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Before Christmas 2015 a friend asked for a present of a crossover which inflicted Ms Aoyama on the innocent inhabitants of the Buffyverse, primary on one Xander Harris. This caused a certain amount of amusement to me and I decided to have a go. I haven't quite finished it yet due to various other projects, but I will probably end up with about 40-50kwords in total. I've got about two thirds of that done to date. My Christmas gifts are slow in appearing :)

He was OK with me posting it, so I'm sticking the first chapter up here to fill in while I work on the next chapter of DSR. Note that this is not necessarily going to be canon with the DSR universe, and certainly isn't with the BtVS universe, but a certain amount of fiddling with one or other of them was required to make them fit together. I chose to break BtVS...

I'll post more as I complete it but progress might be slow due to more important projects.

Some people will like this, some people will hate it. Can't avoid that one way or another, it's the way the story wrote itself.

It's somewhat loosely based around only the first few series of BtVS, not taking into account either 'Angel' or the comics, none of which I have seen.

The divergence point is very shortly after the end of the last episode of series 2 of Buffy, which was a convenient point to splice into it, and would in DSR terms be in about two years or so past the end of chapter 97. As I said above, this may not end up being officially a thing with DSR, but on the other hand it might. We'll see.

Obviously, if you haven't read any of the DSR stories you may be a bit confused by some of this, so you should go and do that now. We'll wait. It's only about 1.4 million words at the moment so it shouldn't take too long...

"Mr Harris."

Xander looked up at the emotionless voice to see the woman, if indeed she was a woman, was now inspecting him closely. Her gaze, even filtered as it was by those incredibly dark sunglasses, seemed to almost be something he could physically feel. It was more than a little weird and also the creepiest thing he'd ever encountered, which considering his life over the last couple of years was saying something. Oddly enough, though, he still didn't get any feeling of personal threat from her. A general air of 'fuck with me and it's the last thing you'll ever do,' oh, he was getting that all right by the bucket load, but it wasn't aimed at him. If anything she seemed coldly pleased with what he'd spent close to the last three hours talking about, a talk that had started out as an explanation of what had just happened as far as he knew and somehow had ended up as a retelling of a good proportion of his life.

If nothing else, the alien woman was an amazing listener. She just stood there like a statue, not even showing any real signs of life, until he'd finished, occasionally asking astute questions to fill in any holes.

It was still as creepy as fuck, but even so, he somehow found he'd managed to open up to her about things he'd never told anyone else before, not even Willow. He didn't really know why but in a very strange way it had actually helped with some of the feelings he'd been having recently about his role in the whole 'Us vs Evil' thing they'd been living for close to two years.

He'd nearly had a heart attack when the portal-thing or whatever it was she'd come through had opened up a few feet away from the statue of Acathla as he was poking around looking for any sign of where Buffy had vanished to. Momentarily wondering with complete horror whether it portended the whole 'The world being sucked into Hell' problem they'd tried to stop starting up again and also wondering how on earth it could be stopped with the Slayer missing, Giles and Willow in hospital, and no one else he could turn to for help, he'd just stared in shock as the tallish green-haired woman with pointed ears had casually walked out of the rip in space.

She'd acted like she was entering the mall, not travelling between dimensions or whatever it really was, glancing about with a coldly curious air before looking at him for a moment, then dismissing him entirely and turning to the statue. Passing some weird looking artefact over it, something that looked more like a prop from an SF movie than any magical thing he'd ever seen and which she'd produced from nowhere, she had studied the results for a moment then nodded in satisfaction. The odd device, which made his eyes hurt when he stared at it, vanished again, although he couldn't for the life of him work out where it had gone. Turning back to him she'd inspected him again through the darkest sunglasses he'd ever seen, no expression passing across her face and giving off a very cold emotionless aura that made him shiver, yet for some reason didn't feel hostile.

"May I enquire as to your name?" she'd asked politely but in a manner which seemed to suggest not replying wasn't on the table. With another shiver he'd cleared his throat a couple of times then managed to squeak out his name, embarrassed at the sound but unable to prevent it.

"Felicitations and greetings, Mr Harris. You may refer to me as Ms Aoyama. I am present to investigate the dimensional breach that occurred at this location some twelve local hours ago. The breach caused us concern as it was formed in a manner inconsistent with safe operating procedure. My employers wish to ensure that the circumstances of its occurrence are not repeated." She had indicated the statue with a flick of one finger. "My measurements indicate this magical device is the initiating source of the breach. Are you aware of the causal factors surrounding the activation of the device?"

"Are you some sort of demon?" he'd finally asked after a long pause, wondering what the hell was going on, and also wondering if he could get away with telling her he didn't particularly care for that name. She'd studied him for a couple of seconds before replying.

"That description is inaccurate, Mr Harris. Further information is unavailable." After a short pause, she'd asked her question again. Shrugging, he'd decided in the end he might as well tell her. From what he could work out, even based on only a couple of minutes contact with her, whatever she was it wasn't like he could actually stop her if she'd wanted to press the point. That said oddly enough he thought she was only curious.

That was nearly three hours ago. In that time he'd told her about the statue, the reasons it had been used, what he'd done, and more importantly not done, what all the others had done, and in fact pretty much everything that had happened over the last two days. That had led him onto recounting more and more of the last two years, covering Buffy, the Slaying, pretty much all the highlights of life on a Hellmouth. Just why he'd opened up like that he couldn't work out but in some very strange manner it had made a difference. He felt calmer deep down than he had been for weeks.

Life was still shit, and liable to be very short, but talking about it had eased some of the stress. Perhaps it was because she was so utterly unconnected to the situation, perhaps he'd just needed to actually hear himself talk about his frustrations, fears, and worries, perhaps he was just going nuts. But he felt better, if only slightly.

Now, after she'd silently stood as still as the stone demon a few feet away for nearly a minute, watching him carefully, she spoke again.

"Yes?" he replied, wondering what she wanted to know now. He wasn't sure anything was left that was in any way relevant.

"Both myself and my employers are grateful for the information you have imparted, Mr Harris. We recognise that you acted in a manner that, although your compatriots may disagree on emotional grounds, was in your mind the responsible path to take. I would tend to agree with this assessment. There was from what you have said insufficient reason to believe that your untrained colleague would succeed in her magical activities. In the event that she did not so succeed, the consequences would have been most dire. Even with her success, and that of your combat expert, the residual energies of the dimensional breach would quite likely have eventually resulted in unpleasant repercussions. It is fortunate that we detected the breach and decided to investigate."

She walked slowly over to the statue and inspected it emotionlessly. "It is regrettable that two of your colleagues have been terminated during this situation. My sympathies. Your world is a remarkably dangerous one in a number of unpleasant ways." The woman turned back to him and studied him in much the same manner she'd used for the statue. "I would also suggest that there is an emotional component to your decision based on feelings of jealousy between the main actors that you may wish to ponder and overcome. Such emotional actions, Mr Harris, can lead the unwary into performing in a manner that they later regret." She made a very small almost smile-like motion with her mouth that made a cold chill run down his spine in a way he'd never encountered before, momentarily becoming not only the creepiest but the flat-out scariest thing he'd ever come across. Then the 'smile' was gone and she was back to just really, really creepy. He was grateful for that.

"You are a young member of your species, Mr Harris, and the young are often prone to emotional entanglements that they later find... inexplicable, or simply regretful. My advice would be to meditate on your actions and the reasons for them. Self-reflection is often helpful in the long term." She turned her head and studied the portal she'd stepped through nearly three hours ago, the blue-glowing rip in reality hanging to one side emitting a very faint crackling hiss, then returned her attention to him. "My time here is limited. We have repaired the rupture caused by the amateurishly opened dimensional breach. There will be no further risk to your reality from it. I will ensure that the initiating device is securely destroyed."

She glanced at the weird watch she was wearing for a moment. "Do you have any questions, Mr Harris?"

Xander stared, then began laughing helplessly. The woman simply watched motionlessly until he finally stopped giggling. "Questions?" he repeated, waving one hand at her, then the statue of Acathla, then the portal. "How could I not have questions? But somehow I get the feeling that either I wouldn't understand the answers or you wouldn't answer them in the first place."

"That is indeed quite likely, Mr Harris," she said, for a moment almost seeming amused. "In that case, I will shortly take my leave." After studying him for a couple more seconds, she seemed to reach a decision, making a small gesture with one hand then holding it out. He stared in mild shock. There was once again now something in her hand that definitely hadn't been there until that moment. "I would like to offer you this. With the somewhat exciting career path you have chosen, it is not impossible that there may come a day you require assistance of a form we can provide."

Looking curiously and with some worry at the thing in her hand, he asked slowly, "What is it?"

"It is an emergency portal generator. An advanced model not normally available to civilian users. The power core is rated for approximately twenty local years, although I must warn that temporal cross-travel is extremely hazardous and only currently possible due to the events that have just occurred. Once the resonances of this event damp out, which will be in approximately ten years at most, the device will be unable to breach the barrier between this sub-reality and the main-line multiverse. Without another similar dimensional rupture it would be far too dangerous to allow travel in such a manner. Complete collapse of your entire sub-reality is a non-zero possibility under those circumstances."

A cold chill went through him again. "Collapse? Sub-reality? I don't understand, but it doesn't sound good."

"It is far from good, Mr Harris." She emitted a very small sigh. "I do not have time to fully explain and you do not in any case have the background knowledge to fully understand, but very briefly, what we call the main-line multiverse is a transfinite collection of reality strands, or entire universes if you like, which themselves are for all intents and purposes infinite in extent. Not truly parallel worlds if you are familiar with that concept, but not entirely dissimilar either. It is possible, and indeed common, to travel from one to another for various reasons. Such travel is completely safe from a structural viewpoint, causing no damage to the underlying fabric of reality." She watched him for a moment until he nodded, not entirely understanding but having a vague idea based on the comics he'd read.

"A true parallel world, or parallel time-line if you prefer the nomenclature, is somewhat different. Each main-line universe does have in theory a possibly infinite number of such parallel universes, as distinct from a separate reality strand. Travel between such time-lines is under normal circumstances exceptionally hazardous to the point that in effect to attempt it is likely if not guaranteed to cause disastrous effects. One would be fortunate to merely perish in the attempt, which is indeed the most likely outcome. A somewhat lower probability result, although unfortunately, not sufficiently low probability to be worth risking, is severe structural damage to one or both time-lines. This can vary from a temporal reset of limited area to complete deletion of the time-line with the attendant loss of all matter and energy within it. It is rare but not unknown."

Xander went white, then green as he fully worked out what she was talking about. "Oh, god," he mumbled. "You mean it could destroy the universe?"

"In effect, from your point of view, yes." She watched quietly until he collected himself. "There are similar although somewhat less immediately severe potential issues with temporal dislocation within one time-line. We have fairly recently been forced to deal with a significant threat caused by a substantial temporal transportation mechanism that was constructed by a rather unwise galaxy-spanning civilisation. They no longer exist, nor does their reality strand and at least two adjacent ones." He went white again. "I would strongly advise that you avoid any form of time travel if such an eventuality arises, Mr Harris. The risks are excessive and the gains minimal for a number of reasons."

There was a long silence while he thought about her words. Privately he made a note to run like hell if he ever saw a time machine, even though it seemed unlikely that he would. Unlikely, but not impossible, bearing in mind the weird shit he ran into almost every day.

"Your reality is a somewhat unusual sub-reality set branching off the main-line that I and my employers inhabit, which under normal circumstances would be effectively impossible to safely visit from 'outside', to misuse the term somewhat. It is only the fact that the dimensional breach caused by this artefact originated from within your sub-reality that temporarily allows travel from outside it. We can use the... signal... if you like, as a guide to propagate a more conventional portal along, from either direction, albeit much more easily from the external multiverse. Readings also suggest that the local reality is sufficiently different from the main-line that there is a limited potential for unusually non-hazardous cross-temporal travel within this sub-set, which may go some way towards providing an explanation for the dimensional anomaly you refer to as a Hellmouth." There was a pause, then she slowly added, "There is some evidence to suggest that this situation is deliberate."

She watched him as he thought, a faint air of curiosity about her suggesting that she was interested to see if he drew any conclusions from her explanation. Eventually, he asked tentatively, "You're saying that someone or something has, what, carved out its own universe and changed the rules?"

"Correct. That is what our investigations have concluded. The most likely scenario is that an entity or entities of considerable ability deliberately created a significant timeline split at some point in the distant past, then guided the formation of the new timeline to further diverge it from the main-line sequence in certain critical ways while otherwise keeping events much the same. Interestingly there is not a one to one temporal match between this sub-reality and the main line branch it is based on, your reality is running a small fraction of a percent more slowly, the cumulative difference at this point in time causing your reality to lag the main line by just under four years."

She paused while apparently waiting for him to absorb this. Once he nodded she continued. "The reasons for this situation are unknown with certitude but based on historical information we have available it is plausible that it was for the purposes of allowing these entities free rein to experiment with the resulting sub-reality. Such situations are not unknown. The underlying parameters of this sub-reality are at significant variance from the norm permitting actions that would not usually occur. There is presumably a point to this but what that is is uncertain." She looked very slightly approving that he'd worked out as much as he had.

"Some sort of god wanted its own playground, you mean," he sighed. He'd always wondered why all this shit seemed to happen, that was one reason he'd never have guessed, but it sort of fitted.

"A genuine deity of the type I suspect you are contemplating is unlikely, we have no information of such existing. The multiverse, to the level than any investigation we are aware of has penetrated, is essentially its own reason for existing. There is no requirement for an initial creating intelligence, and indeed considerable if circumstantial evidence to suggest the extreme unlikelihood if not impossibility of such a creator existing. I regret I am unable to explain more on this subject. It is out of my purview amongst other reasons." She paused for a moment. "However, bearing this in mind, there are most definitely beings of very significant ability and power which to those without such would for most purposes fulfil the definition of a deity fairly convincingly. They are rare, often difficult to deal with, and prone to grandiose projects which utilise beings of lesser ability as pawns or experimental subjects. It is somewhat annoying."

Xander sighed, rubbing his face with one hand. "I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? God, or just a 'god', in either case there's nothing I or anyone could do about it."

"That is not entirely correct, Mr Harris, although I will agree that you have very little ability to affect much beyond your own immediate environment." She looked oddly sympathetic for a brief moment, even though her expression didn't really change in any meaningful way. "Even so I would suggest that it is in your own best interests not to dwell on the situation, but instead to proceed as normally as you can. There is little else you can realistically do other than cause yourself considerable mental distress by obsessing about it." He nodded glumly.

Raising her hand slightly, she gestured with it and the two inch diameter gently purple-glowing ball in it. "The emergency portal generator is a magitech device that allows a limited duration, unidirectional portal to be created between the current location of a user and a preset destination reality without the user requiring the significant magical ability normally needed for such operations. They are commonly carried by inter-reality travellers. It is programmed in such a way that the fail-safes will prevent operation if it would be a hazard to either the user or reality itself. This one is targeted on a safe main-line reality strand. If you activate it there will be a five second delay before the portal forms subsequent to which you will have eight seconds to enter before it collapses. The energy storage is sufficient for three activations before requiring a recharge. It will also send a distress beacon that my employers will receive and act upon."

He held out his hand, unable to stop himself. The woman in the expensive suit dropped the ball into it. Holding it up he looked at the thing for a few seconds. It seemed to basically be a glass or crystal ball a little more than two inches across, with a dark metallic band fused to it around the equator, the whole thing apparently filled with a glowing purple mist. It gave off a very faint tingling sensation where it was touching his skin, flickering a couple of times before settling down to a steady glow.

"How do you use it?" he asked curiously, even while he was thinking this was a situation that redefined weird.

"Apply pressure to the two symbols on opposite sides of the metallic strip, rotate one half against the other until it will go no further, then release. It will activate in five seconds as I have stated. You may carry it through the portal it produces. It is now securely locked to you, no other individual can operate it, additionally it is close to indestructible by any force you are likely to encounter. The devices are designed for extreme conditions for obvious reasons."

Turning the thing around in his hand he studied it with a small frown for a little while. She simply watched quietly. "How large is the portal?" he asked in the end.

The woman indicated the gently crackling tear in space-time hanging to one side. "It would appear much as this one does. Sufficiently large for a normal human to walk through with no great difficulty, or indeed several of them. The aperture is approximately two and a half metres in diameter. The main limitation is as I have explained one of duration. The spell that produces this form of portal is very energy-inefficient and inherently unstable, normally precluding an effective duration much beyond the eight second window of opportunity the generator provides. However, as I mentioned earlier, it is a spell that can be automated with a device such as the one you are holding, which the more versatile normal portal version cannot."

"OK. I think I understand." Looking at the thing again he finally shrugged and put it in his pocket, wondering if he'd ever have the balls to actually use it but thinking at the same time it might end up being a useful ace in the hole one day. "Thank you."

"You are welcome, Mr Harris." She nodded once. "The far side of the portal the device generates is in a location that is flat, temperate, and generally dry, with environmental characteristics that suit your species well. Should you have reason to use the generator there is no risk to yourself or other travellers. Shelter, water and food is available. In the event of activation, my employers would ensure you were collected in short order." Studying him for a moment, she added, "It is quite likely that the people who would arrive would not be of your species. Please do not overreact in this eventuality. No harm would come to you."

"I think I understand," he replied, wondering with a small shiver exactly what he'd find if he ever used the thing. On the other hand, if he was ever desperate enough to actually activate it he thought he'd probably have bigger problems than some people who looked weird.

"Gratifying." She seemed pleased.

A noise in the shadows of one of the nearby archways made him suddenly whirl, reaching for a weapon. 'Oh, shit,' he thought as he abruptly realised his mistake. 'Stupid. Really stupid. You were concentrating so hard on trying to find Buffy you forgot to bring anything from the car. It's nearly three in the afternoon but it's dark in here. Idiot.' He watched the direction the sound had come from warily, his stomach in his boots, hoping desperately it was just a cat or something. Of course, it wasn't.

The vampire dived out of the passage straight at him, growling with its hands out to grab him. Throwing himself to the side while yelling in mixed anger at his own idiocy and pure fright at the appearance of the undead monster, he hit the stone floor and rolled frantically, trying to put as much distance between him and the thing as possible. Fearing at any moment the feeling of cold dead hands grabbing him, he slammed into the base of the statue hard enough to momentarily stun himself, feeling his head spin. Moments later he jumped to his feet, looking wildly around for the vampire while simultaneously wondering why he was still alive.

"Most intriguing," the expressionless voice of the alien woman stated from behind him. He turned and stared in disbelief.

She was holding the vampire by the throat with its feet several inches from the floor, showing absolutely no signs of effort in any way, studying it with her head cocked slightly to the side.

"Put me down, bitch!" the thing screamed in fury, scrabbling at her arm with both hands, with about as much effect as a toddler trying to bend a steel girder.

After a moment she turned to look at a gaping Xander. "Your information is accurate. No thermal output beyond ambient temperature, no biological indicators of life. The creature is indeed for all intents and purposes deceased, although it is remarkably reluctant to realise this." The vampire shouted obscenities, unable to either escape or attack. She completely ignored it. "A significant infestation of such organisms would be a considerable hazard to normal individuals. The ability for them to propagate is understandably worrying." Returning her attention to the thing, she lowered her sunglasses for a couple of seconds, meeting its eyes. The vampire froze, staring in what looked for all the world to be total horror. "Please cease your struggling, you are becoming an irritant." It nodded frantically, paler than even its status as one of the undead would normally merit. Xander watched in amazement.

Looking back at him, she seemed to consider something for a moment. A couple of seconds passed then she shook her head very slightly. "While it would be of some minor interest to my employers to study the creature it is also an excessive security risk to return with it. I normally dislike violence, it is inefficient in most cases, but under the circumstances I believe the responsible outcome is to simply delete it. Do you have any criticism of the stated objective, Mr Harris?"

"Fine by me," he finally managed to say. The way she managed to hold the damn thing at arm's length like a bag of sugar was not only horrifying, it was also becoming somewhat funny. He grinned abruptly as the vampire began struggling again. "Go right ahead. I'm sorry I don't have a stake with me."

"You might not have an objection but I fucking do!" the vampire screamed. She inspected it icily.

"Your resistance is both irrelevant and futile. You are deceased, although regrettably vociferous nonetheless." After a moment or two she seemed to reach a decision. "Application of heat or cellulose fibre inserted through the cardiac muscle are the two most commonly utilised methods of disposal, correct, Mr Harris?"

"Yep," he replied, wondering what she was going to do.

"Interesting. But in this case perhaps a different approach is called for." He watched in amazed horror as the neck and head of the vampire began to grow a covering of frost, which quickly thickened until it was a mass of white crystals. The thing struggled harder, its voice fading suddenly, before going limp. Vapour was streaming down its body from the now frozen solid head, looking like a special effect in a nightclub. He absently wondered how cold she'd managed to make it. And how she'd done it.

"Fascinating. Motility would appear to have been removed yet discorporation has not yet occurred," she stated, studying the result of whatever she'd done. "It suggests that the creature could recover from the low temperature in the event it thawed." A quick gesture threw it twenty feet across the room on a completely flat trajectory, the head shattering like glass when it hit the wall and the rest of the body immediately poofing into dust as a result. "That is no longer a concern." Carefully adjusting her sleeves, she made the chilling little smile again, then checked her watch. "I must leave soon. I will accompany you to your vehicle to ensure that no further attacks occur if you wish."

"That would be nice of you," Xander replied after a few seconds, not really being able to think of anything else.

Stepping to one side she gestured to the way out. "If you would care to proceed, Mr Harris?"

Walking through the abandoned mansion, his footsteps echoing hollowly from the walls, the young man reflected on the weirdness of his life recently. The last few hours seemed to be pretty much the pinnacle of peculiarity so far. He rather fatalistically wondered if it was going to get worse. "Probably," he muttered to himself. "The universe hates me, I think."

"I sincerely doubt that the universe is concerned with your existence in any way, Mr Harris," the cold voice came from behind him, making him jump a little. He could feel her presence as a chilly aura that seemed to affect him very deep down but couldn't hear her at all except when she spoke. She moved utterly silently. "However I do understand the sentiment. Chaos nodes such as yourself and your compatriots attract considerably higher levels of unusual circumstances than afflict the general population. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done to alter this. All one can do is adapt to the situation and proceed through one's existence as best one can. Cold comfort, I realise, but it is all I can offer you."

He looked over his shoulder at the alien woman, then sighed. "I guess that's life in a nutshell, really."

"Precisely, Mr Harris." She seemed approving.

Outside, they walked to where Giles' old car was parked, gently sagging on its shocks. She examined it for a moment. "A somewhat primitive method of transportation even under the circumstances."

Xander chuckled, nodding. "I know, it's terrible, but the G-man seems to like it. It's all I had available." Turning to her he looked at her for a moment. "Thank you for listening. It was weirdly nice, although no one will ever believe me." Pulling the portal generator out of his pocket he looked at it, then put it back. "And thank you for this. I guess it might come in handy one day."

"Indeed, Mr Harris. It is my hope that should the circumstances become such that the device is required it provides you with some aid. You have my gratitude for the information provided." Glancing to the side for a moment she seemed unsurprised when a portal like the one she'd come from suddenly crackled into existence beside her. He twitched a little but managed to stop the yelp before it cleared his lips. "It is possible we will meet again in the future. If not, you have my best wishes for a continued existence." She turned towards the portal, then hesitated, before turning back.

"One final item of interest occurs to me, before I leave. I would suggest that you observe your associate Ms Rosenberg carefully. From your description she is of an extremely high order of intelligence, although distressingly short of what one could accurately term common sense. The magical activities she is engaged in are of a high level and very hazardous if performed incorrectly. Indeed, from my information, some of what you have described is hazardous even if completed successfully. I would advise vigilance and being prepared to prevent her carrying out the more dangerous enterprises I suspect she may attempt at some future date. The repercussions could be unpleasant should she make a mistake."

Xander nodded slowly, thinking about her words. There was more than a little truth to her description of his best friend, as much as he didn't like to admit it. Once she got her mind set on something she tended to just do it regardless of anyone else telling her it was a bad idea. The last couple of days were a very good example of that. "I'll try to keep an eye on her," he replied.

"Excellent. The quest for knowledge is a laudable one but one that must be tempered with suitable restraint. I believe that this is a task you can fulfil. Farewell, Mr Harris." She nodded to him.

"Good-bye, Ms Aoyama," he said, waving as she stepped into the glowing rupture in space, disappearing with a faint crackling sound like frying bacon. The portal vanished a couple of seconds later with a weirdly humorous pop. Shaking his head slowly, he stared at where it had been for a moment, looked around, shrugged, then got into the car and slowly drove the wheezing old vehicle away.

Rupert Giles looked up as Alexander Harris entered the library fairly early in the morning, seeming thoughtful, certainly rather more so than normal. He studied the young man as he looked around the room before noticing the other occupant. A smile came to his face. "Yo, G-man, how's it going?" he asked cheerily, walking over. Giles sighed.

"I have repeatedly asked that you not call me that, Xander, you do remember I hope?"

"Yep," the boy grinned unrepentantly. The librarian sighed again, but couldn't help smiling back. The good humour was infectious.

"What brings you to the library today?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "School finished three days ago. I have to be here for various administrative reasons but you don't as far as I'm aware."

"I was at a loose end and I thought I'd study a little."

Leaning back in his chair the older man stared. "You? Study? Without the threat of bodily harm? What is the world coming to?" He allowed a very small smirk to cross his features as the boy glared, then laughed.

"Funny, Giles, very funny. We'll have you telling jokes at parties yet."

Shuddering, Giles replied, "Oh, lord, I do hope not." They shared a smile. After a second or two Xander looked more serious.

"How are you doing, Giles?" he asked, watching the older man intently. "Really, I mean. You've only been out of hospital for a couple of days now. And what with Miss Calendar..." He ran his hand through his hair, apparently grasping for words. "I mean, I know you two guys..."

Holding up his hand and halting the awkward words, Giles smiled at the teenager. "Thank you for asking, Xander. I appreciate the sentiment. Physically I'm on the mend, although it will be some time before I'm completely fit, and mentally..." He sighed faintly, looking down at his desk for a few seconds, before raising his eyes to meet Xander's. "I'm dealing with it as best I can. I miss Jenny very much, but, unfortunately, she's gone. I just have to live with it."

They both fell silent for a while, thinking back on the last couple of weeks of pain and horror. Eventually Xander stirred from where he was leaning against the end of the desk, looking at the journal Giles had open in front of him curiously. "What are you working on?" he enquired. The Watcher debated with himself for a moment then decided there was no reason not to tell the young man.

"I've been researching Acathla, and other possible ways we could have stopped that particular nightmare. Second-guessing myself, I suppose, but I can't help it." He closed the journal with a flick of his hand, before rubbing his eyes under his glasses. "Nothing seems to jump out at me, I have to admit. Not that it's very important now, of course." He looked at the boy who was listening quietly. "I don't suppose you've heard any news of Buffy?" Xander shook his head, staring at his shoes.

"Nothing. Her mother is worried and scared, Willow is going nuts trying to think of a way of finding her, even Cordelia seems slightly upset about it. Which is just terrifying." He raised the corner of his mouth in a half smile as Giles snorted with amusement.

"Indeed." He studied the boy. "And yourself?"

Xander shrugged slowly. "I decided there was nothing I could do about it one way or another and that it was a waste of time worrying. Either she'll come back when she's ready or she won't, freaking out about it won't change anything, so all I can do is wait and keep trying to help keep a lid on this insane asylum we mockingly call home." He grinned more widely for a moment.

"A surprisingly mature attitude, Xander," Giles replied. "Perhaps there's hope for you after all." He smiled to show he meant it in a kind way. Xander laughed, shaking his head.

"Oh, I doubt that, G-man. We're all doomed. Doomed!" His voice became deeper on the last word and he flailed his arms around dramatically.

"Hmm. Yes, quite," Giles commented wryly. "Clearly I was mistaken about your maturity level. So sad, I had high hopes for a moment."

Grinning, Xander shrugged. "Easy come, easy go." Pushing himself erect, he looked around the library again. "Do you have any books on meditation?" he asked after a pause. Giles looked hard at him, surprised.


The boy nodded. "That's what I said." He looked amused at the reaction. After a moment he expanded on his request. "A... friend, I suppose, someone I met recently, said something that made me think it might be worth a try. Get my mind and emotions in order, that sort of thing." He smirked at the older man. "You might have noticed every now and then I can get just a little emotional about things."

Amused, Giles inspected his companion. "It had crossed my mind in the past, I have to admit." Eventually he stood up. "All right. I suppose if it stands any chance at all of potentially curing you of some of your more annoying personality quirks I should help as much as possible, if only for my own sanity." Laughing, Xander followed the librarian across the room and into the rows of shelves. Finding what he was after in under a minute, Giles removed three books from one of the shelves, checked that they were the correct ones, then handed them to the young man.

"Here you go. The first one is a primer on meditation techniques covering a number of Eastern methods including several simple exercises. The thicker one goes into much more detail on one or two of the more effective ones. That last one is fairly heavy on theory but also has some useful exercises. Between them they may well be of use. Please don't damage them."

Xander took the books and quickly flipped through them, before smiling and nodding. "Thanks, Giles. This could help a lot."

"You're welcome, Xander."

Heading back to the exit, the boy stopped and turned to the older man. "What do you think happened to Acathla after... well, after? You didn't say when Willow asked you yesterday. But it was gone when we went back to the mansion a few days afterwards."

Giles looked at him for a moment, then sighed, taking his glasses off and closing his eyes briefly. "I'm not sure what happened to the statue," he very reluctantly admitted after a short pause. "I was intending to arrange for it to be taken to a secure location for disposal, possibly by arranging to have it dropped into the deepest part of the ocean, but it was missing when we arrived as you saw, with no obvious signs of how it was moved. I'm rather worried about it, to be honest."

"Maybe the Watcher's Council got their hands on it?"

The librarian shook his head. "They claim otherwise. They're not very pleased about losing it either."

"Weird. Oh, well, hopefully whoever took it knows how to destroy it safely," Xander remarked lightly. Giles studied him closely for a moment, but nodded.

"I would hope so. Or contain it, at least, allegedly it can't be destroyed."

Xander smirked. "That's what they said about the Judge, but he's in little pieces now."

"Very true," the man admitted with a smile.

"OK, then, I'm going to find somewhere to read and something to eat," the teenager said, turning again and heading for the exit.

"Do not get food on my books, Xander!" Giles told him firmly as he reached the door. The only response was a quick grin over his shoulder and a wave, then the boy was gone. Shaking his head, the Watcher went back to his research, still wondering where his Slayer was.

Sitting on his bed, ignoring the shouting coming faintly down the stairs as his father had yet another drunken row with his mother, Xander leafed through the book once more before sighing a little. He'd been trying the exercises for more than a week now and while he'd had some small success, he tended to fall asleep rather than manage anything approaching a meditative trance as described in the literature. It had produced some very weird dreams but nothing particularly useful. The one time it had begun to work, his father had barged into his room, screaming about mowing the lawn, which had ruined the mood completely.

'God, if I could find somewhere private to do this I'd be there right now,' he mused, sighing heavily at a particularly loud shout from upstairs. 'But knowing my luck I'd end up sharing it with a vampire or a demon or something worse. At least here all I have to deal with is... Them.' Giving the ceiling a dirty look as thumping footsteps went across it, disturbing a little dust, he scowled for a moment. 'The book talks about a focus, something to concentrate on, like a candle-flame, or a patch of sunlight. That might help.' Casting around for something to use, he had a thought and reached into his back-pack which was sitting on the floor beside the bed, rummaging around for a moment to come up with the portal generator he'd been given by that unbelievably creepy alien woman a couple of weeks earlier.

'This might work,' he thought with a small smile. 'It's all glowy and also magic, which could be helpful. Or not, bearing in mind me and magic.' On the other hand, the weird sensation the device produced when he held it was oddly calming, quite unlike any of his previous interactions with mystical forces. 'Worth a shot.'

Settling back against the pillows, propped up slightly on them so he was half-sitting, the young man cupped the small transparent ball in both hands and stared at it, trying to block out all the sounds and sights of his house. At first nothing much happened, but after some twenty minutes, when his parents had finally stopped arguing and gone off somewhere, he found he was slowly relaxing, the violet glow gradually growing, filling his field of vision, finally becoming the major part of his experience.

It took some time, although afterwards he'd never be able to quantify that amount meaningfully, but he eventually found himself drifting in a violet fog, feeling calmer than he could ever recall being, emotions still present but muted and distant. He couldn't hear anything other than the sound of his own pulse, the world seemed to have vanished into the mist, yet he was still awake more or less.

'Weird,' he thought slowly, almost dreamily. 'I wonder if it's working?' Slightly at a loss as to what to do next, he finally found himself remembering the occasion of his receiving the portal generator and the events surrounding it. His recollections seemed far sharper than he could remember ever experiencing before. Going over the events again and again, trying to wring some sort of meaning out of them that hadn't been apparent the first time, he drifted in the tinted fog for what seemed like hours, possibly days...

"...der! Where the hell are you, boy? Take the goddam garbage out before I get my belt, you hear me?" He came back to himself with a sharp jolt, twitching hard and dropping something which clunked on the floor and rolled under the bed.

"Yeah, yeah, I hear you, shut up will you?" he muttered to himself, running his hands over his face for a moment before rolling to his feet. Heading up the stairs he opened the door, absently ducking a slap from his father without thinking much about it, which made the older man glare at him. Glaring back he said "I'm doing it. You don't have to shout."

"In my house I'll shout as much as I want, boy," his father growled, the smell of alcohol coming strongly across the couple of feet separating them. Gagging slightly Xander took a step back, before heading into the kitchen to grab the two garbage bags waiting there. A hand hit the back of his head propelling him into a stumble, then his father walked away snickering.

"Bastard," the boy muttered to himself, being very careful to make sure he wasn't overheard. Quickly tying the tops of the bags shut while trying not to gag at the smell coming from them, he hefted both and pushed the back door open with his foot, carrying his load to the garbage cans by the garage. He dropped them in, one bag clinking with the large quantities of bottles and cans in it, the other landing with an unpleasant squishing sound, then put the lid back on. Turning around he looked up at the sky, following the contrail of an airliner that was visible overhead with his eyes, wondering where it was going and momentarily wishing he was on it. Shaking his head he sighed faintly then headed back into the house, avoiding his father as he went downstairs and closed the door behind himself.

Remembering the sound he'd heard he got down on hands and knees and looked under the bed, a faint purple glow near the back showing where the alien device had ended up. With some difficulty he recovered it then sat down again, idly turning it over in his fingers. A glance at his watch made his eyebrows go up. 'Not even an hour? Wow. It felt a lot longer than that.' After a moment he smiled to himself. 'But I think it worked. I was in a meditation trance, that was nothing like any dream I've ever had. What else could it be?'

Grinning again, feeling his spirits rise despite everything, he got back into the same position as he'd taken earlier, staring at the crystal globe again. 'Now, the big question is can I do it again?'

Giles watched Xander with concealed curiosity as he waited for Willow, Oz, and Cordelia to stop arguing. The young man was leaning back in his chair with a very small smile listening to the conversation but unusually not making annoying quips that fanned the argument. It was most atypical behavior. Catching his eye, Xander's smile grew slightly, then he leaned forward. They were sitting around the librarian's living room discussing how to try to compensate for Buffy's absence. Mercifully vampire attacks seemed to be at something of an ebb for some reason, possibly to do with the long summer days, but for whatever reason they were grateful. Even so, there were still people being killed on a regular basis.

"I'm telling you guys I can do it," Willow insisted, holding up an old book with her finger marking a page. "This spell is supposed to weaken vampires for a while so we could deal with them."

"It is also quite an advanced piece of magic and somewhat dark, Willow, you don't have the experience to pull it off without a large helping of good fortune and even if you did at this point in your life it's likely to weaken you nearly as much as the vampire," Giles sighed, repeating himself in yet another manner in an attempt to make the budding witch just listen for once.

"I performed the ensouling ritual successfully," the red-head grumped, glaring at him.

"One, we don't actually know it worked," he told her, yet again, rehashing a week's-old argument, "and two, even if it did work, you were lucky! You simply can't rely on being so fortunate every time. Some of the rituals I know you've been studying are appallingly dangerous to both you and those about you regardless of whether they work or not. Please try to understand that." She folded her arms and slumped back in her seat, sulking.

"Wills, be sensible," Xander said quietly. "You know yourself if you're being honest about it that Giles is right. Don't run before you can walk."

"You should listen, Willow," Oz commented, reaching out and holding her hand. She sighed, eventually nodding.

"All right, if you don't want my help..."

"It's not that we don't want your help, we just want to survive it," Xander quipped, grinning. Willow glared at him for a moment, while Cordelia looked amused, but eventually nodded.

"So do you have any bright ideas, mister?" she asked sourly.

"Of course! You know me, the ideas just keep flooding out," he laughed.

"Something keeps flooding out," Cordelia commented with a smug look. "I'm not sure I'd call it ideas, though." He glanced at her, surprising everyone with the fact that he merely smiled. The cheerleader looked slightly disappointed. She'd been having less and less luck recently getting a rise out of him and decided to try harder.

"So what great idea do you have?" she asked.

Xander snickered, pulling a notebook out of his pocket, then theatrically opening it to the first page. Everyone stared as he ran his finger down it, mumbling. "Plan to take over Sunnydale... No, too simple. Plan to take over LA... No, it's a dump, who'd want it? Plan to take over the world..." He pulled out a pen and scribbled something, frowning thoughtfully. Willow was beginning to grin. "Come back to that one later. I need a couple of white mice first anyway. Ah, here we are." He flipped a couple more pages. "Plans for dealing with vampires."

Shaking his head in wry amusement, Giles waited with the others as the boy read through the page he was looking at with an intent look. "Perhaps you should share them with the rest of us?"

"Hmm? Oh, sure, fair enough," Xander chuckled. "OK. Plan one. Relies on getting a lot of holy water. We soak all the graves we know have pre-risen vampires in them with holy water for a few hours before they try digging out. That should slow them down." Everyone looked at him, then at Giles, who was thoughtful.

"Interesting. And possibly viable. How do you propose delivering it?"

"Backpack sprayers like they use for weed-killer," the boy promptly replied. "They hold a couple of gallons and can spray about twenty feet. They might work for slowing down an attacking vamp as well if we're quick, but you'd need to take into account the weight of the thing."

"All right, that's not entirely unreasonable. But what if we needed a larger amount?" The Watcher was enjoying himself, Xander genuinely seemed to have put some thought into this.

"Steal, I mean, 'borrow', a water tanker and fill it with holy water. Or get the water in it blessed somehow. Four thousand gallons of the stuff should be enough to be useful. I know where we could get one." The looks he was receiving now were startled. The young man grinned, pointing at himself. "Not just a pretty face, you know."

Giggling, Cordelia shook her head. "Sorry, you're wrong there. It should be, 'Not even a pretty face'." Willow, despite her feelings towards the brunette, laughed, while the other two males looked amused. Xander frowned, staring at the girl, before sighing.

"Always with the petty jealousy," he said sadly.

Smiling, Giles waited for them to stop laughing, then asked another question. "Fine, assume we proceed as you suggest. Holy water won't destroy them immediately, it takes some time to do more than seriously injure them. I'll admit it would possibly help but if there is more than one we'd still have problems. Do you have any other suggestions?"

"Of course," came the reply and a grin. The page was turned. "Molotov cocktails. Take a milk bottle or something, fill it with gas and oil, put a rag in it, light it, and throw. Vampire flambé." Once more, everyone looked at him with their mouths open. "They're easy to make, I looked it up. If we mix in the right chemicals to make the gas a gel it sticks like napalm as well. I'll bet that will slow them down a lot pretty damn fast."

"That's a hideously dangerous idea, Xander," Giles finally said, closing his mouth. "I'm well aware of the concept and I also know the risk to the user is very high. Back in the UK there have been some very nasty accidents as a result of that sort of thing in Northern Ireland, amongst other places."

"So you wouldn't be open to the idea of a flamethrower, then?" Xander asked mischievously. Giles stared, then closed his eyes.

"Where on earth would you get a flamethrower, Xander?" he asked slowly.

"I know a guy who knows a guy who..."

"I get the idea. No. No flamethrowers." Opening his eyes he saw the boy looked disappointed.

"You're no fun at all." Willow and Cordelia grinned at him while Oz nodded. "How about a compromise? We fill the sprayers with gas instead of water, and throw a road flare at them when they're covered in it?" The teenager perked up suddenly as Giles winced. "Hey! We could get the gas blessed! Holy gasoline? Is that possible?"

The Watcher sighed, shaking his head. "Next idea, please."

Xander read the next page in his notebook, looking dubious. That didn't bode well. "Do you know where we can get a couple of tons of aluminum powder and iron oxide?" he asked. Giles thought for a moment. That sounded vaguely familiar. Eventually it came to him. His eyes widened as the boy smirked again.


"Got it in one! I was thinking that if we mixed up about fifty pounds of the stuff, put it into some sort of container we could push into the grave, like a pointed metal pipe, then set it off, we could rain molten iron into the coffin. I'll bet that would do the job."

"I'm sure it would," the librarian admitted with a sigh. "It would also attract a considerable amount of attention, day or night. Thermite burns at an enormous temperature from what I remember and is extremely bright. During the day I suspect that even in Sunnydale the police would take an interest and at night you'd attract much worse things."

"Long fuse?" Oz suggested, looking interested. "Gives us time to get away before the fireworks."

"I'm still not entirely comfortable with the idea," Giles replied. Xander made a note.

"We'll mark that one down as tentative, then." He laughed at the look the man gave him. "If you don't like the idea about thermite you're really not going to like the one about high explosives."


"Just a little. Hammer a long pole into the ground, it's really loose over a new grave so it's easy, then drop a stick of dynamite down the hole it makes when you pull it out. Boom, one vampire in little pieces. Probably wouldn't even disturb the ground on top too much." Xander looked pleased with himself. Giles sighed heavily.


A moment passed, then he had to ask. "Where were you going to get dynamite from in the first place?"

"I know a guy who..." Holding up his hand, Giles glared at the young man, who subsided.

"No explosives."

"Really taking the fun out of it, G-man," Xander laughed, turning the page. "OK, here's one. Twelve gauge shotgun with a mix of wood pellets and lead shot in the cartridge. It would only have a short range but I bet it would get the job done. The lead shot makes a hole and the wood does whatever it is that wood through the heart actually does to a vampire. What does it do, anyway?"

After a long moment, Giles replied, "Wood is a symbol of life and disrupts the magic holding the demonic intruder in place in the body. Xander, where are you going to get a shotgun from?"

"Uncle Rory. He has half a dozen of the things, he'd lend me one no trouble."

"I think that is a very worrying idea," the older man sighed. "Americans and firearms. I'll never understand it."

"Tentative, then," Xander said, making a note. Opening his mouth to say something else, Giles eventually shook his head and closed it again. Perhaps if he kept quiet the boy would forget about the idea.

"What happens if you hit the vamp in the head and not the heart?" Oz asked curiously.

"It's dust, despite the whole idea of guns not working on vampires," Xander replied with a curious authority, causing everyone to look at him. "Destroy the head and you destroy the vampire, no matter how you do it." All the gazes switched to Giles, who after a moment's thought reluctantly nodded.

"It's entirely possible he's right. Removing the head with a sword certainly works, so I suppose blowing it off with a firearm should have the same effect."

"Interesting," the other boy murmured thoughtfully, going quiet.

"Ooh, ooh, how about your idea of a hole into the grave but combined with holy water?" Willow suddenly said, getting excited. "The vamp wakes up swimming in it. By the time he digs his way out he's going to be a soaking wet crispy critter!"

"Not bad, Wills," Xander replied with a smile, writing something into his notebook.

"That is indeed a possible idea, Willow," Giles told her, looking approving. "And far less dangerous than explosives or thermite."

"But nowhere near as much amusement value," Xander grumped.

"Another good thing about it," the librarian replied, raising an eyebrow.

They talked over a few other concepts for the next hour, finding out that the teenager had indeed put a considerable amount of thought into the subject, with some terrifying results. The flamethrower was positively mild compared to one or two of them. "Fuel-air bombs?" Giles stared open-mouthed as Xander nodded.

"It could clear out the tunnels under Sunnydale in one shot if it was done right. All we need is a tanker truck full of ethylene oxide, a timer, two hundred feet of det cord, a battery, ten pounds of magnesium powder, a couple of blasting caps, some road flares, three..." Giles held up a hand again at the enthusiastic list.

"No. Under no circumstances are you to make a fuel-air bomb." He stared hard at the young man, who looked mildly disappointed. "I hesitate to ask where you propose to acquire the materials in the first place, but I forbid it even if you could."

"Damn. I was looking forward to it," the boy groused, crossing his arms. "Industech Chemicals about twenty miles away makes the stuff, I'm sure I could... borrow... one of their trucks. They stop at the truck stop outside Sunnydale and sometimes they leave the keys in the ignition..."

"You are not to steal a tanker truck full of explosive liquid gas, Xander," Giles said firmly.

"I spent a lot of time looking all this up, you know," the young man said with a sigh. "Oh, well."

Eventually finishing their discussion, the various participants went their various ways, before it got dark. Giles stopped Xander before he left the apartment. "How is your meditation going, Xander?" he asked curiously. "I can't help but notice that you seem somewhat more thoughtful recently. I wouldn't have expected this amount of serious research before, for example, even though the results are somewhat unnerving."

Grinning, the teenager stopped at the door, looking at the older man. "The fuel-air bomb idea really impressed you, didn't it?"

Giles shuddered slightly. "Impressed is almost exactly the wrong word," he said.

"Horrified, then. It would work, you know. I'm pretty sure of that." At the Watcher's stern look, he sighed sadly. "But I suppose I'll never be able to prove it."

"I desperately hope not," was the response, accompanied by an even sterner look.

"The meditation is helping I think," Xander eventually answered. "It took me quite a while to be able to get into the right frame of mind but it's getting easier now. I've been... sort of organising my memories a bit, going over things I've said and done and thinking about them. I came to a few conclusions, some of them are a little worrying. It also seems to be helping with keeping calm." He smiled slightly. "Not that I'll ever be able to be as calm as Oz without chemical help, I suspect, but it's a useful thing to learn."

"The young man does seem to have a knack for sitting quietly and listening," Giles admitted with amusement. "I'm impressed. Good work, Xander. Hopefully your new skill will help with your schoolwork as well."

"Nothing's impossible, I guess," the teenage replied. "See you, Giles, I need something to eat. Bye." He left the apartment and headed home. Watching him go for a moment Giles smiled fondly before closing the door.

"Fuel-air bomb? Good lord," he muttered, shaking his head in wonder.

Entering his room after a brief shouting match with his father, Xander slumped on the bed, pushing a pile of paperwork to the floor. The top booklet slid off the pile, exposing a page entitled, 'Flamethrower, Portable, M9A1-7' with a US Army documentation code on it. Rolling over and pushing his face into the pillow he yawned widely, then rolled back and reached down for his backpack. Fumbling in it he pulled out the portal generator, holding it in front of his face and concentrating. Shortly he was drifting in a violet mist, carefully cataloguing his memories. He was back to age thirteen by now. The process was becoming easier although he still took some time to do it, but it was worth the effort due to the steady increase in his ability to remain calm and think clearly.

The backpack, disturbed by his touch, gradually slumped sideways, ending up resting on a gun-like device with a hose coming from one end that was partially protruding from under the bed.

"It's too noisy." This was true, the sound of wood striking metal echoed rather obviously in the silence of the graveyard at night.

"I'm being as gentle as I can but I'm still hitting a pipe with a hammer, you know, that's never going to be quiet."

"Just keep hammering, we'll keep a lookout."

"OK. Nearly there, I think." Half a dozen more blows sounded then the pipe dropped sharply with a faint crunch of wood. "Got it. Give me a hand pulling it out." Two pairs of hands grabbed the t-handle crudely welded to the seven foot long length of scaffold pole and heaved it out of the ground, loose dirt dribbling from the sharpened end. "OK, let's have the hose." A piece of garden hose made an appearance and was carefully fed into the hole in the ground until it reached a taped marker. "Turn it on."

A few minutes passed with the sound of running water the only disturbance. "That's all ten gallons."

"Think it's enough?"

"It should be a layer at least a couple of inches deep if I did the calculations right, Xander." The female voice was both excited and worried. "He'll be soaked in it."

"I guess we have to wait and see what happens." Xander pulled the hose out and coiled it up while Oz disconnected the other end from the plastic barrel they'd mounted on a toy wagon. Putting the hose and the mallet on top of the barrel Xander picked up the long pipe then the three of them backed off, Willow checking her watch carefully as he put the pipe down again.

"It should be about ten minutes," she said.

"Keep an eye out for unexpected visitors," Xander replied. Each of them was holding a sharp wooden stake. Xander had a sports bag over one shoulder with his right hand inside it. Oz looked at it curiously, yet again, but didn't say anything. Willow didn't seem to have noticed. The time slowly ticked past, until there was a muffled scream from somewhere underground.

"Ooh, he didn't like that," Willow commented brightly.

"Not even a little," Oz agreed as the ground heaved. A pair of smoking and badly damaged hands suddenly stuck out of the earth and flailed around, grabbing for a hold. Very slowly the vampire pulled itself out of the grave, smoking heavily and looking very much the worse for wear. Eventually reaching the surface it collapsed in a heap, swearing to itself. The three teenagers exchanged glances.

"I think we need more holy water next time," Willow remarked. Both boys nodded. The vampire looked up at the sound of their voices, glaring hatefully at them.

"You... Bastards..." it huffed, pushing itself to its hands and knees with great effort. "I'm... going to... kill... you all... and... smile..." It managed to get as far as its knees.

"Hey," Xander called, sticking the stake in his left hand through his belt then reaching into his pocket and pulling out a lighter, which he flicked a couple of times until it lit. The thing looked at him, then at the bottle in his other hand. Its eyes widened in horror as he held the flame to the cloth protruding from the glass bottle, which immediately caught fire. Stepping back a couple of paces as Willow and Oz exchanged incredulous glances then dived for cover, the teenager took careful aim before tossing the bottle at the headstone a couple of feet behind the kneeling vampire.

A sound of breaking glass was accompanied by a loud 'Fwoomph' and a lot of screaming, not to mention flailing around, and eventually a faint poofing noise as the flaming vampire vanished into dust, leaving only a puddle of burning gasoline that was slowly guttering out in a cloud of black smoke. Xander turned to his friends. "That worked," he said in satisfaction as they stared at him. "So, next time, more water?" He picked up the pipe again, putting it over his shoulder, and nodded to the wagon. "You want to get that, Oz? Thanks." The other two exchanged glances, looked back at the smouldering grave site, then followed as he lead the way back into town.