(LA, MacArthur Park)
Xander paced nervously up and down watching and waiting for Harry to show up, the two days before the meet had been tense ones and he had grown more and more nervous as the time for the meet grew closer. The fact that Giles was watching his back was the only thing that made the waiting bearable. Explaining the need to be here and for meeting Harry was not easy, as he had not been able to explain about Faith and who she really was. Giles had understood that he couldn’t explain fully due to his promise, even if he also didn’t know who exactly he had made that promise to.
He wondered what kind of mood Harry was going to be in when he showed up, hopefully it would not be a too painful meeting as he still expected to be hit on first contact. Glancing at his watch he noted it was ten thirty and close to when the meet was arranged for. He looked back and saw Giles walk past as if he was a tourist, easily blending in with the crowd. As he looked back he finally saw Harry Tasker all but stalk into view. It was clear the man was in a foul mood which did not improve Xander’s nervousness over the meeting.
Harry Tasker kept a close eye on his surroundings as he headed for the agreed upon meeting area. He did his best to keep his anger in check which was not easy. Ever since he and his wife had returned from a mission overseas to find their daughter missing they had been searching for her, but their search had turned up nothing. They had slowly begun to lose hope they would ever find her again. There had been no signs of a struggle at their home and no leads to follow. Gibb had been on a mission of his own at the time and so was not on hand to keep an eye on Dana and their boss had refused to answer any of Dana’s questions before she went missing as she seemed to believe them dead.
Clearly someone had lied to her about their status and she had believed them to the point of running away or worse he thought of joining whoever had lied to her. Maybe whoever this guy was who had information on Dana could tell him who it had been, then again he knew this guy could be one of those who did lie to Dana and this was all a trap. He was prepared for that though, even if the fact that this guy knew his former alias of Dutch seemed to point in a different direction. His eyes roamed the park seeking his prey even if he did not know what he looked like. Gibb was watching his back with Helen which was all the backup he needed if this was indeed a damn trap.
“Hello Dutch,” a voice said from behind him and he quickly spun and shoved his fist into a young man’s chest. He watched as the young man dropped to the ground winded and looking quite in pain. “Shit, I knew you would do that,” he gasped as he did his best to get back up.
Giles watched as the man Xander met hit him hard and it cost him all of his strength not to turn Ripper on that guy, even when Xander had warned him something like that would happen and that he had to let it happen unless the guy was trying to kill him and so Giles bit his teeth together and waited for what would happen next.
“Who the fuck are you?” Harry growled as he reached down and pulled the young man back up and glared at him. “What do you know about Dana?” he added a second later putting all of his rage into his question.
Xander did his best not to wilter in fear at the look of pure hatred and rage that showed in Harry’s eyes as he glared at him. The strike to his chest had hurt like hell, but finally he was beginning to be able to ignore the pain.
“My name is Alexander or Xander if you prefer,” he finally answered Harry who had shook him a few times while repeating his questions. “I’m not a threat to you Dutch, I swear. I can help you find Dana,” he stated.
Harry glared at him some more before he pushed him away and paced a little. He listened to Helen’s voice in his ear through the ear piece he wore to calm down. He knew she was right, he would not get anywhere by beating this guy around, especially if like he said he could help them find Dana, there was a slim possibility that he was actually on the same side as them.
“Where is Dana?” he demanded to know.
“Before I answer that Dutch, you have to understand something,” Xander responded, knowing he was walking on thin ice. “Dana thinks you and Helen are dead and has done so for a few years at best. She has created an alias for herself which protects her from being hurt, at least emotionally,” he explained as best he could. “She gave herself a new name and basically pushed everything that made up Dana Tasker into the darkest corner of her mind. If I just tell you where she is you’ll leave and head right for her and it will blow up in your face and mine,” he continued. “Most likely she’ll run, because she’ll think you are impostors and she might, in her anger, attempt to kill you both and I will not have that happen,” he stated seriously.
Harry listened to what he was being told and did not like it one bit. Their supposed deaths seemed to have hit Dana harder than they had thought. This was not good, if her first thought, should they show up, was that they were impostors then they would have to plan their meeting carefully. It seemed the young man Xander had a good grasp of his daughter’s psych. Forcing down the urge to hit Xander again, he considered just how much of what he was being told was truth and what might be lies.
“I swear to you Dutch I’m not lying about anything I’ve said,” Xander told him, having noted the look in the other man’s eyes. “Dana is very different to the girl you remember, she goes by the name Faith now,” he informed him. “When I confronted her, I kept calling her Dana and she all but threatened to rip my guts out if I did not learn to stop it and call her Faith,” he added. “By coming here and contacting you I’ve broken whatever trust she might have in me, but I had to do something as I knew you were alive and I could not allow what the council did to her to stand,” he finished the last bit in a dark tone.
Harry instantly took note of the name of what sounded like an organization, most likely the organization that had lied to Dana. He hoped Gibb had been listening closely so he could run a search, whoever they were they had just reached number one on his shit list.
“Why do you care so much?” Harry found himself asking.
“Because of a strange series of events I know you, Helen and Dana very well,” Xander answered after taking a deep breath, knowing this was where things were going to get heated.
“I don’t know you kid,” Harry argued. “And I defiantly did not know you when I was going by the alias of Dutch,” he added. “Which brings me to the question of how you know that name?” he asked after switching of the two way comm device that let Helen and Gibb listen in. They did not need to know this.
“That is where things are going to get messy,” Xander answered with a sigh. “I know you Dutch and your family because I have the memories of Jorge "Poncho" Ramirez in my head,” he stated meeting the waiting gaze of Harry Tasker.
Buffy and Faith entered the library to find it empty and there was no sign of Giles at all which was odd, the two slayers looked around and found nothing. Willow and Oz soon entered as well only to pause as they noted Giles was missing and both slayers were looking somewhat confused.
“I wonder where Giles has gone,” Willow mused as she looked behind the counter for any notes Giles might have left for them. “Did he say anything about not being in today?” she inquired.
“Not to me,” Buffy responded as Faith dropped into one of the seats at the table and put her feet up. “Usually he’s always here,” she added as Oz and Willow also sat down. “Maybe he’s sick,” she suggested with a shrug of her shoulders before she also sat down.
“So what do we do now B?” Faith inquired, not exactly bothered by the absence of the watcher.
“I guess we plan our patrol for tonight on our own,” Buffy responded after a few minutes of thinking it over. “Hey where is Xander? He’s usually always here before us,” she asked a second later as she finally realised the male Scooby was missing as well.
“I don’t know actually, as he has not been in any classes today,” Willow answered. “I thought he was sciving again,” she added as she looked at Oz with a questioning gaze to which the guitarist shook his head in the negative that he too hadn’t seen Xander. “Strange, I wonder where he has gone to,” she wondered aloud.
Faith frowned a little as she listened to Buffy and Willow talk, so Xander was missing as well. She didn’t like that fact, she doubted he’d cross her by going behind her back and telling Giles the truth about who she was, but on the other hand she did not exactly trust him either. Maybe it was just a coincidence that both were absent today. If she was going to be a part of this group then she would have to learn to trust them at least somewhat. So she shook off her suspicions and focused on the discussion as it turned to planning the patrol. She could hardly wait to burn off some excess energy she had.
(LA, MacArthur Park)
Xander saw the punch coming as if it was in slow motion. He closed his eyes and prayed it would not hurt to damn much. The blow when it connected literary made him see stars and he collapsed to the ground and wondered if Harry had broken his nose. Blinking rapidly he noted the big man reach down to pick him up, he rolled away and slowly got back to his feet. He staggered a little before he felt he had regained his balance. Harry advanced on him and subconsciously he dropped into a defensive posture without realising it.
Giles watched as Xander was hit again and this time he was going to let Ripper lose on the man, even if he was a walking mountain. He only stopped because Xander gave him a quick sign to keep back for now-
“I am not lying Harry,” he stated as the other man boar in on him. “I’m telling you the truth. I know exactly what you and your team encountered on your final mission,” he stated, which actually made Harry pause as his own memories of that mission surfaced.
“Lies, no one can know that but Anna,” Harry all but growled as he responded. “She was the only one who saw it and lived bar me,” he added as he flexed his fingers, ready to strangle Xander for bringing this up, something he fought so hard to keep buried.
“Poncho saw it before he died. His last memory is leaning against you looking back to where Billy had just screamed his death cry,” Xander told him, his gaze distant and dark. “Our weapons were aimed and ready, he was shaking badly, partly due to the pain he felt from the log that slammed into his ribs, breaking a few of them and partly due to fear,” he continued. “Then nothing, I am guessing Poncho was hit from the side,” he mused. “Most likely a head shot considering how everything just faded,” he speculated.
Harry could only stare at Xander in shock as he indeed described Poncho’s last moments. ‘How was this possible?’ he thought to himself. Only he and Anna knew the whole story, even when they were debriefed they had kept some things back. This kid was too young to be black ops. He didn’t look like anyone with connections in the government. So how did he know what he did?
“How do you know that?” he demanded to know in his best threatening tone. “Talk and talk fast before I rip your guts out,” he added.
“That is not going to be easy to explain without showing you proof Dutch, and the only way I can do that is at night time,” Xander answered, wincing at the look in the other man’s eyes which promised pain if he did not comply. “I have the memories of Poncho due to magic, it exists Dutch,” he stated. “And before you call me crazy, think on how else I could know what really happened to you in that jungle in such detail?” he pressed, hoping to make a point before Harry decided to pound him some more. “Your encounter there should show that there is far more in heaven and earth than we actually know or understand. Aliens exists as your encounter shows so why can’t magic?” he argued.
Harry glared at him wanting to shoot down his explanation, but found he could not, because he was right. His encounter in the jungle with the being that could only have been an alien proved that humans did not know everything. That there were other species in the universe and maybe even on their own planet, just because he had seen no proof of magic that did not make it unreal. If the kid could prove what he was saying then he would have to believe him. ‘What kind of world was he stepping into now?’ he wondered.
After the encounter in the jungle his entire world view had changed, he knew things that no one else did. Even some of his superiors had been dismissive during his debriefing of what he had said, some people never wanted to believe the truth. No matter how much it invaded reality. He forced himself to relax and stepped away from Xander who also relaxed his posture.
“You have no idea Dutch what it is like to have another man’s entire life in your head,” Xander told him with a dark look that sent a shiver down his spine. “When it first happened I had nightmares about what happened in the jungle for months afterwards. I fought to suppress it all and I finally managed it after a while,” he explained. “Then a few nights ago Dana showed up with her new attitude and alias and broke through all the barriers I had built around those events,” he stated. “The nightmares are back now and Poncho’s life is invading my own and it is out of his loyalty to you that I am doing this,” he went on as he finally sat down on a nearby bench. “He lost his family when he died, he realized this before the magic that caused him to possess me faded,” he informed him, making Harry flinch. “I can’t rest until I do this, if any real part of Poncho still exists in me bar his memories, he wouldn’t stop until I acted and I hope once I have reunited you with Dana that the memories and nightmares will fade again,” he admitted.
Harry was a little taken aback by the heavy admission, it was far more than he expected from such a young man. He finally sat down himself. He was confused on what to believe. Poncho had been one of his best friends, one of the few who knew him as Harry Tasker even when he was going by his alias of Dutch. His death had haunted him even more than most of the others of his lost unit, trying to explain how Poncho had died to his wife had not been easy.
He had not been able to tell her the full truth, something Marie had realized which made the pain worse and angered her even more. He checked in with her from time to time, she had never remarried. Every time he did call in on her she tried to get the truth out of him. He had promised himself that one day he could tell her the full story. If what he was being told was true and Xander had all of Poncho’s memories in his head, then he knew everything his friend had.
“What was Poncho’s wife’s name and how did he meet her?” he asked, surprising Xander who had begun to stare off into space. He jerked around to look at Harry. Realizing Harry was testing him, he relaxed somewhat. At least he was not hitting him anymore.
“Her name was Marie, they’d been married twenty odd years,” Xander answered. “They first met just out of college, Poncho walked right into her and almost sent her flying down a flight of stairs, but just managed to catch her hand and save her,” he went on. “Marie was at first angry but quickly calmed down when she realized it was an accident. To apologies he took her to a café and paid for whatever she wanted,” he continued as a small smile appeared on his face at the memory of something he could see so very clearly. “They spent the time getting to know one another, they exchanged phone numbers before leaving and a few days later he phoned to ask her on their first real date to which she agreed,” he finished. “Their relationship was always stable. When he enlisted in the army she was not entirely happy, but she supported him,” he started again after a few seconds of silence. “When she first met you she was surprised to say the least at how tall you were compared to her,” he said with a chuckle, while Harry smiled as he recalled that event. “When he joined your rescue unit she was relieved, thinking it would not be as dangerous as the black ops he had been on before it,” he stated.
“Yeah I bet she was,” Harry agreed, while running a hand through his hair unable to dismiss the evidence now before him.
He doubted Marie would have told that story to any stranger who came to see her and it was not in Poncho’s profile or in any records the government might have on him. So the only answer he could come up with was that Xander had told him the truth, that he had the entire lifetime of Poncho in his head. A small part of him was still suspicious of him, but for the most part he felt he was truthful with what he said. If he could help him find Dana then he would have earned his full trust.
“Ok for now I believe you,” he finally said. “We can discuss this more later, but for now we have to focus on Dana and how to approach her,” he added. “Are you up to meeting Helen and Gibb?” he inquired with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah I think I can manage that Dutch. I have a friend I have to check in with before we do that,” Xander answered, feeling relieved that things had not gone as badly as he had thought it would. “He came to keep an eye on me and now that things have been mostly sorted out he can head home,” he told him.
“Does he know about Dana?” Harry asked as he took a sweeping glance for this supposed friend before locating an older man nearby who had an unhealthy interest in them. “Is that him?” he asked indicting the man.
“Yeah that’s him and no he has no clue about Dana,” Xander answered. “He only knows her as Faith, before he goes though he can help me explain why the council is so interested in your daughter enough to lie to her,” he added as they stood up. “You are not going to like it one bit Dutch and if you decide to go after the bastards, count me in,” he stated in a tone that brooked no argument before walking off towards Giles.
Harry watched him go, surprised by his offer before he switched his comm back on, only to wince as his wife’s began to yell at him. He quickly calmed her down before moving to follow Xander. If he did decide to go after this Council he would be sure to make them suffer.
The demon moved through its cave system with ease planning its next outing to bathe in human blood. It had been a week since his last hunt and it hoped to find decent prey. The demon came to a stop as it noted three red dots on its chest, letting loose a growl it looked up to see a pair of yellow eyes flash before they disappeared and then a blast of energy shot out of its shoulder before the demon could attack. It let loose a roar of pain as its chest exploded and then a second bolt took its head clean off.
The Predator turned away from the dead prey and was a bit disappointed. Usually demons offered more of a challenge. Many times it had come here to hunt such beasts and come away with prime trophies. This time it seemed he was to be disappointed. Hopefully in the week he had here he would find more worthy prey, moving of he wondered if human prey may not offer better pickings.