and I haven't tested 'em yet, so don't rely on 'em."

"Th-thank you."

He closed his eyes and sighed, "I've got another gun on special order for you. I'll get it to you as soon as it comes in." He nodded at the shotgun, "It's a two-stage trigger. Halfway to fire the left barrel, the rest of the way to fire the right barrel." Xander rose, "Look, get familiar with it. I'm gonna go check on Willow."

"Alexander," she called as he was about to leave the room.

He turned, "What?"

"It's not your fault."

He shook his head and walked out, "Yes, it is."

* * *

"Willow?"

The redhead looked up, "Xander?"

"Hey," he said. "Look, Wills, I'm sorry."

She frowned, "For what?"

He sighed, "Everything."

"Oh," she said, unsure how to respond to that.

He gave a reassuring smile that she saw right through, but she did not interrupt, "I'm going to try a locator spell on Buffy and Oz in the morning. Don't worry. We'll find them. How are you holding up?"

"I'm fine," she said quietly, knowing that she was as transparent as Xander had been a moment ago.

"Good night, Willow."

"Xander?"

"Hmm?"

She licked her lips and said in a small voice, "Stay with me tonight? Please?" He opened his mouth to protest, but she didn't let him, "I... after what happened... I don't want to be alone."

He looked at her and wordlessly turned away, leaving the room.

She sighed, slumping her shoulders, not sure if she was disappointed or relieved. What on Earth had possessed her to ask something like that?

The door opened again, and she blinked as she caught the pillow flying toward her. Xander stood in the doorway, a strained grin on his face. He winked, "Be just like in grade school, huh? What say we get up early for some good old-fashioned toons while we're at it, huh?"

She smiled, "Sounds like a plan."

Buffy, Faith, Oz... they were in trouble. But at this point, Willow was willing to take any spark of happiness she could get.

* * *

Xander snapped his eyes open at the ear-splitting screech that reverberated through the apartment.

He shoved Willow off the bed and hurled himself to the side. The Hunter rolled across the floor and up to his feet, shotgun in hand, racking the slide even as he swung the muzzle around and scanned the room.

Xander crouched by Willow, who was clutching her head and covering her ears against the noise. He paused and dropped the spell. "You okay?"

She nodded, "I think so. What was that?"

"Alarm spell," he said. "I cast it last night... just in case." He turned and pushed his shotgun into her hands, "Here. Cover me." He rose and drew his machete -- he had yet to replace his sword -- before she could protest, then opened the door carefully.

The room outside was dark, and that set off more than a few alarm bells in Xander's head, but he stepped out anyway. He couldn't think only of his own safety. He never could.

The darkness swallowed him, and he found himself unable to see anything, not even his own hand.

He held up a hand, "Lumos."

Nothing.

"Shit."

Suddenly, someone pulled him in a headlock from behind, and he dropped the machete, reaching up to try and free himself.

He gasped and shivered as heat suddenly fled his body, leeched away by his attacker. *So... cold...*

Xander twisted and rammed his elbow back, striking something. The arms grappling him vanished, and he whirled around, lashing out with a powerful roundhouse kick.

He struck, and followed up with a snap kick and left cross, but somehow, his opponent evaded him. And he was still unable to see.

This was _not_ good.

He dropped to his knees and felt around. Where the _hell_ was that damned machete?

Tara still had his Beretta, Willow had his shotgun, and he hadn't found a replacement for his sword yet. That meant, aside from the dropped machete, he only had two stakes and a grenade with him.

This was _definitely_ not good.

He resolved to carry more guns in the future. An extra sidearm or two, perhaps.

Assuming he survived this, that is.

Xander may have been blinded, but his other senses were working just fine, so when he heard the scrape of steel against wood from the floor near him, he dove. He felt something slice into his shoulder as it flew past.

Then, twin thunder roared within the room, deafening him... and his vision cleared. He quickly rolled on his back and kipped up. A shadowy figure backed away as Tara unloaded the other barrel of her new shotgun into him, and Willow racked the slide of his Russian pump-action.

"Xander?" Willow said tentatively, giving him a worried look.

"Are you all right, Alexander?" Tara asked.

"Yeah," Xander replied curtly as he eyed the shadowy figure.

Shrouded in darkness, Xander's attacker seemed to wear the shadows like a cloak wrapped around him, and only a single metallic glint -- which Xander belatedly recognized as another Tarakan ring -- broke the shadowy cloak in sharp contrast to the different shades of black. There seemed to almost be a fog of darkness that rolled off the assassin like some sort of diffuse gas.

He scooted over and yanked his machete from where it had lodged in the wall -- his instincts had been on the money; his assailant had picked it up and thrown it at him -- and lunged at the Tarakan.

The huge knife's blade easily sank into the patch of darkness, meeting resistance more appropriate to a tub of softened butter than any living body.

One tendril of darkness suddenly shot across the ground and crawled up Xander's body, wrapping around him and blinding him again, but the Hunter merely charged forward, groping until his hands met the same resistance as his machete had earlier.

"Lumos!"

A very human cry of pain sounded, and Xander's vision cleared again. A patch of darkness scuttled away across the floor. Gunfire echoed again -- Tara had obviously reloaded, and Willow still had ammunition left -- but the shadow merely rippled from the impacts like a puddle of pudding... unharmed.

Xander hurled the machete and followed, but the dark patch merely flowed around it, skittering under the front door... and by the time he swung the door open, it was gone.

"Shit."

* * *

Kendrix howled in pain as he returned from shadowform. He collapsed to the floor of Janet Saunders' apartment. He fought through the pain and crawled up to the bed, collapsing into it.

He needed to feed again. The Hunter had hurt him, badly, and he still had a job to do.

* * *

Author's Postscript:

Misdirection, misdirection, misdirection. *evil grin* I had some of you going there with the way the last part ended, didn't I?