Categories > TV > Buffy the Vampire Slayer > Choices We Make

Chapter One

by Plshade 0 Reviews

Xander has a run in with the Initiative that could break up the gang.

Category: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama - Characters: Anya, Buffy, Drusilla, Faith, Giles, Joyce Summers, Riley, Spike, Tara, Willow, Xander - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2005/06/22 - Updated: 2005/06/23 - 7215 words

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Disclaimer: This is a fictional story. Joss & ME own the characters, I own nothing and make nothing from this story. In other words; Don't want them. Don't need them. Couldn't afforded them if I did.

Note - thoughts


Chapter One

Where am I?

That was the first question to pop in his mind after waking up with one nasty headache. All he knew was that he was in a small, completely white room but one small thing about his surroundings confused him. The room had three walls and a sliding glass door leading into a hallway.

"Only one way to find any answers." He said to himself as he tried to open the door.

Pain was all he knew the moment his hand pressed against the glass, Then he felt the sensation of flying into the wall in the back of the room. Shaking his head, he sat against the wall looking at the glass in shock. Slowly he stood up and walked to the front of his cell. Tentatively, he reached out to touch the glass and received an electric shock. As he shook his hand to regain feeling, he noticed what looked like a hospital patient ID strap on his wrist. CIVILIAN #36 - ALEXANDER HARRIS was written on it.

Now I remember. I was going to warn Giles and Buffy about a rumor that I had heard down by Willy's. Xander gingerly felt the back of his head remembering the two vampires that hit him from behind when he tried to catch Buffy on one of her patrols. I was about to run when suddenly my body felt like it was on fire. The last thing I remember seeing was..

Xander pounded his head against the wall a couple of times as he realized where he was. "It's just my luck that I would run into Commandos."

Damn. Looking out of the room, but being careful not to touch the glass, he saw that there was a string on cells all along the opposite wall. Probably the same on this side too. I don't see anyone in the cells close to me but I think I hear some movement farther down on my right.

Xander spent the next ten minutes inspecting the area around the front of his cell as he tried to think of a plan to get himself out of here. He couldn't count on Buffy coming to his rescue considering that her new boyfriend was a part of this group of idiots. If Riley was in on this, he wouldn't tell Buffy and his superiors wouldn't tell Riley if he wasn't. Xander grunted at this thought when he noticed a faint, thin line along the walls and floor in front of the 'door'.

"That must be where that electrical field is generated over the glass. Too bad it's not on my side of the door." Xander muttered to himself.

As he seriously thought about his situation, Xander started to feel more confidant about his chances for escaping. From what Spike said happened to him while he was here, I should be scared for my life. The more he thought about his lack of fear, Xander began to realize that was because he felt completely comfortable in this place. If I was still soldier guy from Halloween, I think that I could get to like this place. That is, if you ignore the fact I'm being held against my will. Xander thought with a smirk on his face.

Looking at the camera mounted in the ceiling of the hallway, Xander decided to see if he could get a response. "Will somebody up there tell Riley Finn to put away his G.I. Joes and get his butt down here." There was no response. "Now!" Xander barked as he slammed the side of his fist against the wall.

Xander was about to say something else when suddenly a man dressed like a doctor appeared in front of his cell. Before Xander could say anything, the man pressed a button on a device that he held in his hand and a gas was released from two vents in the center of the ceiling.

Something in the back of his mind told Xander that the gas was probably a knock out agent. Enraged, Xander immediately launched himself at the man outside his cell completely forgetting about the electrical barrier covering the glass door between them and sailed back into the cell.

"Damn.." was all Xander got out before he collapsed from the effects of the gas, the electrical shock and his collision with the back cell wall.

*

Professor Walsh calmly watched the scene displayed on the monitor before her. After a couple minutes, she keyed on her mic. "As soon as the air clears, take him down to medical for clean up and the standard tests." Walsh paused for a second and smiled as an idea came to her. "Also run tests for possible usefulness in the 314 project."

Walsh keyed off her mic and relaxed in her chair. "Learning that a team had captured one of the Slayer's friends was possibly the best news I have received since Riley brought that willful girl into the Initiative..."

She went over to her terminal and typed in a password, "Program report, Maggie Walsh." she paused slightly before continuing. "The Slayer's negative influence on Agent Finn is increasing the longer they spend time together. Actually to the point where Agent Finn disregarded a direct order about the Slayer's involvement in a military operation. Agent Finn's feelings for her are starting to affect his loyalties and he has revealed this base to the Slayer's friends. I have come across a possible solution to this problem. How I use that solution depends on the information provided by specialized tests.

*

Anya was getting worried. She had spent most of the day trying to find Xander. He wasn't at home. He wasn't at Giles. He wasn't with either Willow or Buffy. Not that the loveless whiner or Riley's milksop would notice. Anya thought, shaking her head.

"Where could he be? I'd check where he works at but I know that today is his day off and Xander wouldn't be there if didn't have to be." Anya mumbled to herself as she walked through a graveyard to the crypt where Giles said Spike was staying. I still can't believe that a male has this kind of effect on me. ME! I was a man hating demon for over a thousand years before I met him. Then, as usual when this internal debate comes up, memories of his kindness and devotion surfaced in her mind's eye, not to mention a certain sexual attraction that never failed to heat her up.

There was also the way he would try to defend his friends from any attack, even her own comments about their characters and then, in a blink of an eye, turn around to defend her from Buffy or Willow.

That was one thing she could not understand about Xander. No matter what subtle or not so subtle hints he received from his friends about staying out of the fighting or how unappreciated he feels. He will always stand up for them, fights for them. Even at the cost of physical harm.

Ayna on more than one occasion had asked Xander why he always put his so-called friend's needs above his own. Each time Xander would shift his head slightly and look at her with shock written on his face. Then Xander would shake his head and chuckle before speaking with a gentle warmth, 'That is what you do for friends.'

Anya continued to mutter to herself as she went to see if Spike knew where her boyfriend was. Arriving at the crypt sometimes uses, Anya shoved the door open causing a scream to erupt from within. After she entered and closed the door, a shadow appeared to cover the ground before the crypt's entrance. The shadow's owner stopped to listen as a string of muffled curses could be heard through the door.

The stranger began a chant in a guttural voice that lasted a couple of minutes. When the chant was finished, a brief flash of purple light surrounded the crypt. When the light dimmed, the shadow, and it's owner, also faded from view.

*

Giles was irritated, "What is wrong with that girl?"

Giles picked a book off the floor before continuing, "You would think that after half a year she would learn about common courtesy like knocking before entering." Shaking his head, Giles recalled an event where Anya barged in on a rather intimate scene between himself and Olivia.

"As usual, Anya just had to tell Xander. Then he had to tell Buffy and Willow." Giles spat out sarcastically, remembering Xander's very rude remarks and Buffy's insinuations but what irritated him the most was that Willow did nothing but sit there and laugh.

Giles had just started to organize several stacks of books that he had not got to since after graduation when Anya burst through the door fifteen minutes earlier causing him to knock the dozen books onto the floor. She did not even offer to help-

"Hey Giles."

Once again, startled by someone behind him, Giles knocked the books back onto the floor. "Anya! Why must you-" Giles stopped when he turned around to find a shocked Slayer and not an annoying ex-demon at his front door. "Oh, it's you Buffy."

"Gee Giles, you sure know how to make a girl feel welcome." Buffy said with a small smile.

Giles nodded his head in an apology and motioned with his hand for her to come in and take a seat.

Looking at mess on the floor, Buffy felt the need to comment. "Ya know Giles, your place wouldn't be a mess if you didn't have such wild parties."

Casting a weary glare at Buffy, who was having a hard time trying not to laugh, Giles started to pick up the books once more. "Anya was the initial cause of this when she came in demanding to know where Xander was."

Buffy cringed when Giles stressed the word 'initial'. "Anya's always looking for him. Xander probably got tired of her and decided to lay low."

"Anya said that she has been looking for him all day." Giles pointed out.

Buffy shrugged. "He's probably at work or trying to help Willow now that Oz is gone." she paused before saying, "No, Willow was going to meet with her new Wiccan friend, Tara." Buffy's face scrunched up as she briefly thought about where Xander could be.

Giles decided that now was as good a time as any to ask how her meeting went, "So Buffy, what did you observe while you were in the Initiative's headquarters?"

The Slayer face broke out into a wide smile. "They gave the whole nickel tour of the place. Lets see, I saw where they were dissecting demons, which by the way was very gross, then they showed me their communications center and the cells where they keep the live ones." Buffy turned towards Giles, "Did I mention that I was going to toss my cookies when I saw one demon's shiny, bright green guts as they were being pulled out of him?"

Giles removed his glasses and started to clean them excitedly, "Do you remember what the demon looked like Buffy? Because there are some texts that give weakness based on anatomy. If you could describe in detail-"

"Giles!" Buffy interrupted, "Unless you really want to see what I had for breakfast, don't ask me to tell you what I saw. Please."

Even though Giles was a little disappointed, he let her off the hook. "OK Buffy." I will have to remember to ask Riley about it later.

"Well, getting back to my tour. The next thing I was shown was the armory." Then Buffy's face lit up in awe and preceded to list everything that was in the room.

Giles sighed inwardly as he tuned out what Buffy was telling him, She's acting like she just stepped into heaven. It is obvious that Buffy's idea of a paradise is a room full of weapons. The larger amount of damage that can be inflicted, the better she liked a certain weapon.

Giles remembered what Buffy said when she first saw a crossbow, 'Goodbye stakes. Hello flying fatality.'

"Giles? You in there?" Buffy asked waving her hand in front of his face.

Giles looked at her for a second before answering, "Yes Buffy, I'm fine. I was just remembering something." Giles said with a small smile. "Sorry, what were you saying."

"Well, I was going to ask if that was all you wanted to know because I'm kinda in a hurry..." Buffy left the sentence hanging.

"Go on." Giles motioned towards the door, "And Buffy, should you see Xander, please tell him to explain the concept of knocking to Anya."

"Sure Giles." Buffy said absently as her thoughts were on a certain commando.

*

Maggie Walsh was disappointed as she read the lab reports on the Harris kid. He's just a normal boy. I was hoping to be able to use him against the Slayer. she thought to herself and turned to watch from the security monitors as Harris was being escorted back to his cell.

Her eyes widened as she watched the boy, after the soldier started to remove the restraints, methodically punch the soldier in the face and grab the gun from his hands. Harris then, in the same motion after taking the gun, whipped around and slammed the butt of the rifle against the soldier's head, knocking him out cold. All this happened while the doctor's attention was focused on opening the cell

When the doctor turned back, Harris swung the rifle like a baseball bat into the doctor's midsection causing him to collapse on the floor. Walsh watched in shock as Harris calmly looked around him before centering on the security camera. He then climbed onto the gurney he was brought in on and reached for the camera. Before the feed was cut, Maggie heard the boy say in a very quiet voice, "Run."

Professor Walsh stood there for a minute not believing what she just witnessed. Shaking herself in action, Walsh spoke into a nearby microphone. "Security report to cell block C-3, we have an escaped civilian. Approach with caution, he is armed and dangerous." Damn! How long has he been playing possum?

*

Ever since Xander woke up, he instinctively knew that his best chance of escape was to act like he was still unconscious. He didn't know exactly how long he was out but from the pain he felt, it was obvious that they had prodded and poked him. Several spots along his arms and neck were sore. Probably needles and maybe an IV. They must have ran tests on me.

On the way back to his cell, as if in response to his need for help, memories long hidden or forgotten started to come back to him from two very distinct times in his life. With the restraints on his wrists and ankles, Xander decided to immersed himself into each memory with the hope of finding something that could help. It was something Xander had never experienced before.

Xander began to see images in his mind in crystal clarity. Images of hunting and running with a pack when he had the hyena in him. With those also came images from what he recognized as the Halloween everyone was possessed by their costumes. He was remembering more from the 'Soldier'. Stuff he didn't experience himself but the memories that were implanted. Xander 'relived' the training and missions the alter ego went through.

With the 'Hyena' memories, Xander mostly remembered the feeling of the hunt, the kill. The instinctual knowledge of being superior to everyone. The one thing that stood out the most were the sharpness of the senses. Especially the sense of hearing and smell. Between his experiences, Xander was feeling more confidant and secure in the knowledge he was receiving. When the doctor opened the cell door and the soldier with them released his restraints, Xander sprung into action.

After disabling the guard and the other man, Xander looked around the room in shock over how easy it was to take out the two men. Must be the old reflexes kicking in. Xander thought as his attention was drawn to the security camera above him. Climbing on to the gurney they carted him in with, Xander reached up and grabbed the camera. Since someone was probably watching right now, Xander looked directly into the lens and said the first thing that came into his mind, "Run."

Xander then yanked the camera on the ceiling severing the connection. Jumping down, Xander proceeded to search the guard. Seconds later he had the soldier's rifle, several ammo clips, and a radio. Xander also grabbed both men's security cards before throwing them into the cell.

Xander started retracing the route that they brought him in. He remembered seeing various rooms on the way back to his cell and he knew one of those rooms should have what he needed. Xander smiled as he came to a door that had a smell of cleaning chemicals. "Time for a new wardrobe." Xander said after entering the room and seeing freshly cleaned uniforms.

*

"Where is he?!" Maggie Walsh demanded from the group that surrounded her.

One of the soldiers was about to answer when a loud explosion rocked the complex and all the lights went out. Almost immediately, backup generators kicked in and the emergency lights came on. "What the..."

"Alright people. I want this civilian found and I want him found NOW!" looking behind her, Professor Walsh yelled, "Agent Forrest!"

After issuing orders to his group, Forrest went to her. He watched as Walsh continued to pacing back and forth while watching the security monitors.

"How was he able to escape?" Forrest asked.

Maggie Walsh scowled at him for almost a minute before filling him in on what occurred after the tests. "...and now he's loose inside the compound. Mr. Harris' actions do not follow what was lined out in the profile that you and Agent Finn provided."

"Our reports were as accurate as we could get them." Forrest quickly defended himself, "Most of the time that I interacted with Buffy, her only friend present was Willow Rosenburg." Forrest turned away from Walsh and continued, "Riley was the only one to spend an extended period of time with either Xander Harris or Rupert Giles."

Maggie nodded absently as she replayed the recording of the boy's escape. "Keep in mind, as you watch this recording, Agent Finn's assessment of the young man was as follows; Xander Harris is a normal human with no discernable military or martial arts training. Harris has no ambitions beyond his friends and girlfriend. Highest level of education is high school and research into the paranormal to help his friend Buffy. To be considered a non-threat. Apparently Riley was too infatuated with the Slayer to observe the other members of her group."

Forrest could only agree with his superior as he watched the video on the screen. The way that Harris moved spoke of years of experience and discipline. Clearly his friend had underestimated Harris and was going to pay if Professor Walsh has her way. Forrest's shoulders slumped in resignation about his friend's future and spoke, "Regardless of the current problem, this situation may be a blessing in disguise."

Maggie turned to her subordinate and considered what he said. "True. Once she learns of this, it's possible that a rift will appear between the Slayer and Riley." she replied as she turned and headed away from her work station with Forrest on her heels. "And the possibility of Summers turning against us is a small price to pay for removing her influence on Agent Finn."

*

Great! The last thing we need is a Slayer/Commando face-off, Xander thought as he moved away from the ventilation grill. He had rested there for the last ten minutes studying the area when he heard the conversation. I better get to Buffy before someone tells her what that old bat wants her to hear.

With that thought Xander worked his way through the main area to the emergency stairs as the last of his surprises went off with several loud thunderclaps.

That should put a dent in their armory. Xander disappeared into the stairwell as the whole complex went dark.

*

Buffy steadied herself as she rode out the shaking that was going on under her feet. "Now what?!" Buffy muttered. She was just about to leave the campus to start her nightly patrol when the ground decided to see if it could knock the Slayer on her ass. After everything stopped shaking, a worried Slayer walked away from the building "Screw patrolling. Time to go see Giles."

On the way to the ex-watcher's home, Buffy came across couple of vampires that seemed to be wandering about in a daze. What confused Buffy more was that they looked almost relieved when she dusted them.

As she came to Giles' door, Buffy heard her name called out from behind her. Turning around, the Slayer came face to face with two very winded friends. "Are you ok Buffy?" Willow asked as she tried to catch her breath. Tara immediately sat down on the ground when Willow released her hand from the death grip it was in on the way over.

Before Buffy could answer her friends question, the door in front of her opened suddenly to reveal a slightly ruffled Giles. "I thought I heard voices out here. Now Buffy, I was expecting to see but not the two of you." Giles said pointing the glasses he was cleaning towards the young witches. "Why are you here?"

"W-W-Willow and I were in the middle of a spell a-a-and.." Tara trailed off under Giles' gaze and backed behind Willow.

"What kind of spell were the two of you casting?" Giles asked delivering a very pointed look at Willow. I hope they were not responsible for the tremor earlier.

If Willow was affected by her elder's stare, she didn't show it as the young witch returned his gaze. "Calm down Giles. It was a simple divination spell for the future." Willow said a little forcefully as she felt a need to protect Tara.

Giles' face softened as he watched Tara laid a hand on Willow's shoulder's to calm her friend. Giles still wasn't sure what to make of Willow's new friend but decided to let it go since Buffy and Xander had no problem with her.

Buffy was in shock over how her red-headed friend stood up for herself. She could still remember when Willow was a shy teenager. More at home behind a computer screen than in the center of the spotlight. Giles took a step toward the two girls and said, "I apologize Willow. Tara, I did not mean to frighten you, I was just worried."

Tara gave him a little smile to let him know that she was okay and Willow gave the older man an affectionate hug.

"Giles," Willow started as the ex-watcher led the three girls into his home, "I think something happened during the casting. I'm not sure what, but it and the earthquake started at the same time."

"Can you describe to me what exactly occurred and the type of spell you cast." Giles asked.

"It was just a simple one using a reflective surface and invoking minor spirits." Tara said.

Giles nodded and Willow continued, "We used a bowl of water for the spell and in the beginning we saw flashes of Buffy and Riley first."

Buffy stopped pacing, that she had started upon entering, at the mention of her boyfriend's name. "Was he hurt or-"

"You both were fine." Willow said to calm her friend. "The flashes were just still pictures of you two separately, like in a photo album. Then the ground began to shake and then all the water rose out of the bowl and formed a vague shape of a man siloetted by light coming from the door behind him. And after that, the water..." Willow couldn't finish and just stared at the Slayer.

"The water what, Will?" Buffy asked but her friend didn't answer.

Tara put a hand on Willow's arm, "The water," the blonde witch spoke up, "it fell back into the bowl and completely evaporated but," Tara paused to give a sympathetic look to Willow. "before it was all gone, one more image appeared."

Both Giles and Buffy had a feeling where this was headed.

Tara took a deep breath before confirming their fears, "The last image was of you Buffy. Specifically, your face. You had this look of shock and fear and the left side of your face was covered in blood."

"We couldn't tell if you were alive or not." Willow said weakly with unshed tears in her eyes.

Buffy went over and hugged Willow as the witch tried not to cry. "Willow," Buffy said as she backed away slightly to look at her friend, "we've gone through all this before. Nothing is going to happen to me, I promise you."

Willow smiled weakly at the Slayer. "Your right because we won't let anything happen to you."

"See. I can always count on my friends." Buffy grinned then frowned, "Speaking of friends, where's Xander?"

Everyone noticed for the first time that the boy in question was not there. Normally Xander would be the first one here if there was any chance that Buffy was in trouble, Giles thought.

Willow just shook her head and said, "He's probably home asleep with everything that Anya puts him through."

Disappointment flashed briefly over Giles' face at the casual dismissal of Xander. "Maybe you should check on him. Anya was looking for him earlier today and it did sound like she had been at it for a while."

"It just sounds like Xander is finally getting tired of her." Buffy said. "If you haven't noticed Giles, Anya can be a little demanding."


"A little?" Willow stressed the question with a raised eyebrow.

Buffy smirked at the redhead before turning back to the elder in the room. "I wouldn't worry about it. Unless there is something connected to those quakes. Giles? Any doom and gloom in the forecast?"

"What?" Giles replied as he was ripped from his thoughts.

"I asked you if there were any bad guys to be on the lookout for." The Slayer replied with a smug grin.

Giles gave his charge a withering glare before answering, "No, I have not noticed any reference for this part of the year but I must remind you that prophesies do not have specific references to certain time or physical place by name. I won't know for sure until we do some research."

"Right. So I'll do a quick sweep of the area while you research."

"Oh, and check to see if-" Giles sighed when he noticed that Buffy was gone. "I do hope Xander arrives soon."

"Xander will be here. No matter what Anya might be doing to him, Xander will want to make sure that Buffy's ok." Willow handed a couple books to Tara as she settled on the couch.

*

"Ok. What the hell's going on?" Buffy asked as she watched two vampires rolling on the ground in pain after they tried to attack her. "They're acting like Spike when he.."

The Slayer trailed off at that thought and carefully staked the vamps in front of her. These vampires must have escaped from the Initiative. If something has happened, why didn't Riley let me know.

"Buffy!"

Startled out of her thoughts, Buffy turned to the voice automatically knowing it's owner. "Speak of the devil. Hey Riley." Buffy stopped as she realized that her new boyfriend was decked out in his Initiative outfit. "What's going on?"

"Do you know where Harris is?" the commando asked.

"Harris?" Confusion written all over her face. "I'm doing fine, Riley. Thanks for asking. How are you?" Buffy sarcastically asked.

"This isn't the time for joking around, Buffy. Where is he?"

Buffy noticed movement further back behind Riley. "I don't know where he is. Why are you looking for Xander?"

"Why?" Riley paused to consider if he should tell her and decided to lay it all out for her. "Because he set off an explosion in the Initiative and caused lot of damage."

"WHAT!" Buffy starts to giggle nervously.

"Buffy, a lot of lives were lost during his little stunt." Riley grated out.

"Xander wouldn't do something like that on purpose. And unless you guys decided to turn your security off, he couldn't have gotten in there much less do any damage. I mean, come on, this is Xander your talking about."

"I have seen the footage, Buffy. He was inside the Initiative and caused the release of dozens of hostiles." Riley said impatiently as he looked around the area.

A voice filtered down from the tree that Buffy was leaning against. "Whatever footage you saw Riley, was edited for your viewing pleasure by none other than Maggie Walsh. You've been lied to."

Buffy jumped away from the tree in surprise, "Xander?!"

Riley brought his blaster up and aimed it at where he heard the voice coming from the tree. "Get down here now Harris!"

"Let's see you make me." Xander's childish response seemed only to infuriate Riley more.

"Fine." Riley aimed his gun and fired.

"XANDER!" Buffy screamed his name as the electrical blast tore through the branches and leaves. "Xander, are you okay?" When she didn't get a response, Buffy turned onto her boyfriend.

Before Riley could say anything, his gun was wrenched from his grasp and thrown several feet away and a very upset Slayer held him up against a headstone. "Buffy?"

"What do think you are doing?" Buffy cried.

"I-I.." Riley trailed off as Buffy's expression dared him to say that he was following orders.

"Your friend is dangerous, Buffy. He has to be taken in." Forrest said coming up behind her.

"Harris is here, spread your men out and find him." Riley said and Forrest half-turned to his group and motioned for his men to break into two groups and search the area.

"He is to be treated as a HST. Fire first then ask questions." Forrest told his men as he turned his attention back on the Slayer. "If you interfere, I will put you down."

"You guys are not gonna fire-" Buffy was interrupted when the trees behind the two commandos lit up with multiple taser blasts. Several shots were fired before the night became quiet.

"Go home Riley." Xander said as he appeared from behind one of the trees. "Your friends lied to you about what happened. So get your facts straight before you get hurt."

Buffy watched alien emotions crawl over her friend's face. Emotions that she has never seen in Xander's expression, scared her. Determination, acceptance and peace blended a single look that screamed 'confidence'. "Xander-"

As his name left her lips, Forrest sprang forward surprising her with how quick he was. Buffy was more shocked when she watched as Xander stepped to the side at the last minute, grabbed the larger man by the back of his head and shoved Forrest face first into the tree that Xander was standing in front of.

Riley tackled Xander from behind and managed to knock the younger man to the ground. Riley got to his feet and kicked Xander in the ribs as he was getting up.

Xander rolled to where Forrest was slumped against the tree and picked the unconscious soldier's blaster. Turning, Xander leveled the gun at Riley and said, "This is getting old fast. I'm only gonna say this one more time. Your boss lied to you. I was captured and brought to your base. Then I was put through God knows how many tests. Now I'm being hunted like a dog just because I don't like to be held against my will."

"That's a lie. I saw the video of you assaulting several guards and a doctor before the system went down and read the personal report of the doctor that you left for dead." Riley spat at Xander. "Buffy," Riley shot a look at her. "the damage he caused let thirty-seven hostiles loose in the compound. A lot of people died by the time we had the demons under control."

"I suppose that it's too much to hope that Walsh was one of them."

"Bastard!!" The enraged commando charged at Xander. He managed to back out of the way only to find Buffy behind him. The Slayer wrapped her arms around Xander's waist effectively pinning his arms to his sides.

"Buffy, let go of me." Xander grated out.

"Don't let him go Buffy. I can have a team here in minutes." Riley pulled out a radio.

"Buffy-" Xander started before Buffy cut him off.

"No Xander. Riley believes that you're a bad guy so we need to go back to the Initiative and find out what happened." Buffy then applied pressure to force Xander to the ground.

Xander twisted his head around to look at Buffy. "I told you what happened and I did my best to get here and warn you that Riley was going to be lied to by his Army buddies. I'm trying to save you a lot of grief when you learn the truth of what happened." Xander watched the side of her face that he could see, harden. "So you gonna believe 'beef stick' over me?"

"Xander, Riley is-"

"Fine!" Xander quickly crouched to the ground catching Buffy by surprise and when her grip loosened, Xander shot up fast knocking the back of his head against Buffy's face. Reeling from the impact, Buffy staggered backwards into a tree which she hit with the back of her head. Both blows dazed the Slayer and she collapsed at the base of the tree.

*

All Buffy could do was watch as Riley and Xander exchanged insults before her boyfriend charged the younger man. Riley was enraged over Xander knocking her down and Buffy watched as he made the simple mistake of letting his emotions blind him. Buffy found that she was too dazed to concentrate on anything but the scene taking place before her eyes.

She watched as Xander blocked the first two punches before the third connected in his side. Xander responded with a leg sweep that brought Riley to the ground. Both combatants got to their feet and traded more insults that resulted in Riley pulling out a knife.

Xander, with his back facing Buffy, dodged a swipe and effectively disarmed Riley when he thrust the knife at him. Xander had grabbed the commando's wrist with both hands and twisted his entire arm while keeping it straight. This brought Riley to his knees and he dropped the knife. The younger man then drove his foot into Riley's face and watched as his opponent collapsed on the ground.

Buffy was in shock. She couldn't believe that Xander had just put down several military trained soldiers including Riley. What is going on? "Xander.."

At the sound of his name, the person in question turned away from the fallen soldier to look at her. He stood there just looking at her and then Xander calmly walked to the Slayer and squatted in front of her. Buffy's mouth became dry as she saw the emotionless look in the face of her best friend and barely heard her own voice as she asked him why.

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Buffy found herself thinking as she saw emotions that never touched Xander's face wage a war in his eyes. She clearly saw disbelief, anger and disappointment mixed with what she could only describe as hurt. Unable to look at his face, Buffy lowered her eyes and saw that Xander's shirt was cut from his left shoulder to his right hip and blood slowly flowing from the same cut on his chest.

Xander glanced at his chest and brought his hand to feel the edges of the long wound. Buffy finally tore her eyes from Xander's chest and for the first time in four years, her friend's face was unreadable.

Slowly Xander cupped Buffy's face with both hands and spoke with a quiet and calm voice. "For the choices you've made, this will be the last time I shed blood for you." Xander let his hands fall from her face and paused a second before saying. "Slayer." With that Xander stood up, took one more look around and walked away.

*

Willow couldn't wait for her friend any longer. Buffy had only left a short while ago but her feelings of dread increased steadily after her friend left. She noticed that Tara glanced at the front door nervously every couple of minutes. "Giles, I don't like this."

"Don't like what?"

"Something feels wrong. I don't know what but I don't like it." Tara nodded vigorously in agreement with Willow.

Giles looked at the two witches and then at the clock. Where is Xander? Giles thought and not for the first time. He too was uneasy at the absence of Buffy. "Willow, did Buffy tell you which cemeteries she was going to check?" Willow answered yes as she and Tara got ready to leave and followed Giles out the door.

*

All three walked in silence as their thoughts were centered on everything that has happened tonight. Their fears grew as they walked through two cemeteries without incident and had entered the next one when faint sounds of electrical discharges could be heard in the distance.

Willow was the first to take off in that direction followed by Tara leaving Giles to curse about impatient young people. Despite being in better shape than most men his age, the two girls managed to stay a good twenty feet ahead of him.

A couple of minutes passed as he did his best to keep up with the young witches before he noticed that they had stopped in front of a small clearing. Unable to get the girls' attention, Giles carefully walked up behind them to see what they were staring at. What he saw was from the very heart of several of his nightmares. Separate from his shock as a father figure, the Watcher in him took stock of the scene on display before him.

Looking around slowly, Giles saw that there were several unconscious Initiative soldiers here including Riley Finn but his breath caught when his eyes settled on his Slayer. Slowly he walked past the frozen witches towards his young charge.

As Giles walked closer, he silently sobbed when her face could be seen. The vision. Half her face covered in blood. Giles remembered Tara's words as he bent down in front of the young woman. He could see her chest rise and fall with each breath and sent thanks to whatever higher power that watched over Slayers "Buffy?"

When he didn't get a response, Giles called her name twice more before her eyes focused on his face. The sheer disbelief in her expression caused the hairs on the back of his head to rise. Giles has never, in the time that he has known her, seen Buffy look this lost. The closest would be when Angel turned.

"Buffy," Giles started off softly, "what has happened? Who did this?"

Buffy appeared confused by the question. She looked around her taking in the Initiative and Riley on the ground. Her friends were standing in front of her but something was missing. Her mind just couldn't wrap a coherent thought around Giles' question. What happened here? Something to do with my friends. To do with one of my friends? Somebody in trouble. Who? Everyone is here. Riley, Giles, Willow, Tara, Xa- Her eyes started to mist over as she remembered what occurred. Buffy looked up to face Giles and, with tears falling down her cheeks, weakly said, "Xander."

*

Xander walked home after he left Buffy. Having decided that staying there was just asking for trouble, he packed some things into a gym bag and took off. His first thought was to find Anya and let her know that he was alright. Then he had to find some place to bunker down.

That was almost two hours ago and he still hasn't found his girlfriend. Most of his time was spent avoiding places the military goons knew that he would go to. So that made the Bronze, Anya's place and Giles' off-limits and Xander was able to rule them out with a couple of simple phone calls. There was no answer at either Giles' or Anya's home and no one fit his girlfriend's description at the Bronze.

Xander was beginning to worry. He had faith that of everybody, Anya would be the one searching for him. The only one it appears. That thought lodged a heavy ache in his heart. Xander couldn't stop a few tears from falling. No! Buffy might have worn out her welcome but I'll give Giles and Willow the chance to show me where they stand.

Xander spent the better part of the early morning before sunrise searching for Anya while avoiding the military and the gang. Not for the first time, Xander was afraid that the Initiative had her. With that thought, Xander made his way to the crypt that Spike uses.

Xander walked up to the crypt door but paused before opening. The reason was because noises could be heard from inside. Thinking that Spike could be up to something, Xander slowly opened the door and there was a flash of purple light. What was that... That thought flew from his mind as what he was seeing registered in his mind. Before him, locked together in the throes of sex, was Spike and ... Anya.

Xander could only stare in shock as his girlfriend cried out and tried to scrambled off of the vampire. He was barely aware of Anya walking up to him as Spike grabbed a cigarette. Mostly his mind was numb as his heart tried to cope with everything that has happened to him in the last dozen or so hours.

Anya tried to get Xander's attention so she could explain what had happened, to make him listen to her but he ignored her. When Anya touched his arm, Xander's head turned to her and she could only watch as expressions of anger and disgust crossed his face before settling on sheer apathy. Xander then grabbed her wrist and roughly pushed her away from him. Anya fell on the floor a few feet from the man that she loved. "Xander, I-"

"Don't bother Pet." Spike interrupted her, "He's the one that was gone. You said it yourself that you were looking for him for most of yesterday." Then he chuckled and added, "Personaly, I wouldn't be surprised if he was seeing someone else." As busy as he was trying to find his lighter, Spike didn't realize until the last second that Xander had quietly walked up behind him and...

*
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