Lorne uneasily watched the one-eyed man stare ahead blankly in his seat at the very back of Caritas. Ordinarily, the green demon needed to hear someone sing to 'read' them, though even whistling or humming would do, in a pinch. For a special few, merely listening to them talk would provide clues to their destinies. Lorne had almost never had anyone affect his abilities just by their presence alone.

Xander Harris was making the demon's teeth ache. Where that man had been sitting motionless in his chair for the last hour, seemingly ignoring all else in the karaoke bar, he was emitting such a black cloud of depression, despair, and misery that even other customers were beginning to notice, giving him uneasy looks.

At least those customers that had remained ever since the man and his group had entered the bar. Only about a tenth of those originally there had stayed, with about half leaving in the first minute, and the rest quickly departing when they'd received considering stares from the young girls that had been the majority of the group that had come with Xander. Even with the anti-violence spells on Caritas, no sane demon really wanted to be around a pack of newly-created Slayers. Not to mention the original Slayer, the dark Slayer, the Red Witch, and a pretty girl who was probably too young to be in the bar and seemed to be about to burst into tears at any moment every time she glanced at the man with the eyepatch.

Dawn Summers struggled not to cry. She'd done it too much over the last few days, over everything. Sunnydale. Her home. Spike. Anya. And all the rest of the Scoobies and their allies who had survived the First Evil, to try to deal with their newly-received wounds and the bitter memories as best as they could.

As whoops came from the group of former Potentials, now Slayers, at the front of the stage, as one of their own finished 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer', Dawn shot an angry glance at them all, only to catch herself and sink back into her seat, mentally admitting the new warrior women deserved their own chance to rejoice in their survival and winning their battle. It just wasn't fair that others couldn't just as easily let go of their own griefs and pains. Like Xander.

Dawn again looked at the young man lost in his anguish. The young woman desperately wondered if Xander really had to do what he'd announced to a shocked group of refugees at the Hyperion, leaving them all to go to Africa to look for new Slayers with the concurrence of Giles now in London trying to rebuild the destroyed Council. He seemed so…so….fragile. Could he survive this, or was it possible he had a darker purpose?

The youngest Summers sister again stared at Xander, hoping to catch his eye and have something else appear on his face other than the chilling blankness that he'd been showing for the last few days, even when Angel, through his contacts, told them all the vampire had gotten the man his passport, and all else he'd need would be waiting for him in Africa. He could leave at once; in fact, his flight was now departing in just a few hours.

Being more tactful than usual, Angel had suggested the Scoobies should go out someplace, rather than have Xander wait in his hotel room that he'd almost never left, until he took his departure of them all. The Fang Gang had continued their consideration with polite goodbyes as the group headed for Caritas. What really worried them all was Xander's barely acknowledging the efforts of Angel and the rest. He hadn't even called the vampire 'Deadboy' or any other insult. Not once, Dawn sniffled to herself.

Another woman watched someone else stare at Xander. Kennedy, seated next to Willow and holding hands, felt a flash of jealousy as the redhead shot a stricken look at her friend since kindergarten. This resentment was abruptly buried under a massive wave of guilt and shame, as the new Slayer finally faced squarely her own memories of what Xander Harris had done for her. And what it had cost him.

She was now a Slayer. It was time she became an adult.

Taking a deep breath, Kennedy gently took her hand from Willow's, only paying a fraction of her attention to her lover's surprised glance as the brunette stood up, and walked over to Xander. Sitting down in the empty chair beside him, Kennedy gave the man a cautious look.

Xander continued staring unseeingly ahead, not reacting the slightest to the presence of someone he ordinarily disliked. He didn't respond at all to what Kennedy did next, either.

Leaning over to put her lips directly against his left ear, the Slayer softly whispered, "I never said 'Thanks', right?"

There wasn't the slightest flicker of acknowledgement on Xander's face to this. Until, something now happened that changed this, to bring emotion again to the man's features. A look of actual shock now appeared, as Xander felt Kennedy's fingers on his face, gently touching his cheek, and then moving to conduct what some might have called an ultimate offense.

Using the utmost care, Kennedy gripped Xander's eyepatch, both the flap and the strap, and lifted it up to leave it on his forehead, revealing the horrific crater and the wound that had barely healed. She could see all this quite easily, as Xander had now twisted his head, to incredulously stare at Kennedy out of his remaining eye, with true fury beginning to rise.

Until Kennedy again leaned forward, and kissed the top of Xander's left eye socket, above the hole in his face.

Pulling back, the Slayer's face was calm, as she tenderly replaced his eye patch over his injury. A faint smile now appeared on her face at Xander's gaping astonishment, which pretty much made up for it all, as she whispered again right into his startled features.


Kennedy now got up out of the chair, and still keeping her faint smile, she left to pass by the others now struck dumb with amazement, to take her place again by Willow. The witch, who now had tears in her eyes, fiercely gripped her lover's hands, and mouthed, "I love you."

There was absolute silence in the room of the bar, until the new Slayer on the stage, unsure of what else to do, started again her rendition of 'Don't Cry For Me, Argentina', stuttering the first few words until she smoothly continued, and bringing most of the attention of the others back to her.

Xander wasn't one of these. The man was again staring straight ahead, only this time there was an actual expression on his face. It was wonder.

Deep in the soul of the Sunnydale survivor, the frozen landscape of his emotions and feelings created by total loss and dark bitterness was seemingly unchanged. Yet, on the contrary, in this bleakness, there now appeared a light. A spark, that was joined by another spark. Then another. And another, and more and more, until there were no more sparks but instead a flame, that grew and grew to an immense blaze, melting and cracking what had coldly covered the inner core of Alexander LaVelle Harris.

Lorne had been absently listening to the girl singing on the stage and noting that she should avoid driving on a Tuesday two months from now. Why, he didn't know, but the demon was sure there was some reason for it, and she'd better stay inside on that day. Abruptly losing his train of thought, Lorne blinked in shock, and snapped his head over to look at where Xander Harris had now gotten out of his seat and walked towards the stage.

Stepping onto this theater area, Xander held out his hand for the microphone in the hand of the young Slayer now staring at him in shock. Among the reasons for her reaction was the faint smile now on the face of the tall man, which nobody had seen on Xander's features since….since.…forever. Hastily, the girl handed over the microphone and scampered off the stage, as Xander turned around to look at everyone there gazing at him in utter surprise.

Bringing the microphone to his face, Xander took a deep breath. There was only one song for this, what he'd learned as a toddler when he and Jesse had together taken their afternoon naps and his best friend's mother had sung to them both. Xander had tucked away probably his deepest memory, of care and tenderness that he desperately wanted and craved, and somehow managed to create and nurture despite all that Sunnydale had done to him. A song for all those in the bar and all those who were gone, who'd shared his life and love.

He didn't have a professional voice, only a pleasant one, but he managed to stay on key, as Xander softly sang,

"Sleep, my child, and peace attend you

All through the night.

Guardian angels, God will send you

All through the night.

Soft, the drowsy hours are creeping.

Hill and vale are slumber sleeping.

I my loved ones' watch am keeping.

All through the night."

As Xander began the second verse, he closed his eye, as tears began trickling from it, a final gesture for them all who had left them, and he began to rock on his feet in time to the gentle rhythms of the song.

"While the moon her watch is keeping

All through the night.

While the weary world is sleeping

All through the night.

O'er your spirit gently stealing,

Visions of delight revealing,

Breathes a pure and holy feeling

All through the night."

Behind the bar counter, Lorne was shuddering in total rapture that he'd never had before, unknowingly crying, as he felt the soul of a man who would storm the gates of hell for love of others, without considering the cost to himself, and would never think this bargain to be anything odd or strange.

"Angels watching e'er around you

All through the night.

Midnight slumber close surround you

All through the night.

Soft, the drowsy hours are creeping.

Hill and vale are slumber sleeping.

I my loved ones' watch am keeping.

All through the night."

As Xander finished, he opened his eye, and holding the microphone, he uncertainly looked around while wiping his face with his other hand.

The entire audience was also doing this, ending the evidence of their tears.

Seeing this, Xander slowly smiled. Totally ignoring the pain caused by this, as muscles shifted inside his facial wound as they hadn't since the loss of his eye, the man produced an absolute, one hundred percent, authentic Xander-goof grin.

Still keeping on his face a remainder of good times that had been and would be, Xander stepped off the stage, put down the microphone on a table where baby Slayers were staring in shock at him, and walked over to the other table where Buffy, Faith, Willow, Kennedy, and Dawn were also showing the same expressions as they watched him come.

Stopping in front of the table, Xander leaned over, and as Buffy sat unmoving in dread, she felt a soft kiss on her forehead. The blonde Slayer dazedly turned her head, as Xander continued down the table, bestowing his love on them all: the brunette with rare tears in her eyes, his yellow-crayon friend, a once-disliked girl who'd given his soul back to him, and a magical female who now felt totally human.

Finishing up at the end of the table, Xander smiled at them all, and then flashed his grin around the entire room. He then turned, walking to the front door and leaving, as the Caritas entrance quietly closed after him, on his way to Africa.


Every head of the five women whipped around from staring after Xander, as they now saw Lorne standing in front of their table after depositing a filled drinks tray on this piece of furniture. With quick, professional movements, the green demon handed out Sea Breezes to all there, including Dawn. Buffy didn't oppose this at all; instead, the original Slayer gulped down her drink, as did the others, though her sister was a bit slower in this.

To the mild surprise of the occupants of the table, Lorne didn't leave right away after his welcome delivery. Rather, the demon eyed some minuscule dust mote on the table, snatched up his bar towel, and leaned forward to flick off this invisible debris, his attention seemingly concentrated on this, as Lorne quietly said, "He'll be fine and he'll come back, ladies, to you all. Copper-bottomed, cast-iron guarantee, assurance, pledge from ol' Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan."

At this news, utter joy began to appear on the women's faces, to be interrupted by mild surprise, as Lorne seemingly found another dust mote and again flicked it off as he musingly said, not specifically looking at anyone at the table, "Oh, by the way, the oldest girl, her family nickname, it'll be 'Jath.'"

Buffy asked with total bewilderment in her voice, "Jath?"

"Yup. Comes from Joyce Anya Tara Harris."

At that, Lorne picked up the drinks tray and left, leaving behind himself an entire table of extremely stunned women.

The others' attention at that table were distracted by Dawn suddenly going into a coughing fit as that young women gulped the remains of her drink much too fast. Finally drawing in a breath, Dawn disbelievingly gasped, her eyes open wide in shock, "You mean, you all missed THAT?!"

"What're you talkin' 'bout, Dawnie?" frowned Faith at the red-faced Summers sister groaned and smacked the palm of her hand against her forehead at the others' incomprehension. "Yeah, so he's gonna have a kid…. Well, more'n one, from what Lorne said…."

"Uh-huh. Notice how Lorne didn't say who'd be the mother?"

Buffy, Faith, Willow, and Kennedy stared at Dawn's peculiar smile directed at them all, and then every one of the women there at the table simultaneously twisted around in their seats to look at the bar, where Lorne was now standing behind the counter, polishing a glass and looking off in the distance, a secret smile on his face that perfectly illustrated the showbiz maxim that every true entertainer knows:

"Always leave 'em wanting more."


Author's note: The song is the Welsh "Ar Hyd y Nos" ("All through the Night"). Yes, I know it was in Season 3 of Angel. So? It isn't like it was created for that show, since it's an old folk tune. Some attribute it first being written down by Sir Harold Boulton, also the one to put down the "Skye Boat Song." Oh, by the way, the version Xander sings has the last two lyrics in reverse order from that version in print, but I've always liked his version better, so that's what's here.