It was time to go out in a blaze of glory.
Inside the building where they'd taken shelter when things had gone really wrong, and standing side-by-side in front of the closed front door that they were just about to dash through in their suicidal rush to the street outside, the two men made a final check of their weapons, not bothering to trade one last glance or comment with each other. Anything that needed to be said between themselves had been spoken a few moments earlier. Now, as the pair held their guns ready, they both took a deep breath-
Behind them, an utterly unexpected voice asked, "Hey, fellas, could I interest you in another option?"
Xander Harris was frankly impressed. He'd seen vampires react more slowly than those two guys who were actual blurs as they spun around and pointed their guns at him further back in the room, peacefully holding up his empty hands. Not to mention that those people, during probably the most stressful moment of their entire lives, had refrained from blowing his head off right away. Now, those were first-rate reflexes, even if it wouldn't have worked anyway, considering that Willow's strongest magical wards had been previously placed upon him, making the one-eyed man effectively invulnerable to anything less than a battleship shell.
On the other hand, Xander reflected, as he watched two sets of trigger fingers turn white as they tightened, that'd have really helped persuade the other men that it might be a good idea to listen to what their intruder had to say, what with seeing something absolutely impossible like their bullets harmlessly bouncing off him. Unfortunately, it looked like he'd have to go through the whole tiresome explanations thing again-
The guy on Xander's left roared, "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?", overlapping the one on the right, who delivered his own version of, "WHERE'D YOU COME FROM?", at the same time and at an equal volume.
Oh, good. That last one was his cue.
Xander lifted up his right hand to hold it cupped before his face, waiting a necessary moment to allow the other guys to pay attention to this, until he then softly blew upon his palm. As Willow had promised, this instantly created a glowing blue globe the size of a baseball floating a few inches above Xander's hand. Smirking at the slack-jawed men standing across from himself, the New Council recruiter now grandly announced, "Guys, the answer to all your questions is this: Magic."
A few minutes later, nobody was paying any attention to the increasing number of bullets being fired into their building, indicating that people outside were becoming impatient. Even the two older men at the table they were now sitting around had stopped ducking whenever ricochets screamingly rebounded off his personal wards that Xander had courteously expanded to cover the entire group. After all, as a grinning Scooby Gang member watched his company, those guys had a lot more to think about than the very familiar experience of being under gunfire. So, who'd be the first to speak up? Musing over this, Xander's single eye shifted at the sound of someone's throat being cleared, as he interestedly regarded the man on his left opening their mouth.
That guy with the blond hair and the mustache then hesitantly asked, "You're really sure we're nothing but made-up people from one of those newfangled flickers in a nickelodeon?"
"We call 'em movies now," answered Xander kindly. "But if it helps any, you're based on actual persons. From what I've learned, they were pretty nice guys, too."
The bright blue eyes of the clean-shaven man across the table from Xander suddenly gleamed, as this individual sardonically drawled, "Things musta changed a lot back in your world, what with folks like us bein' called nice. I mean, we're regular desperadoes, robbin' and rustlin' and doin' whatever we please! Knowin' all that, you still want us to come with you and look after a bunch of young girls who could win a wrasslin' match with a grizzly? Lemme tell you a secret, friend, in case you haven't noticed from all the lead comin' our way, that we ain't much liked here, with good reason! Because for mosta our lives, we sure as hell ain't acted like Sunday school teachers!"
Xander replied seriously, "How well do you think Sunday school teachers would've done against some of the things I've told you about? Look, I've been at this long enough to learn there's an actual difference between men doing bad things and bad men doing bad things. During all your law-breaking, you've made sure that nobody got hurt and otherwise treated people decently. I'm not asking you to turn into choirboys; just be yourselves: guys who are absolutely loyal to those who deserve it, who'll fight for those put in their care, and who can find the fun in anything. For instance, just for a lark, you two once stole a whole cattle herd and drove it through South American jungles and mountains without losing a single head, and then you gave them all away!"
The blond man had been ignoring the others talking while he concentrated upon something far more important to himself. Now speaking up after Xander had finished his heartfelt discourse, this person again asked, a bit more plaintively than last time, "Those real-life guys we're supposed to be, do you know what happened to 'em?" Nodding his head towards the front of their building, which was now being regularly pocked with bullet holes by an exasperated army, this man clarified, "Out there, I mean."
After a few awkward moments of quiet as he hastily gathered his thoughts, Xander sheepishly responded, "Uh, in my world, what happened back then here isn't exactly clear, but there's enough convincing evidence to suggest that, um, you…got killed. And, him," (it was Xander's turn to nod towards the other surprised man), "he somehow managed to both survive and escape, living years afterwards and even visiting relatives."
Out past the magical wards, there was the rattle of gunfire and the shouts of men nerving themselves up for an attack, but at the table, there was only a frigid silence for what seemed to be an eternity, accompanied by a truly baleful glower sent by the blond man towards his friend. Finally, the recipient of this evil look protested at length, "Hey, quit starin' at me like that! You can't blame me for what happened - what's gonna happen - aw, the hell with it! I'm tellin' ya, from what it sounds to me, it coulda as easily come about that I was the one who got killed! So, just calm down-"
"I AIN'T GONNA CALM DOWN!" yelled the blond man. Breathing deeply after his outburst, he now growled at his startled partner while jabbing a pointing index finger at this man, "All your big plans got us into this fix! Well, startin' here and now, you're gonna do what I say over two things, no matter what! First, we're gonna go with this Xander fella to his home, joinin' that New Council gang and learnin' to fight those nasty critters with them strong girls. Then," (that word was hissed through his teeth while sparks of sheer fury were seen through his slit eyes, as the angry man finished), "we're gonna go to…AUSTRALIA!"
Again, there was utter silence among the trio at the table, only to be broken by a hoarse whisper sent from the corner of his mouth by the blond man as he locked gazes with his friend, "Say, Xander, you do got that Australia place there at your home?"
A very dumbfounded Xander managed to reply, "Oh, yeah. Nice country, you'll like it. The other Slayers and Watchers there, they'll welcome you with open arms."
"Good," a very satisfied man spoke as he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest, jaw expectantly jutting out as he beadily eyed his friend across the table.
Throwing up his hands in exasperation, the clean-shaven man grouchily agreed, "Okay, okay! We'll do things your way, Harry!"
Wanting to make sure it was absolutely clear between themselves, Harry snapped out, "We join the New Council, Bob?"
"Yes!" was the grumpy confirmation from the blue-eyed man.
Bob rubbed the palm of his hand across his face once in sheer exasperation, as he groused, "What, you want me to tattoo that name on my forehead? Yes, we'll go there!"
Harry nodded once to himself in absolute contentment, as he now mildly regarded his cranky friend. That annoyed man stared back at his partner, until with a resigned shrug of his shoulders, Bob let his bad mood slip away and allowed himself a faint half-grin at Harry, who anticipated exactly that, as he grinned back. Then, as one, both of the older men turned their heads and expectantly studied Xander blinking at them both.
"Oh. Okay," managed Xander, who next glanced at the front of their building, which was about to collapse from all the numerous bullet holes presently blemishing it. The New Council member also felt the earth shake under his boots, as an armed mob began their rapid charge towards where their gringo enemies were hiding. All this made Xander hastily grab the dimensional charm hanging from the end of the necklace under his shirt, sending his own wide grin towards the waiting other men, as the one-eyed traveler between realities squeezed the charm several times between his fingers, indicating he'd successfully accomplished his mission, and it was now well past time to be brought back home, along with his companions.
As all three men then abruptly vanished into thin air from around their table, a very pleased last thought ran through Xander Harris' mind in 1908 Bolivia: life was surely now going to get a lot more fun at the Cleveland Slayers House. Guaranteed. After all, you couldn't expect anything less, not with the New Council's latest recruitment for this demon-fighting organization of such entertaining people as Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Longabaugh, alias Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.