'It's hard to see one's friend transformed from a young man to a monster which is surprising, considering I have some experience from my last boyfriend,' thought Willow as she watched Xander transform from a normal young man, into a sleek reptile predatory monster.

The monster looked disoriented at first. But it quickly got its bearings and focused on their little group. Its concentration was divided between Willow and The woman, giving both of them a wary looks. Suddenly it jumped at Willow, but the woman interfered by bashing it about five meters back into the wall with her bare hand. It got back on its feet quickly but hung back, trying to look threatening while looking out for the woman at the same time. Then without warning it ran out the door.

The woman's gaze followed it out with a proud smile on her lips. "They are beautiful in their simplicity when they are young. Don't' you think so?" she said in whispered tones.

Willow looked at her in shock. "Xander tried to kill me!"

"Don't take it personally. You were the main threat and the richest meal. And he is really hungry right now and hardly sentient."

"Meal! Threat! What are you talking about?"

"It's quite simple. You are the person in your group who has the greatest magic potential. And with the Slayer unconscious, she did not register as a threat at the moment. Elementary really."

Giles, who was trying to put some support around Buffy's arms, looked up angrily at the woman.

"So what you are saying is that Xander is running free around in the city and will kill people who has worked with magic!"

"Yes," the woman replied in a tone that said that these consequences were quite irrelevant from her point of view. "But probably not that many humans. Generally, humans as food are considered rather slim pickings. He will probably go after demons and vampires if he gets the opportunity."

Tara gasped. "Dawn!"

The woman looked at Tara and asked, "Who is Dawn?"

Tara looked at Willow trying to get some help to what she should say.

"Look at me!" the woman commanded at Tara, and Tara felt compelled to gaze into the woman eyes. They remained like that for a few seconds. Neither saying a word.

A moment later the woman gave slight gasped in surprise. "The Key is the slayer sister! Now that is ironic, and that dumb broad Glory doesn't know. That is the problem with gods. They don't have to think; they just wish for what they want. It isn't healthy, if you ask me."

She shook her head from side to side as if to emphasize her words before turning back to the rest of the group. "Now it has been fun, but I must go know. The climate in this dimension is terrible. Give Xander a 'Hello' from me when you meet him again." And with that line, the woman walked out of the door.

Nobody tried to go after her as she made her less than grand exit. They knew it was pointless. So they all looked to Giles, who was still trying to lift up the unconscious slayer, for what to do next. When he got an arm around Buffy he threw the car key to Anya.

"Anya, drive the car, from behind the shop, out front. Willow, get the materials to make another protective circle. Tara, collect some weapons and get into the car." Hearing his orders, the three young women went about their assignments immediately.

They were driving in silence when Buffy comes to with a whimper.

"Did I just get knocked out by a woman again? This is getting ridiculous. I am the girl power here in Sunnydale. Aargh my arm." Noticing that no one took heed of her words; Buffy looked around at the others and asked. "What happened?"

With a quiet and monotone voice, Anya said, "She turned Xander into a man- eating demon." Then with a more hysterical pitch she added, "And I don't want to kill him even if he say so." She then succumbs to tears. Tara took the distraught girl into her arms and rubbed her shoulders, hoping that the comforting gesture would somewhat calm her.

Since Anya had forgotten to mention their more pressing crisis, Giles looked at Buffy and said, "There is a real possibility that he's going to attack Dawn."

"Oh." It was the only thing Buffy could say. In just an hour she had lost a best friend and may just lose her sister to the said lost friend.

When they arrived at Buffy's house, they barged into Dawn's room straight away, which woke up its slumbering occupant. As they saw that Dawn was there and unhurt, they dispersed and moved to other parts of the house. Armed with flashlights, Giles and Willow ventured to the backyard to check the menacing looking shrubs until they were satisfied that nothing was lurking there.

Dawn was, of course, frightened and confused, but most of all, more than a little angry over the disturbance of her sleep. She had forced herself to stay up late to finish an English paper that was due at first period. Mentally and physically exhausted she hauled herself to bed only an hour before the arrival of her unexpected visitors.

Padding down to the living room in her pyjamas and furry slippers she asked the first person she saw about what was happening since nobody told her anything when they unceremoniously came into her room. As usual no one answered her. Instead they all continued to look worried, all except Anya, who sat on a couch looking quite lost.

Anya's state made Dawn scan the group for a particular person that never failed to comfort Anya. 'Where's Xander and what is wrong with Anya.' When it became apparent that the person she was looking for was absent she quickly connected the dots. 'Oh my god Xander! What happened?'

"Buffy where's Xander?" Dawn asked.

Buffy gave Dawn a look that she knew to well. It meant that Buffy was internally trying to judge how much she could tell Dawn. Dawn hated that look. She wasn't a child anymore. Come to think about it, she has never been a child. 'Stop. Don't think that line through again,' she scolded herself. Instead of dwelling on her non-human status a few months before she focused on standing her ground and getting to the bottom of things.

Dawn stared back at Buffy and said in a calm voice, "The Truth please."

The determination in her sister's eyes told Buffy that she will not back down until she knows what happened this night.

Biting her bottom lip, Buffy said, "Xander has been turned into a demon and might try to hurt us. So we have to stick together right now."

"Is it like the time that he got possessed by a hyena spirit?"

"No. Giles said it's a little worse than that am I afraid. But I didn't see him for myself seen him, as I was knocked unconscious."

Dawn looked around the room and said in a frustrated voice, "We can't just sit here an do nothing. We have to do something."

Giles cleared his voice and said, "She is right. I think we should all go to hospital and get Buffy's arm fixed with a little detour to get my tranquillizer rifle. Willow, Tara and Anya can in Joyce car. Dawn, you're riding with me and Buffy."

As planned, they picked up the tranquillizer rifle before proceeding to the hospital. Their whole trip progressed with no incident until they arrived at their destination.

A group of police cars were parked outside the hospital's front entrance, which was smashed to pieces. When they came in the hospital, they saw the policemen standing and talking to each other near a covered body.

Giles looked at Buffy and said, "Try to get your arm fixed up. In the mean time I will try to find out what has happened here."

The policemen were not chatty in the least. The most that they told Giles was that a wild dog had attacked and killed a man, but the situation was under control now. Asking more questions would undoubtedly raise a few questions in the policemen's minds. So Giles decided to not press them for more details and wandered off to find his charges.

When the policemen's attention focused on a few patients for their added input on the incident, Dawn stealthily went to the covered body to take a peek. The moment Dawn saw the body she screamed. She had been prepared to see a dead a person. It was nothing new to her. The fake memory the monks had given her provided her with lots of incidents where she viewed a dead body in plain sight, whether it was in a murder scene or a funeral parlor. But it was quite another matter to see a person you had meet, dead and with a face frozen into a death mask with fear and pain etched into it.

"Girl, get away, from the body!" ordered a policeman to Dawn.

Giles pulled the shocked girl away and held her in his arms.

"Giles, it was Ben," whispered Dawn

"Who is Ben?"

He was dreaming, that he knew.

Because he tried to devour his oldest friend.

Because he was a monster and he felt free.

Because the needs he felt were not those that belong to a human being.

Because the world was strange and new, with colours dancing around his friends? and it felt very fragile.

Because a great and terrible voice was whispering secrets to him that no human could and should know.

Because he attacked two vampires and completely ate both their minds and their bodies.

Because he visited Willy's bar and devoured every creature he came near to.

Because he was still hungry and there was not enough food near him.

Because the voice whispered that his prey was near and that when he gets it the Hunger would be sated.

Because he was outside a building that was full of sickness, fear and pain and it did not touch him like it should?.

Because he was watching his prey. A man? Not man but prey! Waiting, waiting the man (not man?) to turn his back. Now!

He began to run with only the prey in his vision. Nothing else mattered. When he came to the glass door he continued through them without slowing down. The prey turned around (slowly) with fear in its eyes which was good since the fear would slow the preys judgment, and he was going to need all the time he could muster. The divine energy was already beginning to fill the man and exercise control with the surrounding energies of realities.

He leapt through the corridor; trying desperately to deflect the invisible, to all but him, multi layered reality assaults he got bombard with. Everything was in ultra slow motion except the battle. He knew instinctively, when he committed himself in the attack, that this was a highly probably a suicide run. That he could be compared to an insect that was trying to kill an elephant. But the voice, the hunger and the instinct demanded that he attacked this prey.

Because it's only a dream.

Once he made contact with the prey he instinctively redirected the energies flowing into his prey and in a short eternity the two flows became equal. But the more the divine aspect in his prey tried to push through with the human spirit slowly receding to the background. To prevent defeat he ate both man and god alive, and he felt their fear, despair, every emotion, thought and memory. It would be a gross understatement to say that he was overwhelmed. He was beginning to think, that dream must end now because.

Because he was not dreaming, and a strangely embarrassing thought came to him, 'I have been stupid.' He began to see lines written in the world that echoed ancient plans where even gods have been sacrificed. Now he felt fear over what he goal he's being pushed to.

"I have to think."

He parked the car a couple of blocks away from the burned high school, pulled out a high calibre rifle that was wrapped in a blanket to hide it. It was kind of funny, in a scary way, how quickly you could acquire a weapon if price was a minor matter.

He had come to hate the burning clear Californian sun, which was beating down on him. Its clear light felt like a lie to him. Buffy and the rest of them didn't know that he was here and what he intended to do. It was the Angelus story all over again and he would not let Buffy get in another situation where she had to kill a loved one.

She was a good kid, they all were. He, on the other hand, did not consider himself good. It was not because he was trying to be self- critical but he had always prided in himself the fact that he knew both his strengths and weakness. He thought himself as intelligent, brave, polite and a little suave, even if it was hard to keep that last self-image near the children. But good? No. In order to become a watcher, one had to have a core in them that was pure goal oriented. If they didn't, would any of them be able send a mere child out into the darkness to fight monsters that brave grown men would flee from? Even in Willow's and Xander's participation in slaying, he only gave some minor protests. Was it because he knew they could be useful? despite the fact that they were only normal teenagers, and perhaps give his slayer that extra edge or a second more time, that separated a good slayer from a dead one.

He knew they will someday pay the price for his decision but they didn't. So every night they went out to battle the forces of evil. They were his child soldiers, closely knitted together in a bond that nobody from outside could break into. Cordelia, Wesley and Riley. He had placed so much misery in the lives of these young people. The least he could do in this moment is to try and spare them the soul- breaking pain that comes with killing a friend. Killing a friend is nothing new to you Giles isn't it?

He had tried to enlist Spike's help and the little shit was all too happy to help in trying to track down Xander. But when they saw the result of the massacre in Willy's bar, Spike had second thoughts about their task and insisted that locating the creature, the former Scooby had become, was too much trouble. So instead of dragging around a whining vampire, Giles instructed Spike to look after the girls. It was the first time the blonde punk willing did what he was told.

'Is this suicide,' he thought for the seventh time. 'Perhaps but I owe it to Buffy to at least try.

He wasn't sure if Xander was in the old school. But the school was located on the Hellmouth and Buffy's dream suggested this was the best place to look.

When he came inside, he pulled out the rifle from the blanket, ready for anything that may jump from the sinister shadows. He walked quietly to the library's entrance where could he see a pulsing, eerie kind of light. He snuck closer to the door and inside he saw a frozen tableau of Buffy, Willow and himself, sitting and researching something. Warily, he stepped into the library. Except for the tableau, the library was sunk within deep shadows where nothing moved. He walked over to tableau and touched it cautiously. When his finger came in contact with the hologram picture, it burst like a soap bubble.

"Hello G-man tread with care, you are destroying my dreams." The greeting came from a voice behind him. The voice sounded like somebody who was trying to speak with a mouth filled with teeth.

Giles quickly turned around and pointed the rifle at the sound. Hiding in the shadows, he saw the monster Xander had turned into. It had grown alarming bigger in a very short time; the shadows clinging to the monster's body, making it harder to focus on it. In a split second he decided not to shoot for various reasons. First reason being the fact that the monster had sounded intelligent and the tone of its voice had a hint of humor in it. Second, because he had no illusion that the monster could not have killed him if it had wanted him dead. Seeing its current size, he realized that the rifle wasn't an adequate weapon.

"Xander?"

"Not quite. I'm something more and something less than the boy you knew as Xander. I don't think I'm worthy of that name anymore. You can call me Alexander, and I can call you Giles. Deal?"

"Ok."

"So you came by to see if it was the repeat of the Angelus story, Giles?"

Giles didn't look like he would deny that.

"First I would like to say that I still got my 'human' soul intact," Alexander said in a light tone, but Giles thought he could detect a hint of sadness behind the words.

"My instinct's a mixture of human and dragon. And I find it very hard right now to navigate between these feelings until an emotional equilibrium arrives."

Giles looked a little uncomfortable and said, "How much do you remember from your transformation 'til now?"

"All of it. But I didn't kill any humans even at the beginning, when I was driven mad with hunger.

"There was an intern named Ben whom you did kill. Are you telling me that he wasn't human?"

"The answer is rather complex. Let's just say that he was human, but there were other factors that made his fate unique."

Alexander looked intensely at Giles and said, "Giles you must understand; I don't want to hurt anybody, especially Buffy, Anya, Willow and you. You are my family and therefore precious to me."

Giles don't look like he found that information much comforting and asked, "What do you plan to do now?"

"First, I would like it if you don't visit me in the next five to six days. I have to use all my concentration on my growth. Secondly, don't try to reverse the transformation. It can't be done and anyone who'll try will only get hurt. Third, I would like to ask you to apologize, in my behalf, to Willow. Say that I'll apologize to her myself later. Please tell Anya that I still love her and things will be better in the long run. Will you say that to them Giles?"

"Yes."

"Then please go now. You're disturbing my growth." The last instruction was not a request but a command and Giles left the burned building with mixed feelings.

The vampire was young but not stupid. She had kept a very low profile in the last few months when the Slayer had been on a rampage. She was not a part of any vampire groups. Sure it gave some protection to be part of a group and the hunting was easier. But in her opinion, the advantages got negated with the simple matter that when something keeps a high profile, it also rated a proportionally high place on the Slayer's 'Things To Slay' list. And to add to the sad fact that the slayer lives in the vicinity, something new and nasty had come to town. Nobody knew much about it but it seems to mainly attack demons.

Right now was she very hungry but in the same time very cautious. What happened at Willy's bar was common knowledge amongst the demon population. She had thought about skipping the town, but she liked the atmosphere and the good tunnel system beneath Sunnydale. It gave a sense of freedom because you could move around the town even at daytime.

She saw a young teenager wheeling his bike at his side. He was a perfect victim, young vulnerable and alone. She checked the area one more time; good she could not see anybody. As she waited for the boy to come closer, she decided that it would be ok, to toy a little with the boy before she ate him. A vampire does not live on blood alone.

When the boy got within a meter from her, she jumped right in front of the boy with game face on and raised hands. It was a classic attack for a vampire because it's always amusing to see your victim nearly shit his pants out of fright, and corny like hell.

In his panic, the boy threw his bike at the vampire, which it bought him couple of seconds, wisely did he chose to run away. The vampire, normally, had nothing against the chase but she didn't feel safe being out in the open for long, so she tried to run down the kid as quickly as possible. The boy must have been a good runner because she wasn't gaining up on him as fast as she normally did when hunting a prey.

The boy the headed towards the direction of the old high school, which was perfectly fine with her. The old high school was deserted and that meant that when she catches him, it would be safe to play a little with him before she feeds.

He ran through the broken corridors into a room, where a woman was standing. The woman gave him a smile and nods in the vampire's direction. The vampire was not stupid but she was young, an older vampire would have become suspicious about the missing smell of anything from the boy, the way he ran was also too picture perfect to be true.

'Fuck this is a set up,' she realized, too late, as something was moving quickly from behind. It swiftly grabbed and immobilized her and began feeding on her vampiric essence. The last thought she had was rather strange one for a vampire. "Is this the way a human feel when I feeds on them? This hurt."

"Did the vessel had to be a vampire?" the woman asked.

"I could not use a human being. Remember, I am one of the good guys," replied Alexander.

With a sardonic tone the woman said, "Somehow I keep forgetting that."

"We are going to save the world. That makes me good guy in my book. And if you want, you could save your girl from the bad witches. Meaning the incompetent witches. I truly don't know why Willow hasn't turned Amy back to human again, she's definitely strong enough to do it."

"Forget Amy. She has to learn the consequences of high magic. Even if she has to learn it as a rat."

"How about you? Have you learned your lesson?"

"Boy don't get preachy over for me. You don't have the moral high ground to stand on. Why does the world need saving? Because of your existence? And do you really think that your friends will forgive, much less understand what you are planning to the slayer's sister?"

"Nobody said it was easy to be a good guy."

"Yeah, whatever."

"I quite agree. 'Whatever' it will take I'll do it. Are you ready?"

"Yes."

Alexander picked up a small cheerleader statue gently with his claws and laid it on top of the vampire. "I bind thee Catherine Madison to this vessel and to my will until I releases you from my services. Rise."

At the last word, the statue melted into the body and as commanded, rose. "What is your command, oh master?"

"Cute, now drop it before it gets too cute. And I think you know my will. Find Dawn and stay away from the rest of the group."

With only a nod too acknowledges the words, Catherine left the room.

"So what are we going to do now? We can't just sit around and do nothing. And what about Glory? We still don't know where she is and what connections the woman has to Glory," said a much frustrated Buffy.

Giles, Willow, Tara and herself were sitting at a table in the Magic Box. Anya sat a little father away, plowing through books, with a concentrated look on her face. She seemed to follow the conversation only when Xander's name was mentioned. Whenever that happened, she would pause and look at them.

Buffy had a weary look in her face as she looked around the table to see if anybody else had something to say. When it became obvious that no comment will be forthcoming, she continued. "Mom and Dawn are staying at the motel outside the town. It's too dangerous for them to stay at home with Glory around and with us not knowing what Xander's going to do or where he is. But they can't stay there forever and it feels to me like that we are running out of time."

Giles looked away from the rest of the group and stared out the window.

"I have talked to Xander."

At his words, Anya nearly flew out of the chair and shouted. "You've talked to him! Why are you fucking telling it to us it just now? Where is he? Is he back to normal again?"

Buffy, in the meantime, looked puzzled and asked, "But how, where and when?"

Giles still staring out the window replied, "I had I an idea where he could be. So I went and I found him."

Willow tried to get eye contact with Giles before saying, "But why did you walk in there alone when you knew he was dangerous and that he could attack you?" Then she began to realize something and repeated, "You knew he was dangerous, and you went alone. What were you planning to do when you found him Giles?" The tone in her voice indicated that she knew that she would not like the answer.

"What do you want me to say Willow? Yes, I sought him out with the plan of killing him! Was it fair and just for Xander? No. But truth be told, I'm afraid that the Xander we knew is dead. You didn't see the result of the massacre at Willy's bar but you saw what he did to that intern. He attacked you Willow. He's a danger to anybody who has had contact with the supernatural and that would include Buffy, Dawn, Tara and yourself. He's somehow related to an entity which, not only knew about Glory, but also talked about her with contempt and thought her to be an incompetent being. That makes him potential as dangerous or even more so than this Hell God."

Anya asked with a voice that sounded like the one she had used in her old demon day, "Giles did you hurt him? Where is he?"

"I found him in the library, which as we all know, is at the top of the Hellmouth. I didn't hurt him. In fact I was bloody lucky that he didn't want to hurt me. In hindsight, I realize I was very much unprepared. He'd grown two meters in height and perhaps three to four meters in length since we last saw him. And since he was fully mindful of what he had become and was able and willing to talk, he also told me he was still growing."

"But there isn't anything suspicious with the fact that Xander stays in Library. It's a place he knew and he liked when he was younger," Willow said, still hoping that the ex-watcher was wrong and that there was still some part of her best friend inside the beast.

Giles sounded tired and exhausted when he said, "It would be extremely foolish of us to assume that the demon Xander turned into would act for the same reasons our Xander did. He said it to me himself, that he has changed too much from his human self to still be called Xander. He asked me to call him Alexander instead, to make the difference clear absolutely clear to me. It showed a kind of honesty, too me that find a little comforting. But that also underscore that he has real potential to be a threat until we find out what his goals and motives are.

"What else did Xander say?" insisted Anya

"He asked me to say that he loved you Anya and he apologized for trying to attack Willow. He doesn't want us to interfere with his growth for the next six days and also that the transformation could not be reversed."

Buffy looked a little depressed and said in a daze, "All you need is love, and love conquers everything."

The whole group remained silent as they let Giles' words sink in. The sombre atmosphere only lifted when somebody knocked on the closed shop door. Giles looked at Buffy and said, "Do you mind checking who it is? If they're vampires, tell them that we don't have time play with them right now."

Buffy opened the door to find a man who looked awkward even though he's dressed in blue jeans, sneakers, open shirt over white T-shirt and a cap, standing in the doorway. "Will you grant me truce and listen to my question, Slayer?"

Buffy looked at Giles and shouted, "There's a man who asked us not to kill him because he wants to ask some questions."

"Let the man in, Buffy."

Buffy looked at the man and said, "You're one of the Knights Who Says Ni".

Deadly serious the man replied, "No I am a member of The Knights of Byzantium I don't know the order you referring to."

"If the professor thinks I can't join popular culture class, then he'll probably think that this guy shouldn't join this century. God, he sounds like King Arthur," Buffy muttered as she passed Willow with the said man following behind her.

Facing the man Giles said, "What do you want to know?"

"Our wise man cannot detect Glory in this dimension. We are rather befuddled over what has happened to her. You wouldn't have an explanation for that wouldn't you?"

"Oh dear."

Spike was sitting, watching the greatest Manchester United matches from 97 to 99 with a bottle of whisky, by himself, when a shadow fell over the television.

"The rivers are jumping in bunny hops to the sea. Oh the beautiful light. Miss Edith is coming and she's taking all her friends with her. It will be the greatest tea party ever. Everybody is invited."

With a sigh, Spike raised himself from the chair. "Dru, don't stand in front of the telly. I don't have time for this right now and if the slayer sees you, she will be very cross. You can't stay here."

Drusilla danced slowly around Spike, her eyes fixated far away into Neverland. "Poor Slayer. She has been wicked. No gift for her today. So sad. So glad. I think she is a little mad." She stopped her dance and stared directly at Spike, her face looking child-like yet intense. "He will eat your heart and bones, tails and feathers, jealous, jealous, because you are my beautiful Spike."

"Dru, I wish I could say that I don't have a clue what you mean, but I understand you all too well. But I can't go Dru."

"They say that the owl was the backer's daughter," she whispered sorrowfully.

"Why don't we take a little break from our relationship. Let's say that we meet in Venice in 30 years from now?"

"Ok," and Drusilla dances through the night, with a lover only she could see, or perhaps everybody she sees is her lover for a moment. Poor Ophelia she never got her prince.

Tara sat near the phone watching it, as if she was watching a potentially dangerous animal that would jump her at any moment. But when the phone rang, she didn't answer. She just watched it and wondered how long it would take before the device stopped ringing. But she knew that this caller would not lose patience over anything, much less over a thing as important as this. Finally she picked up the phone but not before a niggling feeling of betrayal that traveled through her.

She liked Xander but she did sometimes envy and feared the history he had with Willow a little. She questioned the motive behind her actions and somehow felt that the reason she was doing this was because deep down she wanted the only competitor she had for Willow's affection out of the way. She hoped that was not the case. She was quiet sure that was not case, but how could she be certain.

She was always trying to do the right thing. Always analysing what people meant with what they said. Always thinking about the reasons for why she is reacting in a particular way. Always analysing never reacting. Only Willow makes her feel sure about herself and her love for Willow. She feared this love. She doesn't trust that her love would not make her betray herself and compromise her core belief, which is to always do the right thing.

But she is reacting now, and that in it self makes, her motive suspect in her own eyes.

"Hello," she says.

"Hello, Tara."

"Servant of the Goddess."

"Oh dear, please don't call me that, I find that a very silly title. I would love if you would call me Nanny. You had something important to tell me?"

"I don't know how to say it in a way that I would sound sane, so I'll just go ahead and say it. A friend of mine changed into a Dragon." "Has somebody transformed him into a dragon? That is not possible, dear. It must be an illusion."

"No. He was part dragon. I think he had about 1/8 dragon in his heritage."

"They are trying something new then. This is interesting," came faintly from Nanny, as she went over the implications of these complicating new vectors.

"I understand that you know the Slayer. She must stop him before he kills too many demons and becomes sentient. Of course, even in Sunnydale, center of demonic activity, it should take decades."

"He is already sentient."

At Tara's revelation, the other end of line became silent for a few seconds. "Girl, I hope for you that this is not a extremely bad joke from your side."Said Nanny, there was nothing of the 'jolly grandmother' left in her tone, this tone didn't require respect it demand it with every syllables "No-no. A friend of mine has talked to him, and he told him that he would not hurt us."

"This sounds quite insane. If the lore is accurate, a Dragon needs to feed on an enormous number of demons before it gets close to becoming sentient."

"We think that he killed a god."

This time the line became silent for a longer time. "Try to cast a simple spell any spell will do, tell me when you are finished."

Tara out the phone down for the moment and did what Nanny told her. When she was done she went back to the conversation she had left. "Ok. Finished."

"Anything unusual when you cast the spell?" Tara thought that she could hear a hint of fear in the woman voice

"It was much more difficult than normal to control."

"It has begun," Nanny said in far away voice. "I am flying in tomorrow on the earliest flight there. Don't do anything before I arrive."

Tara wanted to correct her and tell Nanny that 'to do nothing' was in fact also to do something. But Nanny didn't sound like she wanted to hear anything else than an affirmative answer from Tara. 'Which she got of course,' thought Tara, a little disgusted with herself.

She hated this body. Sure it was hundred times better than being trapped inside a cheerleading trophy. But could she still feel the tiny bit of the demon's essence, which remained in the body to power it, in her back of her mind, screaming in anger, fear and pain. It was annoying. Not only that but her magic was dampened significantly and she has yet to find out the reason for that. It could be because of her vamperic body or perhaps her "master" dampened it, to better control her. But she didn't dare dwell on it. Right now, she placed these inconveniences at the back of her mind. Right now, she was going to report her failure to find Dawn for Xander.

It was not that she thought him to be cruel, but it felt like she was playing high stake poker with a frightful alien intelligence, who kept changing the rules. And half of the time, he himself did not seem that to understand the rules he made or why he changed them.

'Ok here goes nothing,' she thought before she went into the library. When she came into the dreaded room, she felt like it was somehow twisted like a spring that was being pulled well past its breaking point.

When he saw her the first words he said was, "You have failed." There was no menace behind the words, only a statement of the situation.

"I haven't been able to locate Dawn. She and her mother haven't been at their house. The neighbors didn't want talk to me. All I could get out of them that was that the two Summers women haven't been seen in couple of days. It's really hard to get people, to talk to you when you're a vampire. People instinctively feel that something's wrong. Then there's the part that I have to look over my shoulder every five minutes to look out for the slayer. I have to say, the conditions pressed upon me is not conducive for success."

"We are running out time," he said not in a threatening way. It was more like he was repeating a very obvious fact. "Billions are going to die if we fail."

"Yes. You mentioned that and best-case scenario, the death toll is going to be counted in thousands. You could end it right here, you know with your own death." Catherine Madison sighed. She had heard this story one too many times and frankly she was getting tired of it.

"Some part of me wants to take that solution, terrified of the alternative consequences. And I do hope that I have the strength to commit suicide if I can't avoid the worst-case scenario.

"But my instinct for self preservation is strong and I don't think that I can kill myself if the need arises. And they have blocked the Hellmouth so I can't leave that way. This, of course, brings me back to Dawn.

"Something is telling me that we have to do something drastic to find Dawn. Okay, maybe nothing too drastic. Dawn has the personality of a stereotypical teenager. More specifically, a personality that is a reflection of the monks' views of how an American teenager should be. This makes her reactions easier to predict.

"Dawn has a friend. Janice. What I want you to do is, pay a little visit to Janice and."

Dawn was bored; she was also afraid and angry.

She's angry that she was hiding again and just sitting, waiting and being useless. Angry that somebody else, other than herself, was solving the situation and getting the recognition. Angry at Buffy and her mom for forcing her to hide away. Angry at Glory and all the others who want to use her because she is the Key. Angry that one of the persons she felt safe with was gone, and in his stead was another monster that may want to hurt her. Angry with herself that she was angry; people were being killed or hurt just to protect her and instead of being thankful that she was unhurt, she was acting immature. On the other hand she was afraid that her enemies seem to keep coming, and sooner or later they would get her. And Buffy would get hurt or worse, trying to stop them.

But right now, she was very bored. She had no one to talk to since her mother was sleeping again, the past few days finally taking their toll on her.

Dawn's cellphone began ringing, luckily she had set the ring tone volume to low, so it did not wake up Joyce. Dawn checked the display. Hmm, it was Janice. Dawn walked quickly into the motel toilet and closed door.

"Hi," said Dawn softly.

"Hi Dawn. Why are you whispering?"

"Oh it's my mom. She's sleeping right now."

"Is she also sick?"

"Sick?"

"Yeah. I figured it was the reason that you didn't go school today."

"Yeah, she's also got the flu."

"A shame that you're still sick. I got invited party. And get this, Kevin is coming. But that's not the kicker. At lunch he caught up with me and asked if you're going too."

"He asked about me! Oh that's so great!"

"It's a small private party, nothing strenuous. Can't you come? We don't have to be there for a long time. Please!"

"It's a small private party, right?"

"Yes. Are you coming?"

"Suddenly I feel much better."

"Great! Meet me outside Starbuck." "Ok."

'I'll probably get into a lot trouble for this from mom and Buffy. But I can stay low and have fun at same time. And it'll be nice getting trouble for normal thing such as going to a party, for a change,' she thought.

Dawn saw Janice standing outside the alley beside Starbucks.

'Damn! Janice should know by now, being a native Sunnydaler, that you don't stand near a dark alley.'

Behind Janice stood a girl who seemed to be a little older than them, watching the people around her with a smile on her lips. Dawn didn't recognize the other girl but thought that Janice must have brought her with along because she didn't look worried. Frankly, Janice looked like she was high on something.

"Janice!"

"Hi Dawn. Isn't this a great party?"

'Oh oh! This is so not good,' thought Dawn and looked at the other girl for some kind of explanation, half knowing that she probably wouldn't like it. The other girl gave a wide smile and said, "Hi Dawn. I've been looking for you everywhere, kid."

'Damn! Buffy is going to kill me,' was Dawn's first thought before she saw the gun in the girl hand. 'If I'm lucky.'

Still smiling, the girl continued, "We're going for a little walk. If you scream, try to run away or do anything stupid, I will shoot your friend. Do we understand each other?"

"What have you done to Janice?" asked a worried Dawn.

"Nothing dangerous, a mixture of a drug and a spell. Come on we're going to visit a old friend."

Dawn took another look at the woman. It was obvious, when you took a closer look, that the woman she's with was not human. She didn't breath regularly, inhaling only when she consciously remembered it.

"You're a vampire," Dawn stated.

"Not just a regular vampire. I'm a vampire with a human soul, and therefore I must be one the good guys," Catherine replied with a small ironic nod. "Don't sound so disgusted, after all you aren't exactly Human yourself, Dawn. And, by the way, do you have a soul?"

Dawn glared at her and asked, "Where are we going exactly?"

"Alexander needs to see you."

"Xander?"

"Yes, I think that was he was called before his little transformation."

"Why?"

"Why not? He needs you badly."

"Because I am the Key?"

"Yes of course. You can ask him when you see him".

"Does he want to hurt me?"

"No, I don't think that he wants to hurt you," said a Catherine in a tired tone. There was a small thread of pity in her voice, which scared Dawn more than the girl's stance and gun.

As they walked through the ruined halls of the old high school, Dawn try to calm herself down. Xander would never hurt her. Not the Xander she had Twinkie eating contests with to Buffy's great embarrassment. Not the Xander she had a secret crush on for a year.

When she got closer to the library, she got a feeling of that a fundamental wrongness perpetrated everything. Then, for the first time, she saw the monster that Xander turned into. He was huge, his dark scales glittered under the low red glow that shone everywhere in the library.

"Hello Dawn." Whatever problems Alexander had had with his teeth when he was speaking, had been overcome by now. It now sounded like Xander's old voice except it sounded too smooth.

"Xander?" asked Dawn.

"I'm sorry Dawn, the Xander that you know is dead. I'm also sorry about what I'm going to do to you."

"Xander! What are you going to do with me?" Dawn asked, sounding so much like as a confused and betrayed child.

"In the beginning I foolishly thought that I could come through this in a honorable way. But seeing you here now, dispels that comfortable illusion, which is good because I can't afford illusions anymore. We are pieces in an ancient game and we have to follow the rules and boundaries. I know my place and the rules of the game. That makes me free. I am the bad guy in this game, I am the destroyer of the What There Is. Buffy is the hero, because that is her destiny. I will free Janice a little later, she will inform Buffy who will, of course, come and try to save you.

"Xander you're not evil, yo...you are Xander! You're the guy who loves pancakes in the mornings, who always looked after me when Buffy and mom asked you to even though, mind you, I didn't need a babysitter."

"I told you Xander is dead. He would rather die than do this."

From Dawn's perspective it went incredible fast. One moment was she standing up, the next she's laying on the floor pierced right through with three long claws.

"Xander!" came weakly from Dawn and then she was no more.

Tara was standing at gate three of Sunnydale's small airport early in the morning as an elderly wind-dry woman was stepped through the gate two. The woman was the only one who seemed to fit the description she got of Nanny. The woman was tall and thin with weather bitten face. She also had black hair with wisps of gray hair. In her hand she carried a long bag. Tara knew that Nanny must literally have used magic to get that bag accepted as handbag.

"Tara?" asked the woman.

"Yes. Nice to-to meet you Nanny."

"I need to meet the slayer right now," interrupted the older woman, not minding the fact that her action bordered on rude. But knowing the importance of the older woman's visit, Tara was not in the least offended.

"Ok, I know where the slayer and her watcher are training. Please follow me."

When Tara and Nanny walked into the Magic, the first person they saw was Anya, who was quietly sitting and reading something on her lap. At the sight of her, Nanny quickly pushed Tara behind her. "Demon, I have seen through your disguise. I command thee to show yourself."

"No, no. I am a native born American, born on the 4th of July, in a small town in the middle of Kansas. My name is Anya Christina Emmanuelle Jenkins," rattled Anya, proving to everyone that the well- practiced speech was still very much ingrained in the ex-demon's memory.

Tara pulled at one of Nanny sleeves and said, "It's all right. She's one of the good guys, sort of, and Xander's girlfriend. She's also a former vengeance demon, as in demon no more."

"Hmm. I see what you mean. Her powers are great but completely without focus. She is still a demon but in a human form."

"Hey! Still standing here. If you're a demon hunter, I would just like to mention that I am a close friend of the slayer," came from an indignant Anya. When she saw that Nanny was still scrutinizing her she yelled, "Buffy!"

Buffy came out from the backroom, seeing nothing amiss or potentially life threatening, she looked expectantly at Anya.

"Tell that woman, with ungrounded prejudices against non-human entities, even if they are entirely human, to stop looking at me!"

"Huh?"

"Buffy tell the woman that I am completely harmless and one of good guys now. You know, fighting the just battle, against the ever encroaching darkness."

"Yeah she does help us. Mostly research and cross-referencing. On a very bad day we can pull her into patrol duty and sometimes.wait a minute. Who are you anyway?" Buffy asked and looked to Tara, the only person in the room who seem to have a clue, for an explanation."

"She is a very important witch, and she has something very important to tell about Xander." Said Tare with a rather shaky voice.

Tara, who had never been known to catch attention to herself due to her innate shyness, suddenly found herself to be the focus of everyone in the room. Everyone except the customers of course, who went on their merry shopping ways, oblivious to the bomb that she had metaphorical dropped.

Nanny looked around the shop and said, "Isn't there a private room where we can talk."

"I will close the shop right now," said Anya with a blend of fear and hope in her voice. It had been days since they have heard of any news about Xander.

Her concern was underscored by the swiftness she got the customers to leave without a thought on the customer-retailer relationship. In the meantime Giles and Willow, noticing Anya's odd behaviour, joined the rest of the group to find out what was going on. After the swift retreat of the customers, they sat down around the table to listen to what the newcomer has to say.

Nanny looked around at the group and said, "I understand from Tara, that you are old friends of Xander. Is that correct?" At the affirmative nods around the table she continued. "I have to make one thing perfectly clear to you, whatever he was to you, whatever his motives are now, all of these no longer matter! He is the greatest threat to humanity in millenniums."

Giles looked concerned at while he was cleaning his spectacles. "That is a rather tall statement. What do you have to back up this?"

Nanny looked at Giles and asked, "You are the Slayer's Watcher?"

"Yes, the knowledge that I am her Watcher, seem to be something of a public secret."

"Then as a Watcher you should know that once upon a time, demons ruled the world absolutely, after that was there a rather long interlude, before the dawn of humanity namely 'The time of myths' or also called the 'Heroic age'. Of course, these days, that period, is not described as poetically nor is it even discussed as a real phase in the evolution of the earth but rather considered as nothing more than lore. In fact that age was termed as the mythical age, connoting it is bogus and just filled with fantastic stories when they were, in fact, true."

"Now as I said before, that time was filled with demons since they still roamed the land. But that wasn't the only thing that was plenty during that time. It was also a time for heroes. But as we all know, heroes are created in the face of great adversary, which during that point in time was abundant. There were so many things that mankind needed protection from, in that age. Some of the more powerful demons were not banished yet. Hundreds perished daily to demon attacks. In other words, the night before humanity's dawn was very bleak. Had the last elder dragon not died would we still live in the 'Heroic age'. Now consider the possibility of this mythical age, returning with a vengeance, to a world with six billions people."

Buffy gave Nanny a hard stare and said in a stiff tone, "I think that you have to spell it out for us what exactly you want from us."

Nanny replied in a tone that matched Buffy's. "I thought it was pretty obvious what I am asking for and what the consequences will be if you don't do it. Kill the dragon. He is no longer your friend. His ancestry makes him an automatic a foe to humanity and just standing back and doing nothing is the gravest form of treason against all human kind."

Giles interrupted Nanny and said, "Even if what you tell us is true, and mind you, we only have your word for it. We cannot just walk in his lair and kill Xander. Even for a slayer it would be suicide."

Without saying a word, Nanny began to open the long bag she had arrived with. At first one would think that there was nothing in it, but when you focused, you could make out the form of a long sword, which seemed sucked light directly into it.

Giles stared dumbfound at it. "I will be damned. That can't possible be. No, it's a myth. The Morganti sword also called Soulkiller or The Sharpest Sword and countless other name, it's a myth, or so I thought."

"I am impressed Mr. Giles. Yes, it's the Morganti sword, the sword that killed the last dragon, by a young champion. Only a true hero of humanity can wield the sword," said Nanny, while she looked directly at Buffy."

"No, no. I don't kill friends or lovers, it's sort of a policy I have. Once was enough, never again."

"Now you listen to me young lady."

"No, you listen to me, all he has done so far is kill a few demons. And right now he's just keeping a low profile, and doing no harm to anybody," yelled Buffy.

With a surprising gentleness in her voice replied Nanny, "Buffy I have nothing against Xander personally, it's not question of what he has done, how he is or what he is going to do. It's a about what he is, and the consequences of that. Think what it would mean for the world if the worldwide percentage of demons rose. The chaos from this alone would probably kill billions."

Anya, who kept herself in the background, stood forward and said to Buffy, "Buffy don't trust this woman. She's only telling us what fits her agenda. There is a reason why this sword has only been used a few times since its creation. It's a truly wicked blade. As Giles said before, it kills souls and others entities that are eternal. Even gods fear it. That's why it was fashioned in such a way that only a true hero could use it. Only a true champion of Humanity is therefore capable of passing the final judgment without prejudice."

Between the old woman's argument and Anya's rebuttal Buffy was overwhelmed. As the slayer, no matter what they both say, or what any body else says, the final decision lies in her hands. 'It's too much,' thought Buffy as she walked away from the group.

"Buffy," came it softly from Giles.

"Don't say anything! Nothing you say would change anything, so don't."

Five seconds after chilling standstill the group found itself in after their less than happy discussion, Janice burst through the door. She looked around the room and said to Buffy while she was gasping after air, "Dawn.the monster.the monster said that you have to come to it, if you want to save Dawn."

"What monster and where?" Buffy turned around and asked

"It looked like a dragon, it was big." For a short second it looked like Janice didn't believe the words that came from her own mouth but then she recovered and continued. "It's in the old High School."

"Is Dawn ok?" asked Buffy.

Janice getting her wind replied to Buffy "I couldn't see Dawn, only the dragon and a girl. Oh and there was some kind of pulsating sphere of green light in the room."

Without a word, Buffy grabbed the sword and walked out of the door.

The walk over to the old high school was a pandemonium of voices. Anya was pleading to Buffy not to do anything rash and demanding that Buffy should talk to Xander. Willow was arguing loudly with Nanny. And though Giles walked quietly after Buffy without saying a word, shame and determination was clearly displayed on his face.

Buffy walked through the ruined corridors with the rest of group right behind her but she might as well have been walking alone, so detach was she from the rest of the group. Being inside the old and burned building took her back to the time it was only the four of them, Giles, Willow, Xander and herself who knew of her status and held meetings in the library. Besides her own home, the library was the only other place she had felt completely safe. It was strange because she had so many bad memories associated with that place. The worst memory, of course, was the plain old fact that they knew that it laid on top of the Hellmouth. The second worse was the death of fellow slayer Kendra in its premises. Then there was the assortment of minor incidents she wouldn't care to repeat, like the time she had been turned into a rat in there by a jealous Amy Madison.

She thought it said a lot about her life that, to her, the library had been her nexus of stability. But it wasn't really surprising. She recognizes her need for stability in her life but as a slayer, stability is a state she can only dream about. So many things in her world was in flux, good and evil, friends and foes. Everyday it seems to be that the rug was always being pulled from under her and she is once again left confused as to what to do with her life.

One of the few stable things she had in her life was Xander's friendship/love? for her. She never wanted it, but many times she did need it. She never gave any sign to encourage him, why should she, when he was already hers. Poor Faith. Always trying to best Buffy by stealing her boyfriends, the only time she sort of succeeded was with Xander. This did not, in the least, threaten Buffy. She knew, in that game, Faith would always come out as the number two just like she did in all the times she tried to compete with Buffy. He loved her.

But she didn't love him like that.

She didn't love him.

She stepped into the library, alone.

"Hello Buffy," said the dragon to the slayer. "Are you going to kill me?" continued Alexander without a trace of irony in his voice

Buffy replied with voice filled with anger and pain "Should I? Could I?"

"With that weapon? Almost certainly, but that will not bring Dawn back." Said Alexander and gave small nod towards the sword.

"What do you mean? And where is Dawn?"

"Dawn is brought back to her original form, but I can still rebuild her."

"So what you're saying is that if I don't kill you, you will you perhaps give my sister back. Is that right, Xander? I guess that tells a lot about you, when you are hiding behind a child, to save your sorry ass. That's something the real Xander never would have done."

"True perhaps, but in my defence I could point out that if you kill me with that sword, it is more than my sorry ass, that will be on the line. Would you please allow me to explain why I had to use Dawn, before you pass your judgment on me?"

"Tell your tale. That much can I grant you, to honour that you were but I will not promise you anything else. I don't think I need to remind you that I sent Angel to hell, when I had to. And you are no Angel."

"You do what you have to do, that is why you are a hero. Call on the others they should also hear my story."

The group, composed of Anya, Giles, Willow, Tara and Nanny, came into the library. Buffy stood between them and Alexander.

Nanny whispered to Buffy, "Don't believe anything he is going to say. He will mix lies, with small gems of truth that will make his story pretty to you."

"Silence! This is my time. This is my story. Every thing I will tell you is truth, as I know it. Some of it will be speculation; some of them will be facts that I have retained from of Glorificus' memories; so many memories..."

Alexander seemed quite lost for a short while, before he continued. "It's a story that in its core is about evolution. As Giles has told us; once upon a time demons ruled the earth, or would be fairer to say that humans were once a race of demon, against a multitude of different demon races.

"At first the signs were weak. Magic became more and more fickle. A lot of demons races developed problems with procreating. Demons, that had humans as their natural prey, died somehow in droves, in more or less weird accidents. The human race, as a result of this, flourished.This, of course, did not go unnoticed by some of the more intelligent demon races, who then that started to campaign for the total destruction of the human species. Many of these plans where set in work, but they were all utterly failures. With the failure of their initial campaign actions, they started to research for the underlying reason for human race's success, and what they found out was rather shocking.

It turned out that human souls could collapse the quantum possibility field. An example of the consequences of such an occurrence would be the classic wave/particle behavior of, let's say, a photon. The photon would display its particle's characteristics if the experiment were set-up to display to do as such and vice versa if it's a wave experiment.

A demon would say that the human that made the experiment, would alter reality to fit his expectations. We also know that the result doesn't change if another human make the same experiment, would he get the same result. From this they concluded that human souls were connected in a non-local way. This has led to the further speculation that humans should be considered a collective consciousness.

The conclusion was obvious and depressing. You could not fight an enemy who could change reality to its own advantage."

Alexander paused to see if they seemed to follow his story and then continued

"If you think this sounds too far out, think about the fact that the Scobby gang has personally stopped the end of the world several times. If we stopped the end of the world once, it would be a tremendous achievement. But what are the odds that we would be able to save the world, not once, not twice but several times?"

Alexander looked directly at Buffy and asked.

"Buffy can you remember the incident where three demons were trying to sacrifice themselves in order to open the hell mouth. You know, that time where you jumped into the hole after the last demon? Let me ask you, what's wrong in with that picture?"

Buffy face could have been a study of moods as anger, disbelief and confusion, appeared on her face as Alexander laid out his speech. She stood thoughtful for a moment and then said voice that was dripping with sarcasm "Nothing. I can't see what could be wrong with that picture. I jumped into the hole to catch a demon that had jumped several seconds before me and I succeeded in catching it. The laws of inertia were probably on an expanded a holiday because there is no way Riley could have been able to hold onto the cord with the combination of my weight and the demon's with his bare hands, even with his expanded strength. I'm afraid that I'm beginning to see your point, Xander. So does that mean that all we did and all the sacrifices we made are for nothing? Everything would have turned out fine even without us?"

"No, what you did was very important. Without your heroics, thousands of people would have died. But the human race is not threatened of extinction even if thousands or even millions of people die. What I mean is the End Of The World would never happen except..."

Nanny broke in, "Except if something could nullify the human race's protection ability."

Alexander smiled, which was a rather scary sight. "Ten points to the Ravenclaw lady in the corner."

"To get back to my story, some Demons discovered that the only species that remained invulnerable to this unique ability were dragons.

I should mention that dragons, in general, are not someone you want as a neighbours. They are extremely predatorily as young, going after nearly everything that walks. So whenever a young dragon was sighted, demons from different groups would band together to kill the dragon before it became a problem. Because of this dragons became very rare, and had healthy distrust of everyone and everything. All of these factors made it nearly impossible for any cooperation between demons and dragons.

But with dragons remaining to be the only real threat, it wasn't long before humans began the extermination process of dragons with help of the Sharpest Sword. The dragons, in turn, were then forced to cooperate with others demons.

Just like with the humans, experiments and research were done to find out what made dragons immune to the humans' ability of reality distortion. What they found out was fascinating. Where a human collapses the quantum possibilities field, a dragon would generate, in some way, a direct opposite field. A dragon's reality changing abilities was much higher than any human, especially on the elder dragons.

One would think that with dragons helping the fight against the humans, it would only be a matter of time before not a single human being was left. But the dragons were few and the humans many. By the time dragons finally joined the fight on the demon side; it was already too late. The humans could cope with the loss of a thousands humans, they would quickly be replace. On the other hand, every elder dragon that died could not be replaced. The war for the demons was lost them, before anybody realized that there was one.

The only avenue left for those against the human race was the Great Exile. Nearly every demon and dragon banded together to cast the greatest spell that has ever been done. The spell fractured reality into billions or fragments and the exodus from our reality to the fractured realities began. Humanity then created the Key to seal humanity of from the demons."

Buffy looked at Alexander and asked, "So you're saying that Dawn is that Key?"

"Yes, she is. The Key is a static representation of our reality. It's impossible to change the basics of our reality because The Key locks down the basic parameters of this reality."

"As below, as above," came it from Nanny who sounded like she was sitting in a slowly sinking boat and had just now, realised that it also was on fire, and the water was filled with sharks. "Kill him now, quickly!" yelled Nanny to Buffy,

Buffy asked Alexander in wary tone, "What does she mean Xander?"

"What she meant is that if you change The Key, you also change the world and vice versa."

"Oh! That's pretty heavy."

"Yeah I know," came laconically from Alexander, in a way, which would have been worthy of Oz.

"Why?" asked Buffy with the 'why' encompassing the whole situation they were in, and demand an answer that would make a little more sense to her.

"Because they want to come back. Because some of them hate us, so much, that there isn't word completely adequate cover it. Many demons have hatched one plot after another to destroy the human race for millions of years, singularly pursuing that only goal.

The creation of Vampires was a semi-successful project; they can pass for humans and therefore can go unnoticed, until they became too obvious. A vampire master trying to create the end of the world would be a good example of that. Humanity's solution to this problem was the creation of the slayer, one girl who could remove things that could destabilize the human reality with a minimum of fuss.

Another result of the never-ending war between humans and demons was the creations of hellmouths, localized hot spots of unreality. I think that the idea was that they should slowly grow in strength and work as a fore post for a demonic invasion. But again, humanity was able to counter this threat by gathering a type of people near these hotspots, who are nearly pathologic in their inability to accept things that did not conform to their worldview. It's a good thing for humanity that they are here because these people's denial is damping the effects of the Hellmouth considerably. But not so if you look at from the singularly Sunnydale individual's chances of survival.

My father and I were the latest and probably one of the more complex and well-planned end-of-the-human- world schemes. The idea was to create a dragon that could mate with a human and create an offspring with an essence of a dragon and a human soul. The worst-case scenario, from the demon point of view, would have been the creation of a dragon that could survive in a human reality. That scenario would have pretty bad but on a purely locale scale. The best-case scenario would be that the dragon hybrid could influence humanity's collective consciousness and forcing it to create a reality that would be healthier for demons, which would have been extremely bad on a truly global scale for the humans.

Luckily for us they got greedy and began tweaking the original plan when Glory came to town. You could say that they bet the whole house and lost. If they had stuck with the first plan, I would still be roaming around Sunnydale, hunting after demons without a trace of a conscience for next few decades. By the time I've killed enough demons to regain a conscience, every trace of my old personality would have been erased and it would no longer matter. It's ironic after so many millenniums they botches their plan nearly on the finish line. Their new plan of making me hunt Glory was not risk free, even if Glory was a pale shadow, of my...her former self. "

Alexander pauses sounding like he for moment got lost in a gulf of alien memories". As he continues his voice has lost the confident tone, he had in the start in, and it was replaced with a tone, that indicated that he not quite so sure that his interpretations was correct or that the human language could be précis enough to explain it " A God walking around in the human reality is such a wound on the reality, that she was under constant attack from the human conscience. Not only that but she also had to steal human essences to cloak her own essence, if she wanted to stay sane. But She was still one of the most dangerous creatures even in her weakened state

Should the new plan succeed, they calculated that they would get a dragon with at least the same power as an ancient dragon. The plan succeeded, but not entirely. They had not calculated with that my human side would not fade away and that when I regained conscience, my human personality could, more or less, override the dragon instincts. I soon realized that my instincts did.. do try to push me to drive away humans around me and create a reality that I could survive in would mean a great deal of trouble for humanity. Another thing that I don't think that they had calculated on, was that I knew of the Key, and I had the knowledge I had gained from Glory would allow me to use it.

What I am planning to do with help of the Key is to create an area around the Hellmouth, with the right physical properties. Without the Key, it would have been impossible to create such a finely tuned local effect.

Alexander paused and sighed. "That is my story. What is your verdict Buffy?"

"Can you bring Dawn back?" Asked Buffy.

"Yes. But in exchange, you will not stand in the way of the creation of my safe area."

In a mortally tired voice, Buffy replied, "I want Dawn back, so no."

The Sharpest sword fell out of Buffy hands. Everybody in the room could feel something monumental had happened when Buffy gave her acceptance to Alexander.

"No!" shouted Nanny desperately who then gripped Anya and held a hunting knife to her throat. "My children shall not live in a world where they are afraid of the darkness again, where they are not master over their own destiny."

For the first time, Alexander's calm pose broke; a terrible anger, that could break any moment, the last shreds self-control, clouded his reptilian features. For the first time the human and dragon part of him was in totally harmony.

"Foolish woman you have already lost, nothing can change that now. If you do any harm to Anya, I will kill you, your children and grandchildren and every friend you have. Drop the knife and you can walk away and help humanity through the transition that will come. Life is change, only death is stasis."

Before Nanny could reply, she was hit with an iron rod in the back of her head. Catherine wielded the rod with a satisfied smile.

"Hello Nanny, nice to see you again too"

The arm that held the knife gave a spasm and cut into Anya's neck when Nanny went down.

"Anya!" shouted Alexander with ferocity desperation in his voice, and suddenly the room began to light up, casting an eerie glow that emanated billions of threats, that weaved into each other in an inhuman complex pattern.

Dawn looked up and saw that the sky was blue, so very blue. A dragon was flying through the fractured realities in a gracefully air ballet, it was beautiful. But why is Willow screaming?

Epilogue Fourteen years later

'Demonic, Lesbian, Voodoo Witch Queen holds my daughter as Sex-slave' the picture below showed Mr. McClay in an angle that hinted that it was taken from the top.

Damn! She hated to think of the amount of work she had to do to keep that newspaper away from Tara. Tara is so fragile in many ways and this article would make her think of things that had led to trouble before. The journalist's name was on the article, making it much easier to locate the journalist magically. People's stupidity did continually frustrate and amaze her.

A little tough love, in this case, must be in order. The journalist will be getting a visit one these nights, through one of his windows. The journalist would probably survive; zombies are not really good assassins. Her aim was not really to kill the journalist. It was more a message and a reminder to people outside the Zone, that if one of the powers in the Zone was insulted, there would be consequences and that distance was not that a great problem. Further more could she would not let anyone attack her without retaliation, too many people and demons, would think that if you didn't use the power you have, that it was a sign of weakness, and they will begin scheming to take you down. In the beginning she has shown restraint when she used her powers, and too many times that tactic backfired and people that depended on her had gotten hurt. With a mixture of sadness and anger she thought that 'it was better they feared her than loved her'.

In the beginning they could of course not grasp all the implications of the creation of the Zone. Except for some of the most obvious things, such as her transformation into a Vætte (somebody in her ancestry had definitely not been Jewish). The transformation was triggered when the physical geometries had changed in the zone. The dormant Vætte genes could only be activated in this high-serrated magical area.

The physical changes were not so great. It is only when she looked at herself in the mirror did she get that thought that she kind of looked like one of the aliens in Star Trek, who only needed to wear some plastic around the nose bridge and some pointy ears to be considered an alien.

The mental transformation was much more fundamental suspected she, and it had strained her relationship with Tara to the breaking point and sometimes beyond it. She truly hated herself when she had to fix Tara to get her back then. But she needed her so much, she was her link to her lost humanity and she could not let her go, no more than Alexander could allow anyone of the old Scooby gang to leave the zone.

Alexander did not try to control them in any direct ways inside the Zone. He allowed Buffy, Angel and Giles to organize an opposition. Human interest had gotten a new meaning in the Zone, not that humans were generally in danger in the Zone; it was quite the opposite really. Sunnydale had become much safer to live in for humans, as long they accepted to live under a Power protection, like in the old feudal system.

She sometimes wondered why Buffy could not see, that she too was of the others demons considered a Power, and therefore part of the system that was in place.

The US government could of course, not accept the loss of control over a land area that covered a radius of over hundred miles around Sunnydale and included most of LA. When it quickly became clear that complex machinery would not work in the Zone, the army manufactured ten thousand swords and armors to equip the army sent in to take back the control of "alien infested area". It was a completely disaster that would have ended in totally massacre, if Buffy hadn't intervened and therefore forced the appearance of Alexander. It was then that rules for interaction between humans and demons in the Zone was laid down, even if the Shiee more or less consider them guidelines (arrogant bastards). The fact there were no vampires in the Zone was also a thing that kept human and demon contact tolerable.

When Alexander created the Zone he also destroyed every vampire in it except Angel, whose humanity he gave his back as a gift to Buffy. Except for these incidents, Alexander kept to himself and spent time with Anya and their 6-year-old daughter Joyce, more or less.

Joyce was on a little holiday at her and Tara house. Both of them enjoyed having Joyce around. Joyce was to the casual, and the not so casual, observer a perfectly normal little human girl, that were right now, were going through a phase of her life, were everything she wore should be pink. In her temper was she such a delightfully mixture honesty and warmth. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that Joyce would consider strange. When Joyce laughed, it was warm laughter, filled with acceptance and wonder of the world that filled the room.

She herself loved playing with Joyce, it brought back her old and happier memories of her time together with Xander as children.

But as Joyce grew up and she learned more about the fundamentals of the governing rules of magic, a suspicious thought was planted in her head that she could not let go of. So she steeled herself to ask some hard questions to Alexander when he comes to pick Joyce up later that day.

He came, as always, cloaked as an eternal young Xander. He walked over to her with the same smile she had cherished when she young and was still known as just "his Willow". But it was all an illusion and she didn't (couldn't) believe in it for a second. Once she could see every little emotion in Xander's eyes, knew his thoughts and dreams. Now what did she really know him?

"Hi Willow, sorry I'm late. I just spent hours listening to a taHacceffui complaining that Buffy and her allies had been trying to expand her territory on his expanses. You have no idea how hard it is to explain the concept of a public demonstration, and that Buffy was not planning to topple him, to a half a million old demon"

"What are you going to do about Buffy? If we don't rein her down a little, somebody is bound to try to take her out before she makes more waves."

"It has been taken care of. I think that in couple of months Buffy will tell us the good news that she is expecting."

"But I thought she was barren. How do you know...?"

Alexander grinned a little and said, "A little gift from me to Buffy and Angel."

"And a child is a hostage for the future," she replied, completing Alexander's line.

Xander nods in the direction at the newspaper lying at the table and says, "Do you want me take care of that?"

"No. I think it is best if I handle it myself."

"You're probably right"

She thinks that the journalist had been so suicidal and stupid that perhaps there lay another motive other than a good story behind the article. She had to check up on that later, if somebody had used the journalist as power move against her...

"Alexander when we are speaking about Buffy? I was wondering about something, something about the creation of the Zone and Joyce."

"Yes?"

"We both know the fundamental rules in magic. One of them is that the greater effect or scope the magic, the greater risk there are for the initiator. Another one is the rule of free will of the recipient. The recipient must always have a theoretic chance to avoid the effects; the recipient can of course be a symbolic representation for a group of entities. Combine these rules, with the fact that Buffy would protect Dawn against nearly anything. It seems to me that you created a situation where you would be in a position of risking your life and soul. But you solved that problem by manipulating us. When Buffy, as the symbolic recipient of humanity, was forced by you, to make the choice, you did not give her any time to think about the consequences, and of course she acted on instinct and based her decision on her love of Dawn."

Alexander looked intensely at her and smiled. "Willow, Willow is that all? Even if what you said was true, and I would like to point out that I was very young and under extreme time pressure, why would it matter? The world seen, as a whole, is a much more peaceful place than it was fifteen years ago. Humanity has finally found an enemy outside itself, and it has flourished because of that. And have I not shown considerable constraint on using my powers?"

"Tara and I have spent so much time with Joyce that we consider her as family. We love her."

"Anya and I have also been grateful that you have given Joyce a second home so she could have a semi normal childhood. But what is your point Willow?"

"I think you know what my point is. What happens Joyce grows older?"

"She will get married and have 2.1 children, income of about 35000 and a nice husband who is two years older than herself. Why do you ask me about that? I can't see the future, that is more of Cordelia's department," came from a slightly irritated Alexander.

"She is not human."

"Not to go all schoolyard on you, but you are not completely human too." Replied Alexander in a slightly ironic tone.

"She is a product of a human-dragon hybrid and a vengeance demon. What powers will she inherited from you and Anya? I can't stop thinking that you are playing the same game with me as you did with Buffy, making me love Joyce so that you can use it against me in the future."

In a slightly cold tone Alexander said, "I don't play games with my friends, and have I ever lied to you?"

"No, but there is so much that you don't tell me."

"Willow, I trust you with my only child. Why can't you give me some of the same trust back?"

"I am not Buffy! Alexander, I am nice but not good, for both of our sake, please don't fuck around with me!"

"I think I will go now. I will see you when you are a little more reasonable"

She shouted after him. "I will not be used!"

Alexander replied casually while he walks towards the door. "Is it all right that Joyce is also staying with you next weekend?"

She was alone again with her thoughts. They were racing around her mind like a rat in a maze looking for way out. Would she fail like Buffy did? Did Buffy fail? Was it all something that she had blown up over proportion?

She had done...questionable things, but...

There is a knife in the drawer.

There is something precious, that have died.

There is a child, with the warmest eyes.

There is a deed, which she will not do.

There is a knife in the drawer.

There is a child.