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That Old (and New) Gang of Mine

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This story is No. 6 in the series "Evolve or Die". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Hail, hail, the gang's all here. Giving Xander a headache while he tries to figure out how to help Cordy.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Action/Adventure > Cast: Scooby GangphoukaFR1316,3961133,8663 Jun 123 Jun 12Yes
Disclaimer: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and 20th Century Fox. This story is intended solely for the amusement and entertainment of others. No profit will be made. No copyright infringement is intended.

Not-the-Author's Notes: I did not write this. Phoukabro wrote this. In fact, he wrote this months ago and emailed it to me, and it has sat in my inbox for those months, occasionally poking me, tapping its foot, or giving me cross looks. As life has gotten better recently, I'm finally getting caught up on pending stuff. All comments will be forwarded to phoukabro for his enjoyment.




Buffy Summers

“Buffy,” a voice called out to me as I hefted my carry-on bag over my shoulder.

I looked up and saw my best friend from high school beckoning me towards her. Standing next to her, also waving was my little sister.

“Willow! Dawn!” I greeted them with a hug. “I wasn't sure if you guys were going to make this impromptu reunion or not.”

I looked around and saw a formally dressed chauffeur with a sign in his hand that had our names on it.

“Is he here for us?” I asked.

“He is indeed. Xander's friend is David Nabbit,” Willow said in an excited voice.

I looked over to Dawn, but she just rolled her eyes.

“I assume this David is pretty well off?” I asked.

“Remember in junior year, during career week, Oz and I were selected to meet with a top level software executive?” Willow asked. I nodded. “That guy's boss wouldn't be able to get a meeting with David Nabbit.”

“So he's a high muckity muck in the computer business. Why is Xander hanging around with him?”

“Enough questions. I want to ride in the limo!” Dawn interrupted us.

“We better go,” Willow urged. “One of us, and I won't say who,” she pointed at Dawn, “wanted to leave in the limo without you. Wiser opinions prevailed.”

Dawn stuck her tongue out at us. “She was late. I was just following the precedent of 'Snooze V. Lose'. Now let's go or I will leave both of you here.”



The limo ride was enjoyable. Willow and I sat back and drank margaritas from the bar, while Dawn experimented with the controls. She then spent the rest of the ride standing up at the moonroof, waving at other cars.

The car pulled up in front of a building, and the driver led us in. Standing at table, looking over some blueprints was Xander. Standing next to him was a somewhat nerdy looking man I assumed to be David Nabbit. Standing off to the side, bored by the conversation was a young Latino woman engrossed in her iPhone.

“Look, I'm not saying that fireman poles aren't cool. But we can't put one in every room. That'll cause problems with the structural integrity, not to mention the safety hazards of having a gaping hole in the middle of every room. What we can do is put one here,” he said, pointing to a spot on the blueprints, “and here. Everywhere else is easily accessible by the main stairway.”

David nodded along, then spotted us. He straightened up and approached us. Xander looked over, and a wide grin broke out on his face.

“Girls!” he shouted out, then ran up to us, enveloping us in a hug.

“Hi, I'm David,” David Nabbit said in a nervous voice.

“It's so great you guys could make it out here,” Xander said. He craned his neck and looked behind us. “Was, um, Giles able to make it out?”

I shook my head. “Sorry. He's been swamped by Council business. He's revamping the London branch and couldn't get away.”

I could see the disappointment flicker on his face, then the smiled went back up. “I am so glad you guys are here. I can't wait to tell you the project me and David are putting together.”

“Hi, I'm David,” David said again, still with a nervous tint.



Xander stood at the front of the conference room, facing us all. Behind him was a map of North America divided into various shades of blue with Red dots scattered on it.

“The dark blue areas show the level of supernatural activity. The red spots are Council agents. As you can see,” he said, pointing at Ohio, “the Cleveland Hellmouth has the most activity, as well as being the headquarters for the North American Council branch.”

He now pointed to the west coast and southwest area of the map. “And here, there's a minimal Council presence. The Slayers present are in groups of less than five, mainly centered in their hometowns. That means that the whole area is pretty much wide open.”

Willow raised her hand. “Um, Xander? I'm not sure where you're going with this. Are you talking about some kind of power grab?”

“I don't think Xander is the power grab kind of guy,” I said, then shoot a worried look to Xander. “Are you?”

“This isn't a power grab,” he assured us. “This is a huge area with only a bare minimum of oversight. For instance, that thing in Reno a few months back.”

This time I interrupted. “I thought Robin sent out a Slayer to handle that.”

Xander frowned at that.

Dawn spoke up, “Actually, Xander discovered that. He brought it the attention of the Council. And he led the investigation.”

“Oh,” I muttered. “I didn't hear that part.”

“I don't like to brag,” Xander said, then turned back to the map. “As I was saying, this whole area is unsupervised. That means every new Slayer that pops up, every kid experimenting with magic, every two bit cult, every demon clan running around is going unnoticed. I want to change that.”

“How do you think you can do that?” Willow asked. We all looked at her. She blushed slightly, “I don't mean to sound patronizing. I'm genuinely curious about how to do that.”

“In a few different ways. First, I've been building up some contacts over the past few years. They're kind of spread out, and sparse in a few areas, but it's something to start with. I would actually like your help in that area. If you could give me a few letters of introduction, or whatever the equivalent in the magical world, I'd appreciate it.”

“Yeah, I'll get on that,” Willow said.

“At the beginning we'll work mainly on making new contacts and networking. While we do that, we set up a detecting network, so that when anything comes up that requires someone to step in, we'll know right away,” Xander explained to all of us. “Which brings us to the last part. Mobilization. David is in charge of that.”

He pointed to David, motioning him to step forward.

“Hi, I'm David.”

“We already covered that,” Xander told him.

“Right,” he muttered in an embarrassed tone. “Mobilization is fairly easy. We can set up safe houses in all the major cities. I've got private jets for transport, so we can move people and equipment anywhere without worrying about TSA interference. Xander is drawing up a list of standard equipment for each site.”

He smiled at us as we waited for him to continue. “Oh, that pretty much covers it all.” He glanced around the room nervously. “Sorry. I guess I should have punched it up a little.”

“That was fine,” Xander reassured him.

“I was riveted,” the Latina girl said, not looking up from her iPhone. “Hehe. Die, stupid pigs,” she said under her breath.

“Not to sound critical, but it sounds like you're going to need a little Council help for this. I mean, shouldn't you have a Slayer or two to pull this off?” I asked.

“Yo,” the girl said, pausing her game of what I assumed to be Angry Birds. “That's covered.”

“Girls, meet Maria Sanchez. Slayer recently from the Cleveland Hellmouth. Maria, meet Willow Rosenberg, Dawn Summers, and Buffy Summers.”

Maria nodded to us as Xander introduced us. “S'up. How you doing?” She paused she met my gaze. “Buffy, huh? I heard of you.”

“Only good things, I hope,” I said.

“Some of it,” Maria said, then went back to her game.

“Now I wanted to talk to each of you one on one to nail down some of the details,” Xander told us. “David could you show Willow and Dawn around, while I talk to Buffy?”



“Quite a spread,” I said, as I observed the hallway. “Seems like a sci fi geek's wet dream.”

“It really is. You've never truly experienced Laser tag until you've played it wearing a full set of Stormtrooper armor,” Xander said, pointing to the displays of costumes along the walls. “It's oddly satisfying to call someone 'Rebel Scum' as you shoot them. You know if you're up for it, I could convince David to get a small size armor set and you could suit up.”

“I'll admit to enjoying an occasional sci fi movie, but playing dress up is just a bridge too far,” I said.

“Too bad. I think you'd make a great gold bikini Leia,” he joked.

“Xander,” I said, putting my hand on his arm. “We need to talk. I've been hearing some pretty strange stuff about what you've been up to out here. I just need to know you're all right.”

“I'm fine, really,” he assured me. “It just took me awhile to figure out what I want to do. But I'm fine.”

“It's just that some of the things I've heard made me worry.”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Okay. Like I heard that Wolfram and Hart tried to hire you,” I said.

Xander let out a loud sigh. “Okay for the record, I am not now, nor will I ever work for Wolfram and Hart. Cross my heart, swear to die, stick a needle in my remaining eye,” he ranted. “So feel free to pass that along to everyone you meet. Put it in a newsletter, send a spam e-mail. Just rest assured that I will never work for those evil scumbags!”

“Well, duh!”

Xander was taken aback by this.

“Look, Xan, you are the last person I know that would ever turn evil. Like, literally. Pretty much all of the people close to me have been evil at some point except you,” I explained. I thought for a moment, then added, “Although there was that that hyena thing.”

“Possession, doesn't count,” Xander argued.

“Whatever. But I do know that you've been kind of adrift for awhile. The fact that your best job offer is coming from an evil law firm must throw you for a loop.”

“Wasn't exactly thrilled about it,” he muttered.

I took his hand and motioned for him to sit down. I sat down next to him and looked him in the eye.

“The qualities you have that made Wolfram and Hart want you are the same qualities that will make this new thing you're doing successful. You're innovative, organized, and are great managing people. If it comes between you and them, I'd bet on you every time,” I assured him.

Xander smiled as I spoke. When I finished, he said, “The guy trying to recruit me said he had the same background as me. Grew up a normal guy surrounded by powerful people. He figured since he went to Wolfram and Hart, so would I. But I told him I had something he never did.”

“What's that?” I asked.

“The day I learned about vampires and demons and all the scary things that try to kill us, I also learned that there were people that stood against them. Not because they were paid for it or rewarded, but because it was the right thing to do,” he said. He looked at me with a fond smile and asked, “Did I ever thank you for that?”

“For what?” I asked in a soft voice.

“Being my hero.”

I turned away and wiped my eyes. “I thought I was supposed to be assuring you right now.”

“Sorry, force of habit,” he joked.

“I'll let it slide this time,” I told him. “So what do you need from me?”

He stood up, adopting his serious side. “I need a sitdown with Giles. This thing won't work, unless I get Council cooperation.”



Willow Rosenberg

“How long has she been like this?” I asked.

“Just before Angel and his gang went over to Wolfram and Hart,” Xander said.

He stood by the side of Cordelia Chase's bed. I stood at the foot of the bed, studying her medical chart. I looked over and saw him gently stroking her hand. He caught my eyed and blushed slightly.

“The, uh, doctor David brought in said that some coma patients respond to physical sensations,” he explained.

I nodded, then said, “It's going to take some time to go over her medical records.”

He shook his head, “David already got the best specialists to look at her physical condition. I want you to look at her from a metaphysical angle.”

I put the chart down and walked over to his side. Gently taking his hand, I said, “Xander, I'm not sure what you're hoping for here. But you can't expect miracles.”

“I'm not expecting miracles, Will. I just want to make sure we're following every possible lead to help Cordy. We've gone through all the medical options, so now it's time for the magical options. And you're my go to gal when it come to magic.”

I smiled at that. Part of me was tickled pink that Xander would always look to me when he needed help.

“I'll see what I can do,” I told him.

“That's all I ask.”



Several hours later, I was sitting at a table, with my laptop running and medical notes spread out around it. Xander sat across the table, with a file propped open in front of him. I reached over for a file then stopped when I caught Xander's gaze.

I let out a sigh and said, “Nothing yet.”

“What?” he asked.

“I haven't found anything yet, so quit bugging me.”

“I didn't say anything,” he protested.

“You were thinking it,. And you don't need to say anything when you keep looking at me like you're a puppy and I'm eating a T-bone steak,” I said, closing my laptop. “This is going to take time. Her condition isn't covered by any healing spells. I'm going to have to dig into the archives for this. Old religious texts, myths, folklore. I'm going to have dig through everything. The timeline here is going to be months.”

Xander's face fell as I said this. “Yeah, I guess I shouldn't get my hopes up.”

“Sorry,” I said and opened my laptop back up.

I went back to researching and zoned in on that for the next five minutes. I reached to my right, and found that Xander had placed a plate of snacks on the desk. I smiled and grabbed a snickerdoodle to munch on. As I chewed, I saw Xander watching me again.

“Still nothing,” I said.

“What? Oh, no. I wasn't doing the puppy begging deal,” he said. “It's just...” he trailed off, not sure how to continue.

I closed my laptop again. “All right, you're not doing your puppy eyes. You're doing your 'I have something I need to say, but don't know how to say it' face. So whatever is bugging you, spit it out,” I ordered.

“Okay. A few weeks ago, when Riley needed my help, I.... Wait a minute. How many looks do I have?” he asked.

“Eight major looks, with seventeen subcategories of looks. But that's not important. What happened when Riley needed your help.”

“I asked a couple people for help. And one of them.... seventeen? Really? That seems excessive. Do you have a list or something?”

“Xander! Get to the point. You asked for help from who?”

“Kennedy.”

I let out a sigh. “My condolences. I truly apologize for ever making you have to pretend to tolerate her when we were dating.”

“Thank you. I accept your long overdue apology. But that's not what I was aiming for. While we rescuing Riley's wife and making passive aggressive comments to each other, she told me the real reason you guys broke up.”

“Oh,” I said, then looked back to my computer.

Xander pulled his chair around to my side, and sat down next to me.

“You could have told me you dumped her for me,” he said.

“What was I supposed to say?” I asked as I turned to face him. “You got screwed over by Robin Wood. I was going to quit in protest, but decided not to. Instead I broke up with my girlfriend, who always trash talked you even after you saved her life, something which I should have done a year earlier.”

“You probably would have put it more diplomatically than that.”

“I'm not superproud of everything I did then. When Tara died, you were there for me, no matter what. But when Anya died, I was too wrapped up in Kennedy to help you.”

A brief look of pain crossed Xander's face when I mentioned Anya.

“When you quit, and Kennedy badmouthed you, it was like a wake up call for me. How did she not get how important you were to me? And why would I date someone who treated my best friend so shabbily.”

Xander put his arm around my shoulder. “When I found out what happened, ever months after the fact, it meant something to me. Glad to know I'm still important to you.”

He pulled me into a hug. We sat there for a moment, enjoying the connection until the sound of a door slam caught our attention.

The noise came from the front of the house, followed by two voices arguing. Xander and I looked up, then got up without saying a word. We exited the room into the front hall to see what was causing the commotion.

“You just ran in there without any backup.”

“I had backup,” Maria said. “I had two extra stakes and a battle axe.”

Buffy sighed. “That was supposed to be a two Slayer patrol. When one of the Slayers goes all Leroy Jenkins and runs off on her own, it's no longer a two Slayer patrol.”

“Correction, it was a one Slayer patrol, just like it was before you showed up, and like it will be once you leave. If you can't keep up, maybe you should have stayed back here.”

Xander sighed and leaned over to whisper to me, “What is it about Slayers always arguing? If they were guys, I'd offer to grab a ruler and have them whip it out.”

“I heard that!” Buffy yelled from across the hallway.

Dawn and David wandered in from the other side of the hallway, no doubt coming to see the commotion.

“As the senior Slayer, I think I have more experience and better perspective about combat situations,” Buffy argued.

“Experience and perspective for what? Dying? Senior just means you've made more mistakes, took more physical damage, and are at a higher risk for senility,” Maria shot back.

“I'm a senior Slayer, not a senior citizen.”

“Don't have a stroke. Besides, you're not the boss of me. Only one person in this room is the boss of me.”

Buffy stopped, then looked around the room. After a moment, David cautiously raised his hand.

“Is it me?” he asked. “Cause I, you know, pay for everything?”

Maria just shook her head.

Dawn gently pulled his hand down. “That's okay, sweetie,” she told him.

Xander looked around the room before realization hit him. “OH! Yeah, I'm boss. Right, this is still pretty new to me. Buffy, you're a guest here. Stop trying to run the patrols.”

Maria smiled smugly at Buffy, but Xander continued, “And Maria, Buffy's only here for a couple of nights. Play nice and stop treating her like she's some stuck up Disney princess. She's....” he stopped as a thought occurred to him. “Folklore.” He turned to me. “Willow, you said, the answer to Cordelia's condition could be in folklore, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Folklore, like fairy tales. Maybe the trick to waking Cordelia up has been right before us this whole time,” he said in an excited tone. He looked around at us. “Sleeping Beauty.”

He turned and ran out of the front hall. Everyone looked around, then followed him. We went up the stairs, then entered Cordelia's room. Xander stood by her side.

“Okay, real simple. You've done this before. Just never when her health and life are on the line.”

He took a deep breath then leaned over her unconscious form and kissed her. We watched as he ended the kiss and stood back up to look at... her unconscious form.

“Dude, did you just french a girl in a coma?” Maria asked.

Xander turned to us, now red with embarrassment. “Uh, I thought that maybe...”

“Dude, she's in a coma,” Maria repeated. “I'm pretty sure I saw some tongue action going on there.”

“Calm down,” David said. “I'm sure there's a good reason Xander made out with an unconscious girl.... Actually, now that I say it out loud, it does seem kind of skeevy.”

“C'mon, guys! Sleeping Beauty! You know, a kiss woke her up.”

“Um, Xander. In that, it was a princess cursed by an evil witch kissed by a prince. Not her old high school boyfriend,” I pointed out.

“Whatever,” Maria said and turned to exit. “It's been a long night. I'm going to go to bed. Please keep Xander from feeling me up while I'm sleeping.”

“I wouldn't,” Xander began to protest, then sighed and turned back to us. “Okay, it might not have been the most thought out plan. I just thought I had the key to waking her up.”

“It's okay,” Dawn assured him. “Well, maybe not in a strictly legal sense, but we understand.”

“I hate to burst your bubble, but it's not going to be that simple. It's going to take months of research and testing, not some deus ex machina,” I told him.

“A Smashing Pumpkins song was going to wake up your friend?” David asked.

“'God from the machine',” Dawn told him. “From Greek plays, where at the end, one the gods would come down from Olympus to solve the hero's problems. So unless Xander's run into any gods recently, it means helping Cordelia will take a lot of time and effort.”

“Oh, sorry, man,” David said, patting Xander on the shoulder.

“I know it was a longshot,” Xander said. “You know the funny thing is that I actually ran into a god a few weeks ago.”

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah. Really annoying guy too. Drank all my coffee and....” Xander trailed off, now lost in thought.

“Xander?” Dawn asked.

Xander looked at Dawn open mouthed, then looked at me, then back at Dawn. He turned and left the room, stopped, came back into the room, grabbed my hand, then pulled me after him.

“I've still got it in my pack,” he said as he pulled me along. “It's in the front closet.”

“Xander, what is going on?” I asked him.

He stopped to answer me. “Myths and folklore. Trickster gods and heroes. They put the key to the whole thing in the hero's hands, but don't tell them about it.”

“You're not making things any clearer,” I told him.

“He took my coffee!” he yelled, then saw my bewildered expression. “I was out camping last week in the desert. And I ran into this mysterious old guy that knew everything about me. He was all coy at first, but then kind of sinister, yet still a little reassuring.”

“Still not clear.”

“He said to call him Coyote.”

“Coyote, but that's.... oh. OH!” I said as the significance hit me.

“And he gave me his special, well not coffee, but concoction that....” he slapped his forehead. “He said it could wake the dead. He put it in my hands, told me what it did, and I completely missed it.”

He shook his head. “Wait a minute. Maybe I'm just jumping to conclusions again. It's probably just some--”

“XANDER! GET YOUR SPECIAL GOD CURE NOW! WE HAVE WORK TO DO!” I yelled at him.

He shut up, then ran downstairs with me close behind.



Cordelia Chase

I lean in to kiss Angel. As the kiss ends, the phone on his desk rings.

Angel glances at the phone and says, “You know, um...I don't...I don't need to get that.”

I straighten his tie and tell him, “That, you have to get.”

As he walks toward the desk, I add, “Oh... and you're welcome.”

While this is happening, I hear voices in the background and the sound of a heart monitor. Instead of a steady beep, there is just a long buzz.

“We're losing her.”

“Try the paddles again!”

“Blood pressure still dropping!”

The heart monitor finally begins a slow unsteady beat.

“We nearly lost her.”

“EEG is depressed. Even delta waves are minimal. This doesn't make sense, her activity was spiking minutes ago.”

“Sir, she's at the point of no return. What do we tell the Senior Partners?”

“Tell them we're going to Plan B. Send out the death notice.”


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There is only darkness and silence.

And cold.
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Then sound and light. Muted at first, but slowly growing in intensity.

Then voices. Quiet murmurs in the distance growing louder and more distinct. And... familiar?

“I think there was some eye movement.”

“Her fingers are moving.”

“Is she awake? I think she's awake? Cordy! Are you awake?”

“Holy crap! Xander, your God juice actually worked.”

I try to speak, my lips move, but no sound comes out.

“She's saying something? What did she say? Cordy! What did you say?”

“Quiet! I'm trying to listen.”

I feel hair brush my lips as someone leans down to put their ear next to my mouth.

“She saying... 'Stop... making... so much... noise...you....stupid....loser?”

Xander straightens up. “How did she know it was me?”



“So, you were dreaming you were helping Angel?” Willow asked.

“No,” I said. “I was actually there... I think. Wesley was there, and Spike was there, and,” I look up at the crowd around my bed. “None of you were there.” I shook my head and instantly regretted it. “Ow. Okay, now for the big question, how long was I out?”

Everyone looked uncomfortable, glancing around at each other. Finally, Buffy stepped forward. “Near as we can figure, you were comatose for almost a year, before you had your... goodbye with Angel. You were reported dead after that.”

“How long?” I asked again.

“Two years since then. Overall, you've been in a coma for three years.”

I nodded, still feeling numb.

“There's something else you need to know,” Buffy added in a gentle tone. “I don't think it should wait.”

“They're dead,” I said in a flat tone.

“Um.” Buffy swallowed nervously looking around at the others.

“Just tell me, they're all dead, right?”

Xander spoke up this time. “Angel, Spike, Wesley, and Winifred Burkle died fighting a wave of demons in Los Angeles just under two years ago.”

Dawn stepped over and whispered something to him.

“And someone named Illyria also.”

Dawn whispered again.

“Wait, what? Was this Winifred girl there or not?”

“It was complicated. Fred and Illyria are both dead. I get it,” I said.

He nodded and continued, “Lorne returned to his home dimension a few weeks later. And Angel's son Connor returned to his family. He's now in a midwestern college sophmore year.”

“Right,” I shifted, then began to get up.

“Whoah, hold on. What are you doing?” Xander asked.

“I've been in bed for awhile. I'd like to finally move around.”

“Yeah, you just came out of a very long coma. You're going to need some time to recover.”

“Actually, the therapist said she had no muscle loss, which was odd for a three year coma.”

I looked over at the speaker. “David... Nabbit?”

“You remember! Hey Cordelia,” he waved happily. “Glad you're back.”

I gave a small wave to him. “Glad to be back. Now I really need a change of clothes. And a shower.” I wiped my mouth. “And a washcloth. It feels like a dog slobbered on my mouth.”

“Um, guys? Can we clear the room? I'd like to talk to Cordy in private,” Xander said.



“So what's up, Dorkboy?” I asked.

“Well, I... dorkboy? Really?”

“Sorry, force of habit. It's been a stressful day.”

Xander nodded. “I'll cut you some slack. But I wanted to ask you what your plans for the future are.”

“Shower, change of clothes, lunch... or whatever mealtime it is.”

“And after that?”

I let out a sigh. “I'd like to get out and drive around. Collect my thoughts. Maybe some serious shopping therapy.”

Xander watched me as I spoke, just nodding along.

“And I suppose at some point I should sit down and figure out what to do now that all my friends are dead and gone.”

“David and I are setting up an operation here in LA. You are more than welcome to stay here.” He waved his hand around, “You already have a room.”

“Right,” I agreed. It made sense. And I really didn't have any other options. “I suppose I could use your charity.”

He shook his head. “Not charity. You know the city, you know the contacts. We'll be needing your help. In exchange for room, board, salary, and generous expense account.”

There was a knock on the door, and David poked his head in.

“Hey, guys.”

“Come on in,” Xander waved. He turned back to me. “There's one more thing we have to tell you.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“You were being held by Wolfram and Hart. David and I found out where you were being held and went to spring you.”

“Yes. For which I am very thankful.”

David sat down next to me. “We weren't alone. Groosalug was with us.”

“Groo?” I smiled at the memory of him. “Where is he?”

I got up from the bed and moved to the door.

“Is he going to be working with you?” I asked, then realized I hadn't seen him with the others.

I turned back to David and Xander.

“What happened to him?”



Dawn Summers

Two days after Cordelia awoke from her coma, I was in the guest bedroom packing up my bags when I heard a knock on the door.

“It's open,” I called out.

Xander poked his head in and said, “Got a minute?”

“Of course. I don't need to leave for my flight for a few hours.”

He smiled at me as he entered the room.

“Sorry. I was planning on having a one on one with each of you. I talked to Buffy and Willow, but I got sidetracked by the whole Cordy thing before getting to you.”

“Not a problem. Girl waking up from a three year coma kind of takes precedence,” I said with a shrug.

He sat down on the bed a few feet from me and smiled.

“So, how you been,” he asked.

“Okay,” I said in a neutral tone.

“We haven't really talked since your frantic phone call about assassins trying to kill me.”

“Right,” I sighed. “Sorry about the false alarm. I should have... verified that.”

“S'okay. Not your fault,” he assured me. He waited a few moments in silence before continuing. “So I told you about this whole... deal I'm trying to put together here.”

“Yup.”

“So you're up to date on my whole situation.”

I nodded, but didn't say anything. Xander nodded along, still smiling.

After another moment of awkward silence, he said, “So when were you going to tell me you quit the Council?”

“Oh,” I said I in a flat voice. “That.”

“Would have been nice to get the news first hand,” he said, getting up and looking around the room.

“Yeah. That's a whole thing where I'm trying to avoid dealing with,” I said.

I got up from the bed and went over to the desk where my bags were. I was mostly packed, but I began double checking everything.

“Speaking as someone who's quit the Council, it wouldn't hurt to vent a little,” he offered. “Especially to a sympathetic ear.”

I threw my hands up. “What do you want to hear? Robin Wood planted information that made me think the Order of Taraka was trying to kill you. After that I was just supposed to remain working with him?”

“You know you didn't have to do that for me?”

I shot an Arctic glare at him. “Not everything is about you. I was lied to and manipulated. Robin and I weren't exactly close, but I deserved better than that from him.”

I slammed by suitcase shut and began tugging on the zipper. It stuck and I pulled at it in a futile manner.

“Dawn,” he said, placing his hand on mine. I let go off the zipper. “I'm one of the few people who can actually say this, but I know what you're going through.”

He pulled the suitcase towards him and began working the zipper free.

“When I quit, I was pissed off. I wasn't talking to my friends, because I didn't think they would understand. I didn't know what I was going to do next, but I knew that I was sick of doing the crap work for the Council.”

The zipper came free and he slowly began to zip up the bag.

“The worst part was that no one knew what to say to me. If they offered to help, it would have been done out of pity. If they didn't offer, then they weren't being supportive. I didn't contact them, because I didn't want anyone to think I was begging. But I also resented them not contacting me.”

He finished zipping up the bag and set it on the ground, making sure it was balanced.

“It took me a long time, but I finally figured out what to do with my life, and I finally got to a good place with my friends.”

He handed the bag to me. I took it and placed it by the bed.

“You're all packed up, but before you go anywhere let me say this,” he said, then looked me straight in the eyes. “Stay here. Work with me. I'm not saying this out of pity or charity. I need all the help I can get. You're smart, you're resourceful, and I know that I can trust you in any situation. And on a personal level, working with you here is better than you not being here. So, please, stay and help me out.”

I looked up at him, with a lump growing in my throat.

“Okay,” I said in a whisper.

I shook my head to regain my composure.

“Uh, I mean. I'll think about it. Weigh it amongst all my many options right now.”

He smiled as I rambled.

“I do plan to keep asking until you agree.”

“Just one of the many drawbacks of being in such high demand,” I joked. “But I guess, more likely than not, I'll probably take pity on you and see how I can help.”

I looked down at my bag.

“And I just finished packing.” A realization hit me. “Oh! I get to stay here in your new building! I am so designing my own bedroom.”

Xander let out a chuckle. “I knew there was a catch to this.”

His face grew serious.

“But I will need your help right away. You're the best researcher I know, and I need you to start up.”

“What is it?” I asked.

Xander sat down at my desk, and started writing down notes.

“First is Wolfram and Hart. How have they reorganized since Angel and his crew took them on? I need to know their resources and aims. They had Cordy hidden away for years, so I'd like to know what other surprises they may have. The guy that tried to hire me threatened me last time I talked to him. I need to know what he's planning.”

“Everything on Wolfram and Hart. Got it,” I said.

“Second is Coyote.”

“The trickster god you met?” I asked. “ You sure you want to poke around on him?”

He nodded. “I don't buy that he just bumped into me. And he handed me the cure for Cordy, but kept me in the dark. I'd like to know how he operates, and what he wants.”

“Okay, anything else.”

Xander shook his head, then stopped. “There's... I don't know.”

“What?”

He looked up at me, with a focused look on his face. “Did you ever get the feeling that something big was happening, but you had no idea what it was? I've just got this feeling that I'm missing something really important.”

“Could you be a little more specific?”

“I don't think I can. It just feels like everything that's been happening isn't just random. There's some connection.....” he drifted off, then muttered, “Evolve or die.”

“What?”

“Something I heard.” He looked back at me. “I just don't want to get blindsided by something we should have seen coming.”

I was about to speak, when I heard a pounding at the front door.

Xander got up and left the room, while I followed. In the hallway, the sound of the pounding came from the front door, along with now audible but muffled yelling. Xander got to the front door as Maria and David entered the hall.

“Hey! Open up!” the yelling continued.

Xander opened the door, then stood aside as a young man brushed past him.

He looked Xander up and down and said, “Well, you look like crap.”

“Edgar,” Xander said in recognition. “Jesus. I haven't seen you since I graduated.”

“Yeah, where have the years gone by?” he said dismissively. “So yesterday I got a call from my sister, who funnily enough I thought died two years ago. So thanks for the heads up on that, douchebag.”

Edgar looked around the room.

“Hey, Dawn. Other people. Anyone plan to show me where she is?”

Xander recovered from his daze. “Up the stairs, third bedroom on the left. Maria, can you show him?”

Maria nodded, then led Edgar up the stairs. David turned to us, confused.

“Who is that?” he asked.

“Edgar Chase. Cordelia's little brother.” Xander turned to me. “How did we forget about Edgar?”

The End

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