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LXT02 - The Urn Of Osiris

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Lara Croft Trilogy". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Sequel to Grand Canyon Dreams, Was it really Anya that acquired the Urn Of Osiris from Ebay, or did Xander?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Other Genre > Tomb RaiderLucifaelFR18161,426479,48322 May 0422 May 04Yes
TITLE: The Urn Of Osiris
AUTHOR: Siege (siege1975@yahoo.co.uk)
WEBSITE: http://users.quickfox.tk/~siege1975/Fiction/
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, Just let me know 'K
DISCLAIMER: Not mine I didn't do it; well the main characters at least all belong to joss Wheadon and pals, and long may they. Lara croft, is copyright (c)
2001, paramount films
SUMMARY: Sequel to Grand Canyon Dreams, Was it really Anya that acquired The Urn Of Osiris from Ebay, or did Xander?
FEEDBACK: Oh yes please! Otherwise Millie cries.
CATEGORY: Action/Adventure/Crossover
RELATIONSHIPS: L/X
RATING: R
SPOILERS: All Seasons of BtVS Up to end of season 5 with an AU tilt that is explained in the prologue after that it’s all totally AU.
AUTHORS NOTES:
Please note it will help to read the first story Grand Canyon Dreams but this one can stand alone as it mentions most of the relevant events. But it sure
would help me for you to read and review the first story if you haven't already :-)
Prologue

My life has never been that easy, well when I say easy I mean uncomplicated. You see ever since we got back to the dale after our adventure in the Grand
Canyon me and the buffster had been getting on great, none of the old 'You need to be safe' arguments or anything like that. I had thought for a while that
maybe just maybe she and I could you know get together. I know my old feelings for her and never really died down or gone away even though I love Lara as
well. I know it’s possible to love more than one person and I did. Lara and I never had the grounds for a long-term relationship but Buffy and I, which
could've worked I think.

Then the whirlwind that is Anya arrived in my basement naked, Buffy walked in to find her literally jumping me, and I think that stopped whatever chance we
might have had. Because after that we were straight back to normal minus the arguments and she kept me at arms reach. I did tell her what had happened but
she wouldn't listen just saying that it wasn't her business.

The next thing I know she's with that Riley Finn, nice but dim Finn as she had called him and it's the next big romance of her life. I tried to tell her that
something wasn't right about him and in the end I was right. The Initiative and then Adam came along and before I realize what the hell is going on I'm with
Anya.

Now was doing really well at that point trying to forget about my feelings for Buffy and enjoying the sex with Anya. I stayed in touch with Lara and we
became good pen buddies, which was a plus. I had the money from the sale of the chalice, which kept me ticking along, and my girls had enough money to get
through college and some besides. But apart from that it was business as usual. We took down Adam in the end, horrible demon Cyborg human thing that he was
but we had to do this joining spell to do it. Then the first slayer tells me I'm the last of my line, which to be honest I can believe the way my life was
starting to go at that point. The Initiative fell apart but Riley stayed behind.

I wasn't the only one having problems either, Oz left, can you believe it. He wanted to get control of the inner wolf just as he had in the cavern. Wills
just about fell apart until Tara. Sweet shy Tara, she was just what Willow needed. It took me a while to get used to the idea that my best friend since
kindergarten was a lesbian but I dealt, although I did have some cool dreams about the two of them including the one the first slayer gave me. The only thing
the skanky bitch did for me.

Then the usual quiet summer followed by the next year. Now this is really funny I wrote down the memories that I was 'Given' by the chalice and the builders
of that damn wacky cavern and given the whole thing to Giles. I thought nothing of it really hoping that they would at least be remembered by future
generations of watchers as they read the exploits of the Scooby gang. The thing is and this still makes me laugh Giles sent the story to a friend of his who
worked in publishing. Giles calls me up and when I get there he gives me that smile again the proud one and tells me that I'm an author with a million dollar
first book. The deal he had arranged with his friend was sweet as deals can be and I made a killing with the first book. I was being hailed as the next
Wilbur Smith and getting offers left right and centre. I didn't need the money, but hey I was bored and hanging out with Anya all the time was fine for the
sex but that can get kinda tiring ya know. So in the end I started to write down our other adventures it was cathartic for me ya know, I know cool word hey
its an adjective meaning 'Emotionally purging' its also a strong laxative but I'll ignore that for now and the writing really did help for a while. Now the
critics are hailing me as a cross between Wilbur Smith and Dean Koontz cause of the horror aspect of my last three books. The extra money meant I was able to
help my parents especially my dad, I set him up in his beloved Vegas with a small Poker school. He met another woman there called Rita, she's the bomb,
really funny, and great for dad, he looks decades younger now. Mom left the 'dale and went to Florida I hear she's getting on great down there in the Betty
ford and dating again. I don't really want to know too much I just sent her checks every month. Mom and me never really got on, not like dad and I do.


Anyway, Riley left after getting a suck job from some vamp whores which was kinda funny and I tried to help Buffy and get her to go after him despite the fact
I was really hurting but Riley was an OK guy.

Then Glory. Man I hate that bitch and she deserved everything that happened to her in the end. It turned out that Dawnie was the Key, a mystical dimensional
skeleton key that could cross the boundaries of all dimension. The thing was that Glory wanted the key despite the fact it didn't go with her outfit. That
was the weird thing about her, she was a goddess, literally and steaming hot to look at as well. Trouble was she was entirely of the fruitcake, as in nutty
as. She sucked people's brains including Tara, Willow went all scary ink eyed and kicked glory's butt for that but it was temporary.

Then it happened, the thing that tore my life apart and flushed it down the crapper. The final battle with Glory, I should have realized I should have seen
that look in her eye, but I didn't and then it was too late. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I actually went and proposed to Anya. We didn't really love
each other; more like leaned and helped each other. She helped me replace Buffy and I helped her to become more human. But I hate to say it after Buffy took
her swan dive from that platform it all came clashing down round my ears.

It was lucky that I didn't need the money because I went off the rails missed the deadline on my latest book and in the end I broke it off with Anya.
Although, thank god, we are still friends. It was like once Buffy died there was no need to pretend anymore and that ended our relationship. Anya is one
hell of a girl but she deserved someone who really loved her and whilst I was fond of her I didn't love her.

I kinda drifted after that helping Spike to look after Dawn, oh shit I forgot about him. He was chipped the initiative but this doodad into his head and he
couldn't hunt, feed, or even raise a hand to hurt a human. He obsessed after Buffy for a while which, you know pissed me off but eventually he stopped.
Buffy put him in charge of protecting Dawn because Dawn and Spike were really close and spike was strong enough to protect her properly after Joyce died. Oh
shit I don't believe I forgot to mention that, it was a brain tumor, natural causes damn it and there was nothing we could do. It sucked especially coming as
it did during Glory's attack on our little family. Needless to say both Buffy and Dawn were cut up about it as we all were. I sometimes wonder if Buffy
caved to the extra pressure despite my monetary help, but nah Buffy was and still is my hero and I don't see my hero committing suicide like that.

So now I am totally lost and without my Buffy shaped rudder to help me to steer. I feel like a huge part of my heart dropped away and died. The only thing
stopping me from ending it all is the thought that my hero would never do it so why should I.

Anyway I told Lara the news but she wasn't able to make the funeral which was bad cause I think if she was maybe I wouldn't have lost it the way I did. It
was at night so dead boy could come, funny but he looked totally shocked said something about having to leave for awhile and that why should he bother working
for redemption and that the powers that be had lied to him. To be frank I hardly heard him, he had actually been telling me face to face, and he knew I was
the other one feeling just as shit was he was. The one thing that did ring loud and clear was that he said the PTB's those arseholes had said that she would
be alive when he was redeemed or something along those lines. Typical higher being behavior if you ask me, they are all lying arseholes.

Now here is the kicker, Willow can raise Buffy. We are all really worried that she is trapped in an eternal torment in some horrible hell dimension. In fact
I haven't slept hardly thinking about that horrible fact. It's taken along time and a lot of money but what the hell else am I going to do with it but we
have gathered everything for the spell except the final piece of the puzzle and the single most important one at that.

The Urn Of Osiris and that is the main reason I'm here outside the massive doors of Croft manner in the pissing rain, yeah 'pissing rain' got that from Giles.
He said it's just the word for English weather. I think Crappy covers it too, but anyway. I've come to see my friend Lara because I need her help and
because I need to see her even if she says no. Which I half hope she does, cause this bring people back from the dead thing is scaring the bejesus outta me,
somehow though I don't think she will say no though and that makes me feel bad.

The big door opens and reveals the face of some guy in a penguin suit a line from ace Ventura hits me, "Hey Captain Strudels"

"Oh, yes very funny sir, what can I do for you sir" he asks me sounding very British and so not amused. I think that when a butler or other type of servant
says 'sir' like that they are replacing the word with 'bastard' or 'shit head' in their head. Its like when we Americans say 'Have A Nice Day' if you say it
right it means exactly the same thing as 'Fuck You Pal', well you know what I mean.

"I need…." I'm cut off as a vision of ethereal beauty takes the butlers place pushing him back and looking at me.

"Xander?" she says quietly.

I feel at this point I need to say something "Hi Lara" I say and promptly dissolve into a big girly-man with tears flowing down my face and mixing with the
rain. I'm falling apart right there on her doorstep and I can't stop myself. She just takes me into her arms and starts to rock me cooing softly into my ear
and kissing my forehead. God how I've missed this woman, I should never have let her leave in the first place, but then me and Lara never did run to a
script. We had something special and maybe we still do. I don't think that even now with Buffy gone anything will happen I just had to see her; the urn was
really just an excuse.
Chapter 01

Croft Manor, England
August 3rd 2001

The rain pounded down on the pair like the tears of god soaking them to the bone slicking their hair against their heads and chilling them to the core.
However, neither moved as the man cried him self out. It didn't matter to her that she was getting wet, she had been worse things than a little damp and
Xander was too far gone to notice the weather so she held him and rocked him as the tears were released from deep within him. He didn't cry like a baby, as
the old saying went, no he cried like a man with every single tear wrenched from deep within his soul never to be replaced.

All the while in the howling wind and slanting rain Lara held him and rocked him, cooing softly in his ear just comforting him. He had only cried once before
and that was at the funeral, he wasn't old fashioned enough to believe that men shouldn't cry he just didn't, but the events of late had ripped him apart and
he had yet to be able to reassemble himself.

He had come here with a specific goal in mind but none of that mattered now he couldn't even remember the name of the damn thing. All he could think about
was the pain in his heart. Yet still he fought for control over his raging emotions, some semblance of control so he could greet his friend and love properly
try to be his old self to at least and extent, for her if not for himself. Like the Herculean task it really was he eventually, after what seemed like hours,
resigned himself back in and stopped crying.

"Hi" Xander said with a slight smile.

Lara returned the smile warmly, "Hi yourself"

"I'm sorry about that"

"Don't be ridiculous, it was fine, really"

"Yeah, well thank you. I think I needed that"

"I don't doubt it, Come on lets get you dry"

*****

Once he had dried off and borrowed some of Hillary's clothes Xander met up with Lara in the large sitting room and joined her on the couch. A large fire
crackled and spat into the slice disturbed only by a large Grandfather clocks ticking. Neither said anything for a long time, there was no need. They had an
established friendship already and were comfortable enough with each other not to have to fill every silence. They hadn't seen each other for two year but
had been in contact through email and snail mail ever since. A good and strong friendship had grown out of the passion that they had once shared. Despite
that Xander was feeling the silence bearing down on him.

"So the Illumanti hey, that must have been kinda weird" He said.

"It wasn't the most normal thing I've been involved with" Lara admitted with a smile.

"It’s good that you got to see your dad though"

"Yes, yes it was. It was good to talk to him again. I've missed him, and you"

"I too, missed you I mean, I didn't know your dad but I bet he was great, Giles knew him didn't he."

Lara chuckled slightly, "Oh yes, they were quite the pair from what I remember"

"He's here in England now you know"

"Really, I'm surprised"

"Yeah, I think he didn't think that there was anything left for him in the USA. He and Buffy were really close, but we all miss him."

"I'm sure, so you're engaged then?"

"No, not anymore"

"Oh" Lara said carefully

"I should never have let it get that far"

"How so?"

"Anya's great, really, but we were never in love I think we were just in Lust that grew into a friendship"

"Like us?"

"No" Xander said quickly, "No we were never like that Lara, I … I care for you I do"

"I care for you too, I'm just feeling a little maudlin today, I'm sorry"

"You seem pretty quiet more, controlled than before"

"Time travel can do that for you"

Xander chuckled, "That's one thing that never interested me"

"Really? Most would kill for it"

"Then they're dumb because all it could bring is pain and a nose bleed"

"That's a singular attitude"

"Urm, thanks I think"

"You always did surprise me"

"I surprise myself"

They chuckled together then silence reined for a minute this time it was Lara that broke the silence.

"I've read your books"

Xander groaned, "Oh god, you didn't did you"

"What, they're really good. I really enjoyed them"

"Wow, thanks. I've got a new one due, well overdue actually"

"Really, what's this one about?"

"Us, actually, indirectly. It's a sequel to the memories I was given, the story of how we got the chalice"

"Sounds interesting, I'll buy it" Lara smiled.

"You don't think it's a bit Seventh Scroll"

Lara cocked her head at him, "You read Wilbur Smith?"

"You sound surprised"

"I am, I would have thought you had enough adventure in you life"

"Maybe, but I've always wanted to go to Africa, Egypt in particular"

"I've spent a fair bit of time there and it is wonderful"

"Do you take the time out to look around at the scenery now?" Xander asked turning in his seat to look deep into her eyes.

"I do, thanks to you" she replied with a soft smile.

"Good, I'm glad to hear that"

Silence returned once again.

"Why did you come?" Lara asked him straight out what had been niggling at her since he arrived.

"Oh, hell I forgot about that"

"Well?"

"Oh, ok, I was wondering if you knew where I could get an Urn of Osiris."

"Why?"

"Willow can raise Buffy"

The color bled out of Lara's entire body let alone her cheeks, "What?"

"Willow, can raise Buffy. We think she is trapped in a hell dimension. We owe it to her to get her out."

Lara took a deep breath, "That is against nature"

"I agree"

"You do?"

"I do, but she didn't die of natural causes, it was supernatural"

"So now it’s OK?"

"No, but what if she is stuck in eternal torment like Willow thinks she is, what then. I couldn't stand that"

"Ah"

"Ah?"

"Yes, Ah"

"OK, can you help?"

Lara pursed her full lips and started off into space leaving Xander to stare at the fire. She sunk deep into thought. As far as she was concerned once
someone was dead that was it, and she couldn't believe that someone like Buffy would be allowed to suffer in a hell dimension, if she died then god, or
whoever is in charge would surely have removed them. But then what if she was wrong and Xander, no Willow, was right. Xander was being led by Willow on
this. The shy girl Lara had known two years ago must have changed dramatically, not only in strength of character but in power also. Raising people from the
dead is not an easy task. She needed to talk to her. Lara looked over at Xander who was looking into the fire lost at sea. 'He's changed too. Lost that
spark I loved' Lara thought, 'I hate that he lost that spark'

"I'm tired, can I let you know tomorrow," she said finally.

"Sure, I'll just get a taxi, can I use your phone?"

"You'll do no such thing, Hillary will get a room ready for you"

"Thanks, for everything. I missed you"

"I missed you also, goodnight," Lara said rising and leaving the sitting room in a swirl of her long cardigan. Xander went back to looking at the fire for,
well, he didn't know how long but a cleared throat startled him.

"Your room is ready, Sir"

"Thanks, Hillary is it?"

"Yes Sir, shall I lead the way"

"Please"

*****

Lara flipped open her laptop on the bed and used the wireless home network Bryce had set up to connect to the Internet. She had been in contact with Willow
and indeed Buffy using this method keeping an eye on Xander basically. But it had been a while since she had spoken to either, now she would not get the
chance to talk to Buffy but Willow was always on around about this time. She brought up her instant messenger and saw that Willow was indeed online.

Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: Willow?
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Hi Lara, how are you.
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: Not great, I have Xander here.
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Oh, thank god. We have been worried about
him, is he OK?
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: That depends on how you define OK?
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Yeah, he's been a mess since Buffy died
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: Talking of Buffy is it true? Your plan?
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Yes
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: I'll send an urn shortly, but don't tell Xander
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Thank you, but Why?
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: Because, I have other plans for him
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: What? Is it sexy? :-)
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: ;-)
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Seriously, what have you got planned for our favorite author?
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: A little adventure to get that spark back into his eye
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: I know, he's not Xander without it. It's been a heavy two years; I don't think any of us got through it well.
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: I know it Xander did keep me fairly up to date.
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Did he? He never said a word
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: That's Xander for you, So what do you think, a good challenge and adventure should get him jump started?
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Yeah, I think that will be just what the doctor ordered
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: Good luck with Buffy, I hope you realize what you're about to do?
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Oh yes, I certainly do I have researched this spell and the ramifications up the wazu I could never just *DO* something like this.
The spell I picked won't pull her back if she doesn't want to come.
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: That's good to hear, oh and don't for gods sake forget to dig up the coffin first
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Hey, how dumb do you think I am? :-)
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: Just checking :-)
Will-o-whisp@aol.com: Goodnight Lara, Look after him
Tomb_Raider@Lc.net: I will, Goodnight Willow

Lara signed off with a smile plastered across her face that was as wicked as the day was long. 'I will get that spark back'

She picked up her phone and started to make calls to prepare for her little adventure. Perhaps she could kill two birds with one stone.
Croft Manor, England
August 4th 2001

Xander walked down the large central staircase listlessly thinking that he would have to go back to America today without the Urn or any leads as to its
whereabouts. He just didn't know what he was going to do after that, write his book. That wouldn't take long after all it was nearly finished, it had been
the only way he had managed to finagle any extra time out of his publishers in the first place.

"Head's Up" He heard Lara's voice call out from above him. He looked up automatically to find her swooping down on him from some sort of Bungee rope
contraption. He dived to one side as she past gracefully describing an arc that traversed the entirety of the large central room.

Once she had past he resumed his walk down the stairs watching her the entire time marvelling once again at her ethereal beauty and her grace on the ungainly
apparatus.

It looked like a whole heck of a lot of fun actually zooming around perfectly safe but still as free as a bird. He watched her for a long time as she soared
with poise around the room. Her face a mask of calm concentration and occasionally a smile would light up the room as she obviously enjoyed the sensation of
flight.

"Impressive in it"

Xander looked round to see a weasely looking man smiling gamely at him.

"She certainly is" Xander whispered looking back at Lara.

Bryce smirked to himself and walked into his workshop shutting the Plexiglas door behind him and picking up a tool belt. Lara had once again hurt his poor
Simon and it was up to him to fix it, although the damage at least didn't look so bad this time.

Lara finally came to a stop at the top of the stairs and disconnected herself from the rigging then smiled at her audience. "Good Morning"

"Well Hi there, Hawke. Good movie on that flight"

Lara chuckled slightly, "I find it relaxing"

"I bet looks like fun"

"Fancy a go?"

"Urm, sure what the hell" Xander said with a smile.

"Then later on, I'll teach you how, first I'm famished, you?"

"I will admit to being a little hungry" Xander said with a grin, he was hungry that is and not just for food. Lara was like a steak to a starving man to him.

"Follow me" Lara said sweeping away towards the kitchen.

*****

Hillary had cooked up a storm with a full English breakfast for Xander and a smaller but by no means less fried meal for Lara.

"God, this is amazing" Xander said placing his fork down for a moment, he tipped a little sauce on his meal and smiled at Hillary, "Thanks man"

"A pleasure sir"

"Oh hey, I'm sorry about that really bad joke, it just popped in my head"

"Not at all Sir, I'm somewhat of a Jim Carey fan myself"

"Cool, but please call me Xander, Sir is just a little too formal for my liking"

"Of course, Xander"

"You seem more cheerful today" Lara commented.

"Yeah" Xander's eyes grew a little darker and Lara cursed herself, "Not a bad dream in sight last night"

"Good, glad to hear it. I have been thinking about your request"

Xander cocked his eyebrow at her.

"I can help you to get The Urn Of Osiris, but it won't be easy. We will have to go into Egypt and get one from the Tomb of Alkhamor"

Hillary cocked a curious gaze at her but she indicated with her gaze a later to him and he shrugged and fried up some more sausage.

"OK, I can do that. I'll pay for the trip and everything not like I need the money"

"Really, not a problem as you well know. What is a problem is that you are very out of shape. That will have to be rectified before we even think about
leaving"

Xander nodded, "OK, I can understand that. When do we start?"

"Right after breakfast"

"Cool"

*****

Hillary caught up with Lara just before she walked into her private room, "Lara if I may have a moment?"

"Come in" Lara said indicating he should enter. She had never made her chambers private before and it was subterfuge now, they just needed privacy. Not that
Xander would be much good Lara had trained hard that day and Xander was currently in the bath before he planed to go to bed.

Once inside Hillary turned back to her, "What are you up to missy?"

"I don't know what you mean," Lara said with a chuckle.

"You know perfectly well that you can pick up and Urn of Osiris in any Cairo back alley Magic shop"

"I do, that's true"

"The Tomb of Alkhamor was raided long ago as well"

"Yes, but I think I may have found a whole new level in some old documents I picked up on my last trip"

"Yes well that's all very interesting but what is it you're trying to do?"

"Give him a little adventure"

"Why, that man doesn't have what it takes to keep up with you"

"Oh, that isn't true. That's Xander"

Hillary lifted and eyebrow.

"Xander, from two years ago and the Chalice of Amoncor"

"What, never, the man you described was full of life and vitality … and that's the point isn't it. What happened to him?"

Lara smiled wanly, "The woman he loved died"

"I hate to be the one to say this and I am as romantic as the next man, but well in fact there are two things. The man you described wouldn't have been
broken by that and he obviously loves you as well"

"Indeed"

"Yes, I may be a stick in the mud butler but I can see the way he looks at you. I had thought it was just, puppy love but now I realize just how he is, or
was. I know. Something else is going on here Lara and this idea of yours may not have the effect you think it will."

"You seem so sure"

"I am, it’s in his eyes. He’s dying inside Lara. You need to find out why before you ever get him back. I can tell you one thing; it isn't just that woman
dying that did it. The man you told me about…"

"Yes I think know what you mean now" Lara cut in thinking furiously. "Thank you Hillary, as always your council is wise"

"It is a shame you don't admit that very often," Hillary said with a smile. "Is there anything I can get you?"

"No, thank you, you go on to bed"
Chapter 02
Croft Manor, England
August 4th 2001

Midnight, every single time it was midnight when the voice started. Xander tried to shut it out but it was so damn insistent besides he could never say no to
Buffy.

"Xander…."

"No, not again, you left me alone last night, do it tonight"

"Where were you Xander? I missed you"

"No, you didn't, who are you"

"I'm Buffy, you know that"

"No, no your not. You can't be; Buffy would never to this to me"

"Yes, I would, you know why I do this don't Xander"

"No"

"Yes, it's your fault, if you had only seen, I would never have jumped"

"NO!"

"It's your fault Xander"

"NO!"

"I died because you killed me Xander, if only you had loved me Xander, If only you weren't so useless. You can't even look after me, like you said you would.
You left me"

"No, I didn't"

"You did, you left me for your demon whore"

"NO, LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU'RE NOT BUFFY!"

"Oh but I am, you see I know you Xander I know that you always hated Angel because you loved me, but if you loved me then why did you kill me?"

"I didn't"

"You did, you could have stopped me from committing suicide."

"You did not commit suicide, you died to save your sister. If you were really buffy you would know that"

"Silly Xander, I died because you left me for that demon whore. Was she good Xander did you like your ORGASMS?"

"NO YOU'RE NOT BUFFY"

"I AM XANDER…."

"Xander, Xander, what's the matter?"

"NO! LEAVE ME ALONE, I CAN'T TAKE IT FOR MUCH LONGER" Xander shouted thrashing around on the bed his eyes red from crying and his face red from the
exertions.

"Shh, Xander it’s me Lara" Lara said looking at the wild eyed man in fear, fear for what had happened to him.

"Lara" Xander said looking at her with such pitiful hope that Lara's heart broke for him. "No it can't be, YOU CAN'T DO THIS DO ME, NOT LARA AS WELL!!!!"

"Shh, Xander I promise it really is me. Come on touch me, I'm real honestly"

Xander reached out slowly his eyes full of fear and gently took her hand. As soon as they touched he leapt at her pulling her into a crushing embrace. "Did
you see her, she taunts me all the time, she hates me Buffy hates me Lara, please help me Lara, please help me"

"Shh" Lara cooed thinking that she did indeed see something but she was damn sure it wasn't Buffy. The Buffy she knew wasn't that vindictive, slightly
unaware of her surroundings at times but never willingly vindictive, "Shh, Xander I won't let that thing hurt you again"

Xander looked into her eyes, "You did didn't you, you saw it?"

"I did, and it wasn't Buffy I can promise you that"

"Oh thank god" Xander breathed out hugging Lara to himself and sobbing for joy, "I thought I was going insane, I really thought I was"

"Going?" Lara said with a smile hoping for what she knew was the correct response from Xander and was horrified to see him dip his head. She reached out and
with a single finger lifted his chin, "A Joke, you remember jokes don't you. Sir Quips-allot"

This time she got a slight smile in response.

"How long has that been going on?"

"The day she died" Xander said quietly.

"Oh God! That was months ago Xander why didn't you tell someone?"

"And tell them what, that I was seeing Buffy in my sleep?"

"Yes"

"We've all been under a lot of pressure and I didn't want to add to that just because I was loosing my marbles"

"Idiot!" Lara said pulling him back into her arms.

"That's me"

"No it's not, and you will realize that again before I'm done with you, now I need to make some calls will you be alright?"

Xander paused thinking that he more than likely wouldn't be but nodded anyway. Lara walked out of the room pausing to give him a soft smile as she left.

As soon as she left Buffy appeared again. "Will you kill her too Xander. Will you let her die like you did me?"

"You know what" Xander said with more confidence than he had felt in months, "I really don't like you who ever the hell you are."

The simple fact that Lara had seen the apparition had helped him more than he thought possible. "Who are you?"

"I'm Buffy, the woman you killed"

"No, Buffy wouldn't do this. Who are you" Xander shot back now getting out of bed and stalking towards the being in Buffy form.

"You just don't want to admit you killed me, was it so you could go to you English whore?"

"Now I know you're not Buffy. You see Buffy didn't like Lara but she had much more interesting names for her than that. I heard them when she was talking to
Willow. So tell me fiend who the hell are you"

The Buffy apparition wavered shifting into another familiar face, "I'm the one that started it all," Jenny Calendar said with a seductive smile, "I am
something that you can't even conceive. The First Evil. Beyond sin, beyond death. I am the thing the darkness fears. You'll never see me but I am everywhere.
Every being, every thought, every drop of hate."

"Wow, overloaded sense of self importance much"

"Silly little man, you will grovel on bended knee before me when I have finished with you"

"You know I always kinda fancied Miss Calendar but I don't think Giles would like it if I did that, plus you know she's dead and you’re just a cheap copy of a
wonderful warm and loving woman"

"She is nothing more than a form for me to take"

"So, like what do you really look like then?"

"I am the shadows, the darkness I…"

"Avoidance much, come on, tell me"

"You couldn't possibly conceive my true form"

"That ugly then, fine. But tell me why me, I'm just the human one, I mean I really am the useless one, why not go after one of the others, oh I know because
they are too powerful for you aren't they. I know Buffy already kicked your but a few years ago. Willow would turn you inside out and Tara is almost as
powerful as Willow. Giles wouldn't fall for you so you tried me. Well it's over sparky, go peddle you bullshit someplace else." Xander said

The apparition of Jenny weaved in and out of reality and was replaced by a roaring horned and clawed beast, its large eyes glowing blood red with saliva
dripping from its fangs. "You'll all pay!" it screamed in a voice like a thousand banshees

Xander just looked at it and then did the one thing no one would have expected him to do, he laughed. He laughed right into the ferocious and frightening
visage of an evil as old as time itself and he continued laughing until it finally disappeared in a flurry of motion and skittered into shadows. He was still
laughing when Lara opened the door and looked at him with concern. He just reached for her and hugged her still laughing because it was that or cry and he
didn't want that thing to see him cry again.

Croft Manor, England
August 5th 2001

Xander sat with Lara asleep curled into his arms, he hadn't slept another wink for the rest of the night he just enjoyed the feel of Lara in his arms,
something he had so badly missed after these two long years. He had also wanted to keep watch just in case the First Evil came back again. He had a feeling
that it would, but not for a long time, it had been tormenting him for such a long time, months that had felt like years stolen from his life. It was strange
that it had picked on him, but then maybe he was right, maybe it was scared of the others, Willow was one hell of a powerful witch now and Tara with her, he
was willing to bet Willow would kick its ass just for trying to be Buffy. No it had picked on him because it thought him the weak link, and the way he had
acted he had almost proven it right. If not for Lara he didn't think he would have lasted much longer.

He knew of the First Evil, it had fought with Buffy before, that day they had that freak snow storm, when it had tried for Angel as it had just tried for him.
In one very odd way it was actually a compliment. The thought that a powerful being such as the first thought he was worth going after was flattering in a
warped and twisted way. But he remembered thinking that last time it had actually been after Buffy and not Angel, so what was the point of going after him.
He couldn't hurt Buffy now no one could.

"Strange" he thought out loud the one word a summarization of his complicated thought process.

Lara shifted a little in his arms and he adjusted her position to allow her more comfort. His arm had gone dead hours ago but he didn't care about the pain,
he only cared about the feel of her there in his arms snuggled against his chest. If anything she was even more exotically beautiful than before, she seemed
even more independent and free spirited. He admired her for that, the last few months had pretty much robbed him of his own fire, and he didn't think that
could happen to Lara, she had too much fire to have it doused like he had been.

But there was one thing he was sure of; he wouldn't let it happen again. The first had very nearly won that time; it had nearly caused him to lose his mind
with its lies and deceit. It had chosen the right form to taunt him with that was for sure. Buffy had meant more to him than almost anything, with the
possibly exception of the woman in his arms right at that moment. He had died when she had and it had known that pushing as it had. It had pressed all the
right buttons especially the big one that really scared him, did she take a dive off of that platform because she really felt she had to or was there another,
more sinister reason. Like for instance, suicide. He couldn't allow himself to believe that Buffy of all people could do that, but then she was only human
really with all the frailties that included.

But she was and still is his hero and he had to believe that she had died a hero or else there really was no point going on. He had to go on, he had to get
this urn for Willow. Not because he believed it would do any good, he really didn't believe that there was any form of magic that could rip a soul from
heaven, for that was where his heart of heart knew Buffy was. Willow needed to do what she felt she could and he wanted to help her as much as he could.

Perhaps it would help him to be doing something useful after all this time as well. The last few months with the first acting the way it had he had been
almost useless to the gang only taking a vampire by accident rather than design and Lara was right. He was horribly out of shape. What would his inner
soldier say; well he already knew that it hated it. Since that time in the cavern two years almost to the month ago he had been better in touch with that
aspect of his self. The soldier wasn't a separate entity but it was a part of his very being and it wasn't happy with the current state that he had got
himself into.

He had trained with Lara the day before and it had made two things very obvious to him. One Lara was very fit, two he was very unfit. Before he had been
able to keep up with her but now she was way ahead of him. She had looked disappointed at his performance and that had cut him to the core.

No, The First would not beat Xander Harris nor would he allow himself to beat himself. It was time to get better.
Croft Manor, England
August 5th 2001

Xander pushed down into his stretch feeling the muscles virtually all the way down the inside of his leg screaming in protest.

"You know this what I get for sitting in front of Word for hours on end" he commented to his training partner.

Lara smirked at him; he hadn't lost that much muscle bulk, just fitness and apparently flexibility. He was decked out in shorts and a Tee Shirt whilst she
was in a one-piece leotard that she usually wore for working out in. "It will come back in no time you'll be high kicking with the best"

"I hope not because I didn't do high kicks when I was fit before" he said through gritted teeth as he pushed down a little further.

"Don't push too far," Lara warned him.

"Its ok I won't, just making sure I do as much as possible in one go"

"Well, you know your limits"

"What Limits" he replied smiling at her widely.

Lara returned the smile fully, she wasn't sure exactly what had happened last night but he had banished what ever it had been that was attacking him. Her
contacts hadn't been too helpful in that regard saying that it could be a vengeful spirit or even some demonic form but other than that nothing.

"About Last night" Lara began

"Thank you, if it wasn't for you I don't know what would have happened"

"What was that thing?"

"It said it was the first evil"

"It came back?"

"It did, as soon as you left the room the first time, but once I knew that you had seen it I realized that I wasn't going banana's after all. So I confronted
it"

Lara drew breath sharply, "Was that wise?"

"Wise and Xander are oxymoronic"

"Big word"

"Hey, I'm an author now, it's in the job description"

"So…"

"I got it to change forms, it used my old high-school computer teacher someone who was very close to us back then. It told me what I wanted to know. It
isn't the first time it has attacked one of us, I should have realized"

"I think you were not in a very thinking position before"

"I agree, anyway it's gone now. Oh it'll be back but not just for me next time. I think it'll come at us all out next time"

"That sounds bad"

"I'm sure it will be, but we'll beat it"

"Good, it’s good to hear you talking like that again, you have that spark in your eyes again"

"Spark?" he said twinkling at her.

"Yes the Xander Harris spark"

"Is that a good thing?"

"I think so," Lara said quietly.

"Then I'll make sure not to lose it again,"

"I'm pleased to hear it, now are you done?"

"I am so not looking forward to this" Xander said with a slight groan.

"Ready?" Lara said slipping into a fighting stance.

Xander mirrored her stance, "Ready!"

Lara snapped out a kick towards his head that his caught and tugged on slightly trying to pull her off balance Lara merely hopped forward slightly before
striking out with a punch combo that was designed to keep Xander on the defensive. It worked for the first two punches but he moved the side to dodge one and
swept her leg away from her. She rolled into the fall diving over his leg and coming to her feet off to one side. She flipped out a reverse kick that almost
hit him but he blocked at the last moment.

Lara turned to face him with a smile on her face. The day before they had sparred just like this and she had beaten him within seconds. This time it was
going to be a much more interesting challenge.

Her suspicions were confirmed as Xander gave her a feral smile and moved to the offensive. Moving toward her with lightning speed Lara reacted straight away
with a punch that he took to the shoulder ignoring it totally allowing the muscle there to take the heavy blow and continuing his course.

Lara's eyes widened slightly when he took her hit without trying to block it then she whipped a wheel punch out to his head knowing he wouldn't take that one.
She had halted his offence and she hoped to push him back into the defensive.

He surprised her again by literally ducking under the punch and then slapping her arm further on its current course pushing her off balance. He finished off
with another sweep that knocked her to the ground. She didn't pause as she twisted her feet into his legs and made him also fall down. Which he did almost
right on top of her, he stopped himself at the last minute from crushing her by slapping down his hands to the mat ending up in an awkward press up position
above her. They were both breathing hard smiling into each other's eyes for a beat or two longer than they should have. Lara rolled away finally knocking
his supporting arm away and causing him to end up face down on the mat.

Sarcastic clapping came from the doorway, "Bravo, much better Xander. Although you didn't follow through," Hillary said with a wry expression.

"I'm not very good at sparring, not with my friends" Xander admitted once he had stood up, "I tend to hold back and get my ass kicked a lot"

"Why, do you doubt Lara's abilities" Hillary asked looking at him seriously in the eye.

"Good grief no, I did it with Buffy as well and she's the damn slayer, no I just hate the thought that I may possibly hurt a friend, even if it is a lucky
shot"

"I can understand that I suppose. You used to spare with a slayer? I would have thought you would be a lot better than you are no offence"

"I'm a little out of practice. You seem to know what your talking about, considering that you're a butler an all. I'm guessing that you weren't always a
butler?"

"No" Hillary said with a smile, "I was in the armed forces for a while"

"He's being modest" Lara put in wiping her face with a towel, "Hillary is quite the Martial expert"

Xander smiled, "Cool"

Hillary shot a look at Lara who nodded at him, "Perhaps We could spar, we aren't friends, at least not yet. Show me what you've got as it were?" He added a
touch of challenge to his tone hoping to goad Xander into it.

"Urm, sure" Xander said smiling, "Whenever"

"Now" Hillary said pulling off the jacket to his uniform and kicking off his shoes. Once he had removed his socks they walked to the centre of the padded
floor and faced each other. Xander bowed deeply but never took his eyes off of his new opponent.

Hillary returned the bow and shirted into a deep stance that was indicative of Shotokan Karate.

Xander shifted his stance into a standard Kung fun stance gaining a widening of the eyes from both Hillary and Lara.

Lara stood back and watched them as they started to fight, she knew that Hillary was a very good fighter, but Xander was much better. Without his rather
sweet but needless chivalry to his friends he was a deadly fighter and this time he wasn't holding back as much, although he was still holding back Lara
noted. He moved with efficiency and an economy of movement. It also looked as though he had picked up several styles in that last two years. Lara was glad
to see that he hadn't stopped his training, if he had indeed been sparing with the slayer she would expect to see a wide range of styles. When one fought a
fighter as strong and fast as a slayer one uses every advantage one can get.

So far they were evenly matched Hillary had put in a few good blows as had Xander though he was pulling the power by a large factor, if he had not the fight
would be over, but the same could be said for Hillary. Hillary was also a surprising fighter with great skill and almost pedantic placement of body and
movements. He also packed a powerful punch that belied his slender frame. A true warrior hid behind the veneer of civility that was so very Hillary.

Xander shifted styles, something that totally throw the rhythm of the fight and put Hillary off balance for a moment, which was all it took as Xander took him
down and out with a single combination hit then throw. It was over in a split second and Lara had almost missed it herself, it seemed that he wasn't as badly
out of shape as he had appeared.

"Good Lord, what the hell was that" Hillary said from the floor.

"You OK Man?" Xander said worriedly reaching down a hand to help Hillary to his feet.

"Yes, that was very good Xander, when your not holding back you are quite the fighter"

"I fight vampires Hillary"

"I'm not sure I follow"

"They are four times faster and stronger than a human, I'm used to working that high myself"

"You mean that you were taking it easy on me" Hillary replied with a large smile, "I'm impressed Xander but you still held back too much. Why as I said we're
not friends?"

"Not yet, but I hope to be" Xander said smiling and offering his hand.

Hillary shook it warmly, "Of course, but only if you show me that move. What style was that?"

"It's a combination style, Koryu Bujutsu"

"I'll have to look it up"

"Its on the net, Willow found it for me. Oh Man, talking of which I should let her know where I am"

"Not quite yet, we have a run to do" Lara stepped in quickly.

"Oh, yeah sure. After you milady"

"Why thank you kind sir"
Croft Manor, England
August 10th 2001

Xander unhooked the harness rigging from his little bungee flight he had just taken his eyes were wide with pleasure and Lara was smiling at him.

"That was seriously cool," he said excitedly.

"Isn't it", Lara said smiling.

Lara had watched him over the last few days turn from the hollow shell of a man that had arrived on her doorstep into a strong vibrant man. All in just over
6 days. The first had not bothered to attack him again which was as well as she thought it would be wasting its time. Xander Harris, the one she had fallen
for two years ago was back, which by itself was a problem for her. But she was very happy to see the change in him. He was also a lot fitter than he had
been but wasn't ready yet to go into the field. For her own part Xander had been the breath of fresh air she needed in her own life. After the Illumanti she
had been feeling flat, not really enjoying any of her excursions as much as she had. It was after all a little difficult to top. There had been few
repercussions from the events that led to her seeing her father again, but they had been few and far between. She had needed a challenge and Xander had been
it. There was only the one problem left.

She was falling for him again, that wasn't in the plan. The young man she had loved before was now a man that she could already feel herself poised to love
more than the younger version and she wasn't sure she wanted to go down that path, not that she had a lot of choice on that matter. Xander had already stolen
her heart she was just denying it.

She wasn't sure what it was about him that attracted her so much, it could be his courageous heart that even after the serious denting that it had survived
lately was now showing itself once again. He was funny and caring that much was plain to see. He was handsome which wasn't normally one of her main criteria
but it certainly helped. It wasn't just one thing she realized it was the Xander Harris package.

She remembered being surprised when Buffy hadn't snapped him up two years ago, she had been sure she would but it had not happened. Instead she had ended up
with Riley Finn, a soldier. Xander then ended up with Anya, who by his own admission he did not love, rather they seemed to lean on each other as he helped
her to become human and she gave him emotional support when he needed it. Although from what Willow had told her he had also received a large amount of sex
from the ex-man hating demon. Only Xander could convert a man-hating demon into a sex mad man-eater. She seemed to remember being rather addicted to his
sexual side herself.

"You OK?" Xander asked looking at her in concern.

It was then Lara realized she had been lost in thought. "Yes, just thinking"

"Thanks for letting me try that out, it really is something"

"I like it, helps me to think"

"I can see how it would, good training mechanism as well"

"Yes it has helped me in the past" Lara said with a wicked smile, it had certainly helped her to take out those commando's only too well.

"So what's next then boss?" Xander asked with a flirtatious smile.

'Oh don't you dare flirt' Lara thought. Her only saving grace had been that Xander had yet to tempt her, she wouldn't be able to withstand the temptation for
long if he did. 'Just don't flirt back Lara' she told herself.

"Well, that depends on what you're UP for", 'Damn it'

"You know me Lara I love to rise to a challenge" Xander told her twinkling wickedly.

'Training, think training', "A swim"

"Skinny dipping?"

"I think the water is a little cold, I wouldn't want you to shrink your assets"

"In your company Lara my assets could never shrink"

'Grrrr, down girl' Lara thought smiling softly. She walked away with a sway of her hips that Xander found extremely interesting. She stopped at the door and
looked over her shoulder, "Are you coming?"

Xander quickly caught up with her.

*****

Xander broke through the surface of the water and drew in a big breath, then once he had caught his breath he swam in a fast crawl over to a ledge and pulled
himself out next to Lara. They were both wearing swimming gear.

"This place is amazing" Xander said in wonder, "It must have taken ages to make"

He was referring to Lara's water training area she had set up in the basement of the manor and stretching out well past the original boundaries of the huge
manor house. It was a replica underwater tomb with all the trimmings including labyrinth like waterways. They had been working their way around it for the
last three hours.

"Yes it did rather about a year all told and a 'Lot' of money"

"I'll bet, worth it though. Bet you got some strange looks when you sent this design to the construction company"

"Not really, they made my training area as well"

"Another one"

"Yes, you'll see it when you're ready and don't worry that one is dry"

They looked at each other for a long moment and Xander wanted nothing more than to reach out and kiss her.

Lara read his mind or rather had a similar yearning "Come on race you back" she said going back into the water in a perfectly executed dive.

Xander sighed, 'Stupid, stupid. There is no way she could be interested after all this time' he berated himself then he stood on the ledge and dived into the
water quickly following Lara in fear of getting lost.
Chapter 03

Croft Manor
August 11th 2001

Xander sipped at his coffee enjoying the feel of the caffeine revitalizing his system and clearing his mind. This had become his morning regime, Tai chi
first, then a little light running. Afterwards he would enjoy a stiff cold shower followed by a large breakfast that included one of Hillary's strong
coffees.

He was interrupted from his morning ritual by the buzz of his mobile phone.

*****

Lara walked into the kitchen after having her customary first thing in the morning shower to find Xander virtually yelling into his mobile phone. She had
obviously come in on the end of the conversation because a red faced Xander thumbed the offending device down onto the table with a muffled swear word, "Damn"

"What is it?" Lara asked her concern showing in her deep blue eyes.

"My publisher, they've found out that I'm in England and are making me do a book signing, they wanted me to go on a tour but I beat them down. Still have to
do one, Oxford wherever that is exactly."

"Surprisingly enough it's in Oxfordshire"

"Really, well that helps" Xander said with a twinkle in his eye.

"You didn't specify that you wanted directions" Lara shot back with an equal spark in her eye.

Xander just smiled at her with an inquisitive look for several long moments. When it became clear that she was going to make him ask he let out a small huff,
"So, how do I get to Oxford then?" he said with a chuckle in his voice.

Lara smirked, "Well, really all you had to do was ask"

Xander growled at her playfully then smirked, "Well thank you for your help… Dr Harris"

Lara looked at him a little shocked, then cleared her expression, "Pardon?" she asked.

"I called you Dr Harris" Xander said with a twinkle, "Well that is your pseudonym… Isn't it?"

Lara looked into those big brown eyes of his before holding up her hands, "Alright, how the devil did you find that out?"

Xander smiled laconically, "Find out?"

It was Lara's turn to growl playfully, "Yes, find out. As far as I know only two people know that I post under that name"

"By post, you mean submit papers to the British Museum?" Xander asked with a false innocence.

Lara narrowed her eyes at him, "How do you know all of this"

"Oh, I have friends in lots of places. Turns out that they know you"

"Who"

Xander smirked at her and glanced at his watch theatrically, "Oh, is that the time?" he said getting up.

Lara stepped into his personal space, "Oh no you don't" she said with a hand on his chest.

Xander looked into her eyes and smiled, "Don't what, I really must go, my publisher will be angry" he said and darted forward placing a kiss on her cheek.

The brief contact was enough to put the legendary Lara Croft off of her game for just a flicker in time. It was also just long enough to allow him to retreat
from the room.

*****

Lara watched the dust of the retreating car; one of hers that Xander had borrowed with a soft smile curling the corners of her generous lips. Things, Xander-
wise, were looking up. He was so much more HIM, than he was. He was more alive, certainly, than he had been when he had arrived one rainy night not too long
ago. Lara thought that the first must have been a terrible foe indeed to make Xander's fire flicker.

Hillary walked up behind her with a small smile on his face. He, unlike most, knew Lara Croft for what she actually was, and who she was. So he knew that
Xander's presence was both giving her joy and confusing her. He politely cleared his throat and she turned round to face him.

"There is a telephone call for you" he said at her inquisitive expression.

She nodded, "Thank You Hillary" she said following him into the house.

She walked straight over to the phone and plucked it from its cradle, "Hello"

"Lara!" came an old sounding voice.

Lara's smile lit up the room, "Alex, you old fraud"

"Fraud?" the confused Alex asked.

"Oh yes, you told me, that no one would ever find out about that paper, and who wrote it"

"Lara, I've told no-one" there was a pause, "Apart from mother of course"

Lara frowned slightly; this was becoming a very interesting mystery. "Did your mother tell anyone?"

There was a pause, "Why don't you ask her yourself, I was just ringing to let you know she is on her way down to you" there was a laugh in the mans voice.

"Oh really, why?"

There was an actual laugh, "Oh no… That I will let her tell you herself, I just thought you would appreciate some warning. I will say this, you have
something important to her"

"I do?" Lara said sounding confused, "What?"

"Bye Lara" Alex said and there was a click of a phone.

Lara fumed, "Damn all men, especially ones called Alexander!"
Waterstones, Oxford
Six long and hard hours he had been at work and frankly he'd had enough. He placed his pen down and took a sip of water. A book appeared in front of him and
he frowned slightly, how the hell all these people had found out he was coming, or why they liked his books was a mystery to him.

"What do you want me to put?" Xander said and then looked up. He felt his heart freeze up in his chest.

The huge man in front of him smiled white teeth in dark skin; a striking and somewhat fear inducing contrast. "To an old friend, from the nearly departed"
his voice rumbled seeming to rattle the desk.

Xander tensed then smiled and signed as he had been asked, "Here you go Nat, how's tricks?"

Nathaniel Williams smiled again, the fires of hell lit his eyes for a second before the door shut leaving them cold lumps of coal in his face, "I'm well thank
you"

Xander smirked again, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, oh and DO be a stranger" he said with a cocky smile. Beneath that smile was
fear, how the hell had he managed to survive such a powerful curse as had been placed on the chalice.

Mr. Williams nodded and picked up the book, he pointed it at Xander, "I'll be seeing you, soon" he said and turned walking back into the crowds which parted
like the red sea.

Croft Manor

Lara looked up as the door chime sounded. She had been waiting six long hours for her old friend to arrive and to sort out what the hell had been going on.
She had two mystery's happening at the moment and that was something she disliked intensely.

"I'll get it Hillary," she told her friend, confidant and butler. Hillary just nodded elegantly and went back to what ever he was doing.

Lara walked quickly to the large wooden door and peeked through the spy hole. Then with a smile she opened the door.

The woman on the other side was obviously of great age, but her back was ramrod straight and her dark eyes held mirth and humor aplenty. She had obviously
been a great beauty in her younger years, as she was still a handsome woman.

"Lara" the woman said her eyes alight with an inner fire that took years from her. Her smile was almost cheeky.

"Lady O'Connell" Lara said with full aplomb.

"Oh, cut that out, call me Evie, you always do"

Lara smiled, "Come on in Evie, I hear that I have something that is, 'Important' to you"

Evie stepped into the large reception room and turned a brilliant smile on her younger companion, "Oh yes, that is certainly true"

"What is it, I'll get it immediately" Lara said earnestly.

"Really, I don't think he likes being fetched" Evie said with a sparkle.

Lara frowned in a slightly confused fashion, "He?"

Oxford

Xander walked quickly to the car park where he had parked Lara's car. Just as he arrived he heard a crunch of broken glass under a heavy foot.

He spun quickly a Beretta clearing his jacket instantly. He hadn't only borrowed a car from Lara, and it was amusing for him to know that he was holding the
very gun that he'd left with her all those years ago, the gun that he had used to take out Mr. William's tires with. An old friend, one might say.

"Well, Well, Well" A voice rumbled out of the darkness.

Xander looked around him, "Nat! Buddy, was just thinking about you" he said honestly.

"I'm touched, I've been thinking about you as well, Mr. Harris"

"Mr. Please, that's a little formal between us. We've tried to kill each other loads of times now, call me Xander" Xander said keeping his ears peeled.

"Thank you Xander, I'll be sure to remember that when I grind your bones"

"If you say for bread, I'll puke"

There was a laugh from the darkness. Xander tracked the sound. The large man stepped into the light of a street lamp.

Xander tensed his hands on the keys to Lara's sports car. A huge Israeli Desert Eagle .50 BMG appeared in Mr. William's hand.

"Oh hey, that's a big gun" Xander quipped. "You know what they say about men with big guns"

"As a man driving that excuse for a phallic symbol, I wouldn't make comment" Mr. Williams shot back

Xander frowned, "Hey, the bad guys aren't allowed to out crack me" he said creeping around another car as Mr. Williams did the same, every pacing around each
other like caged tigers.

The moment stretched into infinity and an unspoken signal was given and Mr. Williams huge hand cannon barked once. The bullet ripped into the car he was
hiding behind and straight out of the other side. "Shit" Xander cursed softly as petrol leaked from the bottom of the car.

He returned fire his hand and arm appearing over the roof of his refuge. The 9mm went off twice, two seemingly wildly aimed bullets hit the car to the right
of Mr. Williams and one to the left. Then once again as Xander corrected his somewhat rusty aim, this time the 9mm Parabola went straight through the
windshield of Mr. Williams’s hidey-hole and pinged off ground at his feet.

It was Nathaniel's turn to curse as he was forced into action. He stood fluidly and the Desert Eagle barked out in quick succession.

Xander back peddled, as he had been about to make a run for different cover then the large calibre bullets hailed around him. One hit the floor at his feet
straight into the puddle of petrol. Xander dived away to the side just as the car flew up in the air powered by the fireball created.

Xander rolled three times and came to his feet shooting at Mr. William's last known position and praying no one came to look at the noise. The two men fired
shots at each other, both experience marksmen and the shots flicked around them. Cars were shredded, a lamppost was hit and blinked out and all the while the
two men ran in opposite directions their weapons spilling out death.

Xander ran as fast as he could his lungs on fire and clothing scorched from the explosion. Yet he still kept on running finally making it back to his car and
triggering the alarm.

Mr. Williams noted his position and made a quick decision. He backtracked on himself while Xander got into his borrowed car. Then the large man slipped into
his Carerra and ignited the ignition. The German car rumbled into life the powerful engine taking the revs into the red almost straight away.

Xander in Lara's Aston Vantage did the same, the English car doing much the same.

The two powerful cars erupted out of their spaces at the same time. Almost running into each other they swung around in a strange ballet for a moment. 360
degrees traversed the, together, accelerated forward each taking a different exit of the car park. Xander turned in towards the ancient streets of Oxford as
Mr. Williams's donated his car around 180 degrees chasing after Xander.

The nightlife in Oxford is aimed at students so it is both boisterous and aplenty. The main sections of town are partially pedestrianised. But as the two
duelling monstrously powerful cars ripped into town all of this was ignored. Xander pulled his stead back into his control as he span it 90 degrees on a dime
and ripped down a crowded street. The horn blasted out of the car as he put his foot down weaving through the crowd. Mr. Williams wasn't so worried and
piled through causing members of the public to dive away or be hit. As such he was gaining on Xander.

Xander down shifted and the Aston leapt forward like a beast possessed. The horn still going he darted a look into his rear view to find that his enemy was
gaining on him. Xander's jaw became firm and all of his uncle's lessons came to the fore. Memories he hadn't wanted or needed started to surface and a rare
feral grin spread over his face. He felt the car around him seem to change as his perception of it changed. He had time to get used to the car on his
journey but had yet to bond with it. Some people would think that expression strange but as Xander felt the powerful mechanical beast around him he could
feel the pump of its engine like an enraged heart. The sound of the wheels spinning on the surface and the flow of both electrical and kinetic energy around
him was an almost calming influence. It wasn't anything special, all drivers get a 'feel' for a car and Xander had that 'feel' now.

He spun the wheel round, as a large obstacle seemed to loom out of the crowds towards him. Then he spun it back almost as sharply. The car seemed to pass
through the statue as if it wasn't there.

Mr. Williams swerved to one side. The back end of his car clipped the statue and sent it tumbling to the floor. He managed to control the resultant skid and
chase after Xander. Mr. Williams was wearing a grim expression as he watched his prey expertly pilot his car around the crowds and manage to stay ahead of
him. The Desert Eagle appeared in his hand and taking careful aim he blew out his own windscreen. Then popped off shot after shot into the back of Xander's
car.

Xander felt the bullets hitting his car. He knew two things at that point. One, he had to move the battle away from innocents and Two, Lara had a bullet
proof car. Why, he didn't want to know, he just vowed to thank her for it.

Seeing a slender side street Xander took careful aim and made the car fit through the gap with the confidence of one who truly knows what he was doing. The
car roared up the alleyway. Mr. Williams saw the turn and tried to follow but he wasn't the driver that Xander was and the car went into the narrow entrance
at an angle. The expensive car rebounded off of the wall; Mr. Williams had to quickly bring the car to a halt, before he completely smashed it to pieces.
Once still his faithful stead seemed to choke on something and Mr. Williams felt the car give up the battle. With a roar of frustration he slammed open the
door. A few frightened people who were passing by backed quickly away from the enraged gargantuan.

Xander who was still roaring up the alley way looked in his rear view and smirked, "Did Not, Know Who He Was Fucking With, and man I love Vin Diesel Movies!”
he exclaimed with a whoop of joy.

Croft Manor

"Of course Xander is a he" Evie smirked, "I'm sure you've noticed"

"Xander!" Lara said with more than a little shock, "How on earth do you know Xander?"

"Well, that is a very long tale, best told over a nice cup of tea" Evie hinted with a smile.

"Hillary!" Lara called out only to have the man appear at her elbow in a blink.

"Lady O'Connell, a pleasure as always" Hillary said smiling genuinely.

"Hillary, nice to see you as well"

Hillary nodded and smiled then turned to his boss, "You bellowed?"

Lara eyed him dangerously for a moment, "Tea, for two in the lounge"

"Of course" Hillary said with a small smile.

The two women adjourned into the somewhat more comfortable lounge area, just away from the door and a considerable fire was blazing in the fireplace.

Lara quirked an eyebrow at her elder friend, "Well?" she asked

Evie smiled at her, "Patience my dear, the Tea isn't even here yet. Perchance is Xander here?"

"No, he's at a book signing" Lara glanced at the clock with a slight frown, "He should be…" she cut herself off as she heard the distinctive growl of her
Aston and the crunch of tires on gravel, "Here, now" she finished with a smile.

There was a short pause for a moment and Xander walked into the front door, just visible to Lara and Evie with an almost enraged Bryce beside him.

"What the hell did you do to it?" Bryce demanded

Xander smirked at the smaller man, "Me, nothing, wasn't it like that before?" he asked with an innocent tone.

"Those scorch marks look like bullet hits" Bryce accused him and gave him the evil eye, "I know that they weren't there before"

Xander looked a little worried, "Will they come off?"

Bryce nodded his head, "Yeah, with a little work. But the tires looked a little bald as well"

"Oh come on man, you only glanced at the damn thing" Xander said then looked the Englishmen in the eye, "How much to keep this quiet?" he said in a quiet
voice.

Bryce glared at him, "Why?"

Lara stepped into the room, "Yes, I would be interested in hearing that as well?" Her arms crossed over her chest and she learned back on the door jam.

Xander looked a little trapped for a moment and then smiled, "Oh it was nothing really, just one of my more ardent fans. I… I just didn't want you to worry"

"Oh Really?" Lara said with a not so believing expression.

Xander's eyes turned a little darker, "You so don't want to know right now"

"Oh, I so do"

"Aright" Xander held up his hands, "alright, but don't say I didn't warn you"

Just then Hillary came into the room, "I just heard on the radio, there's been a disturbance in Oxford" he pulled up short when he noticed Xander. "Why do I
get the feeling that has something to do with you?" he asked.

Lara turned a look onto him that just screamed, fess up!

Evie stepped out from behind her, "Because you know him so well?" she said with a grin.

Xander's face spilt into a huge smile and he almost ran across the room, "Evie!" he said joyfully picking up the slight woman and spinning her around.

"Let me go you big lug" she said patting ineffectually at his arms but her face was split into a rather large smile herself.

There was a polite cough from Lara and Xander placed Evie gently back onto her feet and stepped back slightly, "Oh, hey Lara, so you found out then. I have
to say I'm impressed. I thought it would take you longer"

"Found out?" Lara asked then shook her head, "No, wait, no side tracking us. What the devil happened in Oxford?"

Xander sighed, "Mr. Williams"

"Mr. Williams?" Lara asked in surprise

"I know, he's not as dead as we hoped, damn it" Xander said playfully snapping his fingers.

"What happened exactly?" Lara asked.

"Oh, is that tea" Xander said pointing to Hillary.

"And To Think. I thought it was only the English that disseminated using tea" Hillary commented with a wry grin. He did however place the tea down and pour
out several cups.

He passed one to each of the women first and finally gave one to Xander. Xander looked at the cup in his hands with worry, "I feel like I'm going to break
this, damn you can see through it look" he said holding up the fine china cup, "What's up man, I'm not good enough for the best china, only Evie here?"

Hillary smirked at him, "Lady O'Connell is a valued guest at Croft Manor," he said.

Xander looked at him aghast, "Man, I've just been winged by the butler, and the bad guy, I'm getting old"

"What happened?" Lara asked again.

"Oh, Nate turned up out of the blue at the book shop, got my autograph you know the drill"

"And the disturbance?" Hillary asked, "I heard on the BBC news that there was an explosion and a car chase through the centre of town"

"Oh yeah, that" Xander said with a grin, "I love that car of yours by the way Lara, bullet proof, way to go"

Lara rolled her eyes and exchanged an amused glance with Evie.
Croft Manor
August 12th 2001

The night had been full of chatting but Lara had yet to get to the bottom of one of her mysteries. Just how did Xander and Evie know each other? She hadn't
found out the night before because they eventually managed to pin Xander down to a full story, and a hair raising one it was to her as well.

Lara sipped her morning coffee looking at the man who was posing the mystery and smiled inwardly. It was good in a way that he could still do that, after all
she had known him for some time, even if it had been as a sort of pen pal.

Then the Lady who was also part of the mystery walked into the room and sat down in a chair smiling at her host, "Thank you for allowing me to stay last night
Lara"

"My pleasure Evie, you know you're always welcome at here" Lara replied with a smile of her own.

"Now, what has Hillary got for us this fine morning?"

Xander smiled at her, "Evie, you're amazing, I swear you eat almost as much as I do"

"I do not, a girl has to watch her figure you know" Evie said.

Xander smirked slightly; "Stop fishing for compliments, you know you're gorgeous, if I were older…" he trailed off.

Evie smiled at him warmly, "If I were younger I'd take you up on that flirting and see how far that got you"

Xander's eyes twinkled, "Yeah, yeah, if I could travel in time, we'd see"

Evie smiled again, but didn't say anything.

Lara sighed loudly, "Just how the hell do you two know each other?"

"Xander saved me" Evie said simply, "I was in Washington visiting my Rick. You know he was honoured and allowed to be buried in Arlington."

Lara nodded, "Yes, quite the honor"

"Well, we did save the world dear" Evie replied with a smile, "That tends to bend the rules somewhat"

"Instep again?" Xander said rolling his eyes, "He wouldn't last five minutes against like glory…" he trailed off his eyes going dark, "But then no one did" he
finished his voice flat, "Excuse me ladies, I have to make a call" Xander told them quickly beating a retreat.

"What was that about?" Evie asked worriedly.

Lara watched him go with sad eyes, "He lost a close friend recently, very close. Buffy?"

"Oh, Buffy. Yes we spoke about her often" Evie said then smiled slightly, "But then we spoke about you just as often"

Lara decided to ignore that comment for the moment, "So back to how you two met…"

"Oh yes, vampires turned up when I was on my way back to my hotel. I guess they were trying to get a late vintage or something. Well I had at them with my
handbag" Lara smirked, "But I will admit they were about to get the better of me, I can't kick as high as I used to. Then by chance Xander was walking by
after a meeting"

Lara smiled, "Let me guess, I think I know the rest. He stepped in beat them, dusted them and you two got to talking?"

"Not a bad guess" Evie told her with a large smile.

Croft Manor,
Later that day

Xander sidestepped Lara's forward kick and snapped out a punch that clipped her shoulder.

Lara stepped back and stared at him, "What?" he eventually asked. They were sparring, something they did around this time everyday.

"You're still holding back" Lara said, she was feeling somewhat annoyed about that fact. "I'm not made of glass"

Xander shrugged, "Sorry"

Lara's eyes spat fire after a second, "You will be, if you hold back again" she told him and launched to the offensive. A flurry of strikes were aimed at and
unleashed on Xander. He fell back slightly moving to the purely defensive. He noticed a gap in her defences and slipped through a kick, still only about
half power.

Lara's eyes seemed to glow with the anger she was feeling, but then Xander had always been able to bring out her emotions like none other. She snapped out a
punch, blocked. She snapped out a kick, which was also blocked. Then she launched into a killer combination move. Xander managed to block most of the hits
but several slipped through. Eventually the combo finished with a high side thrust kick that Xander took to the chin.

There was silence as his body hit the ground with a thump and Lara looked down at his body in fear. She looked off her gloves and quickly checked him over
finding him to have a good and strong pulse.

Evie stepped further into the room and made a tutting noise with a her tongue, "Dear me Lara, he really has got under your skin hasn't he"

Lara looked up at the elder woman her eyes wide but Evie hadn't finished, "It's not like you to loose control like that" she admonished the younger woman,
"Now, shall we call a doctor?"

*****

Lara and Evie sat in the main room. The doctor had just left telling them Xander was fine, and would just wake up with one hell of a headache in the morning.
Since the sparring match Lara had been like a cat on a hot tin roof and the doctor’s pronouncement did little to calm her.

"Lara, do calm down" Evie said as Lara bolted to her feet and paced. "This isn't like you at all"

"I know, I know" Lara said in exasperation, "It's just Xander, that, that man!"

Evie smiled knowingly, "Oh, like that is it?"

Lara favoured her with an old fashioned look, "I don't know what you mean?" she said icily.

Evie frowned at her, "That may work with others young missy but not me. I know you Lara; have done for a very long time now. This is the first time that
I've seen you this, wound up"

Lara gave a deep sigh, "I don't know if you know, Xander and I go back"

Evie looked at her, inviting her to go on.

"He helped me out of a situation and he and his friends became involved with a project of mine. In that time, he and I," Lara paused a smile gracing her
face, "became close"

"How close?" Evie asked with sparkle in her eye.

Lara lifted a brow, "Very"

"Oh, not very lady like Lara" Evie said then burst into a fit of young sounding giggles, "Sorry, couldn't help it, do go on"

Lara smiled, "Were you laughing at the idea of me being a lady, or that you knew what one was supposed to act like?"

"Touché Lara" Evie said with a laugh, "Touché"

Lara nodded, "Let us just say, that fun was had by all"

"Was that all it was?" Evie asked.

"It was all if could be"

"Oh Lara, well I knew he knew you but he would tell me as much as you have." Evie said with a smile, "A real gentlemen, in some ways. He reminds me so much
of my Rick" Evie said wistfully.

"Rick, according to you was not a gentleman" Lara put in quizzically.

"Not in the modern sense perhaps, no he was more along the lines of a knight, protect the damsel and kick, well y…you can guess the rest," Evie said smiling
widely.

Lara's lips quirked, "A White Knight"

"Yes that's it" Evie agreed.

Hillary ran into the room causing them both to look at him in shock, Hillary never ran anywhere, "Lara!" he took a breath, "Xander, he's gone!"
Chapter 04

Unknown Location
August 15h 2001

Something cold and wet landing of Xander's face pulled him from his slumber and he had to blink rapidly to clear his vision. He tried to move his hands to
clear the substance from his eyes but found them bound; he also found that his legs were securely bound as well.

Once his vision was clear he had a moment of terrible Déjà vu. He was bound to what appeared to be a dentists chair with a bright light pointing into his
face. It both warmed the skin on his face and blinded him to what lay beyond its sphere of influence. It didn't take him more than a nanosecond to realize
that he was in trouble and the deep rumbling voice that appeared out of the dark only confirmed his suspicions.

"Mr. Harris, Good of you to join me" Mr. Williams said stepping into the light.

Croft Manor

Lara walked back into the kitchen to find that Hillary had also returned and was standing in his green Barbour jacket looking every bit as worried as she.
They had been out the night before and after an uneasy sleep they had all gone out into the grounds to look for Xander. One thing was becoming clear, Xander
was not in the grounds nor was he in the manor. Lara felt responsible and worse guilty for driving her friend away but more than that she was puzzled.
Xander Harris was a strong man in both spirit and body, he had beaten the first evil where others had failed and more importantly he was loyal to his friends.
She couldn't help thinking that he would not have just upped and left because of a moment of stupidity on her part.

No, she was sure of it, this reeked of foul play to her. But Who, Why and How. Three questions that made up the sum total to solving a mystery, them and
where's the money.

He may have been kidnapped from under three very noses but Lara had trouble believing that. Croft manor had one of the most sophisticate security systems
available. It was in its less secure mode due to the guests they had Lara and her team knew where not to go to trigger the system the guests did not. Even
in that less secure mode it would have alerted them to outside intrusion, unless the intruder had been inside since the day before when Bryce took down the
system for its annual check. But who would know that he was about to check the system, Bryce, Lara, Hillary and the designers of the system where the only
ones who would know that. Bryce had designed only the computerized access to the system and the relevant security therein; he had to go outside for help for
the bulk of the system. Lara had spent a lot of time finding a secure company so she didn't think they would have betrayed her, but it was worth checking.

Hillary looked at Lara who was apparently staring off into space; he knew that look. She was thinking her way through all of the options and scenarios, any
minute now she would turn to him and say…

"I need to makes some calls, I'll use the secure line in case Xander calls on the house line" Lara said walking quickly away to her private office.

Hillary gave the room a grim smile and set the Winchester shotgun down on the table, un-cocked and the barrel broken for safety. Then taking off his waxed
jacket and he rolled up his sleeves and washed them in preparation for making the household breakfast.

Unknown Location
Xander reeled from yet another massive blow to his face which was quickly followed by a strike to his stomach. By his rough count he had at least 4 broken
ribs his nose was pretty much mashed across his face and Mr. Williams had gone to town on his hands breaking three fingers.

All in all he was not having a great morning.

Through thick lips he smiled painfully as Mr. Williams stood back panting slightly from his exertions, "You know if you're getting tired we can take a break"
Xander said glibly.

Mr. Williams actually laughed; the sound hash in the echoing environment Xander found himself in. "That's very kind of you"

Mr. Williams breathing returned to normal almost straight away, "But you'll find I'm quite fit"

Xander tried to shrug but the pain stopped the movement instantly, "Just thinking of your health Nat. That chalice must have taken some getting over"

Apparently happy to postpone Xander's beating Mr. Williams smiled at him, his white teeth blazing in contrast to his almost black skin, "You have no idea. I
was bed bound for nearly six months. My doctor thought I wouldn't make it. My bullet had lodged in my spine and he said I would never walk again. He was
wrong"

"Apparently" Xander admitted.

"It took me six months to learn to walk again and nearly a year to get back to the way I am now, during that time I was able to take some light contracts, a
hit here and there until finally I was fit and able to come for you"

"I'm flattered really"

"I'm so pleased to hear you say that" The large man said with an evil smile, his eyes blazed with the fires of hell and Xander thought for a moment he could
smell brimstone. "Because I have lots of fun things planned for us" Then with an almighty blow he cold cocked Xander who sagged into his bounds.

Hampton Security

Lara looked up as the dark haired male receptionist called her name, "Lady Croft, Mr. Hampton will see you know."

She nodded slightly and followed the attractive man into the main corner office. It was a vision of modern style, with cold hard flooring and yards of chrome
metal. The centre piece was a huge Glass and chrome desk sat at one end of the long office. It was a study in intimidation and Lara knew that Mr. Hampton
was a man who liked his power and liked to wield it like a club.

"Ahh, My Dear Lady Croft, so good to see you" the man behind the desk said standing and walking round to greet her. He was moderately attractive around 40
years old with cold blue eyes. It was his eyes that Lara was watching as she took his proffered hand and shook it. They had closed the minute he laid eyes
on her and Lara suddenly felt justified in coming here.

"Do sit down my dear," he said in a massive breach of etiquette. Lara smiled thinly at him and took a seat. She had worn a skirt especially for this
meeting, normally she hated them, but she had found that men tended to be put off balance at a glimpse of toned leg. Mr. Hampton didn't disappoint her, as
she took her seat the split opened allowing a view of her thigh. She noticed his eyes flick downwards and suppressed a shudder.

"What can I do for you?" he said walking round to his seat and angling it to allow him full view of her legs.

Lara smiled at him charmingly, "I'm not sure how to ask this" she began timidly playing her lost woman act to the hilt.

"You can ask me anything Lady Croft"

She smiled thankfully at him and paused once more, her eyes darted round the room, checking for cameras and using the large amount of reflective surfaces to
case the entire room. Then she ducked her head shyly pulling her bag to herself in what would be seen as an embarrassed and shy move. "Have you had any
breaches of security?" she said finally looking up to watch his eyes again.

He smiled then laughed, "Of course not, we wouldn't be much of a security company if we had, now would we" he said condescendingly. But his eyes had told her
the true story; he was hiding something, something that frightened him.

"No, Of Course not" Lara said smiling softly and reaching into her bag. Then her eyes lost their timid look and became hard and professional her twin H&K
pistols came out of the bag and she was across the desk in a flash.

One pistol under Mr. Hampton's chin, which gave him a much better view of her legs than before. As she was pretty much laying across his desk. Lara smiled
wolfishly. "Now the truth Mr. Hampton and you may get out of this alive," she said her voice ice cold.
Unknown Location
Mr. Williams watched as the heart monitor finally calmed its beeping and finally showed a normal heart beat. Xander was once again sagged into his bounds but
this time it had not been the mere fact of unconsciousness. He had died and Mr. Williams had only just been able to bring him back to life. His heart had
stopped no less than twice before the professional Hitman had managed to finally get his heart to take up the job of keeping him alive.


Mr. Williams grunted to himself, he would have to lay off for a while of risk ending his fun early. The truth was he was impressed the young man had lasted
this long, most of his prey had not. But then if Xander was normal prey Mr. Williams would not have had as much trouble with him as he had in the past. He
liked a challenge and had got one in the shape of Xander Harris.

He looked around the abandoned factory he had purloined for this entertainment, it was literally a mile away from Croft manor and he had spent some time
getting everything ready for this night. He wasn't about to allow anything to ruin his fun.

He looked at the heart monitor in concern as it slowed down rapidly, but it levelled off after a short moment. Mr. Williams was still concerned as it was a
good half the Beats per minute it should be. He looked over to find that Xander was moaning softly and moving his head from side to side.

With a curious look at the young man he had restrained Mr. Williams sat back and waited until he could next start his fun.

Behind his closed eyelids Xander looked around the large white space he was in confused and wary. He didn't understand what was happening, he had been with
his arch enemy Mr. Williams and not doing so well, now the pain had stopped and he felt no ill effects from the hours of torture he had endured.

Just then the scene shifted and as he stumbled and regained his equilibrium he found himself standing on the dance floor at the bronze.

"Great, Now I've lost it" he said to himself, looking round at the silent and empty club.

Once the words had left his mouth from nowhere and everywhere music started it was one of his favourite tracks, something Oz had written for the Dingoes with
a pleasant rolling sound.

He looked around in confusion seeing no band and no DJ; frankly he was becoming more than a little weirded out.

Croft Manor

Lara's Aston Martin slew to a halt on the gravel drive chipping the car's fine paintwork and pebble dashing Hillary who was standing watering plants.

"Sorry" Lara said as she tore out of the car and dived indoors with Hillary hot on her heels.

"Lara, what is it" Evie asked in concern as the younger woman barrelled into the main room.

"I know who has Xander, Mr. Williams" she said worry in her quick movements as she picked guns and equipment from one of the many cabinets. "He put the
squeeze onto our friendly security company and the description I got can only be one man" Lara said running up the stairs, "Get everything ready, I have a
lead on where he might be as well" she tossed over her shoulder before entering her chambers.

Hillary nodded to Bryce and the two men, veteran members of her team rolled into action like a well oiled machine.

"Can I help" Evie said firmly.

Hillary looked at her then walked over to the supply cupboard. He retrieved rounds for the H&K pistols and several empty clips, "Would you be so kind as to
fill these Lady O'Connell" he said charmingly and Evie smiled back quickly setting to work.

Abandoned Factory

Xander looked round as he sipped a drink in the empty night club wondering what the hell was going on.

Just then the track changed and a sardonic smile spread across Xander's handsome face. It was the Cibo Matto song that Buffy had 'Thanked' him with low on 4
years ago.

"Lets Dance" A feminine and familiar voice behind him. He span round and saw Buffy and the smile disappeared from his face.

"Oh not this again, I thought I told you last time, It won't work" he said angrily.

Buffy just smiled softly at him looking more gorgeous than he remembered. Then she reached out and touched a finger to his face, very softly, "I'm not the
first" she said simply.

Looking at her dumbly Xander was led out onto the dance floor by the hand. Once they arrived Buffy turned and started to dance with him. Unlike before with
this very song when she had aerobisied him into the dance floor, this time she was gentle and loving. Xander pulled her into an embrace and smelt her hair,
"You are you know" he said finally.

Buffy looked into his eyes confusion on her face.

"The First, The first woman I ever loved, unless you count Barbie"

She smiled that half smile that he had always found so sexy and her eyes twinkled merrily at him, they continued to dance for several minutes just enjoying
the feel of each other. Then as if a sound off to one side had attracted her attention Buffy stopped dancing and looked in its direction. Then she looked
back at him with a smile, "It's nearly time for you to wake up"

"I'm not sure I want to. You know what's happening to me out there?"

Buffy nodded, "Yes, but it will end soon" she said nodding to the stage. The wall behind it turned into a cinema screen and Xander's jaw dropped. There was
Mr. Williams working himself into a rage as he tried to elicit a reaction out of Xander's body not knowing that Xander wasn't at home. It appeared he was
seriously pissed at the lack of reaction on Xander's part. Buffy cut the screen off and Xander looked down at her and noticed she had tears in her eyes.

"Hey, none of that. I'm OK, see" Xander said indicating himself.

"I know, I just miss you all so much"

"Willow's working on a way to get you back" Xander said, "If you want to?"

Buffy nodded, "Yes, I do and I will be back among the living soon enough"

"I'll get that Urn soon" he said

Buffy smiled a secret smile, "I know you will Xan"

"I…" Xander began but Buffy put a finger to his lips and silenced him.

"I know, I do too, but we need each other as we are don't you think"

Xander nodded tears coming to his own eyes.

"Besides there is another" Buffy said with a knowing look at which Xander looked confused, "Always clueless" Buffy said with laughter in her eyes. Then she
bit her lip and for a moment appeared to be trying to make a decision.

She made it and leaned in and captured Xander's lips in a kiss from heaven that shock his knees and melted his backbone, "Thank you" she said finally breaking
the kiss and stepped back away from him. "I'll see you soon" she said fading into the background.

As she finally disappeared once last sentence came to him out of the ether, "A Gift, for a friend".

Xander touched a hand to his lips still feeling her there as the room became dark around him. He wondered vaguely what Buffy was talking about before it
finally became black as the night.

His eyelids fluttered several times before finally opening. He feared the first thing he would see was Mr. William's fierce and angry countenance but was
pleasantly surprised to see Lara's dark eyes looking down at him in concern. But it lasted for only the shortest second before he once again blacked out into
just normal blessedly cool and refreshing unconsciousness.
O'Connell Manor,
Just Outside London
August 19th 2001

Xander became aware slowly, he could feel the movement of air around him softly blowing in from the outside. He could just hear the movement of a net curtain
as it was swept inwards and blown outwards with the breeze. A smell of lilac and Jasmine floated into his nostrils tickling them with their delicate scent.
Daylight warmed his face and lit up his eyelids in a soft red glow. Around him he could feel the comforting embrace of soft linen and pillows arranged in
such a way as to support his abused and damaged body. He could also feel the dull ache that seemed to throb his entire being from the wounds that Mr.
Williams had once again inflicted upon him. He did not, however, feel as bad as he had thought he would and as he finally opened his eyes to the diffused
light he noticed that he felt pretty good really.

"Hello, nice to have you back with us"

Xander looked in the direction of the voice and saw the slender form of Evie outlined against the light from the curtains. From this view it was impossible
to tell that she was in fact on of the oldest women on the planet as she stood tall and proud her form still slender and athletic even at her great age. One
of the perks of reading from the book of life, he supposed. He tried to say something only for it to come out in no more than a croak.

She walked over and poured a glass of water from a jug on the bedside table. She sat gently and allowed him to sip carefully from it. The cool liquid salved
his sore and dry throat feeling all the world like the most amazing potion known to man. She fed him drops for several long moments until he had finally had
enough to talk.

"Where am I" he asked his voice still cracking slightly.

Evie smiled down at him softly feeding him more liquid which he took gratefully, "You're at my home"

"Lara" he managed between sips.

"She wanted to ensure Croft Manor was secure, she didn't want you getting snatched again. She's quite the dynamo when motivated you know" Evie's smile was
both soft and knowing a fact missed by Xander as his eyelids fluttered and he slipped back into a deep sleep.

She moved slowly off of the bed so as not to disturb him then once clear she left the room with a soft click of the door as she closed it.

Then she walked down the stairs into the living room with a smile. Xander had been out for the count for nearly four days it was good that he had finally
come around. The doctors that she had brought in to check on him were amazed at how quickly he was recovering saying that sleep was the best thing for him.
There was remarkably no internal damage and his ribs had set in two days. Evie knew the life that went on beyond the common world well enough to know that
something miraculous had happened. Already the bruises on his body had faded to a dirty yellow and it wouldn't be long before he was once more up and about,
if she was any judge.

She picked up the old fashioned telephone that had been there since she and her husband had brought the manor house. She dialled a number on the large
Bakelite dial and waited patiently until it was picked up the other end.

[Croft Manor] Hillary's cultured and well modulated tone finally answered.

"Hillary, its Evie"

[Hello, how is our patient]

She was about to answer when she heard a brief scrabble on the other end of the phone finally Lara's soft voice floated across the hundred odd miles between
them.

[Evie, is that you]

Evie laughed softly as she heard Hillary saying that it was indeed her and if he had been given chance he would have told her that.

"Lara, it is me," Evie said anyway.

[How is he?]

Evie smiled at the note of worry in Lara's voice, "Very well actually, he just woke up for a short while." Evie smirked, "The second thing he asked for was
you"

[What was the first?] Lara asked curious.

"Where was he" Evie said with a slight laugh. It was indeed a good sign that Xander had been aware enough of his surroundings to realize that he was not at
Croft Manor.

Lara let a sigh of relief out that sounded like a blast of gale force air on Evie's end. The microphone of the phone blowing it out of proportion.

[I'll come up tomorrow afternoon] Lara said finally.

"Is everything finished?"

[Almost, I found a new company and had them checked by a friend at MI6, they're government rated]

"Very good, I'll see you tomorrow Lara"

[Bye] Lara said hanging up the phone.

Evie smiled a large but strangely knowing smile and waited for her friend to arrive.

"Is she coming" Alex asked as he walked in reading the times and biting down on his toast.

"Yes, of course she is" Evie said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"Who?" Came a deep masculine voice from the head of the stairs. Evie and Alex turned incredulous looks at a wincing and slightly hobbling Xander as he made
his way down the stairs.

Evie and Alex both rushed over to him and grabbed an arm each, "What the devil do you think you're doing old chap" Alex said as Evie backed him up.

"Urm, I was bored"

"You can only have been awake for all of five minutes how can you be bored" Evie said with a slight laugh.

Xander shrugged painfully his body still aching like mad. They finally helped him down into the sitting room and Evie forced him to sit in one of the large
leather seats.

"Sit" she told him with no room for argument.

"Ok, Ok, already, I'm sat" Xander said with a good natured grumble.

Evie walked over to one of the numerous book shelves and selected a book, apparently at random and tossed it too him, "There if you're bored read that. But
don't you dare move"

Xander managed to catch the book without too much fumbling and looked at the spine. "How to Read Hieroglyphs" he said incredulously.

Alex shot his mother a withering look which she patently ignored. "You never know when it may come in useful," she said walking away with Alex close on her
heels.

Once they had reached the kitchen he finally confronted her, "What are you doing?"

"I don't know what you mean Alex"

"The book, what are you up to old mum" he said using his uncles phrase for her that he knew always weakened her defences. Although this time it didn't work.

"It's always good to expand the mind" Evie said with a smug grin and set about making some lunch ignoring the look of absolute disbelief from her son.
O'Connell Manor,
August 20th 2001

Xander smiled to himself as he walked in the dewy grass. He had given his jailers the slip and was honor bound to enjoy it. He had come out with one thing
on his mind, it was time for his morning forms. Of course he didn't normally do them at 4 in the morning but then he didn't normally have to creep around to
do them. He loved the fact that Evie was so concerned about him but he needed and wanted to be ready as soon as possible. He could not allow this to get in
the way of his plans for getting the Urn and his visit with Buffy, however imaginary it may have been had lit a fire in him. Mr. Williams had put him back
considerably but he wasn't going to let the bastard put him back too far.

He stayed within view of the house so that if by chance someone should awake and find him gone they wouldn't panic. He didn't want to cause them any
heartache he just needed to do this.

With a deep and painful breath he slipped into position ignoring the sharp pain the movement caused him.

He put his mind elsewhere trying to think about something, anything to take his mind off of the pain. He finally settled on the book of hieroglyphics he had
read the day before. It was amazing really that anyone had ever been able to figure the damn things out. But when you read the rules behind them it all sort
of made sense.

The memories implanted in him when he touched the Chalice of Amoncor had allowed him a little head start as he knew now, the ancient Demon Identogram writing
that Giles had, had to translate for them all. Although the meaning of those three large words still eluded him.

'Dolomean, Sac Bargartathan', 'Beware the Beginning'

The comparison between the Identograms and hieroglyphs wasn't lost on Xander and he figured with a little study he would be able to read them even if he
couldn't sound out the actual words. It would be interesting in a academic sense to find out if the Identograms and the Hieroglyphic languages were in fact
from the same basic source.

Xander found that this line of thought took his mind finally away from the now blinding pain in his body and me moved no longer with the stiffness that he had
felt before but with fluidity and economy of movement.

*****

Evie O'Connell opened her curtains and was struck dumb by the sight that greeted her, she had arisen at seven on the dot as was her custom and got dressed
after a quick cool shower. Then she had opened the curtain to the sight of Xander moving through the gently flowing movements of the full Tai Chi form
looking all the world as it he had not been unconscious for four days.

"I don't believe it" she finally managed to get out. The with her jaw set in anger she stormed downstairs and out to the garden.

Once she arrived she realized that Xander was not with her. It was as though he had been sleep walking and slipped into the form still in the land of nod.
What she could not know was that Xander was in perfect harmony with everything around him, his mind was thinking thoughts away from his body but his body
flowed with the power of his Chi, his life force. It was the single most healing thing that he could have done, even if he had not realized that at the time.
The force of life that we all carry with us was flowing through his body like a golden flood.

Along with that golden slight there was a tint of electric blue, Buffy's gift to her friend, and the source of his quick healing. A tiny fragment of the
slayer spirit she had imparted to him before fading back into the ether. He unwittingly channelled it, capturing it and blending it with his own Chi focusing
it into a tool. The combined Chi was unhindered by any blockage after three long hours of movement and everywhere it touched it started to heal. The gentle
form doing exactly what it was meant to do. The moves themselves were also a powerful and deceptive martial art but the basic point of Tai Chi was fitness of
the Chi.

As Evie took another step towards him she interacted with his harmonious surroundings putting them slightly off kilter and alerting him to her presence. He
stopped dead and his eyes snapped open focusing on her before he had consciously awoken to his changed state.

He took one look at her look and realized that he was in deep shit.

*****
Lara's Aston purred into the tarmac driveway of her friend’s large manor estate and she pulled to a halt behind Alex's old Bentley its large exoskeleton
almost dwarfing the low slung sports car.

She stepped out of the car with a swish of fabric; she had once again donned a skirt, not truly knowing why. IT was long and flowing and fitted her like a
second skin at the hips and flared out around her ankles. There was no daring split to confuse a male in this particular item it was simply elegance at its
most devastating.

She walked with all the poise afforded to her and gently pulled the ring pull waiting with all the outward calm she could muster. The truth was that she was
nervous, more so than she could remember ever being.

The large wooden door opened to reveal Evie's laughing face her eyes alight with merriment. "Lara" she said her smile becoming even more radiant, "Come in,
Come In" she said waving her young friend in.

Lara stepped in with a bemused expression and the sound of Alex's voice, annoyed voice reached her ears almost straight away.

"No, Absolutely not"

"Oh, come on, you have to admit it's possible" he heard Xander say with a note of teasing in it.

"Egypt was founded through the early settlers in 5500 BC and then with the Unification of Egypt in the Early Dynastic Period around 2686 BC, that is when and
how Egypt was formed"

"I'm just saying, I saw this program and it said it was possible"

"No, absolutely not, how can you believe that" Alex said exasperated

"I didn't say I did, I just said its possible"

Lara walked around the corner to find Xander sat fully dressed one leg crossed over the other in the American fashion. His eyes were alive with humor at the
red faced Egyptologist.

"No, Aliens did certainly not form Egypt and build the pyramids" Alex sputtered finally.

Xander not noticing her entrance continued teasing the elderly Egyptologist, "What about the Sphinx?"

"What of it"

"There are markings on it that could only been made by water damage, apparently? But Egypt wasn't that wet for about 10,000 years before people originally
thought it was built"

Alex became quiet for a moment, "Yes, I know of the theory you speak of, but it has to be said that particular theory is not widely liked"

Xander became a little more serious, "Why?" he asked curious now.

"Because if that is true then all, and I mean, all of our calculations and theories on the Egyptian culture are void" Alex finished off.

"Wow" Xander said thoughtfully, "What do you think Alex?"

"I know two things, I know a little about the culture of Egypt thanks to my mothers and my adventures back in 33 and 1925 we found that Imhotep did in fact
exist around about the time we thought. I know that in Thebes in or around 2,134 B.C he existed and that Seti the first was alive and ruling the largest
kingdom in the world. Apart from those two facts I can be sure of nothing" Alex told Xander seriously, "I am open to most sensible theories" he said shooting
Xander a playful smile, "and the one around the dating of the Sphinx is a valid theory. I would like to see more proof than the mere conjecture I have heard
so far" he finished.

Xander nodded seriously and then flashed him a lopsided smile, "I still think ET did it"

"Ahh, be-gone with you" Alex said good naturedly.

Xander then looked at Lara and his smile went a long way to quelling her fears, "Hi Lara" he said

'Damn that sexy smile of his' Lara thought before smiling back, "Hello Xander you look well"

"I feel well" Xander told her honestly and looking deep into her eyes. Whilst they had been looking at each other Alex had disappeared leaving them alone.

"I'm sorry" Lara said finally.

Xander's brow creased, "For what?"

"For hurting you," she told him.

Xander looked blank until understanding finally dawned on his face, "Oh that. Its OK I know what you were trying to do, and ya know it is a problem for me
but I just can't take sparring seriously if it’s with a friend. I know you wanted me to get over that and I thank you"

"What" was forced out of her, she tries to apologize and he thanks her, she didn't know what was going on.

Xander stood with no apparent effort but used a cane to walk over to her and pull her into a one armed embrace, "Thank you for trying to help me, but I'm
sorry I'll never change that"

"We're OK?" she asked his chest feeling foolish for how comfortable it made her feel.

"Hell yeah, we never weren't"

Lara allowed herself a moment to enjoy his embrace smiling secretly to herself from the cover of his arms.

Evie smiled to herself from her vantage point just out of sight and walked back into the kitchen with it still in place.
Chapter 05
Croft Manor
September 10th 2001

The wind whistled in his ears and the world dissolved into a torrent of colour as he span round. He felt his foot connect with his opponents face and even
padded as he knew his foot was it hurt his opponent. He continued the movement round landing with his legs bent to take the impact and still his circular
motion.

His opponent flew over backwards hitting the mat and laying still for a moment waiting for the room to stop spinning. His helmet having taken the brunt of
the forceful kick he was not unconscious with concussion, which would have been the result otherwise.

Hillary leaned into Lara where they both watching from the side of the Tatami. "I think getting him an unknown partner was definitely a good idea"

Lara nodded with a small smile, "Yes, it appears so"

"It's hard to tell but he seems stronger and faster"

Lara once again nodded the smile disappearing, "By a noticeable factor I would say" she agreed.

Hillary pursed his lips thoughtfully thinking back to his own sparring match with the American, "Was he holding back that much before do you think?"

Lara shook her head thoughtfully, she had seen him fighting all out in the past and he had never been quite that good before. Although with the extra
training that he had since then it was still hard to be sure.

Xander leaned down and helped his sparing partner to his feet then gave a deep and respectfully bow to him before the grateful man got off of the mat leaving
Xander smiling behind him.

He spread his arms in a question looking her in the eye with a slight challenge in his gaze. Lara smiled warmly at him and nodded, he had passed that
particular test but there were others he would have to also pass before they set off.

Xander smiled at her nod and Hillary gave him a subdued round of applause gaining a grin flashed at him from Xander and Lara.

*****

Thunderous techno music assaulted his ears as he stalked once more through the passageways of the fake tomb in Lara's mansion. If it wasn't bad enough that
he had to once again face Simon and a new improved Simon at that, he also had to put up with blaring music. Lara believed it important that he knew that he
could bet that tombs where rarely as silent as the proverb goes. He needed to be able to focus through any outside noise.

Including the Basement Jaxx apparently although Xander would love to know how they would get into a tomb. Let alone play their instruments. He stalked
through the renovated ruins and prayed that Simon didn't manage to snag his ankle again. He was still walking with a cane for day to day work as he found it
helped him to get past the residual ache of just walking around. He could manage for long periods without it but the doctors had told him he would likely
need it for the rest of his life.

This new tomb layout had been laid with several devilishly clever traps designed by his host and good friend Lara Croft. Which was not what he was looking
forward to. Just then a large rock hanging from some steel twine swung down towards his back silently. He stiffened as something entered his range of sense
and dived off to one side barely missing the back breaking trap. As he rolled to his knees he looked up at the roof ad swore silently to himself, cursing a
certain English Lady. As he watched the ponderous swing of the trap he noticed that it cleared a strangely dark patch of ground. Not trusting her warped
mind one bit he carefully timed a jump and d leapt onto the back of the rock swing travelling along with it for a few swings getting a feel for its motion.

Gathering his courage and aiming carefully he timed his jump to the apex of the swing and leapt off snagging a rock ledge above him and hanging from it, legs
dangling over a 20 foot drop. Not enough to hurt him badly but if he fell into the path of that swing he would die.

The genuineness of the tomb was important to Lara and himself, he wanted to prove to her that once and for all he was fit to undertake this journey. She had
wanted to quit upon hearing of his gammy leg but he had refused to stop. So being a sportswoman she had made him a counter offer. If he could pass all the
tests she set him then they would continue as planned. He hadn't counted on her trying to kill him of course but there you go.

Hanging for a beat more he kicked with his legs and swung himself up onto the ledge now standing on it and looking over the large area. At his back was a
ramp that he assumed would lead back down to the tomb's floor and in front of him it was laid out in a vista of devilish design. He carefully studied it for
several minutes wanting to etch every minutiae into his mind's eye.

Once he was happy with the layout and his grasp of it he limped to the top of the ramp then taking a breath he jumped forward in a skateboard pose and rode
down on the soles of his feet the rustle and scrape of sand accompanying his decent.

He winced slightly as he hit the bottom then shook out his leg gaining some feeling back into it before setting off in a jog.

Outside in Bryce's control room Lara watched with baited breath as he circumnavigated her most devious tomb design to date. It was a team effort normally and
the tomb itself was specially designed to be easily reconfigured. There was little point in raiding the same tomb over and over again. Hillary and Bryce
were normally the ones to design any traps and she hoped she had not unwittingly made them too difficult for Xander. She was after all the professional. She
admired his courage and determination to continue in this faux-quest that she had thought up. But then he didn't know that it wasn't the real thing. She had
tried to put a stop to it but he wouldn't hear of it, now she was most likely locked into the course of action she had chosen.

True to her word she had already sent an Urn of Osiris to Willow. They were not difficult to get despite what the charlatans who peddled them say. It was a
simple relic designed to offer something to the great god Osiris, nothing more than a prayer bowl and as such ten a penny in Cairo. She had procured one from
Desert Gnome an old contact of hers in Cairo city; he sold it to her using E-Bay of all places.

The track changed to the sonorous tones of Leftfield as Xander jogged up to the next trap she had laid down for him.

"To fast" she heard Hillary whisper to himself and she had to agree, he would need preternatural reactions not to get hurt with this one if he didn't slow
down.


Xander didn't slow down he jogged at a respectable speed ignoring the complaints from his leg enjoying the feel of adrenaline flowing through his body. He
ran into a corridor like section of his test and taking a fast look around noticed nothing untoward. There were large stone blocks built into a wall either
side of him, literally creating a six foot wide corridor along which he ran. To late he stepped on the trigger and holes appeared unnoticed by him in the
apparently solid blocks of sandstone. A spear flew out of the wall in front of his eyes as a hail of spears shot from the right hand wall.

Xander didn't slow down one iota. He just stepped to the side slightly then jumped catching his foot on a crack then he pushed up and over to the other side
using his other foot once he arrived to send him back and up. In less than a second and even before the first spear clattered to a stop on the opposite wall
he was now running along the tops of the deadly blocks, safe from their trickery.

In the control room Hillary gave a gasp of surprise.

"Shi ... It!" Bryce commented succinctly and Hillary, for once, didn't tell him off for swearing instead nodding along with the other mans comment. Lara's
eyes widened slightly the only sign of surprise she allowed to crack her tight control. She then narrowed them thoughtfully, because Xander was not acting
normally. He was just a little too fast, too reactive and too strong. Something was going on here and she didn't like to be kept in the dark.

She had questioned him on it before and the truth was that Xander didn't even realize he was doing anything special although he had commented that, apart from
his leg, he felt better than ever. She had an idea of just who could help her at this point. She left Bryce and Hillary to keep and eye on Xander whilst she
slipped out to make a phone call.

Xander limped along the blocks his last acrobatic move having cost him in the way of pain as he reached the end he paused looking around for another of Lara's
clever toys but saw nothing out the ordinary. If that word even applied to the situation he currently found himself in.

Dropping down to the floor with a grunt of pain he continued his trek through the tomb knowing that the most difficult tests were yet to come.
Watchers Headquarters, London

Rupert Giles blearily looked at his phone as it rang. He had been immersed in Council business reports and holdings for the last seven hours without pause.
His eyes were bloodshot and itchy from the experience.

He picked up the handset from the cradle, "Rupert Giles"

[Ripper] a familiar feminine voice made him smile in recognition.

"Lara, nice to hear from you"

[Good to here your voice too ripper, how are you]

"I'm well, but it is rare for you to call without prior reason" Giles said smiling into the phone. He removed his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose.

[You know me so well] Lara said laughingly. Giles was able to detect the hint of worry behind her laugh however.

"What's the matter Lara?" he asked softly.

[I don't know if you know but I have Xander here with me]

"Yes, Willow did mention it, apparently you are, urm what was it, getting his sparkle back. Although I shudder to think how you are doing that" His smile was
tinged with humor and a hint of ripper's wicked amusement.

[A challenge, an adventure to perk him up. Although it appears to have grown into much more]

"That sound like a good idea, nothing like little excitement to get the spring in your step, so why the worry"

[It's Xander. He recently had a run in with an old enemy. You may remember him. Mr. Williams]

"Good Lord is he alright" Giles asked sitting upright in his chair and looking worriedly into space.

[Yes, that's why I'm ringing actually; he's just a little to fine actually. ]

"I see, and then I suppose I had better come and check him out then," Giles said with a smile.

[That would be perfect] Lara said her voice held a hint of tension release in it.

"I'm on my way. It's not far and frankly I need a break from all this damnable paperwork the council is trying to drown me in"

[I look forward to seeing you again Ripper] Lara said with a smile that was plainly audible down the phone

"Goodbye Lara" Giles said and when he heard the line go dead he quickly arranged a car for his journey and picked up a few books of possible help.
Croft Manor
Lara walked back into the control room just in time to hear Bryce swearing fluently at the screen. He turned and noticed Lara and mumbled an apology.

"Whatever is the matter?" Lara asked with a smirk.

"That" Bryce said pointing to the screen where a headless Simon lay on the tomb floor.

"Good lord, how'd he do that" Lara asked surprised.

"Simon had a little accident and knocked over a pillar. Xander kicked him into the path and it crushed his head" Hillary answered for the grief stricken
Bryce. Why when he always managed to put the mechanoid beast back together Lara would never know.

"Xander kicked Simon and actually managed to move him?" Lara asked thinking of her own experiences with Simon and the sheer weight of the robot.

"Yes a powerful two legged kick off of the ground. He used his entire body to gather the force needed and stumbled Simon backwards. It was only a question
of a few feet"

"I see, good thinking" Lara remarked.

"Yes, it was, but it cost him" Hillary replied and pointed to the screen where Xander was just getting up. Lara noticed as he walked up to the fake idol that
his limp was hugely worsened.

"Bryce" Lara said attracting the geek’s attention from cursing Xander

"Yeah?"

"Do you think you could construct a cane for Xander, one that is collapsible and strong enough to take his weight and a few knocks?"

Distracted from his felled robot by a challenge to his skills Bryce lost his rage and his eyes defocused. He thought for a few minutes a late night
conversation with Xander reared out of the clouds of memory. He finally nodded his head with a smile, "Oh I think I can do better than that," he said with a
inventors gleam in his eye.

"Really, what?" Lara asked.

"Just wait and see" Bryce said already doodling designs onto paper.

Any of her peers who saw the lax etiquette that Lara not only put up with but fostered would be shocked. But she didn't have servants she had friends that
would protect her with their own lives and she hers for them. Which of course begs the question 'Which is better?' As far as Lara was concerned there was no
competition.

*****

Xander eased himself down into the piping hot tub almost burning himself with the heat. It worked its magic within moments and he felt the tension and pain
flow out of his body and seemingly seep into the water. He had found many times after patrols in which he had been thrown like a rag doll. A hot bath had
magical properties that could not be replaced.

He surveyed his body for a moment noticing that numerous new bruises and cuts running almost the entire length of his body. Simon had not been as much of a
threat as he had thought but the myriad of traps that Lara had set for him certainly had.

The sounds of Nickelback soothed his mind from the portable CD player he had brought into the bathroom with him and he allowed the sounds of distorted guitar
and the lead singers gravely voice to relax him. 'How You Remind Me' was one of his favourite tracks at that point in time and he was so into the music he
didn't hear the repeated knocking at the door until the track faded ready for the next.

"Come in" he said when he finally heard the insistent knocking. He thought it was perhaps it was Hillary with the towels he had promised. Instead Lara
opened the door and stepped into the steam filled room.

"Oh shit, Lara" Xander sputtered trying to find something to cover himself.

"You did say to come in" Lara said with a slight smile her eyes dancing wickedly.

"I thought you were Hillary"

"Does Hillary often see you naked then?" Lara enquired innocently.

"No, its, oh, bugger" he finally said.

"Bugger? You've been in England too long" Lara smirked at him unabashedly eying his naked form when he covered his eyes.

"Possibly, what can I do for you Lara?"

"Oh, I just wanted to say hurry up there is a visitor down stairs eager to see you"

"Oh, who" Xander asked perking up.

"Come down and find out," Lara said backing out the door.

"OK, be down in about 10 minutes" Xander said as the door closed behind her, his face blushing red slightly. His experiences with Anya had burnt most of his
embarrassment quota away, but well this was Lara.

Lara closed the door behind her then leant back against it. A large smile split her face and she mouthed 'Wow' to herself 'Someone's filled out nicely' she
thought before moving off laughing slightly.

*****

Xander limped down the stairs towelling his hair with one hand the other gripping his ebony cane. He was dressed in simple sweats and bare foot from the bath
but Lara had seemed to think it important he come and visit the visitor.

He finally pulled the towel away from his head and saw a very welcome sight. Rupert Giles was looking at him with a fatherly smile and a hint of concern in
his eyes.

Xander made his way as quickly as he could to the older man and warmly shook him hand. "Giles, good to see you man"

"Likewise Xander" Giles aid with a smile that warmed his features.

"What you doing in the land of tweed and warm beer?"

"You know I'm stationed here at the moment"

"I know but I thought you would be over in the US by now, ready as it were"

Giles nodded knowing what he meant. He was fully cognizant of Willows' plans having been quizzed on the different spells available. He had taken some
convincing but when willow finally found a spell that allowed choice to the person being resurrected he had consented. "No, I'll go over at the end of the
month. The council refuse to let me go before then. Obviously I can't tell them what we're planning"

Xander nodded realizing the danger of letting the council knowing their plans. They would do their best to stop them, not wanting to lose control of the
slayer line once again. Giles was essentially their spy on the inside at that point gathering information and keeping them abreast of any news. "Has a new
slayer been called?"

"No, it appears the control went back to Faith who we are currently working with to remove from incarceration"

"Yeah, I heard she's seen the light since being in the joint" Xander said with a gangster twang.

"Tea?" Hillary asked appearing from thin air.

"Oh, yes please" Giles said taking a seat.

Xander limped over to the couch opposite and sat down next to Lara. It was then he noticed Giles and her sharing a look. "OK, what's the haps? What are you
two up to?"

"We're worried" Giles began.

"Your strength…" Lara also began but Xander was nodding.

"Yeah, I know pretty weird isn't it"

"Any ideas Xander, any thoughts on the cause" Giles asked fixing him with an intense green-eyed look.

"Actually I do, but it's gonna sound weird. I don't know how to say it without hurting you either"

Giles's brow knitted, "Go on"

"I had a run in…"

"Yes, I know. Lara filled me in on that"

Xander nodded, "OK, well at one point I think he killed me" Xander said letting one shoe drop. The room went very quiet. Lara and Giles looked physically
sick.

"I remember this bright room, then I was in the bronze, I know weird, hardly heaven. But then I'm thinking that is some sort of purgatory like in that film.
So I wait and listen to the music"

"Music?" Lara asked, Hillary reappeared and poured tea for them all before taking a seat himself and looking at Xander with concern and friendly support.

"Yeah, it was the dingoes. Anyway After a while the music changes and then I hear…" he trailed off pain flaring in his eyes.

"Go on Xander your with friends here no one will judge you or think you silly" Giles said supportively.

Xander flashed a grateful smile and continued, "Buffy, I heard Buffy." Said dropping the other shoe.

"I see, there's more I take it" Giles said his voice a little rough at hearing his long standing charges name.

"Yeah, so we're dancing funnily enough to that same track she danced me into a puddle of gunk to. I expect either Wills of Cordy told you about that"

Giles nodded with a slight smile gracing his face. It had been in fact Buffy who had told him, very guiltily about that night at the bronze.

"Anyway, this time it’s, nice, just dancing slow. Then we talked for a while" Xander pinned Giles with intense eyes, "She wants to come back old friend," he
said serious and intent.

Giles felt his heart sore, not disbelieving a trusted friend’s perception of the events not even for a moment.

"Then, well, as I say we talked she showed me what Mr. Williams was doing he was really going to town on me at one point. I think I saw him do this," he said
tapping his leg with his cane, "Then she started fading away. Just before she went totally she said, 'A Gift, for a friend' and then I woke up to see Lara"

"You think that Buffy somehow is to do with your rapid healing and new found strength and speed?" Giles asked more for clarification than out of disbelief.

Xander nodded his dark eyes a sea of emotion.

Giles at back and became very quiet as he often did when thinking things through. If what Xander was saying was true there were a whole host of
possibilities, but then Buffy was the slayer and she would use what she knew best. Without warning Giles moved like a snake pulling and throwing a dagger at
Xander's head.

Xander slapped his hands together trapping the blade a millimetre from his forehead. He looked at his friend with betrayed shock to find him smiling and
nodding.

"Bastard!" Xander remarked with no real anger behind his word.

"I do apologize but I had to be sure"

"And if I'd missed"

"You didn't" Giles said flatly, "I think I have an idea"

Lara looked at him, she had plenty of anger behind her eyes and Giles felt himself sliding back into the chair away from her furious gaze, "What the hell did
you think you were doing?" she asked her voice deceptively calm.

"It's Ok Lara" Xander soothed patting her leg gently and taking her hand in his, "I get it. You think Buffy passed on some of the slayer essence to me to
help heal me?"

Giles smiled; "Well done" he congratulated his young friend.

"That's all very well" Lara said her voice now remarkably calm, and her hand still in Xander's unnoticed by either of them, "But what if you were wrong!"

"Thankfully, I wasn't" Giles said with confidence he didn't really feel. There was no other way to do the test, it took a slayer's reactions to stop the
magical blade and he also noticed that Xander had only just caught it. A Slayer would have stopped it well away from their head not a hairs breadth. "I have
to run some tests, do you mind?" he asked Xander who shrugged.

Giles beat a hasty retreat to his car and fetched a few magical items.

On his return he was already talking, "You see the slayer spirit is the most studied of all demonic attributes as you can imagine. There are many tests to
find out if this change will be permanent. There is even a spell that has been used in the past that enables a slayer to use their abilities to heal another.
I think that is essentially what Buffy has done for Xander"

Xander stood and lent of his cane trying to get some feeling back into his leg he handed the simple dagger back to Giles with a laconic smile. "Be thankful I
decided to pass that to you. I was tempted to return it the way it had arrived"

*****

The incense candle died down and Giles sat back in his chair exhausted. He had spent three long hours testing Xander with every known test and combination of
tests and he couldn't fathom it.

"There appears to be some slayer essence in your system" he finally said to Xander who had been waiting patiently for him to speak. "However the amount is
infinitesimal"

"It wouldn't need to be much would it?" Xander asked, "After all Buffy always said she hardly ever needed to tap her full potential"

"Yes that is true, and she was able to channel it rather well, especially after the joining spell we used to defeat Adam. I strongly suspect that is the
reason she was able to pull this off."

"Why?" Lara asked

"That spell allowed us to join together and fight Adam with our combined strengths and it also joined us all in a dream afterwards involving the First
slayer" Giles paused to sip his tea, "I believe that it formed a conduit that allowed Buffy to somehow channel a fragment of her slayer essence into Xander."

"OK, that seems clear. So what is the problem?" Lara asked him curiously.

"Its just that somehow Xander has managed to capture and channel that fragment and it is now a permanent fixture when I think it should have been only a
temporary loan as it were"

"It won't harm Buffy? Xander cut in, "If we get her back I mean?"

"No of course not, it is such a small fragment she won't notice it. How this was all managed on an ethereal plane is, frankly, beyond me"

Xander smiled in relief then shrugged at Giles's confusion. "A miracle" he said simply.

"So Xander is a what, a male slayer now?" Lara asked.

"Good lord no. It really is such a tiny amount of what a true slayer is capable of"

"Its true Lara, I've seen Buffy virtually walk through a vamps nest and once I watched Buffy and Faith take out what, 20 to 30 vampires and neither looked out
of breath. It's only demons and the more powerful ones at that, that give them trouble"

Lara nodded thoughtfully she had truthfully never realized the sheer brute force of the slayer spirit, let alone what it was capable of. It made sense in a
way; a vampire slayer should be able to take out vampires quickly and easily to move onto the next. But the power involved in such a feat was staggering when
you think it was the responsibility of a teenage girl and what tended to be stuffy old men.

"If the slayer is so powerful, why did you need the joining spell" Hillary said finally.

"Adam was different, he was an amalgamation of demon, machine and human. A combination that turned out to be just too powerful in the end. But even then it
was the undiluted slayer spirit that the joining spell unleashed that kicked him back to hell. With ease might I just say?" Giles responded

"You may, we kicked his ugly green butt" Xander said with a smile.

"What does this mean for Xander" Lara asked thinking of her friend.

Giles sighed, "Not that much I'm afraid. I know you always wanted a power Xander but this isn't it. You are a little faster and stronger, your reactions are
better than normal which is excellent for you and it will help you, but you're no slayer." Then he smiled warmly at the young man, "But then I always thought
your power lay in your humanity and warm heart"

Xander felt his throat constrict, Giles was giving him that proud look again and it was choking him up. "Thanks" he managed to say fighting back the raw
emotion that Giles's simple comment had invoked.

Croft Manor
September 11th 2001

Giles had left earlier that morning saying that he needed to get back or else have to wade through the paper just to get to his desk. He and Xander had
shared a warm hand shake that was Giles's equivalent of a hug.

Now he was sat at Lara's desk with fear written across his face. In front of him was a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. In front of that was a flat
computer screen and beyond that was Lara's smiling face.

"Tell me again what I have to do" Xander said fearfully.

"It's simple really, just translate the hieroglyphic text's that appear and write it down."

"Whose idea was this particular torture?" Xander asked thinking he knew the culprit.

"Evie suggested it. She said there was little point going to Egypt without speaking Egyptian, or at least being able to read it. I happen agree"

"And to think I thought she was my friend" Xander muttered looking at the blank sheet of paper with wide-eyed fear.

"Xander this will be easy I promise" Lara said.

"I don't test well" Xander said sending a pleading look at her. She just smirked and backed out of the room.

"The test stands as soon as the first hieroglyphic text shows up. Oh and watch out for hieratic" Lara said before darting out of the door.

"Oh joy!" Xander said as the first test flashed up on the screen. According to his deal with Lara he had to pass every test set for him, something told him
this would be the hardest yet. He took a few calming breaths wishing that he had known these calming techniques back in high school and looked back to the
pictorial language symbols.

They appeared to rearrange in his head and he found himself reading the text without too much effort. He had been studying the language for a while now, more
out of interest than any other reason. It looked like his study could pay off after all.

*****

Three hours later the test rolled to a close and Xander sat his pencil down with a sigh of relief. He'd only had a little trouble, and then only when the
hieratic had come up. Hieratic was the less formal version of the Hieroglyphic language used in the day to day scribal work and was the less well known of
the two forms. It was only his exposure to the demonic Identogram language that had allowed him to pick up them both so quickly and he wished he had had a
chance to speak to Giles about it before he left.

He heard the door click open and Lara walked in with a smile. She looked down at the translations and then smiled wider.

"Well?" he asked nervously.

"Come on" Lara said evading his question and leading him out of the room.

Xander followed her confused down into the main entrance way of croft manor to be greeted by Hillary and Bryce.

Hillary looked at Lara who nodded slightly and he smiled at their newest friend. "Well done, bravo," he said starting to clap.

Xander looked at Lara, "I passed?" he said incredulously.

"Don't be so surprised," Lara told him with a soft smile

"Great" Xander said happily.

"We're not quite finished yet," Lara told him walking away from him to stand by Bryce. She then took something that Bryce had been keeping behind his back
and approached Xander again.

"We've got a present for you" she said handing him a two foot long box tied off with a bow.

"The bow was Bryce's idea," she said with a sardonic smile.

Xander slipped the ribbon off of the box and opened it. He juggled his cane for a moment before Lara took it from him; he nodded thanks and finally opened
the package.

Inside was a collapsed dark red wood folding cane. "Oh guys, this is beautiful," Xander said reverently. As he let go of the one end it snapped out and
joined into itself with a smooth action until it was a solid cane. He tested his weight against it and found it to be more than solid enough for the task.

He picked it up and looked at it in detail something, a memory tickling his mind. The cane was also surprisingly heavy but nothing he wouldn't get used to
quickly.

"Why does this look familiar?" he asked.

Bryce looked ready to explode so Lara nodded for him to do the honor. He had after all designed it from scratch.

"It's a replica"

Xander snapped his fingers; "Daredevil!" he said with a laugh, "Cool!" He had mentioned his liking of the comic books in general and that one especially to
Bryce during one all night long geek-out over pizza.

"Got it one, but of course it ain't exactly the same, shorter for one thing stronger so's you can lean on it"

"Thanks man, this is cool, all of you really it’s amazing. I suppose it's got a grappling hook hey," Xander said jokingly.

Bryce just about bubbled over, "Yeah!" he said excitedly.

Xander looked at him in shock, "What?"

"I told you it's a replica, fully working all the tricks that the original had this one has. Plus some more. The wire is strong enough for two and about
thirty foot long per section. The linkage was a real pain in the arse but you'll have about 90 foot all told if the cane is fully extended or 30 if not.
Took some getting right though didn't have any of that metal stuff they used but there is an alloy just like it. So I got hold of that instead from a mate in
Plymouth Uni. It'll retract fast and pull you and another up an all. Its bloody sharp as well so watch out, I suppose you could use it as a garrotte if you
can yank hard enough on the grapple"

"Well shit on me," Xander said reverently.

"I thought it might be useful, considering, the end's a hardened wood as well, for you know, vampires and stuff. If you twist the head a blade will come out
the side, sort of like a sword only broken into three like. The blades acid edged titanium so it's light and bloody sharp, you could shave with it." Bryce
finished off.

Xander tried out what Bryce had just mentioned watching in fascination as a gleaming edge slid out of the side of the wood looking cane. "How do I trigger the
grappling hook," he asked Bryce.

"Like in the comics" Bryce informed him and Xander nodded recalling his comic book reading days to remember how daredevil had managed it.

Xander looked at him and then a smiling Hillary and Lara before giving them a kilowatt power smile, "Wow!" he said finally, "Wow!" he said again.

Lara laughed and glided over to him, "We thought you might need it"

Xander looked at her with hope in his eyes. "You mean?"

"Yes, I've booked us on a flight to Egypt in two days. Better get packed" Lara confirmed for him. He grabbed her into a hug that she found herself not
wanting to escape. They hugged for a long moment before separating slightly embarrassedly.

Xander then smirked at Bryce and Hillary, "Come ere guys" he said with outstretched arms. Both men backed up quickly saying almost at the same time.

"That's quite alright thank you", Hillary said stiffly as Bryce said, "Nah Mate I'll pass"

Xander chuckled along with Lara at their horrified expressions.

Chapter 06

Cairo International Airport.
September 29th 2001
Xander stepped off of the plane and almost staggered backwards. The heat hit him like an iron fist, a solid entity that grabbed him in its cloying embrace.
With an Annual average of 71 degrees it was no surprise he was hot considering that the UK had an average of only 49 degrees. Add to that the fact that he
had just literally stepped off of the nice cool air conditioned airplane and it was a recipe for being very hot.

He started to sweat instantly and he suddenly wished he could get back into the air conditioned plane for all of a nanosecond. Then it struck him. He was in
Cairo, Egypt one of the places that he had always dreamt of coming too but never actually arrived at. This was a dream come true for him and he intended to
enjoy it come what may. The heat he would get used to in time and at least it didn't play havoc with his leg as the English weather had. He had been able to
forecast when it was going to rain by the pain in his hip and knee by time he had left.

Lara shot a sidelong look at him and found him beaming into the hot weather and a smile graced her full lips in response. In truth he had already reclaimed
that spark that she and Willow had so missed but now it was here with vengeance. Xander took his collapsed cane out of his specially designed inside jacket
pocket and it snapped to its full length. Then he paused leaning on it and looked around the crowd parting around him as he stood stock still and sucked in
the air of Egypt.

Cairo itself as he had learned on the plane made had an economy traditionally made up of tourism and its related enterprises such as hotels and tours but it
also made its money now from the manufacture of motor cars and household appliances as well as the production of sugar cane grown upper Egypt as well as a
healthy, or not depending on how you look at it, tobacco industry.

The air wasn't exactly what he had thought it would be as traffic and air pollution had severely soured it making it more smog like than London's own smog and
it also smelt of a highly dense population all sharing the 175 square miles that the city sprawled across. These cold hard facts and statistics did little to
mare the fascination that the city and country as a whole held for Xander.

Lara took him gently by the elbow and he turned to her, "Just taking time out to admire the scenery" he told her with a smile.

"I hardly think Cairo Airport counts" Lara commented with a smile of her own and she took his arm as they walked to the hotels transportation rendezvous
point.

A thin Arabic man watched them walk through the airport and finally broke cover and ran to a phone box picking it up and saying a simple two words,

"They're here" he listened for a minute nodding and watching Xander and Lara get into a hotel provided limo. Then he put the phone down and ran to the car
park jumping on an unattended bicycle he set off.
Cairo National Hotel
Xander flopped down on the large soft bed exhaling as he did so enjoying the relative coolness of the modern hotel room and the comforts it would afford him.
They were due to leave in the morning for their final destination the mysterious Tomb of Alkhamor, which Lara assured him, would certainly contain The Urn Of
Osiris.

Lara looked through the door of their shared suite into his bedroom with a slight smile on her face. He had been like a child on the journey here ignoring
the cacophony of sound and traffic. Focusing instead on the wonders of the city the ancient monuments and miscellany of history that was arrayed around them.
It was a good point of reference for a traveller as world viewed as she was. It put it into perspective and it was as though she were seeing the sights for
the first time herself, through his eyes. She liked the way that felt, it had been too long since she had felt the same way nearly her entire life had been
spent travelling from one wonder to another and somewhere along the line she had indeed become jaded. But Xander had washed that away and the veil had been
lifted from her world view once more. As he said, 'It’s good to take time out to view the scenery' wise words she thought.

Xander rolled over and saw Lara looking at him with a smile and patted the bed beside him. Lara walked over and sat where he had indicated not feeling any
embarrassment about then lying next to him and staring at the ceiling fan.

"This place is amazing isn't it" Xander said his voice full of wonder. "On the plane on the way down to the strip I actually saw the great pyramid" he
continued with disbelief.

"It’s really not very nice inside" Lara said, "Cramped" she continued with a smile curling her full lips.

Xander rolled over and propped himself up on his elbow he looked down at her from that vantage point marvelling at her beauty. He stopped himself from
staring at her like a love struck teenager and smiled, "You've been in the great Pyramid?"

"Oh yes, I was invited on my last trip, they had this robot thing crawling around the ventilation shaft"

Xander perked up, "Really what for"

"Damned if I know" Lara said chuckling, "It got stuck then the engine gave out and it rolled back down a hell of a lot faster than it went up"

"Ouch!" Xander remarked.

"Yes, about ten thousand pounds sterling in little tiny bits at the bottom of the main gallery. The good professor who had invited me was, urm, livid I think
would be the best word for his expression"

"Man, hang on I thought you liked to keep a low profile"

"Oh I do, but people still manage to hear things you know what its like there's always one blabbermouth"

"So if people know about you how you do still manage to keep such a low profile"

"By making friends. My father always had a good expression, would you like hear it?" Lara asked adjusting her position to mirror his.

Xander nodded so she continued, "When climbing the ladder of success be careful who you tread on, they'll be waiting when you slip. I've always found it to
be very true"

Xander smiled into her deep blue eyes feeling lost in them for a moment as Lara lost herself in his chocolate brown orbs. After a tense moment they started
to move towards each other almost as if gravity had come into play.

A knocking at the door halted they're progress and Lara jumped up from the bed and almost ran to the door. Xander punched the bed, "Stupid, Stupid" he
murmured to himself.

Lara opened the door to find a slender Arabic man with a trolley, "Compliments of the Manager Lady Croft" he said pushing it in as Lara stepped to one side.
Xander walked into the room and Lara tossed him a smile, "See what I mean"

Xander laughed as the thin man arranged the contents of the trolley lifting the silver canopy to reveal succulent strawberries and cream. He reached
underneath and pulled out a wine cooler complete with champagne. Then he knelt and adjusted something under cover of the white linen and backed humbly out of
the room.

Lara watched him go with a puzzled look, "What is it" Xander asked noting her look.

"Nothing, normally you can't beat them off until you've past them a tip in this hotel anyway. I don't think they get paid much" she said with slight
distaste.

"Maybe he got a raise" Xander quipped picking up a strawberry and dipping it in the cold cream. He held it out for Lara who accepted it with a smile and a
slight twinkle in her eye. Xander didn't notice as his mind was working overtime. He was sure he had seen that particular man before, where was it.

Xander's memory ran backwards and then forwards in fast motion as he watched the thin man watching them at the airport. Then as he entered the hotel limo he
had noticed the same man talking on the phone and looking at them strangely. His memory shot forward to just a moment ago as the thin man had knelt to the
trolley Xander had glimpsed a wire underneath but had thought nothing of it. The wire was coiled and red and appeared to be sticking out of what he had
thought a heating element, but strawberries and cream would not require that sort of trolley. But what if the element had been a firing rod. Added to that
the thins mans uniform had been very loose on him, that of course could be due to sudden weight loss but he had none of the jowl-like pieces of skin that
rapid weight loss caused. No something was rotten in Denmark and Xander felt he had to act quickly. If he was wrong then so be it, if not then he had but
seconds left.

Xander slapped the strawberry out of Lara's hand before she had chance to eat it just in case.

"Do you mind!" she said but Xander ignored her grabbing her arm and running with her to the door. He stopped only long enough to grab his cane propped by the
door frame and then pulled her out after him. Then in the corridor he slapped the fire alarm and belted it down the corridor.

"What the devil…" Lara began to protest pulling back on his grip just before a giant hand suddenly picked her up and threw her and Xander down the hallway.
Behind them an orange fireball exploded and obliterating their door and sending the shockwave that threw them out through the hotels corridor. Spreading bits
of wood and other debris in its path and the loud boom of its detonation rang out temporarily deafening all those nearby.

After a strangely quiet moment bells started to ring out and screaming began emanating from the scared and wounded. Along the corridor half buried under
rubble and debris Lara coughed and sputtered before pushing herself upright and then finally staggering to her feet. Xander joined her a second later shaking
his head and trying to get his ears to pop.

Staggering slightly from the loss of balance caused by such close proximity to the blast Xander turned Lara to face him holding her face in her hands, "ARE
YOU OK" he shouted to get past the deafness of her and his own hearing. Lara nodded an affirmative and gave him a grateful smile.

Xander looked around at the devastation caused and then searched for his cane finally digging it out from the rubble. He looked Lara in the eye and again and
made a shape movement of his head. He wanted to indicate that they should leave, she got the message and they left the wreckage behind them dodging the
rescue crews in the process.
Cairo Egyptian Museum.

Xander felt Lara tugging on his arm and he followed her into the quietest section of the large museum. Being only a block away from their now ruined hotel it
was the perfect place to slip into the crowds hopefully avoiding notice.

"WHAT, sorry what?" Xander said as his ears popped finally.

Lara smirked at him and held her nose pushing her breath against the barrier and popping her own ears, "Pardon?" she asked innocently.

"I said, what's up" Xander replied and mirrored her smirk.

"I just thought we could get away from the maddening crowd, do some planning"

"Good plan"

They looked at each other in silence for a moment before Xander finally burst out laughing, "OK so much for a plan. How are we getting to the tomb?"

"I've arranged a jeep to be dropped off at the airport, we'll pick it up and use that"

"OK, who knows about it?"

"Just Bryce and Hillary"

"Any chance of a tap on your line"

"Unlikely, Bryce checks for those sorts of things"

Xander knew Bryce and his electrical, well general actually, genius and thought it highly unlikely he would have missed a bug, "Shipping orders" he said
simply knowing Lara would understand.

She smirked at him wickedly, "What shipping orders?"

"I see like that is it, so it’s safe to assume that the jeep will be safe"

"I agree, but we can't go back to the hotel"

"Where's our gear?"

"Being loaded onto the jeep when it arrives later tonight"

"OK, that's cool then but it means we have to find a place to hide overnight"

Lara nodded thinking. Xander dug around in his pockets finding a fair amount of local currency, "We get a room," he said working out that he had enough,
just.

Lara nodded, "Trying to get me to sleep with you?" she asked noting that he had said room singular.

"But of course" Xander replied with his sexiest lopsided smile. He turned away leading them out towards the entrance.

"Good" Lara said for her ears only before following him.

*****

They stepped out of the large doors to the museum right into the waiting arms of seven nasty lowlife looking Arabs with the thin Arabic man leading the party.

Lara and Xander exchanged glances before exploding into action at the very same moment the goon squad did. Xander flicked out his cane and it snapped into
its rigid form before twirling it expertly and rapping one man across the face knocking him back with a bloodied nose. Lara kicked out nailed another as the
men raced towards them.

Xander ducked under the goon’s haymaker hooking his stick into the back of the bloodied mans knee. He pulled the man off balance then stood quickly and
rammed the cane up under the mans jaw. The goon fell unconscious to the floor in a whisper of motion only to be replaced almost instantly by another. They
one wielded a large scimitar and Xander backed away quickly gaining some space.

Lara span downwards sweeping a mans legs away and made to stomp down on his head but he caught her foot and twisted putting her off balance and giving himself
some room. She quickly recovered and blocked his next blow before striking out with a powerful punch of her own nailing him in the eye. He backed away
holding his hand to his eye as Lara span round with a wheel kick and sent him sailing down the stairs to land at the bottom with a sickening crunch.

Xander activated the blades on his custom walking stick and barely managed to parry a double handed blow from the mans scimitar turning it to one wide and
elbowing the man in the face. The large goon then recovered from the blow quickly and he and Xander started to fence. Luckily for Xander his training with
Buffy once more stood him in good stead as he parried a cutting swipe capturing the heavy blade with a circular motion and punching out with his spare hand.
The man staged backwards slightly and Xander drew his weapon across the mans body cutting deeply with the viciously shape titanium blade. The man looked down
at his now severely bleeding chest and stomach before letting out a roar of defiance. It was at this point Xander realized one weakness of his special
weapon. He didn't have a good stabbing weapon, the sharp blade ran the length of the cane but at the end was a stub of hard wood. Perfect for vampires, but
nigh on useless when fighting a human. So he moved with all his speed and swept out with the deadly blade slicing a long thin red line across the mans
throat. The Arabian thug looked at him in shock before dropping to his knees holding his throat, trying to stem the bleeding.

Lara ducked under the arm of her attacker and using the momentum of his attack against him twisted his arm and threw him, dislocated the shoulder joint and
eliciting a terrible moan of pain from the man. The she hooked her leg round the arm and kicked him repeatedly in the face until he lost consciousness. He
then slumped down to the ground another man leapt over his insensate form kicking Lara hard in the stomach. She flew backwards and landed with a bone jarring
thud onto the cold hard steps to the museum. The man pressed his attack trying to stomp on her head but she dived to one side and escaped his attack. Then
holding the step in a firm grip she lifted clear and swung herself round chopping his knees from under him. It was his turn to fall in a bone cracking way
before she continued her motion round landing atop of him and knife hand striking him across the throat. He gurgled as he tried to cradle his shattered
larynx as Lara lifted herself to her feet. She looked off to one side to see the thin man running from the scene. She turned her head to find Xander
fighting two men at once using his cane as both sword and short Bo staff. He spun the cane using the non bladed side knocking away the man on the left before
stilling its rotation and slicing the blade across his opponent on the right. AS that man fell away in shock and fear he turned and ran bleeding profusely
from a cut across his stomach. Seeing his partner run the final man took stock of the situation before running quickly away himself.

Lara stepped over the suffocating and drowning man and walked over to her friend as he deactivated the blade of his walking cane with a satisfied nod of his
head.

"Not a bad first test for your new toy was it" Lara said conversationally.

"I think it passed with flying colors. Where can I get myself a Bryce?"

"There is only one Bryce" Lara said thankfully.

Xander chuckled until the slowly dying mans bubbling groans attracted his attention. He walked over to him and hunkered down before him he surveyed the
obviously hired goon with cold dead eyes for several long seconds. Then he reached out and snapped the mans neck ending his suffering. He stayed in position
as he watched the life bleed out of the mans body as his soul went to whatever his chosen afterlife was offering a prayer of his own to any god that might be
listening. He asked a simple thing, he asked forgiveness for the lives he had ended that day.

He then stood slowly his eyes now sad as he surveyed the carnage they had wrought upon their enemies. Lara touched his elbow which he then crocked out to her
in an invitation.

With a smile she accepted and hooked arms with him as he led her away from the battle field.

"They were trying to kill us," she told him softly once they had turned a corner away from the grizzly sight.

Xander nodded not saying anything for a moment until finally he gave a big sigh, "I know and if we hadn't of got them they would've got us. I just don't like
killing humans"

"I understand" Lara assured him softly.

He stopped and turned to her and she suddenly felt very cold at the lack of expression in his usually warm eyes. Then it was if the sun came out from behind
a cloud as a smile graced his face and the life bled back into his now chocolate eyes. "Come on lets find a bed," he said with a twinkle.

"Ahh, promises, promises" Lara teased as they walked off arm in arm.
Cairo International Airport.
September 30th 2001.

Xander pulled himself from under the jeep using his borrow body board it skittered out with a scrapping noise of tarmac on metal rollers and he nodded at
Lara. He had wanted to be doubly sure that no one had tampered with the vehicle not wanting to take any chances with their lives and had luckily found no
devices of evidence that this jeep was a nice ordinary, supped up jeep.

With a grateful smile Xander rolled the board back to the mechanic he had borrowed it off and whipped his hands on some cloth which he also returned. The he
turned to Lara with a smile.

"You can drive, as you had the bed last night I didn't get much sleep"

Lara graced him with her best smile mentally kicking herself for the thoughts that had been rampant in her mind the night before. Strangely she hadn't got
much sleep either. It was mutually agreed by Xander that she should take the bed and he took the couch. Not that she would have minded sharing the double
bed. But with hindsight, perhaps it was best they hadn't Lara decided because temptation may have been too much otherwise.

She walked around to the driver’s side leaping easily into the seat and starting the powerful engine. Xander then joined her in the vehicle and she set off
in a screech of tires and in a cloud of burnt rubber.

Xander waived his hand in front of his face coughing theatrically, "Woman drivers" he complained with a good natured smile.

Lara returned the smile and Xander allowed his focus to wander around the streets through which they past. It was at that point he heard an American couple
arguing with a merchant. They had paused to allow several hundred people to cross the street and Lara was waiving and jabbering at them in fluent Arabic.
But Xander wasn't listening to her tirade he was listening to the merchant and his customers. They were only 6 foot away from him, far enough to not notice
but close enough to hear if one concentrated.

With nothing better to do he concentrated on the familiar accent.

"No way, I'm not paying more than five bucks. The guy down the street has these for six so I'm doing you a favour to save my aching feet" said the man, a
large stereotypical American tourist right down to his Hawaiian shirt and cowboy hat.

"But Sahib, these are excellent quality. You will not find a better Urn of Osiris in all of Egypt"

"These things are all over the town, you expect me to believe that" the mans wife angrily demanded.

It was at that point Lara honked the horn and started to drive anyway. People scattered out of her way leaving a few thoughtful Xander to cogitate on what he
had just learned.

As they stop started their way across the large city Xander's mind was working overtime. It came down to one simple fact. Lara had lied to him, or at the
very least omitted several important facts. She had told him that they could find The Urn Of Osiris in the tomb they were about to raid. Now that may not be
a lie, judging by what the fake red haired balloon with feet had said they were common objects. Trouble was at no point had Lara told him this very important
fact. Now he supposed that perhaps, just perhaps they required a special Urn, as in The Urn Of Osiris, capital letters and flashing lights included. Trouble
was that he was having the sneaking suspicion that this was not the case. Lara had been delaying this trip for a while. To be fair he had delayed it to the
larger extend but she had, had him jumping through hoops just to set out. Now why was that, he had to wonder.

Then she had flat out tried to cancel, after they had found out about his shattered hip and its permanency, the simple fact it couldn't be repaired had made
sure of that. Xander had thought she was about to say something, something about her eyes just before he had cut in and made her listen to him and saying how
important it was to him. He had noticed several guilty looks after he had passed one of her numerous tests to prove his fitness. He had put that down to her
concern, which it still could be but he thought perhaps there could now be another reason.

Then there was this Tomb they were visiting. According to his independent research in Evie's library. It had been plundered some years ago, like two
hundred. Although not common knowledge to the public it was widely known in Lara's circle. If that was the case, why go. Lara had said something about
finding a lower level not yet explored but he was doubting her veracity at this point.

He trusted her with his life. He could count the people with that distinction on the fingers of one hand. Buffy, Willow, Giles and Lara. That was it
period, not even Oz or now Tara had that distinction despite the regard he held them in. Lara was one of those select few and for good reason, she had proven
to him time and again in the Grand Canyon and before that she was deserving of it. So just what was she up to, she knew the importance he placed on trust why
would she ever think to risk that?

As far as he could tell there were only two answers and he hated them both. She wasn't the Lara he had known and had her own agenda that was one. Or two,
she was working with Mr Williams which meant that basically she wasn't the Lara he loved. He could think of no other reason for her to do it. He forcefully
removed the second option from his mind. He couldn't bring himself to believe that Lara would work for Mr Williams or even with him. No she had changed,
that was obvious but had she changed that much. It just plain old fashioned didn't add up right in his mind.

Why delay the trip, why try to cancel when he was injured if not for true friend reasons, like not wanting him to get hurt, no he refused to believe that he
was that bad a judge of character even in the occasionally damning evidence of his early years as a Scooby. He had learned quickly and learned well to be a
better judge of character. He could spot a vampire just from the way it looked at him, even with its human façade in place. He had learnt to read between
the lines of unspoken dialogue to a certain extent. He was the first to admit that he wasn't an expert but he had come a long way since those early and
embarrassing moments.

He decided finally as they left the outskirts of Cairo that he only really had one option. He had to wait and see nothing different except now he had to be
very much on his guard just in case he was wrong to trust her. He really didn't want to believe that in fact it hurt him to even think it but what choice did
he have. Right at that precise moment in time he just didn't know.

He turned to Lara with a smile plastered over his worry, "How long till we arrive?"

"About four hours drive east" Lara replied sensing that Xander was unusually tense. She put it down to pre-adventure jitters and filed it at the back of her
sharp mind.

Xander's eyes coldly looked at her as he asked his next question he was looking for the minutiae and reading her body like a book with conscious effort.
"Where will we find the Urn in the tomb?"

Lara stayed quiet for a beat of two too long for his liking, "I'm not sure" she said finally and as he watched her eyes slid nervously to one side looking at
him from the corner of her eye. He made sure he kept up his smile even knowing that his eyes if read closely would surely betray the cold anger boiling in
his stomach.

'She lied' he thought realising that he had just lost a friend. He turned in his seat not wanting to look at her for a moment longer and settled himself for
a nap. Knowing that he would have to keep his wits about him once they entered the tomb. Because this little adventure, to him at least, had just got a whole
lot more interesting.
Chapter 07

The Tomb Of Alkhamor
September 29th 2001

The jeep jerked to a stand still and Xander's eyes snapped open his entire being rocketing from sleep to readiness as only a Sunnydale native and one who had
fought in a constant battle against the forces of darkness could. His soul buzzed with it, the battle readiness that he had felt only five times before. The
Masters Cave, Graduation, The Grand Canyon, Adam and the Initiatives final battle and most recently the final confrontation with Glory. He was ready for
action what ever form that might take.

Lara looked over at him worriedly feeling his strange state from her place next to him in the jeeps cab. He was looking ahead and to the side, basically
everywhere but at her apparently looking for danger. "Xand?" she asked

His eyes snapped onto hers and they held a powerful intensity she had only seen when they had made love two years ago, but where that had been lust filled and
benign this was full of the promise of death. "Let’s go" he said his voice quiet but strangely powerful as he tripped the lever on the jeeps door and jumped
to the ground. He snapped out his cane, it would do him little good on the sand, but at least it would help steady him.

The silence of the desert wrapped around them as the stars above stood out in stark relief against the dark sky. Their only light was provided by the stars
as they got themselves ready without a single word spoken between them. Lara looking at Xander with a strange glance ever so often wondering what had come
over him during the drive here.

Xander trying to keep his mind focused and alert while he fought away the urge to confront Lara. It would be simpler but then he may never find out the real
reason behind her deeds. He also desperately hoped that this was all a product of his paranoid Sunnydale mind and that there was no Machiavellian plot
lurking behind the actions of a dear and trusted friend.

He looked out at the stark landscape enjoying for a moment the sensuous beauty of the dunes curving in and out of the desert floor like some gigantic beast
cresting a sand filled sea instead of the dried sea it really was. He looked over to find that Lara had finished getting ready and he hurried and fished off
his final preparations as well.

Lara tossed one last look in his direction getting only a cold shoulder in response she set off across the sand.

The strangely chilly night air bit into them as they made their short journey to the hidden tomb their way lit only by the night sky and the moon above them,
but it cast an ample light for their now night vision ready eyes. Xander was struggling slightly the sand dragging at his foot like a drowning sailor but he
ignored the dull ache that lit in his leg instead concentrating on the surrounding area wary for anything out of what could be considered ordinary. It took
them nearly two hours to cross into the particular stretch of sand they wanted, there was no difference in this one from any other in the expanse of wasteland
they were in. Except that they were now standing at the bottom of a dune in which was hiding what was possibly if Lara research panned out, the last
unexplored tombs in Egypt. The upper levels had been ransacked by explorers since it had been discovered by a nomadic tribal leader nearly two hundred years
before. Explorer and explorer drilling down into its labyrinth depths until it was decided that there was nothing left worthy of pillaging no tomb left to
defile.

But if Lara was indeed correct the best had been saved till last. A hidden and protected section that could contain a wealth in treasure of either monetary
or cultural value. She aimed to find out with the help of her partner, for that was what he was, at least for this trip. She had personally trained him to a
comparable standard with her own level of excellence. She was the best in the business which meant that in all probability he was the next in line for the
title. She hoped that after this was over and the truth came out he would forgive his friend her little white lie not knowing that he had already found her
out and was currently fearing the worst of her.

So as midnight stuck back in Cairo they finally entered The Tomb of Alkhamor.
Inside The Tomb of Alkhamor

Lara laid her pack down at her feet and rummaged through it until she pulled out a Power Bar and her canteen. She unwrapped the energy providing snack and
took a sip of her precious supply of water. The had been working their way through the tomb for nearly an hour, picking their way carefully through the
ruination caused by less caring raiders in past years.

She watched as Xander did the same as her standing a good ten foot away from her and apparently interested in a pile of detritus nearby. He took a large bite
of his bar and a small pull on his water before setting his pack back on his back and getting to his feet. He leaned quite heavily on his cane Lara noted, as
he walked over to a pile of rubble.

Xander stared down at the pile for a long while considering what to do next. He was split between leaving it and waiting to see how this played out or just
having it out with her now. The pile mocked him with its presence so in the end he felt that he had no choice. He leaned down and picked something off of
the floor.

"Hey Lara" he called to her his voice good natured.

"Yes Xander"

He brandished his prize, "Isn't this The Urn Of Osiris" he said still with good cheer.

Lara smiled at him despite her worry, "Yes it is, well done."

Xander smiled at her but an edge had crept into it, "Wow, that was lucky finding it here"

"MMM" Lara said noncommittally.

"Finding the last known Urn of Osiris just laying here" Xander continued.

"Mmmm" Lara said again taking a large bite of her bar to cover her lack of actual words.

"Funny you don't seem excited. I know, it’s because it was too easy right" Xander said.

Lara looked at him now seriously worried about his smile, it resembled a sharks.

He used his cane to push over a block that make a thunderous racket as it hit the floor exploding into a thousand pieces. Once the dust had cleared Lara's
heart leapt into her throat.

"Funny, look there must be like twenty last known Urns of Osiris, right here in this little bitty pile." Xander said acidic sarcasm dripping from every word.
"Isn't that strange, aren't you just going Ohhhh!" he said exaggerating the final word with a little hip shake.

Lara sighed and got to her feet pulling on her pack. "Fine you caught me"

"Didn't I just, what the hells your game Lara because right now I'm low on options and I hate them"

Lara pointed at his eye and for a wild moment he thought she was about to poke it out, "That's why!"

Xander frowned at her, "What!"

"That spark in your eye. When you turned up on my door there was nothing. You eyes were dead. The Xander Harris I loved had died and a shell was in his
place. I hated that shell. I knew that a little excitement a little adventure would kick you into touch get your juices running again" Lara said her eyes
normally dark and serene were now spitting fire with the passion of her words. "I would do anything to see that spark Xander and I won't apologize for that.
Now things did get out of hand and in the end I did lie to you something I didn't intend to do, but this has taken on a life of it bloody own what with Mr.
Williams turning up and then us finding out about your leg and you getting better with the slayer spirit and…"

Xander cut her off he basically lifted her off of the ground and pulled her to him kissing her with all the pent up passion he felt for her knowing that more
than likely he would get his arse kicked but thinking to hell with it. He was happy find her responding by wrapping first her arms and then legs around him
her lips melting into his in a passionate kiss that set fire to their hearts, minds and very souls.

"Am I calling at a bad time?" a dark foreboding rumble said out of the darkness.

Xander glanced in the direction of the voice, "Yes!"

Lara was only an instant behind him with her own, "Yes, Bugger off!"

"Well isn't this sweet" the voice continued ignoring them completely.

They broke apart and Xander groaned to the gods, "God I hate that guy!"

Lara smirked at him her own heart beating ninety to the dozen from the passion of their clench and not from the danger they now faced.

Mr. William's smiling face approached from the darkness his teeth glinting in the light of the glow tubes Lara and Xander carried with them. He entered the
sphere of their influence.

"I don't believe your wearing a friggin suit in the middle of desert" Xander exclaimed in surprise. "Are you insane?"

The look in Mr. William's eyes answered in the affirmative. "Boys" he said and the sound of at least a dozen guns being cocked sounded from all around them.

"Well, shit!" Xander cursed tiredly. He darted a gaze around the room trying to spot a way of escape in the gloom. Mr. Williams had effectively penned them
in using his men in a classical bit of tactical thinking allowing them to waltz right in to his trap like lambs to the slaughter.

Xander pulled Lara into him in an embrace then smiled wickedly at her. His cane flashed out and was aimed and fired before any one could react then with a
wink at Mr. Williams the pair ascended out from the trap upwards into the gloom to a balcony twenty foot away.

They had been totally trapped. Unless you happened to be an ex-geek who had loved daredevil when he was younger and had very rich friend who had a pet genius
that had fabricated a walking stick with a good thirty foot of self repelling and retracting cable.

Mr. Williams gave an impotent roar of rage as his quarry once again slipped just as he lowered the nose around their neck. His men were firing off shots into
the darkness hoping to get a lucky hit in but luck wasn't with them that time.

Xander flicked the cable as their feet touched the balcony causing the grappling hook come piton to wrench free of its temporary rock home and return with a
zip of deadly metal moving at the speed of a bullet. His hand jerked back with the kickback once it snapped back into place. He looked at Lara with a wide
smile on his face.

"Can I just say, I love Bryce”

"I've become rather fond of him myself. That really is a most useful toy"

"Come on, they'll be back before you know it. You know your way around this death trap get us gone"

"Leave the Tomb?" she asked speculatively.

Another trademark Xander grin appeared, "No way, down to the catacombs sweet Christine"

Lara cocked an eyebrow at his musical reference not realizing he was thinking of the chronic black and white movie he had caught on TV a year ago.

"Hey I loved that movie," he said moving off into the corridor that lay beyond the balcony.

Lara set off after him saying, "Movie? What movie?"

Inside The Tomb of Alkhamor

Two hours later Lara finally crouched down in front of the ancient altar that she believed was hiding the entrance to the lowest levels of the Tomb. Her
research had been painstakingly checked and double checked. She had cross referenced with the new evidence she had found on her last trip and finally she had
gone with her best guestimate.

"I just hope your right about this" Xander said with a large teasing smile. "Cause you know we got pretty damn close to the goons back there"

Lara just looked at him and his smile slowly slipped away under the wrath of her glare. Finally he held his hands up and stepped back away from her. He
opted to draw his pistol. They had finally been delivered just before they had left and he had feared that they would miss them. But no his special order
smuggled into Egypt via diplomatic bag, just like the movies had arrived in time to be picked up along with the jeep. Two brand new pistols to match Lara's.
Twin .45 ACP Heckler & Koch USP with extended clips and a custom built water proof mechanism. Where Lara's own were black he had splashed out and had them
chromed. They showed up more in the dark, but by time he ever drew a weapon it was too late for subtlety. Even in the gloom of the tomb lit mostly by
several glow sticks lying haphazardly around the room they gleamed brightly.

He took up station at the door guarding it and Lara from any interruptions including him.

Lara went over the inscription on the Altar for several long drawn out minutes. Xander glanced back at her several times only to find that she was immersed
in her work she was reading the hieroglyphic inscription and obviously checking it against the mental check list he knew she carried in her mind before
finally sitting down on the floor.

She rested her feet on the altar and braced herself against the ground. Then with an almighty heave she pushed it backwards revealing a concealed entranceway
in the very floor itself.

"You're right" Xander said walking over to her and holstering his pistols, "You do have powerful thighs"

Lara smirked at him saying nothing until finally Xander indicated she should precede him. She checked around the new entrance as Xander scouted round and
picked up the glow sticks chucking them down the hole to light her way and covering their tracks a little. He had worried that someone would have heard the
loud grinding noise Lara's shifting work made. Since no-one had yet come running he had to assume they were to far away.

Finally happy that the entranceway had no hidden traps of its own Lara lowered herself into the gaping hole and dangled from her hands. She looked all around
her moving the entire way around the gap before finally dropping down to the floor a good 6 meters below.

With one last check of the room Xander quickly followed suit and dropped into the hole.

Mr. Williams walked calmly into the room they had just vacated smiling wickedly to himself.

He waited for ten long minutes until he could be sure that they had vacated the room below. He then debated with himself about just closing the altar door
above them and hopefully trapping them for ever. But the way his luck had run with the two of them he decided that he wanted to actually see them die in
front of his very eyes. Or even better by his very own two hands, that would suit him much better. He pulled out his radio and keyed the mike.

"Converge on my position now, North-East corridor fifth door down. The Altar room"

The he patiently waited for his personal mini army to arrive with their equipment and most importantly a ladder. He had no wish to mess up his hand crafted
Italian suit.

Alkhamor Catacombs

Xander let the jewels run between his fingers shaking his head. They had just stumbled into a room with more wealth than he had ever seen in his life.
Twenty men couldn't carry it out of the desert, which rather brought him down to earth. To some people this wouldn't be rock formed money. It would be
simply a weight to slow them down.

"You know I could pay Dawns' School and college tuition fees for life with a handful of these" he commented to his partner who was currently taking a break
sipping her water carefully.

"We'll come back for it," she said honestly. They could, it wouldn't cost them very much time and if it made him happy then she was game. It was also a mark
of the man, to her at least, that his first thought had been of helping another.

"Ohh pretty" he said finding a particularly interesting jewel in amongst the others then he found its twin, their older brother and then sister. He held the
four diamonds in his hand staggered at their similarity. But then all diamonds look alike if you didn't know what you were looking at. Thinking they were
cool he placed them in his jacket pocket nestled against his heart. He grabbed a handful of the gems and stuck them in his shirt pocket just in case then
picked up a pile and tossed them playfully in the air, ensuring they landed back in the chest of course. It would save time later.

Lara laughed at his antics. Then she became serious, "About that kiss…" she began

The sound of automatic fire cut her off as Xander nearly spat in annoyance. They turned to face Mr. Williams once again. They moved cautiously together as
he walked into through the only entrance and exit to the small room. His hired guns filed in behind and flanked him. This time as Xander's desperate glances
confirmed. There was literally no escape.

"Ahh, we meet again" Mr. Williams rumbled at them his deep voice booming across the ten foot that separated them. Xander could swear he felt his diaphragm
oscillate to the pitch of his voice.

Mr. Williams saw their closeness and smiled widely, "It seems that again I call at a bad time"

"You know Barry White has got nothing on you Nat"

Lara smiled into the face of certain death, "I should imagine there's a whale out there looking for his song back"

Xander sniggered, "Nice one" he commented as Mr. Williams rolled his eyes flashing the whites at them.

"I love this witty banter but I have other business that I would prefer to conduct today and frankly you're boring me"

Lara took in the guards she thought about the room they currently found themselves in and basically it didn't look good. Xander had no way of reaching his
cane on time, it was tucked away in his jacket and her own pistols were in their holsters. She knew if she even twitched they would shoot her down. Normally
she would prefer to go out fighting but this time she had another agenda in mind.

"Get on with it then you great gorilla" Lara spat pulling close to Xander and looking him in the eyes one last time. "I enjoyed it and I would like to do it
again," she said picking up from where they had been interrupted before. Then she kissed him once again.

"Oh for the love of mike, just kill them!" Nathaniel Williams finally snapped after five minutes of kissing action and no apparent end in sight.

His men cocked their weapons and took careful aim before firing. Before the first bullet left the gun reality itself seemed to just warp causing a visible
ripple in the space time continuum and freezing the universe as though old father time had hiccupped. The ripple unfroze and passed through all the remaining
occupants in the room.

The bullets left the gun propelled by an explosive force that sent them on their way at around the speed of sound which itself at their level was precisely
760 mph. The lumps of metal moved this fast across the room all the technology and expended energy a waste as they struck the opposite wall hitting nothing.

Mr. Williams glared at the empty space that had been occupied by his worst enemy in his entire life. The one that got away and continued to do so and had
best him time and time again ruining his reputation and generally pissing him right off.

"I DON'T BELIEVE IT!" He roared grabbing the nearest man and throwing him across the room.

"Rip this place apart and find them!” he roared again and his men leapt to his command scared out of their wits not only by their boss but also by what had
just happened. How could two adults just disappear into the ether like that?
Chapter 08

The Tomb Of Alkhamor
September 30th

Their lips left each other with a release of air and panting breath as the look deep into each others eyes waiting for the final moments to come and remove
them to the afterlife, hopefully together. A moment stretched into infinity as they gradually became aware that the end wasn't arriving. Then they realized
at the exact same time as each other that they were no longer where they had been.

Lara pushed back slightly still contained within Xander's embrace and looked around in confusion. They were sat in front of the Altar at the very entrance to
the lower catacombs. What was more was that it was closed and judging by the soft glow from the glow sticks still attached to their persons and the
undisturbed dust revealed by their light. It didn't appear to have ever been moved.

Their gazes locked once more not with lust this time but in surprise bordering on complete and utter confusion.

"What the …" Xander said softly almost reverently as if the gods could hear of their strange turn of fate they would rectify it immediately.

They slowly got their respective feet still clutching each other not quite willing to let go just yet in case a cosmic joke was unveiled as they let go.

"I think we should get out of here before they realize we've escaped" Xander said finally still in the same soft secretive tone he had used before. Lara
nodded her agreement and they finally parted both reaching for and un-holstering their weapons. Then with careful tread they walked out of the room into the
corridor beyond. Their glow sticks cast their eerie green glow against the walls as they stealthily and painstakingly made progress down the dust filled
corridors.

They walked like this for two hours not speeding up nor slowing down their patience improved ten hundred fold by the strangeness of the situation they now
found themselves in. After another half an hour of laborious progress they finally reached the entrance way. They had been unmolested by Mr. William's men
and had found no trace of them anywhere.

They sat and took some of their precious water from their canteens and sat in silence for a few moments.

"This is weird, even by my standards" Xander said finally breaking the silence.

Lara nodded looking over at him noting that he was rubbing his hip, "Pain?"

"A little, walking without my cane for that long gets kinda ouch-like" Xander replied honestly but with a smile.

"You should've said we could have rested" Lara admonished him gently.

"Truth was, I wanted to see the sun again. Its damn dark down there" he said jerking his head back towards the tomb.

"Funny thing is most tombs I've come across are mostly quite bright. Either from their damn magical flickering touches or some other eldritch method"

"Eldritch Method?" Xander said with a teasing smile.

"Don't mock, It's the perfect description trust me" Lara said laughingly.

Xander chuckled along with her before putting his canteen back into his pack. "It'll be dark soon we should try to get back to the jeep"

"Normally I wouldn't suggest this but we should go now, try to get to it before dark. This whole situation is odd"

"Now that's an understatement"

*****

Two hours hard trek across the desert into the setting sun did little to relieve the pain in Xander's leg. When they arrived at the site of the jeep they
looked at each other.

"OK, Mr. William's boys must have taken it" Xander said with a weary sigh.

"Urm Xander" Lara said looking down at the device in her hand.

"What's up?"

"I thought I would check the co-ordinates on the GPS tracker, just in case I got turned around over that last sand dune, that I swear wasn't there last night"

"Yeah" Xander said nervously.

"Well it’s not working. Nothing no signal strength at all on either the civil or military sats"

"Jesus this just keeps getting weirder. What do you think alternate dimension"

Lara smirked at him and Xander held his hands up, "Hey don't knock it. We've had it happen."

"Lets just head back to Cairo, how's the leg?" a note of concern crept into her voice.

"It’s OK" Xander lied convincingly. It was actually killing him but he wasn't about to tell Lara that small fact. She would want to stop and he wanted, no
needed to press on and try to figure out what the hell was going on.

Lara saw straight through him but decided not to call him on it. He knew his own limitations and it would be best to be out of the desert before dawn.

Outskirts of Cairo

Xander and Lara looked around them in total confusion. They had managed to hitch a lift from the solitary car on the main road. It had been an old motel T
ford that Xander had thought should belong in a museum. But then this was not a rich country and he figured that plenty of people would be driving around in
antiquated cars that they had, had since new and kept going with spit and polish.

The hustle of people in the streets kept looking at them strangely seemingly fascinated by Lara's bare legs and a sudden worrying persistent thought at the
back of Xander's mind prompted him into action. He reached out and snatched a passing mans newspaper from under his arm turning back quickly and hiding his
booty. The man looked back in confusion then down at the floor not finding his paper he carried on walking. Xander grabbed Lara and pulled her off into a
side street.

He opened the crisp paper in almost mortal dread of what he feared he would find.

There under the mast head of the Cairo post was he worst nightmare.

September 30th 1925.

"Great Scott!" he exclaimed with a strange smirk.

Lara looked at him in concern so he showed the paper to her and her own eyes widened in surprise. "Bugger!"

The sat down on the dirty curb for a long time allowing they discovery to sink in. Then like the survivors they were their minds once again started to work
again.

Lara noticed Xander looking at her speculatively, "What?" she enquired.

"I need to get you out of those shorts" he told her with a lascivious smirk.

"I hardly think this is the time, do you?" she twinkled back at him.

"Come on, lets steal you a dress" Xander said helping her to her feet.

*****

They walked into the centre of Cairo as the street sellers tried hawk their merchandise to them. The sounds of the busy city invaded their minds but at least
the smell wasn't as bad as it had been in the supposedly cleanlier year of 2001.

"We need money," Lara said to Xander who nodded in agreement then smiled widely.

"We need a jeweller"

"I think we're a little early in our relationship for a ring" Lara quipped looking around the market place. "There" she said finally spotting a shop the
other side of the square.

An hour later they walked out of the shop both carrying a large amount of money with them, "OK Money, check" Xander said with a smug grin. His handful of
jewels had swelled their cash supply to a very healthy level. He had also managed to keep some back, just in case as well as his family of four identical
diamonds.

"Well this will help and obviously we need somewhere to stay but I hate to say it, we may need to think long term" Lara said finally.

Xander looked guilty for a long moment then pulled her aside and pulled something out of a coat pocket, "Would this help?" he asked showing her a perfectly
carved Bast statue.

"I should say so" Lara said her eyes snapping wide open, "Where'd you get that?"

"I picked it up in the treasure chamber, what I thought Tara would like it, she likes cats"

Lara shook her head at him but her eyes were dancing, "Well I think she may have had kittens herself. In our time this would be worth a small fortune. It's
a very rare ceremonial statue. It's the sort of thing only truly powerful pharaohs are buried with"

"Why was it in that tomb? It’s not like there were any Pharonic remains, not that we got to have much of a look around”

"Search me" Lara said with a shrug.

"Oh can I" Xander said with a wicked gleam.

"Maybe later, first we need to get to the museum. I should be open in 1925, I think and at 9am in the morning. It's just a shame you don't have the pair."

Xander looked shifty again and drew Bast's twin from his other pocket, "Willow likes cats too," he explained into Lara's smirk.

Cairo Egyptian Museum
September 30th 1925

"We have some items that your museum may be interested in acquiring" Lara said to the administrative receptionist as Xander paced around behind her.

"The curator, Professor Al-Samal, is always interested in procuring new pieces, I'm sure that he will be more than willing to see you. Who shall I say is
calling?"

Xander leaned over her shoulder, "Dr Harris" he informed the middle aged receptionist and she walked quickly away.

Lara cocked an eyebrow at him and he just smiled at her.

"The professor has a free moment now if you would be willing?" the receptionist said arrive back quickly.

They followed her down a long corridor and down several flights of stairs that led deep into the bowels of the museum. After what seemed like 10 minutes of
walking through the very depths of Cairo the middle aged receptionist finally brought them to Professor Al-Samal's door. She knocked once and after a brief
pause a well modulated voice with only the barest hint of an Egyptian accent called them in.

They walked in to find a middle aged man who looked to be full of vitality and humor, he smiled pleasantly at them and waved away the receptionist with an
almost absent minded flick of his hand. Then he likewise waved them to take a seat.

He looked at Xander who had to suppress the urge to laugh, 'Oh Boy, Lara's going to love it in 1925' he though wickedly. He pointed at Lara and the curator
shifted his gaze wordlessly to her. She smiled ingratiatingly at him. "We have two pieces that I believe you museum would be very interested in" she began.

The curator looking interested in a bored sort of way he was obviously used to this sort of opening. Xander suspected that he had to field a lot of junk away
from the museum. Pieces of ancient art that whilst interesting where no doubt worthless and common place.

She reached into the bag they had procured for this little meeting and pulled out one of the superb Bast statuettes.

His eyes lit up in recognition, "My word, that is a splendid piece, May I?" he asked holding out a hand for the relic.

Lara smiled and passed it over where upon the professor span it expertly in his hand going over every detail checking marks and looking for any sort of
damage. "Where did you find such a well preserved piece?" he asked finally.

"We were sweeping through The Tomb Of Alkhamor. Not really expecting much as you know it’s pretty much been ransacked. We happened upon this piece"

"Yes, that is extraordinary, but new pieces are turning up all the time even in the oldest of digs. Just look at Thebes" The curators eyes lost focus for a
moment and then his gaze snapped back on Lara sizing her up. "I think the museum can take this off of your hands and…" he paused once more sizing her up,
obviously he recognized a professional, "I think you will find the amount agreeable" he placed the figurine down and jotted an amount on a piece of paper and
passed it to Lara.

Xander thought it rather quaint until he remembered that he was in fact sat in the 20's when manners still meant something. Lara looked at it thoughtfully
then finally nodded.

"It's a shame you don't have the pair" the curator mused as he started to draw up the banker’s draft.

There was a slight thump as the second figure hit the desk and he looked at Lara with a smile, "I think I like you" he said with a smile before once again
writing down a large figure that was more than double the last. Lara nodded once again and his hand flowed across the official looking paper work.

"That is the receipt" he said passing Lara the smallest paper. Then he picked up a larger than A4 sheet and passed that also. "This is a bankers draft drawn
up on the museums account. If you show that to the Bank of Cairo they will arrange the transfer of fund. It has been a pleasure doing business with you" he
said shacking them both by the hand.

He led them out of his office with a smile, "Don't hesitate to contact me if anything else comes your way. I'm working hard to ensure that our collection is
the best in the world."

"As it should be" Xander said with a smile.

"If you hear of any digs in the area please let us know professor" Lara told him

"Yes of course, I'll do just that. Where would I reach you?"

"The Cairo National" Xander said hoping that the hotel had been around that long. As the curator nodded and didn't just stare he knew he was safe. Just then
an almighty thump sounded from down the hall followed by several others. The professor smiled apologetically, "Our Librarian, a little bit on the clumsy
side. I had better see what has happened now" he told them, "Will you be alright to find your own way to the daylight"

Lara and Xander nodded in time with each other provoking a smile from the curator, "Then I must go, Thank you again for helping our collection" and with that
he disappeared down the hallway.

Xander flipped out his cane and it snapped to its full length and cocked an elbow to Lara. They walked out arm in arm to the sound of the curator shouting at
some poor unfortunate soul.
Chapter 09

The Cairo National Hotel
September 30th 1925

Xander looked down at the sleeping form of Lara and smiled. He placed a note on the pillow by her head and slipped out of the door. They had arrived at the
hotel and pretty much zonked out but more now than ever he felt more awake at night than during the day. He put it down to a lifetime of Sunnydale nightlife
but he also suspected that his tiny bit of slayer running through his body may have something to do with it.

He'd tried reading the paper, which had worked for all of five minutes. He'd read the book he had brought with him for the plane. Despite the fact that it
wouldn't be written for another 80 years it hadn't caught his interest. Then he'd had a bath. But that had just woken him up even more. In the end he
decided that it was not worth the fight he was having and that he may as well go exploring. He was in no danger from Mr. Williams here, unless of course he
had been thrown back as well. That scenario wasn't likely or they would've been attacked by now. No it was just them so he was relatively safe. He grabbed
he cane from his pocket allowing it to snap open and holstered his guns. The sort of fire power they contained would make the current firearms look like
throwing rocks.

He wanted to explore. After the museum they had tracked straight over to the bank, quickly opening a joint account. Lara had decided to construct a cover
for them as being man and wife, although Xander had thought she had done it because of her strange sense of humor. It did make sense as they were alone in
the sea of time, the only two people from 2001 in 1925 that they knew that was for sure. They hadn't had time to discuss their kiss in the tomb and Xander
badly wanted to. He had thought about waking her but she had been so tired that he decided it could wait until the morning. They had a lot to talk about and
what plans they had made had been on the spur kind of things. They had plenty of money certainly enough to be comfortable for the rest of their natural lives
if the need arose. They had no idea how they had got here in the first place and no idea of how to find out. Basically they were adrift. Tomorrow they
would plan and try to get some steering for their boat right now he was going to have a look around.

The door clicked to a close behind him and Lara's eyes snapped open. She rolled over and came face to face with some hotel headed notepaper. She leaned out
and clicked on the lamp quickly reading Xander's note. She smiled to herself toying with the idea of going after him but decided that she had to curb that
instinct to protect him, just a little. She wasn't used to the idea that she wanted to protect someone else in this kind of situation as she normally worked
alone. Xander was definitely someone she wanted safe he had become too important to her to lose especially now.

*****

Xander's cane clicked slightly as he wandered the streets of Cairo. So far a pad foot or whatever they were called in this day and age had tried to rob him
but Xander had soon put him off the idea with a pistol in the mans throat. He had also rammed his cane backwards into the groin of a pick pocket dodging that
little bit of excitement as well. All that had happened with 30 minutes of leaving the hotel, which amused him no end. At least he wasn't bored any more.
He decided that a drink was in order and changed directions to a likely looking place.

A muffled yelp attracted his attention his sharp hearing picking out the direction just in time. Two large men were dragging a woman into a side street.
Changing direction once again Xander set off at a fast clip. He arrived just in time to find the slender woman giving the muggers a run for their money by
beating them around the heads with her bag. Xander stopped just inside the alleyway laughing at this strangely familiar scene.

Just then one of the muggers changed his face distorting into the ugly countenance of a vampire. Xander felt that he was almost propelled into the battle
running down the remaining section of the alley ready to engage both of the demonic creatures.

As he reached the first vampire he used surprise to his advantage by prodding his cane into its back and pulling it back quickly. The hard wood end of the
cane pierced the undead mans heart and he exploded into dust. The other mugger had knocked the girl down and was standing over her. He span round as Xander
approached leaping at him with his claws outstretched. Xander kicked out with a powerful side thrust kick knocking the demon back slightly. That move gave
him just enough room to twirl his stick smashing it into the creatures face disorientating it. Then Xander reversed the cane and plunged the tip into its
heart killing it instantly.

"Ow!" came the confused voice of the very nearly vampire snack.

"Miss, are you OK, miss" Xander said kneeling with a wince and offering his hand to the girl. She took it gratefully and he pulled then both up to standing
once again wincing.

"Oh, are you hurt sir" she asked trying to check him over in the dark alley.

"No, and old wound" he said.

"Oh, you’re American" the woman said her voice obviously educated English through and through.

"Yep, urm, Howdy Ma'am"

"Thank you kind sir for chasing off those muggers" she said.

Xander smirked think that repression wasn't just limited to Sunnydale after all. "My Pleasure…." He trailed off waiting for her name. As he did so he led
her out into the street as she brushed off her clothes.

"Oh I do apologize my names Evelyn Carnahan, but as you've saved me and everything you can call me Evie" she said stepping into the light and looking up at
him. She was highly attractive with dark almost Egyptian princess eyes and a wide generous mouth set into a pretty face. Xander looked down at her and his
eyes shot wide open.

"Great Scott" he said again with a strange smirk on his face. 'Well this is surreal' he thought as he look down at one of his closest friends only several
decades younger, which meant she had to be around 25-ish in 1925. Math was never his favourite subject.

Of course when he knew her she was called Evie O'Connell.

"And your name, brave sir" she asked batting her eyelids flirtatiously.

Xander pulled himself together, "I'm Xander"

"Xander, that's an interesting name" she said her lips pursing in thought, "I don't believe I've heard it before"

"It’s short for Alexander"

"Really, I've always loved the name Alexander"

'Well you did name your kid it' Xander thought trying not to laugh at the situation.

"Your last name, I should at least know my saviours full name" she carried on for 1925 she was being damn right brazen, not that Xander realized that she was
showing definite interest.

"Oh, sorry, Xander Harris, at your service" he said taking her hand and kissing her knuckles in what he hoped was the correct way.

She blushed prettily at him for a moment, "Oh, you wouldn't be Dr Harris would you?"

"No, that would be Lara"

"Your sister?" Evie said hopefully.

Xander decided to put his cover into action despite the strangeness of the encounter, "My wife"

"Oh" Evie said disappointed. 'Silly girl, of course a handsome man like that is married' she admonished herself.

"Why do you ask?" Xander said slightly suspicious.

"I work for Cairo Museum, I catalogued those rather fine Bast statuettes that you and your wife brought to us"

"Oh yeah, cool" Xander said distracted, his mind was telling him that something was strange about this situation, like a forgotten memory. He shook it off
knowing it would come when it was ready, "Come on, I'll walk you home, it’s late"

"Yes it is rather I was looking for someone, or rather my brother was," she said darting looks around his shoulder. "Oh there he is"

"Who?" Xander said turning around.

"My brother Jonathan" she said waiving at the man she had spotted. The man finally noticed them and ran over giving Xander a cautious look.

"Evie there you are, where did you get to?" he said with cheerful exuberance once he had arrived. He was older than Evie with thin dark hair and slightly
hawkish features. But where that would normally appear stern he was full of good cheer and it showed in his face. His eyes were alight with mischief not
unlike his sister.

Xander had only heard stories about him, despite also reading from the book of the living he had been struck down. He had been over 70 at the time but a car
crash is a car crash. Evie had told him one night when they had first met, or secondarily met that she suspected he had been racing the train as he often
did.

"Jonathan I would like you to meet, Mr. Xander Harris. He just saved my life," she said strangely proud of that fact.

"Really, good show old chap" Jonathan said slapping Xander on the back.

"Did you find him?" Evie asked.

"Evie!" Jonathan said in shock.

"I just told you Mr. Harris here saved my life, I think the least we can do is involve him don't you? Oh and his wife of course"

"Evie, this is not the time for displays of gratitude." Jonathan tried to reason with her.

"Nonsense" Evie replied sharply.

"Ahh, I don't want to start a feud here, I'll…" Xander said trying to get from between the arguing siblings.

"No, its fine really my BROTHER is just a little selfish" Evie said shooting Jonathan a mean look. He sagged and nodded

"Alright old mum, but I don't know what help you think he'll be?"

"Mr Harris and his wife are fellow Egyptologists. Scholars like ourselves" Evie retorted.

"Ahh, call me Xander and I'm not really…"

"Xander then." Evie cut him off and he suddenly felt truly at sea, "My brother and I are going to" she darted a look from side to side and leaned in close
before continuing in a whisper, "Hamunaptra"

Xander looked at her blankly for all of a second then his brain clicked into gear, "Great Scott" he said again as Jonathan and Evie looked at him strangely.
His memories clicked into gear and he suddenly realized what he had just landed himself in. He could back out, he should back out but they had changed the
timeline just by being here. Perhaps they were supposed to help out. As he'd said to Lara, he hated the idea of time travel and he was sure his nose was
already bleeding.

"No it's true, we have a map. We're just looking for the chap my brother, urm, borrowed it from" Evie told him in the same conspiratorial tone.

"Yes but he's in prison, so we'll have to find him in the morning" Jonathan finished for her and took her by the arm.

"Where can we contact you, Xander?" Evie asked as Jonathan dragged her away.

"Uh, Cairo National room 12" he called after her.

They disappeared into the crowds and Xander couldn't help but shake his head, "Great Scott" he said again with a small chuckle before heading back to the
hotel. He decided that perhaps he had got into enough trouble for one night.
The Cairo National Hotel
October 01st 1925

Lara's knife and fork clinked against the plate as she finished off her full English breakfast. Xander watched her with obvious nervousness trying to think
of a way to break his news to her without getting his arse kicked for his troubles.

"Xander what is it?" Lara asked finally with a frustrated sigh, "You've hardly touched your breakfast and you look about ready to bolt. What did you do?"

"Hey, who says I did anything" Xander automatically covered. Lara arched and eyebrow at him saying nothing. "Ok, Ok, well I found us a dig, sort of"

"That's not too bad" Lara said slightly surprised he had managed to find one already.

"Yeah, pretty good. Urm, well, the thing is." Xander took a long breath, "OK, it’s with Evie"

"Evie" Lara said then her eyes widened, "Oh tell me you didn't"

"I kinda saved her from some vampires. I didn't know it was her. I mean she's gorgeous and young an stuff"

"Gorgeous?" Lara said lifting her eyebrow at him again.

"Yeah, but anyway she kinda insisted in bringing me in on their little adventure, to urm, Hamunaptra"

"Imhotep!" Lara said simply.

"Yeah, I know but time I remembered she had already got me into it, she's like really difficult to say no to" Xander finished weakly.

"I see, so how do you propose we get out of it?"

Xander shifted in his chair, "OK, this is going to sound crazy but I've been thinking"

"You're right that does sound crazy" Lara put in with a smile.

"Ha, Ha. No listen up and let me finish. I've always felt like she was holding back loads of details when she told me about this and I think that maybe we
were there"

Lara stayed quiet for a long while mopping at her lips with her napkin and pushing her plate back, then she smiled, "I know what you mean," she said simply.

"Yeah, you do don't you" Xander said eying her closely.

"I've often thought perhaps she made it up, because of the large holes she left in the story. It wasn't until my father told me it was all true that I
believed her"

"Yeah, I guess I can see why you wouldn't"

"You did I take it"

"Yeah, well I've heard worse, and come to think about it my story properly sounded crazy as well. That's another thing, she was always very accepting of me
and she looked at me like she knew me that first night"

"Alright, say you're correct, what do we do?"

"We go with them. Do our part, whatever that is. Meanwhile we try to find a way back to our time”

Lara nodded, "I've not got a better plan" she conceded.

"Ok, look if she contacts us then we go for it, she might not I could be wrong and if were not meant to be there we won't be"

"That's taking a lot on faith"

"I know and I'm not a follow your destiny blindly type of guy. This just…feels right" he finished frustrated with his own lack of explanation.

Lara leaned across the table and took his hand in hers, "I trust you" she said a difficult omission to make. She did, she trusted him with her life and
what's more she trusted him with the continuation of the world as they knew it.

"You do of course realize that if we're wrong about all this we could create a paradox that would wreck the space time continuum and wipe out all life," she
said with a laughing voice.

"Thanks Doc Brown I feel so much more confident now" Xander said with a smile.

Cairo Prison

Cairo prison in 1925 could best be described as one of the worst hell holes on earth. Every low-life form of scumbag in all of Egypt was incarcerated in its
filthy walls even the warden was a first rate scumbag. That particular scumbag was currently escorting Evie and Jonathan across the shambling courtyard.
Workers were in the background preparing the gallows for their next customer and Evie shot a look at it with a shudder. She sent a pray up to heaven for the
next unfortunate to cross its path and then turned to her brother

"You told me you found it on a dig down in Thebes!"

"I was mistaken." He replied quickly, they had already had this conversation at least five times that morning.

"You lied to me!" Evie said with anger in her voice.

"I lie to everybody, what makes you so special?" Jonathan told her shacking his head looking to the heavens for help.

"I'm your sister."

"That just makes you more gullible."

"You stole it from a drunk at the local Casbah!"

"Picked his pocket, actually, so I can't say I'm too eager to meet his acquaintance again"

They arrived at the gallows holding pen a large barred cage built on the outside of the main prison with only a single door.

"What is he in prison for?" Evelyn asked.

The warden, a dirty looking fat man turned back chewing on his food, "I did not know, so when I heard you were coming, I asked him that myself." He said his
accent tingling over the English words.

"And what did he say?" Evie asked curiously.

"He said.... he was just looking for a good time." The warden said punctuated with a spit into the gutter.

As they watched the interior door of the cage opened and four guards dragged a sandy haired man into it. They virtually threw the powerfully built man
against the bars where he landed. He ignored the pain and shuffled himself into a more comfortable position. Then he looked at Jonathan and Evie with
piercing clear blue eyes. His face was covered by a long beard showing that he had been there for some time and he stank of urine and rotten food.

"But he's just a filthy criminal?" Evie exclaimed

"Way to go, Evie," Jonathan said sardonically whilst cringing at her brutal honesty.

O'Connell looked at Evie and then gave her the once over, and then he turned his attention to Jonathan.

"So who's the broad?" O'Connell said in an obviously American accent.

"Broad!" Evie exclaimed furiously.

"She's my sister, actually." Jonathan said apologetically.

"Yeah? Well, ....I'm sure she's not a total loss." O'Connell remarked

"I'll be back in a moment." The warden informed them leaving them to talk to the American prisoner.

"I tremble with anticipation." O'Connell shot after him.

A Guard clubbed him across the head, and his face bounced off the metal bars. He showed no pain and didn't make any sound other than the clang of bone on
metal. He turned round slowly and gave the guard a hard stare. Almost daring him to do it again. Evie gathered her courage and stepped closer to the bars.

"We uh...found .... Your puzzle box, and we've come to ask you about it." Evie began but O'Connell cut her off.

"No" he said simply.

"No?"

"No. ...You came to ask me about Hamunaptra." He said bluntly.

Evelyn and Jonathan quickly looked around, hoping the guards didn't hear his statement. Then they both stepped even closer to the bars Evie going as far as
to kneel next to them. She gave O'Connell a coy look.

"How do you know the box pertains to Hamunaptra?" she asked her voice soft so as not to carry.

"Because that's where I found it. I was there." He told her.

Jonathan looked at him suspiciously as Evie was struck dumb by his pronouncement.

"How do we know that's not a load of pig swallow?" Jonathon asked meanly.

O'Connell ignored the insult instead he peered at him closely, "Hey...don't I know you?" he asked carefully

Jonathan started to sputter, "Urm, well, you see...."

O'Connell's fist flew through the bars, and hit Jonathan square in the jaw, knocking him to the floor out cold, The same guard from before clubbed him yet
again to the same reaction as before

Evelyn looked down at her brother, then back at O'Connell. "You were actually at Hamunaptra?" she asked ignoring the insensate Jonathan.

"I just decked your brother" O'Connell informed her.

"Yes, well," she said and shrugged, "I know my brother."

O'Connell almost smiled. "Yeah, I was there."

"You swear?"

"Every damn day" he quipped

"No, I mean…"

"I know what you mean. " O'Connell cut her off, "I was there, alright. Seti's place. The City Of The Dead."

"What did you find? What did you see?" Evie asked excitedly.

"I found sand. I saw death."

The warden walked back up to them and Evelyn quickly leaned closer, "Could you tell me how to get there? The exact location?"

"Want to know?" he asked slyly causing Evie to lean in closer "Really want to know?" She leaned right into the bars almost touching them and nodded.
O'Connell leapt forward and kissed her full on the lips, "Then get me the hell outta here"

The Cairo National Hotel

A knock at the door disturbed Lara's cat nap on the couch. She and Xander had spent the day together touring round some of the sights of 1925 Cairo. He had
been able to actually climb the steps of the great pyramid, something that in 2001 it was impossible to do. She had watched as he laughed and smiled and
generally looked like a giddy schoolboy on a field trip. It had been refreshing. Once they had returned to the hotel Xander had gone for a bath, he needed
to soak his aching leg so Lara had led on the couch. That had been an hour ago by her count and she hadn't even realized that she was tired.

She got up and walked quickly over to the door pulling it open coming face to face with Evie Carnahan.

"Hello" Evie said politely. "Dr Harris, isn't it"

"Yes, eh…"

"I'm sorry I'm Evelyn Carnahan. Perhaps your husband mentioned me. We met the other night"

"Yes of course Miss Carnahan. Please do come in"

Evie stepped across the threshold eying Lara with a twinge of jealousy. 'Of course she had to be gorgeous' she told herself. "I don't know if your husband
mentioned it but I shanghaied him into coming with us on a little adventure"

"Yes, sounds interesting" Lara said with a hidden smile.

"Yes, it should be rather exciting" Evie told her with an excited expression.

"Tea?"

"Yes, please"

"Do take a seat, My husband should be here shortly…"

"Hey Lara" Xander said as he walked out of the bathroom in just a towel drying his hair with a hand towel, "Sorry I fell asleep" he continued.

"Xander, we have guests" Lara said with a chuckle.

Xander pulled the towel from his face and look down at the furiously blushing Evie, "Hi Evie" he said simply and left the room quickly.

"I say" Evie remarked

"I do apologies, he can't have heard you come in. You know Americans they can be most brash at times" Lara said trying to keep a straight face.

"Not at all, Dr. Harris"

"Lara, please" Lara put in.

"Lara then, it’s not a problem. I have a brother its not like I haven't seen a half naked man before", 'Of course Jonathon hasn't got that many muscles' Evie
finished in her head.

"Men!" exclaimed Lara with a chuckle shared by Evie.

"They're all just large boys really" Evie told her with a smile. She was liking this Lara despite herself.

"I would have to agree. They like their toys and do nothing but generally play" Lara continued.

They chuckled again as Xander walked into the room, "Eh, Oh" he exclaimed. "Woman laughing together never bodes well for me" he said with a charming smile.

"We were just talking about men" Lara said with a glint in her eye.

"Again, I say, eh-oh. And try to run" Xander said making his way out of the room.

"Eh, stop right there," Lara said stopping him dead, "Come here and sit" she told him pointing at the sofa next to her.

"I'm not a dog Lara" he admonished her but took the seat anyway.

Evie's eyes were dancing with humor and she was glad she had included this charming couple in her plans.

"So what can we do for you Evie" Lara asked then kicked herself. She hadn't been told to call her that despite what Xander had said earlier, it was impolite.
It was also habit to call one of her oldest friends buy her diminutive.

Evie ignored it though obviously used to being addressed like that and totally missing Lara's byplay. "Well, we're on. Jonathan and I contacted Mr.
O'Connell and he will be accompanying us on the trip." She paused, "I'm afraid to get much needed information we've picked up another partner"

"That's not a problem for us Evie" Xander told her and she shot him a grateful smile. To which Lara smirked to herself at.

"oh Good, then we've arranged to meet up at pier 3 at the Cairo wharf tomorrow at eight sharp, I've taken the liberty of booking us all passage down the
Nile. I thought it would be quicker"

"Good Thinking Evie" Xander complimented her prompting another blush.

Lara nudged his leg with hers slightly and he shot her a confused look. She couldn't help smile and his complete lack of understanding and he really hadn't
noticed that Evie had the hots for him.

It was sweet in surreal way.
Chapter 10

Pier Three: The Wharf
October 02nd 1925

"Do you think he'll show" Evie asked her brother Jonathan as she, Lara and Xander stood on the dock beside a passenger barge.

Jonathan nodded almost sadly, "Yes, I know the type he may be a cowboy but he'll stick to his word" he shot Xander a look, "Sorry, no offence"

"None taken" Xander told him with a smile. Quirking a look at Lara where she was holding back a laugh with her hand, "What're you laughing at" he asked her
good naturedly.

"Nothing, absolutely nothing" Lara told him with a serious face, totally ruined by the sparkle in her eye.

Xander looked over the edge of the pier into the Blue Nile waters, "You know that looks a little dirty" he commented looking back at her with mischievous
glint in his eye.

Lara backed away from him slowly, "You wouldn't dare. I'll kick your arse if you take another step cowboy"

Xander made a grab for her with a laugh then turned back to Evie and Jonathan with a smile, "What'll you think. Should I throw her in?" he asked them as he
held Lara's hips with his hands. Lara surprising to say wasn't struggling but instead she was enjoying the moment of intimacy. She and Xander hadn't had
much time to explore the change in their relationship that had started 76 years in the future. It was possibly fortunate that public displays of affection
were frowned upon in the twenties or else she would be kissing him right at that moment.

Evie sparkled at them, "I should think it best to keep her dry, for now" she said.

"So who's this guy were waiting for?" Xander asked needlessly. He knew exactly whom they were waiting for and was eager to meet the man that Future-Evie had
told him about.

"O'Connell" Evie virtually spat, "He filthy rude and a complete scoundrel. I don't like him one bit"

Xander's smile grew.

"Someone I know" O'Connell said appearing behind her. She spun round and looked at him in shock. He had washed, shaved and generally cleaned himself up.
Living in Cairo prison had not allowed him the level of cleanliness that he usually liked. It had been a blessing for him to be able to have a bath. Now he
was standing there looking very handsome and nothing like the filthy wretch they had seen before.

"Oh, urm, hello" Evie said blushing.

Jonathan leapt forward eagerly taking O'Connell's hand, "Smashing day for the start of an adventure, hey O'Connell"

O'Connell retrieved his hand and patted himself down, "Yeah, great day for it" he said and smiled as he found his wallet.

"Oh, about before, you know sorry?" Jonathan said hopefully.

O'Connell ignored him instead looking at Lara and Xander stood behind. "Who are they?" he asked Evie bluntly.

"Friends, and partners on our little adventure" Evie said straightening up and glaring at him in the eye. O'Connell shrugged and reached out a hand.

Lara took it first, "Hello, I'm Dr Harris, but please call me Lara" she said her English accent confirming his suspicions. He smiled at her and looked to the
tall dark haired man who stood behind her holding her hips in such a familiar way that he had to be either a long standing boyfriend or husband. "This is my
husband. Xander Harris"

The two men clasped hands and took stock of each other with firm shakes. O'Connell looked into the mans eyes, he had always considered himself a good judge
of character and had rarely been proven wrong in his estimation. At first glance he had thought that Xander Harris was older, but looking at him now he
realized that he was of an age to himself, perhaps younger. He looked a little clean cut to be a true adventurer but had an edge to his eyes that O'Connell
liked. It told of having seen bad things and lived to tell the tale. Possibly a soldier or something like it. The hand he held in his own had weapons
calluses on them and strength that told of fighting ability. The cane was a surprise though, he hadn't noticed it at first, but even though he was still
holding Lara he still leant some of his weight on it. This helped his thought that he was in the army and had been wounded, perhaps paid off and retired
early.

Finally they let go and O'Connell shot them his first smile, "Rick" he said then picked up his bags and Evie's before setting off onto the boat.

Xander picked up his and Lara's following him closely followed by Lara, then Evie and Jonathan.

"Wait, wait for me" the warden said running up the gang plank.

Evie turned to look at him, "Oh, what are you doing here" she asked with an annoyed voice.

The warden stalked past all but ignoring her presence, "Protecting my investment"

*****

Lara sat down next to Evie with a slightly peeved expression. She had more in common with the men than she did the woman on this trip and had more than
likely racked up more daring do points than most of them put together. They had been drifting down the Nile all day, apart from Xander's company she had kept
mostly to herself. There was an invisible line down the boat; on one side there were the men. The other held the women; it was ticking her off big time to be
lumped in with the wishy washy woman category. Xander had spent a lot of time with her as she had pointed out various sights of interest but he had spent
almost as long in Rick O'Connell's company. The two men seemed to get along like a house on fire without the screaming and fear, that was only what they
caused. No they just had to be friends, that or worst enemies. If that wasn't bad enough Evie had been alternating between staring at Rick and her man.
'Ah' she thought as she ran that thought through her head again.

"Hello Lara" Evie said politely as she read from a notebook.

"Hello Evie, what are you up to."

"Just reading through my notes I'm hoping to find something in specific at Hamunaptra"

"Really, what?" Lara asked something finally interesting for her to think about.

"I believe as do the Bainbridge scholars that the Book of the Living if it exists is there"

"Yes, isn't it supposed to be buried under Anubis?" Lara enquired.

"That is what I believe," Evie said excitedly.

"Ladies" Xander said as he arrived at Lara's side.

"Hello" Evie said shyly.

Lara looked at Evie with a smile, "Would you excuse us. I have to talk with my husband"

"No of course" Evie said returning her smile. Lara grabbed Xander's hand and almost dragged him away with her. He followed with a bemused expression on his
face until they reached their shared cabin.

She pulled open the door and allowed him to walk in first. Once she was inside she virtually dived at him and kissed him passionately. The kiss went on for
several long moments with Lara returning it with equal passion until air became required to continue existing. The broke apart slightly and stared at each
other's eyes.

"I couldn't wait any longer. I've been wanting to do that since we arrived" Lara told him her dark blue eyes intense.

They held passion in them as her eyes burned into his soul. They pulled together slowly knowing that this time nothing would interrupt them. It had been two
long years since they had tasted of each other's flesh and the need flowed through them with more force than any torrent or ocean could. Their lips met and
quickly they sank to the floor. Xander ended up at the bottom but frankly wouldn't have cared if he had lain back on a bed of coals. All that mattered to
him was the woman in his arms and the pressing need for her in his heart and loins.

Just then a shot rang out followed by a scream and they broke apart. Both their gazes held a great deal of annoyance.

"I don't believe it" Lara said in exasperation.

"I don't care who it is. I'm killing them," Xander agreed.

Both exploded out of the door with weapons drawn and found them self in the middle of pandemonium. A look was all it took to covey a conversation and they
split as Xander headed towards to bow and Lara to the stern and Evie.

As Xander looked around quickly taking stock of the situation he saw several dark robed men storming the ship. As he glanced downwards he saw several inter-
crossing sets of wet footprints. That explained where from, but not who.

Xander shrugged off those thoughts instead moving into a classic attack pattern. He had re-holstered his pistols as he didn't want to have to answer any
questions until it became necessary.

He calmly pulled out his cane from the special inside pocket of his jacket and started walking almost leisurely towards a group of three of the robed men. As
he walked he let go of one end of the cane and it automatically snapped into a rigid walking stick. The noise attracted the attention of the men who turned
as one and glared at him. Over their shoulder he could see Rick and Evie fighting off several of their own robed guys.

"Hi, love the facial art" Xander quipped mildly. He wasn't feeling particularly in the quip-fest mood. He was in the pissed-you-stopped-my-Lara-kissage type
mood. His hosts didn't appear to be in a talking mood either as they all un-sheaved large curved scimitars with a noise like three angry hornets. They
menaced him with their blades, hoping to psych him out. Xander remained impassive, with just a slight smile on his face.

With a twist three blades snicked out of the cane. He adopted a fighting stance and the moonlight glinted off of the blade. Then the sounds of the other
battles faded and he concentrated on his foe. With a cocky smile he waved his hand in a come hither fashion.

'At least they aren't dumb' Xander thought to himself as all three rushed him at once.

At the other end of the boat Lara faced he final opponent. She too had hidden her firepower and taken them hand to hand, she had taken out three of the Mumia
(As she had recognized them) and was faced with her final and armed opponent.
He swung the heavy bladed scimitar at her neck. If it had hit, game over but it hadn't. Lara ducked under the somewhat clumsy blow and forward. Under his
guard she attacked with a blow to his solar plexus that forced the air out of his lungs in a hiss. As he head sank down in reaction to the blow she forced an
uppercut that snapped his head back and made his eyes roll into the back of his head.

"Well, that was bracing" she said with a small laugh walking away from the still slumping man.

Xander skipped away as three blades swung at him in synchronicity. It was like he had decided to fight a deadly Siamese triplet. So far he had very little
luck in braking through their defence, not so much as a ripped shirt adorned his foe. He on the other hand was going to need a new jacket. If this carried
on, perhaps new jockey shorts as well.

He stepped back sharply using classic fencing steps, then when his opponents backed up a little bit to rush him he stepped forward once again. This happened
for three times with Xander smiling his head off the whole time, no one attacked they just danced. He then stepped forward again but this time he didn't step
back and they stepped into range by themselves. He darted forward in an Eppie type lunge, using the blunt end of his cane to poke on man in the eye. Then
quickly regaining his footing he darted sideways dragging his sword across the throat of the right hand man. He did all this in less than a second using all
of his impressive speed to his advantage. Then as eye man backed out of the fight clutching his ruined ocular apparatus right hand guy fell to the floor.
Xander was now left with one last man who darted a glance at his friends and true rage entered his eyes.

Xander sank into the fencing style again one hand held behind his back and showing only a small percentage of his body to the enemy. His face was a picture
of calm, a contrast to the enraged visage of the surviving triplet.

The man roared at Xander and swung the scimitar in a careless manoeuvre above his head. Xander could only think he was trying to work up the speed to chop
his head off. Whatever the idea Xander moved like a striking cobra. He lunged again, this time staying more upright and moving straight past his enemy
without pause.

The man turned to face him, enraged by his foes apparent cowardice. Then he felt the strange stinging sensation in his stomach. He paused and put a hand to
the smarting area. When he pulled his hand away it was covered with ruby red blood. Xander looked at him impassively. The titanium and acid edged blade was
excessively sharp and had cut the man deeply. If the man moved his small intestine would be likely to fall out.

They looked at each other for a long moment until finally Xander took pity on the man. He H&K cleared leather in a blur and the mans brain was leaving the
back of his head before the sound wave had hit him.

Before the body hit the floor Xander was already moving. He had spotted Jonathan and it looked like the man was about to be killed by a flaming demon of a
man. Knowing he didn't have much time Xander took another chance and killed the human torch before he could actually harm Evie's brother. He noted with wry
amusement that Jonathan had thought it was the Americans who had saved him. They had met the American party that afternoon. They were currently bunkered and
acting like this was the OKAY Coral.


Shaking his head with amusement Xander set off in search of Lara, it didn't take long. One just had to look for the largest collection of felled opponents.
Xander had never met a woman who could compare to Buffy on sheer body count and bravery. But Lara was quickly becoming another one of the few he called his
hero's.

"Hey, Honey" Xander said sardonically as he approached her position. She was facing off three guys with swords and so far had not pulled her beloved pistols.

"Hello, husband, dear" Lara replied in much the same tone.

Xander took a seat by a ruined table and settled back to watch. Lara darted a look at him a laugh bubbled out of her as she turned back to face her foe with
no hint of fear. Xander settled the cane across his knees and a large smile grew on his face. Around them the sounds of a boat being sunk sounded along with
the necessary screaming and Xander could swear he heard a sheep bleating. Which was scary, there no sheep on the passenger ferry. Out of the corner of his
eye he noticed O'Connell throwing an annoyed Evie overboard and hopping after her. He returned his attention to Lara as she ducked and weaved around her
enemies with the grace of a ballerina and the deadliness of a trap door spider. She nailed on guy in the face with a straight punch that knocked him cold and
caught the arm of the next mid sword swing. Holding his arm in place for a moment she unleashed a barrage of kicks and punches that knocked the much larger
man around like he was a featherweight. She span around his body forcing his compatriot to slice him like a melon then used the falling mans body as a launch
pad. She left the ground and flew through the air finally nailing the final guy with a deadly flying kick that knocked him to the floor out for the count.

Xander began clapping slowly with that same lazy smile on his face. Lara cocked an eyebrow at him.

The boat gave a final shudder, its death knoll.

"Shall we?" Lara asked

Xander tapped his chin still sat comfortably on his deck chair even as the boat began to sink. "If you think it is best," he replied.

"Come on" Lara said and sprinted for the side diving over the edge.

Xander put away his cane and limped to the edge, "Damn that water looks cold" he murmured to himself before launching himself into it.

Desert Camp

Xander stood next to Connor and Jonathan. They had just haggled for enough camels to carry them the rest of the journey.

"You could have just offered them the women," O'Connell said with a wry grin.

Xander laughed out loud as Jonathan smiled, "Yes, awfully tempting wasn't it"

Just then Evie returned after having found some clean clothing from one of the numerous traders. "Awfully" Rick said as he started sweating. She was a
vision her dark looks complimented the outfit to a tee. She was simply stunning, until Lara walked out of the tent behind her. Rick was concentrating on
Evie their eyes locked so they didn't notice as Xander's jaw hit the floor. She was dressed much the same as Evie. They had decided it best that she blend
as much as possible. Her normal shorts and tank top were not 1920's style to say the least. Xander had never really noticed before just how blue her eyes
were. Now as they contrasted with the black of her outfit they were as blue as tropical sea and twice as deep.

Rick and Evie were still chatting about something; Xander had tuned everything out except from the amazing woman before him. The sounds of the camp faded to
the background and it was if they stood in the desert by themselves.

"Hello" Lara said her blue eyes fixed on his own dark ones.

"Hi, I like the new look" Xander told her, his eyes telling of the earnestness behind the words.

"I'm so glad" Lara said slightly sarcastically. The sarcasm was only to cover the fact she liked that he liked.

"You're very beautiful," Xander said simply. Short sentences were his limit. His breath had disappeared the moment she had emerged from the tent.

Lara surveyed Xander's outfit, he hadn't been able to change only dry out. To her he looked good enough to eat, "You're not so bad yourself"

They smiled softly at each other for a long moment, as time seemed to stretch out into infinity. Xander thought he would drown in those twin orbs of ocean
blue. Her soul was there in their depths, not cloaked as it often was. He drank her in like a man dying of thirst. Their little oasis of togetherness
couldn't last and they knew it, but Xander was bound and determined to make sure he didn't lose this woman again.

Xander held out a hand to her, which she accepted graciously. "Shall we" he said the camp and their companions suddenly snapping back into focus around them.

Jonathan watched his four companions walk away lost in each other and smiled painfully. It looked as though he would be stuck with the smelly Jailer to talk
to. He gave a great sigh thinking that it would be better to spend quality time with the camels.
Chapter 11

Ten Miles North Of Hamunaptra
October 02nd 1925

The night sky in the desert is a splendid sight. Uninhibited by any form of light pollution the stars stand out in stark contrast to the deep blue of the
sky. It is also cold, another stark contrast compared to the daylight hours when one must conserve water. Several small lizards skittered across the dunes
leaving a pattern in the sand as they approached the campsite. They looked curiously at the humans who had invaded their domain. A large fire had been
carefully constructed in the centre of the camp giving heat to all those who sat around it. The tents arrayed around it also benefited from its warmth.

Evie held her slender hands out towards to the fire garnering heat from the orange crackling beast tamed. She looked over it to the couple she had met only
days before and yet with whom she felt a companionship she rarely did.

“So, how did you get together?” she asked. She knew very little of her travel companions and wanted to know more.

Lara and Xander exchanged a glance that was full of humor a fact not missed by the Egyptologists sharp eyes.

“Ohh, I sense a story!” Evie remarked.

Rick was sat quite close to her with Jonathan sat the other side and they both turned an interested look at the couple.

“Ah, it's a long story” Xander finally said.

“We have time” Rick put in with a smirk.

Lara smiled, “I suppose you could say he helped me with a slight situation”

Xander gave a snorting chuckle to which Lara shot him a look. “They were trying to kill you” he said off of her look, “and you call that slight”

“People are always trying to kill me” she replied offhand.

“Why?” Evie said with shock in her voice.

“To get their stuff back most of the time” Xander remarked quietly from his slumped position. Lara sideswiped his shoulder.

“You steal?” Jonathan asked, hoping for a little camaraderie between thieves.

“No, I recover!” Lara replied with a chuckle. Xander let out a guffaw and she shot him another look, “You know as well as I did what Powers was going to do
with that chalice”

Xander stopped laughing and nodded, the humor still lighting up his eyes, “Oh yeah I know that, I was just thinking about that damn cavern”

“Cavern?” Rick asked curious now despite himself.

“You're jumping ahead,” Lara told him.

“Sorry, do continue,” Xander said with a wave of his hand offering her the stage.

Lara then launched into a story of daring do that had their new friends laughing in the aisles. Xander interjected the odd comment as they went along. They
left out many details that could be considered time delicate but they stuck mostly with the truth of the matter. They left out slayers and demons of course
but the tale of the cavern had been true to form. Finally, after several hours of telling the tale Lara finished off.

“Wow” Evie said impressed.

“Thank You. We certainly had fun” Lara replied her laugh bubbling around the campsite.

Just North Of Hamunaptra

The wind rushed through her hair as the camel turned from a gangly collection of knee joints into a machine designed for speed. The desert sands were a blur
beneath the cloven feet of the humped animal as it raced against horses. Over short distances, the horse would win, but over a slightly longer run, the camel
was the demon of the sands. Its large feet spread out gaining maximum traction and four powerful legs propelled it at serious speed in its native lands.
Lara's distinctive laugher flowed into the air like a thousand bells chiming her mount rushed towards the city.

Just in front of her Evie raced ahead only a camel's length in front. Lara didn't care, as long as one of them won and not the Americans. They had met up
with them at the entrance to the gorge. She knew that O'Connell had placed a bet with them and she wanted him to win it. She didn't like the American team
much; Daniels, Henderson and Burns had all been typically 1920's male to her. Rick had treated her as a person and not a pretty object and Jonathan was
obviously used to strong woman, his own sister was one.

Evie's mount stormed the ramp that led to the gates of Hamunaptra effectively winning the bet, Lara heard Rick laughing and taunting the already lagging
American troupe and a smile tugged at her lips. Xander appeared at her side his face a mask of pain for a moment just before he noticed she had seen him.
Her brow creased in concern for him realizing that his leg wasn't enjoying the punishment his bony mount was dishing out. They may be fast, they may be
efficient and some may even consider them noble creatures, but camels are not considered to be comfortable.

Evie led them to very nearly the rear end of Hamunaptra's encampment possibly because it took her camel that long to slow down. Not that it mattered they now
had to set up camp and relax for a short while before they made there way down into the city itself.
Hamunaptra
Lara and Xander slid down their respective ropes moving with professional speed and agility as Evie, O'Connell and Jonathan looked at each other with awed
expressions.

“They've done this before!” Evie remarked

“I should say so” Jonathan concurred and Rick just smiled shaking his head slightly at the sight of Lara hanging from a rope her robes rustling around her.
If he wasn't so into Evie, he could really go for her. He looked at Evie and found her darting a furtive glance at him as well. He smiled into her eyes
enjoying the fact that she didn't look away; no Evie was special.

Jonathan shot an unseen sidelong glance at them both and rolled his eyes before turning his attention back to Lara and Xander as they landed.

Lara glanced over at Xander as she heard his slight exhalation of pain. So far, she hadn't mentioned it knowing he would be upset if she did. Xander was a
proud man and Lara knew that he would not like to have his weakness pointed out. Not to mention that it would be much worse, for him to realize that he was
slowing her down, and he was.

She gave him a moment to centre himself, as she knew he did. Xander had studied martial arts for some time, and not just the fighting techniques. He walked
up to her side with no sign of a limp; something that she knew took effort on his part.

Once he had caught up Lara looked around the chamber that they had just dropped into noticing something that she knew would be useful. She walked over and
picked up what looked to be a bronze disk wiping it off a little and then attaching it to the robe she had just vacated. She gave the rope a tug and Rick
and Jonathan started feeding the rope back up to them.

Once it arrived Evie squealed with delight and started to look around for suitable position once she found it. She grabbed the disk and attached it to a pole
and carefully aimed it down into the hole. After a quick polish, the sun was reflected off of its surface straight down into the hole.

Lara down in the chamber looked around and spotted the receiver dish. She nudged Xander who nodded. He glanced down at the ground and selected a good-sized
rock, which he hefted at the dish. It knocked it around and suddenly the room was lit as if by modern day electricity.

“Cool,” Xander and Rick unwittingly said at the same time.

Inside Hamunaptra

The tomb was dark except for the flickering of the candle lamps they had with them, only the main chamber had such lighting as the mirrored shields.
Everywhere else was as dark as the proverbial. Xander glanced over to the en-shadowed form of Lara and smiled at her. He got a smile back in response so he
sidled over to her.

“Is it always this dark?”

Lara shrugged, “Not usually, most of the tomb's I've raided have always had magical torches or light giving algae.”

“Bet you wish we could use those glow tubes of yours” Xander said leaning in close, “But then the darkness does have certain advantages”

Lara refused to shiver at his nearness; she was not some blushing virgin despite the fact that Xander seemed to be able to make her feel that way. Instead,
she shot back a sultry smile and grabbed him by the lapel. Xander was pulled into a spine tingling sensational kiss that made his knees knock together for a
moment before he returned it with as much gusto and passion.

Jonathan walked up behind them and rolled his eyes, “Oh get a room,” he said brushing past.

They parted reluctantly and Xander rested his forehead on hers, “Can I shoot the next person that interrupts us?”

Lara nodded gently, “Oh yes, please do”

With a chuckle, they broke fully apart and Xander raised his torch. Then he reached into his jacket and pulled out his custom made cane. The three self-
connecting parts snapped together and he gratefully lent his weight on it. Then he looked up to find the entire party, minus Lara was glaring at him, “Sorry”
he said with a smirk.

Lara eyed him with concern, “How is it?” she asked, hoping not to damage his pride.

“A little achy, you know what its like, we've been wandering around down here for hours.” Xander glanced around suddenly realizing something, “Hey where did
stimpy go?”

Lara cocked an eyebrow at him, “Stimpy?”

“The warden?”

Lara looked around, “I have no idea”

Evie turned around, “I'm just glad he's not here, horrid little man,” she said with feeling. There was a general agreement on that note.

Just then, they came out into a larger chamber and Evie smiled, “This is the statue of Anubis” she exclaimed.

Lara looked at it with a slight smile, “good looking chap wasn't he”

“He was the god of tombs, it was said that he conducted the dead to their judgment” Evie filled in.

Lara smirked slightly, Evie herself had taught her a lot of Egyptology, but here she was before she had, doing it again. 'Xander is right' she thought, 'Time
travel really does give you a nose bleed'

A sound behind them caused the entire group to leap up and round coming face to face with the large American party. They all had their various weapons
pointing at each other for a moment. When recognition set in both groups relaxed.

“Ya scared the bejeezus out of us, O'Connell.” Henderson said holding his chest.

“Likewise” O'Connell said with a grin.

Daniels, the tough one of the group smirked, “This here is our statue… friend”

O'Connell's face turned grim and he raised his weapon again, “I don't see your name on it… Pal” there was the sound of hammers being cocked and they found
themselves in a classic Mexican standoff.

Beni stepped out of the gloom with five more diggers and smiled silkily at Rick, “10-1 O'Connell. You're odds, not-so-good”

O'Connell smiled grimly, “I've had worse”

Lara glanced over at Xander to find him smiling at Rick. She smiled herself and shook her head slightly, and then she pulled out her own weapon and pointed
it at Beni. “You're a nasty little man aren't you” she said her voice cold.

Beni sneered at her, “Don't talk out of turn women, or I'll slap you like your husband should”

“Brave, when there's guns on your side aren't you slime ball?” Xander said his voice suddenly devoid of the humor that O'Connell, Evie and Jonathan had all
come to know. Suddenly there was a gun in his hand also and O'Connell noticed it looked to be silver-plated and very, very large. There was a click as the
safety was disengaged and Xander smiled.

Beni backed up a step or two.

Evie decided to step in hoping that she could remove the problem, “Let's be nice, children, if we're going to play together, we must learn to share.”

She pulled on Rick's arm and he backed away with her. Xander stayed a moment looking at Beni. Lara exchanged a quick glance with him and then he held up his
weapon backing off after the others, hiding his limp.
Inside Hamunaptra

Evelyn Carnahan carefully arranged her tools and picked out a small hammer and chisel then looked up at the ceiling. “According to my calculations” she
started as she carefully started tapping the top of the chisel, “We should be right underneath the statue of Anubis”

Lara looked at her and jumped up on a rock beside her, “May I?” she asked pointing to the small archaeological tool kit.

Evie nodded with a wide smile, “Yes, be my guest. Do you like them, Rick got them for me”

Lara smirked, “Oh really” she glanced at Xander holding his eyes for seconds before Xander smirked as well. “Rick now is it. I thought he was a dirty…”

“… Well, he did clean up rather well didn't he” Evie cut in to cover her embarrassment.

Lara smiled and set to work on the roof as well.

Xander frowned at the talking women, “That never bodes well” he said indicating them to Rick and Jonathan.

Rick smirked, “Not usually”

“Wonder what they're talking about?” Jonathan asked.

Xander smirked and looked at Rick, “Who knows”

Rick smirked, “More importantly, what the hell do they think they're doing?”

Xander chuckled, “I think that they are following archaeological procedure”

“It's going to take them until the year two thousand at this rate” Rick said picking up a pickaxe and walking toward them with purposeful steps.

“I like the way you think Rick” Xander said picking up one of his own.

Rick glanced over his shoulder, “I just prefer the direct approach”

“Right there with you buddy” Xander said hefted the pickaxe, “Ladies, if we may?”

Lara and Evie looked at each other and rolled their eyes, “Men, no patience!” Evie remarked as she scrambled out of the way. Xander and Rick dumped their
jackets and rolled up their sleeves.

As Rick and Xander set to work on the roof Lara smirked, “No, but there are other attributes” she said as she watched the play of muscles on Xander's back
visible through his tight shirt.

Evie looked at Rick's butt and nodded her agreement. “Oh yes”

Jonathan rolled his eyes again.

The two women enjoyed the show for three minutes before a section of the roof tore down making both Rick and Xander dive out of the way. Lara grabbed Evie
pulling her back out of the way, as a large block of stone fell towards them.

Lara turned back as the dust settled noticing that the block of stone was anything but.

“Oh my god… It looks like… It looks like a sarcophagus!” Evie said moving toward the large stone constructed casement with caution.

“Why would they want to bury anyone in the ceiling?” Xander asked.

Lara rolled her eyes, “It's not, remember we're under the statues. It was buried at the foot of Anubis”

Xander smirked feeling a little foolish, “Oh yeah” he said.

Lara huffed and turned back to inspecting the coffin. Rick leaned into Xander, “I thought the same thing pal,” he whispered.

Xander shot him a smile, “Thanks, glad I'm not the only one”

“He was either someone of great importance” Evie paused her dark eyes turning thoughtful, “Or he did something VERY naughty”

Xander wiped off the top of the sarcophagus and rubbed his hands down his pants. “They need to hire a new maid” he commented to a snort from Rick.

Lara smiled at him, “I really hope that the old ones not around to fire”

“Good point, but it won't be worse than my grandma at Christmas” Xander pointed out with a laugh, “In fact, she could've been here when it was buried”

Evie looked up, “Really?” she asked.

Xander smirked at her, and shrugged, “Who knows, she's as old as dirt”

Rick chuckled gaining a mild glare from Evie. Suddenly, the warden came screaming into the room running and dancing around like a mad man thrashing at
himself. Still running he ran full tilt into a wall and fell backwards dead.

Xander grabbed his cane and there was a snick as the blades appeared from the side as Rick pulled out his pistol. Rick eyed the cane with interest,
“Interesting little toy you have there,” he said.

Xander nodded, “It is”

“Why not your gun?” Rick asked as they approached the still form of the warden.

“Guns, don't kill everything,” Xander said in a hushed tone. He reached out carefully and took the pulse of the still warden, “He's dead,” he announced after
a moment.

Rick's eyebrows rose at both Xander's comment and the pronouncement.

Lara looked up, “Dead?” she said her hand pointing to a hieroglyph; marking her place.

“Yeah” Xander said standing, “I'll do a quick sweep, you guys stick with the sarkie comment or whatever it's called”

Lara smirked, “I thought it was Buffy that was really-long-complicated-name-challenged?”

Xander smiled in remembrance, “Oh yeah, she did say that didn't she”

“Need company,” Rick asked as Xander walked away.

Xander half turned back, “No, you keep watch over the girls for me” he hefted his cane, “This will keep me out of trouble” he twirled it expertly as if to
prove the point and set off into the darkness of the tomb corridors.

Lara watched him go with a concerned expression, Rick on turning back caught it, “He'll be fine?” he asked her.

Lara shook herself and smiled, “Of course, Xander always is”

“What's with the Cane?” Jonathan asked from beside the warden as he lifted the dead mans bag.

“It's cool” Rick commented as he placed his pistol back into his holster and walked back to the women.

“A little present I had a friend make” Lara said with a smirk, “He's right, it does help to get him out of trouble, has done so far anyway”

She turned back to Evie, “Does this say what I think it does?”

Evie inspected the cartouche and translated, “He that shall not be named…”

“Oh very helpful” Jonathan commented.

Rick brushed off the side of the sarcophagus and pointed to his discovery, “There's some sort of lock here”

Evie darted around and looked at it.

“Looks like it needs some sort of key” Lara commented inspecting the lock, “Quite a complex one at that”

Evie reached into her robes and pulled out her puzzle box, the one that had contained the map, she twisted the side and some leaves leapt out of it, “Like
this?” she asked.

“Hey, that's mine” Jonathan said indignantly.

Rick glared at him as Lara nodded at Evie, “I think that would be perfect”

Evie placed the key in the lock and twisted it. A wind built up from nowhere and made the touches dance. Rick looked at Jonathan; “It does that a lot round
here”

The lid virtually exploded off of the sarcophagus and a mummy sagged outwards. They all jumped back Evie yelped, Lara just dodged out of its path slightly

“I hate it when they do that!” Evie said

A second later and Xander ran back into the room at full tilt, “What's up?” he asked

“Nothing, just me being silly” Evie said by way of apology.

Xander smiled at her, “No problems, oh hey who's the dead guy?” he indicated the somewhat wet looking mummy.

Outside Hamunaptra
Night Time

Evie and Jonathan were sat with Lara and Xander at the campfire, as they talked about the day's events when Rick walked up to the camp with a smile.

Xander looked at him, “Hey man”

“Hey” Rick returned.

“Bloody American's” Jonathan said under his breath, “Murdering the language”

“It seems our American friends had a little misadventure of their own today,” Rick told them taking a seat next to Evie.

“Really, what?” Evie asked him.

“Three of their Diggers were killed” Rick supplied

“How?” Lara asked leaning back into Xander playing up the married act, and ignoring how good it felt to her.

“Salt acid. Pressurized salt acid, some sort of ancient booby-trap” Rick supplied grimly.

“Maybe this place really is cursed” Jonathan supplied; a wind grew up out of nowhere and blew through the camp.

Rick frowned, “I hate it when it does that” he said with a nervous glance at Jonathan.

“Twaddle!” Evie said sharply.

“Don't believe in curses hey?” Rick asked her.

“No. I believe if I can see it and I can touch it, then it's real. That's what I believe.” Evie said primly

Rick studied her for a second before pulling out his spare revolver and cocking it, then he passed it to a surprised looking Evie, “I believe in being
prepared”

A series of shots rang out into the night air and the once calm camp turned into a maelstrom of action.

Rick and Xander glanced at each other, a single thought in their like minds. Xander’s eyes broke from Rick's to glance at Lara who nodded her agreement. The
three battle hardened people then jumped into action. Evie glanced at her brother who was looking as shocked as she was and wondering just WHO the hell they
had hitched their wagon to.

The three adventurers set off at a quick clip towards the noise and the American’s camp. As they got there, they saw at least thirty men on horse back
trampling the American’s campsite. Rick went into action as soon as they arrived, reaching up and snagging one of the horsemen from the back of his stead and
punching him into the land of nod. Xander’s cane snapped out into full extension and he jumped up, rapped the rider across the face with the side of his
cane; sending the man backwards off of his horse. As he, landed Lara span round placing a foot onto the Mumia’s face at speed.

Rick pulled out a pistol and started to take precision shots at the attacker’s felling a man with each bark of his revolver. Both Xander and Lara decided on
the hand-to-hand approach once again, not wanting to damage the time line any more than absolutely necessary. So they set about the Mumia with fist and foot,
and in Xander’s case, cane.

Evie and Jonathan arrived in time to watch the three battlers in action both stunned at their brutal efficiency and especially in the case of Lara, their
skill. Neither were used to seeing this level of fighting ability from a woman, not in the 1920’s, it wasn’t the done thing for a woman to be so efficient as
Lara at fighting men, or women. But efficient she was, Evie watched with a strange sense of familiarity as Lara span round in a wheel kick knocking a Mumia
flying back into a pillar and sagging to the floor. There was a strange sense of rightness to Evie that Lara should be able to fight that way, but she was
unable to place the feeling or the thought.

Her eyes flicked over to Rick to find him picking off Mumia with calm deliberation, his pistol barking out death to all those in range. Then she was jabbed
in the ribs by an elbow. She turned an angry gaze to her brother who just nodded towards Xander. She followed his nod and her lips twisted into a satisfied
smile as she watched Xander fencing with two Mumia, his cane working against two curved scimitars. There was no sign of the now familiar limp from his gammy
hip. He flowed back and forth in a classical fencing style that told of a classical upbringing.

Of course, she had no idea that the skill had been picked up from a man not yet born, let alone practicing that skill at his university of choice. Giles had
taught Xander to fence, knowing that it would teach the young man a sense of equilibrium that would be of huge benefit in other fighting styles. However,
unlike an eppy or foil, Xander’s cane was not flexible, now designed for point hits and stabbing movements. He had to adjust his style greatly to use the
slicing motions more suited to a rigid blade such as a katana or long sword. Yet he managed well enough, as Evie watched he finished his two adversaries and
turned looking for more.

A horseman barrelled down on his position and a cry of warning was torn from Evie’s throat. Xander turned just in time to see the horse approach and leapt
backwards with alarming speed. His foot found purchase on felled masonry and his other leg propelled him up high into the air. Evie watched aghast as Xander
pivoted in mid air his foot lashing out in a graceful arc knocking the Mumia from his mount and down to the floor with an audible crack of broken bones.
Xander’s spin continued round until he landed on the horse facing forwards. He immediately kicked his mount into action sending the Arabian stallion flying
forwards, towards Lara. He had seen that three Mumia were approaching her position from behind, unnoticed by the English lady.

The elegant steed barrelled into the three Mumia sending them flying. Xander slid backwards off of the blanket saddle and landed with a very slight wince,
the only sign that his hip had been taxed. Lara had not even noticed her savoir in action, nor the three men that may well have slain her.

A shot rang out and a shout shortly followed, bringing all of their attention back to the centre of the camp. There a strange sight waited for them as the
lead Mumia and Rick faced off over the sizzle of a dynamite stick.

Xander’s face split into a wide smile at the sight of Rick calmly standing thee with a stick of dynamite, fuse lit and fizzling towards explosion. The Mumia
said, something, Xander wasn’t sure what as he was not close enough to hear his soft words. Then there was a much louder order to retreat sounded and the
Mumia, turned their steeds and left. A strange anti-climax to what had started to become a challenging battle.

Rick calmly pulled the fuse out of the dynamite and tossed it away. Daniels sidled up to him, “Maybe we should...eh...move our camps closer together?” the
man said in obvious awe.

*****

Evie walked slowly through the now combined camp of the American’s party and her won, mixed nationality group. She had no real aim in mind she was just
curious. Then her eyes rested upon the American’s resident expert. They then flew wide at the black book that rested under his arm. Glancing from side to
side and seeing that none was there to give witness to her deed she slowly crept forth and slowly, very slowly pulled out the book from under the snoring mans
arm.

Then with a slight giggle of giddy triumph, she raced off back towards her own little corner of the camp. Once there she slumped down to the ground in front
of the still raging fire and ran a reverent hand down the ancient tomes spine. Her hand traced the pattern, which was inlaid on the sarcophagus that they had
found earlier.

A quick dig in her pocket and Evie held the key to the lock on the book, she slipped in into the strange pentagram type lock and twisted. The large metallic
locks flipped off of the side of the book, freeing the cover and the leaves contained within.

“You sure you outta be playing, around with that?” O’Connell’s voice loomed from beside her. She jumped up and round glaring at the smirking American.

“It's just a book, no harm ever came from a book.” She shot back.

“They call that stealing, you know” Rick offered with no bite.

“Oh please, you and my brother both share the belief that possession is nine tenths of the law”

Rick smirked at her unrepentantly and shrugged.

Evie glanced back at the book and slowly opened the cover; the campfire flickered slightly drawing a frown from both Rick and Evie, then she shrugged and
started to read

“Ahm kum Ra. Ahm kum Dei.”
Chapter 12

Outside Hamunaptra
Night Time

Lara and Xander were once again disturbed from a passionate kiss as a strange wind suddenly whipped up around the camp. As lips parted with a small wet pop,
brown eyes met blue and both were twinkling slightly. They should have known better, was their shared thought, but it was too late for annoyance as a black
cloud lifted from the desert floor, the air seeming to hum with a strange soft beating noise. Then the cloud seemed to collapse and tumbled towards them. As
it neared, everyone watching noticed with some revulsion that it was comprised of locusts, millions upon millions of them.

Lara glanced at Xander then towards Rick and Evie’s position, noting with wry amusement that Evie had the book of the dead laying on her lap and was tracing a
finger along the hieroglyphs engraved in its metallic pages.

“When will people learn not to read aloud from really old, funky looking books?” Xander asked the world. Then the time for talk passed as the locusts invaded
their camp and they were forced into motion. Seeing that Rick had Evie under control Lara glanced around for Jonathan, but found that he was already making
his way into the shelter of the tombs. She grabbed Xander’s hand and pulled him towards the tombs along by her side as they bolted for cover, away from the
vile plague of locusts.

Rick and Evie caught up with them at the tombs entranceway and they greeted each other with grim smiles.

“Whoops” Evie said with a self deprecating smile.

Rick rolled his eyes at her but there was a slight smile involved as well, a warm smile at that. Xander noticed with a hidden smile that Evie seemed to be
ensnaring Rick without really trying.

Lara glanced down the long corridor lifting her fire torch a little and then letting out a soft snort of amusement.

Xander turned back to face her, “What is it?” he asked her.

“Frogs, lots and lots of frogs” Lara replied amusement dripping from her tone.

“Good job Willow’s not here” Xander remarked with a smile.

Lara quirked an eyebrow at him so he continued, “She is terrified of frogs, really, really petrified”

Lara laughed softly, “A witch that powerful is scared of frogs?” she asked

Xander nodded chuckling a little also, “Yep, if she ever goes mad and tries to end the world, I’d just have to throw a frog at her ad she’d be a gibbering
wreck within seconds”

“Why is everything about the end of the world with you?” Lara asked rhetorically.

“Sunnydale, what can I say?”

Lara laughed softly again walking forward with a shuffling motion to push the small amphibians out of the way so as not to squash them. Rick sent a puzzled
glance at Evie who just shrugged.

They continued slowly down the corridor all taking the care that Lara had shown fro the small creatures, none of them really wanting to take an innocent
creatures life, but still managing to kill a few just by dint of the sheer number of them littering the corridor. They finally found their way out onto a
large gallery and gasped slightly at the size of it. Off to one side there was a suspended rock podium and all around that there was a sheer drop.

The four of them reached Jonathan who was standing staring at the strange sight and greeted him with nervous smiles.

“Pretty strange, hey” Jonathan commented to his sister who was still at Rick's side.

“Perhaps it had some ritual significance?” she hazarded. Shrugging collectively they ignored the strange rock and carried on up and into the door way leading
out of the gallery. A short moment passed until they all came hairing back out of the door with a black tide of scarabs chitterling behind them. Evie got
separated from her brother and Rick and jumped up onto a raised rock and away from the flesh eating insect as Rick, Jonathan and Lara jumped across to the
isolated rock –pinnacle.

Xander jumped after them a stray digger at his back. As he jumped the digger stumbled and reached out blindly for anything to halt his fall, hitting Xander
in the back as he did so sending him off course. The digger continued his stumble and was quickly overcome with the beetles. Xander sailed to the right of
his target and dropped down the sheer drop towards his doom. Lara cried out to him and Jonathan held Rick back from trying to help the doomed Digger, whose
screams had already died down to a worrying silence. The beetles swarming over his body and rendering it down to the bone in a matter of seconds.

Unseen in the chose Evie lent back on the rock face at her back only to have it spin around with her along for the ride.

Xander felt the wind rushing past him in the wrong direction and started to see snippets of his life passing before his eyes. An image of Lara and he during
their Grand Canyon adventure flashed past his minds eye and he suddenly realized that he didn’t want to die. His hand slipped into his jacket pocket pulling
out his cane. Then he allowed it the precious millisecond to snap open before triggering the piton come grabbling hook back up towards his friends. The head
of his cane exploded upwards sailing forth with sharp claws snapping out from its sides. Then it hit the rock and embedded itself near the top of the
plateau. The line jerked and started to reel itself back in even as the ground became visible.

Xander felt his motion being reversed as he was roughly and quickly sent flying up towards his friends and Lara almost loosing his grip in the process.
Luckily, he love for life and the woman standing calling his name down into the depths was so much that nothing could have removed the cane from his grip, no
force on earth. The line quick retracted pulling him very quickly towards the top of the drop and up over as the inertia of his body forced the line out
again. He landed on his feet with an ‘umfff’ of exploding air from his lungs and flexing his knees to absorb the fall.

Lara immediately hurled him into her arms kissing him with desperate abandon as Rick looked at Xander with a surprised and awed expression. Jonathan just
shook his head and murmured, ‘Get a Room’ to himself.

Rick turned away from the kissing couple, vowing to talk to someone about getting a cane like that and looked towards Evie’s last known location.

“Hey; Where’s Evie” he asked attracting every ones attention.

*****

Evie glanced around the dark cave like room she found herself in with a strange sense of foreboding crawling up her spine like an ice cold spider.

“Who’s there?” she called out cursing herself for the waver she heard in her voice.

A shadow moved in the darkness of the room, a shadow that loomed out at her and came closer. As it came within the sphere of light she was in Evie let out a
scream of terror. Before her was a sight from a nightmare, decayed flesh hanging from yellow with age bones, yet animated and standing upright as if it were
not a millennia old corpse.

The monstrous sight shambled closer and growled slightly, a soft purr of sound that had no real threat in it. Evie however was still beside herself with fear
her heart hammering in her chest as the mummified corpse of a long dead man came so close she could smell it. That was when she noticed that it was HER
mummy, the mummy from the stone sarcophagus that had dropped from the ceiling. The corpse of Imhotep, he who had been cursed with the Hom-Dai, the most
terrible of ancient curses, so terrible that it had only been used once. She realized with a sinking sensation in her gut that it was her reading from the
book that had possibly triggered this creature’s animation.

“Ancksunamun?” Imhotep asked in ancient Egyptian his voice as cracked and decayed as his body.

“Eh…No Sorry, slight case of mistaken identity?” Evie hazarded.

Imhotep leaned forward bringing his fleshless face to within an inch of hers, “Ancksunamun” he pressed. His one thought after all this time was of his lost
love.

At that moment Rick exploded through the revolving secret entrance, “Whoa!” he said bringing his gun up in surprise.

Imhotep turned to face this intruder and let out a roar of righteous indignation. Rick calmly waited until he had finished and let out a roar of his own,
punctuating it with the bark of his pistol firing as he grabbed Evie and hauled her bodily back into the door way and triggering it into action.

*****

Lara looked up in surprise as Rick and Evie returned from the doorway with Rick looking grim and Evie as white as a sheet, “New problem” Rick said succinctly
tugging Evie after him he led the way back out towards the entrance of the tomb, wanting to be out of there as quickly as possible.

Xander glanced at Lara and they shared a knowing look. It appeared that Evie and Rick had just met Prince Imhotep.

Cairo National Hotel.

Xander retracted his cane and slumped into a chair. They had pushed hard across the desert and made good time back to base. A short conversation with the
Mumia and their leader a man named Ardeth Bay, had clued them in to their problems. The American’s were in mortal danger as Imhotep would be looking to
regenerate bringing with him the plagues of Egypt and the end of the world in the process.

Lara walked into his field of vision with a concerned expression on her face that he knew had nothing to do with their current predicament and more to do with
his pained expression. He quickly cleared his face and eyes of all trace of pain and smiled at her, “Hey gorgeous, how are you?”

“I’m well, I’m more concerned about you” Lara admitted with a slight smile. She had decided it was time to talk to him. He had been pressing himself far too
hard and was becoming a little too important to her for her to just ignore it any longer. Not that she would try to stop him, she wasn’t a hypocrite she just
wanted him to slow down slightly. If that were indeed possible at the moment.

“Just a little sore” Xander grudgingly admitted, “But a few minutes of rest will clear that up”

“You shouldn’t push yourself so hard Xander” she said gently.

Xander eyed her with a dark expression for a moment, gauging her words, “I don’t really have much choice at the moment do I?” he asked almost stated.

“Perhaps not” Lara admitted, “I just worry about you”

Xander smiled at her warmly, “Thanks”

“For what?”

“Caring, it means a lot to me”

Lara walked over to him slowly her hips swinging slightly until she was stood just in front of him, “I hope you realize by now that I care very much for you”

Xander looked up at her running his eyes across her body as he did so, his eyes dark with passion he smiled and snaked out a hand to tug on Lara’s wrist
pulling her down onto his lap.

Lara laughed slightly, “Aren’t you supposed to be resting that hip?” she asked him amusement glinting in the oceanic depths of her eyes.

“I’m sure that we can find a way around that” Xander said shifting her around so that she faced him with her legs either side of his hips.

With a hungry look in her eye Lara smiled down at him, “Mr. Harris, whatever are you suggesting?”

“Well, Dr. Harris, I think that is self evident at this point” Xander ground out as Lara shifted her position sending sensational sensation throughout his
body.

Lara smiled and leaned down to capture his lips with her own pouring herself into the kiss as did Xander. His hands ran up her sides and started to unbutton
the 20’s style blouse she had been forced into as her nimble fingers attacked his shirt buttons.

Their shirts floated to the floor together without their lips parting as their passion heated up to rival a sun going nova and all thoughts of Egypt, mummies
and other supernatural foe left their minds as they finally set about showing each other how they felt; physically.
Chapter 13

Cairo National Hotel

Jonathan exploded into the room his eyes wild and so desperately anxious that he didn’t notice the undressed state of the two occupants, “Come Quick; it’s
Evie, He’s taken her!” he said with a voice as wild as his eyes. With that proclamation dumped into the room he left, the door slamming into place behind
him.

Lara and Xander broke from each other, their eyes dazed and pupils dilated with passion and they almost ignored Jonathan’s plea, but like the professionals
they were and their honor not allowing them to sink back into the love making that had only just started.

Lara slipped off of Xander’s lap with a sigh and prompting a groan from Xander, “GOD DAMN IT!” he cursed reaching for his shirt.

*****

They entered Evie’s room to find that Jonathan was stalking back and forth with an equally worried Rick sat looking thoughtful on the bed.

“What Happened?” Xander asked with a commanding voice.

Rick’s military training prompted him to answer without conscious thought, “We were researching the whereabouts of the Book of the Living at the museum when
Imhotep and Beni turned up out of the blue. They had a load of locals with them. We tried to run but somehow Imhotep managed to trick us into a blind alley.
She went with him willingly to save us; damn it!” Rick told them, spitting the last two words.

“Shit” Xander said succinctly, “Why?”

“I’m not sure… but he did keep on calling her Ancksunamun” Jonathan replied.

Lara nodded thoughtfully, she knew why, both she and Xander knew this story. Although there were obvious changes where Evie had inserted details to cover
their presence.

“He’s going to use her body as a vessel for Ancksunamun” Lara stated firmly.

“No…No he’s not” Rick stated with iron in his voice.

*****

Ardeth Bay was waiting for them as they pulled up to the museum, with him was the curator and they both looked grim. In the sky above the sun was slowly
being pushed from sight by the moon sending the land of sun and desert into perpetual night.

Rick launched himself from the car with a slight nod towards the Mumia leader as Xander and Lara walked up to stand at either side of him. Jonathan held back
a little and watched with intelligence just showing from behind his eyes. He acted the clown, and was for the most part, but now with his sister’s life in
the balance he was showing his true colors. He had a degree from oxford in Egyptology, not something one got by being stupid and had survived many long years
in the somewhat dangerous land of Egypt itself. He was more than he appeared, as most people are. He was however happy to stand back and trusted the three
warriors to take charge of the situation. Action wasn’t his forte, but it was theirs.

“The monster has regained its strength” the curator snapped whipishly at them, “are you happy now?”

Rick turned a glare in his direction causing the man to stop his tirade before it really got going. “How do we stop it?”

“No man can stop the creature” Ardeth Bay inserted into the conversation, “It is immortal, powerful beyond belief”

Rick cocked his pistol with deliberate care and tucked it into his belt then reaching around behind him he retrieved the shotgun there and chambered a round,
“Nothing is immortal; just long lived”

Ardeth almost smiled at that announcement and looked the three leaders over with care. Rick was a warrior after his own heart, but he wasn’t sure what to
make of the man and woman, they were both capable, that he knew first hand, as they had taken out more than a few of his tribe themselves. The woman was a
surprise but he had lived long enough to realize that they often were. The man, the man he couldn’t get a handle on, powerful, certainly but he was hindered
by his leg, although it rarely showed. The set of his jaw was almost exactly that of Rick and the hard looked behind both of their eyes showed that they had
a certain something, that little thing that separates a warrior from a soldier.

“He will be returning to the City of Dead, there he will perform the ritual to return the living soul of his love to your friends body. We must stop this
ritual, if he succeeds he will stop at nothing to rule the world”

“Why?” Xander said, finally speaking up attracting the attention all of those present to him.

“What do you mean?” Lara asked him.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, he was cursed because he killed the pharaoh, because he loved this Ancksunamun?”

“Go on?”

“Where in all of that is he really the bad guy?” Xander said, “I know my idea of bad may be a little more out there than most but I’d kill anyone that tried
to stop me…” he trailed off with a glance at Lara earning himself a warm smile and a promise in her eyes. He cleared his throat and pushed on, “So where in
all of that does it say that he wants to rule the world?”

“It has already killed” Ardeth told him.

“Wouldn’t you, if it was them or you?” Xander asked him with a pointed stare, “You were willing to kill us all to stop him from being found, weren’t you?”

Ardeth bay wasn’t sure what to say so he just nodded slightly.

“So you think if we just ask him to stop he will, or that we just give up Evie?” Jonathan spoke up.

“Hell no, I just wanted you all to think this through, yes we’ve got to stop him but who says he is an evil man who wants to rule the world, or destroy it.
He didn’t ask for the curse, the punishment was WAY too great for the crime if you ask me. Just don’t judge him too harshly?”

“You’re a strange young man” the curator said looking deep into the younger mans eyes.

“Enough of the Yak, Yak, we need to go get Evie back” Rick said with a grim expression.

“How do we get there?” Lara asked looking at Xander in a new light, it was a strange ability to be able to see things from as many angles as he apparently
could. In Evie's tales Imhotep had been the great evil bent on resurrecting his Ancksunamun at the cost of the world. Now, she wasn’t so sure what to think.

“Winston Havelock” was Rick's only reply.

*****

The world dissolved from a riot of sand and wind into color and light for Evie as Imhotep released her from the sand devil that he had created flinging her
and Beni into the dunes head first. The prince himself solidified into his full human and handsome self looking up at the twin biplanes with a slight frown.

“Heh” Beni said walked up to his master and looking at the planes.

“What is this?” Imhotep asked his voice tripping over the words of a language picked from the dead minds of the Americans.

“That would be a plane, you dolt” Evie said furiously standing with her hands on her hips.

Imhotep tilted his head to one side and looked back into the sky. The two planes not very high above him but some way back. “They come for you?” he asked
her.

Evie smiled triumphantly, “They do!”

Imhotep nodded a slight smile gracing his face then with a slightly sad look in his eye he turned to face the desert. With a sudden movement he threw his
hands in the air and a solid wall of sand rose up high into the sky at his whim.

Evie blanched.

*****

Xander felt the wind roaring in his ears, the goggles he wore the only thing allowing him to even see, although he wished they didn’t. He was sat behind Lara
as she expertly piloted the, what would in his time be, antique plane. Just ahead of them Winston, the RAF mad man that had agreed to help them weaved
through the skies drunkenly with O’Connell sat behind him and Ardeth bay and Jonathan strapped to his wings.

The plane itself was a collection of wood and engine that staggered the mind. To think that a war had been fought with these toy planes was enough to scare
the hell out of Xander, but the fact that he was in the damn thing just enforced his wish to be on solid ground. It did offer him an unrivalled view of the
sand dunes, but that turned out to be a curse as the dunes leapt into the sky and thundered towards them in a supernatural sand storm. He tapped Lara on the
shoulder and pointed behind him. He was rewarded with a slight widening of her eyes, the only sign that there was cause for concern she showed. She then
turned back to the task of piloting the plane.

Winston was also alerted to the freak storm and with a feral smile sent the biplane diving towards the floor weaving around as he did so. Xander was able to
hear the alarmed cries of Ardeth and Jonathan even over the howl of the wind but as Lara took a nose dive also he soon joined them.

The two planes flew on, twisting and dodging the storm as it was aimed by the supernatural man with huge power over the land. Imhotep concentrated his powers
and closed his eyes. His jaw distended in a most unnatural way a move that was mirror by the sand image that appeared in the sand wall. Rick noticed the
face forming and smiled a grim smile.

He flipped off the safety on the Lewis machine gun and let rip with the automatic machine of death. The bullets traced a visible line in the wall but had no
effect whatsoever; not that he really expected them too, but it did make him feel better for all of two seconds. Imhotep raised his arms again and caused the
sand storm to swoop down on his prey. The two planes disappeared under the assault of sand and his eyes snapped open with a grim smile of satisfaction
appearing on his face.

Evie stared stunned as the sand storm dissipated to show that the two planes had disappeared completely.

“Nice trick, with the sand and all,” Beni said to his master as he walked past.

Once he thought the man out of hearing he muttered, “Bastard” under his breath. He may be a snivelling coward and a weasel at that, but he had liked
O’Connell in a strange way. Rick O’Connell was everything that he wasn’t and sometimes wished himself to be. He consoled himself with the thought that Rick
was dead, and he wasn’t…yet at least.

****

Xander opened his eyes to find deep blue ones looking down at him with concern showing in their depths. He also noticed that he appeared to be upside down,
either that or Lara was. He wasn’t too sure at that point. He felt the tell tale trickle of blood running down his face and knew that somewhere along the
line, he had hit his head.

He didn’t remember much, just a swirl of desert, blue, sand, sky, sand, sky then black. Apparently they had crashed.

“Excuse me. ...A little help would be useful. ...IF IT'S NOT TOO MUCH TROUBLE!!” a voice called out in an irritated fashion; Jonathan Xander’s mind supplied.
That meant it was likely the others has survived as well.

“Are you alright?” Lara asked with concern.

“Sure, I like to hang upside down” Xander remarked acerbically, his head throbbing.

Lara cocked an eyebrow at him, amusement glinting in her eyes. “In that case, I’ll leave you there” she told him and turned to leave.

“Hey” Xander called out to her retreating form.

Lara turned back with an inquisitive pose, “Yes?” she asked innocently.

Xander smirked at her, “Nice butt” he commented hitting the quick release on his belt, snagging the side of the plan and flipping out onto his feet and the
relative firmness of sand.

“How very kind of you to say” Lara said sarcastically.

Hamunaptra

“So, who are we looking for again?” O’Connell asked

“Horus” Lara replied. She and the American adventurer were ahead of Xander and Jonathan who were chatting back and forth as they searched. Ardeth bay was a
ways back from them acting as a rear guard.

“And he is?” Rick asked his manner all business but confusion etched on his brow.

“Head of a hawk” Lara supplied and clarified for him.

Rick nodded confirming that he understood her and they continued to search.

Jonathan walked over to a wall, and studied it closely, an emerald jewelled scarab beetle was inset into the wall display. A smile crossed his face before he
pulled out his penknife and started to try to pry the jewel free. Xander walked up behind him, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you” he whispered.

Jonathan glanced back at him with a guilty look, “I was just looking”

Xander smirked at him, “Sure you were, but just remember what happened to the smelly guy hey”

“I do, I do. But what makes you think that this had anything to do with that?” Jonathan asked with a gleam in his eye. Both this strange American and his
‘wife’ had been acting very strangely as far as he was concerned. They were either totally unflappable or knew what was coming, and that thought worried
Jonathan greatly.

“Nothing, but I’ll bet he was poking around without care as well” Xander replied easily.

Jonathan had to grant him that point and backed away from the wall pocketing his knife once more. Suddenly a shot rang out and they both span to find Ardeth
Bay walking backwards into the room, the Lewis sputtering fire.

“There are more mummy’s heading towards us” he told them, firing once more. Just then several mummies came into view and were cut in half by the powerful
machine gun.

“Okay, time to leave” Xander commented dragging Jonathan after him and setting off towards Lara and Rick at a quick pace.

Rick and Lara for their part had just managed to pry the Book of the Living from the base of Horus without tripping the trap contained within. Lara smirked
slightly but then the sound of gunfire sounded causing her to turn and draw her own weapon.

Rick was right behind her with an elephant gun he had pulled from his bag. He cocked the weapon as Xander and Jonathan ran into the room with Ardeth Bay
following them at a more sedate pace walking backwards and spraying the mummies with automatic fire. Once Xander and Jonathan cleared the line of fire, Lara
and Rick joined Ardeth in dealing hot lead into the slowly progressing mummies spraying dust into the air but even the advanced fire power of Lara’s automatic
pistols were no match for the magically animated corpses, as one was downed another took its place slowly pushing them further and further back into the room.

Ardeth Bay’s Lewis ran dry and he threw it at the approaching dead men walking, then he drew a dynamite stick and lit it throwing it into their mass. He then
turned and ran towards the group, “Move now! I’ll hold them off” he called out pausing only to watch them retreat into the next room, then he drew his sword
and stood waiting to face the mummies and buy them time.

The dynamite stick exploded sending pieces of mummified body spraying around the room, the tribal leader Ardeth bay just calmly lit another stick and threw it
behind him, sealing the entrance behind him with another bone rocking explosion as the next wave of mummies returned.

He raised his sword high above his head, the curved scimitars blade flashing the reflected light from various torches then with a battle cry he ran towards
the dead priests hacking and slashing his way into them.
Chapter 14

Hamunaptra

The room shook as Ardeth Bay closed the entrance behind them and Xander turned back and started towards the large pile of rubble that it now was. Noticing
his absence Lara and the others turned back just in time for the exit way they had just walked through to collapse down shutting off Xander from their view.

“NO!” Lara called out, “XANDER!”

Rick caught her shoulder still her rush towards the falling masonry, “Wait, Lara”

Lara shrugged him off only to be brought to a stand still as a huge block totally blocked the door, her shoulders sagged down.

“Lara” Rick called out softly after a silent moment, “I’m not sure why, but I truly don’t believe that Xander was hurt, we only saw the door collapse, I’m
sure he is fine”

Lara turned back to gaze deeply into Rick's blue eyes and finally nodded, “I know” she said softly, her voice only just carrying over the silence of the city
of the dead.

“He’ll find another way out” Rick said with sureness, he hadn’t known Xander long but he was sure of one thing, and that was that Xander was a survivor, just
like he was, if there was a way out of that room, Xander would find it; just like he would. Lara knew that fact also, but watching the man she had grown to
love with all her heart; become trapped wasn’t something she enjoyed.

“Let’s go” she said finally, her shoulders squared and her jaw set in a determined fashion. Jonathan watched her hoping that one day he too would find love
with a woman like her. Xander Harris was a lucky man as far as he was concerned.

****

“I’m the unluckiest man alive” Xander said coughing slightly as the dust settled around him. At his back Ardeth’s entrance was sealed and at his front Lara’s
was also completely blocked. The room he was in appeared to be completely blocked in, four walls surrounded him, separated by 10 foot apiece. He walked into
the middle of the room and turned slowly around his sharp eyes peering through the gloom searching for a way out.

Suddenly all of the color drained from his face and his jaw hung open in complete shock.

*****

Evie glared up at Imhotep with defiance flaring in her angry gaze, “You only want me for my organs!” she declared.

Imhotep nodded with a sad smile crossing his handsome visage, “I require them for the ceremony” he told her his sonorous tones floating around the large
gallery they were in. Evie was tied down to an altar with the book of the dead at her feet, open at the spell he required. Beside her was the mummified and
stinking body of Ancksunamun.

“Why, why are you doing all of this?” Evie asked in an attempt to stall her death.

“Love” he replied succinctly.

“Love, you call what you’re doing love?” Evie said indignantly, “Would she thank you? Will she still love you after she realises that you killed to bring her
back” she said, even though she feared that the answer was obvious.

Imhotep however, paused his finger marking his place in the Book of the Dead, his eyes lost in time and space as he gazed into his loves dark eyes, her voice
telling him that he must live, that he was the only one that could bring her back, he knew that she realised the implications of her pronouncement, that he
would have to sacrifice another for her to live. He nodded, “I’m sorry”

Evie shivered at the cold look that entered his eyes her heart hammering against her ribs in complete fear.

“Hi, can we crash, or is this a private party” Rick said walking calmly down the steps leading from the entrance to the gallery.

Lara glanced at him a soft smile curling her lips as she remembered a man with dark hair saying almost exactly the same thing three years ago. A man that she
hoped with all her heart to see again really soon.

*****

Xander traced his fingers across the hauntingly familiar Identograms his face set into a grim visage of concentration. He stepped back a little dark eyes
darker for the thoughts running rampant through the mind behind their inky depths.

“Bastards” he whispered. He leant forward once again tracing his finger across the demonic Identograms, the same language he had seen in the Grand Canyon,
the same language that he had learned when touching the chalice of Amoncor.

He followed their instructions on a whim, knowing that he had little choice and walked over to a section of wall that appeared much like any other. Then he
reached out and ran his hand down the seemingly smooth wall until he found the indentation that the script had told him would be there and pushed.

A rough grating of rock on rock emitted from the wall and an entire segment four foot by 6 foot moved backwards and slid to one side. Once the dust had
cleared slightly a thin corridor was revealed. Xander thought for all of about three seconds before un-holstering his pistol and stepping into the glowing
corridor.

*****

Rick grabbed an ornate ivory handled sword from a display and swirled it around taking the head of one of the priest mummies. Then he turned and elbowed
another stabbing forward at yet another. Then he span round cutting two in half and bring the sword up in a powerful double handed blow that sliced through
one of Evie’s bindings.

Lara walked calmly in front of the enraged Imhotep and looked deeply into his eyes, “Stop this, leave now and live out you life as the scholar and holy man
you once were” she said her voice soft, Xander’s words calling across her mind.

Imhotep actually stilled his anger and glared down into the beautiful adventurers dark blue eyes, “I cannot” he said roughly his voice thick with emotion, “I
made a promise to the one I love more than anything, more than life, power or my own immortal soul”

Lara nodded, “I can understand that, but I can also not allow you to hurt my friends” she said indicating Evie.

“It must be her, her soul is from that time she is…Compatible”

Lara launched a punch causing Imhotep to smile as he blocked her strike with an almost causal motion of his hand. The two exchanged blows for a second as
Imhotep said, “It is an honor to fight against you” he said for her ears only before launching his arm towards her with palm flat in a pushing motion. She
flew across the room without even being touched and hit the opposite wall with a nasty thud. Her insensate form slipped to the ground. Rick let out a feral
roar just as Jonathan opened the book and started to read. He had stolen the key from Imhotep’s pocket as Lara had distracted the powerful being.

Suddenly six very different looking mummies jumped down from the wall snapping to attention like the warriors they once were.

Jonathan faltered over a word completely stuck.

Rick swung around and loosed Evie completely from her bindings freeing her as he turned to face the immortal holy man. Imhotep smiled and called out in
ancient Egyptian snapping the warriors to his command and send them towards Rick as he turned to stalk Jonathan.

The six mighty mummies turned on their heels as one facing the Rick and Evie. Rick raised his sword defiantly and let out a roar.

The warrior’s let him finish and then as one let out a roar that would have made any lion proud. Rick’s smile faltered slightly and he started to back away
as the warrior mummies attack with coordinated movements so very different from the priests.

*****

Xander walked slowly and carefully down the corridor his leg dragging slightly due to tiredness but he stubbornly refused to flip out his cane. He had no
wish to lose any reaction time and kept both his guns ready for action.

The entire corridor glowed with the same eyrie light that the cavern in the Grand Canyon had; a strange sort of silvery shine emitting from light producing
algae. The craftsmanship of the corridor also differed wildly from the City of the Dead. The Egyptians were no slouches when it came to craftsmanship, but
this corridor was smooth to mathematically precision that out did even their amazing work. All along the wall were panels of riotous colour depicting scenes
from Xander’s life that he found both scary and creepy all at the same time. The panel he had just passed showed him plummeting to his death in this very
cavern.

He came across a sudden almost exact 45 degree turn in the corridor and stepped cautiously around it. His guns leading the way with practised ease. What he
saw caused his eyes to snap wide open and his mouth to drop in shock.
Chapter 15

Hamunaptra

Xander gaped in shock at the enormous cavern he had just stepped into the entire area was lit by the same method as the corridor and the silver sheen made it
look ethereally beautiful. Set several yards in front of him there was a fountain spraying forth bright clear and clean looking water that sparkled in the
silver light. Arrayed around it were a bench, a chest, and a pedestal with a large tome place on it and finally there was a pillar standing alone and proud.
Attached to it was some sort of board but it was facing away from his position.

Moving cautiously Xander slowly stepped down into the cavern jumping into the air and around in shock as a large flat bolder rolled into place over his only
means of escape.

*****

Lara blinked repeatedly pushing back the darkness that threatened to overwhelm her, she noticed with no small amount of amusement that this was only one of
the too many occasions in her line of work that she had needed to do this. To push herself back into the land of the living so that her enemy would not gain
the upper hand, to finish the fight before she finally allowed herself to be overcome by the darkness and faint into unconsciousness, or most of the time
continue on as if she had not had the sense knocked out of her.

Once the welcoming blackness of unconsciousness was once again banished from her mind Lara quickly took stock of the situation, standing on still unsteady
legs. Rick was fighting what looked to be warrior class mummies, possibly some royal guards laid to rest before the tomb had been sealed to protect their
king in the next life. They were certainly giving Rick a run for his money but in turn he was also giving as good as he got. Jonathan was being stalked by
Imhotep himself and Evie was fighting off the advances of a female looking mummy and some more of the priest type mummies she had seen before.

The time for subtlety appeared to be over. She jumped to her feet and pulled the annoying skirt she wore pulling it off and throwing it to one side. Her
legs were revealed in their athletic glory her shorts clinging to the curve of her hips. Twin pistols adorned her thighs and a tree of clips hung from her
belt.

She stalked forward retrieving her pistols as she did so. They came up in twin synchronicity and her fingers caressed the triggers. The powerful weapons
barked together ripping apart two mummies that threatened Evie before her aim adjusted with mechanic precision and took out two more. All the while she moved
forward to get Evie’s back and protect her old/new friend. Rick, she decided could handle himself for the time being and Jonathan was an accomplished runner
if she was any judge. Evie at this time was virtually useless in a fight, only her natural courage enabled her to keep up with the battle hardened warriors,
(Rick, Xander and herself)

“What’s it look like” Evie called out in answer to something Jonathan had called out, all the while Imhotep stalked towards the source of Jonathans voice.

“A…” Jonathan paused and flapped his arms in a unhelpful way, except it did act to jog his memory, bird, slapping bird”

Evie rolled her eyes even as she dodged a mummy only for it to explode into dust as Lara’s bullets bit into its cadaverous form. “What sort of bird”

“Eh.. Oh come on!” Jonathan cried out annoyed at himself.

“Think of the Nile, what birds reside there” Lara called out her own help.

“Eh… It’s standing on one leg” Jonathan called out then whimpered as Imhotep appeared around the statue that was currently acting as his hidey hole.

“Ah! Ah! Ahmenophus” Evie suddenly called out triumphantly.

Suddenly Imhotep was forgotten and Jonathan smiled to himself, “Oh yes, now I see it”

“Hootash im Ahmenophus!” Jonathan yelled out as loudly as he could.

The warrior mummies suddenly stopped their spears and swords hovering over the prone form of Rick’s throat. He barely breathed yet one of the sharp points on
the spear grazed his throat and a jewel of blood appeared there.

Imhotep stilled his stalk and turned back to watch as the warrior mummies stood back to attention, waiting patiently for their next command. “No!” he called
out then rattled off an ancient Egyptian command to the still as statues warriors.

“Hootash im Ahmenophus, Ancksunamun” Evie called out. The warrior mummies grunted then turned to face the suddenly terrified mummified body of Ancksunamun
herself.

“NO!” Imhotep cried out moving forward to protect his love. The warrior mummies were too fast for him leaping onto terrified Ancksunamun and stabbing her
repeatedly with sword and spear shredding her decayed corpse within mere moments of the start of their attack.

Imhotep let out an inhuman scream of pain and anger turning back towards Jonathan to retrieve the Book of the Living and reverse his loves slaughter. Only
Jonathan wasn’t there he was standing next to his sister giving the immortal being a strangely sad look.

Imhotep started towards them only for Rick to step in front of him and attack with his ornate sword. The blows did little to faze Imhotep who was now in a
world of his own, the pain of watching his love yet again die was too much for him to bare and hate filled his very veins and revenge blinded him.

“Kadeesh mal! Kadeesh mal! Pared oos! PARED OOS!!”

*****

Xander reached the fountain and approached the pure sparkling water source with caution. His mouth was dry from all of the dust he had ingested and the water
was awfully temping; almost too tempting. So he did not dive flat on his stomach to drink deeply as a less cautious man would he reached into the small pack
at his back, where it nestled on his belt and pulled back the zipper carefully. He fished through it using feel only as he glanced around for any possible
danger until he found a thin strip and a plastic vessel. He retrieved the items and placed them with care on the side of the fountain. Then he used the
plastic container to get a water sample not touching the water with anything but plastic. Once he was satisfied with the amount he placed the plastic cup
back onto the side of the fountain and dipped in the testing strip.

Then he swirled it around in the water for a moment before bringing it to eye level and checking off the reading. It was a simple strip test that would show
the presence of poisons and alkaloids that would be harmful. Showing green across the board he carefully sipped from the cup savouring the cool refreshing
liquid.

“I hope you’re enjoying the water” a soft voice said causing Xander to spit out the liquid and spin around his pistols coming up and training onto a
shimmering form dressed all in white of a man with a long flowing brown beard and hair.

“Who the hell are you?” Xander demanded.

“Surely, you must realise that by now?” the man asked with no small amount of amusement in his voice.

“Buddy, I’ve had a hard day, I’m tired and missing my girl. Either you talk or I start shooting”

“That, will do little good” the man replied with a laugh, “I’m not really here”

Xander’s fingers snapped off the safety on his chrome weapons, “Care to test the theory?”

The man shrugged expressively, “If you wish he said spreading his arms to allow Xander an easy target.

“Who the hell are you?” Xander asked after a long moment his guns pointing upwards.

“My name is Alexandrious” the man said then smiled, “But you may call me Alex, as my other friends do”

Xander narrowed his eyes, “Alex?”

“I swear to you my friend”

“Who said were friends?”

“Those memories in your head are mine, you know me better than any other being on the face of this planet. I can only call you my friend” Alexandrious told
him earnestly.

“I’ve yet to hear a reason why I should be your friend” Xander replied his eyes slitted and hard.

“I gave you those memories, it was I that foretold of your coming to here and to the great land of…” Alexandrious paused thoughtfully, “America” he said
finally.

“How…What the…” Xander struggled to find something to say and finally gave up, “Well shit”

Alexandrious chuckled slightly before becoming serious, “You must drink, I know you’ve already tested it and we must talk”

Xander glanced at the cup and placed it carefully back on the fountains edge, “So talk, the drink can wait”

Alexandrious nodded with a ghost of a smile on his spectral face, “We share a great foe”

“Imhotep, yeah he’s nasty” Xander said.

Alexandrious shook his head smiling sadly, “No, he is not our enemy, there is another once who is much worse” he pointed behind Xander at the large billboard
like relief.

There written in ancient demonic indentogramic script were three words that turned Xander’s spine to ice, “Dolomean, Sac Bargartathan” he whispered
reverently.

“Beware, The First” Alexandrious translated.

“What?” Xander said turning around quickly and nailing the ghostly man with a glare, “I thought it meant, Beware the Beginning?”

Alexandrious shook his head with a sad smile, “Not in this context, perhaps I should have realised that before”

“Beware, The First…. Oh shit, you mean The First Evil. Don’t you?” Xander said his face ashen.

Alexandrious nodded, “Indeed I do, the one who came before, the first the worst and the most evil of all demons and the reason for this cavern and our
placement of the Chalice. We needed to make the Saviour aware of the danger before it was too late.” Alexandrious shook his head with a self deprecating
smile, that was ever so slightly lopsided, “Perhaps I should have been less cryptic and more exact” he said with a laugh.

“You’re not wrong there buddy. But…” Xander trailed off and glared at Alexandrious, “Hang on, the Savour, I thought that was just because of my name”

Alexandrious smiled widely, “Sort off”

*****

Beni staggered across a chamber, straining under the weight of a saddlebag filled with treasure. One of the many he had so far transported from the treasure
chambers to a nearby camel. He glanced around him and spotted a large, ornate staff sticking out of a wall. He staggered across to it and gladly put the
saddle bag down onto it relieving the weight from his own tied shoulders. Then he collapsed against the wall. Exhausted.

He was allowed all of two breathes before the staff slowly tipped towards the floor throwing off his horde of treasure. Beni glared at it for a moment before
a hugely loud rumble started.

Beni backed away from the wall, wide-eyed and filled with fear. As sand starts to appear through a sudden crack in the wall. Jabbering to himself he turned
tail and ran for the exit from the city.

*****

Lara watched in horrified fascination as Imhotep became as white as a funeral shroud at Evie’s words. A wind leapt up out of nowhere and this time kept on
howling around them quickly whipping up into a gale. She watched Imhotep mouthing, “NO!” as a ghostly chariot appeared at the top of the steps leading down
to their position.

He span round to face his fate as the chariot steamed downwards the spectral horses flowing straight through the immortal being followed by the chariot itself
and the riders grabbed at him.

As they pulled away Imhotep looked down at his body in shock, shock that he was still alive and stunned that the ancient magic’s he had believed in had not
worked.

Lara watched, however, as the chariot pulled away disappearing into the opposite wall and she saw that the ghostly vehicle had picked up another passenger a
spectral version of Imhotep himself.

Not realising this Imhotep surged forward straight onto Rick’s sword. His eyes widened in shock as a great pain bloomed from his stomach at the point of
Rick’s blades entry into his suddenly mortal form.

“He’s mortal” Evie said in hushed awe her tone reverent.

Imhotep pulled back from the stunned Rick his eyes dark with shock and the certainty of death. He stumbled falling into the miasma that had regurgitated his
loves spirit and his eyes joined with Evie’s as he spoke a few words of ancient Egyptian.

Evie’s eyes widened as she translated out loud his words, “Death, is only the beginning!”

Then the ancient mans eyes locked with Lara’s and he smiled grimly before saying three words that had no apparent meaning to anyone present.

“Dolomean, Sac Bargartathan”

His body started to decay at an accelerated rate, his handsome features slumping with age and finally his skin flaking and sloughing off of his body his
muscles decaying and sliding away from bone and finally his bones becoming brittle and cracking with age until finally he sank down into the bog of
supernatural material disappearing from their stunned eyes.

They stayed absolutely still for several moments no one saying a word until finally a massive roar and rumble of noise attracted their attention. Masonry and
detritus fell from the roof and the four of them exploded into action, running for their lives.

*****

Xander felt the entire chamber rumble and shift as Seti’s place started to rip itself apart, just as it had been designed to do all that time ago. He stood
quickly but Alexandrious held up a hand to still his movement. “You are safe from the city’s self destruct mechanisms here, I assure you”

“I’m still a little fuzzy on the whole trusting you thing” Xander said nervously.

“I can only offer you my most solemn promise that I am on your side, that I designed those traps in the cavern to be easily passed by the correct person and
that at no time have you ever been in danger from myself or my people”

Xander met Alexandrious dark brown eyes for a long moment with the distant sound of The City of The Dead shaking itself apart a strange counterpoint to his
turmoil filled thoughts. His concern for Lara and his friends grew exponentially until finally Alexandrious smiled at him, “Your love is free of the city as
are your friends, with the exception of the weasel”

The Weasel could only be Beni, Xander decided and strangely let out a sigh of relief, not disbelieving this strangely familiar mans words, “Okay, we’ll go
with the trust thing for a while, what do you want of me?”

Alexandrious smiled warmly, “Only that which you would do anyway”

“I think you’d better start explaining” Xander forced out past a dry throat.

“Drink, there is no poison in that water” Alexandrious assured him, “You are in need of refreshment and this could take some time”

“THAT, does not sound good” Xander noted as he took a sip of the water feeling it run through his system revitalising him with its cool freshness. He
stretched out his aching leg and Alexandrious watched him with concern.

“There are various salves in yonder chest” he said pointing to the stone chest.

“I think they’d have past their sell by date” Xander quipped mildly.

Alexandrious, apparently understood the reference, “They are untouched by time, as is everything in this chamber”

Xander glanced at him shock written across his face, “What?”

The spectral form of Alexandrious faded away only for the true form of Alexandrious to appear, walking softly from around a large boulder, “I mean, that time
has no meaning here” he said walking over to Xander and holding out a hand. “I apologise for the projection, but I had to be sure that you would not do me
harm. I knew you would not but I’ve found it pays to be cautious, even if you are cursed with second sight”

Xander blinked and finally reached out and clasped hands with the ancient man, “Hi” he said weakly feeling the solid hand in his own he had no fear of The
First and he realised with a flash of insight that, that was why Alexandrious had done it.

“It is a pleasure to finally meet you Alexander” Alexandrious said

*****

Lara ignored the new couple as they kissed, she had eyes only for the collapsing city her eyes filling with silent tears. Ardeth bay had found a way out,
surely Xander should have done so also, yet there was no sign of him.

Jonathan walked up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder, “I’m so very sorry” he said his voice tinged with regret, “He was a hell of a man”

Lara smiled slightly, “Yes, he is at that” she replied refusing to use Xander in the past tense.

Jonathan didn’t miss that small fact but merely nodded and moved away reaching for his camel as well as hers.

Luckily they had found several camels tied up just outside, they had of course made use of the animals and as Lara was slowly pulled away from the dust cloud
that was Hamunaptra the sun glinted off of a double headed battle axe encrusted with jewels.
Chapter 16

Cairo National Hotel
Three Days Later

Lara sat staring out at the busy streets of Cairo already returning to normal after the strange events of Imhotep’s rise and fall. They were lucky, there
were very few casualties and the only one that really mattered to her was the most important. Xander, missing in action they had called it in Vietnam. For
the vast majority at least, it was synonymous with death, killed in the execution of duty. A stupid twist of fate that had ripped out her heart and crushed
it into dust still inside of her chest. She had been so very SURE, in fact completely one hundred percent certain that he would get out, that he would
survive. After all that is what he did, he survived things that others couldn’t, things that weren’t supposed to exist, and yet this time he had finally
failed and the fickle bastard called fate had finally got him.

She would have to tell Willow and Giles when she finally returned home, but she had no idea how or even if she was going to attempt that trip just yet.

At least Rick and Evie were happy, there was even talk of marriage already, although Lara suspected that was because they were already having sex, but she
pushed that thought aside ruthlessly. She wished them the best of luck, but she was feeling a little bitter. It had become obvious to her at least that she
deeply loved the goof ball that was Xander Harris. He was sweet, kind and brave with it. He had the heart of a lion and was a ruthless warrior once riled.
He was able to keep up with her, and that was no mean feat. His skills had improved across the board in the time she had been away from him and she was proud
to know him. Before they had even had time to consummate their new relationship, he had been ripped away from her.

“Oh god” Lara said and for the first time since her fathers death tears fell from her eyes. Huge droplets of distilled sorrow dropped from her long lashes
and plopped down onto the front of her shirt.

*****

Lara sniffed and dashed the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand before standing up her long pony tail whipping around her with the suddenness of her
movement.

She spied Xander’s knapsack on the floor at her feet and kicked at it with a forlorn foot. It upended a few times, four to be exact and each time it did
another diamond was shown. Four identical diamonds lay at her feet.

With a slight chuckle Lara reached for them, “Always surprising me” she said her voice tight with emotion. She plucked each from the ground and held them in
a line across her hand. Her heart clenched, her mind turning to Xander and then to her predicament. Her eyes widened as the Diamonds suddenly began to glow.
She quickly dumped them on the bed whereupon they stopped glowing.

“My, My” she whispered her eyes alight with wonder.

Outskirts of Cairo

Xander limped into Cairo with a small smile finally gracing his face. His hip was on fire; his throat felt like he had gargled with barbed wire but he was
alive, and nearly home. It was a bittersweet feeling, though; he had learnt things that he had never wanted to know. Events were unrolling in the future and
here and now in the past that would bring him a great deal of personal pain.

He heaved his knapsack into a better position on his shoulder and his cane snapped out to full extension; here at least it would have more use than digging
into sand. His footsteps now accompanied by a thud of his cane hitting compacted earth he set his shoulders and walked into the city of Cairo with a set jaw.

Cairo Museum

Lara strode through the large doors of the museum with no sigh of her earlier pain or tears neither marring her perfect complexion nor misting her eyes. Her
back was straight and her jaw set. She had things to do and she believed that Xander would not want her to jeopardise her life because he had passed on.

She had spent some time experimenting with the diamonds she had found in Xander’s sack and she had come to a conclusion. They were how they got there and
they were how she was going to get back. She did, however, need some assistance researching a few details. To do that she needed material and she knew where
to go for that. It did however mean that she was going to have to tell Evie at least some details of her presence and who she and Xander were.

She walked straight past the receptionist ignoring her completely and through the double doors that led to Evie and her library. Luckily the receptionist
didn’t even blink having been informed that a lady would be visiting.

A long walk down the cavernous corridors later and she arrived at the doors to Evie’s library and pushed them open with her mind set on her task.

Evie bounded over to her with her eyes alight with worry. “Lara, how are you?” she asked with gentle concern.

Lara smiled for her benefit, “I am coping,” she said simply her eyes holding the truth of the matter.

“Well…Good, I didn’t know Xander very well, but I feel that he would have wanted to you continue with your life.” Evie said.

Rick walked up behind her and placed a proprietary hand on her shoulder. He shook his head, “He’s not dead” he said his tone firm and with not the tiniest
shred of doubt in his words.

“Rick!” Evie admonished.

Lara smiled at the sandy haired man; whose startling blue eyes seemed to be drilling into her, “I understand the desire to believe…” she began running out of
words to describe the feeling.

“He’s not” Rick pressed, “Don’t ask me how I know, I just do”

“Then I hope you are correct” Lara said after a moment’s hesitation, “In which case he will appear shortly, knowing Xander. In the meantime, there are
something’s I need to share with you”

Cairo National Hotel

Xander slid into the bath, knowing that despite Lara’s lack of presence he needed to re-hydrate his body. He had already had water, sweet cool ambrosia of
the gods as it had been. Now he would have a quick bath and then set out for the museum and try to find his time travelling partner. He let out a sigh as
the hot water infused his system and eased the fire in his hip and lent his head back on the bath’s headrest.

There was one other piece of information that Alexdrious had imparted to him that would be most useful in his coming trip home…the method in which he had
arrived. The tears of Isis were four identical diamonds that were able to twist time and space. The triggering mechanism was apparently emotion, the desire
to be elsewhere and if so desired, else when, a powerful device that he had stumbled upon completely by accident. It was one of those strange twists of fate
that gave Alexdrious such a headache. Not more than one in a million time threads turned out that way, he had said, and none of the others had placed Xander
in a position to walk into that cavern. It had been a complete freak of the space-time continuum that allowed Alexdrious to talk to the Saviour.

Xander let out a sigh of extreme annoyance and brushed a hand down his tired face peering out of the wake of bubbles at the mirror and not recognising the
person staring back at him. He looked old; older than he had been when he’d looked in the mirror the other day that was for sure. Now he wasn’t quite sure
what to make of himself, who was he. Xander, friend to the Slayer, lover of Lara, or was he now Xander, alone, saviour and protector?

Cairo Museum

Lara flipped through an ancient tome translating the text within with ease, along the way in her life she had picked up quite a few supposedly dead languages
so this sort of tome held no fear for her. Rick however, well, he wasn’t a happy bunny.

“Going out” he said suddenly and dropped the book that had been frustrating him for the last hour. He strode off without as much as a glance behind him and
went looking for ‘A good time’. Evie watched him walking away with a slightly perturbed look crossing her attractive features.

“He’s a man of action, of guns and battle. Research isn’t his thing” Lara said and then smiled, “It’s not really mine either actually”

Evie let out a small sigh and looked around the library suddenly becoming as still as a pointer dog as she glimpsed Rick talking to someone outside of the
door to the library. A strange feeling crept up her scalp, it had happened before, just as she read form the book of the dead, a strange sense of
expectation, of something happening as it should.

A widely smiling Rick who was followed by a badly limping Xander who was leaning heavily on his cane opened the library door. “Lara” Evie said her voice
excited.

“What?” Lara asked not looking up from her book.

“Lara, I think you had better see this” Evie pressed.

“Just let me get to the end of the paragraph” Lara said sensing no danger in Evie’s voice she saw no reason to push it.

“Considering that’s ancient Greek, I’m thinking it could take a while,” a male voice said.

Lara froze her body not moving an inch her mind not willing to believe it yet, “Who’s that?” she said her voice disbelieving. Her entire body suddenly
pivoted and she turned to face the most gorgeous lopsided smile that she had ever had the pleasure to see in her entire life. She just looked at him a smile
growing around her generous lips and her eyes sparkling.

“I knew it” Rick mumbled, “Didn’t I say?” he continued in an aside to Evie.

“Yes, very good Rick, I’ll never doubt you again” Evie said tongue in cheek, not willing to admit that she had been highly impressed by that piece of
intuition.

“Don’t I get a hello?” Xander said mocking Lara’s accent perfectly.

“Hello” Lara said and then exploded out of seat and grabbed Xander kissing him with fiery passion.

For a minute Xander just let her, revelling in the feel of her for what could be the last time. Then finally, he gently extracted himself still smiling into
her eyes, “Hello yourself” he said, again with the accent mocking.

“How?” Lara asked then just smiled, “You’re always surprising me Mr Harris”

“Why Thank you Lady Croft” Xander said formally then winced.

Lara laughed, “Don’t worry, I’ve filled in our friends all about our status in 1925”

“What, you mean ‘Just visiting’?” Xander said with a laugh.

“Yes, that’s the one” Lara said still smiling that radiant smile that had been on her face since Xander arrived back in her life. Just that it was now on the
outside.

“Well, then I’m guessing we have to stop the married act” Xander said and took a step away from Lara but still smiling so Lara mistook it as a joke.

*****

Lara dragged a strangely quite Xander away into the stacks, mostly to say hello properly. It was the first chance she’d had in the several hours since he
returned. She pulled him into a deep kiss until finally, Lara pulled back for a minute and decided she needed to tell Xander Harris something, lest he
disappear again, “I Love You” she said staring deep into his eyes.

Xander avoided her gaze, maintaining a suddenly heavy and awkward silence. Lara looked at him in betrayed shock for several long moments, “I’m sorry Lara”
Xander finally said, his voice barely above a whisper, “I don’t feel the same way” he told her, in complete opposition to what his heart was screaming at him,
“I’ve had a lot of time to think, and…”

Lara held up a hand, her eyes reflecting the hurting her heart was going through. “Don’t” she said, the one word dead and filled with sadness, “Just, don’t”

Xander nodded and moved around her to walk back to the table and pick up an ancient tome.

Lara watched him go with a shocked, stunned, surprised and above all betrayed expression.

*****

“Are we ready?” Lara asked her voice, crisp and very British. They had spent several hours until finally they had found the relevant information that would
allow Lara the level of control she wished before finally triggering the diamonds.

Xander met her ice-cold eyes and nodded once. Evie, Rick and Jonathan exchanged confused glances between themselves. “Do it” Xander said his tone dead.

Lara activated the Diamonds and reached out a hand to take a hold of Xander’s shoulder, the room dissolved around them until they were once more in the tombs
of Alkhamor, the altar room to be exact. She pulled out her GPS system and smiled when she realised it was working and showing her position, as well as the
time and date.

“It’s the 15th of October so I very much doubt that you’re friend Mr Williams will be around” Lara said stiffly, “It would seem that there is very little
point in us sticking together, I think even you can find your way home”

Xander nodded, understanding her pain and wondering how it had all gone so wrong, so very quickly and knowing that it was all his own damn fault, and what was
more, necessary to save the damn godforsaken planet, again!

Lara Croft turned on a heel and disappeared into the gloom. It wasn’t for a full hour that Xander started to follow her, and another five minutes after that
until he realised something very important.

“Damn it, how am I going to get HOME?” Xander said in a heavy voice.

Cairo Museum 1925

Rick walked over to the spot that Lara and Xander had occupied as Evie let out a breath, “What the devil happened between them?” she asked the room in
general.

Rick picked up the note that was in the exact place it would be if Xander had been standing on it and pushed it to one side at the last moment. It had their
names on it and as he opened the envelope he noticed that there was an envelope for each of them. Rick held up the envelope and smiled slightly, “I’m not
sure, but this might tell us”

The Cavern, Just Before Xander Left

Xander looked at Alexdrious with fear etched on his face, “What?”

“It must be done, if not for your sake then for …” he trailed off a look of sorry on his face.

“You’re sure of this fact?” Xander asked desperate, Alexdrious had spent several days convincing Xander of his veracity, showing him irrefutable evidence to
back up his claims. But this last nugget of time wisdom he had dumped on him had nearly been Xander’s undoing.

“I am, destiny cannot be undone, and if you do not then the world WILL fall to a deadly plague unlike anything you can conceive of”

“I wouldn’t bet on that” Xander mumbled in a distracted way, “Why?”

“I’ve told you Xander, you know what must be done!”

“FUCKING; DAMN IT!” Xander roared out causing the white robed man to take several steps back from the heartbroken young man.

Alexdrious did however know how the young man felt; it was a cruel twist of fate for this to happen; now of all times, “I understand your anger”

“Do you?” Xander said piecing the other man with a look, “How can you?”

“I’ve also lost those I’ve loved. Once due to duty as you will now”

“You seem awfully fucking sure of yourself” Xander spat back.

“That is because I am” Alexdrious told him with the wisdom of ages in his eye, “I know you Alexander Harris, because we are the same you and eye. We are the
ones who see what the others do not. It is our task to direct the flow of time, or in your case, events. We are not the big hero’s we are the ones who stand
and protect the hero’s backs. You will do now as you have always done and protect those you love.” Alexdrious paused his mind sifting through the available
time lines for a way out of this predicament for Xander; none came to him so he turned back to the grieving man.

Xander looked up and met his eyes as tears started to form he gave a single nod, a simple movement that caused his heart to split and shatter. “I’ll do it”
he said and sobbed just once.

“I’ll tell Lara I don’t love her”

The End

Actually, It’s not there is another part to this trilogy. What? You thought I’d leave it like THAT?

BTW, watch The Cradle of Life, if you want to know what I’m going on about in this final chapter. And yes, I am cutting this story short. Because this is
where it wanted to end and for the new one to begin even with another 10 parts planned, sorry J it’s just the way it works sometimes.


THE END

The End

You have reached the end of "LXT02 - The Urn Of Osiris". This story is complete.

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