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This story is No. 4 in the series "Evolve or Die". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Story 3 of the new series "Evolve or Die". Xander with new friends, old enemies, and for lack of a better work, a frenemy.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Action/Adventure > Xander-CenteredphoukaFR1319,3773215,32110 Apr 1110 Apr 11Yes
Disclaimer: the characters, setting, and all other elements of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, and 20th Century Fox. No copyright infringement is intended.

Not-The-Author's Note: I did not write this. My brother, AKA phoukabro, wrote this. He swears to me his muse was only stunned, not dead, and the wolves at the door just wanted their tummies scratched. There seems to be a lot of this going on. Of course, now that he's sent this to me and wants it posted, it means I have to get off my butt and get busy on my multitudes of waiting stories.


Xander Harris – Now (I)

I silently closed the door to the office. So far, no one had detected my break-in. They may have changed some codes, but the basic security set up was the same. I helped design and implement them, so it was easy enough to bypass. After I did this, I'd have to send Giles a memo or something. Can't really let a hole in the security stand. After I took advantage of it.

I scanned the room, looking for the best place to wait. The corner had better shadows for lurking. Behind the door was best to loom behind him. But I just had to go for the chair. I planned to go for the whole swivel slowly around to reveal myself. Too bad I didn't have a cat I could pet to get the full Bond villain effect.

I sat down in the chair and waited. And waited. Then I waited some more. What the hell was keeping him? Didn't he have work to do? I decided to pass the time by going through his mail.

Just as I was adding editorial comments to his expense reports, when I heard footsteps outside the door. I dropped the file on the desk and turned the chair around. I listened as the door opened then closed. Footsteps came towards the desk, then stopped. He figured out he had an intruder. I slowly swiveled the chair around until I was face to face with Robin Wood.

“Did you really think I wouldn't figure out what you did?” I asked him.

Robin Wood sighed when he saw me.

“Harris, please get out of my chair. It took me forever to get the setting just the way I want it. I don't want you messing with it.”

“That's all you have to say? You had to know I'd be coming here,” I stated.

“And now you're here. Well done. Please close the door on your way out,” he told me. “And before you try anything, remember I can get two Slayers in here just by opening the door.”

“What makes you think you'll reach the door?” I said, staring directly at him.

“You don't do idle threats well, Harris. It comes off as insincere,” he said. He looked around, then grabbed a chair and pulled it up, then sat down.

“That's right. Assume I'm bluffing. Test me to find out,” I offered.

He noticed my tone, pinched his nose and let out a sigh. “I don't suppose you'd feel better if I said it wasn't personal. It was just business.”

“Not really.”

“Thought not,” he muttered. “So how'd you figure it out?”

“Not that hard,” I said. “Once I heard about the contract on me, it all led back to you. That's where it started.”

David Nabbit – Then (I)

I stood up as Mr. Harris entered my office, and extended my had to him.

“Mr. Harris? Thanks for coming to meet me,” I greeted him.

He gave my hand a solid shake.

“I'm real excited that you could make it,” I continued. “I've actually been trying to get in contact with someone... in your field for awhile now.”

“Call me Xander,” he said with a smile.

“Xander,” I said, trying it out. What's going on? Nothing, just me and Xander hanging out. I liked it. It worked.

“Yeah, Xander,” Mr. Har- Xander said. “So when you contacted me, it sounded pretty urgent. Why don't you tell me what your situation is?”

“Right, right. Didn't bring all the way here to my office just to make small talk,” I said. “I suppose I should start off by saying I know all about demons and magic and all that entails. And I know that you operate in supernatural matters.”

“Okay. Glad we got that out of the way. Usually I have to spend twenty minutes talking around that so prospective clients don't think I'm crazy. Now what would you like to hire me for?” he asked.

“Yes! I want to hire you,” I said.

Xander nodded at this and waited for me to continue.

“A few years ago, I was blackmailed over... actually, that part's not important. But I used the services of Angel Investigations.”

The smile on Xander's face froze. “I've... heard of them.”

“They did good work. But I lost touch with them, and I'm not quite sure where they are now.”

“And you want to hire me to find out where they are now?” he asked.

“Oh, no. It's just that my experience with them inspired me to try a new project now,” I said.

“And you want me to help with this project?”

“That's right! Now I just need to confirm the services you provide,” I said.

“It depends on what you need. I can research, translate, do reconnaissance, search and rescue, and take out any enemies along the way. If something comes up that I can't personally handle, I can call in someone who can handle it,” he said.

“That is awesome,” I said. “It's exactly what I'm looking for. This is perfect. When can we start?”

“I'm available right now. If you just tell me what you need me to do,” he said.

“I want to do all that stuff you just said. You know, find a problem, help out some victim, kick ass, take names.”

Xander nodded his head along, then stopped. “Wait, what?”

“I mean, obviously I would be observing at the beginning, but as we go along, I'm sure I'll pick things up,” I explained.

“Okay, that means.... wait, what?” he asked again.

“Well, I heard that you do some pro bono work. Or just missions you do on the side. And I'm willing to pay you to go along and help out with them,” I said. “You'll be the teacher, and I'll be the student.”

“That's not what.... This isn't...” Xander said, trying to form a response.

His phone vibrated, catching his attention. He glanced down at it, then hit a button, ignoring the call. He turned back to me.

“Look, Mr. Nabbit.”

“Call me David,” I said.

“David. Look, I normally don't work with other people,” he said.

“Really. When I asked around, I heard that the last job you worked was with two other people. And that you specifically asked for their help,” I said. I was beginning to worry about the quality of information I had gotten on Xander.

“That's true. But the circumstances were a little different. I -”

His phone buzzed again, and an electronic voice chimed out “You've got mail.”

Xander didn't even glance at his phone.

“I have, in the past, worked with others. But in those cases, they are experts in their fields. I'm not comfortable taking an untrained person into a dangerous -”

His phone beeped now, indicating a text message. Xander sighed and turned his phone off.

“I'm well aware of the potential dangers. And I'm willing to take all precautions you deem necessary,” I told him.

“The first precaution is for you not to do this. You could be seriously injured. Believe me, I know,” he said, tapping his eyepatch.

“So, some sort of protective eyewear should be brought along,” I suggested.

“That is not -” he stopped, then a quick smile flashed across his face before disappearing. In a very controlled voice, he said, “Look, I'm sure you're very smart. Obviously, if you made millions on your software and hardware stuff.” He waved his hand around in a vague direction of the equipment in my office.

“Mainly operating systems, but I like to pull apart the CPU and work on it. It helps me relax.”

“Yeah, but there's not much call for computer stuff in my line of work. So -”

This time, it was my phone that rang. I glanced down at it. It was my private line that was for emergencies only. I looked back up at Xander.

“Go ahead,” he said.

I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

“Mr. Nabbit. I'm so sorry to bother you on your private line. But I have to talk to Xander Harris right now,” a young female voice said.

“How did you get this number. And how did you know I'm meeting Xander,” I asked.

Xander looked up at the mention of his name.

“I'd love to explain it in full detail, but this is kind of an emergency. Can I please speak with Xander?” the voice asked, almost pleading now.

“I'll put you on speaker,” I said. I punched a button on the phone, then put the receiver down.

“Xander, are you there?” the voice asked.

“Hey, Dawn. What's up?” Xander said.

“First off, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU SCREENING MY CALLS?!” she yelled. The nervousness in her voice when she spoke to me was now gone.

Xander shifted guiltily. “Um, that was you? I was trying to pick up, but the battery on my phone was dying. Then -”

“Second, who did you piss off so badly that they hired the Order of Taraka to kill you?” she said.

Xander's eye widened at this, and he grabbed the receiver.

“Tell me what you found out,” he said, then listened.

After a minute he said, “No, we can't call them in. The Council and the Order have a truce right now. If any Slayers show up, then the truce is off and anyone on the Council or any Slayers could become a target.”

He listened some more, then said, “E-mail me all the information. I can look up the other targets and contact them. Maybe we can figure out who paid for the contract and take them out before the Order strikes.”

Again, he listened, then said, “I'm not completely helpless here. I'll just need to find some computer guy to help me out and...” he trailed off as he turned to look at me. “Okay, I've got the beginnings of a really bad idea. Send me the info, and I'll take care of it.”

Xander Harris – Now (II)

“Sounds like you got right to work,” Robin observed. “Even got some help in record time. Although you never had a problem with that sort of thing.”

“David wanted to help, and I needed someone to work their research mojo on the computer,” I shrugged. “With his help, we identified who the other targets were, where they were, and what enemy we all had in common.”

“So you didn't suspect my involvement when you first found out about the Order,” Robin said.

“Not really. The Council and the Order of Taraka have had a truce since Giles first began setting the Council up. It's why I couldn't get help from any Slayers or Council members I knew. And that's why it didn't occur to me that you were behind my being on the target list.”

“Nice to know I wasn't that obvious,” Robin said. “What was your next move?”

David Nabbit – Then (II)

“Riley, so it appears that you're out of the country on some super secret mission. I probably shouldn't even be talking about that over the phone, what with the whole security clearance stuff you have to deal with. Was kind of hoping you'd be within an hour or two of LA, but you're not. Which is too bad. Could really use a commando or two right now. Um, if you get this message, feel free to show up heavily armed with a highly trained team to give me a hand. You know, if that's something you can do at your discretion. That would be cool,” Xander said into his phone.

He was sitting in the passenger seat of my car, as I drove us to the first target.

“This is Xander, by the way,” he added before hanging up.

We pulled up to Palm Ridge Spa. Xander looked out the window. I stopped the car in front of the three story building. There were no lights on in the building. Xander kept quiet, just studying the building. I turned off the engine to the car.

“Looks like the place is closed,” I said.

“Maybe. I need to take a look around. Try to find this,” Xander glanced at the first name on the list, “Justin Mars.”

He go out of the car and make his way to the front door. He looked around in caution, going slowly. I got out of the car to follow him. He glanced at me and scowled.

“Stay in the car,” he hissed.

“There's no one here,” I argued. “Besides, it's safer to stick together. That way nothing will surprise us, and we can-”

A body slammed into the roof of the car, smashing the windshield and crumpling the roof. I jumped back, surprised.

“Get back!” Xander yelled. He pulled out a short sword and looked up at the roof of the building, trying to see where the body was thrown from.

I slowly approached the body. It was obvious the man was dead. His neck lay at a crooked angle, broken before he had been thrown from the building. I looked at the contorted face.

“It's Mars,” I said. Despite his condition, I recognized him from the photo on the spa website.

“The assassin's gone,” Xander said.

He grimaced, then pulled the body of Justin Mars off of the car.

“Is it drivable?” he asked me.

“Shouldn't we call the police?” I asked.

“No time,” he answered. “Give me the keys.”

I tossed the car keys to him. He got in the car and started it up. I scrambled into the passenger seat, closing the door as he peeled out of the parking lot.

“This is bad. They're already going after the targets. We need to hurry before the others are killed,” he said.

I sat in shock, finally saying, “I can't believe they just killed him. Why would anyone want to kill a spa owner?”

“Word is he helped smuggle people in danger to safety. Operated in LA for years. Someone must have decided to close down his side business,” Xander said.

“Jesus,” I muttered.

“This is the world you wanted to see. You can get killed just for helping someone,” he said. “Look, I should let you out. It's going to be dangerous for anyone hanging around me while I have a contract out on me.”

“I thought you were in a hurry, trying to get to the next target before they're attacked. Can you spare the time it'll take to make sure I'm safe?” I asked.

“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe not.”

“Better keep going then,” I said. “Besides, if I get hurt, you won't get paid.”

We slowly drove along the street, keeping a lookout for the next target.

“Maybe we should get out and walk,” I said.

“Don't want to run into the assassin on foot. Rather be in a car,” Xander said.

“I guess that makes sense,” I muttered. I studied the oncoming intersection. I spotted a tall, handsome man approaching a young child crying by the corner. I glanced at the photo in my folder.

“I think that's him,” I said.

Xander glanced at the photo, then the man on the street. “That's him. Looks like he's living up to his chivalric reputation. Helping out a little kid. A little kid alone on a deserted street in downtown LA. After midnight. On a school night. With no adult supervision.”

“That kid's the assassin, isn't she?” I asked.

“If she's not, I'm going to feel real bad about doing this, “Xander said as he gunned the engine.

I yelped as the car surged forward. We shot into the intersection, and a split second later the car slammed into the girl.

“Oh, god. We just hit -”

The girl popped back up, now with blood red shining eyes, and elongated teeth, hissing at us, and swiping her razor sharp claws on the hood of the car.

“A blood thirsty monster, who is now trying to kill us. That's actually worse than an innocent girl,” I finished.

Xander put the car in reverse, pulled back ten feet, put it back into drive, then drove forward into the assassin. The girl got back up, slower this time. Xander let out a little sigh, backed the car up, then ran the car into the girl once again. This time the girl struggled to get up, bleeding and hissing.

“This may take awhile. Why don't you introduce us to the Groosalug, while I take care of this,” Xander said.


I winced as the car struck the pint sized assassin once more. I turned back to Groo, as he liked to be called.

“And we felt real bad about arriving too late for the last target, so when we figured you were about to be attacked, Xander kind of just jumped into it,” I explained.


“She's still twitching a little. One more time ought to do it,” Xander called from the car.

“And to think I nearly fell into her vile trap. I owe my life to you two,” Groo said as he full-on man-hugged me. “I pledge myself to your service.”

“That's... swell,” I said.


Xander got out of the car, pulling out a sword, and walked up to the the dead assassin and prodded it with his toe.

“I'm pretty sure she's dead, but just to be sure,” he said and swung the sword down, severing the head of the assassin. The spine took a little extra work, and he had to kneel on her chest, then worked the head free.

He stooped down and pulled a garish ring off the corpse, stood up, and tossed it to me.

“Souvenir. Enjoy,” he said. “You fill him in?”

“Indeed, and you have my most profound thanks. Before this night, we were strangers. Now we are brothers,” Groo said, then hugged Xander.

Xander looked in alarm at me and mouthed, 'Is he mocking me?'

“That's something he does, apparently,” I said.

“Now that you've discovered this foul plot, what is your plan?” Groo asked.

“Come with us if you want to live,” I said, in my deepest voice.

Xander scowled when I said that.

“Too flippant?”

He shook his head, “No, I just wanted to say it.”

Xander – Now (III)

“So where was your next stop?” Robin asked.

“Lionel Monk,” I said. “Junior associate with WRH Solutions. Better known as Wolfram and Hart.”

“The plot thickens.”

Robin sat calmly in his seat. He leaned back, listening to me talk. Something about his demeanor just pissed me off. The least he could do was acted scared, or try to threaten me back. Instead he sat there and let me vent at him.

What a prick.

“Justin Mars ran a pipeline getting Wolfram and Hart targets to safety. Groosalug was a straight up hero who made more than enough difficulties for our favorite evil law firm. Lionel Monk was a junior associate in a firm that takes cut throat competition very literally. And since I turned down their job offer, it only makes sense that they'd try to kill me, right?” I asked Robin.

“For every problem, there is at least one solution that is neat, simple, and wrong. It was only logical you'd come to that conclusion,” he said.

I got up from the desk and paced around the room.

“Logical! Of course I thought that! What was the alternative? Assume everyone I every worked with could be plotting against me?”

I got up right in his face, but he still didn't react. Instead, he just asked, “So, what happened next?”

David Nabbit – Then (III)

Xander and Groo stood to one side, going over the crudely drawn layout of the WRH Solutions office building. We were all one block away in the lobby of a hotel.

“Can't go in the front,” Xander said. “We'd have to get through the lobby, up the stairs, 'cause elevators are out of the question, before we find Monk. Security will be all over us.”

“There's a back entrance. We go in hard and strong. We will strike down anyone who opposes us. Do it fast enough, and they'll won't figure out what happened until we're safely away,” Groo said.

“I don't know. Too many bottlenecks going in the back. We could get trapped.”

I flipped open my phone, and dialed a number. When the receptionist answered, I said, “Hi. This is David Nabbit. Yes, the David Nabbit. I'm looking around for someone to handle a few briefs for me. Can I get a face to face with Lionel Monk in say... ten minutes?”

Xander and Groo looked up at me.

“Wait, can we do that?” Xander asked.

Groo just shrugged.

“Great,” I said, as I got confirmation. “I look forward to meeting him. Oh, I'm bringing a couple of associates with me. So I'll need a separate conference room for security and privacy. Thanks.”

I ended the call and turned to the others. “We ready?”

“Please, sit down,” Lionel Monk greeted us.

He motioned around the room. “Can I get you something to drink? An espresso? Cappuccino?”

We shook our heads, so he moved on.

“I've got to say that this is something of a surprise. A good surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. What is it I can do for you?”

“For me, nothing actually. My current legal services are well attended to right now. But my friend Xander has a few questions for you,” I told him.

He looked from me to Xander, a bit confused. “I'm sorry. You called me here so your friend could meet with me?”

“Yes. And it worked. Which is why I did it.”

“Right,” Lionel said, trying to figure out if he should be upset with me for coming to him under false pretenses or if he should continue sucking up in the hope for future business.

The sucking up side won out as he turned to Xander. “So, Xander was it?” He now noted the eyepatch. “Xander... Harris?”

“That's right,” Xander confirmed.

“Oh. You're actually one of Lewis Miller's projects, so you should be talking to him,” he said, the smiled. “But he's not here, so screw him. What can I do for you?”

“Someone wants to kill me,” Xander told him.

“That's... unfortunate. But hardly unexpected in your line of work. How can I help you with that?” Lionel asked.

Xander smiled and said, “Whoever is trying to kill me, is also trying to kill you. And Groo,” he motioned to our other friend in the room. “Hired the Order of Taraka to do it. Already killed one other person, Justin Mars. So you can help me, by telling me who would want to see all four of us dead.”

Lionel's face went ashen as Xander talked. He slowly slumped down into a chair in the corner of the room.

“Um, guys? I think we broke him,” I said.

Groo walked up and put his hand on Lionel's shoulder. “Fear not, friend. What lesser men would consider a dire hazard, true heroes consider a mark of honor. We shall stand together against this vile threat, and none shall defeat us.”

Lionel's look of shock slowly changed into disbelief. He glanced at me.

“Yeah, he's like that,” I said.

“Lionel, focus here,” Xander said, snapping his fingers in front of Lionel's face. “Who would want all of us dead.”

Realization dawned on Lionel's face. “Lewis Fucking Miller.”

We stood in the hallway outside Miller's office as Xander jimmied the lock on the office door.

“So who is this Lewis Miller?” I asked Xander, while acting as lookout.

“Up and coming scumbag lawyer here. He tried to recruit me a few weeks ago. I said no. Apparently he doesn't handle rejection well,” he replied as he eased the door open. “You know, for a law firm rife with paranoia and back stabbing, you would think he'd have better security for his office.”

“We're on the honor system here,” Lionel said. We stared in disbelief at him.

“Just kidding. Most of the security is aimed at keeping unauthorized people out of the building. If someone makes it past that, we assume they're supposed to be here. Plus the Senior Partners will rain down Hell on any employee who screws up anyone else's project. Literally. Had to remodel after the last one.”

We walked into the office. Xander took the lead, Lionel and I followed, and Groo guarded our tail. Xander looked around the office lost in thought.

“What's up?” I asked.

He shook his head, turning back to me. “I was just thinking. This whole 'breaking into someone's office and snooping around before confronting them' tactic is nice. I'm going to have to remember this and use it later,” he said.

He pointed to the computer at the desk. “Can you get on that and look around, try to find anything on the Order of Taraka?”

“On it,” I told him, then sat down at the desk.

I started the computer and inserted my flashdrive. The security log in screen popped up, and I bypassed it.

“You able to get in okay?” Xander asked.

“Security is pretty up to date, but I helped design the software. So I know all the backdoors,” I said. Typing quickly, I brought up the hard drive listing and began a search. “What happens if I can't find anything on the Order of Taraka?” I asked.

Xander shrugged. “Keep looking, and see if anything jumps out at you.”

The next few minutes passed in silence, save for the clicks of the keyboard as I looked though the hard drive. Xander stood hunched over by me, looking over my shoulder. Groo stood by the door, keeping guard. And Lionel was perusing the file cabinets.

Groo stiffened, and signaled to the rest of us. “Someone's approaching,” he whispered.

I froze as Xander and Lionel moved to join Groo on the far side of the door. I looked around, then pushed the chair back and hid behind the desk. Seconds later, the door swung open. The others were blocked by the now open door as Lewis Miller entered his office.

He stopped and looked at his desk.

“What are you doing, crouching behind my desk?” he said.

I slowly got up and dusted myself off.

“Oh. Um, I was just passing by and realized I needed to check my e-mail. I figured no one would mind, so I popped in and you're not buying any of this, are you?”

He stared at me in disbelief, then turned towards his door. Before he could say anything, Xander shut the door, and Groo grabbed him, putting a hand over his mouth.

“Hey, Lew,” Xander greeted him. “We've got some questions for you.”

“All right, I know this looks bad,” Lewis Miller said, holding his hands up as if to keep us at bay. “But, if you take a step back and look at it in full context, you'll see it's really not that bad.”

I shook my head as I continued my search on his hard drive. I scanned the file folders, but nothing jumped out at me. Sure, there were some ominous sounding titles like Coyote Wishes, McNally Project, and Laundry Sites. But when I clicked on the last one, it was just a list of laundromats that serviced client demons. I kept looking, hoping to see something familiar.

“Full context! You hired assassins to kill us!” Lionel shouted at him.

“Which I fully admit to. But after this is over, I'm going to have to live with the knowledge of what I've done. That's a heavy burden,” he said in a reasonable tone.

“You can't actually be suggesting that you're the real victim here,” Xander said, glaring.

“Well, I can try,” Lewis said with a shrug. “I'm sorry, but this can't be unexpected. You,” he pointed at Groosalug, “have been gumming up WRH plans ever since we set up. You had to know we would take offense and try to stop you.”

Groo nodded and smiled proudly. “A warrior is judged by the quality of his enemies. I am proud to to know you wish me dead.”

“And that Mars guy had been an irritant going back to the eighties. He had plenty of chances to quit, but he decided to stay in the game for too long,” Lewis continued.

“And me?” Lionel asked.

“Please, you had to know a showdown was coming. I was the Golden Boy until you showed up.”

He turned to the rest of us.

“Lionel here doesn't even have that many talents. He's a powerless son of a very influential family of witches and warlock. Nobody wants him, they just want access to his family. He decided to sell his access and turned several competing organization into a bidding war. WRH offered the most for him to work here. Waste of money, if you ask me.”

“Just getting the best deal I can,” Lionel said. “And that's no reason to try to have me killed.”

“You screwed me on the Oden Tal contract last month. That deal should have been mine! And you totally took the reserved parking I had my eye on.”

Lionel chuckled at that, causing Lewis to yell, “You drive a scooter. You don't need that spot.”

“Still seems like a petty reason to have him killed,” Xander pointed out.

Lewis shrugged. “The Order of Taraka had a special this month. Three hits for the price of two. I figured I'd throw him in.”

“Four,” Xander said.


“Four hits. Or did you forget about me?”

Lewis looked at him in confusion He shook his head and said, “I never hired anyone to kill you.”

Xander Harris – Now (IV)

“I suppose the truth had to come out,” Robin said. “Did you believe him?”

I nodded. “He had admitted to ordering the hit on the others. No reason to lie about me. And it didn't make sense he would try to kill me when he was still trying to hire me.”

“I suppose that's when you realized I was responsible for your name being on a list of Taraka targets,” Robin mused.

“No,” I laughed sourly. “I still didn't realize what your plans were. And considering what happened next, I didn't have time to think about it.”

David Nabbit – Then (IV)

“What do you mean, you didn't hire them to kill me?” Xander shouted, rising from his seat.

“I'm trying to hire you, not kill you. Besides, even if I wanted to, the Order wouldn't accept you as a target,” Lewis said.

Xander shook his head in confusion. “You're not making any sense. I don't work for the Council anymore. There's no truce to cover me.”

“You already survived a Tarakan attack. When you were in high school.”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“You really don't know?” Lewis asked in disbelief. He chuckled at that. “Could have saved yourself a lot of stress tonight.”

Lionel sighed, stepped forward, and punched Lewis in the face. Lewis glared at him, but Lionel just said, “Explain.”

Rubbing his jaw, Lewis said, “The Order of Taraka has a code of conduct. Lot of rules about who they'll kill and who they won't. They won't go after children, pregnant women, anyone retired.”

“Get to the point,” Xander said.

I listened in as I continued my search of the hard drive.

“The point,” Lewis stressed. I could tell the anger was rising in him. “Is that they won't go after anyone who isn't considered an honorable target. Part of their reasoning is anyone who survives a hit attempt by them, has proven themselves. You,” pointing to Xander, “were a target as hired by William the Bloody. He wanted your entire Scooby Gang taken out. Instead you survived and personally took out one of the assassin. Using a bucket of glue, if the file on you is correct. And because of this, the Order considers you to have earned your safety from them.” He flexed his jaw, wincing a little at the pain. “Does that answer your question?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Xander said. “But that means someone wants me to think the Order was trying to kill me. Who would do that?”

Lewis gave a tight smile. “I don't know. Of course, if you worked here, you could use the full resources of WRH to find out.”

I stopped in my search, as one name jumped out at me.

“I'll pass,” Xander said.

“Um, guys?” I asked nervously, holding my hand up for attention. “Can I ask a question?”

Lionel shrugged, Groo nodded, and Xander said, “Sure.”

I turned to Lewis. “Why do you have files on Cordelia Chase?”

“Princess?” Groo asked.

“Cordy? She's dead,” Xander said sadly. “Died a few years back.”

“Not according to the files here,” I said, now coping the files to my flash drive. “According to them, she's in a vegetative state in a secure room on one of the sub levels.”

Xander turned to Lewis, anger now in his eyes, but before he could move towards him, Groo let out a roar and pinned Lewis to the floor.

“You will tell me where she is and what you are doing to her, or I shall crush your head like a bug,” Groo said, pressing his boot on Lewis's head.

“Jesus! Get him off!” Lewis screamed. “Xander, help me out here!”

Xander shook his head. “You want out, you better tell him what he wants to know.”

“Cordelia never died! There was some funky brain activity, then she flatlined. But they were able to revive her. The bosses liked to rag on Angel and his friends about her dying. They figured they could use her as a bargaining chip later on!” Lewis rattled off as he squirmed on the ground. “It wasn't my choice!”

“Then why do you have files on her?” Xander asked.

“We, I mean the bosses were going to use her as an incentive to bring you over,” Lewis yelled in pain.

“We cannot leave her in the clutches of these villains,” Groo said.

“We won't,” Xander assured him.

“Wait a minute,” Lionel interrupted. “Aren't we forgetting about the assassins trying to kill at least two of us in this room? Shouldn't we concentrate on that now?”

Groo shook his head. “Our first mission is to protect the helpless. I will not rest until she is safely away.”

Xander nodded. “We're not leaving here without her.”

“I think we should do what we can to help her,” I added. Xander looked over and smiled.

I went to work on the computer to access the building's security systems, while the others tied up Lewis Miller. When I finished my hacking, the others were ready.

“I still think this is a bad idea,” Lionel complained as we made our way through the corridors of the sub level.

“Relax. David's disabled the security here,” Xander assured him. He turned to me for confirmation. “Right, David?”

“Well, not so much disabled, as put a temporary blind spot in it,” I explained.

Lionel frowned at that.

“If I took the entire system offline, someone would realize something was wrong. It's better this way to let us slip in and out. As long as there aren't any delays.”

Lionel shook his head. “I shouldn't have gone with you,” he muttered.

“Yeah, you'd probably be better on your own. You know, as long as you didn't run into any assassins,” Xander said.

Lionel scowled, but kept with us.

“Her room's up here,” Xander said, pointing to the lone door at the end of the hallway. He watched the hallway as the rest of us entered the room.

A man in a lab coat looked up at us from Cordelia's bedside.

“What are you doing in here?” he demanded.

“Hi,” I stepped forward, “Bosses came up with some last minutes changes. They need this room for someone else. We're moving her to a different -”

Before I could finish my lame ass explanation, Groo stepped forward, punched the man on the chin, and caught his body as he slumped unconscious.

“It's clear,” Xander said, closing the door.

Groo dropped the man to the the floor as we began the preparations to move Cordelia. Lionel crouched to the ground, releasing the wheels on the bed, so it could be moved. I made my way, unhooking the monitors from her. I saw Xander and Groo staring at her comatose body.

“I've never seen her so pale,” Xander murmured. I don't think he was talking to any of us.

“You should not be here,” Groo said, holding her hand.

Xander broke his gaze, “She won't be here much longer,” he said. “I promise, we'll get her out of here.” Groo nodded and let go of her hand. “We ready to roll her out?”

We made our way to the parking garage. Groo led us down the hallways. Lionel and I maneuvered the bed, while Xander watched our back. The hallways were empty as we made our way. I was thankful for this, but slightly unnerved by the quiet broken only by our footsteps and the squeak of the wheels of the bed. None of us spoke.

Groo stopped us twice, as he heard movement ahead. We waited until whoever Groo heard had moved on. He then motioned us forward.

We arrived at the garage, and I let out a sigh of relief.

“I'll get the car,” I said, jogging off to where I had parked. As I unlocked the door, I noticed my hands slightly shaking from my nervousness. I forced them still before I started up the car and pulled out of the parking spot.

Just as I approached the entrance to the building where the others were waiting, I saw a flicker of movement in the back seat. Before I could react, a wire slipped around my neck and began to tighten.

I hit the accelerator in reflex, sending the car bouncing off a parked car before barreling into a concrete column. The airbag exploded in my face, stunning me, but also knocking back my assailant. I stumbled out of the car, holding my neck. I pulled my hand away and saw a smear of blood.

“David!” Xander called out. He ran up to me and began looking at my injury. “Talk to me, are you okay?”

I nodded, still a little shocked. The alarm of the car I hit was blaring, along with a building alarm. Groo looked into the car, then fell back, clutching his side. A black clad attacker jumped out from the back seat, looked at us, gripped the knife in his hand, then leaped.

Or he tried to leap, but was pulled back down by Groo, holding the attacker's ankle in a vise like grip. The attacker slashed at Groo, but Groo just caught his wrist, rose up, then swung the attacker into the concrete column. The attacker hit with a dull thud. He stood us and swung at Groo again, this time much slower. Groo knocked his arm aside and punched him in the face. A lot. The attacker slumped down, trying to pull a weapon from his belt. Groo fell upon him. He wrapped his hands around the assassin's neck and squeezed. Seconds later, there was a sharp crack.

Xander finished looking me over. “There's a cut along your neck, but it's not too deep. You'll be okay.”

I nodded, as he led me over to the car.

“Groo, are you hurt?”

“In a manner,” Groo said. He touched his side, then showed us the blood on his hand. “But you should see the other guy.”

I glanced down at the dead assassin. His neck was at a crooked angle, eyes open. I looked over to the car.

“We won't be able to get out of here in that,” Lionel said. Smoke billowed from the crumpled hood of the car. One of the tires was at an odd angle to the rest. “My car is one level down. We should head there.”

“I thought you rode a scooter?” I asked.

“I park a scooter. To piss off Lewis. I drive a Lexus.”

“Alarm's going,” Xander said. “We're going to be hip deep in security pretty soon.”

“No,” Groo said. “You will take Cordelia to safety. I will keep the security busy.”

Xander shook his head. “We're not leaving you.”

“You promised me, you would get her out of here. Please don't break your word,” Groo told him. He opened up his coat, showing the blood soaking his side. “I'm not going to last much longer.”

“We'll get you help,” Xander pleaded with him.

“You've got enough trouble getting everyone else out,” Groo laughed. “When I was younger, evil men manipulated me into servicing there purposes. When I found out, I vowed I would spend the rest of my life living righteously and protecting others.”

He leaned over and grabbed the knife the assassin had dropped.

“And I have done just that. I can think of no better ending than serving my princess.”

“Guys, we need to leave now,” Lionel said.

I could hear the security team trying to bust open the door to the parking lot.

“They shall not pass,” Groo said. “Now, fly, you fools!

“Lord of the Rings?” I asked.

Groo nodded. “I have them on Blu-Ray. Extended editions. Great movies.”

“Lionel, you and David take Cordy to your car. I'll be right behind,” Xander said, then turned back to Groo. “I'll get her to safety. When she's better, I'll tell her about this.”

Groo nodded, but said nothing else.

Xander turned and followed us.

A few guards tried to stop us, but once Lionel got us out of the parking garage, we were safe. We drove in silence. Lionel carefully watching the roads, while Xander and I monitored Cordelia.

A ring from Xander's cell phone, broke the quiet. He frowned, then answered it.


“I catch you at a bad time?” Lewis Miller's voice came from the other end. “I suppose congratulations are in order. You guys got off scot free.”

“Go to hell,” Xander said. “You know what we lost. You sicced the security on us.”

“Not quite. I just got freed. Security went up after your little traffic accident. I had nothing to do with it.”

Xander sighed. “We lost Groo. Not that you care.”

“But he went down fighting. Not a bad way to go, if you're into that whole hero thing,” Lewis said.

“I take it you're calling to gloat?”

“Nope. I just want to reiterate my offer of employment to you. All the perks and salary mentioned previously. Plus a special one time signing bonus of one million dollars.”

“Jesus, you don't give up,” Xander said.

He leaned his head against the window.

“You're going to give me a million dollars just to forget all the crap you just pulled and come work for you?”

“Of course not. I'm going to give you a million dollars to kill Lionel Monk,” Lewis said, before adding, “Then come work for me.”

Lionel's eyes went wide as he glanced in the rear view mirror to see Xander's reaction.

“Not a chance.”

“Xander, dear boy. I don't think you realize what happens next,” Lewis warned him.

“You cry like a little girl because you're too gutless to do your own dirty work?” Xander asked.

“No. I'm saying that after this, I'm done offering carrots. I'll be pulling out the stick. Did you think Cordelia Chase was the only thing we had on you? She was just an after thought. A leftover from the previous regime, I thought might come in useful some day.”

“You think threatening me is going to get me to come over?” Xander asked.

“I ever tell you about where I grew up?” Lewis asked, changing the subject.

“I ever tell you I care?” Xander answered.

“Hold on. At least let me give you the full pitch,” Lewis protested. Xander said nothing, so he continued, “I grew up in a small town on the east coast. The thing about this small town is that it was rife with magic and the supernatural. So there I was, parents who ignored me, talentless in magic, surrounded by people more powerful than me. Remind you of anyone?”

“Like looking into a mirror,” Xander yawned..

“Everyone had written me off as useless. My friends with their talent in magic and forgotten lore left me behind without a second thought. But I crawled my way up. Using nothing more than my wits I survived and excelled. And when WRH offered me a chance to write my own ticket, I jumped at the chance.”

“Is there some M Night Shaymalan twist at the end of this? Because it's boring the crap out of me right now,” Xander said.

“The point is that I know you, Xander Harris. I know you because I lived your life. That's how I know you're going to take me up on my offer.”

“I guess you do know me, Lew. Everything you said you went through, so did I. But there is one element, one vital thing I had that you didn't.”

“And what's that?” Lewis asked.

With a smile, Xander said, “If you have to ask, you'll never know.” And with that, he hung up.

He looked forward to Lionel. “You okay up there? Seems like you were getting a little nervous.”

Lionel let out a relieved laugh. “It's been a busy day.”

“I get that,” Xander said. “So I take it you won't be going back to work at Wolfram and Hart?”

“Not after this. Technically, the Order of Taraka is still after me, but I know how to get them off my back,” he said.

“How's that?” I asked.

“Before I began work at Wolfram and Hart, I had another offer. It wasn't up my alley, so I passed. But things have changed now, and I've got to change with them. Evolve or die,” he told us.

“Who's the other job offer with?” I said.

“The Watcher's Council. A guy named Robin Wood told me there's a spot with my name on it. I just have to call him.”

“Oh god,” Xander moaned, then began thumping his head against the car window. “I just realized who put my name on that list.”

Xander Harris – Now (V)

Robin just sat quietly as I finished up my story.

“When did Lionel Monk join the Council?” I asked him

“He contacted me yesterday. We flew him out to London. He arrived this morning, and as of,” he looked down at his watch, “two and a half hours ago, he is an official member of the London Branch. Quite a coup for the good guys.”

“And all thanks to you. It took me some time to figure out what you did,” I got up and began to pace the room. “You were trying to recruit Monk, but he took an offer with WRH Solutions. You kept tabs on him in case he changed his mind. Then when Lewis Miller took a hit out on him, you heard about it. The Council can't officially interfere with WRH or the Order, so you took the hit list, added my name to it, then leaked it so Dawn found out about it.” I frowned at that. “You pick her specifically?”

He shook his head. “I just put the list into general circulation. I figured you had enough contacts on the Council that someone would let you know.”

“And once I thought the Order was after me, you knew I'd protect the other targets and take out the assassins. Once the dust settled, you got a defector from WRH. All without lifting a finger. Nice notch on your belt.”

“Would it be rude to say, I couldn't have done it without you?” he asked. Before I could tell him to go to hell, he added, “You forgot one more thing that was accomplished.”

“What's that?” I asked.

“You are now less likely to join Wolfram and Hart.”

I shook my head in disgust. “I'm getting real tired of telling people this, but I will never work for those scumbags.”

“Trouble is Wolfram and Hart have a talent of getting people to work for them that at that interested in it,” he pointed out. “For example, your friend Angel.”

“Angel was not my friend,” I shot back.

He shrugged at that, “You know the history. They spent several years harassing him, trying to kill him and his friends. Then one day, they made an offer he couldn't refuse. I'd rather not you follow the same path. Between your knowledge and connections with the reformed Council, you could do some serious damage.”

I glared at him. “I'm also getting real tired of people thinking the worst of me. How is it that you pull this crap on me, then turn around, and talk it up like I'm one in danger of betraying everyone?”

“I just don't want to ever see the day where you're wearing a black hat.” He sighed, and for the first time actually looked remorseful. “Look, you can take a swing at me if you want, but that -”

My fist lashed out, hitting him in the face. He fell to the ground, knocking over a side table. The dish on the table clattered as it hit the floor.

Dazed, Robin looked from the dished to his door. Seconds later, two Slayers rushed into the room. The first Slayer I recognized immediately.

“Kennedy, how you been?” I greeted her.

She looked from me to Robin on the ground. A feral smile appeared on her face.

“This is not what it looks like,” I told her. Glancing back at Robin, I added, “Okay, it is what it looks like, but he had it coming.”

“Harris,” she growled, then leaped at me.

Knowing I couldn't take on a pissed off Slayer by myself, I jumped back. Unfortunately, I could only move back a few feet until my back hit Robin's desk. I closed my eye and waited for the blow to come. When a few seconds passed without my jaw being broken, I slowly opened my eye.

I saw Kennedy, now even more pissed off, being restrained by the other Slayer. The Slayer looked familiar, but I couldn't remember her name. I was just happy she was holding Kennedy back.

“Maria! Kennedy! Stand down!” Robin ordered.

Maria... Maria Sanchez. I remembered her now. She was the Slayer I helped out in Reno. Looks like she liked me more than Kennedy. Good to know.

“Both of you calm down,” Robin said, getting off of the floor. Kennedy glared at Maria, who glared back. “We'll go over this later.”

“Yes,” Kennedy said. “We'll go over things like how junior Slayers should know their place.”

“Save it. I think I've learned everything I need from here,” Maria said.

“Look, could we please just talk about this later?” Robin asked, rubbing his eyes.

The Slayers didn't say anything, instead they left the room shooting hate looks at each other.

Robin watched them go, then turned back to me. “Are we done now?” he asked.

“What, you think we're good now? After what you did?”

“And what did I do? Go behind your back? Manipulate you?” Robin asked, angry for the first time. “The fact is I didn't do anything to you that you have done to me a dozen times since you quit the Council.”

“So you do admit it: I quit and wasn't fired,” I told him. “Not that that's the point. The point is that you used me.”

“That's right! And because of that you saved a man's life and rescued your friend,” he shot back at me. “I'm sorry about your friend, Groo. And I'm sorry about Justin Mars. But I didn't kill them, or even contribute to deaths no matter how much you try to blame me for it.” He took a deep breath and continued, “You came here, broke in, yelled at me, and hit me. You're not going to accomplish anything else. Go home, Xander. Take care of Cordelia.”

I tried to think of something else to say. Some devastating insult, or brilliant point to reveal him as a fraud. But nothing came. Instead, I just turned and walked out of the office.

As I walked down the hallway, I heard Kennedy and Maria yelling at each other. The yelling culminated with Maria screaming, “I quit!” Then I heard a door slam hard enough to splinter. A few seconds later, Maria stalked into the foyer. She spotted me, then called out, “Xander, wait up!”

“Hey,” I greeted her. I wasn't quite sure what to say to her. I was still wound up from my confrontation with Robin. “What's up?”

“Look, I'm bailing on this place,” she told me.

“Yeah, I heard your resignation. You know, you shouldn't have done that for me.”

She laughed at that, “Yeah, right.”

Seeing the disappointment flicker on my face, she explained, “Look, this was just the straw that broke the camel's back. It's been coming for months. I've learned all I could here, but I cannot deal with the people around here.”

“Sorry to hear that. Usually they're so pleasant.”

“Look, I'm taking off, here's my cell number,” she said, handing a card to me. “If you've got anything going on, let me know if I can help. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to start packing.”

I watched her go, then headed out myself.

David Nabbit – Now

I looked up from the bed as I heard the door open. Xander nodded to me as he entered, then sat down by the bed.

“How is she?” he asked.

“Stable, but non-responsive,” I told him.

He sat down by the bed and took Cordelia's hand in his. “You know I haven't seen her since we graduated high school. She was heading off to LA to become an actress.”

“I hired a registered nurse to monitor her. And I'll be bringing in specialists to examine her. Maybe they can do something about...” I waved my hand vaguely at the bed. “This building is secure, so you don't have to worry about Wolfram and Hart getting their hands on her again.”

“Thanks,” he said, and put down Cordelia's hand. “You mind me asking why you're doing all this for a girl you only met a few times?”

“She...” I stopped and rubbed my eyes. I hadn't gotten any sleep since I first met Xander. “She was kind to me.”

“Cordelia?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Cordelia Chase?” he asked again.

“Yes, Cordelia. You seem surprised,” I observed.

“No, don't get me wrong. Cordelia was a lot of things in high school. Brave, honest, smart, an uncanny ability to estimate a person's net worth just from the shoes they were wearing, but I wouldn't really call her kind,” he said, then added after a moment of thought, “or sweet. Or gentle. Or anything in the nice category.”

I shrugged. “She must have changed since high school.”

“Yeah,” Xander murmured. “Thanks for doing this. It's good to know that after all she's been through, someone's looking out for her.”

“No problem,” I said. I pulled out an envelope from my pocket and handed it to him. “Almost forgot. Your fee.”

He took the envelope and looked at it.

“You know I actually forgot you had hired me.”

He smiled, then ripped the envelope in half and dropped it in the trashcan.

“No charge for friends.”

I smiled back at him. “So we're friends?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Cool. 'What's going on?' 'Just hanging out with my friend Xander.'”

I glanced down at the trashcan.

“That was actually a cashier's check.”

The End.

The End

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