Dimitri's Night Club – Night
The scene held for a moment and they all felt that moment of decision in Lara build like a coming storm.
Xander leaned into her a little, his lips moving in something only she could hear, "I do love you; you know." he told her, then turned and faced forward as Lara's eyes filled with tears.
Lara shook like a leaf, her grip on her pistol almost dangerous at that moment. She knew she couldn't do it. Knew in her guts that she didn't want to, but her mind kept trying to over rule her heart. It was telling her to be safe, to ensure the world would continue to spin on it's axis. That if it was to do that, she had to stop Xander now before it was too late.
To do that though, meant to kill the man she loved like no other.
"Welcome to Dimitri's once more Lady Croft" a thickly accented Russian voice said from behind Lara.
Lara stiffened as she felt the barrel of what felt like a desert eagle stab into to her back. "Is there some problem here" she asked in a neutral voice. Her professional bearing once more taking a hold of her as a new problem presented itself.
"Bye bye" Xander said in an English accent and in an almost blur of movement he reached out and grabbed Honey by the waist. Then his cane flashed up and round knocking Dimitri on the face, and putting the man off balance. Then the cane was pointed towards the doorway and triggered into action.
Honey let out a yelp as she was suddenly yanked away by the powerful retraction mechanism of the cane. As that happened Lara span, flashing an expanse of leg as she nailed Dimitri in the balls with a kick. His guards went for their weapons even as Faith and Buffy went into action.
Xander glanced back as they reached the door and figured the odds for himself. It looked to him like Lara and the slayer's had everything under control. It also looked like he was going to have to find a new way out of Russia. With that he slipped out of the now in an up roar club and into the night.
Lara watched him disappear form the door a slight smile on her face before she kicked a guard in the shins and punched him in the face as he bent over. The guard doubled back over and dropped like a stone. "Come on, it's time for a strategic retreat"
Buffy and Faith both nodded at her and then nailed the same guy with a punch. The Russian man virtually lifted off of the floor. They hadn't been using full force, neither of them wanted to kill anyone, and they were both fully aware of the fact it would be easy to do.
With that done the three women linked hands and ran like mad for the entrance. Trapping a few guards in the net they had built. The power afforded to them by the slayer's sent the men down like stones and Lara was actually quite happy to have them along for the first time since the beginning of this little adventure.
Only one person in the crowd wasn't moving in a panic or towards a fight. The slight oriental man was just watching calmly, his dark eyes glittering with slight humor. He had underestimated his opponent once, he would not do so again. Or so he vowed to himself.
Two Day's Later, Angel Investigations.
"Where the hell has he gone now?" Lara said to herself almost whimsically.
"I don't know Lara" Evie replied needlessly. "All I can say is that we've checked every archive we could and haven't found any more entries that may help"
"Nothing at all? That's strange, I got the impression from Xander that he had more to do" Lara said thoughtfully. "Perhaps we need to widen our search parameters somewhat."
"In what way?" Hillary asked from where he was sat next to Evie. The connection showing that he as always was sipping tea.
Lara paused, she wasn't too sure about that herself now that she came to think about it.
"We've got a hit" Buffy said walking into Angel's back room with Willow in tow.
"Willow, hello" Lara said with a slight smile for the red haired witch.
Willow nodded her greeting but her eyes were radiating worry.
"What's the matter"
"It's definitely the First" Willow said, "I found Xander's research and I've got to say it doesn't look good."
"In what way?"
"Well, I still don't know anything about what he's doing. But I do think I know WHY he's doing it."
"Go on" Lara said, turning the camera so that Hillary and Evie were included in the conversation as well.
"From the research that Xander has gathered and it's a LOT of research. The First is going to make a move on this plane of existence."
Lara blinked as did Buffy. "What, why?"
"That I can't tell you, but apparently every thousand years of so it tries. It's locked into a dimension and most of it's power is also locked there, but it IS able to project itself from there and generally play havoc with people and their emotions. We knew that right, but what we didn't know is that apart from being non corporeal in this realm it DOES have some powers here. It's bringer's act as a conduit, where as we thought they just helped it to show up, they can act as a circuit to send power through. The first is using that to build an army of some sort. Xander thinks, or his notes say he does, that the First is due to attack all out this time. The last time it tried it failed but I couldn't find a reference to why or how." Willow said looking downcast. "I'm hoping that Xander did and just hasn't said anything on the PC about it."
Lara leaned back in her chair, "So why is he collecting Time twisting artefact's?"
"We've tried this before. I still think he needs to go back and get something, like a artifact that will lock up the first or something."
"Time travel is incredibly dangerous. But it's not actually all that difficult" Willow said. "You guys did it before right."
Lara suddenly sat bolt up right in her chair, "Hillary, go into lock down NOW" she said, just as alarms started to sound in the background from across the connection.
"Damn it!" she swore, "Lock down" she said, just as the connection suddenly went dead.
"Damn it!" she swore again, "He's got nerve I'll give him that."
"What's going on?" Willow asked
Lara turned to willow with a slight smile on her face, "The bastard is robbing my private collection" she said with a singular lack of venom despite her words. "He's after the Tears of Isis."
"That what?" Buffy asked. "And why are you so calm?"
"I can't very well do anything about it now can I?" Lara said. "By time I get there he'll be gone. With the Tears and I suspect the Oracle also."
"You seem pretty sure he'll get through that Lock down thingy" Buffy said.
"Oh I am, I am. I trained him didn't I?"
"What about Evie and that butler guy"
"Hillary is a well trained fighter and quite deadly in his won right, however, he is no match for Xander when he's going all out." Lara said.
"You know Xander won't hurt them right?" Buffy said, with Willow nodding her agreement furiously.
Lara sighed, "I do actually. I..." she paused, "I think I 'get it' as you American's say."
"What's he doing, because I don't get it and I've known him longer than all of you" Willow said slightly snappishly.
"The exact details I couldn't tell you, I just feel here" she said holding her heart, "That he is doing the right thing."
Unseen by them Faith backed out of the doorway with tears in her eyes.
England, Croft Manor.
"Can't we talk about this Xander" Hillary said watching Xander like a hawk. He was standing in front of the vault that was well hidden away in Lara's Office.
"Move Hillary" Xander warned in as friendly a tone as he could.
"I'm afraid I can't do that Xander" Hillary said moving into a fighting stance.
"I don't like fighting my friends" Xander said.
"Sometimes though... You have to" Xander told him, slipping into a stance himself.
"I see" Hillary said, showing none of the nerves that were attacking him at that moment. He knew quite well he was out classed, but it was his duty to protect Lara's home. A duty he considered an honor in fact.
Xander's eye bled of all emotion and he no longer looked at Hillary as Hillary, he just saw a bump in the road that he had to iron out. It was a cold place to be, but it had to be done.
The two men moved at the same time. Coming together like freight trains, it didn't matter though, the fight lasted all of a microsecond.
As Hillary went for a disabling blow, so did Xander, but Xander was also a good deal faster than Hillary and had studied with a slayer and fought Vampires for most of his adult life. It gave him an advantage even without his little tiny bit of slayer speed boost.
Hillary knew that going in of course, but Xander was proud to say that it didn't stop the man. So as Hillary sank to the floor, the chi hit rendering him unconscious immediately Xander caught him. He didn't want the man hurt. Not a man as obviously honorable as Hillary was. He had also made damn sure the chi hit had been as painless as possible.
The butler would wake up in a few hours with a migraine, but there wouldn't be a mark on him, or any lasting effect.
Xander wouldn't be able to live with himself otherwise. It was bad enough he was forced into doing this in the first place.
He was fairly sure that Hillary had made sure that Evie was put somewhere safe, it's what he expected of the man.
Just then a dainty foot slammed into the side of his head and he went down, mostly out of shock.
He turned his head and gave it a shake. Then looked in shock at the hundred year old woman who was in a classical fighting stance. Apparently he'd just been kicked in the head by a woman that had no right to being that limber. "Evie!?" he said in shock.
"Don't you Evie me, young man" Evie said with anger in her tone. "What the devil do you think you're doing."
"You kicked me!" Xander said, still somewhat in shock.
"I'll do a good deal more than that if you don't stop this nonsense right away" she threatened.
"How the hell did you manage to kick me in the head?"
Evie smiled slightly, "Little fixed on that aren't we? Do I need to do it again, knock some sense into that thick skull of yours?"
Xander blinked and started to stand. He was sent back down by a surprisingly heavy blow to his head.
Xander groaned, "I can't believe I'm getting my ass handed to me by a little old lady"
"Hey!" Evie said outraged, "Who are you calling little, old and for that matter a lady?"
Xander stood, this time somewhat faster and skipped out of the way of a perfectly executed kick. "You've been holding out on me Evie" he told her.
"No, actually I haven't. You just didn't put two and two together" she said moving on the offensive again.
Xander blocked the blows, his speed and martial training showing itself again. "Don't make me fight you Evie!"
"You'd hit ME?" Evie asked, her eyes dangerous. "I'm a lady you know"
Xander blinked, "Didn't you just say..." he was cut off by another lightning fast attack.
"What was that?" Evie asked innocently.
Xander actually smiled at her. "You know I'm impressed beyond belief. If I get out of this shit alive, you and me are going to have a LONG chat."
Evie paused, "What?"
"Don't worry about Evie," he paused with a slight smile, "old mum"
"Don't try that with me" Evie said, still not moving though.
Xander smiled softly at her, "I'm sorry" he said. Then PFFT sounded from behind her. Evie turned to be faced by a very guilty looking pair of blue eyes.
"Who the devil..." she began, before sliding towards the floor.
Xander caught her and picked her light frame off of the floor. "God damn I love this woman" he said with a proud beaming smile, "Always surprising me" he said, taking out the knock out dart and laying her on a nearby couch.
"She was kicking your butt" Honey said with a snicker.
"I was hardly going to hit her back now was I?"
"What is it with you and women anyway. They all seem angry at you half the time and the other half..." she trailed off with a wink.
Xander laughed slightly and pointed his PDA and the wall, watching it's display closely. "Wish I knew" he said bemusedly.
Honey smiled to herself, she knew, but she wasn't about to tell him.
"There it is. If I know Lara... and I do... this is going to be hard work. You may as well take a seat."
Honey did as he said and watched him pop a secret panel and reveal a state of the art safe.
Xander let out a low whistle.
"So what's with you and this Lara?" Honey asked, sounding uninterested even as she focused on his answer closely.
Xander tapped his PDA a few times and then pressed it onto the front of the safe. He tapped the screen again and watched as rows of numbers began to flow. "That's not easy to answer" he told her.
"Try, we've got time right?"
"Not really, but this will be a while." Xander said. "Lara trained me. She and I met in Vegas."
"Wait a minute you mean...."
"Oh yeah, remember I told you the story was true-ish"
"Oh" Honey said, from what she remembered of the story and since it was one of her favorites that was a fair bit. This Lara was VERY important to Xander. As in possibly the love of his life. But the book and real life were obviously different somewhere. Of course the book had the hero and heroine riding off into the sunset as it were. Honey had a feeling that since this was real life, no matter how bizarre that life was, that it was more complex than that.
"Yeah Oh" Xander said with a grim smile. "Needless to say things got complicated, like they generally do. Strangely enough it was all about time"
"We were back in 1925 when it happened" Xander said, his voice going hollow.
Honey remained quiet and just listened.
"I met a man from even further back and well he told me a few things, one of which was that I had to let Lara go in order to save the earth from a deadly plague. I mean what the fuck do you say to that right?"
"So I had to do it." Xander said bleakly. "I've never felt so dirty in my life." he said, "And I've been possessed by an animal spirit." he shook his head. "I knew I'd lost her right then and there. Still I just can't seem to let go properly, and I just know because of that I'm hurting Faith"
"Faith, that brunette?" Honey asked, covering her own sadness.
"Yeah." Xander said sadly.
"What's she to you then?"
"A friend mostly."
"Strange relationship" Xander said, then his PDA binged and the safe popped open.
Honey almost growled in frustration. How was she supposed to 'fight' against these women for Xander's affections if she didn't know her opposition?
Xander let out a sigh, "One more stop to go" he said with a tone to his voice that Honey couldn't quite identify. It sounded almost deathly final. She really didn't like it, whatever it was.
"Can I stay with you."
"Not after this trip" Xander told her sadly, turning to face her. "I'll take you home after that. I've got a friend that will help you get everything sorted."
"I want to stay with you."
"No one can follow me where I'm going" Xander told her.
"What the fuck does that mean?" Honey asked scared.
Xander reached out and touched her face. "Don't be scared Honey I'll make sure you're all set before I leave."
"That's not what I'm worried about" she told him. "I don't like the way you're speaking Xander!"
Xander smiled at her, "I'm just in a maudlin mood; sorry"
Honey narrowed her eyes at him and tried to see past the mask she KNEW he was wearing right then. It was for her benefit she knew, and she didn't like it one bit. What did he have to hide that was so bad?
"Come on we've got a flight to catch." Xander said finally and pulled her to her feet.
Honey looked up at him and in a moment of weakness kissed him, just a peck but with promise behind it. "Don't do anything stupid Xander Harris"
Xander looked a little stunned but smiled all the same. "Hey I'd never do that" he told her.
Of course, had she known him better she would know that to be the blatant lie that it was.
Angel Investigations, LA
"I can't help but think we're missing something though" Faith said.
"Me too" Lara admitted.
"Like what?" Cordelia asked.
Lara pursed her lips in thought. "Well, I got a message a few moments ago from Evie that Xander was indeed at the manor with his groupie. They have the tears and the Oracle. I knew I should've put that somewhere more secure. That means, as far as we can tell he's got the full set."
"So, what ever he's going to do with them, he would've done it already right?" Faith asked.
"Unless" Lara said sitting forward slightly, "Unless he requires a trigger, or perhaps another control mechanism."
"Okay" Faith said thoughtfully, "So what then?"
Lara looked at Buffy who smiled and nodded.
"What's with all the nodding and smiling?" Faith asked looking between the two.
"Well, I was just thinking" Buffy said. "That we should go back to where all this started."
"As was I. Perhaps the Chalice wasn't the only thing in the cavern?"
"Why do you think that." Cordy asked with a slightly bored air. It was a cover mostly, she was actually wondering where the hell Angel had gotten to again.
"The builder" Buffy, Faith and Lara said at the same time.
Cordy looked at them with an amused air, "You three have been spending WAY too much time together."
"So, the grand canyon then?" Buffy asked.
"I think perhaps Ripper would be a valuable asset at this point" Lara put in.
"I'll call Willow" Buffy said standing up and reaching into her bag for her mobile.
"I'll pack our gear." Faith said, slapping her hands on her thighs and getting up.
"I'll contact Evie." Lara said also standing.
Once they were gone Cordy said to herself, "That's getting creepy."
Alligator Valley, Nevada.
Honey shaded her eyes against the sun and looked around at the stark beauty of the canyon in awe. She had never been to the grand canyon. She'd been sick on that particular holiday, the one where her father had tried to drag her away to feed some culture into her. Very sick with a case of I-don't-
"Hey, you still with me?" Xander asked looking at Honey with a smile.
"Yeah just soaking it in" she told him looking around.
"Amazing isn't it." he said pausing for a second himself. "You should've seen it with the river going through it."
Honey turned to him with a bemused expression on her face.
"My first book was a brain dump basically. I put down all the stuff that the builder of this place." he said pointing to the rock crag they were about to enter, "put into my brain. I've got memories of travelling the gorge while it was white water, watching as they parted the waves to dry out the cavern and on from there."
"That's all true?"
"Every bit of it. I'm constantly surprised anyone wanted to read that book. It was just a factual piece of work. Nothing more, nothing less than what happened. Not like the others which I at least did fictionalize somewhat" Xander said with a self deprecating grin. "I couldn't exactly tell people the real events to some of it. They wouldn't have believed it."
"I'm not sure I do!" Honey said, mouth gaping in shock. "You're not lying though are you." she stated in equal shock. "I know you said vampires were real and I've seen some funky stuff since we hooked up, but vampires.... Demons?"
"And worse" Xander told her serious for a split second.
"Then what about the heroine from books three through five?"
"You've met her. The short blonde in Russia."
"That was beth?"
"Okay, this isn't my most imaginative name change but her name is actually Buffy"
"She's really like... super strong and all that stuff."
"Her and Faith both. I've seen Buffy lift a VW beetle off the ground once. Just so Willow could change a tire"
Honey's eyes were wide open, "Wow"
"She is that."
"Don't you know anyone normal."
Xander just smiled.
Honey suddenly became serious, "That reminds me. I'd forgotten in all the fuss getting to england and then here."
"Oh that." Xander said knowing what she was going to ask.
"What did they mean?"
"I don't know how to tell you this Honey" Xander said, "But I will, we just need to keep going as I do."
Honey nodded her agreement and Xander nodded back at her. "Then let's start now and I'll start talking. But I've got to warn you I'm not an expert."
"You know more than I do right now, about any of this stuff. I don't even know what you are all talking about."
Xander pulled his pack onto his back and looked at her very seriously for a moment, "Remember in my stories when I talked about magic?"
"Is that real too?" Honey asked.
"Very, practitioners of magic are sometimes called witches."
"Old hags with hook noses and that stuff."
Xander paused and looked thoughtful, "You know I've never met a witch who wasn't a stone cold fox."
"Oh?" Honey asked.
"Which of course includes you."
Honey blushed slightly, then blanched as his full meaning became clear. "I'm a w..."
"Witch. A powerful one too from what I can tell."
Honey shook her head, following behind him as they made their way to the cavern entrance, "I can't be. I'm still not sure I even believe in magic!"
"I know, sorry"
"Sorry why are you sorry?"
"It's a hell of a responsibility. Magic is VERY dangerous and it can use you just as much as you use it. If not more. A friend from school was virtually swallowed whole by it until we dragged her kicking and screaming back from the edge."
"Oh Jesus" Honey said, wondering how her life could possibly get more complex.
"Don't worry though Honey. I'll make sure you have help. I've got good friends who are used to this sort of thing, I even know someone who could teach you."
"What if I want you to do it?"
Xander paused and looked at her seriously, "I can't. I can't use magic at all. In fact I'm what's known as a null. I've got less magic in my body than that rock over there."
"Nature seems disproportionate at times. You and my friend Willow, are powerful. So somewhere along the line has to find Balance. I'm just the other end of the scale, balancing it out."
"That doesn't seem fair."
"Wouldn't you like to know magic?"
Xander shrugged, "I do know magic. I just can't DO magic." he said with a chuckle. "Though I did set a book on fire once. Damn stupid protective spells."
"So if you know magic why can't you teach me."
"Because someone with experience in magic has to be able to show you things. They also know what you can do and can't do, in a very personal real way. I just couldn't show you that. I can teach you spells parrot fashion sure, but it wouldn't really work. It's like music" Xander said starting walking again. "Someone can learn to read music and play an instrument, but that doesn't make you a virtuoso. Someone who 'feels' the music, lives the music is always going to be better in the end. Some of the best musicians out there don't even read music. It's the same with magic. You lifted yourself off the ground in the Kremlin without a spell. You just reacted unconsciously to the danger and did it."
"I did!" Honey said somewhat surprised.
"Yeah, sorry I didn't mention it before. I just didn't know how to."
"Magic" Honey said, a little wonder in her voice. "I can do magic"
"Yep. Just... be careful okay. We'll get you a teacher, someone that knows the paths that can be followed and which ones to avoid."
"Sure" Honey said, her mind really elsewhere. Magic, she could do magic!
Xander glanced at her with a slight frown, he hoped she was taking his words seriously, though he wasn't sure she was. Willow had been a lot like that though, and thankfully in the end she had learned the dangers of magic. He'd hate to think what would've happened if she hadn't.