Disclaimer: Joss, WB, UPN et al. own Buffy. George Lucas, LucasFilm, LucasArts et al. own Star Wars. Timothy Zahn owns Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Squaresoft own Final Fantasy. No, this isn't a FF fic.

Title: For the Good of the Empire.

Author: Paradigm Shifter

Feedback: Yes! YES! Please?! Love to know what you think.

Rating: I'll go with PG for now. Be prepared for it to go up, though.

Grateful Thanks: Asbjoern, Bobby Cox, Teri, and Trevelyan.

Written To: Continuing the Dark Streak of listening matter, 'Press Eject and Give Me the Tape', Bauhaus.
Jonathon regained consciousness with a groan.

"He's awake, Spikey!" Drusilla giggled, "He's awake!"

"Good." Spike crowed, "It'll be nice to get in some practice for that Slayer and her bunch of white hats."

Jonathon hissed as Dru drew a fingernail down his bare chest, drawing a line of blood that extended from his neck to abdomen. Then the hiss became a tortured scream as she gripped and squeezed. Hard.

Spike drew her away gently, before landing a thundering blow in Jonathon's gut. The teen dry retched from the blow - he didn't have enough left in his stomach after the last 'session' to vomit properly.

Dru cooed at the enflamed vampire. "Go easy on him, Spikey. We don't want him hurt."

Jonathon whimpered, but finally decided to speak. "H... hu... hurt? You don't call... call what you were do... doing... pain. Then?"

Drusilla stepped up close to the naked teen, rubbing her body over his, smearing his blood over her skin. "Oh, no I don't, puppy... my precious puppy... I call that 'fun'!" She bounced away primly.

Spike guffawed at Dru's antics, and taking Jonathon's jaw in his one hand, tilted his head around thoughtfully.

"Had enough?"

Jonathon nodded.

Spike tutted. "No fibre, kids there days. Honestly... I remember when I first started torturing people... now there was a time when you could go for hours and the stupid bastards would still be defiant. But you.
you're nothing. Almost worthless, if it wasn't for what you did to me earlier." Spike looked pointedly at the forearm and hand now on the table in the room: the one Jonathon had cut off earlier during his possession. "You have any idea how hard it's gonna be to get that thing back on?"

"Can't say I care..." Jonathon mumbled.

Spike shrugged, stepped back and slugged Jonathon hard in the face. "Oh well... nighty night."
A presence floated in a void - halfway between its own realm, and the one it had been free in for that time. Such a short time... and so much power there. So much power. Free power, ripe for the taking.

It had to return.

And it had a way.

Ultimecia retook control of her Knight once more.

The vampire? He could wait. Ultimecia was sure that an opportunity would present itself soon enough.
Jonathon screamed in pleasure, rather than pain this time. Ultimecia tore through his mind - ravaged as it was by Spike and Drusilla's torture, he was open and unresisting as she did what she wanted.

Seconds later, Jonathon - or as he had been known - was no more.

Now, it was just Ultimecia.

"A male Sorceress... a Sorcerer." Jonathon's arms tore out of the shackles he was bound into, and he floated slowly to the floor, his dyed blond hair - dyed for his Halloween costume - darkening first to brown, and then to black as it lengthened. "More powerful... more able... more. More."

With a flick of his - or would that be her? - wrist, the wall of the factory exploded outwards and Jonathon floated out slowly, bottomless eyes taking in everything.

"This is my world now..."
"It won't come off..."

"Why do you want it to? It is part of me. Part of us."

"You're just a figment of someone's imagination! You're not really real!"

"Am I not? Then how do you explain my being here?"

The voice - the voice of the Admiral - got quieter and quieter as the week wore on. It wasn't that he faded away. No.

It was that he slowly - spreading almost like a disease - became part of Xander's psyche. As the week wore on, Xander thought more like Thrawn. It wasn't taking over, it was just a mutual agreement: Xander helped Thrawn adapt, and Thrawn helped teach Xander to survive. He was good enough to survive, but Thrawn taught him new ways to survive... Buffy might not approve, but sure as the Jade was the Hand of the Emperor, Xander didn't care if it kept him or his friends alive that bit longer.

Xander shrunk in on himself as he thought. Thrawn's mental voice brought him out of his reverie; "What, if anything, do you suppose demons have for art?"
Xander sat in the library, waiting for his friends to walk in and find him.Watching from the sidelines - always in the shadows, never being seen - for the past week had been an interesting experience for him. Everyone seemed to have returned to normal. His parents were either unaware or uncaring that he was 'missing', indeed, the only person who seemed to care - if you could call what he did 'caring' - was Snyder. And he wanted to expel Xander for unauthorised absence. Willow seemed to be almost relaxed when he saw her: as if she knew he was alright. He thought that she might have given a surreptitious wink to him a few times as he watched, but he shook it off as his eyes playing tricks on his brain. Buffy and Giles both seemed to be more concerned by the backlash that their necessary 'explanations' to Joyce would have, and Angel was... well, Angel. You couldn't term the relationship between Angel and Xander in easy words... the best way to describe it was that each despised the other, both with equal vehemence - just for different reasons.

Besides, Xander had more important things to worry about. Some rather important things to worry about.

Buffy burst through the swing doors; almost leaving permanent indents on the walls behind them she hit them open so hard. Willow and Giles followed her, although slower, and with a pair of dark glasses on in the case of Giles.
His concussion might not have been as bad as it could have been, but it had still left him with oversensitivity for light. The doctors said it would go away in a few days, perhaps a week, but for Giles, it couldn't be fast enough. He detested having to wear 'shades'.

The three stopped dead as they saw Xander - or who Buffy assumed to be Xander. It was kind of hard to tell, given that he was wearing gloves over his hands, and a paper bag over his head, with two eyeholes cut out so he could see. In fact, he had no skin visible at all.

Buffy frowned at him, a palpable disapproval of his chosen attire. "Why are you dressed like that?!" She demanded, before her tone rose into a near screech, "Take that bag off at once!"

Xander stood slowly, and walked to the door of Giles office, the printed word 'Librarian' plainly visible on the frosted glass. He opened it, before stepping through and closing it behind him. Just before it closed, Xander said one word: "No."

Buffy looked shocked at Giles and Willow for a second, before storming over to the door and kicking it in. This provoked a half-hearted protest from Giles - half-hearted because of his headache - and a disinterested sigh from Willow as the door burst inward on its hinges.

The door had almost shut again under its own power when Buffy came tripping up out of it. She landed in a heap on the floor in front of the two observers, before leaping to her feet eyes flashing. Giles took a nervous step back - when Buffy got this mad, he knew to avoid antagonising her if at all possible - and Willow grinned. She knew what had happened... or at least she had a good idea.

As Buffy got to her feet, ready to charge in again, Xander came stalking out. Even as covered as he was, Buffy and Willow could tell he was far from impressed, and very close to blowing a head gasket.

He gripped the paper bag with his gloved left hand, and yanked it off his head.

Buffy and Giles gasped, Willow just nodded, her suspicions confirmed.

Xander turned angry eyes on the Slayer. "Happy now?" he demanded with a fair degree of venom in his voice.

"Xander... you're..." Buffy couldn't quite say it. She didn't think it was possible. It was incredible. It was... well, incredible.

"Incredible..." Giles murmured to himself, already his mind was working on how this could have happened.

Willow stepped up to Xander and ran a finger along his jaw line. "I take it that they couldn't wash this off?"

Xander stepped back from the contact, and ignored the hurt that flashed in Willow's eyes. "That's right. And neither can I."

He turned and fixed first Giles, and then Buffy with a withering glare. "The first person to so much as mention the Smurfs is going to get gutshot and left for vampires. Spread the word."

He turned and stalked out, pulling the paper bag back over his head as he went.

The dramatic exit didn't last for long however, as Buffy took two steps forward, and gripped his shoulder. Not hard, but strongly enough to stop him from escaping unless he got violent.

Which he wouldn't do. No matter how angry he got, Xander wouldn't hit one of 'his girls'. No way, no how.

"You wanted something, Buffy?" Xander's tone wasn't angry, merely dispassionately interested.

"Can you explain to us... to me? What happened, Xander? Why are you blue?"
Buffy couldn't keep a half awed, half giggle out of her voice.

"I think it's obvious, but I'll tell you." Xander moved - reluctantly - back into the library and sat down, looking at the three other Scoobies with a raised eyebrow. "Well?"

Willow walked over to him, and Xander couldn't help but notice how she had changed too. Xander was suddenly acutely aware that the girl he thought of as a younger sister was a fox. "Well... I guess you can remember my shooting the Bust of Janus, yeah?"

"Yes, I remember that. I remember most of it, as a matter of fact. A few things are a little hazy... but I'm sure they will come back in time."

"Well, shooting it probably wasn't the best idea... the surge of power running through the Bust - the focus of the spell - caused it to explode. I guess the focus couldn't take the extra power being pumped into it by the blaster bolt."

"OK," Xander nodded, "so no blastering magical items in future. That still doesn't explain why I'm blue, Jad... Willow."

"I'm getting to that," Willow snapped in a very Mara like way, then blushed to the roots of her hair. "Sorry."

"It's OK. It's not like I've never been on the receiving end of your red-headed temper before." Xander smiled slightly, and the harshness in his now slightly red tinted brown eyes softened.

"The surge made the effect of the spell on those closest to the blast permanent."

"So I'm... what? I'm going to be blue for the rest of my life?" Xander already knew the answer, he just wanted someone else to tell him. To back him up.

Willow looked massively apologetic. "Yeah. I'm sorry."

Buffy looked confused. "Hang on... why did Willow do the explaining, when I asked Xander to? And if the spell was permanent because we were near it, why aren't I still jumping at..." she trailed off, thoroughly embarrassed to have been frightened of cars, street lights, and her boyfriend.

"...cars?" Willow finished for her, an almost sadistic grin reaching her lips.

Buffy looked daggers at the red-head, who was completely unconcerned. Then she blushed deeply as she saw Giles disbelieving stare.

"You were scared of a car?" Giles asked incredulously, "how on earth could you be scared of a car?"

Buffy dropped her gaze. "Well... I went as an 18th century noblewoman... you know... to impress Angel. I guess. Anyway... they were all brought up to be trophy wives. The high born ones, anyway. About the only strenuous thing they ever did was do embroidery." Buffy looked even more embarrassed now. "I used to suck at needlework... and now I could sew the Bayeux Tapestry without too much trouble."

Giles eyes boggled at this revelation. "That's over two hundred and thirty feet long, Buffy!"

"Yeah. I know." She blushed again. "Trust me, I know."

"And I can still touch the Force." Willow dropped the bomb on the group. She hadn't told Buffy or Giles before now, waiting for Xander to be present too.

Xander smiled. "That is why you never seemed worried I was missing. You knew where I was."

"Exactly." Willow smiled back at him.

"So. What do you plan to do? I mean, I've got no hope of living away from Sunnydale now... other than a freak. I doubt even Sunnydale Syndrome will help me that much."

"Sunnydale Syndrome?" Buffy asked confused.

Xander shrugged. "It's what I've decided to term the complete and total disregard for anything strange that goes on here, Buffy. Who knows, maybe I could get a paper published in the Lancet?" His voice was teasing.

Buffy teased right back. "Who knows, maybe you could!" If she teased him, she didn't have to focus on the fact that he now had a far more obvious mark of his fight against the darkness than she did. Her strength she could cover up by being careful. Her superhuman senses she could ignore; even if she couldn't go in loud clubs like she had in LA before her calling. She could hide - Xander, from the moment he started helping her, although it took a while for it to become obvious, was now marked a fighter - marked a warrior by the misfortune of having been where he was, when he was.

Somewhere in her mind, she knew there was another reason. But he was her friend, dammit, and friends didn't abandon one another simply because of something like that.

Willow shrugged, answering Xander earlier question. "I don't know. I don't think moving out of Sunnydale is an option. I'm not leaving either you or Buffy here. One of us stays, we all stay, right?"

Xander looked unhappy for a second, until Willow leaned down and met his red-tinted eyes with her painfully bright green ones. "Right?" She asked with a hint of menace. Her eyes looked into his soul, and Xander clamped down on his thoughts. Thrawn had told him the capabilities of Dark Jedi. And while Mara wasn't necessarily as evil as her master or his right hand Darth Vader, she still ranked high on the 'not to be shitted with' list.

"Right, Willow." Xander's words brought her out of wherever she had been, and she backed up, looking apologetic.

Giles sank into a chair, removing his dark glasses and closing his eyes, massaging the bridge of his nose. "I'm afraid that this does still not adequately explain this turn of events for me, Willow. Xander, you said something about explaining?"

"Yes, I did." Xander stood up and turned away, walking to the window to stare out of it. "I'm guessing you know who I went as, yeah?"

Giles nodded. "Grand Admiral Thrawn. But I only know the name. I have no other familiarity with the character."

"He was what he sounded like: a Grand Admiral in the Empire. You've seen Star Wars, right?"


"The Empire was extremely xenophobic. The Emperor - Palpatine - made the most racist son of a bitch here look like he was a hippie. Aliens had almost no rights in the Empire, and half-Breeds were even worse. For an alien - which Thrawn was, because he was a Chiss - to rise to the rank of Grand Admiral was an unheard of feat. He would not only have to contend with the xenophobia of his peers as he went through the ranks, but of his superiors too. Thrawn was made of stern stuff, though: he wouldn't give up, no matter what. When he reached the attention of the Emperor, he was summoned, and nearly executed on the spot for being so obviously alien. Eventually, for his superior tactical skills, he was made a Grand Admiral - but to lessen the perceived insult, Palpatine bundled him off to the Unknown Regions - massive swathes of space that were unexplored and for the most part extremely hostile - for 'exploration and mapping' duty. He had a small fleet, and loss of something wasn't going to lead to a replacement. His already astounding tactical skills were polished to a level that no other could touch. That's my... I mean, his life in a nutshell."

Giles slid the glasses back on, having listened to Xander's quiet revelations with shocked - and not a little frightened - astonishment. "My word."

Xander sighed. "Yeah. That's what I think, too."
Spike swaggered back into the warehouse he had chained Jonathon, and froze as he took in the gaping hole that used to be a wall.

His mouth dropped open in shock, and amazed, muttered, "What the bloody...?"

He got no further. His body was suddenly weightless and floating upwards, he caught a glimpse of his tormentor, turned tormented.

Now, the tables had turned again.

Spike screamed as Ultimecia ripped into him, maiming, but not killing. Blood dripped onto the floor below, and Spike realised that even after a hundred and fifty years of inflicting pain and suffering on others - or watching his Sire and Grandsire do it in his stead - still, he did not really know pain.

Now he had learned.

His battered body landed with a sickening - and rather final - crunch on the concrete below.

Ultimecia snarled at the body of her toy. "Pitiful. You did not even last."

Waving her hand, Spikes severed arm flew off the table where it had lain, and reattached to the vampires elbow.

Then the broken vampire jerked upright as she perfected her control.

Spike's eyes were blank as he bowed, head to the ground, at the possessed figure of Jonathon high in the air above.

Oh, and unless I catch a serious break at Uni, this will be the last part of this for a while - although there might be other fics appearing occasionally. I'm still working on it, but I need to get some final year project work done while I've got time. :) It was meant to start early June, but due to various reasons, it's basically only just started. sigh