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Revelations In White Light

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Summary: Xander is kicked out of the group after S3 and finds out about his real father - things go SNAFU from there. Charmed/BTVS x-o with hints of Hercules COMPLETE

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Charmed > Xander-CenteredAnimeRoninFR181098,0933150110,58922 Aug 0421 Sep 04Yes
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Chapter 9

{Flashback – Hyperion Hotel}

“Not. One. Word.” He looked, quite frankly, ridiculous in the getup he was wearing, but he had told them that the Amazons hated him … and this was proof of it – his hair was spiked up and the ends were colored pink, blue, yellow and green, there was what appeared to be glitter clinging to his body, several different colors of makeup and lipstick on his cheeks and hands, and the clothes were something straight out of the Queer Eye boys’ closet.

“I thought you were dealing with the Amazons, White Bread?” Gunn, Kate could tell, was on the verge of losing it, as was Angel, but Wesley had tucked out of the room and she was sure he was howling in laughter by now.

“I’d have been off better if I was, Gunn – they, the older ones, would have just killed me.” Xander sighed and pulled out a handkerchief, beginning to wipe off what had been done to him, “What was Artemis thinking with choosing eleven year olds to train properly and putting ME in charge of them for the night?"

Kate couldn’t help it anymore, “You know, Xand, that color of red really brings out your eyes.” He scowled and walked off, flipping her the finger and making her call out, “Is that a promise or an offer? I’ll being my cuffs for either, you know.” Xander’s only response was the slamming of his door. She absently licked her finger and scored two up on her imaginary scoreboard before sitting back down, “It has been a good day.”

Cordelia raised her head from her desk, now sporting a rather large black eye from the ‘apartment from hell’, which had actually been haunted by not one, but two ghosts, and scowled, “Just sleep with him and get it over with, Kate.”

Kate snarled at Cordy but said nothing – Xander had been a rather large friction point between the pair and the actress couldn’t see that Xander was only a friend … and occasional movie snuggle-buddy.

{End Flashback}

She snuggled next to her buddy, Xander, and sighed as Cordelia dabbed her eyes at the movie playing on the big screen – the guys had all done a ‘rock-paper-scissor’ deal and Xander, somehow, had come out with the proverbial short straw and had been forced to come along with Cordy, Fred and herself to see the new Leo movie. He had complied after Gunn had said something about ‘The Code’ and she could tell by the positioning of his body, let alone the occasional snort, that he was not having fun … and Kate, somehow, just could get herself to care as Leo walked out on screen in a towel, which caused the younger female in the crowd, not to mention a few older females, to sigh.

Xander, on the other hand, snorted, which caused Cordelia to look over and glare at him, “Be quiet, Xander! This is the best movie I’ve seen in a while.”

“Great Zeus, here you three are, ogling him like a side of beef, and yet you three get pissed at us guys when we want to catch an old re-run of ‘Baywatch’! Talk about your double standards.”

Kate looked over at Xander, “Well, if you wore just a towel I might be willing to let the ogling of Pam Anderson go.”

Xander smiled and disappeared for a second before reappearing … in just a towel, “Don’t bother saying anything, Kate – nobody but you can see me.”

Cordelia growled, “Grr, where’d he go?”

Kate looked over at Cordy and then smirked, “Business, I suppose – we all know how much of a hard ass he is about that … and has a hard ass in general.” Fred, whom had been somewhat noisily sucking on her drink, choked as Cordy goggled and Xander snickered, but all of them stopped as some of the other ladies around them turned and glared, shutting them all up for the rest of the movie.

{Later – Hyperion Hotel}

Xander grinned at Cordy as Fred babbled on and on about the movie to a disinterested Gunn as Kate went about pestering Wesley, a new past time of hers as of late, and Angel read over the news paper until Cordelia exploded.

“Alright, Dweeb Boy, I want to know if you had anything to do with the movie being ruined! Did you zap the thing and the projector explode or what?”

He gave her a very innocent look, “What, can’t random acts of unexplainable coincidence happen and it NOT be related to the supernatural?”

Cordelia growled, “If it was just the projector, then yes, but the film BURNED UP, and that reeks of tampering.”

He smiled again and leaned back, kicking his feet up on the desk, “Sorry, Queen C, but I’m not the culprit – you’d have to go to someone a lot higher up than me.” He reached into the desk and pulled out several things before making them vanish to Olympus – his exile from Sunnydale would be up the next day and he would be back, but he also had an uneasy feeling that something was happening and he wasn’t able to go and do anything about it.

“So, what are you going to do when you get back to Sunnydale, man?” Gunn took the opportunity to end Fred’s babbling when she stopped to take a breath, “I mean, you’re a demi-god and all, so what’re you going in for?”

Xander snorted, “School – apparently there were some new rules agreed upon when the Pantheons got together a few weeks ago and now all deities, full or half, that have come into their power within the past five centuries are now required to get at least one four-year college degree.” He leaned back in his chair and grinned, “On the flip side, though, we get to keep our powers and one of my rather neat ones is the ability to learn via osmosis.” He’d tested that once by ‘reading’ a Cosmo magazine and when Cordy had asked him one of the questionnaires, he had aced it by memory of the answer key.

Cordy smirked at this, “As opposed to how you’d fall asleep on your books and not learn anything back in high school?”

“Precisely, Cor – maybe you DO have a brain in there.” She shot him the finger and he grinned back, “Sorry, but according to you, Kate and I are already doing that and I’m a one-woman man now.” Her scowl darkened for a second and then she nodded, at which time the object of their micro-debate came out of Wesley’s new office and had a bit smile on her face, “What’d you pester Wes into doing now, Kate?”

She gave him a mock-wounded look, “Xander, are you accusing me of using my occasionally annoying tendency of being like a pit bull for forces other than those of good and light?” Gunn snorted in time with Fred, Cordy, who had been drinking form her water, choked, and he looked at the former detective with an arched eyebrow, “Fine – I was able to talk Wes into letting us come down to Sunnydale to check out a few things in the Magic Shop, that place that Giles opened up a few months back.”

Xander opened his mouth to say something but felt the now-familiar pressure of a call for help fro a Sniper and sighed, “Sorry, Katie, but duty calls.” Without waiting for a response, he teleported to the source of the call … and was floored for the first time since that kid with the rifle when he saw who was calling for help, “G-man?”

{Sunnydale – abandoned building}

“Hello, Xander.” Giles never raised his eyes from the scope that had been painstakingly mounted atop of the hunting rifle that he had purchased a few months before in hopes of getting rid of Glory.

“Explain. NOW.”

With his free hand, he changed the magnification on the scope from 2X to 3X and zeroed in on his target, a medical intern named Ben, “Glory, a Hell Goddess, in currently in her human form and vulnerable – help me.” Giles heard nothing in response but felt a calm pass over his racing mind as the stiff crosswind died down and Ben looked up. Without waiting, Giles squeezed the trigger and felt the .380 Remington buck under him, working the bolt of the weapon as a red plume of blood erupted from Ben’s chest as he had been walking out of the hospital.

With dispassionate eyes, he saw the pool of blood from the young man’s body grow from beneath him and sighed, sitting up from his prone position within the building and looked over at Alexander, who wore a decidedly blank expression as he spoke, “Nice shot – next time, aim for the crimson line.”

Giles blinked as his mind raced to place the term, “Crimson line?”

“Between the gums and the eyebrows – shoot someone there and when they hit the ground, they’re either dead or a breath away from dying. A good doctor can still save him, as you’ve left him.” Alexander teleported the rifle into his hands and, after removing the scope and the ammunition, snapped the weapon in half with his bear hands, “Now, tell me what the fuck just happened, Giles.”

“Firstly, there will never be a second time, God willing, and secondly, I do believe that explanation will need to be given at the Magic Box.” Giles felt a small sliver of fear go down his spine as Alexander snarled at him, but then reigned in his temper and nodded roughly, teleporting them both to the back room of the magical supply store. Their sudden appearance stopped the rather physical sparring match between Faith and Buffy, which was being watched by Dawn, and all three then collapsed upon the demi-god in a group hug that he did not return – he was still glaring and demanding an answer with his aura of power and anger.

“Well?”

Giles coughed and took off his glasses, “Well, there is not much to say other than even with both Buffy and Faith, our chances of defeating Glory were slim, if that, so once it was proven that she did indeed have a human … vulnerable … form, it was merely a matter of time before everything fell into place.”

“But why call ME, Rupert?” These five words caused that sliver of fear he had felt earlier come back and it brought it’s entire family to take up residency in his spine, “Granted, you’re not the first person I’ve helped in a situation in the past few months, Giles, but this is pushing the lines of the rules WAY too far.”

“I needed to eliminate Ben in order to kill Glory – how is that bending the rules, Xander?”

“First of all, right now and in this capacity, it’s ALEXANDER,” the demi-god said as the girls backed away, seemingly grasping at the severity of the situation, “and secondly, you didn’t just bend the rules – you broke them. I wasn’t supposed to come back here until tomorrow, Giles, and now that I’ve thrown things out of balance, something will need to happen on the other side to balance to work against this.” The dark-haired young man ran his hands through his hair, “What happens now is out of my hands, Giles … and you have nobody else to blame but yourself.”

“Xand? What’s going on here? Who did G-man shoot?” Giles looked at Dawn, who looked very worried as she slowly approached the still-seething demi-god.

“Medical Intern Benjamin Davis, who was the mortal form of the Hell Goddess Glory, toots.” Giles whipped around and saw Whistler standing in the doorway of the back room, fanning himself with his hat, “And Alex is right – you just opened up a whole new can of worms, Watcher.”

“Don’t call me ‘Alex’, demon – only Artemis, Demeter, my mother, Prue and Aphrodite can get away with that.” This got Dawn’s attention but Giles was rather pleased to see the Balance Demon gulp slightly at Alexander came towards him, “Now, what are your Powers planning now?”

“I … I don’t know – I’m just the messenger, kid, not a thinker.” Whistler stepped back a little more and then drew himself up, “Look, the point is, is that something’s going to happen – soon. Don’t be too surprised when it does.”

“Know that if Joyce Summers is harmed in any way I will not hesitate to kill your precious Powers, Demon.” Alexander walked forwards, bathed in a burning radiance that became brighter than anything, “I saw evidence of their tampering when I came back to Sunnydale the first time, and if I see it again, they will not live to regret it.”

“Tampering?” Buffy came forwards and grabbed Whistler by the lapels of his jacket, “What kind of ‘tampering’?”

“I … I don’t know!”

“A tumor in her brain.” Giles looked at the now-only-glowing figure, “They went and gave her a brain tumor and tried to make it look entirely natural.”

“And you know this how?”

Alexander smirked at Buffy, “Because as powerful as they think they are, The Powers That Be aren’t as powerful as I am, and I am the weakest of the Greek Pantheon, of almost every Pantheon, actually. I remember when I healed her that something wasn’t right, but now I can see the signs of their poorly-disguised tampering.”

Giles turned on the Balance Demon, who was being held off of the ground by a seething Buffy, and growled, “Go – we shall deal with the situation that comes, but if you value your life, you shall never return here except under the most dire of situations.” Buffy dropped the Balance Demon and said demon vanished before his feet hit the floor.

From his position, he heard Faith walk over to Xander and speak, “Xand, is everything okay?”

“For now, Faith – for now.”

Giles had to wonder just how long the ‘for now’ would last.

{Next Day - Summers Residence}

Buffy looked over at Willow and saw her friend scrunch up her nose in a negative fashion, “What?”

“Um, Buffy, why are you dressing up like this? I mean, is there some sort of new hotness around that I need to know about?”

Buffy arched an eyebrow, “Uh, I thought you were kinda gay, Wills.”

Willow gave her a look, “Answer, now. Resolve face, see?”

True enough, the vaunted Willow Resolve Face was there and Buffy sighed, “Xander’s coming back today and I want to look nice for him.”

“Nice? Buffy, you’re dressed like a slut – Faith has more clothing on at any point in time that you do now!”

Buffy flinched back and looked down at her leather pants, halter top that left her mid-rift bare and exposed some of her cleavage, “This isn’t slutty ... is it? I mean, on a level with Faith’s level of sluttyness? Is that even a word?”

Willow sighed, “Buffy, what are you doing this for? You know that even though, after you take into account everything that we did to him, Xander might still love you, he is not IN LOVE with you, not anymore.”

Buffy’s heart, which had picked up at the first part of the sentence, wilted into almost nothing at the end – true, Xander had once had the major hots for her, and who could blame him, but now it was very apparent that he wanted nothing from her except friendship … and a guarded one at that, though that didn’t surprise her at all. She sighed, “What’s wrong with me, Willow? Am I not attractive to anything of the male half of the species? Should I go gay like you?”

“Well, you are hot, but if it’s Xander you want, that boat sailed a long time ago. You had your shot, but you were too busy mooning over Angel and look were that got us.” Buffy winced, but Willow went on as she went to the closet, “And even if that whole kicking him out thing didn’t happen, do you really think that he’d let himself be miserable while he was waiting for you to get a clue? No – trust me, I already learned that lesson, and it took Jenny slapping me in the face to get it across.”

“But Faith said she and him weren’t like that! If I can’t have him, then she and definitely not that sister of hers, Dawn, can’t have him – simple as that.” Ever since he had left, the younger Williams sister had been ‘Xander this’ and ‘Xander that’, saying and planning out their eventual wedding, something that both Faith and herself had agreed on would happen over their own dead bodies, but if it wasn’t either one of them, and most definitely not Willow or Tara, as the pair of them had gotten together a few months back, then who was it, “Do you think that he and Sonja or Jenny are…?”

Willow sighed, “No, Buffy, though I’m sure that Jenny would only say yes to get your nose out of joint, and Sonja, well, who knows what Sonja’s capable of. Look, either way, you don’t have a shot at him, so either find someone else, stay alone as your own best friend or go gay.”

“WILLOW!” Ever since letting her new nature out of the closet, Willow had become a lot more frank as far as sexual references went, and this one left very little room for misinterpretation.

Willow only shrugged and pulled on her own blouse, one that she had borrowed and Tara had said she liked, “Well, it’s the truth – now, get dressed, or redressed, because we have a dinner to get to; it’s not every day that Giovanni’s has a place open for a group this large, and I’ve got a hankering for some lasagna.”

Buffy groused and stripped off her clothes, leaving her in only her panties and a bra, “I hope its pork lasagna, then.”

“I’m not kosher anymore, Buffy – I’D eat Herbert, if the tables had been switched.”

{Later – Giovanni’s}

Xander watched with a hidden smile as Dawn and Buffy glared at each other from across the table, while Faith glared at the both of them, and Willow was busy fawning over Tara, who was sitting next to him and animatedly talking, sans stutter, about how wonderful her classes had gone and what she was learning about with her magic.

“So, Xander, I want the scoop,” Willow broke in as Tara took a breath. “Was that really you as the guy at the coffee house on TV?” He winced and she pounced on that, “It was! When did you become an actor?”

“Ah, I wasn’t really – I was needed to be absent from LA for a few days, so after doing a few favors for Artemis and Ares, I stuck around Hollywood to sulk for a while. I ran across her being attacked and we sort of hit it off – she told me about the part and told me to be at the studio the next day. No big.” He spoken to Cecile over the phone and on the Internet over the past month and knew that not only had her show been picked up for another season, but that she was also up for an award for a female lead in a dramatic role.

“WAY big, Xander,” Dawn broke in, smiling slightly, “especially if you can get me her autograph.” Her smile turned into a frown when he pointed his finger at her and created a picture of Cecile for her, autograph and all, “Now, that’s cheap.”

Anything else that was going to be said was cut off by a ruckus at the next table, where two guys had been adamantly discussing the ins and outs of some game, but it had quickly escalated to a shouting match. Neither of them was what Xander saw as a real ‘threat’, save for being able to talk one’s ear off, and thus took it lightly until one of them, a skinny blonde kid, pushed the other one, an older dark-haired kid, back.

“Warren, first off, there is no way a Cleric could beat a Fighter, Mace of Smiting be damned, and secondly, I won’t let you talk down to me like that.”

“Damn it, Andrew, can’t you get it through your skull that Clerics have a greater power base than a Fighter? Sure, he can hit things faster, but can a Fighter heal himself and others, not to mention do all that cool stuff with the Domains?”

This went back and forth for several minutes until Xander finally got tired of it and turned around, “Guy, chill. If you two want to have a lover’s spat, fine, but do it somewhere else.”

Andrew shot to his feet and pointed a finger in his face, “I’m not gay!”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass if you are or not – if you’re going to argue, take it somewhere else.” Xander turned back around and could sense what ‘Andrew’ was doing, “And don’t even make faces and point fingers at me, shit for brains – I’m not afraid to go back to prison again.” He heard a strangled ‘eep’ from behind him and felt the guy sit down so quickly he was sure there was a small sonic boom, but held in a grin while the others at the table did not.

Faith chuckled and Tara elbowed him in the side, “That wasn’t nice, Xander.”

“You’re right, Tara, but it was a lot of fun.” She stuck her tounge out at him and he arched a brow at her, “Do that again and I’ll have to steal you away from Willow.”

On cue, the redhead scowled, “Hey! Right here, you know.”

Tara smirked a little, a look that was completely alien on her face, but he liked it, “Oh, you would, would you? And what would I be getting out of the deal?”

He gave her a sexy grin, “Well, I could make your every wish and desire come true, Tara, your every fantasy become reality.”

Tara sniffed, “Most guys say that, but they are sorely lacking on the delivery.”

Faith, along with Dawn and Buffy, were laughing at this, “Go Tiger!”

He ignored them, getting close enough to whisper into Tara’s ear, “Yeah, most do, but I have the stamina of a god, baby – think about that.” She blushed heavily as Giles choked and Joyce, who was sitting next to him, snickered.

They continued to chat during dinner, having fun as if all of the happenings of the past few days had not happened, and generally cut up, but aside from the occasional ‘covert’ look of lust from Buffy, one he once would have enjoyed but now shook his head at, and an even less covert look of unbridled lust from Dawn, one that he definitely ignored, but he did not miss the dark looks he got from the pair of geeks, nor did he miss their parting words as they left the restaurant.

“We need to make Harris’ life a living hell, Andrew; our honor as Dungeon Masters calls for it … and I know just who to hurt first.”

{3 days later – SCU Campus Quad}

Tara walked between Xander and Willow, Faith just off to Xander’s side, and was happy for the first time in a long time – they had gotten over a few things in the past few days, namely Buffy’s resentment of Giles killing the mortal form of Glory, but with a demi-god backing him up, the bottle blonde Slayer had nothing to stand on, and along with some of the happenings in LA and around with Xander, they were all up to speed. Tara liked the feeling she had around him, one of safety and security, but more importantly there was a feeling of a pure power that tickled her mind and helped her focus on her own control.

“So, Xander, are you going to be taking another dance course this year?” Tara giggled at the look Xander gave Willow, who had been told by Faith about the teacher who had gotten her nose broken, “Well, I’m just saying, you know…”

“Forget it, Wills – the only dancing I’m ever going to do again is-“

“Stripping!” Faith chimed in before Xander could say anything else, and Tara giggled even as she blushed at the thought, “You know, I still haven’t gotten a free show, Xand.”

“Only if I can watch, too.” The other three stopped and stared at her, “What? I can look, you know? I’m gay, not dead.” This got some more laughter out of the group until a pair of people walked towards them, both of them very familiar as the pair of people who had almost ruined dinner the night before.

“Harris! Where in the hell have you been?” She could feel the oily nature of the dark-haired one, Warren Meers, and shuddered as he grinned, “I mean, you disappear for a few months and all of a sudden you come back like you own the place?”

“Meers, back off.” Xander’s tone was darker, dark enough that the other guy, Andrew, backed off without hesitation, “I got back into the dale that night, and we were out for a bite to eat – the last thing we wanted to hear an argument about was some squabble between two Uber-geeks about some lame game and it’s even lamer character setting. Now, if you want a real game to argue about, stick with GRUPS or BESM.” Tara blinked at this, they all did.

Meers, though, went back on the offensive, “Don’t mess with me, Harris – you’re still a push-over like in high school and I’m more than capable …” Warren’s voice trailed off as Xander dropped his books to the ground and cricked his neck left and then right, loosening up.

“Don’t stand there and flap your gums, Warren – step up or step the fuck off, but be really sure about what you want to do, because I’m not afraid of you.” Tara could feel Xander doing his best to keep the power away from him, but some of it was leaking out and it was making her quiver a little.

“Hey, guys, chill.” Faith stood between them, “Xand, we both know you’d murder him if it came to trading punches, and Meers, if you can’t see that boy toy isn’t playing, then you’re crazier than I am.”

“Shut it, slut!” One could have heard a pin drop in the quad, even the birds and crickets had stopped making noise as Faith went from disbelieving to shocked and finally to angry, but unfortunately for Warren, Xander beat her to it and grabbed the geek by the throat, lifted him off of the ground a few inches and spoke very softly.

“Meers, trust me when I say that right now I could snap your neck and get away with it, with the lawyers I know and have on retainer. Now, you are going to apologize to Faith and then you and your little butt buddy are going to walk away from here and never speak to or about us EVER again.” The power was definitely there now, and Tara could feel the hair-trigger that he needed to release it and wipe both Warren Meers and Andrew from the face of the Earth … and probably most of Sunnydale, too.

Andrew took that point to step in, “H-hey, he didn’t mean it, man. He’s-he’s just a little mad that I proved him wrong last night about the Fighter being the superior character to the Cleric.” Tara sighed in relief when Xander dropped Warren on his ass and gave the pair of them a look that blatantly said ‘LEAVE’, and they scurried off, leaving the quartet there as the students and the world got back to their normal lives.

Tara reached over and hugged Faith, who was shaking in anger, and stroked the brunette’s hair as that anger turned to grief and she began to cry, a real rarity for Faith; Willow stood next to Xander, stroking one of his tense arms as he too shook with fury, but it took a little longer to convince him that homicide was a good option, but the wrong one. Eventually, though, the status quo was restored with Faith finding sanctuary in Xander’s arms in an embrace that surpassed that of lovers, while Willow walked over and wormed her way under her arms – Tara knew that this was not over, she could still feel the oily mass of Warren’s mind starting to cook up something, but she could also feel him gloating, as if he had done exactly what he had planned on doing.

In silence, they walked to class and Tara feverishly hoped that Meers wouldn’t do anything stupid like anger Xander any further … or herself.

{Later – Magic Shop}

Even as Faith punched away on the dummy, she felt her residual anger at the dweeb lessen and eventually disappear – she had long-since made peace with her past, what she had been forced to do to make enough money to get food or clothes, but still, where in the hell did Meers get off calling her slut in front of everybody? She’d been tempted to tell Xand to snap the kid’s neck, ‘cause she could feel it in her bones that he was ready to do it, but he didn’t do it at the time and, after class, had said he’d be back later before heading for Olympus for some stuff.

“You’re dropping your left, Faith.” She spun around at Xander’s voice and smiled that he was in his ‘work clothes’ but lost that smile when she saw the gorgeous auburn-haired woman behind him, also in leather armor.

“Who’s the babe, Xand?” Her heart clenched as he smiled – they weren’t anything like soul mates, like Fang and B were back in the day, but still, it was nice that she could sleep with him if she just needed to hold or be held.

“Artemis, Patron Goddess of the Amazons, Goddess of the Hunt, and occasional bane of my existence.”

The woman, Artemis, gave him a speculative look, “It’s not my fault you can’t say no to me, Alex, and you and I both know I had nothing to do with what those mini-Amazons did to you that night.”

Xand then did something she never thought she’d see him do – he whined, “I looked like a freaking Ken doll, Artemis!”

“But it was a cute Ken doll. Now, go – girl talk.” Xander cringed and teleported away, even as Artemis turned back towards her, “Remember that, Faith – no matter how old, how powerful or how mischievous, all males run when you mention that girl talk is about to commence.”

Faith nodded, “So, what do ya want, Artemis? Last time I checked, I didn’t answer to you.”

Artemis nodded, “That is correct, Faith, you do not, but that is why I am here to offer you a choice. Do you know why you were called?”

“Because K-girl got iced.” Harsh way to hear about it, but it was true.

“And how did Kendra get called?”

“’Cause B died – what’s this about?”

“I am here to offer you the chance to take the target of being a Slayer off of your back, returning the full essence to Buffy, and becoming one of my new Amazons.” Faith felt her jaw drop, but Artemis went on, “Now, Alex, ‘Xander’ as you call him, is well aware of the offer I have made you – he is very protective not only of you, but also of his friends and he made it quite clear to me what would happen if you got hurt or were forced into this choice.”

Faith’s brain finally kicked back into gear, “An Amazon? Me? How’s that possible – Slay chick, remember?”

“Yes, but to be perfectly blunt, Faith, you are an average Slayer at best, and why settle for being mediocre when you could be one of the best? All I am doing is making the offer – you can do with it as you will and not even those blasted Powers can make you change your mind.”

“What about D? If I say yes, they’ll probably make her a Slayer just to get back at me.” D may have been a pain in the ass nine times out of ten, but she was family, and Faith never turned her back on family that she claimed.

Artemis’ face split into a grin, “That’s already been taken care of, Faith – Alexander is quite persuasive when he puts his mind to it.”

For some other reason than already knowing X, Faith trusted the woman/goddess, “So, what would I be doing?”

“Leading, for the time being – there are many young women who once held this power and couldn’t handle it, Faith, and while you also had some problems, you’ve worked through them.”

“Because of Xand, mostly – sure, I did some of it, but if he wasn’t there, I’d’ve done something stupid by now and been capped … or worse.” Faith made no bones about it, that with X having given her a second chance, B would have gone after her and the shit would have hit the fan – not like she didn’t deserve a second chance, after what she’d heard about Fang back in the day, “But either way, why me?”

“Because these girls need guidance, and both Alex and I think that you are just the woman for the job, among others. Not all of them came from Middle America, or America at all, and you are whom I think some of them can look up to.”

Faith nodded, seeing the point, but then went back to something, “Now, Xand said that you, Demeter and Aphrodite could call him Alex – why? You got something for him?”

She was a little surprised to see the goddess blush lightly, “Well, not as much as Aphrodite does, but he’s nice enough. I mean, he’s … why am I explaining myself to you? You like him just as much as the rest of us, if not more.”

It was Faith’s turn to blush, “Well, yeah, but he and I can’t be like that, you know? He’s, like, the first guy I’ve been around in a long time that just wants to be friends with me … and I like that.” She stuck her thumbs into the waistband of her sweats and let her hands hang there, “So, when can I start? Being a Slayer is cool and all, but like you said, I’ve got a bit target on my back, and I gotta protect D.”

Artemis smiled widely, raising her hand, which was covered in a golden glow, “You can start now – this will hurt, but in the end, it will only be momentary.” The golden glow hit her and Artemis was right – it hurt a lot.

{Olympus}

Ares stood next to the kid and watched Faith lose her Slayer powers and become a full-fledged Amazon, then looked over, “So, how do you feel about this?”

“It’s her choice, Ares, and I stand by her decision … and I hope the Powers try something stupid.” Ares couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought – The Powers That Be had always been a little too full of themselves, but that point had been shown rather well when the kid came into power, let alone when he had gone with Artemis to tell them of their plan to make Faith into an Amazon. They had been furious and had told him, the both of them, that they couldn’t do anything, and according to Artemis, the leader of the Powers then made the mistake of poking Alexander in the chest and telling him something to the effect of ‘our rule is law – break it and there will be consequences’.

To this day, nobody was sure just where the quickly amputated finger of that Power had gone to – the kid had acted so fast that the finger was missing for several seconds before the pain hit the leader.

“I don’t think they’ll do anything overt, kid – I think you put the fear of the Creator and the Fallen One into them.”

“Still, it’s that ‘anything overt’ that I’m worried about, Ares.” The kid changed into his regular clothes and then stretched out, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am needed to go baby sit.”

“I thought that you said you’d never sit with the Amazons again, kid?”

Xander smiled, “Nah, not them – Monica, down in Houston, needs a sitter for Diana, and I figure the baby’s as safe with me than with anyone else, and I come on the cheap.” He teleported away and Ares only laughed, as he knew the kid liked hanging around with the baby as much as the baby liked being around him.

{Later that week – Magic Box}

Faith was amazed at how her new powers were working – she was holding her own against B as if she was still a Slayer, but there wasn’t that … pressure … that came with it. It was, quite frankly, fucking cool!

Buffy pulled back, breathing heavily as she did, but her hands never left the ready position, “How’d you do it, Faith? You’re not supposed to be as strong as me.”

Faith smirked, “I know how you think, B, and …” she trailed off as her ears picked up a tinkling sound and then laughter … baby laughter. “What the f-“

“Language, Faith.” Boy toy walked into the back room carrying a dark-haired brat on his shoulder, who was giggling and cooing it’s head off, “Diana’s not old enough to hear that kind of language.” He turned the baby around and Faith felt her heart melt as those brown eyes pierced her own and she giggled, “This is Diana, daughter of a friend of mine, Monica.”

B cooed at the baby, who looked at her like she was an idiot, “Hi-eee, little girly! I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.”

Diana looked up at X, who shrugged, “Hey, I never said they were mentally older than you.”

B glared at X while Faith found herself smiling a little, “Hey, that’s not nice!”

X shrugged, “Truth hurts, sometimes – Diana’s a lot older, mentally, than most of us, and she hates it when I try to baby-talk to her.” The baby, Diana, kicked her legs at this and babbled something, to which X nodded, “I know you’re smarter than you look, Diana, that’s what I’m trying to tell her.”

“Stud, you can understand that?” Faith wasn’t 100% sure, but she was almost positive that Diana glared at her for calling boy toy ‘stud’, like she was claiming her property.

“Most of the times – part of the Greek pantheon package.” He turned Diana around and began rubbing her back, “So, how’s training?”

Faith could only shrug her shoulders, “Not bad, X – found out that B’s easier to scout than I thought.”

B scowled at her, “I was just going easy on you, Faith.”

X snorted, “Don’t do that, Buffy – remember what I taught you? Never give anyone half a chance in combat because that half a chance is all they might need to kill you.” Diana, from his shoulder, sneezed, and he turned to her, “Bless you, and you’re right.”

Faith looked at her former Slayer sister, “Do you think it’s odd that X is having a conversation with someone who can’t even walk yet?”

B just rolled her eyes, “Not really – that was his level of communication for so many years …” her voice petered off as Xander turned towards her and glared, “Well, it’s true.”

He snorted, “Like you were so much better? I could barely follow you from one end of a sentence to the other, WILLOW couldn’t follow you from one end of a sentence to another, half of the time.”

Faith walked over to him and then behind him to look at the baby, who opened her eyes to stare at her, “Hey, kiddo – I’m Faith.” In response, Diana yawned, “Yeah, kinda rough, isn’t it. Trust me, it only get worse.”

“I don’t know about that, Faith.” Jenny orbed into the room and Diana perked her head up, “Three are perks to being older and wiser.” She tickled the baby under the chin, which got a giggle out of the tot, “We get to tell the younger of the species what to do, and we also get to have more unadulterated fun than they do.” In response to that, Diana sneezed on her, which made Jenny jerk her hand back even as Xander began to chuckle.

“Yeah, I forgot to tell you that she has her own way of responding to anything, girls.” Xander rubbed the kids back as Jenny wiped her hand, “Once, I asked her opinion on the spread at a football game and she peed on me – I thought it was an accident until she did it again the next hour. It just takes a little getting used to and interpretation.” In response to that, Diana burped and Faith had to agree with boy toy – it was taking a little getting used to.

{Basement ‘Lair’}

Jonathan looked at Warren and the zealous look in his eyes before looking at Andrew, who had a slightly less zealous look to him, and spoke up as the single voice of reason, “Guys, do you really want to do this? I mean, yeah, Harris was always a loser, but remember, he’s ripped now, and he’d kill us!”

Warren looked at him, “Man, we are all Dungeon Masters! He can’t harm us!”

Jonathan sighed, “Warren, pull your head out of whatever fantasy world you’re living in and get into this one! This isn’t D&D or any on-line world – this is the real world and if you’re going up against Harris, then you’re going to be dragging his friends into this and trust me, he’s going to come at us with both guns blazing … literally, if the rumors about him are true.”

Andrew looked at him, “Jono, if you don’t have the stomach for this, then get out and leave your Character Sheets – only real men are going to do this.”

Jono froze – he loved those character sheets and knew that the pair of them would cannibalize them if he did leave, “Look, all I am saying is to re-think this supposed unbeatable plan of yours – think about the logistics of it and tell me that it’s feasible.”

Warren looked at him, “Well, then, why don’t you plan this, Jono? Seeing as you KNOW how to do this …” Warren left the sarcastic remark hanging and Andrew snickered, which pissed him off a little, “Well?”

“Where has he been these past few months? He said in class that he’d been in an accident, so there must be records – if we catch him in a lie, then we have him cold.” Warren and Andrew both blinked at this, and Jonathan grinned, “Well?”

{2 Days Later}

Dawn smiled as she played with Diana in the front of Buffy’s mom’s house – Joyce had been really good to her and Faith, treating them like they were her own, and deep down Dawn appreciated that. Buffy, of course, tried to put her in her place, but neither Joyce nor ‘Alexander’ would stand for that, so she got to act like a normal kid, and as a normal kid, she was currently stuck babysitting for Xander, who was on his way back from class – Diana was a cool baby, but she missed that hunk of man that her sister was shacking up with, even if it was completely non-sexual in nature, “So, did you see that shirt Xander was wearing earlier?”

In response, Diana drooled.

“Exactly, kiddo.”

“DAWN! GET DOWN!” She had barely enough time to blink before her chest and shoulder erupted into a fountain of red and an ocean of pain … pain that she quickly succumbed to as Diana’s wails filled her ears.

{2 Minutes Before}

Xander couldn’t shake the feeling of unease as he and Faith walked back with Buffy towards Joyce’s house – it had been nagging him all day since Warren had flagged him down from across the quad and then ‘shot’ him with his thumb and forefinger, wearing an evil smile. Something wasn’t right, and he wasn’t sure what to do about it aside from warning Buffy, Faith, Willow, Tara and Giles, with Dawn as his next target.

It happened quickly – as he and the others reached 1630 Rovello Drive, a car, a little shit of a thing, screeched up to them and Warren piled out while his buddy Andrew, and another guy who looked scared shitless, sat inside … and Warren had a gun, “Eat this, Harris!” The gun, a .45 caliber Glock, came up and spat fire even as the girls dove for cover and he erected a shield … but then Meers changed his target ad fired in the general direction of Dawn and Diana, whom he had been talked, rather easily, into watching that day, and fired.

“DAWN! GET DOWN!” Even as he froze time, it was already too late – the bullets hit Dawn twice in the chest and she fell back, with Diana wailing as Warren got back into the car and drove off.

Faith’s scream filled his ears as the sounds of sirens faded into being and the Sunnydale PD came running – he ran to the fallen teen and began applying pressure even as the cops rolled up and started to get in the way. They searched them all for weapons and, after finding nothing, asked what had happened.

“YOU LET THE FUCKING GUNMEN GET AWAY YOU FUCKING SHITHEADS! WARREN MEERS AND HIS FUCKBUDDIES! GET THEM BEFORE I DO!” Faith’s scream jolted the cops into action, but Xander knew that the case, like so many others, would come to naught as the minutes rolled by and Dawn slowly slipped away from them – he could not use his powers even if he had the choice to, as her being The Key, still, kept her from being healed by anyone but HIM and her own natural healing.

Finally the ambulance arrived and Faith accompanied Dawn to the hospital, while Jenny came and took Diana back to Houston – the shock he had been feeling then began to leave as Willow and Tara cried and Buffy joined them, and in it’s wake it left something that he had never truly known before. Rage – pure, unadulterated rage, and even as he changed into his armor and went to Olympus to pick up his new toy, he felt a savage smile crossing his lips; the Patron god of Snipers was about to take the field … and not even HE could save the poor bastards that had just waltzed between his crosshairs.

{Later – Evening}

Warren looked at Jono, who was freaking out, “What’s your problem, Jono? We just hit Harris where he lived – his friends.”

“You just committed ATTEMPTED MURDER YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE! This isn’t some damned game anymore, Warren; this is REAL LIFE! Do you think that he’s going to let the inept Sunnydale PD come after us? NO! He’s going to come after us, Warren, and I for one don’t plan on getting caught by him – I’m through, done, gone!”

Warren blinked, “But, what about your character sheets?”

Jono turned around and looked at him, “Character sheets? I’m a little more worried about saving my own life than about those damned things – keep them, I’m gone.”

Jono left and Warren looked at Andrew, who was calmly drinking a cola, “What’s his problem? I mean, its not like we did anything bad, right?”

As if in response, the wall across from Andrew exploded and, a split second later, Andrew’s chest exploded into a mist of flesh, bone and blood, covering Warren’s face and everything around him.

{Across the street}

Alexander worked the bolt of the sniper rifle he’d brought along and calmly looked through the godly-modified scope that allowed him to see and hear anything he was looking at, “Surprise, mother fucker!”

“Xander!” He looked up and saw Anya Jenkins, one of the few women in his life that he truly hated, storming up to him, and pointing her finger at him, “I want ORGASMS!”

Calmly he shifted the rifle to where the bore rested in line with her chest, “Leave. Now.”

“You’re a demi-god, you have the stamina and strength of an entire small country, and you are going to give me –“ Anya’s rant was cut off as he pulled the trigger of the rifle and it roared it’s war cry, the round flew through the air at supersonic speeds, but not fast enough for him to catch it juts as it hit her blouse-front and stopped it’s forward motion, though it continued spinning and burning away at the material.

“Anya, this is your last warning – Leave. Me. Alone. I am conducting business here, and if you interfere with said business EVER again, I will not stop the bullet.”

She blinked at him once, then twice, and then took a step back, “Why did you shoot at me? I just wanted to have orgasms.” He snarled at her and she shrieked, turning around and running away, but then in an act of near-compassion, he teleported her away to where he had been dragged one night by both Aphrodite and Discord – Chippendale’s of NYC. She’d be happy there and, with any luck, she would never bother him or anyone in California ever again.

He turned back to reacquire his target, but found that Meers had run out of the basement of his parent’s home and was on the lamb, “Damn it!” Even as the sounds of the sirens hit his ears, he orbed himself to Joyce’s house, the rifle to Olympus and, after a quick change, himself to the hospital, where Dawn was in surgery. Meers could wait – Dawn took precedence, as did his friends.

{Waiting Room}

Willow watched both Jenny and Sonja sit next to Faith, a comforting hand on each shoulder as they spoke calming words to the furious Amazon, words that worked for a little while, but Willow could see the burning desire to go and find the guy responsible, but to not only do that, but then rip his spleen out and eat it. Did it make it wrong for Willow herself want to sharpen the knife to use in that act?

Her eyes turned as she felt a rush of power and saw Xander teleport into the room, a trick he would never teach her by his own admission, and she could tell he had done something important – his face was drawn in an expression that she was used to, a blank one, and he only used that when he’d done something. “Xander?”

Faith appeared in his arms instantly, but Willow never saw her move, and she started sobbing into Xander’s chest as he held her, murmuring into her hair, neck, and cheeks as he rubbed her back gently, just like he always did, until Faith calmed down and he led her back to the chair, “Any word?”

Jenny shook her head, “Nothing yet – we know she will live, but outside of that, it is anyone’s call.”

Willow saw his shoulders sag as he sat next to Sonja, “Why didn’t I see this coming? This is a little rash, even for Meers, but it’s exactly what would have happened.”

Buffy spoke up from Tara’s side, “What do you mean?”

“Buff, Warren would have pulled a gun on one of us eventually – his mind can’t take that we’d kick his ass even though he is a supposed ‘evil genius’, and he’s mentally unstable enough to pull a stunt like this. Fortunately, though, we don’t have to worry about him for a while.”

Sonja narrowed her eyes and Willow was glad that she wasn’t in Xander’s place, “What did you do?”

“One of Warren’s companions, Jonathan Levinson, bailed on his own terms – apparently Meers is playing out some sort of scenario from D&D in his own mind, where he’s a warrior of some kind and we’re all evil, or some shit like that, and is out of the picture, but Andrew is out of the picture too … permanently.”

“You mean that you killed him.” Sonja’s voice was level, but Willow knew what was coming as she heard Buffy gasp.

“He had a …” she trailed off as he turned and looked at her. “What were you thinking?”

“To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t – programming took over and I put a fifty caliber round into his chest from a few hundred feet and several layers of brick out. If Anya hadn’t interrupted me, I would have gotten Meers too.”

Willow blanched at the mention of Orgasm Girl, “You didn’t kill her, did you?”

He gave her a look, “Thought about it, even processed it in my mind, but I told her to leave, gave her an ultimatum and when she did I teleported her to New York City Chippendales to keep her the hell out of my hair.”

Sonja whapped him on the arm, “That wasn’t nice, Xander – what did those Chippendales ever do to you?”

“Raised the bar too high for us mere mortals to ever clear?”

“You’re not mortal, Xander,” Jenny pointed out as a smile flittered across Faith’s face.

He snorted, “Semantics, Jenny. Either way, two of the three have been dealt with, and Warren’s going to have to wait until Dawnie’s alright.”

Willow looked over at him and then at Faith, who was smiling slightly, then back at Xander, “But you’re not leaving him alone, are you.” It wasn’t a question.

Xander smiled, and it wasn’t a nice smile, “You know, I never though I’d see the day when I would admit that I learned something from that son of a bitch Angelus – killing somebody is one thing, but when you break them first, that makes the death so much sweeter.”

In the pit of her stomach, Willow felt a ball of acid form.

{3 days later}

Dawn opened her eyes and saw Xander sitting to her side, eyes closed, and his body contorted in a position that, were he a normal person, would have had to have been most uncomfortable, but she also saw Faith next to him on the small couch, tracks from dried tears on her cheeks and her arms clutching him tightly. It was kind of cute, actually, but Dawn knew that IF, and that was a big if, they were to ever get together, he’d hold her at arm’s length because of his immortality.

“Maybe he will, and maybe he will not.” Dawn turned her head to the other side and came face to face with a sitting Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, in full armor, and wearing a smile, “Hello, Dawn.”

Seeing she had explicit orders from the doctors not to talk for a few more hours, which is when they would remove the tube down her throat that was helping her breathe, she only smiled.

“I bet you are wondering just what I am doing here, right?” Dawn only arched an eyebrow, which prompted Artemis to go on, “Well, as you know, you are The Key, but that time is at an end, Dawn. I am to be the conduit by which that power is to be removed, leaving you as a normal teenaged girl.” Dawn smiled at this, but Artemis went on, “Now, with that done, you can be healed by Alexander, as per an agreement we have with him, but I would like to offer you something – I would like for you to be an Amazon.”

“She’s very young, Artemis.” Dawn knew that Xander was a very good actor, and it was proven that he could look asleep but be very much awake, but with his eyes now open, Dawn could see the unasked question of ‘why are you doing this’.

“Yes, she is, but as you know, Alex, there is a war coming and I want to be the first to offer her a place by our side as a warrior and a possible leader.”

“Then why not let Athena get ahold of her? Let’s face facts – Dawn’s smarter by accident than Faith and I, when I was mortal, put together were on purpose, and if she were taken under the wing of Athena, she’d become even smarter and put it to good use.”

Dawn smiled at the wounded pose that Artemis took up, her green eyes filling with crocodile tears, “Don’t you trust me, Alex?”

“With me – Absolutely. With Dawn I trust two people with her – Faith and God.” He split himself in two, one still in place and looking asleep, but the other was in his armor and stood next to Artemis’ side, “She’s important to Faith, which makes her even more important to me.”

Artemis took on a teasing look, “You like her because she has the hots for you.”

He shrugged, “Not only that, but she likes my jokes and my cooking, too.”

Dawn smiled a little more as Artemis arched a delicate eyebrow, “Your cooking leaves much to be desired, my friend.”

“We can go back and forth with that point all day and night, Artemis, but how about we make her a normal girl, first.” He looked at her and teleported to the other side, “Now, Dawnie, this may hurt a little, but after that, I can heal you and we can blow this Popsicle stand. Ready?”

Dawn nodded and Xander joined his hands with Artemis’ over her body, entwining his fingers with hers as they closed their eyes and smiled slightly en tandem – Dawn felt a slight tug at her heart as wisps of green ‘smoke’ came off of her body and collect into a ball in their out-stretched hands; oddly enough, it didn’t hurt at all, it just felt like she was a little drained. When they were finished, it was about the size of a Koosh ball, only an ethereal one with green swirls and silver sparkles in it, which she was able to say a single word about, “Pretty.”

Artemis took the ball as Xander began to heal her – she knew he couldn’t do the entire job himself, as he was more of a ‘patch them up’ kind of guy now, but it would be enough for her to get out of the hospital by the end of the day with a little creative editing of her charts. When he was finished, he teleported the tube out of her throat and she took a breath of sweet oxygen on her own, but soon fell into a coughing fit from the antiseptic smell of the air and the odor coming from the blood-drenched bandages on her chest, which she removed as Xander politely turned around as she got out of the bed slowly and then pulled on some clothes that Faith had brought her the day before.

“Dawnie?” She turned and was instantly enveloped in Faith’s embrace, the Amazon-enhanced strength not being as bad as the Slayer-enhanced strength, but it was formidable. After a few moments, Faith let her go enough to look her up and down, then back at the others, who were containing the green energy in a prism of clear crystal of some kind, “What’s going on?”

“I’m not the Key anymore, Faith – I’m normal now.”

Faith looked at her, “You ate B’s cooking and survived – you’ll never be normal, kid.” Dawn had to give her that, if nothing else, but still stuck her tounge out at her sister for good measure.

Over the next hour she was processed out of the hospital with only the occasional odd look, but more often than not it was the scowl from Xander that kept too many questions from being asked – during that time, Dawn gave a lot of through to both offers that had been made, joining either Artemis’ or Athena’s growing corps. She could see both the positives and the negatives of both actions and honestly couldn’t make up her mind – who would she side with?

{Olympus - 2 days later}

“Oh, Al-lex.” Xander didn’t have to open his eyes to know who was standing around him – in two days both Athena and Artemis had been working him over to get Dawn to make a choice, but he had made it abundantly clear that he would not push her to either side, which they had taken to mean that he was playing hardball and, as such, started playing as well. Athena had gotten her owl, whom he had started calling either Feather Duster or Hooter (this got snickers from all of the others save the owl) to actually be nice to him, while Artemis had started to just hang around him with, not pushing or doing anything, just being overly friendly and very affectionate. When that didn’t work, they had gone to open seduction via words and gestures, which made it hard for him to concentrate on his school work – Athena could lick the red off of a candy cane in one go while Artemis liked to dance provocatively – and as he woke up from a pleasant nap, he could smell them both on either side of him in a way that reeked of when Cupid, Discord, Strife and Hestia had gotten involved in his love life a while back.

“Ladies, why are you both in my bed, presumably naked?”

Artemis’ voice was like honey in his ear, “Oh, there’s nothing ‘presumable’ about it, toots.” She pressed into his side and he could tell she wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing, “Now, stop playing hard to get.”

“Yes, Alexander,” Athena said from his other side, also pressing into his side, “Make a choice.”

He sighed and sat up, teleporting to the small basin that he had set up off to the side, “Do you two ever give it a rest?”

Artemis laughed slightly, seemingly completely at ease in her nudity, “Not one bit. We both want Dawn as part of our own Corps, but as you can persuade her …” she left it hanging and he sighed.

“Artemis, I told you and Athena both that I am not going to influence Dawn one way or another – if she wants to join either of you, she will do so on her own.” He turned around and looked at the pair of them, arching an eyebrow at the sight, “Now, are you two TRYING to lose your ‘Virgin goddess’ status with me, or what?”

Athena smiled somewhat slyly, “Well, I ride both sides of the fence myself, but Artemis has told me that she’s been having these dreams…” She was quieted by a glare from Artemis, but then grinned as Xander groaned, “Kid, trust me, you could do worse.” She teleported her clothing and armor on her and then stood, “Now, as I know you won’t be working for Artie, I have other things to do.” She teleported away and Artemis growled.

“I hate it when she calls me that.” She pulled the blanket on the divan around her shoulders and sulked, “I mean, I let Apollo get away with it because he’s my brother, but then EVERYONE things they can get away with it.”

Xander sat next to her, “I don’t call you that and you know it, Artemis. Now, why are you so hard up with trying to get Dawn? Is there something I need to know about?”

She shook her head, her auburn tresses framing her face, “No, but I guess you could think of her as a token piece – she’s made of the Key energy, and whoever empowers her is guaranteed to get a great General out of her, so Athena and I are really gunning for her.” She sulked a little more and leaned into his side, “That’s selfish, even by our standards.”

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, “Yeah, it is, but at least we know you have her best intentions at heart.” They sat there for a while, silently contemplating the universe until two energies appeared within his area; one of them he knew well, but the other one was new to him.

“Well, well, well, isn’t this touching?” Ares said with an evident smirk but the companion merely shook his head – he was large, bulky and had the classic looks of a playboy, but there was also something familiar about him. “Don’t they just make the cutest couple, little brother?”

“Quit teasing them, Ares – I’m sure Dite will get them enough when she finds out about this.” The stranger walked forwards and stuck out his hand, “Hi, Hercules.”

Xander stood and shook his hand, “I thought you looked familiar – I guess you really got into that episode where you’re Kevin Sorbo, who is playing Hercules, who is playing Kevin Sorbo?”

The older demi-god laughed as Artemis put some clothes on under her blanket, “Yeah, that was a little weird, but it works out for the better. So, you’re the new guy who’s making so many waves.”

Xander just shrugged and sat back down, “I take care of my friends as well as I can – if I ruffle a few feathers along the way, oh well.”

Ares chuckled at that as Artemis sat back down, leaning back into him, “True enough – now, what are you going to do with the Meers kid?”

Xander smiled slightly, “Play with his head a little, get him to do something stupid or illegal, possibly both, and then be waiting there to take him down when he does it.”

Artemis nudged him in the ribs with her elbow, “You’re supposed to wait a few centuries before you become vindictive, Xander.”

He shrugged and put his arm back around her, “I’m impatient – problem with today’s youth. Only real problem with the idea is that I have to actually miss him if I take a shot at him.”

“And being the patron god of Snipers, that’s going to be next to impossible, right?” Ares took up a chair and shrugged, “Just be careful what you do, kid – it could come back to bite you in the ass.”

Little did Xander know how very true that micro-prophecy would come to be.

{UC Sunnydale – 6 weeks later}

Outside of the odd vampire and demon, it had been a very quiet six weeks for Buffy – her grades were coming along better, her mom and Giles seemed to be getting a little closer, and Dawn was completely recovered from her ordeal with being shot. It had taken a few days to process what had happened between the time of the shooting and Xander’s appearance, but she had come to accept, but not like, that he was not going to let things with the shooting slide and while she couldn’t make him bend to her will like she had once been able to do, she knew that he would not let anyone hurt them if he had a say in the matter.

Even as the walked up to where the aforementioned Xander, Faith, Willow and Tara were standing, she wondered just how she had been blessed with such good friends – sure, she probably didn’t deserve them as much of a bitch as she had been, but all in all it was coming along nicely. Willow and Tara were deliriously happy together, Faith and her sister, Dawn, the older sister now an Amazons while the younger decided to go with Athena, had pulled back from their lusting over Xander after he told them that it was kind of embarrassing at time with the way they fought, and he himself was on good ‘friendly’ terms with their goddess, Artemis – she herself was the only one lacking in any male companionship, but that was more out of personal choice than anything. Things just couldn’t have been better.

“Harris!” She looked over to see the very disheveled face of Warren Meers, a fugitive from justice (thought it would be a sign of the apocalypse if the SPD actually solved a case) and a general pain in the ass, and he was looking quite angry as he approached Xander, “I’m going to get you now, Harris.”

Xander just yawned, “What now, Warren? Exploding marbles? Poisoned playing cards? God forbid you do something original.”

Warren, on the other hand, wasn’t so blasé about it as he began to chuckle manically, “I’m going to shoot one of you – you’ll never see me or find me, but I’ll kill one of you.” With that, Warren walked away and Xander frowned.

“What is it, stud?”

“He means it – he’s finally snapped and he’s stopped fucking around.” Buffy blanched as Xander unconsciously transformed into his ‘work clothes’, “Tell everyone to stay in tonight, guys, and away from the windows – you don’t answer the door, you take the phones with you, and keep close.”

With that, she saw him faze out of time and then go somewhere that her Slay-dar could not pick him up on, so she summed it up in a short sentence, “I hate it when he does that.”

{Later – Summers Household}

Willow bounced the young natural witch, Diana, on her knee as Faith and Dawn played a game of chess off to the side of the magically-sealed-from-bullets room; Faith was now in competition with her sister in just about everything that she did and Willow found it slightly unnerving when the pair of them turned anything into a race, like washing dishes or folding socks.

Diana gurgled at her slightly and then began to squirm uncomfortably, having not yet mastered the process of speech, though she was getting closer as every time she saw Xander she burped out a ‘Der’, “Something wrong, Diana?” The baby sneezed at her and began to groan lightly before contorting her face and wailing. Willow quickly checked the baby’s diaper and, once that was considered clear, tried to feed her, but she wouldn’t take anything.

“What’s wrong with the brat, Red?”

“I don’t know, Faith.” Willow picked Diana up and put her on her shoulder to burp her, but then felt a murderously hard pressure hit her just below the sternum and send her out of her chair as the wall in front of her exploded inwards. Diana was sent sailing backwards, but what happened after that Willow didn’t know as her world went black with agony.

{Outside Summers Residence}

Tara, who had been hustling along side of him and Buffy as they went into the house, screeched and hit the dirt as the resounding report of a rifle reached their ears, as did Buffy, who was on his other side; he instinctively threw up an energy shield around the entire house, but in the pit of his stomach he felt it was already too late as Diana’s wails and a sudden thud from the upper floor told him that someone had been hit.

“WILLOW!” Dawn’s screech spurred him into directly teleporting up there as Buffy and Tara began running, but by the time he got there it was already too late – Willow Rosenberg, his oldest friend in the world, his sister and one-time future wife, lay on the ground, a good portion of her chest missing from what looked to be an explosive round having hit her. Diana wailed, covered in Willow’s gore, but was unharmed, Faith was holding up Dawn, who was sobbing, and all he could hear from Buffy and Tara were horrified gasps as his world came crashing down around him. The sobs and wails became echoed as time began to slow down around him and the color bleed out of the sight in front of him until it was black, white and gray. He could distinctly feel all parts of his mind slow down as his knees gave out and he hit the floor, but the sudden jarring of that hit, which seemed to take hours to hit him, kick-started an instinct buried and burned so deeply within his mind that as color returned, a low snarl escaped his throat – protect Willow. He had failed to do that, she was dead and the person responsible for said act was on the loose.

“NO!” Tara’s screech and a sudden influx of pure, dark power and an out-flow of grief and anger washed over him, but he didn’t care – his Willow was dead, so he just bound the power he felt pouring in and out of Tara with a thought and turned to her in time to see her face lose it’s black eyes and black veins, still contorted in grief and anger, and he just put his hand on her cheek. Tara looked up at him, her inner magical balance completely throw off and blown to hell, and she slapped him as hard as she could, but he barely felt it, and then she did it again, and again, and again and then started throwing the odd punch and kick, but he just stood there, feeling the black power within her fading away until she began to sob and fell into his chest, where he caught her.

“Xand? Who did this?” He looked over at Dawn, whom Faith had let go in order to restrain Buffy, and saw that she had Diana her arms and was stained with Willow’s, blood, “Who did this?”

“Warren Meers, Hope Dawn Williams.” Athena, Artemis and Ares all teleported into the room, Hectate with them, and none of them looked happy, “He did it to get even with you all, and he had help.”

“Who helped him?” Xander barely recognized his own voice as he let Tara go and transformed into his new clothes, which he termed his hunting clothes – his armor was nice, but impractical for the rigors of being in the field and working, so he’d updated it to a standard military blacksuit with concealment charms, infinite storage in the pockets and a modified .50 caliber M-82 made of titanium to lighten the load, and with heat-absorption rings to both help hold down the barrel, cool it off and it also made the whole thing look pretty damned cool … but now was not the time for ascetics. “Please tell me it was The Powers That Be.”

Ares shook his head, “No dice, kid – they’re crazy, not suicidal. Some joker we took care of a while back calling itself the First Evil has made the boy loose his cookies completely.” Ares looked down at Willow as Hectate went over to Tara and embraced her, “First, take out Meers, then we’ll deal with the First Evil.”

Xander snarled as he heard the sirens of the police begin to fill the air, “Oh, he’s going to be dealt with, Ares … eventually.” With that Alexander teleported away from the crime scene, on the hunt and out for justice … out for vengeance.

{Willy’s Bar}

Willy felt the urine run down his leg as the kid walked into the door – it had gone through the entire demon community like wildfire what had gone down earlier that day and nobody, especially not Willy, was going to start something with anyone associated with the Slayer or Harris.

The demons in the bar all kept a wary eye on Harris as he stalked in, his face colder than a glacier and harder than granite, “Willy, where is he? No bull shit, no bad leads, I just want to know where he is.”

Willy gulped at the kid’s calm, level voice, “Look, Xander, buddy, I’ve got feelers out everywhere, and when I know, you’ll know. Trust me, if we’d seen this coming, I’d’ve told ya, man.” The kid looked around and ever demon in the place shook their head ‘yes’, agreeing with him, “Give me until morning, and you’ll have that Meers kid.”

“He won’t have to wait.” Willy shrank back at the voice of the other kid, Levinson, who sat in a corner booth and was nursing a beer before standing up, a little wobbly from the alcohol, “Warren’s pissed, man, and he took it out on your red-haired bitch.” Willy shrank below the bar, most of the demons around the kid getting the hell out of Dodge as the air temperature dropped about fifty degrees in a single second, “But then again, he always was jealous of you, Xander. Surrounded by girls, always getting the – URK!”

In a flash Harris had Levinson by the throat and dangling off of the ground by a good foot, or so Willy guessed as he peeked over the bar top, “Jono, I am giving you to the count of one to take that back and BEG for forgiveness.”

“Let him go, Xander.” Willy looked at the door and saw the blonde Wicca, dressed in jeans, a blouse and holding a bag in her hand; he knew that Harris and her were friends, but when Harris dropped Levinson to the ground and she walked up to him, Willy felt a pang of sorrow and sympathy for the half-drunk loser, “He’s mine.”

“Don’t lose yourself, Tara – I bound your powers before, and I can do it again.”

She glared at the demi-god, “I’m in control, Xander – I just want some answers.” She reached down and, after pulling some powder out of her bag, sprinkled it on Levinson’s chest and mumbled something that had an instant reaction – Jonathan Levinson screamed in pure agony as he writhed on the floor, sober as a priest on Sunday, “Now, Jonathan, do I have your attention?”

“Y-yes!”

She smiled, “Good – now, where is Warren?”

“Why … why should I tell you?” Willy and all of the demons winced in unison and ducked out of the sight of both people as the kid’s screams of agony began anew – it did not do well to piss off a witch and someone who could boost her power.

After a few minutes, the kid shut up and Harris spoke again, “Now, Jonathan, we can do this one of two ways – my way, which is the hard way, or her way, which is the REALLY PAINFUL way; your choice, chief.”

The kid gasped on the floor for a few more seconds before he let out a strangled cry, “Your way! Don’t hurt me, please!”

“Not going to happen, shit head.” Harris reached down and grabbed Levinson by the hair, picking him off of the ground, and then dragging him over to a wall and pinning him there with a long knife through the gut – Levinson shrieked for several minutes as many demons made for the door, Willy wishing he could do the same, and then Harris started ‘questioning’ the wounded geek again, “Now, where is Meers?”

“Y… you said hers was the painful way.”

Harris’ voice was like ice as he spoke again and Willy prayed to every god and goddess he could think of that he never heard that voice again, “No, I said she was the REALLY painful way – I can only kill you, Levinson, she can make you suffer for hours and never lay a finger on you. Meers. NOW!”

Willy ears rang for days with the emitted sounds of agony from Jonathan Levinson, and he spent hours cleaning up the mess left behind – humans got messy when they were gutted, especially by a demi-god after he’s promised the leaving Wicca that ‘he’d take care of it’.

{Next Day - Vineyard}

Warren looked up at the image of his master, whom had taken the shape of his dead friend, Andrew Wells – the ghostly image had told him where to be, when to be and what to bring in order to get even with Harris, and it had all worked out. Willow Rosenberg was dead, Harris was completely clueless and now his Master had empowered him to where not even the Slayer girl, or the Amazon for that matter, could harm him – Harris had rules to go by, and so did the blonde girl, too, “Master, our plan is working!”

“Of course it is, you fool! Now, tell me, what do you think of taking out Dawn Williams next? Would that not gut them completely?”

A shred of his sanity remained as he shook his head, “Master, that would be foolish – Harris has protected her from far worse than me, empowered or not, and he’ll stop us.”

‘First Andrew’ nodded, “You’re right – the child, then, Diana. She will be the next to die.”

“I am afraid not, First Loser.” Warren turned around as four people teleported into the room on beams of golden light, like Star Trek transporters, one in black leather armor and male, a female in brown leather armor, another female in white and silver armor and a fourth someone robed in a deep black cowl, “You see, you’ve crossed the line this time, and now it’s time to pay the piper.”

‘First Andrew’ morphed into ‘First Willow’, “Really? And how is that going to happen?”

“First, your minion here dies by my hands.” The cowl was pushed back to reveal the face of Alexander Harris, her face blank and his eyes blazing a golden color as the robe disappeared and it left him in black combat fatigues, holding a cruel-looking knife in one hand, “Then we take care of you, First Bitch.”

Warren sneered at him, “You can’t touch me, Harris! You have rules that you can’t break!” Warren then started to laugh what he considered an evil laugh, more like a cackle than anything, but that petered out quickly as Harris just smiled evilly at him and allowed his eyes to glow a feral yellow green color.

“Cub, do yourself a favor now and stick your head between your legs and kiss your tail goodbye, because I’m going to enjoy keeping you in agony for the next few days.” Harris tilted his head back and let out a cackle of his own, this one far more bone chilling than Warrens on, he had to admit, as, after throwing the knife into the ground, he then began to walk forwards.

Warren felt a slight quaver in his voice as he took a step back, “What is he?”

Harris grinned, “Didn’t the First Chump tell you? I’m a demi-god, son, Patron God of SNIPERS – how in the fuck do you think I took out Andrew?” A wave of power slammed into Warren and he stumbled back even as Harris chuckled again, “Do you have ANY idea how badly you’ve fucked up, Warren? You killed Willow, but not just any Willow – you killed MY Willow; in the past day I have thought up of dozens, no, hundreds of ways for you to die, and each one of them is messier and more painful than the first.”

“Don’t let him get to you, Warren,” ‘First Willow’ said before shifting to Andrew again. “Remember I made you stronger!”

Warren smiled at that and straightened his clothes, “Yeah, that’s right. Let’s see how tough you think you are when I level the playing fields, Harris.” With that, he walked over to Harris, who only arched an eyebrow as the other three present snickered for some reason – he’d have to find out who they were later on and deal with them, too – and slugged Xander in the face … with depressingly little effect. Angered by this, Warren did it again, and again, and again until he felt bone-tired nearly ten minutes later and backed off, putting his head between his legs and taking deep breaths to slow his heart down a little.

“Finished?” He raised his head and, instead of the mangled piece of bloody hamburger he was expecting to see, he saw the same face he had started with, only this one had no glowing eyes and only an arched brow, “Good. Now, Meers, what was that you said about being on a ‘level’ playing field? I am a Greek DEMI-GOD! You being jacked up … possibly jacked off … by that weak excuse for an evil ghost and believing that you’re anywhere as strong as me is, quite frankly, one of the best jokes I’ve heard in a while.”

Warren drew himself up, anger building again, “No, you’re not better than me, Harris – I’m the best! I’ll beat you!” Warren threw himself forward and the last thing he saw was a field of black tread with the gold word ‘WOLVERINE’ in them before his world went black.

{Vineyard – five seconds later}

Ares looked down at the crumpled form of Warren Meers and then up at his friend/brother, Alexander, who was smiling at himself, “Don’t tell me you’re done already.”

“Of course not, Ares – I plan on keeping him alive for a while so that he can feel all the pain I have over the past twenty four hours, repeatedly, if possible. Now, don’t we have the First Ditz to deal with?”

Ares held back a smile while both Athena and Artemis snickered as the First Evil growled, “My name, insect, if the FIRST EVIL!” It transformed into a representation of Tony Harris and ‘he’ growled out, “Boy, you’re nothing more than a waste of space, pathetic, and you’re going to die here!”

Xander just yawned, “Blah, blah, blah, boring – let’s just get this over with, shall we?” The kid walked over and joined hands between Artemis and Athena, who joined his own hands, and they pooled their power together to seal away the First Pest.

“What do you think you are doing, Ares? Nobody is capable of sealing me away forever!”

Ares smiled as their power reached a first plateau and then broke through it, “Oh, we’re not sealing you away, First Schmuck – we’re doing something far more … inventive.” Their power reached a second plateau, held there for a second and then broke through again, “See, we were bantering this idea around a few hours ago in the mall and, get this, a seven-year-old gave us the idea of not locking YOU away, but locking away only part of you.” The power reached a final plateau and held there as the four divine beings held it in place with more than a little concentration.

The First Evil laughed, “Really? Then tell me, oh great and powerful god of War, what aspect of me are you going to bind?”

Ares grinned as the four of them broke apart and the ball of energy hung there in space, “Your ability to project your astral form into the moral realm, First Poser – without that, the emotional attachment is no longer there and …” Ares let the statement hang there as the First Evil’s face, or technically ‘Willow’s’ face became shocked and horrified, “Okay, I love you, buh-bye!”

The ball of energy rocketed forwards and slammed into the body of the First Evil, shattering it and sending it screaming back to it’s own dimension for a year, but after that year it would be allowed to return, only without it’s ‘shape-shifting’ capability for the next ten millennia, effectively cutting it’s persuasive power off at the neck.

Once the light from the explosion dissipated Ares turned around and found the kid smirking at him, “What?”

“An Animaniacs quote? Mindy from Mindy and Buttons, to be precise?”

Ares looked at him somewhat affronted, “Hey, the dog puts up with so much crap that it’s worth seeing him quit in that last episode!” Xander just shook his head at him and then looked back at Meers while both Athena and Artemis laughed slightly, “What do you have planned now, kid?”

Xander just smiled, “Oh, I’m sure I’ll come up with something.”

{2 Days Later – Middle of the Mojave Desert}

“Why the hell can’t I come up with anything?” Xander sat, perched on a large rock in the classic ‘Thinker’ position, dressed in a pair of shorts and a tank top, letting the sun beat down on his back and toast him slightly as he tried to think up of a justifiable reason to torture Warren Meers to the bring of sanity, heal him, and then do it again in a different manner to where he would be nuttier than squirrel shit at the very end – Dru would look sane after he was done with him.

Tara had been MOST vehement about killing Meers as slowly and as painfully as possible and, for not the first time, Xander thanked Hectate for stepping in and binding Tara’s powers for the duration of the thought process, not to mention going so far as to put a protective shield around the shit. Faith and Dawn had began to purposefully dull and rust knives of all shapes and sizes for skinning the shit, Buffy was walking holes in the linoleum trying to explain things to Joyce about why there was a bullet hole in her house, blood all over the floor and more than a few angry/homicidal people in the house, not to mention one Warren Meers trussed up like a Thanksgiving Day turkey in her basement. Even Diana, whom Monica had called him about, had been throwing all sorts of things around with her powers, keys mostly, and sending her mother dark, violent thoughts until he had gone to calm her down and explain the situation. He’d even gone so far as to go down to Willy’s Bar and to poll the demons there and around Sunnydale on the best ways to torture somebody – they got rather inventive and somewhat detailed and gruesome, but he had a vast repertoire to draw from now.

“Not as easy as you thought it would, is it, Alex?” He looked over and saw Artemis, in a blue thong bikini and on a towel, sunning herself next to him, then felt several more people orb in around him, “Killing someone is easy enough, but torturing someone is much more personal, isn’t it.”

“Yeah, it is. Hi, dad, Aunts Piper, Prue and Phoebe.” He turned from his occasional bedmate to his family, all of whom looked more than a little upset with him, “What brings you here?”

‘Aunt’ Piper walked forwards and took him by the earlobe, twisting it slightly, “What are we doing here? What in the hell do you think you’re doing, young man?”

“Feeling massive a-MOUNTS of pain!” He writhed slightly as she twisted a little more and then let go, which allowed him to reach up and massage the offended part of his body, “Was that necessary?”

She glared at him, “Don’t take that tone with me, young man – what in the hell do you think you’re doing, contemplating torturing this Warren Meers?”

His face went flat, “He killed Willow with an explosive round and under the influence of the First Poof; he dies in a way that I see fit, end of story.”

Leo looked at him, “First ‘Poof’?”

“The First Evil, Leo,” Artemis said as she turned over and began oiling up her front.

Leo blanched, “It’s free?”

“Not anymore – we took away its ability to project itself in a emotionally-linked form.” Xander absently reached down and held the proffered bottle of suntan lotion as Artemis went about her business, “Be that as it may, I made a promise with myself a long time ago that clearly states that if Willow is ever harmed, I kill the person responsible – that hasn’t changed just because my job title has.”

Prue and Phoebe held Piper back as Leo frowned, “Sonja told me that you had become more than a little dark – I had hoped that it had not gone this far, but I see that I was wrong.”

Xander snorted, “Leo, give it a rest – Sonja is just still smarting about Willow being killed because they were actually good friends, despite the babbling arguments they often got into. Point of fact is that I can’t come up with anything bad enough for him – not even Phoebe’s cooking is bad enough.” Even thought he had been perfectly serious about the entire affair, Prue snickered a little and Phoebe let out an affronted ‘Hey!’ before going back to hold Piper.

Leo looked over at Artemis, “Can you talk some sense into him, Lady Artemis?”

She snorted, “I have trouble enough keeping my Amazons from storming the house Meers is in and taking the git out themselves – apparently they all thing Alexander is ‘to die for’ and ‘utterly gorgeous’ and are willing to do just about anything for him.” She turned and pinned him with a glare as he felt a smirk come to his lips, “Don’t think you can start poaching from my heard, Alex – poach me, if you want, but not them.”

He knelt down as Prue and Phoebe snorted at something, “I’m going to hold you to that, Artemis, you know that, right?” She gave him a dazzling smile and he stood back up, seeing now that Piper was holding both of her sisters back, “So, are you happy now? I can’t think of a single thing to do to him physically – that means that nothing is going to happen to him at all.”

Leo nodded slowly, “Well, it’s a start – Prue, Phoebe, stop glaring at Artemis.” Xander winced as Artemis returned the glare of the two Charmed Ones, but Leo went on, somehow being overly calm while standing in the middle of ‘Ground Zero’, “How is everyone taking things?”

Xander snorted, “How do you think? All of them loved Willow and all of them are coming up with ways to skin the poor SOB alive.” Xander shook his head and then stopped, a thought striking him, “Hold on a second – I think I have the inkling of an idea forming.”

Artemis looked up, “Disemboweling him?”

Xander grinned evilly as the plan took further root, “I won’t have to lay a hand on him, Artemis.” He swooped down and kissed her on the forehead, “Bye!”

{Summers Home – An Hour Later}

AN: Before I do this part, I would like to thank Tenhawk and RDM, not to mention those at Xanderzone who replied to my poll, for their input on this subject – remind me to never piss you two off if you ever learn magic.

Tara watched as Xander strung up Warren by his wrists from the overhead pipes, stripped him to the waist, an act that got a giggle from Dawn as the geek lacked anything close to a physique, and then slapped him awake sharply, drawing a cry of surprised pain from said geek, “Wake up, loser.”

Warren was a bit blurry for a few moments but when he did finally come out of it, he snarled, “Harris, what do you want?”

Xander just smiled that smile of his and Tara, for a split second, felt bad for the dweeb, “To skin you alive, to make you go nearly insane, restore your sanity and do it all over again, but as that has a definite end, I’m going to have to get a little creative. You see, Warren, I know you know I am a demi-god, but above that I am of the Greek Pantheon and we have a bit of a reputation when it comes to retribution; I have a bit of an obligation to my brothers and sisters in arms to make you pay with something … interesting.”

Warren sneered at Xander, “Torture me all you want, I’ll never tell you anything.”

Xander just rolled his eyes and shook his head, his voice, Tara surmised, weary with both a great deal of contempt and aggravation, “Warren, trust me, if I wanted information out of you, I could make you sing like a canary, something I can do anyways, but no, I’m going to give you a few things, actually, things that your own wildest imagination could only wish for.” Tara watched Xander cut his own palm and smear his blood over Warren’s entire face, “Now, that blood will make you at least partially Immortal – as long as the sun is up, you cannot be harmed but you will still continue to age. A part of that is quick regeneration, so if you do get hurt at night, you’ll heal quickly.

“Now, before you go and think that I’m letting you go, well, you’re partially right – I am letting you go, but you’ll never be free of me; I have set within your mind a list of things that, when one of them is either preformed or infringed upon, you will feel pain like you have never felt before. I’m leaving it up to you to figure out just what is on that list, but for the rest of your natural life, this will be true.” Tara felt her face go slightly green at the implications of what was going to be a very long time in agony, but Xander went on, “But as they say in Economics, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch – say goodbye to your voice, Warren.” A golden light came from Warren’s throat and he opened his mouth, but only expelled air was heard, “Bet that sucks, right? Well, you haven’t even felt the worst of it – I’m also placing an impregnable sound field around you that nobody but us or the divine can hear anything from you, so be careful where you drop in agony, as we wouldn’t want people to accidentally get hurt, now, would we?”

“Xander, this is cruel,” Tara heard herself say even as the implications of it all came down upon her.

Xander gave her a slightly warm smile, “Tara, honey, gorgeous, beautiful Wicca of a sex-pot, you haven’t SEEN cruel, yet, and you won’t out of me.” Tara blushed brightly as Faith and Buffy snickered, Dawn ‘harumphed’ next to them and Warren rattled his chains, “Now, back to Warren – seal thine lips, foul beast of burden!” Warren’s lips fused together and his eyes bugged out as his body wracked in agony, “Ah, I see you found the first of my little restrictions, and it’s an oldie, but a goody – Thou Shalt Not Take The Name of Thy Lord God in Vain. Think it and you hurt, savvy?” Warren nodded and Xander went on, “Now, don’t go thinking that your old friend Jonathan is going to save you, because he is a little busy being dead right now.” Tara jerked her head up and stared in disbelief at Xander, as did everyone else.

“Now, if he had come to us and told us about what you had planned at all, even the mere mention of a gun-involved plan, I would have let him go with a light punishment, but as he did not, I am sorry to say that he had to die, not that it would have made any difference in his case – cancer isn’t a nice way to go, and bone cancer, which he had the first stage of, wouldn’t have been pretty. FYI, I gutted him while he was pinned to the wall by one of my boot knives – squealed like a stuck pig, he did, and if you don’t believe me, ask Tara, she was there for that part.” Warren’s eyes went wide again and he was wracked with agony once more before going limp in the chains, “Now, I’m not a complete bastard, Warren – every once in a while you will get a full day off from the pain, but you’ll never be told when those are. Now, another thing I’m going to give you is a nice job and a place to live – we can’t have you being homeless, now can we?”

Dawn took that point to speak up, bringing much-needed relief to the room, “What job are you giving him, Xand?”

He smiled kindly at the former Key, “Well, he’s going to be working with kids, Dawnie – I’ve got him a job at a hospital in the neo-natal ward handling babies; he’ll change, feed and burp them all and, the best part is, he’s going to be there for the rest of his life with the references that I’ve supplied him.” Warren kicked his feet some more and rattled his chains, glaring furiously at Xander but then went stiff in agony as his eyes bugged out – Tara was starting to feel a little bad for him, “Ah, there’s another – never call a lady, let alone any female, the ‘B’ word.”

Tara snarled a little and then dashed forwards, slapping he geek as he hung there helpless. With that done, she marched straight out of the basement and went up to the room where Willow had been killed, collapsed on the bed and began sobbing her eyes out. She wanted to see the prick die, horribly, for what he had done to Willow, but this was a fate far worse than death – as she continued to cry, she wasn’t sure whom had gotten the worse end of the deal, her or Warren.

{2 Days Later – Graveside}

The Rabbi finished his ceremony and was led away by several parishioners as the sun went down, which left Xander, Buffy, Tara, Dawn, Faith and Willow’s parents, Ira and Sheila, alone at the private service – both the parents and the Rabbi had been a little worried about doing the ceremony so close to sundown, as they all knew of what went on after dark in Sunnydale, but frankly Xander wasn’t in any frame of mind to care. He’d probably broken several dozen rules of decorum and property when he’d told the Rabbi, point blank, that the service WOULD be held at the appointed time, and if necessary said official would physically drag the holy man by his ankles to get him there – his Willow deserved nothing less.

“Alexander, why is the grave marker not engraved?” He looked over at Ira, who like his wife wore the deepest black, “Do you not have any more respect for out daughter than this?”

Idly he wondered how much of a mess it would make for a small nuclear explosion, about the size of a soft ball, to go off in Ira’s torso, but he dismissed it with a snarl and removing his sunglasses, “Ira, let me tell you one thing right now – Willow meant more to me on this planet than you or anyone else could ever know; I left it unmarked because I was going to get your blessings before engraving it and if I EVER hear you insinuate I didn’t love her I’ll make you-“ Xander was cut off by Tara’s hand on his shoulder, her calming energies assuaging his own raging ones. She’d gotten back in control of herself after a few hours of crying, and now it appeared to be of the status quo.

“Xander, we all know you could kill him with one hand and both legs tied behind your back, but he just lost his daughter – let him … have some time.” She looked like a wreck, truth be told – it had been revealed to Ira and Sheila just what her relationship with Willow was and while neither parent wanted to believe it, it had taken his own assurances as to the voracity of the claim to calm them down into believing.

Ira looked at him and looked like he was about to wet himself, “Kill me? You?”

Sheila stepped between them before Xander could do anything, “Stop it, both of you – if you wish to do this, at least have the decency to do it somewhere else.” This made Xander stop and step back, allowing Ira to collect himself, at which point is when she turned back to him, “What did you want to show us, Xander? What did you want to put on there, Xander?”

Not wanting to hide anymore secrets, he turned and waved his hand at the granite marker; on one side, in English, were the dates and Willow’s name, and on the other was the same, save in Hebrew, but on the other two faces of the obelisk were several glyphs of warding and protection that would never allow the marker to wear or be broken as long as he drew breath. When he turned back to Ira and Sheila, they were both white as ghosts but seemed to accept what had just happened, “Well?”

“You … you’re also a witch?”

He shook his head, “No, Sheila – wrong gender to begin with, I’d be a Warlock, and … I’m a few steps higher up the food chain than that now.” He looked over at Tara, who’s eyes were tearing up even as Dawn held her with Buffy and Faith, “I’ve had a few nominal and major promotions over the past few years, so I am currently a demi-god of the Greek Pantheon.”

All things being equal, Sheila took it better than he thought she would – she passed out; Ira caught her before she hit the ground, glaring at him, but channeled that anger into one question, “Then why didn’t you stop my daughter from dying?”

“I said I am a demi-god, Ira, not GOD – I didn’t know what was happening, though I probably should have, and for that I am sorry; I know, sorry doesn’t bring Willow back, but guess what, don’t you think I’ve already run that through my head already?” Xander paced around for a second, his anger and frustrations building, and then spun back around, glaring at Ira, “Yo know what? Fuck you, Ira – you and your wife abandoned her a long time ago, hiding behind your jobs and your speaking tours, so don’t try and pin this one me. If either of you had even the slightest inkling of what it meant to be a set of real parents then you would be able to accept that some things happen for bad reason and nobody under HIM can change that.” Xander found himself shaking with pure rage as Tara and the others stepped back, “You feel like attacking me, go right ahead – I don’t give a flying fuck, but you and Sheila had better damned well take your own level of being guilty here. You two should never have left Sunnydale as you did – Willow graduated high school and you two were gone before the ink was dried.”

“Yes, we were, Alexander, but don’t try and pin this on us – you should have protected her! My baby is dead because of you and –“ Ira didn’t get any further as Xander lashed out and belted him across the mouth, holding Sheila in place with his mind before putting her over next to the girls. When he got back to his feet, he was a little shaky and looked at him with a little fear, “You hit me!”

Xander could have cared less at the shocked look of incrimination on the older man’s face, “Your point?”

Ira glared at him, working his jaw several times before he sighed and looked down, tears finally coming to his eyes, something that hadn’t happened in all of the time he and Sheila had been in Sunnydale, “Why is she dead?”

“I suppose I could give you some great and convoluted speech on bad things happening to good people and wrong place at the wrong time, but essentially a nut with a gun hit her in the chest with an explosive round and killed her – harsh, but descriptive. I have dealt with said nut and now you and Sheila are going to go on with your lives.” He turned away to leave, but Sheila’s voice came to his ears.

“We’re not proud of what we did, Xander, but you have on right to judge us. You’re not a father, a parent.”

He didn’t even bother to turn around, “Not in any concept you are capable of understanding, Sheila – I’ve helped father a new breed of warriors in the past year and I am the closest thing to a father a natural witch down in Houston knows.” He sighed and then turned and looked at her, “If I am ever blessed with children, though, I’ll know who not to look at for an example as to good parenting – you, your husband and my own parents.” With that, he teleported away to Olympus and, once there, broke down and began to cry.

{Cemetery – same time}

Faith looked at Red’s mom as she seemed to process everything boy toy had told her, then dropped in her two cents, “He’s right, you know – I’m an Amazon and they, my people, treat him with just as much respect and adoration as they do Lady Artemis, something about him laying the smack down on us a while back.”

Sheila turned and looked at her, “What do you mean ‘your people’? The Amazon Nation was destroyed by Rome centuries ago.”

“And Lady Artemis restarted it a year or so ago – didn’t start off too well and we kinda got out of hand, so X-man decided to help out and put us in our place, showing us that we got too big for out panties and Lady Artemis made us EARN our titles as Amazons, instead of giving it away like she started to.” Faith grimaced slightly, “I kinda got the shaft on that, just ‘cause I was a Slayer before I traded up, and a lot of the girls resent the hell out of me because of it.”

Ira, she saw, was wrapping his mind around things just a little quicker than his wife, when he asked, “And this makes him … what? Some sort of leader?”

“He’s the patron god of snipers, Mister Rosenberg,” Tiger spoke up from behind her, walking forwards. “I asked him about it, once, why he didn’t object to it, and he told me that even though the job was for life-takers, it was also a necessary job – he’s grown up a lot in the time I’ve know him, and I trust him.” That was saying a bunch, coming from Tiger.

“So what about this baby he was talking about? He has a child out of state and has the nerve to tell us how to be parents?” Sheila was starting to fume a little and Faith headed that one off at the pass.

“Nah, Pipsqueak isn’t his – she’s cool, a natural witch, like Tiger over there,” she pointed to Tara, who blushed, and went on, “but she’s not his. Protected her a while back and since then he’s been helping her mom take care of her when he can – I even heard her call him ‘da’ one time, when he thought we weren’t around, and he told her that he’d be honored to be that for her.” Faith smiled a little at the memory, “Diana’s almost one and a half now, picking up words left, right and center, but he’s cool with it, you know?”

Ira shook his head as if to clear it, but in truth it probably only mixed things up even more, “This doesn’t make any sense to me – why is all of this happening to Alexander? Why our daughter?”

B spoke up at that point, D next to her, “Fate, chance, chaos, who knows, Mister Rosenberg, but the fact of the matter is that your daughter is dead and he can’t do anything about it – trust me, he’s already tried.” Faith shivered at that memory but B went on, “Now, with all of this out of the way, why did you two leave? I mean, what purpose did it serve?”

“It made Willow grow up a little bit, become more independent,” Sheila said with an air of smugness. “I know … how … oh, I see. We did abandon her, didn’t we – we found out about the ‘real’ world and we ignored it.” Faith wasn’t sure just how the woman had gotten from point A to point ZZ, but she was there, “So, magic is real? Vampires and demons, too?”

Faith sighed – this was going to take a long time.

{Later – Sunnydale}

Faith was snoring next to her, having fallen asleep a good hour ago, and both Tara and Dawn were also asleep on the other couch with Buffy between them, piled up like a small litter of puppies, and at that, Joyce had to smile – her kids were happy, well, as happy as they could be, and safe, and this made her smile.

“Joyce, how do you do it?” She turned and looked at both Ira and Sheila, the former having spoken, “You seem to take this all in stride …”

“I’ve had lots of practice – I found out the hard way about this world and I didn’t take it well, I must admit. I finally came to terms with it and … well, I’d like to say that I see things clearer, but honestly all I do now is accept life on life’s terms – according to Xander, I am supposed to be dead now from tampering from the higher ups, he changed that some time back.”

“He does that a lot, doesn’t he,” Sheila said with a small grin on her face. “I remember when Willow first introduced us to him, this skinny little boy with dirt all over his face, and I could tell that she was going to do her best to marry him one day.”

“In my defense,” Xander’s voice came out of nowhere as he teleported into the room, dressed in his armor now, “I was five, Sheila, and neither Jessica nor Tony gave a damn about if I ate or not, let alone bathed.” Joyce winced at the remark, not being able to fathom being so negligent to a child, but that was the past.

Sheila and Ira both winced also as Xander sat next to her and put his arm around her, pulling her close and planting a kiss in her hair, which brought a blush to her cheeks and a smirk to Sheila’s lips, “Older women, Xander?”

“Compared to Artemis, Joyce is a babe in the arms of eternity.” Joyce smiled at that, having heard about how Xander and Artemis had an ‘agreement’ between themselves, but also at the part about her being so ‘young’.

Ira took that point to speak, “So, where is this Diana that Buffy and Faith were going on about? I’d very much like to see your adopted daughter.”

Joyce looked over at Xander, who was frowning, “She’s not my daughter in any way, Ira – sure, she’s calling me ‘da’ and ‘pa’ all of the time, and one day I’d like to know what that is really like, but Monica and I talked it over one afternoon when she heard it and I am just ‘Uncle Xander’ … and to answer your question, she’s with her mom and grandmother in Houston.” Xander drew his arm back and sighed, “So, what’s up here, you crazy kids, you?”

Joyce smiled, “We were just talking about how I take all of this in stride, or at least, that was Sheila’s question to me.”

He smirked, “Oh, from what I’ve heard and seen by rewinding time up on Olympus, you’ve lost it more than a few times, Joyce. I mean, ‘Freeze, Brit Boy’? That’s … inspired.” She looked down and blushed at her small mental meltdown nearly two years before after she had found out about his expulsion from the ‘Scooby Gang’.

“Well, I was very stressed at the time, Xander, and those headaches you cured me of weren’t helping my sanity at all at that point,” she pointed out to him, which he nodded at.

Sheila just sighed at that point, “Joyce, you are a much stronger woman than I am – I’m sure I would have snapped at that point.”

Joyce opened her mouth to say something but then felt Xander tense at her side, sighed and looked over, “Work?”

“Yeah … but this one’s different.” His face was decidedly worried as he stood and summoned his sword to his side, “Bye, guys – hope to see you soon.” With that Xander teleported away … but what Joyce didn’t know was that it would be the last time she would see him for a very long time even as both Faith and Buffy jerked awake, Tara yelped and Dawn shrieked.

{Elsewhere}

Amazon sniper Alexandra O’Malley looked through her sights and zeroed in on her target’s left eye even as she felt a calming presence come over her, “About blurry time you showed up, boyo.”

“What’s going on here, Alexa?” Xander was a good kid, kid being the operative term after finding out how just how young he really was, but he did know how to ask stupid questions on occasions.

She heard her Lady Goddess speak up from behind her, “Remember the war we told you about, Alex? The one that would decide if good or evil wins the day? Well, this is a scouting party for them … and we need to make a decision – do we take one out and possibly start a war or do we let them go and give away our defenses?”

Alexa felt him squat next to her, “Snipe One – on target?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Chance to miss?”

“Low – no cross-wind, I am up-range and above grade of him.”

She heard him take in a breath and let it out slowly, “Let fly, Snipe One – you are red and free.” Alexa smiled and squeezed the trigger of her sniper rifle, feeling it buck beneath her and spitting out a round that hit her target dead on, killing it. Little did she know then that she was firing the first shot of a war that would last far beyond her lifespan … and would be one that win or lose, Humanity would probably not survive in tact.

THE END …

AN: Okay, I wanted to end this story and I have, and no, there will not be a sequel by me. A war between good and evil is a war that we fight every day and, in the truth of the matter, nobody will ever win in a way that will be truly decisive. Kind of broken in places, like the part between Xander and Ira, and it left a few holes, but quite frankly, I am tired and I want to rest … rest from this story and put this plot bunny to bed. What do you think? R&R, please, and thank you for reading, Anime Ronin.

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