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Author's Note: Unlike usual episodes, this is a rewrite of two episodes; The Replacement from Btvs, and Happy Anniversary from Ats. I had to come up with something to put Buffy in L.A for a bit, and include Lorne saying something to Elita. We all know that she's my Dawn in my world, but the slayerettes don't, so the mystery is on. Also, I'm British, so I have little idea about the IRS across the pond, so assume dramatic license for that. And Doppelgangland never occurred in this world, so Willow never had an evil twin. Enjoy.


Slaying in L.A.

Who is Elita, what is she? Aside from lapsing into a quote from the Bard, after a week of searching, the Scoobies were at a loss when it came to answering these questions. Added to this, they had no idea why she was here, or why she needed Buffy's help. Every day since her rescue from Harmony and her minions they had researched said inquiries; the more linguistic members making their way through various volumes of Giles' occult collection; from the usual titles to the more obscure ones, and the newly available alternative collection from those on sale at the Magic Shop, which had been moved into the 'not for sale' category the moment Spike took possession of the establishment.

As for those not blessed with a gift for languages, they were going through those volumes that were in English, along with the more mundane aspects of their lives, such as scholastic studying and patrolling. That is, the slayer was patrolling, and her friends used the opportunity to accompany her when they found the research frustrating.

Which it was. Extremely so. Elita could give them no clue as to why she was here, other than her firm conviction that she needed the slayer's help, and after nearly seven days of fruitless searching, that belief was being met with an increasing amount of scepticism. This, in addition to the activity- or rather lack there of -on the hellmouth, had led to some members of the group becoming antsy.

Bringing us to the slayer. Buffy was finding the line between her desires to be normal and those more primitive ones belonging to her destiny becoming blurred. Added to her part in the research session, she also had her studies at Sunnydale UCA, and her own private research into the mysteries of the vampire slayer. A tough staking of said prey could usually be relied upon to relieve the frustrations, but aside from the occasional newly arisen vampire, there had been nothing that she could get her stake into. Literally. She also had the burden of the source of the Scoobies frustrations occupying one of the Mansion's guest bedrooms, therefore unlike her friends and mentors, she had no escape from Elita.

In short, all of these tasks were no good for her destiny driven abilities, which was finally noticed by her watcher on the eve of that seventh day.

"Buffy?" Giles repeated, his voice now reaching higher decibels in an effort to make himself heard.

His charge blinked and came back to the land of the living. "What? Oh, sorry, Giles, I'm little distracted."

Giles sighed and put away the weapon he had been holding. "No, you're a lot distracted," he corrected gently. "Ever since we found nothing on Elita. You're worried, aren't you?"

"Worried, frustrated, suspicious," Buffy shrugged. "You think of other such descriptions, and I'm sure to be it. I need to vent, Giles. And I'm getting desperate. Is there anything in the Slayer prophecies concerning demons wanting to kill me coming soon? I'm so antsy I'd even take an apocalypse right about now."

"Well, I don't have anything in that line," Giles apologised. He turned to where he had left his wallet and began to search through it. "However, I do have this." He produced the business card with a flourish.

"Caritas?" Buffy pronounced uncertainly. He nodded. "Lorne called me a few days ago, sounded rather anxious. He asked if I could send you over, but what with Elita, I thought we would be busy. Now however, you might as well check it out."

"I dunno," Buffy began hesitantly. "How can I leave you guys here?"

"Contrary to popular misconception we are capable of taking care of the hellmouth," Giles replied. "At least, for a weekend, if not more if it continues to be this....."

"Don't finish that sentence," Buffy interrupted. "It always decides to wake up the moment anyone alludes to that. But what if you discover whatever is up with Elita while I'm gone?"

"I think that's unlikely," Giles answered. "We checked the most important volumes first, we're down now to the last few. Besides, I did have one new avenue of information which we haven't investigated."

"Oh no," Buffy groaned, "I knew this trip sounded too good to be true. What's the catch?"

"Lorne is anagogic, remember? I thought you could take Elita with you and see if he can find out her reasons for needing your help."

"But what if she tries to kill me on the way?"

"Take Angel with you."

Buffy nodded, her eyes examining the business card. "All right, I'll warn Angel, and we'll leave tonight."

"I'll let the others know," Giles replied. His charge nodded and went to get her jacket, where she shoved the card into her wallet. She took out a picture from it, and handed it to him. "This is for Ellis."

"Why would Ellis want this?" Giles asked.

"So he doesn't forget his godparents while they're away," Buffy explained.

"Buffy, you'll only be gone for a few days."

"Hopefully, but visual memory is important during these early years. According to my psych studies, anyway." Buffy smiled at him and headed out, leaving Giles to return the grin in bemusement, before turning to lock up the training area.

 


"What are we doing tonight?"

Xander looked up from his mountain of paperwork to catch his girlfriend's bored expression. "Anya, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm doing the Bonze accounts. Unless you want to help me, you need to do that thing we call being quiet."

"Quiet?" Anya mocked. "How I am noisy, compared to the other source of sounds around here?"

In her defence, she did have a point. The thin walls which separated his bedroom from those of Willow's, Oz's and Cordelia's, seemed to be competing with each other in the Vibration Olympics. From Oz's came the sound of guitar strumming from the batch of latest recordings from Dingoes Ate My Baby rehearsal sessions. Willow was studying animal noises for one of course papers, and Cordelia was practising how to project her voice for drama class.

Xander admitted defeat with the silent action of laying down his ballpoint. "Anya, what do you want to do tonight?"

"Look for a new apartment for you," the former vengeance demon answered.

"A new apartment?" He echoed. "My accounts are enough of a puzzle to me as it is. You throw in a new apartment and my head is liable to explode."

"Come on, look at all the benefits. You'll have more space, be off-campus. Plus, peace. No one bothering us."

"Us? You have an apartment."

"I do, but mine is let by a sweet but very annoying old lady who doesn't think a girl my age can have guys over," Anya uttered a sigh of frustration. "At least let's look. I'll do your finances for you."

"You can do accounting?" Xander queried sceptically.

"There's a lot you don't know about me, Xander Harris."

"So I'm discovering. All right," he rose up from his seat, and gestured to the chair. "Do your worst."

 


"At last! I was beginning to think Rupert had forgotten."

The new arrivals determinedly transferred their curious gazes from their surroundings to the demon whose call for help had brought them here. Lorne moved from behind his bar area, gesturing them to one of the empty tables.

"What is this place?" Buffy asked as her gaze switched from their host to their surroundings once more.

"Oh, Rupert didn't tell you? This is Caritas. You know, from the Latin?"

Buffy turned her blank look to her soulmate, who could be relied on to understand such a language. "It means charity, love, affection. Basically peace."

"Precisely, Angelcakes. This is a safe haven for demons and humans alike."

The slayer regarded him sceptically. "A Karaoke bar?"

"You'd be surprised. Anyway, no weapons, no killing or maiming of any kind is allowed here. There's a mystical protection barrier on the place. They sing or drink, and some who want me to, let their souls be read to request guidance. Wanna try it out?" He gestured at the Stage.

"Oh no," Buffy shrunk away. "Tone deaf. So, what did you call us here for?"

"What's today? Thursday? Tomorrow night - the world's going to end. I thought you might want to know."

Now it was Angel's turn to be sceptical. "So the world's gonna end."

"It's kind of a funny story. I'm at the club last night. Fairly typical Wednesday crowd. A Torto demon and his parasite were murdering the Everly Brothers, but that's nothing compared to what Elian had done to my sea-breeze! Oh. The man is such a moron. You have no idea how I'm suffering since Ramone left."

"Oh, I have an idea," Buffy interrupted. "Can you just get to the point already?"

"Yes, I can, if you'd let me get a word in edgewise. So this guy I've never seen before - gets up to sing. Usually I love it. You know, they sing, I read their futures, their auras, I see into their souls..."

"So this guy..." Angel echoed, trying to get their host to stay on topic.

"The thing that was remarkable about him was there was absolutely nothing remarkable about him. Just your average Joe about to mangle a tune and bore me with some bland vision of his bland future. But when he started singing - man, he knocked me out!"

"He was good?" Buffy asked.

"No, he knocked me out. When I came to he was gone."

"He didn't wait to hear what you saw on him?"

"Nope."

"So what knocked you out?"

"I looked into this guy and I saw - he has no future after ten o'clock tomorrow night - and neither does anybody else."

"Why didn't you tell Giles about this over the phone?" Buffy asked incredulously.

"I didn't want to worry you. Besides, I could hear Rupert's concern over the phone. And he didn't even have to sing. Have you brought her, by the way?"

"Yeah, and we're still mystified."

"Well, relax. As soon as you take care of this apocalypse, I'll have her sing for me. I'll solve her trouble in no time."

"So why did this guy leave the club before you had a chance to tell him what you saw?" Angel asked.

"People get scared. They come in for a reading, then they don't wanna know. Especially when the psychic faints."

"Maybe he's just a guy who likes to sing Karaoke. Maybe he doesn't know anything about you," Buffy pointed out.

Lorne nodded. "That'd make more sense. So what we should do is to start with the other local Karaoke bars, see if we can get a lead on him."

As Lorne leapt up from his chair, Buffy turned to Angel. "Do you think we need the others for this?"

"Preventing an apocalypse?" Angel queried. "With all the slayer research you've been doing lately, I think we have enough knowledge between us to prevent the end of the earth. Besides, they're protecting the Hellmouth for you."

"You're right," Buffy agreed. "Who knows what trouble might occur in my absence."

 


"Ohh, I like this hall!"

"Hey, we're just lookin'. Rent's way high, so don't get your hopes all carbonated."

"But you have references," Anya protested.

"No, I have Albert, which is me doing an important voice. 'Xander Harris? An excellent tenant. And a very nice-looking fellow.'"

They arrived at the opened apartment door, and walked inside. Anya glanced around the open plan living kitchen dining area once, and turned to him beaming. "I want it. Pay anything."

"Xander Harris?" Another woman asked. Xander turned to the Realtor. "Hey." They shook hands. "I brought my friend."

The Realtor regarded Anya with an uncertain gaze. "I see."

"She wouldn't always be around," Xander uttered hurriedly, thankful Anya was occupied in examining the apartment rather than hearing this conversation.

"Phone and electricity are hooked up. There's a private balcony, ceiling fan, closet space. And the bedroom is behind that door. I brought an application for you to fill out."

"An application? I can't just ... tell you my references? Because there's Albert."

"We run your credit check based on the application."

"Oh! Credit check." Xander laughed nervously. "Little check on the credit. See how credible my checks are."

"And we'll be asking for first, last, security, and a small cleaning deposit. The total's at the bottom of the sheet there."

Xander glanced at the appointed place, and with difficulty managed to keep his mouth from dropping. The Bronze brought in a comfortable income, but most of it was eaten away by constant repairs which were undertaken after whatever demon of the week decided to take over the place. Added to this was his installments on Cordelia's college education, which she didn't know he was still paying off. And despite Anya's marvellous job with the accounts the night before, he didn't think he could afford this.

Anya meanwhile, had come to join them. She glanced briefly at the application, then turned to the Realtor. "He'll take it. Xander, go get the furniture, I'll wait here. He's been living with his college friends on Campus. The walls there are too thin to do anything in privacy."

Xander chuckled nervously again. "Anya, can we talk quietly over there? Excuse us." He led her over to the living area. "Listen, I'm glad you managed to sort out the finances before the IRS got hold of them, but I don't think I can afford this."

"So when I wanna visit you, I have to be in that awful campus co-habitive collective?"

"Not forever. Just until things come together."

"Which is when, Xander? 'Cause right now, things are looking pretty untogether, and you can't expect me just to wait around for-"

Xander tried to her quell her rising tone. "Quiet, please. Anya, what is this? What's going on with you?"

"What's going on with me is I'm tired ....... and I don't really feel like taking a tour of beautiful things I can't have. "

She walked out, leaving Xander under the suspicious gaze of the Realtor. Taking a page from his ex-girlfriend, Xander displayed an acting smile of confidence. "I guess I'll just start on that application. I think you'll like it. I've been told I have lovely penmanship."

 


Across town, Spike looked up from his unpacking, to greet the person who had entered his new premises. "Can't you read, Mister? We're CLOSED. Oh, hey, Tara luv." He rose to his feet and brushed the dust away from his clothes. "What can I do for you?"

Tara glanced around nervously. "I er, thought you might need some help."

"That I do," He agreed coming across to take her hand. "There's so many unidentifiable objects around here that I'll be lucky if I don't curse my hands off at the wrist."

He turned to lead her further into the room, only to be confronted by a demon.

"The slayer is not here." The demon declared, as he took in the shop.

"Got that right, mate," Spike returned, letting go of Tara's hand to take the demon on. He glanced around for a weapon, before grabbing a hefty looking wooden statue.

"That is a fertility god," the demon informed him. "Feeble man, you are not going to distract me-"

"I'm not a man," Spike interrupted before hitting the demon with the statue.

Nothing happened. The demon grabbed Spike's hand and tossed him into a pile of boxes. "You are not the slayer. You do not concern me."

He swept towards the door. Tara backed away from his exit in favour of checking Spike over. She took her mobile out of her pocket. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, luv, not a scratch." Spike sat up. "You better call the gang in. Buffy won't get back here in time to deal with whoever that was."

A few minutes later and the whole of the Scooby gang minus its chosen champions had assembled in the shop.

"So you bought the magic shop and you were attacked before it opened," Xander commented. "Who's up for a swingin' chorus of the 'We told you so' symphony?"

"Toth," Giles murmured.

"He called you a Toth?" Cordelia asked Spike, who turned a puzzled glance from Giles to her, then back again.

"No, Toth is the name of the demon," Giles explained, resting the book he was studying in his arms. "Ancient demon. Very strong. Last survivor of the Tothric clan. It also says that for a demon he's unusually sophisticated."

"Sophisticated. So we should discuss men's fashions with him before we chop his head off?" Cordelia remarked sarcastically.

"They're referring to the fact that he does not fight bare-handed. He uses tools, devices. Oh, he's also supposed to be very focused. And since he mentioned the slayer, I think we know what the focus is. There's no mention of the types of places he might frequent, but...."

"I think I know where," Tara remarked.

 


"The city dump. Where smells go to relax and be themselves," Cordelia remarked as the Scoobies arrived at their destination.

"Watch out!" Xander cried as out of nowhere the demon appeared. He raised his weapon and fired a strange beam in the direction of Anya. Xander jumped in front of her, getting caught into the crossfire.

The Scoobies rushed over. "Hey, you okay?" Giles asked as they helped him up. "Easy, easy."

"I'm okay," Xander answered. His best friend glanced around them. "he's gone. He disappeared."

"That had to hurt," Doyle remarked sympathetically.

"Yeah, yeah," Xander agreed.

"Take it slowly," Giles urged as they walked out into the streets.

Behind them, the pile of garbage that Xander had risen from shifted, to reveal another Xander Harris.

 


Morning came and he arose. "Anya ... you trying to use the hot plate again?" Opening his eyes, Xander realised where he was. "Uh-oh."

Rapidly he got up from the trash and made his way from the rubbish site to the university campus area reserved for student housing. He glanced into the window of his ground floor bedroom. "Oh my god!"

Inside, oblivious, another Xander continued to get dressed. Outside, Xander continued to stare. "What? No way! Who is ... me?" Hurriedly he back away. "What am I doing in there? Buffy. Need Buffy." Rapidly he checked his pockets, only to see that the other Xander had his- or was it their -cellphone. "Damn."

He made his way over to the nearest payphone. His pockets also revealed little money, but he tried a quarter anyway. When nothing happened, he settled for calling the operator. "No, it ate my quarter. Uh-huh. But see, I'm sort of having this aggressively bad day. Ooh! I found a quarter! I found a quarter! ... Well, ma'am, for me it is worth getting excited about." He hung up and dialled Buffy's cell.

"Come on," he uttered as the ringing began. He glanced around, only to see the other Xander, looking suave and smart, walking passed him. Hurriedly he put the receiver down and followed.

 


"Who was it?" Angel asked his girl. "They hung up," Buffy replied as she put her phone away. They resumed their following of Lorne into yet another Karaoke bar.

"Nice," Buffy muttered as she gazed at the dingy surroundings.

"Hmm, it's not that bad," Lorne argued. "Nothing a couple bottles of Lysol can't cure. Interesting choice. Too bad about the cuisine art tomorrow. You know, if we stop the world from ending tomorrow the scar won't even be that noticeable." He paused, catching their glances of mingling boredom and frustration. "Sorry. Occupational hazard."

"Is he here?" Angel asked. "Nope." Lorne reluctantly admitted.

Buffy dropped herself on the nearest chair. "Seventeen Karaoke bars. You know, I need to lie down and scrub out the inside of my head."

"Well, maybe we're wrong. Sniffing a cold trail," Lorne argued. He turned to meet the curious gaze of the bartender. "We don't get your kind much."

"Excuse me?" Lorne queried.

"Demons. We get a couple now and then but they're usually vampires passing for human."

Lorne smiled. "Well, I never pass on anything, mister, especially when it comes with a little umbrella in the glass. You worked here long?"

"Eleven years now. It used to be a regular bar. But then they put in one of these Karaoke machines. Thought it would bring in the customers. It drove most of them away. We got a few steadies that make up for it."

"Steadies?" Buffy echoed. The bartender nodded. "A lot of students. They're grad students," he added, making Lorne nod slowly in recollection. "Fits the descrip."

"We're looking for a guy, early twenties, medium build, maybe one of you steadies." Angel explained. "Sings sad songs like 'All By Myself.'"

"Sounds like the kid. I don't know his name but he comes in every few weeks. Runs with the whole broken heart songbook. First time I thought somebody died. But after a couple of weeks I figured he was just one of those manic depressants."

"Hey, Goliath, you got a good picture of this grad student in your head? Well, how about singing a few bars of 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow,' hmm?"

The bartender glanced at Angel and Buffy. "Oh, you know, he's a demon," the former shrugged. "You better do what he says or he might talk your ears off."

"For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow..."

Lorne nodded. "Yeah, it's him. It's our boy. Fabulous tone by the way, really nice vibrato. And you keep plugging away on that novel, F. Scott. Art is its own reward. Now this grad student, which university would that be?"

 


At the university in question, a student returned to his white board of scientific calculations to discover a sense which he didn't realise he had written the night before. But then he had been nursing the drunken grief-stricken consequences brought on by eavesdropping on his girlfriend and her best friend's conversation about how best to dump him. Sighing he took out the photo of them which he always carried around in his wallet.

"So I'll give her the kind of love that lasts," he mused, glancing from the picture to the mercury in front of him, suspended seemingly by nothing but time.

And down below the demons who had corrected his math, grinned as they realised their time was coming.

 


"I better stick to the shadows and think of something to say should we happen upon a comely co-ed," Lorne muttered as they entered the campus administrative building.

"Tell her you're the new school mascot," Angel remarked. Buffy handed him a book before following her boyfriend. "Use this as cover. Wait here."

They returned with a pile of books some ten minutes later. "Student yearbook/faculty publications going back past five years," Buffy informed him as they grabbed an empty table. "Lets see if we can't find our little madman bent on destroying the universe."

Another few minutes of page flicking passed before they struck lucky.

"Oh, got him," Lorne announced, before showing them the photo. "He's a physicist - and a pretty good one according to this."

"I'll find out where the lab is," Angel said, taking the book back to the information desk. Buffy watched him go and then turned to Lorne. "I ought to call Willow, she's more science orientated than us."

"Honey, you and tall, dark and broody are the experts in world ending. I'd say you two can take care of this together. Beside, we don't have two hours to spare."

"Got the directions," Angel announced as he returned. "It's about a quarter of a mile away. Guy has his own lab apparently."

"Let's go," Buffy decided as she leapt from her chair. Suddenly she turned around to catch the axe which was headed for her back.

Lorne rose from his chair and cried out something unintelligible to the demon, while Buffy and Angel tried to fight him and the rest of his kind who had appeared as if from nowhere behind them. The demons threw both of them to the ground before running off.

"What did you say to it?" Angel asked as he and Buffy rose from the floor.

"I said we come in peace. I don't think he believed me."

"And what did he say to me?" Buffy asked.

"He said 'you shall not stop the golden child, the one for whom we have waited.' Lubber demons, they have a way with words."

"What's a Lubber demon?" Angel asked.

"Fanatical sect, awaiting a messiah who will usher in the end of all human life. A lot of your demons don't yak about it in mixed company, but it is a pretty popular theology in the underworld."

"So this mad scientist has these demons worshipping and protecting him while he blows up the planet... or what?" Buffy looked at Lorne. "What's he gonna do?"

"Lets get to his lab pronto and find out. It's pretty clear we're dealing with a criminal mastermind."

 


"Yes, everything seems to be in order here. You've passed, Mr Harris."

From outside the window of the Bronze, the scruffy Xander gazed at his more suave doppelganger with disbelief. He had watched him turn every disaster which he had foreseen happening today into pure success. "Passed? But I ... I mean, he didn't ... Doesn't he see the shiny thing?" His footing slipped just then, causing him to fall back to the asphalt below his viewpoint.

"Congratulations, Harris," the guy from the IRS continued inside the nightclub. "You and your girl should go out and celebrate."

"I already have an idea how," the doppelganger replied.

When Xander rose to his feet, he saw the IRS man leaving, then his doppelganger closing the nightclub back up before heading out too. Once more he followed.

They arrived at the apartment which Xander felt impossible to get. To his surprise, he saw the Realtor welcome his doppelganger into the apartment.
"I was going to call you, Mr. Harris, let you know your credit checked out fine, but ... I really didn't think you'd be back," she said. "I'm sure you'll like the building...... I hope you'll be happy here, Mr. Harris. We're certainly happy to have you."

"Thank you," the doppelganger said, his hand fiddling with the shiny thing which Xander had seen before. He watched the Realtor leave, then his doppelganger as he used his cellphone to call someone. Unfortunately, he couldn't make out the gist of this conversation. He waited for him to exit the apartment, then struck him.

His doppelganger threw him off, then punched him in the face. "I won't let you do this! You can't do this to me!" Xander cried at him, clutching his face.

His doppelganger could only stare at him. Then he ran off, leaving Xander to gingerly get up from the floor, muttering. "Oh, man, I need Scooby help."

 


"Hey, we're looking for Gene Rainy?"

The lab technician looked up from surveying the empty lab to glance at the new arrivals. "So am I. Somebody took his equipment."

"What equipment?" Buffy asked.

"Particle accelerators, propulsion batteries...." he trailed off as he caught sight of Lorne. "What's that?"

Angel shrugged. "Don't worry. It's just the new school mascot."

"For the Buccaneers?" The Lab Tech looked at him sceptically.

"Not your school, silly," Buffy replied hurriedly. "Do you know what Gene Rainy was working on?"

"Ah. Time paradox. Accelerate specific particles out of our continuum into their own excised universe."

"Come again?" Angel asked.

"Stopping time," Lorne answered.

"Which is impossible by the way," the lab tech hastened to add. "No one can do the math. Does anybody listen to me? No. He gets the grants, I get carpet mould."

"Alright. Lets say he could do it. Lets say he could stop time. How would it work?" Buffy asked.

"Well, you know, according to his speculations you focus the accelerators on a specific point, and if you can generate the correct velocity, whatever is in that field would just be removed from our reality."

"What happens to it?" Lorne asked.

"Nothing. In the absolute sense of that word. Whatever is in the field would stand still forever in its own private universe."

"Say, someone, just for fun, were to crank this into overdrive."

"If the field were improperly contained it would spill out. Keep growing, stop everything - kind of wiggy, huh?"

Buffy nodded in agreement, trying to control her rising sense of impending doom. "Who has the keys to this place?"

"Only Gene. Even the maintenance guys can only come in when he's here."

"No forced entry," Angel announced, looking up from his quiet study of the door.

"Why would Gene take his own equipment?" The Lab Tech queried.

"The question is where would Gene take his own equipment," Buffy remarked.

Meanwhile, at his apartment, Gene put the finishing touches to his romantic dinner for himself and his girlfriend. Candles lit, he checked his watch with satisfaction.

Almost time.

 




Two hours away, Xander had found his new source of help. "Don't be scared, Will. Just listen. It's me, Xander. And I can prove it."

Confused, Willow sat on her bed. "Um ... okay."

"Let's see. Stuff only you and me know. Okay! On my seventh birthday ... I wanted a toy fire truck, and I didn't get it, and you were real nice about it, and then the house next door burnt down, and then real fire trucks came, and for years I thought you set the fire for me. And if you did, you can tell me. Oh! Christmas, we watch Charlie Brown together, and I do the Snoopy dance." He began to do it.

Willow watched for a moment, then rose up and stopped him. "Xander ... stop dancing."

"Aha! You called me Xander!"

"Xander, shut up! Why wouldn't I think you were Xander? What's going on?"

"Okay. I woke up in the dump this morning."

"Xander, your bedroom isn't a dump."

"No. The dump. The city dump. I got hit last night, fall down boom, woke up this morning."

"Nuh uh," Willow objected. We walked you home last night, remember?"

"You walked? Will. Did I do anything weird? Did I wave any shiny things around?"

"Shiny things, what are you talking about?"

"Last night, that wasn't me. There's a double out there. Some ... thing has stolen my face, and it's going around pretending to be me, and it's hypnotising people. It even got to Giles and the others. It's over there right now and they have no idea." He sank down on to the floor, not noticing the damp of his rain-soaked clothes in despair. "It's a robot. It's an evil robot constructed from evil parts that look like me designed to do evil."

"Uh huh," Willow agreed. "Or it's Toth."

"Or, it's Toth," Xander repeated in the same sense. "A demon. A demon has taken my life from me, and he's living it better than I do."

"Well, we're working on it. There has to be a way to get to....... unhypnotise Giles and the others. I'll find a spell to snap them out of it."

"Right. Whatever."

"Xander, you have to help me figure this out, you know."

"But I never help. I get in trouble and Buffy saves me."

"That's not true! Sometimes we've all helped save you. And sometimes you're not in trouble."

"But this time it's even worse. This demon, he's like taking my life, and everyone's treating him ... Everyone's treating him like a grown-up! Will, I'm starting to feel like..."

"Like what?"

"Like ... he's doing everything better. He's smarter, and ... I don't know, maybe I should just let him have it. Take my life, please."

"Xander, no! You're just tired, and ... and all soggy. That's why it seems so hard, but you can't let him just take your whole existence."

"Why not? It's not like I was doing anything so great with it. When I get to the pearly gates I'm sure the guy is not gonna go, 'Hey, what a kick-ass comic book collection, come on in!' No, what have I got that's even worth........ Anya!" He suddenly realised.

"You think he's after her?" Willow asked.

"She won't know. He can just ... no. No way! No way. He can take anything, but he can't have her. I need her. He could be with her right now! Figure out a spell, something ... revealy. I gotta find her."

"Xander, you already knew he was taking over your life, and ... you didn't think about Anya till just now?" Willow queried in concern.

"Hey, wait till you have an evil twin. See how you handle it."

 


"You're lying. It's a trick," Anya uttered, as she surveyed the picnic basket at her feet, and the new apartment she loved which was their present surroundings.

"No. Trust me," doppelganger Xander answered.

"You really got this apartment?"

"I really did. And do you know why?"

"The ceiling fans? Very attractive."

"No. It's because I knew you wanted it. It's all for you." He moved closer to her. "Anya, you didn't see me today, did you? I mean, we didn't talk?"

"What do you mean? I just got your phone message, that's all."

"Good." He kissed her, then brought her down to sit on the blanket. "So... what happens next?" Anya asked him.

"Well, at some point we take off our clothes," he replied.

"I mean what happens next in our lives? When do we get a car? And a boat. No, wait, I - I don't mean a boat. I mean a puppy. Or a child. I have a list somewhere."

"What are you talking about?"

"Just ... we have to get going. I don't have time just to let these things happen."

"There's no hurry."

"Yes there is. There's a hurry, Xander. I'm dying. I may have as few as fifty years left."

"Fifty years? What is thi- Oh, wait a minute. This is about this." He pinched her skin.

"Ow! What about my skin?"

"It's over a year since you became human isn't? Maybe it's finally hitting you what being human means. You were gonna live for thousands of years. And now you're gonna age and die." He took a comforting hold of her hands. "That must be terrifying."

Anya shook her head. "You don't understand what it's like."

"Being suddenly human? I think I can get what that would be like. And we can get through it together."

"You can't make it any different. I'm going to get old. And you can't promise you'll be with me when I'm wrinkly and my teeth are artificial and stuck into my wrinkly mouth with an adhesive."

"No, I can't promise that. But it doesn't sound terrible. And that's saying something. But I promise you, Anya. Very soon you won't be thinking about getting older."

They kissed once more.

And then Xander burst through the door. "Get away from her!"

"Xander!" Anya cried, puzzled as she took in the 'intruder.'

 


"Okay. If I had a machine to stop time," Buffy remarked as Angel parked the car outside Gene Rainy's apartment building, "where would I put it?"

"Probably where the demons can guard it," Lorne answered, gesturing at the Lubber demons which surrounded said building.

Buffy and Angel glanced from their opponents to themselves, then back again, before launching themselves into the fight.

This time they were prepared for the demonic strength they were about to encounter, and dealt with those Lubbers posted outside the apartment block without too much trouble. Glancing through one of the windows, they saw another tapping away at a computer before the missing equipment from the grad student's lab. Together they dived through the window to land amongst the broken glass, before taking on this next target.

"Go for the power source!" Angel yelled to Buffy as she rolled up from the floor. He threw a punch at the demon, who suddenly froze in mid air.
Realising that the time freeze was already happening, Buffy ducked under the path of its trajectory, and dived for the electrical socket. With her all of her strength, she pulled the plug on the experiment.

Meanwhile upstairs, the girl turned to her companion. "Gene, we have to talk."

 


"Xander?" Anya cried, confused.

"Get out," the doppelganger uttered. "You don't belong here."

"Anya," Xander called out. "It's me." She made a move towards him, but the doppelganger stopped her. "It's a demon. He stole my face, he's trying to trick you. You know I'm me, right?"

"No!" Xander cried out.

Anya looked at them, and made her choice. "What is it?" She asked the doppelganger. "Make it go away."

 


Meanwhile, back at Oakpark Street, nine people jumped in surprise as the front door burst open.

"I swear, this time I know I had that locked," Giles remarked when he had recovered.

"Toth looks like Xander," Willow uttered as she closed the door.

"We already know," Oz answered. "We're on our way."

Wesley looked up from what he had been studying. "Wait a second, how did you know about this?"

"He came to me. Xander did. And he's in terrible shape, we need to help him."

"He came to us too," Cordelia remarked. Willow shook her head. "No. We each had a Xander. I mean ... you didn't have a Xander, you had a demon in a Xander suit."

"What makes you so sure that yours is the right one?" Doyle asked her.

"He knew stuff! He, he did the Snoopy dance. It was Xander, and he needs us."

"Oh, dear lord," Giles suddenly uttered, making Jenny look up. Oblivious, Cordelia looked at the others. "Our Xander, did he seem a little.... he seemed kind of forceful and confident. And that's not Xander."

"I said, 'Oh, dear lord.'" Giles looked at her. Cordelia shrugged. "You always say that."

"Well, it's always important! Neither Xander is a demon."

"Um ... is one of them a robot?" Willow asked.

"What? No. the weapon Toth used, it's called a ferula-gemina. It splits one person in half, distilling personality traits into two separate bodies. As near as I can tell, Toth was attempting to split the slayer into two different entities. One with all the qualities inherent in Buffy Summers, and the other one with everything that belongs to the slayer alone. And when it hit Xander, I think it separated him into his strongest points and his weakest."

"But which one's the real one?" Jenny asked.

"They're both real. They're both Xander. Neither one of them is evil. There's nothing in either of them that our Xander doesn't already possess."

Cordelia shrugged in confusion. "I still don't get the original plan. I mean, why do it? The slayer half would be like slayer concentrate, pretty unkillable."

"But the two halves can't exist without each other. Kill the weaker half, and the slayer half dies. The same goes for the Xanders. We lose one, we lose them both."

"We better get find them," Willow urged. "'Cause Xander looked desperate."

"What's the worst they could do?" Spike asked. "Joke each other to death?"

"You don't know Xander when he's desperate," Willow replied. "Trust me, something terrible is about to happen."

 




"He's the demon!" Xander protested. "Or possibly a robot. Look at me. Look in my eyes. Can't you see it's me?"

"I, I don't know!" Anya cried.

"Please! Look at him! Listen to him! He's all smooth! You have to know it's me!"

"Don't worry, Anya," his doppelganger uttered. "I'll get rid of this thing. I'm thinkin' this is gonna last about fifteen seconds."

Xander took a gun from his jacket and pointed it at his doppelganger. "I'm thinking less."

Anya caught sight of the gun and realised it was hers. She rushed forward. "No! Don't shoot him!" She pushed the gun to aim at the ceiling.

"Let go! I have to kill the demon-bot!" Xander cried. His doppelganger wrestled it away from the both of them. "Anya ... get out of the way."

Luckily for her, the cavalry arrived, in the form of the Scoobies bursting through the door. "Xander!" Willow cried out.

"It's all right. I have him." Doppelganger informed them.

"No! Gang! I'm me! Help me!"

"My gun! He's got my gun!" Anya cried, making Spike look at her. "You own a gun??"

"Xander ..." Willow began, "gun-holding Xander. Give me the gun."

Anya stared at them. "Which one's real?"

"You've been split in two," Willow answered, speaking to the scruffy version. "But you're both Xander. And you can't kill each other. Um, well, you could, but it would be really bad."

Xander stared at his doppelganger. "No way. He can't be me. He's all ... fancy."

"We can prove that you're both Xander," Wesley asserted, making Cordelia nod, before asking, "how?"

"Um...Well, there has to be a way," Giles murmured uncertainly.

"Ooh!" Cordelia uttered. "What number am I thinking of?"

"I don't think that's gonna do it," Oz remarked.

"Eleven and a half," answered both Xanders, making Cordelia smile. "Wrong. Oh! But see?"

Xander shook his head. "No. We're not the same. We're all different."

"No," Giles disagreed. "Different properties went into each of you, but you're both Xander."

"Different properties?" Anya uttered.

"What different properties?" The previous doppelganger asked.

"But he has a thingie!" Xander cried out. "In his pocket! A shiny disk that stuns and disorients!"

"What this?" His other half said, taking it out. "It's a nickel someone flattened on the railroad track. I found it on my way to the Bronze and I thought it was cool. It's not magic."

"No, I ..." Xander stopped as he examined it. "huh. It is kinda cool. Washington's still there, but he's all smushy. And he may be Jefferson."

"Okay, isn't anyone gonna tell me why there are two Xanders?" Anya asked.

Cordelia stepped forward. "I will on the way to Giles'. Let's go."

They turned to leave, but the door burst open again, to reveal Toth. "Where has the slayer gone?" He asked.

"L.A." Giles answered, while his eyes motioned towards the gun still lying on the floor. "About two hours in that direction."

The demon turned as expected, and Xander's smoother half picked up the gun, rearmed it, and fired at the demon.

Obligingly, Toth turned round and died, vanquished by bullets.

"Oh, yeah. That cleaning deposit's gone," the doppelganger remarked, causing Xander to turn to him with a gasp. "I was thinking the same thing! Hey, do you suppose we're both Xander?"

 


"I can't believe this."

Girlfriend, now ex, had left the apartment. Buffy, Angel and Lorne sat with the cause of their concerns, having just explained and shown him the remains of his home made physics experiment in his study.

"Listen, I am - really, really sorry. I had no idea I was putting the whole world in jeopardy or - or there were all these demons. - Although the idea of aliens among us is consistent with Murdoch's multi-verse. I just - I just didn't want her to leave."

Lorne patted his shoulder. "Gene, the wheel keeps turning. You can't stop it. Sometimes things get worse, sometimes they get better."

"I want the wheel to stop - which probably explains the whole time in a box disaster. I can't emphasise enough how sorry I am about that."

"It just don't work, Gene. It's like a song. Now, I can hold a note for a long time. Actually I can hold a note forever. But eventually that's just noise. It's the change we're listening for. The note coming after, and the one after that. That's what makes it music."

"I guess. You guys like beer?"

"Unfortunately, we can't stay," Buffy began, rising from her seat. "Me and Angel anyway. We have a hellmouth to take care of."

"Hellmouth?" Gene echoed curiously, making Buffy shake her head. "Trust me, you don't want to know."

"I'm glad you guys came by," Gene said as he saw them to the door. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Angel replied before they walked away.

"Phew!" Buffy remarked as the door closed and they headed downstairs. "How we're gonna explain this to Elita, I don't know. Let alone the Scoobies."

Angel nodded. "Wonder what the guys are doing right now," he mused.

"Whatever it is, it can't have been as bad as this," Buffy remarked, before they left the apartment building.

 


"Look and admire, ladies," Xander, now dressed in the same colour shirt and pants as his other half, uttered.

They were at the Magic Box, where, despite Spike's annoyance, Giles and Wesley were drawing out the ritual marks for rejoining the Xanders' on the floor of the shop.

"Look, there's a scar there," Cordelia uttered, pointing at one Xander forehead. "And there's the same one right there."

"It's all double," Willow agreed. "This zit, and this... kinda funny dippy thing. And this weird little hair that grows in the wrong way."

"So you Xanders really do have all the same memories, all the same ... " Anya looked downward. "Physical attributes?"

"We're completely identical," Smooth Xander uttered. His other half nodded. "Yeah, we checked out some stuff in the car on the way over. Fingerprints!"

Anya turned to the others. "Well, maybe we shouldn't do this reintegration thing right away. See, I can take the boys home, and ... we can all have sex together, and ... you know, just slap 'em back together in the morning."

Nine people looked at her appalled. "She's joking," one Xander uttered. The other shook his head. "No she's not! She entirely wants to have sex with us together. Which is ... wrong, and, and it would be very confusing."

Giles got up from the floor. "We just need to light the candles. Also, we should continue to pretend we heard none of the disturbing sex talk."

"Check. Candles and pretence," Wesley agreed.

"It's not like it'd be cheating," Anya persisted. "They're both Xander."

"We're ready," Tara remarked. "We should do it now."

"What'll we do if this doesn't work?" Anya asked her. The Xanders turned to one another and quoted the same line. "Kill us both, Spock!"

"They're kinda the same now," Cordelia pointed out. Giles nodded. "Yes, he's clearly a bad influence on himself."

"Hey, summon the goddess. Chant the chant. Let's do it," a Xander decided

"Actually, it's not that hard," Willow remarked. "Your natural state is to be together. Toth's spell is doing all the work of keeping you apart. I just have to break it. So you two stand right here. Side by side. We don't want you to end up with two fronts, now do we?"

"Are you sure you know how to do this?" One Xander asked her. Willow nodded, exhaling. "Here we go. Brace yourselves." She paused and stretched out her hands. "Let the spell be ended."

"You gotta be kidding," Xander murmured. "'Let the spell be ended,' that's not gonna work." He opened his eyes to see only himself. "Oh!"

 


"I still can't believe it. You guys had to deal with the end of the world?"

Buffy nodded at Cordelia. "And all you got were two Xanders and a demon. Damn."

"You're telling me," Cordelia agreed.

Across the room Oz picked up another box, and halted in his move to the truck outside to talk his now ex living mate. "Getting nostalgic?"

Xander shrugged. "I don't know. At first it's just a place, then you start to make memories, and ... then you're like; Oh, right there, that's where I got my heart all ripped out. No offence, but I really hate this place. " He walked over to his girlfriend with a box.

Anya looked up eagerly. "Presents?"

"Not unless you want my collection of Babylon 5 commemorative plates. Which you cannot have. I just thought you could help carry a little."

"Me?" Anya pouted. "Buffy has super strength. Why don't we just load her up like one of those little horses?"

"Anya. Please," her boyfriend uttered, making her relent. "Fine. I'm just your slave."

Xander grinned. "Now, that has possibilities," he murmured. "And I still have that costume from Return of the Jedi." He picked up another box and followed his girl.

"So," Giles remarked to Buffy, "did you manage to get Lorne to read Elita?"

"No," Buffy replied, "she wouldn't and he agreed not to try. She looked so scared, I didn't have the heart to insist. We'll just have to find another way."

Elita watched them all, her thoughts focused on what Buffy had just said. It was true she had been scared of singing and that demon reading her, but the rest wasn't. For even without the song, Lorne had read her soul. And he had only replied with cryptic.

'Watch out, honey,' he had said. ''Cause your road is a long and winding one.' Put together with his look of sympathy, Elita dreaded that journey.

Particularly, what lay at the end of her destination.

The End.
To Be Continued In.

Visions.