BY DANIELLE FRANCES DUCREST
Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, Twentieth Century Fox Productions, and UPN. Highlander
belongs to Gaumont Television, Rysher Entertainment, and Davis/Panzer Productions. No copyright infringement was intended. This story was written for entertainment and no money was exchanged.
Spoilers and Timing: In Buffy
, this takes place after "Earshot" with spoilers for "Lover's Walk" and "Bad Girls." In Highlander: The Series
, this takes place a few months after "Archangel" and a few months before "Avatar," with spoilers from "Archangel." Yep, the timing is messed up.
Author's Notes: This story is the immediate sequel to "Too Late." I hadn't intended to write a sequel, but because of the wonderful reviews I received, I knew I just had to give them what they wanted. This is the second story in my "An Immortal Life" Series. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as they enjoyed reading "Too Late." Be sure to send me plenty of feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you're at fanfiction.net or Twisting the Hellmouth, be sure to write a review, and I'll feel as happy as ever when I get either one.
Summary: The biggest secret Xander has kept from his friends is finally out. His friends try to deal with it while they track down Mary's informant.
On our way to Giles' apartment, no one said anything. I could feel Buffy's and Willow's stares on me, but I didn't look at them. Instead, I looked out the window of Oz's van at scenery I hardly noticed. I was afraid to tell them what I was, and they were afraid to hear it.
Peter Lionhardt, my teacher and friend, had told me mortals would take the news of my Immortality in ways that may ruin my hopes. My friends, however, were experienced with this sort of thing. They faced vampires, which were Immortal beings, and other supernatural things pretty much every week. However, with Faith's committed murder not that long ago, I was afraid they'd think I was just as bad as she was.
Perhaps they'd be right. I didn't have to kill Mary back in the library. I could have just stabbed her and left her body somewhere.No,
I told myself. As much as I hated doing the killing, Mary would have been back. She had been that obsessed. If I had gotten a chance to talk to her, maybe that wouldn't have happened…no. I can't dwell on the what-ifs. They'll just make me feel guiltier than I do already.
I wish I had spared her, anyway. She'd had such a hard life that she deserved the chance to make it better, but it was too late to change that now.
I can still see her thoughts in the back of my own mind. Her memories would fade away in an hour or two, but for now, I could still remember most of her life.
One event stood out above the others. It hadn't before, when I had just received the Quickening. The memory was of our fight. I'd been right when I assumed she'd done some research on me. She'd watched me for several days, always staying out of range of the 'buzz..' A man was helping her get information about me, but I couldn't see how. Too many other memories overrode those that I couldn't really think about it. She knew that I helped people everyday by fighting vampires and demons with the rest of my friends. She supported that, but her hatred for Bryan Costello had won in the end. If she had taken my Quickening along with Bryan's, she would have realized that he wasn't as bad as she thought. Of course, it would have been too late to change anything if it had happened that way.
When we arrived at Giles' apartment, I forced myself to focus on the present. If I wanted my friends to know what I was and still be friends with me, I had to do my best. Having my thoughts concentrated on memories I'd received in a Quickening would not help. That was kind of hard when those thoughts from the Quickening were related to the present situation, but I had to try.
We remained silent as we walked through the courtyard. Buffy seemed shocked and a little distrustful, and so did Wesley. Giles had this wary expression in his eyes. Oz kept gazing between Willow and me, and every so often, he would lead Willow a little farther away from me. Willow gazed at me with confusion and love and a little bit of fear. I'd never seen fear in her eyes before, at least not directed at me. I didn’t want her to be afraid. I was still Xander Harris, the class clown, the nobody who dated a cool girl like Cordelia then had an affair. There was no reason for her to be afraid of me. I'd never hurt her or any of my friends, not even Wesley. Of course, it would be hard to convince them of that after what they witnessed earlier that night.
It was that hint of fear in her eyes that made me realize I didn't want to loose any of them. They cared about me, and I cared about them. I didn't want them to grow distant from me now. I needed them to understand. They're the closest thing to a family I've ever had, and if I lost them, all I'd have was Peter Lionhardt. Peter's a great friend, but he hasn't lived the life I've had for the last three years. The people surrounding me know what it's like. I may have told myself before that I'd get over it if they didn't understand, but that isn't the case.
As soon as Giles opened his apartment door, we walked inside and took up positions around the room. Willow, Oz, and Buffy sat on the couch, leaving no room for me. I was a little hurt, but I expected that.
Giles sat down in one of the chairs, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. He was the only one besides me who knew about Immortals, and from the looks of it, his experience with Immortality was not something he enjoyed. Either that or he was enjoying the present situation as much as I was. It could have been both for all I knew.
After a long, awkward silence, Buffy said, "Okay, Xander. Spill. Who was that woman? Why did you behead her? And what was up with the light show after it?"
"Yes, Xander, do share," Wesley said, trying his best to turn the words into a threat. I've never really taken him very seriously, so it was hard for me to do so now. I guess I should regard him with a little more respect. He didn't have a nervous breakdown yet although he'd faced more vampires and demons in the only a few months in Sunnydale than he did the rest of his life, and tonight must have shaken him up a bit further.
I sighed and sank down into the remaining armchair. I didn't know where to begin. What if they would be mad at me for not telling them about the vampire attack that triggered my Immortality? What if they would be angry at me for not saying a word about it after that?
Giles cleared his throat and straightened in his chair. "Perhaps you should start at the beginning," he suggested.
I nodded and took a deep breath before beginning my story.
I told them everything, from the moment I left the Bronze before the attack that killed me to when I met Peter. Then I explained the whole Immortality bit. I told them about the Game, the Rules, and the ups and downs to having abilities like mine. I wrapped up the story by telling them what had transpired tonight and what I experienced during Mary's Quickening.
When I was finished, everyone was silent. I don't think I've ever been so open before, and what I said shocked pretty much everyone present. Everyone stared at me in disbelief, fear, and a little pity. Everyone, even Oz, looked like they wanted to throw up. I hadn't exactly been vague on the gruesome details.
Giles ended up breaking the silence. "Well," he said, and cleared his throat. "I'd heard about Immortals, but my information is very vague compared to what you have learned."
"You don't die?" Oz clarified. "And you won't age another day?"
I nodded. My heart was thumping in my chest and I licked my lips. I hoped the rest of this conversation would not end badly.
"Cool," was all Oz said.
I shook my head. "It's not cool. I'll live longer than any of you, and who knows how long I'll be around after that. I don't think that's cool. Who knows how many wars I'll fight in or how many loved ones I'll loose. Peter's at least three hundred years old. He's done all of this, and from what he's told me, it doesn’t sound cool."
Everyone was silent for a moment, then Willow spoke. "Oh, Xander."
I looked up at her. The fear was gone, and what were left behind were only concern and hurt feelings.
"Why didn't you tell us this sooner?" she asked.
"You guys seemed to be so worried about the Ascension and everything…" I said, looking down. I didn't really want to say my other reason, but I did anyway. "I didn't want you to hate me."
"Why would we hate you?" Buffy asked. There was an edge in her voice. "After all, you did kill that woman in the library. Sure, she was Immortal, but that didn't mean you had to play the 'Game,' as you call it! You could have let her go, but you didn't. Please, give me a reason not to hate you."
"Buffy, that's not fair!" Willow exclaimed. "Xander was defending himself. H-he had no choice. He…"
"It's okay, Will," I said, although inside I was relieved that at least one person was on my side. "I can handle it."
I looked at Buffy. "Other Immortals have tried to stay out of the Game, but the headhunters keep coming. If I don't fight even then, I'll die. Is that what you'd prefer?"
"You can fight, but that doesn't mean you have to kill them," Buffy argued.
"Some headhunters will just keep coming. If I don't take advantage of an opportunity, I may not make it the next time. I don't like to kill, Buffy, but I have to."
"You don't like it?" Buffy asked. "You could have fooled me."
"Shut up!" Willow yelled. She was very distraught. She looked at Buffy. "Look, Buffy, I don't think this is the time to argue. I mean, Xander's going to live longer than us and he has to kill people if he wants to do that, and sure, eww, but I'm not at all comfortable with the thought of Xander loosing because I don't want him to die 'cause it's clear he doesn't enjoy killing people and it's all a little hard to take in right now and I don't think arguing will help."
Everyone was silent until Buffy said, "You're right. I'm sorry, Xander. I…I just-"
"It's okay, Buffy," I said, smiling a little, trying to be reassuring. She was just being her usual Slayer self. No reason to feel bad because she didn't trust me…right?
I looked at the others. "Okay, now that I've told you what I really am, I just want to know if everyone here can live with it. Cause if you can't, I'll go."
Wesley seemed the least likely to trust me. Everyone else shared a determined look before turning back to me. Completely ignoring Wesley, Oz spoke for the others, "Although everyone here is still a little stunned, I think we all agree that you're still on the good side."
"Now just wait a minute-" Wesley said, indignant.
"Yeah," Willow spoke, ignoring and interrupting the Watcher. "So don't even think about leaving, Xander, because we won't let you go."
I let out a sigh of relief. I don't know what I would have done if they kicked me out.
Giles cleared his throat. He cleaned his glasses then slid the spectacles back into place. "Quite right. Now, let's just try to figure out how that woman knew Xander had Bryan Costello's Quickening. Xander, do you know?"
I tried to remember anything from Mary's Quickening that might give me a clue, but most of her memories were starting to get fuzzy. The only part that was still clear were her feelings as I held my sword to her throat-acceptance and resignation.
I shook my head. "No, I can't think of anything. All of her memories have pretty much faded by now. Someone was helping her, but I don't know who."
Willow perked up. "Well, I could check the hotels and see if she stayed there. Then I'll move onto private residences."
"Good idea." Giles nodded. "Go research on your computer."
She and Oz left, ignoring Wesley's protests. He turned to the Buffy and Giles, bewildered. "You're going to trust him? He killed a woman, or did you all just forget that?"
"Oh, shut up," Giles said. "We'd better call Cordelia and Angel. They should know what is going on, so they won't learn about Xander's Immortality the hard way." He gave me a patronizing look, and I looked away, ashamed and a little embarrassed. Then I took a deep breath and forced the thoughts away. Like I'd said earlier, what's done is done.
"I'll call them," Buffy volunteered, reaching for the phone.
"You're a what
?" Cordelia exclaimed, staring at me. I'd just given her the whole spiel, threw in some brooding comments that would make Angel jealous, and cut my hand to prove my point. The last one hurt a lot, but that was nothing compared to how my ex-girlfriend's indignant question seemed to make my eardrums ring unbearably.
It didn't compare to the stunned, fearful look that appeared on her face, either. I could tell she felt betrayed all over again.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked me, shoving me away. She was angry now.
I was confused, to say the least. She wasn't afraid of me at all, just mad.
Before I could get a word out, she barreled on. "Did you think I'd want to kill you like Buffy would have? To think, all those times when we went patrolling and I was so afraid you'd-" she stopped and took a breath. My heart fluttered in my chest. She still liked me! Then any hope we'd get back together got crushed again when she said, "Well, now I do want to kill you. I am going to beat you to death. Then when you revive I am going to shoot you in a few sensitive places, and while you're still dead from that I will remove your worthless head from your body!"
"Woah, Cordy, slow down," Buffy said, restraining her. "Look, I don't agree with everything Xander has to do to survive either, but he didn't tell us anything before now for some reason. Now, we have to figure out who told Mary about Xander."
Cordelia sighed and flopped down on the other end of the couch, as far away from me as she could manage without leaving the room.
Relieved, I flopped back onto my chair and let out a deep breath. Nope, she hadn't forgiven me for kissing Willow yet. This had just fueled the fire, too. I sighed. Not even my love life was getting any better. This was just a really, really bad day. Sure, it had some good points. At least Willow, Oz, Buffy, Giles, and even Wesley were still speaking to me, and Cordelia had stopped threatening my life, if only for a few seconds. That had to count for something.
The door opened. "We found her!" Willow exclaimed triumphantly, holding a printer handout up like a banner. Behind her, Oz smiled at her excitement.
Giles and Wesley hurried down the stairs. They'd retreated to the privacy of Giles' bedroom before discussing my Immortality, although Buffy and I had heard lots of shouting before Cordelia showed up. Now, as they made their appearance, Giles looked angry but victorious. Wesley looked like a scolded puppy dog. Even though he kept giving me distrustful glances, it was clear I wouldn't have any problems with the Watcher's Council from then on.
Wesley took a position at the bottom of the stairs and Cordelia stayed seated on the couch. Everyone else, however, gathered around Willow. "She has a room at the Sunnydale Motor Inn under the alias Marguerite Damon. She's been renting it for a month now."
"Ever since I killed Bryan Costello," I noted with regret. This whole Immortality thing really could be a pain, couldn't it?
"Nice work, Wills," I said, giving her one of my infamous smiles.
"I suggest that we check out her room tomorrow afternoon," Giles said. "After all, it is getting late and we've already had enough excitement for one night."
"Quite right," Wesley said, trying to regain some of his dignity. "All of you have school tomorrow and you should get enough sleep to be prepared for that. Buffy will patrol before she retires, of course."
Buffy sighed. I could tell she wasn't looking forward to it. "Of course." She grabbed her bag of slayer supplies. "I guess it's off to the graveyard. If Angel shows up, tell him to come find me and I'll explain everything to him."
She went out the door. Willow, Oz, Cordy, and Wesley left next. "Xander, a word," Giles said.
I stayed. When the door closed behind Wesley, I turned to him, suddenly uneasy again. "So what's up, G-man? What did you want to talk to me about?"
Giles let out a long sigh and sat down on a chair. He gestured at the couch, and I sat down.
"Xander, how much do you know about your Immorality?"
"Everything Peter's told me," I answered. I didn't know what he was getting at, and waiting wasn't doing wonders for my nerves.
Giles took off his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt, the infamous signal of Giles' worry. This wasn't going to be pretty.
"I lied when I said I'd only vaguely heard about Immortals," the ex-Watcher admitted. "A good friend of mine was one, actually. I grew up with him in London. He was one of my closest friends."
I noticed all too well that he talked in past tense.
"So what happened?" I asked, although I had a pretty good idea already.
"I went to the Watcher's Council Headquarters for training. I didn't see him for three years. When I did, I found him fighting with another Immortal behind a pub."
"He won, and then he saw me. He explained what he'd become and we became close friends again."
"More Immortals came over the next few years, but my friend was always better than them and won every time. Then, one day, we were on our way to his flat when he felt the Buzz. They fought in an empty parking lot while I watched."
"Nathan, my friend, won, but after the Quickening, he wasn't the same. He was…evil."
"Evil?" I asked, confused.
"The Quickening did something to him. He'd taken too many Quickenings already, and that one managed to take control of him. It changed his mannerisms and attitude." Quietly, he added, "He tried to kill me."
I sank back into the couch, shocked. Peter never mentioned anything like this. Too many Quickenings? Was it true? Giles' friend was Immortal for only a few more years than Xander. How many Quickenings did it take before you couldn't control them anymore?
"Can that happen to me?" I asked. I had to know.
"I don't know," Giles said.
"Is there a cure? How did Nathan get through it?"
"He didn't. I had to take his head before he could harm anyone else."
I sat for a minute, absorbing this. Then I met his eyes with resolve. "Giles, if that happens to me…"
Giles nodded. "I won't let you harm them."
I nodded my thanks, said goodnight, and left. The Quickening left me wired, but even if it hadn't, I didn't think I would get any sleep that night.
I rolled onto my side for the fiftieth time and checked my clock. 3:00 am, and I didn't even feel sleepy. Note to self: have Quickenings in the mornings, when you aren't planning on sleeping for the next two days. Sigh. Yeah, that's an exaggeration. But if I can't avoid them, I might as well have them when I can work off all the energy before I try to get a decent night's sleep.
That wasn't the only reason why I was still up. I was still happy that Buffy hadn't tried to take my head. Sure, it looked like she would for a minute there, but it hadn't happened, and now we're buds again. And I can be a very useful member of our gang now. I didn't have to hide my skills anymore, and I didn't have to lie to them anymore, either. That made me really, really happy. I was so afraid they'd think I was like Faith, and then suddenly, my secret was out, but everything turned out okay.
I also kept thinking about what Giles told me. As much as I hated killing people, I knew there was no way around the Game unless I wanted to live on Holy Ground, which I didn't. So sooner or later, I could be the recipient of more Quickenings than my body could handle. It's a really scary thought. I didn't want any of them to get hurt if I got a Dark Quickening. I decided to tell the gang about it tomorrow, so they'd be ready for it.
I finally gave up trying to catch some sleep. I changed my clothes, slid my sword into my jacket, crept down the stairs and out the door. Maybe a short patrol would help work off some Quickening energy.
As I walked down my street, I thought about Mary. I could remember what her life had been like, but not in as much detail as before. If she hadn't been so obsessed with getting Bryan Costello's Quickening, we could have been friends, although I have this impression that she would have waited until I was a few decades older. Now that she was dead, I hoped she didn't have any friends. I didn't want to kill them, either.
That brought my thoughts back to the Dark Quickening. How much would it affect me? Would I do what Angel did after he turned evil? I hate not having the answers. I guess I should ask Giles, but I don't think it was a subject he felt comfortable talking about.
Instinctively, I pivoted and got ready for an attack. Angel stood only a few feet away.
"Angel." I dropped my guard, but only a little. We'd never gotten along even before I became Immortal, so it was almost second nature.
"Buffy filled me in. So you're Immortal now."
"Yep," I said and started walking again. He fell into step beside me. "Ever run into any of my kind before?"
"No, but I've heard of you," he replied.
"So I think it's really scary that you're going to live forever."
"Well, I'm certainly not looking forward to seeing your face after a few hundred years. Make that somewhere over a thousand."
Angel smirked. "What are you still doing up? It's after three in the morning."
"Too wired," I answered. The walk was doing nothing. I needed some action. "I'm gonna head over to the Sunnydale Cemetery to try to work off some of this Quickening energy."
"I'll come with you." The offer was unexpected, since we weren't friends. When I gave him a look, he shrugged. "I've got nothing else to do."
We started walking again, and soon I realized he kept giving me guarded looks. "I don't have a Dark Quickening, Angel."
He blinked and looked away, embarrassed. "So Giles told you that too, huh?"
I nodded. "It's not a pleasant thought," I admitted. "I keep wondering if it'll be like when you became soulless."
"Look, Xander-" Angel said and stopped. I stopped and looked up at him. "I know what it's like to have evil inside, and how hard it is to maintain control. If that happens to you and you can't get control over it, I will do everything in my power to make sure you don't hurt anyone."
"Do whatever it takes," I told him. I ran a hand through my hair. "Now that that's covered, did Buffy tell you about Mary and what we plan to do tomorrow?"
He nodded. "Just don't loose your head. I'd hate to let anyone else take it but me." He started walking again.
I glared at his back, but started walking again, too.
Buffy, Willow, and I entered Mary Damon's hotel room cautiously. I got the door opened easily using tricks Peter taught me. Buffy and Willow were surprised that my mentor hadn't just taught me swordplay.
"I'll look through her stuff," Willow volunteered. She went to the closet and started going through Mary's luggage. Buffy starting checking everywhere else for weapons or anything that would help them.
I walked over to the nightstand. "There's an answering machine," I announced.
Buffy walked over. "Play it."
I did. "Damon, this is Jerry. I just wanted to say that I'll be late tonight. Harris and his friends have decided to spend all night researching another demon, and I have to stay and record it all because the battle always comes next. Both you and the Watchers want to know what his skills are, although they'd never believe me if I said he was fighting demons and vampires and not Immortals. Anyway, see you later. I'll tell you everything that happens."
"The Watchers are helping her?" I asked, surprised.
"Sounds like it. But why would he say that they don't believe in demons?"
"I've found something!" Willow announced. She got up and walked over to them, holding a few papers. She showed us the first one. It was a printout of a profile. "Jerry Damon. This profile was taken from some sort of database. Look, here it says he's been a Watcher for five years. He's assigned to you, Xander, whatever that means."
"Go on," Buffy said.
Willow showed them the second paper. It had the same layout that the other printout had, but this one was about me. It said when my first death was, who my first head was, and who my mentor was. This was really unsettling. Someone had been watching me, and I didn't have a clue.
The last printout had a picture of an older man. His name was Joe Dawson. "He's been a Watcher since he got discharged from military service in Vietnam. He's been assigned to an Immortal named Duncan MacLeod. MacLeod disappeared a few months ago. Joe currently lives in Seacouver, but he's requesting an immediate transfer to Paris because he believes MacLeod will show up there."
"Giles never mentioned anything like this," Buffy said, worried. "I think it's time to have a talk with him and Wesley."
"So, neither of you have ever heard of all this?" Buffy asked Giles. They, Willow, Oz, and I stood in Giles' living room. We'd opted to meet there because the window repairmen were in the library today, and we didn't want them to overhear our conversation.
Giles frowned and shook his head. "I admit that I don't know everything about the Council's hidden agendas, but I don't believe these people have anything to do with the Watcher's Council. The only thing we have in common, as far as I can tell, is our name."
"Willow, do you think you can find their database?" I asked, turning to her and Oz. They were hooking up her laptop on the table.
She shook her head. "It's very unlikely. I think we'd have better luck looking up Mr. Dawson."
"Giles?" Buffy asked, turning to her Watcher.
He took a seat on an armchair. "I think we should try to find where he lives in Seacouver. Then, if we need to, we can find him."
"You know what I think?" I asked them. "These guys have been keeping an eye on me ever since I became Immortal. They may watch other Immortals, too. I'd like to know why, and I'd like to know if we can trust them, and I want to do it on our turf."
"What, you mean, lure them to us?" Buffy asked. "Will that even work? They've already got a Watcher on you. Wouldn't he know we're pulling something?"
"What if we make them think he's done something wrong?" Oz suggested. "If they're a private organization, wouldn't they send one of their own to investigate that sort of thing?"
"He's falsifying his reports!" Willow said. "Remember that message? He said he couldn't tell the Watchers that Xander fought demons and vampires 'cause they'd never believe him. Who knows what else he's lied about?"
"So if we send a message to Dawson..." Buffy began.
"...we could hint that we know that he's done something wrong," I continued, "without letting them know who we are. Maybe we could record that message on Mary's answering machine and send it to him. Then they'll send someone down here. And since that printout says Dawson is the head of the North American branch of Watchers, they'll probably send him."
Days passed, and there was still no sign of Dawson or Jerry Damon, my "Watcher," whatever that meant. All of us were on full alert and were probably getting extremely paranoid because of it, but none us could detect anyone following us around. Willow kept an eye on the hotels in case Joe Dawson rented a room there, and we staked out Mary's hotel room, but we didn't see anyone going over there, either.
I couldn't really concentrate on that right then, however. Right at that instant, I was in the library, sparing with Buffy.
We were doing hand-to-hand combat. We were evenly matched, pretty much. Both of us improvised. I had a three-hundred-year-old teacher who made up a few of his own, very useful tricks, and she had super-strength, basic knowledge of pretty much every martial art, and super-speed.
We were doing a series of punches and blocks at the moment. After several, I managed to trap her right arm, and she used her super-speed to swing out with her left and connect with my face, making me stumble back.
"Ow!" I said, putting a hand over my nose. I could tell it was broken.
Buffy looked surprised and guilty. "I'm sorry, Xander. I didn't mean to."
"Perhaps you should both take a break," Giles suggested. He'd been watching them spar. "And Xander, perhaps you should get someone to look at that."
I could already feel my Immortal healing abilities kick in. By the time I lowered my hand, my nose was fixed. I smiled. "Nah, it's okay. It's already healed."
"Oh, right. You've got those super healing abilities now." Buffy said, smiling awkwardly.
I sat at the new table Giles bought a few days ago to replace the old, Quickening-wrecked one. I uncorked a water bottle and took a long gulp. "You're not bad, Buff," I teased.
She smiled and sat across from me. "You're not bad yourself, Xand."
"Yes, your sword and hand-to-hand combat skills have improved significantly," Giles commented.
"Thanks." I grinned at Buffy before pulling my sword out of my jacket. "Want to spar some more?" I asked.
"Nah," she answered. "I have to meet Willow in the lounge to study for that history test."
"Yea, she's helping me study for that during lunch," I said.
"Still not doin' well in school, Xand?" a voice called from the library doors.
I heard the voice at the same moment I felt the Buzz. I smiled before I turned in my seat to look at the speaker. "Peter!"
"Hi, Xander," he answered.
I got up and went up to him. "What are you doing in Sunnydale?" I asked him. "I figured you had packed up and left."
"I did," my Immortal friend and mentor said. "But somethin' made me come back over here. Who're your friends?"
"This is Buffy and Giles," I said.
"Hi," Buffy said, giving a little wave while she glanced from me to him.
"Hello," Peter answered her, smiling politely.
Xander smiled. "It's okay, Peter. They know about Immortals."
Peter raised his eyebrow before turning back to regard Buffy. "Well, since that's out of the way - you would be the Slayer, right?"
"Uh…yeah," she answered, a little confused. "I thought most Immortals didn't know about all that hellmouthy stuff."
"Most of us don't," he said, a little cautious. Peter was always cautious but polite with everyone he met. It didn't matter if I'd told him fifty times already that Buffy was a friend.
"You are Xander's teacher, correct?" Giles asked.
Peter nodded. "And you're Buffy's Watcher. From London, England, too, but you've been here for at least a decade 'cause your accent has a little bit of American influence in it."
"Wow," Buffy said. She glanced back and forth from Giles to Peter, impressed.
I smiled. "That's Peter, never ignoring any detail, no matter how insignificant it may be."
Peter rolled his eyes at me, exasperated, and glared. "I've told you plenty of times already that you need to pay attention to as many details as you can in order to stay alive, so don't give me that."
"It's called sarcasm, buddy," I said, patting him on the back as if I were consoling him. "You'll get the hang of it one day."
He sighed, but I could see the smile appear on the corners of his mouth. On the other side of the table, Buffy covered her mouth and Giles tried hard not to smile. Buffy was unsuccessful and her giggles filled the library.
From Peter's look I knew I was in big trouble for embarrassing him yet again in front of two more people. Quickly, I changed the subject, hoping he'd forget about it. "So why'd you stop by?"
Immediately, he sobered. "A group of mortals came to my house last night. Some went inside, and the rest surrounded the house. I had to call an old friend up to help take care of 'em. Some escaped before we could get to them, but we managed to get one of 'em to talk. He said a guy named Jerry sent them, and that he had a personal vendetta against you. Got any ideas?"
I exchanged a worried glance with Giles and Buffy. "He's got friends," I stated.
"Was it those Watcher guys?" Buffy asked her ex-member of the Watchers' Council.
"It's possible," Giles said, concerned.
"Who are the Watchers?" Peter asked.
I told him what I knew. "We should check them out, try to find out as much as we can about them."
I nodded. "We're working on it." I told him what had happened in the past few days.
"And Mary and Jerry know everything about you?" Peter said.
I nodded. "Everything that's taken place since my first death, as far as I can tell."
"Is that Dawson guy still in Seacouver?"
Xander shrugged. "We don't know. Willow's keeping an eye on the local hotels until he shows up."
"Let's hope they send him."
The library door opened and Willow and Oz walked in. Willow was finishing a sentence she'd started outside the library. "-no sign of him again today. I'm started to worry if he'll ever show up at all."
That was when the three noticed Peter. They froze.
"My dad is here," Oz said hurriedly, trying to cover. "We all like him, so we always look forward to his visits."
"It's okay, guys," I said. "This is Peter Lionhardt, my teacher."
"Hi," Peter smiled at them. Oz nodded in greeting.
"Xander told us you taught him how to sword fight," Willow pitched in.
Peter turned back to me with an incredulous look on his face. "What, did you tell the entire school while I was gone?"
I grinned. "Nope, just the members of the Scooby Gang, although I am planning on making an announcement over the loudspeaker next week. I've got a speech written for it and everything. It'll be extremely moving, too."
Peter rolled his eyes.
"Oz and I were heading for the Bronze. Wanna come?" Willow asked Buffy and me.
"Sure," Buffy said.
"Yea, sounds great," I said. I looked at Peter. "Want to come with us? It's the only place in town worth going to."
"Sounds fine, as long as your friends don't mind," Peter said.
"It's cool," Oz told him.
"See you later, Giles," Buffy called as we headed out the door.
The rest of the week went by quickly. My friends got to know Peter and he got to know them. Every afternoon, Peter and I would spar. Sometimes, one of the gang would come and watch, and then they'd tease me whenever I got beaten. At least that didn't happen as often as it used to.
On Saturday, when we were sparing in a warehouse, no one came to watch. Peter and I were alone for the first time since he got back to Sunnydale.
We finished sparring, sat down, and drank some water. Then we started cleaning and sharpening our swords.
"So when did your friends find out about your Immortality?" Peter asked.
"A few weeks ago, actually," I answered. "For awhile, I thought they wouldn't accept it. But they did." I grinned at him. "Told you they would."
He grinned back, sadly. "There will be times when people will try to hurt you because of what you are."
"I know. You told me. I'll be careful, I promise."
"You'd better be." He stood up, slipped his sword into his coat, and slipped it on. "See you tomorrow."
"Peter-" I said, making him pause. "Have you ever heard of a Dark Quickening?"
He looked confused and shook his head. "Nope. What's that?"
"It's something Giles told me about," I said, uneasy. "He said that it's a Quickening that's strong enough to take over an Immortal."
He looked doubtful. "A Quickening strong enough to take over the Immortal that receives it? How does he know that something like that is possible?"
"It happened to a friend of his. He wasn't joking, either."
Peter sat back down, looking troubled. "If that's true, than we need to be careful."
I nodded. "It could happen anytime. Giles thinks it has to do with the number of Quickenings we receive."
"Well, I've taken hundreds of them, and something like that has never happened to me," Peter said, standing up again. "I'm gonna go to the hotel and think about this awhile. Watch your head." He turned and left.
"You, too," I called after him, not sure what else to say.
I swung my convertible into its spot in the school parking lot and got out. I shut the door in frustration. Another day where I have to sit through classes, just waiting for the time when I could join in the search. It was Tuesday, two days after Peter Lionhardt went missing. He didn't show up at practice on Sunday morning, and he was still a no show at the library to help Giles translate a few texts and at the Bronze later that night. We looked for him. All of his stuff was still in his hotel room, and I knew Peter enough to know that he wouldn't just take off and leave without even saying goodbye. I guess it's possible that he did just that after hearing the news I gave him at practice that Saturday, but I really doubted it.
After twenty four hours had passed after we realized he was missing, we filed a report at the Sunnydale Police Department. I didn't think they would be very helpful, considering how much trouble they've given us in the past. It did, however, turn up Peter's car. It was found on the side of a highway several miles out of the Sunnydale town limits. The entire frame was shot throw with bullet holes, and there was blood on the driver's seat.
Peter wasn't in or near the car. So that meant someone, most likely Jerry, captured him, and by now they could be anywhere. And we didn't have any leads.
All of my classes seemed to take forever to go by. I kept thinking about my mentor. He was as much of a friend to me as the others were, besides Wesley and Angel. I owed him a lot, and I'd be damned if I'd let this Watcher guy, whoever he is, kill Peter.
When the final bell finally rang, I was out of my seat immediately and heading toward the library. Buffy met me on the way. The gang had become close to Peter, and Buffy was as eager as I was to continue the search.
Wesley, Cordelia, and Giles were crowding around Willow and the computer. "What have you got?" Buffy asked.
"Oh good, you're here. Willow has found something," Wesley informed them.
Willow looked up from the computer, "Dawson and two others just checked into the Sunnydale Motor Inn."
"Finally. Maybe they can give us some answers," I said. I was ready to give this other Watcher group a piece of my mind.
"Not so fast, Xander. We need to work out a strategy. If they are responsible for Mr. Lionhardt's capture, they will have guns and we must prepare for them."
Oz appeared in the door to Giles' office. "Xander, there's a phone call for you."
We turned to him, surprised. Everyone who would ever call me in the library was already present, except for Peter.
Hoping, I asked, "Who is it?"
Oz looked uneasy. "It's Jerry Damon. He wants to talk to you, Xander."
I exchanged a glance with everyone before walking into Giles' office. I picked up the phone. "Where is he?" I said into the receiver.
"Hello, Harris. If you want to see him alive, meet me at the warehouse your Slayer friend almost burned down last year. Six o'clock." He hung up.
I put the phone back in its cradle and turned to my friends. "He wants me to meet him at that warehouse Spike, Drusilla, and Angel were living in last year. He says he'll meet me there at six. I don't plan to wait that long. I'm going to see if I can get some answers out of Dawson."
"We'll come with you," Willow said. "You'll need backup if they're working together."
"Wesley, Angel, and I will meet you at the warehouse. Be careful," Giles said.
"Okay. See you there," I said before Willow, Oz, Buffy, and I headed out the door. I told them as we walked down the hall, "We need to make a stop at Peter's hotel room."
"What? Why?" Buffy asked.
I smiled. "Bulletproof vests."
"So, Xander," Buffy began.
"Yea, Buff?" I asked as I pulled the convertible into the Sunnydale Motor Inn's parking lot.
"How did Peter get five bullet-proof vests?"
I smiled and shrugged. "Never asked him."
"Right," she said.
"Well, they're certainly coming in handy," Oz said. He was seated in the back seat next to Willow.
We got out of the car and walked over to Dawson's hotel room door. If anyone saw us, they would have seen three teenagers wearing vests, and the forth one, myself, taking out a sword. Maybe they would have thought that was an odd sight to see, although maybe not. We certainly have carried even stranger things around town in the past, like crossbows and stakes, without attracting anyone's attention.
Buffy knocked on the door. A minute later, it opened. Standing right behind it was Joseph Dawson. His profile matched the sheet we found in Mary's room perfectly.
Dawson tensed when he saw what we were wearing and what I was carrying. I could see the recognition on his face easily.
I came forward and asked, "Joseph Dawson?"
"That's me," he answered wearily.
"Do you know who I am?"
He hesitated for a moment, then said, "Alexander LaVelle Harris, son of Anthony and Jessica Harris."
"How do you know all of that?" I asked him.
Joe sighed. "Let's go inside. Then we'll talk."
"Agreed," Buffy said. She and I followed Dawson inside, and Oz and Willow came in right behind us.
Joe sat down on the bed, and we stood around him. "What do you know about the Watchers?" I asked him.
"I can't tell you, kid."
"Why not?" Willow asked.
"Because I shouldn't. How do you even know about us, anyway?" Dawson asked.
"Where did Jerry take Peter Lionhardt?"
"Jerry's captured Lionhardt?" Joe asked, his face growing pale. He muttered a few curses under his breath, and in a few different languages, too.
"Maybe you should start at the beginning," Buffy advised. "'Cause I know for a fact that Xander is really pissed off, and we can't guarantee that we'll be able to hold him off if he decides to take it out on you."
I stared at Buffy and realized she was right. I was doing this wrong. My concern for my teacher was clouding my judgment. I needed to relax a little, or I'd never get any answers.
Dawson sighed and nodded. "The Watchers are an organization of historians. We observe and record the lives of Immortals, but always in secret."
"You spy on them?" Willow asked, unbelieving.
"I don't like the sound of that," I said, and I didn't. The knowledge that there was a whole organization out there dedicated to watching my every move wasn't a pleasant thought. I added, "Especially since some of your Watchers decided to kidnap my friend."
Dawson shook his head. "The Watchers are historians. We never interfere in the lives of the Immortals that we watch."
"Then how do you explain Damon?" Buffy asked sarcastically, not believing this guy.
Joe sighed. "Jerry Damon stopped sending in his reports about a month ago. When we found out he was falsifying his reports, we were sent to investigate." He gave us a wry grin. "I'm guessing you had something to do with that?"
Willow and I nodded. Oz asked, "Where are your friends, then?"
"They were heading for Sunnydale High, actually, to keep an eye on you and the general vicinity in case Jerry showed up. I guess they just missed you."
"How do we know you aren't lying?" I asked him. "How do we know you really aren't working with Jerry?"
"I guess you don't," Joe asked. "But if you're telling the truth that Jerry has captured Lionhardt, then I want to help get him back."
"Like I said, we don't interfere," Dawson said, "and we don't tolerate anyone who doesn't follow the rules." He winced, as if remembering something unpleasant while unconsciously rubbing his side.
"What are you going to do?" Willow asked.
"Take Damon into custody as soon as we find him," Dawson answered. "We just need to find him first." He looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
"Guys, it's almost six," Willow announced after glancing at the clock.
I looked at Dawson, then at the others. "What do you guys think?" I asked them. "Should we trust him?"
Buffy made the decision. "All right, Dawson," she said. "You go in and get Damon and his men after we've cleared out. Understood?"
Joe nodded. "Where is he?"
I didn't want to let him out of my sight, so I said, "You can come with us and see for yourself. Then after we've left with Peter, you can go in with guns a blazing."
*****Hold on, Peter,
I asked silently. We're coming.
I thought that to myself anxiously as I waited across the street from the building where the meeting was supposed to take place. Angel, Wesley, and Giles had met us there, as promised. All of them except Angel had bulletproof vests on now, and we were all waiting for Dawson to get off the phone. Buffy was keeping an eye on the Watcher's Society member, so my eyes were free to stare at the old warehouse. Half of the walls were burned black from last year's fire. No one had bothered repairing any of it, since nobody claimed ownership. I think the Mayor planned to clear out this entire block and build a strip mall or something evil, although in my opinion another strip mall would be evil since Buffy and Willow would force me to come with them and carry all of their shopping bags.
I glanced at my watch again. Ten minutes to go. I turned to the troops. "Okay, Dawson," I said. "Times up."
Dawson ended his phone conversation and announced, "I've got a covert ops team on the way. They should be here within thirty minutes. Keep 'em entertained until then, then we'll do the rest." He looked earnestly at all of us. "Good luck."
We found Peter easily enough; he was in the middle of the floor, tied to a chair. A light hanging low from the ceiling lighted the space. Around him was darkness, but there didn't appear to be anyone near by.
"Everyone be careful," I told the others. "This feels like a trap." Everyone else agreed.
I took out my sword while the others watched the darkness, holding their own swords or crossbows. We didn't have guns, and I just hoped we could hold off the men that did with the protection that the vests gave my friends.
While the others took up positions around the chair, I ran over to Peter and quickly untied him by slicing through his ropes. Then I ran around the chair and looked down into Peter's eyes. "Peter? Are you all right?"
He didn't look so good. He'd obviously been tortured, and not all of the wounds were completely healed yet. I closed my eyes and clamped down on my anger before opening them again.
"Peter?" I asked him gently.
Peter opened his eyes, surprised. "Xander! What're ya doin' here? They'll kill you. They know about Immortals."
I nodded. "I know. I'm here to get you out of here." I helped him to his feet and he leaned against me, still in pain. I nodded at Buffy.
"Let's go," Buffy said.
As we headed for the door, the shadows moved, and several figures stepped out. All of them held guns. They had us surrounded.
One of the figures stepped out in front of his men. Unlike the others, he held a sword. "Alexander LaVelle Harris," Jerry Damon greeted me. The expression on his face was one of triumph mixed with disgust and hatred.
"Jerry Damon, I presume," I said. I felt my hatred rise to the surface, and I was having trouble restraining myself from dropping my teacher and running blindly at him. The idea may lead me to being filled with bullet holes, but it was tempting.
"Put your weapons down," Peter told us.
Everyone hesitated. "We'd better do it, guys," Buffy said, easing her crossbow onto the ground. She stood back up with her hands raised. Slowly, everyone else behind me did the same, leaving me with my arm wrapped around Peter to support him.
Damon gave a satisfied smile as he observed our group. "This is great, Harris. Not only do you deliver yourself but you bring your little Scooby Gang with you." He looked at them. "The Witch, lycanthrope, the...Watchers," there was humor in his voice when he said that last word, "even your ex-girlfriend."
A shiver ran down my back. I still wasn't used to a total stranger knowing so much about me. It was unsettling.
"Let us go," I told him.
"Why?" Peter asked, stepping up to me. His face got within inches of me, and I resisted the urge to head butt it. "I want you dead, Harris. You killed Mary. All of your friends should die as well, since they didn't even try to stop you from committing a murder right underneath their noses, even though they claim to be on the good side."
My anger flared. "If you didn't want her to die, you shouldn't have shown her where to find me in the first place!"
Rage appeared on his face and his fist swung out, solidly connecting with my check. I fell, bringing Peter with me. We landed in a pile of tangled limbs.
Suddenly, a felt someone grab my leg. One of Damon's guys dragged me out from under my mentor and forced me onto my knees. I pushed at him with my elbow, catching him in the side. Damon's man let go of my arm and moved away. I stood up quickly, but two more of Damon's men grabbed onto my arms, forcing me to stay put no matter how hard I struggled.
"Get him on his knees!" Damon ordered.
They pushed down hard, forcing me to fall onto my knees. Behind me, I heard Buffy shout, "Get your hands off of him!" followed by Giles', "Leave him alone!" along with several other cries among my friends.
I couldn't see them, because all of them were behind me. All I could do was watch as Damon approached, holding the blade up high, ready to severe my neck.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another one of Damon's men hold up his gun, pointing it at one of my friends behind me. "No!" I shouted, renewing my struggles.
Suddenly, the doors on all sides of the warehouse crashed open. Several men ran through before ducking behind cover. They all fired at Damon's men, and they fired back. One of the men holding me down got hit dead center in the chest, and his corpse was knocked to the ground by the bullet's force. I quickly got the other one to let go of me. He forgot about me and ran over to help Damon and the others, who were desperately trying to get out of the clearing and into cover.
I turned to observe my friends. All of them were all right. Angel now had Peter's hand draped across his shoulders. "Xander, all you all right?" Giles asked.
I nodded. "We need to get out of here." I pointed at a cleared doorway in the back. "There."
We headed toward it as fast as we could. Dawson appeared just outside the doorway. He waved us on. "Come on, come on!"
We didn't need to be told twice. We raced through the door and into the back alley, then hurried toward the corner of the building, where we would then turn left onto the side alley then head for our cars.
As we turned the corner, I heard an angry shout behind me, "Harris!"
The others had already turned the corner. I was the only one who was still in the alley. I turned around to see Damon standing in the doorway we'd just left through. He had his gun trained at me. He fired it.
I felt the bullets hit me at the same time I hit the ground, striking the concrete hard. Pain flared from my chest, and I let out a loud scream.
I clutched my chest with my hands, trying to stop the bleeding even though I knew it was futile. Nevertheless, I strained to sit up, watching Damon. He was walking toward me, putting away the gun and raising the sword.
I felt myself loose consciousness. This is it,
I told myself. You won't be waking up this time.
When I opened my eyes again, he was standing over me. A grin crossed his face as he raised the blade above his head.
A gun went off, and two bullets slammed into Damon's chest. Shocked, the man dropped the sword and stared down at his bleeding chest. He met my gaze before sliding to the ground, dead.
Losing the strength to sit up, I fell back against the concrete ground before giving in to the darkness.
My body spasmed and my lungs took in a deep breath. My eyes opened wide before I fell back against something soft. My senses returned to me and I closed my eyes, groaning. I hated coming back to life. It had only happened once before now, but it was the weirdest feeling, and it made me queasy.
"Welcome back, Xand," I heard a familiar voice say.
I opened my eyes again and sat up. I was on the couch in Giles' office. Peter sat behind the desk, and through the window in the door I could see the rest of my friends at the library table or in the stacks.
I turned my gaze back to Peter and smiled. "Good to see you're doing well, Peter."
He smiled back. "Yep, thanks to you and your friends."
"How long was I out?"
I looked down at my shirt. It was the same one I'd died in, meaning it had a bullet hole on the chest area and was coated with half-dried blood. I groaned and looked at him. He was wearing a different outfit from what he had on two hours ago. "What, you could spare the time to stop at you hotel room to shower and change clothes, but you couldn't take the time to stop at my house to get me another change of clothes?"
Peter smiled mischievously. "You have to do that part yourself, Xand. Besides, I try to stay out of that room of yours if I can help it."
I glared and stood up. "Should I tell them you're awake?" Peter asked.
I smiled as I watched my friends work. Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, and Oz were bent over some of Giles' books, probably looking for a clue about the Mayor's upcoming Ascension, while Giles appeared out of the stacks carrying more books. I decided to give them a break in research. "Nah, I'll tell them myself," I answered before stepping through the door.
Everyone looked up when I stepped into the room. "Xander!" several people said at once. They all stood up or climbed down stairs to get to me. Buffy, even Giles, hugged me before my shock took over from the ex-Watcher's action. Willow hung back, suddenly uncomfortable, and went to stand next to Oz. Cordelia hung back as well.
"You're all right," Willow finally said, smiling at me.
I smiled back. "Yep. Good as new, although I can't say the same about my shirt." I motioned to it. "This thing is permanently ruined."
"Definitely. Blood does not come out well, and there's not way you'll get the part with the hole back to looking like it used to," Cordelia informed everyone.
Buffy reached out a tentative hand and touched the skin underneath the hole. "Wow," she said after a long pause, taking her hand away, suddenly uncomfortable herself. "That Immortality thing is really handy, huh?"
I nodded as I regarded all of them. "No one's hurt, are they? Where are Angel and Wesley?"
"No one's hurt," Oz answered him. "Angel went back home, and Wesley's on the phone with the council talking about the other Watchers."
I looked around. "Speaking of which, where's Dawson? And who shot Damon?"
"Dawson shot him," Buffy answered, looking uneasy now. I could understand that. It wasn't a Slayer's policy to kill a human being, and it was hard for most of them to imagine a human killing another human. It was hard for me, too, but didn't seem to be as impossible since I've had to do my share.
Buffy continued, "Dawson and his guys have skipped town. Don't know if one of them stayed behind to watch you, though."
"Or me," Peter said from behind me. I turned to see him frown. "I don't really like the idea of Watchers, but I won't do anything about them unless they pull something. Maybe I can lose them in the airport."
Startled, I said, "Airport? You're leaving already?"
Peter nodded. "I'm gonna fix a few things at my house in Chicago-that fight I told you about didn't help bring up the price-and then I'm gonna sell it. My business is moving out of town. I'll give you a call when I get to Chicago, and another one when I settle into my new place. My plane is leaving in only a few minutes, so I have to leave now."
Nodding, I shook his hand before he pulled me into a hug. "I'm glad your safe, Peter."
Everyone else said his or her good byes, and Peter Lionhardt headed out the door, out of my life for who knows how long.
I turned back to my friends in time to see Willow ask everyone, "Okay, we're still alive. I think that qualifies for partying at the Bronze. Anyone want to come with Oz and me?"
Buffy and I agreed to it. We told Cordelia and Giles goodbye and headed outside. Buffy and I hung back a minute. "You okay?" I asked her.
For a minute she looked like she might say, 'I'm fine,' but she changed her mind, sighed, and shook her head. "I don't get why Dawson killed him, Xander. I don't understand how he was even capable of it. What kind of person would kill another human being?"
"It's okay," I told her softly. "I feel the same way about myself whenever I have to take an Immortal's head. It doesn't get any easier, and I wish I didn't have to do it, but sometimes it has to be done."
Buffy nodded and sighed. "Why can't the world be a better place?" she muttered.
I shrugged. "Don't know. I wish it were, too. You can't blame yourself for what happened, Buffy. You weren't responsible."
Buffy took a deep breath and nodded. "I know." She looked over at Oz and Willow, who were already two blocks away. "We'd better hurry."
I nodded, and we started running to catch up with our friends. I knew we'd talk later. I got the feeling there was something else she wasn't telling me, but it could wait until later.
My thoughts returned to Damon and Mary. Regret filled me, too, directed at a lot of things. One was the fact that my actions had almost killed my teacher, maybe even the rest of us if everything had happened differently. Another was the fact that I was responsible for Mary Damon's death. Maybe if I'd let her go, Jerry would have convinced her to stay away from me. Like I told Buffy, killing never got any easier.
Later on, as we sat around a table in the Bronze, I glanced around at all of my friends. I made a decision not to think about anything but them. I was lucky to have them, like Mary was probably lucky to have a caring man like Jerry, even though he was a psychopath. I knew that no matter what I felt about the Damons, I had my friends to count on to get me through it, and Buffy had me.