Sunnydale California, Summer '00

Alexander Lavelle Harris trudged through Sunnydale's streets moving a little aimlessly as he tried to figure out what was happening to him. A few nights earlier he, along with the rest of the Scoobs had been entrapped in their own dreams by what should have been an ally. Instead the First Slayer seemed to object to his help almost as much as her latest incarnation did.

He snorted, kicking at a chunk of pavement as he stared at the ground. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Why should she be any different?

The good fight.

Xander chuckled mirthlessly as he walked, maybe he really didn't have a place in it after all. It wasn't like he'd ever been able to accomplish much. Not if you discounted saving the planet a couple times, and saving the planet's savior a couple dozen.

"What's so special about destiny anyway?" He asked of thin air, still not looking up as he walked. "It's just another way of fucking over someone who doesn't deserve the pain."

Xander kept walking into the shadows.

He never noticed that three blocks down, a chunk of asphalt slammed through a display window and set off a silent alarm.

*****

Next Morning

"Xander?" The voice called out, waking him from his slumber. "Xander!?"

"Mmmm... Down here, Anya." He called from where he was stirring under his covers.

"Oh there you are..." Anya sort of bounced into the room, looking altogether too cheerful for someone this early in the morning.

"Anya..." Xander muttered, "It's..."

He squinted at the clock, "Oh crap it almost noon hour!"

"Well of course it is... did you forget to sleep again?"

He flew out of bed, grabbing at clothing haphazardly and jamming his body parts into them.

"What's wrong?"

"Anya, I'm late for work!" Xander said, flying out of the basement at a dead run. *****

His boss shook his head, "Sorry kid. I've gotta let you go. I'm sorry, kid."

Xander slumped and nodded. "Yeah, I know... I'm sorry I let you down, Sammy."

"Oh, Kid, it's not that. This is the first time you've been late since you started here. The fact is that I'm moving out of town."

"You are?"

"Yeah..." Sammy replied, "Something about this town just grates on me, kid. I've decided to pack it in."

Xander let out a breath of amusement, shaking his head as he smirked. "I always figured you for having brains, Sam... Glad to see I was right."

The man shrugged, "I gotta tell you kid... not much future in this stuff anyway. Look, you did a good job while you were here, but come on kid, why don't you go back to school?"

Xander laughed bitterly. "Right. How am I supposed to afford that? No, I'll have to find something else."

"Look..." Sammy said, "I've got a cousin... he's got a construction firm... he might be hiring some laborers since summer is coming up and his job gets pretty busy now. I can give him a call and let you know?"

Xander sighed, "thanks Sammy. And good luck with your move."

"You're a good kid, Xander... Take care of yourself."

"Whenever I can, Sam. Whenever I can."

*****

"Well," Xander muttered as he walked home, "That's the perfect end to a perfect year. At least no one got sucked into hell."

He stopped as he walked, changing direction and walking out to the docks instead. It only took him a few minutes to reach the waterfront, and he found himself strolling out on a high dock until he was staring out at the rhythmically rising and falling of the waves below him. He didn't know why he was there, he wasn't really an ocean person, but this time it just felt right.

Maybe it was the fact that the sea was constantly in motion, and his life had lacked a certain stability lately. Maybe not.

Truth was, Xander didn't care. He was running on emotion and that was a simple as that.

He leaned over the railing, looking down the twenty feet to the water below him. Why do they build these piers so high anyway?

He twisted his hands, not noticing the metal of the railing twist with them.

Suddenly the rail gave way, and Xander plunged over with a strip of the metal railing still gripped in his hands. He screamed on the way down, then splashed into the water and vanished under the waves.

*****

"Anya?" Buffy looked up form where she and Riley were sharing a box of fries. "Where's Xander?"

"At work." Anya looked dejected. "He's always at work lately. Even when he's not."

Buffy blinked. "I'm sure that made sense on your planet, but for those of us living on Earth, maybe you could clear it up?"

Anya sat down heavily in the seat across from them and took one of their fries, not paying any attention to the looks Riley and Buffy shot each other. "He complains about work, talks about working, even dreams about work... He doesn't love me anymore."

Buffy blinked twice. "Ok, I'm still not following you."

"Well... you know he was too tired last night for orgasms?"

Buffy grimaced, shuddering at the images that evoked. "Maybe he was... tired?"

"Well of course he was tired!" Anya said, "Didn't I just say that? But why was he tired... and Xander is never too tired for orgasms..."

"Never?" Buffy blurted without thinking.

"Buffy!" Riley snapped, staring at her in shock.

Buffy blushed and hid her face.

Anya didn't pay attention, "No, never. Not once since we got together... before patrol, after patrol... after you guys took down ADAM, before you guys took..." "Enough about the orgasms, Anya!" Buffy blurted out.

Every one in the café stopped eating and stared at Buffy.

Buffy reddened, "Oh god. I'm talking to Anya in her own language."

Anya, "It's me isn't it? He's bored of me, isn't he?"

A part of Buffy desperately wanted to scream out 'yes!', but she just reached across the table and put her hand over Anya's. "I'm sure that's not it."

Anya looked down at her hand, her eyes brightening. "Maybe I need to be more adventurous?"

"Huh?"

"You know... a menage a trois... guys like that, right Riley?"

"Um..." Riley's eyes widened as he tried to formulate a response through the coffee that was suddenly flooding his lungs.

Buffy nailed him with a piercing stare, "You better think carefully before you plan on answering that question."

Riley shoved his chair back, checking his bare wrist. "Will you look at the time? I have to... umm... do something."

As Riley beat a hasty tactical retreat, Anya turned back to Buffy. "So?"

"So what?"

"Do guys like that?"

"How should I know!?" Buffy looked at her as if she were insane.

"Well... you know, demons hear things..." Anya said, in a wheedling tone.

Buffy reached across the table, pulling Anya in closer by her elbow. "Hear what?" She asked, her voice dangerously low.

"Nothing about you..." Anya said, "Just about Slayers..."

Buffy let her go, growling warningly. "Anya..."

"Well, its true... Did you know that there was once a Slayer in India who added fourteen pages to the Kama Sutra?" Buffy clapped her hands over her ears, "I so don't want to hear this!"

Anya watched as Buffy got up and stormed off. She finally spoke in an honestly confused manner. "But it's true?"

*****

Xander gasped as he struggled ashore, his clothes waterlogged and his eyes bulging as he drew in breathes. As he coughed and gagged on the salt water he looked down at the metal rail that he had, for some odd reason, held onto.

"Lousy rusted piece of junk!" He growled, throwing the rail over his shoulder as hard as he could.

Behind him the small piece of metal flew through the air in a high arc that ended four hundred yards out to sea, where the metal rail splashed down and sunk below the sea line. As it sank it twisted in the current, flashing as it's unblemished and unrusted surface reflected sunlight.

*****

Xander stumbled back into his basement apartment, staggering under the weight of his waterlogged clothing. He collapsed onto his beaten up old couch, letting the water seep into the couch without caring.

"Xander?"

He didn't looked up. "Hi Anya."

"Xander... you're all wet."

He laughed, thinking about how well that statement fit his life. "You've got that right, Ahn."

"What happened?"

"I lost my job." he said dejectedly. "Again."

"Well..." Anya said a little uncertainly, "Good."

"Huh?"

"Now you can spend more time with me..." She sat down next to him and leaned suggestively up against him, ignoring the fact that he was soaked to the bone.

Xander sighed and got up, pushing gently back. "Not now, Anya... I'm... I'm... hell, I don't know what I am." Anya watched as he walked towards the bathroom. "You're my boyfriend!"

*****

Her boyfriend. Xander thought darkly to himself as the steaming water cascaded over him. Is that the total sum of my identity? He scrubbed himself down, washing the salt from his body and grumbling over his unexpected tumble into the sea. When he was done he stepped out of the shower and stood, staring at himself in the mirror for a long while. Finally he shook his head and sat down on the toilet, resting his head in his hands as he did.

A soft click triggered a latent memory, something he'd thought completely gone. An old voice, one he'd forgotten whispered quietly into his mind. Bomb.

Of course he immediately discounted the idea. It was ridiculous, who would plant an explosive in his bathroom. Way too lethal weapon 2...

So he started to get up. Then he stopped, the voice practically screaming through his mind. Xander waited, his heartbeat slowing as he considered the situation.

Ok... fine. I'll check.

He slowly leaned over, looking behind him. See? Nothing there.

Xander started to get up again, but again a surge of adrenaline and a scream in his mind dropped his body nervelessly back against the toilet. Finally he looked up and called out, "Anya!"

It took a few moments, but the blond finally appeared.

"Xander!" She whined, "What are you doing on the toilet? Hey.. This isn't some weird sex thing is it? Cause I do have some limits..."

"Anya!"

She considered, "Well maybe I don't, but this *is* pretty weird..."

"Anya!" He snapped again, "I need to you to look behind the toilet and tell me what you see."

She looked at him oddly, "Why? Have you cleaned it since the last time I was in here? Cause I have to tell you... it's not a pretty sight."

"Anya!"

"Oh, alright...." She muttered, craning around him daintily as she looked behind him. "I don't see... hey... what's that?"

"What? What's what?"

"There's something flashing red back there..."

Xander swallowed. "Anya... call Riley." "Why?"

"Because I think I'm sitting on a bomb."

*****

About thirty minutes later Xander was still sitting on the toilette, only now he had spectators. Luckily he had the foresight to demand a blanket from his bed before anyone other then Anya had arrived. Particularly since he now had Buffy and Anya staring at him as he sat there.

Riley was on all fours, and uncomfortably close, looking behind the toilette when Xander heard a light gasp form the soldier.

"What!?"

"It's a bomb alright." Riley muttered, "Nasty one too... I've never seen a detonator like this... Man, this is some piece of work..."

"Riley!" Xander snapped, "Critique the work later, tell me you can disarm it?"

"Ummm... I'd rather not." Riley confessed.

"What!?" Xander, Buffy, and Anya called out in unison.

"I'm sorry," Riey said, crawling back out, "But I don't know how."

Xander closed his eyes, "I'm a dead man."

"Didn't this happen on one of those movies you love?" Anya asked.

"Yeah..."

"Well... do the same thing they did."

"Anya..." Xander started patiently, "They had a nice heavy bathtub to jump into... and lots of bomb proof kevlar blankets. I don't think I have any of those, though if you'd like to check the closet be my guest, and I don't think a fiberglass shower is going to provide much protection." "Oh."

Xander looked at Riley, "What kind of explosive?"

"Looks like C4." Riley said, "But I'm guessing here."

"Great..." Xander muttered, "At least I'm not going to get taken out by some cheap fertilizer bomb."

"You're not dying here, Xander." Buffy said firmly, "Not until you explain to me who wants you dead bad enough to do *this*!"

"Believe me, Buff, if I knew you'd be the first person on the list... but I haven't got a clue."

"I'm calling Willow and Giles." Buffy said.

"Oh great." Xander moaned, "Just what I need... more people to witness me getting plastered across the ceiling... along with the contents of my toilette."

"Ewwwww...." Buffy and Anya said together as Buffy left.

*****

"Oh dear." Giles muttered as he looked at the scene before him.

Xander was sitting on the toilette, covered in an old blanket as he stared at the wall. Willow and Tara were standing over him, discussing a spell they had read about recently.

"I'm telling you it'll work." Willow insisted.

"It *could* work." Tara corrected, "But honey... you haven't worked out how to rig the landing point."

"Well... yeah, but still..."

"Willow, I love you," Xander said, "But I think that it's a pretty big risk..."

"Bigger then blowing up!?"

Xander swallowed, looking at Tara. "She has a point."

"Excuse me... What are you all talking about...?" Giles enquired.

Xander grimaced, "Willow wants to guinea pig me... she has this teleportation spell she wants to try..." "Oh dear." Giles muttered, "That is a very high level spell..."

"Giles!" Willow protested, "Xander is sitting on a bomb!"

The whole scenario had gone past being surreal to Xander, and was now approaching looney toones.

"Alright! That's it!" He blurted, "We're going to try the spell!"

"We are!?" Willow looked surprised. "We are." Xander said firmly, swallowing. "Unless someone has a better idea... and I mean right now!"

Everyone shook their heads.

"Ok... Buffy... make sure my parents aren't home..." Xander said, "The rest of you... get out of here."

Everyone nodded and evacuated the premises as Willow prepared her spell. Tara was the last to leave, kissing her girlfriend on the cheek. "Good luck."

Willow nodded, smiling shyly. "Thanks..."

A few minutes later Buffy called down. "It's all clear!"

Xander swallowed as Willow smiled at him and got out her spell components. "Wait!"

"What?"

"Get me some pants and a shirt?" Xander asked, "Just in case?"

Willow smirked and nodded, quickly retrieving the items. "Ok... now sit back."

Xander did, and looked shocked as Willow hopped on his lap. "What are you doing?"

She rolled her eyes, "You want me to stay behind? I don't think so."

"Oh. Yeah... Bomb." Xander said weakly as Willow squirmed on his lap in a vain attempt to get comfortable.

"Oh, would you relax?" She said, "Gay now, remember?"

Xander swallowed. "I'm trying."

"Men." She rolled her eyes, then starting muttering the words to the spell. With a flourish she tossed some sparkling dust into the air and suddenly, they just weren't there any more.

*****

With a flash and a dual scream, the two of them appeared in mid air and plummeted to the ground, landing hard on a scrub covered knoll and quickly rolling to the bottom where they landed in a tangled heap.

"Xander?" Willow spoke first.

The only reply was a semi moan. "Xander!?"

"What?"

"Get off me."

Xander lifted his head, and realized that he was lying on Willow, his blanket pretty much gone. He looked her briefly in the eyes, then scrambled off her, and pulled the blanket to him. He was looking around for the pants when he heard the rumble.

Both of them looked up in shock to see a plume of fire reach for the clouds.

"Oh my."

Xander swallowed. "I guess home is... was... that way."

*****

The two of them staggered back into Sunnydale about forty minutes later, walking painfully toward the large cloud of smoke they could see hanging over Xander's neighborhood. The found the place cordoned off more then a block from Xander's place, but they were able to get a glimpse of his former home.

The house was demolished. There was debris on the ground for as far either of them could see, and police and firefighters were everywhere.

They stood and stared at the wreckage, so shocked that they didn't notice when Giles came up behind them.

"You two have no idea how happy I am to see you!"

Xander spun around, "Giles... are the others ok? What the hell happened? I didn't think it was that big a bomb?"

"Neither did we." Giles said, his voice grim. "The others... are at the hospital."

"What?" Willow asked, her had flying to her mouth. "Tara?"

"Is fine." Giles assured her, "Buffy will recover... Riley as well. We're not sure about Anya."

Xander paled. "What? I have to get to her..."

Xander turned to run, but Giles grabbed him. "My car is over here..."

Xander reluctantly allowed himself to be led to the beat up old car, numbly strapping the seatbelt on as Giles started it up and they drove off. *****

"Anya!" Xander burst into the hospital, well ahead of Willow and Giles, his eyes wildly looking around the ER. He grabbed the nearest nurse, "Where's Anya!?"

"Who?"

"Anya! Anya Jenkins!" Xander said, quickly drawing his girlfriends fake name into his mind as he tried to get the message across. "She was caught in the blast earlier!"

"Oh..." The Nurse was strangely subdued. "The blond?"

Xander nodded, "Where is she? I need to see her!"

"I think you should wait here..." The nurse said.

Xander shook his head, "No! Where is she? Tell me where she is!"

A guard approached, "Excuse me, is there a problem?"

Xander glared at him, but the Nurse shook her head. "No... it's alright, Jeff."

The guard nodded, and backed away a bit, but kept an eye on Xander.

By this time Giles and Willow had caught up to him, and Giles addressed the nurse. "Do you know if Miss Jenkins has come out of surgery yet?"

"Surgery!?" Xander yelped, paling.

The nurse hesitated, "You should speak with Doctor Connolly..." "Could you please tell us where we might find him?"

"I'll get him for you." She promised, then moved off.

"Surgery!?" Xander turned on Giles, "You didn't say anything about surgery... What...!?"

"Xander!"

Xander turned in time for Buffy to grab him in a hug. "Thank god! We didn't know what happened to you..."

Xander realized that Buffy was hurt fairly badly as he noticed the heavy gauss taped to her face. He stared around the room helplessly as he gently put his arm around her and hugged her back, "I... I'm... I'm ok, Buff... What happened?"

Buffy finally pulled back and Xander saw Riley limp up, nodding to him. Xander nodded back, looking lost all of a sudden. "I don't get it... there couldn't have been that much C4..."

"There wasn't." Riley said grimly. Whatever it was, it wasn't C4."

Xander fell back into one of the waiting room chairs, "What happened?"

Buffy shook her head, "We don't know... Riley had us back to what we thought was a safe distance... and then you must have did the spell... cause your house went up like an A-bomb."

Riley nodded, "I've never seen anything like it. You're house... just disintegrated. Any normal explosive would have blown a hole in the place, probably send your toilette through the roof... but this..."

Xander looked around the room, his eyes refusing to focus on any one thing. "A... Ahn?"

"Secondary shrapnel." Riley responded quietly. "She got hit by a chunk of your neighbors car."

Xander stared blankly at him, slumping back into the chair and falling silent.

Willow looked around hesitantly. "W... where's Tara?"

"She's being bandaged up..." Buffy said, sighing. "They had to pick a lot of glass out of her shoulder..."

"Tara..." Willow whispered in shock, her hand flying up to cover her mouth.

Buffy and Riley turned to see Tara limping out toward them, a crutch under one arm.

Willow ran to her, but held back at the last moment, afraid of hurting her lover. "Tara?" Tara smiled weakly, "I'll live, Willow... I'll live."

Willow bit her lower lip, finally reaching around her lover and hugging the blonde lightly. Tara hugged Willow back with one arm, flinching as her other arm occasionally rubbed something the wrong way.

"Ahem."

Everyone looked up to see a doctor standing there, watching. "Excuse me... I'm sorry to interrupt..."

Giles was the first to respond, "Not at all, Dr... Do you have any information on Miss Jenkins?"

The Doctor frowned, looking downcast. "I'm afraid that Miss Jenkins condition is extremely serious... But she is awake now, and that's usually a good sign."

"Can I see her?" The Doctor looked to Xander, noting the boy's concern. "And you are?"

"Xander... Xander Harris." Xander replied, "I'm her..."

"Fiancé." Buffy said quickly.

The scoobies barely managed to keep from looking at Buffy as if she were insane as she kept the Doctor's attention on herself. "They got engaged recently."

"I see..." Connolly said, nodding. "She has been asking for you, Mr Harris... I think I can allow you to go in. But don't get her excited, and when I say it's time to leave... you must leave."

Xander nodded. "Anything, Doctor. Anything."

The Doctor led Xander away and Willow stared at Buffy for a long moment. "Fiancé!?"

Buffy shrugged, "They might not let him in if he said boyfriend."

Everyone shrugged, nodding as they sat down to wait.

*****

The Doctor showed him to the door of the ICU room, and Xander suddenly felt scared to death to take another step. He froze at the door and stared inside, as if his death was waiting for him beyond the step. His... or more accurately, someone elses.

Finally he sucked it up, forcing himself to put one foot in front of the other again and again until he was well into the room.

"Xander...?"

He winced. Her voice was weak, rasping, and barely able to rise above the sound of the machines that were laboring around her.

But it was enough.

Xander's fear melted away at the sound of her voice and he stumbled to her side, pulling a chair haphazardly up so he could sit at her side and hold her hand. "I'm here, Ahn."

She smiled, smiled through the tubes and the bandages and the wires that were draped off her. She smiled and her eyes found his. "You made it."

Xander nodded, "Willow's spell worked."

"I'm happy, Xander." She said, still smiling. "I'm happy."

Xander swallowed, his mouth so dry it scratched. "You're going to be alright, Ahn."

"Am I?" She asked, as if considering the question. Finally she shook her head, "No. I don't think I am."

"Ahn..." He whispered desperately, clutching her hand. "Don't talk like that... you'll be fine."

"Maybe... maybe..." She said, "Maybe not. Doesn't matter anymore."

"Don't say that, Anya..." Xander pleaded, "Of course it matters."

Anya just smiled at him.

Xander felt a clutch of panic grip his chest as he looked into her eyes, and then all the machines in the room with him went haywire.

"No!" He screamed, suddenly reaching up and holding her close. "NO!"

Around him Doctors and nurses suddenly rushed in and around him, pulling him away as they tried to resuscitate. Xander stumbled back into a corner, pushed there by one of the orderlies, and watched.

Eyes wide, he stared into the blank eyes of his girlfriend as the doctors rushed around her, and Xander knew then that nothing they did was bringing her back.

"Ahn..." He whispered, his back sliding up the wall as he forced himself to his feet. "You'll have to wait outside." A nurse said sternly as she pulled him out.

"Ahn." He whispered again, staring in shock until the door closed in his face.

Xander stared for a long moment, then turned and stumbled away. He left in the other direction from where he had entered, not wanting to see the scoobs.

*****

"Hurry up, Dawn!" Joyce called as she climbed out of the car and rushed toward the hospital.

"I'm coming! I'm coming!" Dawn said, fumbling with her seat belt. She got out, chasing her mother inside.

Just as she reached the door something stopped her, and the young girl turned around to see a familiar form stumble out of another door.

"Xander?" She said oddly. Dawn looked around, and saw that her mother had run in and was already out of sight. Dawn frowned, then turned back to where the figure had vanished around a hedge. "Xander?" She headed off in pursuit of him.

*****

Joyce rushed into the ER, her eyes almost instantly spotting her daughter. She came to a stop and collapsed against the wall, sighing as she closed her eyes. "Thank god."

"Mom?" Buffy looked up.

Joyce nodded, and walked toward Buffy. "Thank god, you're alright... I was so scared..."

Buffy nodded, biting her lip. "I know, mom. I know..."

Joyce hugged her daughter as lightly as she could force herself to, trying not to hurt the young woman. "My God, Buffy... The whole town heard the explosion. What happened??"

"Someone... someone tried to kill Xander." Buffy whispered, in shock at having to speak those words.

"Xander?" Joyce stared in surprise. "My God. Why? Is he alright!?"

Buffy nodded, "He's fine... He... We don't know why. He..."

"He what? What's wrong?" Joyce asked, "Xander's ok... right?" Buffy nodded and started to speak as a Doctor came into the room.

Everyone looked at him as the doctor pulled off a pair of rubber gloves and stared at the ground. Finally he looked up and shook his head, "I'm sorry... there was nothing we could do."

Joyce stared in confusion as gasps of pain echoed around the room. "What? Who?"

Buffy actually teared up as she gasped out the name. "Anya... Oh my God... Anya."

*****

"Xander!"

Xander ignored the call, he just kept walking without seeing anything that was in front of him.

"Xander!"

"Go away, Dawn." He said, his voice carrying over his shoulder to the little girl though he didn't turn his head.

Dawn stumbled to a halting stop, her face a bewildered mask of confusion and hurt. "Xander?"

Xander didn't hear her that time, and if he had he wouldn't have paid any attention. His heart was too full of it's own numbing pain to be able to feel the pain of others.

Dawn stared after him for a while, then hurried to catch up. "Xander! What is it??"

"Go back to the gang, Dawn." Xander said dully, his mind barely acknowledging her presence.

"Is it Buffy?" Dawn asked hesitantly, "Oh my god... did Buffy get hurt?"

"Buffy's fine." Xander said, still walking.

"Well... then what... who...?" Dawn blinked, her face going white. "Anya?"

Xander didn't answer.

"Is... is she?"

Xander turned and looked at the little girl, his face dead and his eyes hollow. "She's... gone."

With that pronouncement Xander turned and walked away again, leaving Dawn standing alone on the sidewalk.

***** "I... I just can't... I can't believe it." Joyce said, frowning as the shock set it. "I can't believe she's gone..."

Giles sighed, wiping his glasses to the point that his tissue was threatening to wear through. "I... I wish I... I wish... I don't know what I wish."

Joyce nodded solemnly. "Xander must be devastated."

Everyone looked around in shock.

"Xander..." Buffy whispered, "My god. Where is he?"

Joyce looked around, "He's not here with you?"

"No. He went in to see Anya..." Giles trailed off, his glasses falling to the floor from his limp hands, "Oh dear lord."

Buffy rushed out of the ER waiting room, leaving the rest behind.

Joyce looked around in shock, "Dawn... have you seen Xander? Dawn? Where is she?"

*****

Dawn ran after Xander, trying to catch up to him as the shock wore off. She didn't really have the slightest clue what was going through his head at the moment, but she knew enough to be certain that leaving him alone wasn't the best of ideas.

Instead she just followed behind him, leaving him enough space that he didn't bother to acknowledge her presence, but close enough that she was certain he knew she was there. She didn't speak, didn't make any noise, just followed him as he wandered more or less aimlessly.

She shouldn't have been surprised when, after a half hour of following his aimless trudging, they wound up at the wreckage of the old Highschool. He stopped outside the wrecked building, looking up at what used to be the main building, and shook his head.

"I first met her here."

Dawn nodded, taking a step up to his side.

"She was... absolutely unique." Xander said, his voice and face serious. "I'd never met anyone like her... She scared me a lot at first... everything she said would freak me out. You know... I just kept thinking that people don't talk like this... it just isn't done."

Dawn stayed quiet.

"Then she came back... and she was still so different..." Xander said, dully. "And I started to realize that... that if people did talk like her, then there would be a lot less pain in the world."

Dawn nodded again, wondering if he were actually talking to her or if he was speaking to Anya through her. It didn't matter, she decided a moment later. For now, all that mattered was that he speak what he wanted... what he needed to speak.

"She was honest... and fresh... and beautiful... and..." Xander choked a bit, "And so very alive."

His legs buckled as tears streamed down his cheeks, and he fell to his knees. Through it all his voice remained steady, though thick with emotion. "Oh god... what am I going to do without her?"

Dawn stepped closer, laying a hand on his shoulder as he was wracked by silent sobs. Neither of them heard the movement around them until a clear voice called out.

"Don't worry. You'll be joining her soon enough, Harris."

*****

"Dawn?"

"Xander!?"

Buffy came around the corner of the hospital, almost running into Willow. They shared a look, then began to speak at the same time.

"Did you see...?"

"Any luck...?"

The both deflated, then sighed and spoke together.

"Damn."

*****

Dawn spun around, glaring at the oddly dressed man who had appeared behind them. "Who the hell are you!?"

The man rolled his eyes, "Still surrounding yourself with women to do your dirty work, huh Harris?"

Xander slowly got up, wiping at his eyes as he struggled to get his voice under control, and turned around. He looked at the man, then forced a shrug. "Do I know you?" The man snarled at him, disgust evident in his features. "Don't you *dare* ask that question, Harris. Boys."

From around them several more people appeared, some unarmed, but most carrying weapons of one type or another. None of them looked professional in the slightest, they all looked like the type of scum one might be able to find on the streets of any major metropolitan city.

Xander ignored them. "Who are you?" He asked the leader.

The man growled. "Of all the ignominious..."

Suddenly he stopped and shrugged, looking suddenly philosophical. "Ah well. So be it. Kill them both."

The thugs started to tighten around, causing Dawn to yelp in fear. Xander just stood there, not caring.

Dawn cried out, terror in her voice as she saw the closest thug leering at her. "Wait! Who are you? Why are you doing this!?"

The leader shrugged, "I'm terribly sorry that you got in the way... It really should be just Harris... If my bomb had worked this wouldn't be necessary..."

He had barely gotten the last word out before Xander stiffened, his eyes alight with a fire that had been all but dead and gone a moment earlier. When his spoke, his voice was low and growling, but deadly earnest.

"*Your* bomb?"

*****

Buffy and Willow ran up to Riley and Giles. "Anything?"

Both men shook their heads.

"Nothing." Giles said, "Where would He go?"

"His place is out." Riley said, "Just to state the obvious. Does anything else mean anything to him?"

Willow considered, "Ummm... maybe... no... haven't been there in years."

"Where does Xander go?" Riley repeated. "Everyone has places like that..."

"He used to go to the park." Willow said enthusiastically, but deflated. "But that was when we were five."

Riley rolled his eyes, "Come on. You guys are his friends!"

Buffy glared at her boyfriend, "Well it's not like your being Mr Helpful here!"

"I barely know him!" Riley snapped. "He's my girlfriend's best buddy... that doesn't exactly endear him to me, you know! Come on, think!"

"We ARE!" Willow snapped.

"Now, everybody calm down." Giles stepped in, "Buffy, take Willow and start asking around town. See if anyone has seen him. Chances are that he's looking to be alone right now, but he might have gone somewhere public."

The two girls nodded, and then hurried away.

Riley looked around, "I'll go..."

Giles laid a hand on his shoulder. "Wait."

"What?"

"You and I are going to check out Willy's place, and the caves under the old school."

Riley paled. "You don't think he would...?" Giles spoke slowly, coldly. "Xander just suffered a terrible loss... He may look for something to take it out on."

Riley nodded and the two hurried off as Giles left one thought unspoken.

I know I would.

*****

"*Your* bomb?"

The chill tone had none of the emotion that had been present in his voice before, it held only a lethal certainty that was utterly foreign to its owner.

The man who claimed ownership of the item in question didn't notice. He merely smiled and nodded, "Of course. Who else hates you enough to blow up your home?"

Xander shivered. It wasn't the cold. It wasn't fear. It was anger. Pure, cold, and undiluted fury. "Who ARE you?"

The man shook his head, rolling his eyes in disgust. "That's the part of this job that really burns me, you know? I really hate this."

"Why?" Xander asked, his voice so low that the man didn't hear him.

"Huh?" The man asked, cupping an ear. "What was that?"

"WHY?"

"Oh. That." The man seemed bored. "Let's just say I object to your choice of careers."

That actually shook Xander for a moment. He blinked, and when he spoke there was no anger in his voice. "You don't want me to sell Ice Cream any more??"

The man blinked in return, his face disolving into shock as he covered it with his hands. "Of all the ludicrous.... You SELL Ice Cream!?"

Xander growled, his anger returning. "I did until this morning you stupid son of a....! How the hell could you not know that!?"

The man rolled his eyes, shaking his head again. Finally he spoke to his 'men'. "Kill them!!"

The men charged at Xander and Dawn, weapons raised and screaming.

Xander was already moving before they reached him. He charged the man in the white suit.

He only made it halfway before the first of the man's minions leapt onto his back, intent on dragging him to the ground. It didn't even slow Xander down. Neither did the second, who tried to tackle him to the ground. The third caused him to stumble slightly, and the fourth made him miss a step.

He was three quarters of the way to the man in white, who was starting to look a little nervous as he caught a glimpse of the expression of pure murderous fury on Xander's face, when the fifth thug hit him low in the legs and cut them from underneath him.

The whole group hit in a solid thud, and a chorus of muffled groans and yelps. It rolled around for a moment, limbs flailing, and then came to a stop.

There was an eerie silence, then a scream cut through the air.

One of the thugs fell away, blood streaming down his face and lips, his nose a mashed pulp.

Then a sickening crack echoed through the area, and another thug rolled away with his arm flopping around at an impossible angle.

With only three still hanging on, Xander slowly forced his way up to his knees. Then he climbed to his feet, the three remaining thugs beating and smashing him with every free hand. Xander ignored it all as he took first one step, then another, and another, toward the man in the white suit.

"You..." He rasped as he whipped an arm loose and belted one of the thugs across the face hard enough to shatter his cheek bone.

"Killed..." Xander shifted to one side, dropping the second of the three low enough to the ground that Xander could step on his trailing leg. Xander did so... hard. There was an agonized scream as the thugs kneecap popped audibly, then he feel aside and rolled around in pain.

"MY..." Xander seethed as the reached behind him and flipped the last thug over his shoulder, dropping the man to the ground in front of him in a crumpled heap. Xander stepped on the groaning man as he approached his target.

"ANYA!!!" Xander screamed, only steps away from the man.

The man smiled and shrugged, politely clapping his hands. "So sorry. I was aiming at you after all. Anya, whoever she was, was merely collateral damage."

"COLLATERAL DAMAGE!!??" Xander screamed, spittle flying from his mouth as he grabbed the man by the collar and lifted him into the air. "I LOVED HER!!"

The man didn't blink."I suggest you set me down."

Xander did blink. "You killed my girlfriend! You tried to kill me! And you think I'm going to let you go!? Mister, I don't give a flying fuck who you are!! You're just one more dead man walking the streets of this goddamned town!"

"Xander!"

Xander's blood ran cold as he heard the soft voice behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see two men holding Dawn off the ground, with knives to her throat.

He turned back to the man, who he was still holding off the ground easily.

The man in the white suit smiled serenely. "I'm a man of my word, Harris. You know that about me. Set me down... and I'll give you twenty seconds head start."

Xander looked at him as if he were insane. "You think I'm gonna RUN from you!? I'm going to rip you apart, you sick fucker!!"

"Not if you want her to live."

Xander hesitated, tensing to end the man's life with a single move. His soldier memories were almost gone, but he could still remember a hundred ways to kill a man without breaking a sweat. This man in front of him wouldn't be more then a split seconds work.

But then he considered Dawn.

Even if he were Buffy there was no way he could close the gap between himself and those two men before they drove that knife into her throat.

"Clock's ticking, Harris." The man said, still smiling.

Dimly, in the background, Xander felt those he had injured only slightly climbing to their feet and he also registered the appearance of others. Others who seemed to be armed with better weapons.

"Three."

Xander hesitated, his arms starting to shake as he held the man aloft.

"Two."

He looked around, his eyes wild as he sought another option.

"One."

There had to be a way. Something. Anything.

The man smiled. "Kill her." "NO!" Xander screamed instantly, dropping the man to the ground.

The man brushed himself off, and smiled. "You have twenty seconds."

Again Xander hesitated. He looked around uncertainly and then, after shooting a death glare at the man in the white suit, spun and ran straight at the men holding Dawn.

"Let her go!" The man ordered behind him. "He has seventeen seconds left."

Xander scooped Dawn up without pausing in his run, tucking the small girl under one arm as he ran for the nearest cover.

"Xander!!" She screamed in terror as the ground rushed by underneath her.

Xander didn't answer, he just vaulted the wreckage of the school as he ran into the blown out building.

*****

"Nothing." Buffy said as she caught up to Willow. "You?"

Willow shook her head. "No. No one has seen him around here."

Buffy looked up. The sun was starting to come down, and she didn't like the blood red sunset that was forming to the west. "It's getting dark. We have to find him."

"Maybe I can do a scrying spell?" Willow said hopefully.

"Good! Let's do it!"

"But... uh... I need something of Xander's." Willow said sheepishly.

"Everything he owned blew up in the explosion!" Buffy snapped.

"Don't you think I know that!?"

Buffy breathed fast, considering. "Do you have anything of his at your place?"

Willow shook her head, "Not anymore... I gave back his stuff after the 'fluke'. I didn't want Oz to be jealous. You?"

Buffy thought furiously, "I don't know... no... no..."

"We must have *something*!"

"Maybe Giles!" Buffy said quickly, "Come on! Let's go!" *****

"Come out, come out, wherever you are..."

The mocking voice echoed through the rapidly darkening ruins of the old school as Xander pressed Dawn and himself back against the cracked ruins of the old Library walls.

He silently picked up a couple fist sized rocks and whispered to Dawn, "Our old armory was over there by those wrecked tables... see if you can find a couple weapons."

Dawn nodded fearfully, and quickly scrambled over to the tables and began picking through the rubble. Xander waited, listening intently until he heard the sound of footsteps against the rubble. When he caught a glimpse of a shadow he popped up and let fly with the first rock.

The whistling projectile caught the thug in the chest and blew him off his feet, slamming him back into the wall of the destroyed hallway. He slid down the dusty wall, falling into a slump, blood pouring from his mouth as his eyes went vacant.

Xander, however, didn't see any of this. Instantly after firing the rock he ducked back, dropping the second rock as he rubbed his arm in pain.

"Ow, ow, ow, ow..." He muttered, vigorously rubbing his arm.

"What's wrong?" Dawn asked in concern.

Xander shook his head impatiently. "Just feels like all my blood ran up into my arm... all pins and needly. Did you find anything?"

"Does this count?" Dawn asked sheepishly as she held up a broken piece of wood.

Xander took it, snapped it in two, and handed half back to Dawn. "It's getting dark, we're alone, and we're standing on the hellmouth. A pointy piece of wood is comforting to me."

"Oh. Right." Dawn nodded, taking the stick with only a few small shakes.

*****

"Giles!" Buffy yelled as she reached the door. "Giles!"

"Buffy?"

"Mom?" Buffy frowned, "What are you doing here?"

"I was looking for Dawn." Joyce said, sighing. "I still can't find her."

"We haven't seen her, or Xander." Buffy said, "I'm getting really worried."

"So am I." Joyce said.

"Willow wants to do a locating spell on Xander, but we can't find anything of his to use..." Buffy said quickly, looking around. "I was hoping he left something here."

"I have something of Xander's." Joyce responded.

"What?"

Joyce reached into her purse and retrieved a small keychain. "He gave me this a few months ago... asked me to keep it for him."

Buffy snatched it from her mothers hands. "What is it?"

"It's a key, Buffy." Joyce said sarcastically.

"Mom! I mean what is it to?"

"Sorry." Joyce said, "I'm just worried about Dawn... Xander didn't say... He just said that it was important that if anything happened to him that I have that..."

Buffy paled, but then shook herself into motion. "Come on... Willow will do the spell, and we'll use something of Dawn's to track her down at the same time."

*****

"Find him!" The man in white snarled. "He must NOT survive!"

The thugs nodded fearfully and split up, moving through the ruins of the old school warily.

The man shook his head, glaring at the skies. "Nothing is ever simple, is it?"

As normal, there was no answer. He had long since decided that if there ever was an answer then he was getting out of his line of work and retiring to Miami. Satisfied that he wasn't insane quite yet, the man in white shook his head and started his own search.

"He can't be allowed to join the Patrol."

*****

Xander winced as he felt a pain shoot through his side.

Dawn noticed, "What's wrong?"

Xander frowned, shaking his head. "It's nothing."

"Xander..." Dawn frowned back. "You just got in a fight with at least five big guys... I really think you might want to stow the macho bullshit."

"Dawn!" Xander hissed in surprise. "Watch your mouth! Where did you hear that kind of language."

"From you."

"What!?" Xander said, then instantly slapped a mouth over his shoulder as he looked over his shoulder. "I don't talk like that..."

"You did last week when you told Buffy what you thought of Spike."

Xander glared at the little girl who was doing her damndest to look innocent. "You shouldn't be eavesdropping."

Dawn shrugged, "You should keep your voice down around impressionable ears. Imagine if mom heard you talk like that?"

"Oh god." Xander groaned. Joyce would have more then his head for exposing her youngest to language like that. "Dawn, promise me you won't ever say that again."

"Then let me see what hurts." Dawn said simply.

"What?"

"You're hurt. Let me see if it's serious." Dawn repeated, folding her hands over her chest.

"I'm fine, dawn." Xander hissed impatiently.

She just kept glaring at him.

Xander sighed, looking around for any sign of their hunters, then nodded. "Alright. It's just my side..."

Dawn walked around beside him, "Where?"

Xander lifted his shirt, "Just to the back.

In the dark she peered at his skin as she tentitively ran her hand along his side, eliciting another hiss of pain from him. Her hands came away wet, and she brought her fingers up to her nose and sniffed.

"Xander! You're bleeding!" She hissed back. "I know, Dawn." He said between clenched teeth. "One of them got lucky when we went down."

"We have to get you out of here!" She hissed. "You need to get to the hospital."

AT the mention of the word 'hospital' Xander's heart suddenly clenched and he shook fiercely. "I'm not going back to the hospital. Not now, not ever."

Dawn was silent for a long moment, "Xander... I..."

"Come on." He said, moving quietly through the remains of the old library. "Deadboy had a secret passage back here. We might be able to backdoor out of here."

"Then we get you some help." Dawn said.

Xander didn't respond. Sorry Dawn. Once you're safe, I'm doubling back... I'm no the one whose going to need the hospital tonight.

*****

Willow sat crosslegged on the ground, across from Tara, and tossed powdered incense on the key that sat in the center of the ring of candles.

"I call on the eyes of the world, I call on the will of the winds." She intoned.

"I beseech the heart of the woods, and summon the spirit of finding..." Tara said.

"Find for us, those who are misplaced. Find for us, those that we seek..." Willow continued.

Then they both spoke together, "So mote it be, Wiccan Will be done."

There was a flare of light from the center of the circle and both Wiccan's opened their eyes and peered into the glowing form.

"Oh my god." Willow whispered.

"What?" Tara asked, "Where is that?"

"The Hellmouth."

*****

"There's been a fight here." Riley said quietly.

"Are you sure?" Giles asked.

Riley picked up a cracked police nightstick, and then kicked over a fallen blackjack and nodded. "Yeah. Someone's hurt too."

"Blood?" Giles asked, eyeing the rusty spot on the ground that Riley's light was covering.

Riley nodded, "Yeah. Fresh. Couple hours tops."

Giles looked around, trying to see something, anything, that might lead him to his wayward child. "Blast."

"If Xander was here, he's probably long gone now." Riley decided. "One way or the other."

"What way or the other?"

"Buffy?" Riley and Giles both turned in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"Willow did a finding spell." Buffy answered as she approached with Willow, Tara, and Joyce behind her. "Xander and Dawn where near the Hellmouth a few minutes ago."

"Blast." Giles muttered, repeating himself. "Where? Underground?"

"We... ah... don't know." Willow admitted. "The Hellmouth makes the spell a little blurry."

"Blast!" Giles cursed for the thirst time. He looked around, and came to a decision. "Does anyone know where Spike is?"

"Spike?" Buffy looked confused, "Who cares?"

"We need him." Giles gritted out.

"Well... he's not at X... Xander's..." Tara said, "Or your place... right?"

"Right."

"W... what about Willy's?"

Willow smiled at her girlfriend, "Have I told you I love you lately?"

"N... not since this morning." Tara smiled.

"Well I do." Willow said, "So there."

Tara smiled, blushing.

"Alright. Riley, take my car and Buffy and go to Willy's. If he's there bring him back. The rest of us will check the wreckage in case he's above ground." Buffy hesitated, "Umm... Mom, maybe you shoud go..."

"I'm staying Buffy." Joyce said firmly. "I'll be alright. Now go."

Buffy nodded hesitantly, allowing herself to be tugged toward the vehicles by her boyfriend. *****

They were well into the tunnel when Xander suddenly paused and looked back.

"What? What is it?" Dawn asked.

"Run." was all he would say.

So the ran.

They ran through the narrow sewer tunnels, ducking through a tight entrance that brought them deeper down and beyond the man built cement of the sewers.

"Xander..." Dawn puffed, "This... this doesn't look safe."

Xander kept looking over his shoulder, pushing her along. "Safer then going back, Dawn. Keep running."

Dawn didn't object, the urgency in Xander's voice keeping her moving forward. "Where are we going?"

Xander held her up for a minute, looking left, then right. "Not that way," He said, nodding to the right, "We'll go left."

"Why not right?"

"That's where your sister almost drowned." He said quietly, pushing her to the left.

Dawn didn't know what to say to that, and merely ran along as Xander pushed them along as fast as they could move through the dark tunnels. She quickly noted that the tunnel was leading upward, and ahead she could feel fresh air blowing against her face.

"Xander... we're coming out..." She hissed.

"I know." He replied, still looking over his shoulder.

He pushed her out of the tunnels as they burst out into a wooded area.

"Where are we?"

"Keep moving." Xander ordered, "They're getting closer." "On the contrary." He heard a chilly voice speak slowly, "We're already here."

Xander and Dawn looked up to see the man in the white suit glaring down at them and Xander quickly stepped between Dawn and the man.

The man looked disgusted. "Harris, Harris... An officer to the end, I see."

Xander didn't reply, instead he marshaled his remaining strength to charge the man. As he did he saw the man's thugs appear around them, all armed now, and most with handguns.

As he heard the weapons click, Xander swallowed hard, and prepared himself for his last rush.

He silently swore that he was going to die with his hands around the man's throat.

*****

"Hey! Hey!" Spike growled as Buffy and Riley unceremoniously dragged him from the car. "Hands off ya bleedin bastards!"

"Shut up Spike." Riley muttered, kicking him to the ground.

"Ponce." Spike snarled over his shoulder.

"Spike!" Giles snapped from where he appeared from the darkness.

"What the bloody hell do ye want??" Spike growled, picking himself off the ground.

"Time to earn yer wheatabix." Giles snarled, matching the vampire's tone easily. "Can you smell the blood in the air?"

Spike paused, then looked around confused. "What happened ta Droopy?"

"It's Xander's then?"

"Of course it's Droop's." Spike snapped. "What happened? I thought he wasn't hurt in the big boom!?"

"He wasn't." Giles said coldly.

"Then what the hell was he doin here?"

Everyone shifted around, not wanting to answer, except Giles. "None of yer business. Can you track him?"

Spike sniffed the air slightly, shrugging. "Yeah. I spose. What's in it fer me?"

Buffy was about to threaten him, but Joyce spoke first. "Spike... Dawn is with him."

Spike's eyes widened. "Lil Bit?"

He instantly covered his reaction, "So? None of my business that."

"Spike... Please?" Joyce asked.

Spike shifted, then finally broke down. "Ok. Fine. But I'm just doin this so you don't revoke my wheatabix privileges at the Summers house. Got that?"

"Whatever you say, Spike." Joyce said, covering a smile.

*****

Xander tensed, ready to charge the man, as he felt rather then heard the weapons preparing to unload their lethal payload on him and Dawn.

As the tension mounted, and the instant approached, there was a shattering blast that utterly destroyed the moment. In seconds everything dissolved into utter chaos.

An explosion rocked the wooded area, and lights suddenly began peering in from the trees above them, illuminatingt he area in a pale green light as the brilliant spotlights diffused through the leaves of the trees.

The man looked up, a brief moment of panic crossing his features. "DAMNATION!" He cursed, ducking for cover and screaming out another order. "Kill THEM!!"

Xander spun, his thoughts of martyrdom gone in an instant, and grabbed Dawn in a tight hug as he dove for the shelter of the caves again.

"Xander!!" She screamed as the world was bathed in a fiery glow and another shockwave rolled over them.

They hit the ground in a loose roll, skittering along the dirt and rocks until they came to a stop with Xander on top. He covered her body with his own, tucking her head down into his chest with a forceful grip. "Stay Down!"

Dawn shook with every sound of the explosions and weapons fire from outside, but Xander wouldn't let her move as he cast about in hopes of finding a way to get the little girl clear.

Suddenly everything was quiet.

Xander looked up, uncovering Dawn's body as he slowly got up into a crouch and looked around.

"Xander? What?" "Shhh..." He hissed tensely, half kneeling over her as he kept his body between her and the cave entrance.

A bright light appeared at the mouth of the cave, blinding him momentarily. He shielded his eyes and looked up to see a tall, well built figure step into the cave mouth.

"Who are you!?" Xander asked angrily. He could easily tell that it wasn't the man in white.

A second figure appeared behind, and spoke to the shadowed figure. "Sir, Vafschamps escaped."

The figured nodded silently, then turned back to where Xander was still sheltering Dawn. "I understand you're looking for a job."

Xander blinked. "What?"

The man shrugged, then tossed something at him. Xander barely managed to catch the object, then he stared at it. It was a bundled up copy of the Sunnydale Tribune.

"Classified ads are a good place to look." The man said, then he turned and walked out.

"Wait!" Xander yelled, "Who are you!? Who was that guy!?"

Xander broke from his defensive position and ran to the cave mouth, staring out. Outside, there wasn't the slightest sign that anyone was present, or had been present for years. "What the?"

Xander was still standing there, arms limply at his side as he looked at the wooded clearing. He looked down at the newspaper in his hand for a moment, then clenched his fist, crumpling the paper up.

"Xander!? Dawn!?"

Behind them Buffy, Spike, Riley, Tara, Willow, Giles, and Joyce came stumbling up from the tunnels.

"Dawn!" Joyce ran to her daughter. "Thank god you're alright!"

Dawn got up and hugged her mother, "Mom! You wouldn't believe it! There were guys trying to kill me and Xander, but Xander saved me and beat the off and he was hurt and then they caught us again...!"

As the little girl came up to breathe Buffy turned to Xander, "Xander? What happened?"

Xander looked back, and saw that Dawn was safe now. As her safety sunk in he felt all the repressed grief come crashing back, along with mountains of anger and guilt over not catching the guy who claimed responsibility for the bomb. When he spoke, his voice was chilled. "How'd you find me?"

Buffy missed his tone, speaking brightly. "Spike sniffed you out... Xander! Are you hurt bad??"

Xander turned to look at Spike, "Sniffed me out?"

"Yer bleedin, whelp." Spike grinned. "Vamp's sniffer good for that, you know."

Xander nodded, then whipped a full power punch that crushed the vampires nose.

"Xander!?" Buffy and Willow cried out in shock.

As they both turned their attention to Spike, Xander turned and walked out. The last thing they heard was, "Keep an eye on Dawn, she's had a rough time."

Buffy turned and ran out after him, but even her Slayer senses couldn't find him in the murky darkness of the woods. She turned back to see Spike getting up slowly, holding his face.

"Bloody hell!" The Vampire groaned, "That *hurt*!"

"Spike, you have to find him!"

Spike looked at her as if she were mentally ill. "Are you daft??"

"Spike!" She growled under breath.

Spike wiped his nose, his hands coming away red with his borrowed blood. "Why do ye think he nailed me, Slayer? I can't smell nothin but my own blood now!"

*****

For the next two weeks Xander avoided the scoobies attempts to find him, hiding out on the cheapest motel in town. Ironically enough it was one that he knew fairly well, and had some semi-fond memories of.

Unfortunately, those memories did nothing but cause him more pain now.

With Anya dead, the last thing he needed to think about was Faith.

He was running down to his last dollar now, by the next day he'd be out on the streets and forced to go back to the scoobs and beg for shelter, or else he'd be homeless. Xander was fairly confident that he'd rather be homeless at the moment. He didn't want the looks of pity he knew he'd get from the scoobs.

He growled and slammed his hand down into the cheap end table, almost pitching forward into it as it shattered under the blow.

"What the?" He muttered, "Cheap piece of crap!"

He picked through the debris, noticing the newspaper the strange man had given him. It was still crumpled up, he hadn't bothered to look at it before now. But he was desperate, and didn't want to go back to the scoobs yet, though none of this was their fault. He just wasn't ready for the company of other people who had known Anya.

He clumsily unfurled the paper, smoothing it out as he flipped to the classifieds.

Why am I doing this? He thought to himself, I should get a new paper...

But he kept going, gently flattening the paper open to the page he was looking for.

And there it was.

Right in the center of the page was an ad that had been circled in purple ink.

Job Opportunity, Plenty of travel. See the world while doing work that means something. High pay, flexible hours, and perks included. Must pass Pysical and Psychological examination. Contact Steve Richards at 555-8547 for more information.

Travel? He considered. I could go for some of that right about now.

With that he set the paper down and picked up the phone.

*****

The next day Xander found himself standing in front of a large home, nervously and hyperaware of the fact that he was wearing clothes that were blood stained, sweat soaked, and in need of an incinerator. He had shaved, and cut his own hair to the best of his abilities, but he knew that he didn't look like a man out for an interview.

He sighed, bit his lip, and knocked on the door.

The door opened almost instantly and a clean, well dressed man grinned at him. "Hello. You must be Alex."

Xander nodded hesitantly.

"Well, come on in.. Come on... I'm Steve." Steve motioned him in.

Xander bit back an urge to tell the guy to never invite anyone inside in Sunnydale, but shook the feeling off and walked in. Steve led him to a small room, and motioned him to a chair. "Just take a seat." Xander did, shifting uncomfortably as he felt part of the neck rest push slightly against the back of his neck.

"Oh, just lay your head back... That's it..." Steve grinned as he sat down behind the desk. "Just try to relax... nothing strenuous here."

Xander swallowed and nodded. "So... umm... what's this job about?"

Steve shook his head, "I can't tell you anything just yet."

"Look... you know, I've had some time to think about this... and it sounds a little fishy, you know?" Xander said, "I'm not really into doing anything illegal."

Steve smiled, glancing at the flatscreen monitor in front of him, "Relax. We don't commit crimes, we're sort of on the other end of the spectrum."

"Cops?"

"Of a sort." Steve replied.

"Care to explain that?" Xander asked, irritated.

Steve just smiled, "If you pass the test I'll tell you everything you want to know."

"Great." Xander muttered, "When does the test start."

"Now." Steve said, becoming serious. "I'm going to ask you a series of questions... please relax and consider each on carefully."

Xander nodded. "Ok."

"Good. First, You're name?"

"Alexander Harris."

"Full name please."

"Alexander Lavelle Harris." Xander winced.

Steve paused, considering something. "Alright... I'm going to start the psych evaluation now... just relax."

"Ok." "Alexander... If you see a crime being committed, what do you do?"

Xander started to answer, but Steve shook his head. "Never mind. The crime is a murder, now what?"

"I..."

"What if the criminal has a gun... and aims it at you?"

"Well..."

"Takes a hostage?"

"Hey, can you let me...?"

"Instead it's a terrorist with a bomb..." Steve asked, ignoring Xander's attempts to actually answer.

"Hello?" Xander tried to catch his attention.

"It's a nuclear weapon... in downtown LA."

"Well, I..."

"That's good enough." Steve said, "I'm going to move on to another section."

"Could you let me answer the questions??"

Steve shrugged, smiling. "What if a terrorist has a nuclear weapon, and a hostage?"

"I'd..."

"And what would happen if you decided the hostage couldn't be rescued without giving the terrorist a chance to detonate the weapon?"

"Well I like to think th..." Xander started.

Steve abruptly sat back, "That's enough. Would you like something to drink?"

Xander shook his head, dejected. Obviously he had somehow failed this test. "No. That's ok. I'll just get out of your hair."

Steve laughed, "No need for that."

Steve got up and walked around the desk, "Welcome to the Patrol." "Huh?" Xander shook his head, confused. "But You didn't even let me answer a single question?"

"Oh," Steve waved that off. "There wasn't any real need. Our equipment is quite sensitive, I assure you. So, if you'll just follow me, we'll get you setup..."

"Huh!? Wait a second here! I'm going nowhere until you tell me what the hell is going on!" Xander declared firmly.

Steve chuckled, "Oh I know. But I'll explain on the way."

Xander shook his head, "Uh huh. Tell me now, then I'll decide."

"On the contrary." Steve grinned, "I already know your decision. When I tell you the full story you'll accept the job."

"Huh?"

"I told you, Alex." Steve said, "Our tests are *very* sensitive."

*****

The Patrol kept a 'hunting lodge' in northern Maine, or rather what would be northern Maine in about two million years, that was used to train new candidates. When Xander arrived he was immediately shifted into a fairly sizable group and was soon confronted with a small cadre of people who introduced themselves as the professors of this school.

"Hello." One of them, an older man, stepped forward. "My name is Reed Townsend. I'll be your intra-mural contact... I understand that most of you understand English, so we'll use that language until you've been trained in temporal. For those of you that done, we have translators here that will ensure that you get along fine until you undergo language training."

Everyone shifted slightly, looking around nervously and in awe.

"My Goodness." A man who was wearing older clothing said, looking over his spectacles. "Are we really to understand that we are over two million years in the past?"

Townsend nodded, smiling. "That's correct. This facility was built quite some time ago, along the linear timeline, in order to provide a training ground for Patrol officers. It will exist just so long as is needed to train every patrolman we recruit, then we will remove all traces of it's existence from the area. So, in the meantime, if you're a hunter or anything of that sort you might like to make use of the local game... I'm told that it's quite challenging."

"I say... wouldn't that disrupt the time flow?" The man asked quietly.

Xander shook his head, "If what I was told is true then the timeline tends to self correct... Unless you hit it hard, and in specific places, it won't be affected."

"That is correct, Mr Harris." Townsend said, raising his voice. "Otherwise timetravel would be quite impossible. Now, if there are no further questions? Very well... follow me and I'll show you to your rooms."

*****

Over the next few months Xander through himself into the work, learning as fast as the machines at the school would allow. And that was very fast indeed.

The Temporal Language was the first thing on the lists, as they couldn't begin group learning until everyone was able to communicate effectively.

After that the courses rapidly evolved into things that would make even Willow's head spin. Temporal Paradox, Future history, more languages then Xander had even known existed. Some days he would walk out of the classes totally lost as his mind tried to reconnect with the massive amounts of data they forced on him.

Luckily there were also the weapons drills, fighting courses, piloting, driving, and a ton of other things that Xander learned he excelled at.

Unfortunately, those courses were the least emphasized. And Xander was forced to wrap his mind around concepts that no one living really had any understanding of, not even the professors who were training him.

*****

"Hey, what's this?" Xander asked as he was motioned into a white room.

"Serum Injection." The male nurse said calmly, pulling out a huge needle.

"Serum what?" Xander backed away. "Hey, slow down... I know I kicked the teacher's ass in the sparring yesterday, but isn't this a little much?"

"Infinity Serum." The nurse said blandly, sit down and show me your arm.

Infinity Serum. Xander took a breath, he'd been told about this stuff. Since there were only a finite number of Patrolmen who were ever, or would ever, be recruited, it was absolutely vital that each and every Patrolman stay on the active roster for the maximum amount of time possible.

The Infinity Serum was the solution to that particular paradox. It halted the aging process, allowing Patrolmen to live the equivalent of thousands, tens of thousands, or even more years of linear time. From what the rumors said, no one knew how long it let you live. They said that no one had ever died of old age while on the Infinity Serum... They all died of violence, or accidents, long before that was even a consideration.

"Great." Xander bared his arm, "Get this over with."

The nurse didn't answer, he just shoved the needle deep into Xander's arm without preamble.

"OWW!"

*****

"Two years."

Xander looked up to where Percy was speaking, "Yup."

"Two years, Alexander." Percy repeated.

Xander sighed. Percy was from London in the mid seventeenth century, and he refused to eliminate his accent and speaking habits even when conversing in Temporal. Among other things that meant that he had an 'abhorrence' for nicknames.

"What about it, Perc?" Xander grinned as Percy winced and glared at him.

"We're coming due for a leave again."

Xander nodded. "Yup."

"I was wondering, Alexander... If you'd like to join me on this one?"

Xander shook his head. "No, I've got work to do."

"Ale... Xander." Percy said firmly, causing Xander to look up in surprise. "You have refused every leave since you arrived. I understand that you wish to excel... but you need a break."

Xander shook his head again, "I'm fine."

"No. You are not." Percy muttered, pulling a chair over and sitting down. "You're work has begun to slide, Alexander... and McReady actually defeated you in hand to hand yesterday."

"I slipped."

"You yawned."

"I was tired."

"Al... Xander. You are always tired now. Please consider coming along? I'm going to Vienna this time... the height of the renaissance... it should be fantastic."

"Perc, I'm ok... really."

"Bullshit." Xander turned in surprise at the new voice, "Who are you?"

"Everard." The man said curtly. "Your prof asked me to talk to you."

"Why?"

"Cause you're starting to show signs of burnout, kid." The big man said gruffly. "Take your leave this time, kid. Have some fun."

"I don't need to take my leave."

"Let me put it this way..." Everard smiled cooly at him, "You take your leave in Vienna with Percy here... or you spend it in a shrinks office. Your call."

*****

Vienna, 1581

"It smells." Xander complained as he walked through the streets with Percy at his side.

"You have no soul." Percy muttered, taking a deep breath. "That is the smell of progress, Alexander... Art, invention, everything was on the move here!"

"Stop talking like a lineal." Xander admonished. "Everything *is* on the move."

"Ah... yes. Quite. Sorry about that."

"No problems." Xander said, sniffing with disdain, "I just wish they get a move on the concept of indoor plumbing."

"Come along." Percy muttered, shoving Xander along. "I have tickets to a ballet."

Xander groaned, but allowed himself to be pushed along.

*****

Xander looked out over the Ballet, sighing with boredom as the dancers moved along with the grace of, well, ballet dancers. Finally he got up. "Where are you going?" Percy asked in a whisper.

"Just to get some air." He hissed back.

He walked out, shaking his head as he headed for the lobby of the theatre. Along the way he bumped into another person who was also leaving.

"Ooops, sorry." He said in flawless Italian. "My fault, madam." "No, it was careless of me." She replied, smiling at him.

He smiled hesitantly back, noting her beauty as an abstract sort of thing. He hadn't been overly interested in anything remotely resembling a relationship since Anya died. "Well then, let us both admit fault and that will the end of it."

She smiled brilliantly, nodding her acquiescence. "I agree completely...?"

Xander reached out, consciously remembering the styles of the time and took her hand. He bowed over it slightly, bringing it up to his face, but didn't kiss it. Then smiled at her again, "Alexander Harris, Madam. At your service."

She returned the smile, "You may call me... Amanda."

He nodded, "Amanda... a lovely name."

"Thank you, kind sir." She smiled, "but I'm afraid that I must be on my way..."

Xander nodded, "Good evening then."

She bade him good evening as well and then left. Xander winced and turned back to the ballet. As he walked in he stuck his hands in his pockets and paused, frowning.

What the? He quickly patted himself down. My wallet! I've been robbed!

He spun around, his eyes searching for the brunette woman but she was long gone.

He stood there for a long moment, gaping at the sheer lunacy of the situation. My god. It's a good thing that Percy has the summoner for the Cycle...

After a long minute he suddenly broke out laughing. Loud, booming, laughs that soon had everyone staring at him. But he didn't care, he just kept laughing for the first time in years.

*****

After their third year, Xander's class graduated from the 'academy', with Xander at the top of the class. He had already become something of a legend among the group because he had only lost one match in the martial arts training, despite arriving with little to no skill. Something that had bothered Xander more then anyone else.

He remembered going to the head prof once and asking about it. He figured that the Patrol must have some clue, after all they did have databases of information from all across the timeline.

But Townsend had shook his head, "Sorry. I can't help you."

"Can't... or won't?" Xander asked. "Can't." Townsend replied easily, "The computers don't have anything on what is causing your enhanced strength, speed, and reflexes. If the Danalians know what it is, they aren't telling me."

That had been that, unfortunately. Xander had backed off and returned to his studies. If the God-like Danalians didn't know, or didn't want to tell, then there was no way he was going to find out. The founders of the Patrol would probably take exception to him sticking his nose into their affairs anyway, they did afterall have a major jones about keeping the timelines intact.

Understandable, of course, since they were from the far future and any major disruption of the timeline could conceivably annihilate them and erase the Patrol from existence.

Xander pushed those thoughts from his mind as he considered his new assignment.

Liason Officer for the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

It was definitely low man on the totem pole, but it paid well, and he could take his vacations anywhen or anywhere he chose. So like the ad said, the perks of the job were pretty decent.

*****

There was a brief flash of light and an eerie sound, and the Timecycle appeared in the center of the room, hovering a moment before settling to the ground. Xander Harris dismounted the Patrol Issue vehicle, stared at it broodily for a moment, then casually adjusted his uniform before walking up the stairs and leaving the basement of his new home.

1625 Revello Drive. Xander smiled as he considered his new address. When asked for preferences by The Patrol he'd asked to be placed somewhere near Buffy, in case she needed his help. For whatever reason, the order had come down almost instantly from the Danalians that he was to be accommodated without question. Xander had begun to form some suspicions concerning their interests, but for now it was enough that he was going to see his friends again for the first time in three years.

The Patrol had helped him through his grief over Anya's death, and a lot of other issues he hadn't even known he'd had with the gang in general. It was patently impossible to hide such things from the Patrol Psychs, and they dragged him kicking and screaming out of his self imposed world view.

Patrol Officers were not permitted false modesty, anymore then they were allowed to harbor ego manic thoughts. The Patrol stripped little things like that away before they permitted an officer to rebuild himself in a new image.

In many ways it had been like the revelation he had felt when he faced down Jack in the boiler room of Sunnydale High, only more profound and stretched out over three years. He still had some illusions, but being worthless was no longer one of them.

He quietly locked the door to the basement and went upstairs to his room. He smiled and shook his head as he looked over the place, it honestly looked like he'd just moved in. Right down to the smallest details. There was even some partially used soap cakes, a bottle of mouthwash that had been partially emptied, and the bathroom looked like someone had just taken a shower.

His bed wasn't made, and looked like someone had slept in it the night before, while Xander knew that noone had been here for at least a week. Linear time, of course.

He stripped out of his Patrol Issue uniform, hanging the unobtrusive suit up in his closet as he pulled out a pair of jeans and a baggy shirt that would hide his 'recently' improved physique.

Alright. He steadied himself. Time to say hi to the gang.

*****

"I'll get it!" Dawn yelled when the bell rang.

She ran to the door and flung it open, her eyes widening as she squealed in joy and surprise. "Xander!"

Xander caught her as she threw herself at him, easily swinging her around in a one armed grip. "Heya Dawn Patrol."

"Xander!" Buffy came running into the room, eyes wide with surprise and relief. "Where have you been??"

"Heya Buffster." Xander forced a grin as he had to consciously remember to talk like he had three years earlier. "I'm sorry to have worried you, but I had to get out of Sunnydale for a while."

"You left town??" Dawn looked up at him, eyes still wide. "Did you go far?"

Xander shrugged, suppressing a smile. "Oh... not too far." "You scared us, Xander." Buffy reproved him, then grabbed him and hugged him as hard as she could.

Xander wrapped his arms around her and hugged her back, barely noticing the pressure the Slayer was exerting on him. "I'm sorry, Buff. I just had to get away... after..."

He felt her nod, "I understand. Believe me I understand."

Then she let him go and looked up at him, "but I also know that it's not the healthiest way to deal with things."

"Yeah, well..." Xander looked a little somber as he shrugged, "I dealt. That's what matters."

"No." Buffy said, "You're back. *that's* what matters."

He smiled crookedly at her and shrugged, "Awww...."

She laughed and slapped him on the shoulder, "You sap."

"Guilty." He grinned, wrapping an arm around both Buffy and Dawn as they walked further into the home. "So, how is everyone?"

"Worried sick." Buffy said flatly. "Even Tara started freaking out. I don't think you know what you mean to us, Xan."

"Ah well, I guess you'll have to show me now won't you?" Xander grinned, sinking into the couch with Buffy on one side and Dawn on the other. "Personally I prefer physical demonstrations."

Buffy smacked him, "Hey! At least take your arm off my sister when you say that!"

"My, my, what a dirty mind we have, Slayer." Xander taunted lightly. "I meant huggage and lots of it."

"Right." Buffy pursed her lips, holding back a smile. "I'm sure."

"Well, if you have something else in mind we might be able to work something out." Xander smirked at her lecherously.

Buffy broke loose from him, giggling. "Cut that out."

Abruptly she lost her humor, looking at him seriously. "Xander... You... you can't be over Anya... Anya's... well... her..."

"Her death." Xander said softly. "I can say it, Buff. You should too." "It only happened a few weeks ago, Xan... I know you have to be hurting."

"I am." Xander admitted, and I did for over two years. "But When I was out there something happened that sort of cleared my mind, Buff."

"Oh?" She looked curious, though worried. "What was that?"

"Actually it was having my pocket picked."

The two Summers girls stared at him oddly. "Huh?"

Xander let out a short laugh, smiling as he remembered. "I guess you had to be there."

"I guess." Buffy said oddly. Xander looked around, "where is everyone anyway? I'd hoped they'd all be here..."

"Mom is out shopping," Buffy said, "Willow and Tara are at their apartment I think... Riley got called away to report on who was blowing up big chunks of Sunnydale..."

Xander winced, "They think it was us again?"

"Natch." Buffy shrugged, "Giles is playing at the coffee shop today I think..."

Xander nodded. "Well I was hoping to see them... but I guess I'll have to take a rain check."

"What? Why?" Buffy asked, alarmed.

"I... have to do something..." Xander said, "For work."

"Will it take long?"

"No." Xander said, getting up. "I should be done before you know it."

"Then you can come back tonight and see everyone." Buffy said, smiling. "I'll call them all in for a big welcome home party."

Xander nodded, his features tensing, but kept his voice light. "You do that Buffy. I'll be here... or die trying."

Buffy smiled a bit at that, "Well not need for that extreme... but at least call if your going to be late."

Xander leaned in on an impulse and kissed the Slayer on the forehead. "You got a deal, Buffster. Later." "Later, Xan."

"Bye Xander!" Dawn said, smiling ear to ear.

Xander scooped her up, his hands under her arms, and lifted her up to match the kiss he had given Buffy. "Via Con Dios, Dawnie."

With that he set her down and left the Summers household.

*****

Wilkins Memorial Hospital, 3 weeks earlier.

The Timecycle appeared from thin air, four feet over the hospital roof, and hovered for a moment before Xander settled it down lightly on the roof. He dismounted the cycle and looked out over the town, easily spotting the cloud of smoke and debris that still hung over the neighborhood a couple miles away.

Xander shook his head as he looked down to see Giles rush out of the hospital and climb into his car.

Perfect timing. Xander turned his back on the scene below him and walked over to the roof access door. It was locked, but he made short work of the cheap hardware store lock with the Patrol Issue electronic pick he pulled from his belt.

He let himself in and made his way down the stairs until he found the floor he was looking for.

He slipped onto the ICU floor and walked calmly down the hallway, grabbing a labcoat and a clipboard as he did. He walked confidently, and even waved lightly at the security guard as he passed by. The man tipped his hat slightly as he nodded back.

Xander easily found the right room and slipped in.

Anya. He thought reverently to himself as he slipped in.

She lay there, still as death, barely breathing. He walked across the room, moving silently as he made it to her side.

"Oh Anya." He breathed softly.

She moved in her sleep, her eyes opening, and she smiled at him. "The spell worked..."

He nodded, "Yes, Ahn.. The spell worked."

"I'm glad." "I want you to be glad, Ahn... I want you to be happy." He said, taking a small vial and a syringe. "Close your eyes, Ahn... save your strength."

She nodded, closing her eyes.

Xander filled the syringe from the vial, tapping the bubbles clear of the long needle, and then fit the needle into Anya's IV. He watched as the light blue liquid flow into the tube and breathed a sigh of relief.

As he pulled the needle out he heard a slow rhythmic clap come from the door and turned in shock to see a big man walk slowly into the room.

"Very nicely done." The man said. "Very nice."

"Everard." Xander said, his heart dropping.

Manse Everard nodded, a cool smile on his face. "Damn it." Xander shook his head, looking at the floor. "I thought I covered the bases. I didn't think the Danelians would find out."

"They didn't." Manse said, walking over to Anya's side and checking her stats on the machines. "Your patrol Psych eval suggested you might try this. It didn't tell us that you'd be so careful though."

"Huh?"

"You're actions have caused so much as a ripple, Harris." Manse said, "You know what that means."

Xander breathed a long sigh. "It means I succeeded."

"Don't talk like a lineal." Manse chided him. "It means you might succeed. But for now we have to move."

Xander nodded, moving away from the bed.

"Xander?"

He looked back, "It's ok, Ahn... I'll be right back."

"I... I'm tired... stay here until I sleep?"

"I can't Ahn." Xander said, "But I'll be back before you go to sleep, ok?"

"You sure?"

"I'll make. I promise." Xander said.

"Ok. I'll wait."

Xander and Manse slipped into the next room just as the door opened up. From the other side they heard voices.

"Xander...?"

"I'm here, Ahn."

"You made it."

"Willow's spell worked."

"I'm happy, Xander. I'm happy."

"You're going to be alright, Ahn."

"Am I? No. I don't think I am."

"Ahn... Don't talk like that... you'll be fine."

"Maybe... maybe... Maybe not. Doesn't matter anymore."

"Don't say that, Anya... Of course it matters."

Then there was a long silence.

"No!"

Xander winced as the first agonized scream tore the air, then winced again in aticipation of the second.

"NO!"

After that all they heard was the commotion of the doctors and nurses in the room.

*****

"So..." Xander said, a little dully. "What now?"

Manse shrugged, "Depends. First we get your girl out of here. No choice anymore. If the Docs do an autopsy not only will they kill her, but they'll discover the Regen shot you gave her. Can't allow that."

"And then?"

"Then..." Manse hardened, "We nail the bastard that put a hit on one of our officers."

Xander nodded, his features tight. "I can get behind that idea."

"Thought you could, kid. Thought you could."

*****

Getting Anya's body out of the morgue was simple enough. They simply waited for Giles to identify the body and then switched tags with another blond of about the same apparent age. After that Xander carried her easily to the roof and put her on the cycle and climbed on behind her. He triggered the cycle's shifter and they both vanished.

He and Manse reappeared in the basement of his new home two weeks later. Xander dismounted, cradling Anya in his arms. "I'll be right back."

Manse nodded, leaning on the handlebars of his cycle.

Xander went upstairs, slipping Anya into the perfectly made up bed and pulling the covers over her. He kissed her forehead once, "Sleep well, love. I'll be back soon."

*****

In the basement Manse looked at him, staring as he stepped down the stairs.

"What?"

"What's your plan for her?" Manse asked, "You know she can't stay here."

Xander snorted. "This is Sunnydale, Everard. People come back from the dead every single night."

Manse frowned, "What?"

"Relax." Xander said calmly. "I've got a couple ideas worked out. Anya Jenkins is dead, but that was an assumed name in the first place."

Manse nodded, "As long as you can keep Uptime from sticking their noses into this, no problem. If they look in on you though, the jig is up."

"That's why I have it planned out." Xander said, "Let's just say that I'm using a local hotspot as camouflage on this one."

"Hope you pull it off." Manse said, "I'd hate to see you wiped over this."

Xander shuddered. "It's a risk I was willing to take."

Manse nodded. Would be a waste. "Let's go."

*****

Wooded Clearing, Three Weeks Earlier

Xander and Manse appeared a dozen ffet or so over the tree line, their cycles hovering silently as they waited for the right time. Below them they could hear voices.

"Where are we?"

"Keep moving. They're getting closer."

"On the contrary. We're already here."

"Harris, Harris... An officer to the end, I see."

Manse looked over at Xander, and Xander nodded. "Now."

They both hit the lights on their cycles, illuminating the area below them with the brilliant white lights.

"DAMNATION!" They heard a scream, "KILL them!"

Manse and Xander hit the firing studs on their bikes, raining laser and pulse blasts down on the clearing as they covered the younger Xander's escape. Manse nodded to himself as he saw the boy shelter the little girl. Good man.

Xander circled his cycle lower as he strafed the thugs, and looked around for the man in white. He growled as he saw the man scrambling away, cursing and running as fast as he could. Xander gave chase, gaining fast as his cycle soared through the air in pursuit of the runner.

A grove of trees forced Xander to pull up before he could get a clear shot, and the next thing he saw chilled him to the bone.

A Patrol issue time cycle popped out of the ether just in front of him, forcing him to bank hard and pull up to avoid a crash. Before he could get turned back around the cycle had dropped by a remote command and the man in white had leapt aboard and vanished.

"Damn it!" Xander muttered a curse as he tried scanning for a trail. Unfortunately the man in white, Vafchamps, knew how to cover his tracks. Xander growled, barely restraining himself from abusing his cycle, and circled back to where he knew Manse was.

He landed near Everard's cycle and walked up to the mouth of the tunnel on foot, remembering to aim his powerful spotlight at the cave as he did.

"Who are you!?"

Xander stepped up beside Manse, knowing that his face was obscured by the brilliant light. "Sir, Vafschamps escaped." The he quietly whispered something else and handed a newspaper to Manse.

Manse nodded, then turned back to where the younger Xander was still sheltering Dawn. "I understand you're looking for a job."

"What?"

Manse tossed the newspaper to the younger Xander and shrugged, "Classified ads are a good place to look." Manse and Xander then turned and walked out. They had just mounted their Cycles when they heard the younger Xander yell out, "Wait! Who are you!? Who was that guy!?"

But by the time he reached the mouth of the cave, they had set their destination and popped out of existence.

*****

Xander's home, Two weeks later.

"Ahn...?"

Anya rolled over, yawning and stretching. She blinked, then opened her eyes in surprise. "Xander?"

"Yeah Ahn," He grinned at her. "It's me."

She looked under the covers and down at her naked body, frowning. "I'm not hurt."

"No..."

"How is that?" She looked around wildly. "You didn't sacrifice someone did you??"

Xander looked confused, "Huh? No!"

Anya breathed a sigh of relief, "That's good... Do you have any idea how much it would take from our savings to buy a virgin nowadays??"

Xander blinked. "What? No... never mind. I probably don't want to know."

Anya looked around, "Where are we? And what are you wearing!?"

Xander looked down at his uniform, blinking in surprise. He'd forgot that he had put it on. "I uh... well this is..."

Anya's eyes widened. "Oh no. You didn't join that band of lunatics did you!?"

Xander looked at her in shock, "How do you...?"

"You did!" She glared at him accusingly, "Are you crazy?? You can't run around time, getting in the way of every nutcase who wants to destroy reality! What would make you sign up for something like that!?"

Xander tried to speak, but between the shock and bewilderment he wasn't getting far. "How... how... how...?"

Anya growled, tossing the covers aside. "Damn it, Xander! You are going to go and resign, right now!"

"Ahn..." Xander tried to regain his wits, "Assuming they don't boot me out for... for..."

"For what?" Anya frowned suddenly, "They only kick people out for changing the timeline... what could have done? I..."

She stopped, her face frozen in shock. "I... I was dead. Wasn't I?"

Xander nodded.

Anya sat down. "Oh."

"I had to, Anya. I had to do it." Xander said, "I could let you die in an explosion meant for me."

"Oh." She said again. "But... everyone... they all think I'm dead?"

Xander nodded.

"Then I have to leave." She said, looking around in wonder and fear. "I can't stay in Sunnydale."

Xander shook his head, "I'm sorry Ahn."

"And you can't come with me." She said with certainty.

"I... I could." He managed to get out.

Anya took his head between her hands, her eyes filled with tears. "Xander... You never could leave the others. I asked you before, remember?"

"I... But... we..." He stammered out, bewildered by what was happening.

"We... we can't be anymore." She said softly, leaning down to kiss him as he knelt at her feet and looked up.

Her lips brushed his and she pressed down hard as Xander pushed up. He rose up and lifted her off her feet, kissing her hard. Her arms wrapped around his neck as she sobbed. "Oh Xander..."

"Ahn..." He whispered, a lump in his throat.

"What am I going to do?" She cried against him. "Everything I know is here..."

"I rented a place in New York..." Xander said, "For... for us. It's paid for the year... you can have it, I'll keep up the rent. I can afford it now." She pulled back, looking depressed. "Thank you."

Xander fell back, looking around as if lost. "I want to come with you... we should go together..."

She shook her head, "You'd be miserable. You live to protect the others, Xander... even I see that in you."

Xander swallowed, crumpling on the floor. Anya gently pulled him up, maneuvering him over until he was seated on the bed. "How long do we have?"

Xander frowned, confused. "What?"

"How long?" She motioned around.

Xander looked at his watch, "We have to be out of here in a week... before two pm on Saturday."

She smiled at him, "Not enough time... but it'll have to do." "Do? For wha...uuummff!" Xander cried out as she covered his mouth with his and pushed her naked form onto him, forcing him back onto the bed.

*****

It was three days later that Xander was cooking breakfast for him and Anya, when he heard a sound from the basement. Frowning he opened the door and walked down.

He found Manse Everard sitting calmly on a Time Cycle.

Xander shifted nervously. "Hey."

"Hiya kid." Manse said. "How's it been?"

"Nice... but it's going to end too soon." Xander said.

"Always does." Manse said, "Got some news for you."

"They find out?"

"The Danelians did." Manse said, causing Xander to shiver. "But the Patrol still doesn't know."

Xander frowned, "What?"

"Seems that things are running along just the way Uptime likes it." Manse said, shrugging. So I got a communique from them.

"From who?"

"The Danaliens." Manse said easily, ignoring Xander's shock. "You know, I've only chatted with them twice before this... It's never easy on my nerves."

Xander swallowed. Having god like beings from an indeterminate point in the future chatting about him wasn't his idea of a good thing. "Wipe?" He asked, wincing.

Manse grinned, "Naw."

Manse lit up a cigarette, offering one to Xander. Xander shook his head, "No thanks. Don't smoke."

"Me neither." Manse said, drawing a long puff down into his lungs. "Not until I joined the Patrol... Infinity Serum prevents all the bad stuff... no Cancer, no diseases, stuff like that."

"Oh." Xander said, remembering that he knew that technically. "What happened?"

"Oh." Manse said, smiling. "That."

Xander waited as Manse took another draw.

Finally the older agent grinned, "Well the Danalians are always looking for clever, creative thinkers, who don't like to follow the rules kid. You've been promoted. After your week with the blonde is up, report uptime for your new assignment."

"New assignment?" Xander tried to grasp the concept.

Manse grabbed his hand and shook it, "Welcome to the ranks of the Unattached, kid."

*****

Important NOTE!!

This is the Prologue of the Patrolman Round Robin at the XanderZone yahoo group... If you like this fic, or simply want to read other fics by myself or any of the many excellent authors currently participating in the group, I suggest you take a run over and check it out...

groups.yahoo.com/group/XanderZone/

For more Xander-Centric crossover madness also look to the Journeyverse series :

groups.yahoo.com/groups/journeyverse

Tons of fics, constant updates, and some pretty wild crossovers and plot points... Join 'em both. :)