Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to someone else. I can only claim ideas that come from sleep deprivation and overdosing on caffeine and nicotine.
1630 Rovello Dve, Sunnydale
Buffy Summers, the vampire Slayer sat in the living room of her room dumbstruck. In the room with her was her mother Joyce, her Watcher Giles, her best friend Willow and Willow’s boyfriend Oz.
After she had been forced to send her soul mate, Angel, the only vampire with a soul to Hell in order to save the world she had run away to L.A., trying to escape from memories and pain.
And for a few months she had, using the name Anne and working as a waitress in a ‘Greasy Spoon’ diner, avoiding the wandering hands of the short order cook and the customers while trying to forget what she had done.
But finally she had been sucked back into the life of a demon hunter when she was forced to save some street kids who had been kidnapped by demons to work as slaves in another dimension. As she watched the released slaves leave the building that housed the portal to that other dimension she realised that no matter what she was a Slayer and she would always have to fight, not for herself but for the others out there who couldn’t face the evil that hunted the night.
So she had got on the next bus to Sunnydale and headed home, hoping that there would be a place for her there. And there had been. When Joyce had seen her daughter standing on her doorstep there was only one thing she could do. She opened her arms for a hug and wept as her little girl had finally come home.
Then, once Giles, Willow and Oz had arrived she gave her daughter the terrible news. That her other best friend, Xander Harris, the boy that had always stood beside her since he had found out the truth about vampires and demons was also missing.
“And that was the last time that anyone saw Xander.” Joyce said in a soft voice.
“This is all my fault.” Buffy said. “I should have been here. Maybe if I hadn’t run away…” She got to her feet and headed to the door, not sure what she should do. But before she could take a step the voice of her mother stopped her dead.
“Buffy Anne Summers!” Joyce said. “Don’t you dare try and blame yourself for Xander being missing!” For a moment there was silence in the house and Joyce continued. “Even if you hadn’t left for LA that night where were you supposed to go for the summer?”
Buffy was silent. Before the return of Angelus and his attempt to send the world to Hell she was meant to spend a few weeks once school finished with her father Hank as part of the visitation agreement from her parent’s divorce.
“If it was anyone’s fault it was mine.” Joyce said as stood in front of her daughter. “I could have easily driven him home that night and if I had perhaps Xander would be here to welcome you home.”
Buffy saw the anguish in her mother’s eyes and realised how much not only her running away but the disappearance of her friend had affected her. Without thinking about it Buffy crossed to her mother and gently hugged her. For a moment mother and daughter held each other in silence. Finally they broke apart and Buffy looked over to Willow who was sitting on the couch with Oz next to her.
“Willow how are you feeling?” She asked, knowing how close her and Xander were.
Willow looked at her friend in silence for a moment. When she found out that Xander was missing she had cried continuously for a week, almost anything could set her off.
“It hurts Buffy, it hurts a lot.” She said and felt Oz’s hand squeeze her own, showing her that he was there for her. “But I’m dealing and I’m glad you’re back.” With that she rose to her feet to hug her first real female friend.
Oz watched as his girlfriend and the Slayer shared a hug. Despite what Willow had said he knew that she was still hurting but no matter what he would be there for her.
Finally Willow and Buffy broke their hug. Both of them were sniffling slightly as they shared their grief. Finally Buffy turned to the other adult in the room, her Watcher, Rupert Giles.
“Giles?” She asked, fearfully hoping that the man who had, in the last two years become more of a father to her than Hank Summers, had some more information.
Giles removed his glasses and gave them a quick polish before answering his charge. What he really wanted to do was tell Buffy the truth. That Alexander Harris was still alive but on the run, trying to ensure that the group that had kidnapped and experimented on him never found out about the existence of the Slayer and her friends.
“I’m sorry Buffy but there has been no news on what happened to Xander.” He said, silently hoping that when the young man was finally able to return home they would forgive his deception. “I even took the time to talk to Willy to see if there had been any demon or vampire bragging that they’d dealt with one of the Slayer’s friends, but he knew nothing.”
Giles didn’t say anything more but Buffy understood. Back before Angel lost his soul he mentioned that all her friends, Giles, Willow, Xander, Oz and surprisingly Cordelia, were all known to the demonic underground of the town and if a vampire did manage to kill one of them the word would quickly spread.
Getting to his feet Giles looked at Buffy.
“Buffy while I am glad that you have come home I just wish that it was under better circumstances.” He said before nodding to Joyce and walking out of the room. He needed to get home and make a phone call. It had been several weeks since he had contacted the Council concerning Xander and the secret government agency that had taken him. Surely they would have some word for him by now.
After Giles had left Oz spoke.
“He’s hiding something.” He mused, stroking his chin with the hand that wasn’t being clutched by Willow.
The women in the room looked at him as he’d just sprouted a second head.
“Oz what do you mean?” Willow asked. “Do you think that Xander is alive and Giles is keeping the truth from us?”
“No honey, I think that maybe Xander was attacked by a vampire and ended up being turned.”
Buffy and Willow both gave out a small sob when they heard this. They knew that Xander’s greatest fear, apart from psychotic clowns, was that one night a demon would take control of his body and he’d become one of the things he hated most in the world.
Taking a shuddering breath as an image flashed into her mind, that of one of her closest friends with the ridged forehead, yellow eyes and fangs of a demon, Buffy looked at the musician/werewolf.
“You think that Giles was forced to deal with Xander?” She asked half horrified and half relieved that if Xander did become a vampire she wasn’t the one to drive a wooden stake into his chest.
Again there was silence in the room.
“Perhaps we can only pray that Xander is in a better place now.” Joyce said softly. Everyone in the room nodded in agreement.
Xander once more walked into the library.
“I’m dreaming again.” He thought to himself as he looked around the room, seeing the posters that would never have been hung on the walls of the school library back in Sunnydale. He found himself smiling as he gazed at the pictures of Willow, Buffy and Cordelia.
Turning his gaze from the poster of Willow, wearing the swimsuit that she had worn for the day at the beach they’d shared during the summer before the arrival of Buffy in Sunnydale he looked at the other changes to his dream library.
The first and the most obvious was that now the window that faced out onto the central courtyard of the school now opened out onto a grassy savannah. The second change was that there was now an open room containing a single bunk bed, a foot locker and a small TV
“Good hunt! Good kill!” A voice behind him said and Xander spun around to see ‘Hyena Xander’ crouched on the bannister, an almost maniacal grin on his face. Hyena jumped from his perch and landed in front of Xander.
“Strong now, fierce too!” He growled. “Should go home, kill the Ice Bitch and be with our Pack!”
One of the posters on the wall changed. Now it showed the entire gang sitting in the library, as he had seen it so many times before. Buffy was leaning back in her chair with her feet on the table, balancing a stake by its point on one finger while chatting with Willow how was immersed in a leather covered book. Next to them Cordelia was idly filing her nails while perusing a copy of Cosmo and Giles was busily writing something down in his Watcher diary.
Seeing his friends, almost his family all gathered together made him ache with homesickness. He was about to agree with Hyena when another voice was heard.
“No not yet, we’re not ready.” Soldier Xander appeared out of the shadows. In addition to his uniform Soldier was wearing an assault vest covered with pouches and his M16 was held loosely in his hands.
Stepping close to Xander he regarded the teenager for a moment before jabbing a thumb into Xander’s ribs, causing him to hunch over in pain from his cracked ribs
“We were lucky tonight. Far luckier than we deserved to be.” Soldier Xander said as Xander straightened up and nodded in understanding.
If it wasn’t for his car getting a flat tyre in front of the warehouse on his way back to the motel after finishing his shift at the construction site where he worked as a labourer he would never have known that it was a vampire lair.
“And if two of the leeches hadn’t been drunk or stoned they would have done a lot worse than crack a few ribs.” Soldier continued. “We’re good but not that good that we can take on vampires the same way Buffy can.”
Again Xander nodded and this time Hyena did too. Even with the distraction of the car crashing through the wall and the fact that Soldier’s skills and Hyena’s hand-eye coordination meant that he could now pick which eye to put a bullet through at twenty paces the fight had still been a close run thing, as the pain in his ribs told him.
“So what do we do now?” Xander asked.
“Go back to the Hellmouth! Kill that bitch Walsh!” Hyena snapped. “Be with Pack the way we should be!”
Soldier shook his head. “Disposing of Walsh won’t solve the problem. Even if she was dead there’s still the Initiative to deal with. And the Initiative is not something that Walsh started up on her own. She’d have backers, powerful men with influence in government and access to money, a lot of money to put it all together.”
“So what? We stay on the run for the rest of our life?” Xander asked.
“For now at least.” Soldier replied. “Hopefully Giles’ friends in Merry Ole England can do something.”
“And if they can’t?” Hyena remarked.
Soldier looked at the other two. “Then we go to war and we won’t stop till the entire Initiative is destroyed and our friends safe!”
Quentin Travers, head of the Watchers Council, the organisation that had guided the Slayer line since time immemorial looked up from the report in his hands.
“This is not good Thomas.” He said to the man standing on the opposite side of his desk. “The Americans conducting research into the demonic, that can only end badly.”
Thomas Coburg, Travers’ executive assistant and the man he turned to when situations arose that needed to be dealt with in a way that he officially didn’t need to know about nodded.
“I agree Sir. And according to my sources the Yanks don’t even realise that they are dealing with the demonic. This ‘Initiative’ is classifying the creatures that they’re finding in and around Sunnydale as ‘Hostile Sub-Terrestrials’ and it looks as though they are not trying to find ways to defeat them but how to use them.”
Travers blinked then growled. “Those arrogant fools! Don’t they realise that they have effectively grabbed a tiger by the tail and it will only be a matter of time before it turns and mauls them!”
It was silent in the office for a moment before the quiet was broken by the younger Watcher.
“What are your orders Sir?”
Travers grumped and sighed in exasperation. His first thought was to have Giles relocate to another city along with his Slayer but that would be difficult. Unlike other Watchers Giles was not the Slayers official guardian and since the girl was still underage if they did disappear there was a good chance that the Slayer’s mother would contact the police.
And even more importantly was that Sunnydale was the Hellmouth and it needed to be guarded less some opportunistic demon open the doors to Hell.
Travers looked at his ‘Hatchet Man’.
“Your sources.” He asked. “Are they well placed?”
Thomas shrugged. “They have access to information but apart from that I haven’t enquired too deeply.”
“I think what this Initiative needs is an expert on what they refer to as ‘HST’s’.” He said. “Specifically I think that if you can be assigned there as an observer and consultant then we may be able to avert catastrophe before it starts.”
Thomas nodded in understanding of what Travers didn’t say. That if he was working with the Initiative and if they came into contact with the Slayer he would be perfectly placed to either facilitate her escape or kill her if necessary.
“Of course Sir, I’ll immediately begin preparations. Though it may take several weeks, if not a month before I’ll be allowed to begin duties with the Initiative.” He paused as something else came to him.
“What are we going to do about the young man who is the source of our information on the Initiative, Alexander Harris?”
“What about him.” Travers said off-handedly. “While his information is important he is not a part of the Council or even a member of any Watcher family. I don’t see any reason why we should be concerned with his well-being.”
Thomas nodded and took Travers’ answer as a dismissal. Stepping out of the Director’s office he walked down the hall to his own, much smaller office. He had a lot of calls to make and favours that needed to be called in and offered.