Be All You Can Be
The air rippled hot and dry in the distance. A lonely road cut a black
scar over the red desert sands. Mesas stood silent sentry over the
timeless tracts of the American Southwest.
Pausing from its feeding, the bird raised its head to warily scan the
surrounding desert, searching for the source of its disquiet. Seeing
nothing it turned its attention back to its food.
Chortling quietly to himself, the coyote set aside his binoculars and
pulled his goggles firmly down over his eyes. Slowly he rose from his
cover, careful to avoid sudden movement, and, cinching his harness
tight, lit the fuse on his Acme(R) rocket. After a brief sputter the
rocket roared to life and carried the roller skate mounted coyote
towards his nemesis.
At the last moment the bird abandoned the convenient plate of birdseed,
deftly sidestepping the passing rocket propelled coyote. With a cheery
"meep-meep" the bird took off down the road.
Taken aback by his failure the coyote watched the bird disappear into
the distance until the sudden and alarming absence of terra firma
beneath his feet brought his attention crashing, along with the rest of
him, to the canyon floor far below.
Xander Harris, a life long fan of almost everything animated (the
creators of Smurfs and Carebears had much to answer for in his humble
opinion) could still be brought to laughter by the epic struggle between
the Roadrunner and the Coyote. As had been his practice since his pj's
had had feet and a back door, Xander was eating his Saturday breakfast
sitting at the coffee table watching cartoons. Unlike carefree youth,
not every Saturday morning could be spent in front of the TV, but for
once he was not working overtime and could while away a morning before
heading down town for lunch.
A knock on his door turned Xander's attention away from his day's plans.
"Coming," called Xander as he turned off the TV and carried his cereal
bowl to the kitchen.
He opened the door to find a tall solidly built man wearing an Army
uniform. In a single glance Xander inventoried the minutia of his
uniform: black beret with Ranger flash and a gold oak leaf, Infantry
collar dogs, jump wings with combat star, Canadian jump wings, Bronze
Star, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and pressed trousers tucked into
highly polished jump boots. The man was in his mid to late thirties,
had the weatherworn features of a man used to spending his time in the
out of doors, and a stereotypical close-cropped haircut.
"Morning, Major," Xander glanced at the name tag, "Neame."
"Robert Neame, Mister Harris. May I speak with you for a moment?" He
spoke with a Midwestern accent.
"Sure," Xander stood aside and motioned the officer inside. "Can I
offer you anything, Major? Coffee? Froot Loops?"
"Thank you, but no," Major Neame removed his beret and entered. "Nice
place you have here."
"Thanks, but I don't deserve any credit for the decorating."
"No. My girlfriend is in charge of that department," Xander pointed to
a framed photograph of Anya and him. "I'm lucky to still have my
Babylon 5 commemorative plates. In a box. In the closet."
Neame nodded knowingly. "All I have is a small 'I love me' wall, and a
large pile of boxes in the basement. One battle married men aren't
supposed to win, I guess."
It was dark by the time Xander got home. Overtime was great, in
theory. It certainly looked good on his pay statement, but indoor
carpentry meant indoor lighting, and indoor lighting meant many a late
night's work. Too many.
"Hi, honey. I'm home."
He barely had time to put his lunch box on the counter when Anya,
giggling like a schoolgirl, crashed into him and pinned him against the
fridge hugging him tight.
"You've been gone since morning, of course I've missed you," she hugged
him for a moment longer then broke away.
"Hey, that was a short hug, and where's my sugar?"
"Happy housewarming," Anya handed him a small gift-wrapped object.
"Ahn, you don't have to get me a housewarming present."
"No, you don't. Not if you live here too."
She paused in thought, then brightened. "Happy Thursday."
With a tender laugh, and after a lingering kiss, Xander unwrapped the
gift. It was a framed photograph of the two of them down at the beach.
She was sitting in his lap, facing him, their arms over each other's
shoulders, their heads bowed touching, each only with eyes for the
Wordlessly Xander looked at the photograph, then up at Anya.
"I love it."
She smiled and took it from him. "We'll put it here. By the door, so
people will see it when they come in."
"I love you," Xander paused, something was not right. "Ahn. Where are
With an airy wave Anya interrupted. "Oh, I put those silly plates in
the storage locker. This is much better."
"It is at that."
Xander gestured at the dining room chairs, and took a chair opposite his
"Please don't think I'm being rude, Major, but what is a Ranger, and an
experienced one at that, doing in my home on a beautiful Saturday
morning instead of crawling though a swamp somewhere?"
"No surprise, Mister Harris, it involves the Initiative."
"The Initiative?" Xander's suspicions and defences were raised. Were
they finally going to arrest him for having infiltrated the Initiative?
Make him disappear in the name of national security?
"Relax, Mister Harris. I was never a part of the Initiative, though I
am familiar with its story, and with yours, or at least some of it.
Back before it self-destructed a message was sent up the pike suggesting
that one Alexander LeValle Harris may be worth a look. As a potential
"Me? In the Initiative?"
"You. In the Initiative. When it finally went the way of Air America
and Castro assassination plots I was part of the team tasked to review
its files as part of the close down. I found the message mentioning
you. It didn't go into much detail. Just that you're a good man in a
pinch, with lots of experience with HSTs. Sorry, force of habit, with
demons. Also, despite being a life long civilian, you are very well
trained in a variety of military skills. I'll admit that I was struck
by that. Some sort of demon thing, right?"
Xander remembered the gang's run ins with Ethan Rayne. "Close enough.
Who would...? Riley."
It was not a question.
Neame nodded. "Sergeant Finn-"
"'Sergeant' Finn?" Xander interrupted in spite of himself.
"Sergeant Finn. He thought that you would be useful to the Initiative,
and I am pretty sure that you would be valuable to the Army. We haven't
anyone who even comes close to matching your experience with demons.
Not even Fynn and his old team."
"'We?' You mean the demon hunting Special Forces who, what? Took over
where the Initiative left off. I have to say, Major, not very
"Not by a long shot. Our task force locates, fixes, and destroys
demons. Study is not in our vocabulary. Well, study for study sake.
You know what I mean. The Initiative was a mistake. It was a misuse of
the military by.... Well, by outside agencies."
"Never trust the Parks Service, they're ruthless."
Neame chuckled. "Exactly. So, I came to Sunnydale a couple of days ago
to see this town for myself, and to check you out."
"Check me out? Major, gotta tell you, still not liking-"
"Relax. I was discrete. Your boss thinks I'm looking for a carpentry
crew for a major remodeling job. He thinks quite highly of you by the
way. It wasn't necessary for me to interview your friends or family.
Two days and you didn't see me until this morning. Like I said,
In spite of himself Xander found himself asking. "Learn anything?"
"A couple of things," Neame paused. "Mister Harris, I want you to join
us. I'm offering you direct entry into the Regular Army in the rank of
Second Lieutenant, with two years retroactive seniority when you pass
your basic officer training, and Airborne and Ranger courses. In less
than nine months time you'll be a platoon leader under my command."
"Me, a platoon leader? I barely passed high school."
"Not an issue. Real world experience trumps formal education in our
book. Still, your grades were more than enough for this, and make a
career of it and we'll send you off for a degree. On our dime. Happens
all the time."
Good God, thought Xander. Sergeant Riley Finn recommended me for the
Initiative, and now this combat veteran wants me in his army. Second
Lieutenant A.L. Harris, United States Army. Cool, but....
"Sorry to have wasted your time, Major Neame, but no thanks," before
Neame could respond Xander continued. "Wait a sec. What was the other
"Yeah. The other thing. You said you'd learned a couple of things
about me," he raised a finger. "First, that you wanted me on your
"Second? That you'd refuse. I'm a couple of months too late, right?"
"Couple of months, yeah."
It was their first night together in the apartment. They were in bed,
cuddling a bit as they watched the shadows cast on the wall by the
street light outside.
"Everything away?" asked Xander.
"Mmmhm," Anya nuzzled Xander's neck, planting light kisses up to his
"I'm sorry I wasn't much help, but they want the job finished early, and
OT is no object."
She stopped kissing him. "I don't like you working overtime."
"Hey, time and a half. Can't beat."
Anya pulled away from him, and sat up. "Xander, it's not the money.
You know that."
"Ahn, I know that. Well...."
"I hope that," said Xander honestly.
"It isn't, not really. I want more us, not more money."
"Me too. That's what I want too. But what about the future? Car,
boat, puppy," he paused ever so slightly. "Child. Your list?"
"Oh that. I don't have it anymore."
"I burned it. Back in my old place."
"You burned it. Why?"
"Because it doesn't belong here."
Anya dropped back to the pillows and wrapped her arms around Xander.
"We belong here. That's enough. Enough for me."
"Yeah. Me too," he said, answering her unasked question.
"Thought so," Neame stood. "Sergeant Finn told me that I would be
wasting my time now. Frankly, I'd hoped he was wrong. He left. But I
saw nothing here that contradicted him. Still, I had to try."
"You've talked to Riley since he left?"
"Said things had changed since his first report."
"Well, how is he? How's he doing?"
"A bit rough at first, but he's good to go. He's my Operations
"Can you get a message to him for me?"
"No," Neame paused then reached into his uniform tunic.
"Here's my card. Keep it short and reasonably infrequent and it'll get
passed along. Just you though. Nothing from the ex girlfriend,
though. Not good for a guy to start looking back over his shoulder."
Xander took the card. Made out of white plastic, it was blank, except
for a single magnetic strip. It was a 'cut out'. Slip it into a pay
phone and it dialed automatically. Probably encrypted as well. No
surprise, he could tell that Neame was big league.
"Don't worry about Bu.... About the girl friend, that's not an issue
"Good to hear."
Xander saw his guest to the door.
"Well, I'm sorry I couldn't convince you, or maybe I'm not. I wouldn't
bail on this either. Nice to have met you, son."
"And you, sir."
The two shook hands.
"Still, nice to be wanted though."
Neame smiled and nodded at the photo of Anya and Xander.
"It must be."