Title: Changing Roles

Author: Nodakskip

Beta by: Theo

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: The Buffy and Angel characters aren't mine, and neither are the Stargate and Atlantis ones; they all belong to their respective owners. Some of the text isn't mine either as I borrowed the dialogue from the TV episodes in question, but if you want write a good fanfic – what's a guy supposed to do?

Symbols: " " indicates speech. ( ) indicates thoughts. # # indicates phone voice. / indicates telepathic communication.

Setting: AU initially set during Angel season 5. Contains a Stargate: SG-1 crossover, around the time of the end of season 7 and then season 8. Some of the dates may not quite mesh, and I'm sorry about any discrepancies. But hey! That's why they call it artistic license.

Summary: Xander left Sunnydale after Willow's dark turn, and then was offered a new job.

----

Stargate Command, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

January 13th, 2004

1345 Hours

"Receiving IDC, sir..." Sergeant Harriman told the base commander, as the screen popped up to show the transmitted number sequence. "It's Dr. Harris."

General George Hammond nodded. "Open it up," he said, before he keyed the microphone. "Defense teams, stand down." Almost as one, the squad of men and women that guarded the alien portal lowered their weapons, as the iris on the Stargate opened up.

Dr. Alexander Lavelle Harris walked through the event horizon a few moments later, lugging two bags full of gear and books. Colonel Jack O'Neill met him at the base of the ramp, as two airmen came and relieved the researcher of his bags; Xander returning from yet another world, after gathering together the supernatural lore upon it – as the SGC's (only) expert on the subject.

"You're back early?" O'Neill asked with an upraised eyebrow.

"Jack, I just had to get out of there," Xander told his friend hurriedly, with BOTH his eyes intact. "That old librarian was looking me over, like I was a side of beef! One that she wanted to munch on, in a really icky sort of way..."

"Oooh. How old we talking here?" O'Neill asked with a smile.

"She was 71," Xander responded, still wigged. "And by the way, the material they had on the 'Renaw' made them sound like run-of-the-mill vampires. I did some digging – and it seems Lt. Morris of SG-12 definitely grew himself a pair of fangs, before he went through the Gate two years ago."

The U.S. Air Force colonel winced at past mistakes, and occasionally still found it hard to believe the things that went bump in the night really did exist. "But they know how to deal with that sort of thing now?"

"Oh yeah. So as soon as I could, I decide to split."

"I see they gave you some going-away presents?" O'Neill said, talking about the bags. "Or, did you hit the mall there on the way home?"

Xander shook his head. "Nope, just copies of their folklore and demonology myths."

"More books?" O'Neill asked hopelessly, as they started to walk back to the control room.

"More books," Xander sighed.

O'Neill just shook his head. "You're coming back with more knick-knacks than Daniel, these days."

"Hey, at least he can still find his desk!" Xander commented about his colleague who had recruited him into Stargate Command, as the duo were about to go up the stairs to the briefing room – when the Stargate activated itself.

"Unscheduled incoming traveler!" Harriman announced, as the defense teams ran back into the Gate room.

"You forget your toothbrush?" O'Neill joked to Xander, as they came over to join the sergeant. "What do we have, Walter?"

"One moment, sir..." Harriman told him, as the Stargate finished dialing in and received another IDC. "Positive ID, sir. It's the Tok'Ra."

O'Neill sighed. "Oh, joy."

----

Private office of Mr. Angel, CEO, Wolfram & Hart, Los Angeles, California

January 28th, 2004

Angel looked up from his latest talk with Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, regarding Spike, to see his vampire assistant Harmony come into the room. "You have a visitor!"

"Who is it?" the former Irishman demanded.

"You are SO not going to believe this!" the undead blond told them. "But it's Xander freaking Harris!"

That name caused both men to share a look of surprise. "I thought he'd given up trying to contact you, once and for all?" Wesley asked Angel.

"Don't know me too well, then, do you Wes?" Xander said, as he strode into the office.

"Hey!" Harmony yelled at him. "You don't get to come in, till I say you…" she trailed off as Xander gave her a nasty look.

Then the female demon realized this was not the same young man she'd once had a hair-pulling fight with, back in Sunnydale. "Right…" the undead blond said, before she quickly closed the door behind her.

"Is it just Xander, or do you prefer Dr. Harris?" Angel asked with a slight edge from behind his desk, as Xander sat across from him and Wesley.

Harris didn't bother to look surprised that Angel knew about that bit. "You can call me Xander, for old times sake. After all, it's like I submitted my thesis on ancient civilizations just yesterday...Dead Boy..."

"Um, Xander," Wesley said from his chair next to him. "I take it you know that our answer to your question – is still the same."

"Yeah, I know that," Xander said casually, as he looked over the office.

"Then why are you here?" Angel demanded.

"The usual," Xander answered.

"Wesley's just told you the answer's still no," the vampiric CEO told the young man he'd always seen as an irritating annoyance. "You can tell your Initiative friends that they are NOT getting their hands on Cordy, to experiment on her!"

Angel had been expecting Xander to look shocked and flustered that they knew his secret. But the reaction he got was only slight amusement.

"You think I'm with the Initiative?" Harris asked with a smirk. "Dead Boy, let me refresh your memory. That particular unit was disbanded, not to mention decimated, years ago-"

"We are all very well aware that that is not the case," Wesley told the young man, his idiom betraying his English ancestry. "We know that Riley Finn and others in the government are still going about the world, fighting demons-"

"Uh-huh. Well, just for the sake of argument, Wes; wanna use those big squishy lobes you've got up there, and tell me why I just HAVE to be with Riley and his team?" Xander asked with a look of merriment – that pissed off both other men.

----

Park Mercy Private Hospital, Los Angeles, California

The same time

At the exact same moment Xander was talking to Angel at his office, a small crew of people was exiting an elevator on the eighth floor of the hospital. The two men and one woman all looked normal, as they headed towards the vegetable ward. All three were dressed as doctors, stethoscopes and all.

One of the huge orderlies on duty looked on in surprise, as the three doctors all went into one woman's room. "We have a situation, something's going on in Room 513," he said into his radio.

The thug then quickly made his way into the room, and found the female doctor examining the patient. "Doctor..." he told her menacingly. "This patient has her own regular staff. You three will leave…now."

One of the male doctors turned to look at him. He was a very well-muscled black man, with a blue operating cap on his head. "You have one chance to depart this place. For it would be unwise for you to interfere with us."

"Oh, is that so?" the hospital orderly said with a dark sneer. "Well, since it's obvious you three want to become residents of the morgue downstairs, you can forget about what I just said-"

"Threats are unnecessary. Not to mention irrelevant," the large Negro doctor said, before he moved with a speed that clearly surprised the orderly. And before the human knew what was happening, he'd been put into a strong sleeper hold and was soon falling to the floor.

"I believe we will soon have more visitors, MajorCarter," the alien Jaffa known as Teal'c said, as he went and closed the room's door. "Thus, speed is of the essence-"

"I know!" the blonde woman tried to hurry it along.

"We're almost done!" Daniel Jackson then said to his companion, "Teal'c, get over here!"

----

Angel's office

The same time

"Don't try to pretend that I'm stupid, Harris," Angel told him firmly. "Your records have been completely scrubbed clean. All that Gunn's department has been able to turn up on you is that you're involved with a deep space telemetry outfit belonging to NORAD, out in Colorado. And let's be honest here, anyone who knows you – knows that THAT is simply not true."

"What?" Xander asked, more amused than upset at the slight upon his intelligence. "I can't operate a radio telescope?"

Wesley just ignored his attempt at humor. "Someone in a very high position of power has erased the records of your actions, for the past few years."

Xander shrugged. "Buffy and the others have had their records sealed too. Are you also accusing them of working for the big bad evil government?"

"That was Giles, as I'm sure you know," Angel replied. "They run the Watchers now. And there's something I'd like for you to explain; you could have helped Buffy with those soldiers, during that battle with the First. But they just left, after being there less than a day?"

"From what I've heard, that was strictly Buffy's call," Xander told the vampire with a calculated shrug. "She only wanted the guys who were actually trained to fight demons around, so that they could help save her new vamp boyfriend. Angel, I'm not the one who told Slay-gal to lead a group of teenage girls down into the frickin' Hellmouth, and get over 90 percent of 'em dead; myself I'd have just dropped a small nuke down there, and later sent a cleanup crew to decontaminate the site!"

Then Harris sighed. "Still, as you might have guessed, I didn't have a clue what was going on in that town – till after Sunnydale had turned into the Californian version of the Grand Canyon! I left the Hellmouth after Willow went with Giles to England, and I haven't been back since."

Xander thought for a moment. "Regardless of that, though, I don't work for the Initiative. And even if I did, I would never let their doctors do any sort of experiments on Cordy like they did on Oz, or even Spike."

"Then who do you claim to work for?" Wesley asked, not really believing him.

"You know who I work for," Xander told the older man. "Hey, did you know there was a small comet that passed through the edge of our solar system last week? I've got some cool pictures, if you wanna see 'em."

"Xander…" Angel said as he sighed. "You can deny you work for the people who built that ADAM thing all you want. It doesn't matter; I am never going to release custody of Cordelia to you."

"Because she has such great hospital care, here at Evil Incorporated?" Harris asked with a sneer. "Oh, please…if you were me, would you entrust her into your care nowadays? It's no wonder even Buffy doesn't take your calls anymore. What with the way you guys switched sides-"

"No we haven't!" Wesley said firmly, having had this talk with others. "We're doing our best to keep the evil that was this law firm, firmly under control-"

Xander laughed out loud at that. "The fact that you actually believe you have any type of control over the employees in this place? It just tells me how blind you really are, Wes. The people here, they'd stab you and yours in the back in a heartbeat – first chance they could get..."

"Maybe you should read my card," Angel told Xander, as he picked one from their holder on his desk and flicked it to the younger mortal. "This is my house. I run this office."

Xander just shrugged, as he looked at the card. "I liked your other one better. Cordy might not have been the best artist in the world…but it was much better-looking than this bland one." He checked his watch, before he moved to look out the window at the dark city. "You want to hear something funny, Angel?"

"And what would that be?" Angel asked, knowing full well he hated Xander's sense of humor.

Harris looked back towards him and Wesley. "One of the government's doctors got placed into Cordy's hospital a month ago…undercover."

"What?" the vampire said, shocked at the lapse in security.

"Yeah, no fooling," Xander continued. "And guess what? He told me Cordy has two medical charts. The one you see, and her real one."

"What do you mean?" Angel demanded instantly.

"Her Wolfram and Hart doctors tell you they're trying all sorts of different methods to wake her up, right? But our inside man says that that's all strictly on paper…the paper you get in your weekly reports. Cordelia's vegetating in a coma, while they're sitting back reading their medical journals – and laughing over how gullible the new CEO is turning out to be. Bottom line is you're being snowballed, pal. Not to mention, become a laughing-stock-"

Angel shot out of his chair. "They would NOT lie to me about Cordy!"

"Why not?" Xander asked him. "Because you're the so-called boss around here? Angel, for God's sake, wake up and smell the corpses! Deep down, the doctors and everyone else in this building work for the Senior Partners…not you! They're keeping Cordy in that coma to keep you from walking out the door, and burning the place down on your way out!"

"You have no idea what you're talking about, Harris!" Angel responded angrily. "I've run this firm for almost a year now…we've helped people...saved lives!"

"And what would you do, if the one reason keeping you here suddenly vanished?" Xander demanded of his old nemesis. "I got letters from Cordy during the entire time she worked for you, you know. That's how I know the Senior Partners wanted you on their side, right from the word 'go'. It didn't matter how many of their lawyers you killed…they wanted you, well, how shall I put this? Right, controlled. And since they couldn't force you into their camp…well, what the hell. They bribed you, with the one thing you couldn't resist!"

Those comments upset the 250-year-old vampire greatly, hitting way too close to home for Angel's liking. But his instinctive response, trying to punch some sense into Xander, was cut off by Harmony running in. "Boss! BOSS!"

Angel growled at her for interrupting, "What?"

The blond looked freaked. "Cordy's gone! The hospital just called!" she said, looking sharply at Xander. "Three people went into her room, then some kind of light flashed – and suddenly, Cordy and them were gone! They even took her bed!"

Angel vamped out, as he heard that. He looked at Xander with fury, however the mortal just gave the former Champion a look of pity. "I promise you she won't be harmed," was all that Xander said, before he held up his hand and pressed a button on a small black remote.

Angel jumped at him with vampiric speed, but only passed through the empty space Xander had been occupying a moment before.

Xander Harris had left the building, in a short burst of light.

----

Transporter room, U.S. Air Force ship 'Prometheus', in low Earth orbit over the West Coast

The same time

Major Samantha Carter watched, as the white flash of the modified Asgard transporter beam deposited her friend on board the ship. "How'd it go?"

"Pretty much as I expected," the young man told his companion. "If I know him at all – Angel will start looking at those doctors at the hospital very closely in, oh, say, less than 10 minutes. And don't be surprised if there's a sudden increase in 'gang violence' in LA, by this time tomorrow."

Carter was unofficially happy to hear that. "Glad someone's finally going to do something. I can't imagine people who call themselves doctors, just letting a woman rot in a coma-"

"Sam? From what I recall in Cordy's letters," Xander told her, "that would be amongst the mildest stuff possible that Wolfram & Hart does."

"Well, at least now that the government is looking into their dealings-"

"That won't accomplish squat. Evil Incorporated will just pack up and move next door," Xander said with brutal honesty, cutting her off. "Or else, stall in the courts for decades…or dig up dirt on the investigators. Take your pick."

"So you think there's nothing we can do about them?" Carter asked, not liking that.

"No, no, I didn't say that," Xander replied. "We can't do anything official to them, granted. But it would be a real crying shame, if every single one of their branches suddenly had a bad gas leak…"

"We don't make that type of judgment call, Xander," Major Carter told him firmly.

"I know that," Harris told her with a shrug. "But YOU obviously don't get it yet – to fight that type of people, you have to play at their level. How did Sean Connery's line in 'The Untouchables' go? Ah, right! They go after one of yours with a knife, you go after one of theirs with a gun; they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue..."

"Let's give the brass enough time to try official channels first," Carter told him with a hopeless sigh. "Now come on, they want us on the bridge before we beam back down to the SGC."

----

SGC Infirmary, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

One hour later

Xander walked into the private room, to find two Tok'Ra and the chief medical officer, Dr. Janet Fraiser. "Hey, doc. How's our star patient doing?"

The red-haired doctor walked over to her friend. "She's doing fine, Xander," the M.D. told him. "There was no trouble in the transfer."

Xander nodded, as he looked over his ex-girlfriend and now just friend lying still in her bed. The steady beep of the heart monitor showed a strong pulse. "What's the verdict on your side?"

"Your information was indeed correct," the eldest Tok'Ra told him, in that deep voice of theirs. "Her partial 'demon' genetics will be more than sufficient, to serve as a host template."

"Will the symbiote be able to heal the demon side?" Xander demanded.

"Yes," the alien rebel answered. "It is not all that dissimilar to, say, that of an Unas."

"How long will it take to heal her?" the former Slayerette wanted to know.

The other Tok'Ra, a young female, told him as she checked her readings, "It will take at least a day, maybe two. Both the human and demon sides need to be tended to. Her brain was severely damaged, and the long interval of time that has elapsed since that particular occurrence hasn't helped at all. Most likely, that area of her mind will require quite a lot of healing."

Xander didn't like the sound of that. "How will that affect her? Will Cordy still be herself, when she wakes up?"

"Yes," the male Tok'Ra replied to that question. "Although from what I can see of what's happened to the left-brain hemisphere, almost certainly she will lose some of her childhood memories; how many, it's impossible to say. That area seems to have been partly overwritten by the being you called Jasmine."

"Damn," Xander whispered. He hoped she would be all right; Cordelia sure as hell didn't deserve what had happened to her. "So when to do we begin the implantation?"

----

SGC Infirmary Observation Room

Two hours later

Team SG-1 looked up slightly, as their team leader came in. "Any trouble?" O'Neill asked, as he took a seat.

"None," Teal'c replied, as he watched the operation continue. "The Tok'Ra are ready to proceed with the implantation."

"Xander there looks a tad…tense," O'Neill commented, as he spied the former Zeppo watching everything going on from the head of the woman's bed.

"It's not every day you deliberately place an alien symbiote inside a friend's head," Daniel said. "Even if it is a Tok'Ra."

"Let alone, a clone of their dead queen Egeria," Carter said in agreement, as the memories of the SGC's encounter on the planet Pangar suddenly surfaced in her mind.

----

Temporary branch office of the new Council of Watchers, Rome, Italy

January 29th, 2004

9:32 pm local time

"Come on, Xander, pick up!" Dawn Summers said into the encrypted phone. "I said pick up!"

After several rings, she finally got an answer. #Hello?#

"Xander!" Dawn yelled into the phone. "Where the hell are you?"

#Hey, Dawnie. Been a while – and nice set of lungs you've developed there…#

"Xander?" Dawn Summers yelled into the phone, ignoring the niceties. "I said, where the hell are you?"

#Oh, these days, lots of different places. Y'know, here and there,# Xander's voice came back sounding faintly amused.

"Give me that!" Buffy demanded of her younger sister, as she took the phone. "Xander, why the hell did you kidnap Cordelia?"

#Hello to you too, Buff,# Xander said calmly, not seeming to notice the edge in his friend's voice. #And I didn't kidnap her…well, not in an evil way anyhow.#

"Damn it, Xander!" Buffy cursed. "Angel is going nuts, not that you can blame him. And he's this close to sending a SWAT team to Colorado after you!"

#What's stopping him?#

"I've guaranteed him that we would return Cordelia back to LA, at once," Buffy told him.

#You did what?# Xander asked, surprised. #Buffy, why the hell did you do that? In case you didn't get the memo, you and the Watchers are out of the loop on this one.#

"Not anymore," Buffy said firmly. "Give me your exact location, and I'll arrange to pick her up…"

#No,# Xander said in a casual tone.

Buffy gripped the phone tighter. "Xander, this is not a request-"

#And I'm not a Watcher, remember?# Harris told her in that same calm voice, as the Slayer's blood pressure soared. #Buffy – I'm sorry, but I don't answer to you, and you have no authority to give me orders. Besides, I thought you weren't even talking to Angel anymore?#

"We still know what's going on," Buffy told him, now with undisguised fury in her voice.

#Oh, I really doubt that Buff!# Xander said with another slight laugh.

"Xander…" the young woman growled out his name. "Do I really have to call up Riley, for him to overrule you?"

#Go ahead and call the guy if you want, Slay-gal,# Xander responded. #But for now, I have to go. See, I've got to take a leak. Love ya!#

"Xander!"

CLICK.

"ARGHHHH!"

---

SGC Briefing Room, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

January 30th, 2004

Xander yawned, as they came up the stairs. "Didn't get much sleep last night?" Major Carter asked him.

"Just a couple of hours," Harris finally admitted. "I finally passed out watching the Home Shopping Network, and the next thing I know I have Buffy yelling at me on the phone."

"Hmm. I heard she threatened to bring in your old friends from that demon research initiative," Carter said.

Xander just shrugged. "So what? We've got clearance from the White House on this. Riley won't be able to do anything, even if Buffy can find him-"

"He's in Paris."

"Really?" Xander asked O'Neill, as he got up from the table.

"Apparently, Finn's on R&R there with his wife," the base's second-in-command told him. "Seems they had a-"

O'Neill was cut off by the blaring of the base alarm. "General Hammond to the Infirmary! Repeat, General Hammond to the Infirmary!"

---

SGC Base Corridor, just outside the Infirmary

A few minutes later

"General?" Xander asked, as he and the rest met with Hammond coming from another corridor.

"I don't know, son," the base commander responded tersely.

"What the hell could be going on-?" Xander asked as he, Hammond and the members of SG-1 entered the room. "Oh, shit..."

The sight that greeted them was a very upset and awake Cordelia Chase, holding a gun to her head.

"Stay back!" she demanded, frantically keeping her eyes on the two guards and the Tok'Ra. "Don't think I won't kill it as well as myself!"

"How the hell did she get your gun!" O'Neill demanded of one of the guards.

Cordelia spun at the new voice, backing up farther. "I said, stay back!" she yelled, as she kept the pistol to her temple.

"Take it easy, young lady," Hammond said calmly. "None of us want to hurt you-"

"Yeah, of course you don't!" Cordelia yelled at him. "You don't want to hurt that THING inside me!" Instantly the Tok'Ra present bristled at that comment, and wondered if their choice of host had been an error of judgment...

Xander chose that moment to step forward. "Cordelia? Hi. Let's just calm down and take it easy for a second, okay?"

"Xa…Xander?" Ms. Chase asked, shocked to see her high school ex of all people. "What are the hell you doing here – with them?"

"Here and now, I'm just trying to play peacemaker. But please listen, Cor, they're friends…you can trust them as much as you can trust me," Harris told the former higher being.

"No I can't!" Cordy raged. "I don't know why it's not controlling me right now…but I have to kill myself, before that thing makes me do something else!"

"Else?" Xander asked, surprised. "Cordy…are you talking about Jasmine?"

"Who?" Cordelia demanded as the others watched the two, waiting for a chance to get the gun back safely.

"It's what your…baby…was named, after you gave birth to her and went into the coma. And that was nearly a year ago," Xander told her. "Cordy…it's over. She's out of you-"

"No it's not, Harris!" Cordelia cried. "I can hear it…her, inside my head! I have to end this, before-"

Xander stepped closer to her. "Cordy…before you left for LA, we made peace and you said you trusted me again. So lemme ask you this; do you still trust me?"

"I…" Cordelia tried to think clearly, but it wasn't easy. "What the hell does that have to do with this?"

"Everything, Cordy, literally," Xander said quickly. "Because I know for a fact that it's not Jasmine who's inside you anymore…on account of she's dead. Connor killed her."

Cordelia's eyes went wide in shock. "Connor? But…she had him..." She tried to make sense of it before the woman then demanded, "Okay, then if this…Jasmine isn't inside me…what's that alien voice in my head?"

"A Tok'Ra," Xander told her. "It's another sentient life form, yeah…but it's not demonic, or evil."

"How the hell do you know that?" she demanded.

"Because I helped put it inside you," Harris answered bluntly, and was sorry he did when he saw the look of betrayal on Cordy's face.

"You did what?" she whispered, with a tear falling. "Xander, why would you…"

"Because it was the only way to wake you up!" Harris told her with great emotion. "Cordelia, listen to me. You've been rotting in a coma at Wolfram & Hart, for months! This was the only way to fix the damage both Jasmine and the evil lawyers inflicted…before the neglect would have killed you."

"Wolfram & Hart…?" Cordelia asked, not understanding. "But they're all dead, the Beast…Lilah's dead, and so are the rest of them!"

"The evil lawyers rebuild very quickly," Xander commented. "Cordy, for whatever it's worth – I give you my word that we're not the enemy, and that you're safe now."

Her hand wavered holding the gun, but she didn't drop it. "I can't take that chance, Xander. You don't know what I've been through, ever since I came back to this plane…"

Luckily, Xander stayed calm. "Actually? I've heard enough to give me nightmares. But I swear, Cordy, I brought you here to help you. That Tok'Ra in your head? She healed you. Please, Cordelia, I didn't go to all this trouble to wake you up – just so that afterwards you could blow your brains out all over the wall! Both Dead Boy and Buffy would kill me for that…and I couldn't blame them for it, either."

Her hand wavered more, as Cordy openly wept. "Xander…I…it's killed so many people. I can't take the chance…"

Not knowing what else to do, Xander stepped right up to her. "Then I gotta ask you to shoot me first, before you kill yourself."

"What!" Ms. Chase demanded in shock, taken completely off-guard.

"Xander?" Daniel asked at once.

"Harris, stand down!" Jack demanded angrily, cursing the White Knight mentality. (Damn it, this is just like what happened on P3R-)

"What do you think you're doing, Dr. Harris?" Hammond demanded, breaking O'Neill's chain of thought.

"DOCTOR Harris?" Cordelia asked, dumbfounded. "When the hell did you…okay, did I wake up in Insane-o World or something?"

Xander just looked face to face with her. "I've been through a lot in the last two years, Cordelia. Some good times, and some bad…which were mostly my own fault. Heck, you'd know better than anyone about the bad luck I have with women! I even left my fiancée on the day of our wedding, because some demon messed with my head. And now, my actions to save an old friend have her putting a gun to her head? Enough's enough here. So if you want to shoot, please shoot me first. I don't want to have to live knowing that I forced you into killing yourself."

She stared at him for a few tense moments. "Xander…I can't. I don't…I don't know what to do-"

"I do. Just put the gun down, Cor, please," Harris told her with a bit of emotion. "Put it down and let me tell you everything what's happened, ever since you had that thing inside you. Because Jasmine is dead and gone, and all your friends in LA are waiting for me to take you back to them. Look, I saw a chance to save you from being a brain-dead vegetable…so I took it. And I'm asking you to trust me. I know that given our history that's a helluva risk for you; but I hope you also know that I would never try to harm you. Never again."

Moments passed, as the two ex's stared at each other. A guard was getting ready to make a try for the gun; but before he could, Cordelia slowly lowered it and silently handed it to Harris.

"Thank you," Xander said sincerely, as he flipped the safety on the gun and gave it to its owner.

"So what now?" she asked him weakly.

Xander smirked. "Well, first off I think we should see if you're well enough to leave the infirmary, and then we get you some clothes. Because if I ever learned anything from dating you…it's that that white gown is like TOTALLY not your idea of a fashion statement!"

Cordelia almost unleashed a smile, even as she cringed at the outfit. Seeing all the men in the room, the former seer grabbed the back of the gown and held the two halves together, covering what was showing. "Yikes. Okay, clothes, now!" Cordy ordered Xander. "But you don't pick them out…understand? I still have vivid nightmares about your so-called fashion sense!"

Xander laughed a little. "One day, Padawan, truly you will learn to appreciate the Hawaiian shirt. But first, let's get you checked out by Dr. Fraiser here," he said, nodding to the redheaded woman.

Cordy instantly took hold of his arm. "You're not going far, right?" she asked, slightly nervous.

"Just stepping outside. Wouldn't want me to see all your…assets, after all," Harris responded glibly, as Cordy whacked him upside the head. Then the brunette beauty let Janet lead her to an exam bed surrounded by a curtain.

As Xander came out of the infirmary, Hammond and the others looked at him – amazed. "You just took one heck of a big chance in there, son!" the Texan snapped.

"No, I don't think I did, General," Xander responded. "Cordy and I…oh sure, we always fought like cats and dogs when we were kids, but we're friends now and we were once…more. Not to mention we used to be on the same team, fighting evil demons and vampires. That's an undeclared war, yeah, but still a war nonetheless." He looked between the members of SG-1. "And if there's one thing I've learned in my time here? It's that true teammates trust one another."

"Indeed," Teal'c said approvingly at Xander's words.

---

The Purple Bar, Hilton Arc de Triomphe Hotel, Paris, France

The same time

"What do you mean, you can't do anything!" Buffy demanded of her old boyfriend.

Riley Finn sighed impatiently, as he looked at the blond and redhead sitting across from him. Both women had come in on one of the Watchers' private jets this morning, and were very irritable from concern and minor jet lag. "It means, I can't do anything to help you. This is way beyond my clearance level; I called my superiors about it, and they later told me that their bosses had told them in no uncertain terms…to leave Xander alone."

"I don't believe this!" Buffy groaned. "Don't you outrank him or something?"

"I have no idea," Riley told her. "I mean, I don't know if he even HAS a rank! I was just told to drop my inquiries into what Dr. Harris is doing, right the hell now. End of story."

"But he's not a doctor!" Willow said, very sure. "I've heard my parents talking nonstop over the years about all the schooling you have to do, to get to be a doctor of anything. And Xander's only been gone for less than two years!"

"Well, whatever Xander is into these days, he has very high-level friends," Riley said. "Buffy, obviously I don't know the guy as well as you and Willow do…but the Xander I remember wouldn't hurt anyone. Let alone this Cordelia girl, they're still friends after all..."

"You know about her?" Buffy asked him. "But you never even met her!"

Riley just shrugged. "Xander's told me about her. He was reading a letter she sent him once, when I went over to his place to borrow a hammer."

"You remember that?" Willow asked, suspicious.

Riley laughed a little. "He showed me a bunch of her head shots and body pics. All of them were autographed for him, with Miss Chase calling him her 'Dweeb Boy'. And I have to tell you, the shot of her in that red bikini isn't something I'll forget anytime soon...uh, just don't mention that to Sam, okay?"

On instinct Buffy gave him a scowl, before she remembered that Riley was no longer her boyfriend and it wouldn't mean anything to him. "Men, you're all the same; alive or undead," she replied, annoyed. "Okay, I'll admit I honestly don't think Xander would hurt her either, but the people he turned her over to wouldn't be able to help her anyway!"

"Right," Willow agreed. "What would the government know about demons and magic?"

Riley looked at them, instantly annoyed. "Hello? I am sitting right here!"

"You know what we mean, Riley," Buffy told him, and not noticing that the annoyance on Finn's face failed to go away.

---

Briefing Room 2, Stargate Command, Colorado

A short while later

"So I have a clone of this Egeria thing inside my brain?" Cordelia asked her ex, more than a little unsettled.

"That's right," Xander told her. "The real Egeria, the founder of the Tok'Ra, died on the planet Pangar almost two years ago."

"But why would they bother to clone her?" Cordelia asked, unsure. "Why not just have another Tok'Ra make their little snake babies?"

"Because the other Tok'Ra are just regular symbiotes," Xander responded. "Only the queens like Egeria and Hathor are able to birth new members of their kind."

"Hathor?"

Xander rested his hands on the table. "Yeah, the Goa'uld version of Egeria. Her 'kids' want to get inside people, and be worshipped forever…the whole false god mentality thing. I'll explain it in detail later." He thought for a moment, "For now, let me just say that with the whole genetic memory bit, the snakes are born pissed off and wanting to rule the entire galaxy. It's like if Hitler had ever cloned himself to make Adolf v2.0, and tailor-made for the 21st century at that, the parasites would be just like him."

"And since Egeria founded the Tok'Ra…" Cordelia figured slowly, "All her kids are the good guys?"

"Well, yeah," Xander admitted. "Even if in my experience, some of them act pretty much like…well, like complete pricks every once in a while..."

"I hope that you do not include me in that grouping, Dr. Harris," a deep voice said from the door.

Harris and Chase looked over to see a balding man, in a dark sort of jumpsuit. "Selmak, Jacob! No way," Xander said, as he rose and shook the older man's hand.

"How are you, Alexander?" the old and wise Tok'Ra asked.

"Very well, thanks, now that my friend here is awake and all right," Xander said, as he offered Selmak the chair next to his across from Cordelia.

"Okay, hold up," Cordy said, looking at the new arrival; who was staring at her just as intently. Wondering how well the new queen was doing inside her host. "First – how do you talk like that, and second – what kind of name is Selmak Jacob?"

Selmak looked to Xander, who nodded. "He has a Tok'Ra inside him, Cor. The symbiote's name is Selmak. The host's name is General Jacob Carter, of the U.S. Air Force."

"You're a host?" Cordelia looked at him, very unsure. "Uh, does that mean the symbiote inside my head will fully take over me someday?"

Selmak lowered his head for a moment, before looking back up. Jacob Carter now spoke. "No," he answered her question. "The Goa'uld take hosts by force, and they constantly control them as slaves. But the Tok'Ra share the body with the host willingly, in a true symbiosis. Selmak's never forced me to do anything against my will."

"So your roommate is a he?" the LA girl asked.

"Yes," Jacob answered. "Though his last host was female."

"It was?" Cordy asked, amazed. "So…doesn't it all get a little confusing? I mean – you're not checking out guys now, are you?"

Jacob laughed. "No. Despite what my late wife might have joked about with me…I'm not gay, Cordelia. Granted, since Selmak's lived inside a female host for nearly 200 years, he does have an appreciation for the male form that I don't. But it stops there; neither of us will be visiting any gay bars anytime soon."

"Xander tells me," Cordelia started, then paused. "That I have a clone of the Tok'Ra Queen inside me, and that she was dying somehow?"

Jacob allowed Selmak to take over, briefly dipping his head as his eyes glowed for a moment. "That is correct, young lady," the alien said in his deep voice. "The remains of Egeria were very badly damaged, after decades of abusive treatment on Pangar. The first attempt at cloning her did not take hold. The second attempt was almost completely successful; however…that Tok'Ra base was destroyed by the Goa'uld called Anubis, before the flaw could be corrected. All samples of Egeria were lost as well."

Cordy tried to follow along. "And this flaw is what made it not work for anyone, but me?"

"Yes," Selmak told her. "We had your medical data on file, from when Dr. Harris contacted us about finding a sarcophagus; to see if that would revive you from your coma. We looked for all possible hosts before the clone was set to expire, and found that your unique mix of human and 'demon' made you the only known compatible host."

Cordelia nodded, as she sent Xander a brief smile in thanks for trying to find a way to wake her up like that. "Okay, then, let's put all the cards on the table here," she looked at Selmak. "What do you guys want from me?"

"We wish for you to remain the new Egeria's host willingly," the Tok'Ra told her simply. "The clone must still be weak from healing you, but no doubt you will be able to hear her coherent thoughts soon; and then she will almost certainly ask you the same thing. And we would also request that when she reaches maturity…however long that takes…that you allow Egeria to produce offspring, to replace those ranks of the Tok'Ra who have died."

"What!" Cordelia demanded at once.

"The Tok'Ra are on the verge of becoming extinct, Cor," Xander said simply. "Ever since they met us, their species has been decimated. And bottom line, they're an ally us ignorant old Earth humans can't afford to lose."

"Just as the Tau'ri are an ally we cannot afford to lose, given all the System Lords who have fallen over the last seven years. Please, help us so that we may keep the fight against the Goa'uld alive," Selmak pleaded.

Cordelia squirmed at that. "Look, the offspring thing is kind of…gross-sounding. And just how does Egeria make little Tok'Ra babies, anyway?"

---

Colorado Springs Airport, Colorado

January 31st, 2004

The doors to the private hanger had just closed, and the small jet's engines were still in the process of shutting down when the door swung open and several men dressed in black, and armed to the teeth, exited the plane.

"Remember," the leader called Hans told his men. "This is snatch and grab only, meaning no killing." A few men groaned at that, and the leader looked at one of his soldiers in particular. "Thompson…I want to make sure you understand this, beyond any doubt."

The young agent rolled his eyes. "Come on, sir! That was two years ago!"

"You shot six people…in the wrong damn apartment!" another agent said, as the others laughed.

"It was only a bunch of college kids!" Thompson grumbled. "It's not like anyone was going to miss them…just a little dope planted, and instant drug deal gone bad."

"But don't forget, the money for the drugs came out of our pay!" another agent said, annoyed.

Hans silently agreed with the sentiment. Linwood Murrow had not been a happy boss to his team that night. "Anyway, you know the drill this time. We stake out the guy's house, and bring him and the girl in the coma back alive."

"All this just for some damn vegetable chick?" a Russian-born member of the team asked. "Since when does a vampire care who he parties with? LA's full of girls that won't be missed!"

"Oh, it's one of his pet humans," Thompson told him. "Part of the deal that the Senior Partners used to bring him into the fold-"

"Cut the chatter," Hans told them. "Weapons check in five seconds, and then we-"

"Oh, by all means," a new male voice said, out of nowhere. "Please keep up the chatter. That thing about six murdered people two years ago sounded very interesting."

The Wolfram and Hart SWAT team instantly drew their weapons, and went into a defensive formation. "Who's there?" Hans demanded.

He got his answer in the form of several dozen red tracer lights hitting him and his men on the chest. "Drop your weapons immediately!"

"No chance!" Hans growled.

"You have five seconds to comply, or we shoot to kill at you and your men!" the voice from the darkness told him. "You're surrounded, you have nowhere to go and no chance of getting out of here! Now lose the weapons!"

When even more tracers appeared, the Wolfram & Hart team slowly began to put their guns down, despite the glares Hans sent them; before he too eventually complied.

The lights came on fully in the hanger, and several dozen men in black armor came out of the shadows and surrounded the SWAT team. They began to place them in cuffs, with a few well-placed kicks in the ribs when the team members wouldn't comply graciously with their orders.

Major Paul Davis stepped out of an office, and spoke into his radio. "Tell the General that the expected guests from Wolfram and Hart have been neutralized."

---

VIP Accommodations, SGC Level 22, Cheyenne Mountain

0312 Hours

Cordelia tossed and turned in her bed, as the dream became more and more vivid to her.

Looking down, she found herself in a very revealing outfit, complete with veils and gold jewelry. Like royalty from ancient Egypt, or close to it. She was picking flowers in a large field on the side of a hill. A guard of some kind in weird grey armor was nearby.

The word 'Jaffa' came to her, from somewhere in the back of her mind.

The woman carried her flowers up over the hill, and stopped dead in her tracks in shock. While the field behind her looked like the most peaceful setting ever, the setting on the other side made her blood run cold.

It was much worse than any disaster movie Cordelia Chase had ever seen. The blasted ruins of a technologically advanced city were on fire, right there before her. Two massive pyramid-shaped spaceships were parked on the ground, and another was hovering above. Countless fighter craft with curved wings flew in the sky, relentlessly strafing the streets and picking off anyone they could.

The screams assaulted her ears, as she saw people being herded into the backs of large ships by more of the Jaffa guards. She watched as a group of men and women dressed in military uniforms of some sort were lined up, and shot with spear-like blasters.

A mother and small child tried to flee, and they were instantly butchered like animals.

"Egeria!"

She turned from the horror she was witnessing to see a young man, barely more than a teenager, dressed as she was; along with three Jaffa. One was carrying a small round pot, and the other two were dragging a terrified young woman. The female prisoner looked to be in her twenties, and had intensely red-colored hair...

"Let me go!" she screamed and pleaded, as the Jaffa dragged her along.

"My lord Ra," Cordelia/Egeria commented coolly, making sure not to show any signs of distress over the sight she had seen.

The youth in gold indicated the struggling girl. He ran his hand gently over her terrified face. "What do you think of the new host I have selected for my queen?"

"She appears quite lovely, Ra," Cordelia answered simply.

"Yes she does, doesn't she?" the Goa'uld commented, his eyes briefly glowing yellow-white. "I did not think we would find such a rare flower as this, on this planet of dogs!"

"Please…" the girl pleaded. "What did you do with my brother?"

Ra ignored her, as he went to the pot in the hands of one of the Jaffa. Reaching his hand in the water, he pulled out a full-grown Goa'uld symbiote. He held it in front of the girl, who tried in vain to move away. "What is that thing!" she screamed.

"It is your new god," Ra told her, as the snake darted from his hand right into the girl's mouth. Her attempts at screaming were muffled by the parasite invading her mouth. Her eyes were wide with terror, as she shook violently…

And then suddenly it all stopped, as her eyes glowed yellow-white. "Thank you for my new host, husband," the woman spoke with an inhuman, reverberating voice.

"AHHH!" Cordelia screamed, as she woke up in her bed. It took her a few seconds to realize where she was. She could still recall the screams, and the look on that girl's face as she was made a host...

A heavy knocking came from the door. "Ma'am!" the guard outside demanded. "Are you alright?"

Cordelia took a deep breath, and went over to the door. Pulling it open she told the alerted MP, "Yeah, I'm okay…it was just a very bad dream."

The guard relaxed. "Do you need anything?"

Cordy nodded slowly. "Can you call Xa…I mean, Dr. Harris?"

"Of course."

Cordelia was about to close the door when she added, "Oh, and can you tell him to bring some hot tea with him? I don't think I want to be sleep anymore tonight."

"Yes, ma'am," the guard replied.

---

Wolfram & Hart, Los Angeles, California

8:56 pm local time

Spike and Angel were arguing, as they walked towards the executive conference room where the others were already waiting. "Spike, this isn't the time…"

"Then when will it be the time, mate? You forgotten all about the bloody cheerleader already, 'ave you?"

Angel ground his teeth together, wishing he had just staked William the Bloody back in 1880 and been done with it. "No I haven't. But Buffy's right, this situation with that Dana girl has to take precedence…"

Wesley looked up to them as the two vampires entered, "Angel. We were just about to…"

The person in the chair at the end of the table turned around at that moment, showing himself to the two bloodsuckers. He was young, very young. His suit looked almost too big for him, but his attitude didn't reflect that, annoying as that could be.

He just waved his pipe as he greeted the undead CEO, "Ah, Angel I presume…" The guy trailed off as he saw the big cheese's companion. "Spike?"

Spike stopped dead in his tracks. And his face went from anger to utter annoyance. "Oh, for the love of…"

Andrew Wells jumped up. "Spike?" he repeated, as the nerd quickly went over and poked the blond vampire. When the human realized that Spike was indeed solid, he threw his arms around his old chum. "It's you. It's really you!" Andrew sobbed, as Spike tried to push him off in embarrassment. "My therapist thought I was holding onto false hope, but...I knew you'd come back!"

The others watch the scene with amazement. And Angel for one couldn't believe that anyone would act this way about his grandchilde, apart from maybe Drusilla. (Where does Spike find them, I wonder?)

Andrew let go and looked eye to eye at Spike. "You're like...you're like Gandalf the White, resurrected from the pit of the Balrog." He put his hand to the dead man's face, holding it fondly. "More beautiful than ever."

Andrew then hugged him again. "Ohh...he's alive, Frodo. He's alive!"

Gunn looked towards Angel, confused. He mouthed the question, 'Special friends?'

Angel smirked both at the question and the scene. "I take it you two know each other?" the Irish-born vamp asked. Spike just glared at him for his mocking tone.

Andrew let go and wiped his eyes. "Uh, yeah. Um...we…we saved the world together. I mean, Buffy helped, but...it was mostly us." He patted Spike on the back, like they were old friends. "Uh, so what happened? Last I heard, you went all pillar of fire down in the Hellmouth-"

"As much as I know you two want to go have a few drinks, and maybe get a room," Angel said snidely to his fellow vampire. "Could we save memory lane, till after we contain this psychotic super-powered killing machine?"

---

SGC Infirmary, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

February 1st, 2004

Xander looked over at the bed where Cordelia was laying. "You sure you want to do this?" he asked, now that the moment of letting Egeria take control for the first time had come.

"It's a little late to be asking me that!" Cordelia glared at him. But then she softened, "But yeah…let's do it." She took Xander's hand, as she looked at the two men in front of her. "So, Jacob, how do I do this?"

"Just relax and don't fight it," the host told her. "Egeria will do the rest."

"Okay," Cordelia said, as she took a deep breath and lay back with her eyes closed. A moment later they came open again, and glowed briefly.

"Cordy?" Xander asked, still holding on to her hand.

She turned to face him and told the human in the deep voice of a Tok'Ra, "She is still here and unharmed, Xander Harris."

Xander relaxed a lot at hearing that. "Hello, Egeria. And thanks. Not that I thought you'd harm her, of course, but…"

"But you wish to keep her safe," Egeria said with a certain fondness. "Understandable. Cordelia is very appreciative of your care regarding her condition."

"Hey, I'm just doing what she'd do for me, if our positions were like reversed," Xander responded.

"It is more than that, and you should know it," Egeria told him with an upraised eyebrow. Harris had to blush, but thankfully the Tok'Ra queen didn't pursue the subject any further.

Malek, the second Tok'Ra present stepped up to her bedside. "My Queen?"

Egeria turned to face him. "Yes, Malek, it is I. It feels so strange to see you...again. The cloning skills of my children are to be commended."

"Have you and the host blended correctly?" the younger Tok'Ra asked, hope shining in his eyes.

"Yes," Egeria replied. "Cordelia and I now coexist in this body."

Selmak was very pleased to hear this. "All Tok'Ra throughout the galaxy will rejoice at your return to us, my Queen. Our people have been saved from annihilation!"

Malek echoed that sentiment. "We will make arrangements to move you as soon as possible, to-"

"No," Egeria said firmly.

"My Queen?" Malek asked, unsure.

Egeria looked to her two children. "I have discussed it with my host. And we both feel that I should remain here on the Tau'ri homeworld, for the time being."

Malek was more than a little shocked. "But my Queen…"

"It is not up for debate," Egeria told him. "The reproductive system of my host was badly traumatized, and it will be some time before I am ready to produce more Tok'Ra. And Malek, no matter where we go – I would be greatly vulnerable at any of our bases. However, this world is protected by treaty with the Asgard, which at least gives one the illusion of security. I have also agreed to let Cordelia get her affairs here on Earth in order, before we depart."

"My Queen…" Malek said carefully, not liking her desire. "While it is true that this world is under the protection of that treaty, it has had more than its fair share of…incidents."

"Yes – that is indeed the case, from what I've been told," the Queen told him. "But I will be staying here, regardless. If Anubis wants me dead like my clone-siblings, he will have to come here and kill me himself."

"Anubis?" the male Tok'Ra asked in concern.

Egeria stroked his cheek, "You are young, Malek. You can not remember what he was truly like, thousands of years ago." She briefly looked in Jacob Carter's direction, "As the first of my children you know Anubis of old, Selmak. But even you are too young to remember ALL the atrocities that he committed, before Ra damned me..."

The Tok'Ra queen sighed. "And now with everything he has become, I do not know how we are to stop him."

---

VIP Accommodations, SGC Level 22, Cheyenne Mountain

A short while later

"Come in," the woman called Sarah called out, as she looked up from her position on the bed.

She had been just been sitting there, staring off into space for some time, when she'd heard the knock on the door. If anything she had been expecting Daniel Jackson's warm and comforting presence, but that wasn't who her visitor was...

"Sarah Gardener?" Cordelia asked, as she poked her head inside. "Mind if I come in?"

"Guess not," the tall blond said. "Are you one of the SGC people?"

Cordelia shook her head, as she closed the door. "God, no. There is no way I would ever willingly sign up for a place where you hafta wear such horrible clothes every day!" She indicated the drab clothing she had on. "I mean really, can you say ick?"

"Another counselor, then?" the former Goa'uld host asked, annoyed. "No offense, but the last one already did the entire spiel. You know – it wasn't my fault…it wasn't me killing all those innocent people. It wasn't 'me' who ordered the bombardment of an entire damn PLANET!"

"Not what I was going to say, actually," Cordelia said calmly in the face of the other woman's anger. "I was just going to say that I know how you feel."

Sarah looked at her incredulously. "You KNOW how I feel?" She jumped off the bed. "Lady, I had a thing inside my head that-"

"-that used your body to kill people," Cordelia said, now showing almost the same emotions as Sarah. "You know that technically you didn't do it, and yet – and yet you recall your own hands…you own voice. You have the memories of them pleading with you, as you killed them." Cordy folded her arms across her chest. "Trust me, I can relate. The thing that took control of me used me like a skin suit, and then tossed me away like I was some used beer bottle!"

Looking down Cordelia added, "Some girl…a little blond thing, I never even learned what her name was. But I remember how her last moments were filled with terror and pain, as the weapon in my hands slaughtered her mercilessly..."

Sarah looked at her in disbelief. "You had one of those Goa'uld things inside you too?"

"No," Cordy responded. "I had a demon thing inside me."

"A demon!" Sarah asked, eyes wide.

"Yeah," Cordelia said. "It's an unusual term I know, but then I'm not sure anymore just what…Jasmine…really was. And no way in hell am I gonna call that demon a higher being-"

"Ah, okay..." Sarah said, sitting back on the bed. 'Demon,' she mouthed to herself before asking, "So, how did you wind up here? I thought this place dealt strictly with aliens."

"That's another thing we have in common," Cordelia flashed her a small smile. "See – my ex works here, same as yours..."

---

New Watchers Council Headquarters, London, England

February 3rd, 2004

"Unbelievable!" Buffy exclaimed, as she slammed down the phone. "I REALLY don't believe this!"

"What?" Rupert Giles, one of the oldest and most senior of the Watchers still alive, asked his former charge.

"NO ONE will give me a straight answer on what the hell Xander is doing, nowadays!" Ms. Summers growled, wanting to hit something. Or someone.

"It's kinda creepy," Willow added, nodding her head. "And hey, he's been pretty hard to get in touch with ever since he left us too. Buffy, do you think Xander's in trouble?"

"Well, OF COURSE he is!" the Slayer said emphatically. "What, did he think he could just kidnap Cordelia and nobody would take any notice? My money says his bosses have finally figured out how badly they screwed up, and now they're gonna do the whole big denial and secrecy thing. Oh my God! They'll probably just toss Xander into a jail cell somewhere, and throw away the key! We gotta find him!"

"You're right! OhmyGodyou'rerightwegottafindhimrightnow-"

"Buffy, Willow, do please calm down," Giles said hopelessly. "I mean, we don't actually know anything yet. And to be perfectly honest, at the moment you're making mountains out of molehills-"

"Are not!" the two women said in unison.

Willow went on, "Giles, it's Xander. How can we not worry about him?"

The Watcher started to polish his glasses. "What?" Buffy asked, upon spying his activities. "Giles, I hate it when you do that! Could you just say whatever it is that's on your mind?"

But whatever Rupert had had to say regarding Xander Harris was destined by the fates not to be heard, as Andrew Wells came in almost at a run. "Mr. Giles! Buffy! We have a visitor! A mucho important one!"

Just then, the friend of Samantha Carter from the NID known as Agent Barrett walked into the room. "Good afternoon, all."

"Hey! You were supposed to wait till I-" Andrew started to say. Then after he saw Barrett glare at him, the geek simply said, "I gotta go!" before he scooted out the door.

"What's the meaning of this? And who are you?" Giles put his glasses back on, and stared at the new arrival.

"I'm Agent Barrett, NID," the man said matter-of-factly, displaying his badge. "And since you people seem completely unable to follow advice or orders, I've been sent over here by the Air Force to talk to you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Buffy asked with narrowed eyes, as she took a step forward.

"Ms. Summers, Dr. Harris has informed me of your…how shall I put this…nighttime activities. Thus, I know who and what you are-"

"Good, so we can all stop pretending with regard to what's really going on here. Now where's Xander?" Willow demanded.

The NID agent just handed a folded sheaf of papers to Giles. The Englishman started to read them and then exclaimed, "Good Lord!"

Willow grabbed one and read aloud, "From the office of the U.S. Attorney General…the Secretary of the Interior hereby…the Vice-President authorises…" She looked up, shocked. "This can't be real!"

Barrett shook his head. "I have better things to do with my time than take a trip across the Atlantic – and tell some strangers a bunch of lies here, Ms. Rosenberg."

"WHAT?" Buffy demanded.

"His job in Colorado has been classified top secret, and it's now a criminal offence for us to ask anything about what Xander's doing," Giles shook his head in disbelief. "And we risk legal prosecution, if we…my God, how on earth did the boy possibly arrange this? Even the Council couldn't have-"

Buffy had had enough, and decided to get answers her own way. "Look, mister, enough's enough! If you don't start talking right now-"

"No, you listen to me. Because I'm well aware of all your…past activities, Ms. Summers," Barrett interrupted coldly. "Such as that incident with the so-called Ted Buchanan, during 1997? Not to mention your 'me Slayer, do as I say' mentality. So just for the record, if you try to assault me to obtain information? You WILL face the consequences."

"Meaning?" Giles said sharply.

The government agent responded, looking at Buffy, "I'll file a complaint with the authorities here, for all the good we both know that'll do. However, if you ever decide to come to America again…you WILL be pursued by the relevant law enforcement agencies. I promise you – I'll see to it that you'll get arrested, processed through the courts and incarcerated just like any other common criminal."

"What?" squawked Willow in disbelief, as Buffy just stared at her new nemesis. "But, but you can't do that-"

"Yes I can. And you need to ask yourself, Ms. Summers, do you really want to not set foot on U.S. soil again for the rest of your life? Because that's what it'd take, you know. On account of the fact is that no amount of your damned Council influence will be enough to buy me off, or the NID," Barrett finished up way-too-calmly, before turning around and walking out of the room.

The blond Slayer stared at the door, before turning around and ramming her fist through the expensive wooden oak panelling. "ARGGHH! The nerve of that guy!"

Willow and Giles moved back uncertainly, just as Andrew came back in. "Is he gone? Is he gone?"

"Yes," Rupert said absently, feeling very concerned about his Slayer. Because if he knew Buffy Summers at all, she wasn't going to take this lying down…

"Thank God! Y'know, that guy seriously creeped me out," Andrew said, almost speaking to himself. "Almost as bad as that Dana girl, back in LA…"

---

Private office of Mr. Angel, CEO, Wolfram & Hart, Los Angeles, California

February 5th, 2004

Angel sat on the edge of his large desk, as he talked to his people. "There's nothing more to discuss. I'm resigning."

Lorne spoke from the padded chair by the door. "Gee, it seems like a ripe topic for discussion to me," he said sarcastically.

Wesley tried to reason with his boss. "What happened last night was tragic. It's a terrible setback, but-"

"Setback?" Angel asked, as he moved around to the back of the desk. Pulling out his chair he kept on going, "Wes? It's status quo. Evil wins, 'cause instead of just wiping it out, we negotiate with it. Or worse...for it."

Fred looked down, upset. "Angel, we're doing the best we can-"

The vampire sighed. "It's not that you guys aren't doing your jobs. It's just that – maybe Xander was right all along. We shouldn't be doing these jobs in the first place. Or I shouldn't."

Gunn shoved his hands into the pockets of his tailored suit. "I'd say we've all had a bellyful," he admitted. "Any thought though about what would happen to us, if we tried to say bye-bye? The ramifications, I mean." He looked to the others. "You think the Senior Partners are just gonna let us breeze on out the front door?"

Fred looked at him, surprised. "You're saying we're trapped here?"

The black man shrugged. "I'm saying we knew what we were getting into, when we signed up for this gig. Let's not start pretending that this was some lease with an option to buy."

"Gunn, you really think they won't let us out?" Angel asked, then added accusingly, "Or is it that you just don't want to leave?"

Gunn glanced at his boss, and only raised his eyebrow at the accusation. "Okay, maybe I don't. It's 'cause I believe in what we're doing. We made the right call."

"And I'm sure that legal brain upgrade they gave you has got nothing to do with…" Angel started to say, but was cut off by Gunn. "We ALL got something out of this!"

"Really? Well, I for one would like to know what on earth THAT could have been!" a very familiar female voice demanded behind them.

Every member of the old Angel Investigations crew turned, amazed, to the doors. "Cordelia?" Fred yelled.

The brunette woman stood at the entrance in a pair of tan slacks, and a white button-up shirt with a large collar. It also had more than a normal amount of cleavage showing. Cordy had been in BDUs and borrowed clothes ever since waking up, so after she was FINALLY allowed to go shopping in Colorado Springs…she had made the most of it.

Plus, the Tok'Ra outfits were all less sexy than a nun's outfit; well, apart from the one that her daughter Anise wore, of course. Egeria had thus laughingly agreed to upgrade the Tok'Ra wardrobe, when she and Cordy finally left Earth.

"Hey guys," Cordelia simply said, suddenly very happy to see them all again.

"My God…" Angel whispered, as sight and smell confirmed the presence of his beloved. "Harris did it?"

Instantly putting away all animosity towards his former Sunnydale acquaintance, and in fact now thanking his lucky stars Xander had been such an annoyingly persistent thorn in his side, the vampire charged forward and instantly grabbed Cordy into a fierce embrace.

---

Surveillance van outside Wolfram and Hart, two blocks away

The same time

"I believe we should get closer," Teal'c said. "If these people are as dangerous as is thought…"

"Believe me, I know," Xander commented, as he adjusted the Tok'Ra listening device. "But we have to keep our distance. Plus, don't forget these people aren't dumb; they'd pick up the signal from any normal listening device."

"Well, if she'd just activate the damn thing, then maybe we could do something besides sitting on our butts out here!" O'Neill fumed, as the 'No Signal' icon flashed on the screen.

"Come on, Colonel, cut Cordy some slack here. She's saying goodbye to her friends. No, her family," Xander told him. "And that's never easy, believe me..." Harris added, remembering when he had left Sunnydale to head for out of state – and he'd ended up having his life forever changed.

"Well, she's got the remote for an emergency beam-up to the 'Prometheus'," Daniel pointed out. "She'll be fine, I honestly don't think anything could go wro-"

"Don't say it, Daniel!" Xander cut him off at once, with a look of horror. "With the demon stuff, you should NEVER say those words! It's the ultimate jinx!"

----

Hallway at Wolfram & Hart

A while later

Cordelia was walking down the long passageway, looking completely lost.

After the initial welcome back celebration, she'd been inundated with questions. But Cordy had refused point-blank to answer them, saying that she'd had to sign the Official Secrets act – and that meant it was illegal for her to tell them anything regarding her return from coma-ville.

Most of the others hadn't cared, to be honest. But Cordy had been able to tell Angel wasn't satisfied with that. SO later when they'd finally gotten alone, the vampire Champion had ordered her to cough up.

But Cordelia had simply said, "Angel? Where the hell is Connor?"

Angel had looked distracted for a moment and replied, "You mean right now? College, I think. See, thing is – Wes, Gunn, Fred and Lorne, they don't remember him anymore. It was part of my agreement to take this job. The Senior Partners altered reality, because he was about to kill both you and himself...they gave Connor a life, a real family and a childhood. Something I could never give him. He's got no memories of us. And likewise, apart from you and me, no one remembers him-"

"What do you mean? Xander remembers him," Cordelia had replied, confused. "He told me how Connor killed Jasmine-"

"What? But, but that's not possible!" the undead father had said in alarm. "How-?"

Cordy and Egeria had thought about it, and then instantly figured it out due to the symbiote's knowledge of the Stargate. "He mustn't have been on this world, when the Senior Partners did their mojo…"

Angel had been briefly surprised at the thought of Xander visiting a demon dimension or whatever, but had quickly forgotten about all that – after Cordy had accused him and the others of selling out, of being seduced by the dark side…

Well, in any case, Cordelia had now just gotten done with an impromptu research session alongside Wesley. And she'd tried, she REALLY had tried to find her way back to what it had been like before, but had been totally unable do it.

The two researchers had been working on what Cordy had seen in her most recent vision, which was something that had shocked both her and Egeria completely. The vision had been of a man with tribal tattoos on his chest. And they had found out the tattoos were some sort of magic cloak...

"This place is like a rat maze," Cordy angrily said to herself, before a young male lawyer passed her and made no attempt to hide his obvious checking her out. She shivered a little in disgust and glared at him, as he kept on walking. "Complete with rats!"

Turning the corner, the young woman saw a familiar face; granted though, not one she would have wanted to see. This vampire had kidnapped two of the most important men in her life over the years. "Spike."

She tried to be nonchalant. "Well, well. I heard you weren't evil anymore, which kind of makes the hair silly..."

Cordelia stopped dead in her tracks, when Spike morphed into his vampire face. "Or nice?"

She started to back up, as he stalked towards her. "What the hell are you…" Ms. Chase managed to get out, before he shoved her up against the wall and momentarily bit into her neck. "Aah!"

Her eyes flashed yellow-white, as Egeria took over and quickly shoved Spike away with inhuman strength. "NO!"

Spike didn't see the eye flash as he quickly backed up, looking at her in surprise for a moment – before Angel came out of nowhere and tackled the bleached-blond vampire. As they fought, Cordelia took back control now that her friend was there.

As Spike was trying to get up, Angel slugged him hard in the face. But as the older vamp went for another blow, William the Bloody lashed his leg out and nailed him in the chest. While the Irish-born vamp was stunned, Spike grabbed him in a headlock, "You took me on and lost – remember, old man?"

Angel growled, as he broke the hold. "Touch Cordelia again..." he said, as he flipped Spike to the ground. "…get ready for our very last rematch!"

"She's evil, you gourmless tit!" Spike growled out, as he held on to the wall to get back up.

"Excuse me?" Cordelia demanded. "Who bit whom?"

"Did you call me a tit?" Angel asked, offhand.

Cordy looked towards her old friend. "I thought he had a soul?"

"I thought she didn't!" Spike informed Angel.

"I do!" Cordelia told him, annoyed.

"Well, so do I," the undead blond parroted.

"Well, clearly, mine's better!" Cordy said nastily. She looked at Angel. "And you called this guy the big hero?"

Spike looked surprised at Angel. "You called me a hero?"

"I didn't know you were eating people!" Angel said, upset.

Spike rolled his eyes. "God! It was just a taste test, you git. I needed to know if what my source said was true." He looked at Cordy, "And actually, well, you don't taste evil. Damned weird, I grant you, there's something…metallic in yer blood I ain't never tasted before. But demons are more...astringent with a sort of oakie, really…"

"What source?" Angel demanded, not ignoring the thing about Cordy's blood; just reminding himself to ask her or Xander about it, later.

"I've got a guy," Spike told him with a slight shrug. "Has an in with the powers that whatsit. Gets these visions."

"Visions?" the older vamp asked, not liking this.

"Unbelievable! I've been gone for just a little while, and someone's replaced me as the Vision Girl around here?" Cordy demanded in annoyance.

"Yeah," Spike informed Angel, easily ignoring the female rant. "Said Cordelia was taken over by some big bad. Came to destroy you all."

"Oh, please. His vision's just a stupid rerun," Cordelia sighed.

"The thing that possessed Cordy's long dead, Spike," Angel said, trying to figure this out.

Spike just shrugged, not really all that into the conversation. "Well, looks like Tattoo Boy was wrong this time-"

Cordelia instantly said, "Wait..." Egeria whispering inside her mind, she then raised her eyebrows, "Tattoos? What kind of tattoos?"

The British vamp replied, "I don't know. Symbols. Tribal-like."

The CEO then demanded, "This guy with the visions, did he have a name?"

Spike said, "Called himself Doyle."

Angel and Cordelia froze, staring incredulously at Spike. Meanwhile, down the hall, the evil liaison to the Senior Partners known as Eve was watching them converse, whilst talking on her cell phone...

----

Outside Wolfram & Hart, Los Angeles, California

Later that day

Cordelia walked out of the big glass doors leading into the lobby, with tears in her eyes. (God, I can't believe it's ended like this!) she thought, as the young woman walked away from her old life.

She had good reason to be upset, though. After the trio had figured out that 'Doyle' was actually Angel's old nemesis Lindsey MacDonald, the man had tried to unleash something specifically designed to kill the vampire CEO, that the Senior Partners had kept in reserve as an ultimate contingency plan.

And there had been one major ass-whuppin', when Lindsey and Angel had thrown down after Eve's little interrogation session. Luckily, the good guys had managed to mystically remove the rune symbols hiding Lindsey from the Senior Partners, and Cordy and Angel had saved the day with the monster down in that basement.

But afterwards, as Cordelia had gathered them all together…the big farewell speech had been a lot harder than she'd thought it would be.

"I need to tell you guys something," the young woman had said, after it had been suggested that they all go out for drinks – even Spike. "Let's go into Angel's office…"

Then the young woman had looked around at all of her friends. "Um, lemme just say first – Wesley, you still work the best mojo in town. Lorne, props to you on taking one for the team. Gunn, way to go for dealing with the scum of this planet legally. Fred, I hope you find something to kill that disgusting fail-safe down in the basement REAL soon. And Angel? I know you're feeling good about beating the crap out of Lindsey, and congrats to you for that – but did it ever occur to you, that you really shouldn't have let that worm ever get this far in the first place?"

Angel had chuckled at the Cordy-isms. "Yeah, well, I guess it's because I didn't have you around to keep my head on straight. But all that's gonna change, now that you're back. I know it's not even close to over, but I do feel now like I can do this. Wolfram & Hart, whatever's coming, I feel like we can beat it."

Cordy had smiled sadly at the vampire's words. "Yeah, well, about that…that's what I wanted to tell you guys. I, uh...I just wish I could be there to see it. But I won't, because I have to go."

"Go? Go where?" Fred had asked at once.

"I can't tell you," the other woman had said, with her eyes starting to become shiny. "All I can say is, I can't stay. This isn't my path anymore-"

Angel had started to walk towards her. "Like hell. Cordy, I need you here!"

Gunn had nodded. "We all do!"

The tears had started to fall, and Cordelia had moved back to avoid his touch – with the hurt look on Angel's face breaking her heart all over again. "Please don't make this harder than it has to be, Angel. Thing is, I'm on a different road in life now...and this is my off-ramp. The Powers That Be owed me one, and I didn't waste it. I got you guys back on track, and that's all that matters..."

"The Powers?" Wesley had asked in alarm.

"Sing for me, sweetie," Lorne had then said abruptly. "I think we'd best settle this right here and now, with a nice little tune on your part – from the Whitney Houston oeuvre, I take it?"

Cordy had nodded, as Egeria had tried to fade as far as possible into the background – so as not to give the anagogic demon any hint of her presence. And after the former seer had sung a few lyrics, Lorne had said in amazement, "Honeybunch, go, go! Apparently you got a whole lot of work to do in your very long upcoming lifetime, and from what I saw – you've gotta get to it right away. The sooner the better!"

Everyone had looked to him as if in betrayal, but the former Host had simply outlasted Angel's glares until finally the Champion had looked away in defeat. Cordelia had then tearfully hugged everyone goodbye – except Spike, who didn't care about all this one way or the other – and then started to leave the room.

But Angel HADN'T been able to leave it like that, and had hurried out the door after her. "Cordelia?"

She had stopped and turned around. "Angel, did you ever wonder...do you ever think about what would have happened if we'd met up that night, and had a chance to-"

"All the time."

Cordy had then looked down. "Guessed we missed our moment, huh?"

The Champion had said simply, "Maybe we were meant to. Or maybe people like us just don't get to...have that."

The woman had replied, trying to put on a brave face, "So we simply gotta take what we can get and just do our best with it, huh? Boy, that sucks. Well, I guess I'll be seeing you..." But abruptly she'd then said, "Oh, what the hell. One for the road!"

And then Cordelia Chase had kissed Angel goodbye…and the Powers That Be used it as an opportunity to send their former golden boy, and all his crew, off to their doom in two months.

But knowing nothing about all that, and focusing back on the here and now, Cordelia heard Egeria sending her soothing thoughts – as she saw the van pull up and Xander jump out, with a very upset look on his face. "Cordy?"

"Don't even start, Xander!" she warned him angrily, brushing the tears away.

"Don't even start?" Harris demanded, as they climbed into the back and the vehicle drove away. "For God's sake, Cordelia, the building mass-evacuates and we can't beam you out-"

"I know, okay!" she yelled at him, as the Tok'Ra host slumped into her seat. And putting discretion at the top of the agenda, all the members of SG-1 instantly decided to give them some space. "But I just walked away from my life! I had to say goodbye to my best friend, the man that I came to lov-" Cordelia trailed off, as the tears fell again.

Xander came over and kneeled down. Even though he had a lot he wanted to say about Angel, and none of it complimentary, Harris just reached over and gently hugged her. Cordy wasted no time in returning the hug, and crying profusely.

----

Private Club, Rome, Italy

February 6th, 2004

"What's wrong, tesoro?"

Buffy looked up from staring at her drink, as her companion called her 'my love' in Italian. "I'm sorry, guess I'm being a real mondo drag tonight…" she told her most recent boyfriend, The Immortal. "It's just this entire thing with Xander has gotten me – rattled."

"Your carpenter friend?" the dark-haired man in the never-wrinkled suit asked, as he sat closer to her.

"Yeah," Buffy responded. "I mean, this NID guy comes to Giles' office and says if we even try anything against Xander…that they'll arrest us! I mean, I ask you – what's wrong with this picture? Where do those people get off giving us orders like that?"

"I do not understand," The Immortal said in his Italian accent. "You just wish to make sure your friend is unharmed, si?"

"Exactly!" Buffy said heatedly. "I mean, geez – it's my responsibility to make sure my friends are okay, I have to protect them. Xander just doesn't understand what those government hacks can do!"

"Fear not. It will all be fine in the end, tesoro," The Immortal told her calmly. "I will use whatever influence my avvocatti can generate, to find out anything and everything I can about young Mr. Harris. They will not be able to hide what they have done with him, not for long!" He told her this with a far-too-cheerful grin, one that should have set off alarm bells in the Slayer's mind – but didn't.

Because as Spike had once said, Buffy Summers needed a bit of monster in her man; and The Immortal was certainly blessed with more than his fair share. And as she moved into his embrace, the centuries-old being was already working on how he could use all this to his advantage...

But right at that moment Dawn hurried into the club, calling for her big sister. "Buffy! Buffy!"

"What?" the oldest Slayer asked, letting go of her boyfriend and turning to face the Key. "Dawn, what is it?"

"It's Cordelia, she's awake! Xander really did it – he woke her up! She was on the phone to me less than half an hour ago, and she wants you to call her back! Something about getting off Xander's case now-"

The female Champion looked amazed, and muttered a quick and apologetic goodbye to her significant other – before heading back to the apartment she shared with her sibling, to place a call to the good ol' U.S. of A.

The Immortal just sighed in disgust, and cursing Americans in general wondered what else he could get up to – to learn all the secrets that the enigmatic Buffy Summers possessed.

---

Gate Room, Stargate Command, Colorado

February 18th, 2004

The large room was filled to the brim with military officers, in their full dress uniforms. Teal'c, Xander and Daniel were in dark suits. The windows of the control room and the upstairs briefing room showed countless other officers, and civilian workers. As the music stopped, Major Samantha Carter walked midway up the ramp to the Stargate, and took her place at the podium that had been set up there.

With the three flags of the United States, the U.S. Air Force, and the SGC behind her, the blond woman started to speak.

"Janet Fraiser was an extraordinary person. She was kind and funny and talented. Above all, she was courageous. But try as I might, I can't find the words to properly honor her. To do justice to her life." She glanced at Teal'c. "Thankfully, I got some help. While words alone may not be enough, there are some names that might do. We often talk about those that give their lives in the service of their country, and while Janet Fraiser did just that – that's not what her life was about."

Sam looked at the list in front of her. "The following are the names of the men and women who did not die in service to the nation, but who are in fact alive today because of Janet. Major Samantha Carter, Dr. Daniel Jackson, Colonel Jack O'Neill, Teal'c, Sergeant Connie Smith, Dr. Alexander Harris, Major Ian Hewles, Senior Airman Simon Wells…"

Sam continued to speak, extolling the virtues of a woman who had died doing her duty on an alien planet – and who would be sorely missed. And after it was over and they had left the service, Cordelia and Xander started heading up to her VIP suite.

"You've been to a lot of those, haven't you?" Cordy suddenly asked her companion, as they rode in the elevator.

"Way too many, yeah. Both here, and elsewhere," Xander told her, looking at the wall. "But what we're doing at this command…" He suddenly looked up at her. "Nearly two years, and I've seen so much death caused by the System Lords Cor. And now with Anubis's damn super-soldiers, we can't afford to stop – till all of them are gone."

"Indeed," Egeria replied, as she took over. "And I shudder to think at what ELSE they might come up with, if Anubis in particular is not stopped…"

Cordelia just leaned into him, trying to offer comfort as Xander had done for her earlier that month. She suddenly thought back to the time when she'd had that nonstop vision onslaught, when the seer had seen so much death and terror...

That was one of the defining moments that had committed Cordelia Chase to helping others, a far cry from the spoilt teenage girl who'd once said she would help – as long as the people involved weren't ugly or smelled gross. And now from her time with the SGC and Egeria's memories, Cordy knew that she had to do what she could against the Goa'uld.

So many people had been enslaved and/or killed over the past two millennia…that it had made Egeria want to weep, when she'd learned how long the horror had gone on.

Planet P3X-439

March, 2004

The Death Glider came in for another strafing run, as Daniel Jackson furiously worked on trying to download the information stored in the Ancients' repository of knowledge.

Briefly, he noticed Xander shooting at the alien vessel with his P-90. And the linguist suffered a brief feeling of guilt over convincing General Hammond to let the younger man come along on this trip, even though it had all been Xander's idea in the first place.

Because the old adage of 'two heads are better than one' did apply in this situation, and since Xander had been studying written Ancient a lot lately instead of concentrating on 'demon' languages – one had to be flexible about priorities, at Stargate Command – O'Neill hadn't raised any objections over Harris's presence on the off-world mission.

Daniel shook his head in frustration. "Jack…"

"Colonel, it's getting closer!" Xander shouted over the gunfire.

Jack therefore made a command decision. "We gotta go!"

"NO!" Jackson vetoed the idea at once. "We can't just leave! This place is our best hope at finding the lost city of the Ancients, finding the knowledge we need to stop Anubis!" And when O'Neill looked around at the ruins and went to place explosives, again Daniel shouted, "Jack, no way!"

Teal'c said stoically, "We must not allow this device to fall into the hands of Anubis."

"But we can't just destroy it as well!" Sam called out, from her position not far away.

"All right, then anybody got any other ideas?" the leader of SG-1 demanded. Then when Jack saw Daniel about to head for the device, he instantly guessed what the archaeologist was planning. "No, no, no, no, no!" He grabbed Jackson and pulled him away.

"Jack, someone has to!" Daniel pleaded with his friend, as the glider began another attack run. "Otherwise when Anubis shows up, we're all dead!"

"And who does the translating, when you go Ancient?" O'Neill demanded. Referring to the device implanting Ancient information that quickly took over someone's brain, rendering them unable to speak anything but the Ancients' language – and which eventually resulted in death by cranial overload.

"Come on, you know perfectly well that Xander could-" Then Daniel turned his head slightly, and his eyes went wide. "NO!"

O'Neill instantly cursed, as he saw Harris desert his post and place his head into the device, before anyone could stop him.

"Xander!" shouted Samantha Carter, as she saw her friend's head get enveloped by the Ancient machine.

"You stupid-" O'Neill said in a strangled voice, hating the man's inability to follow orders, as well as the same time admiring the guts it took to essentially commit suicide that way.

Finally the device let Harris go, and deactivated itself. Teal'c and Daniel instantly grabbed hold of their comrade, which was lucky for him as Xander was about to fall over from the vertigo. Jack and Sam started shooting at the Death Glider again, as the voice of their backup Colonel Reynolds came over the radio, "SG-1, where the hell are you guys? We can't hold out for long!"

Jack hit his radio in reply, "Keep it together for as long as you can, we're gonna blow this thing and then we're heading for the Gate!"

But right then the staff blasts from a number of Jaffa, of all things, started to hit their position. Carter quickly pressed a button, and then Team SG-1 was outta there as fast as they could possibly go.

"Reynolds, dial us out RIGHT THE HELL NOW!" Jack yelled.

---

SGC Briefing Room, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

A short while later

General Hammond couldn't believe it. "He did what?"

Daniel shrugged, slightly embarrassed to say it. "Xander downloaded the Ancients' information into his own mind, when there was no other choice. We were about to be overrun-"

"But how the hell could you let that happen? And didn't he know what the consequences of his actions would be?" the Texan general demanded.

"Oh yeah. And curiously enough, General, I asked him that exact same question," O'Neill said. "Only, not quite so nicely..."

"And what did he say in reply?" George wanted to know.

"He simply said that he was expendable, sir. And that the rest of us weren't," Sam spoke up, obviously feeling VERY annoyed and frustrated with her teammate's logic.

"I swear, I wanna draft him – just to be able to heave his ass into the stockade, for that crazy stunt he pulled," Jack cut in. Annoyance present on his face as well. "That wasn't his decision to make, damn it! It should have been me-"

"Jack, are you nuts? Don't you remember what almost happened to you, the last time?" Daniel demanded. "If anyone had to stick his head in there, I was the only logical choice to do it! If you just hadn't stopped me then-"

"No way, Daniel. The colonel's right, you're needed for when it's time to translate whatever Ancient knowledge comes out of Xander's mind. And we all know what would have happened, if Colonel O'Neill had done it again. I should have done it-" Sam said, feeling guilty.

"Carter, your mind is like one of this country's national treasures. Forget it! And if you'd have tried to pull a stunt like that, YOU'D be the one getting your ass chewed out right about now!" Jack said immediately.

"What's that supposed to mean, Colonel?" Hammond demanded.

Suddenly, O'Neill grinned. "Xander's in the infirmary, I'm sure Phillips is giving him a complete physical; for all the good it'll do, if what happened to me is anything to go by. And I surely wouldn't want to be in his shoes, when his ex-girlfriend finds out what he did today…"

---

SGC Infirmary

The same time

Xander Harris was feeling completely and utterly bored.

Oh, intellectually he knew that he was in big trouble. Doing what he'd done, as Jack had said, had been a foolhardy and deadly thing to do. But a necessary one, and in Xander's mind it couldn't have played out any other way.

Teal'c hadn't been eligible, Daniel's literary skills were too important, and like both other men Xander knew how O'Neill and Carter really felt about each other; and how they'd take it, if one or the other of them died from the information overload.

And what the hell, upcoming death might even be preferable to all this damned poking and prodding…

"Karen, enough okay? How long are you gonna keep looking for something that we both know you're not gonna find?" Xander demanded, his patience finally exhausted.

Dr. Karen Phillips, the new CMO who had taken over for Janet Fraiser, scowled at him – her own patience in short supply. "Till I learn how to prevent what happened to Colonel O'Neill, from happening to you!"

Xander sighed, shaking his head. "You're dealing with an alien technology, doc, one that you have no idea how it works. And you've been at this for what, over two hours? Come on, I think it's time we both just accept the facts here, and concede that all this is just way too far out of our league to try and meddle with. Look, I feel fine. Can't I just go to my quarters? Because if I stick around here for much longer, you're gonna drive me completely nuts…"

The M.D. scowled at him again, both for the attitude and the fact that Harris was right; all her tests and scans had turned up nothing. Physically Xander appeared in great shape, even if in a few days they all knew he would start exhibiting all the symptoms that O'Neill had done. "If I do let you out of here, then I'll want someone with you at all times-"

"Gee, even when I gotta go to the toilet?" Xander interrupted, with a completely poker face.

Phillips instantly wanted to hit him over the head, with the damn EEG machine. But fortunately for her, Egeria and her two Tok'Ra bodyguards came into the infirmary at that moment. "Pardon me, Dr. Phillips. May we have a few moments with your patient?"

Karen nodded, as she headed for her private office. "I'll be right there if you need anything, just call out..."

Egeria waited till the brunette physician had left, before turning to Selmak and Malek. "My host desires a private conversation with Dr. Harris. Could you both please wait outside?"

The two alien rebels quickly nodded, and went to assume their positions outside the infirmary door. Egeria again waited until they were gone, before turning to her human friend. "Xander-"

"Don't even start, okay Egeria?" Harris interrupted her, swinging his legs over and sitting on the edge of the medical cot. "I knew what I was doing. And I knew the score from the moment I did it, but it had to be done. It's that simple."

"Is it really?" the Tok'Ra queen asked calmly.

"Yes. Look, I don't have a death wish or anything like that; and I didn't particularly want to go cuckoo this way in a few days, either. But to quote one of my favorite lines from Star Trek, 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one'. It was a rational transaction; one life for potentially billions. And don't tell me that you never sent any of your kids out into battle, back in the day, without knowing that you'd never see them again afterwards…"

Egeria briefly closed her eyes at the painful memories. "All that is true enough. But I cannot help wondering, if you factored in how Cordelia would take the news of your actions?"

"What?" Xander didn't get it.

Egeria briefly smiled. "I believe I will let her express herself on how she feels, regarding what you did."

And before Xander could get out of the way, the brunette ex-cheerleader flew at him, pounding away with her fists against his chest and shoulders and screaming abuse at the guy. "You JERK! You MORON! You complete DWEEB! WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE!"

Harris was completely unprepared for her assault and fell backwards onto the bed, but Cordelia didn't stop; Ms. Chase still kept pounding away, climbing on top of her ex in her fury. "Well? What have you got to say for yourself!" the woman finally shouted, as her arms grew tired and she stopped with the physical stuff.

Xander instinctively fell back onto his classic humor defense mode. "Guess I finally have the answer to that question I always wanted to know, during high school."

"What?" Cordelia demanded. "What are you talking about? What question?"

Xander grinned. "If I ever got you into my bed, whether or not you'd prefer being on top…"

All of a sudden Cordelia realized just how it would look like, if the two other Tok'Ra came into the infirmary; and she silently told a laughing Egeria to shut up inside her head. Cordy then got up and started to say, "Xander Harris – of all the boneheaded, idiotic, INSANE things to do-"

"I don't see it that way," Xander said sharply. "And before you so much as even think it, this isn't about me wanting to play hero. On account of the Zeppo doesn't live here anymore, sweetheart..."

Cordelia sucked in a breath, as that particular shot hit home with a nasty feeling of past pain and misery. Only Egeria's comforting mental comments allowed the former seer to maintain her equilibrium, and respond, "I get that. So tell me, did you think of me when you decided to stick your head into that alien death trap? How I'd cope with having to lose you, as well as Angel and the rest of my family in LA? Well? Did you?" Cordelia demanded.

"Cordy…"

"No, really," Ms. Chase went on. "I mean, it wasn't so long ago that I held a gun to my head in this very room, and you told me that if I was gonna kill myself – I should please shoot you first. Put yourself in my place, Xander; what kind of signals are you sending me here?"

"Cordy…"

"I'll tell you what kind," Cordelia went on relentlessly. "Because I finally figured it out, you know. You didn't hesitate over putting your head into the lion's den today, because you've got nothing and no one left to represent what it is you're really fighting for. Ever since you left that Anya girl at the altar, you've been afraid to let anyone in – haven't you? Ever since you learned that Buffy preferred sleeping with Spike, rather than discuss her problems with you. Ever since Willow killed that Warren guy, and you just managed to prevent her from destroying the world. Ever since Dawn told you-"

"Don't go there," Xander interrupted her at once. "If our friendship means anything to you at all – please stop, Cordelia. Right now."

Cordelia shook her head. "I don't know whether to feel sorry for you, or be extremely angry with you right now. But either way, Xander, if you end up getting killed because of this – I'm NEVER going to forgive you for it, you dorkhead…"

The beautiful brunette woman left Xander without another word, as Harris started to feel the twinges of the first slight headache.

---

A short while later, while Xander was taking some time off to get his affairs in order just in case, both he and SG-1 were told some very upsetting news by General Hammond. The new administration, which included former Senator Kinsey as the new Vice-President, had relieved Hammond of command at the SGC.

The new President, while not sharing some of Kinsey's extremist views, had decided that a new leader at the Colorado facility was needed. Someone to demonstrate that when the Stargate became public, that it was not only the big bad military that had been running the show all these years.

Henry Hayes had chosen a well-known expert in international politics, Dr. Elizabeth Weir. The young woman in her thirties had been involved with many high-end negotiations at the United Nations. She was also a strong opponent of the military...

All normal SGC operations were suspended, pending a full review of the entire operation. Both Xander and SG-1 were told they were to report to work as normal, on Monday. However, none of them wanted to take the time to bring their new base commander up to speed with the Stargate program – while Xander's mind only had a short while to go, before it was overwritten completely.

And they didn't have to wait long, before the normal luck of the five people in question came into play…

---

Gate Room, Stargate Command, Colorado

March 8th, 2004

Dr. Weir tried to straighten her outfit. She was dressed very casually, as the brunette woman hadn't thought she would be doing anything more today than looking through dozens of reports. Not meeting her first off-world representative.

In contrast, Daniel standing right next to her seemed very relaxed and at ease, as if someone coming through the alien portal from thousands of light-years away – was just as common, as someone coming out of an elevator!

Elizabeth heard a tiny popping sound, as an older man in a suit of armour walked out of the event horizon. And after he was through, the Gate shut down with its normal whooshing sound.

"Bra'tac," Jackson said, greeting his friend. "This is Dr. Elizabeth Weir, she's the new leader of this facility."

Weir extended her hand for a handshake, but quickly scolded herself mentally – after realizing a guy from another planet might not know what it was that she was doing. Bra'tac looked at her hand, confused, and made no attempt to shake it. "Ah, hello," she said finally.

Bra'tac just ignored her and turned to Jackson with some concern. "Has Hammond of Texas fallen in battle?"

Weir was surprised at the question. "No sir, he's fine," she semi-stammered.

Daniel just shrugged. "We've had some recent changes in our political leadership," he told the Jaffa Master.

"I see," Bra'tac noted, as he looked Weir over carefully.

Jackson could see something Weir didn't. "Bra'tac, what's wrong?"

Bra'tac stepped all the way down the ramp. "I'm afraid I'm not the bearer of good news. We have had word from Jaffa loyal to our cause. Anubis is gathering the full force of his fleet." He looked at both of the humans now. "He will be here within three days."

---

A short while later

Vice-President Kinsey did his best to try to discredit Bra'tac's warning, but luckily Weir had a brain and didn't play things his way. She said they would have to consider the warning truthful, because the consequences of not heeding it would be disaster.

And along with Xander's very sure attitude that he would soon know the location of the Lost City of the Ancients, President Hayes made up his mind to consider the threat as real. As such, he brought in the best man to be by his side.

---

Oval Office, The White House, Washington DC

Later that day

President Hayes growled into the red phone, "Bob, can we stop complaining and start figuring out what we're going to do!"

His secretary opened the outer door, and stood aside to let a man enter. "Mr. President. General Hammond."

"Show him in," Hayes said, as he waved the general into the office. Then he went back the argument on the phone with Kinsey. "We can't ignore a threat of this magnitude, hear the man out!" He then rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Well, whatever he is. And get back to me!"

Hayes took a moment to let his anger pass, before extending his hand to the military man. "General George Hammond."

Hammond gave Henry's hand a firm handshake. "Mr. President," he replied casually. Unlike most people summoned to this building, it was not the first time the bald Texan had been to the Oval Office.

Hayes seemed to think for a moment. "I think it was Lieutenant last time we spoke, wasn't it?"

Hammond nodded. "For both of us, but that was a lot of hair ago sir."

"Yes it was," Hayes said with a laugh. "Sit down." They quickly sat on the two couches, facing each other. "You know, when I took this job, I thought I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. But then I found out what you do for a living."

"Yes, sir," Hammond replied noncommittally.

Hayes then sighed. "George, this had nothing to do with your record, but if the American people had any idea what your contribution was..."

"Thank you, sir, that's kind of you to say," Hammond said of the intended compliment. "One day, maybe they will."

"Dr. Weir, she's as smart as they come," Hayes told him.

Hammond looked a little more thoughtful. "I hope so."

"The poor thing, she has no idea what's she gotten herself into," the President said as he leaned forward. "I had no choice, George, I had to do something. But I want you to know that I'm aware of your history with the Vice-President."

"Yes sir."

Hayes then spoke with some regret. "Hell, we both know why I picked Kinsey, more than the money...he delivered Florida all by himself. Trust me, if I knew then..."

"Of course, sir," Hammond said.

Hayes nodded, relieved that the military officer knew not everyone in the new administration was out to get him and his people. "So, let's talk about your reassignment."

Hammond didn't really want to think of a new job, he had already had the best job the Air Force could have given him. "I was thinking more along the lines of retirement, sir."

"I don't think so, George, not just yet," Hayes said with a mild smirk, getting a somewhat surprised look from Hammond. "I want to keep you around Washington; we're going to need you and your expertise."

---

Colorado

A while later

Over a short period of time, as expected, Xander started to speak in the Ancient language. It had started with only a stray word, here and there. But finally, Daniel noticed how Harris had written down Ancient words in a crossword puzzle that O'Neill had been working on.

Both the linguist and the rest of SG-1 ended up believing that Xander had unknowingly written down the location of the Lost City on the puzzle – even if Harris had also filled in the crossword spaces for 'celestial body', with "CordyChase"...

---

SGC Control Room, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

March 9th, 2004

Daniel held up the open notebook, with six symbols drawn in. He showed Dr. Weir as he wrote in Earth's symbol at the end, "'At' is the Earth symbol…our point of origin. Proklarush Taonas At."

Weir looked at the paper. "So this is the Gate address that could lead us to the Lost City?"

"It has to be," Daniel said with conviction.

"Wait a minute," Carter said, as she looked up from the Gate room's library terminal. "We dialed this same address over two years ago, but we couldn't establish a wormhole. The Gate must be buried."

"Lost in fire," Daniel quoted, translating the name.

"Well, what we're looking for could still be there," Carter guessed. "I could use the address to calculate the planet's location in space, but we'll need a ship to get there."

Daniel understood. "Prometheus."

However, Dr. Weir vetoed that idea. "With Anubis on his way, the 'Prometheus' is our last line of defense. It's needed here."

"Maybe Teal'c has something by now," Carter thought aloud, referring to him and Bra'tac having gone off-world to try to find troops and ships to defend Earth from the coming onslaught.

"Can Queen Egeria give us any Tok'Ra ships?" Weir asked.

"No," Carter told her simply. "As usual, they don't seem to have any to spare at the moment. And with their high Council demanding that Egeria and her two guards evacuate to one of their bases immediately…"

Weir just sighed at what Carter really meant. The Tok'Ra believed that Earth was doomed, and wanted to cut their losses. "Well, where is Dr. Harris now?"

"Packing," Daniel said reluctantly.

----

SGC Store Room

A few minutes later

The two members of SG-1 and Elizabeth Weir came in to the large storeroom, to find O'Neill watching Xander walking around – pushing a cart here and there, and tossing things into it.

"Ah, doctor?" Weir asked in confusion.

Xander didn't stop to talk, as he grabbed a soldering iron and several advanced circuit boards. "Don't ask. 'Cause, really not having a clue here..."

O'Neill nodded, as past memories surfaced. "I can TOTALLY believe that!"

Weir just looked towards the others in confusion. "Do any of you have any idea what Dr. Harris is planning on building?"

Carter shook her head. "The last time this happened, the colonel just started doing things without knowing why. It looks as if the pattern's repeating itself with Xander, now-"

"It's a good sign, though," Daniel added, staring at his colleague both in hope and fascination. "Hopefully, it means we're on the right track!"

Harris walked by them to grab an empty cart near an already-large pile of gear. "Where are the heavy-duty insulated wires?" he asked absently, before he noticed his target on another shelf. "Right! Okay…"

As he loaded the cartons of wire, Harris suddenly stopped and started mumbling to himself. Then he looked up, "Someone get me the sensors off of a MALP!"

Carter looked surprised at him. "Xander?"

Xander just looked irritated. "I don't know, Sam! We're talkin' weird funky mind games here, and I'm not in on the big secret!" He then snapped his fingers. "Oh hey, grab a naqadah generator too, will ya?"

---

Gate Room, Stargate Command, Colorado

A couple of hours later

Dr. Weir was walking around, looking at several boxes and crates scattered around in front of the ramp. Jack wheeled in another box, while holding a case in his other hand. Sam and Daniel were with him, also carrying cases. "Well, have you got everything you need? I think there's still a sink in the kitchen."

O'Neill looked at her strangely. "Is that a joke?"

Weir cringed a little, caught. "Perhaps. A bad one."

"Yes, very bad," O'Neill replied, before he did a Yoda-type impersonation "But I sense hope for you yet, young one."

Weir gave him a little smile. "Well, I hope for all of us that you find what you're looking for, Colonel."

"So do I," O'Neill replied, as Xander wheeled in another long metal box. "Forgot something!" the young man called out absently.

The opposite door slid open to reveal Egeria dressed in a low-cut leather Tok'Ra outfit, her two guards behind her as always. The Queen then said simply, "We'd like to say goodbye to Dr. Harris now."

SG-1 and the techs hauling the gear nodded, and started transporting the stuff through the Stargate. Weir, looking a bit distracted however, just stayed where she was. "Alone please, Dr. Weir."

"What?" the base commander said, as she was brought out of her own thoughts. "Oh, I'm sorry..." the brunette then added, before she left.

Egeria led Xander to a corner of the room, while her guards stood back. She then bowed her head, as Cordelia took over. And the former cheerleader's eyes watered, as she hugged her ex-boyfriend farewell. "Take care of yourself, Xander."

Harris hugged her back with a small smile. "I'll do my best, Cor."

"I know you will, you always do," she told him. "You've saved the world twice by yourself before, right? So a third time should be easy."

"Thanks for believing in me. It means a lot," Xander told her, as they broke the hug.

"Anytime," Ms. Chase told him. "And just in case we never see each other again…" the female host trailed off as she reached over, pulled Xander towards her, and planted a deep kiss on his lips. And oddly enough both of them instinctively went with it, and grew closer as the liplock deepened.

Finally, Cordelia broke away when the lack of air became a problem. "Now I remember why I liked sneaking off into those darn broom closets with you," she told him with a classic megawatt smile, and an amused gleam in her eye.

Xander grinned back at her. "Same here, you always were calidus'ow."

Cordelia looked at him strangely. "I'm what?"

"Oh man, did I go Ancient again?" Xander asked with a sigh.

"Yeah," Cordy said with some worry, not knowing her ex had called her 'passionate' in his increasingly scrambled mind. "Just don't die on me, Xander. 'Cause life would get really boring, without our insult contests!"

"I'll try," Xander said, looking somber.

"Harris!" O'Neill yelled from the Gate. "Let's go!"

Xander held up his hand to show he was coming. "I'll see you again soon, Cor..." the young man said as he was turning to leave, but was stopped by her hand.

"Alexander?" Egeria said, now in control again. "We intend to hold you to that promise. Neither of us wish to mourn your loss, anytime soon."

Xander just nodded as he ran up the ramp, and went through the event horizon with an impatient O'Neill. And after the Gate had shut down, Egeria walked over to Dr. Weir. "My personal guard will inform your technician as to the Gate address we are leaving for. Once we are gone, we wish for you to permanently erase the symbols from your computer."

Weir looked at her, a little miffed. "You really don't think we have a chance in hell, do you?"

Egeria looked at her sadly. "Elizabeth, your people are a worthy ally in the fight against the Goa'uld. You have done much in the short time you have been in operation, but the facts speak for themselves. You cannot fight off the estimated 30 attack ships Anubis has on the way here, with your conventional forces."

"We've destroyed a fleet of these ships before," Weir told her with a little pride.

"Yes, I've been informed how SG-1 once destroyed a star to defeat Apophis's armada – may his name remain forever cursed," the Tok'Ra Queen said calmly. "However, you cannot do that here in your own solar system..."

And before Weir could say anything else, Cordelia took over. "And what the hell, lady, let's be clear on something. I've seen you in action around here, and so far – you're not exactly filling me with confidence, at all!"

"I beg your pardon?" Dr. Weir said, amazed at the bluntness of the younger woman.

"Hey, I've read the mission reports from the last few years that have been de-classified," Cordelia told her. "General Hammond turned this entire base into a command center when the Goa'uld attacked before, and he did everything in his power to command the forces of this country against the enemy. But you've done nothing but wait for orders from Washington!"

Pointing towards the Gate as it locked in the last chevron and activated the new wormhole, Cordelia added somewhat venomously, "The people who are this planet's only hope just left, and I'm praying that this new President didn't neuter his first best line of defense – by placing an untrained civilian in charge!"

"You like to just come right to the point, don't you?" Weir said annoyed, but trying to keep calm in the presence of an allied ruler. "Have you taken into account that this attack might not be coming at all, if the military hadn't deliberately gone out into the universe and tried to impose our way of life on other planets?"

Cordelia shook her head in amusement. "Yeah, you mean when Jack and the others found people being enslaved and murdered on Abydos…they should have just ignored it? And that Cassandra girl – the one who the late Janet Frasier adopted? Should have just left her to die on her planet, right?"

Weir looked very upset now. "That is not what I meant, and you know it!"

"Lady, I simply do not give a crap," Cordelia said shortly. "Because either you stand for something, or you don't. Now get your act together, and start doing your job!"

The other two Tok'Ra came in at that point. "My Queen, we must leave now," the guard said urgently.

"Very well," Egeria said, as her host's eyes flashed from her resuming control. "And good luck. As you can tell, Elizabeth, my host does not wish to see her homeworld destroyed – when she and her friends have spent so many years trying to save it."

----

Oval Office, The White House, Washington DC

March 11th, 2004

The Air Force Chief of Staff, General Jumper, spoke from his seat on the couch next to Hammond. "Our FA-22s and ABL's are all in the air, but so far there's been nothing to intercept. Since the Nimitz battle group was destroyed, the Goa'uld hasn't fired a shot."

The 55-year-old female National Security Advisor looked confused. "Why not a city or two, just to prove his point?"

As soon as she said that, the lights in the office flickered and dimmed as if something was interfering with the power. And then a life-sized hologram of Anubis himself appeared, in the center of the symbol in the room.

Everyone scrambled out of their chairs, as Secret Service agents quickly covered Hayes; and Kinsey nearly fell over, as he ducked behind more officers. Hammond took his place between the Goa'uld and General Jumper as the Secret Service quickly opened fire with their pistols, but the bullets went straight through Anubis; and his image only flickered slightly.

General Francis Maynard, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called to the Secret Service agents, "Hold your fire! It's a hologram!"

"I AM ANUBIS," the half-ascended System Lord bellowed from under his dark cloak and hood, once the armed men had stopped shooting.

President Hayes came out from behind his security detail and smirked. "You've got to be kidding!"

"YOU ARE THE LEADER OF THIS WORLD?" Anubis demanded with his amplified voice.

"Henry Hayes, President of the United States of America," Hayes said forcefully. "One nation amongst many."

"NO LONGER," the hologram bellowed. "BOW BEFORE YOUR GOD."

Hayes just laughed. "I don't think so! However, I am willing to discuss 'your' surrender."

Anubis regarded him like an insect. "IF YOU POSSESSED WEAPONS MATCHING MINE, YOU WOULD HAVE ALREADY USED THEM."

Hayes stepped up to the hologram. "Don't let the suit fool you, fella. We're gonna fight you."

"YOU BRING DESTRUCTION UPON YOURSELVES," the false god told him simply.

"Never going to happen," Hayes replied. Then as Anubis angrily vanished from the room, the power returned to normal. Henry looked towards Hammond and wondered, "Too much?"

Moments later, elsewhere the rest of Anubis's fleet appeared from hyperspace. Over 30 attack ships, and the atypical Goa'uld's massive round command ship. They started to move into orbit around the planet, as the end started to draw near.

---

Council Chambers, Underground Tok'Ra Base, Unknown Planet

The same time

The Tok'Ra Council member called Daleg stood and faced his colleagues. "With Anubis committing his entire fleet to the attack on the Tau'ri homeworld, we have the chance to seize some of his undefended bases. We must not allow this opportunity to slip through our fingers-"

Selmak was about to respond with his and his host's strong feelings on the matter, when a female voice interrupted his intentions. "Really. You know – it's curious how the destruction of my home, and the enslavement of my friends and family, is working out so well for you!"

The entire Tok'Ra Council looked over to the entrance to the chamber. "Egeria," the leader of the Council said as she stood up. "I am Garshaw-"

"I know who you are, my daughter," Egeria said, taking over as she came into the room. "And believe me, I am very gratified to be here with all my children once again. But both my host and I are wondering, what is being done to help the Tau'ri?"

Daleg looked uncomfortable. "My Queen, unfortunately – there is nothing we can do. This is no minor skirmish; it is the entire combined fleet of Anubis. We could only destroy a few of his ships, before ours were destroyed in turn. And our operatives are too few in number, and too important to waste on such a suicide mission-"

"I see," Egeria said, as her eyes flashed with the anger of both her and Cordelia at this news. "So the plan is to simply let Anubis get away with completely eradicating our allies?"

Garshaw moved aside, to let her Queen sit in the leader's chair. "It does not feel good to admit it, I know, but we can not risk the entire struggle against the System Lords for one planet. If our people die, then the fight against the Goa'uld dies with them."

"Have you all not yet realized that with my being returned, along with a willing host, that we will soon be able to birth more Tok'Ra?" Egeria demanded, as she sat in the chair. "Our people are no longer in danger of extinction, from a battle of attrition."

"We cannot take the risk," Daleg told her. "Until such time as the new Tok'Ra are amongst us, we have to assume that it might not happen." He looked between the Queen and Selmak. "Personally, I do not relish the thought of leaving over six billion people to Anubis's mercy, but if it must be so – at least their demise will allow us time to attack his other bases."

"You refer specifically to the base that produces his Kull warriors?" Egeria asked.

"Yes," Daleg answered her honestly. "The problem is, we do not know if Anubis was able to find another queen to continue making his abominations..." The Council member then looked towards the entire gathering, "I know not all of you share my feelings regarding the Tau'ri. They have been valuable allies, and introduced us to many others who have fought the System Lords bravely. They will be mourned, as have countless other worlds that have fallen. But what we must focus on is the future."

"Know this, all of you," Egeria said with a dangerous sparkle in her eyes, as she leaned forward in her seat. "When the new spawning of Tok'Ra is complete and our numbers are increased, we will rework our policies of fighting the System Lords. The Tau'ri have done what I have learned they do best. They have united us both with the rebel Jaffa and others, to fight the Goa'uld. If they should fall, then they will be more than simply mourned. They will be avenged with the destruction of Anubis, and all his so-called super-soldiers!"

"Yes, Queen Egeria!" Garshaw said with pride. It filled her heart with joy to hear her mother speak like in the days of old, a time now only dimly remembered – after thousands of years of hopeless war.

---

Elizabeth Weir's private office, Stargate Command, Colorado

The same time

The President was speaking to Weir and Kinsey on the speakerphone. #Dr. Weir?#

"Mr. President, 'Prometheus' can't win against an entire Goa'uld fleet, but it could buy Dr. Harris and SG-1 enough time to complete their mission," Weir told Hayes, referring to the signal just received from the team on the scout ship that was heading towards Earth at top speed.

Kinsey stormed up to the desk and leaned into the speaker, "Mr. President, that is downright insane! O'Neill and that idiot Harris are just…I'm relieving Dr. Weir, and taking command of this facility-"

Weir tried to talk over the Vice-President's rant. "Sir, from the information we just received-"

#Will you shut the hell up!# Hayes said angrily though the secure line.

Weir was taken back with the angry shout. "I…I'm sorry, sir."

#Not you, Doctor.#

"Excuse me?" Kinsey asked, startled.

#Consider your resignation accepted, Bob,# Hayes told him across the phone line, wishing they were videoconferencing – just so he could see the other man's face.

Kinsey just stuttered in rage. "You…you…you can't do that!"

#Oh please,# President Hayes' voice said, annoyed. #I've got enough on you to have you shot!#

"This is the biggest mistake you will ever make!" the former Vice-President angrily yelled, as he pointed towards the phone.

#But I think I'll stick with my original thought,# Henry's voice said. #Which is shut the hell up!#

"I promise you will only live to regret this!" Kinsey very angrily yelled, before he stormed out of the office while slamming the door behind him. He then made his way to order the control room techs to attempt another try at sending him the Alpha Site, before Weir could tell them that he'd been relieved of his office and rank.

Hayes heard the door slam before he resumed, #Go ahead, Dr. Weir.#

Weir recalled the young Tok'Ra host's words, and quickly made up her mind. She wouldn't take orders on this, it was far too important; so this time she spoke almost AS an order to the President. "I believe, sir, that sending the 'Prometheus' to cover our arriving SG-team members is our best possible hope of coming out of this alive. It has to be done, and I must inform you of that in the strong terms imaginable..."

----

'Prometheus' Bridge, Secret Hangar, somewhere in the Nevada desert

A while later

General Hammond, accompanied by Sergeant Walter Harriman, arrived on the bridge. Major Gant and Colonel Pendergast were already waiting. And Pendergast instantly stood and vacated the "captain's" chair.

"Colonel Pendergast," Hammond said firmly, dressed in a flight uniform. "We have our orders. Let's get this bird in the air!"

"Yes, sir!" Pendergast said, as Hammond took the empty chair while he moved into the next seat. Harriman himself quickly sat at the main weapons station. "Set inertial compensators and shields at maximum. Initiate launch sequence!" the ship's usual commander barked orders, as his crew sprang to life.

---

New Watchers Council Headquarters, London, England

The same time

"Could it be a new Hellmouth, one we didn't know about yet?" Margaret Benson asked the Council members.

"I, I don't believe so," Rupert Giles replied. "We've detected no new supernatural activity, since the recent activities started."

"Well, it's got to be something," Willow Rosenberg said from her seat. "Because SOMEONE destroyed an entire U.S. battle group! That means thousands of men and women are dead! And no one can do that in under five minutes, without magical help!"

"Many strategic communications systems around the world are being disrupted," another Council member pointed out. "It's almost as if this is some sort of military attack, not a supernatural one-"

"But no government we know of has the means to do this," Giles commented. "And to attack several countries at once this way, is-is suicide!"

"Whoever's doing this?" Buffy Summers said from her seat near Giles. "We have more than enough Slayers to stop them. I've already sent out a call to arms-"

"Good, and I pray that you're right, Slayer Summers," Benson said. "Because so far, we haven't even learned who the attackers are..."

---

Egeria's Private Quarters, Underground Tok'Ra Base, Unknown Planet

Later that day

Egeria lay stretched out on the firm bed, with her eyes closed. /You truly believe that Alexander Harris will save Earth/

/Yeah. Even though I lost faith in him completely once/ Cordelia thought back at her. /Heck, so did everyone else in our little group. And yet, he still saved the world from certain doom. Twice./

/While I am starting to share your faith in your former paramour…/ the Queen cogitated hesitantly. /Every time he or your other friends fought to save your world, it was against far lesser odds. I do not wish to get both our hopes up, when your people have only one battleship against an armada. As well as the fact that anything Alexander finds if they DO get to the Lost City, will almost certainly not be in time to save the people of Earth./

/I know… / Cordelia sent to her, and Egeria could feel the great sadness from her host. /But I have to believe that he'll succeed somehow. Lots of times in high school, hope and faith in my friends was all that I had to go on./

/You still have feelings for Alexander/ Egeria suddenly thought, out of the blue.

/What/ Ms. Chase responded, surprised. /No way! We're long past any-/ she started but was cut off by Egeria. /Cordelia. You can lie to everyone else, including yourself, but I know your thoughts! You cannot lie to me, anymore than I can lie to you./

There was a long pause, before Cordelia finally thought back to her symbiote/Well, okay, maybe a little/ she admitted. /Because even though we stayed in touch after I went to LA, I still wish we could have ended it better. When you have such strong feelings for someone, they don't just disappear. They can fade away, yeah, but never completely vanish./

Egeria prodded her host/That last kiss you shared at the SGC made you feel more than you anticipated./

/I really didn't know if it would or not/ Cordelia thought. /But if that was the last time we were ever going to see each other…then I wanted him to remember me, as who I am today. Not as the girl who made his life hell, before she left Sunnydale./

Pain and remorse then came through the link. /And, honestly? I think love and me just don't get along/ Cordelia admitted. /I mean – Xander, Doyle, Groo and then Angel. It just never works out/

/You should not let the past affect your future decisions, now that we are joined together – and will remain so, for a very long time to come/ Egeria told her. /And admit it. Deep down you always knew that Angel could never truly return your love, for fear over what he might become. No matter how much you may wish for it to be otherwise, had the two of you met on the beach that night? It would not have lasted. Or else that fantasy where he became Angelus again after pleasuring you, would have become reality./

Garshaw interrupted their mental conversation, as she came into the newly-formed crystal chambers. "My Queen?"

"Yes?" Egeria asked, as she sat up.

"An officer of the Tau'ri has come through the Chappa'ai," Garshaw reported.

"I see. Very well, I will meet him in the main Council Chambers momentarily," Egeria told her daughter.

"Yes my Queen," Garshaw bowed, before she left.

---

Main Council Chambers, Underground Tok'Ra Base, Unknown Planet

A few minutes later

"Please tell us what news you've brought," Egeria requested of the man she remembered as being the leader of SG-3, Colonel Reynolds.

"Okay, well, I think you'll have to hear it to believe it," Reynolds said with a headshake, as he took a laptop computer out of his pack and activated it on the table. Very shortly, a very loud recording of a radio transmission from one of comm techs on the 'Prometheus' ensued.

"Thousands of bright yellow...I don't know," the male voice said in excitement. "They're coming from the surface...I don't know what they are. They're cutting the enemy fleet to shreds! My God, it's beautiful!"

Egeria looked on with hope shining in her eyes, however Daleg didn't buy it. "But the Tau'ri have no such weapons. This must be some sort of trick by Anubis!"

"Yeah. We kinda thought you'd think that," Reynolds said, as he quickly plugged in a portable high-end projector to the laptop. "That's why I've brought this. It was recorded from a gun camera onboard one of our F-302's over Antarctica, during the battle."

The image projected onto the crystalline wall showed a target gunsight, and a bunch of numbers streaming along the bottom. But it was the middle of the image that was truly shocking, to all the Tok'Ra present.

A long stream of bright yellow objects shooting past the human fighter plane, and destroying the two Death Gliders which it had been chasing.

"What are those?" Daleg demanded at once.

"Ancient weapons drones," Reynolds told him, as he switched scenes on the screen. "Now, this has been spliced together from several cameras onboard the 'Prometheus'. General Hammond was ready to do a suicide run against Anubis's command ship – when this happened."

The image showed a bit of the edge of the ship, and the Antarctic ice far below it, when suddenly – a flowing yellow stream shot up from the surface, and looked to be attacking the 'Prometheus'. But just as suddenly as they appeared, the yellow weapons split into three separate streams and flowed alongside the vessel, leaving it untouched. The image then switched to a forward camera, and showed the yellow drones slamming through the main command ship of the enemy – as if it had no shielding at all.

The 'Prometheus' then made a sharp bank away from Anubis's ship, as the image returned to the rear cameras. And the image now being shown, again shocked all the Tok'Ra in the Council.

"Holy cow!" Jacob/Selmak said in disbelief, as he saw it.

/Xander did it. Oh, I just KNEW he'd do it/ Cordelia shouted joyfully in her thoughts, even if Egeria was the only one that could hear her joy.

They all watched, as several yellow streams went through every attack ship. No enemy, not even the Death Gliders were spared as they started to blow apart completely. The last five Ha'tak-class ships could be seen exploding into atoms, and then came the big finale...

Anubis's circular command ship, the one that had been rightly feared by so many people throughout the galaxy…blew up into a billion pieces.

As the footage ended, Egeria looked at the SGC military officer with renewed shock. "Alexander and SG-1 found these weapons within the Lost City?"

"No, ma'am," Reynolds told her. "The world they went to was a former colony of the Ancients. It once had a similar defense system there, millions of years ago, but it had long since been destroyed. However, the power source was still active. Once SG-1 brought it back to Earth, Dr. Harris took them to our planet's Ancient outpost. He installed the new power source, and then the man activated all of the drones that you just saw," Reynolds informed them, gesturing at the computer. "It's thought that since he was controlling the system, that's how the Ancient weapons knew who was friend or foe. Because an allied Goa'uld cargo ship wasn't attacked at all."

"Unbelievable. And you're telling me this thing was just sitting there under the ice, all this time?" Jacob Carter asked, amazed. "As I recall – that entire area was picked apart by satellite scans, after the second Gate was found!"

Reynolds nodded. "Yes sir, I know," he told the Air Force general. "But it's suspected that since its power source was dead, that's why the place didn't show up on any of our scans. It was buried under a mile of ice, after all." He looked to Egeria. "The secret's still intact, bottom line. They're telling everyone – including a bunch of busybodies in London – that it was all just a freak meteor shower."

"There's something you're not telling us. What's happened to Xander!" Cordelia demanded, as she took control of her body.

Reynolds took a deep breath, as he knew that the brunette woman wouldn't like this particular bit of news at all.

----

Ancient Outpost, Antarctica

Several days later

Cordelia stood somberly before the stasis chamber built into the outpost. Xander's dying, frozen face stared back at her. It felt like she could almost reach out and touch him, but whatever Harris was encased in wouldn't allow it.

"We think it could keep him alive for a very long time," Major Carter told her quietly.

"Tell me what really happened. You were there for all of it, right?" Cordelia asked, equally quietly.

Nodding once, Sam then related as best she could the entire fantastic tale. How Xander had lost all ability to speak English during the space flight, and become focused only on achieving his goal. Retrieving the ZPM from Taonas, and incidentally using the healing power of the Ancients – thanks to the presence of the Ancient gene within his DNA – to save Bra'tac's life.

That horrifying ship's fall after emerging out of hyperspace, way too close to the Earth's surface. Drilling that hole through the ice, and finding Anubis waiting for them in the outpost. Xander not even blinking, and telling the hologram "Bite me" in Ancient, before activating the weapons system to completely blow away the enemy; and Daniel had had the bright idea of sticking him into the stasis booth, when Xander had muttered "Dolmata" after finishing the job.

"He wouldn't want to live like this," Cordelia finally responded, recalling how she'd felt at finding out about how long she had been in her coma. "If I know Xander at all, eventually he'd prefer for us to just let him out and pass away with some dignity."

"We're still trying to get in contact with Thor, but so far nothing," Carter said with a semi-shrug.

"Thank you, Major," Cordelia replied. "If you don't mind, I'd like some time alone with him?"

Carter nodded. "Sure."

When she was alone, Cordy took off her glove and reached out her hand. It pressed flat against the clear material.

"Hang in there, you big dummy," she told him, with a lone tear coming down her cheek. "Because you're not expendable, no matter what you personally happen to think! You woke me up a few months ago, well – now it's my turn..."

---

Conference Room, The Pentagon, Arlington

June 17th, 2004

"The United States can NOT be allowed to have full control of the Stargate and the Antarctic outpost!" the Russian ambassador said firmly.

The American ambassador became very annoyed. "No one here is implying that we should! All I said was, that you cannot deny that we have the experience to deal with things of this nature-"

"If these Ancients are the people that the human race could have possibly evolved from," the French ambassador asked in interruption, "then should not all countries represented here have equal say?"

"That's exactly why we're proposing to have a civilian team of scientists, made up of all member nations, to properly investigate the outpost," the U.S. ambassador replied.

"But run by an American!" the Chinese ambassador pointed out, with a slam of his fist upon the table.

"We don't even know if the Ancient weapon can ever be used again, do we?" the English ambassador spoke up. "And the young man who actually fired the blasted thing – he's still stuck down there in some sort of coma, is he not?"

"Yes. As far as we know, that is all true," the Chinese ambassador agreed. "But he is an American military officer. Should he ever wake up again, then he will control the weapon for the United States!"

"Dr. Harris is not a member of the U.S. military, and never has been," the American ambassador said quickly. "He's a civilian, who worked at the SGC-"

But the talk was interrupted by Major Davis and an older woman in a fashionable grey outfit, coming into the room at that very moment. "What is this?" said the Russian ambassador.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Davis said calmly, as they came to the head of the long table. "The President has asked my associate to come here, to try to resolve some of the troubles that have apparently surfaced."

"And you are?" the Japanese ambassador asked, looking at the woman.

Everyone except for the American and Russian delegations were shocked, when her eyes glowed yellow-white. "I am Garshaw. I represent the Tok'Ra High Council."

"You're one of these Goa'uld?" the Chinese ambassador demanded angrily.

"We are NOT Goa'uld!" Garshaw replied at once, upset at the insinuation. "We are Tok'Ra! My kind fights to end the Goa'uld domination of this galaxy. Know that we have been fighting them for thousands of your years; and my people were dying in battle in order to put an end to their slavery, when all of your ancestors were nothing but primitive barbarians!"

She looked to all the ambassadors, who were all shocked behind their stoic masks. "Your SGC has fought back against the Goa'uld, and against all odds slain many of the System Lords. You have even achieved a victory against Anubis thanks to Alexander Harris, which has already become legend throughout the galaxy! The Tau'ri are now more than ever a name that brings hope to the enslaved. Thus, you must put aside whatever problems you have here, and begin to explore this outpost of the Ancients. Do you not understand that much of Anubis' territory has already been seized by other System Lords, and you are the biggest threat that they now face?"

"What do you mean?" asked the English ambassador, staring at the alien visitor.

Garshaw looked around at all the diplomats. "They will almost certainly come here, and attempt to gain control of the weapon for themselves. You cannot afford to delude yourselves; your people have a won a battle, granted, but you are still FAR from ever winning the war!"

----

Various locations

Summer, 2004

Several things had happened over the months since the attack by Anubis. Cordelia and Egeria had commanded the scientific members of the Tok'Ra to look over any and all information on the Ancients that they had ever come across, in an effort to help wake up Xander. And elsewhere, almost all the nations that were part of Antarctic Treaty had laid claim to the Ancient outpost.

While it was not known if the weapon in question could even be fired again, the mere chance that the United States could fully gain control of it was something that the other countries did not like. China was still upset that the U.S. had yet to share the plans for the F-302 fighters, or the X-303 class battleship. They were also pressing to have Chinese officers to serve on the still as-yet unfinished 'Daedalus'. An entirely new battleship design, that was currently under construction.

Tensions had gotten so bad that the President had kept suspended regular Stargate Operations at the SGC, as a gesture of good faith. While it helped some in the negotiations of the Antarctic site, it was also leaving Earth with very little intelligence as to what was happening out in Anubis' old territories.

Cordelia had received another blow, when she was informed that the Los Angeles branch of the law firm of Wolfram & Hart – had been utterly destroyed. Some sort of large battle had taken place in May, but unfortunately the Watchers Council was keeping mum on what had actually happened. All she knew was that Angel had gone to Romania, afterwards...

Cordelia had made it a point to find Lorne and maybe even Spike, and visit the graves of Wesley, Fred and Gunn the next time she returned to LA. All of them had been buried incredibly fast; and Cordy didn't even know what had happened to the Texan woman, with that whole Illyria thing...

The worst part though was that she felt more alone now, than she did when she'd first moved to LA. Which had made the female host redouble her efforts to try to save Xander. For soon, it would be time to leave Earth behind for good. The Tok'Ra needed their Queen now more than ever.

SG-1 had finally persuaded Dr. Weir to let them use the scout ship that had been modified by Xander, during the trip to recover the ZPM. They intended to use it to travel directly to the Asgard, as they were the only ones known that could erase the Ancient database from Xander Harris's mind. With its modified engines, it took them from one galaxy to another in only ten days.

Upon arriving at their destination, the ship had gotten caught up in a severe gravity field. But luckily before the vessel was ripped apart by the unsuspected black hole, Thor had saved the three members of SG-1. The Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet had been monitoring the destruction of the trapped creatures known as the replicators, which were about to be engulfed by the event horizon of the black star...

He had informed Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c and Major Carter that the replicators would be able to escape in less than two years, and as such the Asgard had collapsed the solar system's sun to create a black hole. A somewhat extreme choice to make in dealing with those evil machines, granted, but as one of the Slayerettes had said back in the good old days…

'The only solution is the final solution'.

Almost all of the destructive metal bugs were sucked into the event horizon of the black hole. However a few formed a ship and avoided certain death, briefly attacking Thor's ship before escaping. SG-1 fought the replicators that got onto the vessel; but Major Carter was abducted by the Human-form replicator named simply 'Fifth'.

Later the enemy ship was destroyed by the little grey guys, when it tried to attack the new Asgard homeworld. However, even though Major Carter was feared dead, some parts of the destroyed ship survived and started to infect the new Asgard planet.

In any case, Daniel Jackson had stayed behind on Earth during all this, in case the other three members of SG-1 failed to find Thor. And thus he wound up finding himself in the middle of negotiations with three Goa'uld System Lords, at the SGC. These three – Yu, Amaterasu and Camulus – tried to get Stargate Command to use the Ancient weapon to attack the new threat, Ba'al.

Then the posturing egomaniacs broke off talks and were prepared to leave, when Daniel had discovered that the other System Lords had sent a ship to attack Earth to test if the weapon even worked anymore.

Needless to say the three System Lords were kept from leaving upon learning of the incoming attack, and the 'Prometheus'launched and placed on standby status...

---

USAF Vessel 'Prometheus', in low Earth orbit

July, 2004

The female second officer quickly alerted her commander, "Sir, sensors are detecting an alien vessel. It exited hyperspace 14,000 kilometers out, eight degrees starboard."

"Designation?" Pendergast demanded.

After checking her displays again she replied. "None yet, sir. Vessel is the size of a Goa'uld mothership, closing fast. Visual range in six seconds."

Pendergast called out orders, "Hold your position. Prepare to fire!"

"Now in visual range," the second officer announced.

"On screen, maximum magnification!" the ship commander ordered. "Open a channel – broadcast on all frequencies and translate into Goa'uld."

"Yes, sir," the officer replied, as the screen showed the small almost-dot of a ship still too far away to get a bead on who it was.

"This is Colonel Lionel Pendergast of the United States Air Force 'Prometheus'. Unidentified vessel, failure to reply will constitute an act of aggression, and we will respond with the full force of our weapons."

The screen then came to life, showing Colonel O'Neill. "You can stand down, 'Prometheus'. It's just plain old us here, pal."

Pendergast sighed in relief. "Jack? You are definitely not who we were expecting..."

----

SGC Briefing Room, Stargate Command, Colorado

A short time later

The three System Lords sat around the table, with no effort to disguise their anger at being held this way. However, the many security officers prevented them from trying anything funny, and claims of godhood simply didn't cut it around here...

Dr. Weir came in from her office, "I've just received word that the Asgard have arrived. They want to witness the demonstration of our new Ancient defence technology..." She tried to bluff the bad guys, "There's still time to call off the attack."

The Goa'uld Amaterasu didn't buy it, though. "We would also like to witness the demonstration," she said with a smug look.

Daniel suddenly came running up the metal staircase. "Their ship isn't coming, it was destroyed en route by Ba'al. The collective forces of the System Lords are bowing, and you're losing the war-"

"And so are you," Yu angrily snapped.

Before Daniel could reply, he was suddenly beamed out in a burst of white light by a transporter system. Weir instantly tried to look unaffected, while the three System Lords just looked on in shock – the Asgard, their ancient enemies, really were present now...

---

Asgard ship the 'Daniel Jackson', in low Earth orbit

The same time

Daniel took only a moment to get his bearings, before waving to his teammates. "Hey, guys!" For they were all pretty much used to being beamed away at odd times, by now.

Thor wasted no time. "Our new colony is in grave jeopardy. The replicators escaped from the time dilation device, and are threatening to destroy the Asgard."

"Okay," Daniel said, coming over to the small alien's command console. "So what can we do?"

"Thor believes the Ancient knowledge within XanderHarris's mind may be the key to defeating the replicators, once and for all," Teal'c informed him.

"But Xander's frozen down in Antarc..." Daniel started to say, before Thor activated the beaming technology again. Xander instantly appeared in an Asgard version of the stasis tube, and Jackson just shrugged. "Never mind."

Jack grinned, "Don't you just LOVE how this guy can simply cut through all of that darn red tape, by doing whatever the hell he wants?"

Daniel looked around, as one of the family was definitely missing. "So, where's Sam?"

"She was captured by the replicators," Teal'c said, with a stoic look on his face. "Later, their ship was destroyed while she was on it-"

Daniel looked at him, shocked, while O'Neill snapped, "Until we see a body, T, we don't make that the call!"

----

Oval Office, The White House, Washington DC

A short while later

"What do you mean, he just vanished?" Cordelia demanded, as she stood from her seat.

"Dr. Harris was apparently taken by an Asgard transporter beam," General Hammond told her. "The ship then left the solar system, at a very high rate of high speed."

"Was there any contact made with the Asgard, before they transported him?" the Queen asked, as Egeria's eyes flashed.

"According to the 'Prometheus' Colonel O'Neill said that a colony of theirs was under attack by the replicators," the Texan replied. "Obviously, Thor wishes to use the information in Dr. Harris's mind to save his people-"

Cordy took over again. "Of all the nerve! Those Roswell rejects were supposed to remove that information from Xander's head, not use him for their own petty needs!"

---

Asgard ship, the 'Daniel Jackson'

The same time

"He is not well," Thor commented, after reviewing the stasis chamber.

"Told you," Daniel said simply.

"The process of interfacing his mind is complex," Thor said, as he worked the controls. "There is also residual input and energy present that I have never before encountered, within a human brain."

"What do ya mean?" Jack asked at once.

"It is almost as if…there was once more than one entity residing within Harris's body. However, there is no sign of the Goa'uld protein marker that I can detect," the Supreme Commander replied.

Daniel suddenly remembered fragments of Xander's drunken conversation with him when they'd been in Vegas, once. Of being possessed by a hyena spirit, and also a Vietnam soldier persona when he was a teenager. "You know what? What say we just skip that part for now, and try to talk to him?"

Soon, Xander's voice was coming over the ship's speakers. "Hello. Testing, testing. One, two. One, two, one, two, testing. Guys? Elvis has entered the building!"

"Xander?" O'Neill asked, looking around.

"XanderHarris, can you hear us?" Teal'c said with a raised eyebrow.

"Jack? Teal'c?" Harris's voice asked, unsure.

"Your mind has been interfaced with the 'Daniel Jackson'," Thor informed him.

"What?" Xander asked in confusion, as did Daniel at the same time.

Teal'c looked at the archaeologist. "The name of Thor's ship is 'Daniel Jackson'."

And so, the human just looked at the alien in surprise. "Cool."

Xander however said, "Geez. No offense Thor, but next time just say I'm interfacing with the ship, okay? You just saying Daniel's name that way, it makes it sounds kind of gay..."

"Very well," Thor replied, as both Jack and Daniel rolled their eyes. "All the information in the ship's computer is available to you. If you wish, you may appear to us as a hologram-" And even before he'd finished speaking, a hologram of Xander wavered into existence.

"Oooh, weird!" Xander's avatar said, as it waved its hand through the air.

"You okay, Xander?" O'Neill asked him with concern.

The other male looked at him strangely. "It's a little on the funky psychedelic groove side, and now I know how Willow musta felt back during that Halloween, but yeah! I'm cool..."

With that, Xander's hologram went over and looked at his real body. "I need a new hairstyle, don't I?" was his only comment. The he added, somewhat bemused, "And I can't believe I just said that…Cordy's fashion sense must finally be rubbing off on me! Oh, the horror-"

"There is not much time, Xander Harris," Thor prodded.

"Thor's planet-" Teal'c started to inform him.

"Yep, yep, I already know. Ship's log," Xander's hologram said, as it wavered a little.

Thor quickly then asked, "Can you help against the replicators?"

"Already on it, little grey dude!" Xander's hologram told him. "And by the way, can holograms eat? 'Cause I'm just dying for a Twinkie here, if you'll pardon the expression…"

----

Despite the phantom hunger, Xander soon used the ship's computer to design a weapon for use against the replicators. Afterwards, Thor created the device and then erased the Ancient knowledge from Xander's mind – and just in the nick of time, at that.

Unfortunately, after having the knowledge erased from his brain, when Xander woke up – he had no idea what the weapon he had designed did. All of Jack's impatient questions went unanswered, and finally Daniel told him to just let it be.

The five space travellers finally contacted the Asgard leader named Penegal, via subspace. He informed them that the replicators were behaving in an organized way, and it was suggested that a Human-form replicator had survived to lead them. And the hope was that if the Human-form had survived, that maybe Major Carter had as well.

This idea was in fact firmly embraced mostly by Jack O'Neill, but as well by everyone else.

After contact was lost with the colony, another Asgard ship reported finding an inactive Human-form replicator floating in space. Thor took the risk of bringing it aboard in the stasis tube Xander had been in. They attempted to access the communications link between the replicators, foolhardy as that was...

But through the link they discovered that Sam was indeed alive, and being held by another human replicator on the surface. Then the Human-form replicator in the stasis tube activated suddenly, and attacked SG-1. And without thinking, Xander grabbed the device he was responsible for creating – and fired it at the enemy machine.

The beam caused the damned thing to instantly dissolve into metallic powder. Thor discovered the device fried the machine unit cells permanently, so that the replicator could not reform itself. It was as dead as a dodo, and good riddance to it.

Thus Xander and SG-1 beamed down to try to rescue Sam, while Thor tried to create a copy of the weapon to cover the entire colony planet with one shot.

They attacked the replicators in the forest, and destroyed as many as they could. However, the bugs just kept coming, and in bigger sizes. Eventually, Fifth ordered the good guys to stop – or he would kill Carter. But to his surprise, the members of SG-1 just paused for a moment and then kept up the attack.

Carter FINALLY convinced her captor that she would never feel the same way about him, that he did about her. So Fifth let Sam go, and escaped in a small ship with the remainder of his brethren. Shortly after that, Thor fired the weapon from orbit – and its energy wave covered the entire planet. All the remaining replicators were destroyed.

With the Asgard saved, and Xander woken up, the team returned to Earth. Once there it was learned that Dr. Weir had been picked to lead a newly-created multinational effort to explore the Ancient outpost. As such, since General Hammond was being promoted to a newly-created position controlling all things Stargate-related, O'Neill was being promoted to Brigadier General to take over the SGC.

----

Daniel's Office, Stargate Command, Colorado

Late July, 2004

"Maybe you should break it down into the pros and the cons," Daniel suggested.

O'Neill just looked unsure. "I've spent my whole life sticking it to the man. If I do this, I'll be the man. I don't think I can be the man."

"You'll be inheriting a pretty big can of worms with the state of affairs out there," Carter pointed out.

Teal'c agreed, "If Ba'al truly is on the verge of dominance of the System Lords, we face a formidable challenge ahead."

"Plus, who knows where and when Fifth and the other replicators will turn up," Carter added, as the bad memories began filling her mind.

"Not to mention here on Earth we've never been under so much scrutiny as we will be, now that so many governments know about the Stargate," Daniel added.

O'Neill was still worried about other things. "I've never had a desk."

"That's, a, uh..." Daniel muttered.

"Con," O'Neill told him.

Carter had to smile. "For the record, sir, you do have a desk."

O'Neill looked at her, very surprised. "I do?"

That caused Xander to start laughing, as he stuck his head in through the door. "Knock it off, Harris, I could be your boss soon!" O'Neill glared at the former Scooby.

"Whatever you say, boss man," Xander said, still laughing. "Jack, I just wanted to tell you-"

"Dr. Harris to the Gate room. Repeat, Dr. Harris to the Gate room," came Harriman's voice over the intercom speakers.

"Gotta go," Xander called as he ran out the door, knowing what he was being called for.

----

Gate Room, Stargate Command, Colorado

A few minutes later

Xander reached the Gate room, when the Tok'Ra delegation came through the event horizon. Instantly, Cordelia looked at him with tears in her eyes. "Xander!" she called, as the brunette woman ran over and hugged him. "You big jerk!" she then scolded him as Queen C held him tight. "I can not believe you…."

"Yeah, yeah. I missed you too, Cor," Harris said simply, as he was almost squeezed to death by his ex.

She finally let go and looked him over. "It's been four damn months…you had me so worried!"

"Sorry," Harris told her, yet not sounding all that apologetic. "Next time I save the world, I'll be sure check with your schedule first."

"You damn well better!" the Tok'Ra queen responded, as she punched him in the shoulder.

Xander moved some hair out of her face as he said, "So. I heard how you're leaving soon to stay with the Tok'Ra permanently."

"Yeah, that's true," Cordelia responded, momentarily looking down.

"You still have time to visit with an old friend?" Xander asked.

"Of course," Cordy said, uneasy.

"Cor, is something wrong?" the man then asked her with some concern.

"Ah, no…nothing's wrong. I'm just happy you're okay, is all."

"You're sure…" Xander started to ask, when her eyes flashed – signaling Egeria taking over.

"Alexander," the symbiote within said. "Please come with me. We must speak – alone."

"Okay-?" Xander said, unsure, but followed her anyway.

They entered the No. 2 briefing room, and found an officer working at the desk in the corner. Xander tilted his head towards the stairs, and the guy took the hint to leave them alone. "Now, what's on your mind?"

"I must speak, because Cordelia is unwilling to do so. She is too scared, unfortunately," Egeria responded.

"What?" Xander said, surprised. "Cordy, afraid? What could she be so scared about?" he asked with great concern.

"As you know, this is the final time – at least for the foreseeable future – that Cordelia and I will be on Earth," the Queen said. "And when it is time to depart, Cordelia very much wants you to come with us – but she is too…chicken, as she calls it, to ask this of you."

Xander looked at her, shocked. "Me…live among the Tok'Ra?" the guy asked with his eyes wide, as he sat on the edge of the table.

The Queen nodded. "Cordelia is yelling all sorts of swear words at me right now for this, but I will continue; because this is something you both need to hear. Believe it or not – her old feelings for you have come back ever since your near-death experience, and she misses you very much. Cordelia believes you felt something as well, when the two of you kissed several months ago. Did you?"

Xander just nodded dumbly. "Yeah, sorta…but, but I'm just the guy who holds the fort until the real heroes around here do their thing. Same as it always was, back in Sunnydale. And my love life is-"

"Exactly the same as Cordelia's," Egeria told him in an instant. "Yet another reason to approve of your union. She very much wants you to come with her. The only question left now is, will you?"

Xander said nothing, still looking shocked. The Tok'Ra Queen then added, "I remember Cordelia's words to you that day when we learned of how you were willing to risk dying, from that Ancient device that downloaded its information into your mind. She accused you then of letting no one into your heart any longer, of shutting other people out. Thus I feel obliged to tell you, that if you do decide to come with us…this will never again be a consideration. You will be loved, whether you like it or not."

Xander just stared at the alien woman in silence, honestly not knowing what to say.

----

SGC Corridor

Some time later

Dr. Weir tried to talk to Jack O'Neill again, as they walked along. "Colonel, please. I need your help!"

Jack stopped walking. "Are we really going to get into this again, here and now?"

Weir just stared at him. "I need Xander Harris as a member of my team. And I need you to persuade him to join! It's that simple."

O'Neill sighed, as they started off again. Ever since Daniel had discovered the Ancient outpost contained the secret location of the Lost City – otherwise known as Atlantis – and Weir had been placed in charge of the expedition to go there, she had been bugging Jack and Xander about the former Zeppo becoming part of the unit. "He's still saying no, huh?"

"Unfortunately," Elizabeth grimaced. "I have a dozen or so people who have the gene marker Dr. Beckett discovered is necessary to be able to work Ancient technology, but no one else is like him. Dr. Harris can do it naturally, at an unmatched level! His presence in Atlantis just might make the difference between success and failure!" she finished up, not knowing about the man called Major John Sheppard who she would be meeting soon.

"I don't suppose…have you asked yourself WHY Xander's saying no?" O'Neill suddenly changed direction.

"Well, of course I have!" Weir replied. "He obviously feels tremendous loyalty to you and the rest of the SGC, which is very commendable, but-"

Jack smirked, "Loyalty to me, huh? You know, Dr. Weir, for a well-educated woman sometimes you can be…kinda naïve."

Weir looked confused. "What are you talking about?"

O'Neill stopped, and pointed in the direction of Xander's office. The door was open, and he and Cordelia were inside talking. Jack and Weir were too far away to hear what was being said, but it obviously looked like a very intense conversation.

"See – this is the part where I say, 'elementary, my dear Watson'," Jack said cheerfully.

"What?" Elizabeth still didn't get it.

The newly-minted general sighed. "Okay, lemme bottom line this for you in a very Bart Simpson sort of way. I could give the guy your standard garden-variety 'for king and country' speech, and I could also try the good old 'grand adventure' routine as well. But no matter what either you or I say, there's that pesky little thing of Xander's feelings regarding our…royal guest…in there, to overcome."

Finally, the penny dropped. "You mean, those two are…"

Jack looked cheerful again, as he patted Weir on the shoulder. "Yeah, I think so. Well – if not quite yet, then soon enough. So good luck finding anything to make Xander come with you, that can compete with Cordelia's…assets."

----

Xander's Office, Stargate Command, Colorado

A few hours later

Xander Harris stared at the phone sitting on his desk, just as he had been doing for quite a while now. Finally deciding to just do it already, he picked up the phone and dialed the number of a certain apartment in Rome.

#Summers residence,# a female voice said, then repeated it in Italian.

"Hello, Dawn-patrol," the guy just said with a smile.

#XANDER!# Dawn Summers shouted, in a strange mix of annoyance and elation. #Where are you? We haven't heard from you in six months, damn it! And what was the big idea with that government agent threatening Buffy? I heard he almost made Andrew wet his pants, and even though that woulda been something funny to see, I don't get why-#

"Whoa – slow down there, Dawn Gioavvani. Is Buffy home?" Xander interrupted.

#Sure, she and Willow are right here. What's up?# the Key asked, fighting off her big sister's attempts to grab the telephone.

"Dawn, I…I called to say goodbye. Because this is the last time I'm gonna be able to speak personally with you guys, at least for the foreseeable future."

There was silence at the other end of the line, and Harris didn't need to be the 'one who sees' to know that Dawn's face had gone completely white. #What?# he heard the teenage girl's voice whimper.

"It's a long story, but I got a new job; see, I'm no longer with that deep space telemetry outfit-"

#WHAT!# Xander heard the brunette girl's shrill voice almost scream in his ear. #So where are you going now?#

"I can't tell you-"

#You're doing this just to get back at me, aren't you!# Dawn shouted across the secure phone line, very upset. #Xander, I know that deep down you left Sunnydale after what I said to you that night – when you told me how Spike had almost raped Buffy. But, but I didn't mean it! And besides, Spike came back with a soul-#

"That's not why I'm doing this, Dawnmeister. And for all I care, both Spike and Angel can go screw themselves," Harris said rudely. "Look, Dawn-"

But then Buffy FINALLY grabbed the phone. #Xander, what the hell did you just say to my little sister? Because she ran out of the room a second ago, crying her eyes out!#

Xander sighed, this was even harder than he'd anticipated. "Hello, Buffy. Goodbye, Buffy."

#WHAT?#

"I'm sorry if Dawn's feelings were hurt, Buff, so please tell her that for me. And as for why I rang you? You can get the details off Dawnie, but basically I just called to say au revoir. I'm heading off somewhere so remote, not even ET could call home..."

Luckily, Buffy didn't get the sarcastic joke. #You're leaving Colorado? Where are you going?#

Another sigh. "You know I can't tell you that…"

#Damn it, Xander! Will you just grow up? Because real life isn't a joke, or playing James Bond! And that reminds me, that Agent Barrett guy – where the hell did you find him? Because I don't-#

"I take it Giles isn't there, so please say goodbye to him for me, Buffy. Can you please put Willow on the phone now?"

There was silence for a few moments, and Xander guessed that the blond Chosen One hadn't liked the dismissive tone in his voice. But finally, she complied and the redhead's voice was the next to be heard. #Hey, Xander.#

A million memories instantly collided within the mind of Xander Harris. Images of a pretty little red-haired girl, during the first day of kindergarten – mixed with those of a breathtakingly beautiful young lesbian witch, and a ruthlessly sadistic black-haired, black-eyed badass. "Hi, Wills. Long time, no hear."

#Yeah. Uh, you'll have to forgive Buffy. She recently broke up with her boyfriend, The Immortal? I told her from the start that guy was nothing but bad news, but you know her taste in men…#

Xander snorted, almost feeling like he was back in high school. "Yep, yep, I remember the relationship debris pileup on the Buffy highway. So was this guy Angel-bad, or Spike-bad?"

#Somewhere in between, I'd guess. But hey, Spike changed a lot that last year you weren't around in Sunnydale; he even sacrificed himself to seal off the Hellmouth!#

"And then he wound up good as new with Angel in LA, and they both went to work for that evil law firm. Some sacrifice that was, if you ask me," Harris shrugged.

Willow wisely decided to change the subject. #So, I gather you won't be around anymore? I mean, even less than you are now.#

The young man winced. There was no venom in those words; but still, they almost literally tore at his heart. For maybe the first time, the former clown realized just how far he and his best childhood friend had grown apart – ever since the 'Dark Willow' incident, over two years ago. "Guess not, Will."

#I'll miss you. Even more than I do already,# the redhead's voice said sadly.

"You're not going to call me crazy, or try to talk me out of this?" Xander asked in surprise.

#What's the point? Look how far Dawn and Buffy got doing that. No, Xander, all I'll do is say goodbye and wish you well. Because hey, I think I'm the only one who really understands why you left, back in 2002. And I owe you too much and I love you too much to poison what I get the feeling might be our last conversation ever, to go into that sort of thing at this late date."

Dr. Harris almost shivered. "I never told you this before, but you're my little sister Willow. And I love you too, with all my heart."

They chatted for a little while longer, before there was nothing left to say. And Xander hung up and leaned back in his chair, wondering where to go from here.

----

Gate Room, Stargate Command, Colorado

A few days later

Much like it had been during the service for Janet Fraiser, the rooms were full of officers and civilians in dress uniforms and formal attire.

Dr. Elizabeth Weir spoke from the podium at the top of the ramp. "Although my time here has been brief, it has been without a doubt indelible. I will remember every one of you, and I thank you all for your hard work. I'm not one for long goodbyes, so without further ado it is with great pleasure I introduce you to your new commanding officer, Brigadier General Jack O'Neill."

The large door to open up, and O'Neill strode into the room with his new uniform. Gone were the rank pins of a colonel. He now had a single star on each shoulder, and in Xander's opinion it was about damn time too...

All the officers stood at attention. "At ease," Jack told them, as he got to the podium "You all know how much I love speeches, so I'll make this short. I wish I could say I didn't owe anything to anyone, but the truth is I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for the courage and support of each and every one of you. I hope I can be as good a leader as we've had in the past, and as good as you deserve."

"Hear, hear!" Daniel called as he started to clap, and everyone else soon joined in. After they quieted down, Jack kept going.

"The other reason I took this job was so I could do really cool stuff like this," he said with a large smile.
"It is with great pride that my first order of business as commander of this base, is the announcement of the promotion of Major Samantha Carter to Lieutenant Colonel."

Everyone applauded again, and Sam looked shocked and a little embarrassed. Jack jerked his head at her, mouthing 'C'mere' at the poor woman.

So she quickly walked the short way up the ramp. Sergeant Harriman came and spoke into the microphone from a piece of paper, "The President of the United States has placed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, integrity and abilities of Major Samantha Carter. Major Samantha Carter is hereby promoted to the grade of Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force."

As he spoke, Jack changed Carter's shoulder pins. "Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter," he announced, as the crowd applauded once again. "Congratulations, Sam," O'Neill then told her, proud of his old second-in-command.

"Thank you, sir!" Samantha told her former team leader with equal pride.

After she returned to her place near SG-1, O'Neill returned to the microphone. "Oh, before I forget; there is something else on the agenda. I'm proud to announce that Dr. Alexander Harris, or Xander as we all know him, will shortly be leaving us – to take up his new job as Earth's ambassadorial liaison to Queen Egeria, and the Tok'Ra. I'm sure we all wish him well, and thank him for his dedicated service to us and this planet!"

The crowd instantly broke into applause once again, as Xander – standing next to a pleased-looking Cordelia – looked amazed at how many people were clapping for him. In fact, Harris looked even more embarrassed than Sam had done, earlier.

"I'm not gonna hafta make a speech or anything here, am I?" he stage-whispered into her ear. "'Cause that's more your department, as I recall…"

The Tok'Ra queen simply jabbed him in the ribs for the old May Queen reference, in sudden annoyance. "Dork!"

Xander grinned. "That's Ambassador Dork, from now on…"

----

Be that as it may though, Xander did indeed leave Earth with Cordelia two days later. He worked very hard at his new job, and in his first month there he even saved two Tok'Ra operatives from Ba'al's forces. And he was needed, as were all Tok'Ra, after Fifth created a Human-form replicator version of Lt. Colonel Carter.

However, that replicator soon destroyed Fifth and tricked the real Sam Carter into giving her the way to defeat the Ancient weapon Xander had created. And with nothing to stop them, the replicators attacked in force...

Over the course of a few months, almost all the System Lords were killed off by the metal bugs. And in order to out the false gods as the charlatans they were once and for all, Teal'c and Bra'tac took over the planet Dakara.

For it was the world where the first Jaffa had been created, to serve the Goa'uld. And it was there where the slavery finally ended.

Replicator Carter kidnapped Daniel, and tried to find information in his mind from when he was an ascended being; and had known all the secrets of the universe. At the same time Anubis, who had escaped death from Xander's weapons drones thanks to his noncorporeal nature, attacked Dakara to claim a super-weapon of the Ancients; which had once been used to seed the Milky Way galaxy with humanoid life.

In the end, luckily, Anubis had been stopped by the being called Oma Desala; after Daniel convinced her to prevent him from killing everyone in the galaxy. Shortly before that, the replicators had attacked Dakara to gain control of the weapon, before it could be used to destroy their species. The bugs swarmed through the Gate at the Jaffa-controlled planet, and on Earth...

But the weapon was activated to destroy all of the damned machines, just as O'Neill was about to destroy the SGC with a small nuclear device.

On a side note, Dr. Weir did indeed lead a mission to the lost city of Atlantis, located in another galaxy. While they encountered a deadly enemy called the Wraith, they also discovered countless secrets of the Ancients that helped all humans; but that is a story for another time.

At any rate, with most of the System Lords killed, Ba'al finally went on the run and into hiding at the last place anyone would think to look. All Jaffa were freed, and created their own ruling council on Dakara. Of which Teal'c became a member. A new leader of SG-1 came in the form of Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, and they along with other new faces joined forces with past enemies to fight a deadly new threat.

Five years later, the Stargate was finally made public on Earth. Some people reacted badly to its presence, but most took the news with pride that even though it had been done in secret, the men and women of their planet had helped bring peace to the galaxy. And so with no more worries about attacks by the Goa'uld, Earth seeded many colony worlds. People that were starving on the home planet were able to move to new uninhabited places, which had rich farmlands.

While it still took a heckuva long time for all the peoples of Earth to unite as one, human nature being what it is, eventually they did so and the Tau'ri became a galactic power – along with the Free Jaffa, and the Tok'Ra.

It should be noted that the Tok'Ra could now live openly without fear of attack or reprisals, for the first time EVER. Thus a colony world of their own was created. And many new Tok'Ra were spawned by Egeria within Cordelia's body, the former Queen C almost being worshipped as a goddess by the symbiotes...

Along with the man that she chose to become her mate. For Xander Harris became the father of the new generation of Tok'Ra, his DNA donation endowing them with the Ancient gene – which allowed the former rebels the use of very advanced technology, and thus made him a pretty popular guy.

Xander himself was eventually blended with the symbiote called Tsoran, one of the very few who as a Goa'uld had willingly joined the rebellion back in the day – and thus was not a child of Egeria. There were two reasons for this; Tsoran's previous host had died, and Harris decided to step up and save the Tok'Ra's life…even if that meant the end of the title 'Ambassador Harris'.

And just as importantly…Xander knew that Cordelia didn't look forward to spending a century or so alone, after he passed away following a normal human lifespan.

Luckily, Tsoran and Egeria managed to get along okay. And in the end, the Tok'Ra queen and he fell in love, just as deeply as their hosts had done...

----

UEC (United Earth Cruiser) 'Hammond', low Earth orbit

May, 2212

"It's always an incredible sight to behold," Cordelia said lazily, as she watched the Earth spin from their cabin's window.

"Myself I just can't believe it's been so long," Xander said, as he wrapped his arms around his wife.

Both of them still looked as they did, when they'd left Earth so long ago. Thanks to the knowledge found at Atlantis, the negative effects of the sarcophagus technology had finally been fixed. As such, both Tok'Ra hosts expected to live a very long life now.

Then again, the new lifespan of a normal Earth human was very much greater than what it once had been. So many cures and medications had been found, now that the galaxy could be peacefully explored, not to mention what had been found in Atlantis – which was now a fully operating city.

The couple looked up at the sound of the chime. "Yes?" Egeria said, as she took over.

A UEC officer's visage appeared on the screen fixed to the desk. "The captain wanted you informed that we'll be ready to beam you down in twenty minutes, ma'am."

"Very well," Egeria said, as she shut the screen off. "To think, only a few more days and the galaxy will be fully united as one," she said, referring to the new treaty that she was here to co-sign. She wiped a tear away as she looked at her mate, "I'd never thought I'd see the day..."

Xander's eyes glowed, as his symbiote took over. "You're thinking of Ra again, aren't you?"

"It was worth it," Egeria said softly, as her husband took her in his arms. "What I did and what happened to me, back then. All that pain. And all that death, for thousands of years. Because now, finally, we can fulfill our true potential. The future is totally without limits..."

Tsoran just smiled as he kissed his wife, shutting her up before she could start another of her long speeches. And then he sensed his host wanting to join in…

Hundreds of years together suddenly seemed to melt away in an instant, and it was as if Xander and Cordelia were just two crazy kids in love all over again, living on that long-since-vanished Sunnydale Hellmouth.

But from now on? There were no more storm clouds constantly present, just over the horizon.

The End