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An Immortal Life #5: Merging

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This story is No. 5 in the series "An Immortal Life Series". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy/Angel/Highlander x-over. Doyle promised Alex LaVelle that it would happen and he wasn't kidding.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Highlander > Xander-CenteredFlatlanderFR13113,210024,2536 Aug 036 Aug 03Yes
MERGING


DANIELLE FRANCES DUCREST



Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, Greenwolf Corporation, Fox Television Productions, Mutant Enemy, and UPN. Angel belongs to most of those, David Greenwalt, and the WB. Highlander: The Series and Highlander: The Raven belong to Gaumont Télèvision, Rysher Entertainment, and Davis/Panzer Productions. Any copyright infringements were not intended. This story was written for entertainment and not for profit.



Spoilers and Timing: Takes place after the Buffy episode "The Freshman" with major spoilers for that ep. Dawn is in this one, too. On Angel, this takes place after "City of" with a few spoilers for that one, too, and in the Highlander universe this falls about a year after the series finale and a year before the movie Highlander: End Game, and sometime during the only season of Highlander: The Raven.



Note: This is a crossover between Highlander: The Series, Highlander: The Raven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. It's also the fifth story in my Immortal Life Series.



Summary: Doyle promised Alex LaVelle that it would happen, and he wasn't kidding.



*****



Dark Quickenings. Big, giant Mayor snakes. Buffy, Willow, and Oz starting college. Immortality. Dawn showing us where Sunday and her gang had taken Buffy's stuff from her dorm room. Finding a job. That's what I was thinking about when I went to bed the night after Buffy staked Sunday. Perfectly normal thoughts, all things considered.


I’m Xander Harris. You're probably really familiar with me by now, but let me just refresh your memory. I graduated from high school four months ago. My friends just started college life while I've been trying to find a job. Despite my teacher's threats that he would run me through the heart with his sword repeatedly if I didn't bring my grades up, I still didn't do very good so I'm not really college material. Not that I really wanted to go to college, but right now, anything must be better than selling chocolate bars in exchange for one buck per bar sold.


Anyway, when I went to bed that night, I decided to look for a better place of employment the next day. Maybe I could work as an instructor at the Sunnydale Gym and Rock House. After all, how many people in Sunnydale, outside my little group of friends, have much experience with sword fighting? That's basically all I know, and pretty much all Peter figures I'll need while I'm still living on the Hellmouth. I can't disagree with that logic; it's doubtful that I'll run into a demonic martial artist in good old Sunnydale, California. During my road trip over the summer, I drove up to Peter's house in Chicago and brushed up on my sword techniques for a month or two before I headed back down here.


So, I'm young, I'm Immortal, I've got a low-paying job, and I've never been out of the country. That's who I was when I went to bed that night in October. Earlier that day, Dawn had seen Sunday break into Buffy's dorm room and take her stuff, and when Buffy showed up later on, Dawn led us to Sunday's warehouse. Buffy killed Sunday and then we all helped carry her stuff back to her dorm room before Buffy walked Dawn home.


But afterwards, I was back in my basement apartment, dreaming about better accommodations like Peter's house outside Chicago. Tired out after the night's activities, I almost instantly fell asleep.


I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock loudly announcing that it was 10 AM. I'm setting that thing to go off at 3 PM the first chance I get, I thought as I stood up, as awake as I could get without a shower. With that thought, I stood up, pointed in that direction…


…and fell down screaming, clutching my head. The pain just came out of nowhere and seemed to center on my brain. With the pain came memories that felt like my own but I knew had to be someone else's.


Giles, Anya, and I fall onto a pile of hay in an Ancient Roman-like city.


Methos, Marc, and I fight side-by-side holding off the guards while Amanda makes a run for a diamond.


I just got a job as sword master at the Royal French Court in the sixteenth century when I feel a Pre-Immortal Buzz. I turn around to see Marie de Champagne.


Marie and I dance in a 1920's nightclub before we feel the Buzz. Outside the club, I watch Marie fight and take another female Immortal's head.


Marconis. Alex LaVelle. Aaron Harrison. Harry LaVelle. Harry Markson. Al Martin. Henry LaVelle. All of these are aliases that I have used over the centuries.


The rush of memories ended. I looked around the basement feeling disoriented. My last memory had been of performing the counter-spell with Giles in the library at Sunnydale High. I shook my head. No, that wasn't right. My last memory was of falling to the floor of my basement, which was where I was now.


I have no idea what just happened. Whatever it was, it gave me the memories of my…other self. The older one that stopped that time traveling spell last year. I don't know why. Or…was it giving me the memories from my younger self? The one whose memories of Sunnydale were clearer and newer than mine…this was confusing.


Wait…I knew what was going on. Doyle, that Brachen Demon, told me this would happen. Told the older version of me that this would happen. Yeah, and what version would you be, now? You've got both sets of memories, from both the older and younger versions of yourself, together in one brain. In only a few minutes, you just downloaded two thousand years worth of memory.


Or, if I looked at it the other way, I just rose from the dead after not existing for five whole months. After all, I have both perspectives now.


Like Doyle promised, we've merged.


Boy, did this feel strange.



*****



Okay, after having to deal with all of this for two hours now, I think I've managed to sort most of it out. Not only did I get the…older version's…memories, but I also have his…mine…whatever…body. Yes, there's a physical difference. I know, I know, Immortals' physical appearance, like age and the like, never changes after First Death. We can, however, get scars on our necks, since those are the most sensitive parts of our bodies and any damage done to them tends not to heal very well.


I'll call my older self Alex LaVelle and my younger self Xander Harris, okay? If only for my sanity, whoever the hell I happened to be…Anyway, in the 12th century, not too long before Alex met Marc and became his teacher, Alex had a little run-in with some mortal road bandits. They nicked his neck with a knife before he had the opportunity to take care of them and continue on his merry way. Neck wounds on Immortals don't heal properly, so the incident left behind a souvenir. Looking in the mirror, I could clearly see a scar running across the bottom of the right side of my neck, near the shoulder blade. Then, there was another moment in 1878 when Alex ran into an Immortal serial killer. As it turned out, this psycho beheaded all of his victims, no matter if they were Immortal or mortal, after leaving his mark on the back of their necks: an X, both diagonal lines three inches long, which he'd mark his victims with three days prior to killing them. Thankfully, Amanda managed to rescue Alex just in time, and in return for saving his life she forced him to agree to help her acquire some priceless artwork inside a private collector's house. The 'x' scar was now present on the back of my neck, whoever the hell I was.


After confirming that both scars were there, I sat back down on the bed. The Alex part of me wanted a beer and then wanted to hop the next flight to Paris to see Methos, then track down my two students, Amanda, MacLeod, and Dawson afterwards. The Xander part of me wanted to talk to Giles.


I decided on the things that would take the least amount of time to acquire or reach. I drove to Giles' house, and when he answered the door, I walked past him and immediately went to his liquor cabinet.


"Xander, what-?" he tried to ask me, then looked on in surprise as I drained an entire bottle of some cheap refrigerated beer without even wincing or even breathing until it was empty. I myself looked down in wonder at the liquidless bottle. The Xander part was wondering how I just did that and couldn't get over his shock that I actually did, while the Alex part was enjoying the taste and mourning that he hadn't had a drink in over five months. Talk about differences in character. Xander had been so experienced and mature in some things and so naïve and out-of-control in other things, and while Alex had distant memories of being that sort of person he had learned a lot since he was actually Xander. And yet, they, I, had always been the same person. There were instances in their pasts that I knew just screamed both of them, 'cause hell, they were the same person so they would act similarly. One was just older than the other. And now, I was both of them.


Giles was asking me when I'd become such a heavy drinker. I gave him a grin. "Oh, after the first three centuries, it gets a hell of a lot easier to swallow. And being Immortal pretty much takes care of hangovers."


Giles stared at me, mouth agape. "You're…the older Xander? The one that performed the counter-spell…?"


"In a manner of speaking," I answered. "I’m both. You know, the older and the younger Harrises. We've merged, Giles, and it's pretty freaky at the moment."


"You've…merged?" Giles repeated in awe as he tried to comprehend what I just said.


I nodded, and decided that an example was needed. "See this bottle?" Giles just nodded dumbly. "One set of memories is telling me that I've never drunk anything stronger than grape juice in my life, while another set is complaining because he hasn't existed for five months and didn't get to drink a single drop of liquor during that time."


"Wait, just stop for a minute," Giles said, his hands waving. He pointed at me. "You, eighteen-year-old Xander Harris, who became Immortal less than a year ago…"


I nodded, encouraging him to continue.


He did. "…is now sharing the same space with the two-thousand-year-old Xander Harris, which I'm pretty sure blinked out of existence five months ago."


I nodded. "I did blink out," I told him solemnly. "I can remember fading, or he can remember fading…" I shook my head. I suddenly had an urge for another bottle and tried to resist the feeling. Half of me was hoping that when the alcoholic haze lifted, all of this would make since, while the other half wanted to just curl up into a corner until the pieces that was my mind fitted together again. I continued, "Then, I can remember coming alive again just this morning when I merged with my younger self. But I can also remember helping Buffy fight Sunday last night before carrying her stuff back to her dorm, and then I can remember waking up this morning and thinking of a nice shower before two millennia worth of memories pounded into my skull in only a few minutes."


"So…your minds are one and the same now," Giles concluded.


"Not just our minds, Giles," I said. I left the kitchen, turned my back to him, and pointed at my neck. "See this scar back here?" I turned back to face him. "I remember getting that in the 1870's."


With that, I grabbed another beer from Giles' fridge and plopped down on his sofa. "G-Man, what am I going to do? I mean, part of me knows that I'm just starting out in the world while another part of me has been everywhere and done most of the things out there." I sat up as something else occurred to me. "And I think I'm filthy rich. Oh, never mind, I'm not filthy rich. But I'm pretty close."


"You don't seem to be too concerned about this," Giles said, wording his statement carefully.


I didn't? Oh, right. Alex knew how to hide his anxiety and nervousness, and I was exercising that little talent right then without even realizing it. That didn't mean that I didn't feel that way on the inside. I was getting a little calmer, though, so I shrugged. "Well, we are practically the same person. We just have a difference in age, philosophy and experience, that's all." I shook my head. "Did I just refer to myself as 'we?'"


"Well, since you used to be two people, I don't see why it wouldn't be appropriate," Giles commented.


I stared down at the full beer bottle in my hands. I couldn't resist any longer.


Giles peeled off his glasses and began to clean them furiously, and I noticed that he didn't stop until I'd pulled the bottle, three-quarters empty now, away from my lips. Hmm, curious…


"I probably will regret asking," Giles said, breaking through my contemplation, "But where did you…he…require such a taste for beer?"


I shrugged. "Well, when you spend over a hundred years in the company of a heavy drinker, his habits can wear off on you."


"A hundred years? His?"


"Adam Peirson," I answered. "That's the name he's using nowadays, anyway. Or it was when I…er, my older self, I mean…last saw him around two years ago. Don't worry, Giles, my older self isn't gay."


Giles flushed. "Glad to hear it. Er, not that I think it's bad or anything…um…"


Willow, Oz, and Buffy chose that moment to walk through the front door. "Hey, guys," Willow said, smiling. "What's up?" She noticed the bottle in my hand. "Is that booze?"


"Good morning, Willow, Oz, Bufy," Giles greeted them. He seemed to be very happy for the distraction from the hole he had dug for himself.


Buffy had also noticed the almost-empty bottle in my hand. "Xander?" she asked, shocked. "Since when did you start drinking?"


"There is a reason for that," Giles said. "It's a rather lengthy one." He said it in his usual 'I-have-something-very-important-to-talk-to-you-all-about-and-I-hope-you-will-all-take-it-seriously-for-once' tone. I'd missed that tone so much and hadn't even realized it. It didn't matter that the last time I'd heard him use it was the day before, the rest of me remembered a much earlier point in time.


"There's a long explanation behind him drinking?" Buffy asked, confused.


"Not just that," I said, rolling my eyes. "Something happened to me this morning. Actually, it started five months ago. And no, it's not drinking."


"Nothing bad, I hope?" Willow asked, concern on her face now.


"No, nothing like that," Giles reassured her. Quietly, he added, "Perhaps a little." I gave him a look. Looks like I'd have to reassure him a little more, too. And probably myself. I felt perfectly fine now, but I would probably go into delayed shock in a few hours.


Giles was biting his lip, not sure where to start. I wasn't sure either, so I didn't say anything. "I'm afraid that Xander and I have a secret to share with you, and hopefully you will understand our reasons for not telling you sooner."


We told Willow, Oz, and Buffy about what had happened at the end of April. Willow's eyes filled with wonder. "You mean, the older Xander just gave up his life so you wouldn't have to go through what he did? Wow….that's just, wow."


"Does seem like a pretty big thing to do," Oz said, his face actually reflecting his surprise.


"Why didn't you tell us this?" Buffy asked, looking a little hurt and defensive.


"Didn't really see any reason to," I said, shrugging uneasily. "It was just too weird, and we had enough to worry about anyway."


"So why tell us now?" Willow asked. Giles and I exchanged a glance, and Willow noticed. "There's more, isn't there?" she said, grim.


"Yeah," I acknowledged. "I, um, have all of his memories now."


"His memories?" Buffy repeated. "You mean, your older self's memories?"


"How is that possible?" Oz asked.


"When did that happen? And, like Oz said, how?" Willow asked, now looking hurt. Her expression clearly spoke of her confusion and incredulity. She'd been wearing that expression ever since we told them what had transpired in April, but now it was even more intense.


"I'm really confused here," Buffy added.


Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Frankly, I'm a little confused myself. But from what Xander's told me, what I've come to understand is that he and his older self have merged into one being."


Everyone was giving me their confused looks now, even Giles. "It's true," I told them. "I've got all of these memories of living all over the world, while at the same time, I know that I haven't even left the country before. It's a little confusing, but I'm sorting it out." I met their eyes in turn. "I'm two things now: I'm a man that remembers seeing Giles and Anya, the vengeance demon, die two thousand years ago…" I looked at Giles, whose surprise and interest were written clearly on his face. "…and I'm a young adult that has known all of you guys for years."


Everyone was quiet as they absorbed everything. "So you can like remember what it was like two thousand years ago?" Buffy asked.


I smiled. "Oh, yeah."


"Yes, that brings us to another one of my questions," Giles said, staring thoughtfully at me. "Did you just obtain your older self's memories, or did you get his personality as well?"


"I'm thinking it's the latter," Oz said. "You've been acting different…older, and you've got a different smell."


Smell? Huh? Why would I have a different smell? I noticed that Buffy was giving me a similar look to Oz's expression. "You're stronger now," she said. "When I concentrate, I think I can sense it."


"Maybe it's related to an Immortal's Quickening," Giles said. He explained, "The older version was more likely to have gained more power through challenges, correct?"


I nodded. "Yeah. That must be it. Anyway, to answer your question Giles, our personalities were mixed together. We already had similar characteristics, since the only real difference between us was time."


"So what's it like?" Willow eventually asked, her eyes lit up in excitement.


"What's what like?" I asked, although I had a good idea.


"Living for twenty centuries," she answered.


I smiled. I was really glad that they were getting used to this. "Do you want the juicy bits, the really boring centuries, or the moments of extreme terror?"



*****



I told them a few stories before they finally let me leave. Not that they forced me to stay, really, but I did want to make some calls.


It was around four PM by the time I reached my basement apartment. At least I'd be able to move into better accommodations soon, now that I had money. Nothing too fancy, though. The houses that I had in Chicago and Paris were expensive enough. Methos was supposedly taking care of both houses and he was probably living in one of them, or both, right now. As for living accommodations in Sunnydale, I'll probably have to settle on an apartment and a car.


Paris was nine or ten hours ahead of Sunnydale. It would be around one or two AM over there right then. I'd wake the old man up. I grinned evilly as I dialed up his apartment number. He wasn't living there anymore, so I dialed up my own Parisian house's number.


Someone picked up. "Whoever the hell this is, this better be important or you can bloody well call back at a decent hour," Methos' slurry voice said.


Jackpot. "Hey, old man. How are things going en France?"


"Alex?" he said, his voice filled with surprise. I could tell that he was very awake now. "Where are you?"


"Sunnydale, California," I answered. "I've merged with my younger self, Methos."


"So the Brachen Demon was telling the truth?"


I answered in the affirmative and went on to tell him the events of the day. When I was done, I could hear Methos moving around on the other end of the line. "I'll be there as soon as I can, Xander," he said, "I’m going to stop in Egypt to pick up Marc first, so it might take me a few days."


I smiled. I certainly didn't mind; I wanted to see both of them, after all. "Okay. I’m heading up to LA for a day or so this week, but I should be back by the time you get here."


"You'd better be. I'll see you then," Methos said. After a pause, he added, "Damnit, Alex, you gave us all a scare. One minute there were two of you and then the next you disappeared and only Xander Harris was around. You are telling me everything, do you hear me?"


"Yeah. Just get over here, okay? See you, old man."


"See you later, kid," Methos said before hanging up.



*****



I went looking for an apartment that afternoon. I chose this great place with a huge living room with lots of space for sparing if I needed it, two bedrooms, a large walled-off kitchen, and a spacious bathroom. It wouldn't be free for a few days as the previous renters moved out, so I went back to my parent's basement. The whole trip took two hours.


The next morning, I ate breakfast with everyone, including Joyce and Dawn, at the Summers' home. We talked about what happened the day before, and then I told them that I would be going to Los Angeles for a day or so. "Why can't you stay here?" Dawn asked me with a slight pout. She's had a crush on me ever since she, Buffy, and Mrs. Summers moved to the Hellmouth, and hated whenever I wasn’t around.


"I promise I won't be gone long, just a few days," I answered. "Hey, you'll wish I'd stayed in LA a little longer when I ask you to help me move to my new apartment."


"You got a new apartment? That's great!" Buffy said.


"Yep, I'll show it to you guys when the renters move out."


"Xander, do you really think its wise of you to do any traveling in your present condition?" Giles asked, giving me a worried look.


I smiled reassuringly at him. "Don't worry. I've already gone through the shock of it all, but if something else comes up, I'll call you, okay? Otherwise, I'll be back in a day or two. See y'all."


So I left Sunnydale in my new car and started on the hour-long trip to the city that never sleeps. After I got a hotel room, I called the operator and requested the phone number for one Allan Francis Doyle.


The phone rang twice before it was picked up. "Hello, Charlie's Pizza Delivery," the voice on the other end answered, making me raise an eyebrow. Who did the Brachen Demon think he was kidding? His Irish Accent gave him away.


Why he was answering his phone calls under a false name was beyond me, and was none of my business. "Hello, Doyle. It's Alex LaVelle Harris. We met a few years ago in Paris."


Doyle was silent for a minute. "I take it the mergin's taken place already, then?"


"Got it in one, Brachen," I answered. "You said I should stop by after I stopped the spell. Was there something you had to tell me?"


"You could say tha'," Doyle answered nervously. "Tell ya what, how about you meet me at my workplace, Angel Investigations? I think ya know my associates already. They're Cordelia Chase and Angel, the vampire."


That surprised me. I certainly hadn't expected Doyle of all people to be working with my ex-girlfriend and a two hundred plus vampire. He gave me directions and we agreed to meet there within the hour. When I entered the building I easily found the Angel Investigations offices. As I entered the place, I heard Cordelia's distinctive voice intertwined with Angel's own.


"I was thinking that maybe we could get a fridge put in here," I heard the May Queen say. "Nothing too fancy, just a small one to keep the plasma cold and some food for the other people that work here."


"Sounds okay," Angel agreed.


They were standing around a desk, and they fell silent when the door opened. "Xander?" Cordelia said, smiling. She came over to me, looking very excited to see me, which was surprising considering our relationship only a few months ago. "Wow, the first Immortal to see the office!" she said. She looked at Angel. "Okay, maybe second, but still. Hey, Xand."


Cordelia actually looked more excited to see me than she'd ever been without actually touching me. I smiled at the sight. It looked like moving to LA had done some good for her. "Hey, Cordy. Hi, Angel." I greeted both of them. Angel nodded in greeting, a little surprised that I didn't call him 'Deadboy.' I just had too many things on my mind to even remember to use the nickname. "So, you guys work here? What do you do?"


"We're private detectives," Cordelia said. "I'd give you a card but I haven't designed them yet."


"Cards?" Angel repeated, giving her a look that said, 'what now?'


"Private Investigators, huh? Cool. Don't you have to have a license for that, though?"


The door opened behind me, and Doyle stepped inside. Doyle answered, "Usually, yeah, but this is a special kind of agency." He nodded at Angel. "Our boss has fangs."


"Hello, Doyle," I greeted him.


"LaVelle," he greeted me, nodding. "Or is it Harris now?"


I shrugged. "Both, I guess."


"You know Doyle?" Angel asked me, curious.


"Yeah, when did you guys meet?" Cordy asked. "Was it at some meeting for the People Who Wear Ugly Clothing Society?"


I guess LA hasn’t changed her much after all. "Um, no, princess," Doyle said, going for casual, although I could tell the jest hurt him. It didn't really bother me. I'd gotten enough of those comments from Cordy before, during, and after we dated that they didn't really faze me at all. Doyle was still too new to tactless Cordelia.


"How we met is a long story tha' has ta be told some other time." He turned to me. "I had a Vision last night, and you had a big part in it, Xander."



*****





Doyle and I relocated to the privacy of Angel's office. Cordelia had protested that, claiming that if Doyle had a Vision it concerned her and Angel too, but Angel managed to convince her to wait with him in the outer office until we were ready to talk to them.


As soon as the door was closed, I asked him, "What did you see?"


Doyle looked mildly surprised. "You don't seem ta be too surprised about me havin' the Visions."


I shrugged. "It's no big surprise after what I've seen in Sunnydale. And I met a seer back in 342 AD."


He smirked. "Right. How's tha' workin' out for ya, anyway? Havin' new and old memories of your dear hometown and the like?"


I shrugged. "Okay, I guess. How much of it did you know was going to take place?"


"Well, the Powers gave me a Vision about what would happen if ya stopped the spell and what would happen if ya didn't. I had ta convince ya to stop the spell, 'cause it looked like ya wouldn't make up yer mind."


"I think you're right about that," I said, remembering how uncertain I'd…Alex…had been back in '96. "Do you know why we didn't merge for five whole months?"


"Yer younger self was supposed ta help at the Ascension, not you. And he was supposed ta meet with Peter for trainin' over the summer. Otherwise, Peter would have noticed tha' somethin' was off."


"Peter's not supposed to know about this, is he?" I asked.


"No. The Powers That Be didn't tell me why. All I know for certain is tha' it's important tha' he stays out of the loop on this one." He changed the subject. "The Powers didn't want ya to merge until now cause now we need both Xanders workin' together. Yer gonna need it ta defeat the guy I saw in my Vision last night."


"What did you see?" I asked, worried.


"Somethin' big's gonna happen," Doyle said, fear in his eyes. "It's gonna happen soon, too. Somethin's really mad at you, Xand. It really wasn't a good idea to piss this guy off."


"Who? When?" I asked, my mind running down the list of enemies or possible enemies that were still alive…or could come back from the dead.


"I don’t know. I didn't get a face, or a name. But yer not the only one's he's after. He's also lookin' fer a few of yer friends. I think their names are Amanda and Peirson."


Just great. It was after Amanda and Methos, too? They have no idea, I thought. Methos was probably unreachable right now as he tried to locate Marc in Egypt. Marc tended to move around in the desert country, so there was no telling where Methos was while he tried to track Marc down. I had no idea where Amanda was. The last time I saw her was in the seventies. I hoped that they were okay.


"How dangerous is this guy, Doyle? Did the Vision tell you?"


"He's powerful. He's usin' some dark magic, I think. You're gonna need all the help you can get, so it's a good thing ya told yer Sunnydale friends about the mergin'."


I looked at him, surprised. "How did you know about that?"


"The Vision I had last night told me," he answered, looking uncomfortable. "Let's get goin', shall we? We'll fill Angel and Cordy in on our way ta Sunnydale."



*****



"So, you were sent back in time two thousand years ago, then you stopped the spell from happening the second time around, faded away, and half a year later you and your younger self have merged, making you better than ever. You've got friends that are thousands ofyears old, you've got a ton of money, you've been to practically ever fashion center in the world, and your fashion sense hasn't even improved?"


Doyle and Angel stared at her, and I gave her an amused smile before returning my eyes to the road. I hadn't forgotten how abrupt the ex-May Queen could be. "I guess that about sums it up." We were driving down the freeway to Sunnydale in my car. Angel's own convertible was in the shop. Doyle had crashed its hood against a gate recently, which really hadn't been a good idea for the front bumper and headlights. Both were smashed to bits from the impact. They were being repaired at the moment.


"I'm not sure I like the idea of you being older than me," Angel said after a moment. He was huddled beneath a blanket, away from the sun's rays.


I smirked at him through the rearview mirror. Although I couldn't see the reflection of his form in the back seat, I knew he was there. "You'll just have to get used to it, kid-"


I felt the Buzz and looked around. Fields surrounded us and a forest was up ahead; there weren't any hitchhikers in sight. I glanced around at the surrounding cars, wondering which one held an Immortal.


I concentrated on the direction the Buzz was coming from and glanced over my left shoulder at my blind spot. Another car was about to speed past my own in the left-hand lane. Our eyes connected and the Buzz faded somewhat.


"Xander? What's wrong?" Angel asked, sounding like he was ready for anything. He must have been peaking through his blankets and noticed me looking out the window.


"There's an Immortal in the car next to us," I answered.


"He's not going to challenge you in the middle of the freeway, is he?" Cordelia asked, sounding worried.


I looked back at the other driver. His expression wasn't a likeable one. It certainly wasn't friendly in any way.


"I don't think he'll challenge me, but he may do something even worse," I said. I began to speed up, hoping to get as far away from this guy as possible.


The other Immortal sped up too, and his vehicle began to edge closer and closer to the left side of mine. I cursed in a few choice languages. "Everyone, hold onto something," I said in English.


The other car collided with ours. My car spun off of the highway and onto the grassy plane on the right side of the freeway.


Cordelia screamed in surprise. In the back seat, Angel's heavy mass slid across the seat and collided with Doyle, making the half demon curse.


The other Immortal followed us off the road and drove straight into the driver's side of the car again. It pushed us back against a wire fence bordering most of the field. The Immortal backed his car up a few feet, preparing to strike again. I didn't even think when I pressed down on the gas petal and got back on the freeway only a few seconds before the other car would have smashed into mine again. Once on the freeway, I quickly got into the left-hand lane, passed a minivan, and then quickly got between it and an eighteen-wheeler.


The fields ended and the forest began, crowding the freeway on either side. The Immortal's car got back onto the road a few cars behind us. Cars sandwiched the Angel Investigations crew and me in front, back, and to my left, blocking us from the other Immortal's vehicle.


"Xander?" Cordelia asked. "Are we safe now?"


"I don’t think so," I said. "As soon as the cars in the left lane pass us, I’m going to follow them and pass this eighteen-wheeler, okay? Then I want all of you to get out of the car."


"Woah, hold on a minute here," Doyle said. "Where do ya expect us to go?" he asked. "The woods are too thick on either side of the freeway. There's no way we can hide in there, and Angel's got a little sun problem."


We passed a road sign advertising a rest stop that was about to come up. "I'll drop you guys off at the rest stop," I said. "Then I want you guys to get as far away from the road and get Angel as far away from the sun as possible, okay? I'll try to lose our tail, then come back for you."


"And if he flips the car over and kills you?" Angel asked from under his blanket.


"Then I'll revive and we can either hitch a lift with someone or wait for a cab. We're not too far out of LA, so we can probably call and rent one," I said.


The entrance to the rest stop appeared. "Everyone get ready, okay? I'm going to slow down and I expect all of you to get out then."


I pulled into the rest stop and slowed down. Cordelia, Gunn, and a blanket-covered Angel quickly got out. "Be careful, Xander," Cordelia said before she closed the door.


I sped up and quickly got back onto the highway. Thankfully, the other Immortal hadn't followed me into the rest stop parking lot and was still in pursuit.


The forest area flanking either side of the freeway ended. The freeway now ran between two low hills.


I quickly put three cars between us. He tried to get closer by cutting in and out of lanes and I did the same, attempting to keep the same amount of cars between us at all times.


I tried to get between two cars that didn't have that much space between them. It turned out to be a big mistake as the pick-up truck that was now behind me swerved out of the way, trying to avoid crashing into me. I had to swerve out his way as a result, and soon we were both heading onto the grassy hill on the right side of the freeway.


The other Immortal quickly left the freeway in pursuit. I sped up the side of the hill in an attempt to get away. When I reached the top, I kept going. The Immortal followed in his own car.


I attempted a sharp turn to the left and spun down the north side of the hill. At the bottom was a stone wall blocking off a section of private property.


"Shit," I said before executing another left turn. I just barely managed to miss the wall.


The Immortal's car did not. It rammed into the wall. An explosion started on the other side of the wall. I figured that a gas tank was located there, and the other Immortal's car just ran into it. It wasn't long before his car also went up in flames.


My tires squealed a final time as I slammed to a stop some distance away from the burning mass of metal. Parking the car, I got out and got as close to the burning car as I dared and looked for the other Immortal.


The collision had knocked the door on the driver's side off its hinges. The scorched body of my opponent lay halfway out of the car.


I carefully got him out and into my own car. He was already healing and I could tell that he would be waking up within the hour. Hopefully that would give us enough time to get to Sunnydale and to some holy ground. I wanted answers from this guy. He'd really managed to piss me off, and I had a feeling that he was connected to Doyle's Vision.



*****



As soon as we arrived in Sunnydale, I had Angel drop me off at the first chapel we saw and told the LA gang to head to Giles' house. They reluctantly agreed. Angel handed me one of the swords he'd packed for the trip before they took off.


I carried the other Immortal's almost-healed body to the courtyard between the west wall of the chapel building and the fence surrounding the small chapel's cemetery. Then I sat back on a bench, cradled the borrowed sword and my own one-and-a-half handed broadsword, and waited for the Immortal to wake up.


I didn't have to wait long. His Immortal Buzz returned and his body spasmed only five minutes after arriving on the plot of holy ground. He coughed a few times before looking around. "We're on holy ground," I said, my voice coming out deathly calm. Looked like I'd finally figured out how to keep my voice level in tough situations. My expression was as blank as my tone of voice.


I stood up at the same time he did. I didn't point either blade at him. It was holy ground, and we wouldn't need them unless we stepped off of it. "I'm Alexander LaVelle Harris," I told him.


"Alexander LaVelle?" he repeated. His face reflected his surprise. He shook his head in confusion. "I was told that you were Xander Harris. Guess you're both, huh?"


"That's right," I said. "Who are you? Who sent you?" I said, pointing my broadsword at his neck. "If you don't want to answer my questions, we can take this off holy ground right now. Trust me," I said, a grin spreading on my face, "you don't want that."


He was unmoved. "I've faced worse men than you, LaVelle," he said. "But frankly, I have nothing to lose if I answer your questions. My name is Samuel. My employer has different motives than I do for wanting you dead."


"Why does he want me to die?"


"Didn't ask."


Gee, that was helpful. "Why do you want me to die?"


"Ask your friend Methos," he said, venom in his tone. "The bastard doesn't deserve friends after what he did three thousand years ago."


"What the hell are you talking about?" I asked, venom in my own voice now.


"Ask him yourself. You'll hate him as much as I do after that." He crossed his arms, a smirk on his face.


That was it. This guy had already pissed me off earlier. He wasn't about to threaten my friends and get away with it. I tossed him Angel's sword. "There's a store parking lot behind the chapel grounds," I told him. "We'll fight behind the store, out of sight of onlookers. Start walking."



*****



When the Quickening subsided, I slowly stood up and tucked my broadsword and Angel's own sword inside the folds of my jacket. Then began the detested yet necessary process of dragging Samuel's body behind a garbage dump, where only vampires would be able to find it. If they were really hungry, they would probably drink whatever blood was still in his body. The image didn't sicken me as much as it normally would have. My mind was too busy processing the memories I'd received through Samuel's Quickening.


Four riders appearing on the horizon only moments before they plowed through a village. They felled all of the villagers they rode past.


One of the riders peeling back a mask made of a human skull. The face beneath was a familiar one: Methos.


I shook my head, trying to clear it of the disturbing images. I couldn't stop my body from trembling, a combined reaction of both the Quickening and what the stolen memories were telling me. I knew that what I saw in Samuel's memories was the reason why Samuel hated the old man. I wondered if I should ask Methos about it. Samuel could have easily been mistaken. His village's destruction took place three thousand years ago; one of the attackers could have somehow resembled Methos and he simply made a mistake when he connected Methos' face to the slaughter.


If I see Methos again, I'll ask him, I finally decided. I got caught on the word 'if' and remembered that I needed to find him and help him out before we could have any sort of discussion.


I stopped by the basement to change out of my blood-covered, tattered shirt, leftover evidence of the fight, and then walked to Giles'.


When I arrived, I became the center of attention of seven different people.


"Xander, are you all right? You look awful," Cordelia said.


"Oh, thank the goddess you're all right!" Willow exclaimed. Giles said something similar.


"Where is he?" Buffy asked, looking like she was ready to slam her fists into the other Immortal the first chance she got.


"Did you guys fight? I can smell blood," Angel put in.


"Yeah, we fought," I said, handing back his sword. I'd cleaned the blade and myself of blood as best as I could, but Angel had a better sense of smell than I possessed. "Someone hired him," I added. I looked at Doyle. "Have you filled everyone in?"


Doyle nodded. "I told 'em about the Vision."


"I think he was working for the guy in Doyle's Vision, but I'm not entirely sure. I got his memories in the Quickening, but most of them aren't really clear." The only clear ones were of a figure dressed entirely in white astride an armored horse, and I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to mention those.


No one looked very comfortable when it finally sunk in that I'd killed someone else. "Giles, can I borrow your phone?" I asked the Watcher.


"Sure." He handed me the portable.


"I need to call Peirson and Amanda, let them know what to watch out for," I explained to Angel and my friends.


I headed off to the kitchen. Behind me, I heard Buffy ask Doyle, "So how exactly did you and Xander meet?"


I filtered out the rest of the conversation and grabbed a beer from Giles' fridge. I took a few sips while I called a series of overseas numbers. I silently promised to pay Giles back when he got his monthly phone bill.


Methos wasn’t at any of his homes, which had to mean that he'd already left for Egypt. I tried the phone number Amanda had given me over a year ago. Someone named Lucy Becker answered the phone. Thankfully, Amanda was at home, and soon the younger Immortal thief was on the line.


"Alex LaVelle!" she said, her distinctive voice coming loud and clear over the line. "You haven't called me since you needed my help dragging Methos' sorry ass out of jail back in the seventies. To what do I owe this pleasure, darling?"


I smiled in relief. Same old Amanda. It didn't sound like she was in trouble, so I reached her in time. "We're in trouble again, Amanda," I said, getting straight to the point. There was no time for pleasantries; Samuel hadn't wasted any time trying to kill me, and our mysterious adversary could send another assassin to Amanda's doorstep at any minute.


"Same old Alex," she teased. "Straight to the point. Glad to see you haven't lost your touch. So, who is this 'we'?"


"You, Methos, and me," I answered. "We managed to piss someone off. I don't know who but he's already sent an Immortal assassin after me and I know that he'll also start using magic sooner or later."


There was a pause on the other end before Amanda sighed. "Damn. I was hoping that I could see Duncan for a few days. I suppose you want me to be wherever you are as soon as possible?"


"Yeah. I’m going to get in touch with Joe and see if he can locate Methos for me. The old man is in Egypt at the moment."


"Unless an assassin's already gone after him and Methos has decided to go into hiding again. Where are you, Alex?"


"Sunnydale, California."


"You're on the Hellmouth? What the hell are you doing there, LaVelle?"


I winced when Amanda raised her voice. "It's a long story. Will you come?"


She sighed again, this time in frustration over my choice of meeting places. "I'll be there soon," she finally said before hanging up.


I called Joe Dawson. He said he'd get back in touch with me in an hour or so after he'd contacted Marc's Watcher. If Methos had found Marc yet, Joe would tell me. I also suspected that Joe would tell Methos' own Watcher team about the old man's whereabouts. Knowing Methos, he would have lost them before he boarded a plane at the Paris airport.



*****



During the seven hours until Amanda's arrival, Willow and Oz passed the time by trying to find any background information on Samuel. I could still remember his current alias and residence from the Quickening. With that information, they'd hacked into any government, federal, or other files they could find through Willow's laptop. They'd already found a few things by mid-afternoon. Samuel, a. k. a. Simon Morgan, had been a suspect in four similar murders that weren't the beheading kind, but he was never convicted or sentenced despite the fact that he was always nearby when one of the murders occurred. I suspected that he had friends in high places. His last employer probably knew about Samuel's past.


Joe called me in the middle of the second hour, around lunchtime, and said that Methos had shown up at Marc's place. Joe sent a message via e-mail to Methos' e-mail account asking Methos to call Joe or me ASAP.


Angel hung around the apartment as he waited for the sun to go down. He made a few calls to old contacts around Sunnydale and a few newer ones in LA, trying to find out more information about Samuel or about whoever hired him. He didn't find out much; Simon Morgan had never been anywhere near LA before that day.


After three hours had passed, Angel and I pushed some of the furniture back and did some hand-to-hand sparing. Giles watched from the sidelines for awhile before he and I sparred. Giles and Angel were both impressed with my fighting skills and I ended up teaching both of them a few moves, much to my delight.


Buffy, Willow, and Oz returned from classes after six hours had passed. Cordy spent the day showing Doyle around Sunnydale before appearing back at Giles' place with enough food for everyone. Angel had brought some plasma with him, so we didn't need to worry about him biting someone.


As we sat down to eat, I worriedly looked at my watch before glancing back up at the clock. Amanda should be here any moment. I just hoped she hadn't been ambushed by another assassin and lost the battle.


"I hope she gets here soon," I said at one point before I bit into a hamburger. Food tended to be as soothing as beer was, so I ate and drank eagerly, hoping to calm down a little. It didn’t help much. I really hated it when any of my friends were in danger.


"What exactly is your connection with this woman, Xander?" Giles asked me.


It looked like his question had gotten everyone's attention. I smiled a little self-consciously. "Well…Amanda's a special case. I met her eight hundred years ago."


"Oh, you mean your two-thousand-year-old self did before the Merging thing?" translated Cordelia.


I nodded. "Yeah. Anyway, I'd been living in France for some time as Henry LaVelle. I had a job as head of security at the royal castle." I shrugged and grinned. "No one really thought that 'someone so young' could ever be a good security chief. That was before they saw me with a sword, of course."


"Anyway, one night while on the job I felt the Buzz. As it turned out, dear Amanda was trying to steal the Royal Treasury that night, and would have gotten away with it if I hadn't felt her Buzz."


"You mean she was a thief?" Buffy asked, her surprise evident.


"Was and still is," I stated, grinning. I watched as shock appeared on everyone's faces.


"And she's a friend of yours?" Oz finally asked.


"Friend is the wrong word," I said. I doubted that there was a good word to describe Amanda. I felt the Buzz and stood up, smiling in relief. "You'll see what I mean in a minute."


There was a knock on the door. It startled everyone in the room that wasn't equipped with an Immortal Buzz. The knocking grew louder and faster before I managed to open the door, then I had to duck before Amanda's raised fists made contact with my head.


Amanda didn't even pause to apologize, or something like that, before she pushed me aside, ran inside, and locked the door.


I took in her appearance. Her hair was matted with dust, and there were a few rips in her expensive black silk shirt, pants, and overcoat. "Amanda, what the hell happened?" I asked her, hoping that it hadn't been another assassin. She looked at me in puzzlement and I realized that I'd asked the question in Latin, a language the younger Immortal didn't know.


Before I could translate, Giles asked in English, "Ma'am, are you all right?"


She nodded as she caught her breath. "I've been better. I had a little run in with some vampires outside the Sunnydale airport. They're dust now."


"That's good ta hear," Doyle said.


"Yeah, we could always use help with the slayage," said Buffy.


"My pleasure. Unfortunately, the Tippith Demons that appeared after the dust clouds settled are still active, and I'm not sure if I lost them or not."


"Great," Buffy muttered before she hurried across the room to Giles' weapons chest. Angel also handed out weapons from his stash. "Everyone, grab a weapon and get ready."


Amanda and I took out our swords. After the weapons had been handed out, Giles looked at Amanda with wide eyes. "Tippith Demons? Are you sure?"


"Well, let's see, they had the red eyes with paralyzing powers, and there was no other indication that they were demons except for the fact that they can move really fast and have bones made of steel."


"Uh, yes, that does meet the description of a Tippith Demon," Giles said, looking a little flustered.


"That does not sound good," Cordelia remarked.


"I'll second that," Doyle said.


"And they're coming here," Buffy stated, as if it was to be expected. "We should get out while we still can."


The back window of Giles' living room smashed inward, sending shards of glass everywhere. Everyone whirled around to see a human-looking figure wearing sunglasses. He removed them and revealed red ovals. There wasn't a spec of white in those eyes.


"I think it's too late for that," Willow said, worry in her tone.


"Don't look at his eyes," Giles warned.


"Got it," Buffy said. She held up an axe and kept her eyes leveled on his chest. Everyone else held up their own weapons or hid behind the more fightworthy members of our little group.


"Alexander LaVelle Harris and Amanda Darieux," the Tippith Demon said. I refused to meet his eyes, but I could feel his stare as his gaze traveled over me before landing on Amanda. "My master has ordered me to bring you to him. You shall pay for your crimes."


Our crimes? What was this guy referring to? I've broken a few laws here and there when I broke friends out of jail or helped other friends steal artwork, and I've also killed people in the past. Amanda and Methos have, too. It's a part of who we are. Somehow, however, I felt positive that the Tippith Demon was referring to something we wouldn't consider a crime.


"You know, I really don't think so," Amanda said. "Maybe some other time."


The Tippith smiled. He let out a long, low whistle.


We heard several pairs of footsteps. Glancing around in alarm, we watched as four other Tippith Demons stepped through the door and the smashed window, and others were appearing behind them.


"Willow!" Oz exclaimed behind me. I turned and saw him facing the two who had entered the door. Willow, Angel, and Giles were on either side of him, only Willow was as still as a statue. I realized that she'd mistakenly looked into the eyes of one of the demons.


"Everyone, don't look at their eyes! Everyone surround Willow until the paralysis wears off," I ordered. Everyone moved into a protective circle around my very still best friend. I turned my attention back to the smashed window and ducked as one of the Tippiths tried to sock me. I ducked a few more of his fists. On either side of me, Amanda and Cordelia were fighting two more of the demons, and I could hear the others fighting as well.


My own fighting partner was getting faster and faster. I tried to keep him away or at least kill him with swipes from my blade, but he managed to duck everyone, moving faster with each one until at one point he actually grabbed the sword and held it in a death grip.


I watched in dismay as he crunched the metal within his fist, breaking my most prized blade into pieces. Damnit, but that was my oldest sword! Peter gave me that sword! I liked that weapon.


He grabbed a hold of my shoulder with his other hand and squeezed. Pain shot through me as I felt, and heard, bones crack and then break. I ignored the pain as best as I could and tried to knee him in the crotch. I succeeded. His hold loosened on my shoulder as he bent over. I tried to knock him to the ground by hitting the small of his back, but he used his super speed again and grabbed my hands before I could deliver the blow.


I watched in disgust as he licked off his own blood from his palm. He looked like he had as much pleasure doing it as a vampire. After the hand was licked clean, he used it to grab a hold of my chin. He did it so fast that I was staring into his red eyes before I could even close my own brown ones.


His hold loosened on me and I tried to back away. However, as I'd feared, I couldn’t move now. Just like the Willow statue only a few feet away. Damnit, damnit, damnit. This was not going very well.


The Tippith Demon tossed me over his shoulder and started walking toward the smashed window. My friends hadn't even noticed what was happening to me; they were too busy trying to stay alive and mobile. Another Tippith had Amanda draped over his shoulder. I couldn't feel her Buzz anymore. That meant she was dead, not paralyzed, which wasn't necessarily a good thing. She could take as much time to heal and revive as the paralysis took to wear off of me.


I hoped that Methos was doing better than we were.



*****



When the Tippith Demon set me down again, about thirty minutes had passed and I was still frozen. I hoped Willow and the others were okay. I knew that Willow was probably scared over being frozen. I certainly knew that I didn't like it.


Out of the corner of either of my eyes, I saw another Tippith set a revived Amanda down. I also saw Methos and Marc surrounded by several Pithia Demons. I frowned, or would have frowned if I wasn't frozen, as I remembered Giles, an older one than the one currently in Sunnydale, one that died two thousand years ago in Greece, mention something. He told me that Pithia Demons knew how to teleport. That explained how the Methos and Marc had gotten to the Hellmouth so quickly.


"Alex! Amanda!" Marc said when he realized the Buzz of approaching Immortals came from us. He took a step in our direction before two Pithia Demons grabbed him by the arms. I couldn't really see him very well since I wasn't pointed in his direction, but I knew that Marc would really resent being held still.


"What's happened to him?" Methos asked Amanda.


"Tippith Demons froze him. I don't know if he's even aware that we're in here."


Oh, I definitely was aware. Not that I could tell her that, frozen like I was. Boy, this was getting irritating.


"He's aware," a new voice announced from behind the crowd of demons. I watched, having little choice in the matter, as the crowd parted directly in front of me to reveal the reason why we were here.


Inwardly, I was staring. Okay, I was staring anyway, but what I saw made me go into shock. I was pretty sure Methos and Amanda had the same reaction. Marc wouldn't know this man, of course, but it didn't really matter.


My heart was beating loudly in my chest. Damnit, but I hoped that whatever he had planned, it wouldn't be like last time.


He held a hand out toward my body and spoke a few words in Latin, which roughly translated meant, "Unfreeze and return."


The paralysis holding my body broke. I stumbled slightly before two of the Tippith Demons behind me grabbed onto my arms and held me upright. I glanced around at my friends, then, attempting to hide my panic, I sent a glare at our common nemesis.


"Jake Melville," Methos said, his voice coming out hard, and no wonder; we didn't like him one bit. I doubted I could have managed that calm voice at the moment, but the old man's had a lot more experience with that than me.


There's actually two ways for an Immortal to die, not one. If I lost my Quickening, magically or through decapitation, I would die permanently. No Immortal can survive without a Quickening inside him or her. The first way for us to lose a Quickening is by losing our heads. That's the more popular way to kill us. The other way is through magic. Melville, an ex-Watcher who liked gaining power and knew a little magic, was aware of the second way to kill us. He'd kidnap an Immortal and perform a ritual that transferred the power of an Immortal's Quickening to him. It was the only way that a mortal could get a Quickening. By the time the ritual was over, the Immortal would be dead.


Back in the 70's, Melville kidnapped me. He was performing the ritual on me, and it almost killed me when Methos burst into the room, sent a round of bullets into Melville's chest, and got me to someplace safe where I could heal. Unfortunately, someone saw Methos and I leave the scene and Methos was arrested for murder. Thankfully, Amanda provided an alibi for the old man, and the two of them ended up nursing me back to health.


Amanda, Methos, and I were convinced that Melville had died twenty-three years ago. To my shock and fear, though, it looked like he survived.


The tall, fifty-something man smiled in satisfaction. "So you remember me. I was beginning to worry that I hadn't made an impression. I thought you'd forgotten. I mean, exactly how many enemies do the three of you have in common, anyway? And exactly how many of them could still be alive?"


"You're supposed to be dead," I stated, my voice filled with anger.


"Yes, and that's what magically inclined friends are for. I was shot, they helped heal me," he said. "I've done a lot in the last twenty-three years. Helped out a few covens, hired a few demons." He motioned at the crowd surrounding us. "Ones that could do jobs in places with humans," he nodded at the Tippith Demons, then motioned at the Pithias, "and ones that could do jobs in places that no human has ever traveled to."


"Then a few years ago, one of my contacts in the Watchers asked me to join this renegade group that he was starting. He knew that I was against a few Immortals," he grinned at us, "and said that if I helped him kill a few in the Paris area, he'd tell me where Alex LaVelle and Amanda were. He didn't know about your situation, Peirson, but I happened to be flipping through a list of Watchers that could be possible recruits and saw you."


Methos scowled when he heard that, insulted that Horton would even have considered recruiting him.


"And here we are, together again," Melville said, grinning. "And this time, I believe I have the upper hand." He turned to his hired help and spoke in a demonic language I didn't know.


Suddenly, a space was cleared in the middle of the floor to reveal a symbol I never wanted to see again. It was part of the requirements for the Quickening-transfer ritual. Damnit and it looked like I was going to be the first victim. Methos, Amanda, and Marc were being pulled to the far end of the room and tossed against the wall. Before they could do anything, like run away and get help or fight back, Melville spoke some more words in Latin and a green barrier appeared, trapping my Immortal friends in the corner of the room. I figured that the barrier would prevent any of them from getting my Quickening as well as escaping.


I tired to struggle, but I was no match for the strength of my Tippith escorts. I could fell my heart beating loudly in my chest. I did not want to go through this again. I was anywhere but there. They tied my arms behind my back and secured them to a pole in the center of the large room. The pole was in the middle of the symbol, which was a character in a language I didn't know. I watched as a special, enchanted jar was placed a few feet away from me. I knew that the jar would be used to collect my Quickening, and then Melville would break the jar and the Quickening would enter any mortal being who was standing within the symbol, which would without a doubt be Melville.


I swallowed and tried to stay calm. Panicking wasn't going to help my situation, although it felt like that was I all I could do. Bloody hell. Why didn't we think about Melville? Why didn't we make sure that Melville was dead back in 1976? Methos had been so sure that he'd killed the SOB. Hell, the police had been certain of it, too.


I wish we'd considered him to be a possibility anyway. But damnit, how could I have? I'd collected so many enemies, in Buffy's company and out of it, in the past century that I had trouble keeping track of them.


As Melville approached me with the same enchanted dagger he used twenty-three years ago, I wondered if there would be an escape this time. Amanda, Methos, and Marc couldn't help rescue me this time, and the gang and the Angel Investigations crew hadn't shown up yet. I hoped they'd make it in the nick of time like so many other moments in the past three years.


Melville whispered words in Latin. His voice was too low for me to follow. He circled around me once before coming to a halt directly behind me. I heard him raise the dagger to my back and cut a line down the middle of my shirt. The fabric fell away, and I could feel the air blow against my bare skin. The next part, I knew, was going to hurt.


Melville sliced through the skin on my back. I bit back a scream at the pain. I could feel him slice down to my ribs and spine. He carved an X pattern that covered my entire back. My breath came in pants now as I felt something liquid, blood, run down my back. I was getting lightheaded from bloodloss, and it didn't help that my heart was pounding loudly in my ears. It almost covered the screams coming from my friends.


A mantra decided to join the chaotic moment. I repeated it over and over in my mind. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't wanna die. I don’t wanna die.


I fought off unconsciousness and watched as Melville backed away from me, out of the way of the blood that was pooling around me.


It hurt. It hurt so much. I didn't feel so good anymore. I'd be dead soon from bloodloss, and then Melville would take my Quickening before I could even revive. Damnit, this was not fair. Was this how it was going to end? Did my younger and older selves merge only to be killed permanently only two days later? Damnit, if the Powers That Be planned this, I was really looking forward to letting them know how I felt when I saw them.


Melville raised his hands to the sky and chanted some more. Thunder shook the building.


A single bolt from my Quickening soared out of my chest and into the enchanted jar only a few feet away. I gasped at the pain and pleasure the bolt caused. More of the purplish-blue bolts left me and entered the jar. The jar didn’t even crack. Stray bolts hit the ceiling, sending plaster crashing down all around me. The bolts did not, however, strike anywhere outside the symbol.


I could feel myself become weaker and weaker as more of my Quickening, my soul, left my body. My blood no longer flowed out of my back, but the cuts had only gotten halfway through healing before the first bolt left me. But since my own soul was being ripped away from me, piece by piece, I knew I wouldn't last much longer. I couldn't even kneel upright anymore. I felt so tired, and I just wanted the pain to end.


"SUBSISTO!"


The Latin word rang out through the room, grabbing my weakening attention. That sounded like Willow's voice, and it sounded like she'd just shouted 'halt.'


It seemed to work. No more bolts left my body for the jar, and I sagged against the pole in relief, not even feeling any pain from the wounds on my back, although I probably would in a minute.


Angry, Melville cast a second green barrier that encompassed the symbol, the jar, and me. He then turned to face the new threat. So did his demons.


Peering through the green field now separating me from everyone else, I could see several welcoming faces enter the room. Hail, hail, the gang's all here, my lightheaded mind said, making me smile a little dumbly.


Then an all-out battle began between the two demon breeds and my friends, and I finally passed out.



*****



"Xander? Xander, we need you to wake up!"


"We really need you right now, Teach. Can you hear me?"


God, I felt awful. Who the hell was trying to talk to me, anyway? Couldn't they come back later?


"By the gods, Alex, get your thick-headed Roman brain working again right now!"


Okay, that got my attention. If anything could, Methos' annoying comments would definitely do the trick. I opened my eyes. I felt a good deal better than before, but I still felt so very weak. Last time, it took my over a year to regain my strength. I wondered how long I would need this time.


I was slouched over on the ground. My hands were still tied behind my back, but the pole that held me had been split in two. The two wounds on my back hadn't completely sealed up. I could feel pain radiating from them, but they weren't bleeding anymore. I felt really, really tired. Just lifting my head to look around me felt like a big accomplishment. From what I could see, the green barrier still surrounded the jar and me. Methos held Melville by the throat with the sacrificial dagger. Amanda, Marc, Angel, Oz, and Doyle kept sending the mortal warlock glares whenever they weren't giving me concerned yet urgent looks, while Willow, Cordelia, and Buffy circled around Methos and Melville, murder written clearly on their faces.


"We need you ta break the jar, man," Doyle said. "Can ya do that?"


"I know it's a lot to ask, Alex," Amanda said. "I know how weak you must feel right now. But you need to do it, or we won't be able to get to you."


"You can do it, Xander," Willow encouraged me.


"I'll try," I said. I wasn't making any promises.


The jar looked like it was a long way off. I crawled toward it, moving slowly. I could feel sweat fall down my forehead and I was pretty sure that my back wounds had opened up again. Boy, I must have been a sight to see, covered in blood and sweat. I was panting by the time I reached the jar.


I remembered fighting Sunday's goons only two days ago. Who knew that would lead to this? Me, re-experiencing a bad moment in my past, with my Immortal friends, my Sunnydale friends, and the LA gang fighting side-by-side. I'd imagined that fighting side-by-side bit happening a few times over the last few years, ever since Doyle told me about the merging for the first time back in 1996. I'd hoped I'd get a chance to introduce them, but I never expected this to happen. I guess I should have. This sort of thing was practically normal in the daily life of the eighteen-year-old Xander Harris, but for Alex LaVelle those instances took place at least every few months or every few years. And again, it feels weird talking about myself, both of them, in the third person. I should probably stop doing it.


"You have to crush the jar, Xander," Giles was saying.


Damnit, Watcher. G-Man. I was so weak that crawling a few feet felt like I'd run from the north end of the California to the south end without any breathers. And now he expected me to do something else? Still, if I wanted to get out of here, which I really, really did, and if I wanted to prevent Melville from getting my Quickening, which would also be a great thing to prevent, I had to crush this thing that was right in front of my nose.


So I raised a fist and brought it down as hard as I could manage onto the jar. It wasn't very fast or very hard, but the jar surprised me. I guess it was really fragile or something, because it collapsed without that much effort on my part. That was a really, really good thing.


A small mist, the part of my Quickening that Melville managed to take, rose from the shards and into me. It healed the cuts on my back, but didn't do much for my strength. That would take a while to return. Last time it took almost thirteen months. I hoped that this time would be different.


I dropped back onto the floor in relief. The green barrier separating me from the rest of the world disappeared. A lot of my friends rushed to help me up, and I ended up being supported by Angel on one side and Buffy on the other.


Melville was renewing his struggles, but Methos held on to him. Melville began to utter a spell, but Methos beat him to it by head-butting him unconscious.


"Get Xander out of here," Methos instructed the people surrounding me. To Amanda, he said, "I'll call you for the address."


"And just wha' do ya plan ta do with him?" Doyle asked, nodding toward Melville's sleeping form.


I knew the answer to that one, although I doubted that I could have formed a coherent sentence right about then. The truth was, Doyle wouldn't want to know. I doubted that Willow, Buffy, Oz, Giles, Cordy, and even Angel would want to know the answer, either.


"Let's just get Alex out of here," Amanda told them.



*****



Methos caught up to us at Giles' apartment about a half an hour later. Buffy asked him what happened to Melville, but Methos didn't answer. He talked to Amanda and Marc for a few minutes before he came up to Giles' bedroom to see me. I asked him, in Latin, if Melville was dead. Methos said yes. That was good enough for me, but I knew better than to tell the gang that.


I fell asleep at one point, and when I woke up again, I didn't feel any better.


A day or so later, I was moved to my new apartment, where my friends took turns sitting me. We moved all of my stuff into the new place, although they did most of the work. They wouldn't let me do much. I doubted I could have. I didn't really like it, but there was nothing I could do about it while I was so weak.


Melville was finally dead, and I was still alive. It was good enough reason to celebrate, so we did. After everything was in my new apartment, we threw a party. The day afterwards, Doyle had a Vision so he, Cordy, and Angel had to head back to Los Angeles. Amanda had to get back to her life with Nick Wolfe, her Pre-Immortal boyfriend, so she also left. Marc and Methos were going to stay until I got better, though. Life pretty much returned to normal, and everything stayed quiet. For awhile.


In Sunnydale, however, peace and quiet never lasted for long. Methos and Marc had no idea would they were getting themselves into. They would find out soon enough.


The night after the party, Methos, Marc, and I were just sitting around my living room, talking about recent events. "So what was it like?"


"What was what like?" I asked.


"The merging. What's it like having the memories of a teenager added to the complicated mess already in that brain of yours?"


"What, it's not like I didn't have those memories before, Methos," I reminded him, shooting him a glare. "Those memories of being a teenager, living a dangerous life in Sunnydale…they used to be muddled somewhat, dimmer. They were two thousand years old, after all. You know what I mean. That was before I ceased to exist five months ago. Now that I'm alive again, I still have that dim recollection, but I also have clearer copies of the same memories, courtesy of my younger self." I shook my head. "The dimmer and clearer Sunnydale memories are getting mixed together, though. I'm the product of both of them now." I shrugged. "We've merged."


"Freaky," Marc said. Methos and I both sent him amused looks. He gave us an exasperated look. "What, you think I can't keep up with Modern English slang words in Egypt?"


"No, it's the fact that you actually used a slang word that is scary," I informed him, grinning.


"Yeah, sure, whatever, Teach," he said, rolling his eyes.


"So, what are your plans now, Alex?" Methos asked me. "After your strength returns, I mean."


"I'm going to stay here for awhile," I said. "Lots of vampires and demons to fight here on the Hellmouth."


"Well, if you think I'm staying to help, forget it," Methos informed me. "I'm staying here until you're healed and then I'm out of here."


I smirked. "You really don't know what you've gotten yourself into, do you?" Marc and Methos stared at me, uncomprehending. "Did you guys think that what Melville did was something abnormal in this town? We'll have to deal with a new evil soon, I guarantee it."


"How soon?" Marc asked.


"Next Monday is my guess."


"But that's two days away!" Marc exclaimed, and I nodded. "Do you ever get to relax in this town?"


"Sure we do…for a few hours." I shook my head at them disapprovingly. "Why do you think Amanda left so quickly? She did her homework."


Methos groaned and buried his head in his hands. Marc did the same.


I snickered. Boy, if neither of them left now, they would be in for quite a ride.



THE END



 

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