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The Assassin And The Sorceress

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Summary: Buffy meets Diablo II Lords of Destruction

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Fantasy > DiabloAnimeRoninFR18124,504264,06016 Aug 0416 Aug 04No
The Assassin And The Sorceress

Author: Anime Ronin

Rating: PG-13 (will be R later on for blood, gore and swearing)

Summary: Sorceress from Diablo 2 (LOD expansion set) comes to Hellmouth via a botched Town Portal spell and all hell breaks loose.

Disclaimer: I own nothing in this story save the Sorceress’ name and her personality – don’t sue.

Feedback: The coin of the realm, as it is said.

Author’s Note: Alright, this is take two, as it were – my first incarnation of this really sucked, so I’ve tried to re-vamp it (no pun intended) a little and here it is. Note, this will portray some members of the Scooby Gang (three guesses who) as people who can’t get the job done or are sheep to said person (this last part will be only temporary – they will see the light). Sorry, but Buffy, Giles and, to some extent, Willow were all very short-sighted in the first few seasons (Giles and Willow improved as they went, Buffy only went down hill) – or rather that is my way of seeing it.

AN2: Also note that the skills that X will show are not those of the D2: LOD Assassin – different world, different skills. Also, while the sorceress will have some of the same archaic weaponry, X will have some cool stuff that I’ve seen, heard of or came up with on the spot (also, some D&D elements will apply here – mostly to storage).

AN3: This takes place in later S2 – Kendra is already dead, Jenny isn’t (she’s in a wheelchair for now, but not dead), Angelus is around and about, The Judge has been dealt with and Cordy isn’t X’s main squeeze as she is currently dead.

AN4: This is also all in one go – I’m too lazy to redo this stuff chapter for chapter.

Alright, here we go (again).



The Assassin And The Sorceress

Part 1 – Out of the night he shall come.

Buffy and her Scooby Gang looked around at the total carnage that was currently masking the inside of Willy’s Alibi Room; there were piles of dust everywhere, bits and pieces of demon hide and entrails, even an entire head from a Polgara demon resting in the chair nearest to the cash register, and Willy, of course, was standing behind the wreck of a bar with his head in his hands, bemoaning his cursed luck.

“What happened, Willy? Some of your customers starting to get out of hand?”

He looked up, “Slayer, I don’t know what I ever did to him, but tell you friend that he needs to stop busting up my bar.”

Buffy looked over at Giles first, then at Oz, both of whom looked oddly blank, then turned back to Willy, “Who are you talking about, Willy? Oz and Giles didn’t do this – they’ve been with me all night.”

“Not them, Slayer – that Harris kid. He came in here earlier looking for some information and then some vamps started to pick on him; your boy lost it and not only dusted them but then started the bar brawl that ended like this.” He paused and took a drink from the glass that was in front of him, “I ain’t sure what’s eating him, but he’s got a serious mad-on for whatever pissed him off.”

“Xander did this? XANDER did this?” The thought just didn’t compute, “Alexander Harris, about yea tall, dark hair, brown eyes, a geek through-and-through?” The rest of the Scoobies didn’t seem to be able to compute it either, though Giles did look somewhat false about it.

“Yeah, except for the ‘geek’ part; kid’s been coming in here for a few months, looking for info on who is who in town and who can do what as far as spells can go.”

“What kind of spells was he looking for?”

Willy shrugged at Willow, “Healing, mostly; said that one of your group needed a spell to fix one of your screw ups.” This made them all wince, but Willy appeared not to notice, “I told him what he wanted to know, but apparently the guy wasn’t on the level and the kid took it out on me!” He shivered, “So call him off, Slayer. I never did anything to him.”

“He’s not with us anymore, Willy; we kinda kicked him out a few months back.” She tried not to sound sheepish when she said this, remembering the verbal evisceration that had followed her telling him that he was out of the Scoobies – nobody had been left untouched save Jenny, Dawn and her mother, the former was in the hospital from having her back broken by Angelus and the other two were safely not in the town. He’d used graphic, vile words to describe what he thought of her, of most of them and their ‘let’s save Angel’ campaign, and looked positively murderous when she called him jealous; he’d told her flat-out that if she came near him again he’d kill her and then left even as one of Oz’s CD’s began to play ‘Call of Ktulu’. It had been a bad day for all of them and he’d not spoken to them in or out of school since then – sure, he’d spoken to her mother and sister, even making frequent trips to Jenny’s bedside, but never said a word to them that she knew of.

Willy looked shocked at this, “Ya mean he’s on his own now? He ain’t doing this for any of you?” The barman went pasty white at this, “Oh … shit.”

“What? What’s wrong now, Willy?”

“Well, some of the demons wanted to follow him after he left, ya know, to make sure he understood just how bad he’d screwed up by messing with them, but if’n you aren’t there to back him up…”

Before Willy could finish, another voice spoke from the door behind them, “They won’t have to do anything, Willy.” The voice was instantly recognizable, but when Buffy turned to look at her Xander-shaped friend, she was almost floored by how much he had changed. Gone was the lovable goof whom had made her life in Sunnydale bearable, and in his place was a black-clad, cold-eyed, stone-faced person who held a dripping bag in his left hand, “I told you what would happen if the clientele decided to start something, Willy.” He slung that bag at the barman, who did his best to avoid it, “Now, make sure you tell your patrons not to mess with me ever again – they might upset me and nobody would like me upset.”

“Xander?” He appeared not to hear her as he turned on his heel strode out of the bar. Resolute to at least get him to say something to her, Buffy strode after him purposefully out of the bar, “Xander wait!” She reached him, somewhat surprised how far he had moved with only a walk (even though his legs were longer than hers), and she grabbed the arm of his dark jacket, “Xander…”

He stopped, tense, then spoke, “Turn loose of me, Slayer, before I turn you loose from your arm.” His voice was cold, almost to the point that the Arctic looked like a pleasant vacation, but he didn’t turn around, merely clenched his right first.

“No, Xander, not until we have a talk.”

“Talk? Talk this.” She never really saw him move, but one second he was facing away from her an the next his fist was smashing into her face, flinging her back several feet and making her land on her backside even as the others exited the bar.

Having a hard time seeing, as she was sure he had broken her nose, she could only hear him walking away even as both Giles and Willow called after him to stop. Buffy herself wanted to cry that he had even struck her, let alone broken her nose (which was beginning to heal very quickly and painfully) – she wanted her Xander-shaped friend back, but apparently he had changed from what Willy had said and what he had just done.

+++

Giles wasn’t surprised to see the bar in such disarray from what appeared to be one hell of a fight, but also wasn’t surprised to hear that Xander had come out on top – nor was he particularly surprised to see said young man enter the bar and sling a sack filled with something that had once been alive at Willy before stalking out with Buffy right on his heels. Knowing that the altercation that was to come would not be a very peaceful one, he made his way after the pair and exited the bar just in time to see Xander spin and hit Buffy hard enough to break her nose with a sickening ‘crunch’ and send her back several feet before turning a walking away. “Good God.”

“Buffy?” Willow and Oz both knelt next to the fallen Slayer, who looked to be doing her best to hold back tears of either pain or regret, but also had a look of near shock on her face that Xander had hit her, “Are you okay, Buffy?”

“No, Willow,” Buffy said with a slightly nasal voice, choked with pain as her Slayer healing kicked in and started to repair the broken nose, “I’m not. Why did he hit me?”

“Well, Buffy, perhaps it is that you hit him some time back, after calling him, quote, ‘a jealous bastard’, unquote, and then left him in the middle of the library two days later unconscious when you snuck up behind him and attacked him.” Giles tried to keep the anger out of his voice, but mostly failed – Xander had been asking for a book for a report he needed to do in his English class when Buffy had attacked him. When the young man came to, however, he didn’t look angry, merely resolved to do what was necessary.

“But I…” Buffy tried to defend herself, but after a few seconds of looking quite pathetic, closed her mouth. “I just want my Xander-shaped friend back.”

“Quite honestly Buffy,” Giles told her, removing his glasses and cleaning them, “I’m not sure if he will ever be the person you once knew, nor do I believe he will ever put that mask back on.” At Buffy’s look of confusion, which was mirrored by both Oz and, surprisingly, Willow, he went on, “The Xander you knew was a mask that he wore – The Fool, or the Clown, as it were; that wasn’t the real him, but it was the person everybody knew and could accept, so he merely wore it around you.” Knowing that the concept was probably beyond them, Giles let it drop as Buffy came to her feet, the broken nose now very swollen but probably not broken, “Now the question that remains to be answered is why Xander is looking for the healing spells … or rather, we know whom he is looking at them for, but why is he looking for them. Healing magic is, at best, unreliable.”

“He said it was my fault.” Buffy sounded as if someone had stolen her favored stuffed animal, a pig named Mister Gordo, as she spoke with a tinge of anger, but soon that anger was replaced by sadness, “Why does he see it as my fault?”

“You didn’t kill Angelus when you had the chance.” Oz’s simple statement was in line with what the stoic werewolf / musician usually was, “You have let him roam free and he put Jenny Calendar into the hospital with a broken back. Hence, you are at fault.” While it appeared to Giles that the werewolf was, as always, stoic and in control, it was quite possible that he was going to rip her head off at some point – without Xander around it was Oz whom took the brunt of the male bashing because he was male and a teenager.

“Regardless of that fact,” Giles headed off a rebuttal from Buffy and Willow, both of whom looked somewhat upset at Oz for speaking his mind, which happened more often than not now if one happened to be both a Scooby and a male, “we must find Xander and see just why he is doing this for Jenny and to what lengths he is going to find these spells.” In the back of his mind, though, Giles knew that Xander would go to any length to help out the paralyzed gypsy woman – he always looked after his friends and when said friends were hurt, he was something akin to the wrath of the Almighty.

(AN: note, this is not trying to make X look like some sort of super being, but they, the Scoobies, are dealing with this side of him for the first time, so they don’t know just what he is willing to do in order to get the job done. They will get a clearer picture of just who he is under the mask of the fool/the clown soon enough – AR.)

+++

Even as he left the Slayer on the ground, clutching her probably-broken nose, Alexander Harris couldn’t help but grin a tight grin – she had underestimated him again, they all had, and none of his former friends had any real clue what he was doing outside of looking for a spell that would heal Jenny’s back and spine. At the thought of the woman, though, the grin vanished and ‘hard-ass’ Harris came back out to play as he went to his original objective before he was interrupted by the demons from Willy’s; Willy had set him on the trail of an old potion maker that could, in theory, make a potion that could heal almost any wound, so Xander was gong to find the potion maker and see if he could get the potion for Jenny’s hopeful recovery.

It had been several months since Buffy had kicked him out of the Scooby Gang, just after Thanksgiving, stating that she could not keep carrying him and that he could not fight – he countered saying that nobody had ever taken the time or the effort to try and train him, which she countered by saying that they had better things to do than to train him. That hurt, he later summarized, a lot less in the long run than it did in the moment, but still it had the same effect of making him go off on a tangent that she was as much to blame for the current predicament than anyone because she could not keep her legs closed. After that statement there were several seconds of absolute silence before she accused him of being jealous of what she and Angel had, which he countered with several scathing remarks about what kind of a necrophiliac slut she really was, but then several minutes of blank space where he honestly could not remember anything he said. Whatever was said, though, must have hit close to the mark because when he found himself turning on his heel, he could see the tears streaming down her face and the shocked expressions on everyone (save Oz – his look of shock, overflowing joy and pure hatred were all the same).

Since then he had spoken less than a dozen words to Buffy, Willow and Oz – nothing against Oz himself, but he rarely saw the werewolf; Giles was the one person he spoke to and that was only to get Buffy’s patrol schedule in hopes that he would not run across her in any instance. Of course after the one sneak-attack by Buffy in the library that left him on the ground, unconscious, he had been very careful to only speak to the Briton out of school or on the phone – he’d learned the lesson that the attack had provided and didn’t make the same mistakes twice.

When he started hunting on his own, it was with the traditional stake, machete and the occasional handgun loaded with blessed rounds, but it soon became apparent that the tools weren’t going to cut it, so he began to work on some new ones that his memories of Soldier Boy, several books he had come across in the process and a little imagination had made him think of – he needed good CQB weaponry, versatile enough to take out either vampire or demon, so he came up with a punch dagger that was strapped on to the back of his left wrist and what amounted to a glove with an axe head attached to it for his right hand (good for piercing, slashing and chopping / hacking). Over the next month he had come up with several versions of the weapons but the big breakthrough came when, after dispatching one demon from the Hellmouth in his lair, he came across a pair of heavy bracers with blocky additions on the tops of the wrists – slipping them on, he found that with the correct amount of pressure, the left sprouted a double-sided blade that extended eleven inches past the end of his fist while the right ejected a pair of Wolverine-style blades between his second and fourth knuckles. They were relatively easy to use and maintain, so he kept them.

With each raid he made, it also became apparent that he’d need a way to transport his bounty and it was a tip from Willy the Snitch that led him to an old witch in southern LA that was able to hook him up with some extra storage space in an old rucksack that he had gotten from the same surplus store that he’d gotten the Soldier’s fatigues at – each pocket of the rucksack now could hold several dozen items of varying sizes, but overall it didn’t feel any heavier than a full backpack. With this he had been able to transport several large tomes and possibly magical items to the witch, whom identified them for a set price, but after a while sent him to another magic user whom could enchant anything with special attributes … for a price. The first thing on his list was a pair of Nomex aviator’s gloves that were hit with the mojo to where he could tell if something was indeed magical or if it were rigged with a booby trap – which turned out to be a useful thing and surprisingly cheap at only a Franklin per glove (they paid for themselves in the first raid).

Next on the list was a Nomex and Kevlar balaclava and bandanna combination that hid his face, protected the melon and the neck from any flailing attacks or sharp teeth – he’d nearly been bitten twice in the process of looking a place over for stuff and he didn’t want to push his luck any more than he wanted to. After another two hundred dollars, he wasn’t readily identifiable due to another enchantment that altered his voice slightly, making him sound like Robert DiNiro rather than Alexander Harris; nothing that survived his attacks could ever identify him by sight or sound, which had saved his ass on several occasions when the demons came looking for him – it was surprising how many had gone after Mr. DiNiro due to mistaken identity, really, but all in all it was a good thing to have.

Of course, there were the drawbacks the new job too; he had to sift through the chaff and detritus of information that Willy provided him to find the one or two nuggets of information that were on the level, and when they didn’t pan out, he had to go to Willy’s bar and rough up some of the clientele to make sure the weasel didn’t try to pass him some bogus intel. Doing so had made him more than a few enemies in the demon community, but it also made him a name in the process and sometimes, as Buffy had occasionally proven, a name could open doors that would have otherwise remained closed – that name was Umbra, or Shadow, because that was how he struck, entered and left, by way of the shadows.

Speaking of shadows, he realized that he was nearing his objective and quickly pulled on the balaclava and bandanna to disguise his features, unzipping the Kevlar-lined sleeves of the biker jacket he wore to cover the bracers, and then flexed his left forearm just enough to jettison the blade with a metallic ‘snick’. It never hurt to go into a situation a little over-cautious, especially when dealing with Sunnydale, as he knocked on the door.

“Umbra, I presume?” The voice was older, wiser, but also held a timbre that resonated within the doorway. The figure was that of an older man, maybe in his mid-to-late sixties, with cropped silver hair, a deep, weathered tan, and numerous wrinkles that bespoke of extreme age or worry.

“And if I am?”

“Then you have come to seek a healing potion for your … injured friend.” The man stepped out of the way and allowed him entry, not speaking as he did, but let out a slight sigh of relief when Xander retracted the blade into the bracer, “How are you this evening, young man?”

“I’ve been better, sir. She has a C-5 / C-6 spinal injury with no movement below the waist; can you help her?” (AN: I think this is right – it’s either C or L, I can’t remember.)

The old man nodded more to himself than as an answer, “Perhaps, but it will not be an instant cure – the potion will take time to do its work.”

“How long?”

The old man shrugged even as he began to mix components into a mortar and pestle, “Sometimes a day or even as long as a week … if it even works at all.” He ground the components into a fine powder and then added a green mucus-like substance that turned the concoction a deep, angry red color with a sizzle and some slight wisps of smoke, “Ah, excellent.” He poured it into a large jar and then scribbled down some instructions of a piece of loose leaf notebook paper, “One cup should suffice, then burry the rest of it in the freezer for a week and a half before trying to use it again.”

Xander accepted the jar and then reached into his pocket, slowly as the older man tensed, then removed a small wad of cash, “How much?”

“Two hundred dollars should cover it – it has never failed me before, nor does it spoil if kept at or below room temperature.” The old man accepted the money, counting it quickly, before nodding, “Call me Cain, young man.”

Xander couldn’t help it, “And I don’t even have to go to Chinatown for your help.”

The man rolled his eyes, “Like I haven’t heard that one before.”

Xander left the residence and hoofed it across town, sticking to the darkness as a precaution, before coming to rest in one of the sections of town that never saw any demonic action – it was just off of the University and held several condo complexes, one of which was held by Jenny Calendar. Checking his six as he went, he made his way across to her apartment, not at all surprised that the Slayer was there even as he opened the door with the key she had given him.

+++

Jenny was surprised that the concoction tasted rather nice, despite the fact that it went down like a cup of cold molasses and was a pain in the ass to get out of the jar and cup she had been given to drink it out of by Xander. The whole affair of him giving her the drink had come to a rather abrupt end when he snapped out the blade on his left wrist and laid it to the throat of the Slayer – in a cold voice he had told her to back off and, once she had done so, he gave Jenny her drink.

It started out slowly, a slight tingle that went from just above the middle of her shoulder blades and began to creep down, occasionally pausing and spreading, but the tingle remained even as Xander went to put the rest of the healing potion into the back of her freezer, “Thank you, Alexander.”

“No problem, Jenny.” He still wore the balaclava and bandanna, which made him sound as if he were Robert DiNiro (she personally like Al Paccino – Scarface was one of her favorite movies), but it was obviously him even though.

Rupert, for his part, looked as if he were going to be sick, “Xander, where did you get that weapon?”

“Stole it from a demon I killed – it’s not like he was going to be needing it anymore.” His voice was flat and emotionless as he spoke, putting the bottle into the back of her freezer before reaching down into the lower portion and grabbing himself a beer, “The spoils of war.”

“It could be demonic, Xander. Perhaps you should give it to me to research…”

“No, it’s not demonic, Giles – I’ve had it checked four times by four separate people and they all agree it’s just a tool used to hack, slash and kill, all three of which happen to be part of my new specialty.” He grinned a skeletal grin through the balaclava and opened the beer before removing the material from his face to drink, “Call me Umbra, if you don’t mind.”

Giles went grey in the face and looked as if he were about to pass out, “The assassin?”

“Among other things.” He shrugged, “I tend to take a more pro-active way to doing things around here, Giles, instead of waiting for the shit to hit the fan like you and Buffy do.”

“So you’re the guy that is scaring everyone at Willy’s and around town?” Buffy sounded oddly neutral as she asked her question.

Xander took a pull off of his beer and shrugged, “Not that it takes much to scare the locals in this place, but yes. I mean, if you could scare them, then I should, right?”

“It’s not the same, Xander,” she snapped at him. “I didn’t choose this, it chose me.”

“As you have told us many times before, yes, but let me stop your next oh-so-tired rant; yes, I CHOOSE to do this because I WANT to do this, so you and everyone else can say precisely dick about it.” He paused his next drink, looking oddly perturbed, “I think we’ve had this discussion before, Buffy, and if memory serves me correctly, you didn’t influence me then, nor will you do so now.”

“But you could get KILLED!”

“Just as I could by walking across the street and getting hit by a car, or having a cardiac moment after eating something you cooked, or even being hit by a bolt of lightning. Life is dangerous, Elizabeth, and it’s that little bit of danger that makes it worth living.” Jenny saw him grin hugely even as he took another drink of his beer and then lost his grin, “My choice, not yours.”

Buffy sulked even as Alexander walked over towards the bed, “You okay, Jenny?”

“Fine, Alexander, and I can feel the potion doing something.” She saw him pull the blanket covering her legs back and expose her feet, looking at her before stroking his finger across the bottom of her foot, “No, nothing yet.”

“Well, he did say that it might take some time.” He rubbed her leg, she could see that, but then jerked his hand back, “Alright, Cactus Woman, I’ll stop by later on and check up on you again, then we’ll take care of you’re … problem.”

She gave him a dry look. “You try shaving your legs when you have no use of them.”

“Hey, I offered to get them waxed for you, as it is supposed to last longer,” he said somewhat defensively, grinning the entire time and pulling the blanket down back over her feet.

Jenny only stuck her toung out at him in a response, which made Rupert sigh, “Oh, very mature of you, Jenny.”

+++

It had been a week since the last time the Scooby Gang had seen the former Scooby, as he still avoided them in and out of school, but the light load of vampires and demons in Sunnydale and also in the surrounding areas attested to the fact that he was still out there. The legend of Umbra, Buffy told them one evening after a visit to Willy’s, had grown to nearly epic proportions after a tale of how he killed a quartet of Polgara demons in their own lair to gain the favor of a lower god – it was a completely cock and bull story, that much was for sure, but it made for a good story none the less.

Jenny, on the other hand, was very much a success story in the respect that she had regained feeling in both of her legs and could even wiggle her toes some, but she could not support her own weight on her own due to the length of time she had been bed-ridden and the muscle atrophy that had set in. She was their sole contact with Xander and it was she that Giles found himself going to when something of grave importance came up that they would need to inform him and listen to his advice or any rumors he had heard of on the subject.

“And exactly why should he come here, Rupert? To have your precious Slayer talk down to him again and denigrate his abilities for any and all to hear?” Jenny never spoke kindly about or to Buffy outside of school and rarely spoke to the Slayer even while in school, so her waspish response wasn’t all that out of character when Giles found himself speaking to her.

“No, Jenny, but there have been certain rumors in the community of another hunter, a magic user by all accounts, that have begun to worry both myself and the Council, so I would like to ask him if he has heard anything.”

“And if I have?” Giles found himself jumping nearly four feet into the air at the sudden voice of Robert DiNiro, causing him to spin around and see … nothing?

“Xander? Where are you?”

“Right in front of you, about two feet just on your right.” The voice was disturbingly smug even as Giles did his best not to react when he felt his glasses being plucked off of his face and simply vanish into thin air, “What do you think? Neat trick, right?” There was a shimmer in the air and then, like a mirage in reverse, Xander faded into view in his full regalia of a dark oil duster, balaclava, bandanna, gloves, fatigue bottoms, boots and with the glasses in his right hand.

“What was that? Have you been practicing magic without supervision?” He obviously could not figure out where to start with his questions, even as Xander handed him his glasses back, but even through the balaclava Giles could see that Xander was smiling a somewhat cheeky grin.

“Not quite, G-man; it’s an enchantment on my body armor that lets me cast a spell for a set cost, has set results and parameters. Cool, isn’t it.” He pulled down the balaclava and, as Giles had suspected, was wearing a very cheeky grin, “Now, what did you want to know about this woman that the demons are calling my girlfriend or my wife, depending on whom you ask?”

Motioning him to follow, Giles went to the main table and waited for everyone to get situated before he went on, “Do you know whom this person is, Xander?”

He shook his head, “No, I’ve heard some rumors and a few tidbits on her tactics, but nothing overly solid as to just whom she is.” He frowned slightly, folding his fingers into a steeple in the front of his face, leaning back into the chair slightly, “And that’s what worries me – she sweeps in like a gale wind, zaps people with fire, lightning and ice, then vanishes like a fart in the wind after an apparent objective has been met.”

“An elemental Sorceress?” Giles could feel his stomach tightening into a tight ball of acid, remembering the last elemental Sorceress that the Council had been forced to deal with nearly twenty years before – it had taken three separate Slayers to kill her and even then nobody was sure she had been killed as her body had simply disappeared.

“Yes, but she seems to have a few neat tricks like teleporting, telekinesis, a shield that can stop bullets, freezing armor that hits anyone who tries to hit her and she can summon fire-breathing beasts with a mere flick of her wrist.”

“You’re worried, aren’t you,” Oz chipped in from the other side of the table, his face, as always, impassive.

“Damned right I’m worried. One of the more absurd stories I’ve heard is that she’s trying to get the Order of Teraka to take notice of her and offer her a job, but seeing as this is the Hellmouth …” he didn’t have to finish the statement as everyone knew never to discount the implausible on the Mouth of Hell. The silence stretched out for a moment before he spoke again, “So, what have you heard about her, G-man?”

“Don’t call me that,” Giles found himself saying out of pure reflex, seeing both Buffy and Willow smile out of the corner of his eye but both Jenny and Xander not even twitching as he took off his glasses and began to clean them. “No blessed much, Xander, which is why I asked you here. Is there anything concrete that you can give us about this Sorceress?”

“Female, she appears to be of Arabic decent, dark hair and eyes, dusky brown skin, wears what appears to be a skirt and a vest, boots with armlets, a tiara and fights with a staff. Mid to late twenties, well conditioned, appears not to speak when she casts her spells and she can sling them rather quickly, too.” The analytical, clipped tone surprised Giles in the respect that it sounded as if Xander respected her for not only her actions but for the vague descriptions that could be given about her.

“So nothing USEFUL, then,” Buffy stressed, somewhat bitterly.

“Only if you do not read between the lines, Buffy,” Jenny snapped at her somewhat peevishly. “She’s fast, strong as far as magical reserves, well-versed in hit-and-run techniques, and very good at disappearing when the action is over. She’s obviously done this before and has made it to where nothing but the vaguest descriptions can be given of her, so that means that she’s holding back.”

Before Buffy could retort to that, Xander shot to his feet, ejecting the double-edged blade from the bracer on his left arm as he did, and spun until he was facing an empty space in the room … which appeared to be just a bit too empty at the moment, “How about we ask her ourselves?”

“Yes, you could do that,” a disembodied voice, much as Xander’s had been earlier, said from the spot of air that his weapon’s point was just in front of, “and you can also remove that weapon from my throat, child. Had I wanted to harm you or anyone else here, I could have done so in the previous hour I have been here.” Much as Xander had, a woman faded into view, dressed in dark colors and with her hair back into a rough tail, her eyes shaded against the light by a pair of stylish sunglasses, and with a bladed staff in her hands that contradicted the curious look on her face, “What gave me away, young Assassin?”



Part 2: The Sorceress Revealed

AN: X will not become some Uber assassin; so don’t worry (his skills will be somewhat unique, but mostly will be imparted from items).

AN2: There will be some B/X angst / bashing / reticule in this part, but don’t worry, it’ll all be worked out towards the end of the story. (He’s just sick and tired of everyone assuming that he can’t do anything on his own for his own reasons that don’t involve trying to impress Buffy)



“What gave me away, young Assassin?”

He sniffed the air somewhat theatrically, smelling the scent of a desert rose, “Your natural scent, mingled with the Twinkies you have in your left jacket pocket and on your breath.” He’d always been able to sniff out the snack cake of the gods, more so after the past year, and Willow’s snort of amusement told all present that it wasn’t much of a surprise that he had done it again.

The woman had the good grace to blush lightly in embarrassment even as she reached up and removed her sunglasses, “I must confess that I have found that they are a true weakness of mine. Now, back to my original observation, you could just ask me why I am doing this if you truly want to.” Her voice was like a dry wind off of the desert, still scented with the smell of Twinkies, but it also held an undeniable power and note of command that said that she was used to being listened to and getting her own way. Xander found that oddly endearing in an oddly rejecting way, reminding him of Cordelia Chase in some manner.

“Okay,” Jenny started, “who are you, what are you doing here and why have you been doing what you have been doing?”

“You may call me Sasha, Janna Kalderash of the Clan Kalderash. I am here to find a way back to my home dimension and I am doing now what I have always done since I have finished my training – kill demons.” She smiled suddenly, a wistful expression lighting up her face, “Granted, I do it with a flair that none of you, save Umbra, can hope to ever match, but who said that one’s work cannot be fun?”

“You know who I am?”

“Of course I know who all of you are, Alexander – I have followed your exploits since before you were forcibly severed from this group by the bottle blonde, and I must say that you show a great potential as well as a rage that would do many Barbarians from my world rather well.”

He felt a smile creep to his lips, “Well, one must occasionally TRY, Sasha. Now, that aside, how long have you been here?”

“In this room, about an hour or so at the very most. In this world, maybe a year or so.” She shivered, “Ghastly place, this Hellmouth – demons running amok, rampant denial and stupidity among the general populace, corrupt officials in office; I would swear that were it not for the technological differences, it was home sweet hell.”

Giles took that point to step into the conversation, “And how to you propose to get back to your dimension, Madame?”

Sasha frowned, “I am not sure just yet, but I will require the use of the Hellmouth as a reference point to my own dimension.” She sighed, “I shall miss this place when I leave – granted the atmosphere is nearly destroyed, your people are overly violent and sexually depraved, and your forms of entertainment are only occasionally interesting, like that World Wrestling corporation, but I shall truly miss the Twinkies, pizza and that thing you call a, oh, what is it?” She scrunched her nose up and tapped her chin thoughtfully for a moment before snapping her fingers, “Oh, that’s right, the Internet. It would be so much easier if we could use that in our world, instead of losing pieces of mail when ships go down at sea, but alas, we are not ready for such technology.”

“We’ll get you a picture of a web page,” Oz deadpanned to Sasha, which made her smile slightly.

“Thank you, Daniel, I appreciate that.” She lost her smile and regarded the group, “And to answer your unasked question, no, I am not sure how I am to return home. It appears that my entry into this world was … unplanned.”

“You got that right, Toots,” came a heavily New York accented voice from the darkness. Out stepped an outrageously dressed man, looking like a 70’s pimp, wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar. “You aren’t supposed to be here, Sasha, and the only way to get your behind back to your world is through an inactive Hellmouth.”

“Whistler,” Buffy said in an exasperated voice, “what are you talking about?”

‘Whistler’ pointed at Sasha, “SHE is not supposed to be here, Slayer, and to send her home we gotta go to a dormant Hellmouth and send her through.”

Xander couldn’t help himself, “So what’s the good news?”

Whistler looked at him, almost scowling, “That was the good news.”

+++

“You can’t be serious.” The young Assassin, ‘Xander’ snarled at the Balance Demon, Whistler, whom took several large steps back as the blades on Xander’s weapons extended with a ‘snap’, after the explanation of just what the bad news was.

“Look, kid, this ain’t my call! We gotta open a dormant Hellmouth and she has to use one of her Town Portal scrolls to get back home. To open the Hellmouth, you’ve gotta get to it and that means wading through several thousand demons of varying strengths and classes.” It appeared to Sasha that Xander’s temper was to be feared, even by a Balance Demon sent at the behest of the Powers That Be; interesting, indeed. “Once you’re there, you can open it up and get her home!”

Xander just stalked forwards, weapons still out, but the darkness seemingly closing around him, blacking out all light, “And how do we get out, Whistler? Do you think that those demons are just going to let us WALK out of there alive? And what about re-sealing that Hellmouth? How are we going to do that?”

Whistler gulped visibly even as the rest of the ‘Scooby Gang’ took several steps back in fear, “Look, Alex, buddy, her being here means that the scales are WAY out of balance, so if she doesn’t go back, and I mean soon, then the other side is going to get a heavy hitter for themselves and this whole thing will go to levels it was not meant to go to for a while yet.”

‘SNACK’ went the weapons as the blades retracted into their housings, the rage on Xander’s face vanishing, “Finally, a straight answer. How long do we have?”

Whistler sighed and then shrugged, “A week, maybe two. Look, kid, that ain’t all.” Looking around, he appeared to be looking for avenues of escape, so Sasha took that chance to step in.

“What else is there, demon?”

Whistler gulped again, “Um, well, only you two can go – no Slayer, no Watcher, nobody but you two.”

Sasha only felt herself nod, but that was when the Slayer, Buffy Summers, decided to explode, “OH HELL NO! Xander is NOT going to open a HELLMOUTH just to get her home! I won’t let him!”

“It is not your call, Buffy,” Sasha said to the irate Slayer, narrowing her eyes. “For some reason, Alexander and I are the only ones who can go, so we shall be the only ones going and there is nothing that you can do about it.”

“Like hell there isn’t,” the Slayer snarled, her face flushed with anger as she strode forwards. “I am not going to let someone who is in love with me walk into the mouth of Hell and…” she would have said more, but Xander took that opportunity to begin to chuckle. “What’s so funny, Xander?”

“Me? In love with YOU, of all people? HA!” His words were somewhat bitter in tone, but then he stopped laughing and his eyes were like ice, “Let me tell you something, Buffy, and that is that I haven’t been in love with your for a LONG time. Yes, I love you like a sister, but I can’t be IN LOVE with you, ever, so don’t try to use that as reasoning with me.”

Sasha then saw everyone present look blankly at him as if he had just grown an extra head, Buffy finding her voice first, “Of course you’re in love with me, Xander. Why else would you be trying to prove to me that you’re this good?”

“I’m not proving myself to you, Buffy – I’m doing this to prove to myself that I am more than just some hanger-on. Besides, you made your choice when you chose that CORPSE over me, and even if I were still even he slightest bit in love with you at that point, that would have killed it completely.” He stopped himself from going any further and then looked over in her direction, “Are you ready to go?”

“I can be in just a few minutes, yes.” Summoning her travel bag, Sasha created a portal back to the place she had called home for the past few months and began to collect her somewhat meager belongings – she never intended to stay very long, so she lived simplistically. Even though the portal she could hear the screaming match that was taking place back in the Sunnydale library between the vaunted ‘Scooby Gang’ and Umbra.

AN: Sasha can cast spells in this world, like Town Portal and Identify, without a scroll – writer’s privilege.

+++

“Well, kid, you know how to make declarations of independence.” Whistler sat himself down next to Xander, who appeared to be just sitting on the edge of a table while Willow and the others were doing their best to console Buffy ‘I’m Always Right’ Summers.

“It’s been a long time coming, Whistler – I haven’t been in love with her for a long time now, so why should it be a mitigating factor for me to stay here.” Reaching into his jacket, Xander removed a pack of cigarettes and, after offering one to Whistler, whom accepted one, lit it up and took a drag off of it, “So, realistically, what are the chances that this will actually happen like it’s supposed to?”

“Twenty to one that you guys don’t make it past the first mini-boss is what the Archangels are running right now, but some of the more powerful demons, whom you will not be seeing much of, are saying that you and Sasha will breeze through it all at 4:1.”

Xander looked over at him, “You’re ACTUALLY running bets on if this goes off or not?”

Whistler could only nod.

“What the hell do you use as currency?”

“Well, mostly the fates of Champions, but occasionally small countries and magical artifacts.” It didn’t hurt to be honest on occasion.

“Don’t you guys have better things to do with your time than bet on us and our actions?”

“Normally, yes, but this time even the higher ups are getting in on this – you’ve made more than a few friends and enemies both north and south of the mortal plane, so it’s mixed as to just whom is betting on whom?”

“Are there any surprise bets, demon?” Whistler turned to see the Sorceress, Sasha, walking out of the portal she had created and was dressed to kill in the ghost armor known as ‘The Spirit Shroud’, the skull cap known as ‘The Tarnhelm’, gloves called ‘The Hand of Broc’, heavy boots called ‘Gorefoot’, a belt called ‘Nightsmoke’ and what appeared to be a pair of rings and an amulet, along with her staff, a war staff called ‘The Iron Jang Bong’. All of wha she was wearing enhanced her magical abilities and skill levels several levels and Whistler felt himself gulp even as the kid snarked off a reply.

{AN: Alright, these items are real w/in the game and here are the stats – ‘Tarnhelm’ (+1 all skill levels, 25 – 50% better chance to get magical items, 75% extra gold from enemies), ‘The Spirit Shroud’ (Cannot be frozen, +1 to all skill levels, +150% Enhanced Defense, +10 Life Replenish, Magical Damage Reduced by 10), ‘The Hand of Broc’ (3% life and mana stolen per hit, Poison Resist 10%, +10 Defense, +20 to Mana), ‘Gorefoot’ (Faster Run/Walk, 2% Mana stolen per hit, +12 Defense, attacker takes damage of 2), ‘Nightsmoke’ (50%Damage taken goes to mana, Damage reduced by 2, All Resistances +10, +15 Defense, +20 to mana), and ‘The Iron Jang Bong’ (50% bonus to Attack Rating, Fastest Cast Rate, +1 to All Sorceress Skill Levels, +34% Enhanced Defense, Adds 1 – 25 Lightning Damage, +25 Defense). Yes, she is a fairly high-level Sorceress, level 32 in fact, but with some of the level-enhancing stuff she has on, not to mention the pair of rings and the amulet, which will be explained later, she is just that much more powerful.}

“Probably, Sasha – nice duds.”

She smiled at the kid and spun on her heel, twirling herself around, “Why, thank you, Alexander.”

“Um, yeah, one or two of the VERY higher ups, but mostly that the world keeps turning, regardless of the cost.”

“Hmm, you know, it’s such a good thing that they have that much confidence in us to do the job right,” Harris said somewhat dryly, removing his jacket and tugging at the straps of the armored vest he wore beneath it to snug it up. “So, where is this Hellmouth and how do we get to it?”

+++

“This is wrong on SO many levels that it fucking sucks.” The pure rage that could be heard in Alexander’s voice was somewhat disconcerting even as she looked over at the remains of an old Convent and Orphanage, “Who in their worst nightmares would build a Convent and then an Orphanage over a Hellmouth?”

“Sometimes it is the best way to mask evil, Alexander, by making it look good.” Sasha was glad to be back into the fight, especially when at the end was a ticket home, but it worried her that if all went well her new comrade in arms would be abandoned next to a Hellmouth all alone, probably very tired or injured, and he would more than likely have to fight his way back out to the surface.

“Are you kosher with this, Sasha?” Alexander looked over at her, his face mirroring the worry that she felt deep in her core.

“Yes, I am fine, but the immensity of it all is starting to get to me, I believe. Odd, I don’t remember feeling like this before.”

Alexander only shrugged, “Everyone gets the butterflies once in a while, Sasha – mine seem to have set up several retail stores and franchises right now.” He looked down at his hands, as did she, and Sasha was surprised to see that they were trembling ever so slightly before he clenched them and stilled them by pure force of will, “Gotta stay frosty.”

She looked up at him, “While my repertoire of Ice spells is somewhat limited, I could use one of them on you if you wished to get … frosty.”

He looked at her oddly, “It was an old saying from the military – it means that you can’t let anything get to you, be like an ice sculpture and shit like that.” He then paused and chuckled, “Thought if I do get caught on fire, don’t let me stop you from using one on me.”

“Most assuredly, Alexander.”

“Xander, call me Xander, Sasha. I only get called Alexander if I am in trouble.”

She gave him a sly grin, “From what I hear, then you must be called Alexander all the time then.”

He struck a wounded pose, “Ouch – I thought I was supposed to be the assassin here, Sasha. You slay me with such cutting wit and banter.” They shared a chuckle for a few minutes before it petered out, Sasha able to forget her nerves for a time, before he spoke again, “Ready to go?”

Sasha didn’t answer, but rather she hefted her staff and began walking into the Convent, determined to get home, despite the dangers that would lie ahead.

Once inside of the building, she was greeted with the sight of several impaled nuns, which brought several snarled oaths of pure hate from her companion and the sounds of his weapons extending and locking into place, before murmuring, “The sanctity of this place has been fouled.” (AN: I Know this is from Diablo 1, but it fits) They set off in a cover formation, with herself leading and Alexander … Xander tailing and watching their backs, and within minutes they found a set of roughly hewn stairs that descended into the lower portions of the Convent, but waiting there at the mouth of those stairs was a group of zombies that shuffled back and forth. With precise aim, she launched off a Fireball at the center of the group, which detonated and took out one of the zombies as Xander skirted off to one side.

“Where do you think you’re going, demon?” He lashed out with the katar on his left arm, severing the zombie’s up-raised hand, but then raked the claws into the chest of the corpse with a, “HA!” The zombie seemed to explode from the waist up and then slump to the ground, several chunks of decaying organs flying over and nearly landing on herself.

Getting her mind back onto business, she switched her spell from Fireball to Lightning and fired off a bolt at the lead Zombie, whom was only staggered; firing off another bolt of lightning, which spun the corpse around, but didn’t kill it, which made her growl slightly and move forwards even as Xander dispatched anther of the minions of the Unique monster.

Even as she moved forwards, her gut began to tighten, as if to warn her to not do what she was thinking of doing, but by the time she registered it, the Zombie was already attacking and she felt herself weaken considerably as the poison took effect.

+++

“Die, you son of a bitch,” Xander snarled at the last minion even as Sasha went down to a heavy right from the last zombie. It was only a pure force of will that kept him from puking his guts up at the stench and sights of decaying bodies and entrails around him, but even as he stepped forwards that will began to weaken as the Zombie bent down to take a bite out of Sasha.

Instinct took over and he lashed out with a hard left kick to the face of the bent-over Zombie, much the same as a punter in the NFL would have preformed, and it lifted the corpse off of the ground, sending it back several feet before it regained it’s footing and ground out, “Brains.”

“Bite me,” Xander said, picking up a piece of concrete from the ground and flinging it at the Zombie even as Sasha got back to her feet, th greenish cast to her skin now lightening as she took up her staff again.

“You are into that, Xander?” Sasha managed to grate out even as she fired off a Fire Bolt, which hit at the same time as the rock, and caused the Zombie to explode … and drop a ring.

“Not normally,” he told her, working his arm around her shoulders and leading her away from the corpses, “but if you ask nicely, you never know, Sasha.” He set her down in a relatively clean area to recover as he went about the grim task of picking up what the Zombies had left behind. A few minutes later Sasha was back on her feet and helping him, “You alright, Sash?”

“Better, and don’t call me Sash,” she said, working some sort of mojo on a pair of gloves and then on the ring that he handed over to her. “Hmm, interesting.”

“Interesting good? Or Interesting bad?”

“For you, an interesting ‘good’ thing – this ring is enchanted to raise your resistance to elemental damage, but also cut the time you are poisoned or frozen in half.” She tossed him the ring, which he looked at, “Put it on.”

“But will it go with my outfit?” It was a simple ring, silver, with a green stone that might have been emerald set on top, but regardless of how it looked, he put it on over his left ring finger and immediately felt an … almost rush, but rather a fortifying of his own body, “Neat.”

Sasha looked at him oddly, “Your body armor could feasibly do the same thing with the proper enchantments, and wearing a ring is … neat?”

Xander shrugged, “I’m a simple kind of guy.” As she checked over everything else, he stashed away things that she deemed to be saved in his coat, which was starting to be a burden; he’d have to find something else later on to fight in if he wanted that level of spell protection without hampering his reach or mobility, “Ready?”

“As I shall ever be.” She hefted her staff again and they set off to the stairs, descending down the darkened passage way and into the jaws of death and danger.



Chapter 3: Into The Depths

“And that’s it?” Xander looked over at her, confusion written all over his face as he asked again, “That’s all I have to do?”

“Yes – let your mind wander for a moment and your options will become clear, as will your available skill points.“ She watched him close his eyes and relax, then turned her back and began to watch for more of the demons that they had been wading through since they had come down from the first level of the Convent; nasty little things that looked to be a cross between a rat (for size), a lizard (for skin), and a spitting cobra (for, well, spitting, but also for it’s teeth / fangs) had attacked them from the second they had come down the stairs and while she had taken to using her Charged Bolt and Fire Wall spells, Xander had been relegated to using his weapons with sweeping attacks that would catch two or three of the beasts at a time, which he called Crawling Bastards (crude, but definitely descriptive).

After nearly an hour they had actually fought their way into a secure room, both of them wounded, but while the room was dank and cramped, it only had one way in or out, so it was easily defended; with her weaponry Sasha found that her mana stores and vital energies were very rarely below half of their normal levels, but Xander had no such items and appeared to be staying on his feet half of the time by pure stubborn pigheadedness. She had been able to get most of the major wounds closed within the first minute of their entering the room, but he needed to rest and she was willing to give him a few hours to do that while also allocating any skill enhancements he had been granted.

“Done.” Xander opened his eyes and aside from looking tired, he was as patched up as they were going to get for a while.

“What did you do with your ‘points’?” She did not know what to call them, and that was how the enhancement factors had been explained to her, so she used it that way.

“Couple of attack enhancers, a weapon blocker, a temporary speed enhancer, and a temporary cloak.” He stood and stretched out his legs and arms, rolling his shoulders and neck as he did, “You ready to go?” (AN: Claw Mastery, Weapon Block, Burst of Speed, Cloak of Shadows and the Barbarian’s Whirlwind – other things, not from the game, will be added later, but these are a must as far as I am concerned)

“As I have said before, as I shall ever be.” He went to the door and took hold of the knob as she stood in front of it, staff ready and a lightning spell on her lips as he jerked it open and spun out of the way as the spell launched a bolt of lightning into … nothing. There were none of the Crawling Bastards near the door, which was a good thing, “Clear.”

At her word he went out of the door and behind a near-by stone pillar, scanning the area before motioning her forwards; this was how they had decided to best move, in a leapfrog movement, as Xander had put it, and it had worked so far.

They moved like this in silence for nearly ten minutes before coming across more demons, but these were bat-like creatures that moved far too quickly for her to fire off a single spell with any true accuracy, so she dug deeply into her spell repertoire and summoned a Hydra nearly ten yards ahead of them. It rose from the ground and began to spit fire from each head in different directions for a little over ten seconds before receding back into the ground – it was a higher level and draining spell, but it worked to clear the air, as it were, and allow her to fire off a Chain Lightning spell that bounced off of several walls and pillars before petering out. The pair of spells had taken a good chunk of her still-recovering mana reserves, but they had also taken out more then a few of the creatures and had allowed them to step out and slash at the beasts whom dared come near enough.

+++

The last of the Flying Bastards, as his mind had already dubbed them, hit the ground with a wet splat, but his gut was telling him not to let his guard down; earlier on they had run across several rooms where, when they were this heavily populated, there was what Sasha had called a Unique monster – much like the chief zombie back on the ground floor had been. They were tougher, meaner and generally had more powers than they minions did, so it paid to be paranoid.

On some deep instinct Xander spun around and lashed out with his claws, scoring a hit on the larger and differently colored FB behind him, making it screech for a second before it flitted back out of his reach and … disappeared, “Teleporter, Sash.”

“Don’t call me that,” came from where she was standing, facing away from him while her eyes were undoubtedly scouting the surrounding darkness, occasionally firing off a smaller Fire Bolt spell to conserve her probably-dwindling mana stores, a concept he now understood as he could access his.

“How about we give it a rabbit to chase, Sash? I’ll use my speed enhancer and bait it out into the open so you can barbeque him with a spell.”

She nodded once, but then uttered, “Don’t call me Sash, Alexander,” even as he triggered the spell.

It wasn’t a great deal of difference, actually, but rather that his muscles seemed to be tighter, he had a little more spring in his step and his senses were just a hair or two sharper as he took off into the room and ran around it, occasionally zigging and zagging to throw off his follower, which worked out well because when he did move, a Fire Bolt spell was generally half a second behind his movement and scoring a hit on the winged beast. Finally, though, the beast made a mistake and got too close, letting him lash out with a back kick that flung it back and right into an oncoming Fire Bolt, making it explode and drop an amulet.

He felt the enhancement begin to wear off even as he picked up the amulet and walked over to Sasha, who had sat down once again, and it was only a slight relaxing of the muscles and the world becoming slightly less … real … in the process, “Are you okay, Sasha?”

“I shall be when my mana reserves recharge, Alex … Xander.” She accepted a blue vial that he handed to her without hesitation and drank it down, the light gray pallor to her face, neck and arms lightening slightly as he tucked the amulet away for a later time, “How are you faring, Xander?”

“No better or worse than usual, Sasha, though I am somewhat worried about you and your flagging reserves.”

She smiled wanly at him, “Being in shape and being in battle-ready shape are two separate things, Xander; I’ve gotten soft over the past year, so I’m going to get winded easily for a while.”

He looked her up and down, not being able to resist, “You look like you’re plenty fit to me, especially your legs, Sasha.” He gave her a fast grin and a wink, “Most women on this planet would kill for a body like yours.”

She smiled back at him, her cheeks glowing slightly, “Thank you for the compliment, Xander, but I was in better shape before I found out about Twinkies – I swear they go straight to my thighs and hips.”

It was by pure force of will that he kept his eyes on her eyes, “I’ll be a few minutes, Sasha; I need to go check on something I saw back a ways.” When she nodded, he slipped off into the shadows again, trying to find his way back to where he had seen a bookshelf and a credenza in one of the side rooms.

+++

She could still feel the heat in her cheeks when he returned nearly five minutes later – he had said it with all sincerity, but it had also been a while since she had been hit on by a human male, let alone one his relative age – and he was carrying three books with him as he came along. Two were nearly identical blue books but a third was bound in what appeared to be black demon hide, and she could feel the power pouring out of them. (AN: I know the books are also part of Diablo 1, but they fit here too, so they will be used) “Where did you find those, Xander?”

“In a cubbyhole a few rooms back – I figured they had to be useful if those demons were protecting them like that.” He handed them over and she felt immediately that she could not use them at all, but they also held powerful magics, “Can you tell me what they are?”

She smiled, “They are books, Alexander, and you store knowledge in them with written words a pictures.” He gave her a deadpan look ad she chuckled, “Magical tomes, actually, each containing a very powerful spell, and no, I cannot use them.” She passed one back and as he grabbed it, it flashed in a white light and disappeared.

“What the …” Xander said, blinking as he did, but then his face cleared of it’s shock and was replaced with a grin. “Coolness.”

“Coolness? You learned an ice spell?”

“Huh? Oh, no, I learned a healing spell.” He raised a hand and a swirling blue light enveloped his body, sealing off and healing the wounds that had stopped bleeding some time back, “It’s kinda draining, but it works.” He accepted the other blue book that she held out for him and it too disappeared with a flash of light, just as the black, demon hide bound book did, but instead of a white light, it disappeared in a gout of black flame and he shivered at it.

“Xander? Are you well?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, but that one was a weird spell book; I can’t make heads or tails of it, but I can now climb walls, if I am interpreting the spell right.” He shivered and rubbed his arms vigorously, “Is it me, or is it cold in here?”

She shrugged, “I am wearing considerably less than you are, Xander, and I am slightly warm, if you want my opinion.” She peered into his eyes and saw that, yes, he was fine, but there was more of a haunted look to his eyes, as if he had not told her everything, but then shrugged it off – if he wanted to have his secrets, he could, just as she had hers. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, good to go.” He walked over to the staircase that was going down into the floor and, after a quick look back at her, slipped down into the inky blackness.

“I hope you are as ‘good to go’ as you think you are, my friend.” Murmuring to herself, she followed him down the stairs and found that he was already having to defend himself against an enemy that seemed to be able disappear from plain sight, then reappear at will wherever it wanted, which made her lash out with her staff, the Iron Jang Bong, and strike the nearest creature, the lightning enchanted staff shocking the creature and draining more than a little mana from it’s body before it fell back with a sigh and died.

“Thanks, Sash,” he ground out, lashing left and right with his weapons and drawing blood left and right.

“No problem, Xander,” she managed to get out between strikes, “but don’t call me Sash.”

“Thanks, Beautiful.” He lashed back with a kick that caught an attacker with a grunt and then spun around to his left, decapitating the creature as he did.

Even though she tried to fight it down, Sasha felt a light tinge of a blush color her cheeks. She knew it was innocent flirting on his part, but it had been so long … She savagely shook her head, as if to clear the thoughts; she had siblings that were almost his age, and add to the fact that she was going back to her home, a place that he would not most likely ever be able to follow. She couldn’t allow herself to feel for him anymore than she already had done so – he was her companion in battle, not in life and certainly not in bed.

“WATCH OUT SASHA!” The screamed warning came just a fraction of a second before she could react, a fraction of a second before the biting pain hit her like a Brute, and then all was darkness as the pain overwhelmed her.

(AN: Here’s the end of the … {sees glares from muses} let’s finish this one, shall we? Sheesh, no sense of humor.)

+++

The red haze lifted from his vision and all he could see around him was ichor and blood – it appeared that whatever he had done, he’d done a damned good impersonation of a Veg-o-matic; bits of the demons they had been fighting were hanging off of the blades of his weaponry, blood spattered across his clothes and even a little across Sasha, who appeared to be waking up and guzzling a health potion, her back a bloody mess and closing, “Sasha?”

“Xander,” she weakly replied, causing him to move and dive next to her, his hands grabbing the last of the red potions in his belt and popping the tops on them, handing them over to her. “What happened?”

“I … don’t remember. I just remember seeing you go down and then … nothing.” He absently picked a piece of demon entrails out of her hair and flipped it aside, then snapped his weapons back into their ‘stand-by’ position, “You stay here, I’m going to scout the area.”

“No, please.” She grasped his hand with her own and held it tightly, “Don’t go.” He could feel her hand close tighter around his own and resigned himself to sticking there until she deemed it okay for him to go and scout for more demons. Her eyes, when he looked into them, however, were terrified and it brought up an unexpected surge of protectiveness within him, so he knelt down a little more and stroked her hair.

“Sasha, no bullshit, how are you?”

“Been better,” she admitted in a weak voice even as she moved to turn over and sit up.

“What happened to your armor? I thought it was supposed to protect you from stuff like this.” He propped her up with his knee and held her in place as the potions went to work on her back and other wounds.

“I guess I should have amended what I told you earlier – I do get some coverage from my armor and some enhancements, but as it gets damaged in this world, well, I lose some of that coverage and some of the enhancements.” She looked somewhat bashful about having to admit it, “Pretty soon my armor will be fairly worthless.”

“You should have told me this, Sasha.” Without a second thought he unzipped his vest / Kevlar armor and made some quick adjustments, “This should take the brunt of the attacks, not to mention give you access to a really neat invisibility spell.”

“But I can’t … what about you?” She didn’t protest physically as he slid the armor over her other armor and adjusted it to fit as well as he could without putting his hands in places they shouldn’t be.

“I’ll make due, Sasha.” Reaching into one of his back pouches, which he had sewn into the back of the vest, he removed his oil duster. It had seemed odd at first, but he had picked a space-compressing bag that, for a mere $500, would store anything up to a total of 200 lbs without any trouble or notice, and before they had entered the Convent, he had stored away his oil duster in favor of his body armor, but now that he’d given said armor to Sasha… “Believe me, I’ll make due.”

She adjusted the straps on her armor gingerly for a few seconds before looking at him, “Just what else do you have back there, Xander?”

He grinned, “If you’re a good girl, you’ll find out later. You feeling any better?”

“Somewhat,” she said after a moment’s pause. “What happened here?”

He was the one that was silent for a moment before answering, “Unforeseen side effects of being possessed by a hyena a year ago; extreme emotion triggers a berserker rage that was triggered this time.”

She raised an eyebrow, “I caused an extreme emotion?”

“Your being attacked like that did – I look after my friends even when I am not exactly in control of my mental faculties.” He gingerly helped her to her feet and then started looking around, “Ooh, goodies abound.”

They picked through the odds and ends that were laying upon the ground, snagging every health and mana potion to replace those that had been used up to that point, but also several gemstones and small charms that she identified and handed over to him without question – he felt his resistances to harm and magic go up and immediately, when her back was turned, tucked a few into the back portion of her vest.

Entering one very long hall, they tucked into every little alcove they could while one or the other scouted no more than ten feet ahead, leap-frogging down the corridor until they reached another large room, this one guarded by a group of ten skeletons that were armed with bows and arrows. With a raised eyebrow to Sasha, he internally tripped his speed enhancer and his invisibility spell, which would, theoretically make him too fast and see-through to hit, but that theory was trounced as the skeletons shot arrow after arrow in his direction even as he sped through them and slashed away.

Sasha opened up with a pair of fireball-looking spells that went into the group of skeletons and exploded, taking out two of them in the process, weakening several others enough for his to destroy as he passed by, but then opened up with a Hydra spell that summoned the beast, which spat fire at the rest of the skeletons, but he had other issues to deal with – on of the skeletons was getting away at a fast clip even as he began to run flat-out.

The skeleton was a good ten meters in front of him when it stopped, turned and fired an arrow that he only barely dodged, but then tried to knock another arrow into place, but by then it was far too late – his claws were already on their way forwards, he had way too much momentum to stop even if he wanted to and then there was the sound of a skeleton full of bones hitting the ground in a crumbled heap as he skidded to a stop, nearly eating the wall that he only now began to notice. It was at times like this that he sometimes thrice damned the Hyena and its residual predatory instincts that it had left behind (his hunting of Twinkies merely proved that it existed). Seeing that the skeleton had not left anything behind, he humped it back to where Sasha had been left double time only to find that she wasn’t there.

“Sash?” He looked around and couldn’t see any signs of her, “Sasha?”

It was at that point that a chill entered the air and he shivered as a voice came from everywhere and nowhere, “She is with me, human. Proceed down to the next floor … if you dare. I will be waiting with your friend, but my patience has a limit.” The voice then laughed maniacally and faded.

Even as he stood there, worry growing in his stomach, he could only think and say one thing, “What was I thinking?” That worry grew for another second and then turned into resolve and caused him to snarl, “You want to play games? Let’s see how you like me cheating.”

AN: R&R, please – I’m flying blind here.

Chapter 4

Sasha awoke muzzily, her head throbbing in pain as she began to open her eyes, keenly aware that she was spread eagle and naked against the stone floor; she remembered Xander taking off after the last of a group of Burning Skeleton Archers, but as soon as he was out of sight she could only remember paralyzing fear and then nothing.

“Are you comfortable, my dear?” The voice that spoke oozed evil, had an inflection the same as Mr. Giles’ and more than a little insincere intention, “I do apologize, but I am afraid that you and friend will not make it any further in your quest to return home.” Out of the shadows stepped a man that could only be called a skeleton – he was skinny, pale, his limbs and chest showing little muscle definition and he wore an open-in-the-front robe that allowed the sign of a pentagram to show through.

“Any why is that?”

He stepped up to her and raked her naked form with his gaze, something that made her skin crawl even more so than the lewd smile he gave her, “Well, you see, my superior wants to make sure that you never get home, in which it will allow the side of darkness to get a free agent that is very powerful.”

“What is your name, good sir?”

“Ethan Rayne.” He let out a chuckle and stooped down, running his hand from her naval to her neckline and back down, caressing both breasts as he did, “I must say, you are quite fetching, young woman. I shall have fun making you scream.”

She bared her teeth and then spit in his eyes, “I will never give you the satisfaction.” It was then that she stopped and began to smile, “And I fear that you will never get that chance either, Mr. Rayne.”

“And why is that?”

She smiled, “Because of the fact that my battle companion will be here to save me.”

“The boy?” Rayne let his head fall back and laughed heartily, “Child, I know whom you call your battle companion and believe me when I tell you that he is harmless.”

It was at that point that a scream was heard echoing off of the stones that lead up to the room she was in, a scream that was filled with pain and agony, but it was also not human, “Would you care to place a wager on that?”

{Xander’s position}

The demon died with a scream of pure agony, but seeing as he had just split it down the middle from what amounted from collarbone to crotch, it wasn’t exactly unexpected. He picked up the scroll it dropped and stashed it inside of his jacket before setting off again, not saying a word, weapons out and eyes constantly searching – the three demons types that he had run into up to that point, Undead, Demon and Monster, had not shown much in the way of true intelligence, but the one that he had juts dispatched had shown tactical thinking, reasoning and speaking capabilities, which did not bode well for him at all.

“Really, now, young man,” the dark voice that had taunted him on the proceeding level with Sasha’s disappearance came back in full force, “was it necessary for you to torture that poor demon?”

“If you think that was torture,” Robert DiNiro’s voice said from the balaclava, “then you need to think about what I’m going to do to you if I find so much as a HAIR out of place on Sasha’s body. And trust me, when I get to you, I won’t be in a good mood.”

The voice laughed harshly, “And what makes you think that I am going to be here when you find us?”

“Because if you could leave, then you would have been gone by now, not to mention you would be deeper into the catacombs than you are right now.” He continued walking forwards, spinning and decapitating another demon before taking a page out of Wes Craven’s and Drusilla’s book, “One, two, Kitten’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your doors.”

“If you think that is going to scare me, boy, then you have been watching far too many movies.”

“What makes you think you’ll ever see me, Mr. Voice? Five, six, you cross the river Styx. Seven, eight, make you gonna stay up late.” (AN: I can’t remember the 5-6, or the 7-8 rhymes, but it I think it works with this) With that done, he activates his invisibility spell that he had picked up from the dark book and picked up the pace as well.

{Sasha’s location}

“FIND HIM!” The shout was closer now even as the few remaining demons on the level, but there was a note of fear in it now and Sasha could only smile, even though her backside was getting cold due to the stone and her body was showing it too.

“Is there something wrong, Ethan?” She asked the question sweetly, knowing that she was stirring the pot, but also knowing that Ethan would not touch a hair on her body due to his new fear of Xander.

“No, my dear, everything is fine.” He was sweating and his eyes were darting form one side of the room to the other, as if he had gotten ahold of too much sugar.

“No, it is not because you are scared.” She chuckled, “And I would also be very scared if I were in your position, Ethan Rayne.”

He stiffened and stalked over to her, “Is that so?” He drew back a foot and launched a kick into her unprotected ribs, catching her full-on and making her scream out in pain, “Now, who is it that should be scared?”

“You.” The voice was not that of her friend, yet it was – it was that balaclava that he had that made him sound like ‘Robert DiNiro’, whoever that was, and it was also very close.

Even through the pain she could see Ethan whip his head back and forth, “Where are you?”

“Closer than you might think, Ethan.” The voice held a chilled tone to it as it sounded even closer, “You know, for all of the hell you caused us that night, I am more than tempted to drag your ass out and let Ripper has his way with you … but where would the fun in that be?” There was a sound that made her skin crawl, the sound was that of a steely rasp that was made from a sword or a bladed weapon being pulled from a sheath, and a dark chuckle, “Tell me, Rayne, do you like to be scared? Nine, ten, gonna do it again. One, two Kitten’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, you cross the river Styx. Seven, eight, gonna make you stay up late. Nine, ten … I’m gonna cut your skin.”

The nature of the singing had been a childish tone, but as it seemed to come from everywhere at once and with the last words became dark and malevolent, Sasha felt herself shiver in fear, an action that aggravated her ribs, as Ethan Rayne slowly went mad with fear.

“YOU DON’T SCARE ME, BOY!”

“Then give your soul to the Lord, son, ‘cause you ass now belongs to me.” Gone was the voice of Robert DiNiro, rather now it was from Xander, from one place, and he was visible … and didn’t look happy. “You kicked a shackled … naked … woman, Rayne. I’ll have to make it hurt before you die.” His bladed weapons snapped back and locked into place as he began to walk forwards, “Are you okay, Sash?”

“I could do with a comforter – it is rather chilly in here.”

He shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over her nakedness as he passed, stalking Rayne, who was backing up from the sounds of things, “I know it’s not much, but here you go.” He looked her in the eyes only and smiled, “Oh, and your legs look just fine.”

She blushed.

{Xander’s POV}

Ethan Rayne had caused so much trouble in his life up to that point that he no longer cared if the son of a bitch died quickly or slowly – as long as he died. He was skinnier and paler than last time, looking less like a Brit than ever, especially with the pentagram tattoo on his chest, but aside from that, he had not changed. “Tell me, Ethan, what have you been doing lately?”

Ethan snarled an oath and flung a poorly aimed fireball in his general direction, one that he dodged easily even as heard the manacles on Sasha’s wrists and ankles unlock, but then drew himself up again, “Planning my domination of this realm, child. It’s a step up from what I normally do, but even chaos can become boring after a while.”

He nimbly danced around a hail of hailstones that was sent in his direction, but then snapped back, “Oh, did Janus decide to abandon you after your botched attempt at Chaos? Or can you think of nothing more original than this?”

“You want original, boy?” Ethan brought both of his hands up and summoned forth a virtual flurry of shards of ice, each of them in the shape of Twinkies, and sent them in his direction, “How was that for original.”

“You defiled the shape of the Twinkie.” It was meant to be funny, in a way, but seeing as the attack got a little too close for comfort, he activated his invisibility spell again and ducked back into the darkness.

Ethan looked around wildly, looking very insecure in his current situation, but never laid an eye on him once, “So, you like invisibility magic? What if I took that away from you?”

Ethan never got the chance to do anything about it as Xander found himself within striking distance and introduced Ethan’s jaw to a right hook that held with it a jaw-shattering force, which is exactly what happened to the former Chaos Mage, who was then sprawled to the ground several feet away. “Can you cast a spell without being able to move your jaw?”

“Was that truly necessary, Xander?” Sasha had pulled on his duster and held the remains of her armor, which had been reduced to silken rags, but from a glance he could see she had already wrapped a few pieces around herself.

“Maybe not, but I feel better. You okay?”

“My ribs will heal.” She walked forwards, looking around as she did, “Have you seen your Kevlar vest?”

“Not yet.” He walked over to Ethan’s groaning form and kicked him in the ribs as way of retribution, “Now, Ethan, let’s a have a little chat, shall we?”

Sasha looked over at him, “You DO know you broke his jaw, right?”

“Yes, but I can heal it if I have to … and only that.” He worked his mojo as Sasha began to look around, finding this and that from her arsenal and armor, as Ethan began to heal and come around, “’Ello, ol’ chap. I fink you haf a bit offa problom, here, mate.”

“Bloody American Teenagers.” Ethan groaned in disgust even as he tried to sit back up, an attempt that was thwarted by Xander reaching down and getting a handful of his hair before slamming his head back into the stone floor.

“I’d be really careful about what you say, Ethan – this is going to hurt either way, but how much it hurts depends on your answers.”

“I’ll tell you nothing.”

Xander could only grin.

{Two Hours Later}

Sasha looked down at her new clothing and marveled at the feel of the denim against her legs, the cotton against her skin and the cushy feeling of the socks on her feet; while the socks and t-shirt were not new to her, she had not had the chance to wear blue jeans in her year in Xander’s dimension, as her own armor and some slacks were quite appropriate for most functions, but this was something else. “Where did you get these?”

Xander shrugged, “I told you you’d be surprised what I had stashed away in that minor dimensional pocket of mine, Sasha. I figured that we might run into something that required us to change clothes, so I guessed your size.” He shrugged on his jacket again and moved it into place, “You ready?”

She nodded, shifting the Kevlar armor into a more comfortable position before looking at the remains of the remains of Ethan Rayne, “I hope he gets what he deserves.”

“We all will.” He reached into his pocket and removed something, “Now, there’s a room back this way that’s very defensible and we can rest there for the night before we go any further.”

She nodded and hefted her staff, waling with him as he looked around; she found herself studying his profile as they walked and could not figure out what it was about him that she found … intriguing. He was of slightly above average height for his world, had a compact, but still muscular build, with dark eyes and hair that seemed to see everything and not be tamed, respectively, but there was something else that was there that she could not put her finger on, and that perplexed her. She was generally good at reading people like unrolled scrolls, but with the way that Xander had ‘questioned’ Ethan Rayne, her own opinions and assumptions of him had proven incorrect on several accounts and skewed on several more, all of which meant that he required further study.

They reached the room that he had told her about and she was delighted by the first and second things she saw – a bed and a fireplace. She knew they would sleep in shifts, and not rest, as they both needed to truly sleep, but was curious how he would get her to take the first sleeping shift, “So, who sleeps first?”

“We’ll flip a coin, but before that, let’s eat.” He reached into the deep pockets of the duster, apparently they also were magically expanded storage areas, and he then pulled out several green plastic bags, both of them rather large, and several bottled waters. He went to the fireplace, which was actually nothing more than a niche in the wall, and started a small cooking fire with the wood that was stacked there and smiled as the smoke was pulled into stone air ducts, “Madame, voila, dinner is served.” He opened one of the bags and studied the writing on it, “For dinner tonight we have a selection of chicken tetrazini, vegetables, bread and desert or we have spaghetti with tomato sauce and meat, vegetables, bread and a desert.”

She pursed her lips and tapped her forefinger to her lips, as if thinking, “I believe that I shall have the spaghetti, good sir.”

“Very well.” He slit the bag open and poured one of the bottles of water into it before setting it aside, doing the same with the other, “They’ll take a few minutes to rehydrate, and then we’ll have to warm them, but either way it’s going to taste like crap.” (AN: Anyone who has eaten old-school MREs knows that many of the selections were either bland or tasted like cardboard – new ones, however, are supposed to be rather good.)

She nodded and removed her armor, as he took off his duster, and sat next to him with a slight sigh, “This has been an interesting day, has it not?”

“How so?”

“I get knocked unconscious, stripped and chained while so, leered at and kicked by an old enemy of yours and watch you torture information out of him over two hours before killing him with one of his own minions. Not only that, I found out you have a sadistic streak and also like to play with your enemies heads, too.” She leaned back and groaned as her back muscles tightened, “Oh, and let’s not forget that you also got to see me naked as well.”

“The highlight of my day, I assure you.” He shifted behind her and began to massage out several large knots in her back, which got a slight moan of approval from her without too much prompting, “Seriously, Sasha, how are you?”

“I’ll feel better after a few hours of sleep. We’ve been down here for almost two days now and we need it.”

“Yes, and the good news is that the bottom of this place is only two more levels below us.” She groaned again as he began to work more knots out of her shoulders and middle back before going to her lower back, “So, what are you going to do when you get back home, Sash?”

“I don’t know.” She shook herself off as he finished her off and went to stir the bags of food, “What are those?”

“MREs, Meals Ready To Eat – dehydrated and preserved for soldiers in the field. No promises on the taste, but they keep you fueled for combat.” He poured the contents of one of the bags into a metal pan and set it near the edge of the fire, doing the same with the other, “So, Sash, any Mr. Sasha back at home? How about little Sasha’s?”

She blushed lightly, “No, I have not found time to settle down and have a family – I have my mother and father to look after, as well as my younger siblings. My older sister runs a tavern in Lut Ghulane, but also lost her husband recently as the Dark Wanderer came through.” She had told him of Diablo, The Lord Of Terror, during the last time they had stopped, but not of her own family, “Yourself?”

“Mom and dad, but I could care less about either of them, and no Mrs. Harris on the horizon, but again, that’s not too weird.” He stirred some of the red and pale stringy contents with a fork and looked into the fire, “I guess I’m not sure what I’m going to do – graduate, get a job, hopefully go to college, but I just … I don’t know.”

“And what of Jenny? Surely she holds some place in your heart.”

He looked at her oddly, “Jenny and I are friends – she doesn’t judge me for what I do and I, well, I like that. She’s smart, funny, and I won’t kid myself, beautiful, but trust me, she can do better than me.” He stirred the other plate and then rummaged in the two bags and set smaller tins near the edge of the fire, “So, what about your? Anyone special in your neck of the woods?”

She blushed a little more, “No, as I said, I have been busy. I would like the opportunity, though – there are certain things about having someone to lean on in life, or against in the middle of the night, that I find … oddly reassuring.”

“If nothing else, they are effective warming devices.” He pulled the two tins away and popped them open, stirring the contents inside, “Milady, for your dining pleasure tonight, we have spaghetti with meat and tomato sauce, accompanied by what appears to be boiled carrots, some shelf-stable bread and a treat for later.” He passed her the ‘food’ and took his own things, before looking over at her, “If that which does not kill us makes us stronger, than this should give us a pretty good boost.”

She chuckled and dug into the meal, which, while not exactly flavorful, was filling. The vegetables, which did turn out to be carrots, turned out to be sweetened a little and that helped to balance out the bland flavor of the entrée and the bread, which she suspected was 90% old packing material. She could see Xander eating his food without much gusto, but his face gave nothing away as he ate – his eyes, though, gave away plenty in the form of a slightly tired look, one that could be ascribed to old war veterans, like those who had actually survived the downfall of Tristram. She knew he had emotional baggage, but she wanted to drop her food and hug him to pieces, or until that look went away, at the mere sight of it.

They finished their food about the same time and he pulled out two other packages out of the green bags, which he presented to her, “Crackers and peanut butter, but also, as you have been such a good sorceress today …” he reached into his duster and removed a clear-packaged item. “Twinkies.”

She smiled and dove for them.

{Thirty minutes later}

Sasha lay next to him near the fire, her head on his shoulder, nearly asleep, when her eyes snapped back open and she blushed lightly. He wasn’t sure what the problem was, but she said she was sorry and moved to the bed, “Do you mind taking first shift?”

“Nah, get some rack time.” He threw his duster over her and she was asleep instantly, which allowed him to sit back down near the fire and think about what had been said earlier. While he wasn’t sure what he wanted, he knew that it was probably going to include Sunnydale – he would not leave the fight voluntarily and would always protect those who could not protect themselves.

Sasha’s comments about Jenny came to the forefront for some odd reason and he thought about the dark-haired gypsy woman who had become his best friend / confidant over the past few months. When Angelus had paralyzed her and Buffy had done nothing about it, he had gone after the vampire, succeeding in taking out not only a good chunk of his minions, but also dusting his Childe and Grandchilde, Dru and Spike. Not long after that, the Master Vampire, The Scourge of Europe, had left town and had yet to be heard from again, but regardless, Jenny was still paralyzed and needed help, so he provided it. At first she had been bitter about the entire thing, but after a little time she began to lose some of that bitterness towards life itself (but not Buffy) and accepted his help for what it was meant to be. He’d set her up in a nice ground-level apartment and informed her family of what had happened, but also stuck around to help her as she had been subject to night terrors and frequently didn’t sleep very well.

He shook his head and added another piece of wood to the small fire, peering deep into the flame as he did, and allowed his mind to wander again – Ethan Rayne had told them of some of the demons below and Xander knew that killing them was going to be tougher than ever because they could dispel magic and had tougher hides than anything else they had come across before now. While he wasn’t worried so much about Sasha, as she had a rather large repertoire of spells at her disposal, he was worried about his own hide for once and as such, reached into the back of Sasha’s borrowed armor for several other things that he had brought along for a scenario like this, things that he had picked up along the way in and around the Hellmouth. Each item would vastly improve his physical self, raise his resistances to elemental/physical/magical harm, and also improve his knowledge of spells, but as all things concerning the Hellmouth, nothing came for free – for as long as he wore them when they were activated, that time was also needed to go through a kind of withdrawal, where his own body would turn against him and make him sick, and it would also take a toll on his mind by weakening the barrier that held the Hyena in check even more than it already was. It was a risk, however, that he had to take.

There were five pieces in all, each of them either a band of metal or a series of metal pieces sewn into a leather backing, and as he had used on before, they weren’t the most comfortable thing to wear on the planet, but it could also have been worse. He removed his boots and fit the two anklets into place, seeing their dull bronze sheen shining in the firelight, and then replaced his boots and stood so he could put on the leather and metal belt and then strapped the metal bands around his wrists, under where his weapon mounts were. It was only a little more weight to wear, but he could feel the energy within them wanting to be let out and he had to stop himself from tapping those reserves.

“No, only as a last resort.”

{Four Hours Later}

She opened her eyes to see Alexander’s face in front of hers, smiling but tired, and for a split second she hated him – nobody deserved to look that chipper after being through what they had been through, “I hate you.”

He looked at her slightly affronted, “Then no Twinkie for you.” He started to scoot away, but her hand lashed out and caught his wrist, which she now noticed was clad in a bronze band.

“Give. Twinkies. NOW!” She held out her hand and he dutifully passed over two of the golden snack cakes, which she devoured in record time, “Mmmmm.”

“Pig.” She glared at him and shot him the finger, which made him chuckle, “Is that an offer, Sasha?” She thought about what the gesture meant and blushed as she remembered, “Can I have the bed now? I’m kind of tired.”

She got out of bed and stretched, groaning as she did, but growled as he took her spot, sighed and fell asleep. She needed a few more hours of down time, but with the time constrains they had, four hours a shift were all they were going to get.

Pulling on the borrowed boots and sitting in front of her borrowed armor, Sasha began to reflect again over herself and her own life; yes, her family was important to her, but actually it wasn’t that she didn’t have time to find a husband, bur rather she wasn’t exactly a people person, even less as her Class generally was. Sure, there were several males who had caught her eyes, and there was that one dubious Amazon a while back, but deciding not to irritate her family more than she already did, Sasha would stick to what she knew – with her luck she would either find and marry either a war-monger of a Barbarian or a stick-in-the-mud Paladin, and while she didn’t even want to think about the Necromancers, the Druids liked to have their summoned beasts, spirits and plants in the house as well, and she didn’t like Ravens all that much.

She looked over at Xander and a smile found her lips – if there were any just in the world, his or hers, she would find someone like him, only a few years older and with less emotional baggage. After all, she wasn’t sure how well it would be received if she showed up with Xander slung over her shoulder and her saying, ‘He followed me home, mother. Can I keep him?’

This brought a snicker from her as the mental picture formed in her mind – her, standing in front of her parents, with Xander slung over her shoulder, out cold, and her with an innocent expression on her face while the lump on his head matched the nodules on her staff. A nice image, yes, but one that could never be real, and that made her smile disappear.

It was a long four hours later that he woke up with a slight start as she tapped her fingers on his chin, his eyes snapping open and fist clenching, but then his eyes showed recognition of who she was and he lay back with a groan, “Evil woman.”

She looked at him somewhat primly, “No Twinkie for you, then.”

“EVIL I SAY!”



Chapter 5

It had been two hours since they had descended to the floor below and it was two of the longest, toughest, physically trying hours that Xander could ever remember going through – the demons all resembled hide-covered 300 pound linebackers with bat-like wings on their skulls and off of their backs, but the worst part was that they were resistant to most forms of magic, so that meant that Sasha was going hand-to-hand nine times out of ten. This, though, allowed her to use her remaining equipment more economically, as they replenished her body and mana with each successful hit that she made, so she was good to go every time.

He, unfortunately, did not have such a luxury and was frequently drinking health and rejuvenation potions to restore his lost blood, flesh and general health; health and rejuvenation potions weren’t magical cure-alls, as they merely sped up the healing progress and, as such, they hurt like a son of a bitch. He found this out the hard way after one of the demons broke his leg and Sasha set it and forced a rejuvenation potion down his throat – he was screaming in agony for several minutes until the healing process was finished, but it was nearly ten more minutes before he could actually put weight on his leg again, and all the while she was beating back demons left, right and center. As such, she was getting stronger, but also was starting to show lots of signs of wear and tear as far as her body as concerned – blood matted her dark hair to her forehead, there were various tears in the denim of her jeans, dried blood on her vest and arms, but what struck him most was the look of bone-dead tired in her eyes, as while the potions restored his stamina and vigor, her weapons couldn’t do that.

With a grunt he got to his feet, risking the monumental ass chewing he was about to get, “Sasha, stand down and take a breather.”

She looked back, her eyes slightly wild, as he approached, “You should not be up, Alexander.”

“Well, I am, and you’re going to take a breather.” His weapons snapped out into place and he rolled his shoulders, “You need it.” Without giving her a chance to argue, he stepped forwards and lashed out as another demon came through the door of the room they had been backed into – it was damned fortunate that the demons were like vamps in that they turned into a small pile of dust when killed, but there had been a lot of them killed and the small piles of dust had begun to mount.

“Fine.” She went off to the back and sat down with a groan, but whatever she did next was none of his concern as another demon came through the door.

“Good.” That was the last intelligible thing he said for the next ten minutes, as he was slightly busy lopping off arms, legs, ears, wings and heads of demons as they came through – he actually lost count of the number of deaths, but could feel the burn of his muscles and the steady drip / oozing of blood from various small wounds on his arms, legs and torso. “Shit, this can’t be getting any better, can it?”

“Probably not,” Sasha said, coming up behind him, “But if you step back, I have an idea.” He did and she threw up her hand, her eyes intense and glowing, then there was a sudden rush of pure power and a wave of cold as the door was suddenly sealed off with thick ice and the wave of demons stopped. With that done, Sasha began to crumple to the floor.

He caught her and held her shivering body close as he tried to speak, but his jaw refused to work, so he settled for giving her a rejuvenation potion. After a minute, he was able to speak, “Sasha, what in the HELL was that?”

“Ice … w… all.” Her voice was weak and so very tired, but the rejuvenation potion was taking hold. “New spell … I’ve been … working on.” She seemed to snuggle back into his embrace, “Nice.”

“Very cool,” opting to misunderstand what she meant by her last statement, but not letting go. They both sat there for a while, him holding her, and through the barrier of ice he could hear demons hitting it and then heard an odd exploding sound, as if they themselves were turning to ice and exploding, “How long will it last?”

“20 minutes, or there about. Takes all of my mana to do, but it’s worth it.” She turned in place to where she was sitting sideways, her cheek resting just over the top of his breastbone, and sighed, “Can we stay here for a little while longer? So tired.”

The scent of desert rose and demon blood, laced with sweat, hit him like a freight train and he was hard-pressed not to move her; it was almost intoxicating, “Ten more minutes, Sash, then we go.” She nodded from her position, sighed and sunk lower into his chest, as if she had fallen asleep.

Ten minutes later, to the second, her eyes snapped open and she raised her head up slightly, blinking away the ‘sleep’, and then yawned hugely, “Sorry.” There was, for some odd reason, a tinge of blush on her cheeks and neck.

He shrugged, “No problem – it’s not every day a beautiful woman falls asleep in his lap.”

She gave him a look, “I wasn’t asleep; I was meditating and using one of my passive skills to replenish my mana stores.” She stretched in place, a rather pleasant feeling all things being equal, and yawned again before getting up, “Shall we?”

{Sasha’s relative POV}

He was oblivious – that was the only explanation that she could come up with; she had inadvertently fallen into a trance of Warmth after the spell to replenish her mana stores, fallen into him, or he had caught her, and rested rather comfortably for nearly fifteen minutes. When she awoke from her trance, she turned in is embrace and after that it was pure flirting on her part – innocent enough, but it was disheartening that he appeared not to notice, or if he did, he did not say anything, which was her hope.

“We shall.” He stood up and smiled at her, which gave her a little hope, but then that smile slipped away as his ‘battle mask’ slipped into place, the mask that one showed the enemy, “The wall?”

She nodded and took her position next to the door, knowing that it would be only a matter of minutes before the spell lost it’s power and collapsed, and wondered exactly how well it would hold – in theory her Ice Wall would freeze and shatter any demon or monster that touched it, which was a definite advantage if a summoner was responsible, as a summoner was able to resurrect any minion it had unless it was frozen and shattered. It cost her all of her mana to use, but it was worth it, especially when it only took ten minutes in her trance of Warmth to recoup most of her mana.

The spell began to lose power and the wall began to shimmer and then it disappeared with a flash and a rush of chilled air and frosty fog. On the other side of the wall it looked like a virtual sand dune and treasure trove – apparently more than a few monsters and demons had tried to get through and they had been ‘loaded’, as the term was. “Profits abound.”

“Indeed,” her companion said, stepping out of the room and searching the inky blackness before he joined her in picking up the bounty of her labors.

She found numerous potions that went into the pockets of her borrowed vest, but then came across two rings and an amulet that she could feel were on the rare side – one of the rings gave better attack speed, while the other gave a faster casting rate, but it was the amulet that enhanced the skill levels of the person, but also gave mana and health boots with each hit. Xander handed her several things and she handed the first ring and the amulet to him, “Here, these should help you out.”

He looked at her and grinned boyishly before slipping on the two items, shivering as he did, “Whoa.”

“Are you okay?” She was worried that something might have gone wrong, but he then looked at her and was grinning infectiously.

“I sure as hell am! Is this what you feel like? All tingly and buzzed?”

She looked into his eyes oddly and determined that he wasn’t playing with her head, “How so?”

He shrugged and finished grabbing some coins that had dropped, “I was kind of tired, but now it’s like someone just topped off the tank with the high grade stuff and keeps it there.”

She rolled her eyes, worry disappearing, “Focus, Alexander – we have a great deal to accomplish here, still, and a very little amount of time to do it in.”

He nodded and took position at the door, taking a breath before slipping outside as quietly as a ghost, and she was behind him after a five count.

{Enemy POV}

“Well, this does not appear to be a good thing.” The voice was that of an upper crust British man, in his late forties or fifties, but his entire self was hidden by a bank of the blackest shadows, his glowing red eyes the only thing that was visible.

“No, my Lord, this is not a good thing. You told us that the Child would be easy to kill.” This voice belonged to a robed figured with a staff, his skin old, gray and wrinkled, eyes a deep black and his teeth were sharpened to a point. He was a Litch, essential a vampire, but one that, oddly enough, was capable of casting fire spells.

“By all reports he should have been easy to kill, Elias,” the first voice came back, his voice no longer good-natured, but rather a sneer. “I did, however, warn you not to underestimate anyone from the town of Sunnydale, let alone someone who worked with that bitch Slayer, Summers.”

“True, you did.” The Litch, Elias, rubbed his fingers over his chin and assumed a position of thought, “What should we do now? That accursed spell of the Sorceress eliminated most of our demon foot soldiers here and the Summoners cannot replace them for several days.”

“As many in my world would say, put your head between your legs and kiss your arse goodbye, Elias. I have helped you all that I can, for now, and they are very close.” The British voice laughed cruelly and began to fade away, “Goodbye, Elias, I do hope that your death is quick and relatively painful.” The voice laughed evilly and vanished back into the shadows, the eyes fading to black, leaving Elias alone in the stone room.

“I truly hate that Watcher, I truly do.”

Chapter 6 – The end of a journey and the beginning of another, but for whom?

AN: Sorry about the delay – I finished several other things I was working on and started a few more – this story’ll be done in one or two chapters, namely because I want to finish it.

Sasha adjusted her armor one last time as he crept down the hallway, which, like the rest of the floor they were on, was eerily quiet – they had not seen one thing or anther and both knew that with time against them, either Charlie had gotten smart and gathered all of his resources in one localized area or they had killed them all. Smart money said option one, “I don’t like this, Xander. It’s too quiet.”

“Preaching to the choir, sister. Ten will get you twenty that they’re waiting on us.”

Sasha snorted, “I do not take sucker bets, Xander.” She shifted her grip on her staff and scratched her neck, “Must this armor always itch?”

“Yeah – if it didn’t it’d be comfortable and one should never allow themselves to be comfortable in armor.” He looked down at his wrist and saw the metallic gleam of the bracer that adorned it, it’s mate and a third piece around his neck still weighing heavily on his mind – he hoped he wouldn’t have to use them, but if option one came into play, then he’d need them, “Are you picking up anything?”

“Aside from our being in mutual need of both a shower and fresh clothing? No.” He had to admit her smart-ass remarks were coming along nicely, but then again, he was one of the best in that department, so she had few better to learn from, “You?”

“Nada, beautiful.” He came up to a corner a snuck a peek around it, almost sighing in relief when he saw a full two dozen demons around it, and then pulled back and looked at Sasha, “Finally, we found them.”

She peeked around the corner and he couldn’t help but notice how well her jeans clung to her backside, but then shook his head – keeping his mind on business and not pleasure was key and, unfortunately, he was having a hard time doing both. Sasha looked back and frowned, “They are all immune to magic, Xander – we must get close.”

He sighed and looked down at the worn edges of his weapons – they needed to be looked at by a real blacksmith, as he had done all he could for them, and then back up at her, “Once more into the breech, my friend.”

She smiled sadly and they rounded the corner together, taking off at a quick clip into the demons, screaming war cries at the last second as the demons turned.

{20 minutes later)

Sasha looked around her and then turned her head, throwing up what little she had in her stomach – the demons they had faced were ‘juicy’ in that when they died, they exploded and gave off a foul stench that churned at the stomach. Xander, she saw, wasn’t much better as he finished gathering the last of the potions before drinking a health potion to bind the last of his oozing wounds – their tactic of charging in, screaming, had given them the edge they needed in that the first six demons died easily, the next dozen not-so-easily and the last six the pair of them had to work for. Her borrowed armor had taken the brunt of what was dealt to her in damage, but Xander had taken far worse, as he didn’t have a staff, and had paid the price in that his left blade, the single, sword-like weapon, had finally succumb to the rigors of fighting and snapped after slashing into one last demon, leaving him short one weapon at the time, but proving he was resourceful and had planned ahead, he pulled a knife out of his duster and kept fighting on.

“Ready?” She could see the dullness in his eyes, knowing that hers had the same exhaustion as she nodded and trudged on – they were at the bottom and needed to find the inactive Hellmouth so that she could go home.

“Tell me again why you didn’t bring your modern weaponry along with you?”

“Because I was thinking with the big head instead of the little one?” She smiled at that as they moved on, eyes peeled for more enemies, but they could hear none save one off in the distance, and it sounded like a big one, “We’re not going to make it, are we, Sasha.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not, Alexander,” She said, some steel entering her voice as she did, “but know that if we do fall, we will have fallen doing our best.”

“Do you think we’ll get to heaven?”

She shrugged, “If we do, we’ll shall, how do you say, raise some hell and have some fun?”

He grinned weakly at that and chuckled even more so, “If we get to heaven, Sasha, do me a favor – don’t change. I think I could get used to you like this for the rest of eternity.”

She snorted, “Wait until the novelty of it wears off – my sister and I don’t get along at all, which is why she moved to Lut Ghulaine.”

{Inactive Hellmouth}

He watched the pair of exhausted warriors enter his inner sanctum, knowing just how very little they had left to give, and smiled from within his hooded robe – the woman would make a good concubine, once her will was broken, but the male would need to suffer for a long amount of time before he submitted to his will. “Welcome, Assassin and Sorceress, to your doom.”

“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that before.” The assassin looked at the sorceress, who was smirking, “I swear they all have the same writer, or something. Can they get ANY more clichéd than that ... drivel?”

The women shrugged, moving her staff from hand to hand, “Please, do not give them any ideas, Alexander – I am not sure that we’d be able to keep our sanity if they tried.”

He felt slightly affronted with how well they played off his words, but it mattered not, “Now, if you are finished?”

“Not quite, shit stain – who are you, really? No mystery or cryptic bullshit, ‘cause we’re both tired and don’t really want to hear it.” The assassin was pert, just nigh of insulting, but he could expect nothing less from an American.

“Wesley, if you must call me anything.” (AN: No, not Wussley – they are two separate people.)

The assassin yawned and the sorceress looked ready to pass out herself, “Right, whatever – let’s get this over with.”

“I shall use your tounge as...”

“A phallic instrument to make up for what you’re lacking?” He snarled at the sorceress, who was being lightly applauded by the assassin, taking a slight bow as she did.

Wesley didn’t even both to speak again, he merely bellowed and began to sling lightning, fire and ice in all different directions, but found that neither the assassin nor the sorceress were as sluggish or as exhausted as they had played to be – the former boosted his own power and lashed out left, right and center with his single claw-class weapon while the sorceress called up as many Hydras as she could and then attacked at close range; quite frankly, it was annoying with how much it stung for as little damage as they caused him, but sometimes it wasn’t the size of the dog in the fight, as the old saying went, it was the size of the fight in the dog and these two mongrel mutts had more fight than he could shake a sword at.

{Xander}

He could feel the climax of the battle beginning to build and, damning himself, Xander tapped into the trio of implements to boost his power to levels unknown, supposedly – frankly, he wasn’t too impressed at first, as it was just a trickle of power, but soon it grew and grew in intensity and speed; he could literally see the man/demon in the robe begin to move, then pause, and then move again, as if he was moving in still-frame photography, but then again, Xander found himself moving nearly as slowly.

(Well, let’s see how he handles this) He mentally triggered his speed enhancer and while the robed being, Wesley, seemed to stay the same speed, Xander himself moved at a more fluid pace – he struck once, twice, three times and began to lose himself in the feeling of freedom, but that soon came to a halt when he saw that the man had cast a spell and he’d just run right into it.

His world snapped back to a regular pace as he opened his mouth and gave vent to a healthy scream of agony as fire and lightning crawled across his body. From within, he felt a lock release and then blessed oblivion.

{Sasha}

She flinched as Xander’s scream reached her ears, but she also knew that there wasn’t a thing she could do for him – she was so CLOSE to her target and this ... person was keeping her away from it, so she gritted her teeth and fired off a weak fireball as a diversion before getting in close with her staff and having at him even as Xander dropped to the ground in agony.

“Now, that was not very nice of you, young man.” The man (?) looked at her as she got close and blocked her opening strike to his ribs, “Neither was that, young lady. I say, where ARE you children picking up your social skills?”

“Oh, here and there, asshole.” Xander’s voice was full of pain as he spoke, but the distinct sound of SNIKT was heard and then the man howled in pain as she looked down to see Xander’s claws buried into the robed person’s foot, “Sasha, RUN! Get to the Hellmouth and get the hell out of here – I’ll hold him off.”

“But you’re hurt.” She started to back away even as he clawed his way to his feet and the person glared fireballs at her companion.

Xander grinned as he pulled up the bloody claws and his knife, “Oh, didn’t you know? When wounded, Hyenas are MUCH more dangerous.” Her friend’s eyes took a distinctly green cast to them as he began to cackle, “Now, run away, little girl, the pup and I have some business to conclude.”

Sasha didn’t give it a second thought – she ran for the Hellmouth and prayed for her friend’s safety.

(Wesley)

“What are you, young man?”

The person before him had glowing yellow-green eyes, a satisfied smirk on his face and an air of insanity around him, “Name’s Alpha, cub, and me and the kid go WAY back. You see, I possessed him and liked him so much, I didn’t leave when his classmates tried to excise me.” The young man, now named ‘Alpha’ lashed out with his clawed hand and as Wesley jumped out of the way, Alpha followed up with a short slice to the abdominal area that drew blood and a scream. Through the sting Wesley heard a rather insincere, “Aw, did that hurt?”

“Pillock!” Wesley drew his hand up and fired off another lightning bolt, but Alpha nimbly dodged it and taunted him to fire another one, “What will it take to kill you?”

“More than you can muster, cubby. You see, the kid is a lot of things and stupid isn’t one of them.” Alpha reached behind his back and withdrew something short and squat, clenched in his hand even as the ground began to shake and dust fell from the ceiling, “Welcome to the twentieth century.”

In split seconds Wesley felt burning sensations all over his chest as the object barked six times and spat out fire – a gun, that’s what it was. “Sneaky bastard, but unluckily for you, I am not exactly human.”

“No shit – I can smell you from here, but the gun wasn’t meant to kill you. It was meant to stall you.”

“Stall me? But what... the woman!” He had completely forgotten about her and turned on his heel, sprinting as well as he could towards the Hellmouth, knowing there was nothing between him and her even as the quaking became even worse. She was opening a portal to her world and if that happened, he was summarily screwed.

Even as Wesley rounded the last corner, his eyes widened as he ran directly into a wall of solid ice – he kept his mind long enough to feel his skin freeze and then nothing. It was good, though, that it happened that way, because the world was literally coming down around his ears.

(Sunnydale)

Whistler stepped out of the shadows and into the Library, making just enough noise that they knew he was there before he spoke, “It’s over, guys – Sasha’s back in her world.” The Slayer and her friends all sighed a brief sigh of relief before the young Wicca spoke.

“What about Xander?”

Whistler took out a cigarette from his jacket, lit it up and took a deep drag off of it before letting it out slowly and speaking, “We don’t know – he might be okay, he might be dead, but either way we can’t find him. Something happened when Sasha opened the portal and ... he’s gone.” Without another word, Whistler turned and stepped back into the shadows as he heard the Wicca begin to cry and even the Techno-pagan weep as well.

Sometimes, he really hated this job – he’d bet on the pair of them getting slaughtered the first go-round and had lost big, too. The one person who had won was the one person nobody would have expected to bet on a force of light – Lucifer.

(Library)

Jenny bowed her head and silently prayed for the soul of her lost ally and possible friend while Willow sobbed into Oz’s shirt, Buffy cried into Giles’ shirt and the Englishman also shed a tear; they may not have parted on the best of terms, but at least they recognized that they had lost an ally of some note and were sorrowful.

Jenny, though, knew that if there was a way in hell, Xander would find his way back to them – he had to.

The Assassin And The Sorceress – Epilogue

(One week after last chapter)

Jenny took slow steps towards her door, pushing her body to rebuild the muscle that had atrophied while her spine had been severed – it was a slow, and would continue to be slow, and painful process, but it was one she was going to complete, if for no other reason than Xander had gone out of his way to find her a magical cure for her spine. The reason she was walking this time, though, was that someone had knocked on her door and had patiently waited for her to arrive – it was the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, so it wasn’t a vampire, but Jenny wondered just who it could be as she arrived and peered through the peephole.

The man on the other side, for it the person was definitely male, was dressed in a dark suit of what appeared to be silk, and was facing away from her – he stood at just over six feet tall, had long dark hair in a tight ponytail, and from what she could see of his neck, a dark tan; she went through her memories of anyone she knew like that, but came up blank as she opened the door, safety chain locked into place, “Yes?”

“Jenny Calendar?” The man’s voice was as dry as the desert and carried to her ears, but no further, and he also didn’t turn around, which aroused her suspicions even more.

“Yes, I am. Who are you?”

The man chuckled dryly and continued to not look at her, “An acquaintance of an acquaintance of a friend, Jenny. I have been asked to deliver to you a message and an item – I will leave it on your doorstep and depart, but all I ask is for you not to ask any questions or to try and follow me, for it would be fruitless.” Jenny frowned – she knew that voice from somewhere, but couldn’t place the name.

“Very well, stranger – leave your item, note and depart.” She watched the man kneel down and leave a package wrapped in a yellowed-with-age piece of silk and straighten, bow away from her and depart for all of six feet before he ... disappeared into thin air. She hissed with surprise, not even feeling any magics used, and closed the door before undoing the safety chain and opening the door to retrieve the package.

Back in her kitchen, she placed the item down and slowly began to open it, finding that it was what looked like a silk scarf or a head wrap that had been well used over a great period of time and been cared for. This puzzled her even more as she saw the dark piece of fabric that it held – it was about three and a half inches wide on both ends and swelled to seven inches in the middle, but she could also feel the magic within the cloth even as her mind brought up a memory of a similar piece of cloth as she reached for the note.

It was written upon an aged piece of paper, papyrus by the looks of it, and it was also written in a flowing script that was legible yet not ... normal; ‘Hello, Jenny. If you are reading this then something has happened and I am no longer there. Do not worry, I can find my way back home. In case you’re wondering, this is Xander.’

Jenny dropped the note as her eyes finished the name and began to tear up – she missed her young acquaintance and if this was his note, then he had possibly found a way to return. She wiped her eyes and picked up the letter again, but this time her legs were shaking a little and her hands as well, ‘Alright, I think it’s time that I told you a little about what’s happened so far – Sasha and I made it down to the inactive Hellmouth and she got home, as I am sure that Whistler has told you, but after that things get ... fuzzy for a little while on my end of things. Actually, I don’t remember anything for about six months, but let me assure you that I am well as I write this. Now, I am going to end this letter, so I want you to call the others, if they are still alive, and call them over – this letter has been enspelled to continue once they are all there. Love, Xander.’

Jenny wasn’t sure what happened next, but the phone was there in her hands and her fingers were dialing up a familiar number, which was answered after a short time, “Rupert, this is Jenny – gather the others, Xander has contacted me.”

{35 minutes later}

Willow was almost bouncing in her seat, Buffy almost as bad, Rupert was impatiently pacing and Oz ... was Oz – Jenny figured that nothing short of God coming down and demanding him to act was going to change that. She had recited the letter thus far and had the rest of it in her hands, a letter that had now expanded over the rest of the paper, a piece that was nearly a foot long and covered on both sides, “Ready?” She got an affirmative nod and she began to recite again, “Alright, if you’re reading this part now, they are all there – good, because I don’t want to tell this story more than once.

“I didn’t make it out of that place in one piece, guys – somehow I was pulled into Sasha’s own dimension and along the way I ... well, I was changed in that the Hyena and the Soldier, both of whom were still with me at the time, were merged with me in ways that I had never hoped or dreamed about. As I write this, I have the Hyena’s senses, reflexes and his laugh while I have the Soldier’s mind, conditioning and instincts to kill and complete the mission, but I am still myself to an extent. Now comes the hard part – while I am not sure exactly how long it has been since we have left your world, I have been in this dimension for nearly fifty years.” Jenny’s voice faltered even as Willow gasped, Buffy choked, Rupert muttered ‘Good Lord’ and Oz grunted out a ‘Harsh’. “I am not sure how you’ve all reacted, but remember to give me ten brownie points if G-man muttered, exclaimed or otherwise voiced out ‘Good Lord’.” Willow giggled through some tears, as Jenny found herself chuckled and Buffy was mute while both Rupert and Oz were silent as well.

“Alright, more news – in Sasha’s world, I am still an assassin, but here we are more of a police force for magic users in that if one crosses the line, we cross them and one of us don’t come out of it alive. I’ve learned to deal with some of the things that I’ve been forced to do in my new profession, so please, don’t try and rationalize it any further than I have. Now, another bit of news that I am sure will strike some of you as good, some of it as bad, and some of it as ‘what the hell happened’ – I am a husband a father now for nearly forty-five years. Willow, breath, do NOT enter hyper-Willow-babble mode and let me finish – Sasha and I became friends over the few days that we knew each other in your world, but while I am sure that she and I could have made beautiful music together, we never got married, but rather we did stay very good friends until her death a few months ago. No, I married a former Paladin in Lut Gholein named Fara – Fara is a beautiful woman to this day, even at nearly eighty years old when she passed, and while she pulled the wise and fair thing back then, we didn’t get off on the best footing at all. Now that I think about it, it was kind of funny at first, we hated each other like Cordy and I used to, but after a while that wore off. We eventually became friends and after a short courtship the Prince Jehryn, who has actually been my employer on more than a few occasions - married us in front of Sasha, her family and a man named Deckard Cain, whom was the companion and advisor to the Slayer of Diablo.

“I find it my duty to inform you all that Fara and I have been blessed with several children of varying occupations – our eldest is Jennifer, who has taken up her mother’s profession as a Paladin and to this day doe her job with great pride and zeal.” Jenny found tears in her eyes as her voice broke up again but pushed past it, “Jenny, you were a friend when I needed one, and for that, I thank you. Rupert and Daniel were born next, twins, and while Daniel takes after me in the respect that he has a bit of a smart mouth and a sweet tooth, Rupert is just like you, G-man, in that he’s a touch British at first, but a pretty good guy when you get to know him – both are business men in the world and do rather well for themselves. Willow as born next and she is our youngest and much like her namesake – red hair, green eyes, has the tendency to babble and is, surprisingly, the blacksmith of the Prince and his royal family. Buffy, I’m sorry that Fara and I never got around to having another child to name after you, but if it helps, there are a sea of Buffy’s in the camel herds of the Prince.” Willow joined Jenny in a surprised outburst of laughter, Rupert snorted politely, Oz even snickered, but Jenny was surprised to see that Buffy had taken it all in stride, though her eyes were a little damp as well.

“As I have stated, I have been here for a half of a century and I have come to a conclusion – it is time for me to move on in that with my wife and friend dead, and my children grown. For now I leave this letter with two things – first off, love is a gift, treasure it always, and Jenny, go and open the front door.” Jenny dropped the letter and was struggling to get to her feet, but found that Buffy and Willow both vaulted the couch they had been sitting on and were in a dead heat for who was going to reach the front door, which they reached at the same time and began shoving one another.

“Back off, blondie! I’ve known him longer.”

“Move it, tree-girl, he’s my friend too!”

Jenny made it to the door with the help of Rupert and Oz and casually reached between the pair of struggling teenagers and opened the door to reveal the same man who had delivered the silk-wrapped bundle nearly 50 minutes earlier, “Xander?”

The man laughed, still looking away from them, “No, but I can see where that assumption would be made. Alexander is waiting for you at the Library, but do not be surprised at his appearance.” With that, the man again disappeared into thin air and Jenny blew out an exasperated breath.

“I hate it when a man comes and goes as he pleases.”

{Sunnydale High School Library}

He watched them enter the book-filled room with an urgency that he had not seen in many years, but then again he had not seen them in many years, so that could be why – Buffy and Willow were engaged in what amounted to be a hair-pulling contest over who was going to hug him into pieces first, Oz was watching the pair with a fascinated look of a guy who was waiting for the clothes to come flying off and mud to be mixed for wrestling in, Giles was helping Jenny and the both of them were looking around expectantly, but saw nothing ... which was the point.

It was Willow who won the match with a dirty trick that she had once pulled on him as children, “Xander? Where are you?”

“Maybe I’m here.” He allowed the spell he had over himself drop for a second but then put it back up to full strength and moved across the room, where he did the same thing again, “Or maybe I’m over here.”

“Damn it, Twinkie boy, stop screwing around and show us where you are!” Everyone blinked in shock, Xander himself included, as Oz stood flush-faced next to Jenny and had a look of expectancy on his face.

“Oz, no more outbursts like that – you’re scaring me.” He allowed the spell to drop completely and stood equidistant from both groups of people, “Hi guys, miss me?”

AN: Alright, I think I’ll ... (sees glares from readers and muse) continue with this fic.

{Jenny’s POV}

Jenny couldn’t believe her eyes – standing not twenty feet away, wrapped in a black cloak and smiling innocently, as Alexander Harris, but if he was a day over thirty she would convert to Christianity and enter the convent. His face was tanned and weathered by time and the sands, but it still held that boyish look that came with a youthful spirit, his eyes were still light and the grin that quirked his lips was classic Xander, but his hair was loose and long, curling into rings and waves as it spilled over his shoulders, and one could see the plated boots on his feet as he stood there.

“Xander?” Willow carefully approached the figure, as if moving too quickly would shatter the illusion that it might have been.

“In the flesh. Well, in the cloak, armor, weapons and flesh, Willow.”

“Prove it.” Willow’s demand was apparent to all and Xander’s look of incredulousness was there in spades.

“You’re kidding, right? You want me to do THAT in front of THEM? Gingi, have you lost what little is left of your mind?”

Willow scowled a little more and stomped her foot, “DO IT.”

Xander, or the being that was supposed to be Xander, sighed, and relented, “Fine, but if they laugh at me, it’s on your head.” He drew himself up and then did something that Jenny had never seen anyone do – the Snoopy Dance, in all of its glory, head tilted back and all. After about five seconds, though, he stopped and looked right at Willow, “There, happy?”

Willow didn’t respond – she merely bolted forwards and slammed into Xander’s chest to hug him into tiny pieces, a place she didn’t stay too long as she then was shot back by an unseen force and deposited right back on her buttocks about ten feet away. “What?”

“Sorry – my armor’s enchanted.” He removed his cloak to reveal plate-mail armor in the deepest of black colors, plate boots and chainmail gloves that seemed to have an energy pouring off of them as he chuckled at their looks – Jenny knew she was gaping but couldn’t tear her eyes away from the figure to look at the others. “So, what do you think?” He spun around and smiled, “Is it me?”

“Explain. Now!” Jenny, hearing the tone in Rupert’s voice, would have told anyone her darkest secrets, but she was shocked to see Xander merely shrug and move to lean against the closest table, removing his chainmail glove and flexing his fingers as he did.

“Not much to explain – I go dragged along for the ride, stayed as an assassin, got married, had children, and now I’m here to restore the balance in their world.” He stood up again and walked over to where she was standing, Oz having moved away to pick up Willow, and smiled as he got closer, “Jenny.”

“Xander.” She reached out and stroked his weathered cheek, “You must give me the name of your doctor – you look so young.”

“An illusion, I assure you, Jenny. Besides, with as beautiful as you are, you’ll never need any work.” His voice and words were as smooth as the silk the cloth, the balaclava, her mind finally supplied, had been and Jenny felt a blush tinge her cheeks as he walked behind her, only to place his hands on her shoulders and begin to massage, “And to answer your unasked question, time flows differently between the two worlds, so it took a while for my body to adapt, as it will do so again here.”

“So you’ll get younger?”

She could only guess that he shrugged, “Probably. Still, for a sixty seven year old man who can walk in the sun and not turn into a flaming ball of dust, I’d have to say I look pretty damned good.”

Buffy completely ruined the moment and asked, “So what are you going to do now?”

Xander walked back around her and merely shrugged, “I’m not sure, Buff, but I have a line on some old business of mine that needs to be finished. Angelus needs to be dealt with and dealt with he shall be.”

Jenny felt a chill go down her spine as Xander began to cackle and darkness began to envelop the room and, for a split second, she felt sorry for Angelus. That moment soon passed.

The End?

You have reached the end of "The Assassin And The Sorceress" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 16 Aug 04.

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