It was time.

The final battle was about to begin. In the depths of the earth, the Scooby Gang and their allies faced the First Evil and its army of super-vampires and Bringers.

Hands gripped weapons. Dry lips were licked. Sphincters were tightened.

The leaders steadily gazed at each other, with a blonde California Slayer and a monster from beyond time both awaiting for the right moment. Just as these persons opened their mouths to order battle to commence, an unexpected event came to pass.

A stupendous lightning bolt flashed into Sunnydale High, striking the individual voted in his high-school yearbook as "most likely to die from Twinkie overdose."

Alexander LaVelle Harris, whose first word of his life had been a correction of his first name to "Xander!", disappeared from existence, leaving an empty spot marked by a curl of smoke arising from a scorched mark on the school floor.

Surprise, astonishment, shock and horror appeared on the features of all there awaiting for an attack, as Dawn Summers managed to express what everyone was thinking: "Was that supposed to happen?"

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Xander looked around wildly, his axe ready for action, only to bring it down as he found nobody around to hit for bringing him….where?

He was standing in the middle of a featureless void, with the floor of whatever his feet were resting on being the same grayish-white color that extended on and up into the distance. He had no idea if the horizon was miles away or just a couple of yards since everything was the same shade.

There was nothing besides himself in existence. He was totally cut off from his friends when they needed him the most, unable to help at all, absolutely alone--

"Hey, kiddo."

Xander nearly managed to reach escape velocity with his panicked leap, spinning around in mid-air with his axe pointing directly at the person who had said this, when the Sunnydale native landed back on his boots, standing about ten feet from the guy who'd evidently appeared out of mid-air.

The whole posture of this person, much less the twinkle in his eye, showed total amusement at the sight of an one-eyed young man having a mixture of fear, worry and concern on his face and holding a very sharp cutting weapon in slightly shaking hands.

Xander just stood there, staring at the man gazing patiently back at him, until the former carpenter started feeling a little ridiculous, and lowered his axe to his side. The stranger seemed to approve of this, if his sudden smile was any indication, though he had still said nothing since his first greeting, only intently watching the younger (far younger, the guy looked to be in his eighties, at least) man through the thick square glasses that seemed to magnify piercing eyes in the middle of deep laugh-wrinkles. An outfit of a blue windbreaker, a tartan shirt, khaki pants, and loafers, along with a white ship-captain's hat completed the guy's ensemble.

"Uh, hi?" was the only thing Xander could think of to say at the moment.

"Hello, Xander," beamed the old guy, who seemed to be oddly familiar, though Xander could swear he'd never met the man before.

"You know my name? Uh, not to be impolite or anything, but….do I know you? 'Cause, I was about to fight a guy who could turn into people who'd died, but I don't think I've ever met you before…."

"Oh, you've met me. Everybody has, even who you were talking about." The old guy looked a little sad at that.

At the back of Xander's neck, his hairs started prickling at hearing this. Oh, great, more Sunnydale weirdness. He stared hard at the man, trying to remember. Come to think of it, it was in Sunnydale….I was a kid with Willow, but we didn't meet this guy in person….we were watching television….a movie came on that we both liked, a very funny old guy in it….

Xander's axe suddenly dropped from his nerveless fingers, hitting the ground without a sound.

"George Burns!?"

"Nuh-huh-uh!" cautioned the man, waving an admonishing finger. "What kind of momzer do you think I am, separating him from Gracie? No, son, remember the movie."

There was a roaring in Xander's ears, and he had to force himself to open his mouth, as he tried to keep from passing out.

"You're….God."

"More of a manifestation of God, really," the being shrugged (God shrugs?) and eyed the blank-faced man swaying on his feet. An index finger was suddenly pointed at Xander, who stiffened as energy seemingly poured into him, blasting away the descending darkness that had been overwhelming his mind.

"Can't have you fainting on me, son," kindly said the Supreme Being. "Look," He offered, "if it makes you feel better, I can turn into Morgan Freeman or Alanis Morissette, if you want." This came with an inquiring eyebrow, as the Lord waited for Xander to decide.

The man blinked at the courtesy, and said the first thing that came to mind, "She was really hot in the mov--urk!" Xander shut his mouth so hard he almost chipped his teeth, staring with horror at the chuckling being before him.

"Relax, son. I know exactly what you felt while watching Dogma, including your intense concentration during Salma Hayek's dancing in the strip joint. But more importantly, you understood that movies' showing the striving for salvation and redemption." God looked pensive, and then His mood changed to something lighter. "Besides, even Metatron finally accepted being played by Alan Rickman."

In a very quiet voice, Xander said, "Oh."

"Mmm." A faint smile appeared on the Lord's face and he came forward, gesturing at Xander while continuing his stroll, "Walk with me, son."

Xander could do nothing else, as he fell in step with the being at his side, both of them moving forward through the void.

"You're here for a purpose, Alexander," spoke the Lord, as the man sensibly kept his mouth shut. A sudden thought went through the mind of the Sunnydale native, as he wondered if he was just being called by his true first name, or if a hint was being given over what that name meant---

"Yep."

Xander stopped short, as God continued onward another few steps and then halted, turning around to gaze keenly at the young man, while the Supreme Being continued regarding what had been in the mortal's mind.

"It's time for the Protector of Man to do his work. You were brought here for a specific purpose, son. You're going to receive an object of power from Me, and take it back to the world, to use it as you see fit."

A gaping Xander stared at the Lord. "ME!? I….I'm just a kid, a guy, totally normal, human, not brave or a superhero like Buffy---"

"Hey! Who's God here, boychick? You or me?" The faintly irritated look given to Xander by the creator of the universe managed to end the babble of the stunned man. A firm nod was given to acknowledge the silence, as God went on, "I know everything about you, son. All of it, the bad and the good parts. It's what I do."

Despite himself, Xander found himself opening his mouth again to ask, "But what about--," only to stop at seeing all the compassion and sadness that ever existed in the eyes of the being before him.

"Free will exists. That is the only explanation and excuse I can give you, my son."

A humble Xander stood there, until he finally accepted the word of God with a slow nod.

Still, he wouldn't have been the person he was without another question, "Uh, about the whole thing with the Balance and the Powers That Be---"

"THOSE SCHMUCKS!"

Xander found himself on his knees, both hands desperately clasped over his ears, as the outrage of the Almighty rang to the furthest corners of the cosmos.

A hand was held before his eyes and Xander unthinkingly gripped it to be lifted up to his feet. I just got a hand from God, he disbelievingly thought as he looked at the scowling deity, whose face calmed as he looked at the worried mortal before him.

"Sorry, son, I get a little Old Testament thinking about those guys. I entrusted them with the duties of looking after your home, and just a few millennia later, when I next check on them, they're running around making things worse! They were supposed to help, not arrange things for their own benefit! However, I think you'll enjoy this…." At that, the Supreme Being waved a hand, and a scene shimmered into existence before the pair.

Xander stared with disbelief, and then he started chuckling, which turned to deep laughter, and finally actual howls of merriment, finally collapsing to the floor and twitching with mirth as his breath gave out. A smirking George Burns manifestation snapped his fingers and disappeared the picture of a very miserable Whistler, covered in sweat and dust, wearing a Texas Highway Services overall with reflective stripes dazzling bright in 120-degree heat as he walked down a roadway in the most desolate part of that state, scraping up armadillo road-kill.

"And that fella's the lucky one, since he was the lowest guy on the totem pole," snorted God.

"Do I get to see what happened to the others, his bosses, the ones who really screwed us over?" gasped Xander on the floor.

God bestowed a majestic gaze on the faintly giggling mortal. "If you're very, very good."

"Yes, sir!" barked Xander, springing to his feet, standing at attention, bringing his flattened hands together up to his chest in a prayerful attitude, and putting the most devout expression on his face that he could manage.

Rolling His eyes, the Lord put an arm around His impudent child's shoulders and gave him a hug. "Humor is mankind's greatest gift. Just don't push it."

"Yessir," said a more subdued Xander. He watched with interest as the being in front of him turned to the side and pointed his finger at thin air, only mildly surprised by a portal suddenly appearing. The rectangular doorway-sized hole in existence was pure black, preventing him from seeing what, if anything, was inside it. Xander looked at the Supreme Being and found himself under the intent and spectacled gaze of the Creator, who spoke in a sober tone.

"Into that, you must go, and once there, you must make a choice. There are three objects which will be presented to you, and you must select one of these, to aid your friends and all those who dwell on your home. I cannot give you any advice on which to choose. Free will applies, as it has during all your life, and now you have one of the rarest powers in the universe: to make your own decisions."

A submissive Xander deferentially bowed to the Almighty and walked steadily to the portal, not pausing when in front of it, but entering at once without fear. If you couldn't trust the Lord, who could you trust?

He found himself in a small chamber, standing in front of a vertical beam of light that seemed to come from nowhere. His eyes were attracted to the sudden shimmer in the middle of the light, as the first object appeared.

God created all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.

There was no way that sentence could be blasphemous, not here and now. Xander Harris stared at the weapon floating in the air, the famous Colt .45 pistol of the last half of the 19th century, shown with a glittering metal frame and dazzling bone grips. It was right from every single movie, television program, novel, story and comic book of the American West, and Xander knew, in his innermost being, that this particular weapon possessed the entire power of that media. He swayed forward, and heard, he heard:

None will ever outdraw me, I will never miss whatever the target or its distance, what I hit will fall though it be man or other, I will never run empty, I will keep the peace.

Xander blinked, and lifted a hand to wipe away drool from the corner of his mouth, as he saw the gun shimmer back into non-existence. He continued to stare at where the weapon had been, until his patience was rewarded with another flicker of light.

Metal again gleamed in the light, but with a more painful edge. Which was only natural, as the new weapon was the absolute and utmost of edge. Of sharpness, keenness, of all that ever existed of bladed weapons.

A short sword floated vertically in the beam of light, a yard of glistening bright steel ending in a simple cross-hilt that Xander knew would fit perfectly in his grip. This time, he was unsurprised at receiving in his mind a message:

I guard, I protect, I defend, all of man's real and mythic blades am I from Tizona and James Bowies' Alamo knife to Excalibur and Sting, I stand with you against any and all foes, and in the end, I am the sure cure for all ills.

Xander had an actual pang of longing in his heart as the sword disappeared. What could top that?, thought the human, waiting for whatever would come next.

Whatever he imagined, it wasn't that, as Xander gaped at the third and last object.

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Back in the high school in Sunnydale, the last word of Dawn's disbelieving question reached the ears of the furthest Potential, while all of those there unknowingly lived in slowed time. If it worked for Joshua, it didn't need to be fixed.

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Xander Harris cautiously stuck his head out of the portal and gawked at what he was seeing. To be fair, it's not every day you can watch the Creator performing a soft-shoe while singing a 1920's Tin Pan Alley ditty.

"They call her Hard Hearted Hannah,
The vamp of Savannah,
The meanest gal in town;
Leather is tough, but Hannah's heart is tougher,
She's a gal who loves to see men suffer!
To tease 'em, and thrill 'em, to torture and kill 'em,
Is her delight, they say,
I saw her at the seashore with a great big pan,
There was Hannah pouring water on a drowning man!
She's Hard Hearted Hannah, the vamp of Savannah, GA!"

Xander looked down to see his foot tapping along. Well, it was catchy. He looked up to see that he'd now caught the attention of the Supreme Being, who did some fancy footwork to glide towards the human, all while singing, with a big smile on the face of the Lord.

"They call her Hard Hearted Hannah,
The vamp of Savannah,
The meanest gal in town;
Talk of your cold, refrigeratin' mamas,
Brother, she's a polar bear's pajamas!
To tease 'em, and thrill 'em, to torture and kill 'em,
Is her delight, they say,
An evening spent with Hannah sittin' on your knees,
Is like travelin' through Alaska in your BVDs."

It was time for the big finish.

"She's Hard Hearted Hannah, the vamp of Savannah, GA!"

Start the last line, spin once around, arms extended, freeze with right arm pointed directly at audience, deliver last note clearly, snap head forward for hat to tumble down atop of right arm, grab hat, flourish, pose, and smile.

Xander applauded enthusiastically. It seemed the thing to do.

George Burns, aka God, the Big Guy, Jehovah, Yahweh, Almighty Father, etc., beamed and replaced his hat to his head, declaiming, "Thank you all! You've been a wonderful audience! I'll be here tomorrow night and the night after that! See you, everybody!"

Pushing back his hat a bit, the Lord became a little more calmer and eyed Xander. "I see you haven't made your choice. Well, that's a choice too, so---"

"NO! No, no, no! I…I just wanted to ask something. Sir."

The Supreme Being waggled a warning finger, the twinkle in his eye offsetting the stern tone. "As you remember, I mentioned I couldn't give any advice. It's up to you to decide what you want."

"Yessir. Understood, sir. But, um, there isn't any possible chance that, well, however it could have happened, something might have, I don't know, maybe gone….wrong?" Xander squeaked out the last word.

An eyebrow came down. The Lord truly knew how to work them, Xander reflected, as rumbles of thunder resounded in the distance.

"Right! I'll be getting back to it! Just takin' a break, which is over!" Xander promptly vanished back into the portal, missing a creator's comment.

"Humans. Not my best work and not my worst, either. But they're certainly my most unique."

In the portal, after much thought, a decision was made.