Chapter Five - Vecordious

Sunnydale Hospital, mid-afternoon

Sunnydale hospital was quiet. It wasn’t night, but the hospital seemed subdued somehow, almost as if it knew that today was a day of mourning.

“How is she?”

Giles turned around, startled. He relaxed when he saw Joyce Summers, Buffy’s mother, looking worriedly at him. “She’s been at his bedside for almost two days,” Giles said. “She won’t leave. I’ve tried talking to her, but …”

“Let me,” Joyce interrupted. “I think Buffy needs her mother.”

[~~~]

Willow and Oz sat in the waiting room … waiting.

“I just can’t believe it,” Willow said, sobbing. “Xander’s gone.”

“He’s not gone yet,” Oz replied. “Give him some credit—he’ll pull through.”

Willow looked across at her boyfriend sadly. “He’s been my best friend forever,” she said. “I can’t lose him, Oz.”

Oz put his hands over hers and smiled. “I know,” he said softly. “I know.”

[~~~]

Joyce quietly opened the door to Xander’s room. Xander was lying in a hospital bed unconscious. Buffy was sitting in a chair pulled close to the bed, her head on Xander’s chest. She looked up as Joyce entered.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself,” Joyce replied. “You’ve been here a while. The house doesn’t seem the same without you.”

“You know, this is the second time Xander has been in the hospital in the last week,” Buffy said. “You would think he likes it here.”

“What did the doctors say?”

Buffy let out a bark of laughter. “Nothing useful,” she said. “Animal attack. Grievous wounds. They won’t be able to tell anything until, or if, he wakes up.” At the last, Buffy broke down and began to cry in horrible sobbing gasps.

“Buffy,” Joyce began, stepping towards her daughter.

“He got hurt trying to rescue me,” Buffy almost shouted. “I got careless and he suffered for it! And now… and now he may not wake up!”

Joyce walked over to her daughter and put her hand on her shoulder. “You need to get some sleep,” she said.

Buffy continued as if she hadn’t heard. “And I never got to tell him… I never got to say…”

“What?”

“That I love him,” Buffy said softly. “I love him.”

“Oh, Buffy,” Joyce said sadly. She squeezed her daughter’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry.”

“You know, Xander always said he was the one who was unlucky in love, but you know what? I think I’ve got him beat.” Buffy reached over and took Xander’s hand. “You hear that,” she said, crying. “I think I’ve got you beat, Xand.”

Joyce held open her arms and Buffy almost jumped into them. Joyce held on as tightly as she could as Buffy’s pain came out in gut-wrenching sobs. “I love him, mom,” she cried. “And now I’m going to lose him!”

[~~~]

Oz sighed quietly and scratched his head.

Giles and Joyce had convinced a sleep-deprived Buffy that one night at home might do her some good and they had left the hospital hours ago. Oz had volunteered to guard Xander’s room and had been sitting here, bored, for those same long hours. Willow had long-since gone home.

“Guess I’ll never make a good security guard,” Oz said wryly.

Despite the current situation, Oz was happy. He and Willow had worked out their differences and all was well with the world.

“Looks like everything’s almost perfect,” Oz said, putting his hands behind his head and settling down for a relaxing evening.

Mr. Trick walked through the waiting-room doors.

“Damn,” Oz said. “Why did I have to go and say that?”

Trick strode briskly in the direction of Xander’s room, but stopped short when Oz stood up and planted himself in Trick’s path.

“Sorry,” Oz said, looking anything but. “No pulse—no passage.”

“Out of my way, little man,” Trick growled. “Or you are going to regret it.”

“I already regret it,” Oz said. “Get lost.”

Trick smiled. “Well, if you put it that way…” Trick’s fist lashed out, striking Oz square in the chin. Oz flew backwards, landing hard on a row of waiting-room chairs. He rolled off of the chairs, onto the floor, and let out a small groan.

Trick resumed his passage towards Xander’s room. Oz moved suddenly from his position on the floor, his feet lashing out. He struck Trick, who lost his footing and came crashing to the floor beside Oz. Both vampire and wolf scrambled to their feet and eyed each other warily.

“There’s more to you than just a stupid haircut,” Trick said, looking Oz over more cautiously. “What makes me think you are going to be more trouble than your worth?”

Oz just stood there, and then slightly raised his eyebrows.

“I’ll be back.” Trick abruptly turned around and left the way he had came.

“I guess I could have been a good security guard,” Oz said.

[~~~]

Giles woke up to screaming.

Well, maybe not screaming, but an incessant ringing.

He thrust the covers off his prone form and reached blindly for the phone. More out of luck than any skill, he managed to pick it up and get it facing in the right direction without hurting himself.

“H-Hello?”

“Giles, it’s Oz,” came the voice. “I just had a little visit from Mr. Trick.”

Giles sat up quickly. He was wide-awake now. “Oh my,” he said. “Are you all right?”

“Fine,” was Oz’s deadpan reply. “Somebody heard the scuffle and they sent a couple of cops down. They’re standing outside of Xander’s door now.” There was a slight pause. “I think you should get down here.”

Giles nodded, then felt foolish because Oz couldn’t see him. “I’ll go collect Buffy and we’ll be down straight away.”

Oz hung up.

That boy is never going to get into trouble for talking too much, Giles thought as he reached for his spectacles.

[~~~]

“Drive faster.”

“I’m driving as fast as I can,” Giles said, exasperated. “If you will stop, as you Americans call it, ‘side-seat driving,’ we would probably get there with a small modicum of alacrity.”

“Huh?”

“Just leave me alone, Buffy.”

“Right.” Buffy crossed her arms and sat back. The last thing she wanted to do right now was get into an argument with Giles about his clown car. She was afraid. Giles’ news about Mr. Trick coming to the hospital had frightened her in a way she hadn’t felt since Angel. All she knew was that she had to get to the hospital to protect Xander, and she had to get there quickly.

He’s going to be all right, she said to herself firmly. He’s going to be fine.

To Buffy, the ride to the hospital seemed interminable. For Giles, even more so. But finally, they arrived, and it was short work to take the elevator to Xander’s floor. Watcher and Slayer stepped into the waiting room and saw Oz, seemingly having a low-volume argument with a vending machine.

“Just wait until the full moon and see how ‘out-of-order’ you really are,” Oz mumbled. “Won’t put out a Cocoa-Riffic bar, eh?”

“Oz?” Buffy called out as she entered the waiting room. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Oz said as he quickly turned away from the candy machine. “Cops came. Cops guarding door.”

Buffy nodded curtly and went to Xander’s door, Giles and Oz tagging along behind. One of the police guarding the door moved to stop her. “Sorry, Miss,” the guard said. “Family only.”

Buffy bristled. “Listen, buddy,” she began. “Don’t think for a second you are going to stop me from seeing my... my… brother!” Buffy paused for a moment. “Yeah. Xander’s my brother and I’ve gotta get in there to see if he’s doing okay.”

The guard looked behind Buffy to Giles. Giles smiled weakly. “Um, yes,” he mumbled. “Brother, right. They’re like family, you know.”

The guard sighed and rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Listen, you’ve got five minutes and then you’re out if I have to drag your butt out, ok?”

Ignoring the guard, Buffy brushed past him and went through the door to Xander’s room.

The room was empty.

[~~~]

“Wakey, wakey, sleepy-head.”

Jack Kinn groaned and opened his eyes. He immediately regretted it. It was very bright. Maybe it was just his eyes, but it felt really bright. He groaned again and tried to sit up. He made it about halfway, but had to put his arm out to steady himself.

“Finally,” came a voice behind him. “You sure do sleep a lot.”

“W-who are you?” Kinn asked, struggling to turn around.

“Why, I’m the Mayor, silly,” the Mayor said. “And I would suspect that you are one Alexander Harris. I would be wrong, but I would suspect it. You aren’t exactly what you seem, now are you?”

“It’s a long story,” Kinn said, finally managing to push himself into a sitting position. The Mayor was sitting behind his desk, idly toying with a silver letter opener. He was smiling.

“I don’t mean to sound melodramatic,” the Mayor was saying. “But boy-oh-boy, do I have plans for you.”

[~~~]

“Where is he!?!”

The police officer was having a rough night. First, he had got stuck guarding some kid who had been attacked by a dog, on orders from the Mayor, no less. Then, this very pissed-off teenage girl had knocked out his partner and had him shoved up against the door to the kid’s room. All in all, not his best night as one of Sunnydale’s finest.

“Buffy!” Giles grabbed onto the Slayer and tried to get her to focus. “He doesn’t know anything. We must find out what has happened and we are not going to do it here. I suggest we head back to the library—“

“No,” Buffy cut in. “We’ve got to do something Giles! Xander’s missing and still hurt, and it’s my fault! I—“

This time it was Giles’ turn to cut in. “Buffy, Xander knew what he was getting into when he lead the charge to rescue you. He would not want you to risk your life by doing something foolhardy.” Giles took a deep breath and proceeded more calmly. “We have to devise a plan and to do that, we need more information.”

Sighing, Buffy dropped the policeman. He scrambled to his feet and went to look after his partner. Buffy headed for the exit, Giles and Oz tagging behind.

“We’ll find him,” Giles said. “I’m sure of it.”

“We’d better,” Buffy said through gritted teeth. “Or there’s going to be hell to pay.”

Oz watched the two leave through the exit doors. “I would not want to be on the end of that,” he said quietly. “No, indeedy.”

[~~~]

For most businesses in Sunnydale, night was a time to close up shop. Only the fearless or foolhardy kept their businesses open past dusk. Although Sunnydale was a beautiful and quiet town, it did have a problem with gangs, after all.

But at Willy’s, nighttime was just the beginning of the day. For Willy served a different clientele. Unlike the aimless, desperate drunks or lascivious teenagers that frequented other establishments like The Bronze, Willy’s patrons knew what they wanted. They wanted blood.

Willy walked a fine line, and he knew it. Serving the undead was tricky—you never knew when their next meal might include you. But like most things in Willy’s life, he and the undead had an understanding.

Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. It seemed to work pretty well so far.

Which is pretty much why Willy found himself surprised, to say the least, to be on the receiving end of a beating by one very pissed-off vampire.

“Where is he?” Angel snarled, grabbing Willy by the shirt and lifting him off the ground. “Where is he!?!”

“Sorry,” Willy smiled weakly. “Where is who?”

Angel growled and threw Willy over the top of the bar. Willy struck hard against the wall, bottles shattering around him as he fell heavily to the floor. With inhuman speed, Angel followed him over the bar, bent over, and hauled Willy into the air.

“Don’t make me ask again,” Angel hissed, his “game-face” on. “I hate repeating myself.”

Willy put his hands in front of him. “Angel, buddy,” he began. “If I knew anything, don’t you think I’d tell you? Hey, how about some pig’s blood on the house?”

Angel snarled and threw Willy back over the bar. He followed him over and again hoisted Willy into the air. “This is serious Willy,” Angel said. “Don’t make me really hurt you.”

Really hurt me? Willy thought to himself. What does he think he’s doing now? Willy made a quick mental decision. “Okay, okay! Listen, I don’t know much, but what I do know may help you. That vamp, the cool, collected one, Mr. Trick. I think he took your boy.” “How did he get past the cops without being seen?”

“The cops work for the Mayor, buddy,” Willy said. “The Mayor is the one who set this whole thing up.”

Angel let go of Willy abruptly. Willy fell to the ground in a heap, letting out a small groan. “Thanks,” he said weakly.

Angel ignored him, heading towards the door. He stopped suddenly and reached a hand into his pocket. He flicked something over his shoulder and Willy could see it was a quarter, the lights of the bar flashing off its reflective surface.

“Here’s a tip,” Angel said, walking towards the door again. “Try not to associate yourself with low-lifes.”

“I’ll take it under advisement,” Willy said, watching the vampire leave. “That is one tense person.”

[~~~]

“What kind of plans?”

“Oh, that’s not important right now,” said the Mayor. “What is important is that we get you better!”

Kinn watched the Mayor get up from his desk to stand beside him. He put his hand on Kinn’s shoulder and Kinn could feel the power emanating from this seemingly harmless man.

“I had a… friend help heal some of your wounds and wake you up,” the Mayor was saying. “I hope you don’t mind.”

Kinn examined the Mayor. He had no doubt the man was insane—that was obvious with his every word. But there was an evil craftiness in there, as well. Kinn suspected the Mayor was clever in a horrible way. He definitely wasn’t what he seemed. “You’re not exactly what you seem,” Kinn said. “I think you may be more.”

The Mayor’s smile faded, but then returned quickly. Too quickly for Kinn’s taste. “Neither are you, it seems,” the Mayor said. “No matter. I think we are going to get along fine.”

Kinn flashed a smile of his own. “I doubt that,” he said. “You may be in a for a little surprise.”

The Mayor, reacting with mock surprise, clasped his hand to his chest. “Who, me? If you mean the Slayer—you don’t expect her to come here, do you?”

Kinn stood up, pushing himself to his feet. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said, pointing to himself. “She loves the kid.” He shrugged. “Go figure.”

The Mayor frowned for a moment before his face lit up. He gave a little laugh and smacked his hand onto the table. “Hot diggity dog,” he said enthusiastically. “That is good news! You see, I’m expecting her to come here as well. In fact, I’m counting on it.”

[~~~]

“City Hall.”

The words rang out like a gunshot through Sunnydale High library. Buffy, Giles, Willow, and Oz turned around quickly at Angel’s words, watching him as he strode up to them.

“He’s at City Hall,” Angel said. “The Mayor has something to do with this and that’s where they are keeping Xander.”

Buffy jumped to her feet off the library table. “Then it’s off to City Hall,” she said. “I always did want to learn more about civics.”

“Not so fast,” Giles cautioned, putting a restraining hand on Buffy’s arm. “This isn’t the time to rush into anything. If the Mayor is indeed involved in this, he will have incredible resources upon which to draw.

“We must be careful and plan,” he said.

Buffy shrugged off Giles’ hand. “Here’s a plan,” she said. “I kill everyone, and we get Xander back safely. Plan over.”

Angel looked at Buffy gravely. “Giles is right,” he said. “We’ve got to take this one step at a time. If we don’t do this right, everyone could die, including Xander.”

“Giles and Angel are right,” Willow said. “We have to be careful.”

There was a pause in the conversation. Slowly, every turned to look at Oz. He looked up from the floor and started. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Everyone who said something just now was right. I agree. Really.”

Willow gave Oz a loving, yet exasperated look.

“No, really,” Oz said.

Buffy couldn’t help but smile, at least a little. “So what’s the plan,” she asked, turning towards Giles. “And it better be a good one.”

[~~~]

Mr. Trick was not in a good mood, and the two vampires suffering his wrath knew it.

“Vigilance is the watchword here boys,” Trick was saying. “You have to keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground. If you let down your guard for a minute, you might miss something and then you’re dead.”

Trick turned to one of the vampires and stuck his finger on his chest. “We’ve got people on all the exits of City Hall, including the roof. No one can get in or out, unless someone screws up.” Trick repeatedly tapped his finger against the vampire’s chest. “Don’t. Screw. Up.”

The vampire nodded vigorously. Seemingly satisfied, Trick turned to the other vampire. “You neither,” he said. “Your job is to watch his—” he jabbed his thumb at the vampire behind him “—back. Keep an eye on him at all times.”

Behind Trick, an arrow flashed out of the darkness and pierced the heart of the first vampire. The vampire’s eyes widened slightly, and then he was gone.

“Attention to detail is vital,” Trick was saying. He noticed the shocked expression on the face of the vampire in front of him and stopped. “What?” he said, turning around. “Where’d he go?”

A second arrow flashed out of the night, striking the vampire behind Trick in the chest. The second vampire exploded as quickly as the first. Trick spun around again in time to catch a third arrow, inches away from his chest. With a twist of his hand, he snapped the thin piece of wood in half.

“Nice try,” Trick called out to the night. “But you have to get up pretty early at night to fool me—” His face turned gray and he looked slowly down at his stomach. Another arrow had sliced clean through his body. “Now don’t I look foolish,” he said. He stumbled up the steps to the doors of City Hall, reaching for a walkie-talkie inside his jacket. He keyed it on as he slammed open the doors. “We’ve got trouble,” he gasped into the walkie-talkie. “Out front.” The doors closed quickly behind him.

Buffy and Giles emerged from the shadows moments later, holding crossbows.

“That went well,” Giles commented.

“We didn’t kill him,” Buffy said.

Giles motioned her towards the front doors of City Hall. “That wasn’t the plan,” he said.

[~~~]

Daves looked over the edge on the roof to City Hall. “There’s trouble out front,” he said, turning to his partner. “Maybe we should go check it out.”

His companion turned to him and put out his hand. “Trick said we should stay here,” he cautioned. “That means we stay here.”

Daves nodded reluctantly and walked over to the skylight leading into the Mayor’s office. He barked out a laugh. “I wonder what Wilkins has planned for the Slayer?”

“Whatever it is,” his companion answered. “I want to watch.”

“I don’t think you are going to get the chance,” a voice sounded out behind them. “I really don’t.”

Both of the “men” spun around, their faces morphing, revealing their true vampire natures. A small red-headed girl stood about ten feet away from them with a crossbow in her hand.

Daves smiled. “There’s no way you can get us both before one of us gets you,” he said, taking a step forward. “You can’t reload that thing that fast.”

Daves turned to his left as his companion suddenly stiffened and then turned to dust. A teenager with spiked hair and the sharpened handle of a baseball bat stood where his companion once had. Daves turned to grab to boy, but the girl’s arrow pierced his heart. With a final scream, he turned to ash.

“That’s why I brought along a friend,” Willow said.

Oz slowly walked up to his girlfriend. “Nice shot,” he said.

“Thanks.”

“Did you bring them?”

“Yup,” Willow responded. “What now?”

Oz walked over to where Daves had been and idly kicked at his ashes. “Now we wait for the signal.”

[~~~]

“I hate rats,” Faith shivered. “I really, really hate rats.”

“They probably don’t like you too much, either.”

Faith looked uncharitably at her vampire cohort, Angel. They were walking, no crouching, along an tunnel that lead underneath City Hall. They walked in silence for a time, until Faith grabbed Angel’s arm.

“This is going too smoothly,” she said.

“This tunnel was built decades ago as a service corridor,” Angel said. “It’s unlikely anyone knows about it. Willow only found it by searching through some old records on the building.”

Faith nodded and they kept walking.

Some time later, she grabbed Angel’s arm again. “So it must just kill you that Buffy’s in love with Xander,” she grinned. “That’s gotta hurt.”

“It’s not something I like to talk about,” said Angel. He gave her a look. “Or think about.”

“I don’t blame you.” She paused for a moment. “I’ve never told anyone, but I had a little thing for Xander myself.”

Angel stopped in the corridor and looked at her. “Really. I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

Faith just shrugged and they started walking again. Finally, Faith started talking again. “A girl’s got to have her secrets,” she said. “So why aren’t you bouncing Xander’s head off a nearby wall? Why are you trying to save him?”

Angel replied without looking at her. “Because he loves her too,” the vampire said. “Love should be protected and cherished. If there is anything I’ve learned in more than 200 years, it’s that.”

“But—” began Faith, but Angel held up his hand.

“We’re here,” he said. He pointed to a series of cables running along the wall and to a trap door embedded into the ceiling of the corridor. “Now we wait.”

“I hate waiting,” Faith said. “And rats.”

“It won’t be long.”

[~~~]

Buffy and Giles quickly made their way through the maze of corridors in City Hall to the door to the Mayor’s office. They stopped outside the door.

“Any second now,” Giles said, looking at his watch.

Buffy turned to him and smiled. “I can hardly wait.”

[~~~]

“It’s time.”

Angel grabbed the cables along the corridor wall and yanked them, hard. Sparks showered the vampire as the cable split. The lights in the corridor flickered and then went out.

Faith reached up and opened the trap door. She jumped and quickly pulled herself through. Angel followed seconds later.

[~~~]

The lights went out.

“Now!” Giles whispered.

Buffy stood and kicked open the door to the Mayor’s office. She rushed in and saw the Mayor sitting behind his desk. Xander was sitting in a chair across from him. Buffy could sense Giles following closely behind her.

“Buffy,” the Mayor exclaimed happily. “What a pleasant not-surprise!”

Buffy ignored him and quickly searched the room. She turned to Xander, who was still sitting in the chair. “Are you okay?” she asked.

It was Xander’s face who looked back at her, but it was Kinn who answered. “I’m fine,” he said. “The Mayor and I were just talking. He said he’s been expecting you.”

Giles moved over to the door and looked down the hallway.

“And so I have,” the Mayor said, laughing. “Been expecting you, that is. You see, I have a little ritual planned and I need the blood of a slayer. Unfortunately, you won’t survive the process, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs now, can you?”

“It looks to me like you are the one who is outnumbered here,” Buffy snapped. “I think you should be the one who is worried.”

“What, me worry?” the Mayor laughed again. “After all…” The door to the Mayor’s bathroom opened and Mr. Trick stepped out, holding what appeared to be a machine gun. “…when you’ve got friends, you’ve got everything.”

Giles turned from the doorway to look at Buffy. “There are more vampires coming down the hallway,” he said quickly. “Lots more.”

“Chumps,” Trick laughed. “You fell right into our trap.”

The Mayor joined in the laughter. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

Buffy raised her arm, and fired a crossbow bolt directly at the Mayor. With incredible speed, he caught it in mid-air and held up his other hand to stop Mr. Trick, who looked like he was ready to open fire on everyone in the room.

“Patience, Mr. Trick, patience,” the Mayor said. “First the ritual, then the slaughter.”

Giles turned his head away from the door for a moment. “What is this ritual?”

“Well,” the Mayor began. “Mr. Kinn here is a very powerful force. I wouldn’t mind having that power, no siree. And what the Mayor wants, the Mayor gets. It’s the will of the people, after all.”

Buffy looked over at Giles desperately. Behind him, Buffy could see several vampires running down the hallway towards the Mayor’s office.

Buffy turned back to the Mayor and slowly dropped her crossbow.

[~~~]

“That’s the signal,” Oz commented.

Willow quickly searched through her jacket and found what she was looking for. Oz stepped over to the skylight and smashed it with the but of his baseball/stake. The pieces fell into the room below, causing everyone to look up for a moment.

“Jack,” Willow called out. “I brought you something!” Willow dropped two .45 automatic pistols through the opening Oz had created. They fell quickly into the room.

Kinn, sitting in the chair, reached his hands up and caught the pistols in mid-air. Flipping himself backwards, Kinn forced the chair over. Rolling, he came up on one knee behind it. Using the chair as balance, Kinn held up both pistols and started firing.

Mr. Trick felt the first bullet enter his stomach, just a little to the left of where the arrow had gone it. The pain was incredible. He instinctively dropped the machine gun, only to feel two more bullets enter his body. They were also painful. He dropped to the floor, squirming.

Kinn stood up, continually firing at Trick. Trick, for his part, squirmed.

Giles slammed the doors to the Mayor’s office closed and quickly spun the lock closed. “Those doors won’t hold them for long,” he cried.

The door exploded inward, sending Giles flying backwards. He landed on his back in front of Kinn. “Or at all,” Giles said.

Ignoring the doors, Buffy leapt on top of the Mayor’s desk, her leg flashing out. She struck the Mayor in the face and sent him reeling back in his chair.

“Ow,” the Mayor said, looking hurt. “Was that really necessary?” The Mayor grabbed the desk calendar Buffy was standing on and yanked. Buffy felt her feet give way from underneath her and she dropped off the desk and onto Kinn.

“Sorry,” Buffy said.

The Mayor took the moment of respite to rapidly walk to the door located in the wall behind his desk. He fished out a key from his pocket, unlocked the door, and quickly disappeared through it.

Kinn shoved Buffy off of him and leapt to his feet. Buffy quickly followed.

More vampires were entering through the shattered doors of the Mayor’s office. From the hallway, a hand reached out and grabbed one of the vampires, yanking it back. There was a small scream, and a puff of dust filtered into the room.

“Hey, B,” Faith called from the hallway. “Miss us?”

Angel ran to the remains of the doors, only to be stopped by a another vampire. Angel punched the vampire solidly in the stomach, causing the creature to bend over in pain. Angel placed his hands on the vampire’s back and leap-frogged over her and into the office. He spun, and caught the vampire, who was just standing up, in the back of the head with a crescent kick. The vampire spun off of her feet and landed face-up in the hallway where she was quickly staked by Faith.

Buffy ducked a wide roundhouse punch from a vampire and kicked the creature in the shins. It’s own momentum carried it crashing into the floor. Pulling a stake from her jacket pocket, Buffy quickly staked it. Kinn smashed another of the creatures across the face with one of his pistols and with lightning-reflexes shot another as it came up behind Buffy.

“Watch it with those things,” Buffy cautioned. “You’ll put someone’s eye out!”

Kinn spun both of the pistols around in his hands. “Never happen,” he smiled a shark’s smile.

From behind Kinn, a vampire who had been struggling with Giles threw the Watcher to the side and charged. Buffy screamed a warning, but as Kinn turned a crossbow bolt pierced the vampire’s heart and it exploded into dust.

Buffy and Kinn looked up to see Willow waving sheepishly. “Hey guys,” she said. Oz stood beside her and, after a moment, waved as well.

Buffy gave a quick wave back and then grabbed the chair Kinn had knocked over earlier. With a small grunt, she threw it through the large bay window in the Mayor’s office. The crash reverberated throughout the room. “It’s time to go,” Buffy called out. “Now, please.”

Faith and Angel were making short work of the rest of the vampires in the room. They began to fight a delaying action as Buffy and Kinn climbed through the window and out into the night. Faith and Angel soon followed.

The vampires did not pursue. Trick began to moan again and pulled himself into a sitting position.

>Minutes later, the door the Mayor had exited through opened once again. The Mayor stepped through and surveyed the wreckage that had once been his office. “Well, that didn’t go exactly as planned, now did it?”

[~~~]

“I’m fairly certain this is going to work.”

“Fairly?” Buffy turned on her watcher. “I hope you’re a little more than ‘fairly’ sure.”

“Well, nothing is certain,” Giles began. “But with Willow’s help and a little good fortune, we should be able to put Mr. Kinn back where he belongs and return Xander to his regular state of… of… er…”

Buffy gave him a dangerous look.

“Inadequacy?”

Buffy gave him another look.

“Wonderfulness?”

“Better,” Buffy said. “Let’s get to it.” She walked over to the main table in the library and sat down beside Kinn. “I’m sorry we have to do this,” she began. “But Xander is a friend of ours and we… that is, I need him.”

Kinn looked over at her and smiled. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You won’t get an argument from me. I’ve done what I came here to do. I’m gonna miss the kid, though. I kinda liked him.”

Buffy smiled. “Yeah,” she said. “Me too.”

Kinn slapped Buffy on the back. “Then let’s get this show on the road.”

[~~~]

“Xander?”

Xander opened his eyes. He let out a soft moan, and tried to sit up. A hand placed itself against his chest and softly pushed him back down. “Rest,” a voice said. “You’ve been through a lot.”

Xander blinked a few times and his vision came into focus. He was lying on the main table to the library, with Buffy standing close to him. Behind her, Oz, Willow, Faith, Angel, and Giles watched.

“My God,” Xander said softly. “You’re so beautiful.”

Buffy smiled and ran a hand through her hair.

“I missed that smile,” Xander whispered.

Buffy looked down at him, a strange mixture of compassion and worry on her face. “Is it you?” she asked.

“It’s me.”

“Really?”

“Really.” Xander reached up and gently stroked Buffy’s face. She reached her own hand up to cover his own. She closed her eyes and smiled. Before long, however, she started to softly cry.

“I thought I’d lost you,” she sobbed. “And I never told you that I love you. And I do. I love you, Xander Harris.”

Xander pushed himself up into a sitting position and cupped Buffy’s face in his hands. “I love you too,” he whispered. He let out a small laugh. “Man, you have no idea.”

They kissed and the moment stretched out into an eternity.

But just as every moment has a beginning, every moment has an end. Buffy and Xander broke apart and Xander slowly pushed himself off the table to stand on his own two feet. Buffy reached out and took his hand.

Willow, holding Oz’s hand, caught Xander’s eye and smiled. Oz just stared impassively, but Xander thought he saw a glint of approval in the werewolf’s eyes.

Angel just stared. After a moment, he nodded in Xander’s direction. It’s a start, thought Xander. Can’t go wrong with that.

Giles broke the silence. “It’s good to have you back, Xander.”

“It’s good to be back.” Laughing, Xander scooped Buffy into his arms and twirled her around in a circle.

“You’re crazy!” Buffy giggled.

“Not anymore,” Xander laughed. He put Buffy down and reached up to his neck. With a quick motion, he yanked off the silver cross. He grabbed Buffy and kissed her again. She was more than willing and they stayed that way until decency more than anything else broke them apart.

“Let’s get something to eat,” Xander grinned. “I’m hungry.”

“Whatever you want to do,” Buffy agreed.

Xander wiggled his eyes suggestively. “A guy could get used to this, Buff.”

“I wouldn’t,” came Buffy’s reply. “It’s only going to last about a week.”

“I’ll take it when I can get it then. Let’s get out of here.”

The group, minus Giles, seemed to take the remark as their queue and began to head towards the exit.

“W-while I’m glad all has worked out well,” Giles called behind them. “We must remember to be vigilant. We may have won the battle, but our war with the Mayor is far from over.”

“C’mon Giles,” Xander called out. “The Xand-Man is back! The world is safe once again!” Xander’s mood was contagious and the group erupted into laughter. “No, really,” Xander said. He tossed the cross over his shoulder and back into the library. “Monsters and demons and ghouls beware.”

The cross glittered in the glow of the library lights as it sailed in a wide arc through the air. Giles watched impassively as it slowly began its decent. The cross picked up speed as it came down, and eventually landed in a box sitting on the library table. The momentum from the cross jiggled the box, causing the lid to slam closed, sealing the cross and two ornately crafted .45 automatics safely inside.

Giles permitted himself a small smile as he watched his charges leave the library. “Monsters and demons and ghouls,” he said. “Oh my.”

The End