Title: All About The Journey
Author: Kayla Shay

Disclaimer: I don't own the television show or Xander, I just borrowed them.

Rating: PG-15 for adult situations and a few words

Genre: Dramatic/Angsty Notes: I wrote this for World AIDS Day

-----------------------------------------------------------

Africa. It was such a beautiful land. Primal was the word for it. Most of the land still looked as if you could walk around the corner and encounter the ancient civilizations that first inhabited the continent.

For all of it's natural beauty, Africa had unnatural problems. Problems that had been born from years of human populations mistreating themselves and others.

It was this delicate balance of beauty and misfortune that made Alexander Harris fall in love with his new found home but at the same time curse the powers for the turn his young life had taken.

----------------------------------------------------

Those first weeks after the destruction of Sunnydale and the Hellmouth had been filled with emotion. There had been mourning for all that had been lost. Not just those who sacrificed their lives in the final battle like Spike and Anya, but all who had been lost to the ongoing battle with the darkness.

Dealing with the grief would be an ongoing process, perhaps a lifetime, but the initial suffocating blanket of grief had started to lift and was replaced with a new purpose. They had called to duty a new generation of fighters for the light. It was now their responsibility to see that those fighters didn't go blindly into death.

Plans had been made, maps reviewed, spells cast and a certain government group contacted. They were now armed with the means to find these new slayers, no, make that women, and give them the choices that Buffy, Kendra, Faith and countless others before them never had. The choice to fight or step aside.

Buffy had taken Europe. There were massive cities with elaborate shopping networks and she wanted to explore them all. This also allowed Dawn to be with her while attending some of the greatest universities the world had to offer. Faith chose Asia for reasons she never spoke, but they let her go. Robin had stayed in the U.S., traveling the country looking for those who were now like his mother had been. Giles had taken to the tasking duty of establishing a global network for the fighters of the light. Andrew had volunteered to go to Australia and New Zealand. They had let him go in hopes that he would get lost in the lands used to bring his treasured Middle Earth to life. His dear, sweet Willow had headed for South America. She wanted to the jungles and beaches mother earth had created, so he watched her go.

He had chosen Africa, or more accurately, it had chosen him. Ever since that hyena possession years ago, when he was still naïve to the truths in the world, he had held a secret fascination for the land. Now he had the chance to sate that need.

So Xander had headed out armed with maps, spells any idiot could cast, language guides and an amnesty pass Riley had "acquired" for him. But most importantly, he had memories. Memories of all his friends, the good times and the bad. Memories that would keep him warm on the lonely, cold nights he knew to expect. Memories he would share with the future generation of fighters.

------------------------------------------------------------------

His time in Africa had been spent working his way up from South Africa. He traveled with natives, he met peace workers, would stop and visit with mission groups. He helped build houses and hospitals with his bare hands. He aided the injured and held the hands of children dying before they even had a chance to learn about the world they were living in.

Xander quickly learned there were great battles being waged within humanity that didn't involve the creatures of the night. There were other dark forces and there was no clear-cut way to fight them. He couldn't pick up a sword and behead the disease slowly killing the young children he met. The children whose eyes held so much knowledge but no hint of hope or salvation. Xander Harris saw it all, but could find no way to help.

---------------------------------------------------

On his trek northward, he had met a dozen a so girls who had been called. A few had decided to use the calling to escape their homeland and travel the world with the formation of the new council, the Fighters For The Light.

Others opted to use the knowledge Xander brought to protect their people from the evils that surrounded them. They took to their calling as Buffy and Faith had. They were ready to fight and die for the cause.

The last few had take the third option Xander carried. The way out. Willow had worked with the Devon Coven to create a spell, one that allowed the newly called slayers to be bound. They would have their Powers, the slayer spirit, stored deep inside where they could not access it, nor could any creatures of the night sense them or abuse the power they carried inside of them. They chose a normal life. A normal death.

He was currently on the path of the next slayer to be identified. Word of mouth had led him to a small village, which, in turn, led him to a series of caves where a young girl had been left as a sacrifice to appease some demon god.

The scene that greeted him answered his question as to where the new slayer was. It seemed that a slayer could not be taken as a sacrifice without a fight. Xander jumped into the fierce battle without a thought, it was his nature. With a skilled fighter to serve as a distraction for the demon the untrained slayer was able to overpower the demon, but the damage had already been done.

As the demon fell from it's deathblow, Xander took a quick assessment of his wounds. Just minor cuts and scratches graced his body, all would heal with time. But the girl had not fared as well. She had lost so much blood; it soaked her, the demon and the ground. He rushed to catch her as her feet gave way under her. The adrenaline that had sustained her through the fight was gone, replaced with a girl fearful of death.

Slayer healing was something Xander had always marveled at. Buffy had sustained massive injuries, blood loss and even faced death itself, yet her body always healed. Faith had pulled through her death-like coma alive and very much kicking. But he also knew that slayer healing had its limits. This child needed a miracle.

He searched for her worse wounds and, with years of experience, applied pressure in the right places with self-made bandages of cloth. He was trying desperately to hold her lifeblood in. The entire time he was chanting soothing words to her. She may not have understood that language he used but sometime language was no barrier. She understood his meaning and relaxed into his steady yet caring hands, which were quickly taking the color of her life.

He pushed his jeep to its limits to make it to the only possible hope she had. There was a group he had been with just mere hours before, a group known as Doctors Without Borders.

He arrived too late. As he pulled up to the traveling caravan, the child had looked up at him. Her deep, dark eyes seem to contain the universe and the cosmos beyond as she mouthed a few words. He did not know the words but knew their meaning: "Thank You." Her breathing stopped in those moments and left an empty body with empty eyes.

He rested his hand over the unstaring eyes and closed them as he whispered words to her soul, "You're Welcome…"

---------------------------------------------------------

The young doctors found him still in place a few moments later. With care and concern for him, they urged him away from the vehicle and into one of their own to be treated.

A few remained to take care of the girl. With a gentleness befitting royalty, they carried her body to prepare it for a burial, like so many others they had performed before.

They also gathered samples. There were procedures to be followed that included blood testing from both the child and the one who had tried to save her. Now was the time for science and prayer that her life would not claim another.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Weeks later, Alexander Harris sat in a hotel room in Cairo. It was some Four Star deal that the new council was footing the bill for, and, while lavish, he did not notice any of it. His focus was drawn to one word on a small slip of paper.

It was funny how one word could hold so much power. Many times he had heard the saying that the pen was mightier than the sword, but his mind had never fully grasped that. He had seen so many lives saved and taken by the blade of a sword that that saying truly had to be false.

But with the slip of paper grasped in his clammy hand, he now understood. One word could have been his savior while the other would sentence him to death.
He thought about his friends, no, that's not the right word. He thought about his family.

Giles would stutter. The glasses would be pulled off and cleaned, many times over. Then he would, almost silent like a prayer, says "Dear God".

Willow, poor Willow, would cry. She would tell herself that it couldn't be possible. Nothing could happen to her Xander, nosier, not on her watch. Then she would realize she hadn't been watching. She would blame herself; her eyes would flash to black briefly before fading back to a soulful green. She would begin an exhaustive search for a way to change that word, to change that damning word. She would not stop until he took hold of her to comfort her, when it should have been the other way around.

Buffy would look for something to fight. She would probably single-handedly rid the world of vampires, demons and other evil creatures in hopes of saving her Xander-shaped-friend. She would pull God from his heavenly throne if she could find a way to do it. He would silently cheer her on if she could find a way.

Dawn. She would hurt, she would cry, but in the end she would accept it for what it was. It was part of the circle of life; everything was created and therefore would die. Some would leave a brief mark on the sands of time, while others, the extraordinary ones, would leave a great mark. And Miss Dawn Summers knew, as only a mystical being turned human could, that Alexander Harris was extraordinary. Even if he, as they often joked in private, didn't wear a cape. A true hero didn't need one.

He knew that his little Dawnie would pick up the torch in his stead. She would take his place as Janus, the heart. He knew she was up to the challenge of his role, he had seen her in action too many times to count.

There was one person left. How would Alexander Harris react to that word?

In another lifetime, he may have retreated to a bottle, following in the long tradition of the Harris family. But that was not who he was, he would never be that man.

No, this Alexander Harris remembered what had unfolded years before in a life-like dream. He had, at the time, thought it pertained only to the first slayer being disturbed by their empowerment spell. But now he felt that great foreshadowing had been at work, foreshadowing he had only just begun to understand.

His father, before turning into the first slayer, had told him the line would end with them. Snyder had told him time was running out to which he had responded that there was something he couldn't fight. He had even told Buffy that there was some stuff you couldn't protect yourself from. But it was what Giles had said that cleared it all up. "Oh, I'm beginning to understand this now. It's all about the journey, isn't it?"

Xander looked at that innocent would with a double meaning. He decided to prepare for the journey; one he would make sure would take him in a direction to help those with the same fate as his own. He would not be a number, some statistic in a book. He would be a face, one with words of hope and encouragement. He would overpower that weak word on that puny piece of paper. He would take the word that sentenced him to death and move forward. He would fight back.

The End

Special Note:

Please take a moment to think about AIDS Awareness and what it means to everyone. I do not personally know anyone with the disease but please think about the ones that are out there battling this evil.