Title: A Rogue's Heart – Part 16, Chapter 8

Author: Wicked Raygun

Summary: For Xander Harris, the Hero of Ferelden, sacrifice is only the beginning. He ends the Blight, only to return to the home he no longer has a place in. Xander/Leliana.

Disclaimer: Based on characters created by Joss Whedon, and Bioware. I am merely borrowing them to put on a puppet show. Watch them dance.

Notes: This story is mostly a series of character pieces with sporadic action thrown in for variety. There's no real plan for this. I'll post chapters as they come to me. I'll be referring to events in the "Dragon Age: Origins" video game using Interludes. Chapters will actually continue the story forward.

Spoilers: And how! Events take place in the summer after season 3 of BTVS, moving into season 4. And all the events of "Dragon Age: Origins", possibly including the various DLC are up for grabs. If you aren't familiar with Dragon Age, then lower your head in shame. Go on. Lower it.

Distribution: Ask and you shall receive. Just email me and I'll get back to you quickly using new-fangled technology. See, I get email on my phone now. Surely jet packs and flying cars are just around the corner.

A Rogue's Heart

Part 16, Chapter 8 – Something Resembling Normalcy

It had been a month since Buffy and Willow had started up at UC Sunnydale. And Xander was finding that his life was falling into a good rhythm.

He had been hired at the magic shop, and after a whirlwind week of training had been pretty much left to his own devices. Xander had figured he would just be a sales clerk, instead he was hired as a manager. The owner wanted as little to do with Sunnydale as possible. In fact, he didn't even live there anymore; instead, he commuted from L.A. once a month. All he asked was for the pertinent accounting information to be sent to him via email.

It occurred to Xander that he could essentially rob the place blind, and the owner would have no idea. Not that he would do that type of thing. But still it didn't seem like a good way to run a business. But he soon realized that the owner didn't care about the business, and would be just as happy if the place bankrupted or exploded in a ball of divine irony, as long as he didn't have to come back to Sunnydale. As far as Xander could tell, he apparently spent the majority of his time trying to sell the place. Xander supposed he couldn't blame him.

So there Xander was entering sales data into an Excel spreadsheet with an opened copy of Accounting for Dummies laying next to him. Xander had never been so thankful for the computer classes he had taken back in High School. He didn't remember much, but at least he could add up the numbers in the columns without the machine lighting on fire – something he considered a genuine accomplishment.

The bell on the door jingled, signaling a new customer.

"Welcome to the Magic Box – oh, hey, Buffy. What brings my favorite Slayer to these here parts?"

Buffy stared at the shop as if it could explode at any second. "I still can't believe you work here."

"A job's a job, Buff."

"Not when it comes with a mortality rate."

"And health insurance! You guys always overlook that."

"Yeah, that's only useful if you actually make it to the hospital."

"Details, details," he said, gently pooh-poohing her, admittedly, legitimate concerns. Generally people who worked in the Magic Shop tended to have the life expectancy of fruit flies. But spending a year as a Grey Warden had left him a bit jaded to threats of danger. "So what's up?"

"Anya came looking for you today."

It took a moment for Xander to remember who Buffy was talking about. "Oh, right, Demon Anya. Former Vengeance Demon of Scorned Women – who I took to the Prom. Now that was an awkward night. She spent the whole thing telling me about guys she disemboweled," Xander said with a shiver. "She tell you what she wants?"

"Graphically, yes."

"So what is it?"

Buffy paused awkwardly for a moment. "Uh, to put it in PG terms, she wants to seduce you."

Xander chuckled. "No, seriously, what does she want?"

Buffy stared at him briefly. "She wants to seduce you. Please, don't make me say that again."

Xander opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to say something but having been stunned into silence.

"Yeah, see that, right there – the stunned disbelief. Pretty much my reaction and Willow's."

"Hey, what the hell? I'm seducible," he said, offended.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "That's not what I meant. Please soothe your ego. It's just that you would be the kind of guy who would attract a thousand year old former vengeance demon."

"This is just what I needed," he said sarcastically. "There's really no way I'm up for dating Anya."

Buffy hesitated before speaking. "Yeeeah – about that. Dating – not so much her goal. Her master plan involves sleeping with you so she can get over you."

Xander laughed. "Seriously?"

"Does this sound like a subject I'm comfortable joking about? Anyways, I just thought that you should get a heads up. Speaking of which, I'm supposed to mention that Willow is going to kill you."

"Okaaaay. What the hell did I do?"

"Apparently, not be at your parent's house since last May. So either you're homeless, or you got a new place and haven't told anybody. So which is it?"

Xander winced, and then chuckled nervously. "Uh, promise you won't get mad?"

Buffy crossed her arms. "I make no such promise."

"You see – the thing is – I've been camping a lot?"

Buffy pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration.

"Wait, wait, wait! Here me out! Uh, I've managed to secure some temporary, uh, rent free housing. I snuck into a house with no residents and I sleep on the floor – and, wow, this is sounding way worse when I say it out loud."

"The technical term is 'squatting.' It's what homeless people do."

"I'm sorry."

"Do you even know what you're apologizing for?" When Xander didn't say anything, she continued. "Xander, you went through something extraordinary. And it's changed you. I get that, we all do. And we want to help, but we can't do that if you don't talk to us. You still haven't told us what happened."

"Of course, I have."

"Oh, sure, the Cliff Notes. But don't think we haven't noticed you've been hiding things from us. Not to mention avoiding us."

"Avoiding? I'm not avoiding anyone. And I'm certainly not hiding anything."

Buffy stared at him a long time.

"Who's Leliana?"

Xander stiffened. "How do you know that name?" he asked in a quiet, steely voice.

"You said it in your sleep, when you were passed out on Giles' couch."

Xander's eyes fell to the floor, but his jaw tightened and his fists clenched. How could he have been so careless!

"When you're ready to talk, we'll be here," she said quietly before leaving the Magic Box.

Xander closed up the store that night and began walking aimlessly – an innocent enough way to pass the time in most small towns, but in Sunnydale it was practically an invitation for trouble. Normally he'd be heading back to the Crawford Street Mansion, but after his encounter with Buffy that morning he was feeling overwhelmed. And although he was confident enough in his skills to either survive a fight or safely run away, he managed to still take a few precautions. He remained in the well lit areas of the town, where there were plenty of people.

Despite his earlier anger he wasn't looking for a fight.

Buffy was right. He hadn't really been trying to get back into his life in Sunnydale. Aside from the job, he hadn't really put down any roots here. And he was starting to expect he knew why. He was finally at a place where he could admit it, at least to himself.

He wanted to go back to Ferelden.

He missed Leliana. He missed Alistair, Wynne, Zevran, Ohgren, Shale, Sandal, Scooby – there was even a twisted part of him that missed Sten and Morrigan.

What an indecisive prick he was. When he was in Ferelden all he wanted was to get back to Sunnydale, and now that he was in Sunnydale he wanted to go back to Ferelden.

He needed to stop pitying himself and start building his life back together. He was practically living like a vampire, and that was something he could no longer tolerate.

Four figures moved along stealthily in the park. He caught them at the peripheral of his vision. Xander casually turned his head as if he was stretching his neck. For a brief moment he got a better look. It didn't seem like they were stalking him. And they seemed to be wearing masks of all things. Why would a vampire bother with a mask?

That didn't make any sense.

So that left demons or humans. And he was leaning toward humans since they were carrying weapons. He didn't exactly have a good view, but they looked like guns of some sort, not that he was any kind of expert – even his soldier guy memories were barely more than faded muscle memory by this point.

So were they were demon hunters? If they were, they had to be new to the game. Bullets might take down a few demons – emphasis on "might" – but they were obnoxiously loud, and not really guaranteed to do any real damage in the first place. Lead had no mystical properties they way iron, silver and wood did, except perhaps that it was so thoroughly non-magical. It was the whole reason why turning lead into gold was supposed to be such a big deal magically speaking.

When you fought a demon, you were usually fighting something that wasn't completely on this plane of existence to begin with. So you needed something to "pierce the veil" as it were. Thus the need for iron, silver, or wood. Silver bullets were possible, but too brittle and inaccurate to really be effective at anything other than really close range – which pretty much defeated the purpose of a gun in the first place. They also didn't do jack on vampires, so there was that. Ditto with iron. And the only thing a wood bullet would be good for would be exploding in your face.

And, really, most demons were built too tough for a gun to matter, even if they did any damage. They either healed ridiculously fast, had no concept of pain, or were just too stupid to know they were dead already. Some demons could have their heads removed and they'd still come after you. Hell, even a really determined human could take several shots with small arms fire and still be stubborn enough not to go down. Expecting different results from demons was just insanity.

Axes, swords, knives, stakes, crossbows – these were the real weapons of demon hunters, not because they wanted a cool, edgy, gothic look and got a discount at Hot Topic, but because they were proven to work. While guns, on the other hand, were quite literally the worst thing imaginable to use against vampires and demons. You just couldn't count on them.

All of that was Slaying 101, told to him by Giles himself when he was in High School. So if these guys were demon hunters they were either naïve or just suicidal.

Darkly, Xander wondered what that made him since he was actually following these idiots.

Xander cursed himself for the tenth time that night. His bow was in his car back at the mansion, and all he had with him was his gladius and two stakes. He hadn't even coated them with Killer of the Dead, so he was fighting with a handicap.

But, at least, he was almost positive that the people he was following were humans. They had occasional radio checks. Every now and then one would pull out a walkie-talkie, say something, wait for a response and then continue on. Now demons could be sophisticated, but using military protocol was probably beyond most of them. Or at least Xander hoped so.

They were dressed similarly, but didn't seem to have any identifiable markings as far as he could see. He had just been referring to them as "the commandos" in his head, since he couldn't pick out what branch they were from. Of course, that was assuming they were active duty at all. They could be out of the service, he supposed. Mercenary demon hunters – now there was a lovely idea, he thought with sarcasm.

He couldn't actually overhear what they were saying though, since they were in a cemetery, practically open ground, and he didn't dare get too close. Cemeteries in Sunnydale were always very well lit at night, probably thanks to some city ordinance the late, great Mayor Richard Wilkins, the First, Second and Third came up with before he turned into a snake and got blown up. And while there were shadows he could hide in, he didn't want to risk it if he didn't have too.

After a half hour more of lurking stealthily behind them, the commandos finally stumbled on a vampire who had been feeding. Sadly they were obviously too late for the vampire's victim, since he was just a slump on the ground.

The vampire was full of the typical over-confidence that many of his kind had, and decided to attack the commandos. Xander just barely resisted the urge to go over and help. Instead he moved a little closer, managing to still keep some distance, but be in a position to help if necessary. For some reason the implications of a military-funded demon hunter group made him nervous, so until he was sure these guys either were not a threat nor wildly incompetent, he would hang back.

But the fight was almost over before it began.

The vampire charged, and four bolts of electricity slammed into him. He was dazed, but didn't immediately go down. Another barrage brought him down.

So they weren't guns, so much as revved up tazers. They didn't seem to be too effective though, given how many shoots it took to bring down one vampire. And based on the fact that the vampire didn't burst into dust, they obviously weren't lethal. Against a large group these four would be hard-pressed, if not outright screwed. Still, at least they weren't dumb enough to bring a gun to a stake fight. Also he had to admit to being slightly curious what electricity would do to a demon.

He had moved close enough to overhear one of them say into their walkie-talkie, "This is Delta Leader to Home Base. We got an HST ready for retrieval. Over."

"Rodger that, Delta. Sending Retrieval Team now. Sit tight. Over."

Retrieval Team? They weren't going to kill the vampire? That just did not sit well. These guys were out to capture, not kill. Maybe they wanted to interrogate him for intel on other vamp lairs, but he doubted it.

He also didn't like the idea of more commandos showing up. He was pressing his luck as it was, and he needed to get to Giles.

So he left the commandos behind.

End of Part 16

Author's Note:

See? That didn't take too long, did it?

I have a feeling that my introspection on guns in the Buffyverse is going to go over really well with everybody. ;-)

Please bear in mind, that I generally don't mind guns in fics. What does annoy me is the attitude that the Scoobies are idiots for not using them. I don't want to get off on a rant, here, but more than likely the reason Buffy and Co. don't use guns has to do with either a stylistic choice, or limitations placed on Mutant Enemy by the WB and their time slot. But there could also be legitimate in-universe reasons as well, so I decided to address them.

Yes, Wesley did use pistols later on in Angel: The Series, but, honestly, were they ever really effective? Did they ever serve a purpose other than being a distraction or mild annoyance? Guns in the Buffy-verse generally only serve the purpose of showing how desperate a character is.

Don't believe me? Jonathan, Scruffy Xander, Warren and Riley? All pulled guns on people at one time or another – did it seem like anything other than a desperate act at the time?

Arguably the only one who had any success with guns was Wesley. And again they only really succeeded in making him "look cool." I put that in quotation marks because I always think people look goofy dual-wielding guns. I can kind of accept it in kung fu flicks, since it's treated as more of a stylistic choice and there's usually no pretense of realism. But when they had Wesley do it, in slow-motion no less, I just sort of rolled my eyes.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I might be wrong.

PS: On a side note, Wesley + Flamethrower = Awesome.