Hyenas Hold Grudges

Title: Hyenas Hold Grudges

Author: Caliadragon

Fandom/Genre: Buffy

Relationship(s): Xander Harris/Graham Miller, Willow Rosenburg/Tara Maclay, Blair Sandburg/Jim Ellison, Spike/Faith Lehane, Riley Finn/Sam Finn

Content Rating: R

Warnings: Canon Level Violence, Character Bashing, Canon Character Death, Emtional Trauma, Mind Control, Angst, Slash, Het, Femmeslash, Xander being Xander

Summary: Graham Miller had been denied his mate for too long. First by the actions of Maggie Walsh and the Initiative and then by the Council. Now Graham Miller will claim what is his, even if he has to burn the Council to the ground. Which is ironic since his mate is a rare Dragon Guide. Of course Xander is Xander and no one plans for him.

Word Count: 13,950

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For three hundred years Sentinels and Guides had walked among the population openly and freely. No longer slaves to the government they often chose to join the service of the country of their birth or to work within the system to help those in need and the innocents that could be caught in the path of evil. Graham Miller was that joined the military in the hopes that he could serve his country and one day meet his Guide and show that he was worthy to be his mates Sentinel.

Perhaps his life would have been easier had he not joined the Army, but on the other side of that it could be said that he would never have known his Guide either. As it was Graham had met his Guide, but he had also lost him.

Xander Harris was a rare distinction of Guide, a Dragon, one of the more powerful and the more dangerous. Xander was also latent when Graham, a Hyena Sentinel, met Xander. Graham would not realize that Xander was his Guide until later when the world had nearly fallen, when a town was gone, and when Xander had disappeared in the wilds and was being hidden from Graham by his friends.

When Graham and Xander met Graham was working on a government program known simply as the Initiative. The program was sponsored by the NID and the NSA. Graham who was an Army Ranger had been transferred into the project due to his status as a Sentinel and due to his work in Afghanistan.

Doctor Maggie Walsh, the leader of the program, wanted highly trained teams and Sentinels. Graham wouldn’t know until Walsh was killed and the program destroyed that she was drugging every member of the program or that she was suppressing using a Dark Guide to implant suggestions and triggers into their minds.

Xander came into his life when Maggie talked Riley Finn into dating Buffy Summers, Xander’s friend and a Slayer. Maggie wanted control of Buffy so that she could use her to take more demons for the twisted work that Maggie and her fellow Scientists were doing within the program.

Ultimately Maggie’s plan for Buffy failed and then backfired on her when Maggie had Buffy and Xander’s friend Daniel ‘Oz’ Osbourne taken for experimentation. Xander and Riley had infiltrated the Initiative and rescued Oz.

A few weeks later Xander, Buffy, Willow Rosenburg, and Rupert Giles took down the Initiative with the help of a vampire known as Hostile 17 or Spike. As the battle to end the Initiative waged Graham had one clear memory of the day.

~*~Flashback~*~

“We need to get the soldiers out of here and open the cells so that the demons can escape.” Xander yelled as he grabbed Riley and pushed him into Giles’s arms.

Spike glared at Xander, who glared back. “Look she had Riley under control which means she probably has the others under control. I think what they did is shitty and disgusting too, but I’m not going to leave them to die anymore than I would leave you or anyone in those cells to die.”

“Xander it could be really dangerous to open the cells.” Buffy fretted. “We should at least wait until the Healers arrive so that we aren’t attacked.”

“No! We have no idea if Psycho Woman built in a fail safe for if the project failed. Get as many to go with you as you can. Anyone who isn’t injured can go with me and get everyone else out. I’ll open the cells after Graham gets the all clear from topside and then he and I can get out.” Xander argued back.

“That sounds like the only could plan we have in this situation.” Giles said with a grimace and a glare for Graham. “Do know that I will kill you if he is injured or not in your company when you come out of this hellhole.”

Graham glared back at Giles, not sure why the man’s words made him furious enough to want to punch the older man in the throat. “I wouldn’t leave him behind.” Graham growled out.

Spike gave Graham a raised eyebrow, but just sneered when Miller looked at the vampire in question.

“Let’s go. We don’t have time to waste arguing. Willow make sure the Healers know that we will have a lot of torture victims and that many might be dangerous.” Xander ordered Willow, who had been quietly holding a female soldier close.

Willow gave Xander a sweet smile and nodded. Unlike the others she had always known that Xander wouldn’t leave anyone in the building. Xander was a Guide, even if he wasn’t online yet. Willow’s eyes went to Graham and he was surprised by the concern and acceptance that he saw in her eyes. “Are you okay?” She asked worried about him.

“I’m good.” Graham said gruffly, Willow had nodded.

“Make sure you come back too.” Willow ordered, making Xander grin at his startled look.

~*~End of Flashback~*~

Graham wondered, even now, at the acceptance and strength of Willow and Xander. He also wondered if the last five years would have happened if Tara hadn’t died at the hands of Warren Meers. Somehow he doubted that it would have.

The day that Tara died was the same day that Xander went online. No one was exactly sure what happened, but what was known was that a psychic wave of pain had rushed over the planet. Guides and Sensitives alike had fallen in the wave of agony and loss. They knew now that it wasn’t Willow that caused the wave of pain and horror that echoed later, it was Xander. They knew that the power of the temple of the Dark Goddess coupled with Willow’s powers and merged with Xander’s awakening gifts sent the emotions out to everyone on the planet rather than just in a space of miles.

Six months later when the Council was still trying to find out what had caused the psychic wave and who it was that had awakened so terribly Sunnydale fell. By the time the Council found the survivors Xander was already in South America looking for Slayers.

When less that four months later LA was invaded Xander was there, but everyone was so busy trying to survive and destroy the portal that no one had a thought to stopping and talking to Xander in person. By the time anyone was recovered enough to ask for him, Xander was once again gone and Graham had just found out that Xander was his mate.

For five years Graham had tried to find Xander only to be given lies and evasions by the Council and Willow casting a spell to keep Xander from being found by anyone, but especially by Graham, who she decided wasn’t good enough to be Xander’s mate.

Graham was done with the bullshit that the Watcher’s Council had put him through. He was done with being denied the other half of his soul. In short Graham Miller was going to have his mate or he was going to start destroying things, starting with the Core Council.

Graham Miller walked into the main building for the Guide and Sentinel Council in Cascade Washington. It was where the Alpha Prime of North America called his home base. It was where Graham hoped to get help going up against the Slayer’s Council and Willow Rosenburg.

Graham knew that he was leaking anger and frustration, but he couldn’t help it. Once again he had been denied access to Xander and had barely missed him in a village he was working in as a trainer for a young Slayer.

The Slayer and her family had ended up going with Xander for protection and no one would give Graham any information on how long the group had been out of the village. It was becoming more painful and frustrating that Graham was able to bare.

“Sentinel Miller, Sentinel and Guide Finn, the Alpha Primes are waiting with their guests to speak with you.” The Guide who had greeted them said as they came to stand in front of him. The Guide kept eyeing Graham carefully. It was no secret what Graham had gone through the last five years or the way that he had been denied his own soulmate.

Graham nodded, but paused long enough to get control of his emotions. He didn’t want to go further into the building leaking aggression, or anywhere near his Blair Sandburg in his present state. Jim Ellison would probably throw him through a wall if he came near his Guide emoting so violently. Once Graham had control of himself the four made their way to the main meeting room.

The Guide left them at the doors and flinched slightly as all of the control Graham had gained over his emotions disappeared at the sight of the four people with his Alphas. Alistair had only walked a few feet before once again breathing easy as Graham regained control of himself.

Graham had stalked in the room, fury bleeding off him in waves. He had only gone a few feet before Spike had jumped to his feet and stepped in front of Rupert Giles and Faith LeHane had mirrored him and put herself in front of Dawn Summers.

“We are here to help you Sentinel.” Rupert said gently.

Graham came to a stumbling halt, blinking in confusion. Graham flushed and raised his hands to show he was no threat. Rupert Giles always had a strange effect on Graham. Even when Graham was at his angriest and wanted to punch him, Giles had the ability to calm Graham or make Graham stop to question his own actions. It was completely baffling to the Sentinel.

Spike and Faith sat back down and smirked at Graham as though they knew what he was thinking and feeling. Dawn bounced up and rushed to both Riley and Sam and hugged the Finns happily. Making the pair smile at her happily, Riley lifting the younger girl off her feet and giving her a twirl, which made her laugh gaily and brought smiles to those in the room.

Graham was surprised, but also pleased when the youngest member of the Core Council hugged him tightly and kissed him on the cheek before pulling away and going back to her seat between Giles and Faith.

“Please be seated. I have a story to tell you and then a great burden to place on you Sentinel Miller.” Giles said bringing the group back to a somber feeling.

Graham swallowed and took the chair in the middle of the table, with Riley to his left next to Spike and Sam to his left next to Jim Ellison. Graham looked to the Alpha pair and saw that they looked as worried and grim as he did. Graham turned his attention back to Giles and nodded to the man when he realized that Giles was waiting for Graham to begin the story.

“Five years ago everyone felt the ‘Dragon Awakening’ as you three know it was brought on by the death of Tara Maclay, Willow’s girlfriend.” Giles began gravely.

“What most do not know is that Willow hit Xander with a dangerous amount of black magick before he could bring her out of the darkness of her justifiable grief. Tara was Willow’s soulmate, her Guide. Until that time Willow like Xander was latent. Losing Tara and Willow’s own immersion into the darker magicks sent Willow from the cusp of online to dormancy with her Sentinel abilities.” Horror filled the Sentinel and Guides in the room, none of them could imagine something so terrible. There was also the fact that dormant Sentinels in Willow’s position were extremely dangerous.

“Willow was given aide for her magick addiction, but no help for the mania of her loss of her Sentinel abilities. We had no idea that she was a Sentinel and Willow never even hinted that she had the gene. Not even Xander knew, the Devon Coven had known until recently and of course five years of insanity to the level Willow has reached is repairable.” Giles said with a look of infinite sadness. Dawn reached over and took Giles’s hand in his own and he gave the girl a gentle smile.

“After Buffy returned from the dead thanks to Willow’s duplicity and then the fall of the First Xander informed us that he needed sometime to deal with the loss of Anya and to recover from his own injuries. He felt he could not do that around us when we were all so very tense and worried for him and each other.” Graham noticed that all four flinched at the mention of Xander’s injuries.

“What injuries?” Riley asked fretfully. The last five years had hurt his friend as much as they had hurt Graham. Thanks to Willow’s actions and the seeming dislike of the Council for Graham Riley had lost his friendships with the Core members of the Council.

“The insane Preacher that worked for the First attempted to blind Xander. Thankfully he did not succeed. However, Xander was exposed to the Evil that corrupted Caleb and it was a worse pain than the battle he did with the Darkness driven Willow.” Giles told them honestly.

“We didn’t feel it.” Blair said speaking for the first time since Graham, Sam, and Riley entered the room.

“No, Xander took the brunt of the blow from the emotions of the Preacher. He used what was happening and the emotions assaulting him to turn Caleb into a vegetable. Spike killed the Preacher in revenge as Xander collapsed and before the Bringers could attack Xander.” Giles said a note of pride in his tone and the look he aimed at Spike, who preened slightly.

“However the force of the attack waged by Caleb opened a new gift. One that was not nearly as kind as that of his Guide gifts and was just as painful an awakening. This gift saved us from multiple deaths, made the destruction of the First easier and a lot less bloody and deadly. It also gave us the information we needed to give the warning we did about the Invasion of LA.” Giles said with a pained look, before giving the group a fierce look.

“I am telling you this because I believe I can trust you with this secret and the safety of Xander. Xander has visions, visions that have nothing to do with his Guide gene. He is a True Seer.” Giles told them gravely.

“Holy Fuck.” Jim said as once again the Guides and Sentinels were left gaping in horror.

“Indeed.” Giles said with a nod.

“After the Invasion Xander went to Africa. Willow tried to stop him, but he basically bitch slapped her verbally and went anyway.” Faith said with a malicious smile. One echoed on the faces of the other three Council members.

“What no one in the Core Council knew was that Willow had decided that Mr. Miller was not a suitable mate for Xander. I had urged Xander to get tested just after the fall of Sunnydale in the hopes that having a Sentinel would help Xander recover from the mental and physical trauma he had gone through during the fall. He was tested, but was also informed by email that he did not have a match and since he was being taken care of by a member of the Devon Coven he never returned to the Center and never spoke in person with a member of the GSC.” Giles informed them, grimacing as Graham growled.

“We were informed that Xander’s results were tampered with in our system. Thankfully the technician had a secondary record of his results. It’s how we found out that Xander was Graham’s Guide and how horrific Maggie Walsh’s experimentation had gotten before her death.” Blair said grimly, it was a good thing Walsh had been dead by that point, if not there wasn’t a member of the Council that wouldn’t have hunted the woman down and killed her. As it was many of the Scientists that had worked on her projects with her had avoided prison sentences and the special assignments many on the project had been sentenced to because they had been executed by members of the Council.

Giles nodded, he was very aware of what had happened to Walsh’s personal torture squad. Ethan had made sure of it when Giles had talked him into going in as a prisoner that Giles had turned over. Ethan was very good with curses, especially ones led by Janus and backed in power by Giles.

“Yes we figured as much when Xander refused to leave anyone in the base and then guarded the area until CID and the GSC could send in people to retrieve the dead. Even latent Xander was very sensitive to emotions and the actions of others.” Giles said with a small smile, though it only held the grimness of his memories of the Initiative.

Riley’s distress had her reaching across Graham to take her husband’s hand, even as Graham forced his own emotions as deep as possible. He did not want to harm his friend with his own horror and grief over one of the worst times in his life. To the shock of the Sentinels and Guides, Spike reached over and placed a hand on Riley’s arm, calming the pain and horror rocketing through the Guide.

Riley looked at Spike in shock and relief. “Thanks.” Riley rasped out.

Graham stared at the two and he wasn’t alone. It was like being in a tilt-a-whirl and Graham was wondering when the hell he was going to be able to get off this ride.

“It’s alright mate. Let the Watcher finish his tale.” Spike said with a nod before removing his hand and sprawling back in his chair again.

“For the last four and a half years Xander has traveled to the most dangerous areas of the planet and a few off world. Our only contract with him is a spell created by Willow and the contact we have with him when he either brings a Slayer to the Council or sends one to us. He has also become the Council’s greatest diplomat and of course our first alert during apocalypses.” Giles began, frowning slightly.

“During this time Buffy changed and not for the better. She became obsessed with living a normal life and forcing Dawn to do the same. Buffy practically cut off all access with everyone involved with the supernatural. The only time this ended was when we desperately needed her, though she did keep in regular contact with myself, Willow, and Xander to a smaller degree.” Giles flushed with anger, showing the rage under the grief for the first time.

“Willow.” Sam said, looking to Riley who was showing the anguish inside of him over the loss of his friends, with Buffy whom he had forged a wonderful friendship with during those last few days of Sunnydale once Maggie Walsh was no longer in control of him.

“Yes. We may never have realized just what it was Willow was doing if it had not been for Angel growing frustrated and hunting Buffy down in Rome.” Giles agreed.

“What you must understand is that Angel and Spike finished a task set for them by the Powers that Be, those who dictate the lives of the Slayers and the Champions. As a reward for their dedication and work Angel and Spike were given a great gift. One was that they retained the gifts and strength of the vampire selves, but became human in a way. Where Angel is mortal along with Buffy, Spike and Faith are immortal. Angel and Spike are both Guides, Faith and Buffy are both Sentinels.” Giles’s words caused Graham to go white in the face with shock and he was not alone. Graham could hear Blair’s heartbeat quicken, even as Jim began to growl subvocally, Sam tightened her hand in Riley’s.

“Angel broke the spell Willow was using on Buffy and we learned of Willow’s duplicity and of her dormant status. The resulting backlash was as horrifying as you can imagine. In response Willow’s magick and her ability to ever access any magick was bound and blocked from her for good. The Devon Coven had help by a few Demon Lords who wanted to make sure that Willow didn’t become another apocalypse as Willow is simply too dangerous to ever be trusted again.” Giles said, his face dark with anguish and betrayal. A betrayal echoed on the faces of the other three.

“The problem remains that Willow does not believe that she has done anything wrong. In fact even when forced to see things from the view of her victims she is still convinced that she has committed no offense. The Powers Messengers and a member of the Powers coming to tell her she had stepped from their path did not convince her she has acted in the wrong.” Giles said with a sigh, Graham blinked at that, because not even insanity could be blamed for something like that.

“So that’s how you found out that she was keeping Graham and Xander apart.” Blair said in a horrified tone. He could not understand how the actions of one selfish child could lead to so much horror.

“Yes, though it is not just Xander and Mr. Miller that have been denied the richness of a bond. I have hundreds of Slayer’s that have been denied the right to search for their Guides. Willow tampered with research that would have shown that the Slayers are Sentinels. This made it harder for them to learn to control their gifts and left them alone in their duty.” Giles agreed, causing Jim to growl loud enough for everyone to hear. Giles nodded again to acknowledge the deep betrayal.

“Alpha Sandburg you are the first step in my tour to right this great wrong. I am seeking help in begging the Council to help me gain support for my Slayers and the training that they need. I started with you as you are the most well known and most of our Slayers have moved to North America when they are in need of relocation when the threats against them are too great.” Giles told him honestly.

Blair looked surprised. “I see, we would be happy to help and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to help the Slayers. Even before knowing they were Sentinels there are many who would happily help the Slayers.”

Giles smiled at Blair in response to his honest words, before turning to face Graham. Giles sighed. “Sentinel Miller your place in all of this is going to be the hardest I am afraid.”

Graham tensed further, by now he had had to let go of Riley and was close to breaking the arms of his chair he was clenching them so tightly. “Why?” Graham bit out.

“Xander has gone off the grid and we have no idea where he is, where to begin searching or even if he is willing to be found. Willow’s tracking spell stopped working when they bound her magick so we can’t use it to find him either.” Dawn answered before Giles could, the four Council members were unable to hide their upset over this. “We haven’t talked to him and he hasn’t sent a Slayer in four months.”

“Fuck.” Graham said and snapped the arm off his chair.

Graham took a deep breath and allowed Riley, Spike, and Blair to bring him back from the edge a feral break. Giles was giving Graham a look of sympathy and understand and that more than anything helped Graham regain his emotional equilibrium, along with the worried look that Dawn was shooting him.

“Giles! What the hell? You’re never where I leave you and the Coven told me that Willow was bound and no one would tell me where you were.” Xander exclaimed as he shocked everyone by appearing. Through out the building the Guides and Sentinels all felt the arrival of the powerful young Guide.

“Those Old Biddies at the Council are Evil and they tried to keep me from coming to you even though the Ladies of the Coven said I should and I had to get Marf to send me here. The Ladies were all really tired so they couldn’t do it and I told them they should take a nap. Why are you in the US? Riley!” Xander cheered and bounced across the room and lifted Riley off his feet in a hug.

“Where have you been I’ve been looking for you and Sam for three years and no one would tell me where you guys were. You’re still pretty. Hi Sam, Hi Graham.” Xander chirped at the pair and waved before bouncing over and hugging the members of the Council, who looked as shocked and dazed as the other five did.

The Guides were all beginning to feel the manic energy that Xander was putting out and Spike was actually beginning to twitch slightly. “I got Angelica to the house in France since she couldn’t stay in her village due to that Cult that call themselves a Christian Military. They didn’t care that she’s a Catholic they just wanted to kill her if they couldn’t control her. Is it an apocalypse? What happened to Willow? Where’s Buffy? oh hey, you’re Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison, you two are really pretty. I-” Xander looked down at the hand over his mouth and then at Faith, who he gave the puppy eyes of doom to until she took her hand away.

“Xander slow down and explain why no one has heard or seen anything from you for the last four months.” Giles ordered gently as he took Xander’s arm and lead the boy to one of the chair’s at the table. “Thanks Giles, I always feel like my brains been on a roller coaster after I’ve been around Marf.”

Blair raised an eyebrow at this and tried to figure out how Rupert Giles was able to effect the Guides and Sentinels in his life since he carried neither gifts.

“Okay, so what do you mean four months?” Xander asked calmly as he linked his fingers with Giles’s and began to slowly relax from the rush of words and emotions that he was emitting so chaotically when he arrived.

The others in the room also began to relax as did those in the building. It was now less like a rush from speed and more like the rush one would get from eating too much candy.

Graham was watching Xander almost hungrily and Blair had no idea how Xander couldn’t feel the longing that Graham carried for him. For Graham it was a lesson in control as it was the first time he had been so close to Xander in five years and the only reason he wasn’t trying to kick everyone in the room out or attacking them was that he knew they were no threat to him or to his potential bond with Xander. Graham didn’t know what Giles or Dawn were, but he did know that they were no threat to Xander or to him and that was all that mattered at the moment.

“None of us have received word on you or if you have rescued and relocated any Slayers for the last four months and you haven’t returned any of our emails.” Dawn said slightly tearful. She was so relieved to see that Xander was still whole and sitting beside her.

“Don’t cry!” Xander said as he gave her a one armed hug, they all noticed that he didn’t release Giles’s hand and Giles seemed to have no problem with this. He gave Faith a sheepish looked and then gave Spike a double take.

“You’re a Guide!” Spike grinned at Xander’s astonishment and his beaming look at Faith when she put her hand on Spike’s arm, uncertain how Xander would respond to the pair. She knew that Xander had accepted that Spike and Angel were no longer vampires, but Spike being her Guide wasn’t something that Xander had known the last time they actually had an actual conversation.

“Faith you have a bondmate and one that can kick ass like your badass self!” Faith grinned at Xander’s enthusiastic response. “Does this mean that Former Deadboy and Buffy are bonded?”

Faith gaped at him, “You knew I was a Sentinel?” Faith wasn’t sure if she was angry or disappointed by this.

Xander simply looked confused. “Yeah, I haven’t met a Slayer yet that wasn’t a Sentinel. I gave Willow all of the information that I was allowed to copy from the Great Temples of the Slayer and the Sentinel that I found in Peru and Africa. I only managed to get a few pieces of data from the Temple in Japan and the one in China. Cho An and Midori are going to send you guys more information in the next few months since they are allowed full access to the Temples. Midori’s Guide is going to help her gather and correlate the information for us. Willow and Kennedy told me that they have been giving you guys the information so that you can match it to the records I found by accident in the Big Library.”

“We only recently found out that Willow was hiding all of the research or giving suggestions to the Research Council to ignore any mentions of the Slayers being connected to the Sentinel abilities.” Xander gave Giles a stricken look and Giles grimaced at what he must do. “Dear boy, I have to give you some very bad news, though it is tied in with good news as well.”

Xander looked heartbroken and worried already and Giles knew that he would be hurting the boy greatly and hated that he must be the one to do so. Giles carefully and gently explained to Xander what they had discovered of Willow’s actions and duplicity.

As Giles spoke Xander grew increasingly pale and was openly trembling, tears slowly running down his face. As Giles finished with the truth that Willow had kept Xander’s soulmate from him for the last five years and did not care or believe that she was wrong in what she had done to Xander and to Graham and the Slayers, Xander broke.

The Guides, Giles, and Dawn tried to help, but it was too late and too deep a pain.

In the room, down the hall, through the building, onto the street, across the city, across the state and finally across the planet the roar of a Dragon Guide echoes out and rushed like a tsunami. It was a wave of loss and heartbreak, and deep betrayal.

Once again horror tinged the voice of the Spirit Animal fo teh Knight and Heart of the Slayers. Xander had only enough control, thanks to the presence of Giles and Dawn, to keep the emotional aspects of his heartbreak to himself. His voice could not be silenced, but the feeling and the depth of his anguish at the pain Willow caused as the knowledge of her betrayal shattered his loyal and loving heart.

Giles barely caught Xander before he collapsed in the emotional overload. Blair, Riley, and Spike were doing their best to shield Xander and bring him back, along with Giles.

Dawn was covering her mouth as tears fell down her cheeks and she tried to regain control of her emotions enough to be of help.

Sam and Faith were clenching their fists, tears in their eyes as they tried desperately to fight down their own anger and sorrow. Jim had Graham pinned to the ground, the two women joining them as Graham finally fell into the feral rage he had been fighting so desperately for the last few months.

Jim looked up as the door was practically ripped off its hinges and the room filled with worried and horrified Guides and Sentinels. Two of them were Jim’s beta Josiah Sheppard and Sheppard Guide Ezra Sheppard. Ezra ran to Blair even as Josiah rushed to Jim and helped hold Graham down.

With the group that rushed into the room with the Sheppards were Doctors and Nurses of the Center. Jim was happy to see them, but was of the opinion that if they didn’t have heavy duty sedatives there was nothing they would be able to do to help the current situation.

“What happened?” Clair Standish asked as she sank to her knees beside Graham a look of horror on her face.

She remembered the Dragon Awakening. It had been one of the most horrifying and painful empathic experiences of her life. Clair could remember the roar of the Dragon as it echoed in her ears even as she was overwhelmed with loss, pair, and horror.

That Dragon roar had pierced the air today and was as equally horrifying and devastating as the first time she heard it, even if the emotions that choked her weren’t present today. Now she had a feral Sentinel being subdued by her Alpha and a Guide in severe distress. A Guide she knew to be the Dragon and not someone reacting to the roar.

“This is Graham Miller and that is Xander Harris.” Ellison said in a very controlled voice.

Oh My God!” Clair wasn’t sure who spoke, but the shock and sadness that seemed to come from all of those in the room echoed the three words. Even those with great control and training were have difficulty controlling and pushing away their emotions in this situation.

After what seemed to be several agonizing moments the Guides seemed to get control of themselves and moved to shield Xander from the overwhelming emotions filtering into the room and from outside of it.

When Doctor Carl Albertson went to move Xander away from Giles and Dawn, Blair stopped him. “No.”

Carl frowned at Blair. “Alpha, he’s not a Guide. Neither is the Girl. They need to be separated from the young Prime before he is damaged by their emotional state.”

Blair sighed, of course Carl would argue with him and question his decisions. “I have no idea what Doctor Giles or Miss Summers are, but they aren’t Mundanes either. What I can tell you is that Rupert Giles is the only reason that Xander didn’t lose control completely before he overloaded and that Dawn Summers is the only reason he hasn’t gone feral with all of the strangers in this room coming so close to him. Separating them will lead to a bloody tragedy.”

Carl frowned again. “Even as a Prime he is a young man. What could he do? There are a great many military trained people in this room and we out number him.”

Jim cursed viciously and glared at the Doctor for being an idiot. “That is Xander Harris, as in the Knight of the Slayers. One of the few high ranking male members of the Council of Slayers. Someone who has spent nearing eleven years fighting things that give most of us nightmares, many of them stronger and faster than him. He killed them. He trains the Slayers and he keeps up with them. Do you really want to send him into a feral episode?”

Carl paled and shook his head quickly.

Giles rolled his eyes and placed a hand on Xander’s head. “Sleep Dear boy.” Giles murmured and to the surprise of those that didn’t know the secrets of the Council Xander did.

Giles stood and moved to Graham, who stopped struggling the minute Giles touched him, he fell into sleep just as quickly as Xander at Giles’s softly spoken command. “Now it begins.”

What are you and what the hell was that?” Josiah Sheppard demanded.

Giles had motioned for Spike to move Xander to to him and to Graham. Before answering Giles linked Xander and Graham’s hands together.

“You said that Graham had a great burden.” Riley said as Giles stood.

“To answer your questions, I am one of two living Avatars to the God Janus.” Rupert said as he removed his glasses and began to clean them.

Gasps and murmurs of shock filled the room as the Guides and Sentinels stared and the words were repeated in a wave to those outside the room.

“As for what I did, it is both simple and complex. I opened a door to the Spirit Plane in a way very few could have. While their physical bodies sleep their Spiritual bodies have entered a Gateway to a room very few, even those such as us, have ever entered. It will be a place that they can find one another in a way that was previously denied them.” Giles explained simply, a slight frown on his face as he looked down at the boy he considered friend and son.

“As for the burden on Graham, yes it is a great and terrible burden. Willow’s spells, her corruption, and her denying the Slayers and Xander their bondmates and the open understanding of their gifts has done to Spirit Plane extreme damage.” Giles paused and it was once again clear the level of anger and betrayal that he felt.

“Xander is more than a Guide, more than a Warrior. He is a Dragon, a Touchstone of the Slayers. He is heart and soul. He is hope, joy, and love.” Dawn said, reaching out and stroking a hand over Graham’s cheek.

“I am the Key, a living Avatar of the Goddess Minerva. As much as Xander is the Heart and Hope of the Slayers. Graham is Xander’s and he has been since Xander was a teenager.” At the look of confusion on the faces of those around them Dawn explained. “Nosizwe, Graham’s Hyena, possessed Xander when he was in high school.”

“That’s…” Blair trailed off as he had nothing to say to that, he didn’t even know it was possible for a Spirit Animal to possess a offline and unbonded Guide of a Sentinel. Especially when they had never met before.

“The spell that was used that ended up calling her twisted things and made Nosizwe more aggressive and made her try to kill every Sentinel in Xander’s life. It took a few days, but the spell finally ended. It was also her actions that kept Xander from actually eating a person, so we can only be grateful she was called. The others that were possessed all ended up dead or insane. None of them made it out of Sunnydale, no one but Xander.” Dawn told them, which made the whole thing even more shocking.

“When Graham came to Sunnydale he had no idea who Xander was thanks to the suggestion and the drugs being used by Walsh.” Giles said taking up the narrative.

“Xander trusted Graham though, I think even latent he recognized Graham for who he truly was, so did Willow for that matter. I can only speculate that Xander did not come online because he knew that Graham needed to heal. I also believe that is one of the reasons that Willow used to convince herself that Graham was not worthy of being Xander’s mate. I will not get into the years that followed as it is quite common knowledge now thanks to the actions of Amy Madison and her Dark Coven.” Giles said, pinching the bridge of his nose and gusting out a sigh.

“When we found out what Willow did, we also found out that the spell she used to mask Xander’s presence also blinded Xander and Graham to each other on the Spirit Plane as well as the Mortal Plane. The problem with this of course is that Xander and Graham have been on the second level of bonding for years, since Xander was possessed as a matter of fact.” Giles’s words carried a fresh horror to the group and his weariness showed for a moment.

“Xander is the Guardian of the Spirit of the Slayer, yet he has been blinded to his duty. Thanks to Willow the Spirit Plane is slowly being destroyed. Xander’s coming online, his assault by Willow is slowly killing him and his Spirit Animal. With him every Slayer online and every Potential will follow.” Giles told them sadly, he could hear the growls of rage and fell the echoes of sorrow from those in the room.

“When the Slayers and Potentials go, so to will their Guides, whether they have bonded or not, it was the design of the Powers that Be. Why I do not know, but to give you a scope of the devastation that we are facing. Currently there are 5968 Slayers online and we have registered 3753 Potentials. That is only 5% of the Slayers and Potentials that are on this plane.” Dawn said her voice going husky with the future coming their way.

“That figure does not include the amount of Magickals, Demons, Shamans, and Others that work within the confines of the Council and are therefore treated by the Powers the same as the Slayers. We also have Blessed Children whose entire existence is tied to the Spirit Plane. That is a number in the thousands as well.” Giles explained, upping the horror of what was to come. Blair leaned forward and pressed a hand to the middle of his chest, Jim reaching over and pulling his Guide into his arms.

More than one person wanted to tell Dawn and Giles to shut up, but at the same time, they knew that they had to hear what was coming. “One of the Messenger for the Powers that Be told us that if Xander and Graham don’t bond and break Willow’s curse we are looking at a catastrophic break.” Giles told them grimly.

Those in the room looked down at the floor where the Guide and Sentinel lay unconscious and wondered if they could save them all. Riley spoke up tears in his eyes as he looked at his friends and then at his wife. “Willow created an apocalypse.” Riley said his voice rich with shock and grief. He couldn’t understand how the girl he knew became this terrible person who would kill them all.

“Yes. Willow may have managed to do what the First and Jasmine worked so hard for, but ultimately failed to do. The destruction of both the Slayer line and our dimension.” Spike agreed, his voice hard and full of rage.

“Why is she still alive?” Ezra Sheppard demanded and the others wanted to know the same thing. “Why not just kill her?”

“Because she tied part of herself to Xander and since Xander is partially bonded to Graham, she is tied to Graham as well. If we kill Willow we achieve what she has already started.” Giles told him bluntly.

“Soldier boy is the only one who can free Boytoy and save us all.” Faith said, a look of anger and weariness on her face.

“This is why she truly kept Graham and Xander apart isn’t it? The best way to keep her control was to keep them from realizing their bond.” Blair said, he felt sick and wanted to go somewhere and just curl up with his Sentinel.

“Yeah, if the Whelp and the Soldier bonded Red would be left with no anchor because Miller would see how corrupt Red is and do what was necessary to free Xander from her. Then someone could kill the loony twit.” Spike said as he kept a hand on Xander, his hand splayed on the boy’s back, under one of the Whelp’s ugly shirts.

“Well let’s hope he used your Key to the Door.” Jim said as he looked down at the two men on the floor and tried his best to sooth his Guide.

~*~*~Elsewhere~*~*~

Xander blinked as he found himself standing on a dark blue ocean of water, looking at the Spirit Animals passing below him. Above Xander he could see his Dragon flying in a jerky path thanks to the twisted created that had it’s talons hooked into the Dragon’s side.

Standing a few feet away from Xander was a massive Hyena, who was leaning against Graham Miller.

“Huh.” Xander said in full bafflement. The Hyena chuffed at him and Graham just gave him a beautiful smile.

The Hyena, Nosizwe bounced over to Xander and knocked him off his feet, making Xander giggle in a truly carefree way. Xander didn’t know what was happening but he hadn’t felt this aware and happy since the summer before Joyce died.

“Hi.” Graham said shyly as he sank down beside the pair and buried his fingers in Nosizwe scruff. Above them a screech sounded from the twisted creature attached to Xander’s Dragon, causing the Dragon to roar and Nosizwe to let out a hair raising whooping laugh.

Xander let out a pained gasp as the Dragon fell from the sky just a few feet from the trio. Before the three could react Willow appeared on the Spirit Plane, a look of rage, hate, and fear on her face as she looked at Graham and Nosizwe.

“Xander get away from them!” Willow ordered, her green eyes snapping with rage as she looked at Xander, who frowned at her. There was something wrong with the way Willow looked, but Xander couldn’t figure out what it was. “They are going to hurt you.” Willow warned, but again Xander thought there was something wrong with Willow. Something he should know, but couldn’t remember.

“Fuck you bitch.” Graham snapped out before he could stop himself. Nosizwe let out a soft rumble of warning, and Graham swallowed down the rage he was feeling. Xander had his hands resting on Nosizwe and Graham didn’t want to hurt Xander with his anger at the woman who had kept them alone for so long.

Xander gently tightened his hands in the fur of Nosizwe, his hands were trembling and the presence of Graham and Nosizwe was easing the pain and muddled thoughts that were imprisoning Xander.

“How is having my Sentinel going to hurt me Willow?” Xander asked in a choked voice, even as Graham moved and went to Xander’s Dragon.

Graham was horrified by how ill the Spirit Animal was, he didn’t even know Spirit Animals could get ill. Even though the Dragon’s eyes held pain and were beginning to fade with illness, they also held love and acceptance. There was also joy in the Dragon’s eyes as he looked upon his Sentinel for the first time in many years.

Graham looked at the twisted creature attached to his mate and flinched at the sight of it. The creature, Graham could not call it a Spirit Animal, had its blood blackened talons sunk in the Dragon’s side so deeply that Graham could only wonder how Xander could function with the level of pain he had to be in daily. At one time the blackened and deformed creature was probably a Golden Eagle, now it was a nightmare made life with its twisted and broken visage.

What hurt the most was the pained hope the broken Spirit Animal was looking at Graham with, it wanted to die. Graham let out a pained sound and lifted his shaking hands to touch both of the Spirit Animals. Graham saw how desperately the pair wanted to help end Willow’s tyranny.

Where Willow saw no wrong in her actions the Spirit Animal knew he needed to be destroyed and removed from the Dragon before he completely destroyed his friend and honored brother. The Eagle was willing to die even if it meant that he was never able to reunite with his soulmate.

“You aren’t his mate Xander. They are trying to use that his Spirit Animal is a Hyena to trick you so that they can hurt you. I’m protecting you!” Willow argued, trying to get past the Hyena so that she could pull Xander away.

Willow drew back with a scream as powerful jaws broke her arm. Willow cradled her broken and bloodied arm against her chest and glared at Graham who had snickered in response and stroked his hands over the two Spirit Animals to make sure they knew they were not alone.

Perhaps Graham should not have found it funny that Nosizwe had broken Willow’s arm, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. The Spirit Animals were so broken and ill that they hadn’t even felt the wound inflicted on Willow. Though it did make Graham wonder about how far Willow was that her Spirit Animal didn’t feel the pain of her injuries.

“See, he isn’t your mate, if he was he wouldn’t want to hurt your family.” Willow shouted, bringing Graham’s attention back to her.

Xander let his tears fall, Nosizwe whined and butted her large head into Xander’s chest. “Why did you keep the research about the girls being Sentinels to yourself Willow? Why did you mindfuck the Council and Kennedy? Didn’t you learn from what you did to Tara?”

“I didn’t do anything like that! I was protecting everyone. People would hurt them if they knew they were Sentinels and Slayers both.” Willow said glaring petulantly at Xander for mentioning Tara and the mistakes she had made in Sunnydale.

Xander just closed his eyes and buried his face in the chest of the large Hyena still guarding him so fiercely from Willow. Xander wondered how he could have spent so many years being blind.

“You can’t lie well when you don’t have magick Willow.” A voice said smugly and everyone turned to look at Cordelia Chase.

Xander sighed happily at the person who would always be his greatest protector and his first real love. The Hyena chuffed at the Messenger, who smirked at her. Graham huffed in irritation.

“Go away Cordelia, this has nothing to do with you.” Willow snapped, fury coming in a stronger wave. Willow was furious that she was there. It was bad enough that Graham was in between her and Xander, Cordelia and Graham were always in the way.

“Whatever Red Menace, I’m not here for you. You literally mean nothing to me. So shut up before I rip out your tongue out for daring to speak in my presence.” Cordelia said with a dangerous smile.

Willow shut up and glared at the smirking Graham and the smug Nosizwe. Despite the situation, Xander was grinning at Cordelia and the Dragon let out a rumbling purr of amusement and a warble of joy.

“All hail Queen C.” Xander chirped in echo of his Dragon’s joy at Cordelia’s snarky behavior towards Willow. Cordelia laughed in amusement and gave Xander a bright smile that echoed Xander’s joy at having her with him.

~*~*~Mortal Plane~*~*~

Giles looked up as Whistler appeared, and felt a sense of dread fill him as the leader of the Messenger’s of the Powers appeared. “Whistler.” Giles greeted as he immediately pushed his dread away. He did not want to upset the Guides and Sentinels in the room anymore than he already had. Frankly Giles wanted to find a quiet spot to drink some doctored tea read a book and forget today ever happened, he knew of course it would never happen, but it did not make the longing any less.

“Watcher.” Whistler greeted, before sighing. Giles wasn’t the only one longing for a drink and place to curl up and forget this day. The whole world seemed to be set on an edge and Whistler knew that it could go either way at the moment.

“So things have gone a bit off the rails.” Whistler said, even as Graham and Xander both began to strongly project anger and pain, with Graham also projecting hated and horror.

Giles raised an eyebrow as Whistler huffed. “Rosenburg managed to get onto the Spirit Plane and to Harris.”

“I see.” Giles said, with a sharp intake of breath.

“That’s not the problem. Miller and Nosizwe were dealing with Rosenburg.” Whistler admitted as Graham projected smug satisfaction.

“What is the problem then you wanker?” Spike demanded, he didn’t care what the Balance Demon’s excuses were for the shit that happened with Buffy and Angel, Spike didn’t like the bastard.

“Queen C decided if Rosenburg could go to see the Knight then so could she.” Whistler said with a sigh as Graham began to project irritation and a touch of jealousy. Even as Xander flooded the room with love, joy, and affection.

In a way that was actually more overwhelming then the negative feelings of before. It was also healing in a way. The Guides in the room felt less broken and were able to take a breath and regain the shields that had shattered under the rush of shock and horror that had overwhelmed everyone since the Council group began to reveal just how corrupt Willow Rosenburg truly was.

Blair breathed in and eased the nearly bone breaking grip he had had on Jim’s hand. He smiled slightly as Dawn Summers and the other three Council members smirked meanly. Riley Finn burst into laughter when Graham huffed in irritation and then let out a small yet smug snicker.

“Who is this Queen C?” Blair asked as both Xander and Graham began to project great amusement.

“The meanest, most terrifying woman to ever exist.” Whistler answered immediately.

This caused the five that knew Cordelia to burst into laughter again, Sam Finn, who had only met Cordelia twice, nodded her agreement and laughed at this. Cordelia had scared the hell out of everyone who had come to talk to Angel over a Hostile they were chasing. Angel hadn’t scared anyone, Cordelia had nearly caused a few to piss their pants just by raising an eyebrow at them.

“Is this a time for joking?” Carl asked snootily, he had a headache, his Guide was reeling, and Carl wanted to take him someplace that Andrew could recover in peace. The Council group was beginning to give him a migraine.

Whistler rolled his eyes. “First, I’m not joking. Two, lighten up, I get it’s been a shit day, but you aren’t the only one who wants to go somewhere quiet and get over this day. I personally plan to get shitfaced drunk and lock away the world for a while. Three, I don’t make the plans or the time that joking, bad shit, or craziness come into play where the Knight or the Queen are concerned. No one does. Trying to plan anything around the Knight is like trying to turn the moon into cheese, not a good idea or possible.” Whistler said bluntly.

Dawn giggled again at the look on Carl’s face. When he looked at her, she gave him a bright smile. Carl relaxed when he realized that the girl was not mocking him. “It’s okay, today has sucked monkey balls. We know that you are just worried for your Guide and for the rest of us.” Dawn said earnestly, making Carl relax further and it made Andrew smile at her sweetly.

Blair reached over and put his hand on Carl’s arm. Carl often questioned things when he was in protective mode over a Guide in distress, but he was also an excellent doctor and a dedicated member of the Pack.

“How did Cordy know where to find Xander? She couldn’t find him before when you were all looking after Red’s curses were broken and her magick was bound.” Faith asked with a frown on her face, looking over at Spike who still had his hand on Xander’s back.

Faith didn’t blame him, if she were a Guide, she would be touching Xander too. The last four months of zero contact with Boytoy had been nerve wracking and somewhat terrifying. Everyone had known that he wasn’t dead, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t somewhere dying alone. The fact that Xander had quickly accepted that Spike was her Guide had eased a fear in Faith that she had no idea she was harboring.

Faith continued to play with a lock of Dawn’s hair as the girl continued to press into her side. Faith knew that the Scoobies were a touch happy group and Faith had learned to accept it once she had embraced her Sentinel gifts and took Spike as her Guide.

Many of the Slayers were known to seek out Dawn and Giles when they were feeling terrible and needed contact. They did the same with the members of the Fang Gang that had come to the Council with Spike and Angel. They also did it with Andrew, who was surprisingly sweet for someone who once wanted to take over the world.

Faith was recalled to the conversation by Whistler and Spike wrapping his free hand around her wrist. Faith flushed as she realized she had been about to zone. Giles reached down and put his hand on the back of Faith’s neck and Faith breathed easy as she was surrounded and touched by her family.

“Xander’s soul called to Cordelia’s when Willow arrived.” Whistler told the Dark Slayer, the last of the Called Slayers was one of Whistler’s favorites as she had overcome the plans made for her by the Darker Powers.

They all stared and Giles was looking a touch pale. “Xander’s soul called to her?” Giles asked just to confirm what he had heard, feeling numb.

Whistler grimaced. “Okay I see I’m going to have to explain a few things.” Whistler said as he damned the Old Line of Watcher’s who removed information that the Watcher should already know.

“You know that the Knight is the Heart of the Slayers.” Whistler began and watched as the Council group nodded.

“Right well as a True Seer he is also the Heart of Those Who See.” Whistler said unknowing of what he was about to bring down on himself.

“Motherfucker.” Faith spat as she jumped up and lunged towards Whistler. Whistler startled and stumbled back with a squeak of fear.

“What?” Whistler asked as he looked at Faith in shock.

“That was a Council only secret.” Dawn hissed in irritation.

Whistler blinked in confusion. “Did anyone tell the Knight that?”

The Council people stared. “What?” Giles demanded for them. Riley was starting to shake slightly as he waited for Whistler’s reaction to their question.

“Did anyone tell the Knight that it was supposed to be a secret?” Whistler asked slowly. “Because he’s been using it to scare people in Africa and Asia when they irritate him. He has been from the beginning. Sometimes he uses it to get guns to kill the people who irritate him.”

Riley fell over laughing when Giles muttered something rude in Sumerian and Dawn groaned. Sam laughed as she helped her husband sit back up and as he grinned widely at the Council group when they looked at him in fond exasperation.

Spike snorted at the whole situation. “Of course the Whelp would find a way to use his visions as a weapon and a way to scare people who irritate him.”

“What scared you when you irritated him?” Sam Finn asked with an amused smile as she remembered how Spike and Xander used to sass one another.

“The cheeky bugger used to threaten to lock us in the training room together after he let Anyanka feed him a pound of bloody chocolate.” Spike growled out, though everyone could hear and feel his affection for Xander.

“Woah.” Faith said wide-eyed. “That was a real punishment. Boytoy can cause damage after eating a tootsie roll I can’t image how terrifying him on a pound of chocolate could be.”

Dawn giggled again. “Xander told me that he did that to Angel once and then locked them in the book cage. Angel couldn’t knock him out because Buffy was sitting at the table laughing at Angel.”

“He did and Buffy was laughing like she was on happy gas.” Faith said with a groan and a slight laugh.

“Angel only managed to escape because Xander began to have a sugar crash and Angel decided to be devious and find the most tedious and obnoxiously boring book in the cage and read it outloud until they both fell asleep. Of course it also put Willow and Cordelia to sleep.” Giles said with a fond smile. His children had been amusing little brats when they were younger. It was why it hurt so badly to see how far Willow had fallen and how badly his other children had suffered.

“It was awesome. I thought Wolfie was going to hurt something trying to keep his stoic going. They probably would have fallen asleep sooner, but Wes kept refuting things in the book and arguing with G-Man on purpose and of course I had to be a shit stirrer and ask what some of the stuff meant so that Wes would explain and tell Angel he was mispronouncing some of the words even though Fang was saying everything right.” Faith said with a mischievous grin. Dawn started giggling again, while Giles let out a small laugh. Riley and Sam both started laughing and Spike snickered at the Scoobies version of torture.

Blair wasn’t the only one to smile at the Council and the two Soldiers playful amusement. It was good to see that they were not just stern, emotionless warriors and that Xander was more than just a scary knight. Blair thought that the group had been unfairly labeled in the press and by those that had never met them. It was obvious even in the small time that Blair had been in their company that the group felt deeply and were wounded by the years that they had fought for the safety of this dimension, but they also still felt joy and hope.

“Not to be rude, but you were going to explain who this Queen C was and how the Prime was able to call her.” Ezra said, he was sorry to break up the playfulness of the moment, but he was also worried that the longer this dragged on, the harder it would be to find a way to bring the two Primes out of their sleeping state.

“Right.” Whistler said, taking a deep breath and blowing it out.

“So the Knight is the Heart of the Slayers and the Seers. This is not just because he has been tied to Slayers since before he came online as a Guide or a Seer. Slayers have visions that manifest in their sleep. During the time that Miller and Finn were in Sunnydale a ritual was cast to call upon the first Slayers, Sineya, who was an active Slayer.” Whistler began to explain.

“Sineya had yet to find her Guide and the people that would later go on to become the Watcher’s Council decided that taking a young girl, a Sentinel at that, would be a perfect way to create a warrior for the Light. That she was a female made her expendable in their eyes and not much was known about Sentinels and they wouldn’t have cared to begin with. All that mattered was that they wanted a Warrior, but were too cowardly to do it themselves or find a willing volunteer.” Whistler couldn’t quite keep his disdain from his voice. It made Spike like him a bit for it.

“Now in this ritual there had to be a representative for several things. One of those things was the Heart, which was the Knight. It also called out to those who had visions thanks to the fact that the Knight was an unawakened Seer and because Summers had visions thanks to her dreams.” Whistler explained.

“Sineya for reasons she has never chosen to explain to anyone, came to love the Knight after the dream she had with the group after the Ritual. When the spell was cast to do the Great Awakening, Sineya chose the Knight to be the one to keep the Slayers from losing their humanity until they could find a Guide. It was never an issue before simply because before Summers the longest lived Slayer was in the 1760’s and she lived three years. Robin Wood’s mother only lived a year after she came online and she had him while she was still a Potential.” Whistler grimaced at the renewed horror that filled the room, everyone turned to look at Faith wonder on their faces.

“I’ve been a slayer since I was sixteen.” She said at the questioning looks on the faces of those around them. “Before the Awakening the oldest called was 19, the youngest was 8.”

“Son of a bitch.” Carl bit out. “What the fuck kind of Powers let children be called to fight demons?”

Whistler grimaced at this, he agreed, but he was a balance demon, that didn’t necessarily make the balance the wish of the Powers, though most didn’t know that. “The Knight changed that and then Caleb woke the Knight’s seer powers, so his place among the Slayers and the Seers became more active. Balance was achieved in a way that wasn’t necessarily what the Powers wanted, but what was to be done. That is one of the Knight’s greatest gifts.” Whistler said at the surprised looks that he was shot.

“Now the Powers are represented in four ways, Light, Dark, or Grey run on these four categories.” Whistler stressed and the group nodded.

“There are the Powers that are represented by people like Janus and Minerva, who are technically the Powers that Were. They are the Protectors of the Old Paths.” The Guides and Sentinels started, they were all certain that there was something in this that was important to them, that it would impact them in a way that nothing to do with the Council.

“There are the Powers that Be. They are the Protectors of the Present Paths.” Even Giles blinked in surprise at this.

“There are the Powers that Will Be. They are the Protectors of the Future.” Blair leaned forward at this and Giles tightened his hand into a fist.

“Finally there are the Powers that Guide. These are the Powers that are the Protectors of the Spirit Plane.” Giles sucked in a harsh breath at this and Whistler looked at him with a grimness that left a bitter taste of regret and fear in Giles.

“The Knight is one of the few people that to belong to *all* four Power Paths constantly. He is a Guide, a Seer, a Warrior, and a Teacher. He knows his past, lives his present, believes in the future, and Guides others to do the same. He tells the Slayers of how they were created, he lets them know what their present will be like, he gives them hope of a future, and he guides them in what it means to be a Slayer, a Sentinel, and a Woman.” Whistler said this with a touch of awe in his voice. He also nodded to the Watcher as Giles began to get tenser.

“Now the thing about the Knight is that he was thrown into a hellish existence from birth. He should have been dormant and as twisted as Rosenburg is now. Being on the hellmouth, being raised by his parents and uncle should have twisted him, but it didn’t.” Dawn shucked in a shuddering breath and Spike found himself gently rubbing Xander’s back in an attempt to sooth the wounds of a lifetime.

“Now as I said there are as many Dark Powers as there are Light and Grey Powers. The Dark Powers had plans that meant destroying the Slayers and Potentials. As well as destroying the Sentinels and Guides, who all act as the first line of protectors for this dimension, even if they don’t realize it.” Whistler continued, looking at Spike with a sigh.

“They started this by trapping two souls that were to have one day been born as the Guides to the two most powerful Slayers of our time. The Vampires Spike and Angel. The Great Powers interfered though and sent Darla to grab a Gypsy Princess and the rest is history. Centuries later we have two former vampires and two Slayers that are still the strongest of our lifetimes bonded to each other.” Whistler said with a nod to Spike and Faith, who were blank faced at the looks they were getting.

“Now as I said the Dark Powers want to destroy the Protectors of this Universe and they saw the future paths and the way that the Knight would impact the lives of those they wanted dead and gone. So they decided to destroy him in every way that they could. The first attempt was breaking Harris as a child, but they didn’t count on three major influences in his life.” Whistler said with another sad sigh.

“Jesse, Willow, and Cordy.” Dawn said hoarsely, tears rolling down her face.

“Yeah. All three loved him in their own way, even the Queen before she became popular was a friend and someone who taught him love and strength. All three gave him a new way of seeing the world that no one else offered him. They all told him in their own way that he was important to someone and worth more than what he was being told he was worth.” Whistler agreed.

“The thing is the Sunnydale Hellmouth was the most dangerous and the most corrupt. Anyone born with the Guide and Sentinel gifts didn’t come online there. For a very *important* reason.” Whistler said with a sigh.

“Usually when they moved away many came online, but they were usually weak or in the middle line on the power scale. Now Jesse McNally was a Powerful Sentinel, as Powerful as Jim Ellison, as Powerful as Rosenburg was to have been.” Whistler sighed again at the looks he was receiving from those in the room.

“Queen C aka Cordelia Chase, was to have been a powerhouse of a Guide. Again as powerful as Sandburg and Harris. But the Dark Powers acted to keep that from happening. First by having McNally turned by Darla and then having the Knight be the one to stake him trying to save Cordelia from Jesse. The Queen and McNally were mates.” Blair flinched in horror at that and Faith began to growl.

“They began to slowly corrupt Rosenburg and used her to destroy the relationship between the Knight and the Queen and the Knight and the others that now make up the Core Council. Only none of that worked out the way they planned either.” Whistler snorted again in derision.

“You can’t plan for the Knight. Every Chaos God or Goddess adores him when he’s not giving them a headache. Even the Fates can’t write his Destiny because he is always moving the threads or the chess pieces.” Whistler said smirking slightly at this and causing another wave of shock to go through those listening.

“Everyone knows what happened in the last few years of Sunnydale thanks to Amy Madison and her Dark Coven.” Whistler said quietly, Madison had nearly destroyed the world in her own way with the attack she waged against the Council and the people who survived Angel’s group in LA just after the Invasion.

“What most people don’t know is that the Knight shared a bond with Miller and that he created a family bond with Rupert Giles, Joyce, Buffy, and Dawn Summers. That he shared that same bond with Faith LeHane, Willow Rosenburg, the Vampires Spike, Angel, and Drusilla. As well as Jesse McNally, Daniel Osbourne and Tara Maclay, Riley and Sam Finn, the Slayer Kendra, Jenny Calendar, and Andrew Wells.” This had the Council and the Finns staring at him in stunned silence once again.

“Now what makes this sad and unique is that at the time he forged these bonds with several of these people they were still evil and he wasn’t trying to form them. He also forged these bonds before he came online as a Guide.” Whistler added.

“This is fucking unbelievable.” One of the Sentinels in the room said in a shocked tone.

“Now he also formed a bond with Cordelia Chase, who would one day become a Messenger of the Powers. One of the Six as we are called. The bond that he formed with her was and still is deeply profound. He also formed a bond with Anyanka and that bond reverberates in his soul to this day.” Whistler smiled sadly when Dawn let out a small keen of distress.

“The horror of these bonds is as with Anyanka most of these people are dead, these are bonds his damaged soul continues to search for and the wounds of their deaths still bleed on a psychic level.” Giles clenched his teeth and once again Blair felt like he was going to be ill.

“There were others that the Knight cared for and loved, one that died before and after he came online, people that he formed bonds with. Yet, despite the agony in his soul, Xander Harris didn’t fall to insanity or darkness.” Whistler said quietly.

“The reason for that is Nosizwe, Graham Miller’s Spirit Guide. When the Knight was possessed by the Hyena, she pushed the other Spirit out and took over instead. The curse twisted her purpose, but it also created a firm and unshakable bond. It also created a shield for the Knight’s mind and gave him a way to go on despite the constant mental and emotional barrage he experienced daily. It was also what kept Miller from falling into a feral state for the last six years. They may have been blinded to one another, but their Spirits and their Hearts protected the other.” Spike breathed out a shaky curse.

“No one, Past, Present, Future, or Guide knew of any of this until Rosenburg was caught. Until the spell was broken the Knight was shielded from us and what was known was blurred until no one remembered it.” That was another shattering horror and Jim was beginning to think there would be no saving any of them from Rosenburg’s actions.

“Now everyone thinks that Willow just went evil after absorbing Dark Magicks and losing her Guide to murder after going off the wagon from magickal addiction. That’s not actually the case.” Whistler’s words had Dawn snapping.

“What are you talking about?” Dawn yelled, tears rolling down her face.

“I’m saying that Willow Rosenburg has been dead for six years, she died with her Guide Tara Maclay. The person we know as Willow Rosenburg is the twisted remnants of her soul. They bond she and the Knight carry are all that is holding her to this world. The Dark Powers trapped her Spirit Animal and are using it to destroy everything.” Whistler explained, a look of loss and exhaustion on his face.

“Like the Watcher said when he put the Knight and his Protector to sleep it begins now. The thing is what that is is the Knight beings strong enough to carve another piece of himself away and to face the pain that has been hiding behind Rosenburg’s spell.” Whistler said grimly and several began to cry, how do you face that kind of pain. How do you tear apart of yourself away.

“The Queen and Miller may be the only ones that can get the Knight to ripe what remains of the Red Witch out of his soul.” Whistler finished and distantly they thought they heard the mournful call of a wolf, the call of a hyena, and the roar of a lion.

~*~*~Spirit Plane~*~*~

Cordelia walked over to Xander’s Dragon and stroked a hand down his side. The Dragon let out a rumbling purr that ended in a bellow of pain. “Stop that!” Cordy snapped at the Spirit Animal that was once a Golden Eagle. The Eagle let out a fracture cry of an apology and Cordy blinked away her tears and her regret over what had been done to the poor Spirit Animal.

Cordy looked over at Graham who returned the look of sorrow. They didn’t want to do this, but to save everyone, Xander and Willow especially, they had to break Xander’s heart once again. They both felt bitter anger that they would have to be the ones that did this to the person they loved so greatly.

However, like all plans that included Xander, it fell apart before it ever began.

Xander rubbed his cheek against Nosizwe’s chest, taking comfort in her presence. He may not have been able to connect with her in the traditional sense or with Graham personally, but she had *always* been a piece of him since the day he was possessed at the zoo.

Xander knew now why he had never told Willow that Nosizwe was still in his Spirit, even after he had admitted to Buffy. Xander had begged Buffy not to say anything to Willow and to Xander’s surprise the Golden Slayer never had. Xander knew now why it had been so hard to be around Willow after Tara had died, even when he had forgiven her actions in Sunnydale, it hurt to be around Willow. He knew why Willow had to use the Slayer Scythe to call or search for the Slayers and Potentials. Xander knew now why she had to use the full Coven or a Light object to do spells that should have been simple for her when the were Light in nature.

Xander gently nudged Nosizwe away and stood. He didn’t look at Willow. His friend and piece of his soul was gone and the person pretending to be her wasn’t worth his time.

Xander spent six years being blinded by Dark Magicks and four months ago he knew something had happened. His started having less painful and more detailed visions. Xander could also see Spirit Animals again, a gift he had had before he was online as a Guide.

Cordy and Graham shared a confused look as Xander came to stand between them. When he reached out and touched the damaged Spirit Animal, they looked shocked. The Not-Willow lunged forward to stop him only to find herself in a cage.

Time stood still and a wave of Power began, echoing in the Spirit, Mortal, and Godly Planes. Xander leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the damaged Spirit Guide, the broken remains of what was once a beautiful Golden Eagle with white tipped wings.

Everyone thought that Xander would destroy this last visage of Willow, but Xander was the *Heart*. Xander pushed every ounce of love, loyalty, joy, hope, and belief he held for Willow into her Spirit Animal.

Xander shared his sorrow, his regret, his love, and finally his acceptance of her death into her through the power of his emotions. Xander promised to see her again, to love her again, and promise that everyone would know that none of the evil of the last six years was at her hand.

Xander begged forgiveness and was answered as the Golden Eagle Spirit healed and slowly released Xander’s Dragon. Xander placed a kiss on the beak of the Golden Eagle and let it fly free, off to be reunited with the soul that would always be his mate.

Xander trembled and leaned against his Dragon, closing his eyes as the Dragon rumbled gently. The Dragon began to heal almost immediately. Cordy and Graham shared a look of awe, that quickly turned to a look of fierce joy and triumph.

Nosizwe called out, her rage and hatred finally had a way to be released as her love and his mate was freed from the control of the evil creature that was killing him and had kept them separate for so long. Her vengeance would finally be known.

Nosizwe was joined by a horse sized Wolf and then an enormous Lion. As the Spirits arrived so did Jesse McNally. The Lioness and Jesse went to Xander and his Dragon, while the Wolf and Nosizwe turned on the impostor Willow and began to tear the Spirit apart.

As the last scream sounded and the impostor died on both the Spirit and Mortal Planes Graham and Cordy turned to Xander and Jesse. They watched in awe as Xander’s Dragon nearly doubled in size.

Jesse did for Xander what Xander had done for Willow. Jesse pushed his love and affection into Xander and sealed off the paths that were constantly bleeding. He didn’t remove the love or the loss Xander felt for those that were gone, he simply healed the psychic fissures that had been left by their deaths.

Cordy and Graham watched as the Spirit Plane became brighter, the colors more vibrant, and the Spirit Animals more active. It was a richer place to be and for Cordy it was an amazing change. She had never seen it before she Ascended, for Graham it was like watching the sun come out after weeks of rain. He couldn’t believe the change.

Xander turned and hugged Jesse tightly. “Thanks for saving us Xan.” Jesse said when they finally separated. Xander laughed through his tears.

“Thanks for saving me.” Xander said his voice husky. “Thank you for healing me.”

Jesse grinned and waved goodbye as Cordy blew Xander a kiss, grabbed Jesse’s hand and the pair disappeared. Xander rocked back on his heels a bright smile on his face. He may have lost Willow in this life, but he got Jesse back and he knew that he would see Willow again someday. Maybe even sooner than he expected, that was usually the way his life worked out.

Finally Xander turned to look at Graham, who was trying to think of something to say now that it was just him and Xander. He had envisioned this moment so many times and he was usually smooth and sexy. Instead Graham felt like a dork. Graham looked up at Xander’s Dragon. “He’s huge, what’s his name?” Graham blurted out awkwardly. Graham sighed, he really was a huge dork.

Xander grinned at Graham and bounced slightly. “Loki, he changed it because he thought it was funny.”

Graham burst into laughter. “It is funny.” The green and black Dragon rumbled down at the pair in amusement.

Nosizwe let out a great sigh and pushed Graham so that he stumbled and was caught by Xander. She gave out a happy rumble and curled up between Loki’s front legs, her head tucked against his chest.

For a moment everything was blinding and then Graham was Xander and Xander was Graham and then they were awake in the conference room and Xander had an awareness of Graham that seemed like it was years in the making rather than just a few moments.

Xander rolled onto his back and blinked up at a relieved Giles, before turning his head and looking at Graham. “Does this mean we don’t get to have bonding sex?”

Spike, Riley, Dawn, and Faith cackled as Sam and Giles groaned.

“We are definitely having bonding sex.” Graham answered earnestly.

This time laughter filled the conference room and the building. There were questions to be asked and answered, but for the moment everyone was safe. Willow was finally at peace and reunited with both her Spirit Animal and Tara and Tara’s Spirit Animal the Snowy Owl. The terrible imprisonment they faced had finally been undone and the Dark Power responsible had been destroyed.

Thanks to Jesse and the love he carried for his friend Xander was healed mentally and emotionally. The bond that Graham and Xander had begun in the zoo so many years before had finally been realized.

The future could make itself, the present needed to be lived.

The End

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