My mouth moved to say more, but my tongue seemed to trip over my teeth and the words stumbled into oblivion. I opened it once more to try again and all that came out was...


Damn it.


"Are you sure you're all right Xander?" Willow asked.

"Yeah," Oz threw in. "You don't look so good. I'm thinking the hospital is a pretty good option."

Are you all right? Are you sure? Were you the one involved in the accident? Is everything blurry?

All the questions weren't helping me. Wait, what?

I looked up to the shoulder length brunette locks of the paramedic staring down at me. Funny, I didn't hear or see the ambulance pull up. I think I nodded at her question because she gently pulled on my arm to help me up and led me over to the ambulance. She told Buffy, Willow, and Oz to wait on the bench and that I'd been done in a few minutes. She sat me down on the back and started checking my pulse and vital signs. I didn't like it when she shined that little pen light into my eyes.

"Any dizziness?" She asked. "Disorientation? Pains in your chest or back? Any difficulty breathing?"

No to all of the above. I swear I'm fine. Nothing can hurt me anymore. Well, physically anyway. That blood pressure thing (I never learned the name of those) won't do anything. That stethoscope won't show you anything. Sitting here and barely paying attention to my examination wasn't doing anything. Vaguely looking at my friends concern wasn't doing anything. Hell, even telling them everything wasn't going to make the facts go away. I was a lost cause. Nothing and no one could help me. Before I could help it I was off and running again.


I know.

I'm a fucking coward.

Didn't I say that before?


I don't know how long I ran. The city streets flew by me in a blur of concrete and stucco. Nothing but garbled shapes and sounds whizzing past as I moved. One true benefit of lengthy physical exertion is that your mind can't think. It can only focus on ways to keep your body moving. Now I know joggers say they use their time running to think and plan and whatever, but they run at a slow and steady pace, so thinking is possible with them. Me? I was running at full blast. My mind didn't focus on anything in particular. Well, nothing of importance anyway. I was just going at a lung burning, muscle aching, gasping for breath run. It was too focused on my body to process any of my emotions. And that was such a good thing let me tell you.


Because I think too damn much.



I think people talked about what happened that day for years afterward. The unexplained thunderclaps in the middle of August on a bright and sunny day, and the amount of damage they inflicted on a small section of the woods. How trees and rocks were blown into thousands of scattered pieces and charred black. The Fire Department tried to say it was a brushfire, but no one really accepted that scenario. It didn't explain the blown up debris and the burn marks were too random to be a fire. Others said it was a bunch of punk kids armed with M-80's just having some fun. That theory went over a little better with the public, it made more sense, but some said the sound was too loud and the destruction too extensive to be caused by fireworks. Whatever explanation people tried to reassure themselves with was fine by me. I'm just lucky no one decided go for a hike that day.


Another tree exploded in a blast of bark and woodchips, smoke rising up from the remains.


Another rock blasted into a rain of pebbles sprinkling across the landscape.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

It's amazing how much damage can be caused when one has the means to manifest his gigantic build of frustration and self loathing into a concentrated beam of energy. I think my father would have been proud of me in those minutes, because in that short amount of time I wanted to destroy everyone and everything around me. I wanted it all to end. I didn't care how.


Another blast of crimson light and another shower of wooden debris.

Everytime I used my power and took aim I saw my father's face. Every other time I saw my own. It just made the explosions bigger. Because I hated the both of us. 'Coward' echoed in my brain on a continuous loops. It only fueled the fire, but deep down I knew blowing up the world wasn't going to make the description any less true. Still, in those moments I sure felt like trying. I'm not sure how long I was there playing demolition man. It wasn't the kind of activity you kept time for. All I know is that after blasting for what felt like forever, I just collapsed to my knees and couldn't seem to catch my breath. My hands were smoldering against the dry grass on the ground and I lifted them to how red and raw they'd turned. You would have thought I stuck them in the oven for ten minutes.

I was exhausted.

I didn't know that using that much power could drain me so much. I didn't even have the energy to turn around when I heard her. I should have known she would have followed me. She was the only one who could have kept up. She walked toward me cautiously, like any moment I would have snapped my head around and zapped her to dust too. I couldn't really blame her for thinking that. Could you?

"So this what you've been hiding," she said so quietly it was more to herself than to me.

The tone of her voice was too calm. Wasn't she shocked? Wasn't she afraid? How would you react if you saw one of your friends blowing things up with his bare hands? Don't you think that would be a little weird? Wouldn't you at least have some kind of fucking twinge in your voice? She reminded me of my father and his irritating sense of calm. She was supposed to be surprised. She was supposed to be outraged that I'd been lying to her and everyone for all this time. I wanted a stronger reaction. Hell I *needed* a stronger reaction. Instead she only stood there and I could only grunt in response, my body too weary for words.

She didn't move any closer to me, keeping a safe distance a few feet behind. I don't know what she could have been thinking, but more importantly, I didn't want to know. If she just wanted to stand there and take in all that I'd done it was fine by me. But she didn't. It only took a few minutes for the questions to begin.

"How did this happen?" She asked in that same 'walking on eggshells' tone. As if the slightest stir would get me going again.

"You saw how."

"No, I mean how did it happen? You couldn't do these things before."

"It didn't just happen," I mumbled. "I've always been like this."

I could hear the tiny gasp escape her throat and the sound of her eyes blinking rapidly.

"And you never said anything?"

"I never knew," I said. "Believe me I didn't. Otherwise I would have been a lot more helpful in the fight from day one don't you think?"


"I didn't know Buffy. Honest. God I wish I still didn't know..."

I hoped she could hear the self-disgust in my voice. Something, anything to get her to react in some way besides asking these questions.

But, she just let what I said sink in for a bit. I had to fight the urge to close my eyes. God I was tired. Still, this was not the time or place to take a nap. I felt her move closer. Like the mouse moving closer to the cheese, hesitant, unsure if the trap would spring. She didn't know I was too weak to hurt her. I was a little miffed she was acting like I'd hurt her at all. But I guess that everyone is afraid of what they don't know on some level. Finally she sat down next to me, still keeping a respectful distance mind you, and didn't say anything for awhile though I could feel the questions radiating off of her.

"So what are..." She began.

"Demon," I interrupted. "That's what I am. That's why I can blow things up. That's why I wasn't hurt. I'm the scourge of humanity Buffy. A disgusting monster whose sole purpose is to destroy the world."

I shook my head in disgust. It felt so weird saying it out loud.

"I'm a goddamn demon."

I don't think I'd ever seen her eyes so wide. She opened her mouth to respond but nothing came out and she sat there with it hanging open. At last, something to show me that yes, this was a big surprise to her.

"Trying to catch flies?" I asked.

I felt her relax a little. All it took was a lame joke to assure her that I was still the same old Xander.

"You're not disgusting," she said.

Another grunt from me. Too calm. Too goddamn calm.

"How did you find out?"

"My father."

"Is he..? I mean is he one..."


"What about your mom?"


"Oh. Is that why she left?"


"That must have been hard," she sympathized.

"I'm dealing," I replied.

"Were you kidding about destroying the world?"

"Kind of."

"What do you mean kind of?"

"Well, my father wants to. It's like this whole big agenda with him. 'Destroy the human race and place Earth back into the olden days of death and demon rule.' He wants me to help. Says it's my destiny."

"You're not serious," she said flatly.

Yes, that's right I'm lying. Witness me lie.

"Afraid so."

"What kind of demon are you then?"

"Tribe of the Fallen."

"Never heard of them."

"Giles probably has."

"How do you know that?"

"Dad says we're a pretty big deal in the demon world. One of the ancients. Hence all the nifty powers."

"You're really not kidding."

I waved my hand around us. "I told you I wasn't."

"That pile of ashes in the alley, those demons in the woods that night... That *was* you. You did that to them..."

"I did."

"But why? Who were they?"

"They were all tribesmen. Fellow demons. They were trying to kill me."

"Why did they want to kill you?"

"Because they hate their king and his little half-breed son. My dad left them for seventeen years Buffy. They weren't exactly pleased when he came back to rule over them like nothing had changed."

"You're the prince the man who attacked Willow was talking about."

Damn, now she gets perceptive.

"I am."

"And you still didn't say anything?" She didn't seem too happy that I'd let that one opportunity pass me by.

"I couldn't."


"More than you realize."

She let it drop. No use crying over spilt milk. Huh, you know I never really understood that saying. Oh well, I guess it doesn't matter.

"What did you mean by half-breed?" She asked.

"I said my mom wasn't a demon. The makes me only a half-breed."

"Well, that doesn't sound as bad," she offered.

"It doesn't make it any better," I replied.

I do have to admit that the whole conversation was running more smoothly than I thought it would. And I was surprised she was being so accepting of it so quickly. But, it wasn't exactly what I wanted. I never get what I want. Of course when you think about it I shouldn't have been so surprised. We did live on the mouth of hell after all. It wasn't the weirdest thing we'd ever have to deal with. Me turning out to be a monster? Small potatoes. She sat quietly next to me surveying the damage I'd done. Just staring and everything, looking back to me every few seconds, like she had to reassure herself that yes I was the one who'd done it and yes, she'd seen me do it. It felt like hours before she spoke again.

"You could have told us before," she said. "We could have dealt with it together. Everyone would have helped you, you know."

"I couldn't tell anyone," I muttered.

"You know you could have," she insisted.

No, no I don't think so.

"I was afraid."

"Of us?"

"Of me, of everything. Listen Buff, I know you would have been the most understanding person if I'd said something before. You know better than anyone else how life as we know it can change in an instant. That all it took was for someone to come along and tell you that you were different. My whole life I was normal. There was nothing special about me and I was fine with that. But this..." I said waving my hands around once more. "I'm a demon Buffy. A *demon.* You know, the kind of thing we go around killing all the time? I was, well I still am, disgusted with myself. I'm unnatural Buffy. I shouldn't exist. I couldn't tell you because... Hell, I couldn't even say it out loud."

"I understand," she said softly. "But not all demons are bad..."

"Trust me. I'm a bad one."

"How can you be so sure?"

"You know what I was supposed to be doing while my father was still away?" I challenged her. "I was supposed to be reporting to him everything you did. All the things you slayed, how you fought them, how you killed them. He called every week to check in."


That *had* to have gotten something from her. Wouldn't you at least gasp if someone told you they had to spy on you? I don't know what made me start saying all of this to her. She didn't really need to know that particular detail, but I guess I couldn't hold it in any longer after all the silence.

"Why?" She asked. "So he could kill me?"

I looked at her sadly. "So *I* could kill you."


That did it.

She looked away after that and I thought the conversation was over. That we'd part our separate ways, and she'd tell the others and the plan to destroy me would be formed. But she didn't move. After another long pause she said.

"But you didn't."

I couldn't say anything in return.

"Did you want to?"

"Buffy," I said genuinely hurt. I was appalled that she'd even considered the slightest possibility that I'd ever even think of killing her. "I... You actually though I could..."

She leaned closer to me. When did she get so close?

"Why not?" She asked.

"You know why not."

Then she was kissing me. We hadn't kissed since that one night. You never really notice how much you miss something until you get it back. To feel her lips on mine resulted in the original calming affect I'd felt the first time. But it was different, it meant so much more to me. She knew what I was. She knew what I was capable of. She knew who my father was and what I was destined to do. Yet here she was, kissing me regardless of it all. I broke it off and rested my head against her shoulder. I didn't want her to see me crying again but some things you just can't help. After the most emotionally gut wrenching turbulent summer of my life, it felt so good to have it all out in the open. The need to hide, to stay silent, to run away all faded into the background.

I felt free.

"It doesn't matter if you're a demon, or half-demon or whatever," she said rubbing my back gently. "You're not evil Xander. You could never hurt anyone or me, I know that."

I nodded into her shoulder and held on tighter.

"You are taking this in stride way too much." I said.

"Would you prefer it if I ran away screaming 'my friend's a demon?'"

"At least it would show you're somewhat weirded out over this whole thing."

"I am."

"You have a funny way of showing it."

"I didn't think that's what you needed from me." She said.

Yes it was, but I guess I didn't think of it from her perspective.

"I guess."

"Trust me Xand, on the inside I'm freaking. It's a freak-a-thon."

I laughed lightly, the sound of it seemed to come from somewhere else.

"I... I can't stay home anymore." I said. "Not after all of this. I can't be what my father wants me to be Buffy. I don't want to hurt anyone."

"I know you don't," she replied.

"I have to go back to my house for some stuff."

"Okay." She said. "What are you going to do about your father?"

Now that was something I'd been thinking of since the second he walked back through our front door. I'd just never had the guts to do anything. I couldn't hurt my father that I was sure of. I sure as hell wasn't going to try either. No, my plan consisted of something I'd gotten pretty good at this summer.

I was going to run.